Connections 09.26.2021: Esther’s Courage

Esther 7:1-6, 9-10; 9:20-22

As a little girl in Sunday school, I learned story after story about the male heroes of the Bible. Adam. Noah. Moses. Joshua. Samuel. Saul. David. Jonathan. Joseph. Gideon. Elijah. Elisha. Peter. Paul. John.

Although the women who populate these stories were mentioned, it was years before I recognized the significance of their contributions. Eve. Noah’s wife and daughters. Jochebed. Miriam. Pharaoh’s daughter. Sarah. Elizabeth. Rebekah. Rachel. Leah. Deborah. Rahab. Huldah. Ruth. Naomi. Esther. Mary. Priscilla. Phoebe. I could probably name more biblical women now than men!

In a supremely patriarchal society where they were viewed in terms of what they could do for men, all of these women made a difference through whatever means they could find: courage, leadership, gifts, and even subversion and deceit.

Esther was among a group of young women brought to King Ahasuerus as potential wives. Do you think anyone asked her if she was interested in the king? Do you think she had a choice about whether or not to endure the twelve months of beauty treatments to get ready for him? Do you think she could have refused to “go in to King Ahasuerus” when her turn came? What do you imagine happened during the night she had to spend with him? (See Esth 2:8-17.)

The implications are chilling. But Esther did all of this, and she was chosen as the king’s new queen. She could have melted into history at this point, eating the lavish food, wearing the glorious clothing, and basking in the respect and honor of the king’s people. She didn’t, though. His people weren’t her people. When Haman convinced the king to kill her people, Esther used a mixture of deceit, manipulation, and bribes to save them. It would have been so much easier for her to settle in and keep quiet. Instead, she risked her own life to save the Jews and give them a fighting chance. She had, as her cousin Mordecai said, “come to royal dignity for just such a time as this” (Esth 4:14).

It’s 2021. I live in the United States, where women have gained numerous rights and opportunities over the past century. But most of us still bear the larger burden of childcare and housework. Our medical concerns are sometimes dismissed as being “in our heads.” We must work harder to be heard in the workplace. And we still earn less than our male counterparts in the same jobs. In other parts of the world, women are much more oppressed. We still have so far to go. We need Esthers to take a courageous stand, to find a way to speak out about these injustices, to risk their status or reputation to make a difference for other women. That’s the only way change will continue to occur. Who among us is ready “for just such a time as this”?

Discussion

• How well do you know the stories of women in the Bible? Whose story do you find most inspiring?
• Imagine that you are Esther. How does it feel to be brought to the palace, endure a year of beauty treatments, and then be forced to spend a night with the king so he can judge your worth?
• How do you think Esther managed to maintain a sense of herself in spite of what was happening to her?
• How do you think she felt as she presented her request to the king at the banquet? What was she risking? Why was it so important for her to take that risk?
• What are the needs of the women in your community? How can you be an “Esther” to help them?

Kelley Land, a graduate of Mercer University, has been an assistant editor of Smyth & Helwys curriculum and books since 2001. In addition to this work, she is a freelance editor for other publishers and authors. She also regularly volunteers for Jay’s HOPE, a nonprofit serving families of children with cancer. Kelley enjoys spending time with her teenage daughters, Samantha and Natalie, her husband John, and the family’s two dachshund mix pups, Luke and Leia. She likes supporting community theater productions and is often found playing board games with a group of rowdy friends. She loves Marvel, Star Wars, Harry Potter, and Doctor Who. And she writes middle grade and young adult fiction for the pure joy of it.

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