Esther

Esther 8, 9, & 10

That same day King Xerxes gave Queen Esther the estate of Haman, the enemy of the Jews. And Mordecai came into the presence of the king, for Esther had told how he was related to her. The king took off his signet ring, which he had reclaimed from Haman, and presented it to Mordecai. And Esther appointed him over Haman’s estate. Esther again pleaded with the king, falling at his feet and weeping. She begged him to put an end to the evil plan of Haman the Agagite, which he had devised against the Jews. Then the king extended the gold scepter to Esther and she arose and stood before him. “If it pleases the king,” she said, “and if he regards me with favor and thinks it the right thing to do, and if he is pleased with me, let an order be written overruling the dispatches that Haman son of Hammedatha, the Agagite, devised and wrote to destroy the Jews in all the king’s provinces. For how can I bear to see disaster fall on my people? How can I bear to see the destruction of my family?” King Xerxes replied to Queen Esther and to Mordecai the Jew, “Because Haman attacked the Jews, I have given his estate to Esther, and they have impaled him on the pole he set up. Now write another decree in the king’s name in behalf of the Jews as seems best to you, and seal it with the king’s signet ring—for no document written in the king’s name and sealed with his ring can be revoked.”

Because of Haman’s desire to destroy the Jews and then his forgetting manners and falling onto the couch with the queen, he was hanged a traitor. It was common Persian practice to confiscate the property of a traitor and give it to the king. The king gave it to his beloved queen, who in turn gave it to Mordecai, making him very wealthy and renown in the process. Again Esther boldly comes before the king in hope that he will hear her, and again he extends the gold scepter to her. And once again Esther asks humbly for the king’s help in over-riding Haman’s decree and he obliges her, reminding her that she cannot over-rule the previous decree, but she can write a new one on the Jew’s behalf (for anything sealed with the kings ring was set as law and could not be revoked).

At once the royal secretaries were summoned—on the twenty-third day of the third month, the month of Sivan. They wrote out all Mordecai’s orders to the Jews, and to the satraps, governors and nobles of the 127 provinces stretching from India to Cush. These orders were written in the script of each province and the language of each people and also to the Jews in their own script and language. 10 Mordecai wrote in the name of King Xerxes, sealed the dispatches with the king’s signet ring, and sent them by mounted couriers, who rode fast horses especially bred for the king. 11 The king’s edict granted the Jews in every city the right to assemble and protect themselves; to destroy, kill and annihilate the armed men of any nationality or province who might attack them and their women and children, and to plunder the property of their enemies. 

12 The day appointed for the Jews to do this in all the provinces of King Xerxes was the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, the month of Adar. 13 A copy of the text of the edict was to be issued as law in every province and made known to the people of every nationality so that the Jews would be ready on that day to avenge themselves on their enemies. 14 The couriers, riding the royal horses, went out, spurred on by the king’s command, and the edict was issued in the citadel of Susa. 15 When Mordecai left the king’s presence, he was wearing royal garments of blue and white, a large crown of gold and a purple robe of fine linen. And the city of Susa held a joyous celebration. 16 For the Jews it was a time of happiness and joy, gladness and honor. 17 In every province and in every city to which the edict of the king came, there was joy and gladness among the Jews, with feasting and celebrating. And many people of other nationalities became Jews because fear of the Jews had seized them.

There is an interesting parallel between the first and second edicts, which highlight the sovereignty of God, for: The wicked desire the stronghold of evildoers, but the root of the righteous endures.”  – Proverbs 12:12

Haman’s Decree Esther’s Decree
 Haman’s request (3:8-9)  Esther’s request (8:3-6)
 Xerxes’ authorization (3:10-11)  Xerxes’ authorization (8:7-8)
 Scribes compose decree (3:12)  Scribes compose decree (8:9)
 Decree issued (3:13-15)  Decree issued (8:10-14)
 Susa confused (3:15)  Susa rejoices (8:15)
 Jews mourn (4:1-3)  Jews rejoice (8:16-17)

Examining the differences in the approach of Haman and Esther to the king shows us why she was able to gain so much favor with him. She came lowly and humbly before him, asking not only for herself but for the king’s own interests, while Haman was interested only in his own vindication. The decrees are almost identical, even down to the plundering of goods so that the Jews would be able to defend themselves on the day they should have been defeated. There is also a remarkable difference between the reaction of the city upon declaration of each edict. Though the Jews were actually imported into that land, they had become part of it over the many years and would have been ingrained into society. How strange it must have been for their neighbors to know that in a few short months there would be civil war by order of the law.

