Esther, Mark Driscoll, and using rape to control women

Esther, Mark Driscoll, and using rape to control women September 10, 2012


Queen Esther – copyright 2006 Lilian Broca

[Trigger warning for rape apologism and Mark Driscoll quotes]

Growing up, the book of Esther was always my favorite because it featured two very brave women.

First, there was Vashti. I’ve loved Vashti ever since a grade school teacher came to class dressed up as Vashti and told us the story about how she had been exiled by the king because she asserted herself and refused to dance for the king’s drunken friends. She was a brave woman who claimed her body as her own–rather than her tyrant husband’s–in a day and age where women were viewed as property by most people.

Esther was always my favorite Bible character. As a kid, I loved her because she was a girl, and the Bible doesn’t talk about many of those. Plus she was brave. She was taken from her home and forced to marry a ruler who was oppressing her people. She was sexually exploited and probably raped, but still she boldly disobeyed the king’s orders, risking her life, and demanded that he protect her people.

In short, both of these women faced the horrors of male domination. Both of these women kicked ass in spite of those horrors.

The book of Esther contains a powerful message. Women disobeying men and saving the world. Women asserting their bodily autonomy. Women who are brave and strong and active and anything but submissive. It’s a message so powerful that some male Christian leaders have to undermine it because it threatens the control that they have over women. 

Mark Driscoll (as always, every mention of Driscoll’s name will have a hyperlink to an adorable bunny. Enjoy) is one such male Christian leader who seems to have an obsessive need to control women. He has recently made attempts at undermining both Vashti and Esther–attempts that make his disdain for women increasingly obvious.

His attempts aren’t original by any means. The only thing shocking about them is their boldness. Where most men are subtle about their attempts to water down Esther and Vashti’s stories, Mark Driscoll doesn’t even try to hide. Here are a few excerpts from a recent post on his website, emphasis mine (you can read the whole thing here if you’re concerned about context. As is often the case with Driscoll, I think the context just makes it worse):

Esther is painfully normal.

Her behavior is sinful and she spends around a year in the spa getting dolled up to lose her virginity with the pagan king…Today, her story would be, a beautiful young woman living in a major city allows men to cater to her needs, undergoes lots of beauty treatment to look her best, and lands a really rich guy whom she meets on The Bachelor and wows with an amazing night in bed. She’s simply a person without any character until her own neck is on the line…

He continues:

Esther has been grossly misinterpreted.

Feminists have tried to cast Esther’s life as a tragic tale of male domination and female liberation. Many evangelicals have ignored her sexual sin and godless behavior to make her into a Daniel-like figure, which is inaccurate. Some have even tried to tie her story in with modern-day, sex-slave trafficking…

According to Mark Driscoll, this brave Jewish heroine was “godless,” “sinful,” lacking in character, and just trying to trade in her virginity for a rich husband and a life of pampering.  

What about Vashti, then, who refused to allow the king to sexually exploit her? Does Driscoll praise her effort to fight back against her male oppressor? Don’t be silly. Of course not. In fact, in his book, Real Marriage, criticizes Vashti for refusing to submit to her husband.

Neither of these women can do right, according to Driscoll’s narrative, and that’s just the way he wants it. That’s how he maintains the careful hierarchy he has set up, with him and Cage Fighting Jesus on top. 

Mark Driscoll, like Jared and Douglas Wilson and so many others before them, uses rape to control women. No, I’m not accusing him of actually raping women or even of actively approving of the rape of women. He doesn’t have to. All he has to do is retell the stories of two women who didn’t have a chance to say no. 

By retelling Esther’s story, he turns every victim of rape or sexual exploitation into a godless sinner, rather than a brave survivor. By retelling Vashti’s story, he turns every victim of male-on-female domestic abuse into a shrew that had it coming and should have submitted in the first place.

When Driscoll retells these stories, he takes away our heroes and turns them into tools of oppression. He uses them to tell women how to act, how to think, how to feel. He tells women, though these stories, that before marriage they must defend their virginity, even to the death. That failing to defend their virginity, even against powerful rapists, makes women worthless. He tells women that we do not have the right to our own bodies once we marry. That we do not have the right to tell our husbands no.

That before marriage, giving into rape is a sin. That after marriage, fighting back against rape is a sin.

That we can’t win.

That’s the message that Mark Driscoll ultimately  relays to women in his retelling of Esther. That no matter what we do, we can’t win. 


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  • alisewrite

    To add to the crazy-making, despite the fact that he totally is all about the whole patriarchy thing, he chides Esther for “allow(ing) men to tend to her needs and make her decisions.”

    Seriously, you can’t be a woman and win with him. It’s just impossible.

    • He’d probably be totally cool with it if the men in question had been American-style conservative Christians. Note that he refers to Ahasuerus as “the pagan king” and to Mordecai as the keeper of a “lukewarm religious home.”

      Too frustrating for words.

      • I know, right? Seriously, what basis does he have for calling Mordecai lukewarm?

      • Then he says elsewhere that if Esther had a real family to support her, she wouldn’t have married the king. Right. Like her “real family” wouldn’t have sold her to the king if they’d been offered enough money or cows.

    • Yes! I thought the same thing. Doesn’t Driscoll WANT us to let men tend to our needs and make decisions? Ugh.

  • I want God to strike Driscoll dumb. Please God. Shut him up. Whatever it takes.

    • I think this is actually quite important – I do pray for Driscoll from time to time, because I have family members all caught up in his manipulations. I should pray more. “God change him – turn his heart – wake his followers from his spell.”

