The TL:DR Bible: Esther 7-10


Chapter 7:

It’s the second night where the king and Haman are dining with Esther.

King: Hey, Hon, what’s bothering you? Ask me anything and I’ll give it to you. Even half the kingdom!

Esther: Okay… that… actually sounds awesome. I want half the kingdom…

King: It’s only a figure of speech.

Esther: Oh… okay, well, how’s about you not kill me, my people, family, and friends?

King: Who wants to do that?

Esther: Well, here’s the edict, and it looks like it was Haman who put you up to this!

Haman: Eep!

The king gets angry and storms off for a moment. Haman throws himself at Esther’s feet, falling on the couch next to her or on top of her lap. The king returns and sees this and thinks his drinking buddy is assaulting Esther, so he orders Haman taken into custody. The throw a bag over his head, and the king is trying to decide what to do with him.

Eunuch: Hey, he built a gallows for Mordecai, you know, the guy who saved your life.

King: Oh, cool. Hang him on that. That would be poetic justice.

So they did and it was. And the king calmed down and felt better.

 

Chapter 8:

So Mordecai takes over Haman’s position, and the king gives Haman’s estate to Queen Esther to dispose of as she pleases. Esther asks the king again to repeal the edict to kill the Jews, but the king can’t for some reason, so the king tells Esther and Mordecai to write out a new edict telling the Jews, “Oh, hey, you guys can defend yourselves, and go ahead and kill the women and children too if you want, and whatever those assholes owned is yours after they’re dead.”

Yeah, I can’t see that going wrong…

So Mordecai exits wearing some new clothes and a crown and the city of Susa rejoices, and the Jews rejoice, and lots of people convert to Judaism because they are a bit scared of the Jews now.

 

Chapter 9:

So the local Jews kill 500 of their enemies, but don’t take any of the spoils, and they capture Haman’s ten sons.

Esther: Sweetiepie, can we have one more day to kill people? Also, can we hang Haman’s sons on the big gallows that he built too?

King: Sure, Babe. You go kill to your heart’s content tomorrow too.

So the Jews kill 75,000 people the next day and then they decide that’s probably enough killing.

So that’s how the holiday of Purim began.

What is Purim?

Well, you fast a little the day before, then you read the book of Esther, and then you eat and drink and party, and from what I’ve read, you’re supposed to drink until you can’t tell the difference between the phrases “cursed be Haman” and “blessed be Mordecai.” So… sounds like a Jewish St. Patrick’s Day, which sounds pretty awesome. Much better than Hanukkah sounds.

 

Chapter 10:

So the king taxed the people and look, if you want to read more about him and that awesome guy Mordecai, go find yourself a copy of the Chronicles of the Kings of Media and Persia… which don’t exist anymore, so why would an omniscient deity ask us to go read it? Oh well.

Well, that was a fun story with an actual narrative and characters and sure they probably didn’t kill all of those 75,000 people in self-defense, but I’m going to say that there weren’t that many assholes in this book, which is a nice change of pace.

Oh… tomorrow… tomorrow, we get into Trading Places: Chapter 1 and discover that God and the Devil are the Mortimer and Randolph Dukes of the universe.

The TL:DR Bible: Esther 4-6


Chapter 4:

So the king and his drinking buddy Haman had just passed the “let’s all kill the Jews next month” ordinance and are having it distributed throughout the Persian Empire. Mordecai learns of the decree and tears his clothes and puts on sackcloth and ashes, which was the avant garde’s way of showing you’re sad back then. Everyone who was anyone did it.

All the Jews follow suit when they learn that the king is ordering their deaths. Esther is sad too and tries to send her cousin some clothes, but he refuses them. Then she sends the eunuch in charge of her to ask her cousin why the king is doing this.

Mordecai spills the story about Haman and how the king is going to pay a large sum of money for the death of the Jews, Mordecai gives her a copy of the edict and asks Esther to go intercede on their behalf with the king.

Esther sends word back saying, “You know the rules of the court. If anyone goes to see the king and has not been summoned, they are to be put to death unless the king spares their life. The king has not summoned me for a month.”

Okay, maybe Persia wasn’t a great empire to live under. They seem to be a big fan of arbitrary rule making that results in death.

