Esther 1:22 In His Own House
It is quite well known that any spiritual lessons from this book must be based on inferences rather than on directives, there being no specific references to God. We can, however, be very thankful that it has been included in the canon of Scripture as it affords wonderful insight into His providential care of His people. It is a beautiful story and well loved by the Jews. Gaebelein gives an excellent introduction in “the Annotated Bible”(p.81) which we take the liberty to reproduce extensively.
“The Book of Esther is one of the five books which the Jews call Megilloth (Rolls). They appear in the Hebrew Bible in the following order: 1. Canticles, that is Solomon’s Song, read in connection with Passover. 2. Ruth, read on the feast of weeks (Pentecost). 3. Lamentation, used on the ninth Day of the month Ab, commemorating the destruction of the Temple, which happened twice on the same day, first by Nebuchadnezzar and then afterwards by the Romans. 4. Ecclesiastes, which is read during the celebration of the feast of Tabernacles. 5. The Book of Esther, read on the fast of Purim. The Jews hold this little book is the highest esteem; they call it “the Megillah” and thereby give it the place of pre-eminence among the other Megilloth. The ancient Rabbis give it a place next to the Torah, the Law. Maimonides taught that when the Messiah comes every other book of the Jewish Scriptures will pass away but the Law and the Book of Esther will remain forever.... Yet many objections have been made against this book. Its rightful place in the Canon of the Old Testament has been hotly contested by Jews and Christians.”
Ahasuerus is an appellation which means king of all kings, a title borne by the son of Darius (Hystaspes) and here by Xerxes I. The story of exactly how Vashti became disqualified thus opening the way for Esther to be chosen as her replacement is given in this chapter.
That “every man should bear rule in his own house” is not an unfamiliar theme and is God’s will though the reminder comes to us from a strange source. The reference, Ephesians 5:22 and 24 is found in my center column at this point.
Esther 2:7 “The Maid was Fair and Beautiful”
There being no direct reference to Jehovah in this book caused some critics to question whether it belonged with the sacred writings. But, if we didn’t have access to it we would not have a clue as to why the Jews celebrate Purim as no explanation is given about it in any other canonical Scriptures.
One reason why we who are Christians like to read it, this last of the historical books, is because it is such a treat to come out of the dusty archives where we, who are reading through the Bible books consecutively have been “stuck” for a while and get to “sink our teeth” into something that reads like the latest novel from the Christian bookstore. Here is a story with pizazz . There is the pageantry of Persian court life, “the like of which,” Gaebelein says, “is found nowhere else.” There is a deep and violent plot, a scheming fiend, a dashing hero, intrigue and most important of all, a beautiful peasant girl who through her marriage to the king of all kings manages to solve the greatest of political problems and prevents genocide. All of this in a short story which can probably be read in less than half an hour. What more could we ask for?
Well, for one thing, if we would like the ladies to be interested, it would help if our heroine had brains to match her beauty. Esther had it all. And most of all, as believers who would like to find our Creator-God somewhere in the story are not disappointed though we must “read between the lines” to do so. In fact let us be real sleuths about it and look for every clue as to His involvement. The search will pay off, I guarantee.
Just about every novel that I have ever read, and I only read clean ones, has had the most fabulously beautiful girl in it and how she gets around to be in them all, I don’t know. But here she is again, the most lovely of them all and it is not to be wondered at that the king falls head over heels in love with her (Ps. 45:11). She is not a king’s daughter but no doubt she was richly arrayed and we will soon see that her real beauty is “within”(v.13) as it should be with all of the King’s daughters (v.9) who are “honorable.”
Mirror, mirror on the wall, what do I want most of all, physical beauty, marred by sin or His righteousness within? Please read Psalm 45 if you want your heart to indite (be stirred by) a good matter.
Esther 3:1 Haman
Haman, the personification of evil, now comes on the scene. He is an emissary of the devil himself and immediately he is seen as the enemy of the Jews. As such, of course, he is the enemy of God for though God is not evident here in person, wherever His people are, we may be sure there He too is present. It becomes obvious to us as we move through this episode that though Mordecai and Esther were not among those who returned to the land after the seventy years of exile in Babylon, yet they were part of that remnant who had not bowed the knee to Baal (Rom.11:4) and as such, they honored Him and He, them.
