Book of Esther Commentary
The Book of Esther Commentary
Today we will be looking at the Book of Esther, one of my favorite books in the entire Bible.
I sometimes think that when God created me he gave me an extra dosage of curiosity as I have spent more hours researching, writing and editing this study than any other study I have ever done. Whereas that may sound like work to some of you, it really isn’t it is pure joy! There is nothing I enjoy as much as reading, studying, researching and looking for the Why’s in God’s Word! When I think of the fact that the 2nd prayer I ever prayed was to ask God to teach me, I am still amazed that he continues to do so and I pray you enjoy this as much as I did in preparing it.
As I was researching the material I will present to you, I couldn’t help notice several things I want to bring to your attention that I learnt both from studying as well as observing.
First, God is in control of not only our lives but the nations of the earth. Although no nation really acknowledges God within their individual system of government, other than paying lip service to that acknowledgement, history has shown time and time again that nations rise and nations fall and no nation, including ours, is exempt from this pattern.
The Bible says,
Psalm 22:28 for dominion belongs to the LORD and he rules over the nations.
Second, History is all about His story. Whereas it isn’t always obvious it is a fact that God has both a will and purpose for people as well as nations and all nations will ultimately fall since no kingdom or nation will last forever other than the one he will establish some day. From the very beginning it was never God’s perfect will that men be ruled under any system other than a Theocracy where God, not man, is Supreme, that was the plan in the Garden of Eden and what we see here on earth is simply a fallen and corrupt world and it was never his intention for us to live under these conditions. Regardless of the merits or shortfalls of the varying political philosophies that have existed, they are all flawed, since they are all conceived and ruled by flawed individuals. Whereas some systems might be better than others, all are short of the best God has in store for those he calls his own. Any system including democratic governments that espouse “Christian” values and morality without Christ as the centerpiece will never succeed. Fallen man cannot ever be the solution since fallen man is the problem and without Christ, there is no hope despite the eloquences of empty speeches and promises by politicians.
Psalm 33:10 The LORD foils the plans of the nations; he thwarts the purposes of the peoples.
Third, it is a spiritual law that ALL sin has consequences. Although we might not see the full results in our lifetime, it is a spiritual fact that “as you sow, you will reap”; you will reap more than you sowed, later than you sowed…but reaping will happen…and though God forgives when we repent, that doesn’t guarantee that the events set in motion by our sin will not produce a very bitter harvest!
Lastly, despite all the discipline that Israel has undergone throughout their history, much of it as a result of their disobedience, it would be foolish to surmise that God will not take care of them. He disciplines but will never abandon Israel. In the Book of Esther we will see this first hand and the other nations, especially those whose evil intent is to destroy her would be wise to heed that concept today. Just as God provided in Esther time, he will provide in our present day.
Isaiah 43:1 says it very clearly… But now, this is what the LORD says--he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: "Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
That will never change for what God calls his own, will never be forsaken be it nations or individuals.
As I was preparing this study I did a lot of research regards the customs of the times and world events leading to and subsequently following the events in Esther. Although the inspired Word of God doesn’t need me to add to it, we need reminding that the events in Esther, as other historical books, need to be viewed within the context of what was happening at that time in history. This will clarify some points that will add to the richness of the study.
In order to understand the motives of the King in the Book of Esther, we are going to first discuss a little bit of history leading up to the events we will read. This will not only capture the mighty hand of God at work in Esther’s life and those around her but elsewhere throughout the world that affects others even to the present day.
So let’s begin…
If Daniel is the book that shows how God can work his will and empower a submitted man, then Esther is the book that shows how he empowers a submitted woman.
A subtitle for the book of Esther can be, “How God sent a woman to finish a job a man started…,” or “God sends a woman to clean up after a man”…. And I am sure all the women will say, “Amen!”
Whereas we normally think of sins as things we do that are wrong by commission, this book has as its roots the sin of omission which can be just as deadly.
The events in Esther are the harvest bearing fruits from the seeds of disobedience planted approximately 600 years earlier by King Saul, the first King of Israel.
The events in the Book of Esther should never have taken place had King Saul obeyed God but because he didn’t then Esther had to finish what Saul was suppose to have done.
In this we see a picture that God’s will, no matter how long it takes, will be done. It should also impress us that we need to obey God no matter how insignificant his directions are. Failure to do so can have devastating consequences.
Although the Book of Esther doesn’t mention God specifically, one of only 2 books that doesn’t (the other being Song of Songs); like other books in the Old Testament, God is ever present delivering his people and as all the books of the Old Testament, Jesus Christ can be seen as a foreshadow of things to come through the different characters we meet. Whereas all the books of the Old Testament have Jesus Christ as a shadow represented normally by a man, here is the exception in that Esther, a slave girl who becomes a queen, is the picture of Christ.
Let’s look briefly at the events leading up to Esther by reviewing some history first.
When God brought the nation of Israel out of bondage from Egypt, it was his will that he and not a man lead the nation.
God wanted the nation of Israel to be a Theocracy, a nation in which God is King, the people, whose hearts were not turned towards God, complained continually, they wanted a Monarchy with a man as King so they could be “as other nations” in the area (1 Samuel 8:5). Even though this was not God’s perfect will for them, they kept complaining till God gave them exactly what they wanted and he selected Saul as Israel’s first king, this was God permissive will, not his perfect will. Sometimes getting what you want isn’t God’s best!
God never, ever intended Israel to be “like other nations” he wanted them to be separate, holy and blessed supernaturally but they insisted by both words and deeds and as a result they remained in “spiritual” bondage. They may have left Egypt physically but in many ways they never left Egypt spiritually, their hearts were still in captivity, think on that for a while.
It is interesting that when God selected Saul the Bible tells us that he was a very tall man who was at least a “head taller” than the other people (1 Samuel 9:2). The nation of Israel had gotten what they wanted, an image of strength, although he turns out to be of little character, this was not God’s best, but they insisted.
Here is something to think about; whenever you insist on your will outside of God’s eventually what you want will turn to ashes and that will always come with deep pain as well!
Here is another side note, one of the little details that make studying fun. Saul was a Benjamite, most likely left-handed, this should warn you about left handed people, just kidding! The Benjamite men were taught at an early age to fight left-handed. If you have ever boxed, or fought, most people are right-handed so in teaching the Benjamites to fight “wrong-footed” this threw off their enemies.
So with this in mind are you ready to study Esther? O.K. then let’s begin by reading, go to…
1 Samuel ( 9:1 ) says, there was a Benjamite, a man of standing, whose name was Kish son of Abiel, the son of Zeror, the son of Becorath, t he son of Aphiah of Benjamin. ( 9: 2) He had a son named Saul, an impressive young man without equal among the Israelites--a head taller than any of the others.
If you study 1 Samuel, which is the story of 2 men, Saul and David, you will see that these two men illustrate for us the two principles in the heart of every Christian believer seeking to walk before God.
They are the principle of flesh and the principle of faith. Saul is the man of the flesh; and David is the man of faith; the carnal believer and the spiritual believer.
The fact that both of these men were kings beautifully illustrates the supremacy of the will in human life.
As the book of Esther will show, each one of us is a king over a kingdom. Our will is supreme in our life. Even the Spirit of God does not violate our free will but we don’t have a choice as to the consequence that free will produces which explains why we as a Nation are in so much trouble.
We insist on keeping our sins and not turning to God so he can heal this land. We are ruling over the kingdom of our lives and our affairs, over those things that concern us personally and also the things that have an impact and influence upon others with little regard for God. What you, the king, says and does, influences the whole kingdom over which you reign and ultimately the nation as well.
Since Israel insisted on a King, they got a King, since we insist on our present leader’s morality; we got just what we wanted.
So Saul is chosen to be King.
1 Samuel (9:16 ) God says to the Prophet Samuel, “About this time tomorrow I will send you a man from the land of Benjamin. Anoint him leader over my people Israel; he will deliver my people from the hand of the Philistines. I have looked upon my people, for their cry has reached me. ( 9: 17) When Samuel caught sight of Saul, the Lord said to him, "This is the man I spoke to you about; he will govern my people."”
Saul is anointed in the Office of King and becomes the first King of Israel. In the course of his reign there are a series of wars and conflicts with other neighboring nations. Later on as we will see in Chapter 15, an event takes place that is the seed planted that will cause the persecutions seen in The Book of Esther 600 years later where a prototypical picture of the antichrist’s rise up to destroy Israel.
God had very specific instructions and directions he wanted Saul to follow. Go to…
1 Samuel ( 15:1-3 )
( 15: 1) Samuel said to Saul, "I am the one the Lord sent to anoint you king over his people Israel; so listen now to the message from the Lord. ( 15: 2) This is what the Lord Almighty says: (VERY CLEAR INSTRUCTIONS, RIGHT?) 'I will punish the Amalekites for what they did to Israel when they attacked them as they came up from Egypt.
( 15: 3) Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy everything that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.' "
Would you say these were clearly stated objectives and instructions?
Notice this; God gave him very clear, specific instructions. Destroy the Amalekites totally. Saul can either obey, submit to God and be blessed or he can disobey which always brings serious consequences now and later on. It is the will of Saul, not the Spirit of God; that will direct the course of his actions…
Let’s see what happens…
1 Samuel ( 15: 9 ) , But Saul and the army spared Agag and the best of the sheep and cattle, the fat calves and lambs--everything that was good . ( Everything good from the natural perspective which in this case was totally contrary to God’s will) They were unwilling to destroy completely what appeared to them as being the best, but everything that was despised and weak they totally destroyed. They kept the best from their carnal perspective!
So Saul chose to satisfy the senses, the flesh rather than obey the Spirit of God… this is the mark of a carnal believer.
1 Samuel ( 15:10-14 )
( 15: 10) Then the wor d of the Lord came to Samuel: ( 15: 11) "I am grieved that I have made Saul king, because he has turned away from me and has not carried out my instructions." Samuel was troubled, and he cried ou t to the Lord all that night. ( 15: 12) Early in the morning Samuel got up and went to meet Saul, but he was told, "Saul has gone to Carmel. There he (SAUL) has set up a monument in his own honor and has turned and gone on down to Gilgal ." ( 15: 13) When Samuel reached him, Saul said, "The Lord bless you! I have carried out the Lord's instructions." (Not only has Saul disobeyed God, he then builds a monument to himself, and lies ) ( 15: 14) But Samuel said, "What then is this bleating of sheep in my ears? What is this lowing of cattle that I hear?"
