Friday, April 30, 2010

The Gospel in Esther (1) The Scandal of the Bride in the Royal Garden

WE HATE AUTHORITY AND ASSUME FEMINISM. In the 21st Century west when we read Esther 1 we almost automatically see a despotic king abusing his wife by trying to parade her in front of his guests having had a few drinks. We have an inherent distaste for authority and an assumed feminism that makes the scene unbearable when a powerful king calls and exiles his wife and seeks a new one.

What if that's not what's going on? 

Picture instead the king as a positive figure.
This man is the king of the whole world from India to Ethiopia, nothing happens outside his domain. Having overcome the chaos at the start of his reign he sits down in the third year. Victorious, as is expected of the great kings in the third year/day. He holds a great feast in his house for his people. The king is glad, delighting in his people and his kingdom, overflowing in abundant blessing. He holds two further feasts in his royal gardens. The scene is deeply colourful and reminiscent of Eden's garden and the tabernacle, where there is much food and drink to be consumed without paying for it.

On the seventh day of the feast, on the day of rest, in the garden, he invites his wife to come. Every man knows that his bride his is glory and his crown (just as the churches were to Paul, and the church is to Christ). He longs to display her beauty so that all may see how magnificent she is. Why would she refuse him? He's telling the world of his love - she is his "better half" - he wants everyone to know and see her. If when you came to my house I kept my wife hidden and refused to introduce you to her that would be awful - my love for her is magnified in my desire to have you meet her, to see how brilliant she is.

Yet, she rejects his word, refuses to come into his presence, scorning him in the garden on the seventh day. Seeking counsel he concludes that she must be exiled from his presence. His love producing jealous anger that drives her way forever. Yet, the king is now without a bride - and this he remembers (zakar-melek, 2:1) just as the LORD remembered (zakar-jah) his people in their exile in Egypt, and so the king begins search begins for a new bride upon whom he can lavish his covenantal love (chesed, 2:18).

What appears at first intolerable is a real-life parable of the gospel story. The Scriptures give us narrative, and teaching, poetry and literary accounts of subplots that test our hearts and give flashes of insight into the bigger story. Perhaps Esther functions this way as a book, even in these opening events...

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for that, I'd never read the passage that way before. How do you think we should decide which interpretation of the passage is correct? I'm assuming you think the positive interpretation of the king is correct - why is that your view, and how confident do you think we can be about it being correct?

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