From Esther 1-5
The book of Esther never mentions God’s name, yet God clearly orchestrated all of its events. Esther, a Jew living among the exiles in Persia, became queen of the empire in about 480 B.C. Haman, a Persian official, sought to eradicate the Jewish minority, but God had prepared Esther “for such a time as this” (4:14) to save his covenant people. The book was written some decades later to document the origins of the Jewish observance of Purim, which celebrates Israel’s survival and God’s faithfulness. The author is unknown, but some believe it could have been Esther’s cousin Mordecai, who is a key person in the book. Throughout the book we see God’s sovereign hand preserving his people, showing that everything is under his control. (The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). (Es). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.)
This post is part of my bible in a year series.
Passage and Comments
The book of Esther tells a story when the Jews were in exile under the reign of a Persian king named Ahasuerus. Ahasuerus had a harem with many concubines and liked to have a beautiful woman as his Queen.
During a party he was holding he called upon his Queen to display herself to his guests and the Queen refused. Fearing the Queen would set a precedent amongst all the other women in his kingdom Ahasuerus banished her from his presence and sought another Queen.
Esther was a young and beautiful Jewess. Being an orphan a Jew named Mordecai took care of her as his daughter. Esther was noticed by the servants of the king looking for beautiful women. With others they prepared her for showing before the king and he and others were so impressed by her beauty that he made her Queen and held a feast in her honour. During this time Mordecai discovered a plot against the king. He told Esther and Esther told the king. The conspirators were killed and Mordecai’s deed was recorded in the kings records.
There was a man in Ahasuerus’ court named Haman who had a big ego. He wanted all the kings servants to bow down to him and pay homage. Jews only worship the one true God and Mordecai like many other Jews did not bow down before Haman. When Haman found out he was incensed against not only Mordecai, but all the Jews along with him. He wanted them all dead. Haman slandered the Jews to king Ahasuerus and the king issued an edict receiving payment from Haman so the people could bear arms against the all the Jews all over the nation on a certain day. When the Jews heard about this they were distressed. Now Esther being the Queen was in a pivotal spot to help deliver her people, the Jews from this crisis. Our passage picks up from this point.
4 When Mordecai learned all that had been done, Mordecai tore his clothes and put on sackcloth and ashes, and went out into the midst of the city, and he cried out with a loud and bitter cry. 2 He went up to the entrance of the king’s gate, for no one was allowed to enter the king’s gate clothed in sackcloth. 3 And in every province, wherever the king’s command and his decree reached, there was great mourning among the Jews, with fasting and weeping and lamenting, and many of them lay in sackcloth and ashes. (Est 4.1-3)
Mordecai grieves in the way Jews do. Tearing his clothes and putting on sackcloth and ashes grieving publically. Many join him when they hear about the edict of the king. Esther hears about Mordecai’s behaviour.
4 When Esther’s young women and her eunuchs came and told her, the queen was deeply distressed. She sent garments to clothe Mordecai, so that he might take off his sackcloth, but he would not accept them. 5 Then Esther called for Hathach, one of the king’s eunuchs, who had been appointed to attend her, and ordered him to go to Mordecai to learn what this was and why it was. 6 Hathach went out to Mordecai in the open square of the city in front of the king’s gate, 7 and Mordecai told him all that had happened to him, and the exact sum of money that Haman had promised to pay into the king’s treasuries for the destruction of the Jews. 8 Mordecai also gave him a copy of the written decree issued in Susa for their destruction, that he might show it to Esther and explain it to her and command her to go to the king to beg his favor and plead with him on behalf of her people. 9 And Hathach went and told Esther what Mordecai had said. (Est 4.4-9)
Esther didn’t know about the edict against the Jews. Mordecai shows her what is about to happen. But it isn’t so easy for Esther to plead her case to the king either.
10 Then Esther spoke to Hathach and commanded him to go to Mordecai and say, 11 “All the king’s servants and the people of the king’s provinces know that if any man or woman goes to the king inside the inner court without being called, there is but one law—to be put to death, except the one to whom the king holds out the golden scepter so that he may live. But as for me, I have not been called to come in to the king these thirty days.” (Est 4.10-12)
There is a old 90’s Christian rock band called Guardian which wrote a some about Queen Esther. You might like the song. Mordecai’s replay is the climax of the book.
12 And they told Mordecai what Esther had said. 13 Then Mordecai told them to reply to Esther, “Do not think to yourself that in the king’s palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews. 14 For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Est 4.12-14)
Mordecai, her father puts her on the spot. She is in an instrumental spot to help deliver the Jews from this calamity. Esther steels herself and asks for help.
15 Then Esther told them to reply to Mordecai, 16 “Go, gather all the Jews to be found in Susa, and hold a fast on my behalf, and do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my young women will also fast as you do. Then I will go to the king, though it is against the law, and if I perish, I perish.” 17 Mordecai then went away and did everything as Esther had ordered him. (Est 4.15-17)
Esther prepares a banquet for the king. She risks her life and enters his court. He is pleased when he sees her and extends her his scepter. She won’t die. When the king asks her what she wants she delays answering and instead invites the king and Haman to a series of feasts. When the feast had finished Haman left and saw Mordecai unafraid at the temple gate. His lack of response angered Haman and he prepared a gallows so he might hang Mordecai from it.
Story of Israel
There are many prophecies in the Old Testament. Isaiah 53 is a famous prophecy predicting the suffering of a special servant.
7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
yet he opened not his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
so he opened not his mouth.
8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away;
and as for his generation, who considered
that he was cut off out of the land of the living,
stricken for the transgression of my people? (Isa 53:7–8)
The prophecy predicts the restoration of Israel. This restoration will be achieved by the suffering and slaughter of the servant. He will make atonement for their sins.
Story of Jesus
When Mordecai replied to Esther saying, ‘who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?’ (Est 4.14) he put her on the spot. This was her time. Jesus knew about his time as well.
What did Jesus think when he read this prophecy and considered his role in saving people from sin and death? He didn’t back away. He knew his hour was coming.
17 When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, 2 since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. 3 And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. 4 I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. 5 And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed. (Jn 17:1–5)
Jesus of course is speaking about his suffering and death on the cross. The place where he is most glorified. Isaiah 53 will continue to be used to preach the good news about Jesus (cf. Acts 8:26–38; Rom 4.24-25; 1 Pet 2.25).
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