The Book of Esther Survey
Pr Edi Giudetti
18th June 2017
Historically the Book of Esther is placed after the decree Cyrus made for the people to return to their homeland. We know this because Cyrus the Persian and Darius Mede were the first of the Medo Persians who overthrew the Babylonians and it was in his first year that Cyrus made this decree (Ezra 1:1). The times written of in Esther was during the third year of a King named Ahasuerus who was King of “Persia and Media” (v3).
Also we note that the size of the territories under his rule had been greater than the former time of Darius the Mede spoken of in Dan 6:1 who governed over only 120 provinces not 127.
So for historical placement we could, with reason, consider that the book of Esther is placed between the books of Ezra and Nehemiah. Now this is my own current conjecture and good reasons. But even though it links in with a number of good scholars, it is not conclusive.
The Book of Esther is about Gods providence; the description in this book of how God so perfectly watched over his people and set the very course of events by Appointing, Anointing, Assigning and Ascribing all things contained in the history of The Book of Esther, to the point that all those who originally denied this books entry into the cannon of scripture could no longer ignore the divine imprint of God.
The four points we will look at this morning that should indeed follow the course set for us in the text and in line with the outline of the book itself are;
God Appoints The People
God Anoints The Times
God Assigns The Circumstances
God Ascribes The Judgements
He appoints, he anoints, he assigns and he ascribes;
Though his name is not found on the lips of any person in this book, his providence is evident on the history of the people.
God Appoints The People
We recall all that has come to pass to this time in the history so far.
During the feast of the King and on the seventh day of the feast, the King had desired that his queen would appear before him and to show also of her beauty. Her refusal to appear when summoned by the King became the cause of much consternation both to the King and his princes.
For he sent letters into all the king’s provinces, into every province according to the writing thereof, and to every people after their language, that every man should bear rule in his own house, and that it should be published according to the language of every people.
This event is that which sets up the Lords appointment of his people for government in a land that is not theirs.
Chapter two introduces us to two individuals, one of which is Mordecai, he is the cousin of Hadassah, also known as Esther. He is much elder than she and came to be her guardian whom she looked upon as a father after the death of her parents and whom Mordecai brought up as his own daughter (2:7).
Esther was fair to look upon we are told, and she being born in this land of her captivity, became one of the maidens that were gathered together in Shushan the palace.
So it came to pass, when the king’s commandment and his decree was heard, and when many maidens were gathered together unto Shushan the palace, to the custody of Hegai, that Esther was brought also unto the king’s house, to the custody of Hegai, keeper of the women. 9 And the maiden pleased him, and she obtained kindness of him; and he speedily gave her her things for purification, with such things as belonged to her, and seven maidens, which were meet to be given her, out of the king’s house: and he preferred her and her maids unto the best place of the house of the women.
She obtained also favour from Hegai who was the keeper of the women who gave her all things required for her purification for the next twelve months before she appeared to the King. During this time came Mordecai daily into the court of the palace to see how she did, just as a loving father would do.
HISTORICAL PRECEDENCE OF FAVOUR
It is of interest to us to see how often this has happened in the history of the Jews,
- We had seen it occur with one of the patriarchs of the Jews, Joseph who first obtained favour of his jailer before he arose to be second in command of the Egyptian empire.
- We have seen also how it occurred in the life of Daniel and his friends toward their keeper, Ashpenaz, in Dan 1:9. This occurring before Daniel himself became prime minister of Babylon, second to King Nebuchadnezzar.
And now we see a similar description concerning Esther with her keeper.
Is the Lord undertaking a preparation work in this government?
Read with me as we consider the events that came to pass;
16 So Esther was taken unto king Ahasuerus into his house royal in the tenth month, which is the month Tebeth, in the seventh year of his reign. 17 And the king loved Esther above all the women, and she obtained grace and favour in his sight more than all the virgins; so that he set the royal crown upon her head, and made her queen instead of Vashti. 18 Then the king made a great feast unto all his princes and his servants, even Esther’s feast; and he made a release to the provinces, and gave gifts, according to the state of the king.
Now beside the King sat a maiden of the Jews, Queen of Persia and Media.
Proverbs 21:1 says The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, as the rivers of water: He turneth it whithersoever he will.
And the Lord certainly turned the heart of this king toward the one appointed of the Lord, but for what purpose we are yet to see.
Never underestimate the role you place in the course of events historically.
Your lowly state in a secular culture has absolutely no bearing whatsoever on that which God may desire to come to pass through you for a time yet future.
Perhaps it may not be a place of royalty, perhaps not a place of government or high honour in the sight of men. But perhaps your faithfulness will simply be that witnessed by your employer or friend …..and may change his or her eternity.
