My heart is heavy lately. I watch the news and see what is going on in our world and my heart aches. It aches for our brothers and sisters who are suffering for His Name’s sake. I aches seeing how backward our world has become. It aches with the knowledge that our nation is currently on the wrong side. It aches to see Israel suffer at the threat of annihilation. As you may be able to tell by now this will be a different kind of article.
I believe God is giving us a message as to the time in which we live. We are quickly approaching Purim, the festival that commemorates the Jews defeating those who sought to annihilate them in the Persian Empire. Esther, or should I say Hadassah the Jewess, was put into the position of queen of that empire for a time such as that by God Himself. She was put into that position to protect her people from those who sought to destroy them.
As I said, we are quickly approaching Purim and God has once again given Israel a leader who wishes to protect them, Benjamin Netanyahu. He is in this position for such a time as this. Once again on the eve of Purim Persia, Iran, seeks to destroy them again. Let me say it clearly, I do not believe the timing of Netanyahu’s speech in Washington is by accident. I believe it is divinely ordained. This time our leaders are playing the part of King Xerxes and Benjamin Netanyahu is playing the part of Esther.
As Benjamin Netanyahu prepares to come and speak to our leaders in Washington we need to praying and fasting with him and for him, just as the Jews in Esther’s day did for her. We also need to be praying and fasting that God would give true godly wisdom to our leader’s. Just as Esther went before Xerxes and God made him favorable toward helping her and her people so we need to be praying that the same will happen this time with the leaders of the United States.
This is a very serious crossroad, one which has huge implications. We may very assuredly seal our future if we side against Israel at this hour. Then again we may seal a blessing if we side with and stand with Israel no matter what the rest of the world may think. That is the choice we have before us, blessing or curse.
God said, “I will bless those who bless you and I will curse those who curse you.” It is my prayer that we choose blessing. This could be a moment of great victory, a victory from God, for both us and Israel, together. We need to stand with Israel or else we will fall. If we bless them, we will be blessed. If we curse them, we will be cursed.
We must wake up to the hour in which we live. This generation has a decision to make. God is watching and He is our Judge. What the rest of the world thinks is irrelevant. We do not answer to the rest of the world, we answer to the One who created this world.
Benjamin Netanyahu is speaking to Congress on March 3rd the day before Purim begins. May it be a time of rejoicing and not mourning.
U.S. Congressmen and Senators this time you are Xerxes. Please lower your scepter and speak words of life. Listen to God, He is speaking to you. Benjamin Netanyahu is Esther and he is pleading for the life of his people and the land of Israel. Do not turn a deaf ear or God’s scepter will fall in judgement. Yes, He is watching!
We have come to the discussion of the annual celebration of Purim that is celebrated on the 14th and 15th of Adar. For those in the rural areas it is the 14th while for those in the city it is the 15th. This is due to the extra day of fighting in the city of Susa, the city of the king in the time of the events.
They are days of rejoicing and celebration. Life has been granted. Life can once again be lived and lived to the full so there was feasting. God is praised and worshiped. The people once again begin to love, help and look out for each other’s daily needs in life. That is why they share portions of food – a daily need – with each other.
Mordecai then steps in again and with the power and position God has given him writes down the events and also sends a letter to all the Jews in the kingdom of Xerxes, even those in Israel, to instruct them to hold this celebration annually. They were to be remembered as days when mourning and sorrow were turned to gladness. God had given them rest from their enemies, true rest – a Sabbath rest. Yes, God is the one who gives rest, rest from work, rest from sin, rest from our enemies and from death – rest, peace and safety. This rest allowed them (and us) to live life the way God had always intended, truly devoted to Him, loving Him, worshiping Him and loving others. This life put Him and His kingdom first and seeks after His treasures.
The Jews were now free to live that life once again. Mordecai wants to make sure they understand that these days need to be remembered. However, full and complete rest had not yet come, the poor were (and are) still among them so Mordecai also calls on them to celebrate this rests with gifts to the poor.
As for the Jews, they did adhere to the words of Mordecai. They were thankful for his position in the kingdom and they praised God for it. In other words, they were not jealous of the position God had given him. God had done it for a reason just as He had with Joseph.
