Adventures with Esther

About: this paper was delivered to Dr. Barth Campbell at Simpson University during my sophomore year in a class in hermeneutics.

 

God wants to use you.

More often than not we believe a lie that God will not or cannot use us because of our past. We become trapped to the idea that our past keeps us from God’s ability and desire to use us. We think that God refrains from using us because of what we do and who we are. We fall to deceit which tells us we are not good enough for God to use. However, we fail to realize that God is God and he chooses to use us in whatever situation we are in—whether we are at work or at home, no matter what our past consists of, no matter where we have been or what we have done—God wants to use us. We may not understand why, we may not know how, we may not comprehend when, but it is important to understand that God is directly involved in our lives and uses us for his perfect will. The good news about our past—whether good or bad—is that God can use it. Romans 8:28 is very clear regarding God’s power and his ability to use all things about us for the good of his children because he “causes all things to work together for good to those who love [Him].” Instead of looking back on our past and becoming filled with disappointment, now we can look back and be filled with hope because we know that God can use it for his purpose. With our newfound hope we can move forward by allowing God to use us in every area of our lives no matter the circumstances. Esther, a woman in the Old Testament, was a woman that did just that—she allowed God to use her exactly where she was at—and as a result God was able to preserve, protect and provide for his people.

God not only desires to use us but he also uses us exactly where we are at; in Esther’s case, he used her in her royal position as queen of Persia. Esther became queen of Persia in 478 BC (Halley 1965: 237). However, Esther was no ordinary queen for she was a Jew, a Jew that ruled over Persia—the nation that captured, oppressed, and enslaved her people. Being a Jew, there was a certain danger spelled for Queen Esther, for if the King of Persia discovered her nationality he very well could have had her killed. Esther was risking her life by staying in the position that she was in, but she allowed God to use her in that position and as a result, God used Esther to save his people from annihilation, thus preserving, protecting, and providing for his people. Looking at the chronological historical events we realize that “Esther appeared about 40 years after the temple was rebuilt, and about 30 years before the wall of Jerusalem was rebuilt” and therefore Esther “made possible the work of Nehemiah. Her marriage to the King must have given Jews great prestige” (Halley 1965: 237) and therefore opened up the opportunity for Nehemiah to work under the King. Esther was very important playing a significant role in the Old Testament working as God’s tool to preserve, protect and provide for her people. Without Esther, “[i]t is impossible to guess what might have happened to the Hebrew nation […] Except for her Jerusalem might never have been rebuilt, and there might have been a different story to tell to all future ages” (Halley 1965: 237). Esther is a key player in the history of the Hebrew Nation because she allowed God to use her. It is important to understand her importance portrayed in this book which tells “about a very important historical event, not just a story to point a moral: the Hebrew nation’s deliverance from annihilation in the days following the Babylonian Captivity” (Halley 1965: 237). The story of Esther reveals that “[i]f the Hebrew nation had been entirely wiped out of existence 500 years before it brought Christ into the world, that might have had some difference in the destiny of mankind; no Hebrew nation, no Messiah: no Messiah, a lost world” (Halley 1965: 237). Esther was God’s tool during this time to work for his people and to fulfill his will. It is noteworthy that “[t]his beautiful Jewish girl of the long ago, though she herself may not have known it, yet played her part in paving the way for the coming of the world’s Saviour” (Halley 1965: 237).

