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|Posted on January 31, 2016 at 12:15 AM||comments (0)|
Esther 9:1 The new law and orders of King Ahasuerus took effect on the 13th day of the 12th month (the month of Adar). It was on this day that those who were enemies of the Jews had planned to overtake them, but that was not the way it happened. Instead, the Jews got the upper hand over those who conspired against them. 2 On that day, the Jews gathered together in their respective cities in all the provinces of King Ahasuerus to fight those who sought their destruction. No army or nation could stand against them, because they were all frightened of the Jews.
The people were not frightened of the Jews but of the God of the Jews. God had shown His sovereign power by orchestrating events to turn the tables on the enemies of the Jews.
Esther 9:3 The nobles and governors of the provinces and also the king’s officials did what they could to help the Jews, but that was because they feared what Mordecai might do to them. 4 In King Ahasuerus’ palace, Mordecai grew more powerful. Word spread quickly throughout the provinces about Mordecai’s authority and influence.
Another aspect of this fear of the Jews is that there is now a Jew as second in command and another Jew as queen. Whereas Haman the Agagite (Amalekite) had been in control, now Mordecai has been given that position of authority. King Ahasuerus finally figured out who the good guys were. God gave not only Esther, but now Mordecai, favor in the eyes of the king.
Esther 9:5 The Jews took this opportunity to attack their enemies with swords, killing them. And then they did whatever they deemed reasonable with those who despised them. 6 Just in the city of Susa, the capital of the empire, the Jews killed 500 men. 7-10 That didn’t include the 10 sons of Haman (son of Hammedatha, enemy of the Jews): Parshandatha, Dalphon, Aspatha, Poratha, Adalia, Aridatha, Parmashta, Arisai, Aridai, and Vaizatha. They were also put to death. All of them were considered enemies of the Jews. But they did not touch the assets of their victims. 11 When the day was over, the number of those killed in his capital, Susa, was reported to King Ahasuerus.
In the capital alone, the Jews killed 500 of their enemies plus all ten of Haman’s sons. They did not plunder the spoils of their victims because it wasn’t about that for them. The king had given them permission to take what they wanted. However, when God originally told King Saul to demolish the Amalekites, He instructed Saul NOT to take any plunder. Saul disobeyed which led to his downfall. These Jews may have remembered this story and were careful not to make the same mistake. They learned from Saul’s disobedience. Their main goal was preservation of the Jewish nation.
Esther 9:12 Then the king spoke to Queen Esther.
King Ahasuerus: The Jews have killed 500 men in the capital of Susa alone, and also the 10 sons of Haman. How many must they have killed in the other provinces? Now, do you want anything more? Whatever you ask will be given to you. So, tell me; what further do you need? I will grant whatever that is.
King Ahasuerus loves Esther so much he is willing to grant her heart’s desire as far as is humanly possible. The king had probably lost many of his own army as well as many citizens of the capital. The king was willing to vindicate Esther perhaps because of the integrity she had always displayed. As previously noted, the Lord had given her favor in his eyes. The Lord says, “Vengeance is mine…” Deuteronomy 32:35, but He seems to be using Esther as the instrument of carrying out His wrath on the enemies of the Jews.
Esther 9:13 Queen Esther: If it pleases the king, allow the Jews in Susa one more day to exact justice on their enemies according to your decree. And let Haman’s 10 sons be displayed on the pole.
14 The king honored Queen Esther’s wishes. An order was issued in the city of Susa, and the dead bodies of the 10 sons of Haman were displayed. 15 So on the 14th day of the month of Adar, the Jews killed 300 men in Susa. But they didn’t touch any of their assets.
The queen always prefaces a request with, “If it pleases the king.” She makes her request humbly. Even when the king is willing to receive her demands, she never uses a demanding tone. She still shows respect for the king’s authority. All together 810 men were killed by the Jews in Susa, but they still took none of their property.
Esther 9:16 In the meantime, the Jews who lived outside Susa in the king’s provinces also gathered together to defend themselves and find freedom from their enemies. In total, the rural Jews killed 75,000 of their enemies, but they didn’t touch any of their assets. 17 All of this took place in the provinces on the 13th day of the month of Adar, and on the 14th day the Jews rested and celebrated with food and drink.
18 Since the Jews in Susa had gathered together to defend themselves on the 13th and 14th days of the month of Adar, they rested on the 15th and celebrated with food and drink. 19 (This explains why the Jews who live in rural areas and villages continue to celebrate on the 14th day of Adar with food and drinks and send gifts to one another.)
After annihilating the enemies who had planned to completely destroy them, the Jews had a big celebration. Even the rural Jews did not take any of the assets of the conquered.
The remainder of the book of Esther from chapter 9:20 to the end of chapter 10 reads like the “Cliff Notes” version of the entire story. Mordecai kept a journal and wrote letters about the events to Jews in all the provinces. Since Haman had originally cast lots (Pur) to determine the best day to slaughter the Jews, Mordecai and Esther established the annual feast of Purim to commemorate the time when God elevated a Jewess to the position of queen of Persia to save her people from annihilation. According to the notes in the John MacArthur Study Bible, Purim is “the first and last biblically revealed, non-Mosaic festival with perpetual significance.” In other words, the other feasts still celebrated by the Jews were established by Moses.
APPLY THIS TO YOUR LIFE:
1. God is always at work protecting His people. Even though he disciplined them through allowing them to be taken captive, He still preserved them. He is also able to preserve you through trials.
2. God is sovereign and cannot be thwarted. Take comfort in this fact.
3. Read from Esther 9:20 through the end of the book in order to solidify what you have read and learned in the story of this Jewish heroine. The Lord knows we need repetition in order to thoroughly learn, so he had the writer of Esther include this summary.
4. Choose a key verse that has been meaningful to you from this study and take the time to memorize it. Many people memorize Esther 4:14b
Since this completes our study of the book of Esther, we ask you to watch for an in depth study of the book of Philippians next. Make time in the next few days to read completely through the book of Philippians since it only contains 4 chapters. Having the entire context is very helpful before taking a book apart verse by verse. If you do not own a Bible or would like to read it in more than one translation, go to http://www.Biblegateway.com and read it online.
|Posted on January 30, 2016 at 12:10 AM||comments (0)|
Esther 8:1 On the same day, King Ahasuerus gave Queen Esther all the household of Haman, the enemy of the Jews. Then Mordecai was brought before King Ahasuerus, for Queen Esther had told the king how they were related. 2 The king took off his signet ring (the one he had taken back from Haman) and gave it to Mordecai. Then Esther put Mordecai in charge of all of Haman’s household.
Reformation Study Bible
8:1 According to Persian custom, the property of a traitor was confiscated by the crown.
King Ahasuerus made a gift of Haman’s confiscated property to Queen Esther. He elevated Mordecai to Haman’s former position as second in command to the king. Esther gave Mordecai complete charge of his enemy’s estate and servants. Just as Joseph had providentially been made second to Pharaoh when he had been captive in Egypt and subsequently saved the Jews from drought, Mordecai is now put in a position to help his people.
Q – Can you think of other times that God raised up a surprising choice to a position of power?
Esther 8:3 Esther came before the king once more. This time she fell at his feet, wept, and begged the king to do something to stop the evil plan that Haman (the Agagite) had brought upon the Jews. 4 The king, as before, extended his golden scepter to Queen Esther; and she stood to her feet before him.
The problem of the edict written by Haman still remains. So Esther approached the king again to beg for her people.
Queen Esther: 8:5 If it pleases the king, and if I am in his favor, and if the king believes it is the right and just thing to do, let there be an official decree written that will cancel out the order that Haman (son of Hammedatha, the Agagite) had written to rid all the king’s provinces of the Jews. 6 For I can’t bear to see this catastrophe brought against my people; how can I live another day if I witness the destruction of my kindred?
Esther asked the king to please do something to undo this. She asked him to break his own laws to lift this unrighteous, catastrophic edict. But if he revoked the edict, he would look weak in the eyes of the Persians.
King Ahasuerus (to Queen Esther and Mordecai the Jew): 8:7 Look, I have given you, Queen Esther, Haman’s household because of his vengeful actions against your people. That is also why he hangs on the pole he had made for Mordecai. I have done all I can do; the rest is your responsibility 8 because no order that has been written in the name of the king and sealed with the king’s signet ring can be overturned. So you must write a new order to the Jews to remedy the situation; it, too, must be written in the king’s name and sealed with the king’s signet ring.
