• July 21, 2019

Queen Esther esteemed - Odessa American: Local News

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Queen Esther esteemed

Queen of the Persian Empire risked her life by speaking up to the king

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Posted: Saturday, July 13, 2019 6:00 am

Queen Esther is a compelling figure who saved the Jewish people from genocide in the Fifth Century B.C.

The 17th book of the Old Testament is named for her and clergymen say she is notable for a number of qualities, beauty, bravery and resourcefulness among them.

Bishop Michael Sis, Rabbi Jordan Parr and Lutheran Pastor Erik Stadler say it is unknown how many lives she saved after Haman, a high official in the Persian Empire of King Xerxes I, almost succeeded in having every Jew in the empire killed from modern day Iraq and Iran to Israel, Egypt and Turkey.

According to Esther 7:2-10, the queen prevailed on Xerxes to have mercy on her people and identified Haman as their chief enemy. Then the king returned from a walk in the palace garden to find Haman lying on the couch with Esther, pleading with her.

Xerxes was so enraged that he ordered Haman hanged on the gallows he had had built for his enemy Mordecai, Esther’s cousin.

“This book has two ancient versions, both dating to the time before Christ,” said the Rev. Sis, bishop of the Catholic Diocese of San Angelo. “These are the Hebrew version and the Greek version.

“The Hebrew is the older one. This is the version found in Jewish and Protestant Bibles. It has 10 chapters. In the Hebrew version, God is not mentioned at all, but there are indirect references to divine activity.”

Sis said the book’s Septuagint, or Greek, account was written for Greek-speaking Jews in the Middle East and Mediterranean Basin in the second and third centuries B.C. and because it was adopted by the early Christian churches, it’s the one in Catholic Bibles.

He noted that the Hebrew version, used by Hebrew-speaking Jews in Palestine, has no direct references to God, although his influence is often implied. “The Greek version includes more than 100 extra verses of later additions scattered throughout the 10 chapters,” Sis said.

“These are identified as sections A through F. These verses were likely written between 116 to 48 B.C. and they contain many explicit references to God and a strong religious element.”

Asked how many people Esther saved, the bishop said, “I don’t know how many, but even one life is of infinite value.

“What kind of person do I think Esther was? She was physically beautiful and brave. She risked her life in order to intercede on behalf of her Jewish people when they were threatened with racist genocide. She was willing to do what was right, even if that meant dying for it.

“Her courageous and selfless act to save her people provides a bold example of the kind of love that Jesus described as agape -- a love willing to undergo sacrifice for the good of others.”

Rabbi Parr, of Odessa’s Temple Bethel, said Esther is so esteemed in the Jewish culture that the festive holiday of Purim is celebrated each February or March in her honor. “The key to the story is that when push came to shove and the fate of her people was at stake, she rose to the occasion and recognized her roots, which gave her the strength to move forward and do what she needed to do,” Parr said.

“That’s why she is revered as a heroine and a whole holiday is built around her. Women and children especially hold her up in high esteem.”

Parr said Esther is unusual because queens of that era “were typically just add-on appendages of the king, but she became strong in her own right.”

He said she “changed the course of Jewish history” by averting a genocide that might have been as bad as the one that took place during World War II.

The Rev. Stadler agreed that Esther risked everything by speaking up to Xerxes I.

“She was a brave woman to approach the king and ask him for the lives of her people because you just didn’t do that,” said Stadler, pastor of Redeemer Lutheran Church in Odessa.

“Queens were like possessions and she risked a lot. She revealed Haman’s plan to persecute and annihilate her people and then got him punished for what he was doing.” Stadler said the Book of Esther “is an amazing story that shows how women are often leaders in the Old Testament.

“God allowed Esther to be in a place of power where she could help his people,” he said.

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