Judgment came to Haman, the enemy of the Jews, and to his son’s on the authority of the king. Our enemy and all his sons will also be defeated and judged by our King. Just as Haman’s schemes were turned on him so will the schemes of Satan be turned on him. Haman had used the pur, the lot, to decide the time and so the time would be named Purim. Only what the enemy meant for death and distruction would now be used for life and celebration. (Romans 8:28)
So because of what Mordecai had written to them and because of what they had seen and experienced themselves the Jews established and received this celebration for themselves, their seed and for all who allied themselves to them (all those who became Jews – for us this would be all of those brought into the nation of Israel as adopted sons and daughters by the blood of Yeshua our Messiah, our King). They would hold this celebration annually. The days of Purim were not to pass away or the memory of these days and from among their seed.
Then Queen Esther and Mordechai wrote with full authority of the kingdom another letter to the Jews. In other words, this was an official letter of court, of the court of Persia. This official letter was one of peace and truth regarding the events. Notice this, it was a letter of peace and truth, not one of confusion and lies. Yes, there would come a day when some would attempt to rewrite history and tell lies, but Queen Esther and Mordechai did everything within their power to make sure the truth was told all throughout the kingdom of the king.
Also, take note that the days of Purim were also entered into the official court records and that the Queen and Mordechai were not asking the rest of the Jews to do anything they themselves or their seed were not doing. Queen Esther and Mordechai knew these days well and had experienced the full brunt of them. They knew that not only were they now days of celebration, but also that many days of fasting and lamentation had preceded these days of celebration. They had been on their knees before God Almighty and he had heard their cry for help and they also wanted to make sure everyone remembered that as well. That is why they also gave instructions for the Jews to have days of fasting and lamentation before celebrating the festival of Purim, which they still do today. All of these customs for the celebration of Purim were established at the command of Queen Esther and written in the book. I believe the book that is spoken of here is the book we know of as Esther. That’s right, I believe the book known as Esther was written at her command and therefore bears her name.
Epilogue: Chapter 10 seems to read more like an epilogue written after the deaths of Xerxes and Mordechai. It acknowledges both men, but primarily Mordecai and the position he was given by Xerxes, second only to Xerxes, and how he was held in high esteem by his people. Mordecai was always looking out for the interests of his people and they knew it. He loved his nation and they loved him. And let this fact at the very end truly sink in, all these things were written in the annuals of the Kings of Media and Persia.
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,
At the end of our last post Xerxes’ anger was subsiding and Haman was dead. However, the real work was yet to come. At the beginning of chapter eight, on the very day that Haman was hanged, we find King Xerxes and Queen Esther in court together and Esther officially presenting Mordecai to Xerxes and the court. Xerxes not only accepted the Jewish girl as his wife, but also publically as his Queen in the full knowledge of what that meant.
A tremendous shift in power was made in this moment. Mordecai becomes the King’s new confidant and trusted advisor. The deceiving one is dead and the child of God takes his place. The king no longer trusts the forces of evil, but is putting his trust and his confidence in the people of God. Xerxes makes this change having all the information. His wife is a Jew and the man who raised her, her adopted father, also a Jew, is now the one whom the king will rely on and trust.
Mordecai is also given great wealth. The estate of Haman was given to Esther and she in turn gives the responsibility of the estate to Mordecai. Mordecai is also robed in princely attire and given great honor. This is the Great Reversal within the book. Mordecai, the Jew, becomes everything that the enemy had been and more. He is not only given great honor and responsibility, but is publically seen as a member of Xerxes’ household. Or should I say that Xerxes is publically seen as a member of Mordecai’s household, the very household Haman had sought to destroy.
However, even though Esther and Mordecai are now safe from danger there is still the matter of the people throughout the kingdom and the king’s edict. Her people were still in danger because the edict was still in effect.
To address this, Esther once again finds herself on her knees before the king. She would have had to step down off her throne as Queen and become just another subject to make such a request. This time anger is not motivating Xerxes, but the cry and the heart of his wife. She is begging for her people. Her heart is exposed for she cannot bear to see her people suffer.
She does not want to be like the last king of Judah, Zechariah, who was forced to see the death of his sons before losing his sight at the command of Nebuchadnezzar. She wanted her people to be spared including those back in the land of Israel that Cyrus, Xerxes’ grandfather, had allowed to return. She wanted her people, whom Darius, Xerxes’ father, had allowed to rebuild the temple to be able to protect themselves and all they had built. After all, how could she stand by and watch all that be wasted? How could he? There was still so much at stake.
So Esther humbles herself before her king and husband in order to request the lives of her people. She knows that he does not have the authority according to the laws of Persia to reverse the last edict, but she also knows there must be a solution.
Let us also remember that presenting herself in this way without an invitation would once again require the lowering of the king’s scepter. However, this time there does not seem to be any hesitation on her part to do so. Xerxes had proven himself to her and she was confident in his love for her. And the scepter comes down and she stands to her feet.