  • When I read his views on Esther, I gagged. Esther and Vashti spoke against power, and if I am not mistaken, Esther disobedience helped save the Jews. No Jews equals no Jesus(cage fighting or not).

    • If Cage Fighting Jesus did not exist through the Jews, Cage Fighting Jesus would have existed in other ways. For wherever there is oppression, misogyny, and religious-based fear and hatred, there is Cage Fighting Jesus.

      • Jasdye, thank you for making me laugh. This whole situation has been enough to make me want to cry. More than that, it’s made me red-faced, shaking with anger at how callous a “man of God” (which god?) could be toward effectively a victim of human trafficking … and how callous that attitude will lead people to be against modern victims of trafficking and sexual assault.

        So thank you, thank you, thank you for making me laugh in the midst of all this.

  • Wow. What a powerful and accurate indictment of the male domination espoused by Driscoll. Thank you.

  • Brava, Sarah, for speaking out and using your voice. You are spot on and we can’t let him get away with this. By the way, have you seen One Night with the King?

  • It’s an incredibly dishonest reading of the Bible to think that Esther CHOSE to become part of the king’s harem. Not to mention absolutely horrific and absurd. There’s so much wrong with everything he’s saying that it just makes my head spin.

  • So…she’s Carrie Bradshaw?

  • Brilliant as usual.
    The Driscoll bunny links remind me of the Jewish practice of waving “groggers” (noisemakers) and boo-ing every time Haman is mentioned during the reading of the book of Esther at Purim. I want to do the same whenever I hear Driscoll’s name, but the bunnies are more fun! Super subversive! Now all we need is a Driscoll pastry, like Hamantaschen – something light and flaky, of course.

    • Bunnies definitely made it possible to get through all the Driscoll quotes.

      • Amen to that lol seriously, though, I am praying for his eyes to be opened to the danger of his thinking

  • I just wanna say……he’s NOT a relative!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Well done, Sarah. I was horrified when I read Driscoll’s post yesterday. His point of view is mind-boggling and I hate that so many people will be exposed to his inaccurate theology and poor view of Esther and women in general. I echo Joy’s prayer.

  • “All he has to do is retell the stories of two women who didn’t have a chance to say no. ” “he takes away our heroes and turns them into tools of oppression.” I love your take on this. It was one of the worst posts I’ve ever ever read. UGH!!

  • Bix

    I just wanted to say that I also found t

  • “That before marriage, giving into rape is a sin. That after marriage, fighting back against rape is a sin.”

    Beautifully put (even though it’s the ugliest line of thinking).

    • I was going to comment something similar to this, but you said it so much better.

  • And … Esther is honored in Jewish tradition — and which Jesus would have participated in — through the feast of Purim.

    It seems to me we have to start there.

  • And then, no one addresses the logic or historical precedent of Driscoll’s teaching. Just that he’s a big bad man who hates women. Ahem, his sermon hasn’t happened yet. You’re implying he’s okay with rape, which he never said.

    • 1. There’s no logic or historical precedent to address. His exegesis is terrible and he completely ignores the social context of Esther.
      2. He IS a big, bad man who hates women.
      3. I criticized him within the context of his blog post on the subject, linked to and quoted from above.
      4. This was in the blog post: “Mark Driscoll, like Jared and Douglas Wilson and so many others before them, uses rape to control women. No, I’m not accusing him of actually raping women or even of actively approving of the rape of women. He doesn’t have to. All he has to do is retell the stories of two women who didn’t have a chance to say no.”

      Now, did you have a real argument or are you just blindly following Driscoll? Because I’m not even going to deal with the latter.

    • @Garth-huh? Esther was a virgin, her night with the king was probably forced- at best her arranged wedding night, and if she didn’t have a choice, that constitutes rape, emotionally at least.

      btw check out:

      There is a true spiritual and emotional abuse related to Mars Hill going on in the church lately; I am sad that it is occasionally polarizing men and women, but glad for the men that speak out to defend women.

      Garth, as a male (I assume), you have no idea how MD’s words hurt me personally as a female, having always thought highly of Esther’s character as a great example for a godly woman BASED ON THE TEXT.

      Having re-read it in context, he is still 100% wrong. And he feels it’s ok to teach his opinions over what is actually known to be fact. Appalling. And also why the bunnies are a big help- it’s not the first time he’s butchered Scripture to make his warped points, and i am sick of hearing stuff about him.

      I think it is very possible he has NPD… He’s certainly the bloggers’ button-pusher.

  • I feel like Mark Driscoll doesn’t even view the story in the context of culture and time period that it took place.

    Lovely post. Thank you for standing up for Vashti and Esther. I love the story of Esther. My mother named me after her with the desire that I would be strong…that when the time came to act and do the right thing that I would do it. Thanks again.

  • Many if not most Jewish scholars (and plenty of Christian ones) feel that none of Esther happened. Vast historical writings cover Xerxes’ reign, but never mention her, her cousin, or Haman. (very suspicious)

    There are Babylon Gods and Goddesses with very similar names though.

    Perhaps like Driscoll hopes to use scripture (lowercase S) to justify something he wants to say just as early writers created it to do or say something else too.

    (Was this blog bait?) 🙂

    Let’s not get too wound up, friends.

    • It doesn’t matter whether or not the events are historical. I don’t even believe that’s the point of the Bible. But stories convey and reinforce worldviews.

      Mark Driscoll is taking a story that honors women and using it to slut shame, to blame rape victims, to control women. I will get wound up about that. Absolutely. I have every right and every reason to.

