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,
So King Xerxes and Haman once again go to dine with Queen Esther and after the meal while they are reclining drinking their wine, just as many today have coffee after a meal, the king once again addresses the queen. Wanting to finally hear her petition and request, he signaled to her that he is willing to grant it. Remember, he has had the entire evening to contemplate whether or not he would be willing to grant what was sure to be a large request, even up to half his kingdom. He must have loved and trusted her greatly to be willing to grant a large request before even hearing it.
Esther, the Queen, finally answers, but also prefaces her request. “If I have found favor with you, oh king, and if it pleases your majesty…” Remember our definition for favor and our discussion about being pleasing. Both of those things still apply. She is seeking his pleasure and reminding him that she does please him and is deserving of his favor and grace.
Then came the petition and request. She asks for her life and the sparing of her people. She is finally identifying who she really is to her own husband. She is a Jew. If her people have been sold to destruction, slaughter, and annihilation, then so has she. In doing so, she is choosing to stand with her people, which is more important to her than being the Queen of Persia.
Who will the king choose? The Jewish girl he married unknowingly or the Queen of Persia? Will he deny who she really is and deem her guilty of treason for deceiving the king?
Esther then says and does something profound – something other Jewish women of faith have done in the past. She is about to stand in the gap, so to speak, and give her husband a very strong warning. She is truly a daughter of Sarah and Rebekah. Think on that a moment and hopefully one day we can discuss that as well.
She carefully lets him know that if they had merely been sold as slaves she would have said nothing. But, then she begins to paint the real picture of danger that her husband has gotten himself into. This danger is the danger of incurring the wrath of God.
You see the words, “because no such distress would justify disturbing the king” could also be translated, “… but this adversary could not reckon the king’s loss.” I believe the latter to be the better and more accurate translation and it definitely fits the context of the whole book better.
Remember that Haman had offered to compensate the king through money and plunder for the annihilation of the Jews from his kingdom. Also remember that Esther even knows the amount Haman offered. However, that large earthly sum could not even begin to compare to the loss he would suffer at God’s hands for annihilating the people of God.
Also, notice the word “our”. She is not just saying that the enemy, Haman, is the adversary of her and the Jews, but of her husband as well.
Xerxes definitely gets the point and demands to know the identity of the adversary. Who is the man who would oppose my wife, my Queen and her people and dare to come between me and my wife? Who?
Esther then finally reveals the adversary and enemy. Note that both words from the Hebrew can be translated adversary or enemy. The one she would name is an enemy of enemies who is based on pure wickedness and evil. It is the wicked Haman.
It was Haman. The one Xerxes thought he could trust to have his back. The one he had trusted to not betray him when there seemed to be enemies all around. It was Haman who attempted to come between him and his wife and bring the wrath of God upon him. Is there any greater betrayal?
Let’s not forget that Haman is setting right there listening to the king and queen as they begin to understand together that Haman has betrayed them. You see, as long as they were apart and Esther was the only one knew the truth Haman was safe. However, Haman was in real danger after the King and Queen came together and worked together as one. Haman knew of the king’s love and respect for his wife and queen and that he would be willing to fight for her.
Make no mistake about it, our King is willing to fight and protect us as well. The enemy knows that when we stand with Yeshua, stand together as Yeshua’s Bride in His will, then he is in trouble. That is why he seeks to divide us so much and keep us separated from the will of our King. We too are in a battle of annihilation and we must stand together with our King and identify our true enemy and shine light into his darkness.
The enemy knows his fate and knows it has already been decided. Notice this was true of Haman as well and when the king gets up to leave in his rage, Haman begins to beg Esther for his life. I believe the king leaves to seek some self-control. He wants this rage and wrath to be properly directed and controlled.
Let’s also not forget how skillfully Esther handled this. Even though she made it clear that the king would suffer loss from incurring the wrath of God, she was very careful to point the responsibility and ultimate blame on Haman and not Xerxes. I think that is the real reason she had Haman come to these banquets, so that when she finally revealed the truth she would have the enemy to point directly to. I also find it interesting that Haman begs for his life from the one he sought to kill – knowingly or not.
Xerxes returned from the palace garden—where he had sought to think things through, to find Haman at the feet of his wife, a place that was forbidden to all except him. The passage says that he “fell” to her feet. I think you will find it interesting to know that the word “fell” can also be translated “to cast down oneself or lots, to die, to perish, to slay, or to smite out”. This whole business started with the casting of lots. I don’t think it is just a coincidence that that idea is also used here. Haman knows in order to live he must cast himself down and die to what he wanted.
Once again Xerxes’ anger or hot displeasure spikes again and he even accuses Haman of attempting to molest the Queen right under his nose. The word for “molest” can also be translated “to subjugate, to conquer, or to bring into bondage.” The king was very aware of the position Haman was taking and what he was trying to accomplish. His motives were clear. How brazen was this enemy?
