Esther part 3

 

Esther 3:1 After these things King Ahasuerus promoted Haman, the son of Hammedatha the Agagite, and advanced him and set his seat above all the princes who were with him.2 And all the king's servants who were within the king's gate bowed and paid homage to Haman, for so the king had commanded concerning him. But Mordecai would not bow or pay homage.3 Then the king's servants who were within the king's gate said to Mordecai, "Why do you transgress the king's command?"4 Now it happened, when they spoke to him daily and he would not listen to them, that they told it to Haman, to see whether Mordecai's words would stand; for Mordecai had told them that he was a Jew.5 When Haman saw that Mordecai did not bow or pay him homage, Haman was filled with wrath.6 But he disdained to lay hands on Mordecai alone, for they had told him of the people of Mordecai. Instead, Haman sought to destroy all the Jews who were throughout the whole kingdom of Ahasuerus -- the people of Mordecai.

 

We are not given any details of why Haman was promoted, we can only assume that he stood out in the kingís eyes. Haman was an Amalekite and some believe that he may have been a direct descendant of King Agag - the king that King Saul was supposed to kill but did not Ė since his father is called Agagite.

 

One of the honors Haman received with his new position was that the people were to bow down to him and pay homage, which to Persians was the same as paying homage to a god. This was something that Haman loved because he loved feeling powerful and important. But Mordecai refused to bow down to him, but Haman did not notice this himself. However, his servants noticed and they confronted Mordecai about it daily, but he would listen to them and the reason he said he would not bow to him was because he was a Jew.

 

Now there was nothing in the law of Moses that would keep a Jew from paying respect to the authority of another, but to bow down to someone and pay homage to them as a God would be idolatry to the Jew. So, this gives us more proof that this was the type of homage that was to be given to Haman. It also important to point out that the Amalekites were the ancient enemies of the Jews.

 

After Haman has been informed about Mordecaiís refusal to bow down, he started watching, and sure enough he was not bowing down and this made Haman angry, but he wasnít going to take out his vengeance on Mordecai alone. Instead, he came up with a devious plan to take out the entire Jewish population. This just shows you how prideful Haman was and how his pride caused him to have a deep hatred for Mordecai and all those like him.

 

Proverbs 16:18 Pride goes before destruction, And a haughty spirit before a fall.

 

As Christians, we should admire Mordecaiís courage to stand his ground and not bow down to this prideful man even though it was commanded by the king. We must learn to be like Mordecai and not bow down to the things in our society that are deemed legal by our government when they go against the law of God, such as abortion, legalized prostitution or gay marriage just to name a few. While we are to respect the laws of our country, to a Christian, Godís law overrides all other man made laws and in those instances we are not sinning when we keep Godís law over manís law.

 

Esther 3:7 In the first month, which is the month of Nisan, in the twelfth year of King Ahasuerus, they cast Pur (that is, the lot), before Haman to determine the day and the month, until it fell on the twelfth month, which is the month of Adar.8 Then Haman said to King Ahasuerus, "There is a certain people scattered and dispersed among the people in all the provinces of your kingdom; their laws are different from all other people's, and they do not keep the king's laws. Therefore it is not fitting for the king to let them remain.9 "If it pleases the king, let a decree be written that they be destroyed, and I will pay ten thousand talents of silver into the hands of those who do the work, to bring it into the king's treasuries."10 So the king took his signet ring from his hand and gave it to Haman, the son of Hammedatha the Agagite, the enemy of the Jews.11 And the king said to Haman, "The money and the people are given to you, to do with them as seems good to you."

 

This event occurred around our March and April. A common practice for those in Persia was the casting of lots to determine when to do certain things. Burt Coffman makes an interesting observation about this:

 

Others have pointed out that it was a terribly foolish thing for Haman to have published a whole year in advance his intention of exterminating the Jews.Archaeology, however, has uncovered dramatic information on how this happened."Haman's method for fixing the date for the destruction of the Jews has been revealed by excavations at Susa (Shushan) by M. Dieulafoy, who actually recovered one of those quadrangular prisms engraved with the numbers 1, 2, 5 and 6.The word `pur' is derived from the Persian puru, that is, `lot'; and it is now known that `they cast Pur' (Est. 3:7) means that they cast lots." This fully explains why almost a year elapsed between Haman's decision to massacre the Jews, which he published at once, and the date set for the execution of his ruthless plan.

 

Could you imagine how hard it would be to know almost a year in advance that you and those like you were going to be killed on a certain day? In many ways, anticipating that day would be harder than actually facing your death on that day.

