We are examining the background for the feast that Esther had with Haman and the king during which she interceded for the life of all Jews. The fair virgins had assembled in Shushan, hoping to please the king with their favors and become queen. Among them we also find Esther (star). Mordecai, her uncle and step father (Esther’s father was Abihail— Esther 2:15 and both he and his wife had died— Esther 2:7), had recommended to her to enter the contest. Mordecai had notable forefathers, one being Kish the father of Saul, and others who were taken into captivity. Both Mordecai and Esther were raised in captivity— Esther 2:5, 6; and their moral character reflects this in two ways. First, they saw no evil in Esther’s marrying a wicked, divorced king who was trying to get a wife on the basis of carnal lust. Second, they consented to hide the fact that Esther was a captive Jew, — Esther 2:15 and both he and his wife had died— Esther 2:7), had recommended to her to enter the contest. Mordecai had notable forefathers, one being Kish the father of Saul, and others who were taken into captivity. Both Mordecai and Esther were raised in captivity— Esther 2:5, 6; and their moral character reflects this in two ways. First, they saw no evil in Esther’s marrying a wicked, divorced king who was trying to get a wife on the basis of carnal lust. Second, they consented to hide the fact that Esther was a captive Jew, — Esther 2:10. This meant that she also could not practice her Jewish faith. She could not pray as Daniel, or talk about her God. Evidently she didn’t do this anyway.
Esther’s great beauty prevailed upon the king and he made her his queen, — Esther 2:15-17. The king celebrated her success with a feast and declared a holiday, made release to the provinces — Esther 2:18.
Mordecai continued to take interest in Esther’s welfare by appearing before the king’s gate and inquiring about her. This gave him access to a bit of inside information that two chamberlains plotted to kill the king, — Esther 2:21-23. When he told Esther, she informed the king and when it was judged to be true, the two culprits were hanged and Mordecai’s faithfulness duly recorded. This fact will be a turning point in all this history.
Now Haman enters into the picture. He is the son of Hammedatha, the Agagite, — Esther 3:11. We can’t be certain if this is a reference to Agag, King of Amalek, mentioned in I Sam. 15:8, 33. He was elevated to the number one position under the king. Being in this position, all subjects of the kingdom were to bow down to him and recognize his office and to worship him. Mordecai refused, — Esther 3:2. Did he do it for religious reasons? If he did (see Esther 3:4, according to which verse he told them he was a Jew) he surely was inconsistent in religious matters, as we saw in his counsel with Esther. We can hardly make him a hero of faith, as Daniel’s three friends were before Nebuchadnezzar, Dan. 3. At any rate, he persisted in refusing to bow before Haman even when his friends warned him, — Esther 3:3, 4. Finally Haman reacted in wrath and sought vengeance against him not only, but, having learned he was a captive Jew, against allJews. He resorted to astrology (cast lots, pur, Esther 3:7) and according to later details, — Esther 8:12, the date was the 13th day of the twelfth month of Adar when all Jews would be killed. He brought his scheme to the king, — Esther 3:8, 9, and represented the Jews as rebellious and dangerous to the safety of the kingdom. The only solution was to kill them all. He would pay the soldiers for doing it, in the meanwhile confiscating their property and returning that to the coffers of the king, —Esther 3:9. The king approved and the decree was sealed and sent by messengers throughout the realm that all Jews will be killed, young and old alike, even little ones, on that appointed day, — Esther 3:13. Now what?
Mordecai’s response is recorded in Esther 4:1-3. He led the Jews in anguished cry. We see evidence of enough religious tradition that they expressed it in sackcloth and ashes, a sign of repentance before God; yet here we have no such mention at all. This must have attracted much attention throughout the city. Even the maids of Esther inform her of Mordecai’s behavior, — Esther 4:4. After he refused a new set of clothing, she sent her trusted chamberlain, Hatach, to inquire of him. He informed Esther of the plot of Haman and furnished her with a copy of the decree of the king to put all Jews to death and urged her to intercede with the king, — Esther 4:5-9. She returned a message to Mordecai through Hatach reminding him of the danger involved, that anyone who appeared before the king uninvited and if he refused the sceptre, it meant certain death. Besides, she has not been invited for the past thirty days already, — Esther 4:11. Mordecai insisted that, due to extreme danger, death to both of them and all Jews everywhere, she should try. He indicates his traditionalism by expressing faith in the certain salvation of the Jews, — Esther 4:14. Esther agrees and asks Mordecai as well as her maidens to fast for three days. If I perish, I perish, she says, hardly trusting in God to deliver, — Esther 4:16.
Esther is well received by the king, — Esther 5:1-5. She puts on her royal apparel and stands in the outer court. The king extends the sceptre and assures her that her request will be granted unto half of the kingdom. She does not make known her plight at this time. Rather she requests that the king and Haman come to a banquet which she has prepared for that evening. The king is delighted and calls Haman. At the banquet the king renews his desire to know the queen’s request. Again Esther seeks to win his favor by inviting the king and Haman to another banquet the following day. This too is accepted, — Esther 5:6-8.
