For Such A Time As This

Esther Chapter Eight

I

Haman was dead. 

The man who worked to bring about the destruction of the Jewish people had now been executed on the same device that he originally intended to use on the queen's adoptive father. But even though Haman would never have the opportunity to harm Esther or her people ever again, this story was far from over.

You see, even though Haman was dead, the law he enacted to exterminate the Jewish people was still very much alive. To make matters even worse, the edict that Haman established to eliminate Esther's people was a permanent law- it could not be changed or canceled in any way. In effect, Haman's law was something like an explosive device with a delayed fuse- and it was set to detonate at the appointed time even if Haman was no longer around to personally see it. 

This meant that the Jewish community still remained in great danger. And even though Haman was no longer a threat, his example reminds us that the results of our actions (for good or bad) may continue to have an effect long after we pass from the scene. 

Fortunately however, Esther and Mordecai had a plan...

"On that day King Ahasuerus gave Queen Esther the house of Haman, the enemy of the Jews. And Mordecai came before the king, for Esther had told how he was related to her. So the king took off his signet ring, which he had taken from Haman, and gave it to Mordecai; and Esther appointed Mordecai over the house of Haman" (Esther 8:1-2).

This reference to Haman's "house" didn't only refer to the place where Haman lived; it also referred to everything that Haman owned. You see, the king had convicted and sentenced Haman to death for a serious crime- an attempted sexual assault against the queen. As a convicted criminal, Haman's home and property were subject to confiscation by the government. In this case, Haman's possessions were given to Esther (probably to compensate her for the wrong that Haman had done to her) and she in turn passed them on to Mordecai to oversee.

So all of Haman's wealth and property eventually ended up in the hands of a man he despised. Everything that Haman had worked to attain (his home, his possessions, and even his job, as we'll see) now belonged to Mordecai- and that's how Haman became a living illustration of some important Biblical wisdom...

"For God gives those who please him wisdom, knowledge, and joy; but if a sinner becomes wealthy, God takes the wealth away from him and gives it to those who please him" (Ecclesiastes 2:24b TLB).

II

"The king took off his ring with his seal on it (which he had taken back from Haman) and gave it to Mordecai. Esther put Mordecai in charge of Haman's property"  (Esther 8:2 GNB).

It's easy to see how justice was served for Mordecai in this situation. He had now been given full possession of everything that once belonged to Haman, the man who unjustly sought to end his life in a brutal and horrific manner. But there was another kind of justice involved for someone else who was connected with these events. That "someone else" was Haman's wife Zeresh.

Now you remember Zeresh, don't you? If not, then here's something to refresh your memory. You may recall that when Haman left Esther's first banquet, the Scriptures tell us that he was "full of joy and glad in heart" (Esther 5:9 BBE). But on his way back home, Haman met Mordecai as he was passing by the king's gate and Mordecai again refused to bow in his presence. This changed Haman's attitude completely and we're told that "...he was filled with wrath against Mordecai" (Esther 5:8 ASV).

Shortly after he arrived back home, Haman's wife Zeresh (along with his other friends) gave him this advice...

"Then Haman's wife, Zeresh, and all his friends said, 'Have a seventy-five foot platform built, and in the morning ask the king to have Mordecai hanged on it. Then go to the banquet with the king and be happy.' Haman liked this suggestion, so he ordered the platform to be built" (Esther 5:14 NCV).

Now as a result of her ungodly advice, Zeresh lost out on the home that she previously shared with Haman. But Zeresh not only lost out on her home- she also lost her servants, her money, and all the luxuries that a person of her status might have enjoyed in that culture. Her wicked advice had now reduced her to the level of a widow with no income and no place to live. So just as her husband had done before her, Zeresh became a living illustration of an important Biblical concept...

"Do not deceive yourselves; no one makes a fool of God. You will reap exactly what you plant" (Galatians 6:7 GNB). 

Of course, Zeresh could have chosen to move in with one of her ten sons after she was evicted from her former home. Unfortunately, their futures were not looking very good either- but we'll talk about that situation when we get to the next chapter.

III

"And Mordecai came in to see the king, because Esther had told the king how he was related to her" (Esther 8:1 NCV).

So Esther spoke with King Ahasuerus and revealed the truth behind her relationship to Mordecai. Shortly thereafter, Mordecai was appointed to become the administrator of Haman's former estate. While this was certainly great news for Mordecai, it was actually another good demonstration of his character when you think about it. You see, Esther had been serving as queen for quite some time prior to the events of chapter eight. During that period, Mordecai could have tried to take advantage of the fact that he was related to Esther. 

