ESTHER 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5
God is not mentioned once in the Book of Esther; neither is prayer or worship. What are mentioned are a lot of feasting and fasting, Gentiles and genocide, jealousy, pride, and power. The absence of any reference to God did cause some theologians to question whether Esther should be included in the Canon of Scripture, but the Lord’s sovereign rule is actually assumed at every stage in the narrative. Furthermore, his omission from the narrative is a literary device that emphasises massively the fact that he is in total control of every facet of their lives and ours. The purpose of Esther is to show how God protected his chosen people in exile from the attempts of godless men to exterminate the entire race; it shows how anyone can be used by him to be of major influence in their life and times.
The story starts with a bad marriage. Xerxes of Persia is not only the absolute emperor, but also a bit of a ‘party animal’. All the most expensive decorations, wines, tableware, and foods were on offer. He also had a stunningly beautiful wife, Vashti, whom he used to parade in front of his friends and guests. It was a pity about her manners! Upon being ‘invited’ to enter the King’s presence, she said ‘no’. So angry was the king that he had the lawyers on the phone in an instant and it was decided that Vashti’s behaviour had set a disastrous example to all other Persian women: disobeying her husband and showing disrespect! The solution? Divorce!
To find a replacement wife, Xerxes decided to search far and wide throughout the land to locate the most beautiful, intelligent, respectful, and attractive young woman – a kind of Persian ‘X-Factor’! Esther won! She was Jewish, an orphan who lived with her Uncle Mordecai, and pleased the king more than any other woman he had met (and he’d met a few!). Things went well for a while and became even better for the Mordecai family when he himself uncovered a plot to assassinate the king and had the plotters arrested before they could do the deed.
Four years later (chapter 3) a man called Haman was promoted by the king and developed an instant dislike for Mordecai, who refused to kneel down to him or honour him. Haman learned that Mordecai was a Jew and was so angry that he resolved to kill not only Mordecai but all his people too. (Esther had kept her Jewishness secret.) Haman bribed the king to issue a decree to have all the Jews killed on a single day, starting in the city of Susa.
Mordecai was distraught, he put on sackcloth and ashes and met Esther at the palace gate. Humanly speaking, the only hope of having this order rescinded was for Esther to use her influence with the king; the problem was that you only entered his presence if invited! Esther realised that she faced the possibility of death either way, and decided to speak up for her people, making it clear to the king that she was a Jewess. Maybe she had been sent by God ‘for such as time as this’! She asked all the Jews in Susa to fast from all food and all drink for three days and nights.
She need not have worried. Her husband was delighted to see her, and he even had his cheque book out! Her request was for the king to invite Haman to the next feast. Little did he know why! And the man was so arrogant that he decided to push on with the executions, planning to start with Mordecai the very next day.
It didn’t seem as though the fasting (and praying, I guess) was working. What did the Lord have in mind next?