Secretary of State Mike Pompeo suggested it is “possible” that President Trump is meant to save the Jewish people, responding to a question on whether Trump is a new Esther, a biblical character who persuaded the king of Persia not to destroy the Jews. The comments came during Purim, a Jewish holiday that marks Esther’s story.
Pompeo was responding to questions during an interview in Jerusalem with the Christian Broadcasting Network, which was founded by televangelist Pat Robertson and has a large evangelical audience. After he was asked whether Trump was a new Esther, he said, “As a Christian, I certainly believe that’s possible."
In the story of Esther, a man named Haman is cited as responsible for encouraging the king to slaughter the Jews, and while questioning Pompeo, CBN’s Chris Mitchell described Iran as a modern-day Haman.
“It was remarkable,” Pompeo said about a visit to the tunnels under Jerusalem. “So, we were down in the tunnels where we could see 3,000 years ago and 2,000 years ago, if I have the history just right. To see the remarkable history of the faith in this place and the work that our administration’s done to make sure that this democracy in the Middle East, that this Jewish state remains, I am confident that the Lord is at work here. ” he said.
Pompeo has served as a deacon at an Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Wichita and taught Sunday school for elementary-school-age children. Earlier this week, Pompeo held a briefing with reporters that caused controversy when a State Department press corps reporter was reportedly uninvited after being told the call was for “faith-based media.” His past comments have concerned Muslim advocates, though he has many evangelical fans.
Surveys by the Pew Research Center show wide religious differences in Middle East sympathies, although white evangelicals overwhelmingly sympathize with Israel compared with other religious groups. Among evangelicals, 78 percent suggest sympathy for Israel, while 5 percent sympathize more with the Palestinians.
Some evangelicals have compared Trump to many biblical figures in the past, especially describing him as a modern-day David, a flawed king who was chosen by God. Paula White, a megachurch pastor and spiritual adviser to Trump, has also compared him to Esther. But some religious leaders cringe at those comparisons.
“Trying to draw parallels between the president and biblical figures is not a helpful way to conduct foreign policy,” Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, said in an email. “We would prefer that the secretary of state leave the theology to the clergy.”
Last year, Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moved the U.S. Embassy there. On Thursday, he said that the United States should recognize Israel’s control of the disputed Golan Heights.
After arriving in Israel on Wednesday, the secretary of state met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. In a joint news conference, Pompeo vowed to fight anti-Semitism.