The Good Book Club, Week 5
Tuesday, February 7

Just getting started with the Good Book Club? Read past emails from Ruth and Esther.
This week's readings: Esther 6:1—8:17
Reflection by the Rev. Elizabeth Felicetti

This week’s readings begin with the king unable to sleep, so he has his staff read some historical accounts of the kingdom aloud to him. Prompted by a notation in the records, the king remembers how Mordecai saved his life and decides to honor him. He asks Haman for ideas, and Haman, assuming the king wants to honor Haman, comes up with ideas for grand celebration. Unfortunately, the joke is on Haman when it turns out that the king actually wants to honor Mordecai, and Haman is forced to lead a finely robed Mordecai around on a horse proclaiming that the king wishes to honor him. Haman’s wife, Zeresh, foretells her husband’s doom, saying that Haman will surely fall before Mordecai. We do not hear from Zeresh again in the book.

This story takes place in between the two feasts that Esther prepared for the king and Haman. What is the point of such an interlude? That interlude, as well as the first feast Esther prepared for the king and Haman, build tension before the climax of the book, which takes place during the readings this week. Esther asks the king to spare her life and when he demands to know who has threatened her, she accuses Haman, who is immediately hung on the pole he prepared for Mordecai. This climax in chapter 7 is part of the only reading we get from the book of Esther in the Episcopal Revised Common Lectionary, so these verses from Esther is the only one we hear routinely (every three years) in church.

Interestingly, the lectionary omits verses 7 and 8 from chapter 7. If you read them again now, you will see that these verses show the king going out into the garden in wrath and Haman pleading for his life with Esther. When the king returns from the garden, he misconstrues the scene, thinking Haman is accosting Esther. Why do you think the lectionary editors removed these two verses? What do they say about Haman, the king, and Esther?

Esther’s role does not fade away after Haman’s execution, as she again pleads with the king, this time to undo the edict. The king authorizes Mordecai to undo the damage, so Mordecai composes an edict that allows the threatened Jews to fight back on the day that Haman had previously decreed their destruction.

The king states that an edict sealed with his ring cannot be revoked, yet he gives his ring first to Haman and then to Mordecai. What do you think of a king who relinquishes such power so easily, sometimes to people who abuse it?

The king may be foolish, but Esther’s bravery in first approaching the king unsummoned and then in confronting Haman in front of the king saves her people, making her a heroine of our faith. As a woman without children, I often struggle with the portrayal of women in the Bible, as motherhood feels to me like it is offered as the highest and best good for women. While the book of Esther is carnivalesque, violent, and strange, I love the portrayal of a courageous woman who is not defined by being a mother. Had Esther been a mother, her conversation with the king would have been different, because threatening the life of the king’s heir would have been a different kind of crime. Esther chose to act in a way that would save people beyond her immediate family.
For further reflection:
What do you think about Zeresh’s disappearance from the book after her prediction?

Rembrandt painted Haman, Esther, and Ahasuerus at table together: Ahasuerus (Xerxes), Haman and Esther, 1660 - Rembrandt - Does this painting cohere with how you imagine the scene? Do the characters appear Dutch? (Rembrandt was Dutch.)

About the author: The Rev. Elizabeth Felicetti is the rector of St. David’s Episcopal Church in North Chesterfield, Virginia. Her books Unexpected Abundance and Irreverent Prayers (co-authored with the Rev. Samantha Vincent-Alexander) are forthcoming from Eerdmans.
Welcome to the Good Book Club, Ruth and Esther edition. Thank you for joining us on this journey with God’s word. In addition to this weekly email, we offer a free, downloadable six-session Bible study for group study and a live, online class through ChurchNext led by the Rev. Lindsay Hardin Freeman, author of the award-winning book, Bible Women.

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These weekly emails will come out on Tuesday and preview the readings for the following week (view the readings here). For an introduction to the book of Esther, view and download here.
How are you participating in the Good Book Club? Here's one story from this week, from the Rev. Chris Wendell and the people of St. Paul's Church, Bedford, MA:
Last Sunday, we welcomed Rabbi Susan Abramson, a longtime friend of our parish, to St. Paul's for an interfaith Bible Study on the Book of Esther. Rabbi Abramson, who is the longest serving female rabbi in Massachusetts, spoke with us about how the Book of Esther is interpreted in contemporary reform Judaism and how it forms the basis of the Purim holiday, which is rooted in community-based retelling of the Esther story. She brought with her a hand-written parchment scroll of "the whole megillah" (an expression which, we learned, originally referred to the Book of Esther!) that we were able to explore together. The photo is of Rabbi Abramson, Rev. Chris Wendell (our rector), and members of our Good Book Club 2023 all holding the scroll.
Photo credit: Michael Monroe

For more stories of Good Book Club participants around the Church, follow the Good Book Club Facebook page. If you have stories or images to share, let us know what you're up to by emailing

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