The Events of Purim

We have finally reached the day that became known as Purim. It begins in chapter 9 with the giving of the date, Adar 13. As the text says the edict of the king, the first edict, had given the people of the kingdom the hope of overpowering the Jews. However, the tables had turned due to the edict written by Mordecai in the name of the King and now the Jews were the stronger.

All over the kingdom of King Xerxes the Jews gathered to defend themselves against those who hated them. The Jews that are mentioned here would not only include those natural  born Jews, but also all those from other nationalities who had become Jews; their numbers had greatly increased.

There was also another factor involved in this battle, those who came to attack them were actually afraid of them. This reminds me of the account of Gideon when the Midianites actually attacked each other in their fear. There is also the account of when the Israelites were first entering the land of Israel and Rahab tells the two spies in Jericho that the hearts of the people were melting in fear because of them. They had heard what their God had done for them. Sound familiar? The people who attacked the Jews here in Esther might have come out to fight because of their hatred for the Jews, but they were also afraid of them because they knew what God had all ready done for them. So their hearts melted in fear and were defeated.

Scripture tells us in James 2:19 that even the demons tremble in fear. They know who God is and they know what he can do to them. Yet they still come out to fight. We also know from James 4:7 that when we submit to God and resist the devil he will flee from us. We see in Esther that the Jews had submitted to God and the enemy who is afraid of them is defeated.

Do you see the difference in the two types of fear that is mentioned? The first type of fear at the end of chapter 8 led to salvation while the second led to death. The first developed faith and love while the second flowed from hate. The first was out of a fear of the one true God and the other out of a fear of death and defeat. What a difference!

The nobles and officials of the kingdom even helped the Jews in their battle. Why? Because they feared Mordecai. I do not think this is the same fear as the one at the end of chapter 8 because there is no mention of them becoming Jews here. Rather their fear seems to have more to do with Mordecai’s power in the palace under Xerxes. Mordecai’s reputation went all throughout the land and his power increased greatly. You see, Mordecai had the king’s ear. They all knew of the influence Mordecai had. King Xerxes respected the views of Mordecai, if not sharing them himself, and took them to account. The fear here led to a respect of authority despite one’s own views.

The Jews were victorious over their enemies and even killed the sons of Haman and 500 men in the citadel of Susa itself. Please understand this. With all we have said above there were many in the citadel itself, where the King, Queen and Mordechai lived, that sought to kill the Jews. It would not surprise me if many of them were related to Xerxes, as well as, members of the Zoroastrian priesthood and if this was and unsuccessful coup. After all, if you are going to kill the Jews in the citadel would you not be going after the two most powerful Jews in the kingdom, the Queen and Mordechai, not to mention that Jew loving Xerxes who married not only outside the family but a Jewess and then aligned himself to her family instead of the other way around. If you are going to have any hope of survival in an attack in the citadel you are going for it all. You are going to kill the King.

When this is reported to Xerxes, I picture him in a war room getting updates on the battle, he turns to Esther his queen and makes a very interesting statement. Not only does he report the death of the five hundred and the 10 sons of Haman, but also wants to know how successful they had been in the rest of the kingdom. He and his wife are in this together. Then comes the ultimate statement and expression of love and trust. Xerxes says to Esther, “Now what is your petition? It will be given you. What is your request? It will also be granted.”(NIV)  Did you catch it? We have seen Xerxes make similar statements before, yet this one stands apart. Do you see why? He places absolutely no limit on her petition or request. He simply says, before he hears it, it is yours. He stands unequivocally beside her with no reservations at all. The ultimate show of trust and love! She is the apple of his eye and he will withhold nothing from her. Let that picture wash over you and then remember our King lavished his love on us.

Esther wants complete victory, not just a partial one. She wants to make sure all those who hate her people are gone from Susa. She asks, “if it pleases the king”(NIV) for another day of fighting in Susa. She also asks for the sons of Haman to be displayed for all to see. She wants all to know what happens to those who would defy the living God. It is interesting to note that when Xerxes is killed in a coup led by Zoroastrian priests and family members about 10 years later that it does not take place in Susa.

And so it pleased the king to grant by his command and edict another day of fighting in Susa. While those in the provinces, which remember included Israel, rested and feasted with great joy on the 14th of Adar – after killing 75,000 on the 13th – the Jews in Susa assembled again to fight and killed another 300 men.

The Jews defeated their enemies but none of them laid their hands on the plunder. They were not after riches. They were after the right to live. They were after relief from their enemies. Yet God gave them a plunder they could have never imagined. Their tent had been enlarged with the coming in of new followers of Yahweh. He had truly blessed them with true fruit and a heart turned back to Him and His covenant.

