I don’t know about anyone else, but I have made more than plenty of mistakes in my life so far and that is why the book of Esther is so special to me.
Esther is one of only two books in the Bible that does not mention God by name, yet it is the book of the Bible that God chooses to use to help believers see His sovereignty. The Book of Esther was far less questioned during the canonization process than many other books in the Hebrew Bible because God is so prevalent as its theme, without even having to name Him.
Often we are incorrectly taught that Esther is a book about a pure woman, with strong faith, doing what’s right and saving her people; in reality, Esther is a book of destiny with two main stories to tell. First, there’s the story of how God used Esther – “the screw-up”. The other story we have looked at, on this blog before, about how God orchestrated a series of ironic events to put an end to a long withstanding rivalry between the Israel tribe of Benjamin and the Amalekites.
First, we look at our context for Esther’s story. The book of Esther is part of a trilogy, likely written by the priest, Ezra. The trilogy starts with the book of Ezra, then Nehemiah, and ends with Esther.
These books were written at the end of Israel’s exilic period where the Jews were questioning how their worship was to change without Solomon’s temple, which was destroyed in 586BCE. The Israelites had a temple-centric worship before this point and they praised God for victories, but at this time they were defeated with no temple.
The writers during this time in Jewish faith focused on three elements of their faith to hold on to – the avoiding of unclean meats, the laws against marrying gentiles, and the laws about sexual purity. (Daniel was also written during this time and these themes are very prevalent in his book.) However, in the book of Esther, the heroine is seen eating unclean meats, sleeping with the guards as part of the king’s harem, and finally marries the gentile king. Esther messed up and found herself in a safe place for it.
But, then her people – the Israelites – were sentenced to be executed and her uncle came to the palace to beg her to help. She was reluctant but her uncle convinced her that she, too, would be killed and that she may have found herself in the palace for exactly this cause – her destiny is then found in the place she earned through her sins.
God planned for her mistakes because He loved her; He loves and protects all His people wherever they may find themselves. So, Esther requested the people fast and pray for her before she went before her husband – the king.
She was scared the king would kill her, like he had done to his previous wife. However, it was time for the Passover feasts, so technically she was asking the Israelites to break God’s law in order to fast on her behalf. But, Esther was sparred when she went before the king and she asked him to dinner multiple times to treat him, then she asked for her people to be spared and the king granted it (well, sort of). God’s sovereignty was at work! Oh, how He loves us!
Destiny is then found in the place she earned through her sins.
But, there’s more. However, for this part the context of our story goes all the way back to Jacob and Esau. God chose Jacob and not Esau. The Amalekites were descendants of Esau and attacked and killed Israelite women and children on their way to the Promised Land.
Then when Israel got its first king of all the land, King Saul, the order was given from God to completely wipe out all of the Amalekites, but King Saul spared some, including their king – King Agag. Samuel then had Agag brought back to him and the prophet killed king Agag, but others still remained.
Many scholars believe that Goliath was from the lineage of the Amalekites who fought David – who was a Benjaminite, just like King Saul. Amalekites also stole David’s wives. The tribe of Simeon would eventually wipe out most of the Amalekites, under King Hezekiah’s reign – a Benjaminite.
But the last time we see a descendant from these Amalekites is in the book of Esther. Hamman is introduced as an Agagite. Mordecai was a Benjaminite and so this rivalry was destined for a climax.
In the book of Esther, Mordecai once reported a couple of spies making an attempt on King Xerxes’ life. Later, Hamman rode through a town where Mordecai was at and they first met when everyone bowed to Hamman, except for Mordecai. This is when Hamman began to plot.
Hamman convinced the king that the Jewish people were rebellious and should all be killed. The king order an execution of these peoples and there was no undoing a ruling from the king, once it was put in motion. Seriously though, not even the king could cancel his own ruling! This is when Mordecai convinced Esther she had to do something and the king ultimately did not spare the Jews – he couldn’t reverse the ruling; so, instead, he made a second ruling for the Jewish people to strike first and kill their executioners!
But before that took place, Hamman had special gallows built just for Mordecai. The night before Mordecai was to be captured and killed, however, the king woke in the middle of the night and read through his records. He realized nothing had been done in recognition of Mordecai – the man who saved his life from the spies! So, the king has Hamman give him ideas of the best ways he could honour someone (Hamman thought the king meant him), so Hamman described the greatest honours he could possibly think of, then the king had Hamman give said honours to Mordecai, publicly!
But that wasn’t quite enough, at one of her dinners for the king, Esther revealed Hamman’s plan to have her uncle hung, so the king had Hamman hung on the very gallows built by Hamman for Mordecai.
The point is: God planned for Esther to screw up and God planned on Mordecai’s righteousness. God plans for us all and wants to use us all, right in the positions we find ourselves, “for such a time as this!” Oh, how He loves us!
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Next week, I will have Pastor Chris Brissey help me with the next segment of How To Read Your Bible!
Longman, Tremper. The Expositor’s Bible Commentary. Rev. ed. Vol. 8. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 2006. Print.
Barton, John. The Oxford Bible Commentary. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2001. Print.
“Dr. Constable’s Expository (Bible Study) Notes.” Dr. Constable’s Bible Study Notes and Commentary. Web. 1 Oct. 2015.