She makes her appeal by saying these words, “If it pleases the king,…,and if he regards me with favor and thinks it the right thing to do, and if he is pleased with me,…”(NIV) She is reminding him once again that she does please him, that he does regard her with favor, or said another way, that the grace of the king is on her and that she pleases, pleases him.
There is also the issue that the matter at hand is about right and wrong, good and evil. She knows it pleases him to do the good and she trusts him to do it. She is again showing her confidence in him as her king and her husband.
Xerxes gives Esther and Mordecai the authority to set things right and even hands over his signet ring to Mordecai. I love the significance of that scene. The King’s ring goes to the one whom God had intended it for. Mordecai is given the seal of the king. I cannot help but think of the seal that the Messiah has placed in us, The Holy Spirit. With His seal in us our security is fixed in Him and cannot be reversed anymore than an edict of the Persian kings that had been sealed with the king’s ring could be reversed.
Esther and Mordecai set out immediately to overcome the first edict with an edict of their own. This new edict was to give the Jews the right to protect themselves against anyone who would follow the first edict and attack them, either as individuals or as armies. They were also given the right to take the plunder of those who attacked them. The latter is a privilege that they did not use.
This edict was also sent out on a specific date, Sivan 23. This is important because it was shortly after Pentecost, the feast of the first harvest of the year. Remember that the first edict went out at the time of Passover. It had been about 2 months. All of this had taken place in a little more than two months. There was still about 10 months left to get the word out and for people to prepare, either way.
Her people were saved that day and Mordecai leaves the court in royal robes. God is glorified by it all even though the book never mentions Him. It is completely understood that the hero in the book is God Himself who reveals His power and plan through the orphan girl turned Queen and her adoptive father. It pleased our King to save His people.
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.
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.
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?
Esther 2:1 Some time later, when King Ahasuerus’s (Xerxes’) rage had cooled down, he remembered Vashti, what she had done, and what was decided against her. 2 The king’s personal attendants suggested, “Let a search be made for beautiful young women for the king. 3 Let the king appoint commissioners in each province of his kingdom, so that they may assemble all the beautiful young women to the harem at the fortress of Susa. Put them under the care of Hegai, the king’s eunuch, who is in charge of the women, and give them the required beauty treatments. 4 Then the young woman who pleases the king will become queen instead of Vashti.” This suggestion pleased the king, and he did accordingly.(HCSB)
Remember from earlier that we discussed that between chapters 1 and 2 the Persian Greek War, the war the movie “300” made famous once again, occurred and that Xerxes came home with his army left behind and losing. Therefore, when it says, “some time later” the “later” it is referring to is after he came home from the war.
After Xerxes comes home we know of one major event in his life from the writings of Herodotus, the Greek historian, his affair with his daughter-in-law. What occurred from this affair, I believe, along with the riggers of war, helped to turn Xerxes mind back to Vashti. You see, Xerxes gave to his daughter-in-law, the wife of his eldest son, a robe that Vashti had given him. She then took the robe and wore it in public, a royal robe of the King. Vashti then has her mother killed (Xerxes sister-in-law and also a former lover). This was a warning. It appeared that the daughter-in-law was seeking to claim power for her father, Xerxes brother and general. This act of Vashti’s may have caused Xerxes to turn his affections toward her and once again think he might be able to trust her. I told you there was a lot of family intrigue in Xerxes’ life. Every where he turns he is looking for someone to love and trust. He is seeking a home for his heart.
It is at this point that Xerxes’ attendants step in and keep him from breaking his own law. Their suggestion pleases the king. But what was it? Basically to collect the young pleasing virgins of the kingdom who could be a potential bride. This collection of young women were to be brought to the eunuch, Hegai, in the palace at Susa. Interestingly, the word for harem can also mean palace or even temple. Considering the meaning for the treatments it is an intriguing thought to think that Esther may have been taken to a temple of Ahura Mazda for this preparation.
Yes, they were to undergo treatments. These treatments, as we learn later in the chapter, were two sets of six month long treatments. Here I believe the King James Bible gets it right. It refers to these treatments as a means of purification. They were to be purified before coming into the presence of the king. It is here that I must begin our look at the prophetic nature of the book of Esther. King Xerxes on some levels is a type of Christ or Messiah. Here is one of these places. Before we, the Bride of Christ, enter His presence we undergo a time of purification. We call it sanctification. We will someday enter His presence pure and blameless, without spot or wrinkle. Again Xerxes is just a type, he by no means is a perfect representation of our Messiah.
