Tuesday, 21 October 2014


"On the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, the month of Adar, the king’s order came into effect. This was the very day that the enemies of the Jews had planned to overpower them, but the tables were now turned: the Jews overpowered those who hated them! The Jews had gathered in the cities throughout King Xerxes’ provinces to lay hands on those who were seeking their ruin. Not one man was able to stand up against them—fear made cowards of them all. What’s more, all the government officials, satraps, governors—everyone who worked for the king—actually helped the Jews because of Mordecai; they were afraid of him. Mordecai by now was a power in the palace. As Mordecai became more and more powerful, his reputation had grown in all the provinces.

So the Jews finished off all their enemies with the sword, slaughtering them right and left, and did as they pleased to those who hated them. In the palace complex of Susa the Jews massacred five hundred men. They also killed the ten sons of Haman son of Hammedatha, the archenemy of the Jews...
But they took no plunder."

And so the prayer in Psalm 71:13 is answered: "May my accusers perish in shame; may those who want to harm me be covered with scorn and disgrace."

How amazing to see how evil plans were thwarted. On the very day on which the Jews were to be massacred, they were able to take their revenge.

Revenge. And yet, this week I have been thinking of this. The human inclination is to seek revenge yet the Bible says: "'Vengeance is mine,' says the Lord." I reflected on what Mandy Patinkin says about revenge. (He is the actor who plays Inigo Montoya in The Princess Bride, a character whose sole purpose in life is to find and kill the six-fingered man who killed his father. After he does so, he does not know what to do with his life. "I  have been in the revenge business so long, now that it is over, I do not know what to do with the rest of my life.") Mandy says: "The purpose of revenge...is completely worthless and pointless. The purpose of existence is to embrace our fellow human beings and not be revengeful. And turn our darkness into light.

'The popular expression "revenge is a dish best served cold" suggests that revenge is more satisfying if enacted when unexpected or long feared, inverting traditional civilized revulsion toward 'cold-blooded' violence.'  Chilling, this idea of long held hatred and grudges which are just waiting for the right opportunity, lulling the enemy into a false sense of security so that they have no idea of what is in store.

Yet this part of Esther's story is not about revenge, though the specific killing of Haman's sons could be seen as that. (That, perhaps, is to forestall any acts of reprisal there might have been for their father's death.) The story is about the saving of the Jews in Persia and how they were protected, not just by the physical act of killing those who had been eager to get rid of them - perhaps lifelong enemies, business rivals - but also by reputation, as Mordecai had become increasingly feared and respected because of his closeness to the king.

No comments:

Post a Comment