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Esther, 7

Queen Esther put her life at risk for her people: but first she consulted her brain to use the king’s weaknesses. Haman was executed, and her cousin Mordecai was made prime minister, but what could he do about the king’s decree to kill Jews on the day set by the rolling of the dice.

“Send a message to the Jews, telling them whatever you decide,” said the king, “I am afraid an edict signed by my ring can never be reversed.”

Mordecai ordered the king’s secretaries to send another message throughout the land, permitting the Jews to fight back and kill those who came to kill them on the same day Haman had ordered their killing. Swift messengers were sent to the 127 provinces with notices bearing the king’s seal. Esther probably had a hand in that message.

On February 28th of that year Jews fought back their attackers, killings 500 men in the city and 75,000 throughout the land. Many of the people pretended to be Jews to avoid being killed. Then Mordecai put on royal robes and went out in the city where he was greeted with great joy.

Mordecai wrote a history of these events. He was a wise and thoughtful adviser to the king, and was greatly acclaimed by the people. So it is, throughout Israel and the world the Feast of Purim is celebrated, commemorating the “throwing of the dice” to determine the day when Jews were to be killed, but were saved by the efforts of Esther and her cousin Mordecai.

I do not know what happened to Esther, for I could find no reference to sons and daughters or her life after these events. Perhaps she returned to the royal harem where Mordecai visited her often, and there she was treated by all who knew her with respect and dignity.

Some say the story is a myth, based on Greek legend. Today it is widely believed and the Feast of Purim is celebrated each year by feasting and the giving of gifts according to Jewish tradition.

Xerxes was murdered in 465 BC by the commander of his royal bodyguard. Being a king is a dangerous business.

I believe God values women, and saves some of the most important work in his kingdom for them, and they do it well. He leads us in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. I love to tell the story, especially Bible stories; old, old stories about the workings of God in our sinful world.

Happy Easter! That’s another great story.

Esther, 6

That night the king could not sleep. He ordered his eunuchs to bring the historical records of his kingdom to him, and in The History of King Ahasuerus’ Reign he read that Mordecai had exposed a plot by two eunuchs to kill him. “What reward did we give Mordecai for saving my life?” he asked his attendants.

“Nothing,” they replied, to his surprise.

The next morning Haman arrived early at court to request the permission of the king to kill Mordecai. The king saw him coming, and summoned him. “What reward can I give to a man with whom I am well pleased?” he asked Haman.

Haman smiled, believing it was he the king wanted to reward, and answered quickly. “You should let him wear your royal robes and let him ride through the city on the royal horse to proclaim that this is the way the king rewards those who please him.

“Excellent,” said the king. “Take these robes and get my horse. Find Mordecai and follow every detail you have said.” Haman had no choice but to obey the king.

Not understanding what had happened, Mordecai went back to work, and an unhappy Haman was summoned to the palace to attend Esther’s banquet with the king.

Again during the wine course the satisfied king asked Esther, “What do you wish for my dear Esther. Whatever it is, I will give it to you, though it cost half my kingdom.”

Esther fell to her knees and wept. “Spare my life dear King, and those of my people. I am a Jew, and Haman has plotted our destruction.” The king was aghast, and walked out onto the terrace to think. Haman approached Esther, but in his confusion tripped on a carpet and fell onto her couch.

The king entered the room to see Haman on his queen. “What!” he exclaimed. “Will you rape my queen before my very eyes?”

“Haman has constructed a gallows in his courtyard,” reported an aide.

“Hang Haman upon it,” the king ordered.

We know God works in mysterious ways, but we see God has a sense of justice, too. Today is Good Friday. God, give us all a sense of mercy and justice as we pray for all.

Esther, 5

Esther knew she was in grave danger if she revealed she was Jewish. Her cousin Mordecai had been her father, and his family were her family, but she was in a unique position in the palace and respected as a queen. Even though the king had not called for her in a month: she could not just “pop into his inner chamber.”

Mordecai sent a message, “If you keep quiet, God will find another way to save his people, but not before your relatives die. You may die too. God put you in the palace for such a time as this.”

Esther sent word to Mordecai, “Gather all the Jews in the city. You must fast and pray for three days. Although it is forbidden, my maids and I will do the same. Then I will got to see the king. If I perish, I perish.” (My pastor said God always answers prayer — in three ways, yes, no, and maybe later. How would God respond to Esther?)

