This week’s Wednesday Reads book was one that Wes recommended. He told me that it would change the way I read the book of Esther, and it certainly did that!
Faith Among the Faithless: Learning from Esther How to Live in a World Gone Mad by Mike Cosper is a book that takes a closer look at the story of Esther. I think the conclusions Cosper draws from his study of the Persian culture of the time of Esther and the reality of what it meant to be a Jew living in an exiled state make for a more accurate understanding of Esther’s story and God’s message to us in a culture that isn’t all that different from hers. It was a little jolting, honestly, to read about how well Esther assimilated into Persian culture, so much so that her Jewish faith wasn’t a predominant part of her life and how the story of what she does is as much about her introduction to a faith foreign to her as it is about a story of the redemption of the Jews. That’s clearly in the text of Scripture but not something that I think I’ve ever heard taught. Cosper’s observations about Vashti, the disgraced queen, were jolting as well, as he detailed just what kind of humiliation the queen (who was, in essence, a sex slave to the king) was resisting by her refusal to appear before the king and his drunk friends. Weren’t we all taught that Vashti should have shown respect to her husband? Weren’t we all taught that we should be more like Esther, who delighted the king? (Yes, I’ve heard both of these things taught from the book of Esther!) Cosper continues on destroying this story for readers (ha!) by giving greater insight to Haman and his background and exactly why he would have hated the Jews so much. He explains how Mordecai was a Jew in the city itself, so assimilated into the culture of Persia that his very name (and Esther’s!) were connected to pagan rituals and beliefs. All of this combined makes it astounding that Esther would have risen up to protect the Jewish remnant that was exiled, used by God to preserve His people.
And that, y’all — THAT — was the biggest thing I got from this book. When the Jews are victorious in the end and are killing everyone… well, I’ve always cringed at that part, wanting this to be a story about a good girl named Esther who loved God. But it’s not that. It’s a story full of people who have been won over by a culture centered on self and pleasure, imperfect and tragically flawed people who are called by God and made into a people for His purpose. And what purpose is that? The preservation of the line of Christ. I’m challenged to think about the whole of the Old Testament and the carnage and gore involved (because there’s a lot) in a new way. All of it is the preservation of the very bloodlines that would run through Christ’s veins, that would be poured out for salvation for ALL people and ALL nations.
So. The book of Esther. It’s about more than just a queen. (And how!) You should totally read this book…