Application: Have you ever used your position or status to help others instead of vindicating yourself? If it truly is God that has placed you in the position you are in, why would you do anything other than help those around you whom He has also placed?

On the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, the month of Adar, the edict commanded by the king was to be carried out. On this day the enemies of the Jews had hoped to overpower them, but now the tables were turned and the Jews got the upper hand over those who hated them. The Jews assembled in their cities in all the provinces of King Xerxes to attack those determined to destroy them. No one could stand against them, because the people of all the other nationalities were afraid of them. And all the nobles of the provinces, the satraps, the governors and the king’s administrators helped the Jews, because fear of Mordecai had seized them. Mordecai was prominent in the palace; his reputation spread throughout the provinces, and he became more and more powerful.

Now the day has finally come when all of the edicts will be fulfilled. Notice that in the first verse it says, “the enemies of the Jews” came against them. This leads us to believe that it wasn’t just anyone who was fighting to destroy the Jews but only the people and nationalities that hated them. There seems to be a strong tie-in to past books of the Bible where God commands the Israelite people to ‘utterly destroy’ those who hate the Lord. If you hate the God of Israel then in turn you will also hate the Israelites.

The Jews struck down all their enemies with the sword, killing and destroying them, and they did what they pleased to those who hated them. In the citadel of Susa, the Jews killed and destroyed five hundred men. They also killed Parshandatha, Dalphon, Aspatha, Poratha, Adalia, Aridatha, Parmashta, Arisai, Aridai and Vaizatha, 10 the ten sons of Haman son of Hammedatha, the enemy of the Jews. But they did not lay their hands on the plunder. 11 The number of those killed in the citadel of Susa was reported to the king that same day. 12 The king said to Queen Esther, “The Jews have killed and destroyed five hundred men and the ten sons of Haman in the citadel of Susa. What have they done in the rest of the king’s provinces? Now what is your petition? It will be given you. What is your request? It will also be granted.”

13 “If it pleases the king,” Esther answered, “give the Jews in Susa permission to carry out this day’s edict tomorrow also, and let Haman’s ten sons be impaled on poles.” 14 So the king commanded that this be done. An edict was issued in Susa, and they impaled the ten sons of Haman. 15 The Jews in Susa came together on the fourteenth day of the month of Adar, and they put to death in Susa three hundred men, but they did not lay their hands on the plunder. 16 Meanwhile, the remainder of the Jews who were in the king’s provinces also assembled to protect themselves and get relief from their enemies. They killed seventy-five thousand of them but did not lay their hands on the plunder. 

Overall the Jewish people (and those helping them) killed 75,810 people who hated them. But notice that even though in 8:11 the edict gave them the right to plunder the spoils of their enemies, it is written here 3 times that they did not. Why? One option might be linked to the history behind why Haman and Mordecai were enemies. Haman was a descendant of the Amalekites (see chapter 3) who were sworn enemies of the Jews. In 1 Samuel 15:17-19 we read that King Saul disobeyed the words of the Lord and pounced on the plunder of the Amalekites, even going so far as to keep their leader alive until his dismemberment by the priest. Could this be a kind of shared closure for that sin committed centuries before? Does this help explain why the Jewish people were so gung-ho in killing ALL of their enemies.. something that so long ago did not happen?

Application: Are there times when you have been placed in a situation that resembles a previous one in which you had openly rebelled? What is your reaction or response now, knowing the consequences of your actions? As Christians we have been given the Holy Spirit who gives us the power to stop the sin we are committing and turn from it. This is repentance, and it is dependent upon our action of acknowledging our sin and choosing to no longer participate. It is the core of how we trust God in His salvation for us. We are not just saved from the future wrath of God in hell, but we are saved each day as we trust in His goodness to move us from sin to sanctification.

