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IFB Pastor John MacFarlane Condones the Murder of Women and Children

esther 9

Evangelicals believe that the Bible is not only inspired by God, but it is also inerrant and infallible. This one belief is a millstone around the neck of Evangelical preachers, forcing them to defend everything from walking, talking snakes to a universal flood that killed millions of people, save eight, to misogyny, rape, incest, and genocide. No behavior is so bad and no story is so irrational, that it can’t be resolutely defended by Evangelical preachers if it is found in the Bible.

Last week, John MacFarlane, pastor of First Baptist Church in Bryan, Ohio had this to say in a daily devotional titled Victory:

Centuries earlier, another great leader made a Churchill-esque speech.  Her name was Queen Esther.  Upon the discovery that her people were sentenced to die, Esther needed to intervene.  Approaching the king without an invitation was as good as a death sentence but she had to do something.  Her courageous statement was made in Esther 4:16-17.

“Go, gather together all the Jews that are present in Shushan, and fast ye for me, and neither eat nor drink three days, night or day: I also and my maidens will fast likewise; and so will I go in unto the king, which is not according to the law: and if I perish, I perish.  (17)  So Mordecai went his way, and did according to all that Esther had commanded him.”

Haman’s nefarious plan was discovered.  Haman is hung on the gallows prepared for Mordecai, Mordecai is elevated in the king’s government, and a letter was drafted to the Jews and sealed with the king’s signet ring.  Esther 8:11 says, Wherein the king granted the Jews which were in every city to gather themselves together, and to stand for their life, to destroy, to slay, and to cause to perish, all the power of the people and province that would assault them, both little ones and women, and to take the spoil of them for a prey.”

When we reach Esther 9:5, we read, Thus the Jews smote all their enemies with the stroke of the sword, and slaughter, and destruction, and did what they would unto those that hated them.”

Perhaps we scratch our heads and wonder why God permitted such destruction of the enemies.  We know that the Jews are God’s people but this might seem a bit vengeful to some.  Instead, I see it as the ignorance of the king’s people!

A decree has gone out, signed by the king that the Jewish people can use whatever means necessary to defend themselves, killing their aggressors, and they are immune from any consequences.  This decree was public.  If I was the enemy, I already know what happened to Haman.  Wouldn’t common sense say, “Nobody is forcing me to fight.  Let’s call off the battle.”  Seems to me that those who died in battle brought it on themselves!

What possible defense can be made for the wholesale slaughter of men, women, children, babies, and unborn fetuses? Certainly not “kill them before they kill us.” Such a sentiment runs contrary to Jesus’ teachings. You know that pacifist guy they called the “Prince of Peace”?

John believes the people killed by the Jews brought it upon themselves. What exactly did the women, children, babies, and fetuses bring upon themselves? Were they not murdered because of whom they were married to or who their father was? It always amazes me to what great lengths Evangelicals will go to defend violence, bloodshed, and slaughter.

I looked at five different Evangelical commentaries to see what they had to say on the matter. One commentator appealed to the notion that it was customary for whole families to be slaughtered in warfare. Others, understanding how this story “looks” said that it is likely that the children were spared; that Esther doesn’t mention killing the children, so they must have been spared. Does anyone seriously believe the Israelites spared the children; that all of a sudden they became kind, compassionate people? I doubt it. And if they were spared, what became of them? Were they made slaves or forced into sexual servitude as we find in other Bible stories?

It is more likely that the women and children weren’t mentioned because they didn’t matter; they were considered little more than chattel property. Only the men who were slaughtered were mentioned in Esther 9. This is typical in the Old Testament. Only men — those whose semen carried on bloodlines — mattered.

John could have promoted a better way, using this story as an example of what believers should not do; that God calls us to mercy, peace, and compassion; that violence only begets violence; that Jesus commanded his followers to lay down their swords and eschew bloodshed. Instead, his theology demanded that he defend the Israelites (and God); if God said it, I believe it, end of discussion.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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  1. Avatar

    It’s good to see how stories incorporating themes of morality have changed over the years. In the “Star Wars” series, the Darth Vader character kills “younglings” twice. Once in a fit iof enraged vengeance after his mother dies (he kills the entire tribe of his mother’s captors, including the elders, women, and children) and after he chooses to turn to the Dark Side he slaughters all the children in training to become Jedi warriors. In both cases, slaughtering innocent children is considered one of the most horrid acts one can commit.

    It’s interesting how morality has shifted over several thousand years. Wholesale slaughter or enslavement of one’s enemies was once considered an admirable victory, and now those same actions are considered atrocious war crimes. So much for a never-changing God, huh?

  2. Avatar
    MJ Lisbeth

    Male prison inmates can include drug lords, members of organized crime rings, cop-killers and others who have committed brutal, violent acts. But, aside from snitches, the only inmates they hate more are rapists and those who harm or kill children–and are therefore most likely not to make it through their sentences intact.

    That seems like a fairer system of ethics than what’s depicted in Esther or any number of other books in the Bible.

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    And he glosses over exactly how Esther achieved this miraculous result. It surely wasn’t just her skilled use of words. What could it be?

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