Scripture: Lectionary 228. March 1, 2012. Esther C: 12:23-25. Psalm 138:1-2.2-3.7-8. Matthew 7: 7-12
Prayer again is our theme for this Lenten Thursday in week one. We have a powerful example in Esther, the Jewish queen of a Persian King who has chosen her over Vashti who disobeyed him. Esther is among the most beautiful women ever born and she has become the favored one of the King. However, she lives in a dangerous situation after the King has learned from Haman that she is Jewish. Haman has ordered that all Jews be killed who reside in this nation of Persia. Haman is the vizier of the King. His megalomania leads to a decree of persecution for all Jews in the nation. Mordecai, the uncle of Esther, refused to do him homage—an act contrary to his belief that God alone should be honored in the way the vizier expected to be honor. How can Esther survive with Mordecai and all her people if the edict is carried out. Through Haman’s inappropriate behavior toward Esther the King is angered and has Haman put to death on the very gibbet he had prepared for Haman. Today this narrative is celebrated at Purim where the children often present a play describing the vindication of Esther and her people. The word “Purim” is associated with the lots Haman had drawn up with his plan to kill all the Jewish people in the kingdom of Ahasuerus (Xerxes 485-465 B.C.). The megilla or small scroll is that of Esther and it is read on the 14-15 of Adar. Whenever there is a leap year in the Jewish calendar the celebration takes place in the second month named Adar. Incidentally, there are fives such scrolls (megilloth) and each is read on a particular holy day or festival. They are the Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, and Esther.
Esther is particular important to those Christians who accept the Septuagint and have this little book as deuterocanonical or a second canonical enumeration of certain books found only in Greek and not in Hebrew. The prayers and mention of the holy name of God are present in the Greek additions and not found in the original Hebrew. Esther is praying to her only King who is God and it is a prayer of absolute trust in Adonai (Lord) who is her only hope for her salvation and that of her people. She prays, “Save me by your power, and help me, who am alone and have no one but you, O Lord. You know all things.” The other Greek additions to this narrative are replete with the reverence due to the holy Name of God (Ha Shem) and these prayer forms of Esther give us a glimpse into her personal relationship to the one true God of her people Israel.
Esther is not cited in the New Testament nor were any copies of it found in the Dead Sea Scrolls. The central theme of the book is the Divine Providence of the God of salvation history which is explicit in the content of the book or megillah of Esther. Amen.