“Who knows if perhaps you were made queen for just such a time as this?”

– Esther 4:14 (NLT)

The proud and impulsive Persian king’s, Xerxes the Great, banquet for all the nobles and officers under his rule in 483 B.C. was intended to be a ‘…tremendous display of the opulent wealth of his empire and the pomp and splendour of his majesty(Esther 1:4 NLT). However, it resulted in his wife, Queen Vashti, refusing his drunken request to parade in front of the nobles at his banquet (Esther 1:10-12). Thus, the enraged King banished her from his presence and began the search for a new queen (Esther 1:13-20).

The young woman who became his new wife wasn’t born into royalty or nobility, she wasn’t even a Persian; she was a Jew and her name was Esther.

History reveals that 103 years prior to 483 B.C., where the book of Esther begins, King Nebuchadnezzar had taken the Jews into captivity (2 Kings 25); after 54 years Zerubbabel led the first group of exiles back to Jerusalem and years later Ezra led back a second group (Ezra 1-2 & 7). However, as Esther’s story reveals that she lived in Persia, it appears that her parents were among the Jewish exiles who chose to not return to Jerusalem; even after the Persian King Cyrus issued a decree allowing the Jews to do so. Rather, they chose to remain in Persia, whether it was due to the freedom the Jews experienced there, or if they weren’t willing to risk the dangerous journey back to Jerusalem.

However, despite the freedom Jews experienced in Persia, at the suggestion of her cousin Mordecai, Esther kept her family background and nationality a secret (Esther 2:20). It was during her marriage to Xerxes that another threat came to the Jews from the king’s influential second-in-command, Haman.

When Haman saw that Mordecai did not bow or pay him homage, Haman was filled with wrath. 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 Xerxes—the people of Mordecai.’

   – Esther 3:5-6 (NKJV)

Haman received permission for the formation of a decree which was written in the name of King Xerxes and sealed with the king’s signet ring, which ordered the slaughter and annihilation of all Jews on a set day (Esther 3:7-15).

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. He went as far as the front of the king’s gate, for no one might enter the king’s gate clothed with sackcloth. 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.

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. Then Esther called Hathach, 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. So Hathach went out to Mordecai in the city square that was in front of the king’s gate. 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. He also gave him a copy of the written decree for their destruction, which was given at Susa, 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. 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.

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 Susa, 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!”

– Esther 4:1-16 (NKJV)

The third day of the fast had arrived and dressed in her royal garments the young Jewish born queen walked into the king’s inner court in the palace of Susa (Esther 5:1).

As she entered the inner court she was prepared to die, as no one, not even the queen was safe to enter the inner court without the king’s permission. Several biblical commentaries suggest that, as she hadn’t been called to the king in thirty days, there was also the risk that she was losing favour; therefore, making her decision to enter uninvited even more dangerous.

However, she wasn’t entering the room relying on her own strength. Rather, her request to the Jews to fast, was her displaying faith in God’s divine guidance, as the Old Testament reveals that prayer always accompanied fasting (Exodus 34:28; Deuteronomy 9:9; Ezra 8:21-23).

Paul writes in 2 Timothy 4:17 (NKJV) ‘but the Lord stood with me and strengthened me.’ I believe that Esther would have felt this way as she stepped into the inner courtroom, facing her husband who was on his royal throne and waited for his reaction (Esther 5:1).

So it was, when the king saw Queen Esther standing in the court, that she found favor in his sight, and the king held out to Esther the golden scepter that was in his hand. Then Esther went near and touched the top of the scepter.

– Esther 5:2 (NKJV)

With the king welcoming her presence, Esther went on to invite the king and Haman to two private banquettes (Esther 5:4 & 8). It was at the second banquet that Esther revealed her reason for requesting the king and Haman’s presence.

And on the second day, at the banquet of wine, the king again said to Esther, “What is your petition, Queen Esther? It shall be granted you. And what is your request, up to half the kingdom? It shall be done!”

