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The Book of Esther


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Esther SS Lesson and Commentary

Esther SS Lesson and Commentary

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  • 1. Week of May 8 (Mother’s Day) Using Your InfluenceSTEP 1 INTRODUCTION PACK ITEM 15“HANDOUT: CIRCLES OF INFLUENCE”Distribute copies of the handout. Instruct learners to write their own names in the center circle. In the nextcircle, they should write the names of people in their immediate family. In the next circle out, they shouldwrite the names of their closest friends and extended family members. In the fourth circle, learners shouldwrite the names of other friends and associates. Note that acquaintances and all other people are in theouter circles of our circles of influence.How far out from the center do you believe your influence currently extends? Why?Read the definition of the word influence on the handout and discuss whether or not learners believe thatthey influence someone in some way every day. Encourage them to explain their answers. Then ask avolunteer to read the remaining text on the handout. Encourage a brief discussion after this reading.PACK ITEM 13 “Poster: Study Theme 3”Call attention to today’s lesson title. Explain that in today’s Scripture a girl named Esther was confrontedwith that same challenge. State that the goal of today’s lesson is to recognize you have influence anddetermine to use your influence for God’s purposes and in godly ways.STEP 2 RECOGNIZE YOUR GOD-GIVEN POTENTIAL FOR INFLUENCEEsther 4:13-14Invite learners to share what they know about Esther. Using the Bible commentary* (p. 121), set thecontext for today’s passage by summarizing Esther 1:1–4:12.Read Esther 4:13-14. 13Mordecai told the messenger to reply to Esther, “Don’t think that you will escape the fate of all the Jews because you are in the king’s palace. 14If you keep silent at this time, liberation and deliverance will come to the Jewish people from another place, but you and your father’s house will be destroyed. Who knows, perhaps you have come to your royal position for such a time as this.”Invite adults to recall Joshua’s story from last week’s session. Note that God had guaranteed Joshuasuccess in leadership.Did Esther have that same promise? (no)Direct learners to name some excuses Esther could have used to get out of doing what Mordecai asked.(Possible answers: “What good can I do if I’m dead?” “I’m a woman. It’s not like the king would listen tome anyway.” “If God parted the sea, He can find another way to stop this.”)What excuses might we older people give for not trying to influence others for God’s purposes?Note that most of us aren’t going to face death for doing the right thing, but all of us have God-givenpotential for influence. Explain that exercising that influence can be difficult and even costly.State that sometimes God sends someone like Mordecai to challenge us to use our influence. Share a time1|Page
  • 2. when you had an opportunity to do a hard thing to influence another person. Share what fears you had atthe time and how you overcame them.LEARNER GUIDE (p. 122) Call attention to “What About Me?” and invite volunteers to share how theyresponded.What valuable experiences of older Christians can be used to influence younger people? How can suchexperiences benefit the church?What can get in the way of recognizing our ability to influence others? What can we do to overcome theseobstacles?Who has influenced you for good? Why?STEP 3 REALIZE THAT GOD IS THE ULTIMATE INFLUENCERESTHER 4:15-17How would you answer a person who questions, “If God is in control, then why did Esther have to risk herlife?”Read Esther 4:15-17 to find out whose influence was really at work. 15Esther sent this reply to Mordecai: 16“Go and assemble all the Jews who can be found in Susaand fast for me. Don’t eat or drink for three days, day or night. I and my female servants will alsofast in the same way. After that, I will go to the king even if it is against the law. If I perish, I per-ish.” 17So Mordecai went and did everything Esther had ordered him.What does Esther’s reply to Mordecai reveal about her beliefs? (Use the Bible commentary* to aid you inyour discussion.)Write on the board: Do Everything Myself and Do Nothing.LEARNER GUIDE (p. 123) Focus first on Do Everything Myself by inviting learners to share how theyresponded to “Think It Through.”Note that many of us lean toward one of these two extremes when it comes to exerting influence. We tryto do everything in our own power, thinking that change is completely in our hands, or we do nothing,thinking that we are powerless to change anything. Lead learners to consider which of the two extremesthey tend to favor.Why do we hit a dead end with both extremes? What healthy balance had Esther seemed to find?Invite volunteers to name people from their own lives whose actions have demonstrated the belief thatGod is the ultimate influencer and to explain why. (Because May 8 is Mother’s Day, here might be a goodplace to acknowledge the influence of godly mothers.)We would be missing the point altogether if we only talked about God’s influence in Sunday morningBible study but didn’t live like we believed it Monday through Saturday.2|Page
  • 3. LEARNER GUIDE (p. 124) Call attention to “What About Me?” and lead seniors to privately respond.Why is the support of other believers so important when we step out to do a difficult task?What is the relationship between prayer and a proper understanding of human limitations?STEP 4 USE YOUR INFLUENCE IN GODLY WAYS ESTHER 8:3-8Use information from the Bible commentary* (p. 127) to summarize the events in Esther 5:1–8:2. Notethat although Haman was no longer a threat the Jewish people still faced extermination.Read Esther 8:3-8 to find out if Esther thought she had fulfilled her responsibility to God. 3Then Esther addressed the king again. She fell at his feet, wept, and begged him to revoke theevil of Haman the Agagite, and his plot he had devised against the Jews. 4The king extended thegold scepter toward Esther, so she got up and stood before the king. 5She said, “If it pleases the king, and I have found approval before him, if the matter seemsright to the king and I am pleasing in his sight, let a royal edict be written. Let it revoke the docu-ments the scheming Haman son of Hammedatha the Agagite, wrote to destroy the Jews who are inall the king’s provinces. 6For how could I bear to see the disaster that would come on my people?How could I bear to see the destruction of my relatives?” 7King Ahasuerus said to Esther the Queen and to Mordecai the Jew, “Look, I have givenHaman’s estate to Esther, and he was hanged on the gallows because he attacked the Jews. 8Youmay write in the king’s name whatever pleases you concerning the Jews, and seal it with the royalsignet ring. A document written in the king’s name and sealed with the royal signet ring cannot berevoked.”LEARNER GUIDE (p. 126) Call attention to “Think It Through” and invite learners to share how theyresponded.Esther risked her life not just once by approaching the king but no less than three times.Why do you think God doesn’t always show us the results of our influence right away?Things don’t always work out the way we hope they will. Esther found success. But what about the timesyou stick your neck out to influence someone and it seems to fail?What do you do when you feel like you’ve failed miserably?Note that some believers might think that Esther’s situation does not relate to their own; after all, sheobviously had influence over the king and a charismatic personality to help her in the situation.Write the following on the board:• Her personal appearance• Her passion and determination• Her willingness to take a risk for God• God’s power to use the situation for His purposeRank the factors in order of importance to Esther’s success in this situation. Stress the importance oftrusting in God’s power to achieve His purpose for the task He has called us to do.3|Page
  • 4. Note the gentleness and respect Esther used in her approach to the king. Emphasize the importance ofexercising our influence in appropriate and godly ways.We don’t get very far with people when we are demanding and unkind.LEARNER GUIDE (p. 127) Call attention to “What About Me?” Invite volunteers to share theirresponses. Be prepared to share how you responded. (TIP: As you prepare to teach each week, be sure tocomplete the suggested activities in the learner guide under “Think It Through” and “What About Me?”Your example will encourage learners to spend time preparing for the Sunday morning session as well.)What is the difference between exercising influence and wielding power?Why are humility and respect such an important part of exercising influence?An old sports adage says, “Nice guys finish last.” How would you counter this statement based on thispassage?STEP 5 CONCLUSION PACK ITEM 16 “POSTER: FOR SUCH A TIME ASTHIS”Call attention to the poster and read the verse aloud. Distribute index cards. Instruct learners to write onthe cards one way they will commit to influence others in the days ahead. Encourage learners to placetheir cards in their homes where they will see them every day as a reminder to follow through with theircommitments.LEARNER GUIDE (pp. 127-128) Use “Reflection” to aid in reviewing the main truths of the lesson.Encourage learners to follow through with the suggestion in “Applying the Word.”Invite volunteers to share how the group can pray for themselves to be the influencers God is calling themto be. Lead in prayer, asking God to provide opportunities for each learner to exercise godly influence thisweek.Note that we will continue our study of spiritual leadership next week as we examine Ezra’s life.Encourage learners to come next week with at least one question or thought from the study that theywould like to discuss.4|Page
  • 5. CommentaryBackground Passage: Esther 1–10Focal Passages: Esther 4:13-17; 8:3-8What This Lesson Is About:This lesson is about leading by exercising godly influence.How This Lesson Can Impact Your Life:This lesson can help you recognize you have influence and determine to use your influence for God’spurposes and in godly ways.Spiritual Preparation Through Personal Bible StudyMay 8 is Mother’s Day. I grew up in a Christian home and gave my life to Christ as a child. My mothernaturally influenced my life significantly during my early years. In fact, my earliest memories are of Momtelling me about Jesus! As early as I can remember, she was doing her best to make sure I understoodabout God’s love in sending Jesus to die for me. The Lord used her influence to bring me to faith at anearly age. Although my mother lived much of her life with rheumatoid arthritis, she determined toinfluence others for good as best as she could. Over the years, she taught Sunday School, sang in the choir,and even served as church treasurer. The Lord used her spiritual influence in mighty ways in manypeople’s lives. The Lord took Mom home in August 2000, but her influence in my life remains.How has your mother influenced you? Exercising spiritual leadership means influencing people. Every believer can influence someone, just asmy mother did in her spheres of influence. Virtually all of us are leaders in at least one area of life.However, not all believers use their influence for God’s purposes. Today’s lesson focuses on Esther, a young Jewish woman who found herself queen of Persia. As Esthersubmitted her life to God’s purpose, she recognized her God-given potential for influence. She exercisedthat influence in godly ways, realizing at the same time that God was the ultimate Influencer. As she did,God used her to bring about the salvation of His people. As you study this lesson, ask the Lord to help yourecognize how you can use your influence for His purposes and in godly ways.Recognize Your God-Given Potential for Influence(Esth. 4:13-14) 13Mordecai told the messenger to reply to Esther, “Don’t think that you will escape the fate ofall the Jews because you are in the king’s palace. 14If you keep silent at this time, liberation anddeliverance will come to the Jewish people from another place, but you and your father’s housewill be destroyed. Who knows, perhaps you have come to your royal position for such a time asthis.”The Book of Esther describes how an ordinary Jewish girl became queen of Persia and used her influenceto save her people. King Ahasuerus [uh haz yoo EHR uhs], also known as Xerxes (486-464 B.C.),deposed his queen Vashti when she refused to obey the king’s command to come display her beauty at theking’s banquet (Esth. 1:10-22). A search for Vashti’s successor then ensued, and Esther found herself asone of the candidates (2:1-9). Ultimately the king chose Esther and made her queen of Persia (v. 17).5|Page
  • 6. Sometime after this, Haman [HAY muhn], son of Hammedatha [ HAM mih DAY thuh] the Agagite [AY gagight], one of the king’s officials, persuaded the king to sign an edict that allowed for the extermination ofthe Jewish people (3:5-15). Esther’s older cousin and guardian Mordecai [MAWR duh kigh] heard thenews and contacted Esther, imploring her to intervene with the king on behalf of the Jews (4:1-9). Heencouraged her to use her influence to save her people! However, according to royal protocol, no one—not even the queen—could approach the king in the inner courtyard unless the king had summoned him orher. In fact, the law prescribed the death penalty for anyone who violated this edict! Esther informedMordecai she would be risking her life by going to the king (vv. 10-12). Mordecai dispatched an urgent reply to Esther by the hand of the king’s messenger. The king’s decreeput Jews throughout the kingdom in peril! Mordecai strongly warned Esther not to think that somehowshe might escape Ahasuerus’s decree because of her royal status. The terrible fate that awaited all theJews would eventually overtake even someone such as Esther, who lived in the king’s palace. Every Jewstood at risk—even the queen. Mordecai challenged Esther with the thought that God had a purpose in placing her in her royalposition. At the same time, Mordecai placed his ultimate confidence in God. Esther indeed might decideto keep silent at this time, though Mordecai urged her to recognize her potential influence and use it todeliver the Jews. He remained confident that God somehow would bring liberation and deliverance forall the Jewish people. It might come through Esther or it might come from another place or source. ButMordecai was convinced that Esther and her father’s house would be destroyed if she did not act. Mordecai then challenged Esther with another thought. Had she perhaps come to her royal position inthe kingdom for this very reason? Did God want to use Esther as His instrument of influence to save Hispeople? Had she indeed become queen of Persia for such a time as this? Unlike Joshua in last week’slesson, Esther had no promise of success, but Mordecai apparently believed God’s work in Esther’s lifeseemed obvious. (See this week’s theological study on “God’s Sovereignty in the Book of Esther.”) God often uses other people to help us recognize our potential to influence others. Has God sent aMordecai into your life? Perhaps your Mordecai is a senior adult or someone who has lived the Christianfaith longer than you. Indeed, younger Christians often can learn much from more mature Christians. Mordecai challenged Esther to use her influence and Esther had a responsibility to act. We can use ourinfluence for good or for bad, but of course, God wants us to use it for good, even when we are unsure ofthe outcome. In fact, as we exercise our God-given potential for influence, God may even use us toinfluence unbelievers, not merely other believers. Ask the Lord to show you whom you might influence.Ask Him to put their names on your heart, and determine to take action this week.Realize that God Is the Ultimate Influencer(Esth. 4:15-17) 15Esther sent this reply to Mordecai: 16“Go and assemble all the Jews who can be found in Susaand fast for me. Don’t eat or drink for three days, day or night. I and my female servants will alsofast in the same way. After that, I will go to the king even if it is against the law. If I perish, I per-ish.” 17So Mordecai went and did everything Esther had ordered him.Esther carefully pondered the serious message Mordecai had sent her. What should she do? Should shego to the king at the risk of her own life, or should she do nothing and possibly witness her people’sannihilation? Her actions could yield serious consequences whichever option she chose. However, thequeen recognized her God-given power to influence. Perhaps Mordecai was right; perhaps God had puther on the throne for such a time! Esther decided she should take action—bold action. She would present6|Page
  • 7. herself to King Ahasuerus at the risk of her life. If he extended favor to her, she would plead her people’scase. The queen dispatched a reply to Mordecai, asking him to assemble all the Jews of the city of Susa[SOO suh]. Her impending action would have profound implications for her and for them! She asked theJews to fast and seek God on her behalf. Esther would present her case, but ultimately the verdict lay inGod’s hands.Read the article “Susa, Persia’s Capital City” in the Spring 2011 issue of Biblical Illustrator or onthe Spring 2011 Biblical Illustrator Plus (CD-ROM). A previous Biblical Illustrator article “Susa,Esther’s Capital City” (Winter 2006-2007) relates to this lesson and can be found on the CD-ROMin the Leader Pack and on the Spring 2011 Biblical Illustrator Plus (CD-ROM). By asking the Jews to fast for her, Esther acknowledged God as the ultimate Influencer. He knew thesituation better than any human could know it, and He alone had the power necessary to rescue Hispeople. The King of kings’ power vastly overshadowed any earthly king’s power! The Book of Proverbsreminds us that God in His providence holds even decisions of kings and rulers in His hands (Prov. 21:1). Esther asked the Jewish people not to eat or drink for three days, day or night. Such a serious matterrequired serious spiritual preparation! She and her female servants likewise would fast in the same way.Esther recognized the importance of seeking God for such a significant matter. At the same time,acknowledging God as the ultimate Influencer did not excuse Esther from taking action. The queen alsowas counting on the spiritual support of her fellow Jews and servants as she prepared to take action. At theend of the three days, Esther would go to the king, but the Jews of Susa likewise would participate inseeking God for deliverance through Esther’s intervention. Furthermore, Esther would go to the king withthe full knowledge that her action was against the law. All who entered the king’s presence unannounceddid so at the risk of their lives! However, desperate times demanded desperate measures. Esther’s statement, “If I perish, I perish,” indicates her courage as she resigned herself to God’spurpose. She recognized God as the ultimate Influencer. She had prayed, she had fasted, and believed Godhad put her in her royal position for such a desperate time as this. However, she was about to act knowingthat God was not required to intervene to spare her life. He might bring deliverance some other way. Esther’s life-risking decision illustrates how people who lead need the support of others. At times,leaders may find themselves in the spotlight or seem to be acting alone, but they always need the supportof others. Pastors need the support of church staff and deacons. Sunday School teachers need the supportof outreach leaders. Youth workers need the support of parents. Most of all, all leaders need prayersupport. Prayer acknowledges dependence on God and opens heavenly resources to advance His kingdompurpose on earth. Esther’s decision also illustrates the importance of utterly entrusting ourselves to God’s purposes for ourlives. She was willing to follow His leading even if doing so put her at risk of death. She no doubtwondered what the king would do when he saw her in the inner court, but she determined to try to use herGod-given influence. Sometimes as we look to God for guidance and the way appears crystal clear. In other situations, theway seems foggy or maybe even dangerous, and we must trust Him with each step. Regardless of howclear the path, we can trust God to guide us. We must remember that God can see the way even when wecannot, and that sometimes He calls us to trust Him and walk by faith when logic or reason suggestsotherwise. Sometimes as we attempt to use our God-given influence, we will encounter those who oppose God’sways. We need to learn to face such situations with humble confidence, trusting God as the ultimateInfluencer. When Timothy, the apostle Paul’s son in the faith, faced such a challenge, Paul exhorted him7|Page
  • 8. to lead with humble confidence. Timothy could exercise his influence toward those who opposed hismessage, but Paul encouraged him to do so with gentleness and patience, for only God could change theirhearts (2 Tim. 2:24-26).Use Your Influence in Godly Ways(Esth. 8:3-8) 3Then Esther addressed the king again. She fell at his feet, wept, and begged him to revoke theevil of Haman the Agagite, and his plot he had devised against the Jews. 4The king extended thegold scepter toward Esther, so she got up and stood before the king. 5She said, “If it pleases the king, and I have found approval before him, if the matter seemsright to the king and I am pleasing in his sight, let a royal edict be written. Let it revoke the docu-ments the scheming Haman son of Hammedatha the Agagite, wrote to destroy the Jews who are inall the king’s provinces. 6For how could I bear to see the disaster that would come on my people?How could I bear to see the destruction of my relatives?” 7King Ahasuerus said to Esther the Queen and to Mordecai the Jew, “Look, I have givenHaman’s estate to Esther, and he was hanged on the gallows because he attacked the Jews. 8Youmay write in the king’s name whatever pleases you concerning the Jews, and seal it with the royalsignet ring. A document written in the king’s name and sealed with the royal signet ring cannot berevoked.”Esther had no promise of a successful outcome to her bold move. The king might accept her and grant herrequest, or he might order her death. Often we likewise do not know what outcome awaits as we attemptto use our influence in godly ways. However, even when we are unsure of the outcome, we should attemptto exert a godly influence. Again, we must remember God works through us as the ultimate Influencer. Heasks us to act in faith and leave the results in His hands. Esther put on her royal clothing and went to the palace’s inner courtyard. The king saw her there and shewon his approval. He extended the golden scepter toward her, indicating his willingness to receive her intohis presence (Esth. 5:1-2). Esther invited the king and Haman to a special banquet, and then to another(vv. 4-8). Haman, however, remained frustrated and angry that Mordecai refused to bow to him, anddetermined to hang Mordecai (vv. 9-14). However, that very night, the king discovered Mordecai hadnever received a reward for saving the king’s life (6:1-3). In an ironic twist of events, the king orderedHaman to help him honor Mordecai (vv. 6-11). At the second banquet, Esther revealed her Jewish identity to the king. She also revealed Haman’s planto exterminate the Jews (7:1-6)! The furious king ordered Haman hanged on the gallows Haman hadprepared for Mordecai (vv. 9-10). The king also exalted Mordecai, and Esther put him in charge ofHaman’s estate (8:2). However, Persia’s queen knew the danger had not passed for her and her people. Esther addressed the king again. The Jews’ situation remained desperate since they remained underthe king’s edict to exterminate them (3:12-13). Esther fell at the king’s feet, wept, and begged him torevoke the evil of Haman the Agagite. If he did not, Haman’s treachery would still prevail! Estherapproached the king with humility and respect, quite aware that although Haman was dead, her people hadnot escaped the danger of the decree Haman had convinced the king to establish. Esther asked the king toput a stop to the plot Haman had devised against the Jews. Esther’s humility before her husband, the king, may seem a bit unusual to readers today, but Estheracted in a way appropriate for her day and situation (1 Kings 1:15-16,31). The fact that the king extendedthe gold scepter toward Esther may suggest she again approached him in the inner court unannounced(Esth. 5:1-2). More likely the king was merely acting to reassure Esther to continue speaking. The queengot up and stood before the king to present her request. She would continue to exercise godly influence8|Page
  • 9. so long as she had opportunity. Esther’s gentle, respectful words, “If it pleases the king, and I have found approval before him, ifthe matter seems right to the king and I am pleasing in his sight,” expressed a desire for the king tomake a decision that pleased him and suited the kingdom’s best interests. At the same time, Esther wasreminding her husband that she had found favor in his eyes. She believed his granting her requestultimately would please both of them as well as save her people’s lives. Esther asked that a royal edict bewritten that would revoke the documents that Haman son of Hammedatha the Agagite, wrote todestroy the Jews. However, her people in all the king’s provinces still faced death, since the king couldnot revoke his decree. Persian policy did not allow a king to change a royal decree; this policy compriseda significant factor in the story of Daniel in the lions’ den (Dan. 6:7-8,15). The king no doubt wanted tohelp Esther, but he could not cancel a prior decree he had issued. He had to figure out some kind ofcounter decree that essentially would nullify the first one. Esther’s questions, “How could I bear to see the disaster that would come on my people?” and“How could I bear to see the destruction of my relatives?”, are rhetorical, not really expecting ananswer. She intended them to show the king her deep stirring of emotion over the issue. In the Book ofGenesis, Judah, Joseph’s brother, raised the same kind of impassioned issue to Joseph when Judah pled tostay as a slave in Benjamin’s place (Gen. 44:34). Esther’s questions drove home the seriousness of herconcern. She was now fulfilling the purpose for which God had put her on Persia’s throne (Esth. 4:14).She used her influence in a godly way to intervene on behalf of her people. Christians today also must exert their influence in appropriate and godly ways. As God puts before usopportunities to use our influence for the advancement of His kingdom, we should lay hold of them. SomeChristians sense God’s leading to run for political office so they can help justice and righteousness prevailthrough the legislative process. Others use their places in the marketplace to live out their Christiantestimony. People see their integrity in their business practices, and they use their positions to share theirfaith as God brings them opportunity. Still others influence God’s kingdom work through local churches,exercising their spiritual gifts for the building up of others. God receives the glory as Christian leadersexert their influence in appropriate and godly ways in the marketplace and in the local church. King Ahasuerus reached a decision for Esther the Queen and her relative and former guardianMordecai the Jew. The king’s decree had awarded Haman’s estate to Esther and Haman was hangedon the gallows for his crime against the Jews. Ahasuerus now authorized Esther and Mordecai to write inthe king’s name an appropriate decree concerning the Jews. He knew he could trust them to get thewording exactly right. He further instructed them to seal it with the royal signet ring as proof of thedecree’s authenticity. Such a document would be considered written in the king’s name and thus wouldhave his full authority behind it. And as with any document sealed with the royal signet ring, it could notbe revoked for any reason. Esther and Mordecai used their influence in a godly way. They issued a counter decree that the Jewscould defend themselves against their enemies! As a result, the Jews were saved and destroyed theirenemies (Esth. 8:9–9:10). Many peoples of the kingdom gained a new respect for God’s people as theywitnessed His hand of favor upon them (8:17). Mordecai even established the holiday of Purim, an annualcelebration of God’s victory on behalf of His people (9:20-32). All of us need to recognize our God-given potential for influence. We should pray and actively seekopportunities to influence others, recognizing God will work through us as the ultimate Influencer. As weuse our influence in godly ways, who knows how God will use us to advance His kingdom?Biblical Truths of This Lesson in Focus• God has given to each believer the potential to influence others.• We must always seek to use our influence for good, never for evil.9|Page
