Unless something intervened, within nine months the Persians would attack the Jews and wipe them off the face of the earth. There were about 15 million Jews among the estimated 100 million people in the empire. Therefore, the odds were definitely against God’s people. Of course, God’s people have always been a minority; and “one with God is a majority.” The Lord had brought Esther and Mordecai to the kingdom “for such a time as this,” and they were prepared to act.
According to the ancient historians, whenever a traitor was executed, the throne appropriated his property. Had Ahasuerus confiscated Hainan’s property for himself, he would have acquired a great deal of wealth; but he chose to give Haman’s estate to Esther. More than an act of generosity, this gift was probably the king’s way of atoning for his foolish decisions that had brought so much pain to Esther and her people. It’s possible that Esther later shared some of this great wealth with the Jews so they could prepare themselves for the coming crisis.
Ahasuerus knew that both Esther and Mordecai were Jews, but now he was to learn that they were also cousins. Ahasuerus and Mordecai were relatives by marriage! When Haman was deposed, the king took back his royal ring (3:10), the insignia of the authority of the throne (8:8, 10; 3:12), and he gave the ring to Mordecai, making him prime minister. With a Jewish queen and a Jewish prime minister in the palace, the Jews in the empire were in a better political position than ever before.
Esther gave the management of Haman’s vast estate into the hands of Mordecai, who had first opposed Haman and refused to bow down. Were it not for Mordecai’s courage and encouragement of Esther, Haman would still be in control. “Wait on the Lord, and keep His way, and He shall exalt you to inherit the land; when the wicked are cut off, you shall see it. I have seen the wicked in great power, and spreading himself like a native green tree. Yet he passed away, and behold, he was no more” (Ps. 37:34-36, nkjv).
The king made sure that Mordecai had a uniform worthy of his office, and it’s described in Esther 8:15. No longer did Mordecai wear old, borrowed robes (6:7-11) but new robes prepared especially for him. The official royal colors were blue and white (see 1:6). The golden “crown” was probably a large turban which, along with the robe of white and purple, identified Mordecai as an important man of great authority.
Everything that Haman had acquired from the king by his scheming, Mordecai received as gifts, because Mordecai was a deserving man. At the beginning of this story, Esther and Mordecai were hardly exemplary in the way they practiced their religious faith; but now we get the impression that things have changed. Both of them have affirmed their Jewish nationality and both were the means of calling all the Jews in the empire to prayer and fasting. In one sense, they spearheaded a Jewish “revival” and made being Jewish a more honorable thing in the empire.
God doesn’t always give this kind of a “happy ending” to everybody’s story. Today, not all faithful Christians are promoted and given special honors. Some of them get fired because of their stand for Christ! God hasn’t promised that we’ll be promoted and made rich, but He has assured us that He’s in control of all circumstances and that He will write the last chapter of the story. If God doesn’t promote us here on earth, He certainly will when we get to glory.
- Esther’s Plea (Est. 8:3-6)
Wealth, prestige, and personal security could never satisfy Esther so long as her people were still in danger. To her, the most important thing in life was not her comfort but their deliverance; and she couldn’t rest until the matter was settled. How unlike some believers today who ignore the needs of a lost world while they search for new ways to spend money and have fun! They think that attending church and bringing their offerings fulfills their Christian responsibilities and gives them the freedom to do whatever they please with the rest of their time and money. We need more people like Esther whose burden for condemned people was greater than any other thing in her life.
Years ago, in a Youth for Christ late-night prayer meeting, I heard attorney Jacob Stam pray, “Lord, the only thing most of us know about sacrifice is how to spell the word.” I never forgot that statement, and I confess that it sometimes still haunts me. I recall another YFC staff meeting at which the late Bill Carle sang “So Send I You,” and the Spirit of God brought all of us to our knees in prayer with a new dedication to help reach the world for Christ.
Esther couldn’t do everything, but she could do something; and what she could do, she did. She approached the throne of the king and asked him to reverse the edict that Haman had devised. It was her interceding at the throne that saved the people of Israel from slaughter. She was asking nothing for herself, except that the king save her people and deliver her from the heavy burden on her heart.
Esther’s example encourages us to come to God’s throne and intercede on behalf of others, especially the nations of the world where lost souls need to be delivered from death. One concerned person devoted to prayer can make a great difference in this world, for prayer is the key that releases the power of God. “Yet you do not have because you do not ask” (James 4:2, nkjv).
- Xerxes’ Proclamation (Est. 8:7-17)
The problem Esther and Mordecai faced was that the king, simply by executive fiat, couldn’t cancel the first edict since the laws of the Medes and Persians were unalterable. In modern democratic nations, legislatures can reverse decisions and revoke laws, and the supreme court of the land can even declare laws unconstitutional; but not so in the ancient despotic Persian Empire. The voice of the king was the law of the land, and the king could do no wrong.
The king couldn’t legally revoke his edict, but he could issue a new decree that would favor the Jews. The new decree would let everybody in the empire know that the king wanted his people to have a different attitude toward the Jews and look favorably upon them. The citizens didn’t have to hire a lawyer to explain the new edict to them. You can be sure they got the message: Don’t attack the Jews on March 7.