In other words, what is this noise I hear; you were supposed to destroy everything!!!
Also notice this, Verse 12, He was off building a monument to honor himself rather than God, this is typical of the flesh; he want to feed that Pride. He didn’t know it yet but his disobedience would establish a more permanent monument that would outlast the one he built in his Pride. There are major consequences that come from disobedience and we are going to see them in this study. So just like many of us when confronted with our disobedience what do we do? We try to cover our sins up through excuses justifying ourselves, acting in the flesh, being self righteous, this is what Saul does next.
( 15 : 15) Saul answered; the soldiers brought them from the Amalekites they spared the best of the sheep and cattle to sacrifice to the Lord your God, but we totally destroyed the rest." ( 15: 16) "Stop!" Samuel said to Saul. "Let me tell you what the Lord said to me last nig ht." "Tell me," Saul replied. ( 15: 17) Samuel said, "Although you were once small in your own eyes (an expression of humility), did you not become the head of the tribes of Israel? The Lord a nointed you king over Israel. ( 15: 18) And he sent you o n a mission, saying, 'Go and completely destroy those wicked people, the Amalekites; make war on them un til you have wiped them out.' ( 15: 19) Why did you not obey the Lord? Why did you pounce on the plunder and do evil in the eyes of the Lord?" ( 15: 20) "But I did obey the Lord," Saul said. "I went on the mission the Lord assigned me. I completely destroyed the Amalekites and brought back Agag their king.
So what does Saul do next? He blames his soldiers. This is a sign of a weak leader; great responsibilities require strength of character, if you are in a leadership capacity you must be responsible for leading and not blame subordinates, by the same token, you need to so love God and obey and not be motivated by being “politically correct” as most leaders in our generation are. This is how we select our present leaders. We elect attractive “celebrities” who look good and speak eloquently as if they had moral authority but whose actions establish they have none and rather than seeking after God, they seek the approval of men. Rather than being blessed by God, as our founding fathers had envisioned, we have become “just like all the other nations”, no wonder we have problems and issues in this country!
( 15: 21) The soldiers took sheep and cattle from the plunder, the best of what was devoted to God, in order to sacrifice them to the Lord your God at Gilgal."
It’s curious Saul doesn’t say, Our God in verse 21, he says Your God, he doesn’t identify with Samuel anymore, Saul’s sin had separated him from God, he had lost that personal relationship and his speech betrays him and reveals what is really in his heart! Luke 6:45 “The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.” Saul’s words as his actions reveal where his heart is.
( 15: 22) But Samuel replied: "Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the Lord? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.
This is very, very important you catch this… There is nothing, absolutely nothing greater than you can do than obey God, as an expression of your love for him. Saul was a nobody that God made into a king yet his heart was not transformed by the Grace of God that had come into his life. Why did God want everything destroyed? Because he wanted to bless Israel and by Saul’s disobedience in sparing the Amalekites King, from that King comes Haman the Agagite, a man who wanted to destroy Israel and who we will meet in the Book of Esther 600 years after the events in 1 Samuel. We may not always understand it all but Obedience to God, from a heart that loves Him, is always the correct response to God. It may even be a small thing that God asks us to do but we don’t see the whole picture like God does. Had Saul obeyed we would not have needed Esther.
When God asks us to do something we never have nor will we ever have a clear and complete picture of why he wants us to do something, our minds could not understand it and here we see an example and the consequences that follow.
1 Samuel ( 15:23-26 )
( 15: 23) For rebellion is like the sin of divination (using the occult practices), and arrogance like the evil of idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, he has rejected you as king."
Samuel isn’t saying that Saul will be physically removed as King but rather that the authority and anointing of God will no longer be with him. We know this because even though David will be anointed shortly thereafter it is a number of years before he will sit on the throne of Israel but as for Saul, his anointing is gone once and forevermore.
( 15: 24) Then Saul said to Samuel, "I have sinned. I violated the Lord's command and your instructions. I was afraid of the people and so I gave in to them. ( 15: 25) Now I beg you, forgive my sin and come back with me, so that I may worship the Lord." ( 15: 26) But Samuel said to him, "I will not go back with you. You have rejected the word of the Lord, and the Lord has rejected you as king over Israel!"
Although he seemingly repents, this doesn’t undo the consequences of his sin and even though he will not see the full harvest, there will be one of epic proportions.
God had taken Saul from being a “nobody” to being King, all he asked was obedience. Saul disobeyed. The results weren’t simply that Saul lost God’s anointing and position, ultimately to David; it set the stage for God to move in history to select a slave girl named Esther to become Queen of one of the mightiest empires in history so that she could save her people as a picture of Christ saving us.
God would use Esther to save her people from annihilation as God would use Jesus to save us from damnation.
Here is a hard lesson and one I have seen… If you insist on taking what God did not intend for you to have, you will surely lose something he did want to bless you with… That is Saul’s legacy.
Over the next 600 years Israel goes through a series of good and bad kings. Their history repeats itself in a pattern in which they are blessed by God, they sin, he punishes, they repent; they are blessed by God, they sin, he punishes… over and over the pattern continues until God finally takes them away into captivity by sending the Babylonians.
King Nebuchadnezzar from Babylon, present day Iraq, invades Israel and takes Jerusalem and he robs and destroys the Temple taking with him all the sacred items along with the Israelites into captivity.
This stealing of the sacred items will become a key point later on in this story.
Nebuchadnezzar, who we can read about in the several books but especially in Daniel, becomes the greatest ruler in all history and his domain extends over a huge area unlike anything that has been seen before or since.
One day, in his moment of arrogance, as he is overseeing the “kingdom he had built”, Nebuchadnezzar is humbled by God and goes around like an animal for seven years until he is restored by God and turns to praise and honor God and give Him the glory. This is covered in Chapter 4 of Daniel.
It is from here that the timeline towards the Book of Esther continues and this can be found in Daniel Chapter 5. I will summarize it for you; you don’t have to turn there. Nebuchadnezzar is eventually followed by his grandson, Belshazzar who will be the last Babylonian king. You would have thought that the grandson, having known what happened to his Grandfather, would have learned a lesson or two about God. As we will see, he didn’t and as a result, he will pay dearly with his life.
Belshazzar, during a drunken feast, takes the sacred golden and silver vessels, which had been removed from Solomon's Temple in Jerusalem by his grandfather, and drinks from them and proclaims his praise to 'the gods of gold and silver, brass, iron, wood, and stone'. Daniel 5:1-5
What a fool! Whenever you are around people like this you need to move away so that when lightning strikes, you will be far away!
God is very angry and immediately pronounces judgment on him. A large unattached finger appeared and started to write on the wall: “God has numbered the days of your kingdom and brought it to an end… your kingdom has been divided and given to the Medes and Persians.” That night they are attacked. Belshazzar is slain and Darius the Mede overthrows the Babylonians and becomes the new leader of the kingdom at the age of sixty-two. All this is found in Daniel Chapter 5.
Belshazzar had a daughter whose name was Vashti. The night her father was murdered there was much bloodshed and looting in the palace. Amidst the confusion, Vashti was unaware of the death of her father and ran to his quarters where she was captured by Darius. Darius took pity on the young Vashti and gave her to his son Xerxes as a wife. When Xerxes became king over Persia, he and Vashti ruled over 127 provinces (nations), the entire civilized world. (This you can read in the historical accounts such as The Histories of Herodotus, by Herodotus; Josephus and other accounts I have used to fill in the blanks.)
So Vashti was the great-granddaughter of Nebuchadnezzar, who sacked Jerusalem and the Temple and she was the Queen we will first meet in the Book of Esther. She comes from royalty by birth.
The name Xerxes is the Latin name, the alternative English name Ahasuerus, seen in other versions of the Bible, is derived from the Biblical Hebrew, it’s the same person. I am going to use the name Xerxes because it is easier to pronounce.
Before we begin reading let me give you some more historical background which happens approximately before the events written in Esther commence and which sheds light on the events in The Book of Esther.
In 499 B.C. a series of revolts in Asia Minor took place. This territory, which is where present day Turkey is situated, had been previously conquered by the Persians. Many of the inhabitants were people who had emigrated from Greece. When they got tired of the oppressive rule by the Persians they revolted against King Darius.
Because of the large number of Greeks living there, several Greek city-states came to their aid and this is known as the Ionian Revolt, as it is known in history, which marks the motives for the first Greco-Persian War. Although they fought well, the Ionian cities were no match for the largest empire of the known world at that time and they were brought back into control under Darius and this set the stage for his invasion plans against the Greeks.
The Ionian Revolt constituted the first major conflict between Greece and the Persian Empire. Darius vowed to punish Athens and Eretria, the two principle Greek city-states that had aided the Ionians for their support of the revolt. Moreover, seeing that the myriad city states of Greece posed a continued threat to the stability of his Empire, he decided to conquer the whole of Greece. In 492 BC, the first Persian invasion of Greece, the next phase of the Greco-Persian Wars, begins as a direct consequence of the Ionian Revolt and after preparing his army Darius invades Greece and the Greeks and Persian meet in a place called Marathon.
The Battle of Marathon took place in 490 BC. It was fought between the citizens of the city-state of Athens, aided by Plataea, against Persian army. It was the culmination of the first attempt by Persia, under King Darius I, to subjugate Greece.
In 490 BC, King Darius I sent a naval task force to subjugate the Greeks, and to make punitive attacks on Athens and Eretria. The Persian force then sailed for Attica, landing in the bay near the town of Marathon. The Athenians, joined by a small force from Plataea, marched to Marathon, and succeeded in blocking the two exits from the plain of Marathon. Stalemate ensued for five days, before the Athenians decided to attack and decidedly defeated the Persians even though the Athenians forces were considerably smaller.
The defeat at Marathon marked the end of the first Persian invasion of Greece, and the Persian force retreated to Asia. Darius then began raising a huge new army with which he meant to completely subjugate Greece; however, in 486 BC, his Egyptian subjects revolted, indefinitely postponing any Greek expedition. After Darius died, his son Xerxes I began new preparations for a second invasion of Greece, which finally began in 480 BC.
