Abraham Kuyper wrote two books on biblical women characters: Women of the Old Testament: 50 Devotional Messages For Women's Groups, and Women of the New Testament: 30 Devotional Messages for Women's Groups. These two books contain a 2-3 page assessment of each principle women in the bible, describe the good, the bad and the ugly events of each woman's life. This is the book that Bad Girls of the Bible could never dream to become, and I'd add that Abraham Kuyper is one of my personal favorite Reformed Theologians of all times and a personal political hero.
And he brought up Hadassah, that is Esther, his uncle's daughter: for she had neither father nor mother, and the maid was fair and beautiful; whom Mordecai, when her father and mother were dead, took for his own daughter.—Esther 2:7
READ - ESTHER 2
Esther, the last woman of the Old Testament of whom we intimately know anything, does not impress us favorably. In fact, she serves to illustrate how far Israel had degenerated while in exile.
We have abundant reasons to know that she was very beautiful. After Ahasuerus had combed the country from India to the Mediterranean Sea for the most beautiful maidens, she was regarded by him as the most beautiful. She most completely captivated the Persian ruler and was made the queen in Vashti's stead.
Besides her beauty, there are two other qualities of her character which please us. The first of these is her tender affection for Mordecai, her foster-father, and the second is the decisive courage with which she opposed Haman. There are many who, when they are suddenly raised from obscurity to prominence, become just proud enough to completely ignore their families and those who formerly helped them. Esther displayed a sturdier nobility than those who do that. She had the courage to honor and respect the ties of blood and affection, even though these, perhaps tended to detract from her prestige and from the glory of her position.
And Esther makes an equally favorable impression because of the courage and decision with which she opposed the wicked Haman. She risked much by appearing before the king unsummoned. That is obvious from her own statement "If I perish, I perish." And the actions which followed upon that statement were decisively and tactfully taken. She gave expression to an unusually strong personality.
And yet, we should hesitate to add a sincere love for her people to this list of her outstanding qualities. It is true that in one sense that love seems to have been rather pronounced. But we must not forget that she long hesitated before she did anything definite to save her people. Mordecai first had to tell her "Do not think for a moment that your life is not at stake; as a Jewess you, too, will be killed." That first induced her to take action. "Think not with thyself that thou shalt escape in the king's house more than all the Jews" (4:13). Those words deeply affected her, just as did the other message which Mordecai communicated to her "Who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?"
We cannot avoid concluding that a woman who refrained from saving a whole nation until her own person was threatened, was not particularly willing to sacrifice her life for her people. But there are other disagreeable aspects to her character. These cast a still darker shadow upon her figure. She should not have married Ahasuerus. Vashti had not been deposed for valid reasons. For that reason Esther can-not be praised for assenting to take her place. It cannot be said that it was a beautiful thing in her to become the queen of a heathen prince. For a daughter of Abraham to marry an Oriental king was simply a violation of the seventh commandment. It cannot be objected to this, that she was irresponsible in this matter because the king could do as he chose with whomever he chose to do it. If Esther had wanted to, she could have made a less favorable impression upon him. Thus she could have avoided that marriage. As a matter of fact she demonstrated that it appealed to her.
There was nothing objectionable in her opposition to Haman. That wicked man had completely earned the fate that accrued to him. But five hundred men including the ten sons of Haman, had already been destroyed in Shushan. Thereupon the king asked Esther whether she desired anything more. Then Esther had the illegitimate boldness to ask that Haman's be suspended from the gallows, and that the Jews be given another day in which to wreak vengeance upon their adversaries. As a result a second slaughter occurred, and the Jews slew three hundred additional men in Shushan.
One dislikes to see an expression of such vengeance, especially in a woman. It seems to suggest that Esther embodied some of the bloodthirstiness which later flagrantly cursed the mother of Herod. Hence, there is an immeasurable difference between the Esther of the Old Testament and the Mary of the New. It almost seems as though Esther was to illustrate how Israel would have degenerated if Mary's Child had not been born. God used Mary, but He also used Esther to fulfill his determinate counsel for the redemption of His people. All will be able to understand that, who kneel at Golgotha to praise God for His salvation, although they know that Judas and Caiaphas and Pilate sinned terribly because of that cross.
Suggested Questions for Study and Discussion:
- What are some of the good qualities of Esther?
- Why, with all her good qualities, does not Esther impress us favorably?
- Was it wise for Esther to favorably impress the king?
~ Abraham Kuyper, Women of the Old Testament, pgs 173-176
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