For instance, Mordecai might have attempted to benefit from her position or tried to exploit their relationship in some way. At the very least, Mordecai might have boasted to others about the fact that he was related to the queen of the Persian Empire. But it seems that Mordecai never tried to capitalize on his family relationship to Esther in this manner. In fact, it appears that the king wasn't even aware that Esther and Mordecai were related until Esther revealed that information to him here in chapter eight. Instead of leveraging his family relationship in an attempt to gain a better position for himself, Mordecai instead chose to wait for God to advance his position in His own time and way.

So Mordecai was given a new home and a brand new position: "...the king took off his signet ring, which he had taken from Haman, and gave it to Mordecai" (Esther 8:2 ESV). Now you may recall that in Esther's time, a signet ring was used in the same way that we might use a personal signature today. This ring was crafted with a raised imprint that served as the king's identifying mark and it provided Mordecai with permission to act with the monarch's full authority. The act of giving this ring to Mordecai, told everyone that the king had now taken all of the authority that he had previously given to Haman and transferred it to Mordecai

Mordecai now had permission to use this signet ring to imprint an official order, proclamation, or decree. Any document with this authorization would be treated no differently than a document that came directly from the king himself. As we'll soon see, this authorization will go on to become very important not only for Mordecai, but for the rest of the Jewish people as well.

IV

"Now Esther spoke again to the king, fell down at his feet, and implored him with tears to counteract the evil of Haman the Agagite, and the scheme which he had devised against the Jews. And the king held out the golden scepter toward Esther. So Esther arose and stood before the king" (Esther 8:3-4).

Esther and Mordecai's lives had been spared from the consequences of Haman's evil plan and they had been rewarded with the gift of Haman's wealth and property as well. But in reality, Esther and Mordecai didn't have very much to celebrate. That's because the Jewish people were still in danger from the effects of the law that Haman had worked to put in place. 

You see, even though Haman was dead, the law he wrote to eradicate the Jewish people was still very much alive- and even though Haman's decree had been written in the past, it still continued to project it's deadly consequence through the present and into the future of the Jewish community of Persia.This situation helps to serve as a reminder of an important truth that we can apply in our personal lives today: our actions may sometimes lead to consequences that carry long term effects into our future lives as well. 

For instance, let's take the negative consequences of following an ungodly lifestyle. The consequences of following a lifestyle that ignores or rejects God can take many different forms. Sometimes those consequences are emotional, such as the feeling of guilt that often occurs when you know you've done something wrong. Then there are the physical consequences that may sometimes be associated with a lifestyle that disregards God and the Scriptures. For example, a person who decides to abuse alcohol or drugs or who chooses to get involved in an inappropriate sexual relationship may have to deal with the physical consequences that sometimes follow from those choices.

In fact, our choices (and their consequences) may not only affect us, but they may also affect our friends, our families, and people we don't even know. The choices we make and the actions we take will eventually have an impact on others for better or for worse. The key is to make good, God-honoring choices so the right consequences will follow. 

Perhaps this is why the Old Testament book of Psalms offers the following bit of good advice...

"Who are those who fear the Lord? He will show them the path they should choose" (Psalm 25:12 NLT).

V

"Once again Esther went to speak to the king. This time she fell down at his feet, crying and begging, 'Please stop Haman's evil plan to have the Jews killed!'" (Esther 8:3 CEV).

So the dangerous reality facing the Jewish people was still in effect- and this had an extreme emotional effect on Esther as she "...again pleaded with the king, falling at his feet and weeping" (NIV).

It was at this point that the king once again held out the royal scepter to the queen (Esther 8:4). Now you may remember that this scepter was a staff used by a monarch to symbolize his authority and power. In this instance, it probably represented the king's decision to grant Esther permission to speak freely in his court- and that's when Esther made her heartfelt plea...

"'...If it pleases the king, and if I have found favor in his sight and the thing seems right to the king and I am pleasing in his eyes, let it be written to revoke the letters devised by Haman, the son of Hammedatha the Agagite, which he wrote to annihilate the Jews who are in all the king's provinces. For how can I endure to see the evil that will come to my people? Or how can I endure to see the destruction of my countrymen?'" (Esther 8:5-6).

