Posts Tagged With: Esther

What Do Costumes Have to Do With the Book of Esther?

Recently, I participated in a “Table Topics” discussion with Jeremy Legatzke on Hebraic Roots Network. (I’m sure it will air pretty soon.) The topic was Purim. Jeremy prepared several questions that tend to be controversial about this Feast of the People. One question was about the tradition of dressing up or wearing costumes. Pondering this question caused me to dig for an answer. Jeremy quoted from a Haaretz article that states that donning costumes during Purim began in the 14th century as an alternative to lent. Is this tradition a tare that needs to be uprooted or is there a Biblical precedent for this custom?

While I do not agree with the scary Halloween-ish type of costumes, dressing up as Biblical or historical characters can be used as a good (and fun) teaching tool, especially for children. This is true not just for Purim, but at other times as well. Dramatic or associative play (dress-up) is an important part of child development that teaches self-regulation, conflict resolution, and empathy. It encourages imagination, creativity, and language and math development. It also relieves stress, tension, and helps children to deal with traumatic circumstances.

None of this should be surprising to a Bible believer or something we should fear. God made us to be imitators of HIM, so naturally, children learn by imitating the adults they encounter. One year, we dressed up for our Passover Seder and it was one of the most memorable we’ve ever experienced, which is the primary POINT of the Seder.

But, what about Purim? First, it is helpful to do a concordance search on clothing, garments, robes, coverings, adornments, etc. The Word of God actually has A LOT to say about garments. In every generation, clothing has played an integral role as a mark of rank, status, royalty, righteousness, gender, holiness, wickedness, mourning, bridal attire, authority, service, and more. These coverings and what they represent are used literally, figuratively, and metaphorically in the Bible. The first mention of clothing is in Genesis:

Gen 3:21 (NASB) The LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife, and clothed them.

(I’ve written some thoughts about these “garments of skin” here and here.) The last mention of clothing is in Revelation:

Rev 22:14 (NASB) Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter by the gates into the city.

(I hope you meditate on those two verses for a while, as I believe they teach a profound lesson.) We could spend years exploring garments, the change of garments, and other adornments in the Bible. For now, consider rereading the Book of Esther and underlining or highlighting every time you see a mention of robes, changing clothes, coverings, and other royal attire such as crowns, scepters, and signet rings. That is what I did and it revealed a new dynamic to this fascinating story. If you have a good imagination, you can also picture the attire not mentioned that other characters in the story would have worn. For example, how would one know if a person was part of the royal court, harem, officials, or army if not for their garments?

Wardrobe reveals much about a person. If we see someone wearing a white coat and a stethoscope, we know that individual is a doctor. If we see a man in a blue uniform with a badge, we know that he is a police officer. So, what do the garments in the book of Esther reveal?


Esther Told Through Apparel

  • Queen Vashti’s crown is taken due to her refusal to come at the king’s command. (Est. 1:11,19)
  • Esther is given the crown because she found favor in the king’s eyes and becomes queen. (Est. 2:17)
  • The king gives his signet ring to Haman; giving him the authority to send out a decree to destroy the Jews. (Est. 3:10-15)
  • Mordechai learns of Haman’s plan to annihilate the Jews, tears his clothes, and puts on sackcloth and ashes. (Est. 4:1-2)
  • Many other Jews did the same. (Est. 4:3)
  • Esther donned royal robes to approach the king on his throne. The King extends his golden scepter to Esther and offers her not only her life and favor, but up to half of his kingdom. (Est. 5:1-3)
  • Haman, thinking the king wanted to honor him, tells the king to array a man in the king’s robes and parade him around the city on the king’s royal horse on whose head the royal crown has been placed. (Est. 6:7-9)
  • The king tells Haman to honor Mordecai by doing exactly that. Dress him in the king’s robe and lead him around the city proclaiming, “Thus shall it be done to a man the king desires to honor.” (Est. 6:10-11)
  • Haman was so humiliated that he went home mourning with his “head covered.” (Est. 6:12)
  • When Esther revealed herself and Haman’s plot at the second wine banquet, the king left in his fury. When he returned, he found Haman falling on the couch where Esther sat. The king accused Haman of assaulting Esther, and they (the king’s guard) COVERED Haman’s face. (Est. 7:8)
  • The king took his signet ring off Haman and gave it Mordecai. (Est. 8:2)
  • Mordecai and Esther wrote new decrees in the king’s name and sealed it with the signet ring, so the Jews could fight and defend themselves. (Est. 8:8,10)
  • Mordecai wore royal robes of blue and white linen, a large crown of gold, and another outer garment of purple and linen. (Est. 8:15)

In a sense, the entire plot reversal in the Book of Esther is told through what is “worn.” Can you see how a tradition of dressing up or wearing costumes and masks could have arisen from the Biblical text? This is just the surface level of the story. If we dig deeper, there is more! I’ll give a couple of examples.

