The Esther Series: Unjust Deserts


This 12-part series takes a new look at an old story and finds fresh words of courage, faith, and challenge for today’s Church. It is based on Carol Bechtel’s commentary on Esther in the Interpretation series (Westminster John Knox, 2002).


Study #3

Unjust Deserts

Read: Esther 2:19-3:6

 [Haman] thought it beneath him to lay hands on Mordecai alone…. (Esther 3:6, NRSV)

It must have irked Mordecai to be passed over for promotion. After all, he had just saved the king from two assassins. And yet, when chapter three begins we are told that “after these things” someone named Haman is promoted. This is not what we as readers expect—and it’s probably not what Mordecai expected either!

Was it resentment that made Mordecai refuse to bow down? Perhaps. Or maybe it was Haman’s family tree that stiffened Mordecai’s spine. Haman was, after all, an “Agagite,” that is, a descendent of the Canaanite king, Agag, who years before had cost Saul the kingship (see 1 Samuel 15). But could “bad blood” have been enough to make Mordecai disobey a direct order from the king?

Frustrating as it is for modern readers, the Bible doesn’t tell us the reason for Mordecai’s refusal. Maybe that’s because the Bible is more interested in the effect than the cause. Whatever Mordecai’s motivation, his act sparks a hate so disproportionate in Haman that we have only one word for it: genocide. There is nothing reasonable about that reality. It stalks our world still. Perhaps the real question is not “Why does this happen?” but “What are we going to do to end it?”

Prayer: Forgive us, Lord, for turning our eyes from victims of hate. Help us to find ways to help them.