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Esther

March 24, 2010

I. Rejected      Esther 1:1-21

II. Accepted      Esther 2:1-18

III. Opposition      Esther 2:19-3:15

IV. The Solution      Esther 4:1-5:8

V. Righteous Judgment      Esther 5:9-7:10

VI. Righteous Justice      Esther 8:1-17

VII. Triumph and Celebration      Esther 9:1-10:3

Commentary

Introduction

Please see the Forward/Introduction for Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther placed with the first book, Ezra.

Rejected      Esther 1:1-21

King Xerxes, who reigned over Persia between 485-465BC, is in his third year as King and decides to hold a banquet for all his officials and nobles in the royal palace in Susa. His wealth had been on display for half a year and then this banquet was held for 7 days. It seems rather obvious that King Xerxes wants/needs to establish his power and gain the respect and loyalty of his officials. The banquet was held in an enclosed garden which was decorated in extravagant fashion. We don’t know what they ate but we do know what they drank. Wine flowed abundantly, every type and kind. No one was refused. One can imagine what this party became after 7 days of “wine tasting”.

The King’s Queen, Vashti, also gave a banquet at this time for the women; presumably the wives of the officials. At the end of the week, the King asks the Queen to join him at his banquet but she refuses to come, causing embarrassment to the King before his officials and nobles. The King consults with his “lawyers” to determine what if any action should be taken. This open defiance is not only troubling for the King and his ability to rule but it is troubling for all men because this will become known and cause further disrespect and discord. King Xerxes’s ability to rule is in jeopardy so his “lawyers” recommend issuing a decree that bars Queen Vashti from entering the King’s presence again and, in fact, removes her as Queen. It is recommended that a new Queen be chosen and that it be declared that each man be ruler [“king”] over his household.

Note that this is Biblical according to Genesis 2 and Ephesians 5 but it seems to carry it further to an unquestioning tyrannical disrespectful relationship which is not Biblical. See my Commentary on Ephesians 5 for the true Biblical perspective. Respect and loyalty is best gained by showing respect and loyalty. Trust and communication is a two-lane undivided highway. We are all under someone’s authority because that creates order and avoids chaos. But we must be very careful not to abuse our authority and cause oppression. We are to love and encourage our fellow man, making life easier and more enjoyable. Here is a case where both the King and the Queen were wrong. The fact that their communication consisted only of “yes” and “no” caused the issue to escalate and get out of hand. Don’t ever be so stubborn that you refuse to consider the other’s point of view.

Accepted      Esther 2:1-18

The King was angry with Vashti and it took him awhile to calm down and begin a search for a new queen. A search was made throughout all the provinces for young beautiful virgin women, bringing them to Susa for 12 months of beauty treatment. Esther, a cousin of Mordecai and a Jew, immediately caught the attention of Hagai, the eunuch in charge of the King’s harem. Esther was taken to the King in the 7th year of his reign, 4 years after Vashti was removed. [This means the search for a new queen took a long time and/or the King took a long time to calm down.] In going to the King, Esther followed all of Hagai’s instructions and won the favor of everyone who saw her. The King was attracted to her and she won his favor too. Thus, Esther became the new Queen and a banquet was held in her honor.

Esther was a Jew who became Queen of Persia. She was known for her beauty, not her nationality because no one asked and she didn’t tell. This account relates to the Christian life too. Opposition rises when we lord our Christianity over others. That does not mean we are to hide it but rather let us show our beauty first: our love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Let us love God, love our neighbor, and pray for our enemies. Let us show off our beauty, our inner beauty, first. It is attractive and will open doors to share the Gospel. Our beauty will bring glory to God.

Opposition      Esther 2:19-3:15

Mordecai continues to be a fatherly figure and influence in Esther’s life even though she is now residing in the palace. Verse 19 most likely begins just prior to her being chosen Queen. Mordecai is residing at the gate which indicates he too had a high position, perhaps as a judge, in the Persian government. It was at this gate where he overheard two guards conspiring to kill King Xerxes and got word to Esther who got word to the King. Their scheme was confirmed and they were hanged.

