Challenging Women to Choose Wisely

The Story

The story could rival any American soap opera or Spanish novella.   It has a cast of five main characters:  King Xerxes, Queen Vashti, Haman, Mordecai and Hadassah.  Each of the characters plays a most important role to the whole of the story.

Within this story found in the book of Esther in the Bible, there is deceit and betrayal. There is a character that seeps with greed.   Some of the cast of characters  have much power, some have very little.  There is intrigue and danger.  But alas,  there is  also courage, obedience, faith and victory.

Come with me as we follow the story of  Esther and learn the secrets of making wise choices in life.

(This story is based on the Biblical account found in the book of Esther.  NIV 2003 by Zondervan Corporation.  The story is being written below, in storybook form).

CHAPTER ONE:  Historical Information

The story takes place in Susa of  Persia, sometime between 460 and 350 B.C.  The mounds of the ruins of the city that was once Susa are located about 150 miles north of the Persian Gulf in southwestern Iran.  The king of the time was named Ahasuerus, or Xerxes.  He ruled the Persian empire from 485 to 465 B.C.  This area of Persia was a dominant military and economic power in it’s time.  King Xerxes was the son of,  and successor of,  Darius I who reigned during the restoration of the Jerusalem temple.

When the story begins in the book of Esther, we find that King Xerxes is ruling over 127 provinces.  During his third year of reigning as king, he throws a banquet for all his nobles and officials.  The Bible says, ” military leaders of Persia and Media, the princes, and the nobles of the provinces were present.”   This wasn’t a usual banquet…. by no means!

For a full 180 days of celebration he displays his vast wealth and the splendor and glory of his majesty.  When this original time of celebration is over, he holds a seven-day banquet.  The banquet was held in the enclosed garden of the king’s palace.  All people, from the least to the greatest,  were invited.

The gardens were opulent. There were hangings  of white and blue cloth,  fastened with cords of white linen and purple material to silver rings on marble pillars.  The couches were of gold and silver set on a mosaic pavement of porphyry, marble, mother-of-pearl and other costly stones.  Wine was served in goblets of gold, each one different from the other and the royal wine was abundant, at the king’s request.  By his command, each guest was allowed to drink in his own way, for the king instructed all the wine stewards to serve each man what he wished.

While the king hosted his banquet in the enclosed gardens his wife, Queen Vashti,  also gave a banquet for the women in a separate portion of the royal palace  of King Xerxes.

On the seventh day, after being full of drink, the king commanded his seven eunuchs to bring before him Queen Vashti wearing her royal crown, in order to display her beauty to the people and nobles  for she was lovely to look at.  When attendants delivered the king’s command  the Queen refused to come.  The king became furious and burned with anger.

CHAPTER TWO:  The Kings  Reaction

An angry king.  Betrayed, disobeyed, embarrassed, actually publicly humiliated.    Can you imagine the thoughts and feelings that must have entered the king’s mind with the refusal of his wife, the queen, to act on his request?    It was customary for the king to consult experts in matters of the law and justice,  so he decided to speak with the wise men who understood the times, and were closest to the king.  These seven men, were considered nobles of both the Persian and Median Kingdom’s.  These men had special access to the king and were the highest in the kingdom.  Once  King Xerxes had assembled  them to himself, he asked, “According to the law, what must be done to Queen Vashti?”  He continued, ‘She has not obeyed the command of King Xerxes that the eunuchs have taken to her.”

Memucan, one of the wise men spoke,  ” Queen Vashti has done wrong, not only against the king but also against all the nobles and the people of all the provinces of King Xerxes.  For the queen’s conduct will become known to all the women and so they will despise their husbands and say, “King Xerxes commanded Queen Vashti to be brought before him, but she would not come.  This very day the Persian and Median women of the nobility who have heard about the queen’s conduct will respond to all the king’s nobles  in the same way.  There will be no end of disrespect and discord.”

I can imagine the nobles present during this discussion nodding their heads, one after another,  in agreement with the summation that Memucan was making.  You see, the prevailing attitude of the time towards women, would have meant that women were really without much choice in their lives, other than bestowed on them by a father, brother or husband.