Also, not seeing your wife in a month? Dude, that’s just weird.

So Mordecai sends word back saying, “Hey, you’re not going to escape the edict either, cousin, but God will save some of us, and hey, ever think that maybe God put you in this sham marriage so you could save us all?”

So Esther says, “Get the gang together and fast and pray for me for three days. I’ll go to the king and if I die, I die.”

 

Chapter 5:

So Esther comes to the inner court of the palace and the king spares her life and asks her what is bothering her that she’d risk her life like that. She asks him and Haman to come to dinner at her place tonight.

So the king sends to fetch Haman and they eat and drink and the king asks again, “What’s up, Honey?”

“Uh… come back tomorrow night and I’ll have an answer for you.”

So the king agrees and as Haman leaves the palace, he’s feeling pretty good about himself, getting a personal invite from the queen and all, so he sees Mordecai standing in the king’s gate refusing to bow again and he storms off home. He sends for all of his friends and his wife and recounts what an awesome guy he is.

“I am so rich. Hugely rich. Bigly rich. The richest. And I know people. And people know me. I dined with the queen. Just the nicest lady and beautiful. But I really hate that Moredcai. Loser. Sad…”

So his wife says, “Why not build a really tall gallows and ask the king tomorrow to let you hang Mordecai on it?”

So that makes Haman happy and he heads off to bed.

 

Chapter 6:

That night, the king has some insomnia, so he asks one of his servants to go and get the book of Chronicles. Having read the book of Chronicles, I can confirm that this is a REALLY good idea on the part of the king.

So the servant is reading the book and he comes to the part where Mordecai saved his life from the plot of two of his servants, and the king asked, “Hey… I remember that. Did we do anything cool for that guy? Seems like we should, I don’t know, at least mail him a fruit basket or something…”

Servant: No. We didn’t do anything for him.

King: Huh… oh, hey, who’s out there in the court?

Servant: Haman, it looks like.

King: Oh, cool. Send him in.

Haman enters.

King: Bro… hey, got a question for you. What should I do to the man that I want to honor?

Haman: That’s obviously me, right? Yeah, it’s me… I mean, uh, you should get a robe you’ve worn and dress the man in it. And put him on a horse that you have ridden on which is a royal crown, and let the robe and horse be taken to the man by an important man, and let that man lead your honored servant through the city proclaiming, “This is how the king honors a man!”

King: See? I knew this guy would have a good idea! Great. Go, grab a robe from my closet and get one of my horses from the stable and do that to Mordecai the Jew.

So Haman has to dress up Mordecai and lead him on a royal horse through the city proclaiming that the king is honoring Mordecai. Once they’ve made a circuit, Mordecai goes back to the king’s gate, and Haman hurries home with a big sad.

Haman’s wife: Well, I’d say Jehovah is going to really screw you over.

But before Haman can reply, the king’s men arrive to escort him to Esther’s banquet.

The TL:DR Bible: Esther 1 – 3


Notes:

Esther is the only book of the bible that never mentions God.

We’re not sure which Persian king Ahasuerus is. He’s been identified with Xerxes, Artaxerxes, and Artaxerxes II.

Most scholars take the book of Esther to be a mix of fiction and history (the author was more concerned with relaying a good story than relaying 100% historical fact) with opinions varying from strictly history to strictly myth.

 

Chapter 1:

In the days of the Persian King Ahasuerus, he reigned from Susa and he held a banquet for all of his princes and attendants, his military officers, nobles, and royalty from all of the provinces he reigned over. It’s a giant festival that lasts for six months.

At the end of the festival, the king holds a banquet that lasts for seven days for all of the people of Susa. He goes all out in a display of opulence and wealth as befitting a king of kings.

Likewise, his queen Vashti holds her own banquet for the wives and notable women of the empire.

On the last day of the banquet, when the king is just hammered, he calls over the eunuchs in charge of his harem, and tells them to bring Queen Vashti with her royal crown out to the banquet to display her beauty in front of his guests.

There’s something inappropriate about the request, because the queen refuses his order, and I think drunk Ahasuerus might have meant for Queen Vashti to appear before his guests wearing her crown and nothing but her royal crown.