One important feature of the ancient Persian legal system was something known as "the law of the Medes and Persians." This referred to the legal principle stating that any law enacted by the king could never be changed or repealed (see Daniel 6:8 for an example). This legal concept was something that presented a real problem for Esther as she met with King Ahasuerus for if the law calling for the destruction of the Jewish people could never be changed or repealed, then how could she ever hope to save her people from certain death? 

Well, even though Haman's law could not be revoked, Esther realized that it still might be possible to neutralize it:"'...let there be a decree that reverses the orders of Haman son of Hammedatha the Agagite, who ordered that Jews throughout all the king’s provinces should be destroyed" (Esther 8:5 NLT).

Now it's important to remember that the king could have chosen to save the lives of his queen (the woman he loved) and Mordecai (the man who warned him about a threat to his life) while allowing all the other Jewish people to perish as a result of Haman's decree. The good news however, was that the king was open to acting on Esther's request.

VI

"How can I bear to watch the terrible evil about to sweep over my people? And how can I bear to watch others destroy my own family?” (Esther 8:6 CEB).

King Ahasuerus really had no obligation to do anything further for Esther and Mordecai if he didn't want to- and that realization may help to explain why Esther became so highly emotional as she pleaded with the king for the lives of her people. But remember that the king had made an earlier promise to Esther when he said, "'What is your petition, Queen Esther? What do you wish? Whatever it is, I will give it to you, even if it is half of my kingdom!'" (Esther 7:2 TLB). Now the king was ready to act on his promise to the queen...

"Then King Ahasuerus said to Queen Esther and Mordecai the Jew, 'Indeed, I have given Esther the house of Haman, and they have hanged him on the gallows because he tried to lay his hand on the Jews. You yourselves write a decree concerning the Jews, as you please, in the king's name, and seal it with the king's signet ring; for whatever is written in the king's name and sealed with the king's signet ring no one can revoke'" (Esther 8:7-8).

In his response, the king first made sure to remind Esther of what he had already done for her by saying, "Look, I have given Haman's estate to Esther, and he was hanged on the gallows because he attacked the Jews" (Esther 8:5 HCSB). In other words, King Ahasuerus had already demonstrated his willingness to compensate Esther and Mordecai for the evil that Haman had planned for them. But now he was willing to go one step further: "I now give you permission to make a law that will save the lives of your people. You may use my ring to seal the law, so that it can never be changed." (Esther 8:8 CEV).

Although the king couldn't remove or erase the law that Haman worked to put into place, he did have the ability to permit Esther and Mordecai to draft a new law that would effectively cancel out the old one. This would allow Esther and Mordecai to neutralize Haman's decree without actually changing the law itself. In one sense, this idea is not unlike some modern day methods that are used to overcome certain natural laws today- and we'll look at an example of one such method next.

VII

"I now give you permission to make a law that will save the lives of your people. You may use my ring to seal the law, so that it can never be changed" (Esther 8:8 CEV).

Many commentators have mentioned that the idea behind the king's response was not unlike some modern day methods that are used to overcome certain natural laws today. For example, it's been said that even though the law of gravity cannot be changed, its possible to neutralize the law of gravity by using the law of aerodynamics. In doing so, a second law (the law of aerodynamics) is used to allow an aircraft to fly by effectively canceling out the effects of the first law (the law of gravity). 

This idea can be used to illustrate what the king allowed Esther and Mordecai to do by using a second edict to counteract Haman's earlier law. The king's only caution was this: "But remember that whatever has already been written in the king’s name and sealed with his signet ring can never be revoked” (Esther 8:8 NLT)

So Mordecai took this new authorization and got right to work...

"So the king's scribes were called at that time, in the third month, which is the month of Sivan, on the twenty-third day; and it was written, according to all that Mordecai commanded, to the Jews, the satraps, the governors, and the princes of the provinces from India to Ethiopia, one hundred and twenty-seven provinces in all, to every province in its own script, to every people in their own language, and to the Jews in their own script and language. And he wrote in the name of King Ahasuerus, sealed it with the king's signet ring, and sent letters by couriers on horseback, riding on royal horses bred from swift steeds" (Esther 8:9-10).

By using the information that's provided for us in this passage, it's possible to identify and calculate the exact date that Mordecai dictated the terms of this new decree. That date would be June 25th, 474 B.C. This was just seventy days following Haman's earlier decree and it effectively provided the Jewish people with eight months to prepare to carry out the terms of this new law.

In fact, there were a number of similarities between Haman's old decree (as recorded in Esther chapter three) and Mordecai's new decree as seen here in Esther chapter eight- and we'll look at a few of those similarities next.

