Archive for the ‘Ahasuerus’ Tag

Prologue to Posts Scheduled Around Proper 12, Year C (Revised Common Lectionary)   1 comment

Esther Crowned by Ahasuerus

Above:  Esther Crowned by Ahasuerus, by Paolo Veronese

Image in the Public Domain

Esther I:  Vehicles of Grace

JULY 2019

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The daily lectionary for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC), as found in their service book-hymnal, Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), is the one attached to the Revised Common Lectionary.  For the Thursday before Proper 12 through the Wednesday after that Sunday in Year C the first readings come from the Book of Esther, starting with 2:19 and continuing through 8:17.

The Book of Esther exists in two versions–Hebrew and Greek.  The Hebrew version, which does not even mention God, probably dates to 400-300 B.C.E., at the end of the Persian Empire or the beginning of the Hellenistic Age.  The 107 additional verses in the version from the Septuagint bring the word “God” into the story and elaborate on certain details.  The Greek version of the Book of Esther is canonical in Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy.

As I read the Book of Esther again I will consult Jewish and Roman Catholic Bibles.  My plan is to read the Greek version fully in English-language translation.  The New American Bible labels the Greek additions conveniently as Chapters A-F, a system I will cite.

The Book of Esther is a satire, comedy, burlesque, and work of religious fiction.  Jewish exegetes have known this for a long time.  Some characters are buffoonish, our heroes (in the Hebrew version) are strangely less dimensional than other characters, and exaggeration abounds.  One should not, out of piety, become so serious as to misread a book of the Bible.  There are various contexts in which one should read scripture; genre is among them.  Furthermore, the internal chronology of the Book of Esther (in either version), like that of the Book of Daniel, makes no sense.

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In the Greek version the book begins with what The New American Bible calls Chapter A, containing 17 verses.  We meet Mordecai, a Jewish member of the court of King Ahasuerus (sarcastically “the great,” according to A:1) at Susa.  Ahasuerus is a fictitious monarch of the Persian Empire.  Sources I have consulted indicate elements from the actual Xerxes I (reigned 486-465 B.C.E.) and Artaxerxes I (reigned 465-424 B.C.E.).  Mordecai has a dream in which, on a gloomy day amid “tumult, thunder, and earthquake,” two dragons prepare to go to war.  The just live in fear of what might happen to them.  They cry out to God, a mighty river arises, sunlight breaks through, and the lowly rise up and devour the boastful.  Mordecai awakens and attempts throughout the day to comprehend the dream and what God intends to do.

We read in A:1 that Mordecai is not only of the tribe of Benjamin but a descendant of Kish.  This makes him a relative of King Saul (whose father was Kish), who conquered Agag the Amalekite in 1 Samuel 15:1-9.  Haman, Mordecai’s foe, is an Agagite.

Mordecai overhears two eunuchs plot to assassinate Ahasuerus.  The loyal courtier alerts the monarch directly.  Ahasuerus orders the arrest, interrogation, and execution of the eunuchs.  Mordecai receives a reward for his fidelity, but Haman, who had conspired with the eunuchs, begins to plot to harm him.

Chapter 1 depicts Ahasuerus as less than great.  The text states that the king ruled over 127 provinces, or satrapies, but historical records indicate the existence of between 20 and 32 satrapies during the duration of the Persian Empire.  Ahasuerus is wealthy, living in luxury.  He is also mostly powerless, for people manipulate him easily.  The king is also too fond of alcohol in excess.  Ahasuerus orders Queen Vashti to degrade herself  by displaying her beauty to his courtiers .  She refuses the command, thereby disgracing the drunken Ahasuerus.  Thus an imperial incident occurs.  Can the monarch restore his honor?  Vashti loses her position and possibly her life, for he proceeds to choose a new queen from his harem.  Among the virgins in the harem is one Esther, cousin and foster daughter of Mordecai.  This is a secret relationship, however.  He coaches her in how to become the next queen.  She succeeds Vashti.

