The story contained in the book of Esther in the Old Testament is beautiful, and it is also a great teaching tool. The book contains only ten chapters and covers just over ten pages; it is one of two books named for women in the Old Testament.
The story begins in Shushan with an explanation about a king named Ahasuerus and his displeasure with Queen Vashti’s refusal to be paraded in front of a bunch of visiting princes. Ahasuerus was angry with Vashti’s disobedience to him – her husband as well as the king - and sought counsel from his wise men. The wise men convinced the king that the ladies of Persia and Media would hear what happened in the palace and would follow Vashti’s example in being disobedient to their own husbands. Vashti must be disciplined, and a new queen must be chosen.
Mordecai was a Benjamite, the descendant of Jews “carried away from Jerusalem with the captivity which had been carried away with Jeconiah king of Judah” by Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon. Hadassah – or Esther – was the daughter of Mordecai’s uncle and was orphaned. She “was fair and beautiful,” and Mordecai took her into his home to rear as his own daughter.
Mordecai heard what Vashti had done and knew Ahasuerus was seeking a new queen. He convinced Esther to apply for the position but to keep her Jewish ancestry secret. Many maidens wanted to become queen, and they all were required to go through twelve months of purification and preparation before they were brought before the king. Each maiden was given whatever she desired to take with her to the king’s house. Esther “required nothing” but “obtained favour in the sight of all them that looked upon her.”
King Ahasuerus “loved Esther above all the women and she obtained grace and favour in his sight more than all the virgins; so that he set the royal crown upon her head, and made her queen instead of Vashti.” Even though she became queen, Esther had to obey the law of the land. She could not enter the presence of the king unless he invited her to do so.
Meanwhile, Mordecai “sat in the king’s gate” to watch over Esther. While he was there, he overheard two men plotting to kill the king. Mordecai sent word to Esther; she warned the king, and the two men were hanged.
After these things took place, the king promoted a man named Haman to a position next to the king himself “above all the other princes” in the kingdom and commanded that all men bow to Haman. Mordecai would not bow to Haman; some of the king’s servants questioned Mordecai and discovered that he was a Jew. This information was given to Haman, and he went to the king. He convinced Ahasuerus to send out a proclamation that all Jews in the kingdom were to be killed on a certain day.
Mordecai sent word to Esther telling her to go before the king to save the lives of her people. Among other things he said, “…who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” Esther fully understood the danger she would be in, and sent this answer to Mordecai:
“Go, gather together all the Jews that are present in Shushan, and fast ye for me, and neither eat nor drink three days, night or day: I also and my maidens will fast likewise; and so will I go in unto the king, which is not according to the law: and if I perish, I perish.” (4:15-16)
After the three days of fasting, “Esther put on her royal apparel, and stood in the inner court of the king’s house.” When the king saw her standing there, he “held out to Esther the golden scepter that was in his hand. So Esther drew near, and touched the top of the scepter.” The king asked Esther what she wanted, and she invited the king and Haman to a banquet in Esther’s apartment.
The king and Haman came to the banquet, and the king asked Esther again to tell him what she wanted. She asked the king and Haman to come to another banquet the next day. Haman was proud to be the only man besides the king to be invited to eat with the queen, not just once but twice, but he became very angry when he saw Mordecai. He told his wife and friends how he felt, and they suggested he build a gallows fifty cubits high and ask the king to hang Mordecai for disobeying the king’s command.
Unknown to Haman, the king was not able to sleep that very night and asked for the book of records to be brought to him. There in the book of records was mention of a man named Mordecai who had saved the king’s life. The king desired to know what honors had been bestowed on Mordecai and was told that nothing had been done. The king called Haman in and asked him how the king could show great honor to a man. Haman, being a proud man, thought the king was talking about him, and told him to put the royal apparel on the man and take him through the streets on horseback proclaiming his greatness to all the people. Then the king told Haman to make haste and do that exact thing with Mordecai. This of course caused Haman to be even more angry.
The king and Haman came to Esther’s second banquet, and the king asked Esther “What is thy petition…?” “If I have found favour in thy sight, O king, and if it please the king, let my life be given me at my petition, and my people at my request….” The king of course wanted to know who would presume to do such a thing as kill the queen and her people. She answered, “The adversary and enemy is this wicked Haman.” The king was so angry that he left the room to walk in the garden for a few minutes; when he returned he found Haman making a request for his life to Esther. The king thought Haman was forcing himself upon Esther and commanded that Haman be hung on the gallows prepared to hang Mordecai. The king took the house of Haman and gave it to Mordecai; he then took the ring that he had taken from Haman and gave it to Mordecai. “Esther then set Mordecai over the house of Haman.”
Finally, Esther had an opportunity to discuss with the king the decree that all her people were to be killed on a certain day. The king could not remember making such an order and asked his scribes to find it in the record. They searched the record and found the decree. The king could not take it back, but he made a new decree for the Jews to gather together and to defend themselves. The decree went out. “And in every province, and in every city, whithersoever the king’s commandment and his decree came, the Jews had joy and gladness, a feast and a good day. And many of the people of the land became Jews; for the fear of the Jews fell upon them.” (8:17) This day of joy and gladness is commemorated by Jews as the Fast of Esther or Purim.
As reported by The Blaze, “Religious Jews are drawing parallels between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s address next week to Congress, which has earned the ire of the Obama administration, and the experiences of the biblical Esther who made the case to Persia’s king on behalf of the Jewish people to halt the designs of a hate-consumed official to annihilate the Jews.
“The faithful have been sharing their thoughts on social media and have pointed to the timing of Netanyahu’s speech, March 3, which happens to fall on the eve of the Fast of Esther, when Jews commemorate the three-day fast Queen Esther asked the Jews to undertake while they repented and prayed she would succeed in her mission to convince King Ahasuerus to scuttle the evil Haman’s genocidal plans.”
The Obama administration is upset with Netanyahu because he accepted an invitation from House Speaker Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio) to speak to Congress; the administration described it as a “break in diplomatic protocol.”
“Some religious leaders have noted that the same kind of break in protocol was key to the Jews’ redemption in the Book of Esther. The Jewish holiday of Purim, which this year is celebrated March 5, marks Esther’s success in her mission to thwart Haman’s destructive plan.”
Could Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu be a man who has “come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” Please join me in praying for the nation of Israel as well as the Prime Minister that he can indeed save his people from the evil men and women who seek to destroy them from the face of the earth.