  • 10. • When we commit our actions to the Lord, we affirm that God is the ultimate Influencer.• God can and will work through us to accomplish His purposes.• We should consider carefully how we might intentionally influence others to get closer to God.Theological Study: God’s Sovereignty in the Book of EstherThe Book of Esther does not mention God’s name. However, we clearly see God orchestrating the book’sevents. Through Vashti’s action, the position of queen of Persia became vacant, and God guided the kingto choose Esther. As queen, Esther was in the right position to intervene for her people. As Mordecai said,Esther had “come to your royal position for such a time as this” (Esth. 4:14). God’s unseen hand guidesthe book’s every circumstance.10 | P a g e
  • 11. BACKGROUND PAS- Esther 1—10SAGE:FOCAL PASSAGE: Esther 4:13-17; 8:3-8LIFE IMPACT: This lesson can help you recognize you have influence and de- termine to use your influence for God’s purposes and in godly ways.LESSON OUTLINE: I. RECOGNIZE YOUR GOD-GIVEN POTENTIAL FOR INFLUENCE (ESTH. 4:13-14) II. REALIZE THAT GOD IS THE ULTIMATE INFLUENCER (ESTH. 4:15-17) III. U SE Y OUR I NFLUENCE IN G ODLY W AYS (E STH . 8:3-8)OVERVIEW OF BACKGROUND PASSAGE : Esther, Chapters 1—10Vashti’s Demotion (Esther 1:1-22) The Persian King Khshayarsha was known as Ahasuerus in Hebrew and Xerxes in Greek. He is commonlyidentified with Xerxes I (485-464 B.C.), who is remembered for his devastating naval loss to the Greeks atSalamis in 481. The Greek historian Herodotus described his kingdom as consisting of twenty provinces andextending from India to Ethiopia. The king convened a royal reception in his third year (483 B.C.) at Susa of Elam (modern SW Iran), whichwas the winter resort of the Persian kings (Esth 1:1-3; Neh 1:1; Dan 8:2). Archaeological work has uncoveredthe elaborate royal palace of the city. The assembly Xerxes called lasted for 180 days, during which he displayed the splendor of his wealth. Itculminated in a seven-day feast of luxurious dining and drunkenness. The opulence of the Persian court isdescribed to indicate the vast resources and power of the king (1:4-9). In a drunken stupor, the king called for Queen Vashti to “display her beauty” before his guests (1:10-11).Her refusal, probably out of decency, threatened the king’s reputation. At Memucan’s advice, the king de-posed her (1:10-22). Xerxes’ action is a parody on Persian might, for the powerful king could not even com-mand his own wife.The King’s Decree to Destroy the Jews (Esther 2:1-3:15) The second section of the story concerns the exaltation of Esther (chap. 2) and the evil plot by Haman toexterminate the Jews (chap. 3). The role of Mordecai as Esther’s cousin and Haman’s hated enemy links thetwo episodes.Haman Threatens Mordecai (Esther 4:1-5:14) Esther’s position enabled her to save the Jews if she were willing to risk her own standing (chap. 4). Afterrecounting Esther’s vow of devotion, the author told how Esther took the lead and devised her own schemeto outmaneuver Haman. Ironically, Haman unwittingly devised his own end (chap. 5).Mordecai’s Plea to Esther 4:1-1711 | P a g e
  • 12. When Mordecai learned of the murderous plot, he and all the Jews joined in mourning, fasting, and thewearing of sackcloth and ashes (4:1-3). This spontaneous act of grief evidenced the solidarity of the Jews.The custom of sackcloth and ashes included prayers of confession and worship (1 Kgs 21:27-29; Neh9:1-3; Dan 9:3). Esther learned of the decree from her messenger Hathach, who relayed Mordecai’s plea forher help (4:4-9). But Esther explained that she could not approach the king because Persian law meted outdeath to anyone entering uninvited. Mordecai answered by warning her that as a Jewess her own life was injeopardy and that God could save His people by another means if she failed. He believed that her exaltationin the palace had a holy purpose (4:10-14). Esther’s trust in God was the turning point. She requested acommunal fast by all the Jews as they petitioned God (Ezra 8:21-23; compare Acts 13:3; 14:23). She repliedto Mordecai with courage and confidence in God’s will: “If I perish, I perish” (Esth 4:15; compare Dan3:16-18).Esther’s Banquet and Haman’s Folly 5:1-14 The prayers of God’s people were answered because Xerxes received Esther without incident. She invitedthe king and Haman to a banquet whereupon she would make her request known (5:1-5a). Once the guestshad enjoyed their fill, Esther wisely delayed her request for another day of feasting—no doubt to heightenthe king’s interest in the petition (5:5b-8). Haman left in a happy mood (5:9-10a), but it was tempered by his fury for “the Jew Mordecai” (5:13).Haman boasted of his authority, (5:10b-13) but these boasts would later turn into tears of humiliation(6:12-13a; 7:7-8a). Haman’s friends and family (5:14) would be repaid with their own lives on the very gal-lows they had recommended for Mordecai (7:10; 9:14).Mordecai Defeats Haman (Esther 6:1-7:10) This section features the key reversal in Haman’s and Mordecai’s fates. Mordecai was honored by theking, much to Haman’s humiliation (chap. 6). The final indignity of foolish Haman was his pathetic effort tosave himself from the gallows (chap. 7).The King’s Decree on the Jews’ Behalf (Esther 8:1-9:32) This royal decree Mordecai wrote answered Haman’s evil decree (compare 3:8-11). This parallelism contin-ues the theme of reversal, the decree enabling the Jews to take the offensive against their enemies (chap. 8).The thirteenth of Adar, the day planned for the Jews’ destruction, was exchanged for the two-day celebrationof Purim because of the Jews’ conquest (chap. 9).Mordecai’s Promotion (Esther 10:1-3) The story concludes in the way it began by describing the power and influence of Xerxes’ kingdom. Theauthor refers the reader to the official records of the empire where a full account of the kingdom and therole played by Mordecai could be examined (10:1-2; compare 1 Kings 14:19; 15:7). Mordecai contributed tothe prosperity of the empire and cared for the Jews’ welfare (10:3). The greatness of Mordecai vindicatedthe Jews as a people. Their heritage was not a threat to the Gentiles, but rather through Mordecai and theJews the empire enjoyed peace.SOURCE: Holman Bible Handbook; General Editor David S. Dockery; Holman Bible Publishers; Nashville, TennesseeINTRODUCTION: Exercising spiritual leadership means influencing people. Every believer can influence someone. Why,12 | P a g e
  • 13. because we all have a circle of influence. Whether we realize it or not, we all have an impact on the peoplearound us every day. It may not be much, and hopefully it is a positive influence rather than negative. Vir-tually all of us are leaders in at least one area of life. However, not all believers use their influence for God’spurposes. Today’s lesson focuses on Esther, a young Jewish woman who found herself queen of Persia. As Esthersubmitted her life to God’s purpose, she recognized her God-given potential for influence. She exercisedthat influence in godly ways, realizing at the same time that God was the ultimate Influencer. As she did,God used her to bring about the salvation of His people. As you study this lesson, ask the Lord to help yourecognize how you can use your influence for His purposes and in godly ways.SOURCE: Adapted from Bible Studies For Life: Life , Ventures Leaders Guide; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN 37234Biblical Truths From This Study: • God has given to each believer the potential to influence others. • We must always seek to use our influence for good, never for evil. • When we commit our actions to the Lord, we affirm that God is the ultimate Influencer. • God can and will work through us to accomplish His purposes. • We should consider carefully how we might intentionally influence others to get closer to God. The Book of Esther tells a powerful story and contains some valuable lessons. Everyone has influence—some have good influence and others have bad influence. We generally think of influence in a passiveway. It is the impression our behavior makes on other people. But the influences of the two heroes of thisstudy—Esther and Mordecai—were actively expressed in the risky actions they took. Many things thatare taken to be coincidences are expressions of divine providence. What are the odds that a young Jewishgirl would be chosen to be queen of a pagan nation just in time to save her people? Evil is alive and activein the lives of many people who live for power to be gained at whatever the cost. The Christian influenceexhibited within the circle of influence can make a difference in all whose lives are touched by each be-liever. Are you using your circle of influence to serve God? On a scale of 1 (low) to 10 (high), how wouldyou rate your Christian influence? Need help? Ask God!13 | P a g e
  • 14. COMMENTARY:(NOTE: Commentary for the focal verses comes from three sources: “The Expositor ’s Bible Com-mentar y Old Testament,” “The Complete Biblical Library - Ezra-Job” and “The New AmericanCommentary; Volume 10; Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther,” and is provided for your study.)I. R ECOGNIZE Y OUR G OD -G IVEN P OTENTIAL FOR I NFLUENCE (E STH . 4:13-14) C OMMENTARY The Expositor ’s Bible Commentar y Old Testament 4:12-14 Mordecai responded to Esther’s words by telling her that she would not escape Haman’s edict against theJews because she was in the king’s house. He warned her that if she remained silent, deliverance of the Jews wouldcome from another source; but because of her cowardice, she and her father’s family would perish. Not even royal sta-tus could protect her from the king’s edict. Then Mordecai asked the question that has become the locus classicus forsupport of the doctrine of providence as a key to the understanding of the Book of Esther: “Who knows but that youhave come to royal position for such a time as this?” (v. 14). Her exaltation as a queen may have been God’s way of ob-taining a savior for his people. Mordecai confronted her with the options. Going to the king would involve the risk ofdeath for her, but refusing to go would mean certain death for Esther and her father’s house. The phrase “from another place” remains an enigma. Lucian’s recension of Esther, Josephus, and the Targums con-sider “place” (maqom) as a veiled reference to God. This seems to be the correct interpretation, though some scholarsbelieve it refers to political help that would come from another source, perhaps a foreign power.SOURCE: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary Old Testament; Frank E. Gaebelein; General Editor; Zondervan Publishing House; A Division of Harper Collins Publishers The Complete Biblical Library - Ezra-Job (Esth. 4:13-14) 4:12-13. If Mordecai and Esther ever came close to engaging in a squabble via proxy, it was in this case. Mordecaiurged Esther to importune the king on behalf of the Jews (Est. 4:8). She demurred, citing Ahasuerus’ inaccessibility toEsther as king and as husband (v. 11). Mordecai challenged her evasiveness (vv. 13f). She then consented to be themediator and representative of her people before her husband, come what may (v. 16). We cannot be sure why Mordecai said what he did in v. 13. It may have been because he genuinely believed thathis younger cousin was trying to distance herself from her people, now that she was safely ensconced in the Persianpalace. Or Mordecai may have engaged in overstatement, possibly trying to shame Esther into intervening. In her ear-lier words sent back to Mordecai, she never hinted that she viewed her position and status in the Persian palace as aguarantee of immunity from the indignities that might befall all the Jewish people. 4:14. This is certainly one of the great verses of the Book of Esther. It is the only time that Mordecai’s words arerecorded in direct speech instead of indirect speech as elsewhere. To begin with, Mordecai warned Esther about the peril of silence (“if you altogether hold your peace at this time”).To be sure, there is a time when silence is a virtue. Hence, Prov. 17:28 states, “Even a fool, when he holds his peace, iscounted wise.” Among the pithy, proverbial statements of the English language is, “Silence is golden.” This does notalways hold true. Like most epigrams, it states a truth that does not necessarily apply to all situations. Sometimes si-lence is criminal. To spot a building on fire and not sound the alarm is not golden silence, but irresponsible and un-conscionable silence. Mordecai queried Esther on her justification for keeping her lips sealed. Mordecai then continued by saying that relief and deliverance for the Jews would arise from another place. Hiswords to Esther have engendered much debate among commentators, especially the last phrase “from anotherplace.”14 | P a g e
  • 15. Relief in the OT designates deliverance from some kind of a painful, benumbing circumstance. A person could ex-perience “relief” from the judgment of God (Exo. 8:15), relief from physical or mental diseases (1 Sam. 16:23) or relieffrom speaking out feelings and emotions (Job 32:20). Among ancient authorities (e.g., the various Aramaic translations of Esther, and the rest of the OT, known as Tar-gums, and Josephus, the first-century A.D. Jewish historian who wrote in Greek), it was common to suggest that “an-other place” was a way of referring to God himself. For example, in one of the Greek Septuagint versions of Esther, thisverse is translated freely as: “If you disregard your nation so that you do not help them, nevertheless, God will becomehelp and salvation to them.” A few modern commentators also interpret the phrase as a veiled allusion to God. A simple solution to the meaning of this verse, and an acceptable one grammatically, is to read the words “en-largement and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place” not as a statement, but as a question: “If you remainsilent, will relief for the Jews arise from another place?” It is a rhetorical question to which the answer is no. It is as ifMordecai said in reply to Esther, “If not you, who?” Interestingly, Mordecai stated that the consequence for her silence would be that “you and your father’s house willbe destroyed.” We know that Esther was an orphan (Est. 2:7), and so, “your father’s house” cannot include her parents,and no siblings are mentioned in the text. Since, however, Mordecai was not only her older cousin, but Esther’s step-father as well (2:7, 15), the expression “your father’s house” must refer to Mordecai himself and his extended family. Mordecai’s two-word question “Who knows?” betokens an expression of trust in an otherwise hopeless, irre-versible situation if this phrase “Who knows?” parallels other uses of the phrase. Explaining his weeping and fastingfor his recently born, but seriously ill, child, David replied, “Who can tell whether God will be gracious to me, that thechild may live” (2 Sam. 12:22). After calling upon the people to repent, Joel said, “Who knows if he will return and re-pent” (Joel 2:14). Similarly, Nineveh’s king stated, after calling his people to repentance, “Who can tell if God will turnand repent, and turn away from his fierce anger” (Jon. 3:9). Mordecai’s words after his “Who knows” were: “whether you are come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”They are among the best-known words in the Book of Esther. This is his way of stating that Esther’s rise to the queen-ship of Persia was no accident or coincidence. Someone has defined coincidences as “miracles in which God prefers toremain anonymous.” Esther had the opportunity to be to her people what Joseph was to his family in Genesis: a saviorof her people when their chances of survival seemed nonexistent.SOURCE: The Complete Biblical Library - Ezra-Job. Copyright © 2000 by World Library Press Inc. Database © 2010 WORDsearch Corp. The New American Commentary; Volume 10; Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther (Esth. 4:13-14)12 When Esther’s words were reported to Mordecai, 13he sent back this answer: “Do not think that because you are in theking’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape. 14For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jewswill arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to royalposition for such a time as this?” 4:13 Mordecai warned Esther that she could not hide. She faced danger if she approached the king uninvited; butshe also was in danger if she did nothing. 4:14 Esther could have ignored Mordecai’s request and remained silent. Her decision in the paragraph that fol-lows shows courage and faith. Again the author alluded to a principal theme of the book, that God takes care of hispeople Israel; he will deliver them when enemies try to destroy them.4 The Book of Esther provides a basis for dis-pcussing anti-Semitism, a danger even today. The charges that Jews control the press and government, hold financialpower in many countries, and are leagued together in a plot to take over the world are the creation of those whowould destroy the Jews. Anti-Semitism is a manifestation of demonic power, and its most violent and destructive out-415 | P a g e
  • 16. break has come in the twentieth century of the Christian Era in a country that had known the Christian message for atthousand years. At this moment Esther’s life purpose was at stake. God had guided in her being chosen queen. In the biblical per-spective election is for service, not just for one’s own benefit. Being liberator of her people was more important thanbeing the queen of Persia. Mordecai’s statement reveals a deep conviction of God’s providence, a belief that Godrules in the world, even in the details of the nations and in the lives of individuals. Mordecai told Esther, “If you remainsilent, … you … will perish” (v. 14). In a crisis situation such as this, there was no neutral position. Failure to decidebrings personal loss and misses the opportunity to fulfill God’s purpose. In God’s providence each person has a uniquetask.SOURCE: The New American Commentary; Volume 10; Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther; Mervin Breneman; General Editor: E. Ray Clendenen; © Copyright 1993 • Broadman & Holman Publishers,Nashville, Tennessee. II. R EALIZE THAT G OD I S THE U LTIMATE I NFLUENCER (E STH . 4:15-17) C OMMENTARYThe Expositor ’s Bible Commentar y Old Testament 4:15-16 Esther sent a reply to Mordecai, affirming her willingness to risk her life in behalf of her people. She askedhim to assemble all the Jews who were in Susa to fast for her for three days and nights. She and her maids would alsoparticipate in the fast. Afterward she would go to the king, even though to do so was contrary to the law. In a final ex-pression of courage and willing submission, she said, “If I perish, I perish” (v. 16). Her remark has also been interpretedas “a despairing expression of resignation to the inevitable” (Paton, Esther, p. 326; cf. Jacob’s statement in Gen 43:14).Prayer and fasting before God were customary concurrent practices in times of sorrow, anxiety, or penitence (cf. 1 Sam1:7-10; 2 Sam 12:16-17; Ezra 8:23; Isa 58:2-5; Jer 14:12; Dan 9:3; Zech 7:3-5). The author of Esther is careful, however, toavoid the mention of God or that prayer was made to him. 4:17 Mordecai departed from the open square in front of the king’s gate and carried out Esther’s instructions. TheHebrew only says he “crossed over,” which may mean he crossed the city square or crossed the river that separatedSusa from the citadel.SOURCE: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary Old Testament; Frank E. Gaebelein; General Editor; Zondervan Publishing House; A Division of Harper Collins Publishers The Complete Biblical Library - Ezra-Job (Esth. 4:15-17) 4:15-16. Esther saw the wisdom in Mordecai’s words. She asked Mordecai to call the entire Jewish Diaspora inSusa to fasting. There is no specific reference to praying, but that may be safely assumed. There is a common denomi-nator running throughout all the instances of community fasting in the OT: the community is struck or threatened bya calamity that comes either from other persons (1 Sam. 7:6, from the Philistines; Jer. 36:9, from Jehoiakim, beastlyking of Judah; and here in Est. 4:16, from Haman) or from God (Joel 2:12ff; Jon. 3:5ff). But Esther did not leave all the fasting to her people. She too along with her maids fasted. In fact, there is a point inHebrew of “I also and my maidens will fast as likewise” that cannot be captured in English. We would expect the verb“will fast” to be plural, since the subject is “I also and my maidens,” that is, “we.” But the verb, even though having acompound subject, is a first person singular verb, literally “I and my maidens, I will fast.” This grammatical form indi-cates that the narrator thereby wished to draw attention to the principal participant. Esther was the instigator and di-rector of the action. She would not ask others to do what she was not willing to do. Defying the king’s law about approaching the sovereign uninvited, Esther would speak with Ahasuerus. She mightbe successful. She might be executed. She had no guarantee either way, especially with regard to the former. Estherexpressed her willingness to act as intermediary with her now famous words, “And if I perish, I perish.” These wordssound remarkably like those of Jacob when he agreed reluctantly to let Benjamin join his older brothers when they re-turned to Egypt: “If I be bereaved of my children, I am bereaved” (Gen. 43:14). Although the wording is somewhat dif-ferent, the three Hebrew youths thrown into the fiery furnace of Nebuchadnezzar echoed the same sentiment: “Our16 | P a g e
  • 17. God whom we serve is able to deliver us from... and he will deliver us” (Dan. 3:17f). Esther’s “If I perish, I perish” paral-lels their “If we are reduced to ashes, we are reduced to ashes.” The difference between Esther and the three Hebrewlads is that the latter did not hesitate to speak of God. Esther, by contrast, never openly spoke to God or of God. 4:17. The Hebrew is strong in this verse. It says Mordecai “did according to all that which Esther had commandedhim.” The phraseology is very close to that used to describe Moses’ finishing successfully the overseeing of the con-struction of the Tabernacle: “Thus did Moses: according to all that the Lord commanded him” (Exo. 40:16). Three passages so far in Esther use the expression (HED #6943, 6142; 2:10, 20, “charged”; 4:17, “commanded”). Inthe first two, Mordecai is the subject and Esther is the object. In the third one, the roles are reversed. Esther is the sub-ject and Mordecai is the object. Esther knew how to take orders and how to give orders. She knew how to be submis-sive and how to be aggressive. Mordecai would fast for three days. The Susan Jews would fast. She and her maidens would fast. All the while, shewould think fast, plotting her strategy, and when the time came she would move fast.SOURCE: The Complete Biblical Library - Ezra-Job. Copyright © 2000 by World Library Press Inc. Database © 2010 WORDsearch Corp.The New American Commentary; Volume 10; Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther (Esth. 4:15-17)Esther Risks Her Life (4:15–17)15 Then Esther sent this reply to Mordecai: 16“Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat ordrink 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 itis against the law. And if I perish, I perish.” 17So Mordecai went away and carried out all of Esther’s instructions. 4:15–16 Esther felt identified with her people. She now looked to them for spiritual support. “And fast for me”implies prayer and fasting. This suggests that Esther had a genuine faith in God. By her request for fasting (and cer-tainly prayer is assumed), Esther showed that she needed the support of others and recognized the need for God’s in-tervention. Even she and her maids would fast as well. This meant she would share her faith with these maids. Estherbelieved God answers prayer. Such prayer changes situations; in fact, it is one of the chief instruments God uses tochange history. “I will go” marks Esther’s momentous decision that risked her own life. At first Esther apparently was more con-cerned about her own safety. But when she realized the influence she could have and perhaps God’s purpose inputting her in her position “for such a time as this,” she decided to act, committing herself to God. Many Christians aremore concerned about their own security than about the desperate physical and spiritual needs of the world. If theyunderstood that their decision could make a difference, many would make the commitment God is asking of them. “Do not eat or drink for three days” means until the third day, when Esther planned to appear before the king (5:1).The added words “night or day” mean the fast was to be continuous (not broken by eating at night); fasting usually waspracticed only during the day. The emphasis on fasting is worth noting. Throughout the Old Testament fasting seemsimportant, although the Israelites were required to fast on only one day in the year, the Day of Atonement. However,there are many examples of fasting on special occasions or in times of special need. In Isa 58:1–12 true fasting was notjust ritual; rather, it was the meeting of the needs of people. Fasting is a means by which one denies one’s own needsand focuses directly on his or her relationship with God and the world. “And if I perish, I perish.” Both Vashti and Mordecai displayed courage in life-threatening situations, and now so didEsther. Vashti showed courage in her refusal to humiliate herself for the whimsical desire of her husband, and Mordecaidid so in refusing to bow down to Haman. Esther proved braver still. She had decided to break the law of her husbandand risk her very life for her people (cf. John 15:13). God’s providential care had brought Esther to this point, but Estheraccepted the challenge that might cost her life.17 | P a g e
