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Thursday, March 31, 2011

What Good Is a Woman? Lesson 3


Study Questions:

Read Esther Chapter 3.

Apparently, Mordecai had no problem with bowing to the king. Why not to his "right hand man," Haman? Remember their ancestry, and consider the hint in Haman's reaction, vs. 6. Consider parallels with Matt. 4:8-10.

In vss. 6 and 8, what other figure is Haman starting to sound like? See Rev. 12:9,10.
 
In vss. 10 and 11, does Ahasuerus show God-like wisdom? God-like power?

Consider: Had the Jews committed any real offense against Ahasuerus? Had they (has everyone) committed real offenses against God?

 What are the historical context and spiritual significance of Ahasuerus' condemnation of the Jews? See Jeremiah 16:9-11. In what sense are we exiles too? See Hebrews 11:13,14.
 
Comment on the setting of a particular date for destruction of the Jews in vss. 13 and 14. In a note on Amos 5:18, the New Geneva Study Bible says, "Ultimately, this is the great and terrible 'day of the LORD' when He comes in judgment. Every Old Testament judgment was also a 'day of the LORD.'"

Would the Jews have any cause for hope? See Malachi 4:1-3, and Isaiah 25:1, 8 and 9.
 
How does the situation of the Jews in Persia compare to our situation in the world today? Consider 2 Peter 3:10 and Titus 2:11-14.


            Genealogy and history are key to understanding the events in the book of Esther. Mordecai's ancestry, compared to that of his wicked nemesis Haman, explains the antipathy between the two and represents a division that goes back to the conflict established in Genesis between the seed of the woman and the serpent.
            Mordecai is a Benjamite. Thus he is related to King Saul. Haman, "son of Hammedatha the Agagite" (3:1), is connected with Agag, king of the Amalekites, Israel's archenemies. 1 Samuel 14 and 15 detail the war between the two peoples. Saul's army "utterly destroyed all the [Amalekites] with the edge of the sword" (1 Samuel 15:8). It is no wonder that descendants of Agag's line, such as Haman, would hate the Jews and long for their destruction. Incidentally, Saul is another disobedient leader whose failure causes trouble which must be undone.
            The opposing nations may be seen as symbols of the everlasting division between God's people and His enemies. This gulf opened at the time of the curse, when God warned "I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed: He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel" (Genesis 3:15).
            Mordecai seems to have no trouble showing respect for Ahasuerus as king. In fact, he has demonstrated his loyalty dramatically by reporting the doorkeepers' plot against Ahasuerus in an incident full of portents for the fate of the Jews. It also suggests parallels with the work of Christ, since Esther serves as intermediary to the king, and the written record eventually preserves Mordecai's life.
            Even though Ahasuerus has given Haman a "seat above all the princes" (3:1), Mordecai will not bow to him. The absence of the name of God is particularly glaring here, as allegiance to Him would certainly explain Mordecai's behavior. As Jesus repeated in Matthew 4:10 after refusing to bow to Satan, "You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve."
            Haman's reaction brings to mind that other name. He sets out to punish not only Mordecai, but all the Jews. He hopes to carry out the wish of the Amalekites and other enemies of God who hope, as in Psalm 83:4-7, to "cut [His people] off from being a nation, that the name of Israel may be remembered no more." In this hatred, Haman resembles no one so much as "the dragon...[who] persecuted the woman who gave birth to the male Child" (Revelation 12:13).
            Haman quickly takes the role of "the accuser of our brethren" (Revelation 12:10). "Their laws are different," he whispers to Ahasuerus. "They do not keep the king's laws. Therefore it is not fitting for the king to let them remain" (3:8). Ahasuerus seems impetuous and greedy here. Apparently he likes the idea of the silver coming into his treasury so much, he doesn't bother to investigate whether these peculiar people are actually doing any harm.
            The king's character is far from that of the just and omniscient God, but his office gives him similar power over the lives of his subjects. The parallel here between the Jews and the church of Christ is also a little tricky, but their situation still supports the metaphor of Esther as a type of Christ. Technically, the Jews have committed no crime that merits the judgment Ahasuerus places on them through Haman. However, they are in Persia only because their fathers abandoned the worship of the true God.
            God tells His rebellious people, "[Your fathers] have forsaken Me and not kept My law. And you have done worse than your fathers, ...Therefore I will cast you out of this land into a land that you do not know..." (Jeremiah 16:11-13). They are exiles because of sin, and they face a particular day of reckoning. We are exiles (Hebrews 11:13,14) because of Adam's sin, and our own, and we face a day of judgment as well. In a note on Amos 5:18, The New Geneva Study Bible says, "Ultimately, this is the great and terrible 'day of the LORD' when He comes in judgment. Every Old Testament judgment was also a 'day of the LORD,' and anticipated that final day."
            It is interesting to note that the proclamation that doomed the Jews was sent "to the officials of all people, to every province according to its script, and to every people in their language" (3:12). This saturation of the kingdom with Ahasuerus' will echoes God's authority over His world. While all are under the curse, the redeemed will come "out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation" (Revelation 5:9).
            Though the Book of Esther never mentions it specifically, God's people can always hope in His deliverance. He would preserve His Seed by preserving the Jews, and He would save all His people through the resurrection of Christ.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Bring Me an Omelet, Woman


