Stephen Stein doesn’t much like what he calls Jonathan Edwards’s “strange and troubling” interpretation of Esther (an essay in Jonathan Edwards at 300: Essays on the Tercentenary of His Birth ). Edwards linked Esther with the account of the Amelikes in Exodus 17, and used the “curse of perpetual war with the Amalekites” to defend the violence against Haman and his sons: “Edward equated the figure of Esther with the church, the spouse of Christ. Therefore Esther’s request that the ten sons of Haman ‘be hanged on the gallows’ raised for Edwards questions about Esther’s vengeful spirit. He recognized the ethical tension in her request, but he defended her. Edwards declared that Esther’s actions and the resulting hangings were to ‘fulfill the will of God’ concerning the Amalekites, since Moses . . . had declared that God was to war with the Amalekites ‘from generation to generation.’ Therefore it was the ‘Spirit of God,’ he asserted, not Esther, that called for revenge” (57).

Stein seems unaware of the basis for the link between Exodus 17 and Esther, namely that Haman is an Agagite, that is, an Amalekite (cf. 1 Samuel 15). As a result, Stein considers Edwards’s interpretation arbitrary and troubling. But Edwards was right: Yahweh himself authorized and demanded vengeance against the Amalekites, among whom were Haman and his sons.

Articles by Peter J. Leithart

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