ESTHER slowly approached the throne, her heart racing. Imagine a hush falling over the great royal chamber in the Persian palace of Shushan, a silence so profound that Esther could hear her own soft footsteps and the rustling of her royal garments. She could not let her attention wander to the grandeur of the royal court, the graceful columns, the richly carved ceiling of cedars imported from distant Lebanon. She trained all her attention on the man seated upon the throne, the man who held her life in his hands.
The king watched her intently as she approached, extending his golden scepter toward her. It was a simple gesture, but it meant Esther’s life, for by it the king excused her from the offense she had just committed—that of appearing before him without a royal invitation. As she came to the throne, Esther reached out and gratefully touched the top of the scepter.—Esther 5:1, 2.*
Everything about King Ahasuerus bespoke his immense wealth and power. The royal garb of the Persian monarchs of those times reputedly cost the equivalent of hundreds of millions of dollars. Yet, Esther could see some warmth in her husband’s eyes; in his own way, he did love her. He said: “What do you have, O Esther the queen, and what is your request? To the half of the kingship—let it even be given to you!”—Esther 5:3.
Esther had already shown remarkable faith and courage; she came before the king to protect her people from a plot to wipe them all out. So far, she had met with success, but greater challenges lay ahead. She had to convince this proud monarch that his most trusted adviser was a wicked man who had duped him into condemning Esther’s people to death. How would she persuade him, and what can we learn from her faith?
She Wisely Chose “a Time to Speak”
Should Esther have revealed to the king the whole problem in front of his court? Doing so might have humiliated him and given his adviser Haman time to dispute her charges. So what did Esther do? Centuries earlier, wise King Solomon was inspired to write: “For everything there is an appointed time, . . . a time to keep quiet and a time to speak.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1, 7) We may imagine Esther’s adoptive father, the faithful man Mordecai, teaching the young woman such principles as she grew up under his care. Esther certainly understood the importance of choosing carefully the “time to speak.”
Esther said: “If to the king it does seem good, let the king with Haman come today to the banquet that I have made for him.” (Esther 5:4) The king agreed and had Haman summoned. Can you see how wisely Esther spoke? She preserved her husband’s dignity and created a more suitable setting for revealing her concerns to him.
No doubt Esther prepared that feast carefully, seeing to it that in every detail she catered to her husband’s preferences. The banquet included fine wine to encourage a happy mood. (Psalm 104:15) Ahasuerus enjoyed himself, and he was moved to ask Esther again what her petition might be. Was this now the time to speak?
Esther thought not. Rather, she invited the king and Haman to come to a second banquet, on the following day. (Esther 5:7, 8) Why did she delay? Remember, all of Esther’s people were facing death by the king’s decree. With so much at stake, Esther had to be sure that the moment was right. So she waited, creating yet another opportunity to show her husband how highly she regarded him.
Patience is a rare and precious quality. Though distressed and eager to speak her mind, Esther patiently waited for the right moment. We can learn much from her example, for all of us have likely seen wrongs that need to be put right. If we seek to convince someone in authority to address a problem, we may need to imitate Esther and be patient. Proverbs 25:15 says: “By patience a commander is induced, and a mild tongue itself can break a bone.” If we wait patiently for the right moment and speak mildly, as Esther did, even opposition as hard as bone may be broken. Did Esther’s God, Jehovah, bless her patience and wisdom?
Patience Paves the Way for Justice
Esther’s patience paved the way for a remarkable chain of events. Haman left the first banquet in high spirits, “joyful and merry of heart” that the king and queen favored him so. As Haman passed through the castle gate, though, his eyes fell upon Mordecai, that Jew who still refused to pay him special homage. Mordecai’s reasons had nothing to do with disrespect but, rather, with his conscience and his relationship with Jehovah God. Yet, Haman “was immediately filled with rage.”—Esther 5:9.
When Haman told his wife and friends of this slight, they urged him to prepare a huge stake, over 72 feet (22 m) tall, and then to ask the king’s permission to hang Mordecai on it. Haman liked their idea and immediately set about the task.—Esther 5:12-14.
Meanwhile, the king had an unusual night. “The king’s sleep fled,” the Bible tells us, so he had the official records of State read aloud to him. The reading included the report of an assassination plot against Ahasuerus. He remembered the affair; his would-be murderers were caught and executed. What, though, about the man who had exposed the plot—Mordecai? Suddenly alert, the king asked how Mordecai had been rewarded. The answer? Nothing at all had been done for the man.—Esther 6:1-3.
Agitated, the king asked what court officials were available to help him correct this oversight. Of all people, Haman was in the king’s court—early, it seems, because he was eager to secure permission to execute Mordecai. But before he could make his request, the king asked Haman how best to honor a man who had won the king’s favor. Haman assumed that the king had him in mind. So Haman devised a lavish honor: Clothe the man in royal garb, and have a high official parade him around Shushan on the king’s own horse, calling out the man’s praises for all to hear. Imagine the expression on Haman’s face when he learned that the man to be honored was Mordecai! And whom did the king assign to sing out Mordecai’s praises? Haman!—Esther 6:4-10.