          Hubby said it was the best omelet he’d ever tasted. He exulted over every bite and wanted to know what it was flavored with. Music to the ears of a cooking nerd. And I guess I am a cooking nerd. I have a designated omelet pan: The Rudolph Stanish Omelet Pan, it says on the bottom. It’s just the right size and weight and has perfectly curved sides. I never use it for anything but omelets. You’re never supposed to wash it, either, just wipe it out with paper towels, or maybe scrub it with salt if necessary.
          The perfect omelet pan is heavy because high heat is crucial to the perfect omelet. When it was good and hot, I dropped in a knob of butter. (OK, OK, a tablespoon. But the British term is more fun.) It sizzled and bubbled and spread. At the ready was a bowl in which I had used a fork to mix three eggs, a tablespoon (or a knob) of water and a drop of hot sauce—never too much mixing. There should still be streaks of yolk and white. Into the hot, hot pan the mixture goes, and right away I start stirring it in the pan with the fork to give all the egg a chance to cook against the hot surface.
          When the egg was almost cooked through, still a little wet, I arranged a few strips of prosciutto on the omelet and rolled it up with a spatula. Waiting to embrace it was a tortilla I had spread with garlic-flavored Philly Cooking Crème and placed in a buttered frying pan over medium heat. I tipped the omelet onto the tortilla and waited for the tortilla to brown a bit on the bottom. What a thing of beauty it was when I folded the tortilla over the omelet, slid it onto a plate and balanced it with a simple salad of red leaf lettuce. Oh, yeah.
          Today is our wedding anniversary, me and Hubby. Thirty-seven years, if my math is right. So here’s to marriage—and the perfect omelet. Long may they coexist. 

 Rudolph Stanish, Real Person

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Peanut Exegesis

 
     Last year, I dug out a nifty little bed for my specially-ordered, organic, super-duper, non-hybrid peanut seeds, George Washington Carver’s happy dream. I added some real soil to the gray sand and raked in the compost. Well, sort of compost. That would be another story. I fertilized, planted and watered and sat back to wait. And wait. Then I had four seedlings and a lot of little holes. Squirrels, adorable, furry balls of malicious evil, had made my sweat-earned plot their own smorgasbord. I called them rude names and ran for my roll of bird netting to cover the remainders. Their little stems unfolded happily, riffling leaves out like playing cards. They got about three inches tall, but not for long. In the next day or two, something snapped the stems of every one of them. I envisioned cackling rodents at midnight, saying “Ha, we’ll show her.” But maybe it was snails.