Then Xerxes’ attendants speak of Xerxes choosing the one that pleases him, remember Xerxes’ anger toward Vashti was hot displeasure and that he is looking for the exact opposite of her. It would be this one that is most pleasing to him that would receive the crown of the Queen. They have set a plan before Xerxes and it pleases him. It would be this that sends him into the intrigues of the harem, which is also where Herodotus tells us his heart goes. It will be there we meet Esther.
In Esther 1 we find Xerxes the ruler of 127 Provinces and having a banquet for his officials, staff, military leaders, nobles and the officials of their province’s. It is the fall of 483 B.C. and this banquet will last for 6 months in the winter palace, fortress or citadel of Susa.
This first banquet in the chapter is believed to be more of a war council where Xerxes is planning and garnishing support for the upcoming campaign against Greece the coming year. This strategic, planning council/banquet last until the spring of 482 B.C. and at the end of it another feast is thrown for all those within the citadel of Susa, both small and great. At this time Vashti also gives a feast for the women of the citadel within the palace–many of them wives of the visiting men.
Both of these feasts were designed to last for seven days; excessive drinking was the norm. They were also probably meant to celebrate the men going off to war.
Notice that for the men’s feast we have many more details, describing the surroundings of the courtyard and the location of their feast. The hanging linens were probably meant to block the wind and to also set up private chambers, as well as couches, where they could recline or even sleep during these days.
At the end of these days, when he is high is spirits, Xerxes calls for Vashti to come to him in her crown. He wishes to show her off and to probably fix her image in his own mind before leaving for war. Vashti was either very pregnant, or had just given birth (to Artaxerxes), as well as, probably being high in spirits herself refuses his command.
This refusal sends Xerxes into a hot rage of displeasure. Notice that word ‘displeasure’, it is very important to our study because as he looks for another he will be looking for the opposite. As a matter of fact, both words used for Xerxes’ anger in 1:12 mean a displeasure.
We do not have the reason for Vashti’s refusal, but suffice it to say, do not feel sorry for her. By all accounts, she was an evil woman who worshipped the god of the underworld within the Zoroastrian religion. Her heart leaned toward darkness and death, not one that sought what was best for her husband or his kingdom.
We will discuss in an upcoming post the religion of the Persian Empire, Zoroastrianism, and how it fits into our story.
The men advising Xerxes are most concerned with the influence her attitude would have on the rest of the women in the kingdom.
At this point it is important to note that his advisers are the seven who have greatest access to him, the highest ranking Persian and Median officials in the land.
In other words, his relatives. There is really nowhere Xerxes could go to escape the family and the hold they had over him or the conspiracies that pervaded the family to replace him. His family was everywhere.
So he turns to the seven relatives he has allowed access to him; these are men he trusts. It is one of them that advises him to issue a decree to depose Vashti and to give her position, which would have also included her property, to another. She was never again to enter into the king’s presence, at least not at court. Perhaps she could see him in other capacities, but not in any official capacity or with any position within the kingdom.
Remember it was the influence on their own wives that the nobles were concerned about. Their wives would have been at the banquet with Vashti and again many would have been her relatives.
This family as we saw in Xerxes’ family tree, is very intertwined.
Also keep in mind that the truly most powerful woman in the kingdom would also be at that banquet, Xerxes’ mother, Atossa, who would have still been alive.
This behavior by Vashti, while directed toward Xerxes, could also have been directed toward Atossa in an attempt to replace her as the most powerful woman of the kingdom.
The men wish to make sure that their wives do not get any ideas of overpowering them. They are interested in maintaining the current level of respect and harmony in their homes, if not to also increase it.
Here we go from Xerxes’ displeasure to one of his nobles, Memucan, saying, “If it pleases the king”. He is deliberately working to change the attitude of the king, he does not want that displeasure coming his way.
He makes his suggestion about the decree and Vashti’s loss of the crown, but he does not stop there. He goes on to suggest that another woman, one ‘better’ or ‘more worthy’ be put in her place.
It would not surprise me if he already had someone in mind, perhaps his own daughter or granddaughter. However, this suggestion would not have come as a foreign or unusual concept. After all these men were experts in Persian/Median Law and knew the times, they knew their history.
Remember Xerxe’s father, Darius, was also married before coming to the throne and then afterward married someone ‘more worthy’ of the position of Queen, Xerxes’ mother, Atossa. His own family tree was all the evidence he would have needed to make such a decree and decision.
With that decision, the reign of Vashti ends within the reign of Xerxes. She will see the light of honor again, however, under the reign of her son, Artaxerxes.