Arts &
  Arts Culture Analysis  
Vol. 23, No. 1, 2024
  Current Issue  
  Back Issues  
Robert J. Lewis
  Senior Editor
Jason McDonald
  Contributing Editors
Louis René Beres
David Solway
Nick Catalano
Robert Lyon
Chris Barry
Howard Richler
Gary Olson
Jordan Adler
Andrew Hlavacek
Daniel Charchuk
  Music Editor
Serge Gamache
  Arts Editor
Lydia Schrufer
Mady Bourdage
  Photographer Jerry Prindle
Chantal Levesque
Emanuel Pordes
  Past Contributors
  Noam Chomsky
Mark Kingwell
Charles Tayler
Naomi Klein
Arundhati Roy
Evelyn Lau
Stephen Lewis
Robert Fisk
Margaret Somerville
Mona Eltahawy
Michael Moore
Julius Grey
Irshad Manji
Richard Rodriguez
Navi Pillay
Ernesto Zedillo
Pico Iyer
Edward Said
Jean Baudrillard
Bill Moyers
Barbara Ehrenreich
Leon Wieseltier
Nayan Chanda
Charles Lewis
John Lavery
Tariq Ali
Michael Albert
Rochelle Gurstein
Alex Waterhouse-Hayward




Robert Lyon is a retired clergyman who divides his time between Guelph, Ontario and Melaque, Mexico. He taught high school English, Latin, Greek and science, and served as an officer in the Canadian Armed Forces Reserve, retiring in the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel. His latest book, Don’t Throw Out Your Bible, from which the essay below is excerpted, is now in print. This article first appeared in New English Review.


For the past few months I’ve been listening each night before bed to Sir David (Poirot) Suchet’s brilliant reading of the Bible in the New International Version. I was halfway through the book of Esther when news broke of Hamas’ recent terrorist assault on over 900 Israelis attending an outdoor concert. The coincidence of the news and the reading was so uncanny that one might be tempted to see in it some divine intent. That night I understood the book of Esther as I never had before.

Many scholars, though certainly not all, regard the story of Esther not as history but as pious fiction. I don’t know whether they’re right or wrong. But I do know, as Aristotle taught, that history tells us what was true at one place and time, but fiction tells us what is true in every place and time. Hearing Sucher read Esther that night, I understood how poignantly Esther’s story is true in every place and time.

When Xerxes, King of the Persian Empire, selected young Esther to replace his deposed queen, Esther had not yet revealed that she was a Jew. But when Haman, the king’s chief advisor, devised a plot to exterminate all Jews because, as he alleged, they had strange and dangerous customs and would not bow down to him, Esther appealed to the king. Haman was removed and a royal decree was issued that the Jews should forever have the right to defend themselves against all who hate them. They did so with great success, and they proved to be a blessing to Xerxes’ empire.

Haman is gone, but his hatred of Jews has continued down to the present day. As likewise has their right to defend themselves.

The problem in dealing with Haman’s kind of hate, which explicitly calls for the destruction of Israel, is that it leaves no room for negotiation. And it treats moderation as a breathing space to organize the next jihad. Suddenly I understood the “herem,” the condition of enemies being devoted to destruction that you find in the Bible from Joshua through to the establishment of the Jewish kingdom. I understood the compelling rationale for such seemingly unconscionable decrees as the slaughter of the Amalekites.

A curious thing about the book of Esther is that the Name of God does not appear anywhere in the narrative. Well, that’s almost true, but not quite. The sacred Name, Yod He Vav He, does in fact appear four times, but it is embedded in the text, typically overlapping two adjacent words. In two instances, it reads from right to left, and in two from left to right. What might that mean?

Remember that the book of Esther was written either during or shortly after the Babylonian Exile of 597 to 537 BC. It was written for a Jewish audience who must have wondered where God was in such an event and what on earth he was doing. The embedded sacred Name seems to imply that God was and is at work behind the scenes – “playing his checkers” as A. W. Tozer would say – and that he has a grip on his people whether they’re coming or going. It dignifies their faith that God will keep his promise to Abraham: “I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 12:3).

Lord Suchet’s character Poirot, the nemesis of bad guys, might relish such a plot, if it were not so horribly real-life.

A note from Robert Lyon:
At last Don’t Throw Out Your Bible has gone to press. But I’ll be pleased to send a free PDF copy to any Arts and Opinion subscriber who provides an e-mail address. And for good measure I’ll include a copy of A Christmas You Can Believe In. I promise not to distribute your address, nor to pester you with further notifications (until I write another book), and I’ll even delete your address if you so request. To order, click on the link = Please put DTOYB in your subject line. BTW, you’re welcome to print what I send you, but not for commercial purposes.





Arts & Opinion, a bi-monthly, is archived in the Library and Archives Canada.
ISSN 1718-2034


Comedy Podcast with Jess Salomon and Eman El-Husseini
Bahamas Relief Fund
Film Ratings at Arts & Opinion - Montreal
Festival Nouveau Cinema de Montreal(514) 844-2172
Lynda Renée: Chroniques Québécois - Blog
Montreal Guitar Show July 2-4th (Sylvain Luc etc.). border=
Photo by David Lieber:
Valid HTML 4.01!
Privacy Statement Contact Info
Copyright 2002 Robert J. Lewis