Esther: From Grave Threat to Great Triumph
1:1-22, 4:14, 8:17 (Pastor Heo)
1 This is what happened during the time of Xerxes, the Xerxes who ruled over 127 provinces stretching from India to Cush : 2 At that time King Xerxes reigned from his royal throne in the citadel of Susa, 3 and in the third year of his reign he gave a banquet for all his nobles and officials. The military leaders of Persia and Media, the princes, and the nobles of the provinces were present. 4 For a full 180 days he displayed the vast wealth of his kingdom and the splendor and glory of his majesty. 5 When these days were over, the king gave a banquet, lasting seven days, in the enclosed garden of the king’s palace, for all the people from the least to the greatest who were in the citadel of Susa. 6 The garden had hangings of white and blue linen, fastened with cords of white linen and purple material to silver rings on marble pillars. There were couches of gold and silver on a mosaic pavement of porphyry, marble, mother-of-pearl and other costly stones. 7 Wine was served in goblets of gold, each one different from the other, and the royal wine was abundant, in keeping with the king’s liberality. 8 By the king’s command each guest was allowed to drink with no restrictions, for the king instructed all the wine stewards to serve each man what he wished. 9 Queen Vashti also gave a banquet for the women in the royal palace of King Xerxes. 10 On the seventh day, when King Xerxes was in high spirits from wine, he commanded the seven eunuchs who served him—Mehuman, Biztha, Harbona, Bigtha, Abagtha, Zethar and Karkas— 11 to bring before him Queen Vashti, wearing her royal crown, in order to display her beauty to the people and nobles, for she was lovely to look at. 12 But when the attendants delivered the king’s command, Queen Vashti refused to come. Then the king became furious and burned with anger. 13 Since it was customary for the king to consult experts in matters of law and justice, he spoke with the wise men who understood the times 14 and were closest to the king—Karshena, Shethar, Admatha, Tarshish, Meres, Marsena and Memukan, the seven nobles of Persia and Media who had special access to the king and were highest in the kingdom. 15 “According to law, what must be done to Queen Vashti?” he asked. “She has not obeyed the command of King Xerxes that the eunuchs have taken to her.” 16 Then Memukan replied in the presence of the king and the nobles, “Queen Vashti has done wrong, not only against the king but also against all the nobles and the peoples of all the provinces of King Xerxes. 17 For the queen’s conduct will become known to all the women, and so they will despise their husbands and say, ‘King Xerxes commanded Queen Vashti to be brought before him, but she would not come.’ 18 This very day the Persian and Median women of the nobility who have heard about the queen’s conduct will respond to all the king’s nobles in the same way. There will be no end of disrespect and discord. 19 “Therefore, if it pleases the king, let him issue a royal decree and let it be written in the laws of Persia and Media, which cannot be repealed, that Vashti is never again to enter the presence of King Xerxes. Also let the king give her royal position to someone else who is better than she. 20 Then when the king’s edict is proclaimed throughout all his vast realm, all the women will respect their husbands, from the least to the greatest.” 21 The king and his nobles were pleased with this advice, so the king did as Memukan proposed. 22 He sent dispatches to all parts of the kingdom, to each province in its own script and to each people in their own language, proclaiming that every man should be ruler over his own household, using his native tongue.
4:14 For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?”
8:17 In every province and in every city to which the edict of the king came, there was joy and gladness among the Jews, with feasting and celebrating. And many people of other nationalities became Jews because fear of the Jews had seized them.
The Theme of Esther: From Grave Threat to Great Triumph (Victory)
- Danger → Deliverance
- Risk → Reward
Keyword: God’s providence – God’s hand of providence and protection on behalf of his people – clear throughout the book.
This also explains the Jewish feast of Purim.
In the 66 books of the Bible, there are only TWO named after women (Ruth, Esther). Actually, Esther is the name of a person (it means “(super)star”). Her Hebrew name is different.
The bg of this story = Persia (Susa – the capital city). This story took place between chp 6-7 of the book Ezra. This is the last book among the 12 historical books in the OT. Because this is the last book, let us review the historical background of the Jews once more. How/when/by whom they were destroyed.
The Southern Kingdom = Nebachadnezzar destroyed them BC 586. But to fulfill the prophecy of Jeremiah, after the destruction, there were three waves of return from Babylonia to Jerusalem. Cyrus (first king of Persia) destroyed Babylonia and took it over, then he issued a decree to allow all the Jews who wished to return home.
