sex, lies and videotape

I've just read the book of Esther (she comes before Job, in case you wanted to know, I always find her quite difficult to find)

Esther is one of those books that seems to be quoted in part ('for such a time as this') but with quite a lot of omission regarding the gruesomeness of what Esther and her cousin Mordecai then do to Haman's children.

Let me explain. Esther is press ganged into King Xerxes harem (pretty nasty tyrant was King Xerxes, once he had 'tested' the women he chose a Queen, the other girls were then 'unmarriable' and thus of no real use - Esther obviously had the certain qualities Xerxes was after and was made Queen, but let's not make this into a story about true love......) So then Esther as Queen was in a position ('for such a time as this') to save the Jews from the evil Haman (boo hiss) who planned to have all the Jews exterminated. Haman even builds some gallows to hang Mordecai on, but Esther uses her power over the King to secure Haman's fate - he is hanged on his own gallows. (hooray, the baddie gets it...hmmm)

after this not only is Esther satisfied to save the whole nation of Jews, but she demands the necks of Haman's ten children and anyone else in the Kingdom who she deems to be an enemy of the Jews. - do we quote from this bit? not so much.

I'm always fascinated how we deal with stories, or bits of stories, in the Bible that we can't quite handle (how many times do we hear it said that Esther was made Queen because she was good in bed? - sshh Christians don't talk about sex) - we either don't quote from them, skate over them, sanitise them or ignore them, most of the time.

I think that Scripture is so rich and full of living witness to a God who works with and through people who are, more often than not, a bit crap. What do we do with a story like Esther? Where God is not mentioned at all and yet where God is everywhere present? Where the heroine is the Victoria Beckham (all those clothes and beauty potions) of her day and who saves her people through a combination of sex, lies and videotape? Do we ignore the messiness of the story? Turn it into a love story?

Let's not, shall we?

I for one am overjoyed that my God uses people rooted in their culture and time, who get it right, get it wrong, work with what they've got and the place they are placed in - and, who knows, in the messiness of our lives, we might see that we find ourselves to be somewhere 'for such a time as this' (well it is still a very good quote)

I've written an overview of Phyllis Trible's critique of 'The Unnamed Woman' - Judges 19 - you will find it on the 'articles' page of my website, under 'biblical stuff'. It's worth a read and it is very messy.

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