    • Because the story is most likely mythos, therefore the tellings of those stories to strengthen male supremacy shouldn’t be of concern?

      So, gender and race are also fabricated, right? Should we not concern ourselves when these fabrications are used to dominate non-male cis people and people of color? It’s all made up, right? So what’s the difference?

  • JDE

    Driscoll’s statements are excellent illustrations of the fact that those who claim not to interpret the Bible, but to take it at face value, do in fact interpret all the time.

    As for Driscoll himself – the bunnies would have more intelligent things to say.

  • As a rabbit owner, I heartily approve of this use of rabbits.

    What you’ve done quite well in this post is trace the logical conclusions of Driscoll’s theology. That’s the thing. Even for those who treat theology as something they think about rather than apply, it has a way of impacting how we live. The shame and humiliation his interpretation of Esther brings to women does not have anything in common with the freedom and peace that Jesus sought to bring.

  • Esther

    I have just finished a series on Esther at our church. I struggled with her character and her motivation, her attempts to dodge her opportunity to save her people, and the fact that in all the research I did, I could not find any proof of whether she chose to go into the harem or was forced. So I chickened out and went with the viewpoint that many of us have – that she was forced, and did the best she could in a difficult situation, and won the top prize.

    Driscoll has gone for the alternate approach – that she joined in with everyone around her and compromised herself. That like many other bible characters, she made some poor decisions, but that God was able to bring an amazing plan out of all of it. Why are we being so precious about her? Isn’t that what many many other bible characters did? I am really intrigued about how he’s going to approach the story and the conclusions he’s going to draw from it after grabbing everyone’s interests.

    Driscoll’s introduction talks about all the characters being flawed, but you haven’t mentioned what he says about the men in the story at all. He thinks all the characters are out for their own best interests, which by my maths means he’s going to going to spend more time challenging men about their attitudes than women about theirs.

    Finally, to describe him as encouraging rape is sickening and suggests more about your character (and I’m sorry for whatever your motivation is, I don’t know what you’ve been through) than his. I am not an avid follower of Mark Driscoll or of the many debates about his character – but almost every time I’ve heard him preach, he has challenged the unacceptable behaviour of men who are abusive, manipulative, and disrespectful towards women, particularly in the area of sex.

    You are right about one thing though – he always seems to put Jesus at the top.

  • [Driscoll] has challenged the unacceptable behaviour of men who are abusive, manipulative, and disrespectful towards women

    …by, oddly enough, being abusive, manipulative, and disrespectful towards women.

    Irony. Meet your maker.

    • Pam

      I was going to say, the one time I went to hear Driscoll speak (a number of years ago, early in his celibripastor rise), the only time he addressed the women in the audience was to ask the single women to raise our hands if we’d like to get married some day, and then told the single men to ‘man up’ and marry us. That’s not challenging unacceptable attitudes towards women – that’s reducing us to chattel.

  • Oops

    In a weird irony somehow missed in this post, there is no evidence that Esther was anything other than willing in her relationship to the king (the idea that she was raped, while clear in other passages of Scripture, is not found in Esther), and her actions that saved her people came when she did what Mordecai her uncle told her to do (Esther 4:8-16). Weird eh? Somehow that didn’t make this post. Not sure why, unless it is customary to here to make point by omitting the actual story the point is being made from.

    You see, while I think Driscoll is mostly an idiot, what you have here is a post that doesn’t appear to have any familiarity with what Esther is actually about, or even what it says. Before applauding it, read your Bibles.

    BTW, Vashti’s refusal to dance was likely because she was pregnant.

    • oh my god historical context people!

      • Oops

        Exactly my point. I have (almost) a PhD in Old Testament so I am well familiar with exegesis, and well familiar with the historical context of the post-exilic period which has been an area I have taught in for a number of years.

        Most people (perhaps even you) can’t even identify the king, nor the time period of the story of Esther because you don’t know the historical context. My guess is that you can’t read Hebrew either, but you don’t have to here. The English is quite clear: There is no hint of rape, and no suggestion of it. And Esther’s defense of her people occurs only after she responds to Mordecai. That is undeniable, and it doesn’t take great exegetical skills to read the words on the page.

        You talk about me being condescending, but that seems rather hypocritical given your response to me which was just a condescending personal attack. If you read my post, you can see everything I said was true: You left out major parts of the story that actually prove your point wrong, and that’s ironic.

        So here’s my challenge, and I am willing to listen: Stop the personal stuff and (1) show me where the text says anything about rape or force, or unwillingness on the part of Esther; and (2) explain to me how you reconcile Esther 4 and the story of the text that shows Esther’s actions were in response to Mordecai’s advice.

        • She was taken from her home and forced to marry a ruler who was oppressing her people. She was sexually exploited and probably raped

          Are you serious?

          This post is about the fact that an influential Christian leader decided to interpret the book of Esther as the story of a slut who turned submissive to men. It’s all about interpretation. Sarah expressed that her interpretation is an interpretation. That is based in large part on ancient world perspectives on the person-hood of females (that being that women are property).

          Is this about how awesome you are, or is this about something else?

          • Oops

            Just to be clear, that wasn’t my comment. I have already stated my position on Driscoll (he is mostly an idiot). I have already pointed out that my comments are really interpretive per se. You can read the text and see that there is no mention of rape, or force. In fact, there is no mention of sex. It is likely that the night involved sex, but we don’t actually see that in the text. And that’s my point: The text doesn’t say rape.

