"Esther, One Night With the King"
Posted By: Charles Pope
Date: Thursday, 2 November 2006, at 10:16 a.m.
This new film sounds quite saucy, and has a Christian and pro-Jewish flavor!
As an appetizer, I've compiled the article below (adapted from previous forum posts).
The Book of Esther is the story of a displaced Jew named Mordecai. In the reign of the Persian Emperor Xerxes, he is assigned as a gatekeeper in Susa the Persian capital. Though humbled by exile and a menial job, he cannot bring himself to acknowledge divinity in his superiors and invites persecution on account of it. Particularly, he will not bow to the Persian king’s leading minister Haman when he passes by the post. Haman is insulted by this behavior and persuades the king that Mordecai and all other Jews are a threat and must be annihilated to promote the security and prosperity of the Persian Empire.
The Diaspora Jew Mordecai of the Book of Esther is patterned after an earlier immigrant, the dreamer and schemer Patriarch Joseph, who also endured scripted persecution on his way to becoming second in power to the king of Egypt himself. Upon his election, the populace was actually expected to bow the knee to Joseph even as they would for the king. Esther is the called the cousin of Mordecai, but she is force-fit into the role of “daughter of Joseph”. This was done so that she could better fulfill an expected type of her own in becoming Queen, especially to a Solomon-figure. There was no importance placed in Genesis or in extra-biblical memory on a female cousin of Joseph. The title daughter of Joseph was however of enormous importance.
The previous queen of wise Xerxes had ironically been removed for failing to honor the king. When the offence had occurred, Xerxes was not quite sure how he should respond and decided to consult his advisors! We learn that women might ignore the wishes of their husbands with impunity in other places, but this should not be tolerated in Persian society or within the new global Persian suzeraignty.
Xerxes and his kingly predecessors were however not ethnic Persians and employed culture and language experts. They were the ruling elite of the Near East, and lorded-it-over a great many ethnic groups, including those in Babylon, Assyria, Egypt, Greece, and Israel. The main royal court had only been recently been moved to Susa in Persia due to the vitality of its people to support the ruling family in warfare and therefore universal dominance. Formerly it was based in Babylon, Ninevah, and Thebes of Egypt.
The Jewish Diaspora began as a practical element of royal administration. Leading aristocratic families were settled all over the Near and Middle East to represent the king and his pursue royal interests. Over time, these elites became a permanent fixture of local economies, but often retained many of the customs peculiar to the royal court, especially the hypochondriacal concern for ritual purity that developed over the many centuries in which disease-ridden Egypt was primary host to the royal family.
The inspiration for Mordecai is found in the story of Joseph in the Book of Genesis when the royal court had in fact been centered in Egypt. At that time, Pharaoh Amenhotep (II) assumed the role of Patriarch Jacob and placed his twelve sons over the twelve (pre-existing) tribes of Israel, the original Jews, more or less. One of his sons, Yuya, was given the status of Joseph as Prime Minister, but not until he suffered the expected hardships associated with the Joseph stereotype. These Egyptian princes were not themselves Jews or sons of Israel in a modern sense, but royal persons who ruled (in the guise of ethnic persons) over such groups living within the boundaries of the Egyptian Empire, which included traditional Israel. And they ruled not only Israelites, but all other ethnic tribes within their sphere of influence.
Mordecai and other aristocrats in the early Persian Era, such as Nehemiah (cupbearer of the Persian king) and Ezra (a royal Persian scribe), were also not Jews in the traditional sense (of having left Egypt with archetypal Moses), but members of the extended Persian royal family. They had little or no qualms with falling at the feet of the Great King (to show their respect and subordination), and as one ordained in the place of God. Those most closely related to the ruling king were expected to relocate with him to Susa, even if they did not personally desire it. Of course members of the royal family could pose the greatest danger to the life of a “Great King”, but he had no other option to rely on them for support in running the family Empire.
