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Don't Bet Against the Jews

The book of Esther is an interesting little book of the Bible, that does not mention God or prayer or worship. Apparently, this bothered some later Jews so much that they did not include the book of Esther in their library, while others inserted prayers of Mordecai into the story to supplement the lack of piety. It is odd that the book does not mention God or prayer because it would seem very natural to do so. The way the story is told certainly implies that there is a sovereign will guiding the whole story. It is almost as if the author deliberately leaves out any direct mention of these things. For example, at one point Esther asks the Jewish people to fast for three days. I find myself, as I read the story with my kids, wanting to say that Esther asked the Jewish people to fast and pray, but it does not say that. But who, inspired by a crisis, deliberately fasts for three days without praying? In fact, isn’t a deliberate fast in response to some troubling scenario a prayer in itself? And the story continues to reflect events that pious Jews and modern Christians would want to say are answers to prayer: Esther finds favor with the King, the King all of the sudden can’t sleep and finds himself reading history books whose content leads him to the deliver the Jews. Certainly God is at work here. But why doesn’t the author say so? It could be, that at the time the book was written, it might have been dangerous to explicitly refer to the God of Israel in some exalted fashion over the gods of the Persian Empire. But I am just guessing at a possibility. The overall message of the book of Esther is that one should not bet against the Jews and expect to win. The book ends with the vindication and deliverance of the Jewish people from the wicked intentions of Haman (who intended to have all the Jews killed) and the establishment of the festival of “Purim” derived from the word “Pur” which means “to cast lots” or to gamble. The message of the book could be summed up, I think, in Haman’s wife’s warning to him “If Mordecai, before whom you have begun to fall, is of Jewish origin, you will not overcome him, but will surely fall before him.” Esther 6:13. It could also be summed up in Mordecai’s warning to Esther: “If you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place and you and your father’s house will perish…” Esther 4:14. Clearly, these statements reflect at least an idealistic confidence in a sovereign will guiding the nation of Israel and protecting the Jewish people. Again, why God isn’t mentioned is a mystery.

Don't Bet Against The Jews

Many Western Christians today share a similar view of the Jewish people and nation as the author of Esther had. Many people believe that anyone who would wage war or any kind against the nation of Israel is literally fighting against God Himself. But there is always the danger of misunderstanding and misappropriating the election of the Jewish nation and people. I remember a phrase from a conversation my father had with a Jewish Doctor one time. The Doctor loudly declared, “We are God’s chosen people, whoever She is!” I don’t know if the author of Esther similarly assumed the favor of God (whoever He might be), but I highly doubt it. However, there were many times in Israel’s history where the nation worshiped all sorts of gods, even sacrificing their children to them, and still considered themselves to be the One true God’s “chosen people”. But the people of Israel were not chosen so that they might be shown mercy while everyone else receives condemnation. The people of Israel were not chosen so that they might be God’s favorite people. The people of Israel were chosen so that God’s restorative blessing could come through them to the whole world. The promise to Abraham was this: “In your family, all the nations of the earth will be blessed.” Genesis 22:18. That is why, while the message in Esther, that the people of God would be preserved and protected, is true and should be celebrated, we should recognize that this was not an end in itself but a means to an end, namely the salvation of the entire cosmos. We should honor the Jewish people for their preservation of their Holy Scriptures and the very honorable role that they have been chosen for in human history. But we should not treat the nation as being privileged over other nations and peoples in regards to justice and equality. Otherwise, we will end up committing injustice in the name of the God of justice.

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