Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

The other night I actually dreamt that I was reading the Bible. Clearly this is all starting to get to me...

Of course, according to Esther 6:1, all these old records could be just the thing for insomnia:

That same night the king could not get to sleep, so he ordered the official records of the empire to be brought and read to him.

- Esther 6:1 (Good News)

Hmm, I have to make do with this blog...

Esther is a great book, especially if you’re waiting 50 minutes for your train, as I was. The fact that it tells its story so well is sometimes pointed at as proof that it’s fiction. That doesn’t make sense to me though, because I regularly attempt to tell true stories from my own life as well as possible on this blog. Maybe the people who reason that way tend to sleep quite soundly at night, so they never get to read that much.

I shan’t detail the plot here, but it’s one where you can really get on board with the lead players. Esther herself is God-fearing, beautiful, and risks her life to do the right thing. Well, what more can you ask for in a heroine?

I used to see this tale as a good example of predetermination – as Haman builds the very gallows on which he himself ultimately gets hung – but now I see it more as God simply using the circumstances that are there. Of course, that assumes that God wanted Haman dead.

Mordecai seems to be pondering the same thing at one point, as he displays both open and closed theism tendencies in the same sentence. What might happen if Esther doesn’t help?:

If you keep quiet at a time like this, help will come from heaven to the Jews, and they will be saved, but you will die and your father’s family will come to an end. Yet who knows – maybe it was for a time like this that you were made queen!”

- Esther 4:14 (Good News)

Sadly, towards the end of the story, the good guys go on another holy bloodbath, subtracting respect for the heroes, but at the same time painting them with greyer strokes, perhaps therefore making them easier to believe.

The Jews in the provinces also organized and defended themselves. They rid themselves of their enemies by killing seventy-five thousand people who hated them. But they did no looting.

- Esther 9:16 (Good News)

Oh, well, that sounds all right then.

One thing that I’ve been pondering recently is the extraordinary amount of killing that God sanctions in the Old Testament. I approached these books thinking that I would be able to read a great deal of reluctance into God’s actions, but it’s an absolute bloodbath.

I told myself that God was showing mankind the consequence of sin. I convinced myself that God was rightfully protecting the Israelites, whom he had chosen to save. I’ve been reminding myself that God would surely be forgiving these mass-murders. Y'know, maybe the people at the time who wrote the records down never figured all that out.

But God instructs the perpetrators. God rewards the perpetrators. God actually punishes those whom he tells to kill, but who then – quite rightly in my opinion - don’t do it.

Somewhat later in the Bible, Jesus shows up and changes the rules, telling everyone to be nice from now on.

If Jesus’ example was so great, then why didn’t God send him earlier?


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