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What are we supposed to take away from this material and apply to life?  God works behind the scenes in the Book of Esther.  God even works through drunk and easily manipulated monarchs.  Vehicles of grace come in many shapes and sizes; many of them will surprise us.  Many of them do not even know that they are vehicles of grace, but that does not prevent God from working through them, does it?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 17, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT PATRICK, BISHOP OF ARMAGH

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/03/17/esther-i-vehicles-of-grace/

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Devotion for Tuesday After Proper 29, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Triumph of Mordecai

Above:  The Triumph of Mordecai, by Pieter Lastman

Image in the Public Domain

Vindication

NOVEMBER 24, 2020

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The Collect:

God of power and might, your Son shows us the way of service,

and in him we inherit the riches of your grace.

Give us the wisdom to know what is right and

the strength to serve the world you have made,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 53

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The Assigned Readings:

Esther 8:3-17

Psalm 7

Revelation 19:1-9

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Let the malice of the wicked come to an end,

but establish the righteous;

for you test the mind and heart, O righteous God.

–Psalm 7:10, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Haman’s plot to kill the Jews fails in Esther 7.  Haman dies by impaling–the means of death he had planned for Mordecai.  King Ahasuerus bestows Haman’s property upon Queen Esther and grants Mordecai and Esther the authority to countermand the order to kill the Jews.  Then, in Chapter 9, Jews massacre their enemies, numbered in the tens of thousands.  Ahasuerus becomes a monarch who does not sanction genocide and Mordecai receives a major promotion.

In Revelation much rejoicing in Heaven follows the fall of Rome, for God has avenged those whom the empire had victimized.

Many of psalms contain prayers for vindication.  Esther 9 and Revelation 19 reflect the same desire.  I recall also an episode of Hunter (1984-1991) I watched on DVD recently.  A stereotypically White trash criminal, upon learning of the death of his wife, prays in one scene for the aid of Jesus in killing the man who took her life.

The desire for vindication is a natural and predictable one.  Indeed, I know it well.  Yet I know also that there would be less violence and more peace in the world if fewer people sought vindication and left that matter to God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 8, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SHEPHERD KNAPP, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JOHN DUCKETT AND RALPH CORBY, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIESTS AND MARTYRS IN ENGLAND

THE FEAST OF NIKOLAI GRUNDTVIG, HYMN WRITER

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/09/10/vindication/

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Devotion for Monday After Proper 29, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Ahaseurus and Haman at Esther's Feast

Above:  Ahasuerus and Haman at Esther’s Feast, by Rembrandt van Rijn

Image in the Public Domain

Two Kings

NOVEMBER 23, 2020

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The Collect:

God of power and might, your Son shows us the way of service,

and in him we inherit the riches of your grace.

Give us the wisdom to know what is right and

the strength to serve the world you have made,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 53

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The Assigned Readings:

Esther 2:1-18

Psalm 7

2 Timothy 2:8-13

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I will bear witness that the LORD is righteous;

I will praise the Name of the LORD Most High.

–Psalm 7:18, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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This is a devotion for the day after Christ the King Sunday.  Pope Pius XI created that festival in 1925, when dictators governed much of Europe, interwar tensions were rising, and the Holy Father perceived the need to issue a reminder that God is in control, despite appearances.  The original date was the last Sunday in October, opposite Reformation Sunday in many Protestant churches, but the Roman Catholic Church moved the date to the Sunday before Advent in 1969.  In the middle of the twentieth century many U.S. Protestants observed Christ the King Sunday on the last Sunday in August.  I have found evidence of this in the official materials of the reunited Methodist Church (1939-1968).  Today observance of Christ the King Sunday (on the Sunday before Advent) is common in many non-Roman Catholic communions.  I have detected in the Revised Common Lectionary and the Common Lectionary before that, as well as in official materials of Anglican/Episcopal, Methodist, Moravian, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Disciples of Christ, United Church of Christ, Cooperative Baptist, Evangelical Covenant, and other denominations.

In contrast to Christ the King we have the fictional Ahasuerus, a pompous figure whose courtiers manipulate him.  He and others figure in the Book of Esther, which the germane notes in The Jewish Study Bible (2004) refer to as a low comedy with burlesque elements, as well as a serious side.  (Comedy has a serious side much of the time.)  The Book of Esther pokes fun at authority figures, one of the oldest pastimes.  Ahasuerus, humiliated when Queen Vashti refuses his summons, decides angrily to replace her.  Before he can reverse that decision, his advisers intervene.  This opens the narrative door for Esther to become the secretly Jewish Queen of Persia just in time for Haman to plot to kill the Jews.  Esther might have been a tool of schemers initially, but she becomes an instrument of God.

