Esther and Compromise

this is part of an ongoing series on issues raised in Esther. I’ll be taking a short break after today, for New Wine, but will hopefully carry on afterwards

When Daniel was taken into captivity, he decided to make a stand. He would not defile himself by eating the food that he was served (Dan 1:8). Later, his friends would make a stand in refusing to bow down to a golden image (Dan 3:12), risking being thrown into a fiery furnace. Later, Daniel risked being thrown into a lion’s den, by insisting on continuing praying to Yahweh even though the law forbade it (Dan 6:13).

Doubtless Mordecai and Esther will have heard the stories of these Jewish heroes of the faith. So why is it that when Esther is taken into the harem, does Mordecai instruct her to keep her Jewish identity hidden (Esther 2:10)?

It seems almost inevitable that in doing so she would have to make certain compromises. For starters, she would almost have eaten unclean food, and failed to observe the Sabbath. And then there was the matter of being expected to sleep with the king, a pagan she was not even married to.

Why did Esther not choose to make a stand like Daniel did, and refuse to do what went against God’s law? It would seem that Mordecai was trying to protect her. It seems likely that she was still a young girl, maybe a teenager. Would it be fair or right to ask her to risk her own life by non-compliance with the king’s orders? (As we will see in chapter 3, Mordecai was not averse to risking his own safety, so he may have seen acting to protect his adopted daughter as the lesser of two evils in this case).

The author of the book of Esther does not make a moral judgement on Mordecai or Esther. This leaves us with our own challenge. Where do we draw the line? Is it ever OK to do something that is morally dubious because it is expected of you and you are threatened with punishment if you don’t?

My perspective on this is that we should live our lives with a settled determination to do what is right in every situation. To refuse to compromise when we are clear what God’s Word says we should do. This is how Jesus lived his life, and how we too, are empowered to live by the Holy Spirit.

Maybe, like Mordecai in his role as parent we may find ourselves in situations where we have to choose between two options that both seem to be wrong in some way. Not every situation is as black and white as we would like it to be. We should give him the benefit of the doubt in the advice that he gave Esther. But let us have the same spirit of “no compromise” that we see in the life of Daniel, and most of all, Jesus, our great example.

4 thoughts on “Esther and Compromise

  1. This theme is very interesting. There are many occasions in the bible where justice is seen differently.

    There were mixed marriages that were even seen as a bless like Ruth, Rahah and Esthel and others as a curse like in the days of Nehemiah. Also murder, sometimes was even ordered by God, not only to the strangers in time of war but to their own people like when Moises ordered to kill 3000 man in Israel.

    Also, nobody talks about it, but human sacrifices that were made in the temple of God.

    God never ordered to do so, but there was a time when this was made believing they were obeying God. The case of the daughter of Jehoshaphat is an example.

  2. I’m hesitant. One reason is that Daniel and his friends had to endure the curriculum of the Babylonian students, including all the astrological stuff, but where they drew the line was the dietary stuff. Clearly Esther didn’t draw that line either, but it does seem as if there are some lines that the biblical picture in Daniel doesn’t insist on drawing,lines that otherwise might be worth drawing.

  3. hi Jeremy, it is interesting that Daniel felt the food would “defile” him, but apparently not the Babylonian curriculum. What is interesting is that Esther (or Mordecai on her behalf) appears to have drawn no lines at all. My best guess is that this was Mordecai’s decision to fulfil his obligation to protect his adopted daughter, whereas Daniel was no longer under parental authority and free to make his own choices, and endanger his life if he felt it necessary.

  4. Pingback: Esther and Dual-Identity

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