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.
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.
Esther had asked Mordecai to have all the Jews of Susa fast for her for three days. She would also fast for three days along with her maids. At the end of this time of fasting she would go before King Xerxes. She was resolved that if she perished, she perished. This is where chapter 5 of Esther picks up.
“On the third day Esther put on her royal robes and stood in the inner court the palace, in front of the the king’s hall. The king was sitting on his royal throne in the hall, facing the entrance. When he saw Queen Esther standing in the court, he was pleased with her and held out to her the gold scepter that was in his hand. So Esther approached and touched the tip of the scepter.” (NIV)
Did you catch it? Esther had asked Mordecai to fast for three days and it was on the third day that she adorns herself in her royal robes. Allow me to point out that it was also on the third day that Jesus rose from the dead and thereby was adorned in His royal robes. What a picture! Especially considering the time of year it was, right around Passover and Pentecost and what is after Passover, Feast of First Fruits or Resurrection Sunday.
Yes, Esther approaches King Xerxes with boldness and fear, knowing her life is in the hands of God alone. She approaches him in her royal best on the last day of the fast. She comes to the court and waits to be noticed by Xerxes. She is not pushing her way in past other royal officials, but quietly stands and waits for her husband to notice her. She has approached the throne with dignity and grace.
The king does notice his bride. He see his Queen standing in his court and that pleases him. Xerxes holds out the scepter and in that moment Esther’s life is spared. She approaches her husband, her king, and touches the scepter. God is revealing Himself to her. God does have a plan and He is setting it in motion, and doing it through her.
I want to discuss what Esther has just done. She has taken great care in approaching her king. Here is the question, do we take such care in approaching our King? After all, our King is King of kings and Lord of lords. In discussing this I want to look at Daniel 7:9-14 to see what it says about the throne room of our God. Beginning in verse nine it says,”As I looked, thrones were set in place, and the Ancient of Days took his seat. His clothing was as white as snow; the hair of his head was white like wool. His throne was flaming with fire, and its wheels were all ablaze. A river of fire was flowing, coming out from before him. Thousands upon thousands attended him; ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him. The court was seated, and the books were open. Then I continued to watch because of the boastful words the horn was speaking. I kept looking until the beast was slain and its body destroyed and thrown into the blazing fire. (The other beasts had been stripped of their authority, but were allowed to live for a period of time.) In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.”
Now does this courtroom sound like a place where one can be cavalier? You are absolutely correct, it is not that kind of place. This is the ultimate courtroom and it is no mortal king who sits on the throne. This throne is occupied by God himself. He is the only One who can hold out that gold scepter and his scepter is His Son at His right hand. We may only approach the throne if we have held out our hand to touch Yesuah. In other words, to take Him as our Lord and Savior.
Then comes the next point. Esther approached her king very carefully and in her royal best, but how do we? In Revelation 19 the bride is given her royal robes to wear at the wedding of the Lamb. The royal robes are fine linen and represent the righteous acts of the saints. In other words, our royal robes represent our obedience to the acts He has prepared in advance for us to do (Ephesians 2:10). Thereby making our obedience to our King equivalent with wearing our royal best.
Hebrews 4:16 says, “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. The word here for “confidence” means to have all outspokenness, frankness, bluntness, publicity, assurance, bold, confidence, freedom, openness, and plainness. We are to approach the throne with boldness and assurance so that we can freely and openly speak to our God. However, it does not mean we can do this in a cavalier way.
Ephesians 3:12 says, “In him and through faith in him we may approach with freedom and confidence.” The word in this verse for “freedom” is that same word used for confidence in the Hebrew passage above. However, the word used for “confidence” is another word, which means reliance, confidence or trust. We have this reliance or this sacred trust to know that when we come before God and we are in Him and our faith is in Him He hears us.
I want to look at some more verses, so please bear with me today. I truly believe this is an important topic because we far too often approach God casually and really with very little thought as to whom we are approaching and where we truly are, His courtroom. The first one I want to look at is John 14:12 – 16 which states,”I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it. If you love me you will obey what I command. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever”.
I love these verses and the truth is that in most of our Bibles such as the NIV, which I have quoted here, separate these verses right in the middle. When these verses are separated we do not get the importance of the second part, which is to obey His command. Yes, we do have confidence and freedom in approaching our King, but we are also to put on our best, and what is our best? It is our obedience.
Now let’s look at another verse and John 16:23-24 that says, “In that day you will no longer ask me anything. I tell you the truth, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.”
