Esther 3 is about enemies. We meet Hamaan of course but Peter pointed out that there are two enemies of God’s people in this text: Mr Evil (Hamaan) and Mr Weak (Xerxes).
Hamaan is explicitly mentioned as an enemy of the Jews (v.10) and he borders on the pathological. This is a guy who sets out to commit genocide because 1 Jew didn’t bow down to him! Such an overreaction is even worse than what we saw from Xerxes in Esther 1! He fills his evidence to Xerxes with vague statements (“a certain people”; “it is not in the king’s best interest”) and half truths (“who do not obey the king’s laws”). He follows that up with a bribe equivalent to about 2/3 of the royal treasury. He’s a real bastard (my words, not Peter’s!)
Yet, the King allows all this to happen. He gives Hamaan his authority, even refusing the bribe and giving Hamaan free reign. The Bible is full of the stories of weak kings who are manipulated by evil people. As they say, all it takes for evil to flourish is for good men to remain silent.
Yet, in this story, there are two signs of hope if we know our Bibles well enough. As Hamaan rolls the dice to determine when to carry out his extermination of the Jews, Proverbs 16:33 comes to mind:
The lot is cast into the lap, but every decision is from the Lord.
The second sign of hope is the result, the day that is chosen. It may be obscure to us, but the twelfth month of Adar is just before the Passover, the great moment in which God delivered his people from genocide. Reading this and knowing that, we ask, might God do the same again?
Though there are parts of this passage that are unfamiliar to us, much of it is stunningly relevant. We have just come out of a century splattered with genocide, including a horrific attempted genocide of the Jews by the Nazis. Such violence is all to commonplace in our world.
But the picture of genocide in this story is sharper than just persecuting a particular people group. Here, it’s persecuting God’s people, which means persecuting God himself and unfortunately, this too is a reality in our world. This is part of what it means to be a Christian: we are treated as Christ was. And yet, Peter related a story of being in India, with a bunch of lowly village evangelists who were suffering greatly. They asked what they were doing wrong, that they were being so badly persecuted, unlike Peter and others in the West who had it so good. Peter replied that the question was the other way around, for they were the real modern day heroes of the Christian faith.
Tamie Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at meetjesusatuni.com.