Now that we understand where in history this story takes place, we need to understand where in the book this story takes place. A “coincidental” dream in chapter six of the book of Esther brings about the recognition and rewards of Mordecai for his work to help reveal an assassination attempt on the King’s life. King Xerxes, being kept awake one night, discovered in his records that Mordecai was never rewarded for his help in stopping the assassination attempt on his life. This chapter shows the king “honors Mordecai, while Haman sulks” (Water 2003:432). Haman hated the Jews, especially Mordecai because they would not honor him in his appointed position and pay homage to him. When Mordecai was honored by the king—the very person that had appointed Haman—he was enraged and sulked about the matter for he could not stand the sight of the person he hated most to be honored above him. Then, after Mordecai was honored, the King in chapter seven grants whatever his wife, Queen Esther, desires. She asks to save her life and to save her people from a man who is setting out to kill them; when the King finds out that Haman is the one responsible for the plot to kill the Jews, he has him hanged. Then, in chapter eight, Esther pleads the King to create a decree to protect the Jews and to give them civil rights. In chapter nine, the King’s decree was carried out, and the Jews were allowed to rid themselves of all those seeking to kill them and to defend themselves from attack, and it is in this chapter that the Jews “defeat their enemies and institute the Feast of Purim” (Water 2003: 433).

The historical audience would have viewed this passage as a crucial event in history where they were saved from annihilation and destruction of their nation. They would have viewed this passage as the turning point for their nation during their captivity that not only preserved their nation but preserved the coming of the Messiah as well. Let’s dive into the Scriptures and see what we can learn about how God uses his people in exactly where they are at.

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Haman Hanged (7:1-10)

Imagine that you are the kingpin of the Italian Mafia and you decide to take your wife and your best hit man out to dinner one night. You take them to a lovely French restaurant that serves fluffy garlic bread and great escargot that simply melts in your mouth. The three of you sit down to enjoy a lovely dinner at a nice booth in the corner of the restaurant that is secluded from everyone else. The servers are either in crisp, black tuxedoes or sparkling, black dresses. The night is perfect, so perfect that you decide you want to make your wife happy, so you ask her, “Darling, if there is anything that you desire, anything at all, I will give it to you. What is your heart’s desire?” Your wife looks at you in hope and she says, “I want to be safe, I want my life to be safe, and I want my people, for I am not Italian but I am Russian, to be safe from a wicked man seeking to kill us all.” You are upset that you are now discovering that your own wife is not even Italian, but Russian, and even more upset to find out that someone is seeking to kill her and her people. You say, “Who is this monster that thinks he can kill you and get away with it?” Your beautiful wife looks directly into your eyes and says, “The wicked monster is the man you are sitting next to.”

What an awkward moment! This is similar to what it was like for King Xerxes at his banquet with Esther and Haman. Having a splendid time with his two most valuable people he decided to grant Esther whatever she wanted, only she wanted to rid the world of Haman, his most trusted advisor! This was the turning point for the Jews, for they were about to be slaughtered like animals according to Haman’s decree; but Esther, seizing the moment, finds a way to help her people, even though it was awkward for the king.

This turning point in the book of Esther begins with King Xerxes asking Queen Esther for whatever she wants. He asks of her, “What is your request?” (7:2). The word for request in Hebrew is “baqqâshâh” which means “petition” (Strong 2001: 45), but it comes from the root word, “bâqash” which literally means “to search out” (Strong 2001: 44). The king is searching to grant Esther’s desire; he wants to please her by giving her the desire of her heart. Now that he has asked what she wants, she gives him an answer.

It is here in Esther’s story that she is able to make her move to help her nation live through the evil schemes of Haman. Esther informs the king that “[t]hey had not sold themselves by any offence against the government, but were sold to gratify the pride and revenge of one man. That it was not their liberty only, but their lives that were sold” (Henry 1961: 510). When she says in her request, “because no such distress would justify disturbing the king,” she was actually saying, “although the enemy is not equal to the damage of the king” (Harrison and Pfeiffer 1962: 454). This means that “the punishment of Haman would involve far less financial loss to the king than would the destruction of thousands of Jews” (Harrison and Pfeiffer 1962: 454). She is saying to the king that by allowing the Jews to be destroyed, you would be losing a quite a bit of profit, but if you destroy Haman you will lose next to nothing in comparison to the Jews. It is also important to note that “Esther would have remained silent if the Jews had been sold as slaves, for this would doubtless have brought much initial profit to the king” (Harrison and Pfeiffer 1962: 454).

