Esther

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A. UNDERSTANDING THE SETTING.

In the course of the previous two teachings, we dealt with the time during which God’s people, the people of Israel, had been in captivity in a heathen country. We read about Daniel and his three friends and how God used them to reveal Himself to the heathen kings and their people.  But there were of course just as many woman of Israel that had been taken captive and many of them also loved and served the Lord, God.  One of them was a girl called Esther.

B. GOD PLACES ESTHER WHERE HE CAN USE HER.

Esther’s parents had died and so she was brought up by her nephew by the name of Mordecai, who was older that she. He was a man totally devoted to God and brought up Esther to love and serve the Lord likewise. 

Some time or other the King, king Ahasuerus, become very cross with his main wife called Vashti, the Queen.  She had refused to obey his orders to display het beauty to his visitors. He was humiliated and the whole nation would come to know of what happened. He therefor summarily removed her as queen.  Now her place was vacant and a new queen had to be found.

The king dispatched a number of his servants all over the country to bring to him the most beautiful, young, unmarried girls. He would then choose a queen from their number. Esther was one of the ladies selected and brought to the King’s palace in the city of Shushan.  There she was given into the care of a man called Hegai to prepare her for the day she was to appear before the King. 

For twelve months he had her treated with all sorts of oils and ointments while she had to eat just the right foods.  This caused her to become more beautiful than she had ever been before.  Eventually the day came when she went in to meet the King and sleep with him.  He immediately liked her more than all the other young woman for God had worked it in his heart to do so.  We read from the book of Esther chapter 2:17,18:

“ ..the king loved Esther more than all the women, and she found grace and favor in his sight more than all the virgins, so that he set the royal crown on her head and made her queen instead of Vashti.  18  Then the king gave a great banquet to all his princes and servants; it was Esther’s banquet. He also granted a remission of taxes to the provinces, and gave gifts with royal liberality.”

God was again planning to reveal Himself to that heathen king and nation and He put Esther into this important position for He needed her to carry out His plans.

C. HAMAN PLOTS AGAINST GOD’S PEOPLE.

After some time, the king elevated a certain man called Haman, and appointed him to be second in charge of the whole kingdom. Everybody had to bow down to Haman where-ever he went, for that was the King’s order. 

Haman, of course, often entered and left the palace. Now Esther’s nephew, Mordecai, who had brought her up, was a security guard at the gate of the palace through which Haman often passed.  Since Mordecai worshipped the Lord, God, he did not bow down before Haman.  When Haman came to hear of Mordecai’s conduct, he was greatly angered.  He however considered it too small a matter to punish only Mordecai for his misbehavior, he would kill all of his people, that is, all of Israel. So he went to the King to get permission.  We read chapter 3:8-11:

“Then Haman said to King Ahasuerus, “There is a certain people scattered abroad and dispersed among the peoples in all the provinces of your kingdom; their laws are different from those of every other people, and they do not keep the king’s laws, so that it is not for the king’s profit to tolerate them.  9  If it please 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 have charge of the king’s business, that they may put it into the king’s treasuries.”  10  So the king took his signet ring from his hand and gave it to Haman the Agagite, the son of Hammedatha, the enemy of the Jews.  11  And the king said to Haman, “The money is given to you, the people also, to do with them as it seems good to you.”

So Haman caused letters to be written to the governors of all the provinces.  We read verse 13:

“Letters were sent by couriers to all the king’s provinces, to destroy, to slay, and to annihilate all Jews, young and old, women and children, in one day, the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, which is the month of Adar, and to plunder their goods.”

The King and Haman then sat down to drink together and have a good time. Not so with the Jews. Wherever the letters arrived and were publicly read by the King’s officials, there was fear and consternation amongst the people of Israel.

D. MORDECAI’S REACTION.

Mordecai, of course, was terribly upset when he heard this alarming news, for it was his conduct that had caused this catastrophe. But what could he do: the Word of God expressly forbid him to bow down to other people as if they were gods?  We read from chapter 4:1,2:

“When Mordecai learned all that had been done, Mordecai rent his clothes and put on sackcloth and ashes, and went out into the midst of the city, wailing with a loud and bitter cry;  2  he went up to the entrance of the king’s gate, for no one might enter the king’s gate clothed with sackcloth.”

