Thoughts on Mike Pompeo and Queen Esther

Here is Mike Pompeo talking with the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN):

Sarah Pulliam Bailey gets us up to speed at The Washington Post.  Read here piece here.

Here are some really random thoughts about Pompeo’s remarks:

The fact that CBN asked Pompeo to compare Trump to Queen Esther in interesting in and of itself.  Let’s be clear:  Pompeo was responding to a question, not offering-up his religious views on Middle East foreign policy in an unsolicited fashion.

CBN has a long history of trying to connect biblical prophecy to developments in the Middle East.  The people at CBN believe, along with millions of other evangelicals, that God still has a special place in His plan for the nation of Israel.  The establishment of the state of Israel will be a sign that Jesus Christ’s return is coming.  This theology is often described as dispensationalism.  Those at CBN understand their mission in terms of 1 Chronicles 12:32.  In this Old Testament passage, David builds an army at Hebron to overthrow King Saul.  It says that “the men from Issachar” were men “who understood the times and knew what Israel should do….”  Today CBN wants to “understand the times” so that it can help evangelicals win the culture war and shape foreign policy.

Pompeo’s answer reveals that he also believes God still has a plan for Israel.  His answer makes it clear that he favors a pro-Israel foreign policy partially for dispensational or “end times” reasons.  It does not surprise me that he would see Iran as Haman and Esther as Trump.  What is most telling is that Pompeo is not running for office (like Trump) and thus does not have to appeal to evangelicals to shore-up an electoral base for 2020.   Unlike Trump, he seems to really believe this stuff.

One illustration of the evangelical love of Israel comes from Peter Lillback, the President of Westminster Theological Seminary, an evangelical Reformed seminary in the Philadelphia area. In 2011, Lillback wrote an entire book arguing that George Washington was a supporter of Israel.  Here is one of his arguments: “If there had been no George Washington, there would have been no American Independence.  If there had been no American Independence there would have been no United States.  If there had been no United States, there would have no super-power to support the existence of Israel.  If there has been no super-power to support Israel, there would be no Israel.”  He then concludes that George Washington was part of God’s plan for “the destiny of Israel.”

Trump has also been compared to King Cyrus. Some evangelicals make this comparison metaphorically—Trump is a pagan ruler who set the evangelical church free from the captivity of the Obama administration much in the same way that Cyrus, a pagan ruler, set the Israelites free from Babylonian bondage.  Others apply the Cyrus example to Israel.  Mike Evans, a Christian Zionist, has said that God used Trump to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem much in the same way God used Cyrus to advance biblical prophecy as related to a future for Israel.  I wrote extensively about this in Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump.

It is worth noting that Harry Truman was also hailed as a King Cyrus after the state of Israel was established in 1948.

Back in 2012, Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu gave Barack Obama a copy of the Book of Esther.  It was a clear message that Obama, according to Netanyahu, was NOT acting as an Esther in his support of Iran over Israel.

Many evangelicals compared Sarah Palin to Queen Esther when she was John McCain’s vice-presidential candidate in 2008.  (She would save Christian America from the threat of an Obama administration and secularism.

Abraham Lincoln was compared to Queen Esther for freeing the slaves.  (He was also compared to Moses).

And that brings my random thought to an end.  🙂

13 thoughts on “Thoughts on Mike Pompeo and Queen Esther

  1. One deeply disturbing aspect of evangelical theology that isn’t talked about enough is the pro-Zionism attitude most evangelical hold “to a point.” Because yes, the establishment of Israel is an “end times” sign for millions of evangelicals, but so is the DESTRUCTION of Israel and all those Jews who don’t convert to Christianity before/during the Lord’s return.

    That is to say, evangelicals are often supportive of Israel because they believe Israel will be offered up to slaughter before Jesus can return. It is a perverse form of substitutionary penalty, scapegoating of the worst kind. It doesn’t come out of a place of love for Israel, but a place of selfish Christian desire for the return of Jesus and a magical time of Christian power over the nations.

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    • Agreed, it’s also disturbing how many people have bought into the idea that the Bible teaches a roadmap for the future, which goes hand-in-hand with a lack of knowledge of the historical origins of the Bible books.

      Revelation, for example, which is widely cited as the key to what will happen with Israel in the future, was not a terrribly unique book when it was written. It was written in the style of other apocalyptic literature, and many scholars believe that the final product comes from pasting some Christian content into an older Jewish book.

      We’ve come to believe that prophecy means telling the future, but the prophets main function was to serve as a messenger of God and call to repentance. Not that any of this should have anything to do with American foreign policy.

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      • Pau,

        Which writer are you vining when you state that the final form of the Book of Revelation is essentially a cut and paste job? I have never heard that theory

        Second, prophecy involves not only “forthtelling” as you state but also “foretelling.” The reader today has to look at the context to determine which form of prophetic voice is being used.

        James

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        • My academic work has revolved around Revelation and End Times traditions, and the idea that John’s Apocalypse is a recycled/Christianized version of Jewish scripture is popular among some Jewish scholars and some New Testament scholars. J. Massyngberde Ford has a commentary that essentially argued along those lines. And I would agree that Revelation makes heavy use of the Jewish tradition and Jewish scriptures; there isn’t a single image in Revelation that isn’t constructed out of a Jewish precedent.