King Ahasuerus reminds Esther and Mordecai how he had recompensed them by turning over Haman’s property to the king. Then the king reminded Esther and Mordecai that once something is sealed with the king’s signet ring, it cannot be nullified. The king gave his blessing for them to write a new order that would rectify the situation and seal it with his ring. He gave them carte blanche to compose a plan that would save his queen and her people.
Esther 8:9 So the royal secretaries were summoned together on the 23rd day of the 3rd month (the month of Sivan). The king’s new orders were written down exactly the way Mordecai dictated them, and they were written to the Jews, the rulers, the governors, and the nobles of the 127 provinces stretching from India to Ethiopia. The orders were written down in every script and every language spoken in the provinces, including the Jewish script and the Jewish language. 10 Mordecai wrote in the name of King Ahasuerus and sealed it with his signet ring. Then, these orders were dispatched to the provinces by couriers who rode on the finely bred horses sired by the royal stud.
Mordecai was the author of these new orders. He had them translated into every dialect spoken in the various provinces, including Hebrew so the Jews could read it for themselves. Mordecai now had the power Haman once enjoyed to write an edict in the name of the king and seal it with the signet ring. The king dispatched these new orders by the fastest means available, couriers riding the best horses sired by his own stud horse. He wanted the message out quickly for the Jews to have adequate time to prepare.
Esther 8:11 The king’s new orders gave the Jews in every city the right to gather together, to protect themselves, and to kill or destroy any army of any nation or province (including their women and children) who might attack them. The orders also gave the Jews the right to take over the assets of their enemies. 12 These new orders were set to go into effect on the 13th day of the 12th month (the month of Adar). This was the same day Haman had determined by casting lots to kill the Jews. 13 An official copy of the king’s order was to be issued to every province and read publicly to all nationalities, so that the Jews would be ready to protect themselves against their enemies. 14 The couriers were quickly dispatched by order of the king, and they left the capital riding on royal steeds. Then the decree was publicly proclaimed in the citadel of Susa.
The new edict, worded much the same as the original, gave the Jews the right to fight back and even confiscate the spoils of the battle. It would now be a fair fight instead of a virtual slaughter of the Jews. Ahasuerus could not think of a plan himself, so the Lord had him give this task to Esther and Mordecai who definitely rose to the occasion. As Mordecai told Esther months before, God had elevated her for the purpose of saving her people.
Q – Historically, God had protected the nation of Israel many times. According to Scripture, He will continue to preserve a remnant of His people Israel. With this in mind, how should we relate to Israel?
Esther 8:15 Mordecai went out from the king’s presence donning blue and white royal robes, a large gold crown, and a fine linen and purple cape. When the people of the city of Susa saw this, they exploded into joy. 16 For the Jews, it was a time of celebration. Darkness had turned to light. Sadness to joy. Shame to honor. 17 In every city and province, wherever the king’s law and orders were received, there was happiness and joy among the Jews. They feasted, they danced, they celebrated—and people from other nations living among the Jews professed to be Jews because they were afraid of the Jews’ sudden political power in Persia.
Mordecai went from sackcloth and ashes to regal robes. Remember that when Haman’s edict was heralded, it threw the population of Susa into confusion and chaos. The new edict caused them to burst forth with joy. The Jews could now hold their heads up as the people of the queen! The people who had been the Jews’ enemies or had even been on the fence suddenly wanted to be their buddies. They claimed to be Jews out of fear now that the Jews had the upper hand.
APPLY THIS TO YOUR LIFE:
1. Mordecai demonstrated faith when he prophesied that Esther was promoted to queen for this critical time. Look for how God has used seemingly unrelated circumstances to bring you to your current situation in life. Trust Him to direct your path, and do not take another step without seeking His will and way.
2. When times seem to be at their darkest, pray and remind yourself, “For his anger is but for a moment, and his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.” Psalm 30:5 (ESV)
|Posted on January 28, 2016 at 1:10 PM||comments (0)|
Esther 7:1 King Ahasuerus and Haman came to dine with Queen Esther; 2 and while they were drinking wine, the king posed his question once again.
King Ahasuerus: What is your request, Queen Esther? I’m willing to give you anything you want. Just make your request. Even if it’s half the kingdom you desire, I will make it happen!
The king and Haman attended a second banquet hosted by Queen Esther. Once again, she waited until the king made his offer to give her anything during the after dinner wine. This was the third time King Ahasuerus had offered to give Esther up to half the kingdom, but material goods were not her desire.
Esther 7:3 Queen Esther: If you favor me, my king, and if it pleases you, spare my life. That’s all I’m asking for—that my people and I be spared. That is my wish. 4 There are some, my king, who wish to rid your kingdom of us. For my people and I have been sold, marked for destruction and massacre. Now if the plan were simply to sell our men and women into slavery, I would have kept my mouth closed because that would not have been important enough to disturb you, my king.
Now that she had the king perfectly primed with two elaborate meals and was assured of his amorous attention, she answered his question with her heart’s plea to be spared along with her people. She didn’t initially slam the king’s favorite official but just said “there are some” who wanted to destroy her people. In the original Hebrew, Esther quoted the exact murderous words of the edict that the Jews were to be “destroyed, killed, and annihilated”. She even told him that if he were just going to sell or trade them to another owner, she would not have bothered him. Her humility probably touched him since he had gone so overboard in showing his favor to the point of offering her up to half of his kingdom. Her humble approach disarmed him.
Q – Is it better to demand what we want or to approach someone humbly?
King Ahasuerus: 5 Who has targeted your people? Where is this man who dares to do this?
The king was a little dense, thick-headed. He either had not put two and two together that his beloved queen was a Jewess, or the edict against the Jews had totally flown out of his brain. Since Haman actually composed the edict, the king may not have fully realized what he was approving.
Esther 7:6 Queen Esther (pointing to Haman): The man responsible for these actions is wicked Haman. He is vile, and an enemy to my people.
Esther finally was able to express her true feelings about Haman. Surely after observing the animosity between Haman and her surrogate father, Mordecai, for years, Esther abhorred the king’s right-hand man. Not only was Haman an enemy to the Jews; but as we have seen, his nation and the nation of Israel had always been adversarial.
Esther 7:6b In that moment, Haman’s joy turned to terror before the king and queen. 7 Angered, the king shoved away from the table, left his wine, and walked into the palace garden.
Haman was now shaking in his sandals. King Ahasuerus fumed that he could be used as puppet by his most trusted official. Incensed, the king stormed out of the room.
Esther 7:7b But Haman, aware that King Ahasuerus had already sealed his fate, didn’t follow behind. Instead, he pleaded with Queen Esther to spare his life. 8 In desperation, he threw himself onto the couch where Queen Esther was sitting, just as King Ahasuerus walked back from the garden to the place where the wine and the banquet had been set.
King Ahasuerus: Haman, will you even violate my queen right here in the palace, where I can see you?
Haman had been reduced to groveling before a Jewish woman, one of the very people he viewed as despicable! While begging for his life, he threw himself onto the queen’s couch. Even daring to touch the queen would be considered as violating her. He was seeking mercy in place of justice. His timing was horribly unfortunate as the king walked in to see him apparently attacking the queen! The king was flabbergasted that Haman would take such outlandish liberties!
Esther 7:8b As soon as the king gave the order, the royal eunuchs covered Haman’s face. His fate had been sealed. 9 One of those eunuchs was Harbonah.
Cue the dramatic music…Haman was now completely sure he was condemned to die.
Esther 7:9b Harbonah: Look! Haman has prepared a 75-foot pole for execution in his own courtyard. He was hoping to use it to hang Mordecai, the man who spoke up and saved the king.
King Ahasuerus: Well, hang him on it!
10 So they took Haman and killed him and displayed him on the pole he had made ready for Mordecai. And King Ahasuerus’ anger subsided.
The eunuchs must not have appreciated Haman. Haman was not a kind overseer. Harbonah was quick to offer the king a way to dispose of the despised Haman. Harbonah made the king aware of Haman’s plot to kill Mordecai and display him on a 75-foot skewer. The king ordered that Haman be shish-kebabbed instead. In an ironic twist, Haman became the object of ridicule instead of Mordecai. His wife’s prediction came true, and biblical prophecy was fulfilled.
The king was no longer hot with anger, but this still had not solved the problem of the upcoming annihilation of the Jews and his queen. Remember, a Persian edict or law cannot be reversed EVEN BY THE KING!
APPLY THIS TO YOUR LIFE:
1. True humility is not only a virtue but is often the best path to reward. James 4:10 “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.”