Three days later Esther, dressed in royal robes, approached the king. He held out his scepter and said, “You may approach.”

“I have come to invite you and Haman to a banquet I have prepared for you,” she said.

The king was pleased. “Tell Haman to hurry,” he told his slaves. “Esther has prepared a banquet for us.” At the banquet, and after drinking the wine, the king said, “This is truly an excellent feast. Now tell me what you really want, and I will give it to you, even if it costs half my kingdom.”

“Truly, I only want you and Haman to come to another banquet I will prepare for you tomorrow,” she told him. The king was surprised, but assented.

Haman was delighted by how important he seemed to be, but when he left the palace, he saw Mordecai at the gate. Mordecai did not bow, nor did he seem humble, and this aroused his ire. His anger boiled in him, but what could he do?

He told his wife how important he was becoming, but Mordecai was being disrespectful. His wife had an idea. “You must erect a 75 foot pole on our property, and in the morning get the king’s permission to hang him now,” she advised.

Immediately Haman ordered the construction of a 75 foot pole to hang Mordecai in the morning.

Esther, 4

When the king demanded a second bevy of beautiful girls, Esther resided in her harem apartment, knowing she could not approach the king until she was summoned.

Then the king appointed Haman, who had no love for Jews, Prime Minister. To ingratiate himself to the king, Haman suggested a law requiring all to bow down before his majesty. The idea pleased King Xerxes, and so the law was passed, and everyone bowed his head  when the king passed by.

Mordecai refused to bow his head to any man, and Haman moved against all Jews to rid the country of them. Haman told the king, “There is a group of people scattered throughout the country who refuse to bow down to your royal highness, and therefore they have no right to live in this kingdom. I suggest they be destroyed. Issue a decree and I will pay your treasury $20,000,000 for the expenses involve in this purge.”

“How dare they offend the king! Keep your money, but do as you think best,” the king replied.

Haman joyfully rolled dice to determine the propitious date to carry out his plan. He sent letters sealed with the king’s ring to the rulers of all the provinces, informing them all Jews must be killed on February 28th, and their property given to those who killed them. Then Haman and the king sat down for a drinking spree as all about them fell into panic and confusion.

When Mordecai learned what Haman had done, he tore his clothes and put on sackcloth and ashes in mourning. He wept outside the palace gates, for no one wearing mourning was permitted inside. Throughout the 127 provinces there was much weeping and wailing.

Esther wondered why Mordecai had stopped his frequent visits. She heard nothing until her eunuch told her Mordecai stood outside the gates weeping and wearing mourning. She sent the eunuch with clothing to fetch him, but he refused to come. Esther sent another eunuch to get the story, and Mordecai sent him back with a copy of the king’s decree dooming all Jews. He begged her to go to the king to plead for her people.

But how could she? She had not been called to the king for a month, and she did not know when she would be summoned again. Appearing before him in his inner sanctum without his request was punishable by death.

Mordecai replied, “Do you think you will escape when all the other Jews are killed? If you keep quiet at a time such as this, God will deliver Jews from another source, but you and your relatives will be dead. Perhaps God put you in the palace for such a time as this.”

 

Esther, 3

When the king’s anger cooled, he missed Queen Vashti. She had been a lovely addition to his court, and he would never see her again. He became despondent and lonely without her, causing his aides to worry about him.

“Let us go find the most beautiful girls in the kingdom, and bring them to the palace for your pleasure. The eunuchs in charge of the harem will give them beauty treatments. The one who pleases you most will replace Queen Vashti,” they said.

The king smiled at the cleverness of his aides. The suggestion appealed to him and he said, “Put your plan into effect immediately.”

Now there was a Jew working at the palace. He had been captured and exiled to Babylon when Jerusalem was destroyed. Mordecai had adopted his young cousin when her parents died and raised her as his own. Esther was taken to the palace with many other beautiful girls, but Mordecai warned her not to tell anyone she was Jewish. “No one. Never,” he told her, and she obeyed her cousin, a second father.

The eunuch in charge of the harem was impressed by Esther’s beauty and charm. He arranged special beauty treatments, gave her seven maids and a most luxurious apartment. She told no one she was Jewish, and Mordecai came to see her every day to find out what was happening to her.

