Study Notes

Esther 2:1-4:17


The last time we met, we looked at chapter one of the book of Esther. We saw that King Akh-ash-vay-ROSH ended up divorcing his wife Queen Vash-TEE because she didn't obey his drunken order to appear in front of every drunken man in town to display her beauty. This gave rise for us to examine the damage that men do to their marriages by abusing alcohol and participating in other ungodly behaviors.

2:1 Post-Anger Regrets

After he wasn't seeing red any longer, he realized that he missed Vash-TEE. Why had he done such a lame-brained thing as divorce her? From years of experience, I can tell you that decisions made in anger will always be regretted when looked back upon. The Bible says,

Prov. 19:19 {A man of} great anger shall bear the penalty...

There is always a price to pay, and a punishment incurred for decisions made in anger.

2:2-4 The Attendants Ideas

Knowing the king's depression over the matter, his attendants offered a suggestion: "Why not fill up your harem with women, and let the one you like best become the queen?"

This is a classic example of the world's answer to relationships: "Be in as many relationships as possible, to make sure you're finding the right partner. You've got to play the field. You don't know what you're missing if you never look around." Teenagers are encouraged to date many people, to be intimate with them to find out if they're "compatible."

This flies in the face of God's ways, Who...

Mark 10:6-8 "...from the beginning of creation, MADE THEM MALE AND FEMALE. FOR THIS CAUSE A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER, AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH; consequently they are no longer two, but one flesh. "

When we follow the world's ways, there is a trail of violated bodies, broken hearts, and crushed spirits. When we follow God's ways, there is purity, simplicity, and stability.

2:5-6 Mordecai

Mor-dek-AH-ee was the son of Yaw-ERE, grandson of Shim-EE, and great-grandson of Keesh, who was one of the Jews taken into exile by Nebuchadnezzar. They were Benjamites, the tribe from which Israel's first king, Saul, came.

2:7 Esther

Mor-dek-AH-ee had taken on the responsibility of raising his cousin Had-as-SAW, who is known in history by her Persian name, Esther. She was like a daughter to him.

2:8-9 Esther Finds Favor

Many women were gathered to Shoo-SHAN, the capital city, in the king's palace. They were put under the charge of Hay-GAH-ee. He was one of the eunuchs who served the king in the palace.

Eunuchs were men who had been castrated so that they would be faithful in fulfilling their job. Often, kings wouldn't trust anyone else to be in charge of the harem, or even to serve as attendants or treasurers, assuming they would not be motivated to use their proximity to the king as an opportunity to assassinate him and take the throne, since he would not have any sons to continue the new dynasty.

In this case, Hay-GAH-ee the eunuch showed Esther favoritism, giving her the best of everything available.

2:10-11 A Caring Uncle

Mor-dek-AH-ee demonstrated his care and concern for Esther by daily getting as close as he could to where she was staying, to see if he could hear any news about her.

2:12-17 Esther Chosen As Queen

A lot is made about the Greek words for love being so specific: there are different words for friendship love, sexual love, etc.

But here in Hebrew, the word used when we read "the king loved Esther" is just like our English word for love: it can mean anything from friendship to sex to "I love my new shoes" and "I love chocolate cake."

So there is no way to tell whether the king genuinely loved Esther with his heart, or, as the NIV says, "...the king was attracted to Esther more than to any of the other women."

2:18-20 A Banquet For Esther

King Akh-ash-vay-ROSH declared a holiday because of the new queen. Still, no one knew that she was a member of the race who had been forcibly brought to this nation in the Babylonian Captivity, two generations earlier.

2:21-23 Mordecai Uncovers A Plot

Most of the commentaries say that Mor-dek-AH-ee is sitting at the king's gate because Esther has used her new position as queen to have him exalted to some high position in the government. However, there are a lot of problems with that. Number one, she does not have any sort of authority, as is clear when you continue to read the story. Number two, the gate is populated by lots of people, including the king's servants (3:2-3). Thirdly, Mor-dek-AH-ee is anonymous in the kingdom, as is evident all throughout the book.

My understanding of Mor-dek-AH-ee being at the king's gate is this: When Esther was in the court of the harem, Mor-dek-AH-ee walked back and forth in front of it every day, to find out how Esther was doing. Now that Esther is queen, he is sitting at the king's gate every day for the same reason.

Now, because of his love, care, and concern for this adopted daughter of his, Mor-dek-AH-ee is in just the right place to overhear plans for an assassination attempt on the king. He reveals it, and the plot is thwarted. However, other than having his name written down, Mor-dek-AH-ee remains anonymous and unrewarded. This is a major plot point which will become evident in chapter six.

This is comforting to me, because there are plenty of nice things I've done that I've never gotten credit for, never received a "thank you," or a reward. There is a pessimistic saying that says, "no good deed ever goes unpunished," but I find solace in the fact that God's Word says that the good you do in secret will be rewarded and repaid (Matt. 6).

3:1 Haman Comes To Power

Now comes another plot development: Haw-MAWN, the son of Ha-med-aw-THAW, rises to power as second-in-command of the kingdom. This man is so wicked, that when the book of Esther is read each year on the Feast of Poo-REEM, the Jews hiss and stamp their feet each time his name is read.

3:2-6 Mordecai Refuses To Bow

The king had commanded that people bow in worship when Haw-MAWN passed by. And so when Haw-MAWN passed, all of the king's servants would bow. But Mor-dek-AH-ee never did.

Now, the Jews don't have a problem bowing to show respect - they would bow to their kings and their elders. But they do have a problem worshipping anyone besides the Lord. I think this is an issue that we need to be aware of, because I have run into Christians who won't show respect to anyone. They claim that it violates some kind of commandment. But in fact, wives are to respect their husbands (Eph. 5:33), we are to respect our fathers (Heb. 12:9), and our employers (1Pet. 2:18). We are just not to worship anyone but the Lord.