Haman is encouraged by this special recognition. With a joyful and glad heart he rides home. On the way, he is hurt by Mordecai as he once again publicly refuses to bow. When he arrives home he spends the evening with his wife, ten sons, and friends, — Esther 9:7-10. He tells them of his promotion, of the two banquets he has with the king and queen, but of his bitter disappointment with Mordecai. They suggest he put Mordecai to death by getting the sanction from the king the next day, in the meanwhile to build the gallows, a high supported stake, to hang him upon,—Esther 5:9-14.
God’s cause however, is not with Haman but Mordecai and Esther. During the night He kept sleep from Ahasuerus so that he had read to him the chronicles of the kings and was reminded of the favor of Mordecai in saving his life. He asked if Mordecai was rewarded and learned that he wasn’t. He decided that he will attend to this that very day, — Esther 6:1-3.
While the king is thinking on this, Haman comes to him. He intends to ask for the death of Mordecai. Instead the king asks him, “what shall be done unto the man whom the king delighteth to honor?” Esther 6:6. Haman thought the king had him in mind, so he generously suggests, the royal robe of the king, his horse, his crown, and a herald to announce this great honor, — Esther 6:4-9. I suppose a king of the stature of Ahasuerus could easily be preoccupied with many other things so that he forgot his decree to kill all Jews. Now, however, he honors one.
The king entrusts Haman to make the necessary preparations and carry them out immediately. Imagine the terror in poor Haman’s soul. He did it nonetheless, but couldn’t wait to get home to cry on his wife’s shoulder and get counsel from his wise men, magi, —Esther 6:12-14. They warned him that he was beginning to fall before this Jew and he would not overcome. Quite some news to receive just before leaving for the banquet with the king and queen.
At the second banquet, the king asks Esther to inform him of her request. She asks him for her life and that of her people, “We are sold, I and my people to be destroyed, to be slain, to perish,” — Esther 7:4. If it were only to be slaves, she would not bother, but it was her life. The king doesn’t understand: “Who is he and where is he?” Esther points to Haman: “The adversary and the enemy is this wicked Haman,” — Esther 7:6. The king is furious. I suppose everything fits together for the first time, the plot, the decree, his wife a Jewess. He rushes to the garden to think. Upon returning he finds Haman pleading with Esther to intervene for his life, but Ahasuerus thinks Haman is trying to force her to lie with him. The sentence rushes forth, death to Haman. Oh, yes, the chamberlain knows of the gallows for Mordecai, so these become the very instruments for Haman’s own death, — Esther 7:7-10.
THE FEAST OF PURIM 8:1-10:3
Now that the arch-foe of the Jews was out of the picture, there was a vacancy as prime-minister. Esther was drawn closer to the king and he rewarded her with the house of Haman, which she in turn gave to Mordecai. As she confided in the king she also told him what Mordecai meant to her, and the king made him the number one man under him, — Esther 8:1, 2.
The most important question still remained: what about the decree of the king to slay the Jews? It was the decree of the Medes and Persians, unchangeable and irreversible. Esther attended to that very well. She entreated the king to make a new law which would have the effect of making the first one meaningless. The new decree would allow the Jews to stand for their life, to kill those that attacked them and to confiscate their property, — Esther 8:3-14, especially verse 11. This the king granted and notified all the countries of the kingdom. There was gladness amongst the Jews, —Esther 8:15-17.
When the great day of testing came, the Jews prevailed mightily. Instead of a mass slaughter of the Jews, the enemies of the Jews were killed. The Jews in Shushan were granted an extra day. During the first day 500 enemies were killed and the ten sons of Haman, — Esther 9:1-11. During the second day 300 more were killed and the bodies of the ten sons of Haman were hanged on a tree, — Esther 9:12-15. Throughout the kingdom, 75,000 others were killed. In all instances the property of their enemies was not confiscated.
In celebration of this victory the Jews celebrate the Feast of Purim, meaning feast of lots, — Esther 9:20-32. By casting lots their life was in danger, but through Esther, their lives were spared. They were instructed by Mordecai to keep both days as feast days and to do this annually, — Esther 9:21. This the Jews did during the time of Esther and have since.
The book closes with a reference to Mordecai’s great power as leader of the Persian kingdom, — Esther 10:1-3.
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION
1. As you review the book of Esther, compose a list of “evidence” which would seem to indicate whether Mordecai and Esther were true believers in God or not. Would you agree that the evidence seems to condemn them as not possessing true faith?
2. Discuss how this history proves that the wicked may have a sense of religion and moral responsibility yet are spiritually corrupt.
3. Express in your own words how the main theme is developed in the book: God uses even the wicked to serve the salvation of His people. Include some of the “little” details.
4. How does the book show that chance is not our comfort but the providence of God?
5. How does Haman illustrate the truth, “pride before fall”?
6. How do the rulers of the world today contribute to the well-being of the church? Isn’t it just the opposite today, that they kill God’s people? Is there conflict here?
7. Show that the salvation of the Jews meant the salvation of God’s people and basically the salvation of the church of all ages.
8. Even though God is not mentioned in the book, how does the book extol God?