For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— because anyone who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. 10 The death he died, he died to sin once for all;but the life he lives, he lives to God. – Romans 6

17 This happened on the thirteenth day of the month of Adar, and on the fourteenth they rested and made it a day of feasting and joy. 18 The Jews in Susa, however, had assembled on the thirteenth and fourteenth, and then on the fifteenth they rested and made it a day of feasting and joy. 19 That is why rural Jews—those living in villages—observe the fourteenth of the month of Adar as a day of joy and feasting, a day for giving presents to each other. 20 Mordecai recorded these events, and he sent letters to all the Jews throughout the provinces of King Xerxes, near and far, 21 to have them celebrate annually the fourteenth and fifteenth days of the month of Adar 22 as the time when the Jews got relief from their enemies, and as the month when their sorrow was turned into joy and their mourning into a day of celebration. He wrote them to observe the days as days of feasting and joy and giving presents of food to one another and gifts to the poor.

23 So the Jews agreed to continue the celebration they had begun, doing what Mordecai had written to them. 24 For Haman son of Hammedatha, the Agagite, the enemy of all the Jews, had plotted against the Jews to destroy them and had cast the pur (that is, the lot) for their ruin and destruction. 25 But when the plot came to the king’s attention, he issued written orders that the evil scheme Haman had devised against the Jews should come back onto his own head, and that he and his sons should be impaled on poles. 26 (Therefore these days were called Purim, from the word pur.) Because of everything written in this letter and because of what they had seen and what had happened to them,27 the Jews took it on themselves to establish the custom that they and their descendants and all who join them should without fail observe these two days every year, in the way prescribed and at the time appointed. 28 These days should be remembered and observed in every generation by every family, and in every province and in every city. And these days of Purim should never fail to be celebrated by the Jews—nor should the memory of these days die out among their descendants.

29 So Queen Esther, daughter of Abihail, along with Mordecai the Jew, wrote with full authority to confirm this second letter concerning Purim. 30 And Mordecai sent letters to all the Jews in the 127 provinces of Xerxes’ kingdom—words of goodwill and assurance— 31 to establish these days of Purim at their designated times, as Mordecai the Jew and Queen Esther had decreed for them, and as they had established for themselves and their descendants in regard to their times of fasting and lamentation. 32 Esther’s decree confirmed these regulations about Purim, and it was written down in the records.

10 

King Xerxes imposed tribute throughout the empire, to its distant shores. And all his acts of power and might, together with a full account of the greatness of Mordecai, whom the king had promoted, are they not written in the book of the annals of the kings of Media and Persia? Mordecai the Jew was second in rank to King Xerxes, preeminent among the Jews, and held in high esteem by his many fellow Jews, because he worked for the good of his people and spoke up for the welfare of all the Jews.

Again we are given repetition over the events that happened on those days, now called Purim. Though Haman cast his dice (pur) to see which day he would destroy the Jews, they were the victors and commemorate the success with a name that reminds them who really holds the dice. So why is this day so important that even now it is celebrated? It is no doubt that this very same reason is why Esther is included among the canon of the Old Testament and Jewish Torah. These events were set in motion by God, and victory was awarded through Him. It is the only other holiday stressed to be observed outside of the Law given by Moses for the feasts and Holy days. This holiday of Purim also falls in the midst of the Jewish nation returning to their homeland and rebuilding the temple. Could it be yet another way of God reminding His people that He is still their God.. that He is the One who goes before them and protects them? After all, it was the Lord who brought them out of bondage from Egypt to a land flowing with milk and honey, and now in this time period He is moving their hearts back to the Promised Land.

Application: Have you considered setting aside the day you gave yourself fully to the Lord as a day of celebration? Your Spiritual birthday is arguably more important than the actual day of your birth. For when you were born you were born into sin, but when you were re-born you moved from slavery of sin to life with Christ.

11 In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. 12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. 13 Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness. 14 For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace. – Romans 6

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