VIII

"They wrote exactly what Mordecai ordered to the Jews, rulers, governors, and officials of the provinces from India to Cush—one hundred twenty-seven in all. They wrote in the alphabet of each province and in the language of each people. They wrote in the name of King Ahasuerus and sealed the order with the king’s royal ring. He sent letters with riders mounted on royal horses born from mares known to run fast" (Esther 8:9-10 CEB).

As strange as it may seem, there were many similarities between the law that Haman had written (as seen in Esther chapter three) and Mordecai's decree as recorded here in Esther chapter eight. For instance... 

But even though the process of writing and delivering these two laws were very similar, the content of Mordecai's decree was very different...

"By these letters the king permitted the Jews who were in every city to gather together and protect their lives — to destroy, kill, and annihilate all the forces of any people or province that would assault them, both little children and women, and to plunder their possessions, on one day in all the provinces of King Ahasuerus, on the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, which is the month of Adar. 

A copy of the document was to be issued as a decree in every province and published for all people, so that the Jews would be ready on that day to avenge themselves on their enemies. The couriers who rode on royal horses went out, hastened and pressed on by the king's command. And the decree was issued in Shushan the citadel" (Esther 8:11-14).

Mordecai's new law authorized the Jewish people to take defensive action against anyone who might try to harm them as a result of Haman's earlier decree. In addition, this new edict provided the Jewish people with the ability to confiscate the possessions of anyone who might seek to attack them. So this new decree provided the Jews with the legal support they would need to protect themselves against anyone who might try to claim that they were breaking the law in their own defense.

IX

"The order was posted in public places in each province so everyone could read it, authorizing the Jews to be prepared on that day to avenge themselves on their enemies" (Esther 8:13 MSG).

Not coincidentally, Mordecai's new law was to go into effect "...on one day in all the provinces of King Ahasuerus, on the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, which is the month of Adar" (Esther 8:12). This just happened to be the very same day that Haman's decree was also set to take effect (see Esther 3:13). So this new law did not give the Jewish people permission to launch a preemptive strike but it did allow them to defend themselves at the date and time set by Haman's earlier decree.

Now before we continue, we should stop for a moment to consider the people who received these new orders. For instance, let's say that you were a citizen of the Persian Empire who lived in a village located far from the capital city of Shushan. Remember that a person living during that time would not have the benefit of a television, a phone, a radio, a newspaper, an internet connection, or any other form of mass communication. There were no 24 hour news channels, twitter feeds, texting, social networking sites, or any kind of instant messaging at all. In fact, the only way to receive any news from outside the village was through the information carried by travelers or by decrees issued through the Persian government.

So one day, the royal couriers show up in your village and post a decree that says, "On the thirteenth day of Adar, the twelfth month, all Jewish men, women, and children are to be killed. And their property is to be taken" (Esther 3:13 CEV). But then, less than three months later, the king's messengers suddenly arrive with a second decree: "On the thirteenth day of Adar, the twelfth month, the Jews in every city and province will be allowed to get together and defend themselves. They may destroy any army that attacks them, and they may kill all of their enemies, including women and children. They may also take everything that belongs to their enemies" (Esther 8:11 CEV).

Now if you were someone who lived in a remote area of the Persian Empire during this time, what would you think after reading these two decrees? Well, we'll look at one likely response (and how it reflected on the king's leadership) next.

X

A person who lived far from the capital city of Shushan in the spring and summer of 474 B.C. would have received Haman's decree and Mordecai's counter decree within about a three month period. Now if you were someone who lived in a remote village with no knowledge of the real story behind these two decrees, you might be likely to wonder if the king really knew what he was doing. 

While the citizens of Shushan probably had some idea of what had actually happened between Haman and the king, these two decrees were not likely to make the king look good in the eyes of the rest of his subjects. So we should give at least some credit to King Ahasuerus in this regard: he was willing to allow Moredecai to undo the effects of a bad law even at the risk of making it seem as if he was incapable of overseeing the affairs of his kingdom.

"So Mordecai went out from the presence of the king in royal apparel of blue and white, with a great crown of gold and a garment of fine linen and purple; and the city of Shushan rejoiced and was glad. The Jews had light and gladness, joy and honor. 

And in every province and city, wherever the king's command and decree came, the Jews had joy and gladness, a feast and a holiday. Then many of the people of the land became Jews, because fear of the Jews fell upon them" (Esther 8:15-17).