But she tells her husband, “No” and that sets Ahasuerus off. So he consults with his legal team.

King: Man, my stoopid wife… wouldn’t… wouldn’t even git naked fer me and my guests… what…what should I do?

Lawyers: Yeah, man, this is bad. If word of this gets out, pretty soon all of the women in the empire might start thinking that they’re people and have bodily autonomy and that would suck for us men. So you should issue a royal decree that Vashti will no longer come into your royal presence and her place of honor will be given to another, so when all of the broads hear of it, they’ll realize that their place is to be the obedient subservient wife even if their husband is a drunken ass who wants them to show off their naked bits to the company. And then we can keep grabbing them by the p-

King: Alright…that… shounds… good… let’ssss do it… I’m… I’m alright…BLEACH…

So Queen Vashti gets deposed and goes down in history as one of the first feminists.

 

Chapter 2:

But when the king sobers up and gets over his hangover, he starts to remember his hot wife and feels a bit bad and lonely and horny and regrets banishing her from his presence.

Servants: Well, you’re the king, so order all of the young, hot teens in Susa to come to the palace and parade around before you, and whichever one, ahem… pleases, you the most gets to be the new queen.

King: So you want me to sit around all day while hundreds or thousands of young, hot teens parade around in front of me? I should give you guys a raise!

And it so happens that there is a Jew in Susa named Mordecai, who has a cousin named Esther whom he has raised because her parents died.  And she just happens to be a young, hot teen, so she gets whisked off the king’s palace and placed in the care of the eunuch Hegai. And Hegai takes a liking to Esther, so he provides her with extra benefits, giving her good food, makeup, and some attendants of her own.

Now perhaps Esther has peeked ahead in his history book, because she keeps her Jewish lineage a secret from everyone. And Mordecai starts hanging around the palace trying to get word on how his adopted daughter is doing.

So the girls were in the royal palace for a year before they would see the king, and when the king sees Esther, he is very ‘pleased’ and decides she will be his new queen.

“Consent?” everyone laughs, “What does that word mean? Hahahaha…”

So Esther the teenager is forced to marry the drunk, pervy (probably much older) king. Ah, biblical love stories. So sweet.

Ah, it was Mordecai who told her not to say she was a Jew. Maybe he’s been around longer and realizes how much the Jews are going to face persecution.

But because Mordecai is sitting around the palace gate so much, he hears of a plot against Ahasuerus by two of his guards, and he informs the king via Esther. The king discovers the plot and hangs the two guards and has the matter recorded in his own book of Chronicles.

 

Chapter 3:

We meet our villain of the story, Haman. Haman is an official in the king’s court who gets promoted and the king commands that all of the servants at the gate are to bow to him. But Mordecai who is hanging out by the gate a lot, I guess, doesn’t bow and that cheese Haman off enough that he wants to kill ALL of the Jews instead of just Mordecai.

So Haman goes to see the king…

Haman: Hey, King, there’s a group of people in your kingdom with different laws and customs and traditions. They’re not obeying your commands, so we should probably kill them all. Give me money, I’ll hire some assassins, we’ll kill them and take all their stuff.

King: Eh, okay, man, take my money and do whatever you want.

King Ahasuerus is not a man for contemplative reflection, skepticism, or investigation, I guess.

So Haman and the king draft up some letters saying, “Let’s kill all the Jews on this day” and send them out throughout the Persian Empire. And while he and Haman start boozing it up, the city of Susa is thrown into confusion, as you would expect from being handed a notice that you were required to go out and butcher your neighbors for the king.

The TL:DR Bible: Nehemiah 9-13


 Chapter 9:

Ah… here we go.

Nehemiah notes that the pure Israelites have separated themselves from the foreigners, because we just couldn’t get through one book without something awful, could we?

So the Israelites put on sackcloth and start praying and the summary is pretty much the same thing it usually is:

God is awesome. He chose Abraham to bear his chosen people and give them the land of Canaan in the most convoluted way imaginable, which involved slavery, a massacre of Jewish male children, and a few genocides along the way. But we screwed it all up by being assholes, but you were merciful and kept sending us prophets to correct us, but we killed them. And then you sent us into Babylon, but now we’re back even though we’re still slaves of Persia and we have to send them our food and taxes.

