Monday, May 11, 2020

Stories Untold

Do you ever wonder about the stories you aren't told? 

We live in a world of 15-second sound bytes and edited video clips and headlines that only tell you what they want you to know, and it's tempting to just latch onto those things and let them be the story. But there's something in us that knows that a story is always bigger than the little bit we see of it. Even in movies and on television, we join our characters in the middle of a scene they want to share, but it doesn't give us the depth of knowing everything about them or even everything about the situation. 

I think about this rather often when it comes to the news (and that's generally good practice, as a few months later, we always seem to learn more than they wanted to tell us to begin with - more that changes the very heart of the story as we knew it). But sometimes, it shows up in the Bible, too. 

For example, who was Hammedatha? 

Your first reaction might reasonably be to ask...who? It's not a name that comes readily to us, even to those of us who study the Bible intensely. Because we are not told anything about him, it's easy to just read right by and not think a second thing of it. But the name meant something to the Jews in the story - or it means something to God - and that piques my curiosity. 

So who was Hammedatha? I don't know. We see his name twice, in the same chapter of the Bible - Esther 3. Now, if you were going to name the main players in the story of Esther, you're probably going to come up with four - Esther, Mordecai, Xerxes, and Haman. And it's through Haman that we come back to Hammedatha. 

Haman is the wicked servant of the king who issues the decree to kill all of the Jews in the kingdom. He's upset because he's basically named himself a god, but Mordecai the Jew won't bow down to him. So he comes up with a plan to get rid of all the Jews because he thinks this is going to be a cultural problem - none of these Jews are going to worship him the way he thinks he should be worshiped. 

When we are introduced to Haman at the beginning of Esther 3, a parenthetical note tells us that Haman is "the son of Hammedatha and was from Agag." And that seems like it's probably just a little bit of biographical information, possibly important but not too much to get sidetracked by. But just 10 verses later, in Esther 3:10, when Xerxes gives Haman the king's signet ring, we are told again that Haman is "the son of Hammedatha and was from Agag." Again, in parenthesis. 

Telling us twice in Haman's story who his father is, especially in such close proximity in the text, means that that means something to those who would have known this story. Hammedatha means something to them. Figuring out what that is will add depth to the story for the rest of us. 

The specifics of this story, perhaps we will look into later. For the purposes of today's encouragement, it's just one example of what it means to listen to the parts of the story that you aren't being told. We are being told about Haman's betrayal of the Jews, about how and why he came up with the plan that he came up with and how he got it authorized by the king. But there's another layer to the story that we aren't being told, a layer that is important enough that it's included, even though it is not elaborated. 

And this is the sort of thing that happens all the time, especially in an age of instant media. We're always getting little clips here and there, truncated headlines meant to draw us into one angle of the story. But if you listen to what's being said but not explained, you often find that there's more to the story than there seems. And figuring out what that is will add depth to the story and maybe even change everything. That's why you should always be asking what stories you aren't being told and go looking for them. They matter. 

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