Esther 4-6

Wednesday Evening Bible Study

April 23, 2003


The stage has been set.

King Ahasuerus divorced his wife because of a drunken attitude problem with her, and after having returned from his defeat at the hands of the Greeks, he came back to Persia to an empty palace.  His counselors advised him to hold a beauty contest, and a young Jewish gal, Esther, won the position of Queen.  Esther had been an orphan raised by her cousin Mordecai.  At one point, Mordecai had discovered a plot against the king, and the record of his assistance had been recorded in the royal record.  Five years after their marriage, the king raised a man named Haman to a place of prominence, but because Mordecai as a Jew refused to bow to Haman, Haman devised a plan to have the entire race of Jews annihilated on a certain day in eleven months.  We pick up the story after the decree has gone out throughout the Persian Empire that the Jews are going to be annihilated …

(Est 3:15 KJV)  The posts went out, being hastened by the king's commandment, and the decree was given in Shushan the palace. And the king and Haman sat down to drink; but the city Shushan was perplexed.

Esther 4

:1-4 Mordecai’s anguish

:1 Mordecai rent his clothes, and put on sackcloth with ashes

sackcloth – A coarse, loose cloth (like burlap), worn as a sign of mourning.  Sometimes the sackcloth was worn right against the skin, in place of underwear.  It was meant to be uncomfortable.

Josephus records that Mordecai …

went about the city, crying out, that “a nation that had been injurious to no man, was to be destroyed.”[1]

:2 none might enter into the king's gate clothed with sackcloth.

Mordecai couldn’t come any farther than the “King’s Gate” because of his sackcloth.

It seems that the Persian kings didn’t like to have depressed people around them.  Nehemiah was aware of this as well:

(Neh 2:2 KJV)  Wherefore the king said unto me, Why is thy countenance sad, seeing thou art not sick? this is nothing else but sorrow of heart. Then I was very sore afraid,

:4 the queen exceedingly grieved…

grievedchuwl – to twist, writhe, fear, tremble, travail, be in anguish, be pained; (Hithpalpel) to be distressed

Esther is grieved to hear that Mordecai is in sackcloth.  She doesn’t know why yet.

It seems that Esther is trying to cheer up Mordecai with a change of clothes, but he won’t allow it.


Sometimes you just can’t put on a smile

I think that sometimes well meaning people try to cheer us up when we’re going through difficult times, and though much of the time it is just fine to do that, sometimes it is inappropriate.
Sometimes we try to avoid our problems with “happy things”.  Not a good thing.

:5-17 Challenge to Esther

:5 Then called Esther for Hatach…

HatachHathak – “verily”.  Perhaps he had a reputation for honesty.

It seems that Esther must not be allowed to go out in public.  Since Mordecai can’t go into the palace with his sackcloth on, Esther sends Hatach to find out what is going on.

:8 to charge her that she should go in unto the king…to make request before him for her people.

to chargetsavah – (Piel) to lay charge upon; to give charge to, give command to; appoint; commission

Mordecai asks Esther to help her people out.

Hatach now becomes aware that Esther is a Jew.

:11 …except such to whom the king shall hold out the golden sceptre, that he may live

the golden scepter

It seems that the king didn’t like to be bothered too much.

Herodotus says that this law [against anyone’s coming uncalled to the kings of Persia when they were sitting on their thrones] was first enacted by Deioces [i.e., by him who first withdrew the Medes from the domination of the Assyrians, and himself first reigned over them]. Thus also, says Spanheim, stood guards, with their axes, about the throne of Tenus, or Tenudus, that the offender might by them be punished immediately.[2]

Esther would be risking her own life if she dared to approach the king without first being summoned.

:11  I have not been called to come in unto the king these thirty days.


Not a good marriage

Don’t look at Ahasuerus and Esther as a role model for your marriage.
It’s not good if one spouse is “afraid” to approach the other spouse for fear that they might not hold out the “golden scepter”.
It’s not good if you haven’t seen each other for thirty days.

:13 Think not with thyself that thou shalt escape …

Mordecai reminds her that if she doesn’t do anything, she will be dead anyway.

:14 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?


God doesn’t need you

He can use someone else if He wants to.
But God wants you to have the reward that comes from obeying Him.


Recognizing your moment

Mordecai is wondering if Esther hadn’t become queen just for this specific moment.
God has a plan for your life.  There are no coincidences.