Everyone agrees to try and keep the law of Moses and all the leaders sign a pledge to do so.

 

Chapter 10:

Here are the leaders who signed the pledge.

And the people take a pledge to not marry any filthy devil foreigners or buy their wares on a Saturday and they will stop working the land one year out of every seven and cancel all the debts.

The priests work out a rotation as to which family has to bring the wood to the altar in the Temple, and everyone agrees to chip in and donate money and crops to keep the priests fed.

It was a good gig to be a priest.

 

Chapter 11:

A bunch of people settled in Jerusalem and here are their names.

 

Chapter 12:

Here is a list of the priests.

And we had a big party to celebrate the dedication of the wall.

 

Chapter 13:

Well, I guess party is the wrong word because someone breaks out the book of Deuteronomy and reads it out loud to the people. And the people read the part about how Ammonites and Moabites were to be excluded from the Temple, so they engage in some good old fashioned racism and shun all the foreigners among them.

Prior to this separation, one of the priests had set aside a room in the Temple that was used as a storeroom for Tobias. Nehemiah had returned to Susa, but when he came back, Nehemiah cleaned out the room and threw Tobias’ belongings into the street.

And Nehemiah discovers that the priests and musicians had returned to working the fields because the offerings and tithes had stopped, so he yells at the officials and gets the tithes and offerings back up and running so the priests can work in the Temple.

Nehemiah also notices that people were working and selling stuff on the Sabbath, so he puts a stop to that practice and shuts the gates of Jerusalem at sundown Friday and doesn’t have them open again until sundown Saturday. He threatens to arrest the traders if they camp outside the city.

And yes, Nehemiah notices that some of the Jews have married foreigners, so he does the only sensible thing and yells at them, pulls out their hair, and beats them. Because of course the one guy I thought was cool turns out to be a racist too.

So Nehemiah kicks out the son of the high priest for marrying Sanballat’s daughter, and purifies the priests and Levites of everything foreign and icky, because of course he does…

Well, my takeaway on this book is that people are always going to disappoint you if you start to think too highly of them. Nehemiah seemed like a pretty good guy, but he had a pretty big character flaw.

The TL:DR Bible: Nehemiah 5-8


I’ve got to confess, I’m not used to reading about a genuinely good guy in this bible, but I think Nehemiah might actually fit the bill.

 

Chapter 5:

So some the poor of the city come to Nehemiah and complain:

“We have large families and we need food! We’re mortgaging our fields, vineyards, and homes to buy food during this famine.”

And others said, “We’ve borrowed money to pay our taxes on our land. We’ve asked our neighbors for it, but they’ve made us sell our sons and daughters to them in slavery, and we are powerless!”

Nehemiah says, “Well, it’s your own fault for having too many children and not managing your finances well enough. God helps those who help themselves. Just pull yourself up by your own bootstraps and I’m sure that upper class tax cut will help you out eventually.”

No, no, Nehemiah gets pissed when he hears this, calls up the nobles, the government officials, the priests, and the wealthy and says, “You’re charging them interest!?! We’re restoring our homeland and buying ourselves back from foreigners and you’re making people sell themselves to you for money?!”

Everyone gets real quiet and awkward.

“You’re sinning against your brothers and against God. You’re acting worse than the Gentiles, guys. I mean, I’m lending people money, but I’m not charging them interest or taking their kids or land. Knock that crap off and give them back their stuff and stop charging them interest!”

So everyone agrees and takes an oath to follow Nehemiah’s command. And Nehemiah pronounces a curse upon anyone who fails to do right by the poor. And everyone fulfills their oath and stops acting like a greedy jackass.

Can… can you be our president, Nehemiah? Or maybe come and speak to our churches?

Nehemiah is appointed governor of Judea and acts with humility, easing the burden of taxation on the people, and dedicating himself to rebuilding the city wall. His household and retainers pitched in on the labor, and he never acquired any property for himself.

He asks God to remember him with favor for his good actions towards his neighbors.

Seriously, man… come back, run for office here, please?