When Queen Esther’s servant maids told her what Mordegai was doing, she was very scared of what would happen to him and sent him clean clothes to put on. 

E. ESTHER CHALLENGED TO TAKE A STAND.

But Mordegai would not be persuaded to change his conduct but told the messenger (verses  7 to 9):

“…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 charge her to go to the king to make supplication to him and entreat him for her people.  9  And Hathach went and told Esther what Mordecai had said.”

Esther sent her servant back to Mordecai to tell him that no-one could enter into the King’s court room, unless the King had called him or her.  The King would see that as a lack of respect and submission and summarily order the person to be put to death.  She also told him that she had not been called to see the King for thirty days. To this Mordecai replied (verses 13 to 14):

“Then Mordecai told them to return answer to Esther, “Think not that in the king’s palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews.  14  For if you keep silence at such a time as this, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another quarter, 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?”

What Mordecai said to Esther was in essence: “Do not think that you were put onto the throne as Queen of this country just because you are so beautiful and have such a pleasant personality. No, no, God put you there because He had a greater purpose for you.  God knew this terrible catastrophe was coming  and He was planning ahead to use you to save His people and glorify his Name”. 

Probably every woman now reading these words, will feel so sorry for Esther.  Up till then, all the women of that country would have envied her as a very, very lucky lady.  To be married to the King was a tremendous privilege.  She was even more than just one of his many wives, she was his most important wife; she was the Queen. When the King sat on his throne, she sat next to him. 

She had all the privileges of the palace, delicious food, the most beautiful clothes any woman could wish for, many young maids attending to her day and night and she was absolutely safe where she lived, protected by the best soldier guards of the Kingdom.  They kept watch over the palace day and night so that no-one could enter to harm her.  But now, suddenly, she had to risk all of these and endanger her life by going in to see the King.  Within a few hours she could loose everything and be carried out of the palace as a corpse.

Why was she then willing to do this? Because Esther was spiritually engaged to the Prince of Heaven; a bride of Christ. She belonged, first of all, to the King of heaven and earth, the great and almighty God. Ahasuerus, was only a smaller earthly king in whose palace she was staying and in his whose bed she was sometimes sleeping when he called her.  He did not own her, she belonged to the Heavenly King who ruled over all earthly kings. 

F. QUEEN ESTHER ACCEPTS THE CHALLENGE AND CALLS FOR PRAYER.

The message Mordegai had sent to her, helped her to realize her greater purpose in life and so she replied to him as follows (verses 15-17):

“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 neither eat nor drink for three days, night or day. I and my maids 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.”

What a brave woman.  Through all the ages, woman have been called by God to uplift his Name, mostly by playing a role that only a woman can. There we think of Mary who was to bear a Child, a special child, Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Esther had to sacrifice her body and lie with a heathen man. She would never be able to be wife to a loving, godfearing husband. Now she had to go even further and sacrifice her very life to save her nation. No-one else could do it. She and she alone was God’s chosen vessel, prepared many years before for this great purpose. 

So let every woman reading this Scripture and study take note, you too are God’s special agent for a special purpose. Therefore, do not hold back but offer yourself to be used as He pleases.

G. GOD IN ACTION THROUGH ESTHER.

On the third day after the dialogue between Mordecai and Esther, Esther put her plan into action. We read chapter 5:1-9:

“On the third day Esther put on her royal robes and stood in the inner court of the king’s palace, opposite the king’s hall. The king was sitting on his royal throne inside the palace opposite the entrance to the palace; 

2  and when the king saw Queen Esther standing in the court, she found favor in his sight and he held out to Esther the golden scepter that was in his hand. Then Esther approached and touched the top of the scepter.  3  And the king said to her, “What is it, Queen Esther? What is your request? It shall be given you, even to the half of my kingdom.” 

