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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