 

Chapter 6:

Sanballat and Tobiah are back up to their schemes and try to lure Nehemiah to a conference where they plan to kill him, but Nehemiah refuses their summons, so they accuse him of plotting sedition against the king, but he tells them they’re imagining things, and he continues to seek God’s help against them.

One of the Jews comes and tells him that men are coming to kill him and he should come and hide in the Temple and lock the Temple doors to be safe.

Nehemiah says, “I don’t run. And I’m not going to sin and go into the Temple out of cowardice.”

He realizes that the guy is a paid stooge of Sanballat and Tobias and was trying to lure him into a trap that would discredit him in front of his fellow Jews.

So Nehemiah finishes the wall, and the enemies of the Jews are afraid, because they attributed the success of the building project to God.

Nehemiah also reveals that there were many compromised members of Judean nobility that were in the pocket of Tobias and they served as his spies.

 

Chapter 7:

With the work done, Nehemiah appoints his brother as the mayor of Jerusalem with Hananiah, the commander of the citadel because he was a man of integrity. Nehemiah issues command that the gates of Jerusalem were not to be opened until the sun was hot, and that they should appoint a guard from among the residents of Jerusalem to serve as gatekeepers.

Then comes a list of families and their lineages. Some of the priests couldn’t confirm their Levitical heritage with records and were excluded temporarily from eating the sanctified foods, but could eat form the allotment donated to the priests.

 

Chapter 8:

Ezra stands up and reads the Law as a sort of renewal of the covenant between God and the people. Some of the people are upset because they realize how badly their ancestors screwed up, but Nehemiah, Ezra, and the priests tell them not to cry, but that this is a celebration.

So for seven days, Ezra gets up and reads the law for three house before the assembly, then it appears that everyone broke up and ate and drank freely in celebration.

The TL:DR Bible – Nehemiah 1 – 4


Chapter 1:

Nehemiah is in the city of Susa (Shush in modern day Iran) and he receives one of his brothers who had come back from Judah. Nehemiah asks his brother how the work of rebuilding the city is going and his brother gives a negative report.

Hanani: Yeah, it’s still a wreck. The walls are broken down and the gates were burned with fire.

Nehemiah takes the news badly and cries. He decides to fast and pray:

“Lord, you’re faithful to those that love and obey you, so please hear my prayer. We’ve sinned against you. We’ve broken your laws, and you held up your end of the deal, you’ve scattered us to all the nations of the world. But your promised that if we returned to you, you would gather us back home. So please, hear my prayer and give me success with the King of Persia.”

Nehemiah adds that he was the king’s cupbearer.

A cupbearer was a person who served the royal household drinks at meals. They were highly trusted individuals because they held the king’s life (and the life of his family) in their hands. Sometimes they were required to take a drink from the wine they had poured the king to test it for poison. Because of their place in the royal house, they enjoyed a place of influence with the king. So Nehemiah is in a unique position to be able to help out the Judeans who had returned to Jerusalem.

 

Chapter 2:

Nehemiah is performing his duties, when King Artaxerxes notices that he is in distress. Nehemiah had never been sad before, so the king asks him about it.

King: Why are you sad when you’re not ill? This must be sadness of the heart.

Nehemiah: I’m super bummed because Jerusalem, the city of my ancestors is still in ruins.

King: Okay, what would you like me to do?

Nehemiah: Let me go and rebuild the city of Jerusalem.

King: Cool. How long will it take?

Nehemiah gives him a time that he will return and asks for letters to the local governors telling them of the king’s plans and giving Nehemiah the authority to request materials and support for the effort. So Nehemiah leaves and goes to Judea. The king also grants him an escort of infantry and cavalry.

But some of the local officials, Sanballat and Tobiah are angry that someone had come to support the Jews.

Nehemiah arrives in Jerusalem and spends three days resting, before he sets off on his horse to circle the perimeter of the city, inspecting the damage to the walls and the gates. When he returns, he informs the Jewish leaders of his mission to rebuild the city and they agree to participate in the work.

So Sanballet and Tobiah try to hassle Nehemiah and ask if he plans to rebel against Artaxerxes, but Nehemiah blows them off and tells them to get lost.

 

Chapter 3:

Nehemiah: Here are the guys who helped us build the walls and gates.