            Secondly, the text is quite clear that Esther was inclined to be quiet, but ultimately changed her mind based on the advice of Mordecai. Again, that’s not interpretation per se. It’s the way that the text presents the story.

            Feel free to disagree, but use the text to show us why you disagree.

            And above all, don’t attribute someone else’s comments to me. If I didn’t say it, I won’t take responsibility for it.

          • It wasn’t your comment. It was Sarah Moon’s. From the blog. That you’re replying to.

            Or so you say…

          • Oops

            Okay, fair enough. I wasn’t sure why it was there since it was as a reply to my post, but it had nothing to do with anything I said. It perhaps would have been better suited as a stand alone comment.

            As you can tell from reading my post, I was focused directly on what she omitted from her post, information that would have given an entirely different side to the story.

            I am not sure why my perspective is a problem though. Would you really have us believe that no woman 500 years ago would enter willingly into a consensual sexual relationship? Or that no woman ever used her sexuality to get something she wanted? Or that every woman who ever took the advice of a man did so because she was being manipulated and coerced? I find that to be a very negative view of women.

            I think it entirely possible that Esther willingly entered into this relationship and was not raped, and that she took the advice of Mordecai because it was good advice. There is no hint that I see in the text that Esther was some beat-down woman who was forced and raped against her will. And that’s all my point is: Let’s read the text and see what it says. And let’s go with that. There is no need to add all kinds of other things to the story.

          • Is it possible that the scripture doesn’t say anything about rape because by Ancient Near Eastern standards, she wasn’t raped? In the ancient world, heck, even the medieval, and many parts today, forced/arranged marriage isn’t considered “rape.”

            Only forcible rape would be considered “legitimate rape” (ahem) in such a culture, because women were rarely given any say as to who they married.

            Today, however, most of us have a broader definition of “rape,” which includes more than catching someone outside the village and forcibly violating her. Nobody’s accusing the king (Whether he was Xerxes or someone else) of forcible rape, but the situation is one that modern audiences consider rape.

            Women in Esther’s time didn’t get to choose when and who they married, like women (in industrialized nations, at least) do today. And marriage means sex.

            So, forced marriage + consummation = what? By today’s standards, “rape” is the closest term.

          • Pam

            I’d bring the argument to even more recent history. Marital rape wasn’t even a crime in most countries until at least the 1970s – it is still not considered a crime in far too many countries. So no, the book of Esther doesn’t mention rape or force – because they didn’t consider it rape back then. Of course, they didn’t consider what the woman (girl) thought at all, so putting in Esther’s feelings would never have occurred to the writer.

          • exactly!

    • Man, I was frustrated with this comment at first. But your condescending tone (ooops!) is just cracking me up now since you obviously know nothing about exegesis. It’s funny when people are condescending but don’t know what they’re talking about.

      • Esther

        Yes, you have summed yourself up very well there. As you said:

        “The book of Esther contains a powerful message. Women disobeying men and saving the world. Women asserting their bodily autonomy. Women who are brave and strong and active and anything but submissive.”

        Esther at no point in the story disobeyed any of the men – she did exactly what they said, even seeking out their advice, in the case of Hegai. In Esther 4:11 it emphasises that although her life was at risk, it was purely dependant on the mood of the king as to whether a person lived or died. She got exactly where she did because of being submissive (whether we think her intentions were good or selfish).

        If your summary was the point of the book of Esther, it would go directly against the teachings of many many other portions of scripture, about humility, submissiveness, and serving others (Matthew 23:12; Philippians 2:3-5; Hebrew 13:17; James 4:6-10).

        There is no historical context or exegesis to refute those facts.

        • Esther, since you are a woman and I am a man, I command you to stop using the bible as a weapon for authoritarianism and male supremacy.

  • Wow, that whole list of his is…strange.

    It starts out okay, but then…I don’t know…he keeps going back and forth it seems on what his take is on Ester. It’s hard to get a real read on his opinion of it…but then he seems to say it’s a good, Godly thing in the end..

    I don’t get the whole “no well-known preacher has preached on it”. Well, I doubt that well-known preachers (?) have preached on the less popular books of the Bible at all, so…yeah.

    Ester *does* seem to be a book that shows up a LOT more in women’s Bible study than it does on the podium.

    And the whole “sexual sin” thing is just…weird. I don’t know where he got that from, or if he’s even ever read the whole thing, but…there’s nothing about Ester behaving sinfully in that book; she did what she did to save her people! If that isn’t the right thing to do, then I don’t know what is.

    OTOH, not sure about the rape. It’s possible, I guess..? But I’m not sure that that’s what happened; I just don’t see it anywhere in there either.

    But yeah, I always wondered why Vashti was considered a terrible person. She decided to stand up against her husband’s drunk shenanigans, and I have to say…I would have likely done the same thing! In a case like that, I wouldn’t be surprised if she did it just so that she WOULD be banished! lol

    Have you seen “One Night With The King”? Really great movie, if a bit overly romantic for what was likely going on.

  • paperthinhymn

    here is a brief examination and exegesis I wrote for this whole thing

    summary conclusion; Mark purposely picks the worst possible construction for her

    • Thank you! This is great!

    • Esther

      Thankyou. This is a much better exegesis of the story of Esther, and as he tends to go through books in detail, I’m really interested to know how Driscoll will address these verses. Very well written.

