On the book of Esther

After These Events

My dear readers, I have been leading this blog for almost 5 years now, and that means that I am writing an article about Purim here for the fifth time. In previous years I spoke about many different things and told you many different stories related to Purim (here are the links to some previous posts on Purim: https://blog.israelbiblicalstudies.com/jewish-studies/miracle-purim-reversal-evil/, https://blog.israelbiblicalstudies.com/jewish-studies/the-book-and-the-festival-1/ , https://blog.israelbiblicalstudies.com/jewish-studies/purim-the-question-and-the-answer/ ). I thought that by now I had exhausted the topic completely. However, as I was reading the Book of Esther in preparation for this post, I was struck by something that I had not seen before – and this is the first thing I would like to share with you today.

The first two chapters of this amazing tell us how a Jewish girl named Esther became queen of the Persian Empire—and only after that we read, in the first verse of the third chapter: “After these things King Ahasuerus promoted Haman, the son of Hammedatha the Agagite, and advanced him and set his seat above all the princes who were with him”[1].  After these things! Think about it: it was only after the remedy was ready for the salvation of Israel that Haman was allowed to be promoted.

Here we come to a point of great importance. You have probably already heard that the book of Esther doesn’t contain the name of God at all? Over the centuries, not once has the question arisen, as to why this book was included in the canon in the first place.

I believe we can find an answer in these three simple words: After these things אַחַ֣ר | הַדְּבָרִ֣ים הָאֵ֗לֶּה . The Book of Esther was included in the canon because, in fact, it is all about GodThe evil here is defeated through a series of events orchestrated by God – and that is how God reveals Himself to His people! Yes, the word “God” does not appear openly in this book, because oftentimes God remains hidden in our lives—until we recognize Him and His handwriting in the circumstances and events that unfold. Of course, it does happen sometimes that God’s salvation comes as a miracle, defying natural laws (like in the book of Daniel, for instance). More often than not, however, divine salvation is “disguised” in ordinary events – “hidden” in what can be perceived as a series of “coincidences” – like what happens here in the book of Esther.

The very title of this book – Megillat Esther (the Scroll of Esther) – is extremely profound. I have written about it before, but I think it is worth mentioning again: the amazing dynamic between hidden and revealed is reflected in this title. The name Esther (אסתר) is related to the word “nistar”: “hidden”, “concealed”; while the word Megillah is related to the word “megaleh”: “reveal”. Therefore, the words “Megillat Esther” can literally be translated as “the Revelation of the Hidden” – and this is the message of this amazing book! God’s hand is at work, even when He is hidden and we don’t “see” Him acting in our lives, – and it will be revealed! And so important did this message seem to our sages, that, according to the Talmud, Esther is hinted at and “hidden” in the Torah, even though the story of Purim happened many centuries later. Here is what Talmud says: “Where do we hear about Esther in the Torah? [It says in Deuteronomy 31:18:] “And I will hide, really hide my face from them.”[2]

Descendants of Rachel versus Descendants of Amalek

In the Jewish commentaries, we find a very interesting observation:

Rachel was always meant to be Yaakov’s wife, as opposed to Leah who was initially destined to marry Esav. As a result, her (Leah’s) descendants don’t have the necessary strength to be Esav’s spiritual nemesis[3].

These words comment on a fact that every time the Jewish people fight their great enemy Amalek (who was the grandson of Esau), the battle is led by a descendant of Joseph or Benjamin, the sons of Rachel. It seems that the children of Rachel and their descendants are destined to fight Amalek throughout the history of Israel. The first battle with Amalek, after Israel leaves Egypt[4], was fought by Joshua who was from the tribe of Ephraim, the son of Joseph. The second time Israel faced Amalek, the battle was fought by King Saul, the son of Kish, from the tribe of Benjamin[5]:

Samuel also said to Saul…. Now go and attack Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and do not spare them… And Saul attacked the Amalekites, from Havilah all the way to Shur… But Saul and the people spared Agag and the best of the sheep… and were unwilling to utterly destroy them.

In the Purim story, Esther and Mordechai, from the tribe of Binyamin, confront Haman the Amalekite:

Esther 3:1After these things King Ahasuerus promoted Haman, the son of Hammedatha the Agagite…

Esther 2:5 In Shushan the citadel there was a certain Jew whose name was Mordecai the son of Jair, the son of Shimei, the son of Kish, a Benjamite. 

In fact, we can see the story of Esther and Mordecai as a continuation of that story that happened six hundred years before, with King Saul and Agag. Here we can trace one of those amazing spiritual laws that the Bible tells us about: Agag had to be destroyed – and it seems that his destruction was very important in God’s eyes, since Saul was commanded first to destroy Agag “utterly”, and then he was rejected as king right after he had spared him. Moreover, his failure to destroy Agag almost resulted in the slaughter of the Jews by an Agagite six centuries later: Haman was a descendant of Agag; Mordecai was a descendant of Kish and Benjamin; the line of Agag and the line of Kish had to meet again. According to Jewish tradition, Mordecai had to destroy Agag’s descendant, Haman, because Saul didn’t destroy Agag. Thus, the story of Purim began six hundred years before Esther, with Saul and Agag—but this was a hidden beginning. This, perhaps, is one of the brightest biblical examples of the spiritual accountability that each one of us carries: each of us is obliged to remember that what we did or didn’t do during our lifetime can, in the most unexpected way, surface in the lives of our descendants. And this is another profound lesson of this amazing book!

CHAG PURIM SAMEACH, MY DEAR READERS!

[1] Esth.3:1

[2] Talmud – Chullin 139b

[3] Breishit Rabba 73:5

[4] Exodus 17:9

[5] 1-Samuel 15:1-3

Published by neaseno

I was born on Powers Bluff in Wood County, Wisconsin, into a traditional community of Neshnabek. I was raised speaking only native languages, and learned to speak English upon entering school at the age of 6. As of this writing, I am one of 5 remaining Heritage Fluent Speakers of Potawatomi.

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