- The first return was led by Zerubabbel. They rebuilt the temple. This started with the help of Cyrus, first king of Persia, and finished in the time of Darius (king of Persia).
- The second return was led by Ezra during the time of king Artaxerxes (chp 1-6 in book of Ezra shows the first return story – the second return = chp 7-10 of Ezra; the third return = the book of Nehemiah).
- In Nehemiah, they restored the walls of the city and the covenant and worship with God.
Esther happens between the first and second return to the Jews who did not return to Jerusalem.
In chron order:
- Ezra 1-6
- Ezra 7-10
There are five main characters:
- Xerxes (king) – Keu-sereu-ke-sis (Greek pronunciation). Ahaseurus (in KJV maybe) – he is the son of King Darius (during Ezra) – the father of Artaxerxes (during Nehemiah).
- Father Darius = first return (finish)
- Current king Xerxes = Esther
- Son Artaxerxes = second and third return
- Vashti was mother of Artaxerxes, but she was cast out for disobeying Xerxes
- Haman – prime minister – a TERRIBLE enemy of the Jews – he planned to annihilate the Jews completely, but ultimately, his own plot against them happened to him and his whole family (75,000).
- Esther – national heroine who saved / delivered the Jews at that time – she became queen in Vashti’s place
- Mordecai – the cousin of Esther who adopted and raised Esther as his own daughter after her parents died. His original job was palace gatekeeper, but he eventually became prime minister of Persia in place of Haman.
In history, there are only 3 Jews to do this in a foreign land:
- Joseph = Egypt
- Daniel = Babylonia (King Darius)
- Mordecai = Persia (present day Iran)
The story of Esther started with a big party (banquet). Esther is a book of banquets (there are three different ones that show up in even chapter 1). Feasting provides a very important plot point in Esther.
The first banquet lasted 7 days and on the last (7th day), Xerxes wanted to show his wife’s beauty to his buddies. So, he commanded her to strut her stuff in front of the guys, but she refused to show herself in that way. So, he BURNED with anger and kicked his wife out. Sometime later, there was a beauty contest throughout the entire land to choose the next queen. Esther participated in this contest and was chosen as queen. Xerxes put a royal crown on her head and she became queen. Then, another banquet was held in her honor.
Mordecai kept the palace gate and overheard that 2 eunuchs plotted against Xerxes to kill him. He revealed it to Esther and Esther told the king. The two eunuchs were killed and this was written in the palace diary.
Later, King Xerxes promoted Haman as prime minister. Thus, everyone in Susa should have knelt down and bowed to him, but Mordecai did not – he would only bow before God, not before men. Thus, Haman became raging mad and decided to kill not only Mordecai but also his WHOLE race. He cast a lot to decide what day would be the best day to annihilate the Jewish race. He received permission from King Xerxes and this was proclaimed throughout the land.
The capital city went into confusion, but the king and Haman had a banquet together privately.
- Mordecai cried out loudly and bitterly and sent a message to Esther – “Go to the king and beg him to have mercy on your people”
- Esther – “Nobody can approach the king without being summoned” (he could have killed her if he didn’t summon her)
- Mordecai – “Esther, do not think that you will be spared just because you are the queen. If you keep silent at this time, deliverance will come from heaven from another place, but you and your family will perish.” (4:14 – key verse)
- Esther – “OK, but have all the Jews in Susa fast and pray for me. Then, I will approach the king without being called. If I must die, I will die. If I perish, I perish.” (another key verse)
After 3 days, she went and stood in the inner courts. When the king saw Esther, he was happy. The king immediately held out his gold scepter and she touched the end of it.
- Xerxes said, “Tell me, what do you want? I’ll give you anything, even up to half my empire.”
- Esther (wisely) – “If you’re happy with me, I want to invite you and Haman to my private feast.”
- Wow! OK! So, they went. In this banquet seat, the king asked again, “Tell me, what do you want? I’ll give you anything, even up to half my empire.”
- Esther (again wisely) – “If you’re happy with me, I want to invite you and Haman to my private feast – again – tomorrow. THEN I’ll tell you.”
Haman was SOOOOO proud of himself for this, but he was still SUPER angry at Mordecai. Whenever he saw Mordecai, he couldn’t help but hate him – even though he was participating in a private banquet at the same level as the KING. Therefore, he made a VERY tall gallows (50 cubits tall – 75 ft – 23m) to hang Mordecai on (tomorrow).