  • 18. 4:17 This verse shows that Mordecai was satisfied with Esther’s decision and instructions. He proceeded to carry outher request.SOURCE: The New American Commentary; Volume 10; Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther; Mervin Breneman; General Editor: E. Ray Clendenen; © Copyright 1993 • Broadman & Holman Publishers,Nashville, Tennessee. III. U SE Y OUR I NFLUENCE IN G ODLY W AYS (E STH . 8:3-8) C OMMENTARYThe Expositor ’s Bible Commentar y Old TestamentReversal of Haman’s decree (8:3-14) 8:3 With a great show of emotion, Esther fell at the feet of the king and begged him to “put an end” (lehabir, “tocause to pass over”) to the evil plan Haman had devised against the Jews. Haman’s overthrow and Mordecai’s eleva-tion could not give Esther comfort so long as Haman’s decree against the Jews remained unrevoked. 8:4 Some commentators (e.g., Paton) assume that Esther risked her life a second time to come uninvited into theking’s presence, because the king again extended his scepter to her (cf. 4:11; 5:1-2). However, the scepter was extend-ed only after her emotional plea and not at the moment of her entrance before the king. Therefore his gesture was in-tended to encourage her to rise from her prostrate position before continuing to speak. 8:5-6 With proper deference to the king and an expressed hope that she enjoyed the king’s favor, Esther peti-tioned him to issue an order “overruling” (lehasib, “to cause to return”) Haman’s dispatches (v. 5). She reminded himthat Haman’s orders had been sent with the explicit purpose of destroying the Jews in all the king’s provinces. Estherexpressed her grief in face of the impending disaster about to fall on her people (Heb., “the evil that will find my peo-ple”) and her kinsmen, thus revealing her true character—that she was not merely self-serving, as might have beeninferred from her previous statements. Esther was careful to place the blame on Haman for the wicked plot and not onthe king. 8:7-8 The king responded by first reminding Esther and Mordecai that he had executed Haman and given his es-tate to her. The king then told them to write another decree in his name in behalf of the Jews. He gave them permis-sion to word the decree as seemed best to them (Heb., “according to the good in your eyes”). He reminded them thathe could not write the new decree himself, as no prior document written in his name and sealed with his ring could be“revoked” (lehasib, “to cause to return”; cf. v. 5), even by the king himself (cf. Dan 6:8, 12, 15). It could only be neutral-ized by another decree.SOURCE: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary Old Testament; Frank E. Gaebelein; General Editor; Zondervan Publishing House; A Division of Harper Collins Publishers The Complete Biblical Library - Ezra-Job (Esth. 8:3-8) 8:3. But Esther was not ultimately concerned about possession of confiscated estates and royal rings. Another is-sue was more profoundly important to her: the lifting of the death sentence upon her people. To that end, in an unusually profuse show of emotion, Esther fell at the king’s feet, wept and begged the king toput an end to the evil plan of Haman and signed as decree by the king. The key verb here is Esther’s urgent requestthat Ahasuerus “put away,” that is, cancel such a decree. The Hebrew word for “put away” (HED #5882) is the sameone used in the previous verse to refer to the ring Ahasuerus “had taken” from Haman. Esther deeply implored Aha-suerus to take back, that is, retract, his earlier decree. The problem, however, is that according to tradition, the laws ofthe Persians and Medes could not be repealed or taken back ( in 1:19). Since Ahasuerus was tricked into signing thedeath penalty, he was much like Isaac who was tricked into giving his blessing on Jacob (Gen. 27:1ff). 8:4-10:3. “All’s well that ends well,” says the aphorism. If that is true, then Est. 8:4-10:3 is a parade example ofthat truth in action. The last portion of the Book of Esther is about the safety and security of the Jews in Persia, at leastfor that period of time in history. Chapters 8-10 are about reversals: from tears to laughter, from fasting to celebrat-18 | P a g e
  • 19. ing, from vulnerable Jews to victorious Jews, from a religion that did not celebrate its festivals to one that celebratedPurim to the fullest, from Jews who are written up for genocide to a Jew who is written up for greatness, from letterscalling for a crusade to letters calling for a celebration. 8:4. Just as recorded in 5:1f, in 8:4, when Esther goes to the king to speak, she must wait until the king extends hisgold scepter in her direction. No such procedure took place when Haman (6:4ff) or Mordecai (8:1) approached theking. A scepter is an emblem of regal or imperial power that looks like a rod or wand. 8:5-6. Two things stand out in Esther’s request from Ahasuerus. First, she addressed the king in the third personrather than speaking to him directly in the second person: “If it please the king, and if I have found favour” (v. 5). Sec-ond, she spoke to Ahasuerus in a series of conditional clauses (“if... if”) rather than launching immediately into herplea that the genocidal decree against her people be revoked. Such an approach reflected proper decorum and flat-tered the king by placing her at his mercy and by subtly reminding him how much she meant to him. Esther also demonstrated great wisdom by mentioning only Haman’s role in the hatching of this plot to extermi-nate the Jews. We know that although the idea was Haman’s, only the king could authorize it, and authorize it he did(3:8-11). Esther, having condemned Haman, now logically foils the edict Haman apparently personally wrote. It is interesting to observe that Esther recalled not only Haman’s name, but his father’s name (Hammedatha) andhis ethnic background (“the Agagite”). These names would be engraved in her memory forever. In v. 6, Esther expresses solidarity with the Jews (“my people... my kindred”). She is not so much concerned withher own deliverance as she is with that of her people. Her “how” questions (“For how can I endure... How can I en-dure”) are similar to Joseph’s “how” question to Potiphar’s wife in Gen. 39:9 (“How then can I do this great wicked-ness, and sin against God?”) and Judah’s “how” question to the yet unrecognized Joseph in 44:34 (“How shall I go upto my father, and the lad [Benjamin] be not with me?”). Esther’s self-incriminating “how” questions focused on the sinof omission and indifference. Joseph’s self-incriminating “how” questions focused on the sin of commission and in-dulgence. Esther, who had just “fallen” (Est. 8:3) at the king’s feet, could not stand idly by and see disaster “fall” uponher people (v. 6). 8:7-8. Esther does the talking in vv. 3-6, but the commands “write” and “seal” in v. 8 are plural (masculine pluralsat that), showing that the king is responding to both Esther and Mordecai. The inclusion of “Mordecai the Jew” in v. 7provides a counterpoint to “Haman the Agagite” in vv. 3, 5. Just as Esther discreetly omitted any reference to the king’s role in the genocidal decree (v. 5), so too the kingomits in v. 7 any reference to his role in the get-rid-of-the-Jews plot. Haman was not just the arch villain; he was theonly villain. Also, the king was careful to mention Esther’s real estate gains (“I have given Esther the house of Haman”)before he reminded them of his ordering Haman’s execution. In other words, Ahasuerus reminded them that he hadalready been beneficent to Esther. Because an earlier royal edict could not be simply cancelled or withdrawn, Ahasuerus gave Esther and Mordecaithe authority to write a counter edict that would supersede the first one, and would work to the advantage of theJews (v. 8). His “write... as seems best to you” (NIV; or lit. “write... according to what is right in your eyes”) gave Estherand Mordecai as much freedom as possible. It was the same expression the king used earlier to Haman in relation tothe Jews, literally, “Do with the people what is right in your eyes” (3:11). What was “right” in Esther’s and Mordecai’seyes was actually something right and deserving. For Haman, the “right” was wrong and dastardly. In both instances,the phrase witnesses to Ahasuerus’ indifference and incompetence. He merely granted permission, but others wrotethe script. He could approve policy but seemed incapable of forming policy. Drinking, dining and delegating responsi-bility to others were his specialties.SOURCE: The Complete Biblical Library - Ezra-Job. Copyright © 2000 by World Library Press Inc. Database © 2010 WORDsearch Corp.19 | P a g e
  • 20. The New American Commentary; Volume 10; Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther (Esth. 8:3-8)Esther’s Request to Save the Jews (8:3–6)3 Esther again pleaded with the king, falling at his feet and weeping. She begged him to put an end to the evil plan ofHaman the Agagite, which he had devised against the Jews. 4Then the king extended the gold scepter to Esther and shearose and stood before him. 5“If it pleases the king,” she said, “and if he regards me with favor and thinks it the right thingto do, and if he is pleased with me, let an order be written overruling the dispatches that Haman son of Hammedatha, theAgagite, devised and wrote to destroy the Jews in all the king’s provinces. 6For how can I bear to see disaster fall on mypeople? How can I bear to see the destruction of my family?” 8:3 Not just the fate of Esther and Mordecai was at stake but that of the entire Jewish population of the PersianEmpire. Esther had saved the Jews from Haman, but not from his handiwork: the death document. Still in force wasHaman’s original edict, approved by the king and sent to all the provinces for the destruction of the Jews on the thir-teenth day of the twelfth month. Esther did not stop with her personal deliverance; she was concerned about herpeople—the whole Jewish community throughout the empire. Her “falling at his feet and weeping” indicates herstrong emotions as she collapsed. She could only plead the king’s mercy. 8:4 “The king extended the gold scepter.” This happened before in 5:2. This time the scepter was not raised tosave Esther’s life but rather to show that she is more than welcome in the king’s presence. Some understand that Es-ther again risked her life by going into the king’s presence without being called. However, others suggest that v. 3does not introduce a new scene; it is a continuation of the scene described in vv. 1–2. Thus the king’s act ofextending the scepter was simply an encouragement to Esther to rise and speak. 8:5 Esther was extremely diplomatic in presenting this request. It was of utmost importance that the king accepther request. He already was upset because Haman had tricked him into making the edict to destroy the Jews, butreversing an edict the king had signed was a delicate matter. Esther did not use the word “law,” for she knew that Persian laws could not be repealed. She put all the blame onHaman and avoided blaming the king. 8:6 “How can I bear to see” is repeated in the parallel, almost poetic form of Esther’s request. She adroitly used herown feelings and the king’s favorable disposition toward her (“if he is pleased with me”) to secure his permission forher request.A New Edict PublishedThe King Commands the Edict (8:7–8)7 King Xerxes replied to Queen Esther and to Mordecai the Jew, “Because Haman attacked the Jews, I have given his estate toEsther, and they have hanged him on the gallows. 8Now write another decree in the king’s name in behalf of the Jews asseems best to you, and seal it with the king’s signet ring—for no document written in the king’s name and sealed with hisring can be revoked.” 8:7 Because Haman attacked the Jews, the king had him hanged and gave his estate to Esther. The author wasmaking clear that he who attacks the Jews will fall. The king reminded Esther and Mordecai of all he had alreadydone, to show that he was favorably disposed toward the Jews. However, it was Esther, not the king, who took theinitiative in counteracting Haman’s destructive decree. 8:8 “Now write” is literally “you write.” The “you” is emphatic and includes both Esther and Mordecai. Verses 8–17are parallel in language to 3:9–4:3, but here the whole situation is reversed. Another decree was necessary to counterthe initial one. Now the Jews would destroy their enemies rather than be destroyed.20 | P a g e
  • 21. The fact that laws sealed by the king were irrevocable calls our attention to the many inhuman laws in our day andthe number of lives that are sacrificed to them. God’s law of justice must always be above kings and human laws. “Re-move the wicked from the king’s presence, and his throne will be established through righteousness” (Prov 25:5).SOURCE: The New American Commentary; Volume 10; Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther; Mervin Breneman; General Editor: E. Ray Clendenen; © Copyright 1993 • Broadman & Holman Publishers,Nashville, Tennessee.21 | P a g e
  • 22. DIGGING DEEPER: God’s Sovereignty in the Book of Esther: The Book of Esther does not mention God’s name. However, we clearlysee God orchestrating the book’s events. Through Vashti’s action, the position of queen of Persia became vacant, and Godguided the king to choose Esther. As queen, Esther was in the right position to intervene for her people. As Mordecai said,Esther had “come to your royal position for such a time as this” (Esth. 4:14). God’s unseen hand guides the book’s every cir-cumstance.SOURCE: Family Bible Study; Life Truths; Leader Guide; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN.God’s Sovereignty in the Book of Esther: Essentially the sovereignty of God refers to His activity in governingthe heavens and the earth as well as His control over the affairs of humanity. Since God created all things, upholds allthings, owns all things, and is above all things, then He is the rightful and righteous Ruler of all things. Although thistheological concept can sometimes seem perplexing, it is firmly rooted in Scripture and consistently reminds us thatGod, by His sovereignty, always knows the best thing to do and He holds the power to do it. God is in charge!SOURCE: Advanced Bible Study; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; One LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.PURIM (Feast of Purin): Purim commemorating the deliverance of the Jews from genocide through the effortsof Esther (Esther 9:16-32) derives its name from the “lot” (pur) which Haman planned to cast in order to decide whenhe should carry into effect the decree issued by the king for the extermination of the Jews (Esther 9:24). In the apoc-ryphal book of 2 Maccabees (15:36) it is called the day of Mordecai. It was celebrated on the fourteenth day of Adar(March) by those in villages and unwalled towns and on the fifteenth day by those in fortified cities (Esther 9:18, 19).No mention of any religious observance is connected with the day; in later periods, the Book of Esther was read inthe synagogue on this day. It became a time for rejoicing and distribution of food and presents.SOURCE: SOURCE: Holman Bible Dictionary; General Editor, David S. Dockery; Editorial Team, Trent C. Butler, Christopher L. Church, Linda L. Scott, Marsha A. Ellis Smith, James Emery White; Holman Bible Publishers; Nashville, Tennessee. THE MAIN CHARACTERS IN THE BOOK OF ESTHER:XERXES (Xuhr xeez): A Persian king who reigned 486-464 B.C., known in Book of Esther as Ahasuerus. He was theson of Darius the Great and grandson of Cyrus the Great. He campaigned militarily against the Greeks, avenging theloss at Marathon in 490. However, his armada suffered a crippling defeat in the Bay of Salamis in 480, and he soon lostinterest in attempting to defeat the Greeks.VASHTI (Vash ti): Personal name meaning, “the once desired, the beloved.” Wife of King Ahasuerus and queen ofPersia and Media (Esth. 1:9). The king called for her to show off her beauty to a group he was entertaining, but she re-fused. Vashti was deposed as queen (1:19), and a beauty contest was arranged to select a new queen. Esther was cho-sen as the new queen (2:16). No records yet have been recovered which name Vashti as the queen of any king of theMedo-Persian Empire, leading some to speculate whether she was a historical person. The only other queen with Aha-suerus (also called Xerxes) was named Amestris.HAMAN (Hay muhn): Personal name meaning, “magnificent.” The Agagite who became prime minister underthe Persian king Ahasuerus (Esther 3:1). He was a fierce enemy of the Jews, and he devised a plot to exterminatethem. In particular, he had a gallows erected on which he hoped to hang Mordecai because Mordecai would not bowto him. Through the intervention of Esther, however, his scheme was unmasked; and he was hanged on the gallowshe had designed for Mordecai the Jew.AGAGITE (ay gag ite): Apparently, the term means a descendant of Agag. Only Haman, the arch villain in theBook of Esther, is called an Agagite (Esther 3:1). Agagite is probably a synonym for Amalekite. (See Agag below.)22 | P a g e
  • 23. AGAG (ay gag): Agag, whose name means “fiery one,” was king of the Amalekites, a tribal people living inthe Negev and in the Sinai peninsula. The Amalekites had attacked the Israelites in the wilderness and were thereforecursed (Ex. 17:14). In 1 Samuel 15:8, Saul destroyed all the Amalekites but King Agag. Since the Lord had ordered thecomplete destruction of the Amalekites, Samuel, Saul’s priest, rebuked Saul for his disobedience and reported God’srejection of Saul as king. Then Samuel himself executed Agag. In Numbers 24:7, Agag is used to refer to theAmalekite people. Agag was a common name among Amalekite kings much as Pharaoh among Egyptian rulers.SOURCE: SOURCE: Holman Bible Dictionary; General Editor, David S. Dockery; Editorial Team, Trent C. Butler, Christopher L. Church, Linda L. Scott, Marsha A. Ellis Smith, James Emery White; Holman Bible Publishers; Nashville, Tennessee. ESTHER (ehs thuhr): Persian personal name meaning, “Ishtar.” Heroine of biblical Book of Esther whose Jewishname was Hadassah. Esther is the story of a Jewish orphan girl raised by her uncle, Mordecai, in Persia. She be-came queen when Queen Vashti refused to appear at a banquet hosted by her husband, King Ahasuerus. Esther didnot reveal that she was Jewish. Mordecai heard about a plot against the king’s life which he reported through Esther. Haman was made prime minis-ter and began to plot against Mordecai and the Jews because they would not pay homage to him. The king issued a de-cree that all who would not bow down would be killed. Esther learned of the plot and sent for Mordecai. He challengedher with the idea, “Who knoweth whether those art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14). Sheasked Mordecai and the Jews to fast with her while she decided. She entered the king’s presence unsummoned whichcould have meant her death. The king granted her request. Haman was tricked into honoring Mordecai, his enemy. At a banquet, Esther revealed Haman’s plot to destroy herand her people, the Jews. Haman was hanged on the gallows prepared for Mordecai. Mordecai was promoted, and Es-ther got the king to revoke Haman’s decree to destroy the Jews. The Jews killed and destroyed their enemies.The book closes with the institution of the festival of Purim.MORDECAI (Mawr dih ki): Personal name meaning, “little man.” Esther’s cousin and the mastermind behind herrise to power and subsequent victory over the evil Haman. Haman, a descendant of the Amalekite king Agag, soughtto destroy the Jewish race. Mordecai, a descendant of King Saul’s family, led Esther to thwart the attempt, Haman washanged on the gallows he had erected for Mordecai.SOURCE: SOURCE: Holman Bible Dictionary; General Editor, David S. Dockery; Editorial Team, Trent C. Butler, Christopher L. Church, Linda L. Scott, Marsha A. Ellis Smith, James Emery White; Holman Bible Publishers; Nashville, Tennessee.23 | P a g e
  • 24. ADDITIONAL BACKGROUND READING:The Role of Queen EstherBy Janice MeierJanice Meier is editor in chief, Explore the Bible Series, LifeWay Christian Resources, Nashville, Tennessee.W ho knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this? (Esth. 4:14, NIV). These words of Mordecai addressed to his cousin, Queen Esther, reflect Mordecai’s conviction of God’s providence at work in Esther’s life.1 God had guided in her selection as queen to bring her to the place where shecould play a crucial role in delivering His people in an hour of crisis. What was that time for which God had given Esther such a crucial role? Specifically, it was a time when Haman,prime minister under King Ahasuerus, devised a plot to exterminate Esther’s own people, the Jews. More generally, itwas a time when the Persians ruled the Jewish people. Ahasuerus (also known as King Xerxes, 486-464 BC ) had selected Esther to replace his former queen, Vashti.Vashti’s actions, as well as those of Queen Esther, grant us brief glimpses into the role of a queen during the era of theMedo-Persian Empire. What privileges and restrictions characterized the queen’s role in “such a time as this”? Thequestion is difficult to answer, and biblical scholars hold conflicting viewpoints on many related issues. This articlewill present some of those various viewpoints and conclude by summarizing Esther’s contributions to the image ofthe Persian queen.A M EDO -P ERSIAN Q UEENThe role of the queen, of course, can be understood only in conjunction with that of the king. In the time of KingXerxes, the Persian king typically viewed himself as possessing unlimited personal power, as being above the law, andas displaying great splendor.2 The king displayed the power in dethroning Queen Vashti when she refused to complywith his whims. As punishment for failure to appear before the king when summoned, this queen was never again toenter his presence. The king and his counselors immediately recognized the disastrous repercussions that could occurthroughout the land if other women followed the queen’s example of refusing to defer to the king’s wishes (1:12-18).Queen Vashti has earned a place in history as one who was deposed for challenging not only her husband but also theroyal law of the Medes and Persians.3 Vashti’s courage in refusing to come before the king when summoned parallelsEsther’s courage in approaching the king without first being called. The reference to Xerxes’ process of selecting a new queen also sheds light on the queen’s role (2:1-4,12-14). Thisprocedure reveals that to a large degree, women were merely objects to satisfy a king’s personal desires. Obviously,polygamy characterized marital practices in the palace. The Persian king surrounded himself with a large harem ofwomen—some of whom were wives and others concubines. Chapter 2 of Esther refers to two different parts of theharem. Evidently virgins had to stay in one area of the harem (vv. 8-9). After a woman had sexual relations with theking, she then was moved to another part of the harem (vv. 12-14). The women in this latter group had no guaranteethat the king would ever summon them again. Many virtually became like widows. Although the women of the harem were isolated and dependent on male favor, a woman nevertheless could wieldgreat power within the palace, particularly if she were selected as queen. Xerxes himself was eventually killed in aharem coup. Thus although limited in many ways, these women did have the potential to acquire great influence andcontrol.4E STHER AS Q UEEN24 | P a g e
  • 25. After winning King Xerxes’ favor, Esther succeeded Vashti as queen (2:17). She had faithfully kept Mordecai’s instruc-tion not to reveal her identity as a Jew. As the plot of the story unfolds, Haman succeeded in getting the king to issuea decree to destroy the Jews (3:8-11). Mordecai urged Esther to approach the king and plead with him for her peo-ple’s lives (4:8). Aware that such an unbidden approach to the king was a violation of the law and was punishable bydeath, Esther courageously agreed to enter the king’s presence (v. 16). Herodotus, a fifth century BC Greek historian,affirmed that Persian kings has such a law.5 The Jewish historian Josephus recorded that men holding axes stood nearthe king’s throne to punish anyone who approached the king without first being summoned.6 A person desiring an audience with the king was to make such a request by first sending a message. Such a law pro-vided defense against assassination attempts. As queen, Esther was bound by this law. Yet she demonstrated uncom-mon courage by her willingness to risk her life for the lives of her people by approaching the king unbidden. As Vashtihad displayed courage by refusing to humiliate herself to fulfill the whimsical desires of her husband, 7 Esther demon-strated courage by risking her life for her people. When Esther finally revealed to King Ahasuerus or Xerxes that she was a Jew and accused Haman of plotting evilagainst her and her people, she wisely avoided criticizing the king—who had authorized the genocide. She prudent-ly recognized that she must enlist the king’s help to bring about a reversal in her people’s fortunes. Esther’s powerwas that of a queen who knew herself and who refused to be defined by her circumstances. Several other passages specifically point out the status and power Esther possessed in her role as queen. First, ac-cording to Esther 8:1-2 she received the estate of Haman after he was hanged. This reward was in line with the indi-cation we have that Persian kings took possession of the goods and property of condemned criminals. 8 Second, theking also instructed his queen, along with Mordecai, to write a decree in the king’s name concerning the Jews and toseal it with the king’s signet ring so that none could revoke it (8:8). Furthermore, Esther 9:29-32 emphasizes that the queen used her royal authority to help establish the Feast of Purim.The Hebrew word translated “authority” (NIV) in 9:29 literally means “strength” or “power.” The noun comes from a verbroot meaning “to prevail against” or “to overpower.”9 The noun “authority” is modified by the adjective “full,” a transla-tion of a Hebrew term literally meaning “all.” Esther’s authority appears to be in line with that of the women of the royalhouse described in the ancient Persepolis texts.10 These royal women are portrayed as resolute, enterprising, and posi-tively active. They participated in royal feasts and organized their own banquets, traveled across the land and issued in-structions, and supervised their estates and work force.11E STHER ’ S C ONTRIBUTIONSWhat contributions did Esther make to the image of the role of a Persian queen? In many ways she fit the typicalmodel of a female Persian ruler. She acted prudently within the limitations of her role. Yet she also brought a distinctdimension to that role. Because of her faith in God, she dared to step outside the confines of the expected behavioralpatterns of a Persian queen when the lives of God’s people were at stake. She recognized both through Mordecai’s in-struction and by examination of her own experiences that God was providentially at work orchestrating her life’s cir-cumstances. She responded courageously when she recognized her place in God’s plan. Queen Esther demonstratedthat being faithful to God involved being faithful to His people. Thus, faithful to the meaning of her name, she be-came a shining “star” for her people in a time of darkness.SUSA in the Days of Queen EstherBy Daniel C. Browning, Jr.Daniel C. Browning, Jr. is professor of religion and history at William Carey University, Hattiesburg, Mississippi.25 | P a g e