The story continues to read, “Therefore, if it pleases the king, let him issue a royal decree and let it be written in the laws of Persia and Media, which cannot be repealed, that Vashti is never again to enter the presence of King Xerxes.  Also let the king give  her royal position to someone else who is better than she.  Then when the king’s edict is proclaimed throughout all his vast realm all the women will respect their husbands from the least to the greatest.”

The king and his nobles were pleased with this advice, so the king did as Memucan proposed.  He sent messages  to all parts of the kingdom, to each province in it’s own script and to each people in its won language, proclaiming in each people’s tongue that every man should be ruler over his own household.

CHAPTER THREE:  Esther Made Queen

In the meantime, after the anger of King Xerxes subsides a bit, he remembers Vashti and what she has done.  He remembers his decree forbids her to ever enter his presence.  One of his closer personal attendants makes a suggestion, “Let a search be made for beautiful young virgins for the king.  Let the king appoint commissioners in every province of his realm to bring all of these beautiful girls into the harem at the citadel of Susa.” And so we see these suggestions pleases the king and  that is the decision.  It is decided that the young women will be placed under the care of Hegai, the king’s eunuch. He will be in charge of seeing that each of the women will receive special beauty treatments.  Then after a year of such treatments and presentation to the king, the one receiving the kings favor will become queen.

How was this done exactly?  Was a notice sent out to all the Providences  stating the king was looking for a new wife?  It’s possible, as news of the kings desire moved among the public, that  some parent’s willingly volunteered or offered up  their daughters for consideration.  It might in their minds be a place of honor or prestige and some parents might have been driven by that.  It is possible, as historical evidence presents, that some of the young women were simply abducted from their homes and brought to the king’s palace  without any choice in the matter.  Taken to the king’s palace along with the other virgins to await Xerxes’ ‘call, possibly for sexual favors.    He was, after all, the almighty power and his will ruled supreme in the land.

One of the young women presented to the Citadel of Susa and placed in the care of Hegai was a very young woman of Jewish descent named Hadassah. Her Hebrew name meant “myrtle,”   her Persian name was  Esther.  She was an orphan and  had been raised by her cousin Mordecai.  Mordecai had been taken captive from Jerusalem, when Nebecchadnezzer was king of Babylon. The Bible describes this young woman as “lovely in form and features.”  Right away Esther  pleased Hegai and won his favor.  He provided her with special foods and beauty treatments.  He assigned seven maids just to her.   He made sure that Esther  and her maids had the very best place to live in the harem.

At this time, Esther had not yet revealed her real identity, her heritage, because Mordecai had forbidden her to do so.  He knew that her ethnic background could put her at a disadvantage, even possibly putting her in danger, because of the anti-Jewish sentiment in the palace.    Mordecai was possibly a gate keeper in the king’s service.  His association with the court official and his knowledge of events transpiring within the palace means he had some type of administration position within the palace.  This afforded Mordecai the opportunity to keep track of Esther.  The Bible tells us:  “Every day he walked back and forth near the courtyard of the harem to find out how Esther was and what was happening to her.”

What were these beauty treatments the  young virgins were  given before their entrance to the king?  There would have been six months of treatment with oils being rubbed into the skin.  The oil most frequently used would have been oil of myrrh.  It would have daily been rubbed into her skin.  After the six months of natural oil treatments, along with a diet of grains, legumes, nuts, and beans, and  ample beauty rest, the treatments would continue with favorite perfumes of the king, and cosmetics.  All of the girls were also allowed to take anything they wanted from the king’s harem of jewels, when going into the king.

When it was Esther’s turn to go to the king, she first made a request of Hegai.  “What would be your suggestion, Hegai, about what jewels I should wear when I approach the king?”  She did as Hegai suggested and Esther ended up winning the favor of everyone who saw her.  It was the tenth month, the month of Tebeth, in the seventh year of King Xerxes reign, when Esther was taken to the royal residence.