Upon being taken to the king, the girls were given their choice of clothing and jewels to enhance their beauty. The next morning they were taken to the harem where the king’s wives lived, remaining there the rest of their lives or until they were summoned again. They could not venture to see the king again unless he called for them by name. To do so would result in death.

In the seventh year of the king’s reign, Esther was summoned. Disregarding rich clothing and jewels, she dressed quietly and simply, letting her loveliness shine in her quiet demeanor. The king was greatly impressed. He set the crown upon her head, and he called her his queen, calling for a huge party.

On duty at the palace, Mordecai overheard two of the king’s eunuchs, B and T, plotting to kill the king. He told Esther, and she told the king, giving Mordecai the credit for the information. It proved to be true, and the eunuchs were impaled on poles.

All of this was reported by the scribes in the book of history, The History of King Ahasuerus’ Reign. 

Esther, 2

“To err is human; to forgive, divine.” Forgive my error naming the eunuchs. They were M, B 1, H, B 2, A, C, Z. King Xerxes sent his eunuchs to fetch his beautiful Queen Vashti. She refused to come.  We can only imagine why she disobeyed the command of the king. Perhaps she looked into the mirror to confirm her beauty and noticed she was having a bad hair day, or possibly she was drinking wine and having a good time with the women at her party. More likely, she didn’t want to display her beauty to drunken fools. With deliberation, she defied her king.

The king was furious. He consulted his cabinet, for kings do nothing without first seeking advice from lawyers and administrators. Those wise men were C, S, A, T, M 2, M 2, M 3,  (You can see why I became confused.) They knew Persian law and the temper of the times, as well as being his personal friends.

“What shall we do about this situation?” the king asked. “My queen refused to obey my orders.”

“This is indeed a serious situation,” they told the king and hastily conferred.

M 3 spoke for them all. “We believe the queen has offended the king, but every man in the kingdom will be angry when their wives learn what the queen has done and begin to refuse to obey their husbands. Throughout the land the husbands will hold you in contempt. We suggest you banish the queen forever, and that you choose a queen more worthy of you. Then husbands will be respected by their wives, and every man will rule his own home.”

The king thought this was a wise plan, and urged them to carry it out quickly. Queen  Vashti was banished from the kingdom.

The Bible does not follow the queen, but I suspect she was not sorry to get away. Possibly she had grown tired of the king’s arrogance and demands. Because she was practical as well as beautiful, she packed all her clothes and jewelry and returned to her father and brothers where she was greatly adored and pampered. Rank has its privileges, but so do beautiful women. That is my opinion.

God wanted Queen Vashti out of the palace for His reasons, and we will see why.

A Short History of Esther, 1

I love to tell the story, especially when it’s true, and Bible stories do not suffer much in their retelling, if we do not embellish with too many imaginative details.

The Bible tells of Esther in a short book after Nehemiah and before the book of Job. The reader learns God is at work to fulfill his purpose before the purpose has been disclosed. As in our last blogs about Martha Washington, the power and resiliency of women are revealed.

About 500 BC in Persia, King Xerxes (also called Ahasuerus) threw a party. He was ruler of 127 provinces, stretching from India to Ethiopia. In the third year of his reign, he invited to his palace their rulers to a celebration showing off the wealth and splendor (power) of his empire and lasting six months.

When the celebration was over, he invited those in his palace who had helped him with the event to a special party. For seven days of merry-making his guests enjoyed the beauty of the gardens, wonderful food, and the best wines poured abundantly. The King said, “Everyone can have as much wine as he pleases. Let no glass go empty.”

Meanwhile his Queen, the beautiful Vashti, gave a party for the women of the palace. There was much singing and dancing, delicious refreshments, and wine. The women were having a glorious time while their men were being entertained by the king.

On the final day of his party, the king (probably emboldened by wine) called his eunuchs to bring forth his beautiful wife so all his guests could gaze upon her matchless beauty.

The seven eunuchs were C, S, A, T, M1, M2, and M3. (I don’t know why that is an important detail, but it must be. The Old Testament seems big on names.) The seven eunuchs were the king’s personal slaves. Only castrated men could wait upon the king and queen without impugning the modesty of the monarchs. The queen was additionally served by female attendants, who could be called upon to serve the king.

I should have warned you this is an X rated story. Possibly you noticed Xerxes has two Xs: but the Old Testament is filled with such stories. They are history, and the farther back you look, the more civilized our generation seems (on it’s surface).

Our topic is Esther, and we’ll get to her soon.