Next the King promotes Haman as his highest noble and gives a banquet in his honor. Everyone bowed to Haman except Mordecai, even disobeying the King’s command [similar to Queen Vashti in Chapter 1]. Word gets back to Haman that Mordecai, a Jew, refuses to bow to Haman. Haman is angry and vows to kill Mordecai and all Jews. Note that Esther has been Queen for 5 years when Haman decides to take action and informs the King falsely about the insubordination of the Jewish people. Haman convinces King Xerxes to seek out and destroy all Jews and, in so doing, pay the Treasury a significant amount of money. The King authorizes Haman’s proposal but says he can keep the money. So the decree is written and distributed throughout the land to kill all the Jews on a certain day, the 13th day of the 12th month or 12 months after Haman’s meeting with the King. Most likely these orders also applied to Judah and Jerusalem where the Temple had been rebuilt but the walls remained broken. All is in place to kill the Jews. The problem of insubordination is being resolved. The good thing is that it is in the future, allowing time to courier the message and to determine who are Jews and who are not. Verse 15 indicates Susa was bewildered. Evidently Susa had a large Jewish community who preferred to stay in Persia instead of returning to Judah.

Mordecai took a stand against Haman probably because he knew his character was not worthy of the King’s lofty appointment. He was willing to risk his life in defiance of Haman but he did not think he was risking the life of Israel as a nation. As Christians we need not nor should we bow before people of evil character. But in so doing, the risks may be greater than we realize. Those with evil hearts often exceed our expectations. This account is really no different than what exists in our culture today. Mordecai represents each of us as individual Christians refusing to bow to people under the influence of evil [Satan] who hold offices of power and influence. These evil men do not attack us as individuals but they attack all believers and seek to destroy us. Examples today would be evil’s promotion of abortion, removal of God in public assemblies, removal of God in our Pledge of Allegiance and money, removal of the 10 Commandments in our justice system, removal of Christmas celebrations in public, removal of God in reference to our founding fathers, removal of creation as an alternative to evolution etc. The battle of Modecai is no different than the battles we face. Modecai stood his ground based on his convictions. Modecai took a risk. God expects us to do likewise and trust Him to glorify His Name. Confront, don’t tolerate, the evil around you. Stand up and be counted for promoting Christ and the Gospel. The battle is larger than you imagine but God is faithful and will protect and care for His people, the Church.

The Solution      Esther 4:1-5:8

Mordecai learns of the outcome of Haman’s grudge and immediately goes into mourning. There is no mention of God in the book of Esther but the description of Mordecai’s action implies the humbling of one before God seeking forgiveness and wisdom. All Jews were mourning when they heard the news. One wonders if the sovereign hand of the Lord was in all of this to strengthen the remnant’s faith and dependence on God.

Esther hears of Mordecai’s mourning and sends him clothes to replace his sackcloth. He does not accept them so Esther sends a eunuch to find out why. She learns of the King’s decree including the amount Haman promised to give the treasury from the spoils. Mordecai sends a message requesting Esther to go to the King and beg for mercy for her people, Israel.

Esther responds saying it has been over a month since she has seen the King and that if she goes and finds him angry for being interrupted, she will most likely be killed. Mordecai responds that she has nothing to lose. She will be killed with all the other Jews if she doesn’t intercede on their behalf now. In fact, her position as Queen may very well be part of God’s sovereign plan. Esther’s answer is to gather all the God-fearing Jews together and fast[worship] for the next 3 days. She will also fast. She is willing to risk her life to save her people.

Esther goes to the King after 3 days and is received by him. The King asks what she wants and she responds by asking the King and Haman to come that day to a banquet she had prepared. The King summons Haman and they go at once. The King continues to ask Esther’s real purpose/request. She asks them to have patience and come to her banquet the next evening, promising to reveal her request at that time.

Being a Christian, a child of God, a follower of His Will, is never easy in a world intent on evil. It is very important that we seek His Will everyday to learn what we are to do on behalf of His Kingdom. We are always called to love but sometimes we are called to confront and/or risk our lives for the sake of others. We are to be Christ-like. Christ loved, Christ confronted, and Christ was willing to lay down His life to save us. That was His ultimate act of love. Esther was put in that same position, having to trust God completely. God calls each one of us at some time to do likewise and trust Him. It is His way of destroying evil and growing our faith. Let us willingly place out faith and trust in the Lord God Almighty, our God who is sovereign over all things.

Righteous Judgment      Esther 5:9-7:10

Haman goes home happy but had to restrain his rage upon seeing Mordecai. Haman calls his friends together and boasts of his wealth, power, and honor being the King’s #2 man in charge of Persia. He even believes he is honored and respected by the Queen. Haman expresses his anger toward Mordecai and he and his friends agree that gallows should be built immediately for Mordecai’s hanging.