          The debate about how to read Revelation is still active–some people prefer to think of it as a “foretelling” of the future, and oddly enough every generation believes it was written speaking directly to them and only them; the oppositional reading believes that it was “forth telling” explanations of recent events (like the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE) rather than the prediction of future events. In the Catholic tradition these two traditions have been historically intertwined, whereas in the evangelical tradition–typically grounded in literalism rather than a multiplicity of biblical meanings–has favored the flatly predictive manner of reading.

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          • Justin,
            Thanks. I am acquainted with the Anchor commentaries but will be eager to read the other link from the Jewish Encyclopedia later today.

            There are two issues at play here. The first is the literary and compositional roots of The Book of Revelation. The second is our hermeneutical approach to the book as we have had it for 2,000 years.

            My attention initially was brought to the earlier posting by Pau which seemed almost dismissive of Revelation owing to its use of antecedents in Hebrew Scripture. (With all deference to Pau, that might not have been his intent.). Obviously, it builds upon and synthesizes earlier prophetic works, yet that is hardly a reason to minimize the book’s inspiration. The entire New Testament is a very Jewish book.

            The second issue is how to interpret it. I don’t know anything about your ecclesiastical ties, Justin, but I do understand the Roman Catholic approach to it is quite different than that of a standard premillennial dispensationalist. By the way, not all evangelicals hold to this popularized approach. There are evangelicals who are amillennial as well as postmillennial with all manner of interwoven variations. While the futurist approach receives most of the attention and mocking from the secular world, it is hardly the sole evangelical interpretation.

            James

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            • Christianity was marinated in end-times thought. Jesus and Paul predicted the end of history would come in the lifetime of their listeners. Paul even told people to not get married because the tribulation was imminent. When people started to die without the end having happened, it led to a host of questions that he addressed in one of the epistles.

              For 2,000 years people have been forecasting the end in their lifetimes, which has never happened. 100% of people who use the Bible as a roadmap for the future have been wrong.

              Revelation was a message for followers to keep their chins up in the face of persecution and trouble. It was coded (in the style of the day) to not upset the authorities. It basically said, “God is in control, he will take care of the Romans. We’ll triumph in the end.”

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              • Paul,

                Any expositor would be on thin ice contending that Christ predicted that “…the end of history would come in the lifetimes of their listeners.” Since the prophetic signs He described did not transpire in the1st Century A.D., that position is untenable. Interestingly, the main people who use that tac are skeptics attempting to discredit the Bible. As far as St. Paul’s remarks in I Cor. 7:25-38, there is no general consensus that the point of the passage is the return of Christ within the lifetime of the Apostle. We can exegete verse 29 if you would like.

                Your final comments about the overall purpose of Revelation as a message of encouragement to early believers is held by many orthodox commentators. On the other hand, there are other equally orthodox students who hold to a futurist interpretation. There are even historicist hermeneutics. Regardless of one’s approach, the book is without a doubt an encouragement to believers of all ages.

                James

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                • So something can’t be true if it doesn’t meet orthodox presuppositions.

                  I think that describes the logic of most evangelical thought.

                  Jesus is quoted in the Bible itself saying that his listeners would see the second coming. Since that didn’t happen, we can’t believe the plain meaning of the text, we have to come up with a “hermeneutic.”

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                  • Paul,
                    Please go back and re-read the Olivet Discourse. Jesus spoke of signs in the heavens and other cataclysmic activity which is hard to spiritualize. He also spoke of the Gospel of the Kingdom being proclaimed to all nations. That did not happen in the First Century A.D. I fear that you might be misinterpreting “this generation” as it appears in the discourse.
                    James

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                    • James, I know you’ll never be convinced, but the fact that what he is said to have predicted didn’t happen isn’t because we don’t understand the very simple and direct passage, but much more likely that …

                      He … was … wrong.

                      Tell me how this makes sense: Jesus is God in the Flesh, knows the future, he is talking to an audience of individual people in Palestine in the year 30. He tells them they will see the second coming of the Son of Man. He knows the second coming is in 2030 because, well, he has to. (Maybe he already is privy to King Cyrus’s … errr Trump’s … fourth term.)

                      What purpose does this discourse have?

                      Does Jesus say this because he knows he is being recorded and it will get into a book decades later and that readers will know enough to know not to take everything literally because of … hermeneutics (which he knows will be invented hundreds of years later because, well, he has to.)

                      What about the poor people who actually heard God in the Flesh say something and walked away and assumed he was telling them the truth? Were they props for a recording session?

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                  • Paul,
                    Thanks for responding. With all respect to your views, it is incumbent upon you to cite a verse in the Olivet Discourse. You made a statement that Christ said he would return within the lives of his hearers. I countered that he made no such statement. It just isn’t in there and I again ask you to quote it. I know the Olivet Discourse.

                    I cannot understand your dismissive attitude toward sound hermeneutics. These tools are used in all fields———not simply Bible interpretation.

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