When Esther tells that she wants her people to be saved, she is making a claims to that nationality. This might not be important except for the fact that the king did not know up to this point that she was a Jew. If he had known from the beginning he could have had her killed. But now, he loves her and does not dispose of her and Esther was able to gain sympathy for the Jews because she was Jewish herself. By identifying with the Jews, the king was “overwhelmed by the thought that she and her people had been sold unto destruction by an unalterable decree” (Harrison and Pfeiffer 1962: 454). Wanting to stay true to his word and grant Esther that which he promised, he inquires to the man responsible for the matter. Esther replies, “The adversary and enemy is this vile Haman.” These carefully chosen words were used by Esther as she “carefully built up her case before finally naming Haman” (Harrison and Pfeiffer 1962: 454).

Haman was accused of the evil plot to murder the Jews. He was afraid before the king and the queen, for it “was time for him to fear when the queen was his prosecutor, the king his judge, and his own conscience a witness against him” (Henry 1961: 510). Haman pled Esther for mercy, “realizing that he could now find no favor from the king apart from her intercession” (Harrison and Pfeiffer 1962: 454).

The king, enraged about the situation at hand, left the table in his rage. The Hebrew word used here is “chêmâ,” which means “heat” (Strong 2001: 90). However, this word is most likely used figuratively in this case meaning “anger” or “wrath” (Strong 2001: 90). King Xerxes left the table in the heat of the moment while still in his own wrath. This word, “chêmâ,” is used to denote “man’s reaction to everyday circumstances” (Strong 2001: 90). This implies that the king must have went to his garden whenever he became angry, which is what he did in this case. It was no wonder he was angry for his “conscience might have been bothering him too as he remembered his part in approving the terrible scheme. It was hitting much closer to home than he had anticipated” (MacDonald 1995: 502). He retreated into the garden where he contemplated that which should be done. It is here that he “blames himself, that he should be such a fool as to doom a guiltless nation to destruction, and his own queen among the rest, upon the base suggestions of a self-seeking man, without examining the truth of his allegations” (Henry 1961: 510).

When King Xerxes returned from the garden “as chance would have it, [he] returns just as Haman is prostrating himself before or on the queen’s couch” (Elwell 2000: 332). This was a misfortune for Haman because it seals his fate to death because the king “interpreted this as an attempt to assault his wife sexually” (MacDonald 1995: 503). Haman was pleading for his life in what seemed to be an appropriate way for him. Scripture says that Haman “stood up to make request for his life to Esther the queen” (KJV). The word for “request” in Aramaic is “bâqash,” which literally means to “seek to secure” (Strong 2001: 44). Haman was seeking to secure his own life at this point. Knowing that the king was about to make good on his word he realized his only chance for life would be to receive mercy from the queen. He pleaded with all his might, even lying down on her and becoming most personal with her. But the king did not find this method of pleading appropriate and became fed up with him. The king did not even utter the words to seize Haman, “the servants covered his face, a preliminary to execution” (MacDonald 1995: 503). Informed of the gallows that Haman built for Mordecai, the king commanded that he be hanged on it. Therefore, “Haman took Mordecai’s place on the gallows. He reaped what he had sown” (MacDonald 1995: 503). A just end to a wretched and evil man.

Do not miss the point of this chapter: God used Esther to save his people from annihilation, and he did so by using her exactly where she was at. Being the queen she had direct contact with the king, the one who had the power to save her kind. God used that connection to protect his people and he used that relationship to preserve his children. God was using Esther’s abilities to do his work. When we allow God to use our abilities he can do greater things than we can imagine with them. However, we have to be as open and ready to use them for God’s glory as Esther was, otherwise we will not have a great impact for God. We have to allow God to use our gifts, our talents, our strengths, even our weaknesses and present everything that we have before him and allow him to use them for his purpose. When we do so God will take what we have and he will do great and mighty things for the good for those who love him just as he promised.

