It’s a Sex-Off! (Esther 1-2)

It would appear that the Book of Esther departs from the narrative of Nehemiah and goes on a tangent. The first chapter talks about this guy named King Ahasuerus who is king of everything (or of one hundred and twenty-seven provinces stretching from India to Ethiopia). He’s a real hot-head. He’s got a posse of seven eunuchs. I’ve said it before: you can never have too many eunuchs. They make great, docile companions. Anyways, King Ahasuerus throws this lavish party and gets wasted. He demands that his eunuchs go and fetch his wife, Queen Vashti, so he can show everyone how beautiful she is. But she refuses to come. I would guess that she didn’t understand the message on account of the eunuchs’ shrill, feminized voices.

A couple of years ago I read this terrific biography on Nero, who most people dismiss as being dotty. Nero was much more interesting that that; he’s someone who filtered everything through an artistic lens and tried to live his life as art. This biography, “Nero” by Edward Champlin, does a stand-up job of getting his reader to suspend modern perspectives and categories (e.g., straight, gay) that get in the way of understanding him. Nero fell in love with a particular eunuch who he called Sporus (kind of a cruel joke if you think of the root word… spore… seed) and dressed him up like his dead wife Poppea Sabina. He married Sporus, a mock-woman, but nevertheless a woman in his eyes, in an elaborate and traditional ceremony. He placed Sporus into the role of emperess, so that he was forced to continually be on display at public events and ceremonies. One can only speculate but it’s likely that Sporus went along with all this out of sheer fear. There’s something quite sad about the figure of Sporus and one passage from the abovementioned book about his end stayed with me:

“The boy’s sad career ended under Vitellius, in the late summer or autumn of 69. In the course of planning gladitorial contests, even as the forces of Vespasian were invading Italy, someone proposed that the boy appear on stage, in the title role of the Rape of Persephone. Sporus could not bear the shame, and he killed himself, little more than a year after the death of Nero. It is a pitiful story, with the quality of a nightmare, although the ancient authors, outraged by Nero’s atrocities, have no pity to spare for the unhappy victim. He was probably not yet twenty years old when he died” (p.147).

Kind of sad, right? I don’t know. I guess I feel that eunuchs are sorry creatures, underrepresented in history.

But back to the Bible. King Ahasuerus gets pissed when his wife doesn’t show up to greet his guests on command and goes into a right rage. He dismisses her and calls for a bevvy of virgins to basically, “try out” for the *tempting* role of his wife. Whoever pleases him will get it. We know what that means. Apparently, they have to go through a year long process of beautification. Six months of getting all oiled up with myrrh and six months of getting rubbed down with spices like, literally, pieces of meat. I kid you not. Enter Esther, who’s an orphan in the care of some old and important Jew. Well, she does something right (insert lewd gesture) because she becomes queen.

You won't be needing THESE.

 

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Published in: on December 29, 2011 at 8:44 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Not My Words: Love is the Battery for Charging Our Heart’s Power (Nehemiah 9-13)

On the twenty-fourth day of the month, the Israelites get together and throw a small party. Or, at least, their version of a party: fasting, wearing “sackcloths,” sitting around with “earth on their heads,” and confessing their sins (Neh 9:1). Bring chips.

The confessing of sins takes centre stage and they talk for a long time about how great God is and how shitty they’ve been to him (“I only hit you because I love you, baby”). I’ve been reading the Bible for just over a year now, which is amazing to me, and I think God’s been pretty shitty to them, too. So it’s kind of a two-way street. The Israelites wrap up their protracted apology by promising to “not neglect the house of [the] Lord,” (Neh 10:39) which seems like something they should be doing anyway. Basic chores.

I guess Jerusalem is overcrowded so the Israelites cast lots so that one out of every ten people can live in the holy city. It’s not that bad for whoever doesn’t get in because there are loads of villages surrounding it. Besides, the holy city’s not really that special; it’s just easy to live there because of the Starbucks, TD, Metro, faux Irish pub and Walking on a Cloud.

Now – racism. I can’t read the Bible for very long without bumping up against some overt, historically-situated, unfiltered racism. Nehemiah, who’s narrating, makes some choice remarks about how Jewish men are marrying women of “Ashdod, Ammon and Moab” and – horror of horrors – the women are actually teaching their half-blood children some of their own language. This is disgusting to him. Admittedly, I might find it disgusting if the dudes are gross and the women are really hot, like when you see a tiny, attractive, fit Asian lady with a pudgy, red-faced, weak-chinned, middle-aged white guy. You might think me judgmental but take a look at THIS:

Barf.

You agree with me.

 

Published in: on December 28, 2011 at 2:20 am  Leave a Comment  
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