Queen Esther of the Bible
Queen Esther of the Bible
Esther is one of the most beloved characters in all of the Old Testament. So loved is she, and so important was her role that a Feast was created in her honor, celebrated to this day as Purim.
Yet, the Book of Esther is the least "Jewish", or "Christian", book of the Bible, including both the Old Testament and New Testament.
The chief reason for this being the word "God" is not mentioned one time in the entire Book of Esther, nor is
"Jerusalem" , "the temple", "the Law of Moses", or "Palestine" (Zodhiates, NASB Study Bible).
Queen Esther of the Bible lived during the Persian Empire, thus the Jews of this time were
spread throughout all of the vast empire and beyond. There was no central Jewish identity, nor was there a central homeland.
Spiros Zodhiates states the Book of Esther has "no organic connection" to the rest of the Bible. However, Zodhiates points out that many scholars feel this is our only view of what life was like for Jews under Persian rule.
The nature of the book, thus, reflects the nature of life for Jews during the Persian Empire. The people were disjointed, separated from one another, and from their Holy Land. Many of these Jewish people probably felt separated from God as well.
Women in the Bible.net has a wonderful article on Queen Esther of the Bible. In it, the author points out the Book of Esther was written for Diaspora Jews.
For those unfamiliar with the term, the Diaspora roughly refers to that time period beginning with the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem in 586 B.C., through the Roman destruction of the Second Temple in 70 A.D., up until the establishment of the Jewish state in 1948 A.D.
It must also be noted that prior Jews had scattered to Egypt with the fall of the northern kingdom of Israel in 722 B.C. by the Assyrians. According to the Jewish Virtual Library, the start date of the Diaspora was 597 B.C., the first deportation of Judah under Nebuchadnezzar.
Thus the events involving Queen Esther of the Bible were written to Jews living during the early years of the Diaspora. The scar from the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem and their Temple was still fresh. Queen Esther of the Bible was an example to "all Jews of how to face injustice, bigotry and prejudice".
Women in the Bible.net stated that Queen Esther of the Bible showed Jews how "they must act with courage and integrity" when faced with the anti-semitism which has pervaded throughout the centuries.
Dating Queen Esther of the Bible
As is the case in many situations regarding the Old Testament, the date of the Book of Esther remains a subject of debate amongst scholars. Queen Esther of the Bible became queen to King Ahasuerus of Persia. Two theories exist regarding the identity of this Persian king. The Septuagint (LXX) and Josephus claim this king was Artaxerxes II. He reigned in Persia from 404 - 359 B.C.
Most scholars, however, agree that this king represents Xerxes I. His Persian name was Khshayarsha. Xerxes I reigned in Persia from 486 B.C. - 464 B.C. Queen Esther of the Bible is said to have ascended to the queenship in 479 B.C. This is founded upon Esther 2:16, which states Xerxes claimed Esther queen of Persia "in the tenth month which is the month Tebeth, in the
seventh year of his reign".
Click on a link to view that section of Queen Esther of the Bible.
The Biblical Narrative
Map of the Persian Empire
Dating the book
Ruins of Ancient Persepolis
Map of Ancient Susa
Queen of Persia
Bible history.com states Queen Esther of the Bible ascended to the queenship ca. 478 B.C. They have an excellent list of the Persian kings and their dates as well.
Two lines of thought exist on the writing of the Book of Esther. Jon Bright, in his book A History of Israel, states that; "Though many place it in the Maccabean period, a date late in the fourth century is not implausible".
Michael Grant claims the book is not based on historical fact, and "may" date from the "second century B.C." Yet, the date surrounding the Book of Esther remains uncertain and under debate. He argues no extra-biblical source mentions Queen Esther of the Bible.
Similarly, the author of the Book of Esther is in question. The most critical of views states it "probably originated among Persians and Babylonians rather than Jews" (Grant, A History of Israel 261). Biblical scholars claim Esther from the Bible was penned by either Mordecai or Nehemiah. Either one places the date of writing later than the Maccabean period.
Nehemiah served the successor to Xerxes I, Artaxerxes I, who reigned from 465 - 425 B.C. Both Nehemiah and Mordecai had intimate knowledge of the Persian kingdom and culture, as both had access to the throne. Both were literate and well educated, and it is likely both had access to the royal scribes.
