Even when I was a boy, whenever I read Esther 7, I was fascinated by Harbonah.
The interesting part evolved from a situation from my home. It was routine for us to read the Bible on Sundays after lunch and my father would vividly explain those doubts which I raised as a boy of 12 years or so.
I couldn’t understand as to why Harbonah covered the face of Haman, when Ahaseurus asked rhetorically: Will he (Haman) force Esther in my presence in the house?
My father had to explain the context picturesquely and he said, “do you know that when I inspect prisoners and ask their grievances on Tuesdays, I go on rounds to every block of the prison and all the prisoners would be lined up in front of their respective blocks and I would lead a posse of prison officials and with me would be the District Medical Officer too?”
I said yes, I do.
Dad said:” But do you know that the convict warder Khader would be to my right, just a step behind me but between me and the closest prisoner, as I pass by?”
I said: so?
Dad said: “Those prisoners are criminals and I am the head of the Central prison and have to behave in a dignified manner. Yet, if any of those prisoners were to attack me or anyone, the first line of defence would be Khader. Khader would not mind his life but would do everything within his powers to stave off any assault on me and I could still remain composed, even in an ugly situation.”
He added: Even if a Prison Superintendent was so powerful that there were officials who would scorn their own lives, if that were so for a district official can you imagine the power of a ruler who ruled 127 provinces from Ethiopia to India?
That Harbonah was like our Khader, only the level was different. I got his point in my own juvenile way.
I have to describe Khader, otherwise this piece would have no meaning. He was a lifer, convicted of murder and serving life term. When a convict gets upgraded, he becomes an overseer first and thereafter he could become a CONVICT WARDER.
Khader used to be in white shirt like a policeman with half trousers and a leather belt with a brass buckle. He must have been 5’8” and stocky with no smile on his face. There was a certain sternness to his demeanour and a sense of decisiveness to his stride. He was also adept at electrical work and he used to have a plier slung with one handle in his right pocket. He could leave the jail unescorted and he would get back for sure. He was the most powerful person inside the prison except for the Jail Superintendent. He had his cell always open, in one corner of the jail and he was raising wild pigeons in the veranda nearby. It was reported that he would feed those pigeons with generous amounts of corn, supplied as per his requirements by the store in- charge. It was also reported that he ate pigeon meat for dinner, which were cooked inside the jail by those flunkeys, mostly remand prisoners, who had come under his ‘keep’!
Khader was a man with a purpose, he looked the type who had forgotten that he was a convict, yet absolutely loyal to only one person – the Jail Superintendent.
The plier on his right trouser pocket looked like the jawbone of an ass in the hands of Samson. His sheer presence could dissipate crowds of prisoners. No small talk; no banter; no smile; always purposeful and always busy. His lunch was the food sent to the Jail Superintendent for tasting, every afternoon. I am sure, that must have been tweaked to ensure that the Superintendent is not appalled by the food dished out to the general prisoners, by tasting that food, which came in a tray in stainless steel cups and bowls. The food might be from the same cauldron, but additives to give flavour and taste might have been added. I’ve tasted that a couple of times myself, to my utter disgust – even with all that tweaking.
This Khader who lived on royal jelly and pigeon meat, no wonder was stocky, muscular and loyal – how else could he keep his supplies in order thus.
The prisoners on Tuesdays could lift their hands up to 30 degrees from their elbows and if the Superintendent deigned to stop, Khader would be so alert that he would not only look into the eyes of that prisoner with a grievance but also circumspectly watch around that no other jailbird pounced on his master. His role was self-exalted by presumed threats and his assumed role was that of a protector of the body of the most powerful person.
Such was Harbonah.
I got it, I’m sure you as a reader must have got it too.
So, Haman, the Chief Minister of the Emperor Ahaseurus, had also been invited along with the emperor, by Esther for a dinner running the second day on the trot.
When the king asked Esther what she wanted, Esther begs for her life. Ahaseurus is aghast, as to who could threaten his Queen and promptly she says that it was the “wicked Haman”. The emperor is furious and walks out and when he returns he finds Haman fallen on the bed/couch of Esther. Freeze. In that instant the emperor says :
Then the king returned out of the palace garden into the place of the banquet of wine; and Haman was fallen upon the bed whereon Esther was. Then said the king, Will he force the queen also before me in the house? As the word went out of the king’s mouth, they covered Haman’s face.
The Bible says: No sooner had these words proceeded out of the mouth of the Emperor, Harbonah moves in and covers the face of Haman and drags Haman out of the presence of his the Emperor.
This Harbonah advises the method of disposal of Haman by informing the Emperor that Haman has raised a gallows at his own house to hang Mordecai, cousin/ uncle of Esther because of their pre-existing enmity.
