Day 10      Esther 3:8-4:17..Jews who Stayed Behind

Not every Jewish exile took the opportunity to return to the homeland. Some had put down roots during the half-century of Babylonian Captivity, and when the more tolerant Persian regime took over, many of these decided to stay. (Communities of Jews in present-day Iraq and Syria still trace their ancestry to this group of exiles.) This adventure story concerns one such Jew who stayed behind, a beautiful woman named Esther.

The Jews in Persia faced a grave crisis Their success had attracted so much jealousy that a powerful man was leading a conspiracy to kill every Jew in the land. Tragically, the underlying "plot" of Esther is an old and familiar one to Jews, for throughout history - Roman campaigns, medieval Jew-hunts, Russian pogrom, Hitler's "final solution" - no other group has faced such a constant threat of extermination.

Although the book of Esther never once mentions the word God, the story highlights the many "coincidences" that worked together on the Jews' behalf. By the "accident" of her beauty and the "accident" of the former queen's dismissal, Esther had risen from obscurity to become queen of the Persian Empire, one of the greatest powers of the world. She alone, of all the Jews, had access to the king. As her cousin Mordecai put it, "/who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?"

Yet in those days, a queen did not easily stand up to her husband - especially a husband like Xerxes, who had already summarily dismissed one queen for insubordination. By intervening for the sake of her race, Esther might be putting her own life in jeopardy. This portion of the book spells out Esther's dilemma, and tells the decision she finally reached. The rest of the book records a series of twists of plot: The Jews are spared, even honored, and the original conspirator is hangs in their place.

Esther's story is a thrilling chapter in the story of God's love for the Jews. While no other group has been so persecuted, no other group has shown the Jews' ability to overcome adversity. How? Esther reveals God's exquisite timing, combined with the courage of individuals who "happened" to be in the right place at the right time.

Point to Ponder: Someone has called coincidences "God's way of working anonymously." Do you tend to give God credit for the "coincidences" in your life?