We are studying Esther 7:1-10 for Sunday, April 19. This is where Haman meets his well-deserved come-uppance. [Some notes on the text are here.] Here are some questions we might want to consider in relation to this text:
Commentators almost universally point out that the text of Esther – specifically the Masoretic text, the one that is the basis for Protestant Bibles – never explicitly refers to God. If fasting is a religious practice, then fasting is the only religious practice mentioned; the text doesn’t use the word prayer or stress the observance of Torah. There have been students of the Bible, including the early rabbis, who questioned whether Esther should even be in the Bible.
What do we think? Knowing that Esther is in the Bible now, do we think Esther should be in the Bible? Were the rabbis and the early Christians right about this book? Why do we think that?
Can we learn something about God and about our life with God from a text that never mentions God? Why do we think that? What do we learn?
In verse 3, Esther finally asks the king for “my life … and the life of my people” (whom she still has not named, notice). It has taken her a long time, and a lot of elaborate preparation, to make this request. What does this tell us about Esther, about the king, about achieving desired outcomes? Would we call Esther “wise”? Why?
[More philosophical] Is being wise related to being good? For instance, does a person need to be good to be wise? Or wise to be good? Or can you have one without the other? Would we want to?
Are there any lessons for ordinary life in the 21st century in all this – is Esther a role model for us in any way? How? Why do we think that?
One of the things that makes this story satisfying, as a story, is that Haman is foiled and meets an end proportionate to his villainy. What is our reaction to that as readers? [For instance, do we enjoy this part of the story? Do we cheer on the executioners? Do we feel any compassion for Haman? Etc.]
What does our reaction tell us about ourselves? How do we feel about that? Why?
Would we feel differently if something like this happened today, for instance in the news? Why?
[I think this is a more serious question than it will probably sound.] The eunuch Harbona is mentioned by name in verse 9. If his name were a word, it would be “donkey leader” or “ass leader.” Would we say Harbona is a leader in this story? Who does he lead? Would we say Harbona is an important character in this story? Why would we, or wouldn’t we, say that? What makes a character “important”?