The Battle of Marathon was a watershed in the Greco-Persian wars, showing the Greeks that the Persians could be beaten; the eventual Greek triumph in these wars can be seen to begin at Marathon.
(Here is a fun footnote of history, a runner is sent from the battlefield to the city of Athens to bring the good news of the Greek victory, upon arriving he declares “Nike!”, the Greek word for victory, and dies having run 26 miles and it is from here that the race known as a marathon gets its origin.)
Since the following two hundred years saw the rise of the Classical Greek civilization, which has been enduringly influential in western society, the Battle of Marathon is often seen as a pivotal moment in European history and which I will elaborate further as we progress through our study.
Although defeated, the Persians have not forgotten this and 10 years later is when the events begin to unfold in the Book of Esther.
Darius’ son, Xerxes is now King and as Chapter 1 opens he is making preparations for the second invasion of Greece that his father planned before he died, to not only pay back the Greeks for supporting the Ionian revolt but also to avenge the loss at Marathon.
The gathering of all the representatives we see is for the purpose of raising funds and support for the army and naval fleet as well as the supplies needed to support the invasion and this is why he has brought together representatives from 127 nations under his control. This is a fundraiser!
Why are these events important to know and what impact does it have on us today?
The defeat of the Greeks would have meant that Democracy, a political philosophy born in classical Greece, would never have evolved in Europe or the United Sates and this would have retarded the preaching of the Gospel seeing how in a free society the gospel spreads quicker than in a dictatorship which is what the Persians were. In the battle of Marathon a smaller force defeated a large one because it was in God’s interest to do so. As we saw in studying 1st and 2nd Chronicles and as you look at other books in the Bible, if God is for you, you can’t be defeated and if he is against you, the size of your army doesn’t matter, it will not save you! We will see this again later in Esther.
It is ironic that thousands of years later, present day Iran, which was the ancestral home of the Persians, still wants to destroy the nation of Israel, I guess the more things change the more they stay the same!
Obviously God’s hand was against the Persians then as now and whereas Israel celebrates the exploits of Esther as a joyful event, Iran, on the other hand, considers these events as a time of great mourning.
These events set the stage for Chapter 1 of the Book of Esther. Xerxes, Darius’ son, has grown up with the knowledge that the Greek defeated his father and decides to finish what was started earlier and decides to raise an army to attack Athens. It is for that reason that the party described in chapter 1 is taking place as this is how ancient armies were funded. Kings would invite the wealthy and from there money and material support would be raised to fund the expedition. The party has guests from over 127 nations, this is a large gathering and when you consider that the army he raises and fleet he re-builds numbers 300,000 soldiers and over 1,200 ships, there was a lot of money be raised and it is a very, very important event.
Is everyone still with me? I know it sounds like a soap opera!
Esther 1:1- This is what happened during the time of Xerxes, the Xerxes who ruled over 127 provinces stretching from India to Cush (Present day Ethiopia). ( 1: 2) At that time King Xerxes reigned from his royal throne in the citadel of Susa,
(By the way, Susa is one of the oldest known cities in the world dating back to 5000 BC and located in what is now western Iran.)
( 1: 3) and in the third year of his reign (which means this happened when he is about 37 years old) he gave a banquet for all his nobles and officials. The military leaders of Persia and Media, the princes, and the nobles o f the provinces were present. ( 1: 4) For a full 180 days he displayed the vast wealth of his kingdom and the splendor and glory of his majesty . ( 1: 5) When these days were over, the king gave a banquet, lasting seven days, in the enclosed garden of the king's palace, for all the people from the least to the greatest, who were in the citadel of Susa. ( 1: 6) The garden had hangings of white and blue linen, fastened with cords of white linen and purple material to silver rings on marble pillars. There were couches of gold and silver on a mosaic pavement of porphyry, marble, mother-of-pearl and other costly stones. (The floor was done in a mosaic pattern of costly stones) ( 1: 7) Wine was served in goblets of gold, each one different from the other (these goblets were not only gold but covered with precious stone, each one was unique from the others), and the royal wine was abundant, in keeping with the king's liberality.
( 1: 8) By the king's command each guest was allowed to drink in his own way, for the king instructed all the wine stewards to s erve each man what he wished. ( 1: 9) Queen Vashti also gave a banquet for the women in the royal palace of King Xerxes.
According to the Historian Josephus, the party was under a tent that accommodated 10,000 guests to a sit down dinner and included representatives from all the 127 nations in his empire stretching from India to Ethiopia, through Asia Minor, present day Turkey, Egypt and parts of coastal Africa.
This is a serious party! Serious decorations and opulence and it went on for 6 months then after that a banquet was given that lasted seven days!
( 1: 10) On the seventh day, when King Xerxes was in high spirits from wine (drunk) , he commanded the seven eunuchs who served him--Mehuman, Biztha, Harbona, Bigtha , Abagtha, Zethar and Carcas— ( 1: 11) to bring before him Queen Vashti, wearing her royal crown, in order to display her beauty to the people and nobles, for she was lovely to look at.
Some commentators believe the request was for her to come naked wearing only her crown! Who were these people in verse 10? They were seven noble families in the Persian Empire. According to historical records these men were descendants of the people with whom Darius I the Great, Xerxes father, had staged his coup d' état against Belshazzar.
One of these men is of particular interest, Mehuman. This is the Hebrew name found identified in the Talmud as Haman, who will become the principle adversary against the Hebrews in The Book of Esther. He will make all attempts to kill all the Jews. Who is this man? He is a descendent of King Agag the King of the Amalekites whom Saul was suppose to kill but didn’t. Saul’s disobedience is about to come back full circle and haunt Israel. Now we will see the consequences of the seeds of disobedience come to full harvest. You reap what you sow, more than you sow and later than you sow…
( 1: 12) But when the attendants delivered the king's command, Queen Vashti refused to come. Then the king became furious and burned with anger.
So what is going on here?
Xerxes was getting ready to go to war against the Greeks who had been his father’s arch enemy and soon would become his. He needed the support of the royal Persian families and from the nation states of his empire in order to fund and raise troops for the war. The Greek historian Herodotus notes that the Persians had a custom of heavy drinking and in this case the party had been going on for 7 days, they are drunk. In some respects this party is presumably one to “inspire patriotism” among the guest. To the utter embarrassment of Xerxes, the Queen refused his request which he made more than once. She knew they were drunk and didn’t want to subject herself to the humiliation, danger, or lose her dignity. The request by the King dishonored his wife in that he requested she appear in public in the presence of strangers which was against the custom of Persian law. The King is violating the law.
Something else that would go on at these parties was that when the wives left the men brought in prostitutes and concubines to keep them company. There was no way the Queen was going to appear in front of them either, especially as some commentaries have indicated, totally naked!
The King’s request would not have happened under normal circumstances and rather than protecting his wife, he dishonored her and ultimately himself. There was no way she was going to appear before that group wearing a crown or appear in public at all. Although there are conflicting accounts, the King banishes her and some believe that he divorced her. In the Talmud, which includes the Jewish oral history it says she was executed. We don’t know for sure but either way she is gone.
Either way, God uses this event to prepare for Esther to take Vashti’s place as Queen.
( 1: 13) Since it was customary for the king to consult experts in matters of law and justice, he spoke with the wise men who understood the times. ( 1: 14) and were closest to the king--Carshena, Shethar, Admatha, Tarshish, Meres, Marsena and Memucan, the seven nobles of Persia and Media who had special access to the king and were highest in the kingdom. ( 1: 15) "According to law, what must be done to Queen Vashti?" he asked. "She has not obeyed the command of King Xerxes that th e eunuchs have taken to her." ( 1: 16) Then Memucan replied in the presence of the king and the nobles, "Queen Vashti has done wrong, not only against the king but also against all the nobles and the peoples of all the provinces of King Xerxes. ( 1: 17) For the queen's conduct will become known to all the women, and so they will despise their husbands and say, 'King Xerxes commanded Queen Vashti to be brought before him, but she would not come.' ( 1: 18) This very day the Persian and Median women of the nobility who have heard about the queen's conduct will respond to all the king's nobles in the same way. There will be no e nd of disrespect and discord. ( 1: 19) "Therefore, if it pleases the king, let him issue a royal decree and let it be written in the laws of Persia and Media, which cannot be repealed, that Vashti is never again to enter the presence of King Xerxes. Also let the king give her royal position to someone else who is better than she. ( 1: 20) Then when the king's edict is proclaimed throughout all his vast realm, all the women will respect their husbands, fro m the least to the greatest." ( 1: 21) The king and his nobles were pleased with this advice, so the king did as Memucan proposed. ( 1: 22) He sent dispatches to all parts of the kingdom, to each province in its own script and to each people in its own language, proclaiming in each people's tongue that every man should be ruler over his own household.
Memucan, also spelled Mehuman, was one of the seven vice-regents of the Persian King. It is not stated in the text explicitly, but it is the generally accepted belief that Memucan and Haman were the same person.
When Queen Vashti, refused his order to display herself at the king's banquet, Memucan advised the king to depose her and replace her with a more worthy wife. Memucan further advised the king to issue a decree throughout his domain declaring his action, so that all women would learn a lesson and honor and respect their husbands. The decree was translated and transcribed into each language and script of the empire, so that each man would be "master in his own house.”
This man is not only powerful by virtue of his office but would be a major influence on the King.
As we begin Chapter 2, four years have passed since the events recorded in Chapter 1.
In order to fill in the gap we need to look at history as this will clarify what is going on. In Chapter 1 Xerxes had brought powerful and influential members of his empire together for the purpose of raising money and an army to go up against the Greeks in order to avenge his father’s defeat in the Battle of Marathon.
During this time Xerxes had formed a huge army, estimated at above 300,000 soldiers (some estimates are 1 million) and over 1,200 ships, and goes to war against the Greeks. After a long and bloody land and sea war, he is defeated by the Greeks again.
Xerxes goes up against King Leonidas and his 300 Spartans along with 1,000 other soldiers from various city-states in the year 480 B.C.. at the Battle of Thermopylae. For a week the armies stand off against each other. During 3 days of fighting, the Greeks inflict massive casualties against the Persian army. The Greeks 1,300 holding off an army of 300,000 in the pass of Thermopylae; is one of the most famous battles in ancient history. Ultimately the Persians win the battle but pay a very heavy price for the victory.