Did the King’s Horse Wear a Crown?

Est. 6:8 (NASB)  let them bring a royal robe which the king has worn, and the horse on which the king has ridden, and on whose head a royal crown has been placed…

It’s obvious that Haman’s pride and unbridled desire for recognition and power had no bounds. This wasn’t lost on King Ahasuerus. Some scholars believe that the Persian horses wore crown-like adornments, especially those used by the royal family, but others disagree. I tend to side with the latter view based on the Hebrew text. The “royal crown” mentioned in the verse above is “מלכות כתר” or keter malkhut. It is used in two other places in the Book of Esther:

Est. 1:11 (NASB) to bring Queen Vashti before the king with her royal crown in order to display her beauty to the people and the princes, for she was beautiful.

Est. 2:17 (NASB) The king loved Esther more than all the women, and she found favor and kindness with him more than all the virgins, so that he set the royal crown on her head and made her queen instead of Vashti.

This “royal crown” is different than the large crown of gold (atarah gadol) that was given for Mordecai to wear.[1] Both display authority, but only one represents the actual kingdom, a feminine Hebrew word. Based on the usage of this Hebrew phrase, some scholars believe that what Haman actually requested was not the king’s crown or his horse’s, but the crown of the queen! Even though Haman was second in the kingdom, he wanted more. He wanted to be THE king and have his wife, the queen, too. This isn’t an outrageous interpretation considering what happened when the king returned from his anger at the second wine banquet. He found Haman falling onto the couch (or bed) with Esther.

Est. 7:8 (NKJV) When the king returned from the palace garden to the place of the banquet of wine, Haman had fallen across the couch where Esther was. Then the king said, “Will he also assault the queen while I am in the house?” As the word left the king’s mouth, they covered Haman’s face.

Ironically, it was this suspicion and judgment that cost Haman his life, not his hatred for the Jews. No one messes with the wife of the king and gets away with it!

Before Esther approached the king unannounced, she had not been summoned in thirty days. (Est. 4:11) Perhaps, the king had already grown bored with her. When she boldly approached him on his throne and invited him and Haman to a “wine banquet,” it intrigued the king. What could she want? To add to the mystery, she didn’t divulge her request at the first banquet, but invited him and Haman to another one the next evening.

After the first banquet, the king couldn’t sleep. Can you blame him? You know he had to be wondering why in the world she (his queen and wife) only invited him and Haman to these specially prepared wine banquets. He tried to ease his troubled and suspicious mind by having the book of records read to him. This is how he discovered that Mordecai had saved his life.

Thus, the next day, all his worry and suspicion is fresh on his mind when he asks Haman how he should honor a man that he desires to honor. Do you think he might have been extra sensitive to Haman using the words “keter malkhut”? After this display, King Ahasuerus was likely wondering if Haman wanted not only his woman, the queen, but also his kingdom and position. I believe this is why he acted so sharply and abruptly when he saw Haman falling onto the couch with Esther. It was a confirmation of all his suspicions!

Haman essentially wanted to switch clothes (roles) with the king. Instead, he ended up wearing the very noose he had prepared for Mordecai! Or perhaps more accurately, a very large pike was adorned with Haman’s head as a warning to all who defied the crown.

Concealed and Revealed

Another common theme in the Book of Esther is hidden motives, hidden identities, and even a hidden God (YHWH’s Name doesn’t appear in the Esther even though His divine providence is seen throughout the book.) Costumes and masks “hide” or “conceal” what is underneath. Esther concealed the fact that she was a Jew at the command of Mordecai, though the writer is sure to tell us that they are from the tribe of Benjamin. (Est. 2)

The author also reveals the lineage of Haman:

Est. 3:1 (NASB) After these events King Ahasuerus promoted Haman, the son of Hammedatha the Agagite, and advanced him and established his authority over all the princes who were with him.