Haman grudgingly carried out what to him was an odious duty and then rushed home in distress. His wife and friends said that this turn of events could only bode ill; he was bound to fail in his fight against Mordecai the Jew.—Esther 6:12, 13.
Because Esther was patient, waiting that one extra day to present her request to the king, Haman was given time to lay the basis for his own downfall. And might not Jehovah God have been behind the king’s sleeplessness? (Proverbs 21:1) Little wonder that God’s Word encourages us to show a “waiting attitude.” (Micah 7:7) When we wait on God, we may find that his solutions to our problems far exceed anything we might have devised ourselves.
She Spoke Up Bravely
Esther dared not test the king’s patience any further; at her second banquet, she had to tell all. But how? As it turned out, the king gave her the opportunity, asking again what her petition might be. (Esther 7:2) Esther’s “time to speak” had come.
We may imagine Esther saying a silent prayer to her God before uttering these words: “If I have found favor in your eyes, O king, and if to the king it does seem good, let there be given me my own soul at my petition and my people at my request.” (Esther 7:3) Notice that she assured the king that she respected his judgment regarding what seemed good. How Esther differed from Vashti, the king’s previous wife, who had purposely humiliated her husband! (Esther 1:10-12) Further, Esther did not criticize the king’s folly of trusting in Haman. Rather, she begged the king to protect her from a danger to her own life.
That request surely moved and amazed the king. Who would dare endanger his queen? Esther went on: “We have been sold, I and my people, to be annihilated, killed and destroyed. Now if we had been sold for mere men slaves and for mere maidservants, I should have kept silent. But the distress is not appropriate when with damage to the king.” (Esther 7:4) Note that Esther frankly exposed the problem, yet she added that she would have kept quiet about it if mere slavery had been the threat. This genocide, though, would be too costly to the king himself to keep quiet about it.
Esther’s example teaches us much about the art of persuasion. If you ever need to lay bare a serious problem to a loved one or even to a person in high authority, a mixture of patience, respect, and candor can be of great help.—Proverbs 16:21, 23.
Ahasuerus demanded: “Who is this, and just where is the one who has emboldened himself to do that way?” Imagine Esther pointing a finger as she said: “The man, the adversary and enemy, is this bad Haman.” The accusation hung in the air. Terror filled Haman. Picture the volatile monarch’s face coloring as he realized that his trusted adviser had duped him into signing an order that would destroy his own beloved wife! The king stormed out into the garden to regain his composure.—Esther 7:5-7.
Haman, exposed as the scheming coward that he was, groveled at the queen’s feet. When the king came back into the room and saw Haman pleading with Esther on her couch, he angrily accused Haman of attempting to rape the queen in the king’s own home. That sounded the death knell for Haman. He was taken away, his face covered. One of the king’s officials then spoke up, telling the king of the huge stake that Haman had intended for Mordecai. Ahasuerus immediately ordered that Haman himself be hanged upon it.—Esther 7:8-10.
In today’s unjust world, it is easy to imagine that we will never see justice done. Have you ever felt that way? Esther never despaired, never turned cynical, never lost faith. When the time came, she spoke up bravely for what was right, and she trusted in Jehovah to do the rest. Let us do the same! Jehovah has not changed since Esther’s day. He is still more than able to catch the wicked and cunning in their own traps, just as he did Haman.—Psalm 7:11-16.
She Acted Unselfishly for Jehovah and for His People
At last, the king learned who Mordecai was—not only his loyal protector against assassination but also the adoptive father of Esther. Ahasuerus bestowed Haman’s position as prime minister on Mordecai. Haman’s house—including his immense fortune—the king gave to Esther, who placed Mordecai over it.—Esther 8:1, 2.
Now that Esther and Mordecai were safe, could the queen relax? Only if she were selfish. At that moment, Haman’s decree to kill all the Jews was making its way to every corner of the empire. Haman had cast lots, or Pur—evidently a form of spiritism—to determine the opportune time to carry out this vicious attack. (Esther 9:24-26) The day was yet months away, but it was fast approaching. Could disaster still be averted?
Esther unselfishly risked her life again, appearing before the king once more without an official invitation. This time, she wept for her people, pleading with her husband to revoke the terrible edict. But laws passed in the Persian monarch’s name could not be revoked. (Daniel 6:12, 15) So the king empowered Esther and Mordecai to enact new laws. A second proclamation was sent out, giving the Jews the right to defend themselves. Riders sped to every part of the empire, taking the Jews this good news. Hope was kindled anew in many hearts. (Esther 8:3-16) We may imagine the Jews throughout that vast empire arming themselves and preparing for battle, which they could never have done without that new edict. More important, though, would “Jehovah of armies” be with his people?—1 Samuel 17:45.