While this is going on Xerxes’ navy goes up against a much smaller Greek fleet of warships from Athens at a Battle at Salimas. Although Xerxes has 1,207 ships, he is defeated by the Athenians 271 ships. This defeat was massive with the Greeks losing only 40 ships while the Persians lost over 200.
Xerxes retreats with massive loses and returns home, never fulfilling his nor his father’s desires to conquer Greece, the historian Herodotus records that Xerxes returns to Susa, his capital, never to venture out again, where “he engages in the intrigues of his harem.” This man reportedly had 350 wives; I imagine there is a lot of intrigue there! He was most likely feeling pretty low at this time, probably was missing his wife Vashti and wouldn’t be surprised if he came to regret his previous decision!
Like his father, he was humbled in battle and when he returns and as we will see throughout the remaining chapters, he has been brought down to size and even becomes a different man with different attitudes especially towards his wife.
Queen Vashti is gone. It is this circumstance that now begins to unfold that will lead to the ascension of Esther to a place of prominence that God had divinely appointed for her.
Verse ( 2: 1) : Later when the anger of King Xerxes had subsided, he remembered Vashti and what she had done and what he had decreed about her.
The indication, here, is that he was sorry he had listened to his advisors and put Vashti away. Under the law of the Medes and Persians once a decree had been made there was no way to revoke it. I am very sure he regretted his previous actions. From historical accounts written he was in love with Vashti but in his drunken state he had made a decision he should not have made and now the consequences of his actions, together with the defeats he had suffered opens the door for Esther.
( 2: 2) Then the king's personal attendants proposed, "Let a search be made for beautiful young v irgins for the king. ( 2: 3) Let the king appoint commissioners in every province of his realm to bring all these beautiful girls (virgins were brought) into the harem at the citadel of Susa. Let them be placed under the care of Hegai, the king's eunuch, who is in charge of the women; and let beauty treatments be given to them.
In an oriental palace, there are separate apartments for the women away from the men. These young, beautiful virgins were to be gathered from the many provinces that Xerxes ruled. We are talking about girls who came from literally 127 nations. They would be brought to the women's quarters at the palace, and prepared to meet the king. Most of these young women would not have fine clothes to wear, so they would be provided for them to wear before the king. Even though they were virgins, they would be purified in some way. This took approximately a year for the purification process. This, possibly, meant that they were bathed and clothed in the garments provided. It, also, meant they were perfumed and rubbed with ointment in the purification. Beauty and Health Spa! Even their diet was under court supervision.
( 2: 4) Then let the girl who pleases the king be queen instead of Vashti." This advice appealed to the king, and he followed it.
Now we are to meet the next two principal characters in the story. Although the Book is named after Esther, the other principle character is Mordecai. Mordecai is to Esther what the Holy Spirit is to Jesus and us. I really like him!
( 2: 5) Now there was in the citadel of Susa a Jew of the tribe of Benjamin (the same tribe as Saul) , named Mordecai son of Jair, the so n of Shimei, the son of Kish, ( 2: 6) who had been carried into exile from Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, among those taken captive w ith Jehoiachin king of Judah. ( 2: 7) Mordecai had a cousin named Hadassah, whom he had brought up because she had neither father nor mother (an Orphan). This girl, who was also known as Esther, was lovely in form and features, and Mordecai had taken her as his own daughter when her father and mother died.
Who are these people? Obviously they are Israelites who had been taken into captivity. Mordecai is a descendant from King Saul. Whereas in the beginning of this lesson we had Saul’s disobedience setting up the groundwork we will see bear fruit here, in this book Saul’s ancestor, Mordecai, will act as Saul should have. Throughout the Book of Esther we see Mordecai as a picture of the Spirit minded man and we will see how that overcomes the flesh. From historical records we also know that Mordecai is a person of renown among the Hebrews. He has a place of prominence among the leaders of the Israelites. Slaves taken into captivity were not bound in chains, they were actually treated more like ordinary citizen as to being allowed to work and live.
The other person we meet, our heroine so to speak, is Hadassah which means myrtle. This is her Hebrew name but we will come to know her by the Persian name which is “Esther”, her Persian name which means “star”. What an appropriate name! She will be the “star” of this story that God had predestined his spotlight to shine on her in this stage in history. Nothing here came about by chance, God had a divine appointment for her as he does for all of us and even though she is a Jewess, a slave and shared with her people in their bondage; she will rise to be a Queen. It is good to remember that God appoints, not man. So irrespective of your circumstances, with God nothing is impossible!
Think of all the historical events that have taken place to bring everything together for this moment, and if this doesn’t convince you that God is in control nothing will.
The Bible says she was lovely in both “form and features” which suggested she wasn’t hard to look at. A more complete description is found in the historian Josephus’ writing (Book 11 Chapter 2) which say that Esther, “was the most beautiful of all the rest, and that the grace of her countenance drew the eyes of the spectators mainly upon her.” When she walked in a room, people noticed and heads turned, not only from her outward appearance but inner beauty as well! There were a total of 400 virgins in this group, Esther was the most beautiful of them all and her grace and countenance made people draw their attention to her. Also note that she was submissive. It is this attitude and her humble spirit that was part of her attraction and which doesn’t diminish with time as external beauty always fades but character and Grace last.
This attitude of submission pleases God and it is meant as an example to us. Submission isn’t for the purpose of putting someone down or demeaning them, it’s for the purpose of elevating us to the place we were meant to be which is being with favor, being under God’s Amazing Grace.
Esther is the picture of the renewed spirit that is given to a man or woman when they becomes a Christian, when they are regenerated, when his spirit is made alive in Jesus Christ, the Grace of God to us. She is under the influence and control of her cousin, Mordecai, who throughout this book is a picture for us of the Holy Spirit and his activity in our lives.
So now the stage is set…
( 2: 8) When the king's order and the edict had been proclaimed, many girls were brought to the citadel of Susa and put under the care of Hegai. Esther also was taken to the king's palace and entrusted to Hegai, who had charge of the harem. ( 2: 9) The girl pleased him (Hegai, the king’s chamberlain, a very high position in government) and won his favor. Immediately he provided her with her beauty treatments and special food. He assigned to her seven maids selected from the king's palace and moved her and her maids into the best place in the harem.
Notice she had favor, what is another term for favor, Grace. God’s Grace was in control.
( 2: 10) Esther had not revealed her nationality and family background, because Mordecai had forbidden her to do so. (Mordecai provided her with wisdom as well as always being available to her, a picture of the Holy Spirit) ( 2: 11) Every day he walked back and forth near the courtyard of the harem to find out how Esther was a nd what was happening to her. ( 2: 12) Before a girl's turn came to go in to King Xerxes, she had to complete twelve months of beauty treatments prescribed for the women, six months with oil of myrrh and six with perfumes and cosmetics. ( 2: 13) And this is how she would go to the king: Anything she wanted was given her to take with her from th e harem to the king's palace. ( 2: 14) In the evening she would go there and in the morning return to another part of the harem to the care of Shaashgaz, the king's eunuch who was in charge of the concubines. She would not return to the king unless he was pleased with her and summoned her by name.( 2: 15) When the turn came for Esther (the girl Mordecai had adopted, the daughter of his uncle Abihail) to go to the king, she asked for nothing other than what Hegai, the king's eunuch who was in charge of the harem, suggested.(this girl is smart as well as beautiful and listens to advise!) And Esther won the f avor of everyone who saw her. ( 2: 16) She was taken to King Xerxes in the royal residence in the tenth month, the month of Tebeth, in the seventh year of his reign. (478 B C Xerxes is now 41 years old ) ( 2: 17) Now the king was attracted to Esther more than to any of the other women, and she won his favor and approval more than any of the other virgins. So he set a royal crown on her head and made her queen instead of Vashti .
Notice it says she found favor. There are certain attitudes that will find favor; she had displayed this to not only the king but “everyone who saw her.”
( 2: 18) And the king gave a great banquet, Esther's banquet, for all his nobles and officials. He proclaimed a holiday throughout the provinces (this is a worldwide holiday that lasted for 30 days) and distributed gi fts with royal liberality. ( 2: 19) When the virgins were assembled a second time, Mordecai was sitting at the king's gate.
The King’s gate is like a place of gathering common in those times so people would meet and conduct business and other matters there. It is part of the King’s palace. In the deeper context of this story, the Holy Spirit is always on guard to protect us from destruction by our enemy. Here is a picture of that protection which may not be obvious to us immediately but which will become evident as we will see later on in this story. Unbeknownst to all of us, the Holy Spirit has kept watch over us and we were not necessarily aware of anything at the time, this is what is happening here.
( 2: 20) But Esther had kept secret her family background and nationality just as Mordecai had told her to do, for she continued to follow Mordecai's instructions as she had done when he was bringing her up .
Even though she was now the Queen of the most powerful empire of its time she continued to listen to Mordecai which is a picture of how being lead by the Holy Spirit should not change simply because our circumstances improve or we have a different position or have become prominent, if anything, promotion from God should lead to more dependence on him and less on our self. We will see this concept become a key element in this story. The principle here being that with greater responsibilities come the need for greater wisdom and what could be greater wisdom that having the wisdom of God through the Holy Spirit.
( 2: 21) During the time Mordecai was sitting at the king's gate, Bigthana and Teresh, two of the king's officers who guarded the doorway, became angry and conspire d to assassinate King Xerxes. ( 2: 22) But Mordecai found out about the plot and told Queen Esther, who in turn reported it to the kin g, giving credit to Mordecai. ( 2: 23) And when the report was investigated and found to be true, the two officials were hanged on a gallows. All this was recorded in the book of the annals in the presence of the king.
How did Mordecai find out about this? He is a man of prominence among the Jews. One of the servants of the king’s officer, a man named Barnabazus, who was a Jew by birth and informs Mordecai about the plot, (Josephus, Jewish Antiquities Book 11; Chapter 6)
Hollywood couldn’t write these kinds of plots!