            So this year I bought a package of raw peanuts at the grocery store for a lot less money, let them dry out, and shelled them for seed. I gave the same dig-deep and compost treatment to a new bed. I just couldn’t use the old one again. The memories… Acting on trusty Internet guidance, I sprinkled the soil with cayenne pepper, and not just a few teaspoons either, nosirree.  Every time it rained, I added another stratum from the enormous warehouse-club jar, emptied one and started another. Rejoicing in the news that oil of peppermint makes tree-climbing vermin feel like they can’t breathe (Really, people, how did anyone find this out? “Here, little squirrel, sniff this cotton ball and tell me how you feel.”), I dripped the stuff around the edges of the patch. Well, two and a half cheers for the advice of Web denizens, because at this point I have a couple dozen energetic-looking peanut plants. My rejoicing is muted, given that this old world is still “subject to futility,” but my hope is rekindled.

The most splendid of the peanut plants.

I think I see purple, but it may be wishful thinking.

Grape tendril, or charismatic preacher?
New leaves of the grapevine are purplish-pink before they unfold.

What Good Is a Woman? Lesson 2


Study questions
  
Read Esther Chapter 2.

What are the criteria for the new queen? See Matt. 3:17.

What is the significance of Mordecai's ancestry? See Esther 3:1 regarding Haman's descent, and 1 Samuel 14:47,48 and 15:7,8. Note the long history of conflict. Compare to Gen. 3:15.

Esther's Hebrew name, Hadassah, means "myrtle." See Isaiah 41:19,20 and 55:12,13.

 Compare to descriptions of the Messiah in Psalm 45, especially vss.2, 7 and 8.
 
"Esther" may be a form of "Ishtar," the Babylonian goddess of love and war, who was said to have entered the underworld to rescue her beloved and succeeded after having the "water of life" poured over her. Worship of Ishtar was immoral and condemned by Hebrew prophets, but the name does suggest divinity, sacrifice and rescue (albeit perverted.)

"Esther" may also mean "star" in Persian. See Num. 24:17 and Rev. 22:16.

What is notable about Esther's parentage and upbringing? Compare 2:10 with Matt. 16:20.

 What substances are included in Esther's beauty preparations? Note Psalm 45:8, Matt. 2:11 and John 19:39.
 
How did people react to Esther in 2:15? See Luke 2:52.
 
Esther becomes queen (v.17). Comment on the replacement of the disobedient queen with the "perfect" one in light of 1 Cor. 15:45-49.

In vss. 21-23, how does Mordecai ingratiate himself with Ahasuerus? What is Esther's role?

                                                               

