Esther, empire and the hiddenness of God

Esther shows that when insecure fools are in charge, even the most disempowered person may trigger a radical policy reversal. (Listen.)

Esther is not a love story; it’s a story about powerful men. Esther is not a love story; it’s a story of faithfulness and courage. Esther is not a love story; it’s a story about the hiddenness of God. And yet ‘love story’, even ‘beauty pageant’, is the interpretation of Esther that many of us were taught. So today, we’re going to blow that reading out of the water: then we’ll look more closely at what it’s really about. Continue reading “Esther, empire and the hiddenness of God”

Rehabilitating Eve

We all know the story. Adam and Eve, naked as jaybirds, are wandering the garden. Then that devious, cunning, and above all evil snake points out the fruit to Eve and whispers suggestively, ‘Take, eat, for then will you be wise.’ Eve plucks the luscious fruit, and bites into it suggestively. Juice runs down her chin and between her naked breasts. Adam swoons. Eve flutters her eyelashes at him; ‘Take, eat, for then will you be wise,’ she murmurs. And Adam reaches out his hand to the ripe and fragrant fruit, raises it to his lips, and eats. In this way does sin enter the world—and it’s all the woman’s fault.

Continue reading “Rehabilitating Eve”

Cartalk / Tabletalk 7: Sisters, wives, handmaids

A couple of weeks ago, we looked at sibling rivalry through the story of brothers, Jacob and Esau; here, Laban’s decision and Jacob’s passion trigger an intense rivalry between sisters and, for all we know, handmaids. (You can read about the rivalry in the next chapter of Genesis.) This is a real rollercoaster of a story, in which men’s actions have devastating effects on four silent women. I wonder how these women experienced the events of this story. For example, what if Leah longed for Jacob? Could she and Rachel have negotiated the switch with their father? And where do you see God’s action in these lives? (For a reflection on this, click here.) Continue reading “Cartalk / Tabletalk 7: Sisters, wives, handmaids”

This resurrection life

The church is called to embody a culture where women are no longer silenced, invisible or subjugated, and all people are called into community. (Listen.)

Every now and then, I get a letter addressed to Mrs Paul Holdway; and I reel. Once I’ve stopped reeling, I wonder who on earth this woman is. She sounds like a shadow, a cipher. She’s probably maternal, almost certainly matronly. I’m sure she’s a great supporter of her husband and good at housework. She probably darns other people’s socks, and I’m sure she makes things for cake stalls and fetes. I have no idea what she herself is like, or what she herself is really interested in, but I do know this: There’s something extraordinarily silencing about having my name obliterated in a letter which is ostensibly addressed to me. Continue reading “This resurrection life”

Esther

Esther is often portrayed as a love story. So let’s begin by making some observations. King Xerxes eliminated Queen Vashti when she refused to parade herself in front of an extended men-only drinking bout. Having got rid of her, Xerxes needed a new queen. His advisors suggested he seize all the beautiful young virgins, give each one a night to prove herself, and choose from among them. So Esther did not line up at the palace flapping an application form for a beauty pageant; nor did the king pick her for her personality. Instead, she was a vulnerable young woman who was noticed for her beauty and abducted by the king’s brute squad, and whose only hope for survival lay in pleasing the king’s eunuch – for then he “provided her with her cosmetic treatments and her portion of food (2:9). A year of beauty treatment and education prepared her for the next step in her survival: sexually captivating the king. In other words, Esther has less agency than a bunny in the Playboy Mansion and yet, even in such terrifying, humiliating and unpromising circumstances, her courage, obedience and wisdom saves the Jewish people from annihilation. Continue reading “Esther”

Smash the Patriarchy! The sin revealed through Jacob’s wives

Listen here.

The third time I was pregnant, I was regularly stopped by strangers in the street. Seeing only a woman with two little girls and a big belly, they would say, “I pray you have a son at last …”. And last month, I was at a dinner with a woman who asked about my children. When I said I had three daughters, she started and said, “What, no sons?” “No sons,” I said cheerfully and firmly. She gazed at me for a few long moments, then said consolingly, “That’s ok … that’s ok.” It certainly is, I thought to myself, proud mother that I am! Continue reading “Smash the Patriarchy! The sin revealed through Jacob’s wives”

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