Friday, September 09, 2005

Critical Reflections on Jonah and Esther

Brace yourselves -- this is worth a whole whopping...6 points. Out of 200.

Jonah addresses many issues on a variety of different levels. In the text, Jonah wrestles with the message he is charged to deliver to the Ninevites, knowing that if he follows through, God’s mercy will surely pour down on the city, which in his opinion is undeserving of such compassion. Jonah’s attitude towards the Ninevites embodies Israel’s hatred for Ninevah and for the Assyrian empire at large. This emotion clearly permeates the book of Nahum, where the author takes delight in prophesying the demise of Ninevah and the triumph of the Lord. So questions are raised surrounding the issue of God’s mercy, predominantly towards foreign nations, but also towards the nation of Israel itself. Who really deserves God’s mercy – or does anyone? Gunn and Fewell highlights another dimension of the story in which the relationship between God and Jonah is explored (Gunn and Fewell, 130). In addition, this book examines the role of a prophet in ancient Israel.

Esther, on the other hand, isn’t nearly as pointed as Jonah. The nature of the piece is more comedic, as it pokes fun of the lavish Persian courts (JSB 1623). Ahasuerus doesn’t seem to be able to keep control of affairs in his own court and Haman suffers from wild mood swings. Oddly enough, those who exercise true power in this story are the women: Vashti for refusing the king Zeresh for her influence over Haman, and Esther for saving her people. Several aspects of this story are odd: Esther can somehow conceal her Jewish identity and becomes queen over a foreign empire; all of Haman’s plots result in futility as Mordecai receives the king’s honor (not to mention that Haman is impaled on the stake reserved for Mordecai). This book encourages the Jewish people to be proud of their identity.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.