The Bible tells us, “Now the king was attracted to Esther more than to any of the other women, and she won his favor and approval more than any of the other virgins.  So he set a royal crown on her head and made her queen instead of Vashti.”   Then The king hosted a great banquet, for all his nobles and officials.  He also proclaimed a holiday throughout the provinces and distributed gifts with royal liberality because of his delight with his new bride, Queen Esther.

CHAPTER FOUR:  Mordecai Uncovers a Conspiracy

During the time the virgins were being assembled the second time, Mordecai was sitting at the king’s gate.  Bigthana and Teresh, two of the king’s officers who guarded the doorway, became angry and were conspiring to assassinate King Xerxes.  Mordecai found out about this plot to kill the king.  He told Queen Esther about it.  She in turn reported it to the king, giving credit to Mordecai.  The king had the report investigated and when the king found it to be true, the two officials were hanged on a gallows.

CHAPTER FIVE:  Haman’s Plot to Destroy the Jews

Let me introduce you to Haman.  Some time after the search took place for a virgin to become the Queen and the Queen was chosen, King Xerxes wanted to honor Haman.  Haman was an astrologer and a noble in the king’s court.  Haman was a descendant of Agag, the god of the Amalekites, a people who were wiped out by King Saul and King David.  Haman himself had 365 counselors, not including his wife, Zeresh. Haman will always be most notably remembered for his efforts to genocide the Jews.

Haman was given special honor by the king, he was elevated and given a special seat of honor higher than that of all the other nobles.  In fact, all the royal officials at the king’s gate knelt down and paid honor to Haman, for the king had commanded this  for him.  With the exception of Mordecai, that is.  He would not kneel down or pay Haman honor.

Some of the other royal officials seeing this said to Mordecai one day, “Why do you disobey the king’s command?”   Day after day they spoke to him, but he refused to comply.  After a while they told Haman about it to see whether Mordecai’s behavior would be tolerated, for he had told them he was a Jew.

When Haman saw that Mordecai would not kneel down or pay him honor, the Bible says, “he was enraged.”   Having recently learned who Mordecai’s people were,  he scorned the idea of killing only  Mordecai and began to look for a way to destroy all Mordecai’s people, the Jews, throughout the whole kingdom of Xerxes. And so the conniving began.

One day, Haman said to King Xerxes,  “There is a certain people dispersed and scattered among the peoples in all the provinces of your kingdom whose customs are different from those of all other people and who do not obey the king’s laws; it is not in the king’s best interest to tolerate them.  If it pleases the king, let a decree be issued to destroy them, and I will put ten thousand talents of silver into the royal treasury for the men who carry out this business.”

The king took his signet ring from his finger and gave it to Haman.  “Keep the money,” the king said to Haman, and  “do with the people as you please.”  The signet rings were used by people in authority in the ancient world as official seals.  They were often engraved with the wearer’s personal insignia, which would be used to make an impression on soft wax or clay in order to authorize important documents.  By giving his signet ring to Haman, the king  gave him authority to do  whatever he wished.

You can be assured that Haman was quick to respond.  His greedy, envious, revengeful   heart was all to willing to give the order that would allow for the murder of the Jews.  The royal secretaries were summoned and they began to write the orders.  Each order was written in its own language and then signed with the signet of King Xerxes.  When the deed was done, dispatches were sent by couriers to all the king’s provinces with the order to destroy, kill and annihilate all the Jews, young and old, women and little children, on a single day, the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, the month of Adar, and to plunder their goods.  A copy of the text of the edict was to be issued as law in every province and made known to the people of every nation so they would be ready for the day.

After the edict was issued, the king and Haman sat down to have a drink…but the city of Susa was bewildered.  “Really, kill all the Jews, even the women and little children?” might have been the thoughts of those that received the edict.  “Why?” ‘ might have been in their minds.  This was a decree requesting the slaughter of an entire ethnic group for no apparent reason.  The average citizen of Susa was most likely unaware of the ancient animosity between the Jews and Amalekites, which lay behind the decree. Furthermore, the Jews were known for being industrious and supportive citizens, seeking peace and prosperity of Persia.  Most likely, the decree made very little sense to the large segment of the population who had no apparent reason to hate the Jews.

