It’s Christmas

I want to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas.

I would also like to recommend two links today.

My husband’s blog:  The Pursuit on the blogroll.  He currently has a post up on “How Well Do You Know The First Christmas”  that is very good and informative.

Also I would like to recommend the site:  http://www.bethlehemstar.net

The above site goes with the documentary “Bethlehem Star” that I would highly recommend as well.

Again, MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Vicky

Mordecai Saves the King

Esther 2:19 When the young women were assembled together for a second time, Mordecai was sitting at the King’s Gate.  20 Esther still had not revealed her birthplace or her ethnic background, as Mordecai had directed.  She obeyed Mordecai’s orders, as she always had while he raised her.  21 During those days while Mordecai was sitting at the King’s Gate, Bigthan and Teresh, two eunuchs who guarded the king’s entrance, became infuriated and planned to assassinate King Ahasuerus (Xerxes). 22 When Mordecai learned of the plot, he reported it to Queen Esther, and she told the king on Mordecai’s behalf.  23 When the report was investigated and verified, both men were hanged on the gallows.  This event was recorded in the Historical Record in the king’s presence.(HCSB)

Here we see that the king’s attendants had not stopped bringing in young women for the harem even though a new queen had been selected.  We must remember this was a pagan empire with a pagan king.  We must also remember that even in Israel the kings had concubines and multiple wives.  The mentioning of the young women still being brought in is meant to do nothing other than to tell us the time period that this event takes place. 

We also see that it was in the first five years of Esther’s reign.  We know that she has not yet told Xerxes her true identity.  Even though she is Queen of the Persian Empire she still obeys her father as if she still lived in his house.  Again we are reminded of the deep relationship of trust and loyalty that this father and daughter have with one another.  Not only was she not willing to assert her independence from Mordecai as a grown woman with a home of her own, but she was also not willing to exert her authority as his queen over him.  To Esther, Mordecai would always be her father and elder regardless of her position.  This stands is such stark contrast to how so many of us treat our fathers and elders today.  Her attitude toward Mordecai also sets the stage for how things are played out later.

It was when the young women come in a second time, during the first five years of Esther’s reign, that Mordecai is sitting at the king’s gate.  This location indicated that he had a position of some responsibility. 

Remember he lives in the citadel and obviously has some type of responsibility around the king’s officials, if not around the king himself.  While he was sitting at the king’s gate, two eunuchs who guarded the entrance planned an assassination on King Xerxes.  For some reason, unknown to the readers, these two eunuchs had become angry with the king and wanted to retaliate.  Many have speculated that they were angry that a new queen had been chosen and Vashti had been deposed.  Regardless of the reason, they planned to kill Xerxes.

Somehow Mordecai learns of the plot, either by hearing it himself or someone else reporting it to him.  If it is reported to him it may speak of the importance of his position at the gate.  Mordecai then takes this information to Queen Esther.  We do not know if he reported this information to her personally.  If he did, it was in the capacity as an official at the king’s gate, not her father. 

We do know that Xerxes mother, Atossa, had set up a Queen’s Court for herself.  It may be that this tradition was continued in the reign of Esther and that Mordecai’s information was reported to her at her own court.  In other words, in an official capacity.  Esther in turn takes this information to Xerxes, giving Mordecai the credit for the information.  And since the matter is investigated, we can assume it was taken to Xerxes at the king’s court, again in an official capacity.  Doing things in a court setting was very important in Persia and therefore to our understanding of this book.

These two eunuchs were than found to be guilty and hung. 

Remember this was done at court so it went into the official records of the king.  Not only did it go into the king’s own official records, but it gave Mordecai the credit.  As we know, this comes into the story again later.  One might assume that since it was something investigated and recorded at court that Mordecai himself may have been interviewed at court about the information.  This would have given Xerxes a personal encounter with Mordecai.  However, to our knowledge this may or may not have been the first time the two had met.

Therefore this experience did three things.  It saved the life of the king.  It more than likely allowed Mordecai and Xerxes to meet.  Finally, it put Mordecai into the official records of the king, perhaps for the first time.  This helps set things up for later.

We must not forget that this encounter also says something about the relationship that the king and queen had with each other.  Xerxes obviously took the report from his wife seriously enough to have it investigated.  A trust has begun to build in them for each other.  A trust that will serve them well later in their marriage.

Esther has left the world of childhood behind and is now a queen and she lived that life with dignity and grace.  She was the Queen of Persia, but first of all a child of Israel and the God of Israel.