It is also quite possible that Nehemiah and Mordecai knew of each other, or at least about each other. Regardless of the author, the story of Esther in the Bible is a remarkable story of God's providence and guidance, even in times of apparent despair.
The Persian Empire & Queen Esther of the Bible
J. McKee Adams authored a remarkable book entitled, Biblical Backgrounds. In it he gives a detailed description of the Persian Empire. By 554 B.C. Cyrus had effectively conquered the Persian Empire. Cyrus the Great was part of the Achaemenid dynasty. The Persian Empire itself would last until Alexander the Great came sweeping through with his army.
Queen Esther of the Bible would become queen over the largest empire the earth had ever seen. It stretched its fingers over the land formerly occupied by all of the previous world empires; Egyptian, Hittite, Aramean, Assyrian, and Babylonian. Esther 1:1 gives an indication of the enormous size and great expanse of the Persian Empire.
"Now it took place in the days of Ahasuerus, the Ahasuerus who reigned from India to Ethiopia, over 127 provinces."
Ethiopia is translated from Cush. This was a great kingdom indeed. It's greatness was found not only in its mammoth size, but also in its organization. These provinces were not mere states, but rather large territories, as Adams points out, which covered many different peoples, nations and cultures. Over these provinces was a Satrap.
This was the direct representative of the king in his particular province. A Satrap was a great position in which one answered directly to the king of Persia, and exercised a great deal of independent power.
The relationship between Satrap and King was such that over time the Satraps came to be thought of as royal princes. They partook in the formation of state policy as well.
The Persian Empire encouraged local self-government, and this system of provinces and Satraps, according to Adams, promoted such rule.
Early in the Persian Empire Babylon was the capital. Thus the Persians maintained a sense of continuity during the transition from Babylonian rule when they initially established Babylon as their capital.
During the reign of Cambyses, however, the capital was moved to Susa. He showed excellent foresight by including all of the advantages of Babylon, with none of the disadvantages ( Adams, Biblical Backgrounds 134 ). The city was situated on the Ulai River, mentioned below.
Susa was the city of Esther in the Bible. It is referred to as both the capital city, and the site of the royal palace. The great dream interpreter Daniel spoke of Susa concerning one of his visions. He gives an exact location within the city in Daniel 8:2.
"And I looked in the vision, and it came about while I was looking, that I was in the citadel of Susa, which is in the province of Elam; and I looked in the vision, and I myself was beside the Ulai Canal."
The word translated as "canal" may also be translated as "river". Daniel, however, saw Susa during the reign of the Babylonians, thus it was a citadel, or stronghold, of the Babylonians. The city rested on the banks of the Ulai River in the province of Elam. This was an ancient region. Elam was also the name of one of Shem's sons according to Genesis 10:22.
During the days of Abraham, king Chederlaomer hailed from Elam, and brought an army to conquer Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 14. One remembers that Lot was taken captive by Chederlaomer, sparking a rescue mission by Abraham with some of his Canaanite allies in support. Isaiah prophecied that God "will again recover the second time with His hand the remnant" which lies in Egypt, Pathros, Cush, Shinar, Hamath, and Elam. The great prophet Jeremiah predicted the kings of Elam, as well as many other kings from the nations, would rise against Babylon and destroy it in Jeremiah 25.
Queen Esther of the Bible thus lived in an ancient city, one whose roots were not kind to Israel. As will be seen, both Mordecai and Esther hid their ethnic identity from the King and his court for as long as they could.
For this reason, the Book of Esther does not mirror the traditional standards of Jewish behavior. Queen Esther of the Bible does not dress, nor does she eat, according to traditional Jewish expectations.
God used Cyrus the Great and the Persian Empire to accomplish His purposes in regards to His people. In 537 B.C., Cyrus issued a decree allowing Jews to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the city. Zerrubbabel led the initial return, composed of 42, 000 Jews. This return to Judah is recorded in Ezra 2:64. This was typical of Persian Rule. They encouraged self-government, as stated above,
and allowed nations to pursue their own theology.
The relationship between the Persians and the Jews was favorable. From the decree by Cyrus, until the ascension of Alexander the Great, Jews were encouraged to return to their homeland and rebuild Jerusalem and the Temple. They received protection from Persia, privilege of being one of it's provinces.
