Esther and her cousin Mordecai are the heroes of the book of Esther. But behind these two is the ultimate Hero of the book to whom all glory belongs. God is the one we see working through Esther and Mordecai and directing events to deliver His people.
It’s easy to think that with the death of Haman, Esther’s work is now finished. The truth is, she is actually needed now more than ever. Haman might be dead, but his edict of death is still very much alive.
Chapter 8 opens with the promotion of Mordecai to prime minister. Just imagine this. These two cousins, Mordecai and Esther, now occupy the two most powerful positions in the Persian Empire, next to the king. God has orchestrated an amazing turnaround in their lives.
Just don’t forget that the royal decree that declared a day when the Persians could annihilate the Jewish people and plunder their wealth, is still in force. Esther cannot be content until this is resolved. Verse 3 tells us:
She fell at [the king’s] feet and wept and pleaded with him to avert the evil plan of Haman the Agagite and the plot that he had devised against the Jews.
Specifically, she says to him in verse 5, “Let an order be written to revoke the letters devised by Haman . . . which he wrote to destroy the Jews.”
Well, that is not going to be easy, as we can tell from the king’s response to Esther in verse 8:
“But you may write as you please with regard to the Jews, in the name of the king, and seal it with the king’s ring, for an edict written in the name of the king and sealed with the king’s ring cannot be revoked.”
In other words, not even the king can revoke his previous edict—this is the law of the Medes and Persians. But he comes up with a clever alternative. He suggests that Mordecai write his own proclamation that counteracts the first one. And the king agrees to seal it with his signet ring.
Mordecai writes a new edict that essentially gives the Jews throughout the empire the right to organize and take up arms to defend themselves against any attack. We are told here in verse 13 that copies of the decree issued in Susa, the capital, are to be quickly distributed throughout the empire. Verse 14 tells us that couriers mounted on swift horses deliver the news throughout the empire.
The Greek historian Herodotus recorded that the Persian Empire was connected by postal stations every 14 miles. They invented the original Pony Express. Herodotus’s description of the diligence of these message carriers gave us the famous words: “Neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night stays these courageous couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.” These lines, which come from the time of Esther and the Persian Empire, are chiseled in granite over the New York City Post Office on 8th Avenue.
Earlier this pony express had brought news of death to the Jewish people, but now it is bringing news of deliverance.
Verse 17 records that the Jewish people began to celebrate with gladness and joy. In fact, it says, “Many from the peoples of the country declared themselves Jews, for fear [awe] of the Jews had fallen on them.” In other words, many Persians saw the miraculous hand of God in all of this, and they were in awe—even to the point that many of them aligned themselves with the Jewish people as proselytes.
Now in Esther 9, verse 1 sums up what happens about nine months later, on the day when the two edicts take effect:
On the very day when the enemies of the Jews hoped to gain the mastery over them, the reverse occurred: the Jews gained mastery over those who hated them.
Verse 2 continues: “The Jews gathered in their cities . . . And no one could stand against them, for the fear of them had fallen on all peoples.” Those who dared attack the Jews met with disaster. Even regional officials sided with the Jewish people out of respect for the Jewish prime minister Mordecai, whose fame was now empire wide.
Verses 6-10 inform us that in the capital of Susa, the Jews killed 500 men that day, including the ten sons of Haman. But then Esther does something surprising. In verse 13 she goes to the king and begs him to give her people one more day to defend themselves. Evidently, she has discovered a plot in the capital city of Susa, more than likely devised by Persians loyal to Haman and his family. She also asks the king to publicly display the bodies of Haman’s ten sons to discourage any further uprisings.
The king agrees, and another 300 Persian enemies die in Susa; and according to verse 16, 75,000 enemies of the Jewish people are killed throughout the empire.
It’s important to notice that three times here the text says that the Jews did not lay their hands on any plunder (verses 10, 15, 16). They defended themselves but did not enrich themselves, even though legally they had been given that right. The Jewish people were interested in defense, not vengeance. This must have greatly impressed their Persian neighbors.
My friend, do you want to impress your world? Well remember, vengeance is fueled by bitterness and anger, and it will never be satisfied. In fact, it will rob you of your testimony and your joy. There is no vengeance here, so it’s no surprise that joy dominates the remainder of chapter 9.
Esther and Mordecai are not about to let the deliverance of the Jewish people be forgotten by future generations. So, they establish an annual two-day thanksgiving celebration of this event.
These days, verse 26 tells us, are called “Purim, after the term Pur.” You might remember that Haman cast “pur,” or lots, to determine what day to attack the Jews. Well, that word is now used to mark this Jewish celebration.
They all make a commitment here. We read in verses 27-28:
The Jews firmly obligated themselves . . . that without fail they would keep these two days according to what was written . . . that these days should be remembered and kept throughout every generation.
Several thousand years later, beloved, the Feast of Purim is still celebrated among the Jewish people. There is a lot of feasting; and the book of Esther is read, with the audience booing and hissing every time Haman’s name is read. Psalm 124 also is typically sung. That psalm includes these words from David:
If it had not been the Lord who was on our side . . . then they would have swallowed us up alive . . . Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth. (verses 2-3, 8)
The book of Esther concludes with a very brief chapter—chapter 10 is only three verses—and it focuses on the honorgiven to Mordecai. Even though this book is titled “Esther,” it could just as easily have been named after Mordecai.
He is honored to this day as a hero of Israel. And he ought to be. Note the closing verse:
Mordecai the Jew was second in rank to King Ahasuerus, and he was great among the Jews and popular with the multitude of his brothers, for he sought the welfare of his people and spoke peace to all his people.
With that, we come to the end of our wisdom journey through the book of Esther—a book in which God is not mentioned but is clearly revealed through His works.
And that is true for you today, beloved; God might be unseen, but He is not absent or uncaring; He might be invisible, but His plans and His power are invincible.