Esther — Strategically Placed to Rescue Her People
The book of Esther provides not only a glimpse of life among the Jews living in Persia at the end of their exile from Judah, but it also gives the history of the Feast of Purim. The events take place between 483-473 B.C.—about the time of Ezra chapters 6-7—between the return of Zerubbabel and Ezra to Jerusalem [Nelson’s Complete Book of Bible Maps & Charts, p. 164]. As suggested by the author’s reference to King Ahasuerus (better known as Xerxes) in the past tense, Esther appears to have been written after the reign of the monarch named in the book. While the author is neither named nor known for certain, detailed descriptions of the events, customs and locations in Persia tell us it was most likely penned by a Hebrew living in the capital of Susa at the time these incidents occurred.
Unlike any other book of the Bible, Esther does not include any reference to the God of Israel. Nevertheless, it demonstrates the Lord’s providence in preserving His people, as well as their faith in YHWH to protect them. It is a very skillfully written account of the threat to the entire Jewish nation described in chapters 1-4, followed by the triumph of the Jews recounted in chapters 5-10 [Nelson’s p.166].
Both the Septuagint and Vulgate add a dream Mordecai is purported to have had—along with other material interspersed throughout the original Hebrew version. In fact, the Vulgate and most Catholic and Orthodox Bibles include an additional six chapters! These verses were extracted by early church father, Jerome, from the main body of the text and placed at the end of his Latin translation of Esther. Like so many apocryphal writings, these verses were apparently added long after the book of Esther was written.
The Septuagint cites its source as “Ptolemy’s son Lysimachus,” a Greco-Egyptian Jew (c. 170 B.C.). He was apparently disturbed by the absence of God’s name in this book and wanted to make it seem like YHWH delivered the Jews because of their devotion to Him. It changes names and adds details to such an extent that the book of Esther is reduced to a romantic historical novella with a religious flavor. [For further discussion on this topic, see the following websites—each of which represents a different view of the historicity and relevance of the book: http://graceandknowledge.faithweb.com/apoc8.html, http://www.ourelement.org/blog/61-faq/141-esther-missing-sections-explanation, and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Book_of_Esther.]
Esther Chapter 1
While construction was underway in Jerusalem following the decree of Cyrus, there were some changes in the administration of the Persian Empire. The new king was referred to by the Jews as Ahasuerus (“the lion king”), but he is better known to us by the Greek name, Xerxes I [c.f.—Herodotus’ Histories 3.97, 98, 7.8-9 & 9.108-109]. This monarch inherited great riches and influence. Esther 1:1 boasts that he “reigned over one hundred and twenty-seven provinces, from India to Ethiopia.”
In year three of Xerxes’ reign, the king threw a lavish party for all the important people of his empire, displaying his wealth and power for 180 days (Esth. 1:2-4)! At the end of that half-year period, he held another feast for seven days, inviting everyone from the capital city of Susa to celebrate in the palace garden (v. 5). The grounds were beautifully decorated with white and blue curtains tied to sliver poles with cords of linen and purple—most likely to shade revelers from the sun. There were gold and silver couches on a mosaic pavement set with alabaster, turquoise, black and white marble (6). Drinks were served, “with royal wine in abundance,” from golden goblets, each of which was unique from the others (7). Everyone was encouraged to imbibe or abstain according to his pleasure (8). Queen Vashti held a feast of her own for the women inside the royal palace (9).
After seven days of free-flowing alcohol, “when the heart of the king was merry with wine,” Ahasuerus sent his seven eunuchs to fetch the queen (10). She was to come in her royal crown, so that he could show off this national treasure, as well (11). Whether she was worried about being molested by the drunken men, or just thought it was degrading to parade herself before them like one of the king’s other possessions, we are not told. We are only informed that “Queen Vashti refused to come at the king’s command” (12).
