God finishes what He starts. God finished creation. God finished the work to secure salvation on the cross. God will finish all of His work in order to fulfill prophecy of end times. At the end of the book of Esther we find God’s finishing another chapter in the lives of His people. His work continues to be completed in the life of every believer.
Seek the peace of the city where I have caused you to be carried away captive.” That was God’s counsel to the Jews through the Prophet Jeremiah (Jer. 29:7, nkjv); and for the most part, they obeyed it. It wasn’t the people of God who had declared war on the their enemies, but the enemies of God’s people who had declared war on them.
“D Day” arrived for the Jews, the day appointed by Haman’s decree for the slaughter of God’s chosen people in the empire. But Mordecai’s decree had changed that “D” from “destruction” to “deliverance.” The Jews had permission to resist their enemies and had been given nine months to prepare for the encounter. The people in the empire who hated the Jews were hoping for victory, but “the tables were turned and the Jews got the upper hand over those who hated them” (Est. 9:1, niv).
1. Defend the People of God (Est. 9:1-16)
The Jewish men were organized and armed, ready to meet any enemy who would attack them and their families and try to take their possessions. But the Lord had given them a greater weapon than their swords, because “the fear of the Jews fell upon them” (8:17, kjv; 9:2). This was a fear that God had sent into the hearts of the Gentiles to keep them from fighting His people.
One of the problems with our world today is that “there is no fear of God before their eyes” (Rom. 3:18, kjv). Like Pharaoh, people are saying, “Who is the Lord, that I should obey His voice?” (Ex. 5:2, kjv) But have they seen anything in the people of God that would make them want to fear the Lord? Is there such devotion to God among God’s people that an outsider attending one of our meetings would fall down on his face, worship God, and “report that God is truly among you“? (1 Cor. 14:25, nkjv)
The fear of God protects those who fear God and believe His promises. Because the Jews believed Mordecai’s decree, they had new courage and were not afraid of the enemy; and their courage put fear into the hearts of the enemy. (See Phil. 1:28.) Before King Jehoshaphat went out to battle, God’s message to him was: “Believe in the Lord your God, and you shall be established; believe His prophets, and you shall prosper” (2 Chron. 20:20). That is still wise counsel.
But there was another aspect to this fear that helped give the Jews their victory, and that was the people’s fear of Mordecai (Est. 9:3). The princes, deputies, governors, and officers of the king throughout the empire were in such awe of Mordecai that they even helped the Jews defend themselves against the Persians. God had given Mordecai his high position and his great reputation, and Mordecai used his authority to do the will of God.
The Persians who attacked the Jews were actually cooperating with Haman, an Amalekite; and this made them the enemies of God (Est. 9:5). In slaying those who attacked them, the Jews were only doing to the enemy what King Saul had refused to do (1 Sam. 15).
In Esther 9:5-15, we’re given the report from Shushan; and, in verses 16-17, additional news is given about what happened in the other parts of the empire. During two days of conflict, the Jews killed 800 of their enemies in Susa alone (vv. 6, 15). It’s remarkable that so many Persians would have dared to attack the Jews right in the king’s own city where both Esther and Mordecai lived. Perhaps these people had been loyal to Haman and dependant on his bounty. Now they were angry because their hero had fallen and his wealth was gone.
Since the Jews were not the aggressors, it means that the ten sons of Haman had taken up arms and attacked the Jews; and all ten of them were slain. The bodies of the ten sons were hanged on Hainan’s gallows as a warning to the enemy. (In the text of the Hebrew Scriptures, the ten names are arranged on the page to look like a gallows. On the Feast of Purim, the synagogue reader reads these ten names all in one breath because the sons of Haman all died together.) The sight of ten corpses on Hainan’s gallows would certainly deter the Persians from attacking the Jews and would result in the saving of lives.
Some commentators have seen Esther’s request in verses 12-13 as evidence of a vindictive spirit on her part, but this was not the case. Haman’s strongest support was in the capital city where people had bowed down to him and benefited from his favors. Since it would be easy for them to get together and plan their strategy, Esther wanted to be sure that none of them would survive to cause further trouble. Perhaps she had received private intelligence that Haman’s supporters had planned to attack again the next day, prompting her to ask Ahasuerus for permission to extend the Jews’ right to defend themselves.
The Jews in the other parts of the empire killed 75,000 in one day, which shows how many people hated the Jews and wanted to destroy them. It averages out to about 600 per province. Since the Jews were greatly outnumbered in the empire, their victory was certainly a tribute to their faith and courage.
Three times in the record it’s stated that the Jews didn’t take any of the spoil (vv. 10, 15-16). It was in taking spoil from the enemy that King Saul lost his kingdom (1 Sam. 15:12-23), and the Jews didn’t repeat his mistake. They were not out after wealth. They wanted only to protect themselves and vindicate their right to live safely in the empire. And remember, the Jews killed only those who first attacked them; the Jews were not the aggressors.
2. Celebrate the Salvation of God (Est. 9:17-32)
It’s sad when a nation (or a church) forgets its heroes and the providential events that have kept it alive. How easy it is for a new generation to come along and take for granted the blessings that previous generations struggled and sacrificed to attain! The Jews didn’t make that mistake but established the Feast of Purim to remind their children year after year that God had saved Israel from destruction.