2. Haman had immense power and thought he would destroy his enemies, but God’s power was greater. God’s providence is seen throughout the book of Esther. We need to remember that we serve the same sovereign Lord who is able to accomplish all He desires in our lives.
|Posted on January 25, 2016 at 1:20 PM||comments (0)|
Esther 5:1 When the third day arrived, Esther put on her royal robes and stood in the inner court of the palace across from the king’s rooms. The king was sitting on his throne facing the palace entrance. 2 He was pleased when he noticed Queen Esther waiting in the court. He extended his gold scepter with his hand, inviting her in. Esther walked toward him, and when she was close enough, she reached out and touched the king’s scepter.
After fasting for three days, Esther prepared to do as she had promised Mordecai. Obedience to Mordecai put her in the precarious position of disobedience to the law. She dressed in all her queenly finery. I don’t know if this was protocol for a visit to the king’s room or if she was dressing for confidence or if she felt the king needed a reminder that she wasn’t just any member of his harem but his chosen wife and queen. The king was facing the entry hall and saw Queen Esther standing there waiting. She had already advanced to the place of danger, being inside the court even though the king had not summoned her. The king was pleased when he saw her: the King James Version says, “she obtained favor in his sight.” According to Proverbs 21:1 (ESV), “The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; he turns it wherever he will.” Even though God is not mentioned by name in the book of Esther, we can rest assured that God orchestrated Esther’s favor with the king. He extended the gold scepter allowing her to approach the throne unscathed.
King Ahasuerus: 5:3 What is it, Queen Esther? What is your request? I’ll give you anything—even half of my kingdom—all you need to do is ask.
The king was really asking something akin to “What is troubling you?” Perhaps she looked gaunt after the fast, or maybe he just realized she would not dare to enter his presence uninvited except under extreme circumstances. The thought of Jewish annihilation had to be causing her inner torment. Perhaps that showed in her countenance. Would the king literally give Esther half of his kingdom? Probably not, but the exaggeration expressed his desire to completely satisfy his chosen queen. On the other hand, this king had the bad habit of saying and doing things in haste. Maybe he would have given her up to half the kingdom.
Queen Esther: 5:4 If it would please you, my king, I’d like for you and Haman to come today to a banquet I have made in your honor.
Esther does not at this time present the dilemma that she and the rest of the Jews face due to his edict. She does not present the problem that is troubling her immediately. Instead she makes the seemingly simple request that the king join her for a banquet and bring his second in command, Haman, with him. She states she has prepared the meal to honor him. She knew this would inflate his narcissistic tendencies; and, therefore, she would be elevated in his good graces.
King Ahasuerus (looking at his servants): Esther 5:5 Go and find Haman this instant, so we can do as Esther desires.
Q – Why do you think the king who had so hastily punished Vashti for disobeying by failing to appear, accepted Esther when she disobeyed the rules and appeared unsummoned? Why is he so eager to please her? Is it simply deep love, or do you think the truth of Proverbs 21:1 had something to do with these events?
The king wasted no time but commanded that Haman be found immediately. He makes it clear that he is accepting the queen’s invitation. The king instructed his servants to make whatever Esther desired happen.
Esther 5:5b So the king and Haman came to Esther’s banquet. 6 As Haman, the king, and Esther were enjoying the wine at the end of her banquet, the king pressed the question.
King Ahasuerus: Now, my queen, what is your request? I promise that half of my kingdom is not too much to ask! Don’t be afraid to ask for whatever you want.
Nothing is said of the dinner conversation between the royal couple and Haman during the main part of the banquet. During the final course of a long meal, the wine course, the king gave Esther another open opportunity to present him her wish list. The king was anxious to hear her request, but Esther did not jump in quickly with her demands even with the king pressing her for details. She was very cautious.
Queen Esther: 5:7 I do want something. My request is: 8 If I have found favor before you, and if you truly desire to grant my request, would you and Haman join me again tomorrow for another banquet I will prepare? Then I will answer your question.
Scripture does not tell us why Esther put off her answer by asking the king and Haman to a second banquet the next day, so we are not sure if this was part of her original plan or if she just felt queasy about what she needed to do and used the second banquet to stall. Maybe she used the delay of the second banquet to bolster her confidence. However, the rest of chapter 5 and chapter 6 shed light on the reason for the delay from the perspective of divine providence. Whatever Esther’s reason for the 2nd banquet, God had plans for the intervening time.
Q – Have you ever faced unexpected delays or felt it wise to wait? Do you consider God’s control of your circumstances?
Esther 5:9 Haman left dinner in high spirits, almost gleeful, but his joy was short lived. As he walked through the king’s gate, he passed by Mordecai. It angered Haman to see the Jew unwilling to stand and, worse still, seemingly unafraid. 10 But he resisted showing his anger right then and there. Instead, he went home and spent time with friends and Zeresh, his wife. 11 Haman spent the evening bragging to them about being rich and having lots of sons in his family. He even boasted about his relationship with the king, talking to his guests about his promotion above all of his fellow nobles and the officials of the king.
Only the highest of society were invited to dine with the king and queen, so Haman thought he had arrived beyond all others since he was the only official invited. Therefore, he could consider himself and intimate of the king and queen in his inflated mind. However, when he saw Mordecai still sitting at the king’s gate, his happiness vanished into thin air. Mordecai’s lack of fear or any kind of response caused seething anger to billow up out of Haman as out of a volcano. Haman squelched this anger for the moment until he was in the privacy of his own home. He and his wife entertained friends for the evening. Haman always needed to stroke his ego, so he engaged in this behavior every chance he had. That night he strutted his stuff like a peacock. He bragged on his position, his ten sons, his wealth, and his close relationship with the king.
Haman: Esther 5:12 And that’s not all! Queen Esther invited me today to dine with her and the king. Just the three of us! And guess what? She’s invited me again tomorrow. What do you think about that? 13 But I must be honest; seeing that Jew, Mordecai, as I pass through the gate makes it difficult to celebrate any of my good fortune.
Haman is a legend in his own mind. He is under the delusion that Queen Esther prefers him over all the other officials of the court. He brags about the invitation to dine with the king and queen not only once, but again the next day. Then he confessed that there was something robbing him of his happiness. His hatred for Mordecai outweighed his pleasure and enjoyment of all the good that had happened to him that day.
Esther 5:14 Then his wife Zeresh and all of his friends came up with an idea.
Zeresh and His Friends: You should make a wood pole 75 feet high! Tomorrow morning, have the king sentence Mordecai to be executed on it. Then you’ll be able to have a good time at the banquet with the king.
Haman thought the idea was brilliant. So he had the pole made.
Zeresh actually strategized the plot to have Mordecai executed by impalement on a pole. The proposed height of this pole would have been about the same as an eight story building, perhaps even constructed on top of a building to allow for this height. Since Jews were taught that being hung on a tree symbolized being under a curse from the Lord (Galatians 3:13), this would be particularly humiliating. This was exactly what Haman wanted to do at all times, humiliate Jews, especially Mordecai. Zeresh then put forth the idea that after the grizzly demise of his enemy, Haman would be able to eat, drink, and be merry with the king and queen! This shows that Zeresh knew that Haman would have no remorse and, therefore, could party with the king with no thought of what he had just orchestrated. Since this fed Haman’s hatred, he thought it was an excellent plan. However, chapter six will prove that God was still in control and had other ideas for Mordecai.
APPLY THIS TO YOUR LIFE:
1. God had a purpose for Esther to fulfill and gave her favor with the king. If God has called you to a task, He will enable you to accomplish it. Rely on His power and not your own.
2. When delays and even dilemmas arise in your life, trust that our sovereign Lord is still in control and is using circumstances to mold you into the image of Christ. Read Proverbs 3:5-6, Matthew 6:33, Isaiah 41:10, Romans 8:28-29.
|Posted on January 23, 2016 at 12:25 AM||comments (0)|
Esther 4:1 Mordecai mourned when he found out what had happened. He ripped his clothes, put on sackcloth, and wiped ash onto his body. Then he went through the city, weeping loudly in anguish. 2 When he came to the king’s gate, not far from the palace, he stopped since those wearing sackcloth were not permitted to enter it and disrupt the mood of the court.
Mordecai goes into extreme mourning which may also reflect the idea that he knew his refusal to bow to Haman was at the center of this edict. He tore his clothes, put on the clothing of the poor, and put ashes on his body symbolic of death. He wailed in public! We do not often see men in the type of anguish expressed by Mordecai. I have observed it once. A dear friend of mine developed extreme complications a few days after giving birth to her first child. She had been married about a year to a man who had lost his first wife to a terminal illness. The doctor came into the ICU waiting room to tell her husband nothing else could be done, and he needed to know whether to remove her from life support. This poor man curled into a fetal position on the bench and wailed loudly amid profuse tears that he could not possibly make this decision again. I had never witnessed such intense emotion in a man. Mordecai was faced with the annihilation of ALL of his people and felt himself to be the cause! Mordecai saw himself as the source of the cloud of anguish that had enveloped his people. He took his mourning to the place where he had sat as one of the king’s officials, the king’s gate. Mordecai may have been hoping that Esther would hear the cries of his distraught and heavy heart. However, he could not enter in his mourning attire. There was a law that you could not appear in such a state in the court. No one could show a sad face in front of the king or disrupt the party spirit of the court. Nehemiah encountered this same rule when he approached the king of his day about returning to Jerusalem to rebuild the wall (Nehemiah 2:1-6).