We do not need to be elevated to high secular honour to see how the Lord will use us for his glory. Remember, his purpose, remember why he came and why he died, our Saviour came to seek and to save that which is lost and he it is that commands us to follow in his purpose to preach that Gospel that we may save some.
You are now exactly where you are for a reason and a purpose and your faithfulness and devotion to the Lord will be that which will influence others for his glory.
Your LIFE INFUENCES THE HISTORY OF OTHERS and God has appointed it to be that way. All those whom you are in contact with, whether at school, at work, at play or even simply when you pay your bills or purchase a meal; I do not exaggerate when I say that your life in the Lord has the most profound impact upon them.
The Lord has appointed you for his purpose and you must NEVER, NEVER, NEVER, NEVER UNDERESTIMATE the impact you make on the lives of others!
But we shall see that not only does the Lord appoint the people but, most incredibly, he Anoints the Times
God Anoints The Times
Allow me to now summarize that which has come to pass in the City of Shushan the palace.
Esther is now Queen and her Cousin Mordecai sits in the gate of the City and it comes to his knowledge that a conspiracy was threatened against the life of the King. Mordecai warns Esther of the impending threat and the threat was neutralised as a result. This event is given only short space in our text found only covering three verses of chapter two, (21-23).
We take this information and store it for a short time as its importance will come to pass shortly.
In chapter three King Ahasuerus advances Hamman, the son of Hammedatha, above all the princes that were with him and all the people who sat in the gate bowed and gave him reverence as they were commanded, except Mordecai the Jew who followed Gods laws first.
In short, the fury of Hamman was not only levelled against Mordecai but against all the Jews who’s laws and customs differed from that of the empire and he set them for destruction.
Brethren, this never changed throughout history. Gods laws are not mans laws and those who choose to follow the Lord set themselves apart from those who follow man.
Christianity was heavily persecuted during the Roman Empire for it did not bow to the pagan gods of that empire. Christianity was even more heavily persecuted during the HOLY Roman Empire, under the superstitions of the Roman Catholic papacy. This persecution lasted over one thousand years and rose to the most extreme levels during the Protestant Reformation.
And the time is at hand even before us, that Christianity and also the Israelite nation will again suffer that persecution, why?
Hamman speaking to the king said
…There is a certain people scattered abroad and dispersed among the people in all the provinces of thy kingdom; and their laws are diverse from all people; neither keep they the king’s laws: therefore it is not for the king’s profit to suffer them.
These people now set for destruction by the governing empire, Mordecai is found mourning and crying with a loud and bitter cry and sitting is sackcloth and ashes. Word comes to Esther of the grief of Mordecai and she sends a messenger to find out the reason.
6 So Hatach went forth to Mordecai unto the street of the city, which was before the king’s gate. 7 And Mordecai told him of all that had happened unto him, and of the sum of the money that Haman had promised to pay to the king’s treasuries for the Jews, to destroy them. 8 Also he gave him the copy of the writing of the decree that was given at Shushan to destroy them, to shew it unto Esther, and to declare it unto her, and to charge her that she should go in unto the king, to make supplication unto him, and to make request before him for her people. 9 And Hatach came and told Esther the words of Mordecai. 10 Again Esther spake unto Hatach, and gave him commandment unto Mordecai; 11 All the king’s servants, and the people of the king’s provinces, do know, that whosoever, whether man or woman, shall come unto the king into the inner court, who is not called, there is one law of his to put him to death, except such to whom the king shall hold out the golden sceptre, that he may live: but I have not been called to come in unto the king these thirty days. 12 And they told to Mordecai Esther’s words. 13 Then Mordecai commanded to answer Esther, Think not with thyself that thou shalt escape in the king’s house, more than all the Jews. 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?
Brethren it is God that anoints the times, it is he that prepares the events, it is the one who ordained the sun to shine and the stars to give their light who works in the events of history. Nothing happens without his leading and none govern outside his control. And for his people, he sets all in order for his purpose.
But consider the confidence in which Mordecai responds regarding the certainly of the deliverance of the Jews;
14 For if thou altogether holdest thy peace at this time, then shall there enlargement and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place;
So confident was Mordecai of the survival of his people that he could tell Esther that whether it be through her or another, they will be delivered.
But she, being ‘Appointed’ by God and ‘Anointed’ for this time, is to be faithful in the providence that the Lord has ordained. So Mordicai confirms to her saying;
and who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?
Brethren, she now sits as Queen of the empire governed by her husband during a time where the Jews are set for destruction. But not only so;
Recall if you will that which has come to pass in the book of Ezra concerning the particular timeframe we have under our consideration. Recall that persecution has risen so greatly that those who have set themselves to rebuild the temple of the Lord are also being obstructed in the endeavour and who is it that happens to be sitting upon the throne of the kingdom?
