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The Expulsion of Vashti Decreed
The Elevation of Esther Accomplished
The Extermination of the Jews Planned
Haman's Conspiracy Against the Jews
Esther Agrees to Help the Jews
The Extermination of the Jews Thwarted
The Exaltation of Mordecai

The Extermination of the Jews Planned
Esther 3:1-4:17

Haman's Conspiracy Against the Jews

Esther 3:1-15

  • Haman got promoted by the king. (v. 1)
  • Haman is an Agagite. (v. 1) What is an Agagite? A decendant of Agag, an ancient Amalekite king. The Amalekites had tried to annihilate the Israelites as they journeyed from Egypt to the promised land (Exodus 17:8-16). The Lord had commanded Israel to retaliate by annihilating the Amalekites after Israel had gained control of the land (Deut. 25:17-19), but King Saul failed to obey that command when he spared Agag (1 Samuel 15:9) and apparently, some of his offspring (see 1 Chronicles 4:42-43). (Quest Study Bible)
  • Notice that the effects of disobeying God can be far-reaching - they can sometimes be seen lifetimes after the original disobeyment.
  • By the king's command, everyone had to bow and pay homage to Haman. Everyone did, except Mordecai. (v. 2)
  • Why didn't Mordecai bow to Haman? Because he recognized that Haman was a decendant of enemies of the Jews. Mordecai refused to offer respect to Haman.
  • Note that Mordecai is taking an unpopular stance on an issue. He receives determination because of his faith in God. Even though the position is not necessarily popular, Mordecai knows it is the position that God wanted him to take, so he took it.
  • What are other examples of people taking an unpopular stance on an issue because they believe they are following God's will? How can we know if such people are following God's will instead of their own will?
  • Everyone asked Mordecai why he didn't bow and pay homage, but he didn't listen to them. (v. 3-4)
  • People told Haman about how Mordecai wasn't bowing, etc. and that it was because he was a Jew. (v. 4)
  • Why did Mordecai reveal his nationality when he had told Esther to conceal hers? In Esther's case, it was for her protection to hide her Jewish heritage. In Mordecai's case, he needed an explaination for why he did not obey the king's command, and by disclosing his Jewish heritage, he showed what his reason was.
  • When Haman saw what was going on, he became very angry. (v. 5)
  • Haman should have ignored Mordecai. It would have turned out better for everyone involved. Are there times when we let ourselves become angry over seemingly insignificant events?
  • Haman did not dare to attack Mordecai directly, but instead decided to kill all the Jews. (v. 6)
  • Haman cast lots to determine when he should plan for the destruction of the Jews. (v. 7)
  • Haman's casting of lots is a point where diven intervention can be seen. The lots that came up were almost a year away, which gave Esther lots of time to plead her case before the king.
  • Haman makes a case to the king that the Jews are spread throughout the kingdom and that they don't obey the laws of the king. (v. 8)
  • Haman suggests that all the Jews be killed and he offers to pay for the extermination project. (v. 8-9)
  • The king went along with the plan and gave Haman authority to execute it. (v. 10-11)
  • By agreeing with Haman's plan, the king has unknowingly given permission to have his own wife killed. Neither Haman nor the king know about Esther's heritage at this point, because she has been doing a good job of keepig it a secret.
  • Haman had a decree written up and distributed through the entire kingdom. (v. 12)
  • The decree authorized the killing of Jews on a certain day. (v. 13)
  • Susa is perplexed by the new order. (v 15)
  • Whi is Susa perplexed? Most likely, the order did not appear to make sense to most people who heard about it. They would not have necessarily known about the historical fued between the Jews and the Amalekites. They also would have seen the Jews as productive, hard-working, peaceful members of society.
  • Anti-Semitism is an overwhelming theme of this chapter. Anti-Semitism has been a destructive force throughout history and continues to be destructive today.