Esther 4:3 In the meantime, as word of the king’s decree began to spread throughout all of the provinces, terrible distress grew among the Jews. They fasted, wept, and screamed out in misery. Like Mordecai, many put on sackcloth and ashes.
Mordecai was not the only Jew responding to the news of their coming destruction in this way. The entire populace of Jews “fasted, wept, and screamed out in misery.” What Mordecai and many of the Jews did was a demonstration of the intense helplessness that they felt. They feared they had no advocate to turn to. Once something was set down as a law in Persia, it could not be repealed or revoked. A seamingly hopeless situation. Many of them, like Mordecai, were assimilated into the Persian community. No wonder Susa was thrown into confusion. Their Persian neighbors may have been quite distressed by this edict as well. They had become friends with Jews and may have not even realized who among them were of this nationality. Now they were being told on a certain day in the future they were to kill these neighbors and their children!
Q – This is a historical account, so there is not a direct application to our lives. However, there are now Christians who are threatened with death in many countries. How might you react if you were given the choice to abandon the Lord Jesus or be killed?
Esther 4:4 Back in Susa, Esther’s maids and eunuchs witnessed Mordecai mourning outside of the king’s gate. They went and reported to the queen all that they saw.
Since Mordecai displayed his grief publicly, the maids and the eunuchs in charge of the king’s harem reported his distress to Esther. Mordecai knew that Esther could not see him because as queen she was protected. But he also knew her maids and the keepers of the harem would report his seemingly bizarre behavior to Esther.
Esther: What is wrong? Why is he doing this? It breaks my heart to think of him like this. Take these clothes to Mordecai so he can put them on instead of wearing sackcloth.
At this time, the queen had no knowledge of what had taken place. She must not have seen or heard of the edict, or she would have been able to figure out why Mordecai was mortified. Esther sent nicer clothes to Mordecai. Some propose that she wanted him to be fit to enter the court so she could speak with him in person and hear his explanation.
Esther 4:4b But when the servants arrived, Mordecai refused to wear the clothes Queen Esther had sent. 5 So Esther sent for Hathach, who was one of the king’s eunuchs assigned to serve her.
Esther: Hathach, go to Mordecai at once. Find out why he is mourning, and report back to me all that he says.
Since Esther did not know about Haman’s order, she did not understand Mordecai’s refusal to accept the appropriate court attire. Esther sent a representative to find out the cause of Mordecai’s wailing and wearing sackcloth and ashes. She charged him to report everything he found out to her.
Esther 4:6 Hathach went to Mordecai in the open square of the city in front of the king’s gate. 7 Mordecai told the queen’s servant everything that had happened and how much money Haman had pledged to place into the royal treasury in exchange for the destruction of the Jews. 8 Then he gave Hathach a copy of the order for mass murder of the Jews, the same order issued in the city of Susa.
Mordecai: Show it to Esther. Tell her everything I have told you. Convince her to go before her king and plead for his favor, not only for her life, but also for the lives of her people.
Mordecai explained the entire situation to Hathach. Mordecai provided evidence in the form of a copy of the edict proclaiming that the Jews were to be annihilated on a certain date. He asked the eunuch to relay the story to Esther and be sure she understood the order. He wanted Esther to understand the full magnitude and weight of this order written by Haman and approved by the king. Hathach was instructed to persuade Esther to beg the king for the lives of the Jews and her own life as well.
Esther 4:9 Hathach returned to Esther and told her everything Mordecai had said. 10 Esther ordered Hathach to return to the city gate and reply to Mordecai.
Esther: 11 How am I supposed to see the king? It’s known throughout the land, from the greatest of the king’s officials to the common folk who live in the provinces, that any person who approaches the king in the inner chamber without being invited is sentenced to death. That’s the law! There’s only one exception, and that’s if the king were to hold out the gold scepter to that person and spare his or her life. It’s been 30 days since the king last summoned me!
Esther sent back a reply explaining the difficulty of meeting with the king. She had not been called into the king’s inner room in a month’s time. The king had commanded that anyone who entered uninvited was to be put to death unless he held out his scepter to them. Esther knew that if the king did not hold out the gold scepter to her, that she would be instantly executed. Guards were posted to make sure this rule was obeyed.
Esther 4:12 Hathach and the other servants took Esther’s response to Mordecai.
Mordecai: 13 Tell Esther, “Don’t be fooled. Just because you are living inside the king’s palace doesn’t mean that you out of all of the Jews will escape the carnage. You must go before your king. 14 If you stay silent during this time, deliverance for the Jews will come from somewhere, but you, my child, and all of your father’s family will die. And who knows? Perhaps you have been made queen for such a time as this.”
The Voice Bible Comments:
Of all the books in the Bible, Esther is unique because God is never once mentioned explicitly. Still, for those who know God and who know history, God is in the story, behind it, above it, beneath it. He is the main actor in history, even if He is not acknowledged. Here, Mordecai shows great wisdom. The Jews, God’s chosen people, will be delivered whether Esther involves herself or not. Divine Providence has ways and means that go beyond human understanding. Still Providence has made Esther queen for a purpose, a purpose she cannot easily escape.
Mordecai reminded Esther that her position as queen would not spare her from the edict because the order was to kill ALL the Jews. Mordecai expressed his faith that God would deliver the Jews with our without Esther’s help. He tells her that the Jews would be saved even if she chose not to be the instrument of deliverance. He also prophesied that if she refused, she and her family would NOT be delivered but would die. Then he made the most often quoted statement of the book of Esther, “And who knows? Perhaps you have been made queen for such a time as this.” God’s providence had arranged for her to find favor and be queen for this specific purpose.
Q – Do you believe our God is still sovereign over history in the making today? Does He still providentially place His people where they need to be?
Esther 4:15 Once again, Hathach returned to Queen Esther with Mordecai’s message. In turn she sent a reply back to Mordecai.
Esther: Tell Mordecai, 16 “In preparation for my audience with the king, do this: gather together all the Jews in Susa, and fast and pray for me. Intercede for me. For three days and nights, abstain from all food and drink. My maids and I will join you in this time. And after the three days, I will go in to the king and plead my people’s case, even though it means breaking the law. And if I die, then I die!”
17 Mordecai left the king’s gate and put all of Esther’s instructions into action.
Esther sent word to Mordecai to organize a fast on her behalf. Most translations of the Bible do not use the words “and pray” or “intercede”. However, prayer always accompanied Jewish fasts in the Old Testament. This was to be longer than the usual one day fast which denotes the gravity of the situation. She and her maids would also fast for three days. When Esther would go before the king this time, she definitely would not be donning her fashion face but her fasting face. After three days of fasting, she would look tired and weak; and Persian kings wanted healthy women. She determined that after this time of fasting and prayer, she would take the risk of entering the king’s presence without being summoned. She fearlessly resolved within her heart to obey Mordecai even though that meant disobeying the king and the possibility of her own eminent execution if she did not find favor with the king. She courageously stated, “And if I die, then I die!” She made this declaration despite her fear to show that she was willing to risk her life to save her people. When Mordecai received this message from Esther, he left the king’s gate to gather the people and do as Esther had instructed him.
APPLY THIS IN YOUR LIFE:
1. Pray for persecuted believers and for the strength to stand should you be faced with persecution in the future.
2. Meditate on the sovereignty of God. Reflect on ways He has used even “negative” situations to bring you to this point in your walk with Him.
3. Pray for the strength to stand firm when your faith is challenged.
|Posted on January 20, 2016 at 10:55 PM||comments (0)|
We apologize for the delay in getting this post up. I am diligently working on finishing the draft for the devotional book on joy. Only three scriptures left to explore!!!
