Esther – the unromanticized version
Lately I have been reading, Tommy Tenney’s “Finding favour with the king”. It is similar to other books about Esther in that he makes great use of the story in an analogical way. Yet I find this approach tends to romanticized the story and leaves out some rather harsh and unpleasant realities. The romanticized version of Esther is that an ordinary orphan girl becomes queen and saves her people from annihilation. This version overlooks the fact that she was most likely forced against her will into King Xerxes beauty contest which included a night with the King. The text is very brief at this point and we are only told that Esther “was taken to the king’s palace” (Esther 2:8). Yet it is hard to imagine that a young Jewish girl would want to end up as part of the king’s harem. In our culture being forced to have sex is called rape. In this Persian culture it reads like standard practice. One can only imagine that Esther was a normal young girl with dreams of being a wife and mother to a nice Jewish boy, instead she finds herself in a palace which is more like a prison since she has no way of escape. Next she finds herself in the intimate company of a ruthless, pagan king. For me this reads like a nightmare, not a dream come true “rags to riches” story.
Some time later Esther does indeed save the Jewish people from annihilation. This includes those living in Persia, and all the other places where Persia had political control, which also means those who had returned to Israel. A national festival is proclaimed so future generations will remember the significance of the events that took place in Esther times.
So the story does have a happily-ever-after ending, but I still don’t find it romantic.