Daniel Agee

Question: How are the main people in the book of Esther also thematically tied to other people in the Bible?

“I heard a reference to Queen Vashti possibly being a Levite in one of your lessons, and would like to know if you have spoken on that more in other lessons on the Hallel Fellowship site, or if you could provide me with a reference.” —Anna C.

Daniel AgeeThe book of Esther presents multiple characters throughout the storyline that may have a more significant purpose than it first appears. In my view, Queen Vashti is an example of such a character.There are numerous keys throughout the Bible that allow students to “unlock” identities and spiritual meanings of certain events and people we read about. My preferred tools for unlocking information are thematic ties and chiastic structures.

A thematic tie is when I read a section in one part of the Bible that sparks my memory of reading a similar type of event in another part. I use that information to compare the two “unrelated” sections. This helps me understand a little more detail than I might get from just reading it and moving on.

Chiastic structures are best used for finding the purpose or main point trying to be made within a given section.

One of the best thematic ties for the book of Esther is Mark 6:14–29. I like this example, because it turns the characters in Esther “upon their heads.” That, to me, is the easiest way to understand anything. Like most biblical thematic ties, Mark gives just enough information to identify the main characters, and from there, we need to search a little more.

In a “nutshell,” Mark describes an interesting situation. A king throws a party in his own honor with many distinguished guests. A young girl — commonly viewed as if she was a virgin still under her mother’s care — comes and performs for him and his guests. The king is pleased with her and offers her up to half his kingdom. She confers with her mother and asks on her mother’s request, the head of her mother’s enemy. Of course this is upsetting to the king, but agrees and delivers John’s head viewed by many guests.

This story should immediately strike in our memories the book of Esther — in particular, the phrase “… up to half my kingdom.” Esther is very similar to the events described to us in Mark. A king throws a banquet in his honor with distinguished guests. A young girl finds the king’s favor and he offers her up to half his kingdom. She requests the life of her relatives’ (Mordecai’s) enemy (Haman). The king is upset and agrees, then delivers on his agreement with Haman’s head being “lifted up” on a 50-foot-tall gallows. The fact that the gallows is 50 feet tall makes it a “spectacle” viewable by many.

This comparison may make a few people uncomfortable for obvious reasons, but these similar stories compare the following:

  • King Ahasuerus = King Herod
  • Queen Esther = daughter of Herodias
  • Mordecai = Herodias
  • Haman = John the Baptist

If we “flesh out” the story further, we can see the details continue to confirm these comparisons:

  • Haman persecuted Mordecai even more than the other Jews for his particular misbehavior. Just like John the Baptist pestered Herod and Herodias in particular compared to anyone else.
  • Haman did not persecute Queen Esther but rather indirectly through her uncle. John did not have issues with the daughter, but rather Herodias.
  • Queen Esther was “put up to it” regarding Haman by Mordecai’s persistence. Her daughter was put up to it by her Herodias’ persistence.

There other comparisons within these two accounts that continue to verify these two stories are thematically tied. Suffice it to say, this is a very reasonable comparison of similarities.

Now comes the more “complex” process of identifications. Since King Ahasuerus’s name is a Hebrew acronym for “who was, who is and who is to come.” He is easily identified to represent “God.” Mordecai’s identity is given as “the Jew” in the book of Esther. Esther is given that name to conceal her identity. Her real name, Hadassah, means myrtle. The few places myrtle is used in the Bible indicate a form of peacefulness or, possibly, prayer or intercession.

Queen Vashti was the king’s highly beautiful first wife who refused to obey her husband’s order. Given the previous simple identifications, who is God’s very beautiful “first wife”?

I naturally go to the Torah for this answer. The best representation of a Godly person or persons that are God-like in their position and highly decorated with beauty would be the priesthood. God also said he would take the Levites as His own in place of the firstborn of Israel. Thus, they have a special place. The Levites were also used as judges before King Saul arrived, since they were in charge of the cities of refuge where criminals could go to have their cases heard. This duty was similar to a king’s duty. In many ways the Levites were like a royal priesthood in the blending of their service, teaching and judging of the people.

Both the priesthood and two kingdoms of Israel, disobeyed God a number of times throughout the TaNaKh (Torah, Nevi’im (Prophets) and Ketivim (Writings)). God eventually banished them from His presence (from the land of Israel) similar to how Queen Vashti was banished from the King’s presence. King Ahasuerus gave Queen Vashti’s position to another who was more “naturally” beautiful and worthy. (I claim this natural beauty for Esther, because she did not bring any jewels of her own desire to see the King). To me, this means Esther was better-suited for the position than Vashti.