            God planned Adam's replacement before all worlds. He would send "my Son, in whom I am well pleased" (Matthew 3:17). Ahasuerus must adopt a "Plan B." He seeks the advice of his servants. Vashti's replacement will be "the young woman who pleases the king" with her beauty (2:3,4). In Psalm 45:2, the coming Messiah is called "fairer than the sons of men." The criteria for the offices are similar.
            When God promised Adam and Eve that "the seed of the woman" would eventually triumph over the serpent, it was a clue that unusual circumstances would mark the birth of the Messiah and of those who would foreshadow Him. Moses was set adrift under a threat of death (Exodus 2:1-10). Samson was conceived by divine intervention and destined to deliver Israel (Judges 13:2-5). Melchizedek was "without father, without mother" (Hebrews 7:3). Esther was an orphan (2:7) and was raised by her relative Mordecai.    
            Esther's Hebrew name, Hadassah, means myrtle. The name leads to more symbols and suggestions of Christ. In Isaiah 41:17-20, the Lord promises a rejuvenation of the dry wilderness, in which He will plant several kinds of trees, including the myrtle. Seeing these trees will cause people to understand that "the hand of the Lord has done this." The connection becomes clearer in Isaiah 55:12,13. "Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress tree, and instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle tree." Christ wore the crown of thorns, took Adam's curse on himself, and promised new life for the world He loved. His kingdom would have no end, just as the sign of the myrtle "shall not be cut off."
            Botanical images of the Messiah are not uncommon in scripture. In Isaiah 4:2, we see that "the Branch of the LORD shall be beautiful and glorious." Ezekiel 34:29 promises a "plant (or garden) of renown." The Song of Solomon celebrates the "rose of Sharon" (2:1). In John 15, Jesus describes Himself as "the true vine." Surely a myrtle that springs up at the right time to save her people suggests a parallel with Christ.
            Even the Persian name Esther is full of symbolism. It may come from the Persian word for "star," or it may be a form of "Ishtar," a Babylonian goddess. The star leads us first to Numbers 24:17, where "a Star shall come out of Jacob... and destroy all the sons of tumult." This suggests the ultimate triumph of Christ. Esther also had a triumph over Haman and the enemies of the Jews. Jesus identifies himself unequivocally in Revelation 22:16. "I am the Root and the Offspring of David, the Bright and Morning Star." Given the importance of names in scripture, the linking of Esther with Christ is fairly compelling.
            Ishtar was a goddess of love and war in Babylonian mythology. Benet's Reader's Encyclopedia calls her "the most widely worshiped of all the deities of the Near and Middle East." She was said to have descended into the underworld to rescue her lover from death. After the "water of life" was poured over her, she succeeded. Worship of Ishtar was immoral, and the Hebrew prophets rightly condemned it, but her name is connected with divinity, sacrifice and rescue from death.
            Esther's beauty preparations make a striking connection with the Messiah and His death. For six months, the potential queens use oil of myrrh. In Psalm 45:8, the divine bridegroom wears garments "scented with myrrh." This prefigures the gift of myrrh brought by the wise men to the Christ child (Matthew 2:11) and its use in His burial (John 19:39).
            Anointed and adorned for her presentation to the king, Esther "obtained favor in the sight of all who saw her"(2:15). In Luke 2:52, we see a similar reaction to the young Jesus, who "increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men." Esther is apparently the most beautiful of all the virgins. The bridegroom in Psalm 45:2 is "fairer than the sons of men."
            When Esther moves to the king's palace, she keeps her identity secret at the behest of Mordecai (2:10). When Jesus began His ministry on the earth, He kept his identity secret (Matthew 16:20, Luke 9:20, 21). There would be a perfect time for each identity to be revealed.
            In the meantime, Ahasuerus approves so heartily of Esther that he places the crown on her head and calls for a great celebration (2:17,18). Instead of the corrupting example of Vashti, he will have the admirable Esther as queen. This is a shadow of the fall of Adam and his replacement with Christ, as explained in 1 Corinthians 15:22. "For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive." The Jews will soon owe their lives to Esther.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Butterfly in Two Perspectives

One: 
Mad with life,
a butterfly
greeted me in my garden.

Another:
A butterfly, wild with life,
ignored me in my garden.
A moment's rest was far too long;
it fluttered fast,
drunk on air and sun and wings.
It circled my head
and vanished over the roof. 
"I bear the image of God!" I cried. 
"I bear His whimsy," it answered.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

What Good Is a Woman? Lesson 1

Study questions are meant to start you on the trail. (See the What Good Is a Woman? Introduction post if you haven't yet.) My comments appear afterward.

Lesson 1

Read Esther Chapter 1.

Who is Ahasuerus?

What is the extent of his empire? Is he a minor or great figure in the world of his day?

 What is he celebrating?
 
What is his palace like?
 
Consider Gen. 1:31 and Ex. 27:9-19. In what ways does Ahasuerus imitate the position and trappings of the Lord?

What do vss. 7 and 8 suggest about the king's generosity and degree of control over his people? Compare to Gen. 2:8, 9 and 3:2.

What request does Ahasuerus make of Vashti the queen?

Does it seem difficult or unfair?

Why is her refusal such a problem for the king?

See Romans 5:12. To whom might we compare Vashti?

Consider: Do we know why Vashti disobeyed her king? Do we know why Adam disobeyed his King? What were their lives like before they disobeyed? Is any reason good enough for such disobedience?

What does v.19 say about the person who will replace Vashti?


