THE BOOK OF ESTHER
The book of Esther is unique in the canon of Scripture in that the name of God is not once mentioned. It is, however, outstanding in the fact of His providential care for His people. Only a small remnant of the Jews returned to their homeland. The rest remained under Persian rule and influence, but they were not forgotten of God.
The book may be divided up as follows:
1. Ch. 1. The story of Vashti.
2. Ch. 2. Esther made queen.
3. Chs. 3-4. The evil plot of Haman.
4. Ch. 5. The courage of Esther.
5. Chs. 6-10. Haman’s downfall and the exaltation of Mordecai
THE STORY OF VASHTI.
The monarchs who rule the ancient empires were more or less of the dictator type. King Ahasuerus was no exception to the rule. Because the queen Vashti refused to expose her beauty before the people at the command of the king, who was over merry through drink, she was deposed and was no longer allowed to be queen, Ch.1:10-11, 19.
ESTHER MADE QUEEN.
To meet the desire of the king and provide a new queen his servants suggested that word be sent out through all the realm that fair young virgins be gathered together, from among who a choice might be made. A certain Jew named Mordecai had a beautiful niece whose name was Esther. She was made one of the candidates. Mordecai, who also adopted her as his daughter, waited to learn the outcome but enjoined upon Esther not to disclose her Jewish origin, Ch. 2:5-10. In course of time Esther was brought in before the king. He was charmed with her beauty and chose her to be queen. Even then she was silent as to her identity. At that time, a plot against the king’s life by two of his chamberlains was discovered by Mordecai who reported the plot to Esther. She in turn told the king and the men were executed. This event was recorded in the king’s chronicles, vs. 21-23.
THE EVIL PLOT OF HAMAN.
Haman, the son of Hammedatha, was promoted to high office by king Ahasuerus, and all the king’s servants were commanded to bow and do him reverence. As a Jew, Mordecai could offer no such worship except to God alone. This was noticed and reported to Haman. In his anger he determined to slay not only Mordecai, but also all the Jews in the kingdom of Persia. To this end, he prepared a proclamation and asked the king to sign it, Ch. 3:8-13. When Mordecai heard of this he put on sackcloth and ashes and cried out with a loud and bitter cry, Ch. 4:1. Word reached Esther, who sent to him to learn the reason for his grief, v.5. She was shown a copy of the proclamation and exhorted by Mordecai to seek an audience with the king to ask for a reversal of the decree. When Esther feared to do it least the king be angry and take her life, Mordecai uttered these memorable words, “And who knoweth whether thou are come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” Esther bravely promised to do her part, and asked that Mordecai gather the Jews together to fast and pray for her night and day for three days, and she and her maidens would do likewise, v.16.
THE COURAGE OF ESTHER.
Upon the appointed day, queen Esther presented herself before the king. She was favorably received, Ch. 5:1-2, and requested that the king and Haman attend a banquet she had provided for them. Haman was commanded by the king to respond, with which he was highly elated. Only one thing spoiled his perfect happiness and that was the behavior of Mordecai the Jew. His wife and friends advised him to prepare a gallows and have Mordecai hanged thereon, vs. 13-14, and the order was given to build the gallows.
HAMAN’S DOWNFALL AND THE EXALTATION OF MORDECAI
While the name of God is not mentioned in the book of Esther, it is very evident He was working behind the scenes in His providential way. On the same night that Haman planned to erect the gallows, the king could not sleep. He therefore called for the book of records, and in looking over same learned that Mordecai had been the means of exposing the plot against the king’s life. The king asked his reader what reward had been given Mordecai and learned that nothing had been done, Ch. 6:3. At that moment Haman was in court seeking an audience that his order for the execution of Mordecai might be granted. He was called in and asked what should be done to a man whom the king desired to honor. Thinking that only himself was in the king’s mind he suggested that such a man wear the royal apparel, ride the king’s horses, wear the royal crown and that one of the king’s most noble princes go before him and proclaim aloud, “Thus shall it be done to the man whom the king delighteth to honor”, vs.4-9. Imagine the rage and chagrin of Haman when he was told to personally perform the deed, and that Mordecai should be the one on whom such an honor should be bestowed. When Haman returned home in shame, his wife and friends told him that such a calamity was the beginning of his own downfall, v.13.
After the first banquet given by Queen Esther, she invited the king and Haman to attend another one on the morrow. At that time, she made known her identity as a Jewess to the king, and asked that her people be spared. Haman’s evil plot was exposed, Ch. 7:3-6, and an order was given that he be hanged on the very same gallows he had prepared for Mordecai. A happy ending of the threatened massacre of the Jews was brought about by the exaltation of Mordecai to the position held by Haman. Together with Queen Esther, he prepared an order countermanding the one sent out by Haman and the Jews were spared. Instead of their being slain they fought against their enemies and slew over seventy five thousand of them. Mordecai afterwards proclaimed among the Jews that the two days in which they were delivered should be observed annually as the Feast of Purim, or the time when Pur or the lot was cast to destroy them, Ch. 9:20-22, and 26. Mordecai was advanced to great power and became the prime minister of the realm, Ch. 10, and the Jews who lived in the land were much helped accordingly.