Lectionary Reflection for the Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Cover ArtThis excerpt comes from Esther & Daniel (BTCB) by Samuel Wells and George Sumner, with Samuel Wells commenting on Esther 7:1-6, 9-10

Now comes Esther’s next brilliant status move. If we had been sold merely as slaves, men and women, I would have held my peace. She elevates Ahasuerus to astronomically high status, as one who, despite his deep affection for his queen, is not to be troubled by the trifling information that she is to become a slave. She has maneuvered the dialogue into a place of two contrasting status realities, and the contradiction between them is unbearable. On the one hand she is about to be liquidated, as a member of a people surplus to imperial requirements; on the other hand the king adores her and has said he will do anything for her. The problem was hers: it now becomes his.

But she gives him a get-out: No enemy can compensate for this damage to the king. In other words, she plays on one consistent feature of the king’s personality throughout the book: his inability to see his own agency in the turn of events. It was not the king, she suggests, that brought about this state of affairs—she has no interest in humiliating him. The only sense in which she wants him to be low status is his devotion to her. In all other respects it is about time he really did assume the high-status expectations of his role.

It was an enemy who brought this about. The king gobbles down Esther’s version of the story, which enables him to be her protector and gives him a chance to assert his high status in a moment of crisis: Who is he, and where is he, who has presumed to do this? The word presumed is crucial, since it elevates Esther’s status and in the process elevates Ahasuerus’s own status even further.

Now for the coup de grâce. Esther, while remaining vulnerable and thus low status, makes the most of Ahasuerus’s gesture to elevate her status and identifies the source of the threat, which is now not just to her and her people but to the king as well. A foe and enemy, this wicked Haman! She and the king are now one like never before, and as a result Haman was terrified before the king and the queen.

There is no sign that Ahasuerus yet appreciates Esther’s true identity—it was only after Haman’s death that Esther told the king what Mordecai was to her—but there can be little doubt that Haman now realizes it all.

….Haman panics and makes a drastic low-status attempt to plead to the queen for his life. By the time the king returns, Haman had thrown himself on the couch where Esther was reclining. Haman has done nothing illegal, and by retaining his status he could have talked his way out of it. But by losing status from his own volition at the key moment he makes himself look guilty, leaving aside the misinterpretation of his advance on the queen.

The king, of course, imagines things only in sexual terms. Haman’s status plunges further into the abyss, as he is impaled not only in front of his own house but, on account of the height of the gallows, in front of the whole city.



©2013 by Samuel Wells and George Sumner. Published by Brazos Press. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.

The Weekly Hit List: August 8, 2014

Marlena Graves, author of A Beautiful Disaster, was interviewed by Tina Bustamente.

“The main theme throughout A Beautiful Disaster is finding God in the wilderness, coming to know Jesus and His presence in the arid seasons of one’s life, and you do such a tender job talking about all the different kinds of wildernesses we go through. What is one thing you’d like people to walk away with after they read your book? Something you hope for them?”

“My deepest desire is that those who read my book will know that they are deeply loved by God – even in the wilderness. Sometimes it’s hard to believe in and feel God’s love in what for some seems like a hell on earth because God at times can seem so distant. I hope to have in some ways shown how God is very close to us in our sufferings. A bruised reed he will not break, a smoldering wick he will not snuff out (Isa. 42:3).” 

Read the entire interview here.


Quick Hits:

Kingdom Conspiracy by Scot McKnight (October 2014) was recommended by Nijay Gupta: “Scot has his finger on the pulse of Christianity in America today and he is a doctor that tells it straight. This incisive and challenging work will be very useful to current and future church leaders.”

Wesley Hill, author of the forthcoming (May 2015) Brazos Press book Spiritual Friendship, was quoted in Religion News Service and The Washington Post: “Gay, Christian and celibate: The changing face of the homosexuality debate”

Wendy VanderWal-Gritter, author of Generous Spaciousness, was mentioned by David Gushee is his column for ABPnews/Herald.

Live to Tell by Brad Kallenberg was recommended by Byron Borger of Hearts & Minds.

A Beautiful Disaster by Marlena Graves was quoted by Panhandling Philosopher.

Be Not Afraid by Samuel Wells was reviewed by Michele Morin.


Ebook Specials:

Dissident Discipleship: A Spirituality of Self-Surrender, Love of God, and Love of Neighbor by David Augsburger is only $2.99 (88% off) from participating retailers through August 10.