Know this, that in order to ask in the name of Yeshua we must not be disgracing or taking His name in vain. This is foundational. We can not expect to receive what we ask if we are disobedient children who also blaspheme the name of Yeshua. And to be sure that we all understand what this means, let me be clear. We often think of blasphemy or taking the Lord’s name in vain as something we say and yes, it can mean that. We must also keep in mind that it is also about how we live the life we say belongs to Him. If we are living a disobedient life as His child we take His name with us into disgrace, let it never be. If we live that life of disobedience we can be sure He will not hear our plea in His court until we allow Him to deal with the topic of our disobedience.
There are many other verses on this subject in Scripture that I would hope you would take the time to look up. As you look at more verses you will find that in coming to the throne room we approach God with rejoicing and confidence in him, asking in his name and will. The requirement is always our obedience to all that He has commanded, which is to believe in Him and to love one another.
So, before we get back to Esther let me recap a little. When we approach our King we must realize that we are in the courtroom of The King and that His court is in session. We may approach Him with confidence and freedom. We must also be in our best, true obedience or humility ready to confess our disobedience. And as I Peter 4:7 says we must “be clear minded and self-controlled” so that we can pray.
Now, let’s get back to Esther. The fast Esther called Mordecai and the Jews to participate in was a fast with a purpose, it had a focus. It was not just a general mourning, wailing, fasting and call for deliverance, but it was very focused and specific on where the deliverance would come from. There was now a plan for deliverance in place or at least the person, Esther. So she approaches the King. She is clear minded and self-controlled about who she is to be in his presence and what she wants from him. She makes her request. She asks for Xerxes and Haman to come to a banquet that she has prepared.
Xerxes had told her that even up to half the kingdom it would be hers. This was not, as we will see later, just a euphemism, but dare I say it, a limitation. Keep this in mind for later in the book. However, she does not ask for half the kingdom, but for him and Haman to come to a banquet.
So the question is, why did she need to go to court to invite Xerxes and Haman to a banquet? It was necessary because what she would eventually discuss with Xerxes was a matter of official Persian business, the edict to annihilate the Jews. However, she knew that she must handle the situation with care and love. Yes, it was a matter of official Persian business, but it was also personal in that she was about to reveal something about herself to her husband, that up to this point she had kept secret. She would have to tell Xerxes that she was a Jew. Do you see the problem? She had to tell her husband in a loving way that he had made a big mistake, dispatching the edict to annihilate her people, and at the same time not point the finger at him. I believe that is why she also invited the enemy. She needed someone else to point the finger at.
However, at this banquet she does not reveal her petition, but states,”If the king regards me with favor and if it pleases the king to grant my petition and fulfill my request, let the king and Haman come tomorrow to the banquet I will prepare for them. Then I will answer the king’s question.”
Can you hear it? She is basically saying that if Xerxes really loves her then he needs to give careful thought to whether or not to grant her request because this ones going to be a doozy. Xerxes must be resolved to answer her request, her petition, with a resounding yes if at all possible because this request will by no means be a small thing.
It is at this point that Haman goes home to brag, but is again confronted with the presence of Mordecai at the king’s gate and Mordecai does not acknowledge him at all. This riles him to no end. He wants to brag about his day and yet he cannot get Mordecai out of his mind. So his wife, whose name we ironically have, Zeresh, along with his friends and relatives tell him to hang Mordecai on the gallows. So Haman has them erected.
We have arrived at chapter six where the famous phrase of Esther “for such a time as this” occurs. What leads to that statement and what is meant by it ? More importantly what is the end result of it? The last question we will not be able to answer until we get more toward the end of the book. However, the other two we will deal with today.
We already know that Haman had sent out an edict declaring a day of destruction for the Jews and that to this point both Haman and Xerxes are comfortable in that decision. This is where we pick things up in chapter 4.
In this chapter we find Mordecai responding to the news. Remember this edict would have gone out to the city of Susa at the time of Passover, The Feast of Unleavened Bread and The Feast of Firstfruits. these are Times of sacrifice, but also times of rejoicing as the people of Israel remember how God brought them out of the land of slavery in Egypt. However, this year they were not celebrations of feasting and rejoicing in a past deliverance. For Mordecai it would become a time of mourning. I want to take a specific look at what Mordecai was doing because it is hard to completely convey it in our English translations.
For starters, his mourning was not a closet experience. Mordecai did not find a quiet spot to be alone with his wailing and mourning. No, he actually went to the middle of the city (remember this was Passover time) in sackcloth and ashes and publicly announced his mourning. It was a mighty cry of proclamation. He was letting everyone know of his bitter heart and its cause. He was also in the place where proclamations are given, the city gate (remember he works at the city gate). This was not done in secret. There was something terribly wrong and he was letting everyone know about it and was also letting everyone see how he cried out to God for help.
This makes me wonder about our situation in this country and in our churches today. how does our day compare to his? Is something terribly wrong? Would we be willing to go into the middle of the city and make a mighty proclamation of bitter mourning and plea to the only One who can truly help us? Makes one think!
