Growing up in church, we often learn to read the Bible in what I call a “church voice” - a solemn, monotone droning on that never laughs, smiles or treats anything with less than profound seriousness. It often comes as a surprise to my students that the Bible is often meant to be funny, ironic or even sarcastic.
Make no mistake, this episode between Haman and Mordecai is meant to be hilarious. After five chapters of tension - Haman plotting against the Jews, Esther deciding to risk her life to save her people - we are now presented with the Bible’s version of a slapstick comedy. Haman, persecutor of the Jews who had just installed a seventy-foot pole to impale Mordecai, must now traipse around town singing Mordecai’s praises for all to see. Priceless.
This episode comes at the perfect time in the narrative, and gives the audience a moment of levity and a chance to breathe. It is so perfect in its dramatic placement that it has caused some scholars to claim that this story - and perhaps the whole of Esther - is made up. “After all,” they claim, “what are the chances that this event just happened in a way that makes for perfect story structure. Isn’t it more likely that someone just invented it?”
I will concede one point to such scholars: it is very unlikely that these events “just happened” by sheer luck in a way that perfectly tells a story of faithfulness and deliverance. It certainly makes more sense that the story was carefully crafted by an author with a fine sense for dramatic and comedic timing. I disagree, however, that the only possibility is that a human author made the story up. Instead, I see this as evidence that this story - and the reality upon which it is based - were written by a divine Author who knows better than any of anyone the value of a good joke.
A commonly cited bit of trivia about Esther is that it is the only book of the Bible that doesn’t mention God. There are a variety of explanations given for this, but I think the reason is obvious - the text doesn’t mention God because it doesn’t need to. It is obvious to anyone who reads it that His hand is at work in the events. No believer would read this and not recognize the God who delivered His people from Egypt was once again intervening to save his people. Even though an angel doesn’t descend to tell us, “God did this,” we know his handiwork when we see it.
And by showing us God’s hand at work even in a story where His name isn’t mentioned, the author is teaching us to see His hand at work in our own lives as well.
Where is God working in your life? Where is He present and moving in your story? Are you working alongside Him - like Mordecai - or at odds with Him - like Haman? Ask God today to show you where He is working in your life.