So to recap; In Chapter 2 the Spirit is received when Esther, under the control of her cousin, Mordecai, is brought before the king and he falls in love with her. Because of her beauty he immediately chooses her to be his queen and exalts her. In that scene you have a picture of what might be called the conversion of this king. He receives a new spirit, without understanding that the Holy Spirit, also, is involved---many of us today may have failed to understand this at the moment of our becoming Christians. But Mordecai is there in the background and we shall see how he becomes one of the prominent characters in this story of the wonderful deliverance of the Israelites.
In Chapter 3 we are introduced to the evil villain of our story, an Agagite descendent from the kingdom of the Amalekites we had read about earlier in 1 Samuel. This man’s name is Haman…
Now everyone is suppose to say… HSSSS!!! Boooo!
In the re-telling of the story of Esther, even to the present day, whenever this man’s name is mentioned the crowd yells… HSSSSS!! Boooo!!, so we are going to do likewise, it is a tradition of the story of the Feast of Purim, and we are going to do the same. Another part of the tradition is to have cookies called “Haman’s Ears”, and play with an instrument that looks like a rattle.
So whenever I mention Haman… you says; HSSSSS!!! BOOOO!!! That’s your part.
Now for those of us who have inquiring minds and need to know if you have wondered why God was so opposed to these people was because they are descendents of Esau, who was Jacob’s brother and in Exodus 17:8-16 God says he would make war against them forever because they fought against Israel when Moses first brought them out of Egypt.
Haman, ( HSSSS! Boooo!), was aware of the family history of his people as was Mordecai and the two will be immediately antagonistic towards each other. Hanan is the picture of the flesh as Mordecai is the picture of the Holy Spirit and the flesh and spirit are always at war one with the other.
Haman is not only one of the 7 regents and of royal birth, his family had supported Xerxes’ father Darius politically when he came to power, not only is he well connected he is very powerful and about to get even more powerful when the King appoints him to a position best described as Prime Minister. In historical accounts it mentions that “Haman, who on account of his wisdom and justice, is first in my esteem; and in dignity and only second to myself.” (Josephus, Jewish Antiquities Book 11; Chapter 6).
To make matters worse, the king further proclaims that Hanan is to be worshipped, Mordecai refuses to do so and here begins the battle of Haman, a picture of the anti-Christ, beginning to plot how to annihilate not only Mordecai, but the entire nation of Israel.
You only have to look at recent history during the 1930’s to see the rise of Hitler in Nazi Germany to fully comprehend how feasible all of this really is. It is also a preview of things to come when the Anti-Christ comes before the return of Jesus. This is a preview of the Book of Revelation.
Esther ( 3:1 ) After these events, King Xerxes honored Haman son of Hammedatha, the Agagite, elevating him and giving him a seat of honor higher than t hat of all the other nobles. ( 3: 2) All the royal officials at the king's gate knelt down and paid honor to Haman, for the king had commanded this concerning him. But Mordecai would not kneel down or pay him honor. ( 3: 3) Then the royal officials at the king's gate asked Mordecai, "Why do you disobey the king's command?" ( 3: 4) Day after day they spoke to him but he refused to comply. Therefore they told Haman about it to see whether Mordecai's behavior would be tolerated, for he had told them he was a Jew. ( 3: 5) When Haman saw that Mordecai would not kneel down or pa y him honor, he was enraged. ( 3: 6) Yet having learned who Mordecai's people were, he scorned the idea of killing only Mordecai. Instead Haman looked for a way to destroy all Mordecai's people, the Jews, throughout the whole kingdom of Xerxes.
Why doesn’t he knell down?
Mordecai is not bowing down to Haman because he lives by a different life principle and God is the only one he and his people vow down to. Just as when we are born again and we begin to live a different lifestyle from the world, Mordecai is displaying his beliefs openly as others had also done in Persia. The Persians when they had conquered other lands had permitted the conquered people to keep and practice their religious belief which was the law of the land. Once the law had been set the Jews were not obligated to vow to Haman. In verse 4 when Haman learns Mordecai is a Jew, he begins to plot how to kill him. Since he needed an excuse other than the rage he felt when his pride and arrogance were bruised, he plots to manipulate the King and to exploit the favor he had gained as Prime Minister.
In doing so Haman begins to see himself as the avenger of his people as well. This is best described as prideful arrogance.
On a deeper level let me ask you this.
Haman is related to Esau who was Jacob’s brother, if you remember the events in Genesis, Esau was the first born and was entitled to his father’s inheritance.
Does anyone remember what he did?
He sold his inheritance to his brother Jacob in exchange for a bowl of food. In the deeper context of the lesson, Haman as a descendent of Esau represents the desires of the flesh to be satisfied above everything else. The desires of the flesh are constantly opposed to God’s will. The flesh is constantly coming up with clever and unique ways to avoid the leading of the Spirit and God’s will. The flesh is still at work today as is the Spirit; they are still at war with each other.
Gal 5:17 For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, that will never change.
Haman is very clever and crafty and represents the flesh, but as we will see shortly, Mordecai, the picture of God’s representative through the Holy Spirit is even more clever.
In this we will come to see how God then as now works to remove the wrong persons from positions of authority to replace them with whom he elects. The King may have appointed but God is the one who cast the final vote and if he has to God will move heaven and earth to accomplish his will for you.
Is this making sense to you?
Here is something else to think about. The persecution against the Jews, Christians and other groups in Nazi Germany began as a simple and subtle criticism by a few, a small minority who despised these religious groups. Little by little the erosion of civil and religious freedoms proceeded; this was followed by propaganda and violent political movements where a small radical element eventually took over the local, state and ultimately the federal government. From that position of power was birthed the Holocaust where millions perished and the most frightening part of all of this was that everything the Nazi’s did was perfectly legal in their country! Don’t even think this can’t happen again which is why we need to not only pray but be involved and vote our moral conscious and not be swayed by celebrity status and outward appearances.
VERY IMPORTANT: Why is there such hatred then as now against the Jews and such hatred against Christians ever since Jesus came?
Inciting Haman’s hatred was the Law God had spoken to the Jews and the lifestyle they led which was totally contrary to his. Ever since God gave the Jews the Law on Mt. Sinai, the world has hated them because in the law God brings up the issue of sin as well as from the Jews Jesus Christ has come. The world then as now has a spirit of the anti-Christ behind it . Since the World loves their sin the moral imperative that came through the Jews and now including Christians has brought guilt upon the world and conviction and this is blamed on the Jews specifically and us by association with the God who calls sin, sin.
Since God brought the light through the law first then Jesus Christ, hatred of those that follow God is assured. Don’t EVER think the world will love you! As a matter of fact, you are guaranteed to be hated.
John 3:19 says, This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. (20) Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. (21) But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God."
Light and Darkness just as the Spirit and the Flesh are diametrically opposed to each other and will never, ever be friends! Haman’s and the world’s self-esteem and self-worth were based on the gratification of the things of the flesh and are a picture of man without Christ whereas Mordecai is the picture of the Spirit filled life and these two will always be mortal enemies.
Let’s get back to Esther.
( 3: 6) Yet having learned who Mordecai's people were, he scorned the idea of killing only Mordecai. Instead Haman looked for a way to destroy all Mordecai's people, the Jews, throughout the whole kingdom of Xerxes.
This is a worldwide move to kill all the Jews.
( 3: 7) In the twelfth year of King Xerxes, in the first month, the month of Nisan, they cast the pur (that is, the lot) in the presence of Haman to select a day and month. And the lot fell on the twelfth month, the month of Adar. (Adar is a winter month, it is the 6 th month in the civil year and 12 th month of the Jewish religious calendar, this falls between our February – March period as a reference point)
( 3: 8) Then Haman said to King Xerxes, "There is a certain people dispersed and scattered among the peoples in all the provinces of your kingdom ( in other words, they were scattered worldwide) whose customs are different from those of all other people and who do not obey the king's laws; it is not in the king's best interest to tolerate them.
Considering the Jews were their captive and providing a service and tax revenues for the Persians, this statement is not only false but shows how the King is easily manipulated.
( 3: 9) If it pleases the king, let a decree be issued to destroy them, and I will put ten thousand talents of silver into the royal treasury for the men who carry out this business."
In other words, if you O king would issue the decree, I would pay for it.
UMMMM! This sounds fishy, let’s do the math for a moment… this sounds too generous…
Haman is taking a gamble here, he is proposing to the king to get rid of the Jews because their presence are not in the king’s best interest. Furthermore, to show how loyal he is to the King he further states he will pay the cost and deposit 10,000 talents of silver in the treasury. To put this in perspective, it is very unlikely he has that kind of wealth. 1 talent of silver is 750 ounces, even if we use $10.00/ oz. as the cost, which current markets are almost twice that ($18.23), 10,000 talents represent $75,000,000.
How did he expect to pay for this? He was going to kill the Jews and steal from them to pay back the King the cost incurred. (side note: Hitler financed about 30% of Germany’s WWII war effort with money and assets stolen from the Jews who were executed during the Holocaust.)
The King, thinking that Haman is a generous friend, falls for this and tells Haman to forget the debt as a sign of his friendship.
Checkmate. The ploy worked. Haman got everything he sought after. He is going to have Mordecai killed, along with all the Jews thus avenging his people, and it isn’t going to cost him anything… or so he thinks…
( 3: 10) So the king took his signet ring from his finger and gave it to Haman son of Hammedatha, the Agagite, and the enemy of the Jews. ( 3: 11 ) "Keep the money," the king said to Haman, "and do with the people as you please." ( 3: 12) Then on the thirteenth day of the first month the royal secretaries were summoned. They wrote out in the script of each province and in the language of each people all Haman's orders to the king's satraps, the governors of the various provinces and the nobles of the various peoples. These were written in the name of King Xerxes himself a nd sealed with his own ring. ( 3: 13) Dispatches were sent by couriers to all the king's provinces with the order to destroy, kill and annihilate all the Jews--young and old, women and little children--on a single day, the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, the month of Adar, and to plunder their goods. ( 3: 14) A copy of the text of the edict was to be issued as law in every province and made known to the people of every nationality so they would be ready for that day.
What Irony! Saul was given instructions to kill all the Amalekites and destroy their property and he didn’t; now this descendent of the Amalekites issues the same decree against the Jews.
It is important you understand the timeline since this will explain how the circumstances played out. From the time the decree was made till the day set for its execution, 11 months were to pass. Why? Because there was the practical matter of getting the decree all over the 127 nations that comprised the kingdom which extended from Ethiopia to India, this was no small task.