Alcohol tends to inflame one’s passions and magnify base emotions. So when the eunuchs informed the king of Vashti’s reply, he was furious. Turning to the royal advisors—seven high-ranking princes who kept their hands on the pulse of the Persian Empire—Ahasuerus asked how to handle this insult (13-15).
Memucan, one of the king’s cabinet members, said, “Queen Vashti has not only wronged the king, but also all the princes, and all the people who are in all the provinces of King Ahasuerus” (16). He worried that, when the women of the kingdom got word of the queen’s behavior, they would follow her example and “despise their husbands,” as she did (17). As a result, he anticipated all manner of disrespect and conflict in homes throughout the empire (18).
Memucan proposed that Ahasuerus send out a binding decree that Vashti would be deposed and banished from his presence; “and let the king give her royal position to another who is better than she” (19). His reasoning was that, if this were to go out at the same time as the report of Vashti’s behavior, women would think twice about imitating it. Instead, “all the wives will honor their husbands, regardless of their status” (Esth. 1:20, GW).
This sounded like a good idea to the king, so he sent out a decree to all the provinces in the various scripts and languages of his subjects. He informed all the people of his domain “that each man should be master in his own house, and speak in the language of his own people” (vv. 21-22). Problem solved.
Esther Chapter 2
After the wine wore off, and “the wrath of King Ahasuerus subsided,” his majesty recalled what had happened (Esth. 2:1). He was probably having second thoughts, maybe feeling a little down—which is never a good thing for the people surrounding a king. So the king’s servants suggested he start looking for a new bride right away. Knowing Ahasuerus never did anything in a small way, they proposed that he hire some fellows to gather all the beautiful young virgins they could find in the kingdom and bring them to the capital city. They would be put under the care of Hegai, the king’s eunuch in charge of the women, who would give them all beauty treatments. Then the one who most pleased the king would be his new queen (vv. 2-4). Of course, Ahasuerus approved, and all that they suggested was carried out.
Among the young maidens brought to the palace was a lovely Hebrew named Hadassah. When her parents died, her cousin, Mordecai (nephew of her father) took her in and raised her as his own daughter (7-8). Because her Jewish name (which means “myrtle”) might have caused problems for the girl in this foreign land, her guardian called her Esther—the Persian word for “star” and a symbol of beauty in that culture.
The girl must’ve possessed some exceptional qualities, because she caught the eye of the eunuch Hegai at once. Not only did she please and obtain his favor, “so he readily gave beauty preparations to her, besides her allowance,” but the man in charge of the virgins procured seven of the king’s best maidservants for her and gave Esther the best apartment in the house of the women (9).
Every girl was given twelve months of beauty treatments: six months with oil of myrrh and six months of perfumes and other beauty preparations (12). Whether taken internally or externally, myrrh is an aromatic oil that cleanses and detoxifies the body. When followed with perfumes and other ointments, these concoctions must’ve made the women smell and taste divine, as well as giving them soft, radiant skin!
“After that, the young woman would go to the king. Anything she wanted to take with her from the women’s quarters to the king’s palace was given to her.” (Esth. 2:13, GW). Following her one night with the king, she was moved to another women’s residence, under the care of Shaashgaz, the eunuch in charge of the concubines. Being not so much a wife as a sexual servant of the king, one of these gals might never see him again, if he was not impressed enough to ask for her by name (v. 14).
When it was Esther’s turn to spend a night with the king, she took only what Hegai advised (15). He must have done a magnificent job of dressing her, coiffing her hair, etc., for Esther immediately won the approval of everyone who laid eyes on her. In the seventh year of Ahasuerus’ reign—about four years after Vashti was deposed—Esther was taken to the royal palace (16).
Of all the women he had been with in that time, Esther pleased the king the most. “He was so delighted with her that he set the royal crown on her head and declared her queen instead of Vashti” (Esth. 2:17, NLT). To celebrate the coronation, Ahasuerus proclaimed a holiday and invited all his officials to the “Feast of Esther…and gave gifts according to the generosity of a king” (v. 18).
