In this series we shall focus on a category of (generally) nameless and overlooked characters in the Old Testament – the servants. In the social and economic structures of the day, households were large establishments, comprising the family, together with the extended family of siblings, relatives, concubines, children and a host of servants. Throughout the narrative of the Old Testament, we read of servants doing their master’s (or mistress’) bidding and were thus as much instruments of God’s divine plan, though in less obvious ways. What were their perceptions of Yahweh and His human agents? How does God’s Story look like from their eyes? We shall imagine these things in this work of fiction.
SERVANTS OF THE LORD
MY MISTRESS looks worried – what’s going to happen? There’s such an atmosphere of gloom here, I’m worried too! She’s a Jewess, for Mordecai who sits at the entrance of the King’s gate is a Jew and they are related.
Gee, I didn’t know she was a Jewess, not that I’m going to tell anybody. Why should I tell tales … she’s been a good mistress, kind and generous, not like some of the others who wanted us to do everything for them. I’ll have you know I am one of the King’s eunuchs, not a common slave! But now isn’t a good time to be a Jew.
I heard from the cupbearer that Haman the Agagite has asked the king to issue some decree. We didn’t know what it was about but that Haman is a no good fellow, prancing around like he was king. Proud, that fellow.
Unfortunately our King doesn’t see that and thinks that Haman is a good guy; but really, he’s bad. So he gets the King to proclaim this decree and, next thing you know this Mordecai sits at the King’s gate in sackcloth and ashes, weeping and wailing loudly. Now really, you can’t do that, not at the King’s gate. But he goes on and on and refuses to stop.
All the servants were flapping about, and wondering what to do and hoping that the King doesn’t find out, but one of the girls must have told Queen Esther because the Queen sent him some clothes. He didn’t accept them. So then the Queen’s servants are upset.
We were wondering why the Queen was so distressed about this Jew crying at the gate, I mean, if she got upset with everyone crying at the gate she’d be pretty busy! Then she called me, and asked me to speak to Mordecai. She wanted me to be discreet, but who can be discreet out at the King’s gate, I ask you?
I thought I shouldn’t hide the fact that she’d sent me, so I just went out in broad daylight, went up to that Mordecai and asked him what the problem was. He looked at me, well, I guess he could tell that I was from the palace the way I was dressed.
When I told him that Queen Esther sent me, he actually stopped his wailing and told me about the decree: that all the Jews were going to be killed, all mind you, in the whole empire, on the thirteenth day of the twelfth month.
Yes, that’s right, he gave me a copy of the decree and I saw it with my own eyes. Then he asked me to ask the Queen to do something about it. I didn’t get it at that time, I mean, why should the Queen have to do something about it?
So I went to tell the Queen, and she sends me back to him to say, well, she can’t go and see the King unless he asks for her, and if she does go, you know, he could put her to death. There’s a small chance, if, only if he decides to hold out the golden sceptre to her, then she can live. But that’s not likely. So I went back to the gate and passed the message. I thought I was going to be a messenger boy for the Queen! But she can trust me, not some ordinary slave.
So I tell Mordecai what everyone in the palace knows, and trying to tell him, don’t expect a miracle from the Queen, ok? I thought that would be the end of it, but no.
I won’t forget the way he looked at me and the message he gave, “Do not think that because you are in the King’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape.”
So that’s how I found out the Queen is a Jew. “For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish.”
Does he believe that there can be relief for the Jews against the armies of Persia? That’s not possible. But he’s right, she wouldn’t be spared once they knew she’s a Jew.
Then he paused, and said, “And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?” There was something in that statement, in this whole reply, as if he really believed in some god out there who could save them, and that the Queen was part of this grand plan.
So I passed on the message, and I must have done a good job because the Queen understood exactly what he meant. All the hidden layers of that reply she knew. So she sent back a response, and asked him to gather all the Jews in the capital and fast for her. And that’s where she is right now, with her servant girls in their quarters.
I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I really hope she knows what she’s doing. — Esther 4.
Kwa Kiem Kiok, a member of Trinity Methodist Church, is on sabbatical at Asbury Theological Seminary at Kentucky, the United States.
‘But he’s right, Queen Esther wouldn’t be spared once they knew she is a Jew.’