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Having read Rev. Richard Smit’s article on Queen Esther [see December 1, 2013, p. 116], I would like to raise a few questions and comments. At the outset I wish to make it quite clear I am in overall agreement with his response to Prof. Lee Beach’s article. I quite agree that deliberately to deceive and lie can never promote the truth of the gospel. I do however think Queen Esther and her uncle Mordecai come under an undue and severe criticism. I will make the following comments and obser­vations as I understand the story.

1) It does not seem at all likely that Esther sought to become queen to King Ahasuerus. Esther 2:3a says, “And let the king appoint officers in all the provinces of his kingdom, that they may gather together all the fair young virgins.” More than likely to the dismay of Esther, she was spotted by these officers, as they went about their ungodly purpose to appease the wounded pride of a despotic king. Esther would have been helpless to resist such tyranny in the society and customs of the day.

2) Mordecai shows deep concern to know what is to become of Esther trapped now in the court of the women’s house. “And Mordecai walked every day before the court of the women’s house, to know how Esther did, and what should become of her” (Est. 2:11).

3) Does Esther 2:10 really prove Esther lied about her racial identity? “Esther had not shewed her people nor her kindred: for Mordecai had charged her that she should not shew it.” The King and the Persian empire over which he ruled with absolute authority had proved their hostility and cruel, merciless antagonism to the Jews. To withhold her true identity with discreet silence rather than lies was true wisdom to prevent unnecessary hostile reaction within a seriously dangerous situation, which mysteriously providence had brought Esther to. The Jews were living in exile in a foreign land. Fully to appreciate the nature of their captors see Habakkuk 1:6-11. To Mordecai and Esther the horror of the Jewish captivity was now turning worse and worse for them.

4) Does not Esther 4:14 reveal Mordecai as a man of faith: “For if thou altogether holdest thy peace at this time, then shall there enlargement and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place.” His belief in a deliver­ance must be from the God of the Jews. There are reasons why God is not mentioned in the book.

5) The fast requested by Esther was by no means some Pharisaical, traditional fast based on a faulty interpreta­tion of the law. It was requested by Esther in an attempt to save the situation by a very dangerous proposal by Mordecai, which could well have resulted in Esther’s own death. See Esther 4:15-16.

6) How can Rev. Smit be so categorically sure Morde­cai never returned to the land of promise. In Ezra 2:2 and Nehemiah 7:7 there is a list of the prominent men who returned with Zerubbabel, both of which record a man called Mordecai. Can he prove this was some prominent person other than the Mordecai of the book of Esther?

Richard Holt, South Wales, U.K.

Response

Due to limited space, it is not possible to give an ex­haustive answer to Mr. Holt’s questions. The questioner disagreed with the evaluation of Esther and Mordecai as unbelievers. He is not alone in that regard. It is com­monly held that Esther and Mordecai should be considered as heroes of faith.

With that view, I still disagree. Here are some more things to consider in further support of my “severe criti­cism” of Esther and Mordecai.

It should be noted that my description of Mordecai as uncle to Esther was incorrect. According to Esther 2:7, Esther was “his uncle’s daughter.” This fact is one reason why some commentators have concluded that cousin Mordecai could not have been the Mordecai of Zerubab­bel’s day (Ezra 2:2). They argue that if he were the same person, then the estimates of his age, from 83 to over 100 years old, indicate that he and Esther could hardly have been first cousins. In spite of that discussion about the age of cousin Mordecai, our criticism of his unbelieving ways remains the same.

Mordecai’s rebellion against the king’s commandment (Est. 3:2) was the cause for Haman’s wicked decree to destroy the Jews, not a deep-seated, empire wide, racist persecution towards Jews that kept them in poverty and oppression throughout the empire. The Jews lived in rela­tive comfort in Persia and Babylon in the days of Esther, which was exactly what many Jews did not want to give up for repatriation to the harsh realities of the rebuilding of the temple and Jerusalem and of post-captivity life in Judea.

Esther was not an innocent victim of the king’s lust­ful, despotic desires. She participated willingly under the foolish demands of her cousin in an immoral beauty contest for a depraved king. Her reprehensible actions are clearly not evidence of chaste godliness in obedience to the seventh commandment, “Thou shalt not commit adultery.”

Not for fear of death, but for disqualification in a wicked contest, she willingly hid her Jewish identity, which is equivalent to being ashamed of Jehovah, the God and King of the Jews, and not testifying of Him before men, which was her solemn duty. This compromise is not evidence of honesty and of faith that speaks the truth in love, humility, and godly fear.

Her concluding words in Esther 4:16 were: “If I per­ish, I perish.” These are the words of fatalism. They are not evidence of faith in Jehovah, our covenant God, who is faithful to His promises in Christ.

As I mentioned in the original article, we find a godly model for foreign missions in Daniel and his three friends in a time period about 100 years prior to the story of Es­ther. Even before the prospect of death in a fiery furnace or in a lion’s den, these men of faith were, by the grace of God, uncompromising, honest, bold, loyal to Jehovah, humble, and even submissive to depraved kings. That is a godly example of how the church today must proclaim the gospel among the nations of the earth, even among those who may be very hostile to the truth of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Of course, much more could be written, and probably should be written someday by someone, about the book of Esther. However, I trust that this brief response may help in the meantime.

—Rev. Richard J. Smit