Haman, the hen-pecked, had raised the gallows in his own house at the behest of his wife Zeresh, who advised him to hang Mordecai in that gallows.
Haman, who knew that Mordecai was a Jew failed to know that the Queen was not merely any Jewess, but the foster daughter of Mordecai!
All these pale into insignificance when we see Harbonah covering the face of his own Chief Minister and dragging him out to the gallows, no sooner had he heard the displeasure of the king Ahaseurus.
But where was Harbonah, when Vashti had refused to come to the banquet when the same Ahaseurus had invited her for showcasing her before the emperor’s princes and nobles? After all Harbonah had access to the king’s harem too. At that time, one Harbona, one of the seven Chamberlains was there, probably the same Harbonah! Had Harbonah got that Vashti before the emperor, we would not have had Purim.
Divine ways to have the Festival of Lights.
“Whether authors ever live to see the dawn of their fame depends upon the chance of circumstance; and the higher and more important their works are, the less likelihood there is of their doing so. That was an incomparable fine saying of Seneca’s, that fame follows merit as surely as the body casts a shadow; sometimes falling in front, and sometimes behind. And he goes on to remark that though the envy of contemporaries be shown by universal silence, there will come those who will judge without enmity or favor. From this remark it is manifest that even in Seneca’s age there were rascals who understood the art of suppressing merit by maliciously ignoring its existence, and of concealing good work from the public in order to favor the bad: it is an art well understood in our day, too, manifesting itself, both then and now, in an envious conspiracy of silence.”
The Essays of Arthur Schopenhauer: the Wisdom of Life
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When Bartimaeus’ eyes were opened, he realised that he had shouted out to the Son of David while he was still oblivious of the milling crowd outside Jericho, following Jesus.If only had Bartimaeus SEEN the crowd, he’d NOT have called out to Jesus, being afraid to draw attention to himself and having become overawed.Our faith remains stifled and unarticulated because we feel others are watching!Turn a blind eye and call out, the Redemption maybe in our calling to attention the Saviour passing by.
The Cheetah which had through circumstances lost the symbiotic forays with the Lion, wizened – not with age – but lack of nutrition, and realised how unequal relationships, though might work fabulously for a while, wouldn’t change the script of his Life structured by the cosmic force which had made him a creature of Speed and not Strength.Having reconciled with his genetic script, took to hunting smaller animals for his sustenance.His Expectation of pining for the Lion coming back had wasted a few months of his Life. Our Cheetah was finding it difficult to generate those unleashing leaps of a compressed spring. He took to scavenging, but even out of that false Expectation sprang Hope. He built his skills of guile, he would stealthily crawl up to less swift smaller animals and take them. This not just kept him going, but unconsciously built up his strength to become the Cheetah that he was genetically designed to be.The Cheetah’s confidence in himself grew with time. He learnt one of the biggest lessons of life: never ever build alliances with those who rely on your skills but give you an impression of favouring you by sharing pittance out of your own Labours. Better to be your Creator’s servant than serve another mortal Creature for a morsel. Better to live with the insecurity of a mortal than be secure in the shadow of another mortal‼️The Cheetah now has his lair on top of a flinty hillock overlooking a meadow, where he could see and choose his prey. The Cheetah thought to himself: Thou preparest a table before me – in the presence of Lions, which are nothing but creatures competing for the same stuff😎
This lion, which neither had a pride nor the care of a lioness once chanced upon a cheetah which had caught its prey but unable to kill it and eat it.When the Cheetah saw the lion, he meekly left the moribund stag and left. This lion reached the stag and deftly clamped his mouth on the jugular of the dying stag and within seconds had started feasting on the stag for which he had neither laboured nor planned. To put it in biblical terms, “the lion had entered into the labours of the cheetah” (John 4:37)The lion after satiating himself, left behind a considerable portion of the carcass which the cheetah, which was salivating for from afar, stealthily moved before the hyenas could reach and had its fill.Said the Cheetah to itself in realisation: I was swift to catch the stag but I neither had the strength of a lion’s paw to pin it down nor its jaws & claws to rip the stag. What a great FINISHER.Yeah, the Lion was a Finisher!The lion which had snoozed for a greater part of that evening woke up to find the cheetah standing at an audible distance. The lion sleepily yawned and asked the Cheetah, if he had had the rest of the stag. The cheetah shouted back , YES SIR!This was reassuring to the lion which not only believed in its own superiority but believed in the acknowledgement of the same by the other animals. The lion said: Anyway, you would not have killed the stag had I not intervened.The cheetah replied: yes sir, the drain in my energy would have been more than the gain.The Lion liked the rhyme besides the truthful acceptance instead of a claim over the stag as the first capturer!Now the lion and the cheetah are great friends.The cheetah’s speed brings the quarry down and the imperial lion takes over the prey for its warm blood and its lion’s share.This symbiosis had a threat in the form of a lioness, which this Lion tracked after a year of that incident. The lioness and the lion raised a family and in due course the Cheetah was being left with mere bones despite his usual speed in bringing down the quarry.The lioness has been busy with its cubs and was a lil sluggish too. Where leisure and time comes one’s meal, Mischief spawns. The lioness asked the lion: why have your friend, that emaciated cheetah hanging around, when you are so powerful and strong? Why share your quarry with that tear marked sprinter?The Lion though knew that it was the Cheetah which gave the chase and brought down the quarry, was shy of admitting it before his woman.The Lion said, YEAH WHY SHOULD I?The lion told the cheetah of the lioness’ opinion and wanted him to move out.Till date, neither the Pride has had it so good as before, nor the Sprinting Cheetah.Though disparate in skills & power, well matched alliances of skills and power synergise to accomplish great tasks with ease.
