Last week we saw how, God’s merciful providence, the tides were turned against Haman. Haman desired to destroy God’s people on the 13th day of the 12th month because Mordecai would not bow to him. No matter how much wealth and power he had, the fact that Mordecai would not bow to him ruined any happiness he could have… and because of this, he decided to try to have Mordecai put to death much earlier than the rest of the Jews…
But nothing could prepare him for what happened when he went into the king to try to persuade him to have Mordecai put to death. That night, when the king could not sleep, a book was read for him, and within that book, he was reminded of how Mordecai saved his life, rescuing him from some of his servants who were putting together a plan to put him to death. So when Haman came into the king, Haman was commanded to honor Mordecai by treating him like a king, escorting him through the city dressed in one of the king’s robes and riding the kings horse. This completely deflated Haman, but this was not the end of his falling before the Jews. He then was taken to a feast that Esther had invited only him and the king to, where Esther pleaded for her life and the life of her people, saying that Haman had plotted to put the queen and her people to death… This did not end well for Haman, because when he fell before the queen, pleading for his life, the king came in and accused him of trying to harm Esther and had him put to death on the very gallows that he had built from Mordecai to be hanged on.
God worked behind the scenes to turn Haman’s plans around. He protected Mordecai and Esther.
Then we come to chapter 8, where we have one final irony… all of Haman’s house… all of his wealth, as well as Haman’s position of 2nd in command/ prime minister goes to another. Esther brings Mordecai to the king and tells the king what her relationship with Mordecai was, and the king exalts Mordecai, putting him into Haman’s position as 2nd in command. He gives Mordecai his signet ring…
But then in verse 3, we see that, even though Haman, the enemy of the Jews was dead, there was still a big problem for the Jews. What about the edict that Haman sent all through the empire? They still have the law that on the 13th of the 12th month the Jews are to be killed…
So Esther approaches the king again without getting called by the king, and once again, the king raises his scepter to her so she would not die. She comes before the king, bows before him, and pleads that the letters Haman sent throughout the kingdom be revoked.
And this is a problem because what about the laws of the Medes and Persians? We see in verse 8 that the king says that any law that is written and signed with the king’s signet ring cannot be revoked! I guess the kings were known as those who do not make mistakes… We see that this is obviously not the case… So the law that Haman made cannot just be taken away or annulled…
So what can they do? They can make a law to help deal with the first law without revoking it exactly… The king tells Esther and Mordecai you have the signet ring so do whatever you want… Don't expect Xerxes to have to handle any details…
So Esther and Mordecai call for the king’s scribes so they can write the letter that will be taken to all 170 provinces in the kingdom of Persia. We are told that they were doing this on the 23rd day of the 3rd month, which would be about 70 days (2mos and 10 days) after Haman sent out his decree.
Let’s look at what the decree says… Let’s read v11:
(ESV) “…the king allowed the Jews who were in every city to gather and defend their lives, to destroy, to kill, and to annihilate any armed force of any people or province that might attack them, children and women included, and to plunder their goods…”
If anybody attacks, defend yourselves. Does the language of this decree sound familiar? I think they plagiarized from Haman’s decree... they can destroy, annihilate and kill their enemies with the king’s blessing. Now they would have a fighting chance, knowing that the king approved of any armed fighting by the Jews. This decree was signed with the king’s signet ring and was sent out on the finest and fastest horses that the king’s couriers had.
They did still had some time before Haman’s order was to be carried out. Once again, it is the 23rd day of the 3rd month, and Haman’s order to destroy the Jews was to be carried out on the 13th day of the 12th month. They still had about 9 months to prepare to defend themselves.
In verse 15, we see the response of the Jews to the decree in the city of Susa. Mordecai leaves the king’s presence dressed in royal apparel and appears before the Jews. We earlier saw the city, being in confusion and the Jews in mourning when Haman’s decree was sent out. Now, in verse 15, we see that there is great joy. The people shouted and rejoiced. We are told that the Jews had light and gladness and joy.
Verse 17...becoming a Jew becomes the most popular thing around... people who were of other nations, when the edict came to their cities, they declared themselves to be Jews out of fear of the Jews.
Everything is reversing from Haman's decree almost line for line and word for word...who would have thought this would have been such a great opportunity for the Jews to have vengeance on their enemies?
So the time comes… the 12th month and the 13th day… We are told in verse 1: “…on the very day when the enemies of the Jews hoped to gain mastery over them, the reverse occurred: the Jews gained mastery over those who hated them.”
So, God’s people are not victims, they are victors… The Jews gathered together and fought, and no one could stand against them. And the reason why? Because fear of the Jews had fallen on all of the people. And this is usually a part that I have missed in the past in he book… in verse 3, we are told that the officials of the provinces and the satraps and governors and royal agents helped the Jews out of fear for Mordecai.
Mordecai is the one everyone looks up to and respects and the Jews end up killing those who hate them...including the sons of Haman...so they are correcting Saul's error. They are destroying the Amalekites.
But, they do not take the plunder even though the decree said they could. God's original decree was to destroy the Amalekites and not to take the plunder because the spoil goes to the victor... and who was that? The Lord… This is the Lord's battle and war... the Lord has won the victory so they won't take the plunder… I believe this is a clear sign that the people new very well that the Lord’s hand were in these events.
