Jane McNabb’s Daylight at Midnight reflects on the book of Esther, particularly from a woman’s perspective but with plenty for everyone with wonderful, careful handling of the text, brilliantly bringing out the twists and turns and depths of the story.
“At first glance, Esther’s story is appealing and exciting, a true ‘rags to riches’ story… but… this isn’t necessarily the fairytale lifestyle it appears” (p.18-19).
Instead, as McNabb shows, the Persian court and Persian society is deeply chauvinistic, the king a pervert, the harem system into which Esther enters a form of cold sexual abuse. This is a deeply challenging read (particularly as a man). I was prompted to ask myself:
- Why do I initially read this as a fairytale? Do I share the king’s (and my society’s) assumptions and idolatries about sex, power, physical beauty and celebrity?
- On a deeper level still – Do we sometimes think that God is like the Persian king – a self-centred dictator, concerned only to show off his wealth, make harsh demands, fly into a rage, needing to be placated and impressed and in a good mood for you to safely enter his presence (and who offers a heaven similar to the Islamic paradise)? To put it another way, reading Esther 1-2, who is more like God – the omnipotent Xerxes or the oppressed and humiliated Esther?
Daylight at Midnight is a unique mixture of devotional, commentary, character study, how-to and Bible study. Along with very careful observation of the text there is plenty of cultural engagement and very practical application (e.g. dealing with sexual abuse, confrontation, humility). Each chapter ends with a few questions for personal reflection which could be equally well used in group settings.
You can get hold of your copy of Daylight at Midnight from iServe Africa Bookstore for the fantastic price of KES 250.