Palestine, according to Adams, lie in the zone of the fifth Persian satrapy. Though the Jews occupied but a small fraction of the Persian Empire, Adams makes an interesting statement in his book;
"It is remarkable, however, that the Jews, though occupying only a mere patch of territory in the Persian continental organization, were made the objects of several unusually favorable state policies. There is evidence that the Persian government actually gave the remnant financial help."
Why would the Persians look so favorably upon an insignificant and minute part of its empire? However, during the days of Esther queen of Persia such sentiments were not shared by all Persians.
One, in particular, managed to trick the king into issuing a decree to kill all the Jews throughout the entire Persian Empire. It was for this precise moment in history Queen Esther of the Bible was placed by God Almighty as Esther Queen of Persia.
Esther Queen of Persia
Esther's Hebrew name was Hadassah, which means "myrtle" in Hebrew. The name Esther is believed by some scholars to have derived from the Persian word for star, "stareh", or, "satarah", depending on one's source. Women in the Bible.net, among others, claims both the names of Mordecai and Esther in the Bible "may have arisen from stories about the Persian dieties
Ishtar and Marduk".
Similar circumstances occurred in Daniel, with the renaming of Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to reflect Babylonian gods and meanings.
Part of what makes Queen Esther of the Bible so remarkable is her rise from extremely humble beginnings. Throughout the Bible God attests to His power through the actions and achievements of seemingly insignificant and disadvantaged individuals.
Queen Esther of the Bible was no different. The opening verses of Esther 2 give the Queen's lineage and background. It suits God
perfectly that Esther queen of Persia, at the time the largest empire in the history of the world, was an orphan. Esther 2:5-7 introduces Mordecai into the narrative, and the background involving both Mordecai and Esther.
"Now there was a Jew in Susa the capital whose name was Mordecai, the son of Jair, the son of Shimei, the son of Kish, a Benjamite, who had been taken into exile from Jerusalem with the captives who had been exiled with Jeconiah king of Judah, whom Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon had exiled. And he was bringing up Hadassah, that is Esther, his uncle's daughter, for she had neither
father nor mother. Now the young lady was beautiful of form and face, and when her father and her mother died, Mordecai took her as his own daughter."
Thus a fascinating picture regarding Queen Esther of the Bible is painted by these verses. The Bible is silent as to how her parents died. The Bible is also silent as to how the pair came to Susa. Perhaps Mordecai's ancestors had been placed in Susa, or had migrated from Babylon or some other Babylonian city earlier. The destruction of Jerusalem had occurred over a century ago, thus neither
had previously seen Jerusalem or Judah. Mordecai, thus, chose to stay behind when Cyrus issued the decree allowing Jews to return to the Holy Land.
As indicated by the above passage, Queen Esther of the Bible had a direct relation to king Saul. Both hailed from the tribe of Benjamin. Mordecai is a direct descendant of king Saul as indicated by his lineage, and was the uncle to Queen Esther of the Bible.
Mordecai becomes a great man, heralded as such by many Rabbi's and writings throughout antiquity. His righteousness and piousness is seen in his willingness to raise his niece as his own. Mordecai and Esther in the Bible show an immense reliance upon the God of their forefathers.
In verse fifteen we learn the name of Esther's father, Abihail. Abihail was the uncle to Mordecai. The relation to king Saul plays an intriguing role later in the narrative, a role in which one senses the ancient forces of good and evil manifesting themselves through the actions of the present individuals in question.
The Book of Esther
Eshter opens up with a depiction of the king of Persia, said to be Ahasuerus. As indicated above, most scholarship associates him with Xerxes I. Scripture states he sat upon his throne in the capital city of Susa. In the third year of his reign he gave a banquet for all the nobles, princes, and leaders of the army throughout all of his kingdom. The extravagance of this banquet is seen
in verse four.
"And he displayed the riches of his royal glory and the splendor of his great majesty for many days, 180 days."
Ahasuerus, thus, gave a banquet which lasted approximately six months. In books seven and nine of Herodotus' writings, The Persian Wars, he goes into in-depth detail concerning feasts of Xerxes I. These were no small matters.
Xerxes I was an impulsive ruler, oftentimes succumbing foolishly to ill advice from advisers. The Bible oftentimes portrays him making decisions on whims and impulses, rather than thoughtfulness and sobriety. Queen Esther of the Bible thus, was to be queen of an abundantly rich, yet equally impulsive King.
