Moses by John August Swanson. Image from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, Tenn. Original source © 1983 by John August Swanson.
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Esther 4:1-17 Commentary
by Amy G. Oden
It’s unlikely that your audience knows the whole story of Esther, so give them a condensed story arc highlighting the main characters: Esther, Mordecai, Haman, and King Ahasuerus.
Also important for listeners to grasp is that the Jews, God’s chosen people, are now in exile. Jerusalem was conquered, its people taken in chains into Babylonian captivity. Although Persians now rule, and have allowed some Jews to return to Jerusalem, there are still diaspora Jews who have married, settled and made their homes in Susa, living as a recognized religious minority in the heart of the powerful Persian empire. As an orphan and a female, Esther is a nobody among nobodies in this minority community.
Because this text is not well known and contains so much dialogue, use different readers for the voices of Mordecai, Esther, and narrator. This will help listeners track the action.
Esther is an unlikely heroine. As a mirror image of the Hebrew people in exile, Esther is herself an orphan, without the security, identity, and rootedness of family. She appears to be rescued when she is taken in by her cousin, Mordecai, who becomes her foster parent. But even this respite is short-lived ...
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2019-20 Worship resources
The narrative lectionary is a four-year cycle of readings. Read more.
December 07, 2014
Narrative Lectionary podcast on texts for Dec. 7, 2014: Esther 4:1-17. Accompanying reading: Matthew 5:13-15.