Monday, February 13, 2012

The Mordecai Dilemma

A question on Old Testament hermeneutics was asked on SBC Voices

Jim Pemberton February 10, 2012 at 6:17 pm
"How, then, if Mordecai and Esther cannot really be taken as ethical models, are we to determine who, and what actions narrated in the OT, are to be taken as worthy or imitation?"

This is the key question. Much of the OT narrative is merely descriptive, not prescriptive. We’re not under the Law of Moses although it is instructive.

Esther, in particular, is an odd tale. I agree with Dave where he says elsewhere her that Mordecai and Esther were not paragons of virtue. In fact, this account is about the Jews who were NOT faithful to return to Canaan to rebuild. In large part, this account shows us how sin really mucks up our ability to navigate this world virtuously. I can see where God worked behind the scenes to help these Jews out, but it would have been better for them if they had returned from captivity when their time was up.

In general, the Bible shows us God’s leaders in all their sinful lack of glory. For cues as to how to interpret whether their actions are good or bad, I look to see if they are doing what God wants them to either directly or according to the Law, or to see how God behaves, and God usually gives His reasons verbally to His prophets at the time. If none of this is indicated, I don’t read anything ethical into it. Since God is not directly mentioned in Esther, they were disobedient to return to Canaan and they are suffering the fallout, that’s where I go with Esther. Perhaps God is looking out for His wayward children, but they are forced into less than lawful actions in the process of getting out of the mess they got themselves into.

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