God Does Not…: Entertain, Play “Matchmaker,” Hurry, Demand Blood, Cure Every Illness by D. Brent Laytham is only $1.99 (90% off) from participating retailers through August 14.

The Weekly Hit List: July 25, 2014

Craig Detweiler, author of iGods, appeared on C-SPAN 2’s Book TV.

The interview was conducted at Pepperdine University in Malibu, California, and was part of Book TV’s College Series. 


Quick Hits:

Craig Detweiler, author of iGods, wrote “Smiling for ‘Auschwitz selfies,’ and crying into the digital wilderness” for CNN’s Belief Blog.

Christians at the Border by M. Daniel Carroll R. was mentioned by Publishers Weekly.

Marlena Graves, author of A Beautiful Disaster, was interviewed by Ann Swindell.

A Beautiful Disaster was reviewed on Life in Slow Motion.

Educating All God’s Children by Nicole Baker Fulgham was recommended by Evangelicals for Social Action.

Can We Still Believe the Bible? by Craig Blomberg was referenced on The Pathway and recommended by Natasha Crain.

A Peaceable Psychology by Alvin Dueck and Kevin Reimer was reviewed by Abram Kielsmeier-Jones.

Esther & Daniel (BTCB) by Samuel Wells and George Sumner was reviewed on Examiner.com.


Ebook Specials:

Glittering Vices: A New Look at the Seven Deadly Sins and Their Remedies by Rebecca Konyndyk DeYoung is only $1.99 (89% off) from participating retailers through July 28.

The Weekly Hit List: June 27, 2014

In case you missed it, Marlena Graves, author of A Beautiful Disaster, was interviewed on Her.meneutics.

“As a female minority born into poverty, Graves did not have the option of postponing lessons of dependence on God. She admits, ‘Growing up, I begged God to take the cup of suffering from me, but mostly he didn’t.’

“By stubbornly, perhaps naively, clinging to him, she discovered ‘the desert land is fertile ground for spiritual activity, transformation, and renewal.’ . . .

Quite miraculously, during her many desert sojourns, Graves has made wise choices that have allowed both her faith in God and her identity as a child of God to prosper.

“I asked her to share how she has navigated the desert’s many temptations in the hope that her experiences would encourage and guide others.”

Read the rest of “A Field Guide for Suffering Well” here.


Quick Hits:

A Beautiful Disaster by Marlena Graves was recommended by The Englewood Review of Books.

Esther & Daniel (BTCB) by Samuel Wells and George Sumner was reviewed on Examiner.com.

Can We Still Believe the Bible? by Craig Blomberg was reviewed by Cliff Richardson.

Wesley Hill, author of a forthcoming Brazos Press book, was interviewed by Katelyn Beaty on The Living Church.

The Liberating Image by J. Richard Middleton was discussed by Scot McKnight on Jesus Creed.

The Brazos Press Best of 2013

Many of our titles received awards and were included in “best of” lists in 2013.

Following are some of the honors Brazos Press books received this year.


The Evolution of Adam by Peter Enns won Gold in the Religion category of ForeWord Reviews‘ Book of the Year Awards.

Speaking of Dying by Fred Craddock, Dale Goldsmith, and Joy V. Goldsmith was one of the Academy of Parish Clergy’s Top 10 Books of the Year.


Esther & Daniel (Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible) by Samuel Wells and George Sumner was included in Preaching.com’s 2013 Survey of Year’s Best Bibles and Bible Reference.

Living into Focus by Arthur Boers won in the Christian Living category of The Word Awards.

On God’s Side by Jim Wallis was one of Revangelical Blog’s Best Books of 2013.


A happy 2014 to all our readers!

The Weekly Hit List: August 30, 2013

Educating All God’s Children by Nicole Baker Fulgham was reviewed in WORLD Magazine

“Fulgham poses a question: ‘To what extent is the Christian community working to help improve public schools for poor children—regardless of where we choose to send our own children?’

“She argues that most poor kids go to public schools, and if we care about children, the poor, and justice, we need to be involved in making those schools better. She provides a history of evangelical engagement with and withdrawal from public education, and spotlights churches and faith-based organizations that are successfully partnering with urban schools.

“The book hopes to inspire Christians to engage with low-income public schools and lays out practical ways to do it.”


Quick Hits:

Douglas Gresham (C. S. Lewis’s closest relative and consultant for all of the Narnia films) will make three U.S. appearances, speaking on the world of Narnia and the life and legacy of C. S. Lewis. Gresham will also be signing copies of A Life Observed: A Spiritual Biography of C. S. Lewis by Devin Brown, for which Gresham wrote the foreword.