“The Man and the LionA MAN and a Lion traveled together through the forest. They soon began to boast of their respective superiority to each other in strength and prowess. As they were disputing, they passed a statue carved in stone, which represented “a Lion strangled by a Man.” The traveler pointed to it and said: “See there! How strong we are, and how we prevail over even the king of beasts.” The Lion replied: “This statue was made by one of you men. If we Lions knew how to erect statues, you would see the Man placed under the paw of the Lion.”One story is good, till another is told.”False exploits and credit taking for others’ work done well should be treated as FAKE NEWS!
Zophar the Naamathite‼️Zophar was a friend of Job and in chapter 11 he launches defending God and expatiates on all aspects of His glory.In the first flush it seems true. It is not the contents which Zophar utters which irks and draws a fitting response from Job, at chapter 13 of the book as much as the mettle of the person who said it & the person to whom it was addressed.Hypocrisy is not revealed better in any other piece of literature I’ve ever read.Job’s predicament of having been subjected to the misfortunes that he was going through was not because of the “fault theory” or even “randomness of events”, there was a testimony by the Creator on Job, which was assailed by the Creator’s antipode, the Devil, on the grounds that Job stood protected by God, the Creator, and consequently Job was merely ‘grateful’ and once the protection of God was removed, Job would not be ‘perfect’.God, allows Satan to assault Job serially after God removes the protection gradually till Job is denuded of all protection except Job’s life.It is in these circumstances that Job’s three friends find him and Zophar requires Job to ‘repent’.Job’s justification is known to the readers as his misfortunes were not the cause of his faults.Zophar eulogises God and tells Job to repent.Chapter 13 shows that Job couldn’t find anything to repent. Zophar should have left it at that, but he exalts God and His virtues.Job demolishes Zophar’s arguments by saying the Zophar was not worthy of talking of God.It is not uncommon to find priests walking into houses and telling people to repent, neither leading worthy lives of making such a demand on innocent people and rounding off their demands by exalting God.Maybe Zophar’s averments would have worked with lesser mortals, but Job was of a sterner stuff. Job’s answer thus is amazing:7 Will ye speak wickedly for God? and talk deceitfully for him?
8 Will ye accept his person? will ye contend for God?
9 Is it good that he should search you out? or as one man mocketh another, do ye so mock him?
10 He will surely reprove you, if ye do secretly accept persons.
11 Shall not his excellency make you afraid? and his dread fall upon you?
Job’s assertion is: be worthy of talking and taking up for God and just don’t do it because an institution has vested you with temporal authority. Spiritual humility is fundamental.Jesus’ challenge at Luke 13: that do you think that the tower fell on them in Siloam and you have been spared is because you are more righteous? Is similar to what Job told Zophar, Bildad and the other friend.
The New Living Version of the Bible runs as follows and is easier to comprehend:
Are you defending God with lies?
Do you make your dishonest arguments for his sake?
8Will you slant your testimony in his favor?
Will you argue God’s case for him?
9What will happen when he finds out what you are doing?
Can you fool him as easily as you fool people?
10No, you will be in trouble with him
if you secretly slant your testimony in his favor.
11Doesn’t his majesty terrify you?
Doesn’t your fear of him overwhelm you?
12Your platitudes are as valuable as ashes.
Your defense is as fragile as a clay pot.
13“Be silent now and leave me alone.
Let me speak, and I will face the consequences.
Interpreting, without factoring the text or the context or the person to whom it applies, is terrible!