Given this information — there is abundance of more symbolism in here — let’s return to Mark. Although Herodias already is playing the role of Mordecai, it is important to see that Herodias also is an unfit queen. John points out she should not be queen — Herod married his brother’s wife. Thus, Herodias also is similar to Queen Vashti in that she did not properly fill the role for queen, even though the king loved her.

Therefore, both are true that Herodias = Vashti as well as Herodias = Mordecai, just in different ways.

During John’s life, he was a “prophet” to the Messiah. He claimed that one greater than him would come. He declared, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world” (John 1:29). He prepared the people through baptism and instruction for the Messiah to save them. In other words, he “prepared the way” just like a Godly prophet should do.

If we look at all the prophets ever given in the Bible, we can see they demonstrate — to different degrees and at different times — a messianic quality. Elijah, Elisha, Moses, Aaron, Samuel, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, etc. — each was preoccupied with saving or preparing the people and/or correcting the course of the various kingdoms.

John was no different. His was a type of messianic character in his own way. On the surface, Mark 6 shows that John died for correcting the king and queen — the leadership — to save the people. On the surface, we see that Messiah died for correcting the Sanhedrin and priesthood — the leadership — to save the people.

In John’s and Messiah’s deaths, we see that the Sanhedrin and priesthood were to the Messiah as the king and queen were to John, in that they were the main instigators in each death. This gives us two different places that compare the priesthood with the unfit queen — Vashti and Herodias.

As a result of this topic, I am claiming the following is thematically true: The character of Queen Vashti through thematic ties plays the role of the priesthood for the Messiah, Queen Herodias for John, Mordecai for Esther and the unfit wife for both King Herod and King Ahasuerus. Queen Vashti thus also represents the Levitical priesthood during the Messiah’s time.

King Ahasuerus plays the role of God to the priesthood, Mordecai, Haman and Esther. He is King Herod for John, the Sanhedrin for Messiah.

Esther plays the role of intercessor — Hadassah — for Mordecai and the people. Her identity is hidden, like the Messiah’s was. She is loved by the king (God). She is the righteous queen — therefore, the righteous priesthood — as she assumes the position away from Vasti. Hadassah saves the people from death like Messiah after fasting for three days and three nights. Esther also plays the role of the daughter of Herodias.

John the Baptist plays the role of Messiah to King Herod, Haman to Mordecai, Messiah to the priesthood and Sanhedrin. As a result of John — a messianic figure — playing Haman the accuser means that Messiah also plays a type of Haman as an accuser to the same leadership. In much of John’s life, he plays the role of Aaron as the baptizer, but this relationship is for another topic.

Mordecai plays the role of Herodias to John and her daughter, and priesthood to Messiah. Both were accused of being at fault, but instead of yielding to their accusers, they rose up to silence them.

So what?

You might ask what all this means after making these comparisons and, therefore, new identities. It helps me understand more details into God’s plan and what He values spiritually. I like to identify patterns, it is how I think. I am good with stories and examples more than with arguments and instructions. The more dots I can connect the better the picture is in my head. With this information about the book of Esther and Mark 6, I see that God’s plan has been well-established and predetermined long before the stories were written. As a result, every detail written — since it was predetermined — is for my personal instruction. It is not for background information to be read over and moved past.

These stories and comparisons show me that John, Haman, Messiah, were — at times — accusers who pointed out serious faults and were killed for it. Instead of seeing their faults and making correction — repenting — the people being accused attacked back — wrong approach.

The kings in both these stories acted more regal and God-like, in that they did not retract their offers. Thus, I can be assured that whatever God decreed, it is final. He never changes His mind.

It also tells me that the royal priesthood must stay vigilant as representatives of God, else we will become unfit — just like the two queens — for our jobs, which will be given to someone more “fit.” If I do not like whatever God commands — like Vashti and the priesthood didn’t — I must turn my path back and be diligent to God’s will, regardless of my desires or my life, just like John, the Messiah and Esther. If another points out my mistake and accuses me of doing wrong, I must not defend or retaliate. Rather, I must see the correction for what it is and “move heaven and earth” to correct myself and humbly know my place in life.

I love the account of Esther. It contains an abundance of lessons to teach myself and my children. After making these thematic ties, please do not think I have anything against Mordecai, John, Messiah, Esther, Vashti, Herodias, Haman, Ahasuerus, Herod, the first-century priesthood or the Sanhedrin. I do not — quite the opposite. These were all great people, almost beyond my understanding. I hold each of them in high esteem for different reasons. If they did not obey the roles God gave to them, I would have learned nothing.

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