Arthur Boers, author of Living into Focus, was interviewed by Andy Byers for The Big Bible Project.

The Bible Made Impossible by Christian Smith was reviewed by Bob Trube for Intervarsity Emerging Scholars Blog.

Esther & Daniel  (BTCB) by Samuel Wells and George Sumner was reviewed by Steve Bishop.


Ebook Specials:

One Step Closer: Why U2 Matters to Those Seeking God by Christian Scharen is only $3.99 (75% off) through September 7.

We Were the Least of These: Reading the Bible with Survivors of Sexual Abuse by Elaine A. Heath is only $3.99 (80%) off through September 5.

The Weekly Hit List: July 19, 2013

Educating All God's ChildrenEducating All God’s Children by Nicole Baker Fulgham was reviewed by David Swanson for The Englewood Review of Books.

If there is any doubt that public education is in crisis then Nicole Baker Fulgham’s book, Educating All God’s Children, should convince the most dubious skeptic.

“Early on she outlines the inequities most of us have become accustomed to: far greater percentages of Asian American and White students gradate high school in four years than do African American and Hispanic/Latino students; noticeably fewer African American forth-graders preform basic math skills compared with White students.

“Many of us have heard these sorts of statistics often enough that we no longer really hear them; Educating All God’s Children makes sure we listen closely while beginning to imagine a different future.”

Read the rest of the review here.


Quick Hits:

Jim Wallis, author of On God’s Side, spoke with Dan Koh of The Huffington Post on “Religion, Politics And Finding Common Ground.”

The Bible Made Impossible by Christian Smith was referenced by Jack Heppner.


Esther & Daniel Giveaway Winner:

Congratulations to Steven Smith, Doug Iverson, Kelly Hahn, Thomas Irby, and Nick Norelli!

They have each won a copy of Esther & Daniel (Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible) by Samuel Wells and George Sumner.

Keep checking back for our next giveaway.

This Just In: Esther & Daniel by Samuel Wells and George Sumner (and a Giveaway)

Esther & Daniel

by Samuel Wells & George Sumner

ISBN: 9781587433313
Price: $32.99
Category: Commentary – Old Testament

In this addition to the acclaimed Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible series, two respected scholars offer a theological exegesis of Esther and Daniel. As with other volumes in the series, this book is ideal for those called to ministry, serving as a rich resource for preachers, teachers, students, and study groups.

Samuel Wells (PhD, University of Durham) is vicar of St. Martin-in-the-Fields Anglican Church at Trafalgar Square in London, England. He previously served as dean of the chapel and taught at Duke University. Wells is the author of several books, including Improvisation: The Drama of Christian Ethics, Be Not Afraid, and Transforming Fate into Destiny: The Theological Ethics of Stanley Hauerwas.

George Sumner (PhD, Yale University) is principal and Helliwell Professor of World Mission at Wycliffe College, University of Toronto, in Toronto, Ontario. He has served in various pastoral roles and is an honorary assistant at St. Paul’s Anglican Church in Toronto.


Praise for Esther & Daniel:

“A fascinating conversation between two books that capture opposite aspects of the life of faith emerges in this volume of the Brazos Theological Commentary. In Esther, God seems to disappear from history, leaving the faithful to their own desperate devices. And in Daniel we read about God breaking into the chaos of history. Imaginatively and convincingly, Wells and Sumner show the theological, ethical, and even missional importance of these ‘outlier’ books within the Christian canon. Powerfully written, this book is designed to stimulate serious conversation in the church.”
Ellen F. Davis, Amos Ragan Kearns Distinguished Professor of Bible and Practical Theology, Duke Divinity School

“This volume in the Brazos Theological Commentary series shows two keen theological imaginations interacting with two challenging books of the Bible. Wells and Sumner offer readings of Esther and Daniel that display their insights as careful, thoughtful readers, while also revealing their roles as contemporary tradents passing on insights from their historic predecessors to their contemporary community. Preachers, students, and scholars who care about the possibility of responsible theological interpretation—especially with regard to the relation of Jewish and Christian readings of biblical books—will find much of great value here.”
A K M Adam, lecturer in New Testament, University of Glasgow

“Here is a form of biblical interpretation the church should never have forgotten. Wells and Sumner read not uncritically, not even post-critically, but with a form of criticism born of cross and resurrection. And just so they remind us how beautiful are the books of Esther and Daniel.”
Jason Byassee, senior pastor, Boone United Methodist Church; fellow in theology and leadership, Duke Divinity School


Enter to win a copy of Esther & Daniel:


The Weekly Hit List: May 24, 2013

Of Games and GodOf Games and God by Kevin Schut was reviewed by Mitch Toler for The Center for Youth Ministry Training.

