Esther Manifests Divine Wisdom
“EVERYTHING has its appointed hour, there is a time for all things under heaven: a time to kill, a time to heal, . . . a time to cry, a time to laugh, . . . a time for silence and a time for speech.” Appreciation of the wisdom of these words, recorded at Ecclesiastes 3:1, 3, 4, 7 (Moffatt), will help all servants of Jehovah who would frustrate the designs of the enemies of truth and righteousness and make the most of their opportunities to serve him. Such will therefore peruse with interest and profit the record of one Esther, a Jewish maiden who followed this wise course.
Esther lived in the royal city of Shushan, capital of Persia, in the early part of the fifth century B.C., at the time when Xerxes (Ahasuerus) ruled the 127 provinces of the empire which extended from Ethiopia to India. Orphaned at a tender age, she had been reared by her cousin, Mordecai, a Benjamite. Her name “Esther” was the Persian equivalent for the Jewish “Hadassah”, meaning “myrtle”.
Esther first appears in the book by her name after Xerxes had deposed his queen Vashti for a serious act of insubordination and when the most beautiful virgins of the empire were being brought to the capital as likely candidates to replace the deposed queen. Esther was among those so chosen, for she was “fair and beautiful”, and from the record that follows it is quite apparent that she had a lovely disposition. It is not surprising, therefore, to learn that she immediately received preferment above all other virgins by the keeper of the king’s women, Hegai, when her time came to prepare her visit to the king.
Esther manifested wisdom by obeying Mordecai’s instructions not to reveal her identity as a Jewess; for why should racial prejudice disqualify her? Here was a time for silence. And after the prescribed beauty course, which lasted for twelve months, when it came her turn to visit the king and she was permitted to ask for anything she wished so as to appear before him in the most attractive manner possible, again she showed wisdom and contentment by keeping silent; trusting the maturer judgment of Hegai and asking for nothing save what he prescribed. Some girlish notion might easily have spoiled things.
Regarding her visit to the king we read: “The king loved Esther more than all the women, and she won favor and kindness in his presence more than all the maidens; so that he set the royal crown upon her head and made her queen instead of Vashti.” Following this the king made a great feast, declared a national holiday and gave lavish gifts, all in honor of Esther his new queen.—Esther 2:16-18, An Amer. Trans.
Not long thereafter Esther’s cousin Mordecai revealed to her a plot to kill the king, which she made known to the king and which upon investigation was found to be so. Here again she showed wisdom, for, while making sure to advise the king that it was Mordecai that had uncovered the plot, she ‘did not make known her kindred and people’. Though now a queen she still heeded the wise instructions of this wise and devoted servant of Jehovah the same as before.
Vashti had been deposed in the third year of Xerxes’ reign; four years had passed by the time Esther succeeded her. Now it was the twelfth year of his reign, about 475 B.C., as one day her maidens brought her the report that all the Jews in Shushan, including Mordecai, were in great distress, weeping, wailing and fasting and covering themselves with sackcloth and ashes. Perplexed, Esther sends clothes to Mordecai so that he could discard his garments of sackcloth, but he refuses to accept them. Troubled Esther then sends one of the king’s chamberlains, Hatach, who was at her service, to “learn what this was and why it was”.
Mordecai advises him of all that had happened to him and regarding the exact sum of money ($18,000,000) that Haman had promised to pay to the king’s treasuries for the destruction of the Jews. He also gives Hatach a copy of the decree that was given out in Shushan to destroy all the Jews on the 13th day of the twelfth month (Adar), which date had been determined by the casting of lots, that he might show it to Esther, and charges her to go in to the king and implore him on behalf of her people.—Esther 4:1-9.
But Esther hesitates, and not without seemingly good reason: “All the king’s servants . . . know,” she tells Mordecai, “that whoever, whether man or woman, comes to the king into the inner court who is not summoned, there is one law for him, that he be put to death, except those to whom the king shall hold out the golden scepter that he may live; but I have not been summoned to come to the king these thirty days.” Was the king angry with her? Had she displeased him in some way and so was no longer, or at least not for the time being, in his favor? Thirty days seemed like a long time to ignore his lovely queen.—Esther 4:11, An Amer. Trans.
But Mordecai firmly stands his ground: “Think not,” he sends word to Esther, “to yourself that you will escape inside the royal palace any more than all the rest of the Jews. For if you remain altogether silent at this time, then relief and deliverance will rise up for the Jews from another quarter, . . . and who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” Appreciating his line of reasoning, Esther, with her trust in Jehovah, replies: “Go, assemble all the Jews that are to be found in Shushan and fast for me . . . three days. . . . I also and my maidens will likewise fast, and then I will go to the king, which is not according to the law; and if I perish, I perish.” (Esther 4:13-16, An Amer. Trans.) Without doubt, with the fasting went prayers to Jehovah for guidance and help.
