U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told a Christian news channel that it’s “possible” President Donald Trump is a modern-day Queen Esther ― the Biblical figure who saved Jewish people in ancient Persia from a massacre.
In an interview published Thursday on the Christian Broadcasting Network, a host asked Pompeo if Trump, like Esther, was “raised for such a time as this” to help save Jewish people from “the Iranian menace.”
Pompeo responded, “As a Christian, I certainly believe that’s possible.”
Trump has adopted a hard-line stance towards Iran ever since he became president. Last year, Trump withdrew the U.S. from the Iran nuclear deal, breaking away from the position taken by America’s Western allies. On Friday, the administration imposed new sanctions on Iran.
Pompeo, who is currently on a trip to the Middle East, praised the Trump administration’s efforts to support Israel during the CBN interview.
“I am confident that the Lord is at work here,” Pompeo said.
The theory that God played a role in Trump’s election is not uncommon in certain evangelical circles. Even though many white evangelicals don’t think highly of Trump’s personal morals, some believe that he is the leader God has chosen to help preserve America’s Christian heritage during turbulent times.
Evangelical leaders have often drawn comparisons between Trump and various Biblical figures to prove this point.
Some have compared the president to King Cyrus, an ancient Persian king who was chosen by God to help rebuild Jerusalem ― even though Cyrus wasn’t a Jew.
This isn’t the first time Trump has evoked comparisons to Esther. Paula White, a prosperity gospel preacher and the president’s spiritual advisor, has also compared the two figures ― claiming that both are unconventional outsiders chosen by God to fulfill a divine purpose.
According to the Biblical story, Queen Esther was an orphaned Jewish woman who married a king in Persia, or modern-day Iran, during the 5th century BCE. Risking her own life, she used her influence to foil a plot that sought to slaughter Jewish people in the empire.
Esther’s story is commemorated every year during the Jewish festival of Purim, which fell on March 20 in 2019.
Evangelicals have taken an interest in Esther as an example of a noble character who was chosen for a divine role. Samuel Perry, a sociology professor at The University of Oklahoma who is studying conservative American Christianity, told HuffPost that evangelicals are particularly drawn to a turning point in Esther’s story, where her relative Mordechai convinces the queen to risk her life to save her people. In the story, Mordechai told the queen she may have come into her royal position “for such a time as this.”
“Like the people of Israel in the book of Esther, white conservative Christians perceive that their country and way of life are under attack and someone needs to stick up for the good guys at this strategic moment,” Perry wrote in an email.
Esther is a hero to white evangelicals because she speaks up for “the good guys,” he said.
But Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, America’s largest Jewish denomination, told HuffPost he found the comparison between Trump and Esther “odd.”
Today, American Jews see Esther as a vulnerable young Jewish woman who used her courage and wisdom to protect her people, Pesner said. He believes the modern-day Esthers are all the women speaking up against sexual harassment, protesting against efforts to take away women’s control over their own bodies and speaking publicly about gender equality.
Furthermore, the story of Purim focuses on “hope,” Pesner said, and is about a community rising up, overcoming great adversity together and reaffirming God’s goodness on Earth.
“To equate or associate that with a diplomat just seems to belittle the story,” Pesner said.