CHAPTER SIX:  Mordecai Persuades Esther to Help

When Mordecai got word of what had been done and the decree that was put out, he mourned.  The Bible says, “he tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and ashes, and went out into the city, wailing loudly and bitterly. ” He went only as far as the king’s gate, because no one clothed in sackcloth was allowed to enter it.  In fact, throughout the land, in every province where the edict was sent there was great mourning among the Jews.  They with fasting, weeping, wailing, put on sackcloth and ashes at this distressing news.

Esther’s maids heard of Mordecai and his mourning behavior and brought word of it to Esther.  She was in great distress and sent clothes for him to put on instead of his sackcloth, but he would not accept them.  Esther was not aware of what caused Mordecai’s grief.  It’s possible she didn’t understand the implications of the legal terminology.  Of ir’s even possible that as a woman, in that culture, Esther had never been taught to read.  She wanted to know what was wrong so she called on Hathach, one of the king’s eunuchs assigned to attend her and ordered him to find out what was troubling Mordecai and why.

Hathach went out to Mordecai in the open square of the city in front of the king’s gate.  When Hathach asked Mordecai what was going on, Mordecai told him everything that had happened to him, including the exact amount of money Haman had promised to pay into the royal treasury for the destruction of the Jews.  He also gave him a copy of the text of the edict for their annihilation, which had been published in Susa, so he could show it to Esther.  Mordecai asked that Hatach explain it to her and he told him to urge her to go into the king’s presence to beg for mercy and to plead with the king for her people, the Jews.

Hathach went and reported to Esther what Mordecai had told him.  Esther’s response was, “All the king’s officials and the people of the royal provinces know that for any man or woman who approaches the king in the inner court without being summoned the king has but one law:  that he be put to death.  The only exception to this is for the king to extend the gold scepter to him and spare his life.”  She might have been  thinking,  “I don’t know about making a request to the king, my life could be in danger.'”Then too, the Bible tells us she said, “It has been thirty days since the king has called me to him.”

Hathach reported Esther’s response to Mordecai, he sent back this answer:  “Do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape.  For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish.  And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?”

Wow!  That’s quite a response!    It looks like Mordecai had a couple of things in mind when he sent his answer to Esther.  It appears he was sending a warning.  A warning that the consequences of her dissociation from her people, the Jews, and their God,  could mean she would miss out of God’s deliverance for the Jews.  Mordecai states  he believes deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, should Esther not act.  Mordecai showed complete trust in God’s care and provision for the people he had made a covenant promise with.  Would Esther and her family also be killed by the rule of this edict?  A royal edict in ancient Persia was irrevocable and no respecter of status.  With the example of how Queen Vashti was removed as Queen, when she refused the king’s request, it would not seem unlikely to assume that Queen Esther would be killed along with her family as the annihilation of the Jews began.  Included in Mordecai’s thoughts was the possibility that,  God was in on this and Esther was in the palace and in relationship with the king, for just such a time as this, when God’s people needed an advocate for them.

In any case, Esther sent a reply to Mordecai:  “Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me.  Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day.  I and my maids will fast as you do.  When this is done, I will go to the king, even though  it is against the law.    And if I perish, I perish.”

They say one can be convinced without being committed.  It’s also possible to be committed without being convicted.  But when one is convicted,  that settles the issue and one acts.  That was Esther in this moment when she saw the situation for what it was and decided to trust God with her life.

CHAPTER SEVEN:  Esther’s Request to the King

On the third day, after completion of the time of fast, Esther put on her royal robes and stood in the inner court of the palace in front of the king’s hall.  The king was sitting on his royal throne in the hall facing the entrance.  When he saw Queen Esther standing in the court, he was pleased with her and held out to her the gold scepter that was in his hand.  So Esther approached and touched the tip of the sceptre.  It seems simple enough, doesn’t it?  She dressed as a Queen.  She put on her royal robes.  She went and stood in the inner court of the palace in front of the king’s hall.

