Every generation will encounter evil. One theme of the book of Esther is that it is necessary for women to resist evil by refusing to be silent. I find this message to be relevant for current events. As Dr. Christine Blasey Ford speaks up before the whole nation concerning her story regarding Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, my mind reflects on the parallels to Queen Esther.
Esther, a humble Jewish girl, had been chosen to marry the King of Perisa, Xerxes the Great. She had kept silent about her race, at the request of her guardian, Mordecai, who sought to protect her from discrimination and prejudice. But Mordecai, himself, did not keep quiet about being Jewish. In fact, he used his identity as reason for refusing to bend the knee to the king’s Premier, Haman. Haman, an Amalekite, despised the Jews and used Mordecai’s refusal to submit as the excuse he needed to destroy all Jews in Persian lands. (Read more about the racial implications of Esther.) After lobbying the king, Haman used royal authority to order all Persians…
“to destroy, kill and annihilate all the Jews—young and old, women and children—on a single day, the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, the month of Adar, and to plunder their goods (NIV 3:13).”
There was catastrophe looming for the Jews, and the deadline was fast approaching.
If you remain silent…
… it will come at cost to yourself.
Deliverance is the main theme of Esther; deliverance not by sword, but by the spoken word. Inside a little exchange between Mordecai and Esther in chapter 4, Mordecai entreats Esther to use her position to the king to plead for mercy and beg him on behalf of her people. He tells Esther that…
“… if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place… (NIV 4:14).”
Mordecai had faith that deliverance for the Jews was certain. In his mind, it was the who that would deliver them that was in question. If Esther didn’t speak to the king on behalf of her people, then something else would happen to save the Jews.
But Mordecai went on to explain the cost of silence.
“…but you and your father’s family will perish (NIV 4:14),”
The cost of remaining silent is often personal ruin. Martin Luther King Jr said that “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” He also said that it is the silence of our friends that are remembered more than the words of our enemies. I think both of these quotes reflect the toll silence takes upon our own self and upon those we love. Speaking up and staying silent both carry risks. Never be deluded that refusing to speak is harmless.
Reflecting on parallels to current events, I don’t doubt that Dr. Ford reflected on the #metoo movement, as she wrestled with the need to speak up – to tell HER story . I’m sure she feels that she is part of a larger movement at play, and that if she had remained silent, another woman’s story would have taken center stage. Because all women share a #metoo moment. But she, like Esther, chose to accept the risks and great cost to join the drama in hope of bringing deliverance. She has refused to remain silent when her story might alter history … as the deadline approaches.
The risk of naming the enemy
Esther is part of a long Jewish tradition of telling deliverance stories. The Jewish people have a divine promise of permanence. They are intrinsically linked to God’s purposes on Earth. Esther, like Joseph who recognized God had positioned him to save lives (Gen. 45:5), acknowledged that she was raised to the throne “for such a time as this (NIV 4:14).” She recognized and embraced her destiny to save her people, but only after she stared mortality in the face.
Like all of Israel’s redeemers, Esther was “willing to face her own death for the sake of others.”* She risked everything to speak for the salvation of her people, because in Esther’s case, wielding words was just as hazardous as waving a sword. Unsolicited approach to the king was illegal.
“I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish (NIV 4:16).”
Accepting the mortal outcome of her anticipated action, she entered the forbidden court of the king, gained his leniency, and executed her strategy to defeat the enemy. Her elegant plan delivered the piercing blow with her reply to the king’s query, “Where is he—the man who has dared to do such a thing?” She testified:
“The adversary and enemy is this vile Haman (NIV 7:6).”
The deliverance of Esther is not through statesmanship, mighty wonders, or with an army as in days past, but with her voice. Esther, like Eve, named the enemy (Gen. 3:13-15, Esther 7:6).
Resist evil by speaking up.
Every generation will encounter evil. It is necessary to resist evil by refusing to be silent. We must speak up to name perpetrators of evil, and we must speak up on behalf of their victims, as Mordecai did to save the life of the king and as Esther did to save her people from Haman. Esther encourages us to not wait for God’s hand to move, but to speak (4:14). God’s voice in the world is often human.
*Kandy Queen Sutherland, . 2008, “Naming the enemy: Esther and the prophets,” Perspectives In Religious Studies 35, no. 2: 179-183, ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost (accessed October 8, 2017), 183.