Secretary of State Mike Pompeo suggested it is “possible” that President Donald Trump is meant to save the Jewish people, responding to an interview question whether Trump is a new Esther, a biblical character who convinced the king of Persia not to destroy the Jews. The comments came during Purim, a Jewish holiday that marks Esther’s story.
Pompeo made the comments 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 responded, “as a Christian, I certainly believe that’s possible.”
In the story of Esther, a man named Haman is cited as being responsible for encouraging the king to slaughter the Jews, and while questioning Pompeo, CBN’s Chris Mitchell described Iran as a modern-day Haman.
“I am confident that the Lord is at work here,” Pompeo said, noting how he visited the tunnels under Jerusalem.
“It was remarkable – 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,” he said.
Pompeo has served as a deacon at his Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Kansas City, Kansas, and taught Sunday school for elementary school-age children. Earlier this week, Pompeo held a briefing with reporters that caused controversy after a State Department press corps reporter was reportedly disinvited 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, though 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 with 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 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, president of 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 the United States should recognize Israel’s control of the disputed Golan Heights.
After arriving in Israel Wednesday, the secretary of state met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and in a joint news conference, Pompeo vowed to fight anti-Semitism.