The Weight of the World on Her Shoulders: Esther 4: 9-17

Altas Sculpture on a building on Collins Street, Melbourne

Altas Sculpture on a building on Collins Street, Melbourne

Esther 4: 9-17

 9 Hathach went and told Esther what Mordecai had said. 10 Then Esther spoke to Hathach and gave him a message for Mordecai, saying, 11 “All the king’s servants and the people of the king’s provinces know that if any man or woman goes to the king inside the inner court without being called, there is but one law– all alike are to be put to death. Only if the king holds out the golden scepter to someone, may that person live. I myself have not been called to come in to the king for thirty days.”

 12 When they told Mordecai what Esther had said, 13 Mordecai told them to reply to Esther, “Do not think that in the king’s palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews. 14 For if you keep silence at such a time as this, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another quarter, but you and your father’s family will perish. Who knows? Perhaps you have come to royal dignity for just such a time as this.” 15 Then Esther said in reply to Mordecai, 16 “Go, gather all the Jews to be found in Susa, and hold a fast on my behalf, and neither eat nor drink for three days, night or day. I and my maids will also fast as you do. After that I will go to the king, though it is against the law; and if I perish, I perish.” 17 Mordecai then went away and did everything as Esther had ordered him.

A young person is thrust into a life or death situation, and while I may disagree with Mordecai (and perhaps Esther might too) that she personally might have been able to avoid the ordered purge, the personal and emotional consequences of not speaking, of not acting would be high indeed. The risks are great and now the young person in a life or death situation has to muster their courage to act. Esther apparently is trying to let Mordecai know the reasons she shouldn’t go: she hasn’t been summoned for 30 days (her influence is small), the boundaries between even the king and the queen are great, and the consequences could involve death. The story revolves on the irony that one queen refuses to come when summoned and then for her act of rebellion is exiled and now the new queen must come when not summoned and risk death. Mordecai pushes her, through Hathach the messenger, that she must act but we see a transformation taking place: the once pliant Esther now gives orders, she will go but all the Jews are to fast for three days first. Mordecai goes and obeys, the one who raised her now must rely on her for action.

In contrast to the King and Hamath who feast while the city is confused around them, Mordecai and Esther fast. The King may end up being the one who provides a way for the salvation of the people, but ultimately it will depend upon who the king will listen to. Even though God is not mentioned there is an element of providence or fate in the story, and most readers know how the story will end, but one of Jesus’ proverbs plays itself out in this story: “For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted” (in Luke’s gospel this occurs in Luke 14: 11 and 18:14, it also has a Matthean parallel)

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