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Hide and Seek

by Tim O'Hearn

Why is the book of Esther in the Bible? Sure, it is a rollicking good story about the Jews. So is Exodus by Leon Uris, but nobody claims biblical status for that book. Unlike some other stories of the Jews, Megillat Esther (the book of Esther) doesn’t even make mention of God. It appears that the Jews were saved by coincidence and luck.

The modern book, Exodus, tells of great events. Like Esther, it even tells of events that have become a holiday for the Jewish people. So why is Esther given extra status?

The main argument some might have that Esther should not be in the Bible is the aforementioned lack of reference to God. Shouldn’t God be included in any book considered part of his revelation to man? Shouldn’t the book itself at least claim that it came from God?

If that is the most potent argument against including Esther in our Bibles, then we can see why it is included. None of God’s names can be found in the book, but He can be. The book of Esther is God’s game of “hide and seek.”

The world that doesn’t know our God makes a god out of coincidence. The right conditions happened to occur for life to begin. Over a period of time, certain mutations happened to occur, coincidentally at the same time that the opposite gender of the same mutation happened to appear. Suddenly coincidence has created the male and female of a species. After a series of extremely forgettable Presidents of the United States, a strong man was elected coincidental with (as well as causing) a civil war in that nation. Everything that we see, know, and are is supposed to be the result of a long chain of coincidences.

In the case of Esther, the coincidences just piled up at the same time. Some men plotted against the king, which Mordechai coincidentally heard and reported. The king needed a new head wife, and Mordechai's niece was coincidentally available and desirable. An Amaekite, of all people, had, coincidentally, been named the king’s chief advisor. This man, Haman, was already mad at Mordechai, and coincidentally walked into the king’s chamber when the king realized that he hadn’t rewarded Mordechai. (This coincidence led to further humiliation for Haman.) The Amalekite decided to destroy his traditional enemy, the Jews, when a Jewess coincidentally had the king’s favor. When Haman was pleading his case before Esther, the king coincidentally came into the room at the one moment that it looked like Haman was seducing the queen. Perhaps the only true coincidence in all this was that Haman completed a gallows just in time to be hanged on it.

Of course, those all could be coincidences. Esther had not, as Mordechai put it, “come to the kingdom for such a time as this.” God either does not exist or does not intervene. That could be true. But it takes as much faith to believe those coincidences as it does to believe that God was behind all those “just happeneds.” For those of us who see the hand of God in a youth being sold into slavery, a burning bush, ten plagues over a year’s time, the parting of the sea and the river, a never-ending pot of oil, and countless other occurrences, there is no difficulty in seeing the hand of God in Megillat Esther.

Yes, God is hiding in the book of Esther. He is holding the hand of Mordechai, and Esther and even Haman, from the first moment to the last. He is there to be found by any who will seek him. He will know the seekers from the suckers by whether or not they find him.

God is just as present in our lives. Do we look to find him there, too? Or did you just coincidentally lose your car keys for that five minutes that kept you out of the accident you later passed on the road? Did you just happen into the employment office when the perfect job opened up? If you see God holding your hand you can be like the author of Esther, and hope that others find God hiding. Or you can use his name, and give him the credit directly. The main thing is to seek, and he will be found.

The holiday of Purim falls on March 7, 2004.