Upon the conclusion of this 180 day banquet, king Xerxes threw a seven day feast to culminate the events. It was during the last day of the banquet that the king summoned Queen Vashti to the banquet hall. Xerxes I displayed his pride in Esther 1:11.
"...to bring Queen Vashti before the king with her royal crown in order to display her beauty to the people and the princes, for she was beautiful."
He wanted to parade her around as a sign of his glory. Vashti refused in verse twelve, an act which would lead to her expulsion from the palace.
This is the first example of the king's rash decisions. He asked his advisers what should he do in regards to his queen's insolence. In verses sixteen through twenty-two, Memucan, an adviser of the kings, argues in favor of banishing Queen Vashti from the kingdom.
His reasoning was her defiance would be heralded and copied by the other women of the kingdom, thus bringing shame on the men of Persia. She must be punished, he argued, to send a message. Queen Vashti was to become an example throughout the Persian Empire. Memucan urged king Ahaseurus to issue a "royal edict...so that it cannot be repealed...".
Such an edict from the king carried a definite sentence with it. It could not be reversed, for the word of the king was law and final. Thus in verse twenty-one we learn of the king's tendency towards impulsive decisions.
"And this word pleased the king and the princes, and the king did as Memucan proposed."
It must be kept in mind the king had been drinking and celebrating for over six months. Scripture indicates by the seventh day of the feast "the king was merry with wine".
In plain terms, he was drunk, and probably exceedingly so. Thus his decision-making process was severely impaired. In his drunken state he hastily agreed to advice from a likely equally drunk adviser. Queen Esther of the Bible would end up confronting another decision made in similar haste, and with far more evil consequences.
However, it is the banishment of Vashti which opens the door for Esther's ascension to the queenship of Persia. Interestingly, Women in the Bible.net point out chapter two of the Book of Esther not only tells about Queen Esther of the Bible, but also relates the first beauty pageant recorded in world history.
One of the king's advisers suggests the king send out a proclamation throughout the empire urging those of the most beautiful virgins to come to Susa, his capital, so that he may select one from among them to be queen.
Esther 2:8 depicts the entrance of Esther into the king's harem.
"So it came about when the command and decree of the king were heard and many young ladies were gathered to Susa the capital into the custody of Hegai, that Esther was taken to the king's palace into the custody of Hegai, who was in charge of the women."
Hegai was the king's chief eunuch. A eunuch is one who has been castrated. These men were often placed over the king's harem for obvious reasons. Hegai, we learn, had been castrated since he was a child. Queen Esther of the Bible displays her humility throughout the entire narrative. From the beginning she understands it is important to seek the advice and guidance of others.
Queen Esther of the Bible also exhibited a reliance upon God that echoes throughout. Her treatment of Hegai reflects the humble and Godly spirit found within.
"Now the young lady pleased him and found favor with him. So he quickly provided her with her cosmetics and food, gave her seven choice maids from the king's palace, and transferred her and her maids to the best place in the harem."
Hegai's favor would prove extremely beneficial to Esther in the Bible story. Scripture also reveals that Queen Esther of the Bible kept her Jewish identity, and that of her uncle Mordecai, secret; "for Mordecai had instructed her that she should not make them known."
Mordecai is quietly the driving force behind Queen Esther of the Bible. He has foresight and wisdom to instruct her in how she should conduct herself amongst foreigners. Esther again shows her humble nature by complying with Mordecai, whom she looked at as a father.
Indeed, in verse eleven Mordecai is pictured as a nervous and anxious father, one ultimately concerned with the well-being of his daughter.
"And every day Mordecai walked back and forth in front of the court of the harem to learn how Esther was and how she fared."
What a touching picture of a concerned father, one which only those men that are fathers can truly relate to. In Mordecai we see but a cloudy reflection of the love and concern of God Almighty for His children. The first ever beauty pageant was in the hands of God Almighty. The outcome had been predetermined; now it was up to Esther to simply respond in faith.
The process involved in preparing the women to appear before the king was quite extensive. A full year was allotted "for the
days of their beautification". Out of this twelve month period, the first six months involved treatments with oil of myrrh. The ancients used myrrh for a number of social, religious, and ritual purposes.
It was used as medicine, perfume, incense, and embalming, amongst other uses. In ancient Egypt it was considered to be the finest of perfumes. It's exact nature of use in regards to Esther from the Bible are not specified. The next six months involved treatment with spices. In modern times, some
spices are used in conjunction with perfume.
