Osama Bin Laden and the Book of Esther - Some Parallels
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Regarding the death of Osama Bin Laden, I’m grateful for many reasons but not gleeful. When I watched on TV people gathering around the White House and in Times Square in New York to cheer, chant and dance, one part of me felt like joining in and another part of me felt disturbed as I remembered Proverbs 24:17-18 which warns, “Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and do not let your heart be glad when he stumbles; lest the LORD see it, and it displease Him, and He turn away His wrath from him.”
It’s good to see an evil person brought to justice. But keep in mind the difference between a sense of justice and an attitude of revenge. Seeking vengeance is God’s job and He doesn’t approve someone is trying to do His job (Hebrews 10:30-31).
The celebrating made me think of the story in the book of Esther that ends up with all Jews and their friends celebrating. So I just re-read the book to compare the events in that story with the life and death of Bin Laden. There are important similarities and important differences.
The setting of the book is the powerful Medo-Persian empire that stretched from India to Ethiopia and, in particular, the capital of Shushan (aka Susa) in the area that is now Iran. King Ahasuerus promoted Haman, a proud and evil man, to be second in command and ordered everyone to bow and pay homage to Haman. Because a Jew named Mordecai would not bow before him, Haman became so infuriated that the thought of killing only Mordecai was a revenge not sufficiently satisfying. He became determined to kill all Jewish people in the entire empire.
The story is fascinating, better than any fiction. The first cousin of Mordecai, a beautiful young Jewish woman named Esther, becomes queen. She, working in cooperation with Mordecai, exposes Haman’s evil plot. Esther and Mordecai become the saviors of the Jewish people.
It’s a story of amazing poetic justice. Haman had gallows built upon which to hang Mordecai and Haman ends up getting hanged on those gallows. Mordecai is promoted to be second in command. The scheme of slaughtering all Jews is turned into a strategy for killing many of the enemies of the Jews. In the capital city 500 enemies were killed and throughout the empire 75,000 enemies were killed (Esther 9:16). From the story, it seems no Jews died, so obviously God was fighting on their side!
All the Jews immediately celebrated and Mordecai made it official that the Jews would from then on have an annual two-day celebration which became known as the feast of Purim.
That series of events is quite significant. If Haman’s plot to annihilate all Jews had been successful, there would be virtually no Jews after that. Christ the Savior could not have been born into the tribe of Judah to fulfill that prophecy because there would no longer be a tribe of Judah. There would not have been a Jewish nation and temple for Jesus to come to. The first Christians would not have been Jewish.
Satan the devil has tried many things to interfere with God’s plan for mankind. There have been many efforts to exterminate Jews and Israelites, including Hitler’s attempt. Think of Herod’s attempt to kill Jesus when He was a baby. Think of Satan’s “success” in influencing the Jewish and Roman leaders to kill Christ.
Now let’s think of some comparisons with Osama Bin Laden. Haman despised the Jews. Osama despised the Jews and all their allies and supporters.
Bin Laden and his followers had some successes. However, I believe that God has performed miracle after miracle to protect the U.S. and other western nations from terrorist attacks. With so many enemies just “dying to” kill us, it’s amazing and inspiring that there has not been a lot more death and destruction from terrorist attacks than what there has been.
Esther proclaimed a 3-day fast, obviously to seek the favor and help of God (Esther 4:16). Many people have been sincerely praying for God’s mercy, help and protection from terrorists.
Haman was eventually killed, plus 10 of his sons. Osama was eventually killed, along with one son.
In Esther’s day, the Jews celebrated, but why? It was not because of the death of enemies nearly as much as it was about their own survival!
“The Jews had light and gladness, joy and honor” (Esther 8:16). Mordecai established “that they should celebrate yearly the fourteenth and fifteenth days of the month of Adar, as the days on which the Jews had rest from their enemies, as the month which was turned from sorrow to joy for them, and from mourning to a holiday; that they should make them days of feasting and joy, of sending presents to one another and gifts to the poor” (9:21-22).
The focus of celebration was not the death of one arch-enemy. Haman “had plotted against the Jews to annihilate them” (9:23). They were celebrating the profound relief and joy at knowing they were not going to be annihilated after all!
Wouldn’t this day be ultra-joyous if we knew there were no more followers of Al Qaeda, the Taliban, Hamas, Hezbollah, or other terrorist organizations?! If there was no more plots or even desires to destroy Israel (that they call “the little Satan”) or the United States (that they call “the great Satan”)?!
The death of Osama Bin Laden is significant for concrete reasons and psychological reasons, but it’s only a small success when one thinks of all of today’s threats to peace and security.
May the King of kings soon return to earth to defeat all would-be murderers and establish real peace on earth!