While it looks and sounds simple  I don’t think it was.  Remember that rule?  (You know, the one about anyone approaching the king without his request facing death.)   The order of business in the Persian throne room was that anyone who entered unannounced, without being called for, was immediately put to death by the guards at the door. The only exception to this rule was that if the king immediately extended the golden scepter in his hand toward the person, they would be allowed to live.  The king’s scepter was more than just decoration. In fact, it historically represented a nation’s power to practice capital punishment, to put people to death.

Put yourself in Esther’s place.  A young Jewish woman,  heart racing.  Wife of the Persian  king, a king who got rid of a previous wife for her disobedience to him. Your  body trembling,  standing in the inner court of the palace.  Both  of your eyes steady ahead in spite of the swirling thoughts in your mind:  will he point the scept my way, will the guards thrust me through with their spears?  Awaiting the direction of the golden sceptre,  allowing your entrance to the throne room of the king….or death.   Down the hall waiting….waiting….waiting…. waiting a response from the king.  Life or death in your immediate future as you watch for the golden scepter to fall in a horizontal line inviting you to the king.  Do you feel the anxiousness of Queen Esther as she stood – at the end of the scepter?

The king, when he saw her,  motioned for her to come to him, by holding out the golden sceptre that was in his hand. Then the king asked, “What is it, Queen Esther?  What is your request?  Even up to half the kingdom, it will be given you.”

“If it pleases the king,”replied Esther, “let the king together with Haman, come today to a banquet I have prepared for him.”

“Bring Haman at once,”  the king said,  “so that we may do what Esther asks.”

So the king and Haman went to the banquet Esther had prepared.  As they were drinking wine, the king again asked Esther.  “Now, what is your petition?  It will be given you.  And what is your request?  Even up to half the kingdom, it will be granted.”  Was the king literally promising half of his kingdom to Esther?  Probably not.  It appeared to be a regular phrase used by ancient monarchs to express favor.  The king most likely knew that Esther would not dare approach him unless she had a very important reason.  In Esther’s presence and request, she had succeeded  in arousing both his admiration for her courage, and his curiosity.

Esther replied, “My petition and my request is this:  If the king regards me with favor and if it pleases the king to grant my petition and fulfill my request, let the king and Haman come tomorrow to the banquet I will prepare for them.  Then I will answer the king’s question.”

CHAPTER EIGHT:  Haman’s Rage Against Mordecai

That same day, Haman went out happy and in high spirits…for a time.  When he saw Mordecai at the king’s gate and observed that he neither rose nor showed fear in his presence, he was filled with rage against Mordecai.   But in the moment, he restrained himself from any action and simply went home.  But it didn’t end there.

Haman called together his friends and Zeresh, his wife.  When they were all together, he boasted about his wealth , his many sons, and all the ways the king had honored him and how he should be elevated about the other nobles and officials.  Is he dripping with greed?   Let’s see what else he said.    Haman added,  “I am the only person Queen Esther invited to accompany the king to the banquet she gave.  And she has invited me along with the king tomorrow. ”  Can you see him running his hand along his lapel with pride and arrogance? “But all this gives me no satisfaction as long as I see that Jew Mordecai sitting at the king’s gate.”

His wife Zeresh and all his friends then said to him, “Have a gallows built, seventy-five feet high, and ask the king in the morning to have Mordecai hanged on it.  Then go with the king to the dinner and be happy.”

Aw, the Bible says, “This suggestion delighted Haman, and he had the gallows built.”

CHAPTER NINE:  Mordecai Honored

It was the same night and that particular night the king could not sleep; so he ordered the book of the chronicles, the record of his reign, to be brought in and read to him.  It was found recorded there that Mordecai had exposed Bithana and Teresh, two of the king’s officers who guarded the doorway, who had conspired previously to assassinate King Xerxes.

In response to this reading, the king asked, “What honor and recognition has Mordecai received for this?”

