Esther 2 — Working because of us or in spite of us?

As I was looking through one of my commentaries getting background for the book of Esther, one of them mentioned some of the moral issues people have had as they studied this book.

It also noted that the name of God is not mentioned once in the entire book and addressed some of the possible reasons why.

One possible reason was that it was written as an explanation to the Persians for the Feast of Purim, and that they were not so interested in the religious aspect of things.  Another interesting reason that the commentary proposed was that perhaps God really wasn’t actively involved in this entire episode.  Rather it was showing how people were trying to do things in their own wisdom and strength while pushing God to the side.  This wouldn’t be the first time we see this in the Bible.  Certainly, most of the book of Ecclesiastes was that way.  But you also see this in the life of King Saul, and even people like Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

Looking at the book as a whole, I’m not convinced that God was not involved.  I personally think he was.  The question then becomes, did he sanction every action that Esther and Mordecai took?  And that, I’m not entirely certain of.

Chapter 2 includes some of my biggest concerns.  One question is how voluntary was Esther’s decision to become part of the “contest” to become queen?  Did she have a choice?  Did Mordecai push her in that direction?  If so, there is a serious issue in that God forbade this kind of marriage to heathen people.  We will see this later in the book of Ezra.  It should also be noted that once she was in this “contest,” there was no getting out even if she didn’t win.  After spending the night with the king, if she didn’t find favor with him, she would become one of the concubines of the king for life, even if she never saw him again.  And she probably would never see him again.  This is hardly the kind of situation they should have been aiming for.

If it wasn’t voluntary, then why did Mordecai insist that she hide her identity?  The only thing I can think of is that he wanted her to become the queen, and being a Jew would be a hindrance to that.  But did he really want her to be queen, considering God’s feelings on intermarriage with ungodly people?  If she had been up front with the Persians, it might have been possible she would’ve been dismissed before even seeing Xerxes, thus escaping becoming his wife, or being put into his harem.

Some might say, “But if she hadn’t become queen, the Jews would have been slaughtered.”

But there’s two points that should be made here.  Mordecai makes it crystal clear to Esther in chapter 4 that if she did nothing, deliverance for the Jews would come from somewhere else.  Wouldn’t that equally apply to the situation in which Esther did not become queen?

Second, if she had been up front with her background, would Haman still have plotted to destroy the Jews knowing that the queen was one?

My point is this:  Is God working in us because we are in line with his will?  Or is he working in us in spite of our decisions?

Like I said, I do believe God was working in the situation.  And since Esther was already queen, I think he chose to use her.  But I’m equally convinced that had she not been queen, he would’ve worked out the Jews’ deliverance another way.

Am I then trying to disparage Esther and Mordecai, saying that they were terrible people?  No.  They were probably people who were trying to do their best in bad circumstances.  But just because they were doing their best doesn’t mean they were always doing what was right.  And in this case, they were probably doing what was right in their own eyes, rather than God’s, just as the people in the book of Judges did (Judges 21:25).

What can we get from all this?  Be careful about what you do.  Judge everything you do by God’s Word.  By what he says is right, and not by what you think is right.  You may justify what you do by your circumstances.  You may even point to the fact that God used you to do something good.  But again, the question is, did he use you because you were in line with his will, or in spite of the fact that you weren’t?

About bkshiroma

I'm from Hawaii, but have been in Japan as a missionary/English teacher since 1995. I'm currently going to a church called Crossroad Nishinomiya, an international church in Nishinomiya, a city right between Kobe and Osaka. Check out their website: 私がハワイから来ましたけど1995年に宣教師と英会話の教師として日本に引っ越しました。 今西宮にあるクロスロード西宮という国際の教会に行っています。どうぞ、そのホムページを見てください:
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