SAN JOSE, CA, March 24, 2018 – Traditional perceptions about Women’s History Month revolve around the struggle for women’s political equality in the United States. Yet many American women believe that the right to vote or even the right of political participation determines their value. However, women have been doing extraordinary things for millennia.
It’s Women’s History Month. The celebration of the Jewish holiday Passover falls the end of March and the beginning of April. Conversely, many non-Jewish citizens may have missed a holiday known as Purim at the beginning of March. Purim celebrates a Jewish woman who saved her people from annihilation. While a majority of Americans may know of Moses and the story of Passover, many don’t know of Esther, and her role in history.
Women’s History Month and the Jewish Holiday of Purim
As March ends and we enter April, the Jewish holiday of Passover (March 30-April 7) the holiday is ripe with the history of the Hebrew people’s struggle and ultimate escape from slavery.
Moses leading his people from slavery under the Egyptians is central to Jewish history in the Bible. Yet another dramatic story is that of Esther, who is annually recognized in the Jewish holiday of Purim, which usually occurs in March. It is a holiday of remembrance of a time in which Esther saved her people from annihilation.
Esther and her place in women’s history
The book of Esther is in the Bible, and for those who do not study the Bible, her story may be difficult to understand. Nevertheless, the book provides an opportunity to reflect upon a woman whose influence over a king meant the salvation of the Hebrew people in Persia.
Even more profound is that this story occurred thousands of years before the conception of women’s rights.
There are several reasons for the recognition of Esther as a major figure in women’s history. Esther’s story is profound. She managed to intervene with a Persian king’s mandate that called for the extermination of the Jewish people. Likewise, comparing Esther to Harriet Tubman and realizing each was willing to risk her life for her people inspires equal recognition.
Women’s History Month should recognize women of history
Unfortunately, Americans typically contemplate women’s rights within the scope of the development of the United States over the last 242 years. The story of a woman of ancient Persia may prove to be beyond the contemporary narrative of the Atheists, Leftists and their progressive-revisionist historians.
In 2006, Esther’s story was made into a contemporary movie (One Night with the King) and seems historically accurate.
The Bible story reveals a brave and faithful woman and her value well beyond the political arena. It reveals a lady who was well ahead of her time. Esther shows up as a woman living in a time of tyranny in which women, as well as men, had relatively zero rights, let alone rights of voting for her government and freedom of speech.
Esther, King Xerxes and the Spartan 300
For those souls who are not afraid of wading into the depths of the Bible, it may be worth bypassing the Hollywood interpretation to get the original version. The story of Esther occurs in Susa (Shushan), the Persian capital when it is believed that Xerxes I (485–464 B.C.E.), ruled. This Xerxes is the same Persian king who attacked Greece and faced King Leonidas and his 300 men at Thermopylae in 480 B.C.E.
The biblical name for the king is Ahasuerus. Because controversy exists among some theological scholars regarding the exact date of Esther’s story, and due to discrepancies in corresponding events in ancient Persian history and problems in properly translated Middle Eastern names, it is difficult to correlate this account in historical records.
The majority of historians accept that this was King Xerxes.
Esther, a clever woman saves her people from Haman
The book of Esther reveals an inspiring tale of a clever woman outwitting a ruthless political adviser, Haman. It may come as a surprise that centuries before Adolf Hitler generated the horrors of the Holocaust in Europe, long before Islamic-oriented nations in the Middle East spoke boldly of wiping Israel off the planet, a man named Haman conspired to have all Jewish people in the Persian Empire killed.
Esther was the one who thwarted Haman’s diabolical plot. And, for those who think it may have been easy for a beautiful woman to affect an ancient tyrant’s will, one would need to do a bit more background study of the treatment of people in ancient Persia.
Nonetheless, the story of Esther makes it apparent that King Ahasuerus has some problems from the start. It begins with Ahasuerus drunk and upset as his queen, Vashti, would not appear for him at an extravagant banquet held over a seven-day period.
Vashti’s refusal had serious consequences.
Following her refusal to attend the King’s banquet, Queen Vashti was exiled or may have been killed. In either case, a new queen had to be crowned. In what may have been the world’s first beauty pageant, the woman who pleased the king would become the new queen.
Esther won that crown.
Esther, the non-Jewish name of the Hebrew Haddassah
Persian for “star,” Esther was the non-Hebrew name for Hadassah. This maiden was not only one of the most beautiful young maidens in Persia, Hadassah also had some education. Her cousin Mordecai, who raised Esther after her parent’s death, may have stimulated her intellect. Haddasah was wise enough to change her name to Esther to hide her Jewish roots.
An ancient Cinderella story
The book of Esther is more than a story of an extraordinary marriage between a ruthless Persian king (who terrorized the Ancient Middle East) and a unique Jewish girl living an ancient Cinderella story. The story is for those who cherish freedom and those who value life.
The idyllic world of new Queen Esther came crashing down upon her one day when the afore-mentioned Haman’s hatred of the Jews and personal hatred toward Esther’s guardian, Mordecai, explodes. Ultimately, Haman manifests an evil plan to annihilate the Jewish people. Using authority as the king’s counselor, Haman was able to persuade the king by offering a large sum of silver talents to the king’s treasury in order to personally assume the expense of the extermination of the Jews.
Royal permission for the extermination of the Jews.
The absolutist king made a royal decree to kill all the Jews in the Persian Empire due to Haman’s influence. Yet, neither man knew the new queen was really a Jew.
Fortunately, Esther, though the queen, realized her life and death peril, and knew if the men discovered her to be Jewish, she faced a death sentence. She used her wisdom to formulate a plan to thwart Haman who was fixated upon destruction of the Jews. Haman’s plot required his wealth to manipulate the king but Esther was in a pivotal position to avert the looming massacre. Hadassah had only her wits, and the support of the Jewish community to fast and pray on her behalf.
Esther’s tale is a story of ultimate triumph. She had no political authority as a woman living in an age of tyranny. This was a time where women, even most men, had few rights, let alone voting rights or freedom of speech. The book of Esther unveils intense drama and great peril with Esther as the focal point of this near tragedy. Mordecai learns of the death sentence for his people and realizes limited options.
His cousin, the queen, becomes the only hope for her people. She was the only connection with the king who could intervene for her people to avert their pending destruction.
Esther risked her life just by breaking royal protocols in the Persian Palace. In ancient Persia, the king summoned his subjects at his own pleasure. Persian law dictated that the king’s permission was required for anyone, even his queen, to enter into his presence. To do so without the monarch’s consent meant certain death. A person knew to approach only when the royal scepter pointed his/her way.
Revealing her Jewishness meant Esther could face immediate execution. Esther’s first triumph came when she resolved to die, if required, for her people. She boldly declared to Mordecai, “If I perish, I perish.”
Esther’s second triumph came when she was able to influence the king and Haman to come to her court. She offered two banquets to them in her territory— outside of the male-dominated, politically managed royal court.
It was there she made her case to the king and turned the tables on Haman.
Esther’s third triumph came when she summoned the courage to reveal the truth about being Jewish. She carried out her plan, but she had no control over the outcome.
Esther and her place in history
In conclusion, with God’s authority to represent her people, Esther chose to confront the great dilemma at the risk of her life.
It represents what women can do when they allow God to give them the courage to do the right thing. People of faith throughout history have often been the hope of their people’s salvation.
Esther’s story is for all of us.