While Purim is not a Christian festival, Christians certainly ought to rejoice with their Jewish friends because every spiritual blessing we have has come through the Jews. The Jews gave to the world the knowledge of the true and living God, the Scriptures, and the Savior. The first Christians were Jewish believers, and so were the first missionaries. Jesus was a Jew who died on Passover, a Jewish feast day, and rose again from the dead on another Jewish holy day, the Feast of Firstfruits. The Holy Spirit came from heaven upon a group of Jewish believers on a Jewish holiday, Pentecost. “Salvation is from the Jews” (John 4:22). If there had been no Jews, there would be no church.
There’s nothing wrong with meaningful tradition. The church is always one generation short of extinction; and if we don’t pass on to our children and grandchildren what God has done for us and our fathers, the church will die of apathy and ignorance. “Come, my children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord” (Ps. 34:11, niv). It’s when tradition gradually becomes traditionalism that we get into trouble. Theologian Jaroslav Pelikan said, “Tradition is the living faith of the dead; traditionalism is the dead faith of the living.”
The Jews in the provinces finished their fighting on the thirteenth day of Adar (March) and spent the next day celebrating. But since the Jews in Shushan were still defending themselves on the fourteenth day, they didn’t get to celebrate until the fifteenth. In the beginning, the Jews were united in their victory but divided in their celebration. It all depended on whether you lived in the city or the country. Mordecai, however, later issued a letter that instructed all the Jews to celebrate on both the fourteenth and fifteenth days of the month (Est. 9:20-22).
The name “Purim” is the plural of the Babylonian word pur which means “lot.” It originates from Hainan’s casting of lots to determine the day when the Jews would be destroyed (Est. 9:24; 3:7). Even though there was no divine sanction given to this new feast, the Jews determined that it would be celebrated from generation to generation (9:26-28). Note the emphasis on teaching the children the meaning of Purim so that the message of the feast would not be lost in future generations.
There is a godly patriotism that goes beyond mere nationalism and civic pride and gives glory to God for what He has done. To see the hand of God in history and praise God for His goodness and mercy, and to ask God to forgive us for our sins, is perhaps the best way for the Christian patriot to celebrate a national holiday. But dedication must follow celebration. The American political leader Adlai Stevenson said, “Patriotism is not short, frenzied outbursts of emotion, but the tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime.”
Not only did Mordecai the prime minister send a letter of instruction to the Jews in the empire, but Esther the queen also joined Mordecai in sending a second letter (vv. 29-32). Perhaps some of the Jews in the provinces didn’t want to change from their original day of celebration (v. 19), and it was necessary for both the queen and prime minister to issue this second letter to keep peace in the nation. Too often God’s people defeat the enemy and then celebrate the victory by fighting among themselves!
This second letter is described as “words of peace and truth” (v. 30), which suggests that there was a division among the Jewish people that needed to be healed. Not only did Esther and Mordecai send letters, but they also had the matter written into the book (diary?) that Mordecai used as his personal record (vv. 20, 32). It’s possible that this book became a part of the official records of the empire.
The story of the victory of the Jews over their enemies was celebrated in an annual feast, recorded in two official letters, written in a journal, and ultimately included in the Old Testament Scriptures! What a rebuke to our modern “throw-away society” that has forgotten history and, like the Athenians of old, spends its time “in nothing else, but either to tell, or to hear some new thing” (Acts 17:21, kjv). Philosopher George Santayana was right when he said, “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to relive it.”
3. Continue the Work of God (Est. 10:1-3)
This brief chapter tells us that Mordecai, unlike his predecessor Haman, used his office to serve the king and help the Jews. Sometimes when people are elevated to high office, they forget their roots and ignore the needs of the common people. Mordecai wasn’t that kind of man. Even though his political deeds are recorded in the official annals of the empire, what he did for his people has been recorded by the Lord and will be rewarded.
Why did the author mention the new tax program of King Ahasuerus? What does this have to do with Mordecai and the Jews? Some Bible students think that it was Mordecai who engineered this new system of tribute as a substitute for war and plunder as a source of kingdom wealth. Now that there was peace in the kingdom, the Jews were free to work, earn money, and prosper; and the prosperity of the Jews increased the prosperity of the empire in general. Mordecai reminded the king that the throne deserved a share in that prosperity. After all, it was the king who had chosen Esther, a Jewess, and promoted Mordecai, a Jew; and all three of them had worked together to save the Jews from destruction. Didn’t the people of the empire, Jews and Gentiles alike, have an obligation to their monarch?
But the important message in this chapter is that God continued to use Mordecai to help the Jewish people. The Jews were aliens in a foreign land and subject to all kinds of harassment and abuse. Mordecai saw to it that they were treated with fairness. The last words of the book are variously translated. The Authorized Version says “and speaking peace to all his seed,” suggesting that he encouraged the Jews and kept them at peace with one another. The niv reads “and spoke up for the welfare of all the Jews.” This implies that there were still forces at work in the empire opposing and threatening the Jews, but Mordecai represented them at court and protected them. “He did his best for his people, and was a friend at court for all of them” (TLB).
The exciting drama of Esther is over, but the blessings go right on. God preserved the Jewish nation so that we today can have a Bible and a Savior. In the book of Esther, we clearly see God at work in the lives of individuals and in the affairs of a nation. Even when it looks as if the world is in the hands of evil people, God is still in control, protecting those who are his. Although we may not understand everything happening around us, we must trust in God’s protection and retain our integrity by doing what we know is right. Esther, who risked her life by appearing before the king, became a heroine. Mordecai, who was effectively condemned to death, rose to become the second highest ranking official in the nation. No matter how hopeless our condition, or how much we would like to give up, we need not despair. God is in control of our world.
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