Esther – For Such a Time as This
Key Texts: 4:14 and 6:1
For if thou altogether holdest thy peace at this time, then shall there enlargement and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place; but thou and thy father’s house shall be destroyed: and who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?
On that night could not the king sleep, and he commanded to bring the book of records of the chronicles; and they were read before the king.
“Trouble is brewing in Iraq. An edict from the King has given consent to the general massacre of a religious minority who are not trusted. These are troubling and uncertain times.”
We know only too well that the above excerpt could well have been lifted from the news print of any number of papers across the world in recent years. Yet from a biblical perspective the same set of circumstances was at work in the days of Queen Esther. It is striking that similar issues have the eyes of the world firmly fixed upon these ancient lands in the 21st Century. Is this not proof that the heart of man, untouched by the Gospel of Grace, is still the same as it has always been?
Historical Background to Esther
Esther is positioned in its historical context, following on from Ezra and Nehemiah. This book too tells the history of the Jewish people after the Babylonian exile. Where Ezra and Nehemiah chronicle the returning nation Esther relates an important event in the lives of the Jews who chose to remain in the lands where their forefathers were captives.
By contrasting Esther with Nehemiah we discover that the events of this book occurred before Nehemiah’s arrival in Jerusalem to rebuild the walls. Nehemiah served under a Persian Emperor called Artaxerxes (Nehemiah 2:1). The Emperor whom Esther married was Ahasuerus. Historians are agreed that this was another name for Emperor Xerxes. We know that Xerxes preceded Artaxerxes on the Persian throne. Therefore when Nehemiah was a courtier the events detailed in Esther would already have been history.
The Sovereignty of God in Esther
In many respects Esther is a book of mysteries. The author is anonymous although some claim Mordecai. Certainly the author appears to have had excellent knowledge of the affairs within the King’s court and customs within the great Persian Empire. Some have treated the book of disdain, as not being an historical work but a fictional romance. This is not the way, however, to understand the mysteries of divine truth.
The greatest mystery of Esther, however, is the lack of God’s name. Indeed God is neither mentioned nor is prayer offered throughout this work. This gives Esther a singular place among the sacred writings that make up the Old and New Testaments.
How can a book which omits God be regarded as being inspired? The answer is found simply by appreciating who these Jewish people were in this land so far from Jerusalem. They had refused the call to return and rebuild in the land of their fathers. They chose to remain in a pagan society. Therefore they were influenced by the world in which they lived, and not for the good. These people were not the spiritual cream, yet they remained God’s people and He was determined to care for them. Therefore the mysterious hand of providence is the theme of the book. God may not be mentioned by name but he is present in mighty deeds. These people may not have mentioned God’s name but he still came to their help nonetheless:
“The book of Esther, then, serves the purpose of showing how Divine Providence overrules all things; even in a distant, far country, God’s people are yet in His hands. But since they are in this distant , far country, and not in the land of Promise, His name is not mentioned. By causing us to behold the workings of Providence , the book does, after all, turn our eyes to God, who determines the destinies of men and nations” (Edward J Young).
Chapter 1; Vashti’s Removal
It was considered a poor example to women throughout the empire when Vashti refused to honour her royal husband, therefore she lost her crown.
Chapter 2; Esther’s Marriage
This chapter introduces us to Mordecai, whose great-grandfather had been carried captive to Babylon. He was a man of great strengths. He was proud of his Jewish ancestry. He is compassionate taking in his orphaned cousin Hadassah (meaning “Myrtle”) as his daughter. She would be given the Persian Esther meaning “Star”. He was educated attaining a position in the palace. He was opportunistic using his influence at the court to have Esther brought before the King when it was known that he was searching for a new wife. He had foresight refusing to allow Esther to reveal her ethnic origin. He was loyal, exposing an assassination plot against the King saving his master’s life. No doubt Mordecai sensed that the tide was turning against his people. This ultimately was the reason why he actively promoted Esther. His plan was most successful with Esther chosen to be Queen.
Chapter 3; Haman’s Planned Genocide
Mordecai’s fears were realised with promotion of Haman in the royal court. As Mordecai refused to bow to this man Haman influenced the King to appoint a day when the Jews throughout the empire would be massacred. In this Xerxes is presented as a cruel man which makes the events of the book all the more remarkable.
Chapter 4; Mordecai’s Appeal to Esther
He pleads with her to visit the King for she has been brought to this position for this time. She asks him and the Jews in Shushan to fast for her because to come before the King uninvited could mean certain death.
Chapter 5; Esther’s Acceptance
The signs are good, that all will be well for the Jews, when the King reaches out his sceptre to Esther. She invites him and Haman to a special banquet. Haman, however, goes home to erect a gallows for Mordecai whom he hates, little knowing that he is the queen’s adopted father.
Chapter 6; Mordecai Honoured
The first verse is the true turning point in the saga, with the King asking the records of the kingdom to be read during a sleepless night. When hearing of Mordecai’s loyalty he decides to honour the Jew. It is evident that God has taken sleep from the powerful man’s eyes. Haman is caused to lead Mordecai through the streets to great acclaim.
Chapter 7; Haman Hanged
When Esther revealed her identity the King had Haman hanged on the gallows he erected for Mordecai.
Chapter 8; The Jews Protected
The Jews were given royal protection. The event caused many people throughout the empire to turn to the Jewish faith.
Chapter 9; Purim
After the enemies of the Jews were destroyed, the Jews inaugurated the Feast of Purim as a memorial to the salvation they had enjoyed
Chapter 10; Mordecai’s Promotion
The Jewish courtier was made second only to the King himself.
1: God will always protect his people.
2: Like Esther God positions his people in every age and place for a special purpose.
3: Christ always extends his sceptre to us as we enter God’s presence.
4: Like Mordecai, Christ is the one whom the King delighteth to honour. Even his enemies will one day confess him to be :Lord.
5: God protects his people in the most unlikely places. Xerxes was not the kind of man one would wish his daughter to marry, yet God worked out his purpose.