That night King Xerxes cannot sleep so he asks to have the chronicles of his reign read to him. He learns that Mordecai was responsible for exposing the 2 men who had planned his assassination. The King asks if Modecai was rewarded and learns nothing had been done. Haman has just finished the gallows designated for Mordecai and was in the court seeking an opportunity to receive the King’s approval concerning Mordecai’s fate. The King calls him and asks what should be done to honor a man in whom he delights. Haman thinks the King plans to honor him so he suggests a parade and dress fit for a king. The King accepts his suggestion and commands Haman to do just as he described for Mordecai, the Jew. Haman obeys and is humiliated before his family and friends, who predict his ruin.

Haman is escorted to Esther’s banquet where the King again asks Esther to reveal her request. She requests life for her and her people. The King doesn’t understand the significance of his former decree and asks who would want to kill her and her people. Esther points to Haman and the King leaves the banquet in a rage. Haman begs Queen Esther for mercy. The King returns, believes Haman is molesting the Queen, and commands Haman be hanged on the gallows Haman built for Mordecai.

  Christ taught that the proud will be humbled and the humble will be exalted [Luke 14:11]. This story proves the truthfulness of that teaching. Both the proud and the humble have access to the King [Lord] but the Lord’s righteousness exalts the humble and humbles the proud. Think about it. Who would you rather have dinner with, a humble person or a proud boastful person. God is no different. His wedding banquet is reserved only for the humble, those who recognize they are unworthy of the honor but are invited because our Lord has called the humble by His grace through faith as His own sons and daughters. Praise God for His care, His protection, His salvation, and your adoption.

Righteous Justice      Esther 8:1-17

King Xerxes gives Haman’s estate to Esther and Mordecai has an audience with the King to receive his signet ring which was formerly in Haman’s possession. Esther appoints Mordecai over her estate. But there is yet more that needs to be done. Esther takes another risk and seeks an audience with the King. He accepts and she pleads with him to undo the wrong Haman had set in motion, the destruction of the Jews because that law was still legal and to be obeyed. The King agrees and has Mordecai write a decree on his behalf and to seal it with his ring. It granted the right for Jews to assemble in any city to protect themselves, to fight and kill any armed force who might attack them, and to plunder the property of the attackers. This was to happen on the 13th day of the 12th month, the same date of the previous decree by Haman. It was done this way because no decree of the King could be revoked. This was the only legal way to prevent the killing of all Jews. Thus, the new decree was sent out to all the provinces of Persia by courier.

Mordecai wore royal garments and a crown and the city of Susa was in celebration mode. There was great joy among the Jews throughout Persia along with much feasting and celebrating. As a result, many gentiles became Jews, followers of the Lord God Almighty. Justice is complete.

God faithfully protects His people, those who are obedient to His Will. Obeying His Will requires faith and trust in God because risks are usually involved. But faith has its’ rewards; the salvation of His people on earth, the growth of His Kingdom, and eternal life with the Lord. Know the Lord is sovereign and obey Him; loving Him with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. There is no one except the Lord God Almighty worthy of our worship and praise.

Triumph and Celebration      Esther 9:1-10:3

When the day of reckoning came, the Jews assembled to stave off any attacks made against them, In general, the people feared the Jews and Mordecai except for those whose hearts were filled with hatred. Mordecai’s reputation spread throughout the land and he became more and more powerful. The Jews were attacked but they were able to strike down their enemies. Five hundred men were killed in Susa plus Haman’s 10 sons but they did not plunder their enemies. The King hears what happened in Susa and is anxious to hear what took place throughout his kingdom. He asks Esther if she has any other requests. She asks for Mordecai’s decree to be extended one more day in Susa and it is. The next day resulted in 300 more deaths but no plunder. The word came from throughout the provinces and the King learns 75000 men have been killed but no plunder was taken.

The day after, the Jews celebrate their salvation. They did this annually, on the 15th in Susa and on the 14th in the provinces which were the days after their triumph. Part of their celebration was to give food to the poor. This celebration was called Purim and is still celebrated today by the Jews [see vs. 28]. All these regulations for the Purim celebration were also recorded in the annals of Persia. Mordecai became great in power and was held in high esteem by the Jews because he worked for the good of his people, the Jews.

As Christians, we too celebrate our salvation in the birth of God’s Son at Christmas and His death and resurrection at Easter. We too give gifts but are we doing all that God desires for the poor? Salvation came to the Jews through the efforts of Esther, Mordecai and the kind heart of King Xerxes. Salvation has come to all people through the birth, death, and resurrection of God’s Son, Jesus Christ. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and be saved [Acts 16:3]. Celebrate God’s Plan of Salvation! Celebrate your salvation! Celebrate what God has done and glorify His Holy Name!

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