Spices such as lavender, sage and rosemary are frequently used in such instances. Also used are spices such as cinnamon, clover, vanilla and ginger, many of these in use since antiquity.
After her year-long treatment, soon to be Queen Esther of the Bible once again displayed her humility when it came time to meet the king. Instead of arrogantly parading herself in front of the king, she sought the advice and guidance of Hegai as to what she should say.
Hegai surely knew the king's tastes as well, if not better, than anyone in the kingdom. Esther was humble enough, and wise enough, to seek his advice, rather than rely on her own inexperience.
Verses fifteen and sixteen depict the result of her actions.
"Now when the turn of Esther, the daughter of Abihail the uncle of Mordecai who had taken her as his daughter, came to go in to the house of the king, she did not request anything except what Hegai, the king's eunuch who was in charge of the women, advised. And Esther found favor in the eyes of all who saw her. So Esther was taken to King Ahaseurus to his royal palace in the tenth month
which is the month of Tebeth, in the seventh year of his reign."
Thus Queen Esther of the Bible, the orphaned Jewish daughter of Abihail, raised by her uncle Mordecai, became officially known as Esther queen of Persia, the largest empire the world had known. Queen Esther of the Bible was now in a position of direct influence over the king.
Yet she was also subjected to the whims and impulses of the king, as everyone else was. She must learn to rely not on her new found status of queen, but on the everlasting promise of God to faithfully guide those who seek Him.
Her uncle Mordecai thought it best to hide their Jewish ancestry, thus Esther followed his advice. Scripture seems to suggest things moved rather quickly from this point on.
For verse seventeen indicates the king "loved Esther more than all the women, and she found favor and kindness with him". The king, thus thew a banquet in her honor in verse eighteen.
Queen Esther of the Bible had not revealed her relation to Mordecai, for Mordecai is pictured as sitting at the king's gate, rather than at her side. It is quite likely Mordecai was always at a distance, carefully watching Esther queen of Persia like a hawk. He was never far from her mind either. For in verse twenty-one Mordecai is again pictured sitting at the King's Gate, perhaps waiting to
catch a glimpse of his niece/daughter the queen.
This day turned out differently, however, for Mordecai became aware of a plot by two of the king's servants to "lay hands on king Ahaseurus". Scripture does not elaborate on how Mordecai came to such knowledge, but immediately upon his discovery he told Queen Esther. The Queen, thus, "informed the king in Mordecai's name".
Yet again Queen Esther of the Bible demonstrates her humility and reverence for her father and God. She could have claimed the knowledge in her own name, thus heaping up more honors and favor in the king's eyes. However, like a faithful child she credits her father with the discovery, though the King is not aware of the true nature of Mordecai and Esther.
The king is obviously very grateful to Mordecai, and in Esther 2:23 his actions are said to have been recorded in The Book of the Chronicles of the Persian kings. The significance of this will be seen later in the narrative.
Chapter three introduces the personage of Haman. In verse one the king is said to have promoted Haman, the son of Hammedatha the Agagite. Haman found such favor in the king's eyes he was promoted to head over "all the princes who were with him".
Haman, though, was a proud man. He immediately sought the worship and attention of the people. He wanted them to see his power and authority, and acknowledge him by bowing to him in his presence.
"But Mordecai neither bowed down nor paid homage."
The motivations for Mordecai's refusal are not outright stated in Scripture. However, individuals through the Old Testament have refused to bow before foreign leaders and gods. These were the truly righteous of Israel. They acknowledged no other god or power other than that of God Almighty, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Women in the Bible.net sheds an interesting light on another possible
motivation, touched on above.
Queen Esther of the Bible and her uncle Mordecai were Jews descended from the tribe of Benjamin, and ultimately descended from the lineage of the first king of Israel, king Saul son of Kish.
In a fascinating twist, the ancestor's of Haman are equally as interesting. Haman is said to have been an Agagite, descended from the Amalekites.
Agag the Amalekite was an enemy of king Saul's in I Samuel. He was king of "the sinners, the Amalekties". Some scholars suggest the appellation Agag was simply a title given to the king of the Amalekites, similar to Caesar of Pharaoh.
The ancient forces of God's righteousness and the enemy's evil confronted each other once again in the ongoing cosmic struggle between the two opposing forces. This time they manifested themselves in the current personages of Haman and Mordecai.