“Nothing has been done for him,” his attendants answered.

The king said, “Who is in the court?”  Now Haman had just entered the outer court of the palace to speak to the king about hanging Mordecai on the gallows he had erected for him.

The king’s attendants answere.  “Haman is standing in the court.

“Bring him in,” the king ordered.

When Haman entered, the king asked him, “What should be done for the man the king delights to honor?”

This was too much for Haman.  He was so full of himself that he assumed the king was talking of him,  “Who is there that the king would rather honor than me?” so of course he gave a response that would bestow honor and blessing on him.   “For the man the king delights to honor, have them bring a royal robe the king has worn and a horse the king has ridden, one with a royal crest placed on its head.  Then let the robe and horse be entrusted to one of the king’s most noble princes.  Let them robe the man the king delights to honor, and lead him on the horse through the city streets, proclaiming before him, “This is what is done for the man the king delights to honor.”

“Go at once,”  the king commanded Haman.  “Get the robe and the horse and do just as you have suggested for Mordecai the Jew, who sits at the king’s gate.  Do not neglect anything you have recommended.”  I bet shock and awe would describe the look on the face of Haman as he realized who indeed, the king was planning to honor.

So Haman got the robe and the horse.  He robed Mordecai, and led him on horseback through the city streets, proclaiming before him, “This is what is done for the man the king delights to honor!”

Afterward Mordecai returned to the king’s gate, but Haman rushed home with his head covered in grief and told Zeresh his wife and all his friends everything that had happened to him.

His advisers and his wife Zeresh said to him, ‘Since Mordecai, before whom your downfall has started, is of Jewish origin, you cannot stand against him – you will surely come to ruin!”  While they were still talking with him, the king’s eunuchs arrived and hurried Haman away to the banquet Esther had prepared.

CHAPTER TEN:  Haman Hanged

It was time for the banquet and the king and Haman went to dine with Queen Esther.  As they were drinking wine on that second day, the king again asked, “Queen Esther, what is your petition?  It will be given you.  What is your request?  Even up to half the kingdom, it will be granted.”

Then Queen Esther answered, “If I have found favor  with you, O king, and if it pleases your majesty, grant me my life – this is my petition.  And spare my people – this is my request.  For I and my people have been sold for destruction and slaughter and annihilation.  If we had merely been sold as male and female slaves, I would have kept quiet  because no such distress would justify disturbing the king.

King Xerxes asked Queen Esther, “Who is he?  Where is the man who has dared to do such a thing?”

You might ask,  why was King Xerxes not aware that he himself had ordered an edict to annihilate the Jews?

Historical records outside the Bible depict Xerxes as a cruel tyrant.  He would not have hesitated to exterminate an entire race of people at the whim of a favored deputy.  He may not have even been aware that the deal he approved of with Haman was to destroy the Jews as Haman had told him only that a certain people with differing customs was disobedient to the king.  Prior to this too, King Xerxes did not know that Esther was a Jew, nor did Haman.

In respose to the kings question, “Where is the man who has dared to do such a thing?”  Esther said, “The adversary and enemy is this vile Haman.”

At this Haman was terrified before the king and queen.  The king got up in a rage, left his wine and went out into the palace garden.  But Haman, realizing that the king had already decided his fate, stayed behind to beg Queen Esther for his life.

Just as the king returned from the palace garden to  the banquet hall, Haman was falling on  the couch where Esther was reclining.  The king exclaimed, “Will he even molest the queen while she is with me in the house?”

As soon as the word left the king’s mouth, they covered Haman’s face. (It was customary among the Greeks and Roman’s to cover the face of a person sentenced to death.  The attendants who were present covered Haman’s face as soon as the word left the king’s mouth, presumably the execution order).

Then Harbona, one of the eunuchs attending the king, said, “A gallows seventy-five feet high stands by Haman’s house.  He had it made for Mordecai, who spoke up to help the king.”

The king said, “Hang him on it!”  So they hanged Haman on the gallows he himself had prepared for Mordecai.  Then the king’s fury subsided.