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The Edict of King Xerxes Regarding the Jews (8:1-17)

That same day, after the king’s anger and rage had subsided, he gave to Esther Haman’s estate. Esther, being a Jew—which Haman hated—was now in control and had complete ownership of Haman’s property and possessions. Jews, whom Haman tried to control and destroyed, were now in control over Haman and his possessions. To top it all off, King Xerxes reclaimed his signet ring from Haman, which is a power of appointment, and presented it to Mordecai. Mordecai now has the power of appointment from the king. In Hebrew, the word for “presented” is “nâthan,” which in this case means “to give over one’s power or control” (Strong 2001: 194), and the signet ring was a symbol of that power given to Mordecai. Then, Esther appointed Mordecai over Haman’s estate as well. All that Haman held dear was now owned by those that he held in disdain. This is the turning point of this chapter, for Mordecai has been given the authority of the king and it is by such authority as this that will grant far more than life for the Hebrews. Because Esther had already revealed her true identity as a Jew to the king, she therefore was “happy to present Mordecai to the king as her guardian and cousin” (Harrison and Pfeiffer 1962: 455). Because the king had already given much honor to Mordecai for “exposing the plot against his life […] it was perfectly natural for him to give the Jew his signet ring […] and to appoint him chief minister of the empire” (Harrison and Pfeiffer 1962: 455). With Mordecai empowered with the authority of the king and with the trust and approval of the king, he will prove to be a significant tool for the survival of the Jews.

Esther approached King Xerxes one more time because “many others there were in the king’s dominions that hated the Jews and desired their ruin, and to their rage and malice all the rest of that people lay exposed for the edict against them was still in force” (Henry 1961: 511). Therefore, Esther requests to put an end to it; her request is “that the king, having put away Haman, would put away the mischief of Haman and his device against the Jews” (Henry 1961: 511). She had compassion for her people and she wanted to save it, so she appealed to the king. Esther, “[n]ot fully understanding the intricacies of Persian law, she appealed directly to the heart of the king for mercy upon Israel and for the reversal of ‘the letters devised by Haman,’ being careful not to put blame upon the king for his part in Haman’s deed” (Harrison and Pfeiffer 1962: 511). However, no law was capable of being reversed, not even by the word of the king. This is where the appointment of Mordecai comes into play, for it is now that the king utilizes Mordecai to write a decree that counteracts the first decree from Haman, thus granting Queen Esther’s request.

Mordecai, empowered by the king, “dictated an edict which gave the Jews the right to protect their lives” (MacDonald 1995: 503). No longer were Jews not allowed to defend themselves. Now they had the right to take up arms against any man that desired to harm them. The new edict was “published exactly seventy days after Haman’s edict, which would suggest to Jewish readers the predicted seventy years of exile” (Elwell 2000: 332). The edict was “drawn up and published in the respective languages of all the provinces. The purport of this decree was to commission the Jews, upon the day which was appointed for their destruction, to draw together in a body for their own defence” (Henry 1961: 511). This edict gave them the right to assemble and protect themselves, to destroy, kill and annihilate any armed forces of any nationality or province that might attack them and their women and children, and to plunder the property of their enemies. The Hebrew word used for “assemble” is “qâhal,” which literally means “to gather for conflict or war, for religious purposes, and for judgment” (Strong 2001: 244). Ergo, the Jews were given the authority to come together to fight. In Hebrew, the word for “protect” is “‘âmad,” which in this case means “to stand […] It is what a soldier does while on watch […] from this basic meaning comes the meaning ‘to be established, immovable, and standing upright’ on a single spot” (Strong 2001: 213). In other words, the Jews were to stand firm and not back down from those wishing to harm them, for they were going to establish their lives and not be moved by the evil ones. “Destroy” in Hebrew is “shâmad,” which means “to destroy, annihilate, exterminate” while expressing “complete destruction or annihilation” (Strong 2001: 283). “Kill” in Hebrew is “hârag,” which means “to kill, slay, destroy” while referring to “wholesale slaughter, both in battle and after battle” (Strong 2001: 71). “Annihilate” in Hebrew is “’âbad,” which means “causatively destroy” (Strong 2001: 1). In other words, to cause to destroy. This word “represents the disappearance of someone or something” (Strong 2001: 1). Hitherto, this edict clearly gave the power to the Jews to come together to fight and to stand firm and establish their lives, and to completely exterminate, slaughter—both in and out of battle—and cause their wicked oppressors to be destroyed. This edict was irrevocable and was set in stone.

