Vs. 3, “Mordecai the Jew was second in rank to King Xerxes, preeminent among the Jews, and held in high esteem by his many fellow Jews, because he worked for the good of his people and spoke up for the welfare of all the Jews.” Mordecai looked after Esther when she was orphaned and now it was Esther who helped Mordecai to be the second only to the King in power. Haman had once worn the signet ring of the king and was the enemy of the Jews. Now Mordecai wears it and is the spokesperson for the Jews. Indeed, God works in mysterious ways.
Regarding application…Turning The Tables. I recall a lyric from the Disney movie Robin Hood, “Every town has its ups and downs…” Our short life on this earth has its share of valleys and mountains. The Book of Esther reminds us that God is indeed sovereign even when we are not perfect. God intervened just when Satan thought he had successfully used Haman to stamp out the Jews. The tables were turned. Question: How has God turned a seemingly desperate situation for the good?
Vs. 16, “Meanwhile, the remainder of the Jews who were in the king’s provinces also assembled to protect themselves and get relief from their enemies. They killed seventy-five thousand of them but did not lay their hands on the plunder.” Queen Esther’s request for a new edict came at the right time. With Mordecai’s instructions, all the Jews were able to confidently counter the attacks of their enemies (vs. 1-19). One of the things that stick out to me is this: that such a vast number of enemies would still rise up against the Jews even though they had the protection of the empire (vs. 4). Another thing that’s important to note is that they were defending themselves and they also did not take the plunder. Esther’s requests to have Haman’s ten sons killed was not vindictive, rather a wise move to deter those who might still try to rise up against them in the future. The latter half of our chapter (vs. 20-32) gives us the background of the Feast of Purim. Purim is derived from the Hebrew word (pûr) which means lot. This was when Haman casted lots to determine when he would have the Jews annihilated. The Feast of Purim was a wonderful reminder for the Jews to celebrate God’s deliverance!
Regarding application…Good Traditions. Vs. 28, “These days should be remembered and observed in every generation by every family, and in every province and in every city…” Tradition defined in this context helps us remember and honor what happened in the past. As long as we do not put man-made tradition before the Lord, I don’t see any issue with having good traditions. Theologian Jaroslav Pelikan stated, “Tradition is the living faith of the dead; traditionalism is the dead faith of the living.” Question: What traditions does your family or church denomination have? One tradition of many denominations is recognizing Lent. While it is not a command from the bible, it is one that I enjoy using to honor the Lord. These types of traditions are time-honored, but also voluntary based. If the church were to enforce it, than that would be problematic. Take time to consider what traditions you adhere to and how it can honor the Lord.
Vs. 3, “Esther again pleaded with the king, falling at his feet and weeping. She begged him to put an end to the evil plan of Haman the Agagite, which he had devised against the Jews.” While Haman has been executed, the threat of all the Jews was still hanging in the balance. After Mordecai was given the king’s signet ring that was once Haman’s, Esther would use this as an opportunity to come before the king to plead on behalf of her people (vs. 1-6). Esther’s request was bold for it would challenge the king to go against his previous edict. Question: How would this dilemma be resolved? King Xerxes did not technically revoke the previous edict, he just wrote a new one that would supersede it (vs. 7-14). The Jews would have the right to defend themselves against those who might rise up against them. This would be important because in our following chapter, we the reality of hatred towards them in the Persian empire. The end of our chapter (vs. 15-17) bears testimony to all that God’s favor is over those whom He loves.
Regarding application…Holy War. Vs. 13, “A copy of the text of the edict was to be issued as law in every province and made known to the people of every nationality so that the Jews would be ready on that day to avenge themselves on their enemies.” Before the Messiah would come, there would be legitimate holy wars to protect the survival of the prophecies and the coming Messiah. However, since the dawning of the church, our battle is not against flesh and blood (Ephesians 6:12). Don’t misunderstand; we are in a holy war, but one that is of the spiritual realm. Like any sovereign nation, we have the right to defend ourselves. Yet for the church, we stand to defend the truth of the Gospel to a world system that is led by the master deceiver. Let us be ready to protect each other and win against our enemy!