Mordecai's refusal infuriated Haman. At first Haman simply wanted to kill Mordecai. However, upon learning of Mordecai's identity, Haman's hatred was to such an extent he sought the destruction of all Jews in the kingdom. His desire is recorded in Esther 3:6
"But he disdained to lay hands on Mordecai alone, for they had told him who the people of Mordecai were; therefore Haman sought to destroy all the Jews, the people of Mordecai, who were throughout the whole kingdom of Ahaseurus."
The sentiments of Haman are reflected in some of the individuals within certain organizations, such as the Islamic Brotherhood, in our current time. Certainly the Nazi regime under Hitler mirrored the policy Haman sought to establish centuries prior in the Persian Empire.
Time and again the ancient attitudes and treatment of God's people manifest themselves at different stages throughout human history. We see it happening this very day. Queen Esther of the Bible had been placed there for just such purposes as this. As God has consistently done through the ages, He provided His people with a deliverer at the exact time they needed one.
Haman deceives the king into issuing a royal edict, such as the one banishing Queen Vashti earlier, to execute all the Jews throughout the Persian Empire. In order to establish the day of execution, Haman cost lots as to what day. Haman's decision making process is recorded in verse seven of chapter three.
"In the first month, which is the month Nisan, in the twelfth year of king Ahaseurus, Pur, that is the lot, was cast before Haman from day to day and from month to month, until the twelfth month, that is the month Adar."
Haman's plot to annihilate the Jews due to Mordecai's insult had been set in motion. After he had decided what day to carry out the execution, he now had to convince the king to issue the decree. Haman filled the king with lies about the Jews, and even offered to pay the king to issue the decree. His words are recorded in verses eight and nine.
"Then Haman said to King Ahasuerus, 'There is a certain people scattered and dispersed among the peoples in all the provinces of your kingdom; their laws are different from those of all other people, and they do not observe the king's laws, so it is not in the king's interest to let them remain. If is pleasing to the king, let it be decreed that they be destroyed and I will pay ten
thousand talents of silver into the hands of those who carry out the king's business, to put into the king's treasuries."
The king, as he was prone to do, agreed to Haman's statement. Throughout the Book of Esther the king readily agrees to just about anything that is proposed to him. Mordecai, upon hearing of the King's proclamation in Esther 4:1;
"tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and ashes, and went out into the midst of the city and wailed loudly and bitterly."
Mordecai's despair was likely coupled with the fact he was the cause of Haman's anger initially; and now Haman had used that instance to execute all Jewish people everywhere throughout the Persian Empire. The fate of the Jewish nation, scattered as it was, had just been sealed. Queen Esther of the Bible was about to be called upon to test her faith in God Almighty.
In many ancient civilizations the king, or head of state, was often thought of in divine terms, as either being a god himself, or having a closer connection to the gods than other humans. Ancient Egypt regarded the Pharaoh as divinity, as did the Romans with Caesar.
The Persians were no different. The King of Persia was considered being closer to the gods than normal humans. He was a divine presence on earth. His decrees were final, thus in the case of Mordecai his fate was sealed.
Queen Esther's servants rushed back to her and told her of Mordecai's actions. Queen Esther of the Bible does not, at this point, know why Mordecai is acting as he is. She was unaware of her husband's decree. Mordecai's pain, however, was enough on it's own to cause Esther to have "writhed in great anguish". Scripture makes it evident Queen Esther of the Bible was truly a pious,
humble, loving, and obedient daughter of Israel.
For whatever reason Queen Esther of the Bible does not rush out to meet her uncle. Instead she sent Hathach, one of the king's eunuchs assigned to her. Hathach went out to meet Mordecai on the queen's behalf, at which point Mordecai "told him all that had happened to him". He even gave Hathach a copy of the edict to show Esther.
Esther's response is interesting. Upon faced with this life or death situation, her first reaction was to seek out an excuse why she could not help. It is human nature to shrink from such responsibilities. Moses shrank from God's call to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. Jonah fled from God upon being called to preach to Nineveh. Yet in each instance, the individual was strengthened by God,
and prevailed in the end.
Queen Esther of the Bible was no different. Her excuse rested on the fact she had not been called into the king's presence in over thirty days. This typically meant one had fallen out of favor with the king. It was against the law to approach the king, however, without being summoned first. To do so risk death.