( 3: 15) Spurred on by the king's command, the couriers went out, and the edict was issued in the citadel of Susa. The king and Haman sat down to drink, but the city of Susa was bewildered.
Another important point is this, under the law of the Medes-Persian Empire; once a decree was issued by the king it could not be taken back or undone. And we will see the effects of this shortly Haman must have been in 7th heaven. Not only has he gotten everything he sought after, he was now 2nd in command in the kingdom and his drinking companion was the King himself!
He must have thought… “It can’t get any better than this!....”
I am reminded of
Proverbs 16:18, Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.
Let’s see what happens next.
If Chapter 3 is the introduction of the antagonist Haman and his plot to kill all the Jews, then Chapter 4 can be categorized of how God moves in response to deliver his people and use Mordecai and Esther as submitted instruments in his hand.
In this deeper context we see how God used Jesus and the Holy Spirit for deliverance of mankind or stated differently, God used Grace to overcome the Law then as well as now at Calvary.
You need to understand the Mordecai has a position of authority; a position of royal court advisor as a result of ingratiating himself to King and was therefore referred to subsequently as one of those who "sat in the king's gate" to indicate his position of closeness to the King. Although he does not have the same status as Haman, who is 2nd to the King, he does have a position of prominence which will give him access to Esther that normally he would not have had once she had become the queen.
Mordecai is also from the tribe of Benjamin; just as Saul was and whose actions started all these events, now God sends another Benjamite to finish what Saul had not.
Haman may be crafty but God is the one who places his people in positions where we can influence our surrounding and if ever there was a time where that is needed, it is now that the decree to kill all the Jews has been issued.
Chapter ( 4:1 ) When Mordecai learned of all that had been done, he tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and ashes, and went out into the city, wailing loudly and bitterly. ( 4: 2) But he went only as far as the king's gate, because no one clothed in sackcl oth was allowed to enter it. ( 4: 3) In every province to which the edict and order of the king came, there was great mourning among the Jews, with fasting, weeping and wailing. Many lay in sackcloth and ashes. ( 4: 4) When Esther's maids and eunuchs came and told her about Mordecai, she was in great distress. She sent clothes for him to put on instead of his sackcloth, but he would not accept them.
What was Mordecai wailing? The historian Josephus says that Mordecai was crying out, “a nation that has been injurious to no man is to be destroyed!”
Normally as a royal official he would be well dressed in royal garments befitting his court appointment, now he has torn off his clothing, put on sackcloth and ashes. Although the modern-day idea of "wearing sackcloth" is often that of someone dressed in a burlap grain bag with a hole cut out, this isn’t the biblical meaning. Sackcloth was most often made of black coarse goat's hair. As its name indicates, it was used for sacks, but was also customarily worn by mourners. Ashes were often included as a further symbol of personal abhorrence and chagrin but that also is a sign of mourning.
In this we see a deeper context of how the Holy Spirit can grieve within us and be distressed when circumstances are contrary to God’s will.
Esther, distressed by the news of her Mordecai’s condition sent clothing to him as if these superficial changes would satisfy him, they would not.
Esther ( 4:5 ) Then Esther summoned Hathach, one of the king's eunuchs assigned to attend her and ordered him to find out what was troubling Mordecai and why.
I love the subtly of the Bible, the eunuch’s name, Hathach , means “The Truth”. Previously Esther had made superficial attempts to comfort Mordecai’s condition by sending him clothing, superficial changes don’t provide a solution so now she goes deeper and send eunuch to find out the truth!
Esther ( 4:6 ) So Hathach went out to Mordecai in the open square of the ci ty in front of the king's gate. ( 4: 7) Mordecai told him everything that had happened to him, including the exact amount of money Haman had promised to pay into the royal treasury for t he destruction of the Jews. ( 4: 8) He also gave him a copy of the text of the edict for their annihilation, which had been published in Susa, to show to Esther and explain it to her, and he told him to urge her to go into the king's presence to beg for mercy and ple ad with him for her people. ( 4: 9) Hathach went back and reported to Esther what Mordecai had said.
So now Esther finds out the real truth of what is going on, although she too is a Jewess, the King doesn’t know it yet and when he made the decision he didn’t realize that he had inadvertently condemned his wife as well. Haman didn’t know Esther was a Jewess either.
( 4: 10) Then she instructed him, the eunuch, to say to Mordecai, ( 4: 11) "All the king's officials and the people of the royal provinces know that for any man or woman who approaches the king in the inner court without being summoned the king has but one law: that he be put to death. The only exception to this is for the king to extend the gold scepter to him and spare his life. But thirty d ays have passed since I was called to go to the king." ( 4: 12) When Esther's words were reported to Mordecai,
This is a serious threat and honestly she doesn’t know what to do, approaching the King, even if you are the queen can be deadly. “The King had made a law, that none of his own people should approach him unless he calls them. The guard stationed around his throne had large axes in their hand to punish anyone who came near without being called. However, the king sat with a golden scepter in his hand, which he held out when he had in mind to save anyone of those that approached to him without first being called and he who touched it would be free from danger.” (Josephus Jewish Antiquities Book 11, Chapter 6)
(4: 13) Mordecai sent back this answer: "Do not think that because you are in the king's house you alone o f all the Jews will escape. ( 4: 14) For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father's family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?" (4: 15) Then Esther sent this reply to Mordecai:
Mordecai is telling her, you’ve got to go to the King! You cannot remain silent!
Her position as Queen doesn’t guarantee her security anymore than our positions guarantee freedom from persecution.
The issue at hand is to get the king to understand that Haman (HSSSS!!! BOOO!!!) was not his friend, just as the issue is to get us to understand that the flesh is not our friend. When we allow the flesh to have preeminence over our spirit then we are working against the good that God desires for us to have.
We can be as deluded in our thinking as the king who had not figured out yet that his supposed best friend was really his worst enemy.
The King is about to find out that Mordecai is his best friend just as we find out the Holy Spirit is ours.
Does this make sense?
Esther was basically saying to Mordecai, you don’t know what you are asking me to do. For me to go before the king will make my life forfeit, you are asking me to die. Think about this, God asked Jesus to do the same, forfeit his life for others.
His reply is very much to the real point of the story. Our deliverance will arise; maybe you were placed in this very place for a time such as this. Although God is not specifically mentioned anywhere in this book it is obvious from Mordecai’s statement that he had confidence that “deliverance for the Jews will arise”.
We can have the same confidence in Christ’s deliverance of us as Mordecai expresses herein. Maybe we don’t know how or when but be assured that Jesus Christ will never, ever leave or forsake us, that’s the foundation of our peace in knowing deliverance is coming!
Although you may not be in a high and exalted position don’t think you can’t affect your surroundings and circumstances by sharing with others what Jesus has done for you. If the church continues to stay silent, we can expect things to get worse.
Martin Luther King, Jr. once said it best…, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
That quote and this story still apply to us individually as well as collectively as a church.
Think about it.
Furthermore, Esther is a picture of Jesus Christ as Mordecai is one of the Holy Spirit, this scene that has played out is a foreshadow of the Holy Spirit leading Jesus to his death as God the Father willed
(4: 15) Then Esther sent this reply to Mordecai: ( 4:16 ) "Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my maids will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish." ( 4: 17 ) So Mordecai went away and carried out all of Esther's instructions.
She as well as others prayed and fasted for 3 days, for 3 days they were in the grave symbolically in hopes of being raised and delivered as Christ was delivered and raised from the grave.
Her willingness to die is the seed from which life would come and bless her and her people and in this we see the fore shadow of Jesus Christ to come and deliver all mankind from sin and death.
Chapter ( 5:1 ) On the third day Esther put on her royal robes and stood in the inner court of the palace, in front of the king's hall. The king was sitting on his royal throne in the hall, facing the entrance. ( 5: 2) When he saw Queen Esther standing in the court, he was pleased with her and held out to her the gold scepter that was in his hand. So Esther approached and touched the tip of the scepter.
We need to look further into this; this is high drama going on. When the King first met Esther before they were married she was dressed simply by comparison. Now when it says in verse 1 that she was dressed in her “royal robes” this means she was fully decked out as befits a Queen with jewelry and everything. The girl has got her bling-bling on!
So let’s set the stage in more detail so you have a visual picture of what is going on.
The king was not sitting in a throne in a room like you and I would imagine. The King sat upon his chair and it was so high that it would require a footstool for him to reach it. The chair was made of gold, or, at least, inlaid with that metal, and covered with splendid tapestry. He was protected by guards holding axes who would kill anyone who came near him. The room, that historian’s best describe more like a cloistered penthouse, was situated over against the gate of the palace. In the room would be other officials with him conducting the affairs of the kingdom.
The scepter he held was a long rod equal to his height that was crowned with a small knob at the top. When he extended this to someone then they were saved and allowed to enter his presence.
Earlier in chapter 4:11 Esther tells Mordecai,… ” But thirty days have passed since I was called to go to the king."
What that meant was that she and the king had not slept together in 30 days. You have to remember that even though she was his wife she lives in the woman’s quarters in a harem. She doesn’t live with her husband as you and I would imagine. She doesn’t go to the king unless she was called which was why she was hesitant to go now.
The King was her husband but he was also her sovereign.
Furthermore, she had been praying and fasting for 3 days now. She was in a weak state even though she goes in the resurrected spirit determined to go even if it kills her.
Let me read to you how this was recorded in historical accounts.
“When Esther had used this supplication for 3 days (fasting), she put off those garments (sackcloth) and adorned herself as became a queen, and took two of her handmaids with her, the one of which supported her, as she gently leaned upon her, and the other followed after, and lifted up her large train of her dress (which swept along the ground) with the extremities of her fingers. And thus she came to the king, having a blushing redness in her countenance, with a pleasant agreeableness in her behavior; yet did she go in to him with fear; and as soon as she was come near to him, as he was sitting on his throne, in his royal apparel, which was a garment interwoven with gold and precious stones, which made him seem to her more terrible, especially when he looked at her something severely, and with a countenance on fire with anger, her joints failed her immediately, out of dread she was in, and she fell down sideways in a swoon.”