Vs. 5-6, “King Xerxes asked Queen Esther, “Who is he? Where is he—the man who has dared to do such a thing?” Esther said, “An adversary and enemy! This vile Haman!…” The honoring of Mordecai might just have been the encouragement Esther needed from the previous chapter. She would expertly present her predicament with wisdom by putting the focus on saving her life first (vs. 1-6). King Xerxes rage was understandable for he was in quite a predicament (vs. 7). He already issued the decree to have all the Jews killed and had agreed with Haman. However, Haman’s action of staying behind with Esther and being caught on couch when the king returned led to his demise (vs. 8-10).
Regarding application…Don’t Mess With God. Vs. 10, “So they impaled Haman on the pole he had set up for Mordecai. Then the king’s fury subsided.” Haman’s death is a grave warning and reminder for all of us that evil will not prevail. I’m currently teaching from the book of James and this reminds me of James’ comments about sin and evil. “But each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.” (James 1:14-15). Haman’s evil would result to death. Both Haman and Esther pleaded for life, but God would use a pagan king to bring about justice. There is both huge sense of relief for believers, but also a grave fear for those who turn to evil. Take time today to prayerfully consider and thank God for ways He has shown his faithfulness.
Vs. 10, “Go at once,” the king commanded Haman. “Get the robe and the horse and do just as you have suggested for Mordecai the Jew, who sits at the king’s gate. Do not neglect anything you have recommended.” While Haman was plotting, God was revealing. King Xerxes couldn’t sleep so he turned to his own type of television by having the books of the chronicles of kings read to him. It was advantageous for Kings to review who has saved them in the past, for there were always threats to them. God’s providence was over Mordecai as Haman’s plan was to have him hung to death. But the LORD’s plans trump ours every time. How satisfying for us to see Haman’s plan foiled!
Regarding application…Foolish Pride. Vs. 6, “When Haman entered, the king asked him, “What should be done for the man the king delights to honor?” Now Haman thought to himself, “Who is there that the king would rather honor than me?” Solomon tells us in Proverbs, “Pride goes before destruction…” (Proverbs 16:18). As I write this reflection, the San Antonio Spurs just dethroned Lebron James and the Miami Heat in the NBA playoff finals. When the Miami heat tied the series 1-1 and took back home court advantage, all the prognosticators and Miami fans were predicting doom for the Spurs. Miami had flexed its muscles and their pride swelled. A similar thing transpired for me when I lost as a wrestling tournament that I was favored to win. I went in foolishly thinking since I had beaten all my opponents previously that I would breeze through this. Not only was a beaten in the first round, I was pinned in less than ten seconds. God has a way of humbling the proud.
Vs. 1, “On the third day Esther put on her royal robes and stood in the inner court of the palace, in front of the king’s hall. The king was sitting on his royal throne in the hall, facing the entrance.” In a twist of irony, earlier Queen Vashti risked her life by not coming to the King and now Esther was risking her life by coming. After Esther’s three days of fasting, she prepares herself to go before King Xerxes (vs. 1-3). It may be easy for us to gloss over this encounter and consider Esther had nothing to worry about. But, the tension, worry, and courage was very real. Xerxes claim to give her half the kingdom was a well-known idiom that wasn’t meant to be taken literally. Esther’s request to have Haman attend the banquet and then ask all of them to return the next day certainly sets us up for some intrigue (vs. 4-8). The latter half of our chapter (vs. 9-14) gives us the background in Haman’s plot to have Mordecai hung from a seventy-five foot gallow. Haman’s pride is beginning to get the best of him as he perceives he’s finding favor from both the king and the queen.
Regarding application…Patience in Timing. Vs. 8, “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.” Question: Why didn’t Esther reveal her intentions? It wasn’t the right time. Esther realized that King Xerxes would probably not be prepared to hear such shocking news. She wisely wanted to prepare a banquet where she could get the King and Haman alone without the kingly guards around. We will also that postponing the revelation would give the king an opportunity in our following chapter to remember what Mordecai had done years earlier. I don’t believe patience is something that comes natural for us. That is why it is one of the fruits of the spirit (Galatians 5). Question: What are some things in your life that you need to patiently wait for? Like Abraham and Zechariah, I am waiting (Lord willing) that God would bless my wife and I with a child. But, since I was adopted, I am also praying I can adopt a child one day too. One thing I’ve learned about the Lord is that He often challenges us to be patient!