Since Mordecai was now prime minister, it was his job to draft the new decree. What he did was give the Jews permission to defend themselves against anybody who tried to kill them and take their property. There were many people in the empire like Hainan, who hated the Jews, wanted to destroy them, and get their hands on their wealth. The new decree allowed the Jews to assemble and defend themselves, but they were not allowed to be the aggressors.
If you read 3:11-13, you will see the similarity of the wording of the two decrees. Mordecai used the “official language” of the government, because legal statements must be expressed in legal language. This language may seem strange to outsiders, but without it we would have confusion and misinterpretation. You can’t write the law the way you write a poem or a recipe.
According to 8:9, the new edict was written on the twenty-third day of the third month, which on our calendar would be June 25, 474 B.C. (Remember, the Jewish calendar begins with the month of April.) The first decree was issued on April 17 (3:12). Thus, about seventy days had passed since Haman had declared war on the Jews. “D Day” for the Jews was March 7 (3:13). Therefore, the people had about eight months to get ready.
We must pause and consider whether it was really ethical for Mordecai to give the Jews the authority to kill and loot. People who deny the divine inspiration of the Bible like to point to the various “massacres” in Scripture as evidence that the God of the Bible is “a bully.” Imagine worshiping a god that commanded the slaughter of whole populations!
First, let’s consider the edict that Ahasuerus issued, for that’s where all the trouble started. If it was wicked for Mordecai to tell the Jews to defend themselves, then it was even more wicked for Haman and Ahasuerus to tell the Persians to attack the Jews in the first place! Self-defense isn’t a crime, but genocide definitely is. Do these critics approve of the king’s edict? I certainly hope not! Well, if they don’t approve of the king’s decree, which permitted murder, then how can they disapprove of Mordecai’s decree, which allowed the Jews the right to defend themselves? Better that Haman’s decree had never been issued; but since it was published, better that Mordecai disarmed it by issuing his decree.
Mordecai’s decree was in complete harmony with God’s covenant with Abraham: “I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you” (Gen. 12:3, nkjv). Isaac also would have agreed with Mordecai; for when Isaac blessed Jacob, he said, “Cursed be everyone who curses you, and blessed be those who bless you” (27:29, nkjv). In addition, God promised Moses, “I will be an enemy to your enemies and an adversary to your adversaries” (Ex. 23:22, nkjv). And don’t forget that quotation from Dr. J. Vernon McGee: “The Jew has attended the funeral of every one of the nations that tried to exterminate him.”
It’s one thing to write a liberating new edict and quite another thing to get the message out to the people. Mordecai put the secretaries to work translating and copying the decree, and then he sent the couriers to carry the good news to the people in the various provinces of the empire. The couriers “hastened” because they were “pressed on by the king’s commandment” (Est. 8:14, kjv). The niv translates it “spurred on by the king’s command.”
Ever since the fall of Adam, “the law of sin and of death” has been in force in this world (Rom. 8:2; 5:12-21); and God will not rescind that law. The wages of sin is still death (Rom. 6:23). Through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, God put another law into effect, “the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:2). God obeyed the law of sin and death when He gave His Son, Jesus, to bear our sins and die on the cross. But then God raised Him from the dead and put a new decree into effect that makes it possible for sinners to be saved. Now He wants us to put that good news into every tongue and take that good news to every nation.
This chapter begins with Queen Esther in tears (Est. 8:3), but it ends with the Jews rejoicing and feasting (vv. 15-17). Happiness of one kind or another is mentioned in this paragraph at least seven times. (This is the eighth feast mentioned in the Book of Esther.) The Jews had been mourning and fasting, but now they were ecstatic with joy.
The thing that made the difference was not the writing of the decree or even its distribution in the various provinces. The thing that made the difference was the fact that the Jews believed the decree. It was their faith in Mordecai’s word that changed their lives. They had hope, joy, and peace because they had faith in what the prime minister said. “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 15:13, nkjv).
The statement that “many of the people of the land became Jews” (Est. 8:17, kjv) is variously interpreted. The obvious meaning is that many Gentiles in the empire forsook their pagan religions and became Jewish proselytes. But since the Jews were far from Jerusalem and the ministry of the priests, these “converts” couldn’t be initiated fully into the Jewish faith. They became what were known later as “Godfearers” or “worshipers of God” (Acts 10:2; 16:14; 18:7).
I think the phrase means that many of the Gentiles in the empire sided with the Jews and acted as though they were Jews. They weren’t ashamed to be identified with the Jews even though the Jews had enemies.
After President Reagan was shot, when he was being prepared for surgery, he jokingly said to the medical team, “I hope all of you are Republicans.” One of the doctors replied, “Mr. President, today all of us are Republicans.” That was the attitude of many of the people in the Persian Empire when Mordecai’s edict was published: “Today, all of us are Jews.”
The Book of Esther opens with the Jews keeping a very low profile, so much so that Esther and Mordecai wouldn’t even confess their nationality. But now the Jews are proud of their race and so happy with what God had done that they were attracting others to their faith! Even the pagan Gentiles could see that God was caring for His people in a remarkable way.
Evangelist Billy Sunday said, “If you have no joy in your religion, there’s a leak in your Christianity somewhere.” If Christian believers today manifested more of the joy of the Lord, perhaps those outside the faith would be attracted to the church and be willing to consider the message of the Gospel. It’s worth trying.
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