The “Unchangeable Edict” Metaphor in Action

A Persian Emperor’s edict, as described in the Biblical stories of Hadassah (Esther) and Daniel, was impossible to change. As a plot device it introduced tension into the narratives; tension that was relieved when, in the story’s denouement, the original edict was undone by a larger or greater one. You can see some of these in Esther 8:8-11 and Daniel 6:19-28.

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We spent a couple weeks of January in Tainan.The scheduling was arranged to allow us to cast our first ever votes, as citizens of Taiwan, for president. That was accomplished on the 5th day of our visit. Apart from voting, though, we did a lot of other things: visiting friends, re-connecting with former students, associates and colleagues, and (it being Taiwan) enjoying a lot of meals. Soon before our departure, Dr. Ong Chongiau, the president of Tainan Theological College, directed his executive secretary to arrange our travel to Tainan’s High Speed Rail station at the college’s expense.  

Two days later a young couple who reside on the campus and study for the ministry there offered to drive us on this trip. They are sincere people whom I like and admire. Theirs was truly an offer of kindness and friendship. Sadly, I had to tell them that the president had already ordered the matter settled. Because they are divinity students, I was able to refer them to the Bible stories, to give a context. 

We should all know stories, all KINDS of stories. The more we have, the more abundant our resources for dealing with situations become. For the most part, it shouldn’t matter whether those stories come from Harry Potter, Shakespeare, Aesop, the Bible or Sex In the City.  Last week, answering a question in the Khan Academy US History course, I had found myself directing a student to the source of the metaphor “a City on a Hill”, about which she asked regarding a lesson on the New England Colonies. If it was just her youth and inexperience that left her “in the dark” about that metaphor, that’s OK, time will take care of it. If, however, it was an aversion to religious or biblical literacy, then it’s a pity. 

People of all religions, and of no religion at all, need to be basically familiar with metaphors that emerge from the stories in each others’ worlds. 

The force be with you.

 

David Alexander now resides in Holland, MI after 39 years in Taiwan.

 

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