Vs. 1, “When Mordecai learned of all that had been done, he tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and ashes, and went out into the city, wailing loudly and bitterly.” Question: How would you respond if your actions might bring about the death of your whole nation? Upon hearing of this edict of annihilation, Mordecai responds with deep distress! Rather than sink in fear, Mordecai comes in mourning to the gate (vs. 1-3). Question: Why? Most likely to get the attention of Esther. Although the other provinces were privy, Esther must have not known (vs. 4-8). So she sent her servant Hathak to help Mordecai. Upon the revelation of the plot, Hathak goes back to report to Esther Mordecai’s request to have Esther seek audience with the King (vs. 9-17). This was literally a grave request. Esther could lose her life if the king’s scepter was not extended to her. For Esther to not have seen King Xerxes for over thirty days gives us some insight that perhaps she has lost favor with him. When times of tribulation come into our lives, the measure of our character is revealed.
Regarding application…Stepping Up. Vs. 16, “Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my attendants will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish.” This was a moment of human responsibility and divine sovereignty. While we may point out the fact that Esther had been living a very pagan Persian lifestyle, we see that she had great faith to ask for prayer. This was a moment where the rubber meets the road. This was Esther’s defining moment where she becomes the heroine! Question: What defining moments of stepping up do you have? I recall one of my early retreats as a Youth Pastor in Oregon. We went white water rafting for that retreat! Two of my students that were in my raft fell out after hitting a big wave. Like a hero out of movie, I risked my life and pulled them to safety (well, maybe not that dramatic). But that retreat was a defining moment in ministry, for the Lord did something so powerful and helped me to see that God is bigger than our weaknesses.
Vs. 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.” After five years pass, a new character is introduced into our story: Haman the Agagite. Question: Why would Mordecai not pay him honor? Though we are not told specifically, the fact that Haman was an Agagite could give us some insight. Agag was the king of the Amalekites during the time of Saul. The Amalekites frequently raided Israel and would eventually be defeated, though Saul disobeyed God by sparing Agag’s life. Needless to say, there might have been some animosity that both Mordecai and Haman possessed. Haman’s intention to have all kneel down to him shows us that type of worldly pride he possessed (vs. 1-6). Naturally, Mordecai wanted nothing to do with Haman. Haman’s anger and evil would come out as he plotted not only for Mordecai’s death, but all of the Jews. Haman plotted to have the Jews killed (vs. 7-15) and would bring the lies to King Xerxes. The fate of God’s covenant promises lay in the balance for the Jews could be wiped away if the edict came to pass.
Regarding application…God’s Providence. Vs. 7, “In the twelfth year of King Xerxes, in the first month, the month of Nisan, the pur (that is, the lot) was cast in the presence of Haman to select a day and month. And the lot fell on the twelfth month, the month of Adar.” Superstition was a huge part of life in the days of antiquity. Haman used a pur/lot (ancient dice) to help determine when the right time was to have the Jews exterminated. God providentially allowed the pur to be drawn in the twelfth month of Adar. Question: Why is this significant? Because it gave nearly a year of time to pass before the edict was exercised. This would give Mordecai and Esther the time to respond. What an amazing God we have that He would intervene in such a miraculous way! Think and thank God for all those impeccable timing moments in your life where we probably didn’t think about giving God the credit!
