Some Christians view the Old Testament as something that does not apply to us today. While the laws, feasts, and rituals may not, the lessons of how God deals with his people and what He expects from them certainly do. Today I’d like to look at the book of Esther.
We typically look at the Book of Esther from the standpoint of Esther and Mordecai, and how they worked together to save the Jews from annihilation roughly 500 years before the birth of Jesus. Their actions saved the Jews, and paved the way for the building of the Wall in Jerusalem.
As I have watched the political climate in recent years, I am reminded of central Biblical figures who believe in their own greatness and success. Nebuchadnezzar certainly comes to mind; He was warned to recognize his power and wealth was at the hand of God, and not his own doing. As he reveled in his majesty, God struck him, and he lived as a beast in the fields for a substantial time. Only when he “came to his senses” and recognized God as the ruler over all, did he regain his position.
The villain of the story of Esther, Haman, is a descendant of the Amalekite King Agag. Another lesson here, of course, is that if King Saul had obeyed God, there would have been no descendants of Agag.
Haman is an elitist. As with the elitists of ancient times and today, they believe they alone are capable of ruling and dealing with the common people. They also relish in the recognition of their position and power.
It is an interesting twist in that Haman came to power after Mordecai told Queen Esther of a plot to kill the king. After the conspirators were hung, Haman was made the Viceroy or number two in power over the whole kingdom. King Ahasuerus (Xerxes I) decreed that Haman should be bowed down to and shown the ultimate respect and honor – something that Haman no doubt loved.
The recognition of his position, the adoration, and signs of obeisance was not only desired by Haman- it was demanded. As Mordecai sat at the gate of the palace, he refused to bow while all others gave the visual of respect by bowing.
It would have been a very simple thing for Mordecai to have bowed down, to just do that simple act to make peace and avoid problems. But he could not. He would not. It was a matter of conscience. Had he bowed it would have been a lie, and it would have given an honor to a man that should be reserved for God.
An enraged Haman plotted to get even. However, it was not enough to take out only Mordecai, but all the Jews. The anger and hatred were not to be left unsatisfied. A decree was issued by the king; a date was set for all the Jews in the kingdom to be plundered and killed. It was as if a presidential candidate was not satisfied with winning the nomination; he had to take out his rival – and not only the rival but the entire party. But, I digress.
Esther 5:9 Then went Haman forth that day joyful and with a glad heart: but when Haman saw Mordecai in the king’s gate, that he stood not up, nor moved for him, he was full of indignation against Mordecai.
5:10 Nevertheless Haman refrained himself: and when he came home, he sent and called for his friends, and Zeresh, his wife.
5:11 And Haman told them of the glory of his riches, and the multitude of his children, and all the things wherein the king had promoted him, and how he had advanced him above the princes and servants of the king.
5:12 Haman said moreover, Yea, Esther the queen did let no man come in with the king unto the banquet that she had prepared but myself; and to morrow am I invited unto her also with the king.
5:13 Yet all this availeth me nothing, so long as I see Mordecai the Jew sitting at the king’s gate.
5:14 Then said Zeresh his wife and all his friends unto him, Let a gallows be made of fifty cubits high, and to morrow speak thou unto the king that Mordecai may be hanged thereon: then go thou in merrily with the king unto the banquet. And the thing pleased Haman, and he caused the gallows to be made.
In Haman’s mind, his power and position were, well, Yuge. He was a winner- the greatest. He would not rest until his nemesis was publically humiliated and destroyed. He had devised a foolproof way to make sure his revenge was complete.
Of course, we know this to be a classic case of “What goes around, comes around.”
At a banquet for the King and Haman, Haman expected to be honored, but Queen Esther exposed Haman’s wickedness.
7:1 So the king and Haman came to banquet with Esther, the queen.
7:2 And the king said again unto Esther on the second day at the banquet of wine, What is thy petition, queen Esther? And it shall be granted thee: and what is thy request? And it shall be performed, even to the half of the kingdom.
7:3 Then Esther the queen answered and said, If I have found favor in thy sight, O king, and if it please the king, let my life be given me at my petition, and my people at my request:
7:4 For we are sold, I and my people, to be destroyed, to be slain, and to perish. But if we had been sold for bondmen and bondwomen, I had held my tongue, although the enemy could not countervail the king’s damage.
7:5 Then the King Ahasuerus answered and said unto Esther, the queen, Who is he, and where is he, that durst presume in his heart to do so?
7:6 And Esther said, The adversary and enemy is this wicked Haman. Then Haman was afraid before the king and the queen.
7:7 And the king arising from the banquet of wine in his wrath went into the palace garden: and Haman stood up to make a request for his life to Esther the queen; for he saw that there was evil determined against him by the king.
7:8 Then the king returned out of the palace garden into the place of the banquet of wine, and Haman was fallen upon the bed whereon Esther was. Then said the king, Will he force the queen also before me in the house? As the word went out of king’s mouth, they covered Haman’s face.
7:9 And Harbonah, one of the chamberlains, said before the king, Behold also, the gallows fifty cubits high, which Haman had made for Mordecai, who spoken good for the king, standeth in the house of Haman. Then the king said, Hang him thereon.
7:10 So they hanged Haman on the gallows that he had prepared for Mordecai. Then was the king’s wrath pacified.
8:1 On that day did the king Ahasuerus give the house of Haman the Jews’ enemy unto Esther, the queen. And Mordecai came before the king; for Esther had told what he was unto her.
8:2 And the king took off his ring, which he had taken from Haman, and gave it unto Mordecai. And Esther set Mordecai over the house of Haman.
Is there a lesson to be learned here? Perhaps a warning?
I believe so. However, at this point, we are mere spectators who can only prepare the best we can for the eventual outcome.
Photo credit: Ahasuerus and Haman at the Feast of Esther – Rembrandt, 1660