When the chosen day finally came, God’s people were ready. Even many Persian officials were on their side now, as news had traveled far and wide about the new prime minister, Mordecai the Jew. Jehovah gave his people a great victory. He no doubt saw to it that, lest his people face terrible reprisals, their enemies suffered a thorough defeat.*—Esther 9:1-6.
Furthermore, Mordecai would never be safe to preside over Haman’s house while ten sons of that evil man still lived. They too were killed. (Esther 9:7-10) A Bible prophecy was thus fulfilled, for God had earlier foretold the complete destruction of the Amalekites, who had proved to be wicked enemies of his people. (Deuteronomy 25:17-19) The sons of Haman may well have been among the very last of that condemned nation.
Esther had to take on her young shoulders her share of very heavy burdens—such as royal edicts involving war and execution. It could not have been easy. But Jehovah’s will required that his people be protected from destruction; the nation of Israel was to produce the promised Messiah, the one source of hope for all mankind! (Genesis 22:18) Servants of God today are delighted to know that when the Messiah, Jesus, came to the earth, he forbade his followers from that time forward to take part in physical warfare.—Matthew 26:52.
Nonetheless, Christians do engage in a spiritual warfare; Satan is ever more eager to destroy our faith in Jehovah God. (2 Corinthians 10:3, 4) What a blessing to have Esther as an example! Like her, may we show faith by our wise and patient use of persuasion, by our courage, and by our unselfish willingness to stand up for God’s people.
In the previous article in this series, we saw how the orphan Esther was adopted by her much older cousin, Mordecai, and was later chosen to be the wife of Ahasuerus, the king of Persia. The king’s adviser, Haman, hatched a wicked plot to exterminate Mordecai’s people, the Jews. Mordecai convinced Esther to approach the king to plead in behalf of her people.—See the article “Imitate Their Faith—She Stood Up for God’s People,” in the October 1, 2011, issue of The Watchtower.
The king allowed the Jews a second day to finish their conquest of their enemies. (Esther 9:12-14) To this day, the Jews commemorate that victory each year in the month of Adar, which corresponds to late February and early March. The festival is called Purim, named after the lots that Haman cast in his quest to destroy Israel.
[Box on page 28]
Questions About Esther
Why did Mordecai allow Esther to marry a pagan unbeliever?
There is no basis for the suggestion of some scholars that Mordecai was an opportunist who wanted Esther to wed the king for the sake of prestige. A faithful Jew, he would not have favored such a marriage. (Deuteronomy 7:3) Ancient Jewish tradition holds that Mordecai tried to prevent the marriage. It seems unlikely that either he or Esther, mere foreigners in a land ruled by an autocrat who held a godlike status, would have had much choice in the matter. In time, it became clear that Jehovah used Esther’s marriage as a means of protecting his people.—Esther 4:14.
Why does the book of Esther contain no mention of God’s personal name, Jehovah?
Mordecai was evidently the inspired writer of the book. Perhaps the book was at first kept with official Persian records before it was taken back to Jerusalem. The use of Jehovah’s name might have moved worshippers of the Persian gods to destroy the book. In any case, Jehovah’s involvement in the story is clear. Interestingly, God’s personal name is concealed in the original Hebrew text by means of acrostics, wherein the phrasing appears to have been arranged deliberately so that the first or the last letters of successive words spell out God’s name.—Esther 1:20, footnote.
Is the book of Esther historically inaccurate?
Critics level that charge against the book. However, some scholars have noted that the writer of the book showed a remarkably detailed knowledge of Persian royalty, architecture, and customs. True, no mention of Queen Esther has been found in surviving secular documents, but Esther would hardly be the only royal personage who was erased from public records. What is more, secular records do show that a man named Mardukâ, a Persian equivalent of Mordecai, served as a court official in Shushan at the time described in the book.
[Box on page 29]
A Prophecy Fulfilled
In fighting for God’s people, Esther and Mordecai fulfilled another Bible prophecy. Over a dozen centuries earlier, Jehovah inspired the patriarch Jacob to foretell regarding one of his sons: “Benjamin will keep on tearing like a wolf. In the morning he will eat the animal seized and at evening he will divide spoil.” (Genesis 49:27) In the “morning” of Israel’s kingly history, Benjamin’s descendants included King Saul and other mighty warriors for Jehovah’s people. In the “evening” of that royal history, after the sun had set on Israel’s kingly line, Esther and Mordecai, both of the tribe of Benjamin, warred effectively against Jehovah’s enemies. In a sense, they also divided spoil, in that Haman’s vast estate went to them.
[Picture on page 25]
Esther humbly acknowledged the king’s mercy
[Picture on pages 26, 27]
Esther bravely pointed out the wickedness of Haman
[Picture on pages 28, 29]
Esther and Mordecai sent out proclamations to the Jews of the Persian Empire