It is at this point we realize Xerxes might not have left the room just to calm down, but also to bring attendants to arrest and execute Haman. We see Harbona, perhaps one of those who had escorted Haman to the banquet. This would have given him the opportunity to learn of the gallows Haman had been built for Mordecai. Harbona, speaks up and lets the king know about the gallows. Then Haman, who is now under a covering, hears the order of the king for him to be hung on those same gallows. The words his wife and friends had spoken to him of his ruin were quickly coming to pass.
Then the King’s anger subsided. This subsided anger was the idea of allaying ones passions through secreting them, it was a flood abated. The anger literally washed off of him. Now there was work to be done.
After the banquet Xerxes was unable to sleep. We could speculate that perhaps he was wondering what his bride would request of him because obviously this was not going to be a small thing. However, Scripture does not tell us why he could not sleep, but it does give us the result of that insomnia. Xerxes has the chronicles of his reign brought in to be read. Perhaps he was hoping he would find it easier to sleep after listening a while or perhaps he thought he might as well get some work done. Either way it was read that Mordecai had saved his life.
Notice that Xerxes is the one who asks if Mordecai had been honored for saving his life. When the answer of “no” comes back to him he genuinely desires to honor Mordecai. He also wants to make sure he does just the right thing to honor him. He wants some input and ideas from others. So he asks if there is someone in the court and, of course, Haman had just entered to ask if he could hang Mordecai. However, unbeknown to Haman he will indeed be discussing Mordecai, but in terms of honoring him not executing him.
Xerxes wants an honest opinion to his question of how to honor someone that the king delights to honor; so he does not give Haman the name of the man. Haman being an egotist thinks that naturally the king is meaning him and so gives the king a very elaborate plan for honoring someone.
Xerxes knew he could count on Haman for this and likes his idea. Here’s the kicker to Haman’s gut, the man the king delights to honor was not him, but his enemy Mordecai. Not only did Haman come up with the idea of how to honor Mordecai, but he would be the one to carry it out and parade Mordecai through the streets.
I love the sense of humor of our God. Remember, that Haman is the antagonist in our story. Haman had intended to make an example of Mordecai with an execution. Instead, he would make an example of him as someone honored by the king. God is very capable of turning the enemy’s plans upside down and making His people shine as the stars instead of being extinguished by the enemy.
The enemy here is humiliated by having to parade Mordecai on the king’s horse while wearing the king’s robe. But that was not all. Haman himself would robe Mordecai. In other words, he would serve Mordecai. What a humiliation.
As we study this we must understand the theological truth within this passage. For the hearer it seems like all is lost. Haman is about to get his way and kill Mordecai. It is at that moment that the king steps in to honor him. Our King wants to see His people robed for His glory. He wants us to shine and be the light of the world, because the light we reflect is His.
Let’s break this down. We are to put on our new selves or the Lord Jesus Christ. Just as Mordecai was clothed in the king’s robe so when we put on our new selves we are putting on Yeshua our King. We are made into His image in righteousness and holiness (Ephesians 4 & Colossians 3). We are then lead by God Himself “in triumphal procession in Christ” (II Corinthians 2:14).
Mordecai is led through the streets in the name of the king. Granted, Haman leading Mordecai is not the same as God leading us, but then again even though we see truths in this account it is not a perfect parallel. I believe for Haman this was part of God making him His footstool (Psalm 110). For Haman set a trap that he himself was falling into and he would fall hard (Psalm 57:6 & Proverbs 28:10). The one who set out to destroy the Jews, God’s people, was indeed to be made the servant of God’s people, a sign of cursing.
This was a sure sign that God was working and about to deliver His people. But notice that Mordecai does not proudly declare victory yet among his people. Instead he returns to the city gate where he had gone to fast, pray and mourn. He did not stop appealing to God, but persevered in his appeal. Allow me to give an example. Let’s say you are in a strange town with your family and having car trouble. Your husband must go into a potentially dangerous situation to get the car to the place that can help, so you begin to pray. Once you hear from him and know that God is answering your prayer for his safety do you stop praying or continue until you see him walk in the door? You continue to pray for God’s protection until he walks in the door. That is what Mordecai is doing. He does see God working, but still continues to pray and watch.
Meanwhile, Haman and those connected to him definitely see the writing on the wall. They know the reputation of the God of the Jews and know His hand is against Haman. Here we see the enemy experiencing the fear of the Jews and knowing he is in real trouble and will come to ruin. When something happens in the book of Esther through God’s people, the Jews, it is clear that it is God doing the work. Again, God’s people are a reflection of the One True God. Their actions, the actions of God’s people, are not seen as their own, but as those of their King.
And the king’s eunuchs come and quickly take Haman into the presence of the king.
Upon hearing that Mordecai was a Jew, Haman set out to do to Mordecai’s people what the Jews were supposed to have done to his. He wants to completely annihilate them from the Empire.