Once the edict was sent throughout the kingdom the Jews were filled with joy and happiness. However, because of the severity of the edict, many foreigners converted to Judaism “because of fear of the Jews (‘fear’ includes an awed awareness of the Jews’ favored status)” (Elwell 2000: 332). It is at this point that “Israel had now begun to experience one of the greatest deliverances of God since the Exodus, and the lesson was obvious to many” (Harrison and Pfeiffer 1962: 455).

Again we see that God used Esther to help to preserve, protect, and provide for his people by using her exactly where she was at. He used her abilities and influence as queen to reach the king. Esther made herself presentable towards God, allowing him to use her in her circumstances so as to do his work. We are to do the same: present ourselves before God and allow him to use us. When we do so, God will do great and mighty things, all because we made ourselves and our abilities available to God for his work.

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You might be thinking to yourself, “But James, there is no way God can use me. Sure, he used Esther, she was a queen for crying out loud. She was a great person. But I am far from it, so how could God ever want to use me?” Well, I am glad you asked, let me tell you!

We may not be kings and queens but God still wants to use us. We may not be used to free an entire captive nation from annihilation like Esther was but God still wants to use us. God wants to use us in our everyday lives because he is sovereign of all—of the big things, and even in the little things. In the little things God wants to use us to reach out to the co-worker that needs peace. In the little things God wants to use us to reach out to the little girl without a daddy. In the little things God wants to use us to help provide for the needy. In the little things God wants us to heal the sick. In the little things God wants us to comfort the hurt. But in the big things God wants to use us to reach out to this hurting and dying world so that we can introduce them to Jesus Christ and ultimately save them from eternal damnation. Either in the small things or in the great things they can both be accomplished in exactly where you are at—either at work or at home, either at school or at play, either at church or at the streets—God wants to use you exactly where you are at.

From the adventures with Esther we find three theological principles about God. First, God is constantly involved with our lives. God is always directly working in our lives and just because we do not acknowledge it or we do not comprehend it, it does not mean that God is not working in our lives. We should never question what God is doing because he is God and he is sovereign. The New Testament demonstrates God is always directly involved. Even though God’s name is not directly stated in the book of Esther, we can indirectly see God’s direct involvement in Esther’s life so as to take action for his people. Second, God has, is, and always will preserve his people. Even God’s Son, Jesus Christ, is preparing a place for us in heaven to keep and preserve us for all eternity. The awesome thing about that is God is no longer having a “closed banquet” to a private party of Jews; now, the dinner invitation is open to all those that accept Jesus Christ as their Savior, and anyone who does so will be preserved as God’s child for all eternity. Third, God wants to use you where you are at, whether you are a slave or a queen. God used Mordecai, Jewish slave to the empire, as well as Esther. God is looking for anyone that wants to be used by him. This includes you and me. God wants to use people of all status’ and conditions for his work, not just the powerful ones, not just the weak ones, but everyone.

Keeping these theological principles in perspective, how can we apply what we know about God to our own lives? First, we should realize that we will not always understand and see that God is always working in our life. Second, we should understand that Jesus Christ is preserving us by enabling us to spend all eternity with him in heaven. But third, we need to let God use us where we are at; we should offer our present situations, positions, and abilities to him so that he can use us.