Vs. 2, “Then the king’s personal attendants proposed, “Let a search be made for beautiful young virgins for the king.” Four years had passed (vs. 16) while King Xerxes had gone out and lost a humiliating battle against the Greeks. Upon his return, his thoughts went to Vashti, but his officials quickly devised a plan to prevent him to going back to her. The plan was simple; find a virgin in the realm (vs. 1-4). Even amongst the Persian traditions, the selecting of a wife from the realm was highly unusual; most kings will marry to forge alliances, etc. We are introduced to Mordecai to help give us the context we need understand God’s hand of providence (vs. 5-7). Mordecai had a young cousin who had been orphaned; her name was Hadassah changed to Esther to protect her identity. When the Persians came into power, many of the Jews stayed rather than go back home to their land. Question: Why did Mordecai stay? In order to have visited Esther at the harem and been sitting at the king’s gate (vs. 19), he must have held some official position. There are differing thoughts as to whether or not Mordecai and Esther were in the right for hiding their Jewish background. Apparently, for them to blend in to the Persian culture, they were not living a kosher life. When Esther entered the king’s palace, she like Joseph in Egypt found favor amongst the leaders (vs. 8-14). Hegai must have seen both the beauty and quality of character in Esther for her to stand out. After a year of beauty treatment and the king not finding the right woman, Esther comes before Xerxes (vs. 15-18). She stood out amongst all others and King Xerxes declared her his queen. What a very strange culture for us to understand in our times. But the story doesn’t end by any means. Mordecai while doing his duty as an official at the kings gate overhears a plot to assassinate the king (vs. 19-23). God’s providential hand would have Mordecai hear of this and report it to queen Esther who would then save the king.
Regarding application…Identity Concealed. Vs. 10, “Esther had not revealed her nationality and family background, because Mordecai had forbidden her to do so.” While we may not find ourselves in the exact situation as Mordecai and Esther, there will be times when we must make tough decisions about our identity. A couple of weeks ago, I went to lunch with a missionary who is currently serving in a highly Islamic nation. In order for foreign missionaries to live in that country, they must hide their identity as Pastors and missionaries. They serve “underground” to help meet the needs of the very small percentage of believers. Question: Is this concealment of identity sinful? Some might see such actions as questionable and lacking faith. However our stance, it is undeniable that God will work despite our imperfections. I remember reading The Hiding Place that shared the life of Corrie Ten Boom and her family. They had to conceal refugees and hide them to keep them from the Nazi soldiers. However, they were found out when her sister was directly confronted by a soldier and felt she could not lie that they were doing such a thing. Question: Who was wrong? Who was right? Regardless, God’s hand of providence was in both the concealment and the honesty because both had the right intentions.
Vs. 12, “But when the attendants delivered the king’s command, Queen Vashti refused to come. Then the king became furious and burned with anger.” Xerxes, called Ahasuerus throughout the Hebrew text of Esther ruled the Persian Empire for 21 years. King Xerxes’ 180 day banquet was held to garner support to unite his kingdom and eventually go up against the Greeks in the west (vs. 1-4). A grand seven-day feast to culminate the six months of festivities was held (vs. 5-8). It was quite an opulent display of riches and luxury. Question: Why did Queen Vashti refuse the kings request? It’s important to note that the author does not give us the information we need to make a definitive statement (vs. 9-12). The best we could draw from is that the king was in high spirits from the wine (vs. 10) and Vashti knew how drunk men reacted. She possibly did not want to be flaunted as a beauty queen in front of drunken men. The latter half of our chapter (vs. 13-22) consists of giving us the events that would open the door for Esther to come into the picture. King Xerxes could not simply overlook Vashti’s public refusal. Xerxes’s decree that every man should be ruler of his household is ironic for he could not take hold of his own.
Regarding application…Absolute Power. Vs. 19, “Therefore, if it pleases the king, let him issue a royal decree and let it be written in the laws of Persia and Media, which cannot be repealed, that Vashti is never again to enter the presence of King Xerxes…” Absolute power in the hands of the wrong person can be incredibly dangerous (i.e. Hitler). This scene of King Xerxes with his advisors is reminiscent of the HBO series Game of Thrones. “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.” – John Emerich Edward Dalberg Acton. I just recently saw the new Captain America movie that depicted the antagonist Robert Redford’s character as man on a mission to wield absolute power with a new modern weapon. We must be careful with the power that we have. That is why the church body should hold each other accountable.