Mor-dek-AH-ee refused to bow, because it was an act of worship, not of respect. When the king's servants hassled him about this, he told them it was because he was a Jew, and shared his conviction. But each day, they confronted him, and each day he refused to give in. Finally, the matter was brought to Haw-MAWN. Haw-MAWN decided that it wouldn't be enough to punish only Mor-dek-AH-ee. He would have all of the Jews in the kingdom destroyed, so that no one would ever refuse to bow to him again.

3:7 The Lot Cast Before Haman

As Haw-MAWN plotted against the Jews, he had the lot cast before him. The casting of lots was much the same as rolling the dice or drawing straws. It is an action that is supposed to bring about an answer or selection by means of random chance or divine intervention. It was practiced by many cultures throughout the centuries. Even the Roman soldiers at the foot of the cross cast lots to see who would get Jesus' clothes.

In this case, the lot was being cast over each day of the year, to figure out what day the Jews should be destroyed. What they did not plan on was that the Bible says,

Prov. 16:33 The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD.

God was in control of the lot. So, as they cast the lots in the first month, the date which came up was in the 12th month. God was giving the Jews a full year to let this plan be exposed and prepared for!

3:8-11 Haman's Lie

Haw-MAWN told the king that the Jews did not observe the king's laws. This was exaggeration at best, and a false accusation at worst. In reality, it was one man disobeying one law. Jesus said that the devil is the father of all lies (John 8:44): even those of simple exaggeration. When an evangelist claims, "Hundreds of people came to Christ," when in reality, is was a few dozen, he is speaking with the devil's words. When we say, "Everyone agrees with my side of the argument," we are guilty, even if most do agree.

An Agagite's Plan Of Destruction

Haw-MAWN's suggested plan was to completely destroy the Jews. This too is the work of the devil, which he has tried to perpetrate throughout history, even to the present day.

But I want to point something out, something that gave the devil a foothold in this situation.

You may recall that, centuries before, when Saul was king of Israel, he was commanded by God,

1Sam. 15:3 "..Go and strike Amalek and utterly destroy all that he has, and do not spare him; but put to death both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey."

Everyone and everything of the Amalekites was to be utterly destroyed. However, when Saul defeated them, he...

1Sam. 15:9 ...spared Agag and the best of the sheep, the oxen, the fatlings, the lambs, and all that was good, and were not willing to destroy them utterly...

The Amalekites were all destroyed, with the exception of Agag, their king. He was allowed to live. And because of that one "little" compromise, the race continued, and the Agagites produced a man named Ha-med-aw-THAW, whose son was named Haw-MAWN.

Because the Jews didn't obey the Lord to wipe out the Amalekites, their descendants are now here to wipe out the Jews. One small disobedience to God's command can result in our destruction.

3:12-15 Letters Sent By Couriers

The entire Persian Empire had a system of messengers famous throughout the ancient world. Men and horses stationed along the main roads one day's journey apart. Messages were passed like an Olympic relay race, traveling as fast as humanly possible for the day. Thus, the edict against the Jews was quickly communicated to the entire empire.

4:1-3 Sackcloth And Ashes

The people of Shoo-SHAN were of course the first to hear of the decree, since it originated in their city. Mor-dek-AH-ee grieved terribly over this news, demonstrating outwardly what his heart felt inwardly.

4:4 Garments Sent

When Esther heard that her adopted father was at the king's gate looking and acting in a grievous manner, she was terribly disturbed - probably wondering why in the world he was acting this way. She had new clothes sent out to him, but he refused to put them on.

4:5-9 Finding Out The Cause

Esther sent out Hath-AWK, the eunuch who attended to her, to find out what what going on. Mor-dek-AH-ee told him and gave him a copy of the decree for Esther to read. He told Esther through the eunuch's message that he wanted her to plead with the king about this decree.

4:10-12 The Golden Scepter

Unlike some of the familiar queens of England, Esther was not powerful in the kingdom. Not only was she not aware of this proclamation, but she wasn't even allowed into the throne room unless she was called for. And it had been more than a month since the king had even seen her.

If she entered the throne room without being summoned, it would mean death for her unless he held out the scepter, which was the symbol of the government's power to administer capital punishment.

4:13-14 For Such A Time As This

Mor-dek-AH-ee gave the straight information to Esther: "Just because you're in the palace doesn't mean you'll escape this decree. The fact is, the Jews are going to be delivered. The question is, are you going to recognize that you've been put in this position for a reason?"

The Persian palace was an ungodly place, and it's harem had a carnal atmosphere. Esther was surrounded by unrighteousness, and could have questioned every day why God allowed her to be there. But in one single day, it would all make sense. In one day, it was made obvious. Maybe your job, your neighborhood, or your family situation has caused you to question whether God knows what He's doing. Has He forsaken you? Does He not care? Does He not know what He's doing? He has nor forsaken you, He does care, and He does know what He's doing.

One day, you will have the occasion to say, "For such a time as this I was put here. For such a time as this, I had to endure all that has come before. For such a time as this, my life followed that difficult path."

4:15-17 If I Perish, I Perish

Esther asked for prayer support for three days, and submitted herself to God. "If I perish, I perish," she said. There are people who flippantly say, "Lord,

Matt. 26:35 ..."Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You."...

But when face to face with the reality of death, people often change their story, saying...

Matt. 26:72 ..."I do not know the man."

I pray that if our love for God's people and faith in God's Word is ever tested in such a way, we will be able to say, "I will do what is right, and if I perish, I perish."

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