:16 Go, gather together all the Jews that are present in Shushan, and fast ye for me, and neither eat nor drink three days, night or day: I also and my maidens will fast likewise; and so will I go in unto the king, which is not according to the law: and if I perish, I perish.


Ask for prayer (and fasting)

She isn’t asking them to fast because she thinks they need to lose weight.
She’s asking for prayer.
Josephus records Esther’s prayer (we have to be a little careful about Josephus’ accuracy because he gets some of the details wrong) – an interesting prayer:
…she entreated God to have mercy upon her, and make her words appear persuasive to the king, and render her countenance more beautiful that it was before, (233) that both by her words and beauty she might succeed, for the averting of the king’s anger, in case he were at all irritated against her, and for the consolation of those of her own country, now they were in the utmost danger of perishing: as also that he would excite a hatred in the king against the enemies of the Jews, and those that had contrived their future destruction, if they proved to be condemned by him. [3]


Willing to die

She’s a brave gal.
When a person is willing to actually lay down their life for God, they are unstoppable.
Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego were examples of this:
(Dan 3:16-18 NLT)  Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego replied, "O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you. {17} If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty. {18} But even if he doesn't, Your Majesty can be sure that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up."

:17 So Mordecai went his way, and did according to all that Esther had commanded him.

He started gathering people to pray for Esther.

Esther 5

:1-8 Esther’s warm-up banquets

:1 Now it came to pass on the third day, that Esther put on her royal apparel…

the third day – an interesting phrase

Esther waited until she had three days of fasting and prayer behind her.


Don’t rush your answer

Sometimes it’s very important to take time to think about how you’re going to respond to a situation.
Don’t confuse the importance of the answer with making a quick decision.
Some problems are so important that they take time to think and pray.
Replying to nasty situations –
I have heard that if a rattlesnake is cornered, it can become so frenzied that it will accidentally bite itself with its deadly fangs. In the same way, when a person harbors hatred and resentment in his heart, he is often hurt by the poison of his own malice.  He thinks he is injuring his enemies by displaying his wrath, but the real harm is inflicted deep within his own soul.
Anger can also cause us to do and say things we may deeply regret. George W. Martin tells the following true story:  “I remember a fellow who once wrote a nasty letter to his father.  Since we worked in the same office, I advised him not to send it because it was written in a fit of temper.  But he sealed it and asked me to put it in the mail. Instead, I simply slipped it into my pocket and kept it until the next day.  The following morning he arrived at the office looking very worried. ‘George,’ he said, ‘I wish I had never sent that note to my dad yesterday.  It hurts me deeply, and I know it will break his heart when he reads it.  I’d give 50 dollars to get it back!’  Taking the envelope from my pocket, I handed it to him and told him what I had done.  He was so overjoyed that he actually wanted to pay me the 50 dollars!”

put on her royal apparel – Maybe she had been just wearing a sweatshirt and jeans. I wonder if she had been wearing sackcloth.

:2 she obtained favour in his sight

favourchen – favour, grace, charm; elegance; acceptance

Josephus records a very melodramatic scene where Esther looks at the king and the king is upset, and then Esther faints, and the king rushes up to comfort her and apologize for looking so meanly at her.

:3 …it shall be even given thee to the half of the kingdom.

It seems that the king still likes his queen.

:4 let the king and Haman come this day unto the banquet

banquetmishteh – feast, drink, banquet

:6 And the king said unto Esther at the banquet of wine…

banquetmishteh – feast, drink, banquet

(NLT) while they were drinking wine

:8 …let the king and Haman come to the banquet …

Why does Esther keep delaying things?

This is like one of those TV shows where things build and build and then you see the words, “to be continued …”

Some have suggested that Esther lost her courage to confront the king about Haman.

Yet it will work to her advantage.  Haman is going to dig a deeper hole for himself.

:9-14 Haman’s plot against Mordecai

:9 when Haman saw Mordecai in the king's gate, that he stood not up, nor moved for him, he was full of indignation against Mordecai.

Why doesn’t Mordecai bow to Haman?

Some suggest that it’s because as a Jew, he only bows to God.

Others suggest that perhaps he won’t bow to Haman because Haman is an Amalekite, a race that God has declared that the Jews must wipe out.

:10 …Zeresh his wife.

ZereshZeresh – “gold”

:11 And Haman told them of the glory of his riches, and the multitude of his children …

multitude of his children – he had 10 sons (Est. 9:10)


The danger of pride

He loves to talk about himself and the things he’s accomplished
(Prov 16:18 KJV)  Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.