It was not only Mordecai, but wherever the edict went there was great weeping and wailing among the Jews. This was coupled with fasting. In a book that does not directly mention God or prayer, these acts of contrition and fasting are as close as the writer comes to speaking of a direct appeal to God for deliverance.
Word does come to Esther about how Mordecai was behaving at such a time of celebration. Perhaps others in the city came to join him after his public display of mourning. Esther would have wanted to, of course, know the reason, but in the meantime she sent him some appropriate clothes for the festivals. Can you imagine her surprise when they are rejected and were brought back with a message of tribulation?
It is interesting to note here that Mordecai knew the exact amount of money that Haman promised to put into the treasury for the destruction of the Jews. Obviously his position would have given him access to that information, which makes what we mentioned in an earlier post about the extra Biblical evidence of a Mordecai being mentioned as a high level accountant during the reign of Xerxes so significant.
Mordecai also instructs the attendant to explain the edict to Esther. I do not believe that this was because she could not read, in fact I believe the exact opposite. However, the explanation probably came in the form of him telling her about the events that led up to the edict, not the edict itself, that would have been plain. Esther needed to know Mordecai’s role in the chain of events. She also needed to realize that she would not be exempt from such a decree.
It was time for her to do what he had done. Announce that she was from the family of Israel. Mordecai specifically asks her to go to the court of the king to beg for the lives of her people. What a thing to ask of her! He was not asking her to have a private conversation with her husband, but to go before him at court. Remember, she may have very well have had a court of the women to operate herself, we do know that Xerxes’ mother did.
It was dangerous, even for the queen, to go into the court of the king without being summoned. That’s right, when Esther speaks of not being summoned before Xerxes for thirty days she is talking about not being called to the king’s courtroom for thirty days to perform her duties beside him as queen. She knew that she too would need for him to hold out his golden scepter to avoid potential punishment like Vashti had received.
Yes, this concerns her, for she like most women, knows her husband. He had proven he could be easily angered and she needed the help of God to make sure this was not one of those times. Only God could make sure that when she entered the court that he was not right in the middle of a most pressing matter and therefore more annoyed at her presence than joyful. Only He could make sure the mood of her husband was more than ready and willing to see her.
Mordecai had also made it clear that if she chose not to obey him at this point that she would not escape the destruction decreed by her husband. In fact her entire family would not. This may have meant only her and Mordecai. However, it could also be referring to possible children that Esther may have had with Xerxes up to this point or possible brothers and sisters. Either way, she would pay the price of remaining silent. Remember, Mordecai made two very public proclamations at this point.
Again, this causes me to think about the price of remaining silent in our culture and in our churches about unbiblical behavior and practices, even edicts and laws from our government. We, like Esther, think we are safe in our silence. If we don’t say anything then no one will know how I feel about this matter. But like Esther if we do remain silent and do not understand that God has us where we are, each of us, for such a time as this, and that He expects us to speak when he says speak, then we too will pay a high price or even worse see our children pay that price.
That’s right, Esther was in that place and time for such a time as was before her. And as Mordecai says, “Who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?” God has His ways and we are only to follow and obey.
These words above remind me of Joel 2:12-14 where the prophet says, “Even now,” declares the LORD, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.” Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity. Who knows? He may turn and relent and leave behind a blessing— grain offerings and drink offerings for the LORD your God.” Yes, who knows!
And yes, there is a time to remain silent and a time to speak as Ecclesiastes 3:7 reminds us. This, however, was definitely a time to speak. In fact, the word in these verses in Esther 4 that we translate silent actually means “to conceal” and carries with it the idea of secrecy. Here Mordecai is telling Esther that the time for concealing and keeping the secret is over.
Mordecai also tells her that if she does remain silent that relief and deliverance will come from another source. This is her opportunity to follow God herself and do the thing He is asking her to do and not to leave it to someone else who is not of her position and honor.
What I find so amazing about this section is the word for “relief”. This word in the Hebrew means “room, enlargement or space”. Yes, this is a relief that comes with the blessing of enlargement, not just a return to the status quo. As we continue to study the book we will see how God brings this enlargement about.
In fact, it is my belief that this enlargement is at least one of the main reasons God allowed this all to take place. God always has His reasons, His plans that even come out of what we would call catastrophes or tribulations.
It is at this point that Esther, for the first time, gives instructions for Mordecai to follow. Up until now it has been the other way around. Here Esther tells Mordecai to gather all the Jews of Susa to fast for three days, day and night, for her. She would need God’s help of strength and courage if she was going to do this. She also promises him that she and her servants would do the same. Only an appeal to God Himself would get her and her people through this. Only God could deliver His people once again. Remember we are right around the feast of Passover and here they are again needing His deliverance. She ends it by taking on herself the full responsibility of action, but leaving the responsibility of success with God. If she perishes, she perishes. It was in God’s hands not hers.