Esther Agrees to Help the Jews

Esther 4:1-17

  • When Mordecai heard about the decrees, he put on sackcloth and wept bitterly. (v. 1)
  • Mordecai came up to the king's gate, but no further, because no one was able to enter the king's gate dressed in sackcloth. (v. 2)
  • In all of the provinces, the Jews responded by mourning, fasting, weeping, and wailing. (v. 3)
  • Esther's attendants came to tell Esther about Mordecai. She sent garments to cloth Mordecai, but he refused them. (v. 4)
  • Esther's initial reaction is to put a "band-aid" on the problem. She must know that there is a serious reason that Mordecai is acting like this, but instead of trying to find out what that reason, her initial reaction is to try and address the surface problem, instead of the root.
  • Esther ordered one of her attendants, Hathach, to go to Mordecai to find out why he was morning. (v. 5)
  • Communicating with women in the king's harem was difficult and had to take place through intermediataries.
  • When Hathach asked Mordecai about it, Mordecai told him about the decree. He gave the attendant a copy of the decree to show Esther and to order Esther to go plead the case for the Jews before the king. (v. 6-8)
  • Hathach relayed this information to Esther. (v. 9)
  • Esther sent Hathach back with a response for Mordecai: "Everyone knows that you can't just go 'drop in' on the king - you can only go when summoned, or you risk death. I haven't been summoned in a month. What chance do I have?" (v. 10-11)
  • The risk of death was real. Historical documents indicate that there were men stationed near the throne with axes ready to carry out the execution immediately of people who approached the king uninvited, unless the king stopped them by extending his scepter. Xerxes was noted for his fits of anger, it's not unthinkable that he would have allowed his queen to be executed.
  • Mordecai: "Hey, Esther - don't think you can get off that easily. You know that if you don't stand up for your people, God will find another way to protect us and your family line will die with you. Besides, have you ever thought that you might have been placed in the position of the queen for just this kind of moment?" (v. 13-14)
  • Mordecai's response is an example of the obvious presence of God in the book of Esther, even though God is not directly mentioned. Remember that the author has chosen to show the importance of God in the book of Esther by forcing the reader to assume His presence - by forcing the reader to realize that God is obviously in control.
  • Esther: "OK, I think you're probably right. Have everyone pray and fast for me. I'll be doing the same. In three days, I'll approach the king about this. If he kills me, he kills me, but at least I tried." (v. 15-16)
  • Esther's request that the people fast carries an understood request that the people pray for her. Fasting is always accompanied by prayer.
  • Esther's example of asking for support from her people is an excellent example for us to follow. An important function of a community of believers is mutual support in difficult times. We need to be comfortable turning to others when we need help. And we need to be comfortable when people turn to us in their times of need.
  • Mordecai went away and did what Esther had commanded of him. (v. 17)
  • From this point on, Esther is going to the be the chief initiator of action in the story. Now she is commanding Mordecai. Soon, she will be commanding the king.
  • Esther's action here is an example for us: decide what God wants, and trust Him for the outcome. Note that Esther doesn't simply sit on the saidelines and wait for God to act. She is an active participant in these events. God was in control, yet Esther and Mordecai had to act. We cannot understand how both can be true at the same time, and yet they are. God chooses to work through those willing to act for him. We should pray as if all depended on God and act as if all depended on us. We should avoid two extremes: doing nothing, and feeling that we must do everything. (Life Application Bible)
  • Esther risked her life by coming before the king. Her courageous act gives us a model to follow in aproaching a difficult or dangerous task. Like Esther, we can: (1) Calculate the cost. Esther realized her life was at stake. (2) Set priorities. She believed that the safety of the Jewish race was more important than her own life. (3) Prepare. She gathered support and fasted. (4) Determine a course of action and move ahead boldly. She didn't think too long about it, allowing the interlude to lessen the commitment to what she had to do. (Life Application Bible)

Last update: July 6, 2003

© 2003 Greg Cohoon

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