It is quite likely that this stiff-backed son of Abraham knew well the story of his cousins, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah and their refusal to bow to Nebuchadnezzar’s golden image on the plain of Dura which was considered an infringement of worship to his gods (Dan.3:14). To prostrate himself before Haman must have seemed as repulsive an act as theirs would have been and he therefore refused him reverence.
It was no mere fluke of history that Haman became so incensed against Mordecai that, on the basis of this resistence, he “sought to destroy all of the Jews that were throughout the whole kingdom.” Behind Haman was an evil and powerful hierarchy, a satanic kingdom comprised of scheming demonic forces dedicated to improving every opportunity to thwart the plan of Jehovah Elohim to ultimately bring forth the Messiah, Jesus.
Since the successful return of God’s people to Judea was moving ahead in spite of the failure of his faithful emissaries like Sanballet and Tobiah to squelch it, the old serpent would take another approach and who better than an ancestor of Agag to carry it out!
If, as is thought the case by many Bible commentators, Haman was a descendent of Amalek and if perchance this was known by Mordecai, and if he was a student of Jewish history, he might well have suspected that the plans of Haman were being thwarted through the strategic placing of Esther where she could carry on the historic plan of Jehovah in holy war against this enemy (Exodus 17:16). If this seems a bit far-fetched to you, be careful not to sell God short. I say that His ways are so micro managed that we do well if we can see but a small part of His meticulous interworkings of history. I think we will stand greatly amazed when and if we are privileged to become privy to His marvelous plan of the ages.
Esther 4:16 “If I Perish, I Perish”
It was a traditional sign, among the Jews, of deep humility when one put on “sackcloth with ashes” as did Mordecai when he learned of Haman’s plot to destroy his people. Before Whom did he humble himself and to Whom did he cry “with a loud and bitter cry” if it was not Jehovah? Likewise when Esther accepted Mordecai’s counsel she too, entered into a 3 day fast which certainly was designed to invoke His aid in her cause. He was there!
To enter into the king’s presence unbidden was an extremely dangerous thing to do and for some reason Esther’s relationship to the king was rather tenuous at this time (v.11). Her reluctance was overcome by Mordecai’s words of wisdom which have become a watchword for all faithful believers; “who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” How do any of us know when involved in some trial but that it may figure into God’s great plan or who can know what serious matters may be going on behind the scenes as in Job’s case? In fact, Paul’s words about how a woman’s submissive spirit may be observed by angels is very sobering (I Cor.11:10). Also he writes to the Ephesians (3:10) that it is by “means of the church” that principalities and powers in heavenly places have the wisdom of God exhibited unto them.
All of this is portrayed dramatically in this great story but it is in Esther’s simple faith expressed in her words “and if I perish, I perish,” that we discover the true meaning of what it is to take up the cross. The cross for our Lord Jesus was the place of death. The seed of His life was falling into the ground (i.e. to die) ( John 12:24). By this He showed us what is meant by the words, “he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it” (Matt.10:39). To lose it, to release it, to reckon it dead, to let it fall, as a seed, into the ground are all ways of saying, I yield the body to Christ (Rom.12:1) as a living sacrifice. It is what Daniel did, what his three friends did, it is what Esther did. In the act of release each found at that kingdom moment, that willingness to die to one’s own life is what gives true life its fulness. Quoting from the hymn: Oh, Love That Will Not Let Me Go.
O Cross that liftest up my head,
I dare not ask to hide from thee;
I lay in dust life’s glory dead,
And from the ground there blossoms red
Life that shall endless b e.
The Third Day
Did it occur to you, my meateater friend, when you read the first verse of our present chapter, that there is significance in the words "on the third day?" If so, congratulations, you are beginning to think like a Bible expositor.
Think back on what happened at the end of chapter four. Esther was preparing to enter the place of death. Think of the principle so often prominent, how life comes from death. In simple terms, the seed falls into the prepared soil, dies and out of its death comes life and fruitfulness. In more fulness and in great glory, our Savior embraced death and on the third day sprang alive from the grave (Luke 24:21; Matt. 20:19).
