Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Dec 14 2019 - Esther 9:1-19 – The Jews triumphant

The scene was now set for tension and perhaps violence on the thirteenth day of the twelfth month. It might have been hoped that those who had planned to attack the Jews would have thought better of it now that the Jews were ready to fight back. But, sadly, this was not the case. Nor is it clear that the Jews, now having gained the upper hand, did not hold back from going on the offensive and attacking their enemies before their enemies could attack them. The nobles across the empire, recognising that Mordecai and the Jews now had royal backing and knowing which side their bread was buttered, helped the Jews against their enemies. Five hundred men were killed by the Jews in the capital of Susa, including the ten sons of Haman. At Esther's request, the king granted the Jews a second day of fighting in Susa to complete their victory. He also agreed that Haman's sons could be impaled, as their father had been – a grizzly sight designed to stop further anti-Jewish plots. Three hundred further men were killed by the Jews in Susa and 75,000 were killed throughout the Persian Empire. We are told that the Jews refused to take possession of the property of their enemies.

What are we to make of this story? We may try to read the story in terms of the Jews defending themselves from attack, but that is difficult given these casualty figures at the hands of the Jews coupled with no mention of casualties among the Jews. Then there is the request from Esther for a second day of slaughter; this can only be read in terms of a desire to finish the job of killing off as many of their enemies as possible. However we may read this story, we have to admit that it exemplifies attitudes and actions which are common amongst the peoples of this sadly divided and conflicted world but completely contrary to those exemplified and taught by the Lord Jesus.

Jesus did not only teach that we should love and pray for our enemies and seek to be a source of blessing to those who wish us evil, he exemplified this in his own life. Jesus rebuked James and John when they wanted to call down fire from heaven to destroy a Samaritan village that had refused to welcome Jesus. Jesus was capable of calling upon leagues of angels to come to his defence and to strike down those who took him captive in the Garden of Gethsemane and led him away to his trial. He did not do so but permitted himself to be taken away like a lamb to the slaughter. While soldiers nailed him to the cross he cried out, "Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing." Jesus calls his disciples to show the same spirit.

All too often, Christians have failed to follow the example and teaching of their Lord and, through acts of violence have damaged the cause of the Gospel and the reputation of Christ. Most notably the crusades from the eleventh century onward were supported by the Catholic Church and sought by military means to recover what was thought of as the "Holy Land", and particularly Jerusalem, from the control of Muslims. These wars have poisoned the relationship between Christians and Muslims to this day. Large parts of South America were conquered in the name of Christ through violence and with what often amounted to genocide. Violent anti-Semitism and plots against Jews similar to those made by Haman have also left deep stains on the history of Christianity and affect relationships between Jews and Christians to this day. Militant forms of Christianity which are prepared to defend "Christian territory" through violence persist in many forms and in many countries today – including Western countries. All of these things trample Christ under foot and, under the pretence of supporting his cause, oppose both him and his kingdom.

Father God, forgive us for the conduct of Christians that has denied the teaching of Christ and damaged his reputation in the world. Teach us more of our Saviour and make us more like our Lord. Help us by your Spirit to live in ways that bring glory to your name and astound the world with the unlimited nature of your love, grace and forgiveness.

Peter Misselbrook