All this time, Esther never revealed her ethnic identity to anyone, at the advice of her guardian, Mordecai (10 & 20). Clearly, she was a good girl who always obeyed her elder cousin, even after she was removed from his household.
During her days in the house of the virgins, Mordecai made a habit of daily inquiring of his adopted daughter’s welfare (11). By the time a second wave of virgins was brought in, Mordecai had been promoted, so he “sat within the king’s gate” (19). Here, he overheard two palace guards, Bigthan and Teresh, conspire to assassinate the king (21). He told Queen Esther, who relayed the information to the king, giving credit to Mordecai (22). An investigation revealed the tip was legitimate, and the eunuchs were hanged for treason. The incident was duly recorded in the chronicles of the king, and then promptly forgotten (23).
Esther Chapter 3
The next section of this historical book unfolds the conflict between good and evil with all the drama and beauty of a master poet or script-writer. In chapter three, a new player is introduced: Haman, the son of Hammedatha the Agagite.
Unless you know Jewish history, the pedigree of this Persian official loses its dramatic power. Agag was the king of Amalek—the nation that came and attacked Israel on their way out of Egypt (c.f.—1 Sam. 15:2 & Ex. 17:8-16). During the reign of Saul, the first king of Israel, YHWH gave an order for the Hebrews to utterly destroy the Amalekites and all they owned as revenge for what they had done to His people (1 Sam. 15:1-3). Saul and his army did attack the cities of Amelek; however, he disobeyed God by sparing their king and the best of the Amlekites’ livestock (vv. 6-9). Although Samuel the prophet came and confronted Saul for this breach of God’s trust to him and “hacked Agag in pieces before YHWH” himself (10-33), apparently other members of the royal family of Amelek managed to escape. Haman the Agagite was a descendant of those refugees and would, therefore, have had a natural aversion to any Hebrew—especially one from the tribe of Benjamin, the family of Saul!
Modern novelists or playwrights could not fabricate a more intriguing plot. You can almost hear the foreboding music as the villain is revealed. In fact, it is customary for Orthodox Jewish families to instruct their children to boo and hiss whenever Haman’s name is read in the story!
For whatever reason, King Ahasuerus promoted Haman above all the other princes who served him (Esth. 3:1). One of the perks of this new position was that all the other officials had to bow and pay their respects to the king’s second-in-command (v. 2). Mordecai was not about to honor a sworn enemy of the Jews. So, when he resisted the urging of fellow servants at the king’s gate, his comrades informed Haman of both his actions and his ethnic origin, by which Mordecai had explained his unwillingness to obey the king’s edict (3-4).
Haman was so outraged at this disrespect that he determined, not only to kill Mordecai, but all the Jews under his power (5-6). In this way he would get revenge against all the people who had sought to wipe out his ancestors, the Amalekites. In the first month of the twelfth year of Ahasuerus’ reign (five years after Esther was made queen), Haman assembled some men—priests of his gods, no doubt—to cast lots and determine by divination when he should order the extermination of the Jews (7a).
Now, what Scripture says, but Haman did not know, is that “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord” (Prov. 16:33). I love the way the New Living Translation puts this verse: “We may throw the dice, but the Lord determines how they fall.” Proverbs 19:21 adds, “Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails” (NIV).
Even though Haman consulted his gods to insure the success of his scheme, he could not outwit the Lord. So YHWH caused the Pur, or lot, to direct Haman to set the date for his dirty deed for the twelfth month, in order to buy the Jews time to prepare for the onslaught (Esth. 3:7b).
Haman was sly when he went to the king to request permission to carry out his plan. He didn’t admit, “There are these people who tried to wipe out my family centuries ago, and I want to get rid of them.” Nor did he come out and identify the ethnic group he intended to do away with.
Instead, he made it sound like it was in the king’s best interests to eradicate this threat to his majesty’s authority. He shrewdly painted a picture of this unnamed people group, “whose customs are different from those of all other people and who do not obey the king’s laws…” (Esth. 3:8, NIV). He suggested, “it is not fitting for the king to let them remain” in his kingdom. Typical warfare tactic: Demonize your opponent.
