WHERE IS GOD IN ESTHER? by Caley Jacob Meza for Core Christianity
We’ve all felt this longing within ourselves for “the Good Old Days,” and we can see it in the world around us. As much as it might make us cringe, we can relate to that aging pop star or childhood actor. The one who fears her best days are behind her, who will go through any and every plastic surgery to maintain her fleeting youth and linger, just a little while longer, in the spotlight.
We’d all like to get back to yesterday, when our marriages flourished, when the children were alright, when we hadn’t yet experienced the job loss, or cancer, or death of a loved one.
Many of us look back at yesterday and say God was with us. But today, we’re not so sure.
This was the experience of the Jewish people in the story of Esther.
The events of Esther don’t take place in the Promised Land but in the pagan lands of Persia. Israel has been conquered, dragged into exile, and is being ruled by the latest and greatest world power. The glory days of the kingdom are long over—God’s people are now insignificant and scattered and, in the absence of their previous prosperity, God is nowhere to be seen.
Where is God?
The book of Esther tells a story where God’s name isn’t even mentioned. In fact, Esther is the only book of the Bible where God appears to be absent from the story altogether. But things are not always as they seem.
In the first chapter, the great King Ahasuerus throws a feast so that he can show off “the riches of his royal glory and the splendor and pomp of his greatness for many days” (Esther 1:4). As the king becomes more drunk with wine, and more drunk with his own self-aggrandizement, the party comes to its climax: The king summons the beautiful Queen Vashti so that he can show her off as his crown jewel, the pinnacle of his glory, his trophy wife. But she refuses.
Though some have speculated about why she refused, the author doesn’t really say. What’s clear is that the all-powerful King Ahasuerus, King of Persia, ruler of the whole world, isn’t even respected by his own wife. The glorious king is really just an everyday fool with marital strife.
Adding insult to injury, the fool tries to remedy the situation by making it a matter of State.
He calls his seven wise men, the princes of Persia and Media, to help him recover his pride. But they’re not all that concerned with the king’s household; they’re worried about their own. Will their wives feel free to imitate the queen—to disrespect and disobey their husbands? Ironically, as punishment for Queen Vashti, they give her exactly what she wants: She’ll never have to come before the king again (Esther 1:19).
This scene is a comedy. Though the king hopes to show off his royal glory, the author of Esther displays the foolishness of the rich and famous. The powerful kingdom of Persia is really a circus of clowns—petty children throwing tantrums and playing games.