Drawing parallels for women in the story of Esther

Lauren Giese

Many biblical scholars believe that the book of Esther was written sometime in the mid-fifth century B.C., and took place in a period of Jewish exile.

Although the book was recorded from an ancient time in the history of Persia, Esther’s display of boldness and faith provides women today a strong example to follow in the midst of adverse circumstances.

Professor of Biblical Studies Jamie Coles Burnette believes that the story of Esther, however, could not have been made possible if it had not been for the work of her predecessor Vashti.

Prior to Esther’s reign, Vashti was removed from the position of queen because she refused to display herself at the king’s order.

“[Vashti] was willing to risk and lose her position in order to maintain her dignity. Because of her action she paves the way for Esther to move into the position that she is in,” Coles said.

Coles believes that this provides the reader with a greater understanding of the kind of king Esther will have to deal with as she becomes the new queen of Persia.

Coles commented, “It really shows how precarious her position will be, because the reason she becomes queen in the first place is because the king becomes angry with his previous wife.”

During Esther’s reign, a man named Haman devises and approves a plan through the king to have a genocidal annihilation of all the Jews. Esther refuses to stand by, knowing that something has to be done on behalf of her people.

As Dr. Brenda Salter McNeil says through the University Presbyterian Church sermon discussion, “Esther is a book about being in the right place at the right time with a choice: whether or not to do the right thing.”

Senior theology major Caroline Brand noted the patriarchal society that Esther was placed in creating further difficulty for her.

“She knows the risks and the costs of what could happen, and that’s death,” said Brand, “but she also knows there is a greater cause she needs to fight for, and that people’s lives are at stake.”

Before Esther moves towards action, she first seeks wise counsel, because she knows the risks involved with challenging the king.

“She is afraid at first to take action, but she takes a moment to seek God before she acts,” Coles said.

“And I think that speaks to us to not rush into things, but to take some time and get wise counsel [before] we do what we need to do.”

“We think about women today, in particular thinking about the #metoo movement, and women being able to have their voices heard and finding the courage to speak out,” Coles said.

Esther acts upon these convictions and effectively persuades the king to denounce this edict, saving the people from imminent death.Despite the consequences that her actions could have had on her personally, she had enough faith that God would act on her behalf.

Assistant Professor of Christian Scripture J.J. Johnson Leese said, “Esther provides a model of someone who let go of fear and acted on her convictions, not recklessly, but with confidence that God was God.”

Brand believes that Esther shares the story of a woman who is unshaken by the hopelessness of the situation she is facing.

“There are some areas of my life that I can’t change the circumstances I am placed in, but

I can change how I react to them and how I make choices within those circumstances,” Brand said.

Sophomore Student Ministry Coordinator Rachel Maddy is encouraged by the story of Esther, saying, “It reminds me that life will not always be easy but we have to continue trusting that God does have a plan for us and will never leave us.”

The story of Esther leaves women with encouragement as well as a challenge.

“Esther always challenges me to be selfless and to be bold. In moments where I may experience fear she serves to me as someone I can look to and say, ‘I’m going to do this, and if I perish, I perish,” Leese said.

“God has a time and place for each of us, we need to be open to the possibility of God working through us for the benefit of others and in preparation, we should cultivate a discerning heart and willing attitude.”