       Ahasuerus (or Xerxes) was king over a great empire. Persian rule extended from the Black Sea to Egypt in the west, all the way to India in the east. One might easily see the empire as "the known world." As the Book of Esther opens, Ahasuerus is showing to his minions "the riches of his glorious kingdom and the splendor of his excellent majesty." The celebration takes place in a spectacular setting, adorned with linen, marble, silver and gold.
       The king's satisfaction with his achievement and domain may be compared to God's approval of His creation in Genesis 1:31. His seven-day feast capped with the ultimate celebration echoes the creation week. The lush linens and pillars and precious metals are reminiscent of God's earthly dwelling place as described in Exodus 27:9-19.  Ahasuerus thus imitates the position and trappings of the Lord, even though he is not particularly godly. He turns out to be rather impetuous and shortsighted, but he is the supreme being in this dominion.
        He is also generous (1:7) and not a complete tyrant. He leaves the amount of wine consumption "to each man's pleasure" (1:8). Queen Vashti presides over her own feast until her king makes a fairly simple request, that she should appear in her crown "in order to show her beauty to the people and the officials" (1:11). She disobeys, just as Adam and Eve disobeyed God's simple rule about eating from one tree.
         It is tempting to make excuses for Vashti, and our women's group voiced them. "He was drunk, and probably all the men were. Who would want to walk into a hall full of drunks to be shown off?" We can picture this as an unpleasant scene, yet the text calls Ahasuerus "merry," not cruel or crude. A Jewish tradition says that he ordered Vashti to appear naked, but this is simply not in the text. The reaction of the wise men to her disobedience argues against the request's being anything so outrageous. They fear that Vashti's disobedience will cause other women to "despise their husbands" (1:17). If she refused a degrading and unreasonable request, there is no reason to think this would cause a rash of disobedience. If she refused an appreciative, proud and perfectly legitimate request, then she might indeed corrupt marriages throughout the empire, just as "through [Adam] sin entered the world" (Romans 5:12).
            One old-fashioned and one very modern way of thinking may keep us from wanting to blame Vashti. The first is the notion that women have a natural moral superiority to men, so that no woman could bear to be ogled at a pagan banquet. A quick drive through the "combat zone" of any sizeable city should quash that idea. Then comes the feminist idea that no woman should ever be condemned for her actions because, whatever the crime, surely some stinking man drove her to it. However, if we claim full equality regarding the image of God, we must also admit to bearing the sin of Adam. Even dear ladies of the church have the occasional puff of sin. "Has anyone here ever been pointlessly snotty to her husband?" I asked my study group. A few notebooks rose to cover faces. We quit making excuses for Vashti.
            Adam was king of his world. Vashti was queen of her world. Each lived in a beautiful realm where every necessity was provided. Their masters were rich and generous. Each master asked for obedience in return. Neither Adam nor Vashti had a legitimate reason to disobey. Vashti's fate (1:19) is that she "shall come no more before King Ahasuerus; and let the king give her royal position to another who is better than she." This is exactly what happened to Adam. He was banished and replaced by One better.