If Queen Esther of the Bible was to approach the king, and he not extend his golden scepter, she would be put to death. She related her reasoning to Mordecai, who had little patience for such excuses and responded with sobering words in verses thirteen and fourteen.
"Then Mordecai told them to reply to Esther, 'Do not imagine that you in the king's palace can escape any more than all the Jews. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place and you and your father's house will perish. And who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this?"
These are some of the wisest words given in counsel in all of the Scriptures. Queen Esther of the Bible, as humble in spirit as she was, needed a sobering reminder that God WILL accomplish His tasks regardless of who He must use.
Esther's role was not as deliverer, but to act faithfully and with confidence in God. Mordecai reminded her that God will deliver His people. If she refused the honor to act as God's instrument, shame would be brought upon her father's house.
Mordecai then touched on a significant aspect of God's nature; His omnipotent providence. God foresaw the treachery and deception of Haman, for God is all knowing. Thus, using His divine influence over His creation, God Almighty made Queen Esther of the Bible queen of Persia at precisely the right moment in time in order to accomplish His tasks.
God is not limited to only using His people of Israel; as He used Cyrus a Gentile decades earlier. Neither is God limited to only using people, as He can surely influence nature and the earth to accomplish His tasks as well, evidenced by the words of Jesus Christ in the New Testament calming the waters of the Sea of Galilee. For He is the creator of all.
Queen Esther of the Bible responded in faith to Mordecai's words. He brought her back to her faith, and she tells Mordecai to assemble all the Jews in Susa. Scholars, such as Adams, indicate that many Jews lived in Susa. These Persian Jews, Adams states in his book, "were important factors in its commercial, cultural, and political affairs".
Thousands of years later, fascinatingly enough, the largest traditional Persian Jewish congregation in the United States is located in the heart of Beverly Hills. The influence Jews, particularly Persian Jews, have had consistently over time in centers of economic and political power is mind boggling; and taking place today as it did thousands of years ago! Most Persian Jews within the United
States live in California and New York. These two states stand as the Entertainment and Economic hearts of the U.S., and arguably the world. God's hands never stop working.
Queen Esther of the Bible thus summoned the Jews of Susa to gather and fast for three days, as she and her maids would do the same within the palace. Her last words in verse sixteen are words of faith and courage in God Almighty.
...I and my maidens will also fast in the same way. And thus I will go in to the king, which is not according to the law; and if I perish, I perish."
What a beautiful statement of faith made by Queen Esther of the Bible. Thus Esther overcame her initial fears of losing her life, choosing instead to place the outcome of her actions in the hands of God. The opening verses of chapter five depict the daring move by Esther, queen of Persia.
"Now it came about on the third day that Esther put on her royal robes and stood in the inner court of the king's palace in front of the king's rooms, and the king was sitting on his royal throne in the throne room, opposite the entrance to the palace. And it happened when the king saw Esther the queen standing in the court, she obtained favor in his sight; and the king extended to
Esther the golden scepter which was in his hand. So Esther came near and touched the top of the scepter."
The king seemed amused by Esther's daring and bold appearance. It had been thirty days since he had
summoned her. Scripture is silent as to why. The king, however, was pleased to see her and reached out his golden scepter to her. Upon asking what was troubling her, the king said he would give her up to half of his kingdom in verse three. Queen Esther of the Bible, instead, asked for the presence of himself and Haman at a banquet she was going to throw.
It must be kept in mind that Queen Esther of the Bible had not revealed her true identity to the king as of yet. He still had no idea he had issued the execution of the Queen of Persia.
Upon news of his invitation, Haman "went out that day glad and pleased of heart". His vanity was working overtime. However, Haman again encountered Mordecai at the king's gate, to which Mordecai "did not stand up or tremble before him".
Haman, thus, was infuriated at the insult. Scripture indicates that Haman controlled himself despite his inward rage.
Immediately upon arriving at his house he sent for his friends and wife in order to relate to all of his glory, yet "all of this does not satisfy me every time I see Mordecai the Jew sitting at the king's gate". His wife's answer is found in verse fourteen.
"Then Zeresh his wife and all his friends said to him, 'Have a gallows fifty cubits high made and in the morning ask the king to have Mordecai hanged on it, then go joyfully with the king to the banquet."