 

We can see that Haman was confident that he could persuade the king to sign this decree because he cast the lots for the Jews death before he went to the king. Now he carefully chose his words and made it appear that the Jews had their own laws they followed and that they would not follow the kingís law.This is what is known as a partial truth because the Jews had no problem following most of the kingís law. The only part that they would not follow is if it made the violate Godís law such as bowing down to someone or something as a God.

 

Haman even offers to pay 10,000 talents of silver that would go into the king treasury to pay those who take care of this dirty deed so that it doesnít deplete the kingís money. Now this amount of Silver weighed about 455 tons and with todayís current market as of June 10th 2008 of 16.48 per oz, this amount of silver would be worth 179,961,600.00. Obviously, Haman was a very wealthy man or as some have suggested, he planned on raising this money from the Jewís property after they were dead.

 

Well, the king thought this was a great idea, so he gave over his signet ring to Haman, which gave him the authority to carry out his diabolic scheme. It also interesting that the king refused the silver, and he allowed everything to be done by Haman. Now we are not told why the king refused the money, but it possible that he wanted all this to fall on the shoulders of Haman. However, the king would still be associated with the massacre because he allowed it to happen.

 

Esther 3:12 Then the king's scribes were called on the thirteenth day of the first month, and a decree was written according to all that Haman commanded -- to the king's satraps, to the governors who were over each province, to the officials of all people, to every province according to its script, and to every people in their language. In the name of King Ahasuerus it was written, and sealed with the king's signet ring.13 And the letters were sent by couriers into all the king's provinces, to destroy, to kill, and to annihilate all the Jews, both young and old, little children and women, in one day, on the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, which is the month of Adar, and to plunder their possessions.14 A copy of the document was to be issued as law in every province, being published for all people, that they should be ready for that day.15 The couriers went out, hastened by the king's command; and the decree was proclaimed in Shushan the citadel. So the king and Haman sat down to drink, but the city of Shushan was perplexed. ††

 

Here we are given the details of how this massacre was announced. The scribe wrote the decree and it was sealed by the kingís ring. Then they had the decree sent to all the provinces of the kingdom. Not only were the Jewish men to be killed, but women and children were to be killed as well, and their property was to be plundered, which gives credence to the idea that Haman would come with the 10,000 talents of silver from the Jews. While Haman was happy with his plan and sat down and enjoyed a drink with the king, the city of Shushan was confused by this whole matter. Of course there was no way that God would let something like this happen to his people especial since it would threaten the Messianic line.

 

Esther 4:1 When Mordecai learned all that had happened, he tore his clothes and put on sackcloth and ashes, and went out into the midst of the city. He cried out with a loud and bitter cry.2 He went as far as the front of the king's gate, for no one might enter the king's gate clothed with sackcloth.3 And in every province where the king's command and decree arrived, there was great mourning among the Jews, with fasting, weeping, and wailing; and many lay in sackcloth and ashes.

 

The news of the massacre was devastating to the Jews, and when Mordecai learned of it he tore his clothes, put on a sackcloth and ashes. This was a typical response to anything that was distressing. The sackcloth was made from rough material, and had animal hair on it and the ashes were a visible sign of their lamentation. Mordecai did this in the middle of the city to show everyone what he thought about this decree. According to one source, it was considered a bad omen to the king if anyone was sad in his presences, so this is why Mordecai would not be allowed to enter the palace.

 

The other Jews did the same in every province. Even though God is not mentioned in this text, it seems obvious to me that they were mourning and fasting for God to help them in this dire situation.

 

Esther 4:4 So Esther's maids and eunuchs came and told her, and the queen was deeply distressed. Then she sent garments to clothe Mordecai and take his sackcloth away from him, but he would not accept them.5 Then Esther called Hathach, (hay-thack) one of the king's eunuchs whom he had appointed to attend her, and she gave him a command concerning Mordecai, to learn what and why this was.6 So Hathach went out to Mordecai in the city square that was in front of the king's gate.7 And Mordecai told him all that had happened to him, and the sum of money that Haman had promised to pay into the king's treasuries to destroy the Jews.8 He also gave him a copy of the written decree for their destruction, which was given at Shushan, that he might show it to Esther and explain it to her, and that he might command her to go in to the king to make supplication to him and plead before him for her people.

 

Esther did not know what was going on, but she found out that her cousin Mordecai was in distress and she sent some clothes for him to put so that he might be comforted. But, he refused the clothes, and she knew something was wrong. So she sent Hathach to find out what was going on with Mordecai.