  • Esther

    Sarah, I really would like you to reply to my comments please. I’m not a hater or a troll – I’ve never met you (and have never commented on someone else’s blog like this), but I am intrigued and confused by your response to MD and to the other comments on here. You have laughed at someone else’s response by telling them they have no idea about historical background or exegesis but a) you haven’t responded to the well-thought out response and questions he gave you, and b) your own summary of Esther in your article actually ignores what’s in the actual biblical text (as I said above) so it doesn’t fit with any exegesis at all.

    My interest in what you have written is because I haven’t encountered this view of Mark Driscoll before. My experience of his teaching so far as only been positive (I’m not saying I agree with everything he says or the way he says it) because it’s had a really big impact on the lives of people around me. Several of my family members were struggling in their marriages and their leadership roles, either through apathy or domination. One marriage in particular seemed to be beyond repair, until the husband began to listen to MD’s teaching. It revolutionised his marriage over the next year, as he realised how much he had been devaluing his wife, avoiding responsibility for his mistakes and other selfish behaviour. He has now like a different guy – he enables his wife in dreams she’s had for a long time, he supports their family better, is more enthusiastic about God, and this has had a knock-on effect on other guys around him. They’ve listened to MD too, and the difference it’s made in the individuals, marriages and families around me has been great!

    So you can see why I am confused. I’ve never heard him called a ‘woman-hater’ before, because I’ve only ever heard him talk (or read his books) about respecting women, helping them to fulfil their desires and treating them honourably. I could quote lots and lots, but here’s one of his appeals to men:

    “We are to be tough with stiff-necked, hard-hearted men who bully others around. We are to be tough in carving out safety and protection for women and children in a world that abuses them. As men, we are to be tender in comforting the hurting, encouraging the downcast, and teaching the simple. We are to be tender with our wives, loving them as Christ loves the church.” (Real Marriage, p44)

    If he’s also preaching stuff that goes against this, then I really want to know about it and read or listen to it, because I don’t want to be recommending him to people if what he says is not consistent.

    I am going to listen to his exegesis of Esther with an open mind – if he’s undermining the value he’s previously placed on women, and accusing rape victims of being sinful, then I won’t continue to listen to him or recommend him. If he’s taking an opportunity to tackle the issue of young women who wrongly use their sexuality to try and manipulate men, while actually trying to find their identity and worth through being used by men (which is a massive issue in the area where I live), and the men who abuse them, then I’ll be really glad he’s speaking up about this.


    • Esther

      I also read this this morning (I’m in the UK, not an insanely early morning person! 🙂 ) from Real Marriage p202-203

      “Under no circumstances is sexual assault of any sort acceptable in marriage…There is nothing beneficial from anyone, usually the wife, enduring assault or abuse of any kind, especially sexually. If you are a woman believing the lies that it is your fault because you make him angry, that you don’t deserve to be treated any better, or that suffering a life of terror is better than the consequences of divorce, you are in danger. And unless he gets professional help and truly changes – which is rare – things will get worse…Tragically, some women settle for this kind of life. Or perhaps even worse, they tell their church leadership, only to be told that when Paul said our bodies belongs to our spouse, it means the wife is basically a piece of property…[some women] will return to the abuse in the name of submission – as if the abuse is what God had in mind for her.
      Anytime a husband or church leader or church leader demands the wife obey the Bible without doing the same for a husband, he is sanctioning abuse. Any professing Christian man who assaults his wife is a heretic preaching a false gospel with his life. A man is to love his wife as Christ loves the church. Jesus’ relationship with the church is not one of rape, violence, abuse, and degradation. There is no place for any assault – including sexual assault – in any marriage.”

      So you can see why I’m confused at your take on him!

      • Here’s the thing. While I don’t believe MD would ever actively approve of rape or actually rape someone, he approves of and promotes it not-so-very subtly in his messages. First of all, he doesn’t seem to understand the definition of rape. Rape is any act of penetration forced upon women using physical force, coercion, or fear. He calls women who don’t give their husbands blow jobs sinners who need to repent and tells them that they can’t be biblical if they don’t do so ( When he does that, he is passively using fear to force wives to commit a sexual act that they are not comfortable with. It’s spiritual abuse (because he has this great power of Jesus, who can damn people to hell, on his side) and it’s sexual abuse (because women don’t have the chance to say no. If they say no, they don’t really love Jesus according to MD).

        Here we see the same thing. Though the book of Esther may not specifically use the word rape, from the historical context of harem life we can draw that Esther was likely a young, 13-14 year old girl. She likely would have been killed for saying no. one really important thing to understand about rape is that consent (enthusiastically saying yes to a sexual act…without consent, sexual acts are rape) is not possible if saying no is not possible. Even if Esther willingly went to the king’s chamber out of fear, she had no other option. It was that or end up like Vashti. MD chooses to focus only on Esther’s sexuality, calling her characterless, godless, and a sinner for sleeping with the king. When he does that, he is passively telling all women that when they are raped because they are afraid to say no to a man, they are characterless and godless as well. He is telling women that when they lose their virginity, they lose everything good about them, which isn’t true, whether you’ve been raped or even if you chose to have sex.

        I promise you that these are not the only instances where he has said horrible, hateful things to women. A quick google search will show you that, despite what good things he might say, he contradicts himself all the time.

        • Esther

          Thanks so much, it’s very helpful to know what has sparked the controversy over his teaching. I can see how people have taken offence and drawn misogynistic conclusions about his character.

