The Historical World (prep assignment for Week 5)
The principle of looking at the Historical World is that all texts are written in specific social, economic, cultural, political and religious settings. While not all texts accurately mirror a “real” world (e.g. science fiction), many texts can be understood better if the reader knows more about the world behind the text. The purpose of this assignment is to focus on data that can help reconstruct this world. This data includes people, places, things, dates, events, and processes.
The main concern in this week’s assignment is to inquire about the social and historical realities in Esther’s story that would help us understand the context of the book of Esther. The point of the following questions is to move beyond what the story says, and to think about the cultural context in which the author of this story lived, and in which this story emerged. This means that if the author mentions something about the place of women in society you have to move beyond what the author explicitly says about this matter, and investigate what the place of women were typically like in that kind of culture at that time. Again, just reading the story will likely not be enough to respond to the questions that follow, as though the stories might indicate some information that can help respond to these questions, the answers themselves are in the culture from which the story emerged. Your responses to these questions should be written in paragraph form and should be detailed and well developed, such that the final product should be between 500-600 words.
1. What are the assumptions being made about the nature and use of power and authority?
2. Describe the relationship between God’s people to the people in whose land they live?
3. What are the assumptions being made about the role of women in Persian society?
4. Given the power structure of Persian society describe the relationships of Vashti to Ahasuerus, Esther to Ahasuerus, Vashti to Esther, Mordecai to Ahasuerus? Mordecai to Haman?
5. What has Vashti done wrong, if anything? What about Mordecai? Haman? Esther? (Read carefully and check your own assumptions.)
6. What are somethings that are happening historically in other cultures that could provide some interesting background information for the events that happens in Esther’s story?
Note: This is a similar process that you will use in your final paper for the book of Esther. Pay attention to the kinds of questions that will need to be asking regarding historical context.
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