Monday, March 21, 2011

The Body Farm and the Dead Paintings

      I always try to read the local paper when I travel; abundance of papers in the US seems a pillar of freedom, though perhaps now a weakening one. Reading the Santa Fe New Mexican during breakfast a while ago in my favorite city, I learned that Mesa State College in Colorado was planning a high-altitude "body farm," a "forensic research site where people who have donated their corpses are left to rot." (Sounds a little premature. I do hope this was supposed to happen after they die.) Problem: the site was within a few hundred feet of some private homes. After protests, the college has decided to find a more remote location. Said one neighbor, "It'll be nice not to have to worry about where the flies have been when they land on my hamburger or potato salad at a barbecue." Indeed.
      A fitting intro to art of Susan Rothenberg at Santa Fe's Georgia O'Keeffe museum. First, "Cabin Fever," image of horse and shadow with a line down the middle. (photo below) Quote from artist says she was thinking of cave paintings and fascinated with stopping the motion of things; that's what she thought the line did. It made me think of a bug on a pin, though. The legs were in running position, but I saw no motion, no life. In the same room, "Squeeze," black outline on white of horse's legs, hoofs up, with a line through them, looking, she admits, as though they are hanging in a butcher shop. At bottom, held between the legs, a horse's head, in outline: on the left, open lips; on the right, a stubby ear, and a curve as though the head were cut off just below the jaw, with no neck. My reaction: this is horrible.
      There's a hallway between that gallery room and the next where they normally hang a painting on each side. In it, I saw a little boy cover his eyes and hide his face against his mother's shoulder. I stepped in to see what caused this. Was it "Hands and Shadows," with two raised arms casting shadows that look like dragons? Or "Outline," with another horse head at lower right, looking as though it had decayed to the shape of an oven mitt-- no eyes, no ears, just those open lips on the end.
      Rothenberg observes that she hardly ever paints a whole figure, at least not of human beings. She also says she doesn't necessarily know exactly what she is painting-- could be this, could be that. I finally decided she is alarmed by the world, especially when something fast, loud or odd happens. And she does not love the world (in contrast to O'Keeffe, who was immersed in the beauty of form and color.) A final painting showed me why: "Folded Buddha," also below. A black figure with crossed arms holds blue legs folded upward, the feet pressed into a hollow chest. "We revolve around an empty middle," she says. That explained the hideousness of the paintings, and the only human-ish faces she places on the borders of some-- they have no life. Even those that are supposed to be observing and reacting to the action of the painting show no connection with it. They are blank. I think the poor woman has no awareness of the human soul, and certainly no hint of a creator God. Utterly opposite to O'Keeffe, who said that God told her, if she painted the Pedernal mountain enough, she could have it. An O'Keeffe I never saw before: "The Beyond," done in 1972, when I believe she was starting to think about the next life. Bottom third is black, then a band of cloudy blue, a strip of white, reflecting light like the moon, then more cloudy blue. What struck me was that the black was closest to the viewer, as though this world is the dark one, but there is light, clarity, up ahead. For now, we see through a glass darkly... 

The motionless horse
The empty soul



Antidote: dancing St. Francis

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Who Needs an Audience?

     I confessed to a writer/editor/thinker friend that I was a tad jealous of The Pioneer Woman, whose best-selling books grew out of her charming, beautiful, funny, touching blog. I love her work, and I don't begrudge her success, but I do envy it. I mean, what am I, chopped liver? Then I told my pastor's wife how I was thinking, and she asked, "Why do you need a world-wide audience? We're your audience." Good question. I've been mulling it over for days and proposing it to others. Why do writers, musicians, artists and even athletes and other "performers" want the attention and approval of strangers?
     Here's as far as I've got with the question. First, attention and praise from friends doesn't quite fulfill because it's like having your mother tell you how wonderful you are. People who already love you and have been through years of life with you are predisposed to like your work. Having your work received and approved by people who have no stake in your life is a different level of affirmation.
     Much trickier and even less coherently formed is an idea that's connected with our being made in the image of God. Nehemiah 9: 5, 6 called us to worship this morning. It says we owe God praise because He has made every marvelous thing in the universe, from the stars to the starfish. He gives life to the creatures and sustains that life. Look at all He has made, "read" it, and give Him two thumbs up. So here we are, made in the image of God. We are able to think up our creations and place them in the world. If they are good, they deserve to be looked at and appreciated and their creator given credit. Of course, the fly in that ointment is that we sinners can't invent or project anything perfect, and our motivations are never pure. Our creations may not be as good as we think they are. We may crave praise or fame for their own sake and forget that we're supposed to be making something good.
     At any rate, that's what I want to do: create something good and have it recognized for its own sake. As a small-c creator, I crave that pronouncement: "this is very good."

Saturday, March 19, 2011

What Good Is a Woman? Esther, Jael and Christ : Introduction

What Good Is a Woman?
Esther, Jael and Christ
What Good Is a Woman? is a ten-lesson Bible study. I'll post a new lesson every week or so. Each begins with questions that I hope you will delve into on your own. I explored the Bible to find out as much as I could about how Esther and Jael resemble Jesus and tried to blaze a trail for you to follow. Don't accept my conclusions without following the trail for yourself. See whether it makes sense to you, and feel free to ask questions of me.