 

So, Mordecai tells Hathach all about it including the money that Haman was offering the king. Mordecai sent a copy this decree to the queen as proof. At this point Mordecai reveals that Esther is a Jew because he tells Esther to go before the king to so that her people might be saved.

 

One important lesson that we learn from Mordecai is that there is nothing wrong with publicly defending your faith and taking a stand against the evil way. Sometimes I wish we made our stand more public than we do because sometimes we just shake our heads at the ungodly acts that are done in our country and we just keep it to ourselves, but we need to understand that nothing gets changed when we are silent and we should not be afraid of speaking out and defending Godís way. Peter says,

 

1 Peter 3:14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness' sake, you are blessed. "And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled."15 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear;16 having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed.17 For it is better, if it is the will of God, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.

 

As Peter said, we will blessed when we stand up for the cause of God even if we are persecuted by man.

 

Esther 4:9 So Hathach returned and told Esther the words of Mordecai.10 Then Esther spoke to Hathach, and gave him a command for Mordecai:11 "All the king's servants and the people of the king's provinces know that any man or woman who goes into the inner court to the king, who has not been called, he has but one law: put all to death, except the one to whom the king holds out the golden scepter, that he may live. Yet I myself have not been called to go in to the king these thirty days."12 So they told Mordecai Esther's words.

 

Once Hathach tells Esther what Mordecai said, she sent him back to Mordecai to tell him of the consequences if she goes before the king unannounced. It is believed this rule was created as a protection against assassins. In fact if anyone just ran into the private room of the king, they most likely would be executed on the spot. Also, Esther didnít know if she had any influence on the king any longer because he had not called for her for 30 days.

 

The king had a golden scepter that he kept with him and if a person entered into his room unannounced, he had the power to save their life if he held out his golden scepter.

 

Esther 4:13 And Mordecai told them to answer Esther: "Do not think in your heart that you will escape in the king's palace any more than all the other Jews.14 "For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father's house will perish. Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?"15 Then Esther told them to reply to Mordecai:16 "Go, gather all the Jews who are present in Shushan, and fast for me; neither eat nor drink for three days, night or day. My maids and I will fast likewise. And so I will go to the king, which is against the law; and if I perish, I perish!"17 So Mordecai went his way and did according to all that Esther commanded him.

 

Mordecai believed that his people would be spared from the massacre in one way or another. He believed that Esther did not become queen by luck, but that it was by divine providence. He believed that if she would go before the king that she could bring about the deliverance of her people. He let her know that if she remained silent that she would not escape her death because she was Jew as well.

 

When she received this message, she knew what she had to do and she asked Mordecai to get all the Jews in Shushan to fast for her for 3 days and she and her maidservants would do the same. Even though the word prayer is not found here, she is obviously asking these Jews to fast and pray to God so that she might be successful before the king.

 

So, Esther committed herself to go before the king whether she was put to death or not.

 

Mordecai and Esther teach us that sometimes as Christians we must do things that are very difficult and that can even put our life on the line in order to make a difference in Godís kingdom, but we must be willing to do it. We have stop worrying about the consequences for standing up for what is right in Godís eyes. We must not be afraid to look someone in the eyes and tell them that sin in wrong. We need to be brave like Peter and John who told the Sanhedrin council,

 

Acts 4:19 "Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge.20 "For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.

 

We also need to have the confidence of Mordecai who had compete faith in God and believed that God would deliver His people. Sometimes we have a tendency to cower down and think that God doesnít care, and that He is not going to help us, but He will, and He has proven this over and over again throughout the Bible.

 

Just because things donít happen as fast as we think they should or in the way we think they should, it doesnít mean that God has forgotten us or that He is not going to help us with our situation. When we start thinking that way, we need to remind ourselves of events in the Bible like Esther and how God came through. Even if Esther had remained silent, I believe God would have used some other way to preserve these Jews.

 

Now if Esther had refused to go before the king she would had been guilty of sin because as James says,

 

James 4:17 Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.††

 

It important that we keep this in mind because it might be easy for some of us to stay away from sinful things, but it may be challenging for us to do those things which are right and need to be done. This is a sin that is easy to commit because it easier to justify this kind of sin because we donít feel like we are really doing anything wrong, but James makes it clear that we are.

 

I hope these two chapters have shown you how important is that we learn to be courageous and bold when it comes to standing up for God and His way and I hope that all of us will learn to pray to God for strength in this area in our life and that we will fully trust in the providence of God.