Darius’ decree to finish the temple issued in 520 BC, temple completed and dedicated in 516 BC. He was defeated by Greeks at Marathon 24 years later in 490 BC; son Xerxes (King Ahasuerus in our text) raised massive army (estimated at 300,000+) to invade Greece, avenge father’s defeat. Won costly victory at Thermopylae (in part, basis for 300, 2006 movie), sacked a deserted Athens, but was himself disastrously routed by Greek navy at Salamis. Retreated to his palace, soothed his wounded pride with “the intrigues of the harem”.HerodotusAt this point in his life story of Esther opens – a frustrated and short-tempered king, ruling a declining empire, turns to pursuit of pleasure.
During more than 50-year interlude between completion and dedication of temple and return to Jerusalem of Ezra with a second group of exiles, events of Esther take place. Offended pride, perhaps the resurgence of ancient ethnic animosity, access to the king worked together to put God’s people at risk. Yet God was working his plan, long before hint of any trouble, preparing his servants for their vital roles in preservation of the church.
A. Mordecai v.5-7
descended with connections v.5-6
Mordecai and Esther – fathers were brothers
both descended from Kish, father of King Saul
qualities necessary for Saul to be suitable king present in family heritage
† preparation for future position as prime minister (Est. 10:3)
devoted to Esther v.7, 11
treated like his own daughter
continued after she was responsibility of Hegai
Mordecai not inclined to leave Esther to her own devices
† preparation for continued future influence
enabled him to
become aware of assassination plot
communicate with Esther at minimal immediate personal risk
† preparation for future payback
B. Esther v.8-20
delightful v.9, 15, 17
personal appeal – charm
disarming – (authenticity) quickly won over the chamberlain, later the king
presence – inner beauty outwardly evident (1 Peter 3:3-4)
† preparation for serving effectively as Queen
distinctive treatment v.9
best of everything
perhaps (as a consequence) protection from jealousy
† preparation for acceptance by King Ahasuerus
disciplined v.10, 15, 20
Mordecai’s training, guidance
obeyed his direction
result of his raising “her as if she were his own daughter”
accepted guidance without being demanding
† preparation for dealing with crisis
not a “ring of gold in a swine’s snout” (Prov. 11:22), a pretty face on an empty head. Being orphaned and raised by her older cousin didn’t harden or embitter her, have other negative consequences. Part of God’s perfect preparation for future service.
C. Ahashuerus v.21-23
dependent – in control but….
Ahasuerus ruling his kingdom but…
vulnerable to attempts on his life (15 years later, attempt was effective)
circumstances of plot being revealed put him in position of dependence
owed his life to Mordecai and Esther
† preparation for future “payback” time
perhaps for wrong reasons – short temper, anger, fear
† preparation for time when quick decisive action necessary to prevent major loss of life
made sure details were part of official court records
† preparation for future sleepless night
Here in this intriguing view into life in the Persian royal household, it is not difficult to see the depth of man’s depravity. Dealing with the long-term effects of a decision made in a drunken rage, expecting countless young women to sacrifice their futures to satisfy the lust of a frustrated and lonely king, plotting by discontented servants to commit treasonous murder – could man stoop any lower? Of course, we all know the answer to that question is a resounding YES!Religious leaders plotting 5 centuries later to execute the King of Creation is a far more heinous act than what Bigthan and Teresh were guilty of planning.
Two vital truths are apparent in this account –
1. God, although not named, was very much in evidence: the Unseen Ruler providentially overruling men’s evil intentions and actions to bring about good for his people.
God was actively preparing individuals from widely different walks of life to serve his ultimate purpose – a young and beautiful orphan, a descendant of royalty living in exile, the pagan leader of a world superpower – brought together through an improbable series of circumstances that could only be choreographed by God Himself.
2. Man’s desperate condition as alienated from God and in need of conversion is clearly represented by the actions and attitudes of the Persians.
While the preparations carried out in Esther 2 had short-term significance (within the lifetimes of the main characters), they were also reflective of something far greater. God was working out the protection his people while at the same preparing the world for the advent of our Savior, the Lord Jesus.
God taking on the nature and form of a man, born of a woman, descended from a people the world and Satan tried to exterminate, the sinless one being made sin for us, that we might be made righteous in the sight of God, dying for our redemption and being raised for our justification. That is the good news of the Gospel the ancient Persian world needed to hear and believe. The Good News is the same today – it is by faith that we must look up to the Lamb of Calvary, the only one who can take our sin away and make us wholly his.