Chapter D

Esther D:

1) On the third day, ending her prayers, she took off her prayer garments and arrayed herself in her splendid attire.


COMMENTARY:  Remember, nobody can come into the King’s presence unless dressed fabulously, as he sees befitting his court.



2) In making her appearance, after invoking the all-seeing God and savior, she took with her two maids;


COMMENTARY:  She won’t attempt this without all the support she can get, human or divine.



3) on the one she leaned gently for support,


COMMENTARY:  Some things are so terrifying that you can hardly walk forward to meet them—or at least I’ve felt that way at times.  You feel light-headed, wobbly kneed, and every step drags.  You can hardly breathe!  But the important thing, when the situation demands it, is to keep on forward anyway.



4) while the other followed her, bearing her train.


COMMENTARY:  What a burden splendor can be!  She can’t even carry all of her ornamentation by herself.



5) She glowed with perfect beauty and her face was as joyous as it was lovely, though her heart was pounding with fear.


COMMENTARY:  As part of her enslavement she has had to learn to fake happiness, so she’s very good at it by now.  Why fake happiness when she must discuss dark matters?  Because she doubts that this playboy king will let her get close otherwise.  But how accurate is that, really?  We shall see.  How often we think that we have to fake things that we don’t.



6) She passed through all the portals till she stood before the king, who was seated on his royal throne, clothed in full robes of state, and covered with gold and precious stones, so that he inspired great awe.


COMMENTARY:  Paid for by Haman and who knows how many other bestowers of bribes.  Somebody’s got to fund his extravagant lifestyle.



7) As he looked up in extreme anger, his features fiery and majestic, the queen staggered, turned pale and fainted, collapsing against the maid in front of her.


COMMENTARY:  Have you ever felt scared enough to faint?  I have.  It’s instinctive: a last-ditch survival mechanism when the much better options of fight or flight have failed.  The body decides to play dead and hope at least that the predator won’t trust meat that hasn’t died freshly from its own attack.  And it’s the most horrible feeling, visceral and inescapable—your body itself, flooded with the chemicals of your fear, has lost all faith in your ability to survive by any other means, and so it rapidly bleeds strength and volition, nauseating you and rendering you still more helpless so fast that you can’t do anything about it, you can’t even choose how or where you fall, you just go down.


The non-Deuterocanonical text doesn’t mention this extreme fear.  Esther seems confident and strong, a queen and not a prisoner.  It makes it easy to see heroes as different from ourselves, unburdened by our dreads and capable of anything.  We look at our fear as a character flaw, decide that we’re not in the same category as Esther, and give up all the more easily.  But you can be so afraid of doing the right thing that you faint, yet still go ahead and do it anyway.



8) But God changed the king’s anger to gentleness. In great anxiety he sprang from his throne, held her in his arms until she recovered, and comforted her with reassuring words. 9) “What is it, Esther?” he said to her. “I am your brother.  Take courage! 10) You shall not die; this order of ours applies only to our subjects. 11) Come near!” 12) Raising the golden scepter, he touched her neck with it, embraced her, and said, “Speak to me.


COMMENTARY:  The thing that Esther did not plan, that just overcame her, turned out to be exactly the right—and probably the only—way to get out of this alive.  So in that sense God changed the King’s anger to gentleness by causing Esther to faint, touching his heart, melting his anger into concern and tenderness.  Also, one can hardly feel defied by somebody fainting with fear of you; he had no doubt that Esther knew in full the gravity of her actions and did not need “taught a lesson”.


I also take note that while Ahasuerus may be a playboy, he is not a sociopath.  He has compassion.  He’s just been raised all wrong.

(As we saw in Tobit, married people often called each other brother or sister in that time and place.)



13) She replied: “I saw you, my lord, as an angel of God, and my heart was shaken by fear of your majesty. 14) For you are awesome, my lord, though your countenance is full of mercy.”


COMMENTARY:  Precisely the sort of thing that he wants to hear.  To get by in a harem you have got to learn flattery.  Also, this further confirms that she’s not there to defy him, or needs “taught her place”—always an important consideration for a tyrant who cast out his last queen for insisting on some dignity.  Tragic that Esther has to be in that position, though!



15) As she said this, she fainted. 16) The king was shaken and all his attendants tried to revive her.


COMMENTARY:  Again.  She finds it so hard to push forward!  Even though he has forgiven her for coming to him unbidden, she still has to face outing herself as a Jew—something that now carries a death penalty even for children.

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