In case this was not enough to convince Ahasuerus to exterminate these subversives, Haman offered to personally finance the effort, if Ahasuerus would simply issue the decree that his enemies be destroyed (v. 9). Talk about incentive—Not only will we eliminate the problem, but it won’t cost you a thing! Like a hard-sell salesman, you can almost hear the words, “It’s an offer you can’t refuse. All ya gotta do, King, is sign on the dotted line.”
Unfortunately, Ahasuerus’ trust in his highest official was complete. He told Haman to keep his money and write the edict himself. Then the king handed over the royal signet, which would authenticate his approval and make the document binding for all his subjects (10-11).
Haman wasted no time, but summoned all the royal scribes to prepare the official documents. He dictated the command that all Jews throughout Ahasuerus’ entire realm should be killed on the thirteenth day of the twelfth month of that year. Those who carried out the order were authorized to plunder their victims’ possessions (12-13). On each copy of the edict, Ahasuerus’ name was inscribed and his seal was applied. Swift couriers carried the documents to every province of the empire—including the capital city—until every satrap, governor and minor official had a copy of the order in his hands, written in his own language and script (12, 14 & 15a).
With the deed done, Haman and the king sat down to have a drink together in celebration, “but the city of Susa [the seat of government in the Persian Empire] was bewildered” (Esth. 3:15b, NIV).
Esther Chapter 4
When he saw a copy of the decree, Mordecai the Jew tore his clothes, put on sack cloth and ashes, and went to the gates of the palace weeping inconsolably (Esth. 4:1-2). Likewise, in every corner of the king’s realm where the decree arrived, Jews were mourning, weeping and wailing in similar attire to show their grief and distress (v. 3).
Queen Esther was certainly disturbed when she was informed by her maids and eunuchs of Mordecai’s behavior. She tried to get her cousin to change clothes, so that he could come talk to her (no one was allowed in the palace in coarse clothing). But he would not accept the garments she sent (4). So Esther dispatched Hathach, one of her personal attendants, to go and talk to Mordecai (5-6).
Mordecai related the details of Haman’s dirty deed and gave the eunuch a copy of the decree for Esther to have read and explained to her. He urged the queen to go to his majesty and plead for the lives of her people (7-8).
Imagine the shock of her trusted servants to learn that their beloved Queen Esther was herself a Jew—and that this decree could mean her death, as well! But Esther was more concerned about her immediate circumstances. According to Medo-Persian law, no one was allowed to enter the king’s presence without an invitation. If she entered his inner court, and Ahasuerus did not extend the golden scepter indicating his favor, Esther would be executed. In her mind, this was a real danger, since the king had not summoned her in over a month (10-11).
When Hathach relayed the queen’s response to Mordecai (12), he gave this warning:
Thus encouraged and admonished, Esther sent word back to her guardian to “…gather all the Jews who are present in Shushan, and fast for me…” (v. 15). She told him to have everyone abstain for three days from food or drink, while she and her maids did the same. Afterwards, she would take her chances and venture into the king’s presence, despite the law of the land, adding “…if I perish, I perish!” (16). Like many brave souls before and since, she resolved to seek God’s help and die trying to save her people—rather than standing idly by, as if nothing was wrong.
Then, perhaps for the first time in their lives, Mordecai went and did what his ward told him (17)!
Esther Chapter 5
That third day, Esther cleaned herself up, put on her most gorgeous royal robe, and stood in the inner court of the king’s palace, where Ahasuerus could see her from his throne (Esth. 5:1). I’m sure the tension in the air was thick, as the queen waited to see whether she would live or die. But, Scripture tells us, “The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord; he directs it like a watercourse wherever he pleases” (Prov. 21:1, NIV). Therefore, Queen Esther “found favor in his sight, and the king held out to Esther the golden scepter that was in his hand” (Esth. 5:2). She escaped the death sentence decreed against anyone who invaded the king’s inner sanctum!