Introduction       

The Old Testament predicts in more or less veiled terms what the Christ will be like and what He will do. Particular persons who illustrate the character and mission of Christ are called "types of Christ." I believe that at least two Old Testament women, Esther and Jael, were types of Christ in the same manner as David and Moses.
            Esther and Jael carried His image and performed actions similar to His future actions. Each earned a place of honor in the Bible and the history of the church without breaking out of the traditional female role she occupied, that of queen or homemaker. Each worked for the physical salvation of the people of Israel and so prefigured what Jesus would do for the ultimate salvation of the church.
            At this point, the red flags go up. The feminist might say, "Well, if women represent Christ as well as men, then they can serve in all the same offices as men." The conservative theologian may fear that I intend to deify these females, or claim that God is therefore both male and female, Father and Mother. I can give no comfort to the first, but I hope to reassure the second.
            God's word, I believe, is one organic whole. It all ties together, and no part cancels out any other when it comes to the way God has ordered human life. I also believe quite firmly that it is a grave error to filter scripture through any political or sociological theory. On the contrary, theories such as feminism must be filtered through scripture, and the bits that don't fit must be thrown out. Trimming scripture to fit the theory is dangerous, an arrogant affront to a wise and generous God Who gives us His Word as a light unto our paths.
            The more I thought about Esther, the more parallels I began to see with Christ, but I could find no commentary that described her that way. My pastor said she is not normally portrayed as a type of Christ. My trusty Matthew Henry commentary emphasized God's providence in the story, but never mentioned Christ. A friend asked her seminary professors whether any books compared Esther to Christ. She got no titles, but did hear a nervous warning not to carry this idea too far. Notes in The Open Bible came this close: "The heroine has been an example of selfless devotion to the welfare of her people at the risk of her own life." To me, that sounded a lot like Jesus. To make sure, I would have to go digging myself. 
            I marvel at the way God has used great movements of history as metaphors for His plan of salvation. He could select human leaders, change the thinking of kings, transport whole nations in order to illustrate His loving intention of rescuing His people and remaking the world. If He did this with the Hebrews in Egypt, He might do the same with their descendants in Persia.
            I had to deal first of all with the question of a female as a sort of redeemer. How could she be, if women are not meant to be rulers of churches or heads of households? Is it legitimate to consider a female as a type of Christ? Genesis 1:27 offers the first clue. God made man in His own image, both male and female. No distinction exists between male and female in terms of bearing the image of God. A similar idea appears in Galatians 3:26-28. One's sex makes no difference when it comes to being baptized and "clothed with Christ." In Christ Jesus, all are one. I could not eliminate Esther or Jael as representatives of Christ simply because of their sex.
            My other main guideline would be the principle that Jesus demonstrated on the road to Emmaus to inform our interpretation of the Old Testament. As reported in Luke 24:27, he explained "the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures." If information about Him appears in all the Scriptures, then surely it is legitimate to look for Him in every book and every story, even when the main actors are women.
            The Book of Esther is famous for what it leaves out, that is, the name of God. Jael's story, in Judges 4 and 5, borders on the bizarre. If we ask what the actions of these two women suggest to us about Christ, we may gain a better understanding of why they appear in the Bible at all. 
            University courses in journalism and English literature gave me a method for study. In examining these histories, I looked for parallels of names, numbers, phrases, situations and ideas. I considered authority and offenses against authority, condemnation and redemption. No parallel is quite perfect, because each situation involves human beings in earthly circumstances. Nevertheless, just as God cares for the sparrow, He has, I believe, allowed a pretty Jewish girl and an obscure "tentwife" to serve as representatives of Christ.
            Every woman bears the image of Christ, and every woman can accomplish great things for Him without abandoning her assigned post. If we comprehend this idea, women need not strive to become pastors, elders or heads of households in order to serve God. Esther and Jael show that we don't need those positions to participate in God's great works, works of depth, intensity, importance, realness and glory.