Esther 3:2 All the royal officials at the king’s gate knelt down and paid honor to Haman, for the king had commanded this concerning him. But Mordecai would not kneel down or pay him honor. 3 Then the royal officials at the king’s gate asked Mordecai, “Why do you disobey the king’s command?” 4 Day after day they spoke to him but he refused to comply. Therefore they told Haman about it to see whether Mordecai’s behavior would be tolerated, for he had told them he was a Jew.(NIV)
Here we see that the king had given a command to the servants who worked for him at the King’s Gate to pay honor to Haman. This was no simple bowing of the head or even just to a knee, but there are two words here in the Hebrew. Both of the Hebrew words in this passage can be translated to prostrate oneself. In other words, those before Haman were to fall down and prostrate themselves. The second word can even mean to worship. This command was an all out call for the servants at the King’s Gate, which included Mordecai, to in essence worship Haman as their head. This, of course, did not sit well with Mordecai.
The word “disobey” in the NIV is actually “cross over” in the Hebrew. I find this interesting because it means that Mordecai was crossing over the command of Xerxes. In other words, he was not doing it necessarily in an obvious way. Remember Haman had not noticed him not prostrating himself, when everyone else obviously did. Perhaps he found ways to be conveniently away from the areas Haman passed and this was only obvious to those who worked with him, but not Haman. The reason I think this may be the case is because his fellow servants at the King’s Gate spoke to him about this “day after day”. They were trying to get Mordecai to follow the king’s command.
Finally, Mordecai gives his response to their inquiries. His answer, “I will not prostrate myself before (worship) Haman because I am a Jew”, or something like to that affect. This was not something Mordecai could bring himself to do. If you have never noticed before, Mordecai has a Babylonian name and a Jewish name is never given for him in the book. Also, the other servants at the King’s Gate do not seem to know he is a Jew, he had to tell them or as the Hebrew says it, he “declared” he was a Jew.
Mordecai broke his silence. Remember that Mordecai had told Esther not to reveal to anyone that she was a Jew. It would appear that Mordecai was giving her advice that he followed himself. There is no telling how long he had worked at the King’s Gate, but all that time his true identity was kept secret until he himself made it known.
There is a time and place for secrecy, even about who we are in Christ. There is also a time and place to publicly declare we are His servants. Many of us do not ever face this choice, but most assuredly some do. The believers in Muslim nations for instance. Even Jews who have come to believe in Messiah that search for the right time and place to tell family of their decision, praying for an open door to tell them about Yeshua and at the same time knowing the possibility of being disowned.
Then there are those times that come, like this one for Mordecai, when no matter what happens it is time to speak. It is time to declare our allegiance to the One we serve. These are the times Jesus is talking about when He says, “If you deny me before men, I will deny you before My Father.” We are not to keep silent and worship other gods. Another good example is the three young men in the book of Daniel who refused to bow before the statue of the king of Babylon and faced the fiery furnace. Those young men, according to their Hebrew names were, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. May we never bend the knee and worship another god.
It would appear that there were anti-Jewish sentiments within the culture of the citadel of Susa. I say this because when the other servants found out he was a Jew it was this information that caused them to go to Haman. They could have gone to Haman before this, but it was not until they received this little tidbit of information that they chose to see if Haman would tolerate it. The other servants must have known that at least Haman despised the Jews and wanted to see what he would do.
What could the reason for this anti-Jewish sentiment have been. No one knows. If you may allow me to speculate, it may have been because they were against or at least refused to fight in the Persian-Greco war that Xerxes lost. Remember they were in a Persian province at the time, yet in looking through Herodotus’ account of the war there is no listing for a Jewish participation when he lists so many others. Again this is speculation, but seems at least possible.
The main reason for Haman, of course, was what we discussed in the last post. The Israelites had almost annihilated his people hundreds of years earlier in the time of King Saul. So for Haman this was personal. There was no way he was going to tolerate this lack of respect and, yes, worship from this Jew. It would appear as if the servants knew this would probably be the result. We will get more into Haman’s response in our next post.
I want you to notice something else as well. The other servants did not have the authority to arrest Mordecai on there own. They were by no means ahead of Mordecai in ranking and position. It may even be that Mordecai was over them since they did not feel confident enough to report him until after he declared publicly that he was a Jew. Perhaps they feared him already. However, I would not be fair if I did not at least mention the possibility that they may have liked him and did not want to see him get in trouble until they found out he was a Jew. That, of course, again says something about he overall attitude toward the Jews, at least in the citadel of Susa, it not in the whole of the Persian Empire.
Regardless, of the details that have long since been lost to history, there was an anti-Jewish sentiment in the citadel that gives Haman the perfect opportunity for what he does next. Attack!