E S T H E R (BC 472)
The book of Esther commences in the year BC 471. This was 6 years after the destruction of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar.
Chapter 1 tells us of King Ahasuerus who reigned in Shushan. He was very wealthy and very powerful, as his Kingdom spanned from India to Ethiopia. He ordered a feast lasting many days to show off his riches and power, however when he ordered his wife Vashti to come to the feast she refused. This angered him, and his wise men advised him to send a decree throughout his Kingdom saying that queen Vashti was to lose her position, and that she should be replaced by a woman who was more deserving. The King feared that if the women of the Kingdom heard what Vashti had done in refusing to obey him, they would want to copy her example and they would lose their respect for their husbands. (This sounds very familiar in today's society)!
Chapter 2 tells us that the King's servants sought a virgin queen for him from among the young women of the land. In the palace at Shushan there was a certain Jew named Mordecai, who had been taken captive there by Nebuchadnezzar. (We note that in 2 Kings 24:14-15 that Daniel and Ezekiel were taken to Babylon, and Nehemiah and Mordecai were taken to Shushan). He had raised Esther, his uncle's daughter, because her parents had died. It was possible that Mordecai had kept her in his house, and kept her nationality a secret for her safety. The time came for all the young women to be prepared for the King's inspection, Esther being one of these women. This preparation was a lengthy process which is illustrated in verse 12 as being of one year's duration. This constituted beauty treatments and special food. When the time came for each woman to be presented individually to the king, they were allowed to take what they wanted into his presence; presumably this would be any adornment etc. However, Esther took nothing with her, only what Hegai, who had been given the responsibility to look after the women, recommended. When King Ashasurerus saw Esther, he was taken with her and he made her queen in the place of Vashti.
As Mordecai was in the palace he kept a close watch on Esther, and instructed her not to reveal her Jewish identity. During this time he became aware of a plot to kill the king, however he told Esther, who informed the King giving the credit to Mordecai. These 2 men were subsequently executed.
In Chapter 3 we read that for some reason King Ahasuerus promotes Haman above all his servants in the King's house, and orders that he was to be honoured, i.e. (bowed to), by all the household, however Mordecai would not. When Haman became aware of this he was very angry, and vowed to kill Mordecai and all the Jews throughout the whole Kingdom. (Obviously this was another of Satan's attempts to destroy the Jews through whom the Messiah would come).
It is interesting to note that in verse 10 Haman is described as "the Jews enemy", he is called this 4 times and is repeated in 8:1, 9:10 and 24. (There is no other human being so called in Scripture). Haman consulted the King, telling him that he felt all the Jews should be killed, and that he would give the wealth from their stolen possessions to the King. King Ahasuerus gave Haman permission to do as he wanted with the people and said he could keep the wealth for himself. Therefore Haman sent out an order in the King's name to the provinces that all the Jews should perish.
When the Jews heard this order they mourned and fasted, as was their custom in sackcloth and ashes. Mordecai was one of those who rent his clothes on hearing of this decree. Esther was grieved when she heard about her uncle and sent clothes to him, not realising the reason for his situation. Esther had a helper given to her by the King called Hatach, she sent him to Mordecai to find out why he was in such a condition. Mordecai informed him and requested Esther go to the King and make supplication for her people.
It is clear from verse 11 that the King only summoned certain people into his presence, and that no one could enter unless summoned on pain of death! Esther therefore was obviously afraid, and sent a message back to Mordecai informing him; however Mordecai replied in force to Esther telling her that if she did not plead for the Jews, they would be delivered by another way and she would be destroyed, saying, "who knoweth whether she was come to the Kingdom for such a time as this"?
Esther then replied to Mordecai that she would do as he asked, however she requested that he gather together all the Jews in Shushan, and fast for 3 days and 3 nights in prayer, and said she would do the same. Then she would go into the King, which was against the law, and if she perished, so be it. Mordecai did as Esther asked.
Chapter 5 relates Esther's approach to the King. The moment he saw her he held out his scepter to her, (this indicated that he accepted her approach to him). He then asked what she requested, saying he would grant her up to half his Kingdom; (this seems highly generous). Esther then proceeded with her clever plan. She requested the King and Haman to go to a banquet she had prepared. Haman was delighted as he saw it as a special request for him to accompany the King. However, seeing Mordecai still at the King's gate, he complained to his family again about him. They suggested that Haman build a gallows, and ask the King to allow him to hang Mordecai on it. This he proceeded to do.
In Chapter 6 we are told about a series of seemingly trivial coincidences. The King's inability to sleep and his request to read the records of the Chronicles, which were a record of his reign, reminded him of the past kindness of Mordecai. Haman's noisy carpentry in the early hours erecting the gallows, and his sudden entry into the outer court, and his assumption that he was the man the King wished to honour; all show the Sovereignty of Jehovah God over these events.
