The Book of Esther (Part 10: The Extra Ordinary Way God Saves His People)

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The Book of Esther (Part 10: The Extra Ordinary Way God Saves His People)

God’s Deliverance

The day of death arrived. On the thirteenth of the twelfth month, the month of Adar, exactly one year since the writing of the death decree by Haman and its signing with the king’s signet ring, the assault upon the Jews occurred.

 

Yet the assault was counteracted by a defense decree written by Mordecai and signed with the same signet ring of the king. The “enemies of the Jews had hoped to overpower them,” but “the opposite occurred, in that the Jews themselves overpowered those who hated them.”[1] The strategy of the Jews was to gather together in order to provide a stronger defense.[2]

 

What is clear from this passage is that, even with Haman dead, the Jews still had enemies throughout the empire who sought and hoped to destroy them. Among those who tried to lay hands on the Jews were the ten sons of Haman, all named in this passage. However, the attack did not succeed, and not only because the Jews were allowed to defend themselves. God directly intervened to save his elect people. Under inspiration, Ellen White wrote:

 

Angels that excel in strength had been commissioned by God to protect His people while they ‘stood for their lives.’[3]

 

Divine Providence was at work to save Esther and Mordecai’s lives, and divine providence was once again at work for the salvation of all the Jews. Aside from their counterattack and the divine aid,

 

all the officials of the provinces, the satraps, the governors, and all those doing the king’s work, helped the Jews, because the fear of Mordecai fell upon them. For Mordecai was great in the king’s palace, and his fame spread throughout all the provinces; for this man Mordecai became increasingly prominent. (Esther 9:3-5).

 

It is astonishing what the influence of a person in power can accomplish, and the text doesn’t leave us in doubt about the extent of Mordecai’s influence:

 

  • Mordecai was great in the king’s palace,
  • his fame spread throughout all the provinces,
  • this man Mordecai became increasingly prominent.

 

The Third Request of the Queen

 

Once again, a conversation between the king and the queen is provided, and once again, the conversation is about her petition and the king’s willingness to grant it. However, this time there is no record of Esther going before the king, although the verbiage is somewhat indicative of an encounter similar to the previous ones. Esther’s desire is that the Jews in Shushan be given another day to defend themselves.

 

This is quite a strange request since technically there should be no need for defense on the fourteenth, seen that the original decree only allowed for a single attack, on the thirteenth. Her request suggests that the hatred towards the Jews might lead to a second attempt at their destruction, an attempt that would appear to the Bible reader to be unwarranted by law. Indeed, that was the case, as we read that another three hundred attackers were killed on the fourteenth, in addition to the five hundred destroyed on the thirteenth.

 

Additionally, Esther requests the king that Haman’s sons be hanged. This is also a little strange since we read in verse 6 that the ten brothers had already been killed on the thirteenth. It is unclear whether this was a personal preference, or a practice meant to discourage future attacks against her people. Her wish being granted, the ten sons of the man who had once been the most powerful after the king were hanged.

 

The text records two things about the two fighting days:

 

  1. the Jews succeeded, and
  2. “they did not lay a hand on the plunder.”[4]

 

Mordecai’s decree allowed the Jews to defend themselves and “to plunder [the] possessions” of the attackers.[5] Yet the Jews did not pillage their enemies, and the passage emphasizes that neither the Jews in the capital,[6] nor those in the provinces[7] pillaged their attackers.

 

Most likely, children and women did not participate in the attack. If seventy-five thousand men were killed in the provinces[8] and eight hundred in the capital,[9] a large number of households were left without fathers and husbands. The restraint on the part of the Jews is commendable, likely allowing the women and children to survive.

 

The Focal Point of the Esther

 

The fight between the Jews and their enemies is not described in detail, because the focus of the story is not on the technicalities involved. The focus of this story of salvation is on the divine providence, without which neither Esther’s, nor Mordecai’s life, or the lives of the other Jews would have been spared. It is a story of the triumph God’s people experienced largely due to the divine grace and intervention.

 

The grace is evident not only in the providential circumstances but in the very fact that God continued to protect and draw to himself his elect children, despite their disobedience that caused their exile. From Eden to the slavery in Egypt, to the conquest of Canaan, to the exile in Babylon in Medo-Persia, to the challenges under the Roman Empire, to the formation of the Christian Church, and up until the very end of time, God’s heartfelt desire has been to reestablish a covenantal relationship with his beloved children, their shortcomings and waywardness notwithstanding.

 

To be sure, the salvation of the Jews in the book of Esther is a historical event that has inspired faith in God and his purposes for ages. Yet this historical record of past events is also a prefiguration of future actions. Ellen White draws a powerful parallel between the story of Esther and the end-time events, worth relating in full here:

 

The trying experiences that came to God’s people in the days of Esther were not peculiar to that age alone. The revelator, looking down the ages to the close of time, has declared, ‘The dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.’ Revelation 12:17. … The same spirit that in ages past led men to persecute the true church, will in the future lead to the pursuance of a similar course toward those who maintain their loyalty to God. Even now preparations are being made for this last great conflict.

The decree that will finally go forth against the remnant people of God will be very similar to that issued by Ahasuerus against the Jews. Today the enemies of the true church see in the little company keeping the Sabbath commandment, a Mordecai at the gate. The reverence of God’s people for His law is a constant rebuke to those who have cast off the fear of the Lord and are trampling on His Sabbath.

Satan will arouse indignation against the minority who refuse to accept popular customs and traditions. Men of position and reputation will join with the lawless and the vile to take counsel against the people of God. Wealth, genius, education, will combine to cover them with contempt. Persecuting rulers, ministers, and church members will conspire against them. With voice and pen, by boasts, threats, and ridicule, they will seek to overthrow their faith. By false representations and angry appeals, men will stir up the passions of the people. Not having a ‘Thus saith the Scriptures’ to bring against the advocates of the Bible Sabbath, they will resort to oppressive enactments to supply the lack. To secure popularity and patronage, legislators will yield to the demand for Sunday laws. But those who fear God, cannot accept an institution that violates a precept of the Decalogue. On this battlefield will be fought the last great conflict in the controversy between truth and error. And we are not left in doubt as to the issue. Today, as in the days of Esther and Mordecai, the Lord will vindicate His truth and His people.[10]

The story of Esther is not only an ancient story of triumph, it is a permanent reassurance to contemporary Christians that the same God who rescued his people then, will lead his people into triumph during the final events before his second coming on Earth.

Click here to read the rest of Adelina’s series on the Book of Esther

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Notes.

[1] Esther 9:1.

[2] Esther 9:2.

[3] Ellen G. White, Prophets and Kings (Nampa, ID: Pacific Press, 1917), p. 602.

[4] Esther 9:10, 15-16.

[5] Esther 9:11.

[6] Esther 9:10, 15.

[7] Esther 9:16.

[8] Esther 9:16.

[9] Esther 9:10, 15.

[10] Ellen G. White, Prophets and Kings (1917), p. 605-606; emphasis supplied.

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About the author

Adelina Alexe is a Ph.D. student in systematic theology at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary. She loves God and enjoys nature, arts, and meaningful conversation. Her special research interests are narrative theology and hermeneutics.