          I think because I am coming from a place of trust and appreciation of what I’ve seen his ministry bring about, that I see these references from a different point of view though. I read through quite a few articles against him, and the full transcripts that they quoted from, and in each one I thought there was a bigger picture that balanced the more controversial parts. His Scottish sermons were overstated and badly worded and I don’t agree with them, but in the Peasant Princess series (I couldn’t find the full transcriptions of the Scottish ones – only partial transcriptions with the worst bits highlighted) although he covered the same material (with better words!) he also specifically talked about talking to each other as a couple about what they are comfortable doing and not doing, listening, respecting each other’s views and serving each other, as he does in his marriage book.

          It’s the first time I’ve come across MD’s views on sex within marriage, but I actually had no problem with it because I already read and follow Christian women authors who talk about this stuff regularly – having fun with your husband sexually, enjoying each other, setting boundaries so you’re both comfortable, getting over past sexual trauma, etc, so I’ve read MD’s comments as an extension of that. (A great book is Sheila Wray Gregoire’s ‘Good Girl’s Guide to Sex’)

          I guess because we are looking from different perspectives, what you see as contradictions, I see as him covering all the different angles, balancing and talking into the different extremes, like opening women’s eyes that certain sexual acts are not dirty, while telling a guy never to be harsh or demanding with his wife. Hope that makes sense.

          As I’ve looked through a few of your other blog posts, I see this Mark Driscoll thing runs deep with you, so I’m not gonna push it anymore, except to repeat the amazing benefits I’ve seen from his teaching – several women that feel more loved, appreciated, respected and enabled by their husbands, marriages that have been saved, and kids that are growing up in happier, more secure homes.

          Hope that’s helpful.

  • silvereyes1945

    “Esther at no point in the story disobeyed any of the men – she did exactly what they said, even seeking out their advice, in the case of Hegai. In Esther 4:11 it emphasises that although her life was at risk, it was purely dependant on the mood of the king as to whether a person lived or died. She got exactly where she did because of being submissive (whether we think her intentions were good or selfish).”

    I think your missing the point of the book of Esther. For one thing; Vashti is used as a foil to highlight Esther’s dilemma. Vashti disobeys the king and gets banished (or executed). The king gets angry and passes a law that states all wives should honor their husbands while the men rule the house. Esther impresses the king and becomes queen in Vashti’s place. As a queen, Esther is still considered a subject of the king, and she isn’t exempt from his laws. When Mordecai tells Esther that she needs to ask the king for the life of the jews, Esther makes it clear that going to the
    inner court uninvited is breaking the king’s laws:

    Esther 4:16 “Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my attendants will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, EVEN THOUGH IT IS AGAINST THE LAW. And if I perish, I perish.”

    Breaking a law is the same as disobeying the king. As a subject, Esther is disobeying the king by going to the court uninvited, and as a wife, Esther is breaking the law that men should rule their households. Don’t you see the irony? Vashti’s disobeys her husband’s summons and ends up banished. Esther disobey’s her husband’s laws, shows up uninvited, with the very real possibility that she could be executed. What’s even more ironic is that the king is actually portrayed as a buffoon that can’t make a decision without someone else telling him what to do. He is constantly asking other people what he should do, and he blindly does what they tell him without questioning it. The result was a law that condemned his own wife to death along with the other jews. The point was made about Esther’s submissiveness. In the beginning, she was a young, scared, teenager. Of course, she was going to take direction from those around her. She was probably relieved that she still had any contact with Mordecai at all. That said, Mordecai convinced her to seek the king’s help, but once she put her plan into action, she was in charge. In Esther 4:17, it says:

    “So Mordecai went away and did what Esther commanded.”

    Also, a lot of people talk about Esther’s submissiveness when she approached the king. Well, who wouldn’t be if you could die? That said, most people miss the point that Esther’s speech to the king is an example of political rhetoric. Rhetoric is the ancient use of language in the art of persuasion. A valuable tool for anyone in politics. The most important tutor a future king or politician could have was the rhetorician. Julius and Augustus Caesar were schooled this way. You need to know how to speak if your going to persuade a political opponent, or an army to fight for you. That said, Esther’s speech in the book of Esther was held up as an example of master rhetoric by rabbis in the middle ages. They considered Esther a master statesman, and thought she was a good example for anyone-male or female- to follow when dealing with life at court. Also, you could see Esther getting more assertive with the king throughout the book of Esther. First she approaches the king with “if it pleases the king” and “if I find favour with the king”, and by the end of the book, the king is approaching her and she uses just regular court etiquette. Not only does she convince the king to pass laws, but passes laws in her own name. Another point that people miss is that the king offered her “up to half of my kingdom”. In ancient Persia, it wasn’t unusual for the king to give his queens whole cities or territories to administer. There were women who governed whole provinces. In this case, Esther did ask and receive part of his kingdom-her own people. That was probably why she was able to pass a law in her own name concerning the jews to begin with. Anyway, I always thought that a lot of people overlooked one of the main points of this book. Wifely obedience might be what man wants, but it’s not necessarily what God wants. That said, I think the exegis on the book of Esther was great. Mark Driscoll is clearly using the book of Esther to endorse rape.

    • Esther

      Thankyou for your comments. I completely agree (and thanks for pointing out 4:16 where it says it WAS against the law) with what you’ve said, and that’s what we talked about in our Esther series at church – that her submission and humility was what made her queen, and then when the time came, she had to rise up, take responsibility and speak out.

      My point was that Sarah claimed in her original article that Esther was “anything but submissive”, and that is clearly not true. She also says MD criticises Vashti for her lack of submission to Xerxes in his Real Marriage book – the only reference to Vashti I saw was “He divorced his first wife for disrespecting him in public” without any comment or criticism – that’s just a fact of the story.