Imagine with me that you are a decent person, you did well in school, you have a great job, and your friends really like you. However, you know something about yourself that no one else does: you were a beaten and abused child while growing up and you were told all your life that you were worthless. You, being 20 years old, have bought into that lie and believe that you are good for nothing in this world. You struggle with the thought that God cannot use a hasbit like yourself. Sure, you are well-liked but you still seem to believe that no one really likes you. Sure, your boss tells you that you are a good worker but you still seem to believe that you are not doing good enough at your job. You have a talent for computers but you seem to believe that you could never use your knowledge of computers for God. You have a knowledge of the Scriptures but because your friends are not Christians you are never able to talk about what you know and you believe that your knowledge is worthless. You think to yourseelf that God does not even want to use you because you have nothing to offer.

However, as a child of God you have worth for you were bought at a price. God deems you special, God sees you as valuable, God calls you his child and he finds you worth so much that gave up his own Son in order to bring you into his family. Jesus Christ is preserving you for all eternity, and until you go to be with him, God wants to use you right here and right now. But you need to realize that you have more to offer than you think: you have a job that you can use as a ministry; you have friends that you can invest in; you have a talent for computers that you could use to help the church with on Sunday mornings by running Powerpoint or perhaps your church needs you to build a web site so that they could inform people about their church via the internet; you have a knowledge of Scriptures that you could use to teach a Sunday school class at your church or even perhaps witness to your non-Christian friends and utilize those Scriptures. You do have worth and value and you do have talents, gifts, and tools that you can use for God. You may not understand how exactly God is using you, but you need to realize that you have been set apart for an eternity with your Savior and before you depart for that time God wants to use you and he is going to use what you are willing to offer—wether it be at home, at work, at church, with friends, with family, etc—he wants to use you.

God wants to use you and all there is to you to reach out to the world that he has created. In order for him to do that we need to make ourselves available to him just as Esther did. William Carrie once said, “Expect great things from God; Attempt great things for God.” It is vital that we step up to the plate and present ourselves ready and able to God and allow him to use us. When we do that we can then attempt to do great and mighty things for God at the same time expecting great things from God. Esther presented herself to God and made herself available for God; by allowing herself to be God’s tool she attempted to do great things for God while at the same time, because of her efforts, she expected great things from God. Needless to say she was not disappointed and neither will we if we follow in her footsteps. Are you presenting yourself to be ready and available for God? Remember, God wants to use you and he will use you exactly where you are at no matter what your past may consist of, no matter where you are at, no matter what you are doing—he wants to use you! Are you following in the footsteps of Esther and serving the Lord with all that you are and making yourself available to him in every aspect of your life? If you want to be used by God, maybe you should consider it if you have not already done so. Let’s go out and serve the Lord with all our heart with all our soul and with all our strength!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bibliography

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Elwell, Walter A., ed. Baker Commentary on the Bible. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2000.

 

Harrison, Everett F. and Charles F. Pfeiffer, eds. The Wycliffe Bible Commentary. Chicago: The

Moody Bible Institute of Chicago, 1962.

 

Halley, Henry H. Halley’s Bible Handbook. 24th ed. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing

House, 1965.

 

Henry, Matthew. Commentary on the Whole Bible: Genesis to Revelation. Edited by Rev.

Leslie F. Curch, Ph.D., F.R.Hist.S. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1961.

 

King James Version (KJV). The Holy Bible. Uhrichsville: Barbour Publishing, INC.

 

MacDonald, William. Believer’s Bible Commentary. Art Farstad, ed. Nashville: Thomas

Nelson Publishers, 1995.

 

Strong, James, LL.D., S.T.D. The New Strong’s Expanded Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible,

Red-Letter Edition. “The New Strong’s Expanded Dictionary of the Words in the

Hebrew Bible.” Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2001.

 

Water, Mark. Key Word Commentary: Thoughts on Every Chapter of the Bible. Grand Rapids:

Zondervan Publishing House, 2003.

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