Sensing the urgency of her appearance, the king asked what Esther wanted and promised, “It shall be given to you—up to half the kingdom!” (v. 3). Exercising extreme self-control in not blurting out her concern at that moment, Esther coyly invited the king to come with his right-hand man to a banquet she had prepared in his honor (4). Ahasuerus eagerly accepted and summoned Haman to come at once (5).
The suspense was surely getting to the king: Why would the lovely queen risk her life to come into the palace uninvited? Surely there must be something very serious on her mind, yet she was reluctant to tell him. Again, he asked what she wanted during the banquet, yet Esther would not say. She only extended an invitation to a second dinner, where she promised to reveal what was on her heart (6-8).
Haman left the feast ecstatic with his good fortune. But when he passed the palace gate and saw Mordecai still in his obstinacy, Haman’s mood grew foul (9). He kept his peace until he got home, and then rounded up his friends and family to tell them all about it (10). The Agagite boasted of all his wealth, all the children the gods had blessed him with, his power and position—and now this great honor from the queen of Persia (11-12). “Yet, all this is worth nothing to me every time I see Mordecai the Jew sitting at the king’s gate” (Esth. 5:13, GW). Haman let one man’s refusal to pay homage to him spoil all his pleasure in his achievements and privileges!
To remedy his situation, Haman’s wife Zeresh and all their friends proposed yet another diabolical plan: Build a 75-foot gallows and get permission from the king to hang Mordecai on it. That way, everyone would see how foolish it was to defy Haman, and all his worries would be over. “And the thing pleased Haman; so he had the gallows made” (14).
Esther Chapter 6
By waiting to tell the king her concern, Esther allowed the Lord to work behind the scenes on her behalf. “That night the king could not sleep” (Esth. 6:1a). Whether it was from too much wine and rich food, or whether he was anxious about what Esther was planning to say the next day, we are not told. But God so had it that Ahasuerus ordered his servants “to bring the book of the records of the chronicles; and they were read before the king” (v. 1b).
While his intention may have been for the reading of these dry accounts of his daily dealings to put him to sleep, that did not happen. In fact, God led the attendants to the very part of the history that recorded how Mordecai had saved his life from the plot of Bigthana and Teresh (2). When he asked what reward had been given to this loyal subject, no answer could be provided (3).
As YHWH would have it, Haman arrived at precisely that moment to ask the king to let him hang Mordecai (4). When the king was informed he was waiting in the outer court, he had his lieutenant ushered into his presence, but did not allow him to make his request (5). Instead, the king asked, “What should be done for a man whom the king wants very much to honor?” (Esth. 6:6, NCV).
In light of his previous conversation, narcissistic Haman could imagine no one the king would want to honor more than him, so he proposed a lavish public display: The man should be clothed with a royal robe the king himself had worn and placed upon one of the king’s horses arrayed with the royal crest. One of the king’s most noble princes should make all this happen and parade the honoree throughout the city, declaring, “This is what is done for the man the king wants to honor” (Esth. 6:6-9, HCSB).
One can imagine the burgeoning pride in the heart of Haman, as he visualized all this happening to him. But imagine his horror, when Ahasuerus clapped his hands and said for Haman to go and do all that Haman suggested—to Mordecai the Jew (10)!
How humiliating it must’ve been for Haman to publicly exalt the very man he intended to kill! He was so abashed, that when he and Mordecai had carried out the king’s command, Haman rushed home, “with his head covered in grief” (Esth. 6:11-12, NIV).
The gathering with friends and family was not so festive that night. When Haman told what had happened, they sensed that things did not bode well for Haman, since the king had chosen to honor the object of his contempt—especially considering his plot against the Jews. They said, “You are starting to lose power to Mordecai. If Mordecai is of Jewish descent, you will never win out over him. He will certainly lead to your downfall” (Esth. 6:13, GW). No sooner had this dire warning been given, than the servants of the king came to usher Haman to the queen’s banquet (v. 14).