In the story of the offering up of Isaac by Abraham which beautifully illustrates the offering of the only begotten Son of God, Isaac is under the sentence of death as he moves toward Moriah (Golgotha). When does he spring to life as he leaps from the altar, but on the third day (Gen.22:4)?
Jews see nights coming before days. On the third night in the belly of the whale things must have looked pretty dark (to say the least) but oh what a day the third day was for Jonah when the whale spewed him out on dry ground. Many times in the gospels our Lord Jesus spoke of the third day as the day of His resurrection (Matt.16:21; 17:23; Lk.18:33) and, of course, in Matthew twelve He specifically chose this story as a sign of what God was about to do (v.40).
Can you imagine how Esther’s trembling heart was instantly filled with joy as the king extended to her his golden scepter? Oh, beloved it is nothing to be compared to our joy when death spews us out on the other side of Jordan. It is not the bleating of a ram in the thicket that will rejoice our hearts but the sweet sounds of Jesus’ voice as He welcomes another child of hell to the shores of heaven.
But, hallelujah, the third day arrived for us on the very day of Christ’s resurrection, for does not Paul make it clear that we were quickened together with Christ (Eph.2:5; Col.2:12) and admonishes us to count it so (Rom.6:11 & 13)?
Esther 6:11 "Whom the King Delighteth to Honor"
Cowper said it well in his wonderful old hymn; "God moves in a mysterious way His wonders to perform." I think we can say without question that providence seemed to be frowning upon the Jews up until this point in our story, but feeble sense is not to be the judge as God in His never failing skill works out His sovereign will and as He sees the "bright design" of His plan working out so well it no doubt did bring a smile to His face for it certainly does to ours.
The part of the hymn that I particularly thought of as I read the melodramatic development of this chapter was verse four which goes like this: "His purposes will ripen fast, unfolding every hour: the bud may have a bitter taste, but sweet will be the flower."
If Mordecai could see from where he lived the rise of the gigantic gallows being built and if he might have surmised that it was designed for him, we can well imagine that this bud had a bitter taste. As Cowper said, however, God’s purposes often ripen fast and that is certainly true here.
It might be stretching things a bit to think that the building of the gallows that night was what kept the king awake, but then again, nothing surprises us the way this story is going.
The bud might have seemed especially bitter as Haman called on Mordecai that morning. Perhaps he thought his time had come. Was he ever surprised at the turn of events as Haman adorned him in the king’s clothes, put the crown on his head and paraded him through the streets on the king’s stallion. The flower was smelling some sweet as he heard the words of praise coming from the lips of his mortal enemy.
Certainly, it would be blind unbelief to fail to plainly see God at work here.
Esther 7:1 Esther the Queen
We have already seen that Haman, having been invited to Esther’s banquet, thought, at first, that he was being singled out for special treatment. How quickly has the worm turned. He comes now to the banquet aware that it holds for him nothing but grief. He has carried out the king’s wish concerning Mordecai who now wears the robe of a prince as he sits at the gate while he has covered his head in shame. His wife and friends see nothing but trouble ahead for him and when we last saw him, the king’s chamberlains are at his door and there remains nothing else for him to do but go to that accursed banquet. Oh, if he could only stay home and forget the whole thing!
Now, Esther had indicated she had a special request that she wished the king to grant and he tells her that whatever she asks she shall receive “even to half of the kingdom.”
How things have changed! Esther and Mordecai are now in favor and Haman’s sun is setting fast. It makes me think of how things will be for the saints when the LORD begins to have His day. The Antichrist will be riding the wave of popularity in the tribulation when suddenly, with the appearing of Christ, everything will change. The Church (and the Holy Spirit) will be exalted as she shall be arrayed in the white robes of righteousness, as the old hymn so eloquently states it, “but oh the weeping and wailing when the lost are told of their fate. They cried for the rocks and mountains, they prayed...but their prayer was too late!”
What remorse must have filled Haman’s heart as he was led to the gallows he had prepared for Mordecai. Finally the king’s wrath was satisfied. Think of how the nations now hate Israel, and read, if you will, the prophecy of Zechariah to see how things will turn out for them when the stone that the builders rejected becomes the head of the corner (I Peter 2:7). The whole book of Zechariah is relatively short and it will be a good exercise to do it in one sitting.