Haman is called the son of Hammedatha the Agagite, or of the Agagites. This recalls Agag the king of the Amalekites, conquered and taken prisoner by Saul, and hewn in pieces by Samuel. (1 Sam. 15:8,33) It also harkens back to when the children of Israel first crossed the Reed (Red) Sea and were attacked by the Amalekites. (Ex. 17:8-16) Hence, both Jewish and Christian expositors regard Haman as a descendant of the Amalekite king, who was a descendant of Esau.

If this is the case, Haman’s hatred of Mordecai and the Jews is a very old sibling rivalry that dates back to Jacob and Esau. On a spiritual level, this is the battle of appetites and desires (flesh) with the truth of the Word of God and His Torah. On the outside, Esau wore the skin of the firstborn, but he was ruled by his flesh rather than the Spirit of God. He acted rashly and without concern for his birthright, because he’d rather be in the field like a beast. But Jacob was a peaceful man of the tents, an idiom for Torah study. Thus, Esau’s stomach of desire sold the divine birthright to Jacob for a bowl of red (earth/flesh-like) soup.

Rebekah was given a Word from the LORD while the boys were still in her womb that the older would serve the younger. And, when an aged and blind (physically and spiritually) Isaac went to bless the boys before he died, Rebekah counseled Jacob to dress up or wear the beast-like costume of Esau.

Jacob disguised his identity by donning the garments of his brother and received the blessing of the firstborn, which YHWH said belonged to him in the first place.

Gen. 27:15 (NASB) Then Rebekah took the best garments of Esau her elder son, which were with her in the house, and put them on Jacob her younger son.

At first glance, this activity appears to be highly deceptive. I believe we are meant to wrestle with this story. What was really happening here? Did Rebekah and Jacob sin or did they fulfill God’s plan in an unorthodox way? Wasn’t there a way for YHWH’s intended son to receive the birthright and the blessing without such “trickery”?  To add to our struggle, the Word never says that Rebekah or Jacob sinned by going through with their plan.

Israel (Jacob) received the blessing while he was wearing the costume of Esau! Some rabbis teach that this is the real reason for the tradition of wearing costumes on Purim. Descendants of Jacob and Esau met again in Persia, and once again Esau sought the life of Jacob. But also once again, there was a heavenly reversal and Jacob (Mordecai) receives the eminent position that Esau (Haman) sought.

There are some deep lessons to be learned by wearing the garments of another. If children benefit from this activity in the natural, what do you suppose the spiritual counterpart is?

I think the answer is found in Genesis chapter 1:

Gen. 1:27 (NASB) God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.

We are to be the image of God in the earth. We are to be imitators of the Messiah.[2] We are to be clothed in garments of salvation and robed in His righteousness.[3] But in doing so, sometimes we must beat the beast at his own game of masquerading as an angel of light. Things are not always what they seem. Sometimes we think we are dealing with a harlot, and she’s really a righteous woman doing the will of God. Sometimes we think a ruler is a foreign pagan, and he’s really our brother.

Esau still hates Jacob, even if he offers a kiss. We need to discern these twins within ourselves first. Like Esther, many of us live in exile. But also like Esther, we are daughters of Abihail. (Est.2:15) In Hebrew, Abihail is Av + chayil. Our Father is a strong Warrior!

We recall righteous Tamar that took off her garments of widowhood and concealed her identity from Judah, which procured the line of Judah and the Messiah. We recall Joseph who dressed and spoke like an Egyptian, and saved not only the nation of Israel, but also many others. We remember that the outside of the cup can be deceiving. The children of light give others the benefit of doubt. They are not quick to judge or speak. They do not promote unforgiveness or hatred, even when they are betrayed and hurt. They are image-bearers of God and not a red, hairy beast of the field.

If wearing a costume or dressing up occasionally can teach me to be more like my Daddy, more empathetic to other’s plights, and confuse the schemes of the enemy, then that’s what I want to do.

-K


 

[1] Est. 8:15 (NASB) Then Mordecai went out from the presence of the king in royal robes of blue and white, with a large crown of gold and a garment of fine linen and purple; and the city of Susa shouted and rejoiced.

[2] 1 Cor. 1:11, Eph. 5:1

[3] Is. 61:10

Categories: Biblical Symbols, Moedim | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Submission and Authority Part II

I’ve been going through tons of drafts and cleaning them up for publishing. This particular series began as answers to emails, so if they read a little odd, that’s why. (: 

Click here for Part I

Are Women Required to be Quiet? 

