Book Plunge: Esther, An Honor-Shame Paraphrase

What do I think of Jayson Georges’s self-published book? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Esther is actually my favorite book of the Bible. As a child, when I was going through the Bible for the first time, I got to Esther not having a clue what was in it and I just could not stop. It read like a modern adventure novel. When I saw that my friend Jayson Georges had a paraphrase of this book from an honor-shame perspective, I asked for a copy which he supplied.

I was not disappointed. I get to see my favorite book of Scripture through new eyes and eyes I have wanted to see the Bible through more and more, those of honor and shame in Jewish Mediterranean culture. Georges has read the best material he can on this and gone through Esther showing how honor and shame play a great part in it.

In our Western context, we only see things from that perspective for the most part. The great tragedy of being in our culture is that we think everyone thinks just like us and when there are missing pieces, as there always are, we fill them in with information from our own culture. After all, why should we think the rest of the world is different?

Looking at Esther shows a whole new world. The feast at the start is not just a feast. It is a way for the king of Susa to show how much honor he has and to receive honor from his associates. Men today might laugh at the idea that Vashti going against the wishes of the king would cause women all across the empire to disrespect their husbands and thus lead to chaos, but it was no joke. It’s not a sitcom being written. It’s maintaining the order of hierarchy that the society thrives on.

The constant back and forth between Mordecai and Haman fit into this as well. In this, you have the reversals of honor and shame. Haman is to be the most honored of all because he’s practically as close to the king as you can get without sitting on the throne yourself. Mordecai meanwhile is a nobody resident in the empire. That’s one more reason Haman is not content with just killing Mordecai. After all, he is the great Haman. He should go for something grander than that, so why not go and kill all of Mordecai’s people which would also fit in with Haman’s own heritage as an enemy of the Jews?

If there was something I didn’t like about the paraphrase, it’s that it talks about God. That sounds odd for a book of the Bible, but the wonder of Esther is that you know God is working behind the scenes, but He is never explicitly mentioned in the text. I was troubled then to see God mentioned in the text as that took away from me one of my favorite aspects of the book in that the reader is the one who has to work to see the hand of God at work and then we ask, could He be at work in our own lives in ways that we don’t know about?

Despite that, this is a wonderful idea Georges has had. So far, two books have been done from an honor-shame perspective. I look forward to the rest of them.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

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