Esther 8:16 And Many Became Jews
It is of interest to speculate about how what is happening here in this story is affecting the
Jews that have returned to the land. First they get the word that they are under sentence of death and all because of the actions of one man. We might expect someone to say, “why oh why was I born a Jew?” But there wasn’t a thing they could do about it. It is sort of like reading in the Bible that because of the action of one man we were all declared sinners and there is not one thing we did to merit it and likewise not anything we can do to alter it.
Now, while they were working on the problem, here comes another messenger with the good news. Esther has gone to the place of death and achieved salvation for all her people. Because of the providential action of Mordecai it was learned that the king has now given his ring of authority, which once was on Haman’s finger, to Mordecai and Esther has set Mordecai over the house of his enemy. On this basis deliverance had been granted to the Jews.
We can almost hear the sons of Haman crying, “why oh why was I born an Agagite?”
We cannot do a thing about which family we were born into. The fact is that we are all identified with the first Adam when we were born the first time and “in Adam all die.” But, the good news from a far country (even heaven) is that deliverance has arisen (4:14) and we can be saved if we will believe and take our stand as one of Esther’s people. “In Christ shall all be made alive” (I Cor.15:22).
Do you have light? Do you have gladness? Do you have joy? Do you have position? If we are glad we are who we are, perhaps there might be some that live around us who might want to become one of us. What do you think?
Esther 9:16 The Prey
There is a saying that “to the victor belongs the spoils” and who would turn down such an
opportunity as is now afforded these Jews. If the shoe had been on the other foot, which it pretty nearly was, their enemies would have confiscated everything available had Haman’s plan been carried forward. The outcome on this day when the lot was cast to destroy them (v.24) the Jews slew 75,000 throughout the kingdom as they “stood for their lives” plus 800 at Shushan the palace. In doing all this with the aid of all the rulers of the province, they refused to lay hands on the “prey” that is, the spoil. This is written three times (verses 10, 15 and 16) to emphasize the astounding fact.
There have been times in Israel’s history when they were commanded by Jehovah not to take those things dedicated to destruction as at Jericho, and transgressors were severely punished, but usually it was considered the thing to do, to enrich oneself by whatever could be carried away from the scene of battle. On occasion, it would take them several days just to gather the spoils (II Chr.20:25).
Here, so far as we know, there was no proscription, but rather there prevailed an attitude, perhaps akin to that of Abraham who at the slaughter of the kings in Gen.14 when he, legitimately entitled to all the spoil, refused it on the grounds that the enemy could say that he had made Abraham rich and Abraham wished very much to avoid that accusation (v.23).
Whatever the reason, we may assume it was studiously done in order to emphasize that their motives were pure in coming back to the land and this action powerfully underscored the fact. They were avoiding the appearance of evil (I Thess.5:22) as suggested by our faithful center column reference.
Esther 10:3 Seeking Wealth and Speaking Peace
Well, here we are at the end of this fabulous little book and as I told you when we started, it is much like a novel and certainly ends like the kind I enjoy reading where everything turns out happily. The king’s power and authority are extended, the queen’s favor is established, the ministry of the Quiet One is recognized and advanced, there is feasting and joy in the kingdom, the well-being of the people is secured and peace and prosperity reign. Now, isn’t that just the way things should be?
It used to be, when the Bible was more generally believed, that even unsaved folk liked their stories to end as this one, but lately, people want more “realism”so novels are filled with sadism, as sex and violence predominate and endings are often disconcerting. Believers used to be able to find something to read at the public library, but nowadays return arm loads of books unread and, in fact, we hardly know how a book ends anymore because the language is so bad that we barely get started before finding that here is another book that we just cannot read– and it looked so interesting!
We were not, however, faced with this problem in Esther! Perhaps we wondered at not seeing God’s Name even once, but we did see Him, didn’t we, on every page and in every chapter? Were the types and shadows evident, were the Biblical principles seen and appreciated?
Who do you think Mordecai represents? Is the king a picture of the Father or Son? Do you think Esther is a type of the Church? Can you see why the Jews love this story? Would we not have missed a fascinating aspect of their history if it were not included in the Canon of Scripture? Are we thankful that God included it, thankful enough that we have read it thoughtfully? I hope so, and God will bless you if you have.