St. Paul the Apostle might not have written 2 Timothy, but the letter is of the Pauline tradition.  Certainly the Apostle did suffer hardship due to his obedience to God and agreed, as the text says:

If we have died with [Christ Jesus], we will also live with him;

if we endure, we will also reign with him;

if we deny him, he will also deny us;

if we are faithless, he remains faithful–

for he cannot deny himself.

–2:11b-13, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

Regardless of the situations of our daily life and how they became our reality, may we obey God and do the right thing.  This might prove to be quite dangerous, leading even to death, but so did the path of Jesus, our Lord and Savior.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 8, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SHEPHERD KNAPP, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JOHN DUCKETT AND RALPH CORBY, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIESTS AND MARTYRS IN ENGLAND

THE FEAST OF NIKOLAI GRUNDTVIG, HYMN WRITER

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/09/10/two-kings/

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Proper 21, Year B   12 comments

Above:  Ahasuerus and Haman at the Feast of Esther, by Rembrandt van Rijn

Responsibility for Others

The Sunday Closest to September 28

The Nineteenth Sunday After Pentecost

SEPTEMBER 30, 2018

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FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #1

Esther 7:1-6, 9-10; 9:20-22 (New Revised Standard Version):

The king and Haman went in to feast with Queen Esther. On the second day, as they were drinking wine, the king again said to Esther,

What is your petition, Queen Esther? It shall be granted you. And what is your request? Even to the half of my kingdom, it shall be fulfilled.

Then Queen Esther answered,

If I have won your favor, O king, and if it pleases the king, let my life be given me– that is my petition– and the lives of my people– that is my request. For we have been sold, I and my people, to be destroyed, to be killed, and to be annihilated. If we had been sold merely as slaves, men and women, I would have held my peace; but no enemy can compensate for this damage to the king.

Then King Ahasuerus said to Queen Esther,

Who is he, and where is he, who has presumed to do this?” Esther said, “A foe and enemy, this wicked Haman!

Then Haman was terrified before the king and the queen.

Then Harbona, one of the eunuchs in attendance on the king, said,

Look, the very gallows that Haman has prepared for Mordecai, whose word saved the king, stands at Haman’s house, fifty cubits high.

And the king said,

Hang him on that.

So they hanged Haman on the gallows that he had prepared for Mordecai. Then the anger of the king abated.

Mordecai recorded these things, and sent letters to all the Jews who were in all the provinces of King Ahasuerus, both near and far, enjoining them that they should keep the fourteenth day of the month Adar and also the fifteenth day of the same month, year by year, as the days on which the Jews gained relief from their enemies, and as the month that had been turned for them from sorrow into gladness and from mourning into a holiday; that they should make them days of feasting and gladness, days for sending gifts of food to one another and presents to the poor.

Psalm 124 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

If the LORD had not been on our side,

let Israel now say;

If the LORD had not been on our side,

when enemies rose up against us;

Then would they have swallowed us up alive

in their fierce anger toward us;

Then the waters would have overwhelmed us

and the torrent gone over us;

Then would the raging waters

have gone over us.

6 Blessed be the LORD!

he has not given us over to be a prey for their teeth.

We have escaped like a bird from the snare of the fowler;

the snare is broken, and we have escaped.

Our help is in the Name of the LORD,

the maker of heaven and earth.

FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #2

Numbers 11:4-6, 10-16, 24-29 (New Revised Standard Version):

The rabble among them had a strong craving; and the Israelites also wept again, and said,

If only we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we used to eat in Egypt for nothing, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic; but now our strength is dried up, and there is nothing at all but this manna to look at.