Well, we cannot be 100 % certain but the name of the one who has commanded to stop the work of the Temple shares the name of this monarch;
And in the reign of Ahasuerus, in the beginning of his reign, wrote they unto him an accusation against the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem.
And in verse 21 a response was given them by this King stating
21 Give ye now commandment to cause these men to cease, and that this city be not builded, until another commandment shall be given from me. 22 Take heed now that ye fail not to do this: why should damage grow to the hurt of the kings?
Could there be several things occurring in the world during this time that the Lord will sort through for his purpose?
Friends even in us the times are anointed for the purpose and will of the Lord. This is that Church age in which the Gospel can be preached, if there are any times that can be considered anointed by the Lord, these are it. We are given opportunity both in our lives privately and in our congregation corporately, who is it that knows what time this is that we are called to minister here and now?
These are the days God has given for this work and the Lord is preparing you to share the truth of him to those around you that they will not perish;
But if they are the chosen of the Lord, know that their deliverance will come to them from another place and your opportunity may be lost to you.
How do you know that you are not at exactly the right time and exactly the right place for a word that will save a soul from death? ….who knoweth whether you are come to the world for such a time as this?
Ephesians 5:15-16 gives us a charge concerning the times we live in and how we are to be.
15 See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, 16 Redeeming the time, because the days are evil. 17 Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is.
Brethren we, like Esther, have a choice to make on how we will redeem “such a time as this”.
God has appointed you as his people, but he has also anointed the times we live in.
The days of Esther were evil days, her people set for destruction: No longer was she closed in a palace ignorant of that which was occurring, now she walked circumspectly, aware of her surroundings, now she could choose to be a fool or wise and understand what the will of the Lord is, how would she respond?
Then Esther bade them return Mordecai this answer, 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.
Certain to her there was a risk, recall that any who approach unto the King without being called would be put to death unless the King raised the Golden sceptre.
To Esther there was a risk,
But those who know the promise of God do not play dice.
To us who live in such a time as this, we know that it is God alone who Appoints the People, Anoints the times but also it is he who ASSIGNS THE CIRCUMSTANCES.
God Assigns The Circumstances
Lets read on to chapter 5:2
And it was so, when the king saw Esther the queen standing in the court, that she obtained favour in his sight: and the king held out to Esther the golden sceptre that was in his hand. So Esther drew near, and touched the top of the sceptre. 3 Then said the king unto her, What wilt thou, queen Esther? and what is thy request? it shall be even given thee to the half of the kingdom. 4 And Esther answered, If it seem good unto the king, let the king and Haman come this day unto the banquet that I have prepared for him.
So the King calls unto Haman to join him for the feast Esther has prepared for them, a feast in which we think she will appeal unto the King for clemency to her people.
Strangely however this is not what occurs, for some reason that we are not told, she does not appeal to the king that night. Lets take a look. The King and Haman are at the feast and the King asks what it is she desires and she responds in verse 7
7 Then answered Esther, and said, My petition and my request is; 8 If I have found favour in the sight of the king, and if it please the king to grant my petition, and to perform my request, let the king and Haman come to the banquet that I shall prepare for them, and I will do to morrow as the king hath said.
Though we do not understand the reason for the delay, whether she had discerened in her spirit NOT to make request at that time, or whether due to fear, we cannot know. But what we do know is all the things that occurred that evening and the next day where there is no doubt the Lord himself Assigned the particular circumstances.
Lets list a few, turn to Chapter 6.
- On the return from the banquet Hamman accounted Mordecai who would again not reverence him
- Hamman complains of this to his family and friends
- They suggest he build a gallows at his house 50 cubits high to hang Mordecai
- And go into the king to have permission
- That night the king could not sleep and has his servants bring to him the Chronicles of his kingdom where he reads of the good dead Mordecai had done to him in saving his life.
- He asks what honour had been done to Mordecai and discovers nothing had been done.
- He considers what he might do to honour Mordecai and we pick up our story with Hamman coming in to request of the King permission to Hang Mordecai
We pick up the account in verse 4
4 And the king said, Who is in the court? Now Haman was come into the outward court of the king’s house, to speak unto the king to hang Mordecai on the gallows that he had prepared for him. (We can only imagine the evil reasoning’s Haman would be turning in his mind to recite to the King) 5 And the king’s servants said unto him, Behold, Haman standeth in the court. And the king said, Let him come in. 6 So Haman came in. And the king said unto him, What shall be done unto the man whom the king delighteth to honour?
Now Haman thought in his heart, To whom would the king delight to do honour more than to myself? 7 And Haman answered the king, For the man whom the king delighteth to honour, 8 Let the royal apparel be brought which the king useth to wear, and the horse that the king rideth upon, and the crown royal which is set upon his head: 9 And let this apparel and horse be delivered to the hand of one of the king’s most noble princes, that they may array the man withal whom the king delighteth to honour, and bring him on horseback through the street of the city, and proclaim before him, Thus shall it be done to the man whom the king delighteth to honour. 10 Then the king said to Haman, Make haste, and take the apparel and the horse, as thou hast said, and do even so to Mordecai the Jew, that sitteth at the king’s gate: let nothing fail of all that thou hast spoken.