  • 26. EAS THE STHER IS UNIQUE among biblical books in many ways. Most famously, the book does not overtly mention God, either by His personal name or generically. Additional, Esther is also the only biblical book in which the action takes place completely in Persia. To understand why, a brief historical background is needed. S ETTING FOR E STHERAt the beginning of the sixth century BC, the Hebrew kingdom of Judah, ruled by Davidic kings, found itself facing theNeo-Babylonian Empire, a Mesopotamian superpower. At first, in about 605 BC, Judah became a vassal state, thenquickly rebelled (2 Kings 24:1), capitulated after a Babylonian onslaught (in 597 BC; 2 Kings 24:10-12), and then re-belled again 10 years later (2 Kings 24:20). In response to the second rebellion, in 587 BC Babylon’s King Nebuchad-nezzar destroyed Judah, its capital Jerusalem, and with it the temple (25:8-12). After each rebellion, the Babylonianstook large numbers of Judeans (Jews) to Babylon into the experience called “the exile.” Forcibly resettled, these Jewsmade lives for themselves in southern Mesopotamia. Half a century later, the Persian Empire overtook the Neo-Baby-lonian Empire. Shortly after coming to power, Cyrus the Great formed the Persian Empire by uniting the kingdoms ofthe Medes and the Persians. Cyrus took Babylon in 539 BC and in the following year issued an edict allowing the Jewsto return to Jerusalem and rebuild their temple (Ezra 1:1-4). While many Jews returned to their homeland, many did not, and so a Diaspora (meaning “scattered”) community ofJews continued in this area around Babylon. These Jews, now free, began to conduct commerce and settle in othercities, including those in Persia to the east of Babylonia. Primary among the Persian cities was Susa, where the story ofEsther occurred in the fifth century BC.A RCHAEOLOGY AND H ISTORYSusa is identified with Shush, a collection of mounds on a natural extension of Mesopotamia into southwest Persia,modern Iran. This region, ancient Susiana, was sometimes under the control of the dominant state of southernMesopotamia, sometimes independent, and sometimes part of the large Persian states. Susa was usually its capital. After the British made a brief investigation of the area in 1851, the French excavated Susa almost continuouslyfrom 1884 until the Iranian revolution halted all foreign activity in 1979. Excavations revealed that Susa was occupiedwithout major interruption from about 4200 BC until the Mongol invasions of the thirteenth century AD.1 Early occupation at Susa paralleled the development of civilization in neighboring Mesopotamia. Susa, sharing theUruk culture of southern Mesopotamia in the mid-fourth millennium BC, developed sculpture, wheel-turned pottery,and an accounting convention using tokens enclosed in a clay envelope—an important step in the development ofcuneiform writing. Breaking from Mesopotamia after 3200 BC, Susa produced its own still undeciphered abstractsymbols called Proto-Elamite. By 2800 BC, Susa was back in the Mesopotamian sphere as an essentially Sumeriancity-state. Sargon the Great controlled Susa as part of his Semitic empire from 2350 BC. When that empire failed earlyin the twenty-second century, though, the city became part of the Elamite kingdom of Awan, only to be reconqueredby Shulgi, a powerful Sumerian king of Ur. About 2000 BC, Elamite and Susianan invaders destroyed Ur and its em-pire.2 As the Elamite civilization took shape, Susa was integrated as a major center, so that the first ruler of theSukkalmah Dynasty (which existed about 1970-1500 BC ) called himself “King of Anshan and of Susa.”3 Elam reached its cultural and political peak in the Middle Elamite Period (about 1500-1100 BC ) and Susiana be-came increasingly Elamite in language and religion. A new capital replaced Susa around 1500 BC, but Susa regainedits prominence about 1200 BC under the Shutrukid kings. This dynasty conquered Babylon, from which they lootedseveral iconic monuments of Mesopotamia, including the Naram-Sin Stele and the Stele of Hammurabi, containinghis famous law code.4 A French archaeological team discovered these iconic Mesopotamian monuments on the SusaAcropolis about 1900, near the lavishly rebuilt temple of Susa’s chief god Inshushinak.5 This brief Shutrukid Empirecollapsed about 1100 BC, and all of Elam entered a dark age with almost no written records until late in the eighthcentury BC.26 | P a g e
  • 27. When Elam reemerged into the light of history in 734 BC, Susa was one of three capitals of the later Neo-Elamitekings who found themselves in a struggle against Assyria, the prevailing Mesopotamian power. The Elamites were oftenallied with Babylon in the latter’s frequent attempts to rebel from Assyrian domination. For example, Elam supportedthe Chaldean Merodach-Baladan (Isa. 39:1) in his bids for Babylonian freedom against the Assyrian kings Sargon II andSennacherib. The last great Assyrian king, Ashurbanipal, effectively destroyed Elamite power and pillaged Susa in 646BC. Ezra 4:9-10 reports that “Osnapper”—apparently Ashurbanipal—deported Elamites of Susa and settled them in theregion of Samaria. Meanwhile, the plateau of Persia was consumed by the growing Median and Persian kingdoms, anda modest Elamite kingdom was reestablished around 625 BC at Susa. In a vision dated to about 552 BC, Daniel saw himself at Susa, at the river Ulai (Dan. 8:1-2,16). The vision began with atwo-horned ram that surely represented the Persian Empire (also called the Achaemenid Empire). The Persian Empirewas created with Cyrus the Great uniting the Medes and the Persians in 550 BC. Cyrus took Susa in 539 BC, just beforethe capture of Babylon that made the Persians masters of the Near East. This was the Cyrus who ended the exile of theJews with his edict in 538 BC (Ezra 1:2-4).I N E STHER ’ S D AYCyrus and his son Cambyses II may have used Susa some during their reigns, but the vast majority of the Persian re-mains on the site date to the reigns of Darius I the Great (522-486 BC ) or Artaxerxes II (404-359 BC ). 6 Darius made Susahis main capital. This and the great Royal Road he built connecting Susa with Sardis brought many important foreignvisitors to the city. Herodotus relates that when the cities of Ionia, Greece rebelled against Darius and sought help fromSparta, they indicated on a map “Susa where lives the great king, and there are the storehouses of his wealth; take thatcity, and then you need not fear to challenge Zeus for riches.”7 The Greek geographer Strabo concurred, saying the Per-sians “adorned the palace at Susa more than any other.”8 The site of ancient Susa is spread over four distinct mounds, called by the French the Acropolis, Apadana, Ville Roy-al, and Ville des Artisans. The Acropolis, as the name suggests, is the tallest, with stratified archaeological remains 82feet deep. The earliest occupation and most of the Elamite and earlier finds were discovered there, including theHammurabi Code stele and other looted Mesopotamian treasures. 9 North of the Acropolis, Darius I created theApadana mound (and effectively reshaped the whole city) by constructing a huge 32 acre gravel platform on whichhe built a palace. The place consisted of residential quarters in the south with an official government center and audi-ence hall—called an “Apadana”—to the north.10 Archaeologists discovered a foundation inscription written in three languages in which Darius I described buildingthe palace by using materials and workmen from throughout his vast empire. This impressive complex is the settingfor the story of Esther during the reign of Darius’s successor Xerxes I. After his ill-fated military campaign against Greece (highlighted by the Battle of Thermopylae, the sack of Athens,and culminating in defeats at Salamis and Plataeai, 480-479 BC ), Xerxes retired to Susa. A monumental gateway discovered in the 1970s east of the palace complex contains inscriptions of Xerxes, at-tributing its construction to Darius. The inscription implies Xerxes continued to use the complex. As the gateway isthe only known access to the palace, associating it with the “king’s gate” where Esther’s kinsman Mordechai sat istempting (Esth. 2:19,21; 5:9,13; 6:10, RSV). The residential quarters would correspond to the “king’s palace” in thestory (5:1). Within outer walls, this structure has a series of inner courtyards aligned east to west. The first of theseserved as an entrance courtyard and may be the “outer court of the kings palace” of Esther 6:4. The third courtyardgives access to what appear to be the royal apartments and may thus be the “inner courtyard” where a nervous Esthermade her uninvited approach to the king (4:11; 5:1).11 The audience hall was hypostyle—filled with six rows of six columns each. More columns filled three porticos onthe west, north, and east sides. The columns themselves featured fluted shafts on square bases, topped with capitals27 | P a g e
  • 28. in the form of two bull torsos facing in opposite directions. They rose 65 feet, an achievement unparalleled in the an-cient world. The entire palace, residence, and apadana were decorated exclusively with glazed brickwork depictingmythical animals and figures of the Immortals, the elite guard troops of the king.12 The royal parts of the city, consisting of the Acropolis, Apadana, and Ville Royal mounds, were enclosed in an im-pressive city wall. A canal diverted from the Chaour River on the west ran along the north and east sides of the royalenclosure, separating it from the unfortified lower city to the east, represented by the fourth mound, the Ville des Ar-tisans. These distinct parts of the city may be reflected in the text of Esther, where “Susa the capital” (9:6,11,12; RSV)can refer to the royal walled section, while “Susa” without further qualification (vv. 13-15) may indicate the lowercity.13L ATER S USASusa’s importance as a capital ended with the conquests of Alexander the Great, although the city continued to existand prosper under Hellenistic, Parthian, Sassanian, and Islamic rule. It was finally abandoned in the thirteenth centu-ry. Nevertheless, Susa has been and remains a site of pilgrimage for Jews, Christians, Muslims, and Mandeans whovenerate a medieval structure now enclosed in a mosque as the tomb of the prophet Daniel. While the tomb ofDaniel has been known from at least the seventh century AD, 14 Susa has no shrine that is associated with Queen Es-ther.28 | P a g e
  • 29. Capital Punishment In The Ancient Near EastBy Stephen R. MillerStephen R. Miller is professor of Old Testament and Hebrew Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary, Germantown, Tennessee.B OTH ESTER in fifth-century BC Persia and Daniel’s friends in the time of Babylon’s King Nebuchadnezzar (605-562 BC) faced the death penalty (Est. 4:11,16; Dan. 3:6). These and other biblical passages (Gen. 40:22; Est. 2:21-23; 7:9-10) illustrate the pervasiveness of capital punishment in the ancient Near East. Vital for understanding the practice of capital punishment among Israel’s neighbors in the extant (known) legalmaterial. Most noteworthy are seven ancient Near Eastern law codes archaeologists uncovered in the past two cen-turies—the Ur-Nammu Law Code, the Lipit-Ishtar Lawcode, the Laws of Eshnunna, the Code of Hammurabi, the Mid-dle Assyrian Laws, the Hittite Laws, and the Neo-Babylonian Laws.1 The Neo-Babylonian Law dates to about 600 BC;the others range from 2100-1100 BC. All originated in the area of modern Iraq (Sumer, Babylonia, Assyria) except theHittite Laws of the ancient Hittite Kingdom, which was located in modern Turkey. The Code of Hammurabi is themost extensive and famous of the codes. Hammurabi’s 282 laws were written on a black stone over seven feet inheight, which is now in the Louvre in Paris, France. All seven codes make provision for capital punishment. 2 Althoughscholars question how faithfully they were enforced, these law codes certainly are instructive concerning attitudes to-ward crime and punishment in the respective kingdoms. No law codes comparable to the Code of Hammurabi have been discovered in either Egypt or Persia, but ancientwritings strongly document the practice of capital punishment in these countries. For example, Diodorus Siculus ( afirst-century BC Greek historian) claimed that the Egyptians executed persons for perjury, failure to aid one being as-saulted, and murder.3 Herodotus (fifth-century BC Greek historian) recounted that the Persian kind Darius I (522-486BC) executed his wise men, nearly annihilating the group.4 The following is a comparative summary of Israel’s capital punishment laws and the laws and practices of otherancient Near Eastern nations.A N A CCEPTED P UNISHMENT FOR C RIMECapital punishment seems to have had universal acceptance in the ancient Near East. About 30 laws deal with thesubject in the Code of Hammurabi. In the Mosaic Law at least 32 crimes call for the death penalty.D ISTINCTIONS B ETWEEN A RISTOCRACY AND C OMMONERSIn the prologues of the Lipit-Ishtar Lawcode and the Code of Hammurabi, the gods decreed the king’s position andcommissioned him to establish justice (law) in the land. Egypt’s pharaoh needed no such sanction from the gods forhe, himself, was venerated as divine. Biblical law derived its authority from Yahweh, the true God. The earliest refer-ence to capital punishment in the Bible is a direct command from God (Gen. 9:6). Later, at Sinai, capital punishmentbecame part of Israel’s law code.S IMILARITIES B ETWEEN S PECIFIC C APITAL O FFENSES IN THE A NCIENT N EAR E AST AND M OSAIC L AW29 | P a g e
  • 30. Although most codes agree with the Mosaic Law that murderers should be executed (Ex. 21:12,14), some did not. HittiteLaws punished murderers with monetary fines, and the Persian Avesta, the holy book of Zoroastrianism, punished mur-derers with stripes. The Assyrians executed those making magical preparations. The Hittites gave the same sentence for those whokilled a snake while uttering another man’s name. These codes parallel the Bible’s verdict for those involved in occultpractices (Ex. 22:18; Lev. 20:27). Elsewhere, though, Hittite Laws merely imposed a monetary fine for witchcraft. Other crimes eliciting the death penalty in both Mosaic and ancient Near Eastern laws are kidnapping (Ex. 21:16),blasphemy (Lev. 24:16), rejection of a dignitary’s judgment (Deut. 17:12), sex crimes—adultery and certain rape cases(Lev. 20:10; Deut. 22:25), and bestiality (Ex. 22:19; Deut. 27:21). Ancient Near Eastern law codes do not parallel thebiblical injunction to execute those engaged in homosexual relations (Lev. 20:13). The Persian Avesta, however, does.D IFFERENCES B ETWEEN S PECIFIC C APITAL O FFENSES IN THE A NCIENT N EAR E AST AND M OSAIC L AWThe code of Hammurabi specifies that a son who strikes his father is not executed; rather his hand is amputated (com-pare Ex. 21:15). Both Hammurabi and the laws of Eshnunna stipulated if an ox (or “bull”) was in the habit of goring peo-ple, the owner was to pay the victim’s family. According to Exodus, however, the owner either was to be executed or hislife could be redeemed monetarily (Ex. 21:29-32). Mosaic law includes the following capital offenses absent from the ancient Near Eastern law codes: idolatry (22:20),profaning the Sabbath (31:14-15), desecration of the tabernacle (Num. 1:51), and human sacrifice (Lev. 20:2; Deut.18:10). Diodorus, however, claimed that early Egyptian kings sanctioned human sacrifice5 (compare 2 Kings 3:27). At other times the ancient Near Eastern law codes are much harsher than Pentateuchal law. The Code of Ham-murabi even specified that in some cases children were executed for their parents’ crimes, although this inhumanepractice is specifically forbidden in Scripture (Deut. 24:16).F ORMS OF P UNISHMENTPublic stoning is the usual means of execution in the Mosaic law (Lev. 20:2; 24:16; Deut. 17:5). Other codes, though, of-fered different forms of punishment, including being cast into a fire for attempting to rob a neighbor’s burning home,being thrown into the water if one were a dishonest wine seller, being drowned for adultery, being burned for an inces-tuous mother/son relationship, and being impaled for murdering one’s husband. The latter particularly ghastly form ofdeath was widespread in the ancient Near East. Egyptians impaled temple robbers. An Egyptian hieroglyph even de-picts a man impaled on wood.6 Assyrian reliefs show prisoners impaled, being flayed, and having their tongues rippedout.7 Though some doubt that the Assyrians imposed such atrocities on their own citizenry, Middle Assyrian laws explic-itly commanded impaling for a mother who induced a miscarriage of her child. Hittite laws specify two other means of execution, beheading and a person’s neck being placed on a plow andpulled apart by oxen. Egyptians burned persons guilty of adultery (compare Gen. 38:24), vandalizing temples, treason,or rebellion.8 Egyptians also practiced hanging (40:22). Persians employed many forms of execution, including hangingcriminals (Est. 2:23; 7:9) or sending them to the lions (Dan. 6:7). The Persian Avesta teaches that one who ate the corpseof a human or dog (sacred animal) was to have his/her heart torn out and eyes put out; unqualified practitioners of ritualpurification rites and sodomites were beheaded.P OSSIBILITY OF L ENIENCYThe Code of Hammurabi, the Middle Assyrian, and the Hittite laws granted that a husband could spare his adulterouswife from death. Undoubtedly, Israelites were often spared the death penalty for capital crimes, murder being the ex-ception (Num. 35:31). Commuting a sentence apparently was not possible under the irreversible Medo-Persian law30 | P a g e
  • 31. (Est. 1:19; 8:8; Dan. 6:8,12,15). Diodorus reported that a condemned man was discovered to be perfectly innocent bywas executed by a remorseful Darius III (336-331 BC) because the royal act could not be relented.9 Capital punishment is the center of a highly charged debate in our modern world. In the ancient Near East, how-ever, the question as to whether it was an appropriate penalty for crime was not up for debate. Israel was squarely instep with other ancient Near East nations in the consensus that certain crimes were so abhorrent, so destructive to so-ciety, and so repugnant to God Himself that nothing less than the ultimate price should be paid.31 | P a g e
  • 32. Comments on the Book of Esther by David E. Pratte © Copyright David E. Pratte, November 17, 2010 These study notes are copyrighted but are made available free to individuals for personal study. They mustnot be reproduced for distribution (other individuals may download their own copy from the web). In no casemay these commentaries be reproduced in any form for sale or a financial fee. All rights reserved. To see our copyright guidelines for more details go to Introduction to the Book of Esther A. Background of the BookTheme - An historical narrative showing how God spared the people of Israel in exile by means of a courageous Jewish maiden.Author: unknownLocation - Events occurred in Shushan (Susa) the capital of Persia during the reign of Ahasuerus (Xerxes) – 1:2. (See MAP.) Although many Jews had been permitted to return to Judea under a decree by Cyrus, many Jews remained in Persia or lands where they had been taken captive.Main characters Ahasuerus (Xerxes) - king of Persia Haman – Chief of all the princes under Ahasuerus Mordecai – A Jew in Shushan, a Benjamite, yet loyal to the king Esther – A beautiful Jewish maiden, orphaned but raised by Mordecai, her cousin (his uncle’sdaughter – 2:7)Summary of contents by section: Chap. 1,2 — Esther becomes queen in place of Vashti Chap. 3-5 — Haman rises to power and plots the death of Mordecai and the Jews Chap. 4-7 —Esther pleads on behalf of her people; Haman is slain Chap. 8-10 – Jews win the victory over their enemies B. Historical Setting Events in the book of Esther occur in Persia during the period of restoration of the Jews fromBabylonian captivity (see list of 15 periods of Bible history). When Persia came to power after defeat-ing Babylon, they allowed captives to return to their homelands. The story of Esther began in thethird year of Xerxes (1:3), after Zerubbabel had led the first group of Jews to return under Cyrus, butbefore Ezra led the second group to return under Artaxerxes (see introductory notes on Ezra and Ne-hemiah).Major empires of the ancient world: * Assyria – overthrew Israel (northern tribes) * Babylon – overthrew Judah under Nebuchadnezzar * Medo-Persia – overthrew Babylon in 538 BC Cyrus – decreed return of the Jews to Judea Cambyses – 530-522 BC Darius “the Great” – 522-486 BC Xerxes (Ahasuerus) of the Book of Esther – 486-465 BC (NKJV footnote on 1:1 says 485-464 BC) Artaxerxes – 465-424 BC (These were followed by other minor rulers) * Greek – Alexander the Great defeated Persia * Roman32 | P a g e
  • 33. Notes on Esther 1 I. Esther Replaces Vashti as Queen – Chap. 1,2A. Vashti Angers the King and He Determines to Remove Her –Chap. 1The king’s feast – 1:1-12 Setting of the book Verses 1,2 These events occurred in the reign of Ahasuerus, king of Persia. He is also called Xerxes in secu-lar history (NKJV footnote, cf. introductory notes). He ruled over 127 provinces from India toEthiopia. Obviously, this was a great empire, the greatest of that day, having overthrown the Babylo-nian Empire. The events occurred in the capital city of the empire which is called Shushan or Susa. Specifical-ly, they occurred in the citadel, a fortified palace. The feast begins Verses 3-5 The story begins during the third year of the king’s reign. The nobles, officials, and princes of theprovinces he ruled were called to witness a great display demonstrating the greatness of his kingdomand majesty. The nature of this demonstration is not described exactly, but it is called a feast thatlasted 180 days (6 months). At the end of these days, he had a specific feast that lasted seven days. All the people, great andsmall, were present in Shushan in the court of the palace garden. A description of the feast Verses 6-8 The palace was decorated with curtains of white and blue bound up by fine linen cords with pur-ple on silver rods and marble pillars. People sat on couches made of silver and gold (Keil says thisrefers to gold and silver thread woven into the cloth of the couches), which were placed on a mosaicpavement of alabaster, turquoise, white and black marble. The people were then given golden vessels to drink from, each vessel being different from theothers. In the vessels was royal wine served in abundance. However, the law required that drinkingwas not compulsory. The officers of the household were instructed to provide so each person coulddrink as he pleased. This describes the lavish provisions of the feast and how it demonstrates the wealth of the kingand his kingdom. Vashti refuses to come before the men of the banquet Verses 9-12 While the men were feasting, the queen Vashti made a feast for the women in the palace. Thisapparently created no problems. However, on the seventh day of the feast, the king was merry with wine. He then commanded theseven named eunuchs to bring Vashti before the king wearing her royal crown, so the people and offi-cials could observe her beauty. She was beautiful to behold, and the king in effect wanted to show heroff. However, Vashti refused to come despite the command of the king. This infuriated the king. Thiswas the event that led later to the queen being deposed, as the subsequent verses show. We may wonder at the wisdom or folly of Vashti’s decision. Most commentators uphold her (es-pecially Clarke, Keil, and Zerr). However, some question her conduct (see Henry). Whether she wasjustified in her refusal or not depends on exactly what the king asked her to do and what her reasonswere for refusing, and this seems hard to determine. Obviously the men at the feast were drinking and probably some were drunken. No self-respect-ing woman, especially if beautiful and yet modest, would want to be a toy displayed before such men.Doubtless she would be submitted to suggestive thoughts and probably even suggestive remarks.Furthermore, Oriental women were generally extremely modest, covering themselves thoroughly, es-pecially in the presence of men. For the men to look on her beauty would require some display. Shemay have felt this was a violation of her dignity and/or her modesty.33 | P a g e
  • 34. On the other hand, if all she was required to display was her face, if she was not expected to ex-pose more of herself (which some commentators suppose was expected of her), it is hard to say thatshe would have been wrong to go. The very fact she refused to go implies that she felt something outof the ordinary was being asked of her. It is possible, however, that she was haughty and simply de-termined to please herself regardless of her husband’s wishes. Perhaps we do not need to decide the right or wrong of her case, since we do not know thespecifics. However, we do need to realize that God instructs women to submit to their husbands, un-less they are asked to sin against God (Genesis 2:18; 3:16; Ephesians 5:22-33; Colossians 3:18; 1Corinthians 11:3; 14:34; 1 Timothy 2:12-14; 3:4,12; Titus 2:4,5; 1 Peter 3:1-7). On the other hand, im-modesty is definitely sinful, so if a husband did request his wife to practice such, she should refuse.The king’s decree to depose Vashti – 1:13-22 The king consults with his advisors regarding Vashti. Verses 13-15 The king then called a meeting of his trusted advisors. These were wise men who understood thetimes. This is explained to mean that they knew the law and justice as properly applied in that societyat that time (though some theorize that it might also have included the practice of Astrology). Cf. 1Chron. 12:32, which is similar and does not seem to have any reference to Astrology. The seven clos-est advisors are named, being the princes of Persia and Media. They had the highest rank as princesin the kingdom and so had access to the king’s presence. The king then inquired of these men what he should do about Vashti. She had disobeyed a directcommand of the king taken to her by the eunuchs. He evidently thought some penalty should be as-sessed against her.Memucan expresses concern that Vashti’s disobedience may spread to other women. Verses 16-18 The advisor who spoke up was Memucan (at least he is the one whose advice is recorded). Hesaid that Vashti’s conduct was not just an act of rebellion against the king, but it was a wrong done toall the princes and all the people because of its influence. The queen was so prominent that, if shewere allowed to rebel against the king without consequence, then other women would follow her ex-ample and would show contempt for the authority of their husbands. The women would all hear whathad happened and would use Vashti’s example as justification for them to do likewise. The principle that Memucan states here is an important principle (though we do not know that itis proper to apply it in this case). It is true that the conduct, especially of prominent people, has aninfluence on others. When people in positions of authority and prominence are known to practicesin, the result is harmful influence on people of the nation. This is a legitimate concern. Of course, as discussed already, it could be that the principle is misapplied in Vashti’s case. If herconduct was justified, then this is not a right conclusion in her case. In that case what could havebeen done would be to send a proclamation explaining to everyone why the queen did as she did.Women could still be admonished to respect their husband’s authority and men would be admon-ished not to request their wives to act improperly. The decree to depose Vashti Verses 19-22 The recommendation was that Vashti should be punished by royal decree removing her from herposition as queen and forbidding her to come anymore before the king. Someone else would then bechosen as queen in her place. Such a proclamation would give all the women of the empire reason torespect the will of their husbands. Note that we are told that, when such royal decrees were made, they were recorded in the laws ofthe Medo-Persian Empire and then could not be altered. No one could change them, not even theking himself. This was a fundamental law of the empire. We will see that this principle of law be-comes quite significant in other applications as the story proceeds. Such an action by the king would have the effect of a divorce, though in some technicalities itmight not have actually been a divorce. She was deposed from being queen, but we will see that theking had a large harem of which only one woman would be queen. So she might still have remainedin his harem. Nevertheless, she would never be favored to come before the king, so she was at least in34 | P a g e