Esther Chapter 7
In the final chapters of the book of Esther, we see how YHWH resolved all the potential horrors Haman had plotted against the Jews. As Psalm 34:4 says, “I asked the Lord for help, and he answered me. He saved me from all that I feared” (NCV).
According to Esther 7:1, “the king and Haman went to dine with Queen Esther,” a second time. Again, Ahasuerus asked her majesty what she wanted and promised to grant her request, up to half of his kingdom (v. 2). Her answer was a dramatic plea for her life and the lives of her people, “For we have been sold…to be destroyed, to be killed, and to be annihilated” (3-4). She added, had they only been sold as slaves, she would not have bothered the king—even though it would’ve been a great loss to him. But since the survival of her entire race was at stake, Esther was compelled to act.
Not knowing Esther’s background, the thing was inconceivable to Ahasuerus. He demanded, “Who is he, and where is he, who would dare presume in his heart to do such a thing?” (5).
Was there a dramatic pause following the king’s question, or did Esther answer right away? No doubt, Haman was expressing a bit of righteous indignation, as well, nodding his head and echoing the king’s incredulity, completely oblivious to what was coming. Or maybe he was too absorbed in his own concerns about Mordecai to follow what was being said.
Imagine the shock and horror on everyone’s faces, when the queen turned, pointed to the man seated next to her husband and declared, “Our vicious enemy is this wicked man Haman!” (Esth. 7:6, GW). The prophetic words of his wife and friends must surely have rung like a death knell in Haman’s ears, when added to the queen’s revelation: “Mordecai…will certainly lead to your downfall!” (6:13). The Agagite knew he was a dead man, unless he could talk himself out of this mess he had created.
The king was overcome with outrage that his most trusted nobleman would seek to harm his beloved queen, so he excused himself to walk in the palace garden while he processed this information (7:7). Terrified for his life, Haman stood before Esther—one of the Jews he so disdained—and begged for her to spare his life [As if he would’ve granted any mercy to her, had he learned of her heritage and she not been able to turn the tables in time!]
When Ahasuerus returned, he found “Haman had fallen across the couch where Esther was reclining” (8a). To him it did not look like the man was pleading for his life, but attempting to attack or rape the defenseless woman. Therefore, Ahasuerus bellowed, “Will he also assault the queen while I am in the house?” (8b).
To harm their royal majesties was a crime punishable by death, so the king’s attendants took their cue, seized Haman, and put a hood over his face (8c). One of the eunuchs called attention to the gallows Haman had built for the purpose of hanging the hero Mordecai, “who saved the king from assassination” (Esth. 7:9, NLT). In a marvelous stroke of poetic justice unsurpassed by any fiction, Ahasuerus ordered, “Hang him on it!”
Esther Chapter 8
“That same day King Ahasuerus awarded Queen Esther the estate of Haman, the enemy of the Jews” (Esth 8:1a, HCSB). Then the queen made Mordecai executor of Haman’s estate. When she explained how Mordecai was related to her, the king called Esther’s former guardian in and promoted him to Haman’s position (vv. 1b-2).
A second time Esther risked her life, going uninvited into the king’s chamber, falling at his feet, and begging with tears for deliverance of the Jews (3). The king again saved the queen’s life by extending the golden scepter and allowed Esther and Mordecai to compose letters in his name, bearing his seal, to counteract Haman’s wicked scheme (4-8). This had to be done very carefully, since Medo-Persian law dictated that any royal decree bearing the king’s seal was irrevocable.
So on the twenty-third day of the third month (about two months after Haman had cast lots to determine the day to exterminate the Jews), Mordecai assembled the royal scribes and dictated a new decree permitting the Hebrews to assemble and defend themselves against their enemies and plunder them, as they had previously intended to do to the Jews that very day (9-12)! As before, the decree was written in the native languages and scripts of all the administrators of each of the king’s 127 provinces, bearing the king’s name and seal, and dispatched via courier on the swiftest horses, “so that the Jews would be ready on that day to avenge themselves on their enemies” (13-14).