:13 Yet all this availeth me nothing, so long as I see Mordecai the Jew sitting at the king's gate.


Never satisfied

A person whose life is centered upon his own self is never satisfied.
(Prov 27:20 KJV)  Hell and destruction are never full; so the eyes of man are never satisfied.
God’s desire is that we learn the secret of being content in whatever circumstance we’re in:
(Phil 4:10-13 NLT)  How grateful I am, and how I praise the Lord that you are concerned about me again. I know you have always been concerned for me, but for a while you didn't have the chance to help me. {11} Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to get along happily whether I have much or little. {12} I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. {13} For I can do everything with the help of Christ who gives me the strength I need.

:14 Let a gallows be made of fifty cubits high

gallows‘ets – tree, wood, timber, stock, plank, stalk, stick, gallows

Don’t think of a platform with a trap door and a hangman’s noose.  Think more of a tall pole on which you pierce your victim.

fifty cubits – 75 feet high.  The whole city will see Mordecai’s body.  Everyone will know of Haman’s great power and influence.


Be careful about advice

I would imagine that Zeresh must mean well for her husband, but it’s bad advice.

Esther 6

:1-3 The king’s sleepless night

:1 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.

I guess this is what ancient kings did when they couldn’t sleep.

It would seem that this is pretty late at night/early in the morning.


God can use a sleepless night

I think I’m learning that the older you get, the more of a problem this becomes.
Sometimes we can get pretty upset about waking up in the middle of the night.
But sometimes God simply wants to get our attention.
Open the book.
“God, what do You want to tell me?”

:3 And the king said, What honour and dignity hath been done to Mordecai for this?


God is at work

You can see God’s fingerprints all through this story.
Josephus records an interesting idea:
But God laughed to scorn the wicked expectations of Haman; and as he knew what the event would be, he was delighted at it, for that night he took away the king’s sleep:[4]
The Bible says,
(Rom 8:28 KJV)  And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

:4-11 The king honors a friend

:4 Now Haman was come into the outward court of the king's house

outward court – Does this mean that Haman was in the same position that Esther was when she had to approach the golden scepter?  It would seem that Haman isn’t afraid of the golden scepter.

:5 …the king said, Let him come in.

Keep in mind that to the king, Haman is still a trusted advisor.

:8 the horse that the king rideth upon, and the crown royal which is set upon his head:

royal crown – this is on the horse – Assyrian reliefs depict the practice of setting crown-like headdresses on horses.

:11 …and proclaimed before him …

proclaimedqara’ – to call, call out, recite, read, cry out, proclaim

I wonder just how loudly Haman was “proclaiming” Mordecai’s reward.


Golden Rule

Jesus said,
(Mat 7:12 KJV)  Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.

We call this the “golden rule”.

This story of Haman and Mordecai puts a different twist on the “golden rule” doesn’t it?
Haman is going to end up getting what he wanted Mordecai to get.
Mordecai is going to end up getting what Haman wanted.
I guess you ought to be careful what you wish for yourself or for others.  What if you got what you wished for for others?  What do you do when they get what you wanted?
Do we “rejoice with those who rejoice”?
I think this is a test of just what kind of love you have for others.

:12-14 Haman’s shame

:12 …and having his head covered.

Boy oh boy is he embarrassed

:13 If Mordecai be of the seed of the Jews, before whom thou hast begun to fall, thou shalt not prevail against him, but shalt surely fall before him.

Why does Zeresh say this?

Does she just have a “funny feeling”?

Perhaps she knows of the history of the Amalekites and the Jews.

Haman is an Amalekite, a race which God had told the Jews to wipe out.

:14 …and hasted to bring Haman unto the banquet that Esther had prepared.

You kind of have an idea where this is going, don’t you?

[1]Josephus, F., & Whiston, W. (1996, c1987). The works of Josephus : Complete and unabridged. Includes index. (Ant XI, vi 7). Peabody: Hendrickson.

[2]Josephus, F., & Whiston, W. (1996, c1987). The works of Josephus : Complete and unabridged. Includes index. Peabody: Hendrickson.

[3]Josephus, F., & Whiston, W. (1996, c1987). The works of Josephus : Complete and unabridged. Includes index. (Ant XI, vi 8). Peabody: Hendrickson.

[4]Josephus, F., & Whiston, W. (1996, c1987). The works of Josephus : Complete and unabridged. Includes index. (Ant XI, vi 10). Peabody: Hendrickson.