Blessings,

Vicky

Esther: Queen of Persia

Esther is first introduced to us in chapter 2:7 as Hadassah the adopted daughter of Mordecai.  We are told according to the NIV that she “was lovely in form and features”.  What does that mean?  These are two separate Hebrew words here that can both be translated “beautiful” and therefore emphasizing her physical beauty, however, the first can also be translated “pleasant” and the second translated “favored”.  Both definitions are very important because it points out that not only was she beautiful in form but also in character.  These second definitions are also ones repeated often in our story and so must be taken seriously.

When the edict of Xerxes went out many young women were brought to the citadel in Susa, but if you remember Esther already lived there with Mordecai.  Therefore, Esther was one of the closest and therefore first to be brought to the harem within the actual palace of the king.  She along with many others were entrusted to Hegai the eunuch in charge of the harem and the one responsible for preparing the girls to go into the king.  This was a long process that would take a year to accomplish. 

It was Esther who first caught the eye of Hegai.  She “pleased him and won his favor” and so he immediately began to put her through the purification rites and to provide her with the best food.  What is interesting about these two words her is that not only do they mean “pleasing” and “favor”, which they do and you remember these words are important, but both of these words can mean either “pleasing” or “favor” and they can also both mean “best”. 

In other words, Hegai thought Esther to be pleasing, pleasing and the best, best and so he showed her favor, favor.  I am emphasizing these words because of their importance and also to remind you that when a thought is repeated in Hebrew, either with the exact same word or not, it is done to add weight to the point.

Hegai not only began her purification, but also gave her seven maids from the king’s palace and moved her to the “best” accommodations within the harem.  This again is emphasizing what he thought of her and her chances for being the one selected.

Then we find out that she has been commanded by her father, Mordecai, not to reveal who her people are or her homeland.  The text makes it clear that she followed this command showing her to be obedient to her father and loyal to her people.  She is a young women of character and distinction.  She knows who she is and what that means. 

We also see the love her father has for her as he goes everyday to inquire of her at the harem courtyard.  These two, father and daughter, are very close and loyal to one another.  It is not until verse 15 of chapter 2 that we learn that they are actually cousins.

This part of Esther’s biography reminds me of one of my favorite Psalms, Psalm 45.  It is found it verses 10 and 11 where it says, “Listen, daughter, and pay careful attention: Forget your people and your father’s house.  Let the king be enthralled by your beauty; honor him, for he is your lord.”  This is the Psalm of a wedding that foreshadows the great wedding in Revelation 19.  We are to forget our past focus only on our Lord, our Bridegroom.  Here Esther is to do just that, she is to focus on her potential bridegroom.  The difference is that Esther is doing it to protect herself and her people.  She is also from God’s family, Israel, and it is the king in this case who will be joining through marriage, even though he does not yet know it.  Remember, I said in an earlier post he is looking for a home for his heart.

Esther underwent her required twelve months of purification, no doubt having some religious significance within Zoroastrianism.  When it was her turn to go to Xerxes, presumably one of the first, she asked for only what Hegai suggested she take. 

It is at this point I find the statement in verse 15 quite interesting that states, “Esther won the favor of everyone who saw her.”(NIV)  I find this interesting because it seems to be out of place or at the least unexpected at this point.  We already know she has won the favor of Hegai and it is yet to speak of the favor of Xerxes so who might the text be referring to when it says “everyone”?  Possibly, Shaashgaz, the eunuch in charge of the concubines, perhaps the other young women, perhaps her maids,

I can’t help but wonder if there is another important person this may be referring to.  My thoughts go to Xerxes mother, Atossa.  Remember she is still alive at this point and I find it hard to believe she had nothing to do with the selection process of the next queen, at least in her own mind anyway.  If that is the case, this is a huge statement and not one so out of place.  Notice though we are once again hearing how Esther won the “favor” of people.

Finally, she is taken to the king in December of 479 B.C. or January of 478 B.C.  She would only return to the king if he called for her by name, until then she would remain in the part of the harem where the concubines dwelt under the protection of Shaashgaz. 

Yes, this does imply that their night together was a physical one, an intimate one and Scripture gives us no indication that it was not.  Regardless, she is now waiting to see if he will call for her again or if the rest of her life will be spent alone in the harem.

Scripture does not leave the reader to the suspense that Esther must have felt at first.  Rather, it lets us know very quickly that Xerxes loved Esther more than the others.  This love he felt for her was not purely physical, but much deeper than that; even to the point of friendship. 

They liked each other in a genuine way that makes for a strong bond and marriage.  It is obvious that he not only loved her for her beauty, but that they also enjoyed each others company as well.  Esther won the favor of Xerxes, this word “favor” can also be translated “grace”, she found grace with him.  She also won his approval, the word “approval” can also be translated “mercy”.

