Comeuppance (Esther 9-10)

Comeuppance is one of my favourite words and one that I get to use all too rarely. In the last two chapters of Esther, the Jews get to give all the people who’ve recently thwarted them their comeuppance. It’s the most obvious kind of comeuppance: they kill them.

Yes, King Ahasuerus gives the Jews a rather loose lead and lets them kill five hundred of their enemies. And that’s just a warm-up – they go on to kill another seventy-five thousand, which is a noticeable spike in activity. I guess he’s trying to make it up to them for briefly passing those anti-Jew edicts. In my last post, I mentioned that the man behind those edicts, Haman, was going to be hanged. As it turns out, he not only gets hanged but gets hanged alongside his ten sons. It’s a real red-letter day for the Jews. I was amazed to learn that this – THIS – was the basis for the holiday Purim, a day of “feasting and GLADness” (early product placement) (Est 9:17). Don’t get me wrong: I’m not in love with soft stance of the New Testament. There’s something in the simplicity and toughness of the “an eye for an eye” rule that appeals to me.

Esther, who has her place in the Bible for championing the Jews, fixes the practice of Purim so that all Jews can celebrate the day they watched a man and his whole family die together.

This Irish baby is confused.

Published in: on January 8, 2012 at 3:54 am  Comments (1)  
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It’s Nice to Know Someone’s Paying Attention (Esther 6-8)

It would seem that King Ahasuerus, in going along with Haman’s harsh prescriptions against Jews, had a momentary lapse in judgment. He loses sleep and starts to question his decision-making, which is little more than saying, “Okay,” to any and all ridiculous suggestions. Point in case: eradicating Jews.

It’s a good thing that King Ahasuerus keeps something special in his nightstand. It’s not what I keep in my nightstand; it’s better. It’s a book of memorable deeds. I guess he’s been keeping tally of all the good stuff people have done for him. He looks up Mordecai, a Jew, and lo and behold, there are a few feathers in his cap. One time in particular, Mordecai protected the king from attack by two vicious eunuchs. They couldn’t have been that hard to fend off, on account of their paltry amounts of testosterone and general lack of Muay Thai at that time in history.

So King Ahasuerus does an about-face and, to punish Haman for leading him astray, he makes Haman lead a procession in celebration of Mordecai, announcing him loudly as the “man whom the king delights to honor” (Est 6:11). Burn. Then Haman gets hanged in gallows he had constructed to execute Mordecai. Double burn.

Good day to be a Jew.

 

Published in: on January 6, 2012 at 2:50 am  Leave a Comment  
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Little Help? (Esther 3-5)

It’s the worst when you see some incompetent dick get promoted over you. In Esther 3, King Ahasuerus takes a shine to a guy named Haman the Agagite (let’s bring back specific qualifiers to our names, okay? It’s better than having to say, “Yeah, Steve. He’s… black”). Haman is promoted over all these other princes and he’s a terrible person who really, really hates Jews. He gets super-pissed when Mordecai (a Jew) doesn’t cow-tow to him when he sees him so he decides “to destroy all the Jews” (Est 3:6). Talk about a short fuse.

Haman must have some amount of influence over the king because he convinces him to send an edict out commanding the annihilation of all Jews, male or female, young and old. Mordecai, being a Jew, unsurprisingly takes issue with this. He does that thing that everybody does in the Bible when they get stressed: he tears off all his clothes and walks around wearing a sack. Then he adopts a more effective problem-solving strategy. He goes to Esther, who has the king’s ear due to her extreme sexiness, and is like, “Can we do something¬†about this?”. Though apparently, Esther is in a bit of a bind because she can’t just go talk to him; anyone who speaks to the king must be summoned with a ridiculous golden scepter. While they wait, she suggests that Mordecai get all the Jews together and fast. So much bloody fasting. Maybe this is how eating disorders got started (if not, it’s definitely supermodels… definitely).

When Esther talks to the king she suggests that everyone get together for dinner: her, the king, Mordecai and Haman. It’s like a blind date that she naively thinks will resolve all prejudice if the food, wine and conversation is good enough. Predictably, Haman arrives (probably with a $12 to $15 bottle of Shiraz in hand), takes one look at Mordecai and is like, “What the fuck?”.

Cliffhanger! OMG!

Please pass the Anti-Semitism.

 

Published in: on January 2, 2012 at 1:33 am  Leave a Comment  
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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.

 

Published in: on December 29, 2011 at 8:44 pm  Leave a Comment  
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