Moses heard the people weeping throughout their families, all at the entrances of their tents. Then the LORD became very angry, and Moses was displeased. So Moses said to the LORD,

Why have you treated your servant so badly? Why have I not found favor in your sight, that you lay the burden of all this people on me? Did I conceive all this people? Did I give birth to them, that you should say to me, “Carry them in your bosom, as a nurse carries a sucking child,” to the land that you promised on oath to their ancestors? Where am I to get meat to give to all this people? For they come weeping to me and say, “Give us meat to eat!” I am not able to carry all this people alone, for they are too heavy for me. If this is the way you are going to treat me, put me to death at once–if I have found favor in your sight–and do not let me see my misery.

So the LORD said to Moses,

Gather for me seventy of the elders of Israel, whom you know to be the elders of the people and officers over them; bring them to the tent of meeting, and have them take their place there with you.

So Moses went out and told the people the words of the LORD; and he gathered seventy elders of the people, and placed them all around the tent. Then the LORD came down in the cloud and spoke to him, and took some of the spirit that was on him and put it on the seventy elders; and when the spirit rested upon them, they prophesied. But they did not do so again.

Two men remained in the camp, one named Eldad, and the other named Medad, and the spirit rested on them; they were among those registered, but they had not gone out to the tent, and so they prophesied in the camp. And a young man ran and told Moses,

Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp.

And Joshua son of Nun, the assistant of Moses, one of his chosen men, said,

My lord Moses, stop them!

But Moses said to him,

Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the LORD’s people were prophets, and that the LORD would put his spirit on them!

Psalm 19:7-14 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

The law of the LORD is perfect and revives the soul;

the testimony of the LORD is sure and gives wisdom to the innocent.

8 The statutes of the LORD are just and rejoice the heart;

the commandment of the LORD is clear and gives light to the eyes.

The fear of the LORD is clean and endures for ever,

the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether.

10 More to be desired are they than gold more than much fine gold,

sweeter far than honey, than honey in the comb.

11 By them also is your servant enlightened,

and in keeping them there is great reward.

12 Who can tell how often he offends?

cleanse me from my secret faults?

13 Above all, keep your servant from presumptuous sins;

let them not get dominion over me;

then shall I be whole and sound,

and innocent of a great offense.

14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight,

O LORD, my strength and my redeemer.

SECOND READING

James 5:13-20 (Revised English Bible):

Is anyone among you in trouble?  Let him pray.  Is anyone in good heart?  Let him sing praises.  Is one of you ill?  Let him send for the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord; the prayer offered in faith will heal the sick man, the Lord will restore him to health, and if he has committed sins they will be forgiven.  Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed.  A good man’s prayer is very powerful and effective.  Elijah was a man just like us; yet when he prayed fervently that there should be no rain, the land had no rain for three and a half years; when he prayed again, the rain poured down and the land bore crops once more.

My friends, if one of you strays from the truth and another succeeds in bringing him back, you may be sure of this:  the one who brings a sinner back from his erring ways will be rescuing a soul from death and cancelling a multitude of sins.

GOSPEL READING

Mark 9:38-41 (Revised English Bible):

John said to him,

Teacher, we saw someone driving out demons in your name, and as he was not one of us, we tried to stop him.

Jesus said,

Do not stop him, for no one who performs a miracle in my name will be able the next moment to speak evil of me.  He is not against us is on our side.  Truly I tell you:  whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you are followers of the Messiah will certainly not go unrewarded.

If anyone causes the downfall of one of these little ones who believe, it would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone around his neck.  If your hand causes your downfall, cut if off; it is better for you to enter into life maimed than to keep both hands and go to hell, to the unquenchable fire.  If your foot causes your downfall, cut if off; it is better to enter into life crippled than to keep both your feet  and be thrown into hell.  And if your eye causes your downfall, tear it out; it is better to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye than to keep both eyes and be thrown into hell, where the devouring worm never dies and the fire is never quenched.

Everyone will be salted with fire.

Salt is good; but if the salt loses its saltness, how will you season it?

You must have salt within yourselves, and be at peace with one another.

