The Story of Esther (Part 1)
- Be amazed at Esther's courage and willingness to speak for God's people.
- Praise God for being faithful to us today.
- Suggest ways God can prepare us and use us to help God's people.
This is a great story. There's Esther, the young, brave, and beautiful Jewish girl who becomes queen of the Persian Empire in a kind of beauty pageant. There's Mordecai, her wise and crafty cousin and caretaker. And finally, there's the wicked noble Haman, who seeks to wipe out all the Jews in the empire.
There's just one problem: nowhere in the entire story is there any mention of God. No prayers specifically to God, no worship of God, no acknowledgment of God's hand, not even a word of thanks to God after Haman's plot was thwarted. The entire story seems to be about human courage and wit. But, as we shall see, there are hints along the way of faith in God.
It's remarkable that this book found its way into the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures despite the seeming absence of God. Seeming is the operative word. In this time and place God worked through Esther to save his covenant people from destruction.
The present queen commits a royal faux pas by not coming at the king's command. So he sets out looking for another queen to take her place. Esther comes to the king's attention entirely for her beauty. In contrast to Daniel, Esther is very "secularized," and her cousin Mordecai tells her not to even reveal she is a Jewess. She blends in with the rest of the women involved in the "twelve-month beauty treatment" (2:12) before she becomes a part of the king's harem. When Esther is finally invited to be with the king for a night, he's mesmerized by her beauty and makes her queen in place of the rebellious Vashti.
Enter Haman the Agagite . That little hint links us to a long history of enmity between the Agagites (linked to the Amelekites) and Israel, which may also give some idea of the reason for Haman's deep hatred for the Jews. (See Ex. 17:8-16 and 1 Sam. 15:20, and notes in the NIV Study Bible for 2:5 and 3:1 and 2-6.) Haman loves the way people bow before him wherever he goes but notices that a certain Mordecai does not bow. (This is the only hint in the story that Mordecai might not bow down for religious reasons.) Haman finds out that Mordecai is a Jew and spins a plot to have all the Jews destroyed, relying on his special position with the king to make it happen.
As a classic example of xenophobic racism, Haman tells the king about a group of conquered people who are "different" and who don't follow the customs of the Persians (another hint that many Jews had kept their own laws and customs). The king, who does not come across as particularly bright in this story, lets Haman carry out his plot to wipe out the Jews.
Mordecai finds out about the plot and sees only one way to prevent it---through Esther using her new position as queen to influence the king against Haman. But this means that Esther will have to have an audience with the king, and as Esther points out, no one gets in to see the king without being summoned by him.
Mordecai gives it to her straight. "If you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place." (Is this an act of faith?) And "who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this" (4:14). Esther sends back a message for Mordecai to call a fast among all the Jews. (Is this a veiled form of prayer?) "I will go to the king, even if it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish," Esther says.
When the dramatic moment comes, the king is "pleased with her," holds out the gold scepter, and she touches it. And now everything is about to change.
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