CHAPTER ELEVEN: The King’s Edict on  Behalf of the Jews

That same day King Xerxes gave Queen Esther the estate of Haman, the enemy of the Jews.  Mordecai came into the present of the king, for Esther had told how he was related to her.  The king then took off his signet ring, which he had reclaimed from Haman, and presented it to Mordecai.  And Esther appointed him over Haman’s estate.

Esther again began to plead with the king, falling at his feet and weeping.  She begged him to put an end to the vile plan of Haman the Agagite, which he had devised against the Jews.  You see, even though  Haman had been hung, the decree Haman had written and sealed with the king’s signet ring was still in effect even though Haman was dead.  The immediate threat to Mordecai had been averted, but the Jews were still facing annihilation.

Then the king extended the gold scepter to Esther and she arose and stood before him.

“If it pleases the king, “she said,” and if he regards me with favor and thinks it the right thing to do, and if he is pleased with me, let an order be written overruling the dispatches that Haman devised and wrote to destroy the Jews in all the king’s provinces.  For how can I bear to see disaster fall on my people?  How can I bear to see the destruction of my family?”

King Xerxes replied to Queen Esther and to Mordecai the Jew, “Because Haman attacked the Jews, I have given his estate to Esther, and they have hanged him on the gallows.  Now write another decree in the king’s name in behalf of the Jews as seems best to you, and seal it with the king’s signet ring – for no document written in the king’s name and sealed with his ring can be revoked.”

At once the royal secretaries were summoned, and they wrote out all Mordecai’s orders to the Jews, and to the satraps, governors, and nobles of the 127 provinces stretching from India to Cush.  These orders were written in the script of each province and the language of each people and also to the jews in their own script and language.  Mordecai then wrote in the name of King Xerxes, sealed the dispatches with the king’s signet ring, and sent them by mounted couriers, who rode fast horses especially bred for the king.

The king’s edict granted the Jews in every city the right to assemble and protect themselves; to destroy, kill and annihilate any armed force of any nationality or province  that might attack them and their women and children; and to plunder the property of their enemies.

The couriers, riding the royal horses, raced out, spurred on by the king’s command. And the edict was also issued in the citadel of Susa.

Mordecai left the king’s presence wearing royal garments of blue and white, a large crown of gold and a purple robe of fine linen.  And the city of Susa held a joyous celebration.

For the Jews it was a time of happiness and joy, gladness and honor. In every province and in every city, wherever the edict of the king went, there was joy and gladness among the Jews, with feasting and celebrating.  And many people of other nationalities became Jews because fear of the Jews had seized them.

CHAPTER TWELVE:  Triumph of the Jews

On the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, the month of Adar, the edict commanded by the king was to be carried out.  On this day the enemies of the Jews had hoped to over power them, but now the tables were turned and the Jews got the upper hand over those who hated them. The Jews assembled in their cities in all the provinces of King Xerxes to attack those seeking their destruction.  No one could stand against them, because the people of all the other nationalities were afraid of them.  And all the nobles of the provinces, the satraps, the governors and the king’s administrators helped the Jews, because fear of Mordecai had seized them.  Modecai was prominent in the palace; his reputation spread throughout the provinces, and he became more and more powerful.

The Jews struck down all their enemies with the sword, killing and destroying them, and they did what they pleased to those who hated them.  In the citadel of Susa, the Jews killed and destroyed five hundred man.  But they did not lay their hands on the plunder. The number of those slain in the citadel of Susa was reported to the king that same day.  The king said to Queen Esther,  ” The Jews have killed and destroyed five hundred men and the ten sons of Haman in the citadel of Susa.  What have they done in the rest of the king’s provinces?  Now what is your petition?  It will be given you.  What is your request?  It will also be granted.”

“If it pleases the king,” Esther answered, “give the Jews in Susa permission to carry out this day’s edict tomorrow also, and let Haman’s ten sons be hanged on the gallows.”