      As for your last sentence, it is absolutely ludicrous and you see from the MD quotes above that he is strongly against men using force or abuse against women EVER.

      What I can’t understand is this argument that some idiot men are going to take MD’s quotes in isolation, ignore the rest of his teaching, and go and abuse their wives. Where are these isolated quotes that would make idiots think that? Are they in MD’s full sermons on his websites where he says that certain sexual acts are okay and shouldn’t be viewed as dirty BUT that what a married couple does together needs to be mutual and respectful of each other’s feelings? Or the sermon where he reminded people that God hated us because our sin separated us from Him BUT that He sent Jesus to die for us so that this hate can be taken away and we can have an amazing loving relationship with Him?

      No, those isolated quotes are on websites like this, easy for the idiot men to google find and say “Hey, cool, some person says Mark Driscoll, a minister of God, hates you and endorses rape! Now I have an excuse!”

      If you honestly think this is what he is trying to imply, and that you HAVE to quote the bits about him you don’t like, then why don’t you add the caveat with each article or comment “And hey, idiot men, don’t use this as an excuse, because he also clearly teaches that rape is wrong here, here and here”?

      Please think about the repercussions of your words.

      • it’s really telling that you ask me and other commenters to “think about the repercussions of” our words, when we are simply repeating the words of Mar Driscoll…

        • Esther

          No, you’re not simply repeating them. You’re also saying ‘Mark Driscoll uses rape to control women’. Unless those words come out of his mouth, they are your words.

          So YOU are preaching to the world that Christian leaders endorse and encourage rape.

          • paperthinhymn

            Hi Esther. I wrote that little exegetical blurb a few comments up on my website, and i’m coming from the perspective of someone who comes from the same theological cloth that Mark does- ie, i’m a Calvinist and a complementarian. I actually really like a lot of what Mark does and says, but on this issue he’s just plain wrong, and his argument/exegesis only makes sense if you assume that Esther wanted to join the harem, which we have no reason to do.

  • Mary

    I toddled over here via a link and I really, really appreciate the bunny links. It’s brilliant

  • Akash

    After watching Driscoll sermons, he spent a long time bashing the men of that generation including the King!!!

    The second sermon he praises Vashti Disobedience!!!

    In his writings he criticizes Esther for listening to evil men and following their commands ( Harem etc)

    How is this against women!!!!!!!?????????

    It seems you dislike him because he is a complementarian and is fairly influential in liberal seattle.

    Your claims of him contradict his sermons, so you are spreading lies.

    Have you seen how much time men in his church have got rapped and bashed and criticized, I have seen article so of people saying he is anti male

    As for rape!!! pls look at your heart, this title is a sign of anger against him with no claims to back it up.One sermons he read the story of a girl who was raped and the men got another bashing!!

      • JDE

        I’ve seen the rationalizations on that Bingo card applied to pretty much every evangelical pastor who’s ever been subjected to criticism. The people who invest heavily in authority figures like Driscoll are terrified of having that faith threatened.

        • Akash

          My faith is not threatened by people who teach lies!!!

          I thought I could reach out or give an opinion or have a good discussion on what I believe is lies propagated by you .

          this seems to be the case with most egalitarians , to question the heart of complementarians,

          I have observed a lot of men in my short life,the complementarian ones always have loved their wives more.

          If this is egalitarians attitude,I think a blog discussion is not what you need, but they have other deeper problems

          • JDE

            If this is egalitarians attitude,I think a blog discussion is not what you need, but they have other deeper problems

            Someone has deeper problems.

            And btw – placing numerous punctuation marks after a statement doesn’t make it true.

          • Akash

            Classic you comment highlights your desperation

            BTW I know you will hate this,Its true!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

          • JDE

            Yes, you’ve figured me out. I’m desperate.

          • Akash

            Thanks, first ever partial complement form an egal

          • Akash

            FROM, the other mistake is intentional

          • I don’t waste time on elaborate replies to commenters who accuse me of not backing up my claims on blog posts that are filled with me backing up my claims. You’re not addressing my evidence or questioning its validity. You’re claiming that evidence doesn’t exist and that I just threw out a wild assertion about MD and went my way.

            Nah, not going to waste my time. I deem thee troll.

  • Klayton

    I think a lot of this stems from other areas of male sexual dominance. Take, for example, the biblical definition of adultery. Most people read “adultery” in the bible and they think “American law adultery.” But biblical adultery and American law adultery are not the same. Biblical adultery only happens if the husband of a woman is violated by his wife’s action or by the action of another man with a married woman. Biblical adultery is NOT if the husband goes off and has sex with an unmarried prostitute or an unmarried friend or an unmarried gentile. There is, for instance, an entire sex market in Tel Aviv, Israel, which caters to Jewish husbands who want to get some extra sex in their life outside of their marriage without committing adultery. No problem! They’ll hook you up with a verifiable unmarried gentile woman and it will never be considered adultery because no husband is being violated.

  • I’m not Driscolls greatest fan now, and way back I used to listen to a lot of his sermons online, but they never resonated with me, never stuck. The crass way he has put sex into recent projects such as the whole marriage debacle put me right off. There are pages on the mars hill site detailing what can only be an approval of perverse acts. This raised massive concern for me, and I’m unsettled because I really don’t know which way Mark is going next….

    Also, I noticed when doing a google image search for ‘mark driscoll Esther’ there were a lot of bunny pics. Now I know why! 🙂

  • What a information of un-ambiguity and preserveness of valuable familiarity concerning unpredicted feelings.

