Esther: Blessings of an IntermarriageBy: Tuvya Zaretsky
Jewish-Gentile couples cite the challenge of finding spiritual harmony as one of their most difficult obstacles to resolve. All spiritual beliefs are formed at the deep core level of personal culture. And while change at that seat of our values comes with difficulty, we are able to learn, grow, and then reform ideas that we once thought could never change.
The story line of Esther is an amazing, complex plot with turns and harrowing circumstances that draw out sincere spiritual change in the life of a young Jewish woman. It also reveals the character of God as His providence and sovereignty are powerfully revealed throughout the unfolding events. Blessings come upon Esther’s Israelite people and her Gentile husband and has far-reaching impacts of her spiritual development. The powerful testimony of God’s character is in His faithfulness to keep His covenant promise to Abraham everywhere and always.
Esther’s saga occurs during one of the darkest periods in Israelite history. After God’s repeated warnings, the kingdom of Judah was taken into Babylon exile in 605 BC. Next, just 19 years later, they destroyed Jerusalem and the Lord’s holy Temple. Then, in 538 BC, one year after Persia toppled the Babylonian Empire, a small remnant of Jews was allowed to return to Zion. About 70 years later, Israelites still in the Persian Diaspora were in peril. Esther, a young and orphaned Jewish girl, becomes the Lord’s heroine and instrument of their deliverance.
When the Persian king made Esther his queen, a large Jewish remnant remained, dispersed throughout the Persian Empire that stretched from the eastern Indus River to the African coast by Ethiopia. Jews were already assimilating to Persian culture. Esther’s Hebrew name was Hadassah, but she and her cousin, Mordechai, are identified by Persian names related to local deities, Ishtar and Marduk.
Central to Esther’s exilic narrative was her marriage to the Gentile Persian ruler. Intermarriage was prohibited in Torah at the time of the Exodus. The law’s intent was specifically to preserve the Israelites’ relationship with the Lord God. His warning was against making covenants with any people whose spiritual character was corrupted through serving false gods and idolatry (Exodus 34:14–16; Deuteronomy 7:1–4). The purpose was to protect Israelites from cultural influencers that could turn them away from God’s covenant and love.
However, in spite of Esther’s Diaspora intermarriage, she was chosen for that time and the Lord’S providential care. King Ahasuerus was clearly not a wise or spiritual leader. But the God of Israel blessed the king and young Esther for her trust in God. Bible history illustrates that all things work out for good when people love God and trust His purposes.
There are spiritual blessings in Esther’s story. Though she is assimilating to Persian culture, Esther’s intermarriage actually helped her find her Israelite identity. She trusted the God of Abraham in her life-or-death choice to speak up, as a Jew, on behalf of her people. Esther’s
faith showed up in her call for Jewish people in Shushan to fast—an act associated with fervent prayer—for the outcome of her bold action (Esther 4:16). She was personally blessed.
God intervened by blessing the Jewish people in Persia against the genocidal plans laid against them by Haman. The king supported Esther in her plea on behalf of her people. Behind the chapter texts, we know God intervened and saved His people. He acted according to His faithful covenant, having promised to eternally preserve Abraham’s offspring (Genesis 12 and 15).
In the end, the Lord blessed the Persian king too. King Ahasuerus supported the Jews’ right to defend themselves against their enemies. The Lord blessed the king and cursed Haman in keeping with His promise to Abraham, “I will bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you” (Genesis 12:3). The Persian people are still present to this very day.
Neither has the Lord forgotten those who have cursed Israel. Anti-Semitic enemies, like Haman (the officer at court in Persia), Saddam Hussain of Iraq, and the Nazi leader Eichmann have all suffered the gallows after they cursed the Jews.
Esther’s story is a powerful testimony of God’s providence in human affairs. It can be a resource to inspire you if you are a Jewish-Gentile couple that is seeking a mutually satisfying spiritual harmony. We hope you will listen to some of the podcasts available at www.jewishgentilecouples.com. We hope you will find intermarriage blessings similar to what they share.
Thank God it’s Adar and Happy Purim!