Haman had taken notice that Mordecai did not give the worship he thought he was due him from the king’s command. This was bad enough, but b/c of Haman’s history with the Jews, Mordecai’s actions put his entire people in jeopardy. To me, this implies that if Mordecai had been from any other ethnic group, only he would have been punished and his people spared.
Haman’s actions constitute a full scale invasion into the homes and lives of every Jew throughout the Empire, no matter how old or young. Haman is truly playing the role of their ultimate enemy. He is easily a Hitler of his day. Remember that Jesus in John 10:10 says that the enemy comes to “steal, kill, and destroy”. That is just what Haman set out to do. Chapter 3 calls on everyone to “destroy, kill, and annihilate” as well as to take the plunder of the Jews. Does that sound anything like, “steal, kill, and destroy”?
It is the first month of the Jewish year, the month of Nissan, when Haman puts this plan in motion and casts the lots (purim) in order to determine when the people of the kingdom could destroy the Jews. I find it interesting that in the text this is done before Haman goes to Xerxes. Haman wants everything s in place and ready to go forward once the king gave his approval.
Do you remember in the book of Proverbs, it says that the casting of the lot is determined by God. Here we see that proverb coming to life. Why would I say that? Notice the time the destruction of the Jews was to take place. It was in the final Jewish month of the year, Adar. That’s right. God made sure that the Jews had a full year for things to fall in to place as God wanted them to. No one knew what God was up to, but of course, He did. God had a plan of His own that was being set in motion. And yes, God was using what Haman thought were his own clever plans to do His own will in the life of His people.
Then Haman goes to Xerxes. Keep in mind what we have discussed before, that Xerxes was trying to find someone whom he could trust. Someone who would watch is back from possible assassination and treachery. Haman was the one Xerxes had placed that trust in to protect himself and his kingdom. Haman uses just that to get Xerxes to sign off on his plan. Haman tells Xerxes that there are those in his kingdom who are separate (they do not see themselves as Persians) and have different customs than the rest of the kingdom, including, of course, their religion. In other words, their supreme allegiance was not to Xerxes – they answered to someone else. However, that was not all. Haman specifically mentioned that they did not follow the king’s commands.
Now, if you remember from chapter one, that even Queen Vashti was not exempt from obeying the command of the king and for her disobedience she was banished from the king’s presence. How much more severe would the punishment be for those not even related to the king (little did he know).
Here Mordecai is definitely seen as the peoples’ representative. If Mordecai did not obey then neither would the people. This is definitely seen as a danger by Xerxes. So he listens.
Haman tells Xerxes that it is not beneficial to him to keep these people around. Part of the benefit he is discussing here is a financial benefit, (remember they lost the war with Greece and it would have cost them a great deal financially – Here Haman is offering a way to get some of that back) which makes his next comment very interesting. He offers money into the treasury to finance the operation. He even gives a specific amount, ten thousand talents. Notice the language that Haman uses here. “If it pleases the king”. We have seen this language before. It is up to the pleasure of the king to give final approval or not.
Everything Haman has to say speaks right to the heart of Xerxes. The protection of his life, his kingdom, and a way to get back much of the financial loss he suffered from the war. Were these things enough to warrant such an action. For Xerxes the answer is yes.
The decree is written in every language of the kingdom and sent to every province. Notice the date. This decree was written in the languages of the Empire on the thirteenth of Nissan, the day before Passover. With that being the case it is reasonable to assume that the day that Susa heard the news was indeed Passover. Talk about bewilderment. On one of the most holy days in the life of a Jew they would learn in the city of Susa that all Jews would be annihilated by the hands of their neighbors.
Keep in mind this was a command of the king, which would have made it a crime for the non-Jewish people to disobey. I am sure there were many who immediately began to think about their options, would they obey or risk punishment for disobedience just as many did during World War II in Europe.
While the rest of the city was bewildered, Xerxes and Haman sat calmly drinking together. No doubt Haman was feeling as if he had put one over on Xerxes and feeling proud and successful, while Xerxes would feel safe and protected.
Ironic, isn’t it, the snake was actually in the room with him and not out there. The one Xerxes should have feared and rejected was the one whom he thought he could trust. Isn’t the enemy clever. I believe that is what it says about him right off the bat in Scripture, that he was clever.
We must always be alert and on guard for the schemes of the enemy. We must be dressed in full armor. The enemy is clever and he is more then willing to wait until we are off guard and in a place where we even feel safe. Then he attacks.
Yes, Haman was clever and played right into the concerns of Xerxes. May I even say into his legitimate concerns. The enemy knows just how to play us. The question is, when we fall for it can we end up doing the right thing? Did Xerxes in the end get it right? Did he become stiffnecked like Pharaoh or will he become someone willing to listen like David did with Nathan?
Remember, Esther and Xerxes have been married about 4 to 5 years at this point. She is still very much a part of his life and for all we know a mother at this point. Next, we will narrow the parameters from all of Susa being bewildered to Mordecai then back into the palace itself with Esther’s reaction.