4  And Esther said, “If it please the king, let the king and Haman come this day to a dinner that I have prepared for the king.”  5  Then said the king, “Bring Haman quickly, that we may do as Esther desires.” So the king and Haman came to the dinner that Esther had prepared.  6  And as they were drinking wine, the king said to Esther, “What is your petition? It shall be granted you. And what is your request? Even to the half of my kingdom, it shall be fulfilled.”  7  But Esther said, “My petition and my request is:  8  If I have found favor in the sight of the king, and if it please the king to grant my petition and fulfil my request, let the king and Haman come tomorrow to the dinner which I will prepare for them, and tomorrow I will do as the king has said.” 

9 And Haman went out that day joyful and glad of heart. But when Haman saw Mordecai in the king’s gate, that he neither rose nor trembled before him, he was filled with wrath against Mordecai.”

Praise God, Esther wins the first round of the match. The Lord works in the heart of the King, causing him to give favour to Esther as she approached him. Instead of putting her to death, he concedes to her request to dine with her.

H. HAMAN HAPPY BUT FRUSTRATED.

Haman also was very happy for he was a proud man and it was a great honour for him to be invited to dine with the King and Queen. But his joy was short-lived for when he left the palace, he again saw Mordegai standing erect as guards are supposed to do and failing to bow down before him.  When he got home he gathered his wife, family and friends and told them how much honour he had received at the palace but that all that joy had been spoiled by Mordecai who would not bow before him.  They then came up with the following evil plan.  We read chapter 5:14:

“14  Then his wife Zeresh and all his friends said to him, “Let a gallows fifty cubits high be made, and in the morning tell the king to have Mordecai hanged upon it; then go merrily with the king to the dinner.” This counsel pleased Haman, and he had the gallows made.”

The situation seemed to get worse and worse for Mordecai, but, God was at work behind the scenes where no-one could see. That night, the Lord caused the King to be unable to sleep. After he had been lying awake for some time, he commanded his servants to bring the history books of the country and  read to him of what had happened in years gone by. 

I. THE TIDE TURNS FOR HAMAN.

One of the incidents recorded, was of a certain two officials called Bigtana and Teres that had conspired to murder Him, the King.  a Man named Mordegai, however, came to know about it and sent a message to Queen Esther informing the King of the plot.  The matter was immediately investigated, found to be true, and the two men were arrested, tried and put to death.  When this story was recounted, the King asked whether  Mordecai had been rewarded for his good deed. When it was discovered that he had not, the King ordered that it be done immediately.  We read from chapter 6:4-14:

“And the king said, “Who is in the court?” Now Haman had just entered the outer court of the king’s palace to speak to the king about having Mordecai hanged on the gallows that he had prepared for him.  5  So the king’s servants told him, “Haman is there, standing in the court.” And the king said, “Let him come in.”  6  So Haman came in, and the king said to him, “What shall be done to the man whom the king delights to honor?”

And Haman said to himself, “Whom would the king delight to honor more than me?”  7  and Haman said to the king, “For the man whom the king delights to honor,  8  let royal robes be brought, which the king has worn, and the horse which the king has ridden, and on whose head a royal crown is set;  9  and let the robes and the horse be handed over to one of the king’s most noble princes; let him array the man whom the king delights to honor, and let him conduct the man on horseback through the open square of the city, proclaiming before him: ‘Thus shall it be done to the man whom the king delights to honor.’” 

10  Then the king said to Haman, “Make haste, take the robes and the horse, as you have said, and do so to Mordecai the Jew who sits at the king’s gate. Leave out nothing that you have mentioned.”  11  So Haman took the robes and the horse, and he arrayed Mordecai and made him ride through the open square of the city, proclaiming, “Thus shall it be done to the man whom the king delights to honor.”  12 Then Mordecai returned to the king’s gate.

But Haman hurried to his house, mourning and with his head covered.  13  And Haman told his wife Zeresh and all his friends everything that had befallen him. Then his wise men and his wife Zeresh said to him, “If Mordecai, before whom you have begun to fall, is of the Jewish people, you will not prevail against him but will surely fall before him.”  14  While they were yet talking with him, the king’s eunuchs arrived and brought Haman in haste to the banquet that Esther had prepared.”

