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,
Esther 3:2 All the royal officials at the king’s gate knelt down and paid honor to Haman, for the king had commanded this concerning him. But Mordecai would not kneel down or pay him honor. 3 Then the royal officials at the king’s gate asked Mordecai, “Why do you disobey the king’s command?” 4 Day after day they spoke to him but he refused to comply. Therefore they told Haman about it to see whether Mordecai’s behavior would be tolerated, for he had told them he was a Jew.(NIV)
Here we see that the king had given a command to the servants who worked for him at the King’s Gate to pay honor to Haman. This was no simple bowing of the head or even just to a knee, but there are two words here in the Hebrew. Both of the Hebrew words in this passage can be translated to prostrate oneself. In other words, those before Haman were to fall down and prostrate themselves. The second word can even mean to worship. This command was an all out call for the servants at the King’s Gate, which included Mordecai, to in essence worship Haman as their head. This, of course, did not sit well with Mordecai.
The word “disobey” in the NIV is actually “cross over” in the Hebrew. I find this interesting because it means that Mordecai was crossing over the command of Xerxes. In other words, he was not doing it necessarily in an obvious way. Remember Haman had not noticed him not prostrating himself, when everyone else obviously did. Perhaps he found ways to be conveniently away from the areas Haman passed and this was only obvious to those who worked with him, but not Haman. The reason I think this may be the case is because his fellow servants at the King’s Gate spoke to him about this “day after day”. They were trying to get Mordecai to follow the king’s command.
Finally, Mordecai gives his response to their inquiries. His answer, “I will not prostrate myself before (worship) Haman because I am a Jew”, or something like to that affect. This was not something Mordecai could bring himself to do. If you have never noticed before, Mordecai has a Babylonian name and a Jewish name is never given for him in the book. Also, the other servants at the King’s Gate do not seem to know he is a Jew, he had to tell them or as the Hebrew says it, he “declared” he was a Jew.
Mordecai broke his silence. Remember that Mordecai had told Esther not to reveal to anyone that she was a Jew. It would appear that Mordecai was giving her advice that he followed himself. There is no telling how long he had worked at the King’s Gate, but all that time his true identity was kept secret until he himself made it known.
There is a time and place for secrecy, even about who we are in Christ. There is also a time and place to publicly declare we are His servants. Many of us do not ever face this choice, but most assuredly some do. The believers in Muslim nations for instance. Even Jews who have come to believe in Messiah that search for the right time and place to tell family of their decision, praying for an open door to tell them about Yeshua and at the same time knowing the possibility of being disowned.
Then there are those times that come, like this one for Mordecai, when no matter what happens it is time to speak. It is time to declare our allegiance to the One we serve. These are the times Jesus is talking about when He says, “If you deny me before men, I will deny you before My Father.” We are not to keep silent and worship other gods. Another good example is the three young men in the book of Daniel who refused to bow before the statue of the king of Babylon and faced the fiery furnace. Those young men, according to their Hebrew names were, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. May we never bend the knee and worship another god.
It would appear that there were anti-Jewish sentiments within the culture of the citadel of Susa. I say this because when the other servants found out he was a Jew it was this information that caused them to go to Haman. They could have gone to Haman before this, but it was not until they received this little tidbit of information that they chose to see if Haman would tolerate it. The other servants must have known that at least Haman despised the Jews and wanted to see what he would do.
What could the reason for this anti-Jewish sentiment have been. No one knows. If you may allow me to speculate, it may have been because they were against or at least refused to fight in the Persian-Greco war that Xerxes lost. Remember they were in a Persian province at the time, yet in looking through Herodotus’ account of the war there is no listing for a Jewish participation when he lists so many others. Again this is speculation, but seems at least possible.
The main reason for Haman, of course, was what we discussed in the last post. The Israelites had almost annihilated his people hundreds of years earlier in the time of King Saul. So for Haman this was personal. There was no way he was going to tolerate this lack of respect and, yes, worship from this Jew. It would appear as if the servants knew this would probably be the result. We will get more into Haman’s response in our next post.
I want you to notice something else as well. The other servants did not have the authority to arrest Mordecai on there own. They were by no means ahead of Mordecai in ranking and position. It may even be that Mordecai was over them since they did not feel confident enough to report him until after he declared publicly that he was a Jew. Perhaps they feared him already. However, I would not be fair if I did not at least mention the possibility that they may have liked him and did not want to see him get in trouble until they found out he was a Jew. That, of course, again says something about he overall attitude toward the Jews, at least in the citadel of Susa, it not in the whole of the Persian Empire.
Regardless, of the details that have long since been lost to history, there was an anti-Jewish sentiment in the citadel that gives Haman the perfect opportunity for what he does next. Attack!