Let us start this chapter with a little background information on the ancestors of the two key characters, Haman and Mordecai. Haman was called an Agagite which meant he was a descendent of Agag the king of the Amalekites. The Amalekites had opposed Israel as they fled Egypt to return to the Holy Land, so God had placed Amalek under a curse saying that nation would be destroyed by a future generation of Israelites (See Exodus 17:14-16). Fast forward to the time of Israel’s first king, Saul the Benjaminite. He is the ancestor of Mordecai. God commanded Saul to destroy the Amalekites completely, including their cattle. (See 1 Samuel chapter 15) Israel was to take none of the customary spoils of war. However, Saul and his men kept some of the best cattle, supposedly to sacrifice to the Lord, and took King Agag captive rather than killing him. The Lord God made the prophet Samuel aware of Saul’s disobedience. Samuel confronted Saul and then took a sword and addressing King Agag, said, “Just as your sword has taken children from women, so will this sword make your mother a childless woman,” (1 Samuel 15:33). Then Samuel took a sword and hacked Agag to pieces! No wonder Haman hated the Jews and Mordecai had no respect for Haman!
Esther 3:1 A little while later, according to King Ahasuerus’ wishes, Haman (son of Hammedatha, an Agagite) was promoted to a rank above all his fellow nobles in the kingdom. 2 The officials at the king’s gate all bowed down before Haman and paid him homage because the king commanded this. But Mordecai, the Jew, refused to kneel and refused to honor him.
Officials (looking at Mordecai): Why are you disobeying the king’s command?
Esther 3:4 The officers questioned him daily about his disobedience to the king, but Mordecai refused to listen and bow down. The officers reported this to Haman to learn whether or not Mordecai’s excuse would be tolerated, for Mordecai had told them he was a Jew.
Mordecai’s reason for being a conscientious objector was his Jewish heritage. The Persian officials may or may not have understood his logic. The officials probably were not aware of the longstanding historical animosity between the Amalekites and the Jews. They went to Haman and asked if Mordecai’s reason for not kneeling and bowing down was acceptable.
Q – Mordecai stuck to his convictions about Haman even when questioned by the government officials and under the threat of punishment. Do you have the strength to stand up for what you believe to be right? Do you have the strength to stand up for Jesus? Ephesians 6:10-18 gives instructions on donning the armor of the Lord in order to stand firm.
Esther 3:5 Haman was furious when he saw that Mordecai refused to bow and pay him the respect he was due. 6 But Haman wasn’t to be satisfied with killing only Mordecai, so he began to think of ways to destroy all of Mordecai’s people, the Jews, throughout the kingdom of Ahasuerus.
Haman was due respect according to the king’s decree but even more so in his own mind. Haman suffered from an extremely inflated ego and narcissism. It wasn’t enough for Haman to exact retribution against his arch-enemy, Mordecai. Haman’s desire was to desecrate and annihilate every Jew in Persia and its provinces.
Esther 3:7 During the 1st month (the month of Nisan) of Ahasuerus’ 12th year as king, they cast lots (also known as “purim”) in the presence of Haman in order to select a day and month. [The lot fell on the 13th day of] the 12th month (the month of Adar), a day nearly one year in the future.
Haman and his cohorts cast lots to determine the best day for the destruction of the Jews. This was a common method for determining dates and times. The date selected was nearly a year away. Then he approached the king with his dastardly plan.
Haman (to the king): Eshter 3:8 All the provinces in your kingdom are overrun with one insignificant group of foreigners, people who haven’t adopted our customs. Their laws differ from all other peoples’, and they do not keep your laws. Therefore it’s not a good idea for you to tolerate them or their actions any longer. 9 If it is your wish, sign an order that these people be destroyed, and I will bear all the costs. I’ll pay 375 tons of silver directly to those who carry out the king’s business in order to relieve the royal treasury of the expense.
Reformation Study Bible:
3:9 10,000 talents of silver. This enormous bribe is calculated to have been about two-thirds the annual revenue of the Persian Empire under King Darius.
Notice that Haman gave no indication of the nationality of the people he was proposing to be wiped out. He was so determined to persuade King Ahasuerus that he was willing to possibly impoverish himself and his family to execute his plan. He told the king he would finance the entire campaign.
Esther 3:10 Not knowing which group of foreigners was being targeted, the king took his signet ring, the symbol of his power and authority, from his finger and passed it to Haman (son of Hammedatha, the Agagite), who hated the Jews.
Reformation Study Bible:
3:10 signet ring. Yet another of the king’s impulsive responses authorized Haman to issue royal edicts (cf. Gen. 41:42). The repetition of Haman’s full name together with the added phrase, “the enemy of the Jews,” underlines the terrible predicament of the Jews at this point.
The king has been kept in the dark as to whom he would be destroying. He has no idea that his own Queen Esther is a member of this people group. The king was unwittingly being manipulated by Haman’s venomous hatred of the Jews. Once again, King Ahasuerus was acting with undue haste. The king was reacting to information without verification from sources other than Haman. He should have checked Haman’s “facts” for himself before issuing any decree.
Q – We see King Ahasuerus acting before confirming the validity of the facts and completely thinking things through once again. Do you take enough time to evaluate a situation or problem before acting? Do you gather information from trusted, proven sources? Is your main source the Word of God?
King Ahasuerus (to Haman): Esther 3:11 The money is yours and the people are yours also to do with as you wish.
The king did not accept the money, but gave Haman permission to do what he desired. I feel that the king was abdicating his responsibility. Ahasuerus wore the crown but allowed Haman to make too many pivotal decisions.
Esther 3:12 On the 13th day of the 1st month, the royal secretaries were summoned. The king’s order was written down exactly the way Haman dictated it to all of the king’s rulers of the regions, governors of the provinces, and nobles of the ethnic groups. The orders were written in every script and every language spoken in the provinces in the name of the king, and they were sealed into law with his ring. 13 Messengers were sent out to all the royal provinces with the official law giving the order to destroy, kill, and annihilate all of the Jews. They were to kill everyone, including women and children, young and old, on the 13th day of the 12th month (the month of Adar), and they were free to take everything the Jews owned. 14 An official copy of the king’s order was to be issued to every province and read publicly, so that the people could get ready for that day.
The king gave Haman the power to dictate the order himself and use the king’s signet ring to seal it. Basically, the king gave Haman the power to decree an order. It was translated so that everyone in all the provinces of Persia would understand it. The decree stated emphatically that they were to “destroy, kill, and annihilate all of the Jews”. No one could possibly misunderstand the intent of this decree. No one was to be spared. They were to kill even women and children. As the Jews were put to death, whoever killed them gained the reward of taking their possessions, the wealth they had accumulating even while living as captives.
Esther 3:15 The messengers were quickly dispatched by order of the king. Then the decree was publicly proclaimed in the citadel of Susa. As the king and Haman relaxed and drank wine, the city of Susa was thrown into chaos.
Haman had the king celebrating this edict. Meanwhile, the people living in Susa were trying to make heads or tails of such a proclamation. This proclamation made no sense to them. However, it was now law, had to be obeyed, and could not be rescinded or overturned.
APPLY THIS TO YOUR LIFE:
1. Mordecai stuck with his conviction that it would be wrong to bow to an enemy of his people even though he knew he could be executed for disobeying the king. Luke 14:33 (VOICE) “In the same way, if you want to be My disciple, it will cost you everything. Don’t underestimate that cost!” Count the cost of serving Christ and stay faithful in serving Him anyway. The rewards far exceed the sacrifice.
2. King Ahasuerus seemed to make a habit of acting before his brain was fully engaged. When an important decision needs to be made, TAKE TIME to investigate options, pray, seek the Lord and godly counsel, BEFORE taking any action.
|Posted on January 9, 2016 at 5:10 PM||comments (0)|
Esther 2:15 (VOICE) Esther was the daughter of Abihail who in turn was the uncle of Mordecai.
As noted before, Mordecai had adopted Esther and treated her as his own daughter, and she obeyed him as her own father. Matthew Henry notes the blessings of those who take care of orphaned relatives whether the world or the law would see it as their duty or not. Esther was devoted to pleasing Mordecai as her own father perhaps out of gratitude for him taking her in.
Q – Do you think adoptive parents may feel heavy responsibility to protect and guide the adopted child? Have you ever considered the fact that God has adopted you into His family? Look up Ephesians 1:5, Romans 8:15, Galatians 4:5.
Esther 2:15b When it was time for Esther, whom Mordecai had adopted, to go in to the king, she didn’t ask for anything special. She took only what Hegai suggested. Since he was the king’s eunuch in charge of the women, he would know what was best.
Esther knew that Hegai knew best what would be complementary to the king. Esther humbly took his advice and did not demand special jewels, perfumes, etc. for her own gratification.
Now Esther had some special qualities, and all who met her favored her.
Esther exhibited qualities of character, a demeanor that caused all people to enjoy being in her presence. She was favored not only by Hegai but by the other women as well. God was at work turning hearts toward Esther in His providential plan to advance her to the queenship.