  • 35. disgrace and banished from his presence for life. Yet having been queen, it seems unlikely (to me)that she was hereby granted permission to marry some other man. If such were the case, then thiswas not technically a divorce. Nevertheless, if it was a divorce, such was permitted under the Old Tes-tament law but would not be permitted under the gospel (Deut. 24:1ff; cf. Matt. 19:3-9). The king and other princes were pleased by this advice. So letters were sent to all the provincesstating the decree. These were translated into the language of each of the provinces, so that peopleeverywhere would know that each man should be respected as head of his house. Notes on Esther 2 B. Esther Is Chosen as Queen – Chap. 2The decision to choose a new queen – 2:1-4 The king remembers Vashti’s conduct Verses 1-4 After some time had passed since the banishment of Vashti, King Ahasuerus thought furtherabout her actions and the decree that had been made against her. That decree had declared that herroyal estate as queen would be given to someone else (1:19), but to this date no one had been chosenas queen.A plan for choosing a replacement Some of the king’s servants suggested a plan. They suggested that the kingdom be canvassed forbeautiful young maidens. Officers in all the provinces would seek out maidens and bring them to thepalace in Shushan. There they would be placed in the house of the women – the harem such as werekept by most kings (cf. Solomon). These women were apparently to become wives and/or concubines of the king. They would beput in the keeping of a eunuch named Hegai, custodian of the women. They would then be given“beauty preparations” (cf. vv 9,12) followed by an opportunity to please the king. The one whopleased him best would be chosen queen in Vashti’s place. So a selection would be made from amongthe young maidens in the harem to find one of the group to be queen. This plan satisfied the king, so he decreed that it be so done.Introduction to Mordecai and Esther – 2:5-7 Introduction to Mordecai Verses 5,6 The record now introduces the hero and heroine of the story. Mordecai was a Jew of the tribe ofBenjamin. Some of his lineage is given, and we are told that he was in Shushan the pal-ace, thoughhis exact responsibility there is never made clear. Mordecai was a captive among the Jews during the days following the time in which Nebuchad-nezzar, king of Babylon, had carried away as captives Jeconiah, king of Judah, and other Jews. See 2Kings 24:6-17; 2 Chronicles 36:10,20; Jer. 24:1. It is uncertain, from the reading, exactly who v6refers to as having been taken captive. It could refer to Mordecai’s great grandfather Kish, the lastnamed person in the previous verse (as in the NKJV). Or it could refer to Mordecai himself (cf. NKJVfootnote). Keil points out that it had been some 120 years since the beginning of the captivity. Baby-lon had since been overthrown by Persia, and several Persian kings had come and gone. It is unlikelythat Mordecai was this old, especially if he had a cousin as young as Esther. Keil suggests that per-haps Mordecai was not born when his ancestors were carried captive, but it was still proper to speakthis way since his ancestors were taken captive and he was born as their offspring in captivity. Introduction to Esther Verse 7 Mordecai had a young cousin named Hadasseh (Chaldee meaning “myrtle”) or Esther (Persianmeaning “a star”). She was Mordecai’s uncle’s daughter, therefore Mordecai’s cousin. But she had noliving father or mother (v15 says her father was named Abihail). When her parents had died, Morde-cai had taken her as his own daughter and raised her (see also on v15). She was fair and beautiful.35 | P a g e
  • 36. Lessons about caring for needy relatives Note here an admirable quality in Mordecai. He was willing to make the effort to care for a rela-tive in time of need. This is exactly what 1 Timothy 5 teaches Christians to do. If people today wouldrecognize their individual responsibility to care for needy relatives, as Mordecai had done, we couldsolve much of the “widow and orphan” problem. Note that Esther was a true orphan – she had neither mother nor father. Had her parents beenliving, they would have been responsible to care for her. But at their death she became the responsi-bility of a relative to individually provide for. This is God’s way and is best for all involved. Today thechurch should care only for saints who have no relatives (in the church) to care for them. And thenthe church should oversee the work, rather than sending the needy per-son and/or a financial contri-bution to an institution (Acts 6; 20:28; 1 Peter 5:1-3; 1 Timothy 5). For further information, see our article about church organization and work at our Bible Instruc-tion web site at chosen for the harem – 2:8-11 Esther pleases the custodian of women Verses 8,9 When the decree was issued to bring fair maidens into the king’s harem, Esther was among thosechosen. Whether or not she had any choice in this selection is not stated. She was placed under the custody of Hegai, keeper of the women, who was especially pleasedwith her. He quickly gave her the beauty preparations to prepare her to go before the king (v12). Sev-en maidens were chosen to attend her, and she was moved into the best place of the house of women.Apparently there were various degrees of honor among the women of the harem, and from the begin-ning Esther was given a favored standing. Mordecai’s care for Esther Verse 10,11 To this point Esther had not revealed to anyone in the palace that she was Jewish. Presumablythis would have hindered her chances of being selected as queen. So Mordecai had warned her not tospeak about her nationality, and she obeyed him (cf. v20). This shows that Esther and Mordecai wereattempting to have her chosen queen; if not, they could have easily eliminated her selection by re-vealing her nationality. Mordecai apparently had access at least to the courtyard of the house of women. This appears tohave been the consequence of his position, whatever it was. It would not have been be-cause of hisrelationship to Esther, for had that been revealed it would have identified her as a Jew (we will seethat Mordecai was known to be a Jew). So Mordecai went everyday to pace in front of the court of the women’s quarters. There hesought to learn about Esther’s well being, though we are not told exactly how they communicated.Description of the means of selecting a queen – 2:12-14 The preparation Verse 12-14 Each young woman was given twelve months to prepare before going in to see the king. Shewould receive six months’ treatment with oil of myrrh followed by six months’ treatment with per-fumes and other preparations. The details are not stated except that this was a procedure every wom-an went through to beautify her to meet the king. Remember, this was the king of the greatest empireon earth!The meeting with the king After a woman had completed her preparation, she would be appointed an evening to spend withthe king. She could have anything she wanted to take with her to attempt to impress the king. Nodoubt many would choose special clothing, jewels, or other ornaments. When a virgin’s turn came, she would go to the king in the evening, then after she returned in themorning she would go to a second house. The first house was for women being prepared for theirfirst visit with the king. This second house was for women in the harem who had already seen theking at least once. It was under the custody of a different chamberlain named Shaashgaz.36 | P a g e
  • 37. A woman in this second house could go to visit the king again only if he called for her by name.Apparently in the meantime they would simply live there as part of the harem. In this way the kingcould have more than one visit with a woman, either to get to know her better in his choice of aqueen, or just to enjoy her. Doubtless even after a queen was selected, the king could still choose tospend any given night with any woman in his harem of his choosing.Esther chosen as queen – 2:15-18 Esther’s turn to visit the king Verses 15-18 Esther’s turn to visit the king came in the seventh year of his reign in the tenth month (namedTebeth). This would have been four years after Vashti was deposed (cf. 1:3). When Esther’s turn came to go before the king (we are here told her father’s name was Abihail),she did not ask for anything special to take with her. She took only the things that Hegai the custodi-an advised her to take. Yet her beauty and charm were such that she obtained favor of all who sawher even without special aids.Esther chosen Esther so impressed Ahasuerus that she obtained grace and favor before him above all the othermaidens. He loved her above all the other women and determined to make her queen and set thecrown upon her head in place of Vashti. To celebrate the crowning of the new queen, the king held a great feast for his officials and ser-vants in her honor. He proclaimed a holiday and gave gifts to the people.Notes about Esther’s marriage to Ahasuerus: 1) We may ask whether it was proper for Esther to marry a divorced man. But we must re-mem-ber this occurred under the Old Testament, in which God tolerated divorce and remarriage as well asplural wives. Consider the cases of David and Solomon, and compare Matt. 19:3-9; 5:31,32; etc. Jesusexplained that the Mosaic Law tolerated such conduct because of the hardness of the people’s hearts,though it was not what God had originally intended. Today, however, a marriage like that of Esther to Ahasuerus would be adultery, since Jesus’teaching returned to God’s original marriage law of one man for one woman for life (except if one di-vorces a spouse for fornication). If one divorces for any other cause and remarries, the re-marriage isadultery (see also Rom. 7:2,3). 2) We may also wonder why a Jew was permitted to marry a non-Jew in light of the passages for-bidding intermarriage to people of other nations under the law. This had been a great concern in thebooks of Ezra and Nehemiah. See Nehemiah 9:30; 13:23-27; Ezra 9 & 10; Deut. 7:1-5; Josh. 23:12,13;etc. (and see other references and notes on the passages in Ezra and Nehemiah). Some may wonder if this case was justified as an exception in that God intended to use Esther tosave the Jews. But how would Mordecai and Esther know this at the time of the marriage? Shouldsuch “end justifies the means” be accepted? The proper explanation appears to be that the Old Testament prohibited inter-marriage, not withpeople of all other nations, but only with people of the nations that had dwelt in and around Canaan.Those nations were known to be excessively idolatrous. God cast them out of the land and gave it toIsrael because the iniquity of those nations was “full.” They surrounded Israel and so would be a con-tinual temptation to them. These reasons did not apply to other nations, and the prohibition isnowhere stated regarding them.Mordecai saves the king’s life – 2:19-23 We are told that the event here recorded took place “when virgins were gathered a second time.”Esther was queen at the time (v22), so this was after the first time that young maidens were gatheredto find a queen and Esther had been chosen. Keil concludes there must have been a later time, afterEsther was chosen, when maidens were gathered, not to choose a queen, but simply to increase theking’s harem. At this time Mordecai was sitting at the king’s gate. Again it is unclear what his position was thatkept him there, whether business or government affairs, we are not told.37 | P a g e
  • 38. Again v20 reminds us that Esther still had not made known her nationality. Mordecai had toldher to not do this, and she obeyed him even as she had when he was bringing her up. This fact be-comes significant in the subsequent story.The plot Somehow, as he was about his business at the gate, Mordecai learned of a plot by two eunuchs,Bigthan and Teresh, who intended to kill the king. They were doorkeepers, so in some sense theywere responsible to guard the doors. They became very angry at the king and sought to lay hands onhim. Mordecai learned of the plot and revealed it to Esther. She in turn warned the king, givingMordecai credit as her source of information (she could do this without revealing her relation-ship tohim). The accusation against these men was investigated and determined to be true. The men werethen hung on a gallows, and the king’s life was spared. All this was then recorded in the chronicles,the official record of royal history. This event also reveals the admirable character of Mordecai. The story may seem to be told herejust for the sake of interest, but we will later learn that this record in the chronicles plays a major rolein the subsequent story. Notes on Esther 3 II. The Rise of Haman to Power and His Decree Against the Jews – Chap. 3-5 A. Haman Decrees the Death of the Jews – Chap. 3Mordecai refuses to bow to Haman The exalted position of Haman Verses 1,2 The events recorded here occurred sometime later, after Esther had become queen and afterMordecai had saved the king’s life (we are not told how long after). There arose to prominence a mannamed Haman. He was the son of Hammedatha, an Agagite. Exactly what this tells us about hisbackground is unclear (cf. on vv 2-4). The king exalted Haman till he was above all the princes of allthe provinces. In such a great Empire, this was surely a very exalted position.Honor showed to Haman As part of his exalted position, the king’s servants were required to bow to him and pay homage.This was done at the command of the king. However, we are told that Mordecai for some reason refused to bow. The reason is not given herebut will be discussed more fully in the following verses. This refusal of Mordecai became the occasionfor serious conflict that became the basis of the entire story of the book. Mordecai challenged for his stand Verses 3,4 Mordecai was then asked, by other of the king’s servants who sat in the gate, why he acted in thisway, especially since he was disobeying the king’s command. He was disregarding, not just Haman,but the king himself. The account does not record his exact answer, but v4 shows that his explanationwas based on the fact he was a Jew. This plus the fact that Haman determined to slay all Jews (v6)shows that Mordecai’s reason for refusing to bow was based on his religion and nationality as a Jew.Clearly a reason of this nature would be required to explain the strength of Mordecai’s convictions. The servants spoke to Mordecai every day questioning him about his conduct, but he refused tolisten. Finally the servants reported to Haman about Mordecai’s conduct, to see whether or notMordecai was going to be able succeed in his defiance of the law. The record does not explain why, as a Jew, Mordecai believed he could not bow to Haman. Jewsdid at times bow to kings – 2 Sam. 14:4; 18:28; 1 Kings 1:16; etc. Two common explanations exist: (1) Rulers of heathen empires were at times (though not always) honored as gods (cf. Acts 12). Sobowing to the rulers was viewed as worship or reverence to a deity. If this was the intent in Haman’scase, Jews could not participate since it would be idolatry. In this case, however, it is strange that38 | P a g e
  • 39. such homage would be required toward Haman, but nothing mentions that such homage was re-quired toward the king himself. (2) It is possible that “Agagite” means Haman was a descendant of the Amalekites, whose kingswere called “Agag” (cf. Pharaohs, Caesar, Herod, etc.; see 1 Sam. 15). If so, God had commandedwhat attitude Jews should have toward Amalekites – Ex. 17:14,15; Deut. 25:17-19.Lessons from Mordecai’s example The example of Mordecai is worthy of our consideration and imitation. From him we can learnthe importance of standing for God’s will regardless of the opposition. He refused to sin or violate hisconscience despite the great forces that were brought against him. (1) First, he was disobeying a direct command of the king (cf. Acts 5:29). (2) He had to withstand the continual urging of his companions, who sought to pressure him toparticipate (vv 3,4). (3) He was clearly in the minority, perhaps completely alone, in the stand he took. Surely hisconduct would be noticed in any crowd, since all the others would be bowing when he would not (thecomments of his companions show that others did notice). (4) He was threatened with death, not just to himself, but to all his people. But even after this de-cree was officially signed, he still refused to bow (5:9). Other Bible characters have stood with equal courage in the face of opposition. Daniel re-fused toeat the king’s diaties or to cease praying though it meant being cast into a lion’s den. The three He-brews refused to bow to Nebuchadnezzar’s image, though the penalty was the fiery furnace. Josephrefused to commit adultery with Potiphar’s wife, though it meant prison. Peter and John continuedpreaching Jesus thought it meant beating and imprisonment. So Paul and all the apostles andStephen were persecuted, as was Jesus Himself. Many of us would have given in to the pressure and excused our participation as being just as “alittle matter.” But examples such as that of Mordecai should give us courage. We should consider alsoour own influence on others for good or bad. Will we stand up and do right when: (1) we are made fun of for teaching others about Jesus? (2)we are called “chicken,” “holy Joe,” etc. for refusing to practice sin? (3) we are persecuted and eventhreatened with physical violence? (4) our job is threatened because we refuse to lie, cheat, give toUnited Way, etc.? Haman’s anger at Mordecai Verses 5,6 When Haman realized what Mordecai was doing, he became fiercely angry. He wanted to layhands on Mordecai, but he decided not to, because he had been told that Mordecai was a Jew. Pre-sumably he understood that Mordecai’s religion/nationality was the reason for his refusal to bow. Hedecided that, rather than just attempting to lay hands on Mordecai, he would attempt to destroy allthe Jews in the whole empire. Note the pride and cruelty of this man: (1) Note Haman’s pride: It was not enough that he was honored with such a high position andsuch favor with the king. In spite of this, his anger burned over so little a thing as a man who wouldnot bow to him (cf. 5:11-13). Many people cannot handle honor without becoming proud and conceited. They become tyrantswho demand cowering submission by their subjects. Likewise, people today are often easily offendedwhen people do not honor and praise them as they think they ought to be. Cf. Ro-mans 12:3-5;Philippians 2:2-5; Proverbs 6:16-19; 16:5,18; 13:10; 1 John 2:15-17; Romans 1:30,32; James 4:6; 1 Pe-ter 5:5; 1 Corinthians 13:4,5; 2 Timothy 3:2; Luke 14:7-11; Galatians 6:1; Colossians 3:12,13. (2) Note Haman’s cruelty: It would have been bad enough had he sought to imprison one man tosatisfy his own ego. Worse yet would have been an attempt to slay one man. Yet so great wasHaman’s cruelty, he would have massacred a whole nationality of people for his pride. And thesewere law-abiding people, hard workers, etc. Mordecai had proved his loyalty to the king (2:21-23).Yet he would have slain them all because Mordecai did not adequately satisfy his vanity.39 | P a g e
  • 40. Haman’s requests the king to decree the death of the Jews Haman chooses a time to accomplish his plans Verse 7 These events occurred in the twelfth year of Ahasuerus, which would have been five years afterEsther became queen (2:16ff). Haman then proceeded with his plan. He began by having the lot (“Pur”) cast before him to determine what month and day would bemost favorable to attempt his plans. “The lot” throughout the Bible is a means of making decisions bysome activity that would appear to be an act of chance (throw dice, toss a coin, etc.). However, it wasbelieved that the gods would make the lot turn out such that it would reveal what was true or best.When inspired men did such by God’s guidance, the result would be accurate. But here Haman ap-pealed to his sources, which no doubt were false gods or perhaps even astrologers or magicians. Notethat such consultation was probably fairly common by rulers in that day. The result was that the month chosen was the twelfth month. However, as we will see, this wasnot a day favorable to Haman’s purpose at all. This whole book shows that God watches over andcares for His people. We may suffer and be tried, but the final result will be for our good. But falsegods cannot defeat God’s purpose. Astrology is worthless. All appeals to other sources of supernatu-ral information are inferior. If we want truth, we must go to God and His word. Haman approaches the king for permission Verse 8 To achieve his goals Haman then went to the king to obtain permission to slaughter the Jews. Hestated some partial truths but by no means told the whole truth. First he said there was a certain group of people who were scattered throughout the provinces ofthe empire who, in spite of being scattered, yet persisted in abiding by their own laws which were dif-ferent than those of other people. This was true in a sense, since they followed God’s law. But thiswas not necessarily bad in any sense. Haman, however, charged that these people did not keep the king’s commands, though he gaveno specifics. This may have been true in the sense that they were not bowing to Haman. But in gener-al the Jews were loyal citizens, as Mordecai had shown in sparing the king’s life. The Jews’ disobedi-ence was hurting no one but Haman! Yet he argued that the people were not profitable to the king, asthough this would justify his request. He did not mention his real reason for hating the Jews – thefact that one man would not bow to him, and he was therefore determined to destroy a whole nation!Note the manner in which evil men pursue their goals by half-truths and false insinuations. Haman makes his request of the king Verse 9 Having poisoned the king’s mind against the people, Haman then boldly requested the destruc-tion of these people. To clinch his request, he offered to give 10,000 talents of silver into the king’streasury if the king would approve the decree (the Waldrons point out that 10,000 talents of silverwould equal 375 tons!). This bears all the earmarks of graft and bribery, as is so common in manygovernments. To pay the king for permission to slaughter thousands of his subjects, however, is thegrossest sort of evil! This had been smoothed over, however, by the accusation that the people wererebellious and unprofitable in the kingdom anyway. No information is given regarding where Hamanwould obtain such a fabulous amount of money. Perhaps he intended to take it from the spoils of themurdered Jews (3:13). Note that, at this point, Haman had not even identified who these people were that he wanteddestroyed. He had not named them as Jews. Nevertheless the king approved the request. Surely,though, the king learned who it was, at least when the decree was actually issued. The decree is authorized. Verses 10-15 The king then took his ring, the official seal by which he authorized decrees, and gave it toHaman. The seal was a sign of authority. He thereby authorized Haman to do as he pleased regardingthese people, but the king refused the money. He did not want the bribe, but he granted Haman’swish anyway. Apparently he was so favorably inclined toward Haman that he trusted him and simplygranted his request without question. He authorized that act at Haman’s discretion. Later the king realized his mistake when he learned the true character of Haman. This shouldteach us the importance of carefully choosing our close, trusted companions. Haman was an evil40 | P a g e
