God can bring good out of terrible evil

Men in power have been taking advantage of women for millennia; the Hebrew Scripture documents it.

The second chapter of Esther hurts our contemporary sensibilities. It tells of king’s process of finding a replacement for his disobedient first wife. The king followed this advice:

Let beautiful young virgins be sought out for the king. And let the king appoint commissioners in all the provinces of his kingdom to gather all the beautiful young virgins to the harem in the citadel of Susa . . . ; let their cosmetic treatments be given them. And let the girl who pleases the king be queen . . . (NRSV).

A Jewish girl, Hadassah, was among the chosen virgins. Each girl spent 12 months receiving treatments of myrrh and perfumes. Then, what I would call rape by a king, is vaguely portrayed:

In the evening [each girl] went in; then in the morning she came back to the second harem . . . ; she did not go in to the king again, unless the king delighted in her and she was summoned by name (NRSV).

Hadasseh’s turn came. She submitted to this royal power. The Bible passage does not condemn the king’s actions. One gets the sense that the writer of Esther understood this as being simply how the world worked. I think it is evil working.

Despite the evil, Hadasseh pleased the king, and he loved her. She became queen, and God used her for great purposes. Her name was change to Esther, and this rape victim is still remembered today for the service she provided to God’s people.

Blessed be the Lord,

   who has not given us

   as prey to their teeth. . . .

Our help is in the name of the Lord,

   who made heaven and earth (Psalm 124:6, 8, NRSV.


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