by Matushka Valerie Zahirsky
Hank Hanegraaff is well-known as the “Bible Answer Man.” His recent conversion from Protestantism to Orthodoxy has caused comments across a wide spectrum of opinion. Some people have welcomed him home to the true Orthodox faith. Others say he has forfeited his soul by abandoning the faith of the Bible.
The format of his “Bible Answer Man” blogs includes questions and answers. People write in with questions about the Bible, and he responds. So I imagined someone writing in with this question: Why is God never mentioned in the Book of Esther?
Here is one expression of the widely held idea that in the Book of Esther God’s name never appears. In his book All the Men of the Bible/All the Women of the Bible [Zondervan 1996] Herbert Lockyer writes, “A peculiar feature of the Book of Esther is that, with the Song of Solomon, it shares the distinction of not mentioning God or any divine name once throughout its pages.” As a former Protestant, it’s likely that Hank Hanegraaff accepted this idea as true.
But those of us whose version of the Bible is the Septuagint, rather than the present-day Hebrew Bible on which the King James Version is based, know that this idea is seriously mistaken. All Bible versions present Esther as the woman who saved her people by winning the favor of the Persian king and dissuading him from destroying the Hebrews. But her prayers, recorded only in the Septuagint, reveal how much the effort cost her.
Esther addresses God: “You know all things, and You know I hate the glory of the lawless and abhor the bed of the uncircumcised and of every foreigner. You know my necessity, for I abhor the symbol of my proud station which is upon my head in the days when I appear in public, as if it were a menstrual rag, and I do not wear it on the days I am alone.” She goes on: “ Your handmaid has not eaten at the table of Haman, nor have I honored the banquet of the king, nor drunk the wine of libations. Neither has Your handmaid rejoiced since the day of her elevation, except in You, O Lord, God of Abraham. O God, Who have power over all, hear the voice of us in despair, and deliver us from the hand of those acting wickedly, and deliver me from my fear.”
So, how would Hank Hanegraaff answer that hypothetical question about the Book of Esther never mentioning God? Let’s hope he would share the incredible richness of the young woman’s prayers. Esther, like so many believers today, lived among people hostile to her faith and far more powerful than she was. She felt fear, and she hated having to do some of the things she did in public to keep herself and her people from destruction. Through it all, she steadfastly honored God, trusting and relying completely on Him.
What a gift to readers of the Old Testament if the Bible Answer Man will share this deeper understanding of Esther with people who were unaware of it before. What a gift to all of us is this lovely young woman, determined even in a life-and-death situation to be faithful to the One True God.