When the hearing of the name of Mordecai rang in Hamans ears, one can only imagine at the consternation of his soul. He would have experienced the greatest dread at this turn in circumstance.
No doubt as he went to take the Royal apparel, the crown of the King and then the Kings horse, Hamman was coming to realise that all his schemes and plans are likely to come unstuck. In fact, let us see how obvious this change of fortune was to those around him;
Immediately after Haman “hasted to his house” (v12)
13 And Haman told Zeresh his wife and all his friends every thing that had befallen him. Then said his wise men and Zeresh his wife unto him, 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.
And all this just before the banquet he previously boasted to be called to.
We don’t have time to read on but we know the outcome, the gallows he built for Mordecai he himself ended up being hung on.
We call this a “Situational Irony”, that is when the exact opposite of that which you plan is that which occurs.
And brethren, when it comes to the wicked of the world that is exactly what happens.
Ps 9:16 ….The Wicked snared in the works of his own hands
Prov 12:13 The wicked is snared by the transgression of his lips….
Jesus himself said that The bind lead the blind and both fall into the ditch (Lk 6:39)
This is where we consider that it is GOD who Ascribes the Judgement
God Ascribes The Judgements
I do not have a long time to expound this final portion so I am forced to summarise it for you. Simply put;
The plans of the wicked are turned against themselves, they set traps that they themselves will be ensnared by.
The laws of the Medes and the Persians cannot be altered or changed, so the law calling for the destruction of the people cannot be recalled. But a new law can be made and it was;
10 And he wrote in the king Ahasuerus’ name, and sealed it with the king’s ring, and sent letters by posts on horseback, and riders on mules, camels, and young dromedaries: 11 Wherein the king granted the Jews which were in every city to gather themselves together, and to stand for their life, to destroy, to slay, and to cause to perish, all the power of the people and province that would assault them, both little ones and women, and to take the spoil of them for a prey
The “He” in the beginning of this passage is none other than Mordecai the adopted father of Esther whom the King made second in charge of the entire empire. We recall Joseph second to Pharaoh, and Daniel second to Nebuchadnezzar, and now Mordecai second to Artaxerxes.
9 Now in the twelfth month, that is, the month Adar, on the thirteenth day of the same, when the king’s commandment and his decree drew near to be put in execution, in the day that the enemies of the Jews hoped to have power over them, (though it was turned to the contrary, that the Jews had rule over them that hated them;)
Again we have situational Irony, and what is more is that historically speaking, the Persians (Modern Day Iran) to this day refer back to that time as an ‘Unprovoked attack against them by the jews’.
But the Irony continued throughout History when the wicked Reject God’s commands to live to their own desires.
The Russian Revolution of 1917 against the ruling class by a gullible people;
- Promised Prosperity and led to poverty
- Promised freedom and led to tyranny
- Promised life but led to the murder of over 43 million people between 1929 and 1953 alone under just one ruler (Jospeh Stalin).
We see this same Marxist/Communist/Socialist Ideology repeated in China, Germany prior to the WW2, Nrth Korea, Vietnam, Cuba, Argentina and we watch the events this very day unfold in Venezuela and the looming and increasing poverty of Europe.
In the west people wanted money for nothing, they got it and are now become slaves to debt and impoverished by inflation. And we now live in a land where the seeds of tyranny are being sown, people desiring to BE FREE FROM Gods laws; but willing to submit to mans, 10 simple commandments have been replaced by over 200,000 government directives the breaking of any, if enforced, removes their liberty.
They desired freedom, but will be enslaved; they set laws against those they disagree with, but will themselves be caught up in them.
Ps 9:16 ….The Wicked snared in the works of his own hands
Friends, If God appoints the people, If it is God who anoints the times we live in, If it is indeed God who assigns the circumstances, then it can only be God who ascribes its judgements
The most devastating case of Situational irony of all
Is the belief that man can spend a lifetime apart from God and still expect to be with him in eternity!
Thinking that he can save himself he will not seek a saviour and thereby will only ensure his damnation.
But, the Bible tells us something very plainly
Turn to Romans 10:13
For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.
This is the hope all people have, but….
14 How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? 15 And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!
Gods providence in Esther is plain to see, he made provision against the destruction of the Jews. But it took courage from Esther to tell of the state of her people.
But you are the provision God has ordained for this age in history, we should have the courage to tell of the state of our people and tell of the provision God has made.
Brethren, you are the providence of God to speak of Jesus and tell of his love.