Therefore, with Xerxes, Esther found grace and mercy.  He was pleased with her so he made her is wife and queen by setting a crown on her head presumably at their wedding.

Xerxes then throws a banquet and calls it, “Esther’s Banquet”.  He is not showing off his own glory, but that of his Queen.  She has become a reflection of him and his glory or majesty.  He does not keep his bride hidden, but shows her off and once again the officials and nobles of the kingdom, i.e., family, are there.  He doesn’t stop there, but declares a holiday in the provinces, which would have included Israel, and lavishly gave out gifts.

The symbolism in this portion of the account is breathtaking. 

Remember in an earlier post I said that Xerxes is a type of Christ.  Well, here it is obvious and shines through with abundance. 

Yeshua our King has found his bride and paid for it all.  He paid the bridal price, He paid the cost of the wedding and the banquet.  He gives out gifts through His Holy Spirit.  He has chosen us to be blameless and holy and made us so through the sanctification or purification of the Holy Spirit.  He has made us a part of His family according to His good pleasure and will, by His grace and mercy.  He has lavishly poured out His favor or grace upon us. 

What an awesome picture of the wedding that is to come.  What a glimpse of the fulfillment of the mystery of the Bridegroom and His Bride.  It becomes so obvious doesn’t it?  Now do you see why I said this book was also prophetic?

Rejoicing in our King,

Vicky

Chanukah

Tonight marks the beginning of this year’s celebration of Chanukah.  The word “Hanukkah” means “rededication”.  We see Jesus celebrating this festival in John 10:22 where John called it the Festival of Dedication.  So what is this festival about?

In 165 B.C. the Maccabees pushed out the Greek-Syrian forces from Jerusalem after a three year battle, a battle for religious freedom.  After regaining control of Jerusalem this priestly family along with their troops set out to cleanse the temple from the pagan worship performed by the Greeks, including sacrificing swine. 

After cleansing the temple, they wanted to rededicate it to the God of Israel.  Part of this rededication was lighting the oil burning lamp in the Holy Place where the table of shew bread and the golden altar stood.  Once lit, the lamp was to be kept burning continually.  However, they found only enough oil to last for one day.  Then God did what only God can do, a miracle.  God allowed that one day supply of oil to burn for eight days.

So what is the significance of this festival?  First we begin with the idea of dedication.  We are called to dedicate or consecrate our lives as living sacrifices, holy and acceptable to our Lord.  Keep in mind that the lampstand itself represents the tree of life in the garden, the oil represents the Holy Spirit and the flame represents the eternal flame, the flame that is to be always lit, in our lives – the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives.  Jesus said we are the light of the world and we must let that light shine.

In Ephesians 4 we are told to be filled with the Holy Spirit.  Yes, the oil represents the Holy Spirit in our lives in all He does in our lives.  They had enough oil to last one day.  In the beginning of our walk with God through forgiveness found only in the sacrifice of Jesus, God fills our lives with the Holy Spirit, this is our day one. 

However, does the Holy Spirit run out or leave us?

You see the Holy Spirit we receive upon believing in Yeshua is not an it, not a force, but a person.  He does not run out like oil for a lamp, so does He leave?  The Festival of Chanukah says no!  The oil lasted for eight days.  We must remember that there is no eighth day to any week.  So what does the eighth day represent?  It represents eternity. 

Jesus said the Holy Spirit would be with us for eternity.  If the lampstand represents the tree of life and the oil represents the Holy Spirit who is with us forever (John 14:16) then the celebration of Chanukah tells us that God gives eternal life to those who believe in the Messiah and that He will never leave them nor forsake them because His Spirit would be in them forever, even in eternity.

When Jesus went to Jerusalem for the Festival of Dedication or Chanukah in John 10 He told the Jews plainly, “The miracles I do in my Father’s house (you see He is responsible for the miracle of Chanukah) speak for me, but you do not believe because you are not my sheep.  My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.  I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand.  My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.  I and the Father are one.”(NIV)  Here Yeshua is plainly saying that eternal life is of Him and that no one can snatch it away.  The Holy Spirit, the oil of our lives, has been given and will be there for eternity.

Chanukah is God’s story of dedication of His people and of His Holy Spirit being with us in eternity, forever sealed as His.