She fainted in fear when she approached him, she swooned! But wait, it gets better, let me continue…
“But the king changed his mind, which happened, as I suppose, by the will of God, and was concerned for his wife and he leaped from the throne and took her in his arms and recovered her by embracing her and speaking comfortably to her and exhorting her to be of good cheer…” (you go guy!, that’s my comment, not Josephus’)
She said, “My Lord, it is not easy for me, suddenly , to say what has happened, for as soon as I saw you to be great, and comely, and terrible, my spirit departed from me and I had no soul left in me.”
The king encouraged Esther to be of good cheer, and to expect better fortune, since he was ready, if occasion should require it, to grant her the half of the kingdom. (Josephus, Jewish Antiquities Book 11 Chapter 6)
We need to fully appreciate how scared Esther was yet how courageous she proceeded. Courage isn’t about not being afraid; it is walking forward in spite of the fears. This is what she had just done and the king treated her tenderly and with favor, with Grace. You go girl!!!
(5:3) Then the king asked, "What is it, Queen Esther? What is your request? Even up to half the kingdom, it will b e given you." ( 5: 4) "If it pleases the king," replied Esther, "le t the king, together with Haman; come today to a banque t I have prepared for him." ( 5: 5) "Bring Haman at once," the king said, "so that we may do what Esther asks." So the king and Haman went to the banquet Esther had prepared.
After all that drama her request was rather simple and seemingly insignificant, she had been offered up to half the kingdom, an expression of liberality from the king, and all she asks for if for he and Haman come to dinner the next day.
Whose idea was this? It was probably Mordecai’s. This was a very subtle plot being woven and Haman was going to seal his own fate when he accepts this dinner invitation. He doesn’t realize it yet but he will be “dead meat” when it’s all over!
The custom of the court was that the king ate alone. Only those favored would be called later on to come into his presence and drink with him. This was an outward expression of the person’s importance in the king’s eyes as well as to others. For Haman, who already was passing himself off as the king’s best friend, to be invited not only to dinner with the king but also with the queen was a major stroking of his pride and it was in this environment that pride would lead him to his fall.
( 5: 6) As they were drinking wine, the king again asked Esther, "Now what is your petition? It will be given you. And what is your request? Even up to half the ki ngdom, it will be granted." ( 5: 7) Esther replied, "My petition and my request is this: ( 5: 8) If the king regards me with favor and if it pleases the king to grant my petition and fulfill my request, let the king and Haman come tomorrow to the banquet I will prepare for them. Then I will answer the king's question."( 5: 9) Haman went out that day happy and in high spirits. But when he saw Mordecai at the king's gate and observed that he neither rose nor showed fear in his presence, he was filled with rage against Mordecai. ( 5: 10) Nevertheless, Haman restrained himself and went home. Calling together hi s friends and Zeresh, his wife, ( 5: 11) Haman boasted to them about his vast wealth, his many sons (there were 10 sons), and all the ways the king had honored him and how he had elevated him above the other nobles and officials. ( 5: 12) "And that's not all," Haman added. "I'm the only person Queen Esther invited to accompany the king to the banquet she gave. And she has invited me al ong with the king tomorrow. ( 5: 13) But all this gives me no satisfaction as long as I see that Jew Mordecai sitting at t he king's gate." ( 5: 14) His wife Zeresh and all his friends said to him, "Have a gallows built, seventy-five feet high, and ask the king in the morning to have Mordecai hanged on it. Then go with the king to the dinner and be happy." This suggestion delighted Haman, and he had the gallows built.
“The gallows mentioned here were not the ones we imagine they were not for hanging a victim, but for violently killing and displaying the victim. A pointed stake is set upright in the ground, and the culprit is taken, placed on the sharp point, and then pulled down by his legs till the stake that went in passes up through the body and comes out through the neck. A most dreadful form of punishment, it is a very slow process causing excruciating agonies before death” (Clarke, Blue Letter Bible website)
Where the gallows are erected, in front of his house will be important later on in subsequent chapters.
When I was researching the material for this lesson I am teaching you, I noticed that nowhere in the entire Book of Esther is God’s name mentioned but throughout the entire lesson God has been moving people and events, writing history to fulfill his will and his pleasure.
Why? Because from these people would come Jesus Christ.
The historian Josephus makes a comment in his writing that amused me and it is so true, he says regarding the gallows build by Haman, “But God laughed to scorn at the wicked expectations of Haman; and as he knew what the event would be, he delighted at it; for that night he took away the king’s sleep.”
God laughs at the wicked but raises the humble.
Psalm 37:9 for evil men will be cut off, but those who hope in the Lord will inherit the land. (10) A little while, and the wicked will be no more; though you look for them, they will not be found. (11) But the meek will inherit the land and enjoy great peace. (12) The wicked plot against the righteous and gnash their teeth at them; (13) but the Lord laughs at the wicked, for he knows their day is coming.
I realize it is hard sometimes but God will provide for you always, he laughs at the wicked who come against you. Let’s see what happens next…
Chapter 6 begins with the king having a bout of insomnia, I can relate to that! That’s when I write many of my lessons, in the middle of the night, works for me!
(6:1) That night the king could not sleep; so he ordered the book of the chronicles, the record of his reign, to be brought in and read to him.
So since he can’t sleep, he works and was being productive.
( 6: 2) It was found recorded there that Mordecai had exposed Bigthana and Teresh, two of the king's officers who guarded the doorway, who had conspired to assassinate King Xerxes. ( 6: 3) "What honor and recognition has Mordecai received for this?" the king asked. "Nothing has been done for him," his attendants answered.
I love how God orchestrates things, he keeps the king awake and where does the king go, to work, and there he discovers he had not rewarded Mordecai. Gee, I wonder how that happened!
( 6: 4) The king said, "Who is in the court?" Now Haman had just entered the outer court of the palace to speak to the king about hanging Mordecai on the gallo ws he had erected for him. ( 6: 5) His attendants answered, "Haman is standing in the court." "Bring him in," the king ordered .
Haman doesn’t know it yet but his life was about to go on an upward move and be elevated to a much higher position that he previously had imagined. He was about to have a very bad day that came about from his hanging around!
( 6: 6) When Haman entered, the king asked him, "What should be done for the man the king delights to honor?" Now Haman thought to himself, "Who is there that the king would rather honor than me?" ( 6: 7) So he answered the king, "For the man the king delights to honor, ( 6: 8) have them bring a royal robe the king has worn and a horse the king has ridden, one with a royal crest placed on its head. (6:9) Then let the robe and horse be entrusted to one of the king's most noble princes. Let them robe the man the king delights to honor, and lead him on the horse through the city streets, proclaiming before him, 'This is what is done for the man the king delights to honor!'
Haman can just visualize this as he imagines that he is going to go before the public riding in this exalted manner!
(6:10) "Go at once," the king commanded Haman. "Get the robe and the horse and do just as you have suggested for Mordecai the Jew, who sits at the king's gate. Do not neglect anything you have recommended." (6:11) So Haman got the robe and the horse. He robed Mordecai, and led him on horseback through the city streets, proclaiming before him, "This is what is done for the man the king delights to honor!" (6:12) Afterward Mordecai returned to the king's gate. But Haman rushed home, with his head covered in grief. (6:13) and told Zeresh his wife and all his friends everything that had happened to him. His advisers and his wife Zeresh said to him, "Since Mordecai, before whom your downfall has started, is of Jewish origin, you cannot stand against him--you will surely come to ruin!"
I find this very interesting, Haman’s wife recognized something he had not figured out because of his deep hatred namely he had not figured out that he was not going to be successful against this Jew. What I also find most interesting is how other nations have not figured out yet that though small, God is their God and they are his people and he will not allow them to come to destruction, then as now. They may have to go through discipline and correction but never destruction. Maybe the politicians elsewhere in other nations as well as in this country should read the book!
(6:14) While they were still talking with him, the king's eunuchs arrived and hurried Haman away to the banquet Esther had prepared.
This eunuch, named Harbona, could not have helped noticing the gallows outside of Haman’s house; this will come up again shortly.
How would you like to have seen the faces of Haman and Mordecai as they were riding around the city! Priceless!
Haman must have been enraged but at least he was going to eat with the king and queen, so maybe all is not lost.
Seven being the perfect number, it is appropriate that in chapter 7 we see God’s perfect plan come to fruition.
Chapter ( 7:1 ) , So the king and Haman went to dine with Queen Esther, (7:2) and as they were drinking wine on that second day, the king again asked, "Queen Esther, what is your petition? It will be given you. What is your request? Even up to half the kingdom, it will be granted." (7:3) Then Queen Esther answered, "If I have found favor with you, O king, and if it pleases your majesty, grant me my life--this is my petition. And spare my people--this is my request.
This must have caught both the king and Haman by surprise when she said this.
(7:4) For I and my people have been sold for destruction and slaughter and annihilation. If we had merely been sold as male and female slaves, I would have kept quiet, because no such distress would justify disturbing the king." (7:5) King Xerxes asked Queen Esther, "Who is he? Where is the man who has dared to do such a thing?" (Oops! Haman was about to be served as the desert!) (7:6) Esther said, "The adversary and enemy is this vile Haman." Then Haman was terrified before the king and queen. (7:7) The king got up in a rage, left his wine and went out into the palace garden. But Haman, realizing that the king had already decided his fate, stayed behind to beg Queen Esther for his life.
Could things get worse? Oh yes!!!
(7:8) Just as the king returned from the palace garden to the banquet hall, Haman was falling on the couch where Esther was reclining (this is her bed, so picture this; he is alone with her and falls in her bed begging for his life! Not a smooth move!). The king exclaimed, "Will he even molest the queen while she is with me in the house?" As soon as the word left the king's mouth, they covered Haman's face.
The king accuses Haman of trying to rape his wife… things are going from bad to worse!
(7:9) Then Harbona, one of the eunuchs attending the king, said, "A gallows seventy-five feet high stands by Haman's house. He had it made for Mordecai, who spoke up to help the king." The king said, "Hang him on it!" (7:10) So they hanged Haman on the gallows he had prepared for Mordecai. Then the king's fury subsided.
Josephus in writing these accounts makes an excellent observation. Although I don’t know if he was or wasn’t a believer he had an astute observation regarding this event, “And from this I cannot hold back my admiration of God and to learn thus his wisdom and his justice, not only in punishing the wickedness of Haman, but is so disposing it, that he should undergo the very same punishment which he planned for another and this teaches others this lesson that what mischief anyone prepares against another, he, without knowing it, first contrives it against himself.”