The king seems to be impressed with the victory of the Jews within Susa, so he desires to have a report of what happened elsewhere in the kingdom. He comes to Esther, and he says, “In Susa the citadel the Jews have killed and destroyed 500 men and also the ten sons of Haman. What then have they done in the rest of the king’s provinces! Now what is your wish? It shall be granted you. And what further is your request? It shall be fulfilled.”
Esther is pretty much given another blank check here… and she asks for a second day for God’s people to have another day to destroy their enemies, and for the 10 sons of Haman to be hung on the gallows… and the king grants her requests. Haman’s sons are hanged and another 300 people in Susa, who were enemies of the Jews, lost their lives. We are told in verse 16 that about 75,000 of the Jews enemies were killed.
There are some who allege there is a contradiction between verse 13 and verses 7-10. We are told Haman’s sons were put to death in verses 7-10, and then Esther asks for Haman’s sons to be hanged… So it is alleged that they were put to death twice within 7 verses! It is very unlikely that the writer of this book, or any book, would make such a blunder, contradicting himself in the same paragraph.
· We are given a general overview of the amount of people killed that day in Susa, and in verses 7-10, we are told that the 10 sons of Haman were included in that number. Then in verse 11, we see that it was a decree that was requested of Esther to the king that had Haman’s sons put to death on the same day. It seems to me that they are put to death on the first day, on the 13th day of the 12th month, and that the Jews in Susa, on the following day, gained greater victory.
· One other explanation is that the sons of Haman were put to death on the 13th day of the 12th month, and that their dead bodies were then hung on the gallows for all to see. Esther does not specifically ask for them to be put to death in v13. She only asks them to be hung on the gallows…
It is only the Jews in Susa who were given a second day to destroy their enemies. The Jews throughout the empire only did what the edict commanded. The Jews in the kingdom celebrated their victory on the 14th day of the 12th month while the Jews in Susa were killing an additional 300 people. The Jews in Susa celebrated on the 15th day of the month (v18)
In verses 20-32, we see a yearly observance of this victory on the 14-15th of Adar (the 12th month) is commanded by Mordecai. He sends out letters to all of the Jews within the kingdom, that these two days be observed throughout their generations. You have Mordecai's letter in and then in verses 29-32, we are told Esther also sending out letters to all provinces showing her agreement with Mordecai that the Jews should observe this holiday. They would be days of feasting and sending gifts to one another and giving gifts to the poor.
It is called Purim, which is an interesting name. The word, we see in verse 24, means ‘lots.’ It is a reminder of how Haman cast lots to choose the day in which he would have God’s people destroyed. So they would have a yearly remembrance of how they were to live contrary to the character of Haman. Haman desired to serve himself, and on this day, they would serve others each year.
We are back to business as usual for the governing of Persia. We are told of a tax being administered by the King. Surely the military campaigns that Xerxes was in over the years took a toll on the kingdom, as well as the fact that he never did end up getting the 10,000 talents of silver that Haman had promised to him for killing the Jews.
The book closes giving us an overview of the greatness of Mordecai. It is interesting that the book doesn’t close telling us about the greatness of Esther since the book is named after her, but it is Mordecai instead. It could be argued that Mordecai is the main character of the book. He is introduced before Esther. It is his feud with Haman that moves the plot along. Mordecai is the one who urges Esther to take advantage of her position as queen. It is Mordecai who is honored by the king through Haman. It is Mordecai who is put over the house of Haman and is given the authority of Haman. And honestly, Esther probably wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.
So, the book closes telling how Mordecai, the man who cared for Esther and brought her up, was exalted in the kingdom. Mordecai became a great, honored, exalted man… And why was this… Because, unlike Haman, he was not arrogant and self-seeking. He cared about his people. He used his power to seek the welfare of his people.
As we bring our study of Esther to a close, I would like to remind you of a few lessons that we can get from this book…
· God reigns over the nations of men… Even when things are not going the way we think they should. This is a good lesson for us in this book… He raises up leaders and takes them down… He was the One who put Xerxes on the throne... He even allowed Haman to be given His position… It may have looked from an earthly perspective that God did not know what He was doing in allowing these things to happen… But He knew exactly what He was doing… He was at work. His hand is seen all throughout the book even though His name is not mentioned. God is still the king of Kings and Lord of lords today. He is still the ruler of the nations, even when it may look like He may not be… God has purposes for who He puts on the throne today even if we may not know what they are.
· God keeps His promises… Things went from worse to worse in this book for Mordecai and the Jews, but God was protecting His covenant people, and fulfilled His promises. There were times in which it may have looked like He abandoned His people, but He did not. He was working behind the scenes for their good. And there is NO reason for us to think that God will not be faithful in keeping His promises to us today! He is working for the good of His people as He works in this world today… And the good I am talking about is not our physical comfort, prosperity, and safety… He is working to help His people be more like Christ…
· God can use anyone to fulfill his purposes, including you and me… We have been blessed to live in this place at this time with freedoms that God’s people in the earliest centuries did not have. We can openly speak about our God and open up His word to teach others… May it be that there are specific people in your life at work or at school or among the people of God who the Lord has put there so you can serve and help spiritually? Don’t think you have to be a great speaker, a perfect Christian, or the most knowledgeable in the Bible to make an impact in someone’s life in helping them know the Lord.