Events were moving very quickly now. Haman had left his home that morning in good spirits.  His servants were already erecting the gallows on which he would hang Mordecai.  Now he was on his way to get permission from the King which he had no doubt would be granted.  Then he would again have lunch with the King and Queen and on his return, he would enjoy to see Mordecai swinging from the gallows.  But oh dear, things turned out so differently for him.  Suddenly everything was switched around.  Instead of Mordecai being the victim, he, Haman, became the victim.

Instead of Mordecai suffering, he had to suffer and what a terrible experience it was for such a proud man, having to walk through the city where everybody knew him, leading a horse on which Mordecai was sitting.  He even had too shout out to draw attention to the two of them!  After this terrible humiliation he went straight home telling his wife and wise men what had happened.  They rubbed in the pain and further discouraged him by saying that if Mordecai was a Jew, he would not be able to do anything against him, no, he would surely fall before him.  While they were still speaking, the King’s messengers arrived to take Haman to the banquet which Esther had prepared.

J. GOOD BYE HAMAN.

Now let us read the whole of chapter 7 and verses 1 and 2 of chapter 8.

“ So the king and Haman went in to feast with Queen Esther.  2  And on the second day, as they were drinking wine, the king again said to Esther, “What is your petition, Queen Esther? It shall be granted you. And what is your request? Even to the half of my kingdom, it shall be fulfilled.” 

3  Then Queen Esther answered, “If I have found favor in your sight, O king, and if it please the king, let my life be given me at my petition, and my people at my request.  4  For we are sold, I and my people, to be destroyed, to be slain, and to be annihilated. If we had been sold merely as slaves, men and women, I would have held my peace; for our affliction is not to be compared with the loss to the king.” 

5  Then King Ahasuerus said to Queen Esther, “Who is he, and where is he, that would presume to do this?”  6  And Esther said, “A foe and enemy! This wicked Haman!” Then Haman was in terror before the king and the queen.  7 And the king rose from the feast in wrath and went into the palace garden; but Haman stayed to beg his life from Queen Esther, for he saw that evil was determined against him by the king.  8  And the king returned from the palace garden to the place where they were drinking wine, as Haman was falling on the couch where Esther was; and the king said, “Will he even assault the queen in my presence, in my own house?” As the words left the mouth of the king, they covered Haman’s face. 

9  Then said Harbona, one of the eunuchs in attendance on the king, “Moreover, the gallows which Haman has prepared for Mordecai, whose word saved the king, is standing in Haman’s house, fifty cubits high.”  10  And the king said, “Hang him on that.” So they hanged Haman on the gallows which he had prepared for Mordecai. Then the anger of the king abated.

K. ESTHER AND MORDECAI HONOURED.

1 On that day King Ahasuerus gave to Queen Esther the house of Haman, the enemy of the Jews. And Mordecai came before the king, for Esther had told what he was to her;  2  and the king took off his signet ring, which he had taken from Haman, and gave it to Mordecai. And Esther set Mordecai over the house of Haman.”

Once more we see how quickly God can turn circumstances around.  One moment Mordecai was on the verge of being hanged on the gallows and the next moment he was raised up high.   One moment Esther’s life was at stake and the next moment everything came right for her. All her troubles had come to an end and she too had greater freedom in ruling the Kindom.

L. GOD SAVES HIS PEOPLE TOO.

Esther and Mordecai then intervened for the rest of the Jews and the lives of the whole nation was spared.  What a beautiful ending to this true story.  Even to this very day, the Jews hold a feast called the Purim to commemorate Esther and Mordecai’s brave deeds and God’s miraculous intervention to save the lives of His people.

It is not always easy to serve the One and only God, the Creator of heaven and earth, but it is worthwhile, and though we may suffer, in the end we will be victorious. We may even have to die for His Name in this world, but when we get to the world hereafter, to heaven, we will be greatly rewarded.

Do continue studying the Word with the assistance of these study guides. The next one deals with the return of Israel from exile.

SHALOM