You could say the story of Esther is the story of two decrees. The first, sponsored by evil Haman authorized the destruction of all Jews, men, women, and children and the taking of plunder from their possessions (3:13).
After the King learned of Haman’s true character and had him hung, Mordecai the Jew was allowed to write a second decree allowing the Jews to “destroy, kill, and annihilate all the forces of any people or province that would assault them, both little children and women, and to plunder their possessions (Esther 8:11-12).
Wednesday night we studied that the day came and instead of being destroyed (according to the first decree), “the opposite occurred”, and “the Jews themselves overpowered those who hated them” (9:1).
Twice the narrative observes that as the Jews defeated their enemies they did not lay hands on the plunder. This is interesting because in the decree it specifically says they were allowed to plunder the possessions of those they destroyed.
Similarly, the decree stated that not only men but also little children and women could be killed. Yet when the day come only men are listed among the dead.
What does this restraint (not taking the plunder, not killing women and children) show about the disposition of the Jews?
How can we practice similar restraint today? (See Romans 12:17-21).
Wednesday night in our Esther class we saw that God got the Jews through their crises. Haman was killed and King Ahasuerus authorized a second decree allowing the Jews to defend themselves.
When the Jews thought they were going to die, chapters 3 and 4 described them as “perplexed”, “mourning”, “weeping and wailing”. Chapter 8:16 and 17 describes the Jews now as having “light and gladness, joy and honor. And in every province and city, wherever the king’s command and decree came, the Jews had joy and gladness, a feast and a holiday”.
God got them through their crises. He will do the same for us! In our dark times we need to “wait on the Lord”. Things will get better, usually in this life, but if not in this life, certainly in the next!
8:17 adds this: “Then many of the people of the land became Jews, because fear of the Jews fell upon them”. One of the good things that came out of this horrible ordeal was many non-Jews turned to God.
Question: No one wishes for trials to come, but if through our trials some are led to Jesus or brought closer to Jesus – is it worth it? If that is the case how does that make us like Jesus?
In Esther 2 Mordecai had revealed a plot against the life of King Ahasuerus (aka Xerxes). The Persian officials investigated it and the men who had planned to kill the king were executed.
What recognition did Mordecai receive for exposing the plot? None! No reward. No promotion. Not even a thank you.
Mordecai could have been resentful. He could has said, “This is the thanks I get?”. He might have even felt forgotten by God. Mordecai was a faithful me. Later he refused to bow down to Haman, risking his own life and the life of the Jewish people. Is this his reward for such faithfulness?
Finally, some 5 years later, by chance the king comes across the record of Mordecai’s good deed and honors him for what he had done. This is found in chapter 6:1-3.
As it turns out, it was actually “for the best” that Mordecai was not honored 5 years earlier. Even though it was 5 years late, the timing of when the King finally honored Mordecai resulted in the saving of his life. Looking back it was best that he was not honored when it seemed he should have been.
Question: Do you think Mordecai might have been resentful when he was not recognized for saving the King? Would we have felt slighted it were us or if we were similarly mistreated? This unjust treatment actually turned out to be a great blessing! How can this story encourage us when we feel we are not getting what we deserve?
Thanks for your thoughts!
Our Esther study continues on Wednesday nights through August.
Last night we looked at Esther 2. The Persian king Ahasuerus begins his search for a new queen. Young virgins from throughout the empire come to be pampered for a year before spending a night with the King. Esther is also a part of this, and will of course be the eventual “winner”.
We spent considerable time last night on the question: What was the attitude of Esther (and Mordecai her uncle) regarding her participation in this pageant to become queen to the King of Persia? Was she excited at the prospect of possibly being chosen? Was her participation against her will? Is it like the story or Cinderella or the TV series “The Bachelor” where the participants are hoping to be chosen, or is she a scared Jewish slave girl who resents having to be a part of this? Perhaps something in between or a combination of those two views?
It seems like an important question because it reflects on the spiritual mindedness of Esther and Mordecai. A side question would be, was it wrong for her to marry the King of Persia? (A Jew marrying a foreigner).
What do you think were Esther and Mordecai’s attitudes and ambitions toward her participation in this pageant?
Wednesday we began studying the book of Esther. It is an amazing historical account of how God’s people were victorious over an evil decree designed to kill every Jew in the Persian empire in the 5th century b.c.
Spoiler Alert: The horrible decree in Esther, that all Jews would be destroyed, is ultimately brought to nothing and the event turns into a victory for God’s people – an occasion for joy, not sorrow. This victory is celebrated every year in the Jewish festival of Purim.
Did God do this? I believe He did! But one of the fascinating things about the book is that it does not mention God and there are no miracles recorded.
Similarly, God promises to watch over us, hear our prayers, and provide for our needs but finding tangible proof (like the word “GOD” in Esther) of such action is difficult.
The words of Mordecai are interesting on this point. When encouraging Esther to use her position as queen to intervene for the Jews, His instruction to her was not, “God put you here for this reason Esther”, but rather, “who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this” (Esther 4:14). “Who knows” describes what we might call “the uncertainty of providence”.
Question: In our lives, can we ever confidently say “God did this” regarding some specific, personal event? If we lack tangible evidence, does it diminish the confidence we have that “God is in control”?