  • 41. companion who corrupted Ahasuerus (1 Cor. 15:33). We must be very careful what influence peoplehave on us and whose advice we take. Check matters out carefully. Surely in a matter that determinedthe lives of millions of people, the king should have been more careful and done more investigating.We need to take a lesson from his example.The decree written and sealed Having received authority from the king, Haman acted without delay. On the thirteenth day ofthe first month the decree began to be written. It was to be executed on the thirteenth day of thetwelfth month. This length of time no doubt was helpful to the Jews in giving Esther time to work onthe problem. Haman had a decree written to all the rulers in all the provinces in the language of thoseprovinces. This decree was done by the authority of the king, sealed with his ring; the people knewthey must obey.The letters sent The letters bearing the decree went by courier into all the provinces. The decreed said to destroy,slay, and annihilate all the Jews, young and old, including women and little children. This was tohappen on the appointed day, the thirteenth day of the twelfth month. People then were authorizedto plunder the possessions of the Jews. The spoil would no doubt serve as a motivation to people tocomply with the decree. Note that the decree, had it been carried out, would have meant virtually the end of the Jewishnation, for it included all provinces, and almost all the world (especially where Jews were) was underthis empire. Such would have been a terrible blow to God’s people. Would He allow this or would Hedefend them? Further, consider the consequences to God’s plan for man’s redemption. If the Jewshad been destroyed, how could Jesus be a descendant of Abraham, Jacob, and David as God haspromised? No doubt, God could have found a way to accomplish His purpose in any case. But insteadHe chose to preserve the nation in the manner that we will see. Note that Haman’s evil would not only have affected himself, but he included the king in his evil,and now he was about to include all the people of the empire in his evil. All would have been involvedin an act of mass murder. So our sins often affect those around us. Mass murder, especially of Jews, has often occurred and is always an abomination. Pharaoh de-creed destruction of Israelite babies, and so did Herod. Germany murdered millions in Ger-many.Communists did such a thing in many nations, not just to Jews, but to all who opposed communism.In our own society, abortion is a mass murder of a class of people. The decree went out by rapid post to inform all the people to get ready for the actual day. The de-crees perplexed the people, and rightly so: why murder a whole nationality of people? Why shouldthe people have to be the ones to do it? Who would be the next victims? Meantime, the king andHaman were bosom buddies, drinking together, enjoying themselves, apparently unconcerned aboutthe tremendous impact of their act. Notes on Esther 4 B. Mordecai Persuades Esther to Appeal to the King – Chap. 4The Jews mourn the decree Mordecai’s grief Verse 1 When Mordecai heard of the decree that Haman had influenced the king to make, he felt deepsorrow and mourning. This was expressed by tearing his garment, wearing sackcloth, and crying outwith a loud, bitter cry in the midst of the city (presumably publicly). Mordecai, of all people, should have felt deep sorrow for the decree, since his conduct had occa-sioned it. Had he alone been threatened for his conduct, that would have been a great enough sourceof grief. But his conduct had led to a decree of destruction, not just against him or even against his41 | P a g e
  • 42. own family, but against the whole Jewish population – all Jews, everywhere on earth. How muchgreater burden could a man have to bear? Surely it was cause for great sorrow. Here and in the following story we see another great quality of Mordecai. He felt a deep sense ofresponsibility for the consequences of his own conduct. Unlike some, he was not indifferent to thesuffering or sorrow that could come to others as a consequence of his conduct. It touched his heart,so he determined to do something about it. Of course, this did not mean Mordecai was convicted that his conduct had been wrong. We willsee that he continues to maintain the same conduct. The point is that it grieved him that Haman hadreacted so sinfully to Mordecai’s stand for truth. (It may appear at this point that Mordecai did not yet know that his conduct had occasioned thedecree, but v7 implies he did know.) The sorrow spreads among the Jews Verses 2,3 He expressed his grief even as far as the gate of the king’s palace. He could not, however, enterthe gate, because it was against the rules for one who was wearing sackcloth to enter. Mordecai’s grief was shared by Jews in every province. As the decree arrived and was madeknown, the Jews recognized the danger they faced. They mourned, fasted, wept, and wailed, lying insackcloth and ashes.Mordecai informs Esther of the decree, and asks her to intercede. Esther seeks to console Mordecai Verse 4 To this point Esther had not heard about the decree. She did not yet know that her own husband,influenced by Haman, had decreed the death of all her people! Her servants (maids and eunuchs)were the ones who informed her, but apparently they just told her that the Jews were grieving, per-haps specifically that Mordecai was wearing sackcloth at the gate. It seems doubtful that these people knew she was a Jew. So far as the record states, she had notyet made this known (2:20). They may have known she had some friendship with Mordecai, or theymay have simply informed her of the matter as news (since it had stirred up the whole city – 3:15).Even now it appears that they did not inform her the specifics of the case and its effect on her ownpeople, since Mordecai later explained this to her. But she knew the Jews were grieving, especiallyMordecai, and this was enough to cause her distress. She responded by sending Mordecai better clothing to wear instead of the sackcloth, but he re-fused it. Apparently she sought simply to comfort and cheer him. But his grief was too great to be soeasily set aside. Keil suggests that maybe she offered these garments so that, without the sackcloth,he could then enter the gate and talk to her about what was troubling him. When he refused, howev-er, she found a different way to communicate with him. Esther communicates with Mordecai through her eunuch. Verses 5,6 When Mordecai refused to be comforted or to come to her, Esther then sent an apparently trust-ed servant named Hathach to talk to Mordecai. She wanted him to learn the reason for Mordecai’sdistress. Hathach accordingly met Mordecai outside the gate in the square of the city. Apparently this wasa place of public access, and there Mordecai could go, even in his sackcloth. Mordecai explains the problem to Hathach. Verse 7,8 Mordecai then explained to Hathach (so he could tell Esther) about the decree and what it wouldmean. Mordecai, however, knew more than just the decree. By some means he had learned who wasresponsible and even how much money Haman had offered to pay into the king’s treasuries to bringabout the Jews’ destruction. I do not know that this means the king had decided to accept the money from Haman (cf. 3:9,11).But it would show Esther how devious Haman was and how deeply determined he was to accomplishhis purpose.Mordecai urges Esther to plead for her people with the king. To help Esther see for herself what the problem was, Mordecai even sent her a copy of the decreeitself. Note here the value of documenting our statements, especially when they involve an accusation42 | P a g e
  • 43. against others. People need to know that our accusations are really true, and there is special power inpersonal eyewitness of the evidence. Mordecai then gave instruction to Esther to go herself to talk to the king and appeal to him onbehalf of her people. Note that Mordecai did more than just grieve over the problem. He had a planfor dealing with it. He knew Esther was in a position to influence the king, so he asked her to use hersituation as a means to benefit God’s people. Likewise, when we face difficult circum-stances, we maygrieve and must ultimately trust God for deliverance, but we should also consider what we can doabout the problem and use our opportunities to resolve it. Note that, at this point, if not before, Hathach would have learned Esther’s nationality. The onlypossible exception would have been if Mordecai had communicated with Esther by means of a sealedletter (though the language does not seem to imply this). If in fact he did learn her nationality, hemust have been a trusted servant indeed to keep this matter from eventually coming to the attentionof the people, especially the king. Esther seeks to avoid the duty. Verses 9-12 As a faithful servant, Hathach delivered Mordecai’s message to Esther. Esther then respondedwith a message sent back to Mordecai. Esther’s first reaction to the instruction was much like that of Moses when God called him to gotell Pharaoh to release the Israelites. All she could do was to look at the difficulties and make excuses.And she had good cause for concern! She pointed out that Persian law forbade anyone to enter theinner court where the king was, unless the king called him to come. Any who entered unbiddenwould be killed, unless the king held out his golden scepter to him. Then the person would be sparedto have an audience with the king. So Esther feared to go unbidden to speak to the king. Further, she pointed out that she had not been called to an audience with the king in the previ-ous thirty days. This would indicate that she foresaw no opportunity to speak to the king – it was notlike she had an appointment with him every day! Furthermore, the fact he had not called might indi-cate he did not particularly desire to see her. This would make it especially dangerous for her to go. Such objections would naturally arise in anyone’s mind in such a case. No doubt there was legiti-mate cause for concern. One might also remember Ahasuerus’ treatment of Vashti as a sign of howhe treated queens who displeased him. If Esther’s request likewise angered the king, he could easilydecide to eliminate another queen and replace her. Keil wonders why she did not simply send a message to the king and request an audience. Thisalternative, however, does not appear to have been considered by anyone in the case. Per-haps suchwas simply not allowed. Or perhaps she feared she would be required to give her reasons for wantingan audience, and that might require her to reveal too much (especially in light of Haman’s power)when she was not personally able to plead her case to the king. In any case, this alternative for somereason was not given serious consideration. Had any of us been in Esther’s place, we would no doubt have also been concerned about theseproblems. Yet it was also clear that such objections would not relieve her of her duty. When we con-sider the grave consequences to her people, we should clearly see what her duty was. And as Morde-cai eventually pointed out, she was destined to die if the decree was carried out and her nationalitybecame known. So why not risk her life now in the hope of saving as many Jews as she could. Doubt-less in her heart she knew what her duty was. But like all of us, she hoped to find a different solutionthat did not involve such danger. How many times do we make excuses facing circumstances of farless consequence! This message was then delivered to Mordecai.Mordecai replies to Esther’s excuses Verse 13 Mordecai’s response comprises one of the richest sections of the book. Though God is nevermentioned, Mordecai’s reply reveals deep faith in the providence of God. In stating his views, hehelps us to a much deeper understanding and appreciation of God’s providence.Mordecai reminds Esther that, as a Jew, the decree applies to her too.43 | P a g e
  • 44. Mordecai first reminded Esther of the personal danger she would face if she refused to aid God’speople. She herself was a Jew. She need not think, though she was queen, that she would escape per-ishing with the other Jews. In fact, he assures her that, if she refused to help, she would perish de-spite the fact he is convinced God would then find some other means to save the Jews (see v14). We too need to consider such lessons as this. We may fear the problems we may face if we serveGod, but we need to have a much greater fear of the consequences we will face if we do not serve God(Luke 12:4,5). Yes, people may oppose use, mock us, reject us, or even persecute and kill us if we doGod’s will. But we will suffer eternally if we do not serve God. Do not think that we can neglect ouropportunities to do God’s will and yet escape punishment. And do not think we are exceptions toGod’s laws because we have special privileges in life: power, money, fame, or military might. Note that Mordecai did not accept Esther’s excuses, but neither did he deny the danger. He sim-ply pointed out that the case was such that she must act despite the danger. In much smaller ways(usually), we face similar situations. The case is not that we face no hardships or that we can ignorethe hardships. Rather, the nature of the situation is such that we need to act despite the hardships! Further, Mordecai did not allow his personal attachment to Esther to sway his judgment aboutwhat she needed to do. Surely he too recognized the danger she faced, and he was concerned for her.He had raised her and repeatedly proved his love for her. But he overcame his tendency to seek herprotection and insisted that she must act despite the danger. So at times we face situations wherenatural attachments and emotions might lead us to seek the safety and protection of loved ones. Butwe must overcome those tendencies when necessary to urge loved ones to act in ways that God’s willrequires. As with Mordecai, we must remember that they face a worse danger if they disobey Godthan they do if they displease men. Esther had made excuses. Mordecai responded by offering encouragement to do right. That iswhat we must do for other Christians and loved ones. We must not be easily persuaded to give up ourstand for what is right, simply because people resist it. We must persist when the will of God is atstake and the consequences are great. People who make excuses at first may yet be persuaded if wepersist. Mordecai expresses confidence in God’s plan. Verse 14 Mordecai states his conviction that Esther would suffer if she did not use her position to benefitGod’s people. He says she and her father’s house would perish. Yet even if she did fail to act, he wasconfident that God would find some other means to save His people. How could he know this? He knew the Jews were God’s people, and the promises of God to Abra-ham required that his descendants must continue, not be destroyed. Despite his grief, Mordecaiknew somehow God must spare the nation so that the promised blessing on all nations (salvationthrough Christ) must yet come. Many Jews might suffer; many might even be slain. Yet the nationmust live on to fulfill God’s plan. This is a firm statement of God’s providence working in the world toaccomplish His purposes. He also affirmed that Esther may have come to power as queen for the very purpose of beinguseful to God’s purpose as this very time. Compare this to the story of Joseph, who came to politicalpower at the time needed to save the Israelites. Here again was strong evidence of Morde-cai’s faithin God’s providence.Note lessons we learn here about God’s providence. 1) God’s power still works in the world, even today, to accomplish His purposes. All that He haspromised must come to pass. He is able to make it come to pass. There are things He may determineto do that we do not know what His determination is. But when He has revealed His will, we can besure that He has the means to bring it to pass (as Mordecai knew God would spare Israel based onHis stated promise). So sometimes we can know what He will do, because He has said so. Othertimes we may not know, because He has not spoken regarding the matter. But we can be sure that Hehas a plan to carry out His will, and He has the power to work in the Universe to accomplish His will.And we can be sure that, whatever that plan entails, it will be good in the end for those who are faith-ful to Him.44 | P a g e
  • 45. 2) Mordecai also knew that God may use human agents to accomplish His providence, but Hedoes not necessarily depend on any particular human agent. In this way, He does not violate the freewill power to choose of any individual. He could use Esther, but she still had the power to choosewhether to respond to His will or not. If she chose not to do so, He would use some other agency.God has many resources and many ways to accomplish His will. He is not limited by man’s choices,but the choices any individual makes will determine whether God will bless or punish that individual. 3) God is able to work in providence without miraculous means. There is no miracle (an eventimpossible by natural law) anywhere in the book of Esther, yet it is evident that God is working. Sotoday, the age of miracles has passed. When we teach that, some people argue that the conclusion isthat God does not work in the world at all anymore. Such statements show ignorance and lack offaith in God’s providence. He proves in stories like this that He is perfectly capable of bringing aboutHis will on earth even without miracles. Since miracles have ceased, He is still able by providencethrough natural law to accomplish His will. [Note, the author believes that the age of mira-cles has ceased, perhaps a strong Dispensational belief. I respectfully disagree thatmiracles have ceased, since I have seen them to take place and firmly believe that Godstill does them. This section of the author’s commentary should be read with thatcaveat in mind.] 4) God may work long in advance of an event in order to have the arrangements made to ac-ac-complish His will when the time comes. Mordecai said that Esther may have come to this place of au-thority for this very purpose. God has the power to know ahead of time what will happen, so He canwork as needed to prepare for the situation when it arrives. Then when the time comes, everyone andeverything is in place to accomplish His plan. 5) Furthermore, we humans often cannot tell, even when we see events unfold, what God’s inten-tions are; and sometimes we may not even be sure that He is the One who is causing some event.Mordecai said, “Who knows whether …” He had faith God would accomplish His purpose, but hecould not know ahead of time who or what means God would use. So today people are mistaken when they attempt to read “signs” to reveal God’s will for them byinterpreting events around them. They are likewise mistaken to claim, based on what they see or ex-perience in life, that “God led me to do such and such,” or “I just knew the Holy Spirit was leading meto …” God’s will is revealed in Scripture. Other than that, we cannot know what His will and plansare, nor do we know for sure how He is working in any given situation. Nevertheless, though we maynot know how, like Mordecai, we can be sure that God is working to achieve His goals. 6) Even though Esther could not be sure God intended to use her, yet Mordecai insisted that sheshould do what she could do in the circumstance. She should seek to further His cause and aid Hispeople. She had special advantages, so she should use them. Likewise, we too must use our blessings and advantages to do God’s will, even though we maynot know how God intends to work out His will here. As parents, we have a unique opportunity toteach our children. As employees, we may influence other workers. If we have wealth, we may sup-port gospel preachers and help the needy. If we are able speakers, we may preach the gospel. If wehave singing ability, we may be song leaders. Whatever advantages we have, we should seek to usethem for the Lord. It likewise seems to me that we should use what advantages we have in our nation to help bringabout God’s will for His people. And we do not have to know for sure what the outcome will be of anysituation to do this. Esther used her position as Queen. Paul later used his advantages as a Romancitizen. American Christians should likewise use the advantage we have to vote for candidates that webelieve will further decency and good morals. The fact other people do not have these advantagesdoes not excuse us from using them when we do have them, just as the fact other people are notqueens did not excuse Esther from using her position as queen. And we do not have to know for surewhat God’s plans are before we act. Esther did not know God would use her to save His people, butMordecai still taught that she would be punished if she did not try to use what advantage she had toaccomplish God’s will.45 | P a g e
  • 46. Esther agrees to make an appeal to the king. Verses 15-17 Having considered Mordecai’s appeal and reasoning, Esther sent him her response. She deter-mined that she would go before the king as Mordecai had instructed She said, “If I perish, I perish!” We all ought to admire and imitate such courage. We should bewilling to serve God according to His will regardless of what price we may have to pay. No matterwhat the problems, difficulties, or dangers must be, we must proceed. If we perish, we perish. ButGod will still be pleased and will reward us eternally. Esther’s courage should inspire us. Note she said that such an act would be against the law. Actually, it would be against the law onlyif the king did not choose to recognize her. But even so in that case, she would be obeying . God rather than men, so it would still be right for her to so act (Acts 5:29). We too should havethe courage to violate human law when necessary to obey God.She first sought God’s blessings by fasting. Before making her request of the king, she determined that she and her servants would fast. Andshe requested that all the Jews in Shushan join her in this fast. God is not mentioned, but that is thepurpose of fasting (see the examples in Ezra and Nehemiah). She seeks to make re-quest of God be-fore she makes request of the king. This too should be our attitude. Esther was about to work for God, and we have many works wedo for Him that we also want Him to bless. Let us appreciate the value of prayer, so we ask His bless-ings on our work for Him. Sometimes our work too involves some dangers. Let us cast our burdenson Him in prayer. Fasting too can serve a useful purpose in our lives. Having learned of Esther’s decision, Mordecai joined her and did as she requested (i.e., he urgedthe people to fast on her behalf). So the scene is set for Esther to go before the king to make request to save her people from de-struction. Notes on Esther 5 C. Esther’s First Banquet for Haman and the King – Chap. 5Esther appears before the king – 5:1-4 Esther stands before the king. Verse 1 On the third day (of the time the Jews were fasting – 4:16) Esther made her appearance beforethe king. She put on her royal apparel and stood in the inner court across from the place where theking sat on his throne. We should appreciate the courage this took, as described in 4:8-17. Her request would be difficult to make for several reasons: (1) She sought to defeat a decreemade by the authority of the king. (2) She knew she had a powerful adversary in Haman, who deter-minedly hated Mordecai and the Jews. (3) She would have to reveal for the first time that she herselfwas a Jew. How would the king react to this? (4) Finally, she must go unannounced before the king,an act which of itself would automatically cost her life if the king showed her no favor. Yet she had resolved to do what was right and needed (4:13-16). She had diligently requestedGod’s blessings on her efforts (4:16). So she then acted courageously on her resolve. So we must dowhen facing opposition or great responsibility. Let us too proceed when we must preach to influentialpeople, rebuke a brother for sin, stand for our convictions against angry family and friends, etc. The king spares Esther. Verse 2,3 When the king saw Esther standing in the court, she found favor in his sight. So he extended thegolden scepter to grant her permission to approach him, thereby sparing her life. She came forwardand touched the top of the scepter (apparently the proper means of response for one who had beenpermitted to approach the king). The first hurdle she so greatly feared had been crossed (4:11). Surely we must see God’s provi-dence at work. Note that no miracles had occurred, but her plea had thus far been answered.The king promises to grant Esther’s wish46 | P a g e
  • 47. Then the king asked Esther what her request was. He promised to give her whatever she askedfor, even if she asked for half of his kingdom! What a reception! Surely this was more than Estherdared even hope for, though she still had not reached her ultimate goal. It is interesting to observe that many of the bad things we fear never really happen. But this is es-pecially true when, like Esther, we put our faith in God. Instead of death, as she feared, she had beenoffered half of the greatest empire in the world. Esther gives the invitation to the first banquet Verse 4 Esther did not immediately make known her real request. She simply began by requestingHaman and the king to come to a banquet she had prepared that day. Here we see great wisdom and patience on Esther’s part. It may have been a temptation, after sofavorable a reception, to proceed with her ultimate request. But instead, she courted the king’s favorand prepared his heart to receive her ultimate request. Her request was great, her purpose momen-tous, and the need overwhelming. She did not rush to the conclusion but proceeded calmly and wise-ly. We should learn from her example, when we attempt such serious matters. Note that she firstobtained God’s favor by prayer and fasting. Then she courted her husband’s favor by a banquet. Thenwhen she had the favor of God and man, she made her request. Her method pleased the king and led him to look with favor toward her request. It also showedhim how seriously she took the matter she was about to request and how much she wanted his favor.And finally, it gave opportunity to seek the most favorable time to speak. Yet consider how much tur-moil all this must have cost Esther in the meanwhile! Note further that Esther realized that “the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.” She didnot make bold, domineering demands, nor did she nag, nor did she manipulate him, nor did she seekto embarrass him, nor did she whine and complain, as some wives do. She respectfully sought toplease him and gain his consent by kind attentions to him. Let godly wives take note!The king and Haman attend the first banquet. The king calls Haman and they go to the banquet. Verse 5,6 Ahasuerus gave order for Haman to be called so they can attend the banquet, as Esther had re-quested. Both of them were in attendance. (It is interesting how both were available on such shortnotice. This was providence at work, though it is also possible that Esther checked on the men’sschedules before she gave the invitation. If the king could not have attended that day, she would pre-sumably have set another time for them to come.) At the banquet, the king again asked Esther what her request was. And again he promised to door give whatever she wanted, even up to half of his kingdom. This shows that he knew that the ban-quet itself was not the ultimate goal Esther sought. She had some further request to make, and he re-alized it. We are told that this is a “banquet of wine,” but remember that “wine” in the Bible is not al-waysintoxicating. The same word is used for grape juice, whether fermented or not. See Isaiah 16:10;Jeremiah 48:33; Isaiah 65:8; Genesis 40:9-11; Revelation 19:15. Esther requests still another banquet. Verses 7,8 Esther requested simply that the king and Haman come to another banquet the next day. Shepromised at that time to let the king know her request. It is difficult to believe that, in making this request for a second banquet, Esther had any purpos-es other than the same ones she had for requesting the first banquet (see on v4 above). Nevertheless,the events that eventually transpired between the two banquets were absolutely essential to the suc-cess of her request. This shows how fortunate it was that she requested the second banquet. Onceagain God’s providence was clearly at work, though even Esther could not have understood it at thetime.Haman determines to hang Mordecai47 | P a g e