On hearing the events concerning Mordecai's help to the King, he asked what honour and recognition had been given to Mordecai for this act, the reply was nothing. At that moment Haman was just entering the outer court of the palace to ask the King's permission to hang Mordecai. On meeting Haman, the King asked him "what should be done for the man the King delights to honour". Haman thought the King was referring to him, so he replied that "a royal robe which the King had worn, and a royal horse which the King had ridden should be given to him, and a golden crown should be placed upon his head". On hearing this, the King sent Haman to get these items for Mordecai and proclaim him through the streets of the city. Afterwards Haman returned home and told his wife and friends all that had happened. His relatives told him that because Mordecai was a Jew, Haman would come to ruin, (a very prophetic comment, which poses the question today whether a non-Christian can be used by the Holy Spirit to speak the Truth)?
Afterwards in Chapter 7, Haman was taken to the feast Esther had prepared. At the banquet the King asked Esther what her request was, again offering her up to half his Kingdom. Her reply was to ask for the life of her people and herself, (this is the first record of Esther revealing that she was a Jew), telling him that they had been sold for destruction, slaughter and annihilation. He asked Esther who the man was who dared to do such a thing, Esther replied, 'the adversary and enemy was that vile Haman'. On hearing this, the King was very angry and left the banquet and went into the palace garden. Haman stayed behind to beg for his life from Esther. However, as the King was returning he saw Haman advancing to the queen and thinking he planned to do her harm, ordered Haman to be hung on the gallows he had built for the Jews.
Chapter 8 tells us that the King then proceeded to give Esther the estate of Haman. Mordecai was honoured by the King, given his signet ring (a great honour), which had previously been Haman's, and Esther appointed him over Haman's estate.
Esther then pleaded for the preservation of the Jews. The King gave Mordecai permission to write a decree in the King's name as he thought fit on behalf of the Jews. This was done and this gave them the right to assemble and protect themselves. The Jews were allowed to destroy any enemy that attacked them, amongst those killed were the 10 sons of Haman. They were also allowed to keep the property of their enemies, (although they in fact did not do this).
Mordecai increased in prominence, both with the King and with the people. This was a time of gladness for the Jews.
Summary: The Word Jehovah is not mentioned in the book of Esther, however there are 5 acrostics which show the design of the over-ruling of the Almighty at this time in Israel's history. See: (The Companion Bible - Appendix 60).
It is interesting to note that Mordecai (a Benjamite) ends the Almighty's war against Amalek Ex. 17:16 a work trusted to Saul (a Benjamite) 1 Sam. 15:2-33.
In Chapter 4:12-14 Mordecai was confident of the Almighty's Sovereignty in preserving the Jews in this situation, however Esther could exercise her individual responsibility here, which showed the relationship between the Divine Sovereignty and human responsibility, (the question arises for us today, when we feel we are given a responsibility, we know if we decline He will use someone else, but perhaps to our detriment). Then followed a time of victory for the Jews, and Haman's 10 sons were hung on the same gallows by Esther, (showing her strength of determination by this time, to continue to rid the land of this evil influence). This also is a pre-curser to that time in the future, when Christ Jesus returns to Earth, to vanquish the enemies of Israel. This Celebration time is still remembered today by the Jews and is called the feast of Purim.
It is thought by Dr. Bullinger, Companion Bible, Ezra 1, that King Cyrus who sanctioned the re-building of the Temple in Jerusalem, was Esther and King Ahasuerus's son. If this is correct, it would explain why a Persian King would give such permission; certainly Esther would have advised him, and probably also Mordecai who grew in prominence. However permission to build the Temple was withdrawn by Cyrus after local people to Jerusalem (Samaritans) objected and complained to him. Work did not re-commence until BC 410 when Darius Hystaspias gave permission for re-commencement. He also was the last Babylonian King; and also that was the end of the Babylonian Empire. The (second) Temple was completed in BC 404 a Jewish Jubilee year (Ez. 6:15).
Conclusion on Esther:
What sort of woman was Esther? From the Scripture references it is clear that she was a humble woman, who had lived a happy and quiet life with her guardian Mordecai. When he suggested she should be put forward as a possible wife for the King of Persia, she obeyed him. She obviously trusted him, and presumably also wanted to obey the Almighty. The fact that she was prepared to put her life at risk by entering the King's presence without being summoned shows her strength of character and trust. The fast and prayer she instigated to bring together a collective effort is still known today as “Esther's Fast”. Her plan to trap Haman was full of clever intrigue, showing her ingenuity to use her femininity for the good. Also having Haman's 10 sons hung on the gallows showed her power, strength and determination to perform the cleansing of that evil which had almost annihilated the Royal Line, through which the Messiah would come.
It is an interesting study of the joint effort of the Jewish people in fasting, prayer, action and faith, when in conjunction with the WILL of Jehovah, during dire threat of the survival of the race, of which the Messiah would appear.
THE ALMIGHTY'S PURPOSE CANNOT BE THWARTED