“I encourage gamers to read the whole book. It will help you understand the way non-gamers think. It will help you see many pitfalls in video games that we often overlook or take for granted. It will also help you to see benefits of video games and that as a Christian gamer you’re not alone.

“Most importantly, Schut has given us all, gamers and non-gamers alike, tools to look critically and thoughtfully at what video games are communicating, how we interact with them, and what that means for our Christian spirituality.”

Read the rest of the review here.


On God’s Side media:

“Daily Circuit,” Minnesota Public Radio

“The Ronn Owens Show” on KGO-AM (CBS), San Francisco

“Books: Denver Best Sellers, 5/19/2013” in The Denver Post

“Author Jim Wallis says faith, not politics, is solution to fix cynical nation” by Bob Smietana in The Tennessean

“Ever the Prophet, Never the King” by Josh Good in The American

“The Jim Wallis Interview: What Abe Lincoln, C.S. Lewis, Narnia and Puddleglum can teach us about the Common Good” by David Crumm in Read the Spirit

“COLUMN: Common Good: What breaks your heart?” by Wayne Baker in Our Values

“COLUMN: Common Good: Is Little League baseball the answer?” by Wayne Baker in Our Values

“COLUMN: Common Good: Feeling ‘politically homeless’?” by Wayne Baker in Our Values

“COLUMN: Common Good: Can we still find common ground?” by Wayne Baker in Our Values


Quick Hits:

Educating All God’s Children by Nicole Baker Fulgham was recommended by Education Week.

Of Games and God by Kevin Schut was reviewed by Captain Comics Round Table.

The Evolution of Adam by Peter Enns was reviewed in Regent’s Reviews.

Be Not Afraid by Samuel Wells was also reviewed in Regent’s Reviews.

Creston Davis, co-author of Paul’s New Moment, wrote “The logic of democracy” for Mmegi.


Ebook Specials and Other Offers:

May ebook specials are currently running for multiple Brazos Press and Baker Academic titles. All of these are at least 52% off.

Searching for Home by Craig M. Barnes
Conversations with Poppi about God by Robert W. Jenson and Solveig Lucia Gold
Everyday Apocalypse by David Dark
The Early Church on Killing edited by Ronald J. Sider
Simon Peter in Scripture and Memory by Markus Bockmuehl

The Weekly Hit List: March 22, 2013

On God's SideJim Wallis, author of the forthcoming On God’s Side, wrote about his new book in “What Does It Mean to Be on God’s Side?” for Sojourners.

“This is not just another book for me. I wrote it during a three-month sabbatical that started in a monastery overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Every day started before sunrise with prayers, walks, yoga, and exercise, followed by writing the rest of the day.

“My other discipline was not to write or comment publicly on the news. I watched the nation’s political discourse each night after a day of writing and found it more depressing than ever. It was an election year.

“The resulting book is not about politics in the narrow sense, but about how to engage our personal and public lives with an ancient but timely idea and practice—the common good—that has long and deep historical roots across many religious faiths and secular notions of democracy.

“I sought to explore the biblical and theological roots of the idea, and then apply it to the most basic questions of economic trust, the role of government, civility, renewing democracy, globalization, conflict resolution in a violent world, and, of course, what our faith can contribute to the common good with the world as our parish.

“Most compelling, I found Jesus’ call to love our neighbors to be the gospel foundation for serving the common good.”

The rest can be read here.


Quick Hits:

Of Games and God by Kevin Schut was recommended by Ted Turnau.

The Evolution of Adam by Peter Enns was recommended by Ben Spackman.

Be Not Afraid by Samuel Wells was recommended in an excerpt written by Michele Howe, shared by Diane Markins.

Living into Focus by Arthur Boers was recommended by Matthew LaPine.

Video is available of Miroslav Volf, author of A Public Faith, speaking on “Public Faith in a Pluralistic Society” at Q Forum.


Ebook Specials and Other Offers:

March ebook specials are currently running for multiple Brazos Press and Baker Academic titles. All of these are at least 50% off.

Christians at the Border by M. Daniel Carroll R.
Performing the Faith by Stanley Hauerwas
Preface to Theology by John Howard Yoder
Following Jesus in a Culture of Fear by Scott Bader-Saye
Loving Homosexuals as Jesus Would by Chad W. Thompson