Bible Highlights Esther 1:1–10:3
Divine Deliverance From Genocide
The massacre will be chillingly efficient: young and old, little ones and women, annihilated without exception. No one will dare oppose the scheme, for the execution order bears the seal of the king. Yes, the Jews will die like helpless cattle!
At least this is how things look to Haman, the prime minister of ancient Persia. He has plotted this mass murder out of blind hatred for the Jew Mordecai. But as Haman smugly awaits his victory, the Jewish nation prays for deliverance. The outcome? It is revealed in the dramatic Bible book of Esther. Written by Mordecai himself, it is the faith-strengthening account of how divine assistance—and a young woman’s faith—saved a nation.
Esther Becomes Queen
Please read Esther 1:1–2:23. About 484 B.C.E., the Persian king Ahasuerus (Xerxes I) convenes a huge banquet. But Queen Vashti refuses to heed his summons to appear there. The enraged king strips her of her rank and sets out to acquire a new queen. After inspecting the most beautiful women in the realm, he selects a modest Jewess named Hadassah, who has been prepared for this role by her cousin Mordecai. The young woman conceals the fact that she is Jewish, using her Persian name Esther.
◆ 1:3-5—Why were these festivities held?
According to historian Herodotus, Xerxes once called an assembly to plan a military campaign against Greece. Perhaps this is the same gathering. Likely, Xerxes showed off the glory and riches of his kingdom to convince the nobles of his ability to carry out the Grecian campaign.
◆ 1:8—What was the law on drinking?
It seems that the Persians had the custom of urging one another to drink a set amount at such gatherings. The king, however, made an exception on this occasion. Whether this resulted in more moderate or in unrestrained drinking, the Bible does not say.
◆ 2:19, 20—Why did Mordecai ‘sit in the king’s gate’?
Mordecai apparently was one of the officers of King Ahasuerus. Such men of authority generally sat at the gate, waiting to respond to a royal request. Mordecai’s position must have been quite a responsible one. Otherwise, Haman could likely have dismissed him immediately. Mordecai was thus in a position to learn of and to foil a plot to assassinate the king.
Lesson for Us: Esther showed the value of modesty in not requesting jewelry or fine clothing before going into the king’s presence. She let the secret person of her heart, with its “quiet and mild spirit,” win the king’s favor. (1 Peter 3:1-5) Similarly, those of the anointed remnant gathered since 1919 have won the favor of the King Jesus Christ.
Read 3:1–5:14. Ahasuerus makes an Amalekite named Haman prime minister. But Mordecai, mindful that Jehovah had determined to “have war with Amalek from generation to generation,” refuses to prostrate himself before Haman. (Exodus 17:8-16) In retaliation, proud Haman persuades the king to annihilate the Jews!
Mordecai asks Esther to intervene, reminding her that, if she is silent, “relief and deliverance themselves will stand up for the Jews from another place.” Since the fate of Jehovah’s people and his judgment against the Amalekites are at issue, Mordecai is confident that God will provide escape. (1 Samuel 12:22) Esther approaches the king unbidden—potentially a capital offense! Ahasuerus, though, grants her life and attends a banquet she holds. Returning home, Haman, incensed again at Mordecai’s refusal to render homage, plans to execute him.
◆ 3:7—What was involved in casting Pur?
“Pur” appears to be a Persian word meaning “lot.” Lots were often cast by astrologers as a form of divination. Likely, this was done so as to determine the most auspicious time for Haman to carry out his plan of genocide.
◆ 4:3—Why did Mordecai and the Jews fast?
Because a national calamity was imminent, it was a time for somber, serious thinking. (Ecclesiastes 3:4) They sorely needed divine guidance. Fasting thus signified their turning to Jehovah for needed strength and wisdom. When faced with trials, do you also turn prayerfully to God?—Hebrews 5:7.
◆ 5:6-8—Why did Esther delay informing the king?
Esther’s courage certainly had not failed her, since she had already risked death. Probably, however, she first wanted to win the king’s goodwill. Hence, she invited him to a second banquet. Divine direction was also involved, since the ensuing interim allowed for certain developments.