Q – If you were interviewing a candidate for important position, what qualities would impress you? Would you look beyond the person’s outward appearance and ask questions to discover who they really are? What special qualities do you think the king observed in Esther?
Esther 2:16 In the 10th month (the month of Tebeth) during the 7th year of his reign, four years after King Ahasuerus dethroned Queen Vashti, Esther was taken to King Ahasuerus in the king’s rooms. 17 The king found her to be more desirable than all of the other women. Unlike the other young women brought before him, she alone won his heart and his favor. So he made her his queen instead of Vashti and placed the royal crown on her head.
All the women taken in the harem were young, beautiful virgins, but God enabled Esther to outshine them all with inward grace as well as outward beauty. The heart of Ahasuerus was hers by the grace of God.
Esther 2:18 King Ahasuerus invited all of the nobles and officials to a state banquet in honor of Esther, his new queen. He declared that day as a holiday throughout his entire kingdom and distributed extravagant gifts.
The king honored his new queen with a state banquet. He made sure the entire kingdom celebrated by giving gifts, perhaps even waving debts. King Ahasuerus believed he was in control of the events that transpired to choose a new queen, but as we will see, God was moving people and events to execute His will concerning the preservation of Israel.
All the Women of the Bible (found at http://www.BibleGateway.com)
The story of Esther as we have it in the book bearing her name is a romance of captivity in Persia, for a king set at nought Persian law and prejudice to make her his queen. The marriage of Ahasuerus to Esther, a Jewess, was against Persian law which held that one of the royal line must marry a wife belonging to the seven great Persian families.
Asbury Bible Commentary (Also on http://www.BibleGateway.com)
The king had his own method of evaluating the young women brought to the palace. He slept with each girl one night before offering his opinion. Esther's turn came, and though the procedure was extremely humiliating, she managed to keep her composure and won the approval of Xerxes. He thought he alone made the choice, but future events were to show that the Almighty was quietly carrying out his own will in the matter.
Esther 2:19 When the young women were gathered together for a second time, Mordecai was sitting at the palace gate where the men gathered for business and legal decisions. 20 Since Mordecai had required Esther to keep her Jewish heritage a secret, she had told no one. She continued to obey him as she did when he took care of her.
The fact that Mordecai was sitting at the palace gate may have indicated that he was now a palace official. It is not clear whether he had been in this position to begin with or if Esther somehow secured it for him. Esther still has not disclosed her Jewish heritage and continues to obey Mordecai’s instructions to the letter which implies they were able to communicate on some type of regular basis. As Queen she has power and privilege not accorded to regular members of the harem.
Q – Now that Esther is queen is she obligated to continue obeying her uncle and heeding his advice? Why do you think she did so? Although God is not mentioned by name, do you think Mordecai had trained her in the scriptures?
Esther 2:21 One day while Mordecai was at the gate, Bigthan and Teresh, two of the king’s eunuchs who guarded the door, were plotting to kill King Ahasuerus. They were angry over some matter. 22 But Mordecai learned of their plan and reported it to Queen Esther who told the king about the plot, giving credit to her cousin. 23 After a thorough investigation, the report was proven true. So the two officers were killed and displayed on a pole. All of this information was chronicled in the presence of the king, in the public record.
The Lord providentially positioned Mordecai in a place to learn of a plot against the king’s life which will become more evident in a later chapter. He reported what he heard to Esther immediately and she shared the information with the king. Apparently she was spending a good deal of time with the king which could only happen if he summoned her. The king apparently truly enjoyed spending time with Queen Esther. The king did not react rashly to the accusation but had a thorough investigation done of the incident. Perhaps he had learned from the experience with Vashti to refrain from instantly reacting and to take time to respond. The men were found guilty and given the death penalty for their treason. According to the notes in The Voice Bible, in Persia, criminals were executed by impaling them on a sharpened pole. So these men were not killed mercifully and then tied to a pole for display, but were skewered as the method of execution. It is significant that Mordecai was not rewarded in any way at time, but a written record was made of the incident. Stay tuned for the rest of the story!
Q – Do you believe God has ever guided you to be in the right place at the right time? Or prevented you from being in the wrong place?
Matthew Henry’s Commentary
… the whole matter was recorded in the king’s journals, with a particular remark that Mordecai was the man who discovered the treason. He was not rewarded presently, but a book of remembrance was written. Thus with respect to those who serve Christ, though their recompence is adjourned till the resurrection of the just, yet an account is kept of their work of faith and labour of love, which God is not unrighteous to forget, Heb. 6:10.
Reformation Study Bible
2:23 on the gallows. Lit. “on a tree.” This refers to impalement on wooden stakes, a Persian and Assyrian form of execution. To the Jews, this would be a sign that the two officials were under God’s curse (Deut. 21:22, 23 and note), confirming the appropriateness of Mordecai’s loyalty to the pagan king.
APPLY THIS TO YOU LIFE:
1. Do not hang on to the brokenness of your story, but hang on to the adoption into God’s family through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
2. Character traits that win the favor of others such as Esther demonstrated are the fruit of the Spirit. Read Galatians 5:22-23, Psalm 31:30.
3. The Lord guides His children even when it seems He is “hands off”. Keep trusting and watch for His direction in your day to day living. Read Proverbs 3:5-6, James 1:2-8, and John 16:33.
|Posted on January 7, 2016 at 2:15 PM||comments (0)|
Esther 2:1 (VOICE) A little while later, when King Ahasuerus was no longer angry, he began thinking about Vashti, her actions that night at the party, and his decision to dismiss her from his presence. 2 Seeing the king’s mood, his servants had a suggestion.
According to commentaries, “a little while later,” might have been as much as four years, after he had gone to war. So he did not replace the beautiful Vashti immediately or hastily. The king may have been pensive, regretful, sorrowful, lonely. He was missing intimate companionship of the favored wife, an ache that could not be fulfilled by a one night fling with a concubine.
Q – What do you think the king’s mood was like?
Esther 2:2b Servants: King Ahasuerus, someone should find beautiful young women who are old enough to be married for you. 3 We suggest you appoint officers in every province of Persia to round up every eligible woman and add her to your harem in the citadel of Susa.
Notice they are talking about women as if they are cattle, not like this is a special opportunity. These women may have even been taken by force with no say in the matter. They will be added to his harem. Whether or not they are chosen as queen, they will never return home. They will be required to satisfy the king’s every desire and appetite whenever he calls them, without choice. In essence they will be his sex slaves. I also read that many of these women may have been as young as fourteen.
Q – How would you feel if you were torn from your home and family to live in the palace under these conditions? Or how feel if this were your daughter or sister?
Esther 2:3b Hegai, the king’s eunuch who is in charge of the harem, will see to it that all of the women are properly prepared and receive all the needed cosmetics. 4 Then whichever young woman delights you the most will reign as queen in Vashti’s place.
King Ahasuerus liked the advice of his servants and gave them permission to execute the plan.
Hegai would serve as the beauty coach, stylist, for these already beautiful women. They would be furnished all kinds of beauty aids. Many of them must have felt afraid and angry. Surely they would work hard to be the one selected because that would be the premier job for any woman in the kingdom. But out of all the women rounded up for this “contest” only one could win.
Q – Can you imagine the competition among these girls? Do you wonder if they tried to sabotage one another?
Esther 2:5 Meanwhile in the citadel of Susa, there was a Jewish man from the tribe of Benjamin named Mordecai. He was the son of Jair who was a descendent of Shimei and Kish. 6 It was at the hand of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon that Jeconiah (king of Judah) and Mordecai’s ancestors had been forced out of the city of Jerusalem to live as exiles in Babylon. 7 Mordecai had a cousin who was a young and beautiful girl named Hadassah, and she was also called Esther. After her mother and father died, Mordecai adopted her into his family as his daughter.
Reformation Study Bible
2:7 Hadassah. Esther’s Hebrew name meaning ‘‘myrtle.”
Esther. Perhaps derived from the Persian word for “star,” or a form of Ishtar, a Babylonian goddess.
Both Hadassah and Esther are names that denote beauty and grace. Mordecai raised her as he would a daughter of his own.
Esther 2:8 As the result of the king’s decree, Esther, along with many other young women, was brought to the royal palace in the citadel of Susa, and she was put in the care of Hegai (who was in charge of the harem).
It is not clear whether Esther volunteered for this beauty pageant or was taken against her will, but most likely it was not her idea.
Q – Put yourself in Mordecai’s shoes when Esther was taken from him. How concerned to you think he might be considering he has been entrusted with the care of Esther when her parent’s died.
