Recapitulation in the Hebrew Bible: Esther & King Saul

It’s so funny how details get in the way of our traditional readings of Scripture sometimes. Especially those annoying books (not to me) like Judges.

Anyhow, I have been reading theological works that have begun a turn back to Irenaeus of Lyons’ doctrine of recapitulation. Literally, the word comes from a Greek term, meaning to finish an argument, sort of like a lawyer giving her closing arguments. Irenaeus meant to use this term for Jesus and Mary, his mother, who recapitulate the story of creation and Israel in their bodies– an excellent work on this is J. Kameron Carter’s “Prelude on Christology and Race” in his Race: A Theological Account.

Anyhow, rather than going to straight narrative interpretations of Scripture which falls into the trap of ideology occasionally, I thought to do an experiment with recapitulation in the Old Testament minus the Christo-centrisim (Hey, I love Jesus, don’t worry my Barthian friends).

For starters, if we look on a superficial level, the Masoteric (Hebrew) text for Esther does not mention God at all. On the other hand, 1st Samuel chapters 10-15, contain numerous references to God and YHWH. In the Septuagint, however, Esther LXX has a number of references to God (see, I told you all we need to bring back the LXX if we know what’s good for us).

However get this:

First of all, Saul and Esther are from the same tribe of Israel–1st Samuel 9:1-2 & Esther 2:5-7

Saul is chosen in scandal–Recall the horrific last chapter in Judges 21; the tribe of Benjamin is “saved” from extinction because the men are allowed to rape and force marriage upon the single women from Jabesh-Gilead.

Fast forward to how Esther was chosen as queen: basically the same thing, only in the form of a “beauty pageant” (2:12-14).

In this way, Esther is continuing the shameful legacy of the Benjaminite men. However, the story does not end there.

Saul offends YHWH with his heretical worship practices and therefore brings destruction on both himself and Israel (1st Samuel 13:13) while Esther and her fellow exiled Jews’ prayers please God as they (it is assumed but not clear in the MT) are saved by YHWH from destruction.

Destruction from whom you may ask? Haman, a descendent of the Amalekites who Saul spares (1st Samuel 15:8-9).

I think in this instance, without getting into Zionism, Christology or supersessionism, the theory of recapitulation can work in the instance of Esther and Saul, given the details we have of the stories.

Go figure! Leave it to a woman to redeem a tribe who had to bear that awful history of near extinction and rape/forced marriages.

Oh and let’s not forget in the least, that Saul and Esther come from a long line of werewolves (Genesis 49:27 NRSV)–okay, that was a joke, people.

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2 thoughts on “Recapitulation in the Hebrew Bible: Esther & King Saul

  1. Pingback: Elsewhere (07.18.2011) | Near Emmaus

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