So the king commanded that this be done.  An edict was issued in Susa, and they hanged the ten sons of Haman.  The Jews in Susa came together on the fourteenth day of the month of Adar, and they put to death, in Susa three hundred men, but they did not lay their hands on the plunder.

It could be asked, “Why did they not take any plunder?  In some accounts of similiar warfare directed by God, they were commanded to take the plunder.  In this case, this was a holy war.  This was was commanded by the Lord in judgment on a great evil.  That distinguishes it from normal warfare by the ban on taking plunder, which demonstrates that the agreession is not for financial gain but only to carry out God’s sentence.

Menawhile, the remainder of the Jews who were in the king’s provinces also assembled to protect themselves and get relief from their enemies.  They killed seventy-five thousand of them but did not lay their hands on the plunder.  And…on the fourteenth day of Adar, they rested and made it a day of feasting and joy!

CHAPTER THIRTEEN:  Some thoughts about Esther and her story 

King Xerxes: King Xerxes in this story is interesting to me.  Mostly, because he seems to waffle back and forth at times.  His inability at times to know the truth, to see the truth, or even to seek the truth, prevented him from making the right choices.

Queen Vashti: We don’t know any more about Queen Vashti other than her being disposed as Queen because of her refusal to obey the king’s command.

The man Haman:  He was a jealous and prideful man.  When people are full of pride, they can’t accpet anything but top position.  Haman’s jealousy got the better of him.  His pride came before his fall.

The man Mordecai: He loved the Lord God.  He loved Esther.  He was a man of truth and integrity.  He had an understanding of how God worked in people’s lives and so even when Esther appeared willing to ignore this original counsel, he continued on in diligence of statement with absolute certainty in God’s ability to work his will with or without Esther.  God rewarded Mordeci with much power and prestige,  through the king, without any acts of manipulation or control on Mordecai’s part but simply  because he trusted God and lived  and acted in truth.

The young woman  Hadassah:  Esther( her Hebrew name, Hadassah  means myrtle).   It’s interesting to note that myrtle was a tree or bush.  It’s leaves have no scent until they are put under pressure and crushed. Then the glory and beauty of the leaves are released so that all might enjoy the fragrance.  In like manner, with the pressure of the situation of Esther’s life, a circumstance that had potential to  crush her on all sides, the beauty of the scent of  “who she was inside” was released in the choices she made.    The beauty released by her faithfulness to her God, “her obedience to wise Godly counsel,  her self-denial and courage and boldness,  released a beautiful aroma for all around to see.

CHAPTER FOURTEEN:  A Challenge to Live Wisely – Some questions for  personal consideration: 

What were some of the choices that Esther made that were wise and brought her to “such a time as this” that together with God’s providence helped her save His people, Israel?

1.  Her faithfulness to God.  She understood the faithfulness to God included her trust in Him.

2.  Her obedience to wise Godly counsel.  Once she understood the situation, as Mordecai described it, she choose to act on that.

3.  Her preparation with prayer and fasting.  Esther did not rashly  move ahead but asked others to pray and fast with her for strength and direction.

4.  Her self-denial.  Esther states when realizing the gravity of the situation,  “I will go to the king, even though it is against the law.  And if I perish, I perish.”

5.  Her courage.  She took deliberate, intentional steps, in spite of many fears, to place herself  “at the end of the sceptre.”

6.  Her boldness.  Esther on more than one occasion spoke clearly, firmly and boldly, making her wishes known to the king.

7.  Her and her people’s thanksgiving to God. An ongoing feast and time of celebration was established to recognize and give honor to God for his provision and care for his people through Esther’s actions.

Dear Women,

As you face choices in life, remember this.  Choice, free will choice is one of the most divine gifts that God, the creator of the Heavens and Earth gives to each and every one of us.  Much of our lives: our peace, our direction, our joy here on earth and in the physical realm may be dependent on our choices.  Our eternity is dependent on our choice.

As Esther faced extreme stress and pressure in many areas of her life, it was her submission and surrender to Godly choices that helped her be available as the tool to help God save his people from annihilation.

What a story!  What a God we serve!

Now….go and choose….wisely!

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