Esther 2:9 Esther soon impressed Hegai and was favored. He arranged that she be given the most lustrous beauty treatments and fed the finest fruits and vegetables from the king’s garden. He assigned to her seven servants and moved her and her servants to the harem’s finest rooms. 10 Mordecai had instructed Esther to keep her Jewish heritage a secret, and so she told no one. Still her cousin worried about her. 11 Every day Mordecai paced back and forth near the courtyard of the harem to see if he could find out some news, any news, about Esther.
Reformation Study Bible
2:9 favor. A secular use of the Hebrew word for covenant loyalty (hesed, Ex. 15:13 note). Pleasing the king and gaining his favor, so necessary for survival in Ahasuerus’s empire, can be seen as signs of God’s providential care and leading of Esther (cf. v. 17; 5:2; contrast the more explicit references to God’s providence in Dan. 1:9).
her portion of food. Esther’s reception of special portions of food contrasts with her intentional fast in 4:16. Unlike Daniel, Esther did not follow Jewish dietary laws (v. 10).
God’s providence is taking Esther to her seat upon the throne. God showed His loving-kindness toward Esther by allowing her to gain favor with Hegai. Hegai began to have a fatherly love toward her. He did everything he knew to do in order to insure she would be the one chosen, to insure her success. Meanwhile out in the courtyard, Mordecai is pacing, concerned about the treatment his "daughter" is receiving in the harem. The prejudice against the Jews, who even though they had assimilated into the Persian culture were still captives there, is evident in the fact that Mordecai instructed Esther to keep her heritage a secret. Esther obeyed her cousin-father.
Q – Men were not allowed in the harem. How worried do you think Mordecai was? How hard must it have been for Esther to be separated from him and his wise counsel?
Esther 2:12 Before going in to the king, each young woman went through 12 months of beauty treatments, as the harem’s rules prescribed. For the first 6 months the women were treated with the palace’s finest myrrh oil, and that was followed by 6 months in perfume and other women’s cosmetics.
The girls primped for an entire year! I read that some of these treatments may have been the equivalent of a modern “chemical peel.” I wouldn’t want to do that! I don’t want to hurt on purpose. These girls are subjected to these treatments whether they want it or not.
Q – Have you ever primped for an important date or event? Multiply that feeling at least a thousand-fold.
Esther 2:13 This is how a young woman would go in to the king: each woman was allowed to take whatever she wanted or needed from the harem into the king’s rooms. 14 In the evening the woman would go in to King Ahasuerus’ chambers and then, the next morning, she would return to the harem again, but now she would be watched over by Shaashgaz, the king’s eunuch in charge of his concubines. No woman returned to the king’s rooms unless he was pleased by her and called for her by name.
In case this flew over your head as it did mine when I was younger, their turn with the king, meant sharing his bed for the night and all that implies. In this contest, in order to have a chance at being queen, the girl must lose her virginity to the king. If she were not the one chosen to be queen, she would now be just one of many concubines who may or may not ever be called upon to join the king in his chambers again. They cannot marry, have children (unless by the king), or live a normal life at all. They live like widows. I guess the harem becomes their family. A large group of sisters. Maybe they became a community of MSF’s (Mother-Sister-Friends). The flip side of that may involve some jealousy if some where called by the king more than others.
Q – Try to imagine the life these young women were dreaming of compared to the life they were condemned to live if not the chosen one.
APPLY THIS TO YOUR LIFE:
1. The king may have had regrets about his decree concerning Vashti but could not undo the permanence of the law. Once again we are reminded to consider our actions carefully before we carry them out.
2. Watch for the providence of God in your own life. Esther is in a seemingly horrible situation, but God is working out His purpose for her life. We all have God given purposes and sometimes difficult circumstances are moving us in the right direction.
3. Those of us living in freedom, need to praise God for that every day. If persecution were to come to you, would you be ready? Prepare yourself now by knowing Jesus and His word intimately.
|Posted on January 4, 2016 at 1:10 PM||comments (0)|
Esther 1:13 (VOICE) Immediately, King Ahasuerus called a meeting with his wise counsel, men who understood the laws and customs that had made the Persian Empire great. 14 These seven nobles—the king’s most elite confidants—came from Persia and Media and were named Carshena, Shethar, Admatha, Tarshish, Meres, Marsena, and Memucan.
The king responds to Vashti’s refusal to come at his bidding by asking his advisors what the laws and customs of the day say that he should do. Since he is the king, I find it peculiar that he would not know how to deal with the situation himself.
Q – Do you think, perhaps, the king acted with undo haste? Should one make important decisions while under the influence of alcohol or extreme anger?
King Ahasuerus: 15 Queen Vashti has blatantly defied me and refused the order I gave her through my assistants! Tell me, good men, what do the laws of this land suggest should be done to a queen who has disobeyed her king?
The king is looking for a way to punish the queen’s disobedience within the law, so that he is covered. He is still not thinking about WHY she may have disobeyed. He is not thinking about his wife but only of himself and how it hurt his ego. Perhaps he is afraid he will appear weak if he does not “control” his wife or respond decisively to her actions.
Q – At least he did seek advice. How often do we make important decisions without seeking counsel?
Memucan (before the king and nobles): 16 Your queen has wronged you, my king. She has also offended every noble of the land and all the people who reside in your provinces. Something must be done! 17 If we don’t act quickly, every woman in this kingdom will hear about Queen Vashti’s disrespect for you and they will follow her example in dishonoring their husbands. I can hear the women now, talking among each other: “Why should we listen to our husbands when Queen Vashti doesn’t come when King Ahasuerus calls for her?” 18 This day the noble women of Persia and Media who hear what the queen has done will respond in kind to your nobles, and there will be chaos all across the land.
Memucan was being a drama queen. He was jumping to the conclusion that this would set a precedence for women disobeying their husbands. Still, no one has searched out the reason for the disobedience of Vashti. On the one hand, she should not be disobedient; but on the other, her husband should NOT have asked such a vile thing of her.
Q – Do you think the queen should have had an opportunity to defend her actions? Perhaps that was not the custom of the time, since women were regarded as possessions; but do you think the king could have granted it?
Esther 1:19 But my king, don’t worry; I have an idea! With your permission, of course, I recommend that a decree be issued among the Persians and the Medes, a law which cannot be repealed, that forbids Vashti from ever being allowed in your presence again. In fact, I would further suggest that you give her position to another woman, someone who is more honorable than she is. 20 As your subjects hear about your decree in the far reaches of your kingdom, all the women will stop and give their husbands the honor they deserve, those of royal blood as well as the commoners. Oh, this is a great idea!
21 Memucan’s advice was well received by the king and his advisors.
King Ahasuerus: That is a brilliant idea! I say we make Memucan’s counsel into law!
Memucan’s counsel would make King Ahasuerus come out smelling like rose. This seems a drastic course of action to modern readers. However, keep in mind, the king could have someone executed just for entering his presence uninvited. Once this idea of banishing Vashti was made into official law, it could never be repealed. She could never be reinstated, even after he sobered up. He would be bound by law to choose a new queen. I wonder how many important decisions were made during these drunken parties? How many of these decisions were not the best for the long term of the kingdom?
Reformation Study Bible:
1:19 laws of the Persians . . . may not be repealed. The permanency of royal law is an important feature in the development of the story (4:11; 8:8). The plan to banish Vashti and to give her position to someone better, more beautiful or more obedient, had to be carried out.
Q – If you had the power to make a law that could NEVER be repealed, how long and hard would you consider that action?
Esther 1:22 The king drafted letters and sent them to all of his provinces. His emissaries spread the news quickly at the king’s directive that each province receive the decree in their own script and language: “In Persia every man will be master of his own home and speak in the language of his own people—regardless of the language his wife speaks.”
The king made this decree in his passion but with the advice of his counselors. We do not know the entire exchange that may have occurred between the king and the queen or the attitude or tone of Vashti. However, God had a plan to save the Israelites, and He used this to advance His choice for queen to the throne. The important thing to take away from this is that no matter the follies of men, God’s providence prevails.
Matthew Henry’s commentary:
Whether it was the passion or the policy of the king that was served by this edict, God’s providence served its own purpose by it, which was to make way for Esther to the crown.
Q – Do you believe God orchestrates circumstances to bring about His will? Can you think of an example of this in your own life?
APPLY THIS TO YOUR LIFE:
1. If you are able to take a little time before making an important decision, do! Seek the Lord in His word, seek counsel from godly friends (choose your counselors wisely), and do not do anything drastic in the heat of the moment.