The Collect:

O God, you declare your almighty power chiefly in showing mercy and pity: Grant us the fullness of your grace, that we, running to obtain your promises, may become partakers of your heavenly treasure; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Proper 21, Year A:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/04/15/proper-21-year-a/

Numbers 11:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/01/17/week-of-proper-13-monday-year-1/

James 5:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/07/04/week-of-7-epiphany-saturday-year-2/

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/07/04/week-of-proper-2-saturday-year-2/

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/13/week-of-proper-2-wednesday-year-1/

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/13/week-of-proper-2-thursday-year-1/

Mark 9:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/11/02/week-of-7-epiphany-wednesday-year-1/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/11/03/week-of-7-epiphany-thursday-year-1/

Luke 17 (Parallel to Mark 9):

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/19/week-of-proper-27-monday-year-1/

For the Canadian Federal Election (2011):

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/30/for-the-canadian-federal-election-2011/

For the Prime Minister of Japan:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/16/for-the-prime-minister-of-japan/

O Canada!:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/10/23/o-canada/

For the President and Prime Minister of France:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/10/15/for-the-president-and-the-prime-minister-of-france/

For the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/10/15/for-the-prime-minister-of-the-united-kingdom-of-great-britain-and-northern-ireland/

For the President of the United States and All in Civil Authority:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/08/13/for-the-president-of-the-united-states-and-all-in-civil-authority/

For the Prime Minister of Canada:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/08/13/for-the-prime-minister-of-canada/

Thanksgiving for New Zealand:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/08/08/thanksgiving-for-new-zealand/

For Canada:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/08/06/for-canada/

God Save the Queen/King:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/29/god-save-the-queenking/

Jerusalem:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/08/01/jerusalem-by-william-blake/

A Prayer for Those Who Influence Public Opinion:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/18/a-prayer-for-those-who-influence-opinion/

A Prayer for Proper Priorities:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/09/22/a-prayer-for-proper-priorities/

A Prayer for All Who Seek or Hold Public Office in Any Land at Any Time:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/08/13/for-all-who-seek-or-hold-public-office-in-any-land-at-any-time/

A Prayer to Embrace Love, Empathy, and Compassion, and to Eschew Hatred, Invective, and Willful Ignorance:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/08/13/for-all-who-seek-or-hold-public-office-in-any-land-at-any-time/

A Prayer for Shalom:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/17/a-prayer-for-shalom/

Where Cross the Crowded Ways of Life:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/06/26/where-cross-the-crowded-ways-of-life/

O Lord, You Gave Your Servant John:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/08/06/o-lord-you-gave-your-servant-john/

Prayers for Cities, Neighborhoods, Communities, and Those Who Serve Them:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/08/06/o-lord-you-gave-your-servant-john/

God Bless Our Native Land:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/29/god-bless-our-native-land/

A Prayer for Our Country:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/17/a-prayer-for-our-country/

Independence Day (U.S.A.):

http://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2009/10/18/independence-day-july-4/

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/18/independence-day-u-s-a-july-4/

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We are responsible for ourselves and for others.  That is the theme which unifies the readings for Proper 21, Year B.

We begin with the options for the first reading. Haman had plotted to destroy the Jews, and had seemed to be near achieving success.  Yet the intervention–at the risk of her own life–of Queen Esther foiled Haman’s evil plans.  And what about Numbers 11?  Israelites, bored with the monotony of manna (probably crystalized insect excrement), complained about the lack of meat.  If one reads more than the assigned portions of this chapter, one finds that they got meat until they stood hip-deep in quails.  As some grammatically-challenged people might have said,

That’ll learn ’em.

In the meantime, Moses complained to God that the burden of leadership was too heavy for him to bear alone.  So he got a council of seventy elders to help.  One moral of the story, I suppose, is to be careful about one’s complaints to God.

James and Jesus, the latter in Mark, remind us in positive and negative terms of the principle that we are responsible for each other spiritually.  And, in Mark, we read some hyperbolic language about removing one’s own stumbling blocks.  Our Lord did not advocate mutilation.  Rather, the principle is simple and not unique to Mark 9:  Whatever stands between you and God, get rid of it.  Besides, how can you avoid being a stumbling block to others if you are so severely spiritually errant?  Can the blind lead the blind to safety?  What we do affects others.  What we do not do affects others.

May we act responsible, whether alone or collectively.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2011/10/25/responsibility-for-others/