For the Jews it was a time of happiness and joy, gladness and honour. In every province and in every city to which the edict of the king came, there was joy and gladness among the Jews, with feasting and celebrating. Esther 8:16-17 (NIV)
In the previous note I mentioned the situation for the people of Israel in exile under king Xerxes. They faced annihilation as a result of a plot by Haman. The story recounts the salvation brought about by Esther interceding with Xerxes on behalf of the Jews. All is well.
However, reading Esther chapters 7 onwards we see a story unfolding where the Jews take revenge on their enemies and they kill 810 men in Susa, and 75,000 throughout the 127 provinces under the control of king Xerxes.
Reading this account offends my modern sensibilities and it would be very easy to place my value system on this and think that the Jews should have been magnanimous in victory, forgiving those who sought their destruction.
I discussed my concerns and feeling on this passage with my wife and we came to the conclusion that although the Book of Esther clearly articulates the way God works things out, it also shows us what is hidden in every man’s heart – the ability to be vengeful. Haman wanted vengeance on Mordecai for not showing him respect, the Jews wanted vengeance on their enemies for the threat to their lives. I can’t help thinking that if Haman and the Jews had been able to forgive it would have been a far better example throughout history. Yet the history of the Jews is included in the Bible ‘warts and all’, so that we can learn fom it.
Some of the accounts we read in the Old Testament may offend us, but we must remember that we now live in a period of God’s grace. Forgiveness is within our grasp, but a vengeful spirit still lurks in our hearts. We have a choice to make when faced with hurt – let forgiveness be the path you will follow.
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