Esther 4

Esther Chapter 4

Mordecai and Esther Counter Haman’s Plot (4:1 – 5:14)

Mordecai Requests Esther’s Help

    • When Mordecai found out about all that had happened, he tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and ashes, went into the middle of the city, and cried loudly and bitterly. But he didn’t go any farther than the king’s gate, because no one wearing sackcloth was allowed to enter it. As the king’s decree and law was announced throughout every province, there was great mourning among the Jews. They fasted, wept, and lamented, and many of them lay in sackcloth and ashes. When Esther’s eunuchs and female attendants came and told her about what Mordecai was doing, she was deeply distressed. She sent clothes for Mordecai to wear so he could take off his sackcloth, but he would not accept them. So Esther called for Hathak, one of the king’s eunuchs who had been placed at her service, and instructed him to find out the cause and reason for Mordecai’s behavior. Hathak went out to Mordecai in the city square in front of the king’s gate, and Mordecai told him everything that had happened to him, including the specific amount of money that Haman had offered to pay into the king’s treasury for the Jews to be destroyed. He also gave him a copy of the written decree issued in Susa ordering their destruction, so that Hathak could show it to Esther and explain it to her. He also gave instructions that she should go to the king to implore him and plead with him on behalf of her people. Hathak returned and reported what Mordecai had said to Esther.

      • NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible comments on why the decree had to be explained to Esther, “Perhaps the edict was written in Persian and had to be translated into Aramaic for Esther’s benefit. Another possibility is that Esther was illiterate and could not read the edict for herself…Greek sources tell us that the royal women of Persia were trained in horsemanship, martial arts and other skills, but they make no mention of literary training.”

    • Esther spoke to Hathak and instructed him to tell Mordecai, “All the king’s servants and the people of the king’s provinces know that there is only one law applicable to any man or woman who comes uninvited to the king in the inner court: that person will be put to death, unless the king extends the gold scepter to them and spares their lives. I have not been invited to come to the king for 30 days.

      • HCSB notes, “Skeptics often attack the credibility of the book of Esther by claiming that the law Esther quoted was ludicrous. They assert that if such a law existed, no one could ever be in the king’s presence. However, these objections result from a failure to read the text carefully. Esther did not say that no one could see the king without being summoned, but that anyone who approached the king without being summoned could forfeit his or her life. Josephus supports this fact (Antiquities, XI 205), also noted that the king surrounded himself with men bearing axes who would punish anyone who approached the throne without being summoned. Herodotus describes a similar, but not exact, policy (Her 3:85, 118, 140).”

      • NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible offers a more full discussion of the matter, “Additional evidence for such a policy is scant. Herodotus makes the point that access to the king was limited, with only the seven noble families of Persia allowed free passage into his presence. Other ancient authors write that no one could enter the king’s presence without the permission of the chiliarch, who would demand to know their business. There is clear evidence that few people could march into the king’s chamber uninvited. Even so, the text gives us no clues as to why Esther did not simply request an audience with the king, especially since Haman’s edict would not be carried out for another 11 months. One possible explanation is that if Haman were, indeed, Xerxes’ chiliarch…Esther would have had to make an appeal to Haman in order to be admitted into the throne room. Revealing her plans to Haman would have put her in a difficult position, to say the least. The custom of the king extending his scepter in this manner is unattested outside the book of Esther. Many Persian reliefs, however, depict the king holding a scepter, a thin staff about the length of his body with a knob on one end. It seems to have had some function when he was holding court, since the scepter is prominent in scenes of royal audiences. The queen’s contact with the king was physically limited by the fact that she had her own private chamber in the palace and did not regularly dine with the king. Furthermore, since the king had his choice of many concubines, the queen shared his bed infrequently. Nonetheless, the statement that the queen had not been in the king’s company for 30 days seems somewhat unusual. It may imply that Esther had fallen out of the king’s favor, which could explain her reluctance to appear before him unannounced.”

Darius I “the Great” (550 BC-486 BC), sitting on his throne, Persia, Achaemenid period via

    • When Esther’s response was reported to Mordecai, he sent back this reply, “Don’t imagine that because you are a part of the king’s household you will be the one Jew who will escape. If you keep silent at this time, liberation and deliverance for the Jews will come from another source, but you and your father’s family will be destroyed. And who knows, perhaps you have achieved royal status for such a time as this!”

      • ESV Study Bible writes, “Despite his emotional turmoil…deep down Mordecai is sure that the Jews will survive. This reflects his faith that God will protect his people, though the text does not make this explicit. Mordecai does not seem to know what other source of help would appear, but he expresses confidence that God will somehow rescue his people….Since Mordecai is sure the Jews will be delivered, his statement that Esther and her family will perish presumably means that they will be punished for Esther’s refusal to act. God is apparently the one who will punish them, though again, this is not explicitly said.” On Mordecai’s last statement, that perhaps Esther had risen to royal status for this very reason, the same source remarks, “The strongest hint yet of Mordecai’s belief in divine providence.”

      • On Mordecai’s phrasing of the final statement, beginning with “And who knows,” NET Bible says, “The question is one of hope, but free of presumption. Cf. Jonah 3:9.”

    • Then Esther sent this reply to Mordecai, “Go gather all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Don’t eat or drink for 3 days, night or day. My attendants and I will also fast in the same way. Afterward, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. If I die, I die.”

      • ESV Study Bible writes, “This is not a spontaneous outpouring of grief as in v. 3, but an organized activity aimed at increasing Esther’s chance of success, through earnest prayer- the strongest indication yet of Esther’s (and Mordecai’s) faith in God…Esther realizes that God cannot be manipulated, even by fasting (cf Dan 3:17-18).”

    • So Mordecai went and did everything Esther had instructed.

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