Women of the Word: Zeresh

Zeresh was the wife of Haman, a Jew hater who we are introduced to in the book of Esther. He was prime minister under King Ahasuerus (also called King Xerxes) and was one of Ahasuerus’ favorite officials. Ahasuerus often consulted him on matters concerning the governing of the kingdom of Persia. In Esther 3:1-2, we are told that Ahasuerus elevated Haman to a seat of honor higher than that of all the other nobles and commanded everyone to kneel down and pay honor to Haman.

After Ahasuerus deposed of his first beautiful wife, Vashti, he married another beautiful woman named Esther. Esther and her uncle Mordecai, who raised her, were Jewish, and this is where Haman’s real problem began. Even though Haman had been elevated to a high position in the kingdom, Mordecai refused to kneel down to him and refused to pay him any kind of honor. This made Haman furious. When he found out that Mordecai was a Jew, he was not content to only destroy Mordecai. He wanted to destroy all Mordecai’s people, the Jews.

What did Zeresh think of her husband’s violent hatred of Mordecai? What did she think of his plot to destroy the Jews? Did she support him or did she try to stop him? The Bible gives us some answers. Continue reading

Women of the Word: Noadiah

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Around 445/444 B.C., a remnant of Jews who were in Judah were suffering from low morale because the city of Jerusalem had been torn down and no one had the strength or mind to rebuild it. The city still had a temple, but all the walls around the city had been torn down. Jerusalem had no protection from enemy attacks. During this time, a man named Nehemiah, was cup-bearer to the king of Persia, who was called Artaxerxes. (We learned about Artaxerxes’ supportive queen wife in an earlier post.) When Nehemiah heard about the sad state of affairs in Jerusalem, he asked King Artaxerxes for permission to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the city. King Artaxerxes let him do so, even providing him with timber from his own forest.

So, Nehemiah went back to Jerusalem, rallied the people, and in a few weeks they had the walls around Jerusalem rebuilt, giving the city protection from their enemies. However, Nehemiah and those who worked with him, were not without opposition while they worked. They were repeatedly harassed and opposed by two enemies in particular, Tobiah and Sanballat. Also in league with Tobiah and Sanballat was a woman named Noadiah. She was a prophetess.

Thankfully, Nehemiah did not allow himself to be distracted by Tobiah, Sanballat or Noadiah. He simply remained focused on God. Nehemiah 6:14 says that he prayed:

Remember Tobiah and Sanballat, O my God, according to these things that they did, and also the prophetess Noadiah and the rest of the prophets who wanted to make me afraid.

Nehemiah’s prayer reveals the way in which Noadiah tried to get him to stop his good work. Continue reading

Women of the Word: Vashti

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We meet Vashti at the beginning of the book of Esther 1:8-20. She was the former Queen of Persia and the first wife of King Ahasuerus. Now it came to pass that King Ahasuerus threw a mega feast for all the men in his kingdom while Vashti threw another feast for the women. On the last day of feasting, Ahasuerus sent seven of his eunuchs to command Vashti to come to him so he could show her to the people for Vashti was very beautiful to look upon.

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