Saturday, September 23, 2006


In Esther 2:5-8, 15-23, we meet Mordecai, a Jew whose parents were carried away at the time of the Babylonian exile. Mordecai is surrogate parent to the beautiful Hadassah, that is, Esther. Right away the King sets about procuring himself a new, more biddable queen. The situation sounds remarkably like the plot set-up of Cinderella, in which all the eligible young maidens of the kingdom are brought in for royal inspection (though there is, alas, no ball). Esther, a Jew, is one of the maidens, and behold: "the king loved Esther more than all the other women; of all the virgins she won his favor and devotion, so that he set the royal crown on her head and made her queen instead of Vashti."

We learn that Mordecai has urged Esther to say nothing of her ancestry. Thus, Queen Esther begins her life in the palace closeted, unable to reveal the truth of who she is because she is an obedient girl.

Mordecail promptly does something heroic: he hears a couple of eunuchs planning to kill the king, and reports his knowledge to Queen Esther. The king is saved and the eunuchs are hanged. (Their names are Bigthan and Teresh. I wish I could find my Hebrew lexicon. I just know their names mean something amusing).

It is quite an interesting thing to ponder beginning married life withholding a major piece of information about yourself from your husband. Major. Of course, we should remember that this ancient story does not describe marriage as we moderns would idealize it, with our open, honest communication, equal partnership, etc. Esther is more property than "wife" as we might understand it, and she is the king's to do with as he will. But still... closeted life. Right here in the bible.

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