May God rescue us from our enemy and enlarge our tent,


Family Harmony

I want to focus today on what Memucan says about the women of the nobility and of the kingdom hearing of Vashti’s disobedience and the consequences.

16 Memucan said in the presence of the king and his officials, “Queen Vashti has wronged not only the king, but all the officials and the peoples who are in every one of King Ahasuerus’s (Xerxes) provinces. 17 For the queen’s action will become public knowledge to all the women and cause them to despise their husbands and say, ‘King Ahasuerus (Xerxes) ordered Queen Vashti brought before him, but she did not come.’ 18 Before this day is over, the noble women of Persia and Media who hear about the queen’s act will say the same thing to all the king’s officials, resulting in more contempt and fury….

20 The decree the king issues will be heard throughout his vast kingdom, so all women will honor their husbands, from the least to the greatest.” 21 The king and his counselors approved the proposal, and he followed Memucan’s advice. 22 He sent letters to all the royal provinces, to each province in its own script and to each ethnic group in its own language, that every man should be master of his own house and speak in the language of his own people. (HCSB)

Are these honest concerns that Memucan has?  I believe so.  He is asking Xerxes to make sure that harmony is maintained in the homes of the kingdom.  It is the understanding that the family is the basis of the society and that if the family breaks down then so does all of society.  He realizes that Xerxes’ home must change, but does not want to see that happen to the rest of the homes throughout the kingdom, especially the homes of the other nobles.

Memucan wanted to make sure that a possible revolution amongst the women was stopped before it had a real chance to take hold.  It is hard to blame him for this.  We have seen what the break down of the home has done to our own society.  It hasn’t been a pretty sight and too many kids are growing up without fathers or the attention from both parents that is needed in a young life.  Husbands and fathers are dismissed in our society as a fact of life that is no longer necessary.  This is simply not the truth.  A husband and father is necessary to a family and he needs to be respected by all within the family.

Memucan in wanting the women of the kingdom to respect their husbands.  As we studied in Ephesians this is what the man in a family needs, it is a natural need put in him by God.   We should not be alarmed that this was the major concern in this instance.  Memucan, whose wife was probably sitting right there with Vashti when she disobeyed Xerxes, is concerned that his wife and the wives of the other nobles might come home with new ideas that would make the family life more difficult and even confusing.  It had the potential of bringing great contempt and strife to the home, a lack of family harmony.

Peter in I Peter 3 puts it like this:

1 In the same way, wives submit yourselves to your own husbands so that, even if some disobey the Christian message, they may be won over without a message by the way their wives live 2 when they observe your pure, reverent lives. 3 Your beauty should not consist of outward things like elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold ornaments or fine clothes. 4 Instead, it should consist of what is inside the heart with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very valuable in God’s eyes. 5 For in the past, the holy women who put their hope in God also beautified themselves in this way, submitting to their own husbands, 6 just as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. You have become her children when you do what is good and are not frightened by anything alarming.(HCSB)

This is a perfect description of Esther and who we will see that she is as we go through our study.  She is one who with a quiet spirit, a spirit not in conflict with God or in inner turmoil, will bravely confront her husband in an alarming situation and even potentially deadly one for her.  It will be her character and her confidence in God that will win the attention of her husband.

So in the book of Esther we see the decree of Xerxes going out to every part of his kingdom.  It is important to note at this point that part of that kingdom was the land of Israel.  The decree went out and stated that the husband was to be the master of his own home.  In other words, to put it in Christian terms, that he was to be the head of his home.

The other issue in the decree is the idea of the native language of the man being the language of his home.  This may seem like a foreign concept to us today, but back in Xerxes’ day it was a real issue.  Speaking the language of the husband was another sign of respect for him and the heritage he would pass on to his children.

As for Xerxes, if you remember from his family tree, he was a Persian while Vashti was from the Median side of the family.  Two different languages would have been at issue here even in the household of the king.  In his decree Xerxes is making a stand for his heritage, his is the one that conquered Media, not the other way around.  It makes me wonder if Vashti’s response to him came back in Median instead of Persian.  Could she have been, in her own little way, claiming Median dominance over her Persian king?

This brings us to the end of chapter one in Esther.  It is important to note that between chapters 1 and 2 the Persian Greek War occurs.  When we resume in chapter 2 Xerxes has come home from a war he is losing, his men are still there.

Before we go to chapter 2, however, we will take a look at Zoroastrianism, the religion of the noble family.

In the quiet confidence of our Lord,