  • Shaundra

    Sorry, but for as much as you are criticizing others for acting less than Christ-like, I would expect your words to be more edifying to others:( That makes it hard for me to see your posts as coming from a humble and objective place.

    • We’re supposed to be objective, now?

      Really… Is that where change comes from? From fake objectivity? Such objective change agents as Jesus, Gandhi, King…

      • Shaundra

        I don’t think I was clear, my comment was more in reference to the comment you made about Akash being a troll because they disagreed with you. Your responses were pretty atangonistic.
        I was just looking at your “Author” page and read this comment you made:

        “And feel free to disagree! I think that being able to love and understand those who disagree with us is much more important than being right or wrong!”

        I honestly don’t feel free to disagree with you. I get the feeling you would make sure to get the last word if I even tried to express a differing opinion.

        • Shaundra,

          Your comment was originally directed at the blog post. If you had something specific to say to me, I could not tell what it is or where. I read your reply as a direct attack on the post. Context is key.

          However, having said that, 1) I do not pretend to be objective. It’s impossible, but worse it means that I must stand by and refuse to participate in the fight against injustice. Bad things happen when good people do nothing.

          2) Akash is a troll. He did not come here to converse. He came to argue. He shouts at people, uses way too many exclamation points, and gave off the impression that he lives under a bridge and would only be happy if he saw flying horses and fireworks (thank you, Dora the Explorer, for that image).

  • Unworthily Loved

    “The book of Esther contains a powerful message. Women disobeying men and saving the world. Women asserting their bodily autonomy. Women who are brave and strong and active and anything but submissive.”

    Your entire analysis of this book excludes the entire point of Ester! The book of Ester is a classical comedy-narrative designed to reflect the way in which Christ will save His people. This wonderful book isn’t about women. It isn’t about men. It’s about how this narrative will reflect Jesus and His church. Most people miss they are doing that when they are pushing an agenda, even unknowingly so. You came off no better than Mark Driscoll – just his opposite.

    From reading this blog, you seem very smart and a great writer. You seem misguided, however, in your analysis. Consider looking up a lecture by Kathleen Nielson called “Old Testament Narrative: Letting the Literature Speak.”

    As for the comments, is saddens me to see this much energy and emotion wasted. If people were half as excited about arguing on the internet as being Christ-like, the world would be a very different place.


    – Unworthily Loved

    • Thank you for your comments Akash, Esther and Unworthily Loved. I was about to write similar replys to yours. I’m doing a bible study on Esther myself on my blog, which is how I stumbled upon this one. I have been listening and reading various commentaries on the book, including Driscolls. I read the blog post that was initially referred to here, and, while I agree he can come off as a bit offensive, I don’t find anything unbiblical or repressive about the comments he made in his sermon or in his blog post. As a matter of fact, several highly respected woman like Beth Moore and Karen Jobes make similar comments, as does Tim Keller, and Rabbi Shmulley. But Esther already made that point.

      Esther ISN’T perfect and we’re not either. Which should give us hope! This is what the Jews celebrate during Purim. Hope! The Hope of the gospel. We are not perfect. As American Christians, we assimilate ourselves into culture, just as Mordecai and Esther did. We parade ourselves in front of men that we think are wealthy or good looking, and try to be the prettiest and most charming of all the girls he sees. Some of us give up our virginity to keep a guy. We are sinful. We profess Christ with our lips and deny him by our lifestyle. Esther and Mordecai were Jews, and yet they hid it. Esther ate food, that as a Jew, would have been considered a sin. She would have been considered unclean after eating the food of the Persian king . When Abraham hid the fact that Sarah was his wife, God reprimanded him. Peter denied Christ three times!

      God isn’t mentioned in Esther, but He weaves in and out of the story as an invisible hand that changes the heart of a girl. A girl who, at the beginning, couldn’t, like Daniel, stand up and say “I’m a Jew, this is not the food of my people,” most likely for fear of being killed. Regrettably, I think I would be like young Esther, too scared of death to say no to the pagan-Persian ways.

      But the amazing work of God that is suggested in this story, is that God takes a scared teenagers heart and makes her strong enough to face death for the sake of God’s people! I pray that God would do a fraction of the same to my heart.

      The bible doesn’t tell us what happened in the kings bedroom. She may have charmed him by her personality, or her good looks immediately. As soon as she walked in the door, God might have put it on Xerxes heart to choose her, to make a commitment to her immediately, and thereby save her virginity. For her heart, her sake, and dignity I pray that that happened. But we don’t know.

      The message of hope, is the message of the gospel. I believe, as both Mark and Tim, and Beth Moore and Karen Jobes point out, Esther speaks the story of the Gospel. Esther and Mordecai, and the Jews are sinners. God had to change Esthers heart in order for her to save His people from annihilation. Esther cannot be the ultimate savior of the Jews, because she is not perfect. Jesus is perfect. His heart did not have to be changed in order for him to be an acceptable sacrifice for our sins.

      While I would suspect that Esther did not commit the type of crimes that David, a man after God’s own heart committed, I find comfort in the fact that she, a sinner, by the grace of God could have her heart changed, and that she was born for great things, and that God built her into the heroin that I love so much.

      I think that’s the beauty of the Bible. It’s full of stories of God’s severely imperfect people made perfect and holy by His grace, not our strength, wit or courage.

      If anyone is interested I’d love you to come over and check out the Esther bible study on my blog!

  • The bunny links are priceless!