Reflection for Today ▶️ ⏹️

Mordecai honoured by King Ahasuerus, by Claes Cornelisz Moeyaert 1652

For Mordecai the Jew was next unto king Ahasuerus, and great among the Jews, and accepted of the multitude of his brethren, seeking the wealth of his people, and speaking peace to all his seed.
Esther 10:3

The Book of Esther is one of only two books in the Hebrew Bible in which God is never mentioned.1 Yet throughout the story we have a sense that all the events are pre-ordained, from Vashti's refusal to appear before the king, to Ahasuerus's sleepless night and the reading of the court records to help him sleep.2 These events, appearing as a chain of coincidences seem to be a subtle way of indicating God's hands in the affairs of man. All choices are made by the characters themselves, and no prayer or sacrifice is involved in the decision making. Men are free agents, but when we use our freedom to do great evil, as Haman attempted to do, there will always be consequences. In the Book of Esther we have a sense of God in the background, gently guiding events according to a greater divine plan. Triumph bought at the suffering of others is only ever a short-lived and fragile joy, as Haman discovers. Mordacai discovers the power of speaking truth, and Esther the power of courage.

We mostly move through life unaware of the influences that guide our hand. Yet no action is without precedent, and every experience we have lived, every moment of observation and influence guides our decisions today. God created man, so the creation story tells us, with agency, but agency does not mean we have the freedom to do whatever we want. There are some bounding conditions, expressed in the Torah as the ten commandments, but appearing in word and thought long before that, and continuing to this day. These are the implicit agreements that as humans we are born into. Without such agreements there is no way humans could have survived. Our agreements, conditions, rules, laws, boundaries, limits, whatever we call them, are our very life blood. I remind myself of that when I encounter a rule or law I find questionable. I ask, what is the intent of that law, and what would happen if it were not there? Not all laws are good laws, but all haver grown from a seed of necessity. First seek to understand.

The last verse of Esther raises Mordecai to a prominent position in both the Persian court and in the hearts of the Jews. The story ends with a future vision, seeking the wealth of his people, and speaking peace to all his seed, which is not without great irony, given the 75,000 people Esther and Mordecai had so recently slaughtered. This mismatch of ideal and actual may explain why peace has not featured very much in the future story of Israel.

1 The other book being the lyrical poem, Song of Songs.
2 Interestingly, it is now proven that reading a boring book can actually help a person overcome insomnia—and we can easily imagine the book of court records being such a book. See Why We Dream—The Definitive Answer: How Dreaming Keeps Us Sane, or Can Drive Us Mad by Joe Griffin & Ivan Tyrrell, 2014