Lesson for Us: Esther showed faith, courage, and willingness to apply Mordecai’s counsel. Those who have become part of the anointed remnant since 1919 have shown comparable faith, courage, and willingness to work with the older members of the bride of Christ. Fine examples indeed!
The Plot Is Foiled
Read 6:1–7:10. Ahasuerus suffers from sleeplessness, no doubt divinely induced. Possibly feeling that he has failed in some way, he has the book of records, perhaps the royal diary, read to him. Discovering that Mordecai has gone unrewarded for uncovering an assassination plot, the king asks Haman to suggest an appropriate reward. Haman imagines himself the honored one and proposes an elaborate ceremony. But to his horror he is commanded to heap such honors upon Mordecai! Haman’s advisers take this as an omen of his downfall.
No sooner is this humiliating experience over than Haman is escorted to Esther’s second banquet. There the monarch invites Esther to make a request. “Let there be given me my own soul at my petition and my people at my request,” begs the courageous queen. Revealing that she is a Jewess, she exposes Haman’s plot. Terrified Haman pleads for his life but receives, instead, execution—on the very stake intended for Mordecai!
◆ 7:4—Why would destruction of the Jews be damaging to the king?
Had Haman schemed to sell the Jews into slavery, this likely would have resulted in great profit for Ahasuerus. But the destruction of an entire people would result in financial loss far greater than the 10,000 silver talents Haman had promised to pay. Success of the genocide plot would also result in the king’s losing his queen—very personal damage indeed!
◆ 7:8—Why was Haman’s face covered?
Haman did not cover his own face in shame or remorse. Evidently the court officials covered his face, possibly to represent shamefulness or doom. Likely this was the first step taken in carrying out the death sentence.
Lesson for Us: At the risk of her life, Esther courageously revealed that she was Jewish. Since 1931, God’s people similarly have risked persecution by proclaiming themselves Jehovah’s Witnesses. (Isaiah 43:10-12) Are you that courageous?
God’s People Delivered!
Read 8:1–10:3. Mordecai becomes prime minister in place of Haman. Again risking her life, Esther approaches the king uninvited and pleads that steps be taken to undo the scheme of Haman. The monarch agrees and allows Mordecai to dictate a counterdecree in Ahasuerus’ name. Although by Persian custom the previous extermination order cannot be canceled, the new law permits the Jews to defend themselves.
Jubilation breaks forth among the Jews! No longer helpless victims, they now have several months to organize their defense. Finally, Adar (February-March) 13th arrives. Some 75,000 who were ‘seeking their injury’ are killed by the Jews. Lest they forget that this victory was from Jehovah, Mordecai decrees that the yearly Festival of Purim be held on the 14th and 15th of Adar.
◆ 8:5—How did Esther show discernment?
Esther weighed her words carefully, appealing to the king to undo the documents of scheming Haman, “which he wrote.” Tactfully, she avoided any mention of the king’s responsibility in this matter. Christians are similarly tactful when witnessing before government officials.
◆ 8:17—How did people ‘declare themselves Jews’?
The Septuagint says that these Persians “were getting circumcised and Judaizing.” Evidently taking the counterdecree as a sign of divine backing for the Jews, many Persians became Jewish proselytes. Similarly today, “a great crowd” of “other sheep” have taken their stand alongside the anointed remnant.—Revelation 7:9; John 10:16; Zechariah 8:23.
The king’s decree authorized them to take plunder. Their refusal to do so, however, made it evident that their purpose was self-preservation, not self-enrichment.
Lesson for Us: Like the Jews of Esther’s day, Jehovah’s Witnesses properly appeal to governments and courts for protection from enemies. Especially during World War II was it necessary to do this because of the clergy-inspired attacks against God’s people. With Jehovah’s blessing, many major court battles have been won.
The book of Esther serves as a source of hope and encouragement to Jehovah’s Witnesses today. They know that Satan’s intense hatred of them will soon culminate in his making an all-out attempt at their extermination. Exactly how Jehovah will then protect them remains to be seen. (Ezekiel 38:16-23) But their confidence is that, as in Esther’s day, Jehovah will not abandon his people. At the right time, he will provide them with “relief and deliverance.”