  • 48. Haman’s joy and frustration Verse 9 Haman left Esther’s first banquet feeling joyful and glad of heart. He had been honored by thequeen, who had invited him personally to, not just one banquet, but two! Enjoy it while you can,Haman! But as he was going home, Haman was confronted with the one great grief of his life. Once againhe saw Mordecai at the king’s gate. As in the past, Mordecai refused to stand or tremble beforeHaman – i.e., he refused to give special honor to Haman. This infuriated Haman (cf. 3:2). Note how Mordecai persisted in refusing to bow to Haman. Even after his conduct had motivat-ed Haman to decree the destruction of Mordecai and all the Jews, still he would not do what violatedthe law of God. Clearly he was deeply upset to see the consequences that could come on the Jews(4:1-4), and he had taken great steps to try to overcome that problem (4:8ff). But the one step he re-fused to take was to bow to Haman – an act which he was convinced would be sinful. He would standfirm for the law of God regardless of the consequences. We should learn the lesson. How many of usoften give in to far less pressure from friends and spiritual enemies! Haman brags to his family and friends Verses 10-12 Despite his anger at Mordecai, Haman did nothing at the moment. Rather, he went on home andcalled a gathering of his friends and his wife Zeresh. His purpose, we will see, was to brag about hisgreatness and bask in the glory of his “fan club.” He gave them four proofs of his greatness, all ofthem material in nature. (1) He told of his great riches. We are not told specifically how rich he was, but apparently hiswealth was remarkable enough that he and his friends considered it to be exceptional. He hadenough that he had been willing to offer the king ten thousand talents of silver for decreeing thedeath of the Jews (3:9). (2) He had a multitude of children. Esther 9:10 says he had ten sons. This was enough that hethought it would impress his friends. Note how, in contrast to today, numerous children were thenviewed as a great blessing and a sign of eminence (cf. the stories of Jacob and Job; Psalms 127,128). (3) He had great power and authority. The king had promoted him and set him above theother officials and servants (cf. 3:1,2). (4) The final proof of Haman’s greatness was his honor. The proof of this was that he and healone had been invited to accompany the king to a banquet with the queen. And not only that, but hewas invited back to another banquet the next day! This he mistook as a great honor showing that hewas above all men in the empire except the king, even in the eyes of the queen. Here again we see the galling vanity and conceit of this man. He was so stuck on himself and soinflated by his own greatness that he actually called his own brag session! And note that the measureof greatness to him, as with nearly all conceited men, consisted entirely of material pursuits. He con-sidered himself to be great because of apparent success in physical possessions and honors. And notefurther how he can interpret events such as the invitation to Esther’s banquets as having no purposeother than to show his greatness. Surely we should learn here the lesson of the fleeting and unsatisfying nature of such conceitbased on material things. In his very next breath he will acknowledge how unhappy he still is. And wewill see further that he is just one day away from complete destruction. Pride goes before a fall. Andlet him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall! Haman states his great anger at Mordecai. Verses 13,14 Having listed all his great honors, Haman then stated his great frustration at Mordecai. All thesegreat honors and blessings, he says, avail nothing to him so long as Mordecai sits at the king’s gate –i.e., as long as he continues to just sit there, refusing to rise and do obeisance as others did. Note how this shows even more the colossal enormity of Haman’s ego. Having all these greathonors, he was yet not satisfied. It all meant nothing to him, because one piddling little Jew re-fusedto bow to him! It was not enough to have wealth, family, and honor from the whole empire. All thesepeople who did honor him meant nothing to him so long as there was just one man who refused tohonor him! The idea seems to be that a man so supremely great as Haman thought he was, shouldnot have to put up with such a sleight and disrespect from anyone, let alone such a dog as Mordecai!48 | P a g e
  • 49. This is typical of vain, greedy human nature. Instead of counting our many blessings, we tend tocomplain about the insignificant problems we have. Instead of appreciating what we have received,we worry about some minor imperfection in our circumstances. And note how this demonstrates the failure of material prosperity to satisfy. One would thinkthat someone so richly blessed as Haman would be satisfied. No matter how much we have, thosewhose joy and happiness in life is found in emphasizing material things think that they would behappy if only they could have just a little bit more. The fact is that material things do not ever reallysatisfy no matter how much we have. People who seek success in material circumstances will alwayswant more. As long as they see any flaw, minor irritation, or unfulfilled desire, they will not be satis-fied!Haman plans Mordecai’s death. But Haman’s “fan club” had a solution for his dilemma! Perhaps he hoped they would come upwith a suggestion when he called the meeting. His wife and friends suggested that the simple solutionwould be to eliminate Mordecai. If he was such a source of irritation to such a great man as Haman,he should just get rid of him! They suggested he build a gallows and then get the king’s permission tohang Mordecai on it. Then he could be truly happy and enjoy the banquet with the queen! All thissounded good to Haman, so he had the gallows built 50 cubits (75 feet – seven stories) high! See again the conceit of Haman and of his friends on his behalf. They all just assume that a manof Haman’s great stature has the right to just wipe out anybody who in any way crosses him, just likeswatting a fly! And further they assume that surely a great man like Haman could sway the king toaccomplish a little thing like this at Haman’s bidding! Then, having satisfied his callous pride byshedding the blood of a righteous man, he could go calmly on and eat a pleasant feast with joy in-stead of remorse or guilt! See how ego drives a man to such incredible disregard for others. He him-self is so important that others are as nothing. He has every right to wipe them out if they so much ascause him a little inconvenience! They are nothing. He is everything! Note also the danger of bad advice and of having close companionships with people who en-courage us in sin and have no scruples against evil. One can be swayed by associates. Haman had in-fluenced Ahasuerus to allow a decree that would wipe out an entire nationality of people. Haman inturn was influenced by his friends to determine to casually slay an innocent man. Note especially theinfluence of his wife. She could, had she chosen, have been a great blessing to him and given wisecounsel. Instead she became a curse to him by joining in giving evil advice. Here we see Haman at the pinnacle of his glory and power. Here he was so confident that he hadeverything under control. All the cards were in his hand. But, “what a difference a day makes.” As weenter the next chapter we will see that, unknown to Haman, the circumstances that he interpreted asbeing proof that he was at the peak of success, actually were the circum-stances that would bring himdown to total destruction. Notes on Esther 6 III. Haman’s Defeat & the Jews’ Victory – Chap. 6-10 Note that we stand at a dramatic turning point in the story. Up to this point Haman had been ris-ing in power and honor. He had the upper hand and felt assured of success in his efforts to destroyMordecai and the Jews (5:9-14). We will see how, beginning with this very night, God’s providencebegan to turn all against him. His defeat was so complete that, in one single day he not only failed toachieve his desire to slay Mordecai, but rather he himself fell completely from the king’s favor andwas slain. Note also how all the story is building to a climax in a single day, as two opposing forceswere quite independently seeking the king’s favor to achieve totally opposite goals: Haman to slayMordecai and Esther to deliver Mordecai and all the Jews. A. Mordecai Honored for His Loyalty to the King – Chap. 6The king is reminded of Mordecai’s loyalty49 | P a g e
  • 50. The king learns of Mordecai’s good deed. Verses 1,2 On the very night between the two banquets, on the eve of Esther’s request to save the Jews andthe eve of Haman’s request to kill Mordecai, an event occurred that brought Mordecai (and the Jews)to the king’s favor. The king was unable to sleep that night, so he called for the chronicles of his rulership to bebrought and read to him. As the chronicles were read, one event mentioned was the fact that Morde-cai had saved the king’s life by informing him of the conspiracy of Bigthana and Teresh (2:21ff). No reason is given why the king could not sleep, but surely God’s providence was behind it. Seehow God uses such small things to bring about great purposes. Again no miracle was worked, nogreat impressive ritual, yet God’s providence worked one of the greatest deliveries of history (cf.4:14). And one thing God used was the sleeplessness of the king. If God can use such small things forgreat good, surely He can use you and me! The importance of the fact this information came to the king’s attention at this particular timecannot be over-emphasized. By this means God brought Mordecai to the king’s favor at the very timethat he needed the king’s favor. Note that Haman had argued for the destruction of the Jews on the grounds they were un-prof-itable to the king (3:8). Yet here was conclusive proof to the king that one Jew was incredibly prof-itable to him and had in fact saved his life. Another Jew of great value to him was his queen, but hehad yet to learn of her nationality. This information could not have come before the king at a moreopportune time, for unknown to the king, both Haman and Esther were about to make great requestsof the king both regarding this very Mordecai and his people. The king inquires regarding the honor given Mordecai Verse 3 Having been reminded of Mordecai’s loyal service to him, the king wondered what had beendone to reward this service. His attendants informed him that no reward had been given. So the kingproceeded to search for a suitable reward. Several lessons should be learned here. First, it was only right for the king to reward Mordecai.People in authority ought to reward those who serve faithfully, not just punish disobedience. Second,we see Mordecai’s attitude toward the reward. He seemingly had no bitterness toward the king forhaving not rewarded him. When he was rewarded, there is no evidence that he be-came proud orconceited (like Haman) – cf. v12. He apparently had done service to the king be-cause it was right todo, not because he sought honor from men. Unlike Haman, who later suggested great honors whenhe thought he would receive them (vv 6ff), Mordecai had apparently made no request whatever forreward. And when none came, he made no complaint to the king. Finally note, however, that ultimately he received the greatest reward he could hope for. Whenthat reward came, it came at a time that made it far more valuable to Mordecai than any reward thatcould have been given at the time he did the good deed. Consider the application to our reward.Some want immediate benefits from their conduct, so they emphasize material pursuits. Christiansmay not receive their rewards immediately, so it may seem (as with Mordecai) that the righteous re-ceive evil, not good, for their reward. But the reward will surely come, and when it does it will begreater than any reward that could be given during this life.The king requires Haman to honor Mordecai. The king seeks advice. Verses 4-6 The king was still trying to think of a good way to reward Mordecai, so he asked who was stand-ing in the court. That is, he wondered who might be present that he could discuss the matter withand get some ideas. Apparently by that time it was day and Haman had come to the pal-ace to makehis request for permission from the king to kill Mordecai. So the king’s servants told him that Hamanwas there, so the king ordered to have him brought in. The irony here is amazing. The king wanted to ask Haman’s advice about how to honor Morde-cai, yet at that very moment the reason Haman was there was to ask permission to hang Mordecai!From this point on the irony grows.The king inquires of Haman.50 | P a g e
  • 51. When Haman had entered, the king placed before Haman the question of what he should do tohonor the man whom he sought to honor. The king did not name whom he spoke of, but Ha-man inhis mammoth conceit thought surely the king must be speaking of Haman himself. "Whom wouldthe king delight to honor more than me?" So he thought up the very greatest honor that he himselfwould like to receive. Again we see the incredible vanity of this man Haman. First, he did not even ask who was beingdiscussed but simply assumed without evidence that it had to be himself who would be honored. Inhis conceit, he could not imagine that anyone else deserved to be honored! It would have been badenough for him to think that no one would be honored above him, but the king had never even saidwhom he intended to honor. He simply said that he wanted to honor some-one. Haman apparentlyassumed that, beside himself, no one deserved honor! Second, thinking he would be honored, he presumptuously sought the greatest honor he couldthink of, instead of humbly seeking little or no honor. He was a glutton for honor. He had just spentan evening boasting to his family and friends about his own greatness (5:10-14). But was he satisfiedwith the great honors he had? No! Honor is temporary and, like wealth, one must always seek evermore and more hoping to achieve satisfaction by it. Now note the irony. Haman sought death for Mordecai and honor for himself. Yet on this veryday he would see Mordecai receive the very honor that he sought and invented for himself. And like-wise, he himself would receive the very death that he had planned for Mordecai. And all this was byGod’s providence and answer to prayer. Haman’s advice to the king Verses 7-9 According to his presumptuous vanity, Haman proceeded to suggest great honors to be given, allthe while thinking that he himself would receive those honors. So he suggested that the man beclothed in royal garments that the king himself sometimes wore and that he be placed upon a horsethat the king himself sometimes rode, the horse having a royal crest placed on its head. Then one ofthe king’s highest nobles should be assigned to lead the horse with its rider throughout the citysquare proclaiming that this was the way the king honored the man who had pleased him. Suchwould be comparable to our “ticker-tape parades,” though in a way it would be an even greater hon-or, since it was given at the command of the greatest king on earth. The man in effect would be hon-ored as “king for a day”! The king commands this honor for Mordecai. Verses 10,11 When Haman had given this elaborate description, the king was so pleased by it that he com-manded that all that Haman had spoken should be done immediately in every detail with no excep-tions. But, instead of this being done to Haman as he expected, it was to be for the honor of Mordecaithe Jew! Worse yet (from Haman’s viewpoint), Haman was the one to be assigned to give the honor.He had to lead the horse! And that is exactly what Haman did. Imagine the shame and horror Haman felt when he heard this verdict. Not only would this greathonor not be given to him as he had planned, but instead it would be given to the one whom Hamanconsidered to be his greatest enemy. And Haman himself would have to give it. And he had himselfinvented the whole thing! The irony abounds. He had come to the king’s presence to ask permission to kill Mordecai. In-stead, he ended up honoring him. He hated Mordecai, because Mordecai refused to honor Haman asHaman thought he deserved. Now, instead of eliminating his rival, Haman must be the one to givehim honor! (Cf. 5:9,13.) Note that this decree not only honored Mordecai for his righteous conduct, but (unknown to theking) it simultaneously punished Haman for his vanity. And in reality Haman was punishing himself.This is how sin often acts. Had Haman not been so conceited in the first place, he would not havebeen bothered by Mordecai’s conduct, Mordecai would not have been his enemy, and he would nothave been bothered by having to honor Mordecai. Haman had never really been harmed at all. Yet hewas mortally grieved, because his vanity and pride had been wounded. His pride itself was punishinghim! It was, in effect, a self-inflicted wound. So sin often does to people, even in this life. Yet neitherMordecai’s reward nor Haman’s punishment were yet complete.51 | P a g e
  • 52. Haman’s friends predict his downfall. Haman returns home mourning. Verses 12,13 Having been so honored, Mordecai returned to his previous pursuits at the king’s gate. Nothingis said about any great pride on his part as a result of the honor he had received. This contrasted toHaman who let honor so go to his head (5:9-14) that when he felt slighted he was really upset (5:13). After honoring Mordecai, Haman went home in mourning having covered his head. Why? Whohad wronged him? No one! Only his pride had been wounded. When he was honored, he gloated.When others were honored, he pouted and threw a tantrum. In contrast, Mordecai showed no signsof gloating over Haman or bragging to his friends, etc. Instead, he simply went back to doing what hehad before.Haman tells these latest events to his wife and friends. Having returned home, Haman once again calls his wife and friends together and tells them thelatest events, as he had the day before (5:9-14). But his story the day before had been all joy and glory(except for Mordecai’s refusal to bow to him). Whereas, on this day he sulked and sought solace forhis shame. Amazingly, his wife and friends, who had so praised him the day before, now predicted his down-fall! They said that, if Mordecai was of Jewish descent and had begun to prevail, then there was noway Haman could prevail against him but Haman would surely fall before him! Note the fickleness of friends, especially when they follow a man for the sake of his fame, wealth,and glory. They are fair-weather friends who, as quickly as they flocked to a man in his time of glory,will desert him when he falls. Yet is not clear how they could be so sure Mordecai would prevail over Haman. They said Morde-cai would prevail because he was a Jew. But they had already known Mordecai was a Jew, since thatwas the reason Haman sought to kill him (5:13,14). So why conclude now that Mordecai would pre-vail? Perhaps they saw the significance of the turn of events. Haman had intended to kill Mordecai.But not only had he failed in that purpose, but he had actually ended up honoring Mordecai. Perhapsthe friends recognized this as an omen of things to come. Perhaps they also remembered the historyof past victories of Israelites over their enemies. They were like the “fans” that cheer on an athleticteam when victory seems assured, but then turn in disgust when it begins to lose. The call to Esther’s second banquet Verse 14 Now as the irony multiplies, even as his friends were making their predictions of Haman’s down-fall, the call came from the king’s eunuchs for Haman to attend Esther’ second banquet. He obviouslywas feeling bad – not nearly as wonderful as he had felt the previous day when he received the invita-tion to this banquet. But still he was totally unaware of what lay ahead for him at the banquet. Theworst was yet to come. Notes on Esther 7 B. Esther’s Request & Haman’s Downfall – Chap. 7 The story is building to the climax. The “stage” is now set for Esther’s request. She has done allshe can to prepare the king to be receptive. The king himself, by God’s providence, has a favorable at-titude toward Mordecai brought to his mind just this very morning. And Haman has been humbledby having to be the one to honor Mordecai. With this background, the story approaches the secondbanquet.Esther makes her request The king and Haman attend Esther’s second banquet. Verses 1,2 Haman and the king then came to Esther’s second banquet, as she had requested. At this pointneither the king nor Haman was aware of the nature of Esther’s request.52 | P a g e
  • 53. However, the king again asked Esther what her request was. And he again offered to give her ordo for her whatever she wanted, up to half of his kingdom. He had made this offer twice be-fore(5:3,4,6). Now the time had come for Esther to speak. Esther’s request Verses 3,4 Esther began her request by speaking respectfully: “If I have found favor in your sight, O king,and if it pleases the king…” It is always proper to show respect to those in proper authority when wemake request of them. Mordecai’s refusal to bow and show undue reverence to Ha-man would notdeny or contradict our responsibility to give civil rulers the honor that is properly due them – Ro-mans 13:1-7. Esther then requested that her life and that of her people (race or nationality) may be spared, be-cause they had been sold to be killed, destroyed, and annihilated. She requested that her life and herpeople’s life be given in response to her petition. “Sold” seems to refer to Ha-man’s offer to pay theking to allow the Jews’ death. She said she would have remained silent if it had been simply a matterthat they would become enslaved; but when they were condemned to death, she felt she had to speak. But in any case, she argued, no amount of price paid could really compensate the loss the kingwould sustain. This appears to refer to Haman’s contention that the people were of no profit to theking (3:8), but if they were killed, he would pay the king (3:9). So Esther claims the people were ofgreat profit to the king such that no amount of compensation could really make up for it. Notice the courage that Esther had in speaking, because she knew her cause was just and Godwas with her. She had made preparation wisely and carefully to gain the king’s favor. But the timehad come to speak. No amount of preparation could avoid the fact that sooner or later she had tospeak up. Likewise, there are times when we need to pray for God’s help and make preparations to doGod’s will. But no amount of prayer or preparation eliminates the need for us to act. Prayer does notremove our responsibility to do what we can in God’s work. The time comes when we must act. Letus truly trust in God’s power and protection, but let us also realize that often He uses our effort toaccomplish His work, so we must do what is best to bring about the needed result. The king asks who is the guilty party. Verse 5 The king’s response was to ask who would be so presumptuous in his heart as to dare to seek toslay all the queen’s people. He was clearly angry, and rightly so, that anyone would seek to do such athing. But remember that he did not know at this point that Esther was a Jew, so he did not realizeHaman’s involvement (perhaps he did not even know that it was the Jews that Ha-man had been dis-cussing when he had made his request of the king). Still further, he surely did not yet realize that hehimself had been an accessory to the act, since he had given his approval to it. Like David, who couldsee an act as being evil when it related to someone else’s conduct, he did not see his own act as wrongdespite his guilt. Esther identifies Haman’s guilt. Verse 6 Having been asked directly who had sought to slay her people, Esther then boldly and plainlyidentified the guilty man: "The adversary and enemy is this wicked Haman!" Notice that Esther was not unwilling to name the specific individual and state plainly that he wasevil. Some people today, even in the church, say such should not be done. They tell us not to namespecific religious groups or individuals and say they are guilty of sin. But Esther did so, as did Jesusand His apostles. So we must do when it needs to be done for the cause of truth. Notice also that Esther accused her adversary to his face. Haman was at this banquet and heardher accusation, because she herself had invited him. This gave him an opportunity to de-fend himselfand present his side of the story, if he so chose. She could have chosen to invite only the king, so shecould manipulate and politic against Haman behind his back. But she chose rather to confront the is-sue before the king in the presence of the one she accused. She treated Haman fairly despite the grossand criminal mistreatment he had himself committed against Esther’s cousin Mordecai and thewhole Jewish people. So we ought to fairly treat even those who oppose us. We should plainly speakagainst their error, but we should do so fairly.53 | P a g e
  • 54. Having heard the queen’s accusation, Haman was terrified. Note how quickly his boasting vanityhad changed to cowardice. The man had not considered, when he determined to make the decree,whom all it might affect. He had sought to destroy Mordecai and all his people. Since then he hadlearned the great favor that Mordecai had before the king, and here he came face to face with the factthat his decree would also lead to the destruction of the queen herself! And the king had just, inHaman’s hearing, repeatedly promised to give the queen anything she wants! Haughty men tend to over-estimate their power. This is one reason why pride goes before a fall.Haman had been so proud of the fact that Esther had invited him to these banquets, but here he real-ized too late that his decree had far more wide-reaching consequences than he had anticipated. Whathad seemed to him, in his vanity, to be an easy thing to accomplish, he now realized may be well be-yond his ability to carry out. In fact, it was becoming clear that he might be the one to be destroyed.Especially such consequences follow when one is proud against the Lord.The defeat and death of Haman The king leaves to consider the matter. Verse 7 Having heard the evidence against Haman, whom he had previously favored highly, the king inanger arose, left the banquet, and went for a walk in the palace garden. No doubt he felt angry, notonly because Haman had issued a decree which, if carried out, would kill the queen, but also doubt-less because Haman had betrayed his trust. He had granted Haman high position and great powerand had allowed Haman to issue the death decree as he saw fit, but now the king realized howHaman had betrayed his trust and abused his power. He saw now, presumably for the first time, thetragic danger of allowing a trusted counselor to issue a death decree without himself carefully check-ing out the consequences. Rather than making a foolish decision, however, as he had done when Haman had asked to issuethe decree, the king this time showed wisdom. Rather than acting rashly, he left the room to considerthe matter more carefully before making a decision that he might later regret. It is wise for all people,especially those in authority over other people, to carefully weigh important decisions rather thanjumping to conclusions.Haman pleads for his life. When the king had left, Haman realized that the king had turned against him and the resultcould only be harm for Haman. So while the king was gone, Haman appealed to the queen to sparehis life. How interesting and ironic all this is! Just one day earlier all was going well for Haman (so hethought), all had to bow to him and honor him, and his only problem was that one miserable Jewwould not bow to him. Now one day later here he was having to prostrate himself before a Jew. Oneday earlier he had exalted and bragged what a great honor it was to him to attend the queen’s ban-quets. Now one day later he realized that the banquets would lead to his downfall and perhaps evenhis death. One day earlier he was so confident in his power and position that he thought he couldtake the lives of all his enemies and decree the death of Mordecai for having crossed him. Now oneday later, he must beg a Jew to spare his own life! And then notice how quickly cruel men can become convinced to believe in the value of mercy!When he was in power and thought no one could stop him, he had no mercy whatever on the Jews.He mercilessly decreed them all to die. He had no mercy whatever on Mordecai but built a gallows tohang him. But now, when he was the one about to fall from favor and perhaps lose his life, suddenlyhe became a great believer in mercy! What a difference it makes whose foot the shoe is on! The king suspects Haman of violence against Esther. Verse 8 Haman even prostrated himself on Esther’s couch as he pled for his life. When the king re-turned from walking in the garden, he saw Haman and thought he was about to do violence to the54 | P a g e