Xerxes was simply exercising his kingly prerogative in choosing which members of the royal family and larger aristocracy/nobility would be favored and which ones would not in his regime. He had no intention of abolishing the existing infrastructure of high-born families scattered throughout the Empire. Rather, it was expedient for him to decisively confirm their already established privileges before the common population, a population that included large numbers of ordinary families with Jewish or Israelite affinity but without any immediate ties to the royal family.
The king’s Chief Steward would exercise authority over this wide-ranging network of royalists, who were experienced in trade, construction, law, and other essential skills needed for maintenance of the Empire. In the Book of Esther, it is Esther and Mordecai who help Xerxes pull a sting operation on Haman, the acting prime minister who for whatever reason Xerxes wanted to remove. Haman is baited into accusing Mordecai, whose insubordination is excused on account a previous and unrewarded service he had performed for the king. The Jews in general are saved by Mordecai’s adopted daughter, the compliant Esther, who just before Mordecai’s indictment had replaced the more independent-minded former queen of Xerxes.
The devout Jews scattered throughout the empire were not considered a threat to Xerxes in the Persian Period, but a stabilizing influence that promoted health and welfare, especially royal welfare. They received allowance and even honor for their customs, including relief from the abject subservience expected from the less endowed. Their recently crowned champions Esther and Mordecai, now the leading “Jews” of the world, were attired in the royal purple.
Esther, the cousin and adopted daughter of Mordecai had not become queen for her beauty alone, but because she also was closely related to Xerxes and was someone he could trust to carry out his orders. She along with Mordecai helped their king and kinsman Xerxes induce persons with a mind to rebel (against the kingly authority of Xerxes and his representatives) to come out into the open so they could be destroyed. In the Book of Esther, the king Xerxes first targets the Jews for destruction on an appointed day (the 13th of Adar).
Xerxes refuses to repeal that act, but instead empowers Jews to organize and defend themselves against any who might try to attack them on that day. What’s more, they were also to kill and plunder such aggressors with the help of local dignitaries, many of whom likely also clung to a Jewish identification. Consequently, the Jews made a prodigious slaughter of those who were jealous of their high standing in society. By request of Esther they were allowed to continue their "program of self-defense" on the next day. This became the basis of the later two-day sacred festival of Purim.
The Book of Esther is a case study in ancient power politics and the use of propaganda. The book not only explains how to play God, but how to be perceived in the eyes of the populous as righteous while doing so! Another important lesson of the Book of Esther is how major groups such as Jews were exploited for political advantage. The ruling family generally encouraged regional differences (cultural diversity, if you will) as a means of control. Distinct tribes remained strange and repulsive to other ones and not likely to unite unless directed to do so by the royal family. Judaism perhaps took ancient xenophobia to the extreme, or was the only group to adequately document it.
When Judaism was officially established (or re-established) in Israel during the Persian Period, the leaders were not traditional/original/native Jews of Israel but members of the extended "Persian" ruling family. Temple life and the religion itself were firmly under Persian control. Subsequent Greek dynasties also manipulated Judaism through the appointment of High Priests and using the right of primogeniture to impose the royal bloodline of each new dynasty upon the hereditary priestly office, not only in Jerusalem but in other religious cults and locales. Each successive dynasty of kings grafted themselves onto Judaism by taking over the priesthood. Following the Persians were Greek, Maccabean, and Herodian rulers. All used the same technique. Romans would as well by appointing a member of the ruling Flavian family to the highest office (Pope) and monopolizing other key positions within the "new Judaism" called Christianity.
DomainOfMan Affirmative Action Reporter
- "Esther, One Night With the King"
Charles Pope -- Thursday, 2 November 2006, at 10:16 a.m.
- Re: "Esther and MIthra!"
Ronald L. Hughes -- Thursday, 2 November 2006, at 3:09 p.m.
- One Night with the Queen
Charles Pope -- Wednesday, 3 January 2007, at 8:48 a.m.
- Re: "Esther and MIthra!"
© Charles N. Pope, US Library of Congress. All rights reserved.