Summary: Esther, Pt. 1
OUT OF THE ASHES (ESTHER 1)
I have little to no interest in crossword puzzles or any other kind of puzzles; it sure is a puzzle why people bother, but it is a sight to see crossword puzzle fans patiently working on the latest puzzle in their newspaper and to see how they cannot get enough of it.
According to Gallup poll, the crossword is the most popular sedentary recreation, occupying 30 million people for part of every day in the States alone. The Times of London, like other English papers, frowned upon it and resisted publishing it until 1930, even though the New York World had put out its first crossword 17 years earlier. In 1924 a fledgling company called Simon and Schuster published a volume of crossword puzzles, priced at $1.35, and it was an immediate hit, selling half a million copies by the end of the first year. At one time, it was so popular that railroad trains even installed dictionaries in each of its car for the convenience of puzzle-solving travelers and addicts. (Bits and Pieces 2/29/96, from Bill Bryson’s “The Mother Tongue”)
Arthur Wynne, the English-born New York journalist, was credited with the invention of the crossword puzzle in 1913. The New York World published Wynne’s first Word-cross puzzle on December 21, 1913, and the New York Times gave in eighteen years later. In London, the first Times Crossword Championship took place in 1970, attracting 20,000 entries. It was won by Roy Dean, a diplomat who solved a London Times crossword in just 3 minutes and 45 seconds, a feat unchallenged for at least 25 years.
Trying to piece together a past gone wrong and pick up one’s life’s broken pieces is more than anyone can handle.
It all went wrong for the Israelites after their beloved king, King David, died. His idolatrous son Solomon’s name was left off the list of kings who did what was right in the eyes of God. Solomon’s son Rehoboam splintered the kingdom into two. The northern kingdom of Israel, with no good king to her name, disappeared in history when the Assyrians carried off the exiles in 722 B.C. After the reign of the eight good kings was effectively over, the Babylonians took into exile the southern kingdom Judah, leaving behind the poorest people of the land to work in the vineyards and fields (2 Kings 25:11-12).
All, however, was not lost in the new land. The prophet Jeremiah prophesied: “This is what the LORD says: ‘When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my gracious promise to bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jer 29:10-14). Out of the ashes of the exile and the heat of the fire were Esther, Mordecai and the faithful remnant such as Daniel and his three friends (Dan 1). They believed in God and trusted in Him no matter the objection, the opposition and the outcry against them.
God is More Informed Than You Think
1:1 This is what happened during the time of Xerxes, the Xerxes who ruled over 127 provinces stretching from India to Cush:
One of the most frequently asked questions in the midst of a disaster is “Where is God when it hurts? Or “What in the world is God doing?” Rabbi Harold Kusher addressed this question and did grieving people no favors when he stated in a new way that God is dead.
It really seems that way at times.
Do you know how many names are there in chapter 1 alone? 16. The king, the queen, seven eunuchs or officers, and the seven nobles of Persia and Media who had special access to the king and were highest in the kingdom (v 14). Beginning from the next chapters, you’ll hear names like Esther, his uncle Mordecai and his enemy Haman. The names of Xerxes occur 30 times, Mordecai 60 times, Esther 55 times, and Haman 54 times in the book. Beside the named ones, the unnamed are all the king’s nobles and officials, the military leaders of Persia and Media, the princes, and the nobles of the provinces (Est 1:3), all the people from the least to the greatest, in the citadel of Susa (Est 1:5) and the Persian and Median women of the nobility (Est 1:18).
After all the names are announced, one is left unmentioned. Whose name is missing? The mystery person is none other than God. The shortest book in the Old Testament, Obadiah, has only one chapter but six references to the name (Obad 1, 1, 4, 8, 15, 18), but none of the words “God” or “the Lord” appears in all nine chapters of Esther.