 

Chapter 4:

Sanballet and Tobiah mock the efforts to rebuild. Nehemiah asks the Lord to return their insults upon their own heads, and the Jews continue to work on the wall, restoring it to half its original height.

Sanballet and Tobiah hear that the wall is progressing and that the gaps in the walls are being closed, so they plot an attack on Jerusalem to kill the workers there to discourage them from finishing, but Nehemiah is informed of the plot and stations guards in the gaps in the walls. Sanballet and Tobiah’s efforts are frustrated, but the work of rebuilding is slowed as Nehemiah must station half of his volunteers as guards to watch over the other half who labor on the wall.

The Jews all take to wearing their swords at all times as precautions and Nehemiah and his brothers wear their armor and weaponry to bed at night, so they can be ready to defend Jerusalem at a moment’s notice.

The TL:DR Bible: Ezra 7-10


Ezra continues to be mundane before it becomes infuriatingly awful. So… yea?

Chapter 7:

The titular Ezra finally shows up. In the reign of Artaxerxes, Ezra is dispatched by the king to go and take more gold and silver offerings to Jerusalem for use for worship and sacrifices. It shouldn’t be assumed that Artaxerxes was converted, but rather that the Persian Empire had a very pragmatic view of religion. They wanted to be on the relatively good side of any deities a subject people might worship.

Ezra is also given the power to enforce Jewish religious law on the land and punish transgressors up to the death penalty for failing to adhere to the Jewish law.

So Ezra and a bunch of other Jewish leaders go from Persian and Babylon to Jerusalem.

 

Chapter 8:

Here’s a list of the people travelling with Ezra.

Ezra arranges his travel entourage and holds a fast to ask God for a safe journey because he was embarrassed to ask the king for a detachment of troops to guard them from bandits because Ezra had told the king that God would protect them.

So they fast, then they set out and don’t run into any bandits and arrive in Jerusalem and rest for three days before invoicing the king’s gifts to the Temple and consecrating them to the service of Yahweh.

Everyone kills some animals for God, as you do, I guess.

 

Chapter 9:

Some of the leaders come to Ezra:

Leaders: Hey, some of the Jewish guys are getting married to foreigners and engaging in some race mixing.

Ezra tells them to stop being so racist and that as long as everyone converts to the Jewish religion and puts away idols and false gods from among them, it’s super cool…ha, just kidding, Ezra totally freaks out about mixing the pure Jewish genes with the polluted foreigners.

So Ezra is a bit of a drama queen and sits in silence as everyone gathers around him, then he prays aloud to the crowd, I mean… to Yahweh and says, “Oh Lord, I am ashamed and disgraced to lift up my face to you.  Our fathers f’ed up badly, so you made bad things happen to us. But then you were gracious and stopped letting bad things happen to us and let us come back to Israel. But now we’ve sinned against you because you told our ancestors not to marry heathen devil foreigners and we have. We’re totally evil. And you’re probably going to kill us… because we engaged in interracial marriage… because yes, this is apparently a horrible thing in this book… Amen.”

 

Chapter 10:

So one of the guys who married a foreign girl comes up to Ezra as he’s crying and throwing himself on the ground like a super drama queen, and says, “Dude… what if we divorce our icky foreign wives and disown our icky half-breed children and send them away for God?”

And Ezra says, “Sure. That’ll work.”

Not “That’s monstrous!” or “That’s evil!” or “God hates divorce!” or “It’s your bloody children, you unloving asshat!”

Ezra (and by proxy God) says, “Sure. That’s fine. Swear an oath that you’ll do it.”

Now everyone gather together and sing, “Jesus loves the little children… except the heathen devil foreigners…”

So Ezra and the Levites oversee the divorce and banishment of the foreign wives and the children of these relationships. It takes three months for them to be done with it, but finally, Israel is racially pure, I guess, and those women and their children are out in the streets, but that’s their problem for having the audacity to be sold to (or fathered by) the wrong guy, I guess.

And to further shame the guys who engaged in interracial marriages, here’s a list of the “gross sinners.”

Takeaway lesson: If your religion demands that you abandon your wife and your children, you’re doing it wrong.

Takeaway lesson 2: Ezra is a dick.