Then Queen Esther answered and said, “If I have found favor in your sight, O king, and if it pleases the king, let my life be given me at my petition, and my people at my request. For we have been sold, my people and I, to be destroyed, to be killed, and to be annihilated. Had we been sold as male and female slaves, I would have held my tongue, although the enemy could never compensate for the king’s loss.”

So King Xerxes answered and said to Queen Esther, “Who is he, and where is he, who would dare presume in his heart to do such a thing?”

And Esther said, “The adversary and enemy is this wicked Haman!”

So Haman was terrified before the king and queen.

Then the king arose in his wrath from the banquet of wine and went into the palace garden; but Haman stood before Queen Esther, pleading for his life, for he saw that evil was determined against him by the king. When the king returned from the palace garden to the place of the banquet of wine, Haman had fallen across the couch where Esther was. Then the king said, “Will he also assault the queen while I am in the house?”

As the word left the king’s mouth, they covered Haman’s face. Now Harbonah, one of the eunuchs, said to the king, “Look! The gallows, fifty cubits high, which Haman made for Mordecai, who spoke good on the king’s behalf, is standing at the house of Haman.”

Then the king said, “Hang him on it!”

10 So they hanged Haman on the gallows that he had prepared for Mordecai. Then the king’s wrath subsided.

 – Esther 7:2-10 (NKJV)

Then Esther risked her life again by approaching the King in his inner court to beg him to stop the plot devised by Haman against the Jews. Resulting in a decree being written and sent to all the highest authorities and Jews in the 127 provinces of his Persian Empire stretching from India to Ethiopia (Esther 8:9).

So the king’s scribes were called at that time …and it was written, according to all that Mordecai commanded, to the Jews, the satraps, the governors, and the princes of the provinces from India to Ethiopia, one hundred and twenty-seven provinces in all, to every province in its own script, to every people in their own language, and to the Jews in their own script and language. 10 And he wrote in the name of King Xerxes, sealed it with the king’s signet ring, and sent letters by couriers on horseback, riding on royal horses bred from swift steeds.

11 By these letters the king permitted the Jews who were in every city to gather together and protect their lives—to destroy, kill, and annihilate all the forces of any people or province that would assault them, both little children and women, and to plunder their possessions, 12 on one day in all the provinces of King Xerxes, on the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, which is the month of Adar. 13 A copy of the document was to be issued as a decree in every province and published for all people, so that the Jews would be ready on that day to avenge themselves on their enemies. 14 The couriers who rode on royal horses went out, hastened and pressed on by the king’s command. And the decree was issued in Susa the palace.

– Esther 8:9-14 (NKJV)

When the danger faced by the Jews had finally resolved the Festival of Purim was established which symbolised God’s deliverance, as He used Queen Esther to intercede on behalf of the Jews (Esther 9:20-32).

* * * * *

The documentation of Queen Esther’s actions reveals the impact that one person can have.

A stark contrast to her courage is provided by Pilate, a man who was also in a position of power and privilege who had the ability to release or crucify Jesus (John 19:10), a man who was proclaimed and mocked as the ‘king of the Jews’. However, unlike Esther, Pilate ultimately let his desire for maintained power and popularity result the trade and eventual crucifixion of Jesus in the place of a known rebel Barabbas (John 19:1-16).

Both individuals are recorded in history for their significant decisions. Esther faced with her fears turned to God for direction and strength, saving the Jews. Whilst Pilate knew what was morally right, but without turning to God for strength, succumbed to the whim the crowd and allowed an innocent man to die.

Although the decisions we face may never have such a widespread impact, they will still be incredibly influential in our life and in the lives of others who are impacted by us.

Ultimately, the choice is ours. We can rely on our own understanding and shortcomings, or we can rely on a God who can equip us to stand through the most difficult trials.

* * * * *

And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.’

– 2 Corinthians 12:9-1

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