“…that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word,

may be won by the conduct of their wives.” (1 Pet. 3:1-2)

 

Does this passage and others like it command women to remain silent, quiet, or unquestioning in the assembly and with their husbands? Peter’s audience was primarily former pagan gentiles. Apparently, more women had turned to Messiah in this assembly than had their husbands, and they needed some instruction.

Peter’s suggestions for these wives wasn’t something new. The Word of YHWH is always concerned with our deeds, not our creeds. Actions really do speak much louder than words. This is because we act out what we really believe or what is really in our hearts. A person can talk to another until they’re blue in the face, but it is the deeds and actions that reveal the truth (or lack thereof) of what someone says.

Thus, Peter’s advice for wives to lead their husbands to Messiah by their walk/actions/lifestyle is true for far more than just “husbands.” This works on people in general because it reveals authentic faith, love, and respect. “You will know them by their fruit”, not their words or creeds. As new believers in the Jewish Messiah, these women would have been walking and living contrary to the culture around them. Hopefully, their husbands would see a stark change in their behavior and the ensuing blessings as a result, and this would win them to Messiah. But hopefully, this would win far more than their husbands — family members, friends, and neighbors!

Peter doesn’t say that these women never SPOKE a word, became mute, or took a vow of silence. Wise women don’t incessantly harp on their men to “know Jesus”, nag, or give childish guilt trips. These tactics are forms of manipulation. They are not of Elohim, nor do they produce godly fruit. This is true no matter the situation, circumstance, or predicament. Neither a man nor a woman should use their mouth for this purpose regardless of whether they have a believing or unbelieving spouse.

How does an ezer kenegdo follow this example and still “oppose” her husband when necessary? To oppose doesn’t mean that a wife becomes a vessel of strife, contention, aggression, or the like. Those are all issues of the flesh, which should be in subjection to the renewed spirit-man (ruach) of a believer. Perhaps an example will be helpful.

What if a man comes home to his wife and says, “I’m going to take our life savings to the casino.” Does YHWH expect this woman to say, “Yes lord, do with it whatever you please.” If this is their entire life savings, a decision like this is indeed an unwise and ungodly way to spend the provision YHWH has provided. By remaining silent, the woman is agreeing to this decision. If the woman points out the folly of his foolish choice, it might bring him to his senses and spare them from the consequences of a very bad decision. (Obviously, the example above is an extreme case, but even small decisions can have huge consequences.)

If Esther had remained silent when her husband signed the edict to kill the Jewish people, this article would have never been written. Esther’s methods should be noted as a good example. She respectfully approached the king (though unannounced, against his “rules”, and at the risk of her life). YHWH had already prepared the heart of the king, as he was willing to give Esther up to half of his kingdom. (Talk about equality!) She then invited him to a private wine banquet. Twice! — Before SPEAKING her heart. She didn’t oppose him by berating, yelling, or scorning him for making such a detrimental decree. Instead, she wined and dined him, which created some mystery and intrigued the king.

Peter would have been familiar with the many women of the Tanakh that used their voices, so what did him mean by a meek, gentle, and quiet spirit?

But let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God. (1 Pet. 3:4)

The Greek word hesuchios is often translated as “quiet” in this verse. Strong’s defines it as:

G2272 ἡσύχιος A prolonged form of a compound probably of a derivative of the base of G1476 and perhaps G2192; properly keeping one’s seat (sedentary), that is, (by implication) still (undisturbed, undisturbing): – peaceable, quiet.

Peter isn’t talking about not talking. He doesn’t expect these women to not speak to their husbands. Those that follow the G-d of Israel should be known by their gentle, meek, quiet, peaceable, and tranquil spirits or dispositions. In other words, Messiah’s disciples shouldn’t be the ones that are causing strife, divisions, or arguments. This is true for men and women, king and layperson as this very SAME Greek word is used in the following in verse 2:

1Ti 2:1 First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men,
1Ti 2:2 for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.
1Ti 2:3 This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior,
1Ti 2:4 who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

Paul said the same thing that Peter said in 1 Peter 3. Our BEHAVIOR (regardless if we are male or female) is what wins the lost. We should be known for our kind, gentle, and peaceable (quiet) lifestyle. Paul expresses his heartfelt prayers for this to be especially true in the lives of those in AUTHORITY. Their example is a witness to even more lives that YHWH desires to come to the truth.

