By Jerry Kaifetz
Like many Americans, I have seen elements of the evangelical population decry Donald Trump. My response to these well-meaning but misguided folks is simple: We are electing a president, not a national pastor. The American electorate is not a pulpit committee.
My mind then goes to the Judeo-Christian Scriptures. It is here that I find a singular character whom God saw fit to ally with His people not because of his understanding of the holy, but because the issue that towered above all others was the national, cultural and physical survival of the nation of Israel. That man was King Ahasuerus from the Book of Esther.
God has a history of using men whom today’s anti-Trump evangelicals would reject in resounding fashion. Take, for instance, the Persian King Cyrus. This man was a Persian from what today is modern Iran. He embodied the Persian culture in every way, a culture that could hardly be more antithetical to the Jewish religion. In spite of all that, Cyrus became a patron and deliverer of the Jewish people and a man whom the prophet Isaiah referred to as “His anointed one” (Isaiah 45:1). Cyrus ended the Babylonian captivity of the Jews and facilitated their return to Jerusalem, returning to them the sacred vessels that had been plundered from the first temple.
God can use anyone He chooses. He has even used animals to convey His message and lead and teach His own. The Book of Daniel says, “He removeth kings and He setteth up kings” (2:21). God’s criteria in these matters is often more practical than spiritual. It is about getting a job done, and no job rises to the level of urgency and importance as the national and cultural survival of a nation that God has said He will bless and protect.
Such was the era of Esther. The book of Esther tells the story celebrated today by the Jewish people in the Purim holiday. It is the story of a young Jewish girl under the guidance of her cousin Mordecai in the days of the Media-Persian Empire under King Ahasuerus (486-465 B.C.). The Book of Esther tells of a lavish banquet held by King Ahasuerus where he commanded his queen, Vashti, to come before the king’s guests to show off her beauty. Vashti was in fact Babylonian. (It is likely that Vashti was the great-granddaughter of King Nebuchadnezzar II of Babylon and the daughter of King Belshazzar.)
A plot was hatched by a member of the royal court named Haman. He was furious that Mordecai refused to bow to him, and so, “Haman sought to destroy all the Jews” (Esther 3:6). Haman was an Agagite and the son of Hammedatha. Haman was a descendent of Agag, king of the Amalekites, the longtime enemies of the Jewish people. God had told King Saul to destroy the Amalekites centuries earlier 1 Samuel 15:3, but Saul failed to obey the command. His disobedience led to the loss of his kingdom and, in Esther’s time, the threat of annihilation for all Jews.
King Ahasuerus dismisses Vashti from her royal position as queen, and the suggestion is made that an empire-wide beauty contest be held to find her replacement. (The Media-Persian Empire then constituted around 44 percent of the world’s population.) Esther wins the contest and becomes queen. Before long, she makes the king aware of Haman’s plot to kill her people. Haman is then hung on gallows he had built for Mordecai and a prolonged period of peace and prosperity ensues for the Jewish people throughout the vast Persian Empire. “The Jews smote all of their enemies … and did what they would to all those that hated them, and “Mordecai the Jew was accepted of the multitude … seeking the wealth of his people and seeking peace to all his seed” (Esther 9:5, 10:3).
Now I can just imagine the outrage among some elements of the Jewish world when a Jewish girl is advised to marry a heathen king. “He is not even a Jew!” were shouts that surely echoed throughout the empire. Some of the more practically minded Jews surely responded by saying, “Listen, you schmucks! Nobody is going to be Jewish if Haman has his way and now we have the chance to get some real influence in the palace in Shushan.” Perhaps this pitted the “true Jews” against the “Jinos,” Jews in name only. Perhaps the followers of Mordecai told the Jewish purists that it was time to “Make Judaism great again.”
I don’t know how I could more clearly see Donald Trump represented in the person of King Ahasuerus, with Esther, of course, being America’s conservative voters. Just as back in the Persian Empire, survival was the only issue that counted in forging alliances when the likes of Haman was plotting genocide against the entire Jewish race. Sound familiar? Haman was a descendant of King Agag, a Jew hater in the classic form that seems to periodically emerge in the pages of world history only to be relegated by fate to irrelevancy, defeat and obscurity while the Jews have continued to prosper for 5,000 years.
In the end, the Book of Esther is a look into the practical mind of God, and His spokesman Mordecai. Mordecai understood one thing: The survival of the nation was at stake, and its enemies had made the threat of genocide and were fully capable carrying out that threat. Mordecai knew that avoiding that fate trumped (please pardon the pun) the insistence on prohibiting a Jewish girl from marrying a non-Jew. How much would that matter if Judaism were wiped from the face of the earth?
Today, I urge Christians to understand that Donald Trump is a modern-day King Ahasuerus. He is the captain who can keep the USS Titanic off the iceberg. Let’s worry about his Christian pedigree when our ship finds safer waters to ply. Let’s not strain at gnats and swallow a camel.
Jerry Kaifetz has a Ph.D. in philosophy in religion. He was born in Paris, France, and educated in France and the U.S. He is a Christian author of 15 books, a jail chaplain and a former professional skier.