Thursday, February 11, 2010

Reader's Diary #578- The Good News Bible: Esther

It would not be difficult to analyze Esther, one of the more narrative books of the Old Testament, from a feminist perspective. Given that it's one of only two books in the entire Bible to be named after a female, I'm sure this has already done to death and I needn't get into here.

Esther begins with Xerxes, a king of Persia, calling for his wife Vashti to come and present her beauty to some visiting dignitaries. She refuses. She was too busy preparing for her big gig at Lilith Fair that evening. Xerxes, embarrassed by his wife's disobedience and lacking the ability to think for himself, asks his council for advice. His council strings a few grunts together to suggest that they are scared by the precedence Vashti has set (What if my wife refuses me? What if she suddenly wants to vote? What if she gets a talk show and book club?) and advise Xerxes to strip Vashti of her title as queen. That's when Simon Cowell enters the scene and begins auditioning virgins to be the new queen. After some rather embarrassing versions of "Ain't No Mountain High Enough," the potential mates get whittled down to one winner, the enchanting and (shhh!) Jewish, Esther.

From here the story takes a shift and becomes one of political intrigue and betrayal. Xerxes' newly chosen Prime Minister, Haman, invites the royal officials to become his Facebook friends, but one man refuses: Mordecai, Esther's cousin. Now the Jews at the time were opposed to Facebook (a kosher version had yet to be developed), so Mordecai had good reason to decline. However, Haman felt slighted, and, as we've all done when slighted by someone of a different race, demanded that all the Jews be killed-- a motion supported by Xerxes. Esther has a big decision to make. Should she come clean that she, too, is Jewish and risk being demoted and wind up marrying K. Fed? Or will her admission convince Xerxes to come to the rescue of Mordecai and the rest of the Jews? Suspense.

Esther is a great short story. There's an unfortunate wrap-up at the end that somehow manages to interpret Xerxes and Mordecai as the heroes, but we all know it's Esther. I wonder if, after she'd grown some courage and confidence, she didn't leave leave Xerxes and exploit the whole thing in a tell-all book? I bet the ending would be better.


Chrisbookarama said...

That was an entertaining summary. Poor Vashti. I guess that's what she gets for having thoughts of her own.

Unknown said...

Funny, I think that since the last time I read the Bible, a few new characters have been added...hmmm.