You reap what you sow!
So imagine this, you see Mrs. Haman and her 10 kids go home and what do they find, the old man kind of hanging around on a stake. But all isn’t finished; there is still the issue of the decree that had previously been issued against the Jews, that was still in force.
Chapter ( 8:1 ) That same day King Xerxes gave Queen Esther the estate of Haman, the enemy of the Jews. And Mordecai came into the presence of the king, for Esther had told how he was related to her. (8:2) The king took off his signet ring, which he had reclaimed from Haman, and presented it to Mordecai. And Esther appointed him over Haman's estate. (I love the irony!) (8:3) Esther again pleaded with the king, falling at his feet and weeping. She begged him to put an end to the evil plan of Haman the Agagite, which he had devised against the Jews. (8:4) Then the king extended the gold scepter to Esther and she arose and stood before him. (8:5) "If it pleases the king," she said, "and if he regards me with favor and thinks it the right thing to do, and if he is pleased with me, let an order be written overruling the dispatches that Haman son of Hammedatha, the Agagite, devised and wrote to destroy the Jews in all the king's provinces. (8:6) For how can I bear to see disaster fall on my people? How can I bear to see the destruction of my family?" (8:7) King Xerxes replied to Queen Esther and to Mordecai the Jew, "Because Haman attacked the Jews, I have given his estate to Esther, and they have hanged him on the gallows. (8:8) Now write another decree in the king's name in behalf of the Jews as seems best to you, and seal it with the king's signet ring--for no document written in the king's name and sealed with his ring can be revoked." (8:9) At once the royal secretaries were summoned--on the twenty-third day of the third month, the month of Sivan (this is about 2 months after the first decree). They wrote out all Mordecai's orders to the Jews, and to the satraps, governors and nobles of the 127 provinces stretching from India to Cush. These orders were written in the script of each province and the language of each people and also to the Jews in their own script and language.
Whereas the original decree could not be overturned, in the text of the 2nd decree which is not included herein the king authorizes and empowers the Jews by declaring that they can defend themselves when the time comes.
(8:10) Mordecai wrote in the name of King Xerxes, sealed the dispatches with the king's signet ring, and sent them by mounted couriers, who rode fast horses especially bred for the king. (8:11) The king's edict granted the Jews in every city the right to assemble and protect themselves; to destroy, kill and annihilate any armed force of any nationality or province that might attack them and their women and children; and to plunder the property of their enemies.
On a deeper level Mordecai is now the Prime Minister. This represents the fullness of the Spirit.
In chapter 2 the Spirit is received; In chapter 3, the Spirit is resisted. In chapter 4, the Spirit is grieved. In the latter part of chapter 4 the Spirit is quenched, but now the time comes for the fullness of the Spirit and the completion of the work Saul started but didn’t finish. God’s will be done.
(8:12) The day appointed for the Jews to do this in all the provinces of King Xerxes was the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, the month of Adar. (8:13) A copy of the text of the edict was to be issued as law in every province and made known to the people of every nationality so that the Jews would be ready on that day to avenge themselves on their enemies. (8:14) The couriers, riding the royal horses, raced out, spurred on by the king's command. And the edict was also issued in the citadel of Susa. (8:15) Mordecai left the king's presence wearing royal garments of blue and white, a large crown of gold and a purple robe of fine linen ( Mordecai was raised to the position that Haman previously held as Prime Minister and dressed in royal attire ). And the city of Susa held a joyous celebration. (8:16) For the Jews it was a time of happiness and joy, gladness and honor. (8:17) In every province and in every city, wherever the edict of the king went, there was joy and gladness among the Jews, with feasting and celebrating. And many people of other nationalities became Jews because fear of the Jews had seized them.
In the letter written by Xerxes and sent worldwide, it is interesting to note that he refers to Mordecai as his Savior and Benefactor. He further records that this day meant for evil God made it a day of salvation. (Josephus, Jewish Antiquities Book 11, Chapter 6
Chapter ( 9:1 ) On the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, the month of Adar, the edict commanded by the king was to be carried out. On this day the enemies of the Jews had hoped to overpower them, but now the tables were turned and the Jews got the upper hand over those who hated them.
( 9:2 ) The Jews assembled in their cities in all the provinces of King Xerxes to attack those seeking their destruction. No one could stand against them, because the people of all the other nationalities were afraid of them.
( 9:3 ) And all the nobles of the provinces, the satraps, the governors and the king's administrators helped the Jews, because fear of Mordecai had seized them (The King had commanded this in the letter he sent worldwide to the nations under his control. Josephus, Jewish Antiquities Book 11, Chapter 6). (9:4) Mordecai was prominent in the palace; his reputation spread throughout the provinces, and he became more and more powerful. (9:5) The Jews struck down all their enemies with the sword, killing and destroying them, and they did what they pleased to those who hated them. (9:6) In the citadel of Susa, the Jews killed and destroyed five hundred men. (9:7) They also killed Parshandatha, Dalphon, Aspatha, (9:8) Poratha, Adalia, Aridatha, (9:9) Parmashta, Arisai, Aridai and Vaizatha, (9:10) the ten sons of Haman son of Hammedatha, the enemy of the Jews. But they did not lay their hands on the plunder .
So we have come full circle, in the beginning of this study when God first told Saul to destroy the Amalekites, God specifically and very clearly instructed Saul not to plunder or taking any spoils of war but rather destroy everything.
Now the king gives the Jews the right to now only kill but also to take the plunder but they don’t, thus completely fulfilling the original instructions God had given them.
The Amalakites had been finally destroyed as God had intended. His will was done. We sometimes forget that though it seems to take forever, and we might wonder if God has overlooked it or has forgotten, God’s will is going to happen, no matter what. We should never confuse God’s longsuffering with forgetfulness on his part or overlooking our actions when they do not please him and we sin, but by the same token we should not forget his promises which will come to fruition if we faint not and have faith.
(9:11) The number of those slain in the citadel of Susa was reported to the king that same day. (9:12) The king said to Queen Esther, "The Jews have killed and destroyed five hundred men and the ten sons of Haman in the citadel of Susa. What have they done in the rest of the king's provinces? Now what is your petition? It will be given you. What is your request? It will also be granted." (9:13) "If it pleases the king," Esther answered, "give the Jews in Susa permission to carry out this day's edict tomorrow also, and let Haman's ten sons be hanged on gallows." (9:14) So the king commanded that this be done. An edict was issued in Susa, and they hanged the ten sons of Haman. (9:15) The Jews in Susa came together on the fourteenth day of the month of Adar, and they put to death in Susa three hundred men, but they did not lay their hands on the plunder. (9:16) Meanwhile, the remainder of the Jews who were in the king's provinces also assembled to protect themselves and get relief from their enemies. They killed seventy-five thousand of them but did not lay their hands on the plunder. (9:17) This happened on the thirteenth day of the month of Adar, and on the fourteenth they rested and made it a day of feasting and joy. (9:18) The Jews in Susa, however, had assembled on the thirteenth and fourteenth, and then on the fifteenth they rested and made it a day of feasting and joy. (9:19) That is why rural Jews--those living in villages--observe the fourteenth of the month of Adar as a day of joy and feasting, a day for giving presents to each other. (9:20) Mordecai recorded these events, and he sent letters to all the Jews throughout the province s of King Xerxes, near and far, (9:21) to have them celebrate annually the fourteenth and fifteenth days of the month of Adar (9:22) as the time when the Jews got relief from their enemies, and as the month when their sorrow was turned into joy and their mourning into a day of celebration. He wrote them to observe the days as days of feasting and joy and giving presents of food to one another and gifts to the poor. (9:23) So the Jews agreed to continue the celebration they had begun, doing what Mordecai had written to them. (9:24) For Haman son of Hammedatha, the Agagite, the enemy of all the Jews, had plotted against the Jews to destroy them and had cast the pur (that is, the lot) for their ruin and destruction. (9:25) But when the plot came to the king's attention, he issued written orders that the evil scheme Haman had devised against the Jews should come back onto his own head, and that he and his sons should be hanged on the gallows. (9:26) (Therefore these days were called Purim, from the word pur.) Because of everything written in this letter and because of what they had seen and what had happened to them, (9:27) the Jews took it upon themselves to establish the custom that they and their descendants and all who join them should without fail observe these two days every year, in the way prescribed and at the time appointed. (9:28) These days should be remembered and observed in every generation by every family, and in every province and in every city. And these days of Purim should never cease to be celebrated by the Jews, nor should the memory of them die out among their descendants. (9:29) So Queen Esther, daughter of Abihail, along with Mordecai the Jew, wrote with full authority to confirm this second letter concerning Purim. (9:30) And Mordecai sent let ters to all the Jews in the 127 provinces of the kingdom of Xerxes--words of goodwill and assurance-- (9:31) to establish these days of Purim at their designated times, as Mordecai the Jew and Queen Esther had decreed for them, and as they had established for themselves and their descendants in regard to their times of fasting and lamentation. (9:32) Esther's decree confirmed these regulations about Purim, and it was written down in the records.
(10:1) King Xerxes imposed tribute (taxes) throughout the empire, to its distant shores. (10:2) And all his acts of power and might, together with a full account of the greatness of Mordecai to which the king had raised him, are they not written in the book of the annals of the kings of Media and Persia? (10:3) Mordecai the Jew was second in rank to King Xerxes, preeminent among the Jews, and held in high esteem by his many fellow Jews, because he worked for the good of his people and spoke up for the welfare of all the Jews.
What a great legacy to leave.
So what happens to these people?
When Xerxes is 54 years old, approximately 13 years after the events spoken of in Esther, he is assassinated by the commander of the royal bodyguard and the most powerful official in Persian court. Queen Esther raises her stepson called Ahasuerus, just as his father, who becomes the next king. It was he who gives Nehemiah the permission and all to go back and rebuild the city of Jerusalem, to restore the walls and all. The decree to rebuild Jerusalem is prophetic and the beginning date of the prophesy of the coming of the Messiah, 483 years later Jesus is born.
I hope you enjoyed God’s Word as much as I have enjoyed preparing and serving you!