After the banquet, the king went to his bed, but he could not sleep (insomnia). So, he commanded the palace diary to be read – during this reading, he remembered the event that Mordecai had exposed the two eunuchs plot to assassinate him.
- Xerxes then asked, “How has he been rewarded?”
- Servants “Nothing, my king.”
- King “Huh? What? Is there anybody outside?” Immediately, Haman arrived at the courtyard to ask for permission to hang THIS man (Mordecai) tomorrow.
- King “Haman, how should the king honor the man he has in his heart to honor?”
- Haman (thinking – wow, of course, he means ME) “OK, dress him in YOUR OWN robes, and mount him on YOUR OWN horse, and let a high nobleman lead that horse through the streets and announce ‘THIS is how the king honors the man he delights to honor!!’”
- King “OK! Awesome! Do it all … to MORDECAI!!”
- Haman (jaw drop) “Whaaaaa….?”
But he had to.
- In the second banquet, the king asked Esther again, “What is your request, up to half my kingdom.”
- Esther said, “If you are pleased with me, spare me my life. This is my request. I only want to live. I and my people have been sold for destruction.”
- King “WHO would do such a thing? WHO is this evil man?”
- Esther (pointing across the table) “Haman, here.”
On that night, Haman was hanged on the gallows he had personally prepared for Mordecai.
This is the story of Esther.
Finally, all the family of Haman, all his friends, and all the enemies of the Jews were killed (75,000). This plot to annihilate the Jews in the OT was the last major plot to destroy the Jews in that OT period.
Mordecai became a national hero and became more and more powerful. He issued a decree in the name of the king that the Jews had the right to kill, destroy, or annihilate ANYONE who was against the Jews.
So, MANY other nationalities became Jews because of the fear of them.
Then, Mordecai made another festival for the Jews – The Feast of Purim (Lots – Haman cast lots to determine the best day to kill the Jews).
FOUR Lesson today in the pagan world for us:
Esther put herself in the place of death willingly with a big resolution – she was an advocate for her people. “If I must die, I will die; if I perish, I perish.”
- Jesus put himself in the place of death willingly for us to save us and give us eternal life. Already, 700 years before Jesus was born, Isaiah prophesied that “he was pierced for our transgressions…”
- Jesus died for our sins once for all to bring me and you to God. He died in our stead as a true Passover Lamb. He died for your sin, for my sin.
But this is not all. Still NOW, he is advocating for us in heaven before God. He died for us on the cross, but was also raised to life for us and is continually interceding for us at the right hand of God. (Heb 7:25 “Therefore, he can save perfectly those who come to him because he is always interceding for us.”)
Esther = 10 chapters – it NEVER ONCE mentions God’s name at all. We can never see “God” or “Lord” or “worship” throughout the ENTIRE book. (So, then why is it in the Bible? – because it is CLEAR that God orchestrated ALL these events – it demonstrates how God is ALWAYS in control of our world, our lives, our circumstances, our situations. God is using EVERYTHING in our lives to fulfill his final purpose and design.)
In our lives, if you are truly born again, there is no accident – no coincidence. In Esther, it seems that the “happening”, the “accidents” are not actually coincidences. These events, these “happenings” are not accidents. God has made everything beautiful in its time (Ecclesiastes 3) – even one sparrow will not fall to the ground without the will of God – and we are much more important than sparrows.
Why did difficulties and troubles come to the Jews? Why? Because Mordecai will not worship somebody other than God. He refused to bow before Haman (not God) – so difficulties and dangers and threats came to the Jews.
- We need courage and fearlessness – to do what we should do as children of God.
- We need courage NOT to do what we should not when this world forces us to do it.
But God will provide a way on which we can stand (Jehovah Jireh – God is provider – Romans 8 “God works ALL things together for the good of those who love him and have been called according to his purpose.”)
God already gave us his best, so what can he possibly spare in giving to us? Yes, he can discipline us, but he NEVER abandons us. He is our father, we are his children. If we are not disciplined, then we are illegitimate children (illegal). God is treating us as TRUE children – that’s why he disciplines us.
No discipline seems good at the time, but very painful, but that discipline can produce a harvest of righteousness, peace, and joy. So, blessed are you when people curse you, persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you because of ME (Jesus). Rejoice and be glad for great is your reward in heaven.
God is provider. And we can stand before him as victors.