To the delight of his countrymen in Susa, Mordecai left the palace arrayed in fine white linen adorned with purple and a robe of royal blue and white—all topped off “with a great crown of gold” (15). In every province where the decree was received, the Jews rejoiced, as well; while many Gentiles converted to Judaism for fear of God’s people (16-17).
Esther Chapter 9
The appointed day arrived nine months later. “On the day that the enemies of the Jews had hoped to overpower them, the opposite occurred” (Esth. 9:1). As Micah 5:7-9 had predicted years before, the remnant of the Jews, dispersed like dew among the Gentiles, lifted their hands against their adversaries and cut off all their enemies. In one day, Hebrews throughout the provinces killed 75,000 enemies; however, they did not take the spoil for themselves, as the decree had permitted (v. 16). Perhaps some of those included in the slaughter were the very Gentiles who had opposed the reconstruction of YHWH’s temple!
In Susa alone, the Jews killed 500—including Haman’s ten sons; they, too, ignored the plunder (5-10). No one could withstand the Jews, and all the government officials did whatever they could to help—because Mordecai had by this time become quite powerful and famous throughout the empire, and no one dared to cross him or the Jews (2-4).
When the report came to the king regarding the results of the day’s work, he relayed the information to Esther and asked whether there was anything else she would like to see done (11-12). Her reply was that the bodies of Haman’s sons should be publicly displayed on the gallows and the Jews should have one more day to finish their purge in Susa (13). On that second day, another 300 of their enemies were killed (15). Interestingly enough, no mention is made of Zeresh in this passage. One wonders what became of Haman’s wife after the execution of her husband and children.
After they had rid themselves of those who hated them, the Jews throughout the Medo-Persian Empire threw a big party. In rural areas, they celebrated on the fourteenth day of Adar; in Susa, it was the fifteenth (16-19). Mordecai and Esther later wrote letters urging their countrymen to annually commemorate their deliverance with a feast on these dates (20-25 & 29-32). This became known as Purim, after the pur (or lots) that Haman consulted when he hatched his scheme against them (26-28).
Esther Chapter 10
As a sort of epilogue, we read in this final chapter that Ahasuerus imposed a tribute on all the lands under his dominion (Esth. 10:1). Perhaps he wanted a cut of some of that spoil the Jews left untouched, or maybe it was to finance another war. Meanwhile, Mordecai, second-in-command to the king, distinguished himself among both Jews and Gentiles in the empire, as recorded in Esther 10:2-3 and “the chronicles of the kings of Media and Persia.”
No doubt this provided more interesting reading to Ahasuerus and any of his successors, when they had trouble with insomnia! Most likely, this Medo-Persian chronicle is the source of the original Hebrew version of the text—which would explain the absence of God’s name and specific prayers of our heroine and her guardian.
With a foundational knowledge of the rest of Scripture, one can easily see the hand of God at work in Esther’s life, even without specific references to Him in the text. We can also understand why the story of this woman’s heroism and willingness to put the lives of her people before her own have inspired many children’s story books, biblical novels and movies—including Tommy Tenney’s Hadassah: One Night With the King and the 2006 film adapted from the book, as well as Veggie Tales’ Esther…The Girl Who Became Queen.
The Bible contains precious few female role models for women of faith. Esther is a wonderful example of godly womanhood for girls to emulate. How many ordinary young women—even orphans and “nobodies” in the world’s eyes—have been strategically placed by God in positions of influence “for such a time as this”? Whether you possess Esther’s heart-stopping beauty or reflect the inward beauty of Christ, you have the power to change the course of history, if only you will let God use your particular gifts and talents for His glory and the sake of others!
Unless otherwise noted, all scripture quotations are taken from
the New King James Version of the Bible—© 1982, by Thomas Nelson, Inc.