  • 55. queen right in the palace, almost before his very eyes. This, of course, was “the icing on the cake,”and angered him to the point of reaching a final verdict against Haman. The word translated “assault” (NKJV) may otherwise imply rape, but surely the king did not sus-pect Haman of such a thing at this time and circumstance. However, the king might well suspectHaman of seeking to do violence to Esther for having accused him before the king. He may havethought Haman was trying to force Esther to withdraw her accusation or just that he was seekingvengeance on her in anger. Again, see how quickly one can fall from favor and the severe consequences when it happened.When Haman had been in favor with the king, the king had interpreted everything he did favorably,even allowing him to decree the death of a group of people without suspecting him of wrong. Now theking’s anger leads him to interpret even innocent acts as being evil. When we have a reputation for doing wrong, people put a bad construction on even our in-inno-cent acts. When we have told a lie, people suspect us of lying even when we tell the truth. When wehave done violence to others, people fear us even when we have no thoughts of harming them. Whena man is known to have committed adultery, his wife and others suspect him of attempting furtherunfaithfulness anytime he is around another woman. This is why a good reputation is so important.When we have betrayed people’s trust, they no longer know when to believe us and when to doubt us. As the king spoke, his servants covered Haman’s face. This evidently was symbolic as a sign ofhumiliation and condemnation, perhaps even a sign that they recognized Haman stood condemnedto death. The servants evidently anticipated from the king’s manner and words that Haman was insuch disfavor as to be unfit to look upon. The death of Haman Verse 9,10 When a person’s evil conduct is exposed, people immediately recall other evil he has done. Everybad act comes to light. In Haman’s case, one of the king’s eunuchs, named Harbonah, re-called to theking what Haman had intended to do to Mordecai. He recalled that Mordecai had spoken good onthe king’s behalf (actually had saved his life, as described earlier), but Haman had built a gallows fiftycubits high for the express purpose of hanging this very Mordecai! Here, even as the king considered what punishment to bring upon Haman, is revealed an-otherconspiracy Haman had committed against another of the king’s loyal subjects! Not only had he plot-ted to annihilate a whole nation of people, which would have included the queen her-self, but he hadspecifically plotted the death of one who had saved the king’s life! This was the crowning blow reveal-ing Haman’s corruption. What is more, this situation provided a perfect opportunity for poetic justice against Haman. Theking decreed that Haman be hung on the gallows he had built for Mordecai! This is exactly what wasdone, thereby satisfying the king’s anger. So here we have the great and final irony in Haman’s life,that he was hung on the very gallows he had built for Mordecai.Lessons from the Jews’ victory over Haman: Note how, in less than 24 hours, Haman’s fate had completely reversed. Surely this shows manylessons to be learned at this point. 1) The power of God’s providence – With no miracles, using only natural means including manyseemingly insignificant events, using human agents yet without violating any human power tochoose, working often in ways no human could have perceived at the time, God accomplished Hisgoal and cared for His people. This perfectly illustrates all elements of providence. 2) The importance of trusting God – Haman apparently had all the advantages and blessingsthough he had no respect for God’s will. Esther and Mordecai trusted God though they had virtuallyno advantages or reason for hope. Yet those who trusted God prevailed in the end. 3) The justice of God – In the end, evil men are punished and the righteous are exalted. In thiscase this result occurred in this life, but if it does not come in this life, then it will in eternity. Notes on Esther 8 C. The Decree to Spare the Jews Is Issued – Chap. 855 | P a g e
  • 56. Mordecai is exalted Esther given authority over Haman’s house Verses 1,2 At this point in the story, Haman had fallen from favor and been slain. However, there is more tothe story. We will see even further the greatness of the victory of Esther and Mordecai over Haman’streachery. First, the king set Esther herself in charge over Haman’s house. She was given the great wealththat he had bragged so much about. (I’m not sure how much else was involved in being over Haman’shouse.) Not only did Haman lose his position and honor that had led to such pride, but he also lostall his wealth to one of the very people whom he had sought to destroy! But honor was given, not just to Esther, but also to Mordecai. He was advanced to high positionbefore the king. This occurred, not only because of the good he had formerly done in sparing theking’s life, but also because Esther told the king about Mordecai’s relationship to her. This had notbeen made known till this point, when Esther revealed her nationality.Mordecai exalted to Haman’s position For all these reasons, the king then exalted Mordecai to the very position that Haman had occu-pied. The ring, which was the symbol of the king’s authority and which had been given to Haman,was here given instead to Mordecai. This showed that he was the most exalted of all the king’s minis-ters. Further, Esther, who had been set over the house of Haman (v1), in turn put Mordecai over thathouse. All this simply demonstrates that the exaltation, which Haman formerly possessed, now be-longed in every detail to the very one whom he considered his chief enemy and whom he had soughtto kill. But Haman had been slain in the very manner in which he had intended to slay Mordecai. Thereversal is here complete. There still remained, however, one major problem that had not yet been overcome. We must yetconsider how it can be reversed. Haman himself, the issuer of the decree of death to the Jews, hadbeen slain. But the decree itself yet stood. The real root problem had yet to be re-solved; only the per-petrator of the problem had fallen. Esther requests to reverse Haman’s decree. Esther again goes before the king. Verses 3-6 In tears Esther approached the king again and even fell at his feet, imploring him to counteractthe decree that had been made by Haman against the Jews. At first she did as she had done before:she came into the court of the king uninvited, hoping that he would call her for-ward, rather than al-low her to be slain (cf. 5:1ff). (It appears that we are here informed first what her purpose was in go-ing before the king, but she actually makes this known to the king in v5.) As before, the king held out the golden censer to Esther, granting her the right to speak and notdie. She then arose and respectfully asked, according to the king’s will, if he was truly pleased withher, if he could write letters to revoke the decree of Haman to annihilate the Jews in all the king’sprovinces.The lasting effects of sin Notice how Haman’s decree actually outlived him. He himself was no longer able to pursue hisvindictiveness against the Jews and had even been slain, yet the effect of his wickedness lived on. Sowith us, the effect of our sins may continue on affecting our lives or the lives of others even after wehave repented or even died. For example, we may live in sin when our children are small; we may later repent and be-comefaithful, yet they may choose to continue in sin. We may teach false doctrine and later learn the truthand repent, but the people we taught the error may refuse to change. We may drink or smoke foryears then later quit, but our body may yet be so diseased that it cannot be healed; or the family thatwas destroyed by our drinking may never be restored. We may squander our wealth in riotous living,then later repent and be forgiven, yet the wealth is gone, our job may be lost, etc. We may commitadultery then repent, but we must still care of the child we conceived out of wedlock or our spousemay refuse to trust us and determine to divorce us. We may commit murder, but our repentance will56 | P a g e
  • 57. not bring the victim back to life. We may commit a crime, but repentance will not free us fromprison.Esther’s concern for her people Esther explained further to the king her motives for her request. She could not stand to see suchevil and destruction perpetrated on her people (cf. 7:3,4). Surely it was this love and concern thatmotivated her to act so bravely on their behalf (4:8-16). Here is another important lesson for us. We have a grave responsibility to save people around usfrom destruction. Consider how much more serious is the destruction caused by sin than even that ofphysical death. If Esther needed to speak out to save her people from death, how much more do weneed to save those around us from sin? If we have love and concern as Esther did, we must speak. Tofail to speak is to demonstrate that we don’t really care for their souls. It is interesting how much ef-fort people are willing to expend to save people from physical danger, yet we do little or nothingwhen the face the far greater danger of eternal destruction for sin! The king grants permission for a new decree. Verses 7,8 The king then reminded Esther and Mordecai that he had hung Haman and put Esther over hishouse, because Haman had opposed the Jews. It is unclear whether the king said this to rationalizehis own responsibility for the decree against the Jews or whether he was just reassuring them that hewas still willing to help further with the problem. In any case, he then gave them blanket permission to issue whatever decree they wish to make,write it in his name, and seal it with his ring. The one thing they had to remember, how-ever, wasthat the law of a Persian king could never be reversed once it had been issued in his name and sealedwith his ring. This meant, first, that they could not directly revoke the previous decree; it must be al-lowed to stand, so they must find some other means to solve the problem. The second application ofthis was that their decree would also be irrevocable. So they should be sure that it was just, realizingthat it too could not be reversed. They should not repeat the error of Haman in issuing an unwise de-cree. This also meant, however, that once they made a new decree, no one in the kingdom could pre-vent them from carrying it out.Mordecai and Esther issue a new decree. The scribes assembled to copy the decree Verses 9,10 Once again the scribes were called to issue another decree. This occurred on the 23rd day of thethird month. This means it was two months and ten days since the original decree had been issued(3:7,12). This decree was also to be sent to the Jews and to all the rulers in all the provinces, accord-ing to their own language, just as had been done with the original decree (3:12). In addition, we aregiven further information regarding the size of the empire: it included 127 provinces from India toEthiopia. The decree was written again in the king’s name, sealed with his ring, and sent out by his couri-ers, who rode swiftly on royal horses. This was also how the first decree had gone out (3:15). The decree allows the Jews to defend themselves. Verses 11-14 Here we are given the substance of the decree Esther and Mordecai wrote. The decree could notreverse the fact that the Jews’ enemies had been given permission to attack them, since the previousdecree was irrevocable (v8). So the new decree gave the Jews the right to use force to defend and pro-tect themselves against their enemies, and in fact, they could even kill and plunder anyone who at-tacked them. The previous decree had granted the Jews’ enemies the right to kill and plunder theJews. This decree gave the Jews the right to do the same to anyone who did choose to assault them. It is unclear to me whether this means that they could only act in strict self-defense, slaying onlythose who physically attacked them on this day, or whether it also granted them the right to take of-fensive action and attack any who had wronged them in time past or those who might have originallyplanned to attack them under the original decree (even if they now were to change their mind). Itseems that they did the latter, though I am not sure. Such wars were fought at various times by thenation of Israel under the Old Testament. (Note: The latter course would have been as wrong on their57 | P a g e
  • 58. part as Haman’s original decree had been, but for the fact that these enemies were known to be evil,opposing God’s will and His people.) The day on which the Jews could do this was the same day that Haman had originally de-creedfor people to destroy the Jews – the thirteenth day of the twelfth month (cf. 3:13). All this, of course,did not technically reverse the original decree, but it had that effect in the end. The original decreehad said nothing about whether or not the Jews would be allowed to defend themselves and even toattack those who attacked them. This decree defined that they could strike back against those who at-tacked them. We will see, however, that the effect was much greater than that. The effect of the original decreewould have been to put all the force of the empire behind those who would attack the Jews. Their en-emies would have been openly and officially encouraged by the government of the empire to attackthe Jews, and probably the empire’s armies and officials would have been encouraged to join in. Allwho did so would receive the spoils. Now, however, this part would be effectively reversed. It wasnow clear that the force of the empire was on the Jews’ side and against their enemies. This decree was written and circulated throughout the empire, so the Jews could make ready forthe appointed time.The Jews rejoice in the new decree The honor of Mordecai Verses 15-17 Mordecai had been exalted to such high position that he was provided apparel to show his posi-tion. His clothing was royal apparel of blue and white colors. He wore a great golden crown and alsoa garment of purple color made from fine linen (probably a robe or outer garment).The joy of the people Whereas the original decree had caused great consternation among the people, this one led togreat joy and gladness, even in the city of Shushan. The Jews especially rejoiced with gladness andhonor. This was easily understandable considering the seriousness of the original decree. As news of the decree spread to every province and city, the Jews there would rejoice with feast-ing and gladness. The result was (as mentioned above) that great fear fell on all the people because ofthe Jews (this would lead them to fear to attack the Jews on the decreed day and would even leadmany to fight on the Jews’ side). In fact, many people even became Jews. This is a clear reference to the practice of proselytes tothe Jewish religion. People born as descendants of the Jews were automatically in covenant relation-ship, but here we are clearly shown that other people could also join the religion. However, it is not easy to be sure of the motives of these people. It could mean that people con-verted to Judaism in order to enjoy the honor and wealth that the Jews would receive when the de-creed day occurred. Such would be a completely unacceptable reason for converting, since it showedno honor to God. On the other hand, it could be that the people saw that the events that had occurredproved that God was with the Jews. They had seen evidence of His power working in the Jewish na-tion, so they believed in the God the Jews worshiped. Notes on Esther 9 D. The Jews Slay Their Enemies – 9:1-18The first day of slaughter The appointed day arrives. Verses 1,258 | P a g e
  • 59. The day that Haman had appointed for the Jews to be destroyed was the 13 th day of the twelfthmonth of the year (Adar). This was the day appointed in the command that Haman had decreed bythe authority of the king (cf. 3:13). That decree could not be changed, so on that day the enemies hadauthority to attack and destroy the Jews. However, at the influence of Esther and Mordecai, a newdecree had been issued that on that day the Jews could not only defend themselves but could evenslay those who hated them and had wanted to destroy them (8:11,12). So this was the day that theJews’ enemies had hoped to overpower and slay them, but instead the opposite happened and theJews overpowered and slew their enemies. In theory, the Jews’ enemies could still have prevailed against them, but the reasons why theJews prevailed are explained as the story enfolds. The Jews gathered together in the cities through-out the provinces of Persia to fight against their enemies. This enabled them to take ad-vantage of thestrength of numbers, rather than being attacked individually. But specifically mentioned is the fact that the fear of the Jews had fallen on all the people. Thiswas probably due to the fate of Haman and the power of Mordecai, as discussed further in the follow-ing verses. People had just become convinced that the Jews’ enemies would not prevail, so they tend-ed to be afraid to attack them. The assistance of government officials Verses 3-5 Another reason the Jews prevailed was that they were assisted by government officials. In fact allthe people involved in the king’s service helped the Jews. The reason is stated: they recognized andfeared the power and influence of Mordecai. Had Haman still been in power, the people would have believed that they could attack the Jewswithout harm coming to them. The government would have been behind their attacks, approving itand perhaps even helping in it. But now that Haman had fallen and Mordecai had come to power, thepeople feared to oppose Mordecai’s power. The government now stood with Mordecai, so govern-ment agents helped the Jews instead of their enemies.The influence of Mordecai The reason the people feared to oppose Mordecai was, as v4 says, because he was great, increas-ingly prominent, and his fame had spread throughout the provinces of the empire. This led people tofear to oppose the Jews, so the Jews were able to defeat their enemies with slaughter and destructionas they willed without successful opposition. Jews’ enemies defeated in the citadel Shusan Verses 6-10 Those whom the Jews killed included 500 people just in the citadel of Shusan itself where theking lived. Included among this number were the ten sons of Haman, who are named in these verses.Haman had sought to slay all the Jews, and he had been extremely proud of all his sons (5:11). But inthe end not only did he die, but all his sons also were slain. We are told, however, that the Jews did not touch the plunder. That is, they took no spoils fromthose they killed. This is repeated in vv 15,16. The decree that had been issued expressly allowedthem to plunder their enemies (see 8:11), but they chose not to do so. Perhaps this was done to showthat they did not act from a desire for wealth – theirs was not an attack of aggression for their owngain. Their motives were entirely based on self-defense and protection against those who had soughtto harm them. The king seeks Esther’s further desires. Verses 11-15 The king was informed how many people had been killed in the citadel of Shushan (see v6). Hethen informed Esther of this and of the death of the ten sons of Haman. At that point he did notknow how many had been killed elsewhere, but he wondered how many there would be if this manyhad been killed in the citadel alone. He then asked Esther what else she would like to have done. Whatever further request she had,he was still willing to grant it.A decree for another day of slaughter Esther’s response was: first, she sought yet another day for the Jews to fight against their ene-mies; but this applied just in Shushan the citadel, not throughout the empire as had been the case on59 | P a g e
  • 60. the first day. We are not told exactly why she made this request. Perhaps she had heard already ofsome of the Jews’ enemies who had escaped the first day of slaughter. This would seem to make itclear that the Jews did not just kill those who attacked them, but they took aggression against theirenemies. If not so, then why seek another day of fighting? Second, she wanted the ten sons of Haman to be hung on a gallows. Though they were dead, theywould be hung even as Haman had been and as he had sought to do to Mordecai. The king agreed tothis request too, so the ten sons of Haman were hung on a gallows. Again, we are not told exactly whyshe made this request. The sons were already dead. The only purpose I can think of was to make apublic display to warn potential enemies of the Jews to not seek to harm the Jews as Haman had.The second day of slaughter followed by rest The Jews in Shushan continued to slaughter their enemies. Verse 16 As had been decreed, the Jews in Shushan (not the rest of the empire) gathered on the 14th day ofAdar and continued to slaughter their enemies as they had on the 13th day of the month. The first daythey had killed 500 enemies, but this time they killed 300 more. And once again we are told that theytook no plunder (see on v10).The results of the slaughter elsewhere in the empire The Jews in the other provinces had been told to fight their enemies only on the 13 th day of themonth (see v17). So, whereas the Jews in Shushan were still fighting their enemies on the 14th day, theJews elsewhere in the empire rested on that day. But we are told that, altogether, 75,000 enemies of the Jews had been slain around the empire.Nevertheless, again the Jews did not take plunder for themselves. The days of rest described Verses 17,18 These verses clarify the timing of the events. V17 shows that the Jews throughout the empirekilled the 75,000 enemies on the 13th day of the month Adar, as per the decree. Then they rested onthe 14th day of the month. The Jews in Shushan had fought on both the 13th and the 14th days, so theyrested on the 15th day. So the 14th day was a day of feasting and rejoicing for Jews throughout the empire, and the 15thday was a day of feasting and rejoicing for the Jews in Shusan. The rest of the chapter then describeshow this led to an annual feast for the Jews. Surely this became a great victory for the Jews. The beginning of the story gave cause for fearthat the Jews everywhere might be destroyed. By the end of the story, however, the Jews had won agreat victory over their enemies. Feast of Purim Instituted – 9:19-32 th th The 14 and 15 days of Adar established as holidays Verses 19-25 The fourteenth day of the month of Adar was celebrated as a holiday for feasting and gladnessand for sending presents to one another. But since the Jews in Shushan had celebrated on the 15 th dayof the month, both the 14th and 15th days came to celebrated as an annual holiday among the Jews. Mordecai wrote letters to all the Jews throughout the empire of the king that they should estab-lish these two days as an annual celebration. These days had been planned as a day of defeat of theJews leading to sorrow and mourning, but instead they became days of rest from their enemies. Sothey were set up as an annual remembrance on which the people would feast, rejoice, and sendpresents to one another and gifts to the poor.A memorial to the victory Esther achieved over Haman As we have read, Haman had plotted to annihilate all the Jews, but Esther had influenced theking to bring about the fall of Haman and ultimately the death of all his sons. So Haman’s plot endedup turning against him. The Jews accepted the decree of Mordecai as a custom in which they remem-bered this event each year. Haman had determined this date by the cast of the Pur – i.e., the lot – see on 3:6,7. We will thatthis led to the name of the annual feast. The feast designated Purim Verses 26-3260 | P a g e
  • 61. Because Haman had determined these days by casting the Pur or the lot (v24), the Jews thennamed the annual holiday Purim. They imposed this day on themselves and their descendants as anannual holiday to be celebrated without fail in these two days every year. The days were to be remem-bered by every family in every city and province in every generation. This was to insure that thememory of these events would be established and would never perish among the Jews.Esther confirms the feast of Purim Esther then wrote a letter, in addition to the one Mordecai had written, to confirm the celebra-tion of the feast. She had full authority (apparently as queen) to do so. Mordecai then sent letters tothe Jews throughout all the provinces of the empire about this. So the feast of Purim was confirmed and decreed to all Jews and their descendants. This was alsothen recorded in a book (perhaps the chronicles of the kings of Persia). This feast is still kept today,still called the feast of Purim, in the month of March. Notes on Esther 10 F. Conclusion This last chapter is just a conclusion of the story. We are told of the greatness of King Ahasuerusand of Mordecai. Ahasuerus imposed tribute on the land and on the islands of the sea. This appears to be a state-ment of his power: he had power so widespread that people throughout the land and sea paid himtribute. Also his power and the greatness of Mordecai were recorded in the written chronicles of thekings of Media and Persia (cf. on 6:1). This would emphasize that these men and the story we havestudied were real history, not myth or legend. Many things about their lives and work could be con-firmed by the Persian history. The story ends by concluding that Mordecai was a powerful man, second only to the king. TheJews respected him and viewed him as a great man, because he did what was good for the people andworked for their peace and well-being.61 | P a g e