This pleased Haman greatly. Yet, he did not realize the king was having a troubled night sleeping. Thus, while Haman may have been planning his murderous scheme of Mordecai, the king was having the "the book of records, the chronicles" read to him, in all likelihood an attempt to put his troubled soul to sleep. Once again God's timing manifests itself.
It just happened the record of Mordecai's report of the assassination attempt on the king was read to the king. At which point the king asked what had been done as a reward for Mordecai. His servants reported that nothing had been done. Xerxes then seeks the advice of anybody found at court. The only person found was Haman.
Ironically, verse four states Haman had just entered the court to discuss with the king his plan to hang Mordecai. It is interesting to point out that while Haman was planning Mordecai's demise, at the precise time the king was planning his honor. He asks Haman what should be done to one who has gained the favor of the king.
Haman, in all of his vanity and pride, believed the king to be talking of himself. Thus, Haman's answer was to shower the particular individual with royal pomp and splendor.
In Haman's mind, the day could not begin any better. Not only had he just planned his own parade, but he was about to vanquish his nemesis. Verse ten records the king's orders to his servant Haman.
"Then the king said to Haman, 'Take quickly the robes and the horse as you have said, and do so for Mordecai the Jew, who is sitting at the king's gate; do not fall short in anything of all that you have said."
The shock to Haman's system must have been like a hammer to the chest. As soon as the ordeal with Mordecai was over, "Haman hurried home, mourning, with his head covered". Yet, things were to get much worse for Haman. For Queen Esther of the Bible had just readied her second banquet for Haman and the king, thus the king's servants arrived at Haman's home to take him to the
It is at this time that Esther queen of Persia issued her request to the king. She pleas to the king in verse four. Interestingly, it does not appear that Queen Esther of the Bible ever tells the king she is a Jew outright. Instead, she states her people are to be killed by the order of Haman, thus the king would've realized Esther was a Jew.
"for we have been sold, I and my people, to be destroyed, to be killed and to be annihilated..."
The king asked Queen Esther of the Bible; "Who is he, and where is he, who would presume to do thus?"
At which point Queen Esther of the Bible revealed that it was Haman; "a foe and an enemy, is this wicked Haman". The king arose in anger and stormed from the room. Haman, terrified by the fact Esther queen of Persia was a Jew, begged of her for his life. His pleas were so earnest he reached out his hand, and grabbed hold of the queen. At this moment, the king came back into the
room, and witnessed Haman "falling on the couch where Esther was". The king's response was swift. In Esther 7:10 Haman's fate was sealed on the very gallows he had built.
"So they hanged Haman on the gallows, which he had prepared for Mordecai, and the king's anger subsided."
Thus Queen Esther of the Bible had saved the fate of the Jewish people throughout all of the Persian Empire. Not only that, but the king issued another decree freeing the Jews from execution, and allowing them to take up arms against those threatening them. This was done upon request by Esther to the king. Thus, on the thirteenth day of Adar, the Jews rose up in the Persian Empire,
slaughtering 75, 000 men in Persia. Eight hundred men were killed by the Jews of Susa. Yet, Scripture records on the fourteenth day of Adar they rested.
Mordecai implements a feast to commemorate the day in Esther 9:20-22. Queen Esther of the Bible was to be remembered throughout the remained of history on this festive day.
"Then Mordecai recorded these events, and he sent letters to all the Jews who were in all the provinces of King Ahaseurus, both near and far, obliging them to celebrate the fourteenth day of the month Adar, and the fifteenth day of the same month, annually, because on those days the Jews rid themselves of their enemies, and it was a month which was turned for them from sorrow into
gladness and from mourning into a holiday; that they should make them days of feasting and rejoicing and sending portions of food to one another and gifts to the poor."
This feast is called Purim. Pur is Hebrew for "lot", thus Purim is the plural, or "lots". Lots are what Haman cast to determine the day of their destruction. God, however, delivered His people through Queen Esther of the Bible.
After the king granted them the right to celebrate Purim, the Jews swore to each year honor the occasion. Purim lasts two days, and is an occasion of much joy amongst the Jews. It is a celebration of rest, and people exchange presents. The month of Adar typically corresponds with the month of March.
Hence to this day Queen Esther of the Bible is commemorated during the Feast of Purim. It is an occasion which reminds the Jews of their deliverance from Haman's plot by God Almighty.
Though all hope may appear lost, one need only dwell on Queen Esther of the Bible, and remember her words of faith and dependence on the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob;
"If I perish, I perish."
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