2. Take time to consider the other person’s side of the story, and the long term effects.
3. Trust that even when you make wrong choices, by surrendering to the Lord, He can create a message out of your mess.
|Posted on January 1, 2016 at 10:40 PM||comments (0)|
Scripture quoted from The Voice unless otherwise noted
Matthew Henry’s Commentary found at http://www.BibleGateway.com:
Several things in this chapter itself are very instructive and of great use; but the design of recording the story of it is to show how way was made for Esther to the crown, in order to her being instrumental to defeat Haman’s plot, and this long before the plot was laid, that we may observe and admire the foresight and vast reaches of Providence…This shows how God serves his own purposes even by the sins and follies of men, which he would not permit if he know not how to bring good out of them.
Esther 1:1 The following events occurred in Persia during the reign of King Ahasuerus, the same man who ruled 127 provinces stretching from India to Ethiopia. 2 In those days King Ahasuerus’ throne was in the citadel of Susa.
Reformation Study Bible Notes:
1:1 Ahasuerus. Also known as Xerxes (486–465 b.c.), Ahasuerus was the Persian king mentioned in Ezra 4:6. He was renowned for consolidating his father Darius’s empire, for his successful building projects, and for his wars against the Greeks from 480–470 b.c.
No doubt, King Ahasuerus was mighty, and the description of his rule is designed to impress the reader with his control. We read that Susa was only one of three Persian capitals and served as the winter residence of the king. His reign was one of strength, and he ruled as a despot.
Q – Is there any power today comparable to that which Ahasuerus ruled?
Esther 1:3 During the 3rd year of his reign, Ahasuerus gathered together all of Persia’s ruling authorities—nobles and officials, leaders of Persia and Media, and nobles of his provinces - for a grand, state banquet. 4 For 180 days, King Ahasuerus continuously paraded his glorious kingdom’s riches and the splendor of his own notoriety in front of his nobles. Day after day the party continued with Persia’s grandeur on display.
VOICE Bible notes:
Kings in general, and Persian kings in particular, enjoy throwing lavish feasts and banquets for honored guests. It is their best opportunity to show off their wealth and power. Occasions like this are useful for impressing and intimidating foreign agents, making treaties and deals, maintaining the illusion of greatness, making the powerless feel especially helpless, and even bullying would-be troublemakers. It is during these occasions that much of the business of ruling is accomplished. But only men are allowed at this party.
Imagine throwing a party that lasted SIX MONTHS! The king was flagrantly showing off his wealth and power. Culturally, the women of Persia were not of import as far as running the kingdom, but were more like decorative property. However, it was also against their code of dignity and modesty for women to be present at a party with a bunch of drunken men.
Q – Kings/Presidents do not, as a rule, throw parties that last 6 months today. However, do they parade their affluence and influence in other ways, (i.e. state dinners, G8 conference, etc.)?
Esther 1:5 After these days of feasting were over, the king held another banquet for all who lived in the citadel of Susa. For seven days, wealthy and poor men alike danced, drank, and made merry together in the lush enclosed gardens of King Ahasuerus’ palace. 6 His gardens were lavishly dressed with white and blue linen draperies, which hung from large marble pillars and were tied to silver rings with cord made out of fine purple linen. Gold and silver couches were arranged on a grand patio—a mosaic beautifully crafted of crystalline burgundy porphyry, marble, mother-of-pearl stone, and other beautiful stones. 7 King Ahasuerus generously served his guests wine from the royal cellar in goblets made out of gold, each uniquely designed. 8 But no one was required to drink. The king merely ordered his servants to let his guests do as they wished.
The six month party ended with a seven day royal picnic, allowing every man in the kingdom, even the poor to celebrate together in the splendor of the royal gardens. The king was being extremely generous to allow even commoners to drink fine wine from golden goblets. “No one was required to drink” is an interesting notation because many kings enforced drinking or at least made people feel they must get drunk. He allowed his guests to drink or not drink as they chose. However, most likely the majority chose to drink to excess.
Q – Do we feel pressured to drink at company parties or with certain friends? Do we think about the influence of alcohol or the possible loss of influence as far as our witness before we pick up the glass?
Esther 1:9 Meanwhile, as the men enjoyed the goodwill of King Ahasuerus, Queen Vashti gathered all of the women together for a celebration in one of the banquet halls of the royal palace.
Reformation Study Bible notes:
1:9 Vashti. This name, not found elsewhere, may be related to the Persian word meaning “the beloved” or “the best.”
According to custom, the queen threw her own separate, extravagant celebration for women only. This way their modesty was intact as women were usually sequestered and their beauty reserved for their husband’s eyes only.
Q – Men and women often celebrate occasions in mixed groups today. Are we careful to be modest in dress and actions with people of the opposite sex? If your parent or grandparent walked into a party you were attending would they be honored by your behavior or horrified by your actions? Do you “wear” your wife/husband like an object to be admired, or do you treat her/him with reverence and respect when around others?
Esther 1:10 On the seventh and last day of the celebration, when the king was in a very good mood from the wine, he gave special orders to his eunuchs, who served as his personal assistants. (These seven men were Mehuman, Biztha, Harbona, Bigtha, Abagtha, Zethar, and Carkas.)
King Ahasuerus: 11 Bring Queen Vashti to my party! Tell her to put on her royal crown and to wear her finest clothes. I want to show off her beauty in front of my distinguished guests.
He did this because Queen Vashti was very beautiful. 12 But when she heard the king’s order from his eunuchs, she refused to join him and his guests. King Ahasuerus was infuriated when he heard the news from his assistants. In fact, the more he thought of it, the more King Ahasuerus burned with anger.
The king was feeling his wine and wanted to show off his queen in the same manner he had displayed his other possessions. This was totally against proprieties of the day. Women were supposed to stay separate from men.Vashti kept her dignity and self-respect even to the point of losing her status in the kingdom by refusing to appear. She always seems to get a bad rap because of her disobedience to her husband. However, she should be applauded for her reverence of her own body and commitment to modesty. The king is never chastised from the pulpit for his disrespect for the treasure that God gave him. Pastors and teachers never seem to call him to account for exploiting his wife. Is this not a double standard? Until I read the following commentary, I had always denigrated Vashti for her disobedience and cheered Esther. I am embarrassed to admit that. I guess I had never even given Vashti a second thought. I had never questioned WHY she would disobey. The part about him being drunk and demanding had flown right over my head.
All the Women of the Bible (also found at http://www.BibleGateway.com)
The Woman Who Exalted Modesty
The book contains a genuine strain of human interest, but it is also heavy with the air of divine providence. Although the story of Vashti only covers a few paragraphs in the book, yet in the setting of oriental grandeur we have the elements of imperishable drama. While the bulk of the book revolves around Esther, from our point of view the shining character in the story is the queenly Vashti, who was driven out because she refused to display her lovely face and figure before the lustful eyes of a drunken court.
Had the king been sober he would not have considered such a breach of custom, for he knew that Eastern women lived in seclusion and that such a request as he made in his drunken condition amounted to a gross insult. “For Vashti to appear in the banquet hall, though dressed in her royal robes and crowned, would be almost as degrading as for a modern woman of our modern world to go naked into a man’s party.” What Ahasuerus demanded was a surrender of womanly honor, and Vashti, who was neither vain nor wanton, was unwilling to comply. Plutarch reminds us that it was the habit of a Persian king to have his queen beside him at a banquet, but when he wished to riot and drink, he sent his queen away and called in the wives of inferior rank—his concubines. Perhaps that is the historic clue to Vashti’s indignant refusal for she knew only too well that Persian custom dictated that a queen be secluded during the feasts where rare wines flowed freely.
Q – Have you ever asked yourself why Vashti disobeyed her husband? Even for Christian women who are instructed by scripture to obey and respect their husbands, is there a time when it is appropriate to disobey? Are there things a husband should not ask of his wife? Or a wife ask of her husband? Are you treating each other as people loved and valued by the Lord God?
APPLY THIS TO YOUR LIFE:
1. Keep control of your senses lest you make decisions you will regret. “Don’t drink wine excessively. The drunken path is a reckless path. It leads nowhere. Instead, let God fill you with the Holy Spirit.” Ephesian 5:18.
2. Be modest in dress and behavior, especially around members of the opposite sex.
3. Remember your children look to you as an example of modesty and appropriate behavior toward people. How you treat your spouse shows your children how to treat theirs. How you treat your son or daughter lets them know how they should expect to be treated by future dates/spouses.
4. Stand firm on your convictions, and “Do not allow this world to mold you in its own image. Instead, be transformed from the inside out by renewing your mind. As a result, you will be able to discern what God wills and whatever God finds good, pleasing, and complete.” Romans 12:2