In both cases with the Greek word hesuchios, translated as quiet, the meaning has nothing to do with “not speaking.” The basic sense of the word is to “keep one’s seat.” Know Your Place. In other words, true followers of YHWH are not those that rise up in offense and cause disturbances. They are not trouble makers. They do not offend easily. Rather, they are peacemakers that desire a tranquil lifestyle. It is the nephesh (flesh/emotions/instincts) that gets a person all fired up to cause harm, mischief, debauchery, or endless disputations. These (if they indeed even believe at all) need milk because their flesh controls their actions rather than the spirit-man. Peter and Paul remind us that the fruit we should produce is peaceable, tranquil, and quiet. This isn’t about gender, it’s about godly character.

But what about…

The Infamous 1 Timothy 2:11-15 Passage

Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression. Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety. (1 Tim. 2:11-15 KJV)

If you scroll back up a few paragraphs, you’ll notice that I’ve already quoted from 1 Timothy 2. The same Greek word, hesuchios, is translated as silence and quiet life in 1 Tim 2:2 and 2:11. I think you understand what the meaning of hesuchios is at this point. But you might be disappointed to discover that I have no intentions of trying to reinvent the wheel in verses 11-15. Many great scholars have done a wonderful job of explaining the many nuances of the Greek of these verses, the context of the culture, and the fact that this is a LETTER of which we have only half of the conversation. (I’ve linked to one of my favorites below.)

No matter what, there are going to be many that refuse to let go of their theological paradigms in regard to the role of women — context, culture, language be damned. Like the disciples (pre-Messiah intervention) the Gospel from the lips of women is nonsense to them.

And as the women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living One among the dead? “He is not here, but He has risen. Remember how He spoke to you while He was still in Galilee, saying that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.” And they remembered His words, and returned from the tomb and reported all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. Now they were Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James; also the other women with them were telling these things to the apostles. But these words appeared to them as nonsense, and they would not believe them. (Luke 24: 5-11)

Thus, if one deems the messenger or vessel unfit, only Messiah can open their eyes. The 1 Timothy 2:11-15 passage is typically used as “trump” verses to silence women from proclaiming the Gospel. This tactic is a repeat of Luke 24. But, we serve an amazing Elohim. He uses those called despised, foolish, and weak to confound the wise and strong!

But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God. (1 Cor. 1:27-29)

There have been many women throughout the centuries that were deemed weak, silly, or foolish that YHWH chose to deliver the Good News. The verses in Luke above cite numerous women that “were telling” and “reported” what they witnessed at the Tomb to the apostles. Here are the Greek words used:

Lego = “were telling”

λέγω   legō

G3004 Thayer Definition: 1) to say, to speak 1a) affirm over, maintain 1b) to teach 1c) to exhort, advise, to command, direct 1d) to point out with words, intend, mean, mean to say 1e) to call by name, to call, name 1f) to speak out, speak of, mention Part of Speech: verb A Related Word by Thayer’s/Strong’s Number: a root word

Apaggello = “reported”

ἀπαγγέλλω  apaggellō

G518 Thayer Definition:

1) to bring tidings (from a person or a thing), bring word, report

2) to proclaim, to make known openly, declare

Part of Speech: verb A Related Word by Thayer’s/Strong’s Number: from G575 and the base of G32

How in the world does one escape the conclusion that these women were not in fact proclaiming and teaching the men and apostles the Good News, Messiah is Risen? If we jump straight to 1 Timothy 2:11-15 without the context of the rest of the Bible, we are only fooling ourselves. Worse, vessels chosen by Messiah are rebuked, shunned, and silenced due to ignorance, stubbornness, or flat out misogyny. Luke 24 is only one example. I wanted to get you thinking about the big picture rather than the tiny part that is 1 Tim. 2:11-15.

1 Timothy 2:11-15 doesn’t define the whole Bible, rather the rest of the Bible defines 1 Timothy 2. While I have no desire to hash out the details of these verses in the cultural and contextual context, the link below is thorough and succinct. Enjoy!

The Consensus and Context of 1 Timothy 2:12


Submission & Authority Part I

For more information, see The Biblical Role of Women

Categories: Women | Tags: , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

For Such A Time As This…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

May hidden things be revealed as you read Esther 1-10 this Purim!

“For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place and you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this?” (Est. 4:14)

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