Humor in the Book of Esther (Come, Follow Me: Book of Esther) – powered by Happy Scribe
God teaches us lessons in all sorts of ways, but I think one underappreciated teaching tool is humor.
While we avoid making light of sacred things, there’s joy and instruction to be had in wit and good-natured jokes.
Laughter can decrease our stress, increase our spirits, and create bonds of friendship with others.
President Gordon B. Hinkley once shared: “We need to have a little humor in our lives.”
We better take seriously that which should be taken seriously. But at the same time, we can bring in a touch of humor now and again. If the time ever comes when we can’t smile at ourselves, it will be a sad time. The Book of Esther is probably most well known among Christians for being one of those rare stories where the woman is the heroine. But an underappreciated aspect of the story is just how humorous it is.
This story is filled with dramatic irony, character foils, and a bit of absurdity to help clearly communicate to the audience who the good guys are and who the bad guys are. The story of the liberation of the Jews in this book is the center of the Jewish celebration of Purim in many Jewish communities. This holiday involves feasting, drinking, wearing costumes, and, most importantly, reading the scroll of Esther. It can become a very festive and merry occasion, with audience members blotting out every recitation of Hayman’s name with noisemakers and shouts. But all through the cheerfulness and humor, the message still remains that God saved his people through a miracle.
One place where the humor of the story is particularly prominent is in Esther, chapter six. This chapter is a textbook example of dramatic irony, with Hayman receiving some just desserts. At this point in the story, Haman had already conceived the plot to kill Mordecai and all the Jews. To prevent this, Esther invited the King and Hayden to a feast where she would request that her life and the life of her people would be spared. Chapter six introduces kind of a humorous side plot that adds to Hayman’s ultimate humiliation.
In the middle of the night, King A hospitalis couldn’t sleep, so commanded that the royal annals or chronicles be brought to him. He discovered that Mordecai had foiled a plot to assassinate the King way back in Nestor chapter two, and so he wanted to honor Mordecai in some way. To that end, he called in the first man who happened to be in the court. Ironically, Haman was on his way to the King to propose that Mordecai be hanged. So the King brought Haman in and asked him, what should be done to a man that the King wants to honor?
Now Haman thought in his heart, to whom would the King delight to honor more than to myself? So now the reader is fully aware that the King intended to honor Mordecai, not Haman. So it becomes hilarious and absurd that Haman mistakenly believed that he was being honored. Haman went on to describe a number of elaborate things that he would like for himself. Since Hayman was already the prestigious adviser to the king, the only way he could be more honored is if he were honored as the king.
So he declared that the honored person should wear the clothes that the king wears, ride the horse that the king rides, and wear the crown that the king wears. Then, to add to the scene, the honored should be given a procession throughout the city led by one of the king’s rulers. But in the next instant, Hayman’s lofty dreams were popped when the king delivered the punchline to the satirical scene. Make haste and take the apparel in the horse, as thou hast said, and do even so to Mordecai the Jew. Haman sought to destroy Mordecai, but was instead treated to a bit of his own medicine by having to shower Mordecai with all the honor that he sought for himself.
And this scene is just a foreshadowing of Hayman’s ultimate destruction, when his plot to destroy the Jews backfired and Haman was hanged on the gallows intended for Mordecai Bissie and Esther VI could even be seen as a humorous and ironic morality tale about the Golden Rule. Treat others as you would want to be treated. Hayman wanted to be treated like a king. And in a satirical twist of fate, hayman ended up treating his mortal enemy, Mordecai like a king and had to humiliate himself by publicly processing him through the city. Deep down, Hayman wanted to destroy Mordecai by hanging him on the tallest gallows.
At the end of the story, Hayman was treated the same way he wanted to treat Mordecai when Haman himself was hanged on those same gallows. The story of Esther is inspiring, culturally rich, and really fun. By the end of the story, Esther and the Jews were miraculously saved from destruction. And it can remind us that God will abandon us if we place our trust in him. But the story can also remind us that these lessons don’t always have to be solemn, but can be times for cheerful celebration.
The Lord taught indoctrination in Covenants 123. Therefore, dearly beloved brethren, let us cheerfully do all things that lie in our power, and then may we stand still with the utmost assurance to see the salvation of God and for his arm to be revealed.