“For Such a Time as This”: A Defining Moment in Christian Ministry -- By: Karen H. Jobes

Journal: Faith and Mission
Volume: FM 14:1 (Fall 1996)
Article: “For Such a Time as This”: A Defining Moment in Christian Ministry
Author: Karen H. Jobes

“For Such a Time as This”:
A Defining Moment in Christian Ministry

Karen H. Jobes

Assistant Professor of Religious Studies
Westmont College
Santa Barbara, CA 93108

The Book of Esther in the Old Testament may seem like a most unlikely place to look for a biblical, evangelical basis for principles for women in ministry.1 It was written by an unknown Jewish author about an event in the history of the Jewish people that occurred some five centuries before Jesus was born. The book does not even mention God, the covenant, the temple, the law, or prayer (although it may allude to the latter). Moreover, the people in the story do not dearly exemplify the qualities we associate with godly character. While such characteristics would not be expected of the Persian king, Xerxes, and his power-hungry advisor Haman, it is disconcerting that even the behavior of Mordecai and Esther seems morally and spiritually ambiguous at best.

We find Mordecai and Esther still living in pagan Susa almost fifty years after Cyrus had decreed that the Jewish people should return to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple and the city. Nehemiah, who later served Xerxes’ successor in Susa (Neh. 1:1), mourned and wept that Jerusalem’s walls were still in ruins at his time. In contrast, neither Esther nor Mordecai shows any concern for the state of their homeland. Unlike Ezra, another near-contemporary who devoted himself to the study and observance of God’s Law, Esther and Mordecai seem either ignorant of or disinterested in the Law and its demands for their personal conduct.

Esther’s behavior does not measure up to the standards of other biblical heroes, such as Joseph in Egypt or Daniel in Babylon. When taken into the harem of the Persian king, Esther, unlike Daniel and his friends, utters not a word of protest about the king’s food. To the contrary, she submits to Mordecai’s advice to hide her Jewish identity, which must have meant at least that she adopted the dress, customs, and manner of the Persian court, arguably in violation of the Torah. Esther probably had no choice about being gathered into the king’s harem in the first place. However, she did not protest the sexual encounter with the king. Esther lost her virginity in the bed of an uncircumcised gentile to whom she was not married, and in one night she pleased the king more than any other virgin of the harem (2:17). Some readers might assume that God granted her favor in Xerxes’ eyes (cf. Dan. 1:9), but the fact that the favor was

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