His Forever,

Vicky

Meet Mordecai

Esther 2:5 In the fortress of Susa, there was a Jewish man named Mordecai son of Jair, son of Shimei, son of Kish, a Benjaminite. 6 He had been taken into exile from Jerusalem with the other captives when King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon took King Jeconiah of Judah into exile. 7 Mordecai was the legal guardian of his cousin  Hadassah (that is, Esther ), because she didn’t have a father or mother. The young woman had a beautiful figure and was extremely good-looking. When her father and mother died, Mordecai had adopted her as his own daughter.(HCSB)

Today we meet Mordecai for the first time in our account of Esther.  He is a Benjamite Jew, but that is not all.  The lineage that is given is very specific.  Two of them are names we have seen before.  Shimei was the Benjamite who cursed David as he left in the rebellion of Absalom.  At the time David told his men to leave him alone, but later told his son Solomon to deal with him.  Solomon told him he must never leave Jerusalem and that if he did he would be subject to the death penalty.  Well, as you might guess Shimei got cocky and left after a time.  Upon his return Solomon had him killed.  Shimei is probably a grandson of Kish, the father of King Saul, since the account in II Samuel says he is the son of another man.  This would have made him the nephew of Saul.  Therefore, we see that son in this passage is referring to descendant not direct father son relationships.

Jair may have been the ancestor of Mordecai that was actually taken into exile.  Why would I say this and not say that Mordecai was himself taken by Nebuchadnezzar?  Because Mordecai would have been well over 100 years old, even if he had been taken as an infant.  Mordecai’s family was taken in 596 B.C. when King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon took King Jeconiah or Jehoiachin of Judah captive along with many in his kingdom.  This was the same time that Ezekiel was taken captive (Daniel was taken captive earlier in 605 B.C.) and when Nebuchadnezzar made Zedekiah king of Judah. Those particular captives are also the ones Jeremiah wrote to in the letter that God recorded for us in Jeremiah 29.  At this point in our account the year is 479 B.C., which was 117 years after the exile we are discussing.  Therefore, either Mordecai is a very, very old man or he is not the one who was directly taken captive by Nebuchadnezzar.

In the years that followed the Persian conquest of Babylon in 539 B.C., the Jews and other people groups that the Babylonians had taken captive were given permission to go home.  However, many did not.  This was the case for Mordecai and Esther’s family.  Now, before we rush to find fault with them for this we must remember that in the letter Jeremiah wrote to them that we mentioned in the paragraph above told the captives to settle down and begin new lives for themselves and that is exactly what Mordecai and his family had done.  Mordecai in some capacity served the king of Persia.  Not only did he live in Susa, but he also lived in the citadel or palace fortress of Susa.  Only those who served the king would have been allowed into the citadel.

Mordecai’s name is a derivative of the Babylonian god, Marduk.  Many believe that he would have also had a Jewish name, as did Esther.  However, the book does not give that name.  This is especially interesting when one considers that fact that Xerxes is the only one of the Persian kings that also did not bear the title, king of Babylon.  The reason he did not bear this title is because he went into Babylon and had the statue of Marduk removed.  Interesting that the man who would become his number two guy in years to come would have a name that reminded everyone of the god Xerxes took away.

We may also have some external evidence for Mordecai outside of Scripture.  There was found in a cuneiform tablet from Borsippa near Babylon the mention of a man by the name of Mardukaya.  Many believe this Mardukaya is really Mordecai from the book of Esther.  The cuneiform says he was a scribe at Susa in the early reign of Xerxes.  If that is so this is incredible evidence for, not only the validity of the book itself, but also for the timing of the book.

This is the man who adopted Hadassah, Esther, as his own daughter when her parents died.  The Hebrew in this passage never refers to her has cousin or even just a relative, but from the beginning of their introduction together calls her his daughter, bat.  This speaks of the importance of this relationship between them, but also the legally binding nature of it as well.  Within the Jewish culture the relationship of parent to adopted child is so strong of a relationship that the child cannot ever be disowned or abandoned.  It is meant to last forever.

This leads us to see Mordecai very much in the role of our Heavenly Father.  We are His adopted children, grafted into the tree of Israel.  Remember Israel was cut off and when physical Israelites believe in Yeshua the Messiah they are grafted back into their tree.  Jews are branches from the cultivated tree that have been cut off until they believe in their Messiah when they are once again grafted back in.  Gentiles are wild shoots, but God in his mercy through the sacrifice of Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit grafts us also into His cultivated tree and we become one.  He will never separate us from the tree again because we have all been adopted as sons.  This adoption gives us the ability to cry Abba Father and is irrevocable.  He promised He would never leave us nor forsake us.  He will never abandon us.  Mordecai’s adoption of Hadassah is a beautiful picture of the Father’s adoption of us, those who believe in Yeshua.

This upbringing for Esther stands in stark contrast to the upbringing and love that was in Xerxes’ life.

His Daughter Forever,

Vicky