At the end of the three days Esther put on her royal robes—she was going to appear at her best—and then ventured into the king’s presence. When the king saw her she met with his favor and so he extended his scepter to her and inquired: “What is your wish, Queen Esther, and what is your request? It shall be given you even to the half of the kingdom.” Did Esther immediately blurt out all the facts regarding the dire straits she and all the Jews were in because of Haman’s foul conspiracy? No; urgent though the matter was, she showed tact, self-control and wisdom, appreciating that there was a time for everything, and so simply requested that the king and his grand vizier Haman come to a banquet she had prepared. First she would put the king in the best possible frame of mind, and by inviting Haman she not only would throw him off guard but would have him present at the time of his exposure.—Esther 5:1-4.
The king and Haman attend the banquet. At this she requests their presence at another banquet the following day, at which she would make known her petition. At the end of the second banquet she answers the king’s third request for her petition with the well-chosen words: “If I have found favor in the sight of the king, and if it please the king, let my life be given me at my petition and my people at my request; for we are sold, I and my people, to be destroyed, to be slain, and to perish. But if we had been sold as male and female slaves, I would have held my peace, since the distress would not have been worth disturbing the king.” Coming at just this particular occasion, what a shock this news must have been to the king! No wonder he exclaimed in amazement: “Who is he, and where is he who dares presume in his heart to do so?” Where is he? Note here the wisdom of having Haman present at the banquet as she replies: “An adversary and an enemy, this wicked Haman.” Before the day was over Haman was hanging on the gallows that he had prepared for Mordecai, and Haman’s estate was given to the queen, who placed Mordecai in charge of it. Esther was well rewarded for her patience, courage, wisdom, and, above all, her trust in Jehovah.—Esther 7:1-10, An Amer. Trans.
The great enemy of the Jews was dead, but his work was yet to be undone, for his decree of destruction of all the Jews still stood. So Esther again ventured into the presence of the king, this time falling at his feet and beseeching him with tears to avert the evil planned by Haman, and again the king extended his scepter to her. Note how, with what eloquence she pleads, not for her own life, but for the life of her people: “If it please the king, and if I have found favor in his sight, and the thing seem right before the king, and I am pleasing in his sight, let it be written to reverse the letters devised by Haman. . . . For how can I endure to see the calamity that will come upon my people?”—Esther 8:2-6, An Amer. Trans.
In response to this petition the king authorized the making of a counter-decree, and so Mordecai wrote to all the Jews in the provinces to fight for their lives on Adar 13, and even to take the offensive against their enemies. The letters were sealed with the king’s signet and sent out by the fastest means at the disposal of the king. Moreover “Mordecai went from the presence of the king in royal garments . . . with a great crown of gold . . . and the city of Shushan shouted and was glad . . . and many from among the peoples of the land became Jews”.—Esther 8:8-17, An Amer. Trans.
Due to this turn in events the officials everywhere sided with Mordecai, Esther and the Jews; and, as a result, when that dreaded 13th day of Adar came, instead of all the Jews’ being destroyed, 75,000 of their enemies throughout the provinces licked the dust and in Shushan alone 500 perished. And while the decree permitted the Jews to despoil their enemies, the record states that “they laid not a finger on the plunder”.—Esther 9:10, Moffatt.
Commenting on this news King Xerxes asked his queen Esther what else she wished, and it would be given her. This being “a time to kill”, Esther requested that the Jews in Shushan be given another day to avenge themselves on their enemies, and that the ten sons of Haman, already slain, be hung on a gallows. And so while the Jews throughout the provinces rejoiced and celebrated on Adar 14, the Jews in the capital city of Shushan hung Haman’s ten sons on a gallows, most likely the very one their father had made for Mordecai and on which Haman himself was hung, and the Jews continued their work of avenging themselves on their foes with the result that 300 more fell. Then they feasted and rejoiced on the 15th of the month. Both Mordecai and Esther then sent letters to the Jews throughout the provinces ordaining the 14th and 15th of Adar as days for rejoicing; and the Jews to this day still celebrate these two days, known as the “feast of Purim” because of the lots “Pur” that Haman had cast to determine the day for the destruction of the Jews.
Jehovah’s servants can learn much from Esther’s wise example, especially now as legal conspiracy and lawless acts against them continue to increase. It emphasizes that there is indeed a time for silence, for avoiding the arousing of prejudices needlessly and being careful not to divulge information that the enemy could use to injure the Lord’s people and his work. It also shows that there is a time for speaking, for being bold and fearless, yet having full trust in Jehovah that he will come to their aid after they have done all they possibly can. It shows the need of being faithful and loyal to one another and the wisdom of listening to and being submissive to the instructions and counsel given by the mature and devoted servants of Jehovah whom he is using at the present time to direct his work in the earth. Additionally, the drama of Esther is fraught with prophetic significance, foreshadowing events in our day and giving us a glimpse into the near future, assuring us that the designs of the enemies of God’s people will fail, for he will preserve all those who love and serve him.