So Mordecai took over Haman's old position, but take a closer look at the apparel he was given to wear. Notice that Mordecai's "working clothes" now consisted of "...blue and white robes, a large gold crown, and a cape made of fine linen and purple cloth" (Esther 8:15 CEV). This clothing tells us that Mordecai was given even greater honor than Haman had previously received.

For example, there was a time when Mordecai dressed in sackcloth, a rough, coarse, bag-like garment. But now he was arrayed in purple, the color of royalty. There was a time when Mordecai wore ashes to symbolize his grief. But now he wore a great crown of gold (compare with Esther 4:1). In other words, Mordecai now wore clothing that was literally fit for a king. In this way, Mordecai's life became a living illustration of God's faithfulness. Mordecai's life also served to illustrate a promise that God would later inspire a New Testament author to record: "Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up" (James 4:10 NIV).

XI

"And Mordecai went out from before the king, dressed in king-like robes of blue and white, and with a great crown of gold and clothing of purple and the best linen..." (Esther 8:15 BBE).

Mordecai had shown himself to be responsible in the way he handled the honors that had been given to him while Haman had proven to be irresponsible. Mordecai originally started with an outside job at the king's gate, but now he had been given new responsibilities that took him into the very presence of the king. Mordecai had proven himself to be trustworthy in those smaller responsibilities and now he had been entrusted with greater responsibilities.

Mordecai's experience reminds us that it's rare for someone to start "at the top" with a leadership responsibility. It's actually much more common for people to follow a similar career path by working up from lesser to greater responsibilities first. In fact, the Bible endorses this very idea as seen in 1 Timothy 3:10 where this concept is applied to workers in the church. The main thing is that Mordecai's example helps us to remember the importance of being faithful with the responsibilities we have today. If we are, then perhaps God may move us on to bigger and better things tomorrow, just as He did with him.

Mordecai rose to become an important leader in the Persian Empire, but remember that people don't become real leaders simply because they are given a title. People really become leaders when they prove themselves to be faithful and responsibly carry out the work that God has given them, just as Mordecai did.

Jesus once made a statement that can be used to illustrate one of the important differences between Haman and Mordecai...

“If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones. But if you are dishonest in little things, you won’t be honest with greater responsibilities. And if you are untrustworthy about worldly wealth, who will trust you with the true riches of heaven? And if you are not faithful with other people’s things, why should you be trusted with things of your own? (Luke 10-12 NLT).

If you want God to advance you as He did for Mordecai, then start to think about the ways that you are using the talents, skills, abilities, and opportunities that God has already given you. If you are faithful in using the things you have now, then perhaps God might be willing to expand your opportunities. But if you haven't proven yourself in the things that you already have, then why would He entrust you with anything else?

XII

"...and the city of Shushan rejoiced and was glad" (Esther 8:15 KJV).

So the decree that Mordecai had written helped to generate an immediate response among the citizens of that area: "the city of Susa cheered and rejoiced" (GW). This reaction proved to be quite a change from the way that Haman's original decree was received. For instance, when the news of Haman’s decree was published, there was confusion in the capital city and mourning throughout the Persian Empire (see Esther 3:15 and 4:3). But when Mordecai's new law was read, the people of Shushan responded with gladness and rejoicing. 

For the Jewish people, this represented "...a time of happiness and joy, gladness and honor" (Esther 8:16 NIV). As a result, "...many from among the peoples of the land became Jews; for the fear of the Jews was fallen upon them" (Esther 8:17 ASV). It's interesting to note that the original language behind this verse is unique in the Scriptures and because of this, there is some question as how to best understand this response. 

You see, it's possible that the non-Jewish people of that area became inspired to follow the God of the Scriptures as a result of this miraculous turn of events. These individuals gained a new respect for the God of Mordecai and Esther and were encouraged to commit their lives to Him as they recognized His quiet, behind the scenes work on behalf of His people.

However, there is another possible way to understand this passage that is not quite so sincere. Remember that Mordecai had now become a man with real political power and authority. If his spiritual beliefs were seen as offering a social advantage to others, then it's possible that many people simply accepted Judaism in name only without making a whole-heated commitment to God. 

This alternative idea is expressed in a number of Biblical translations where we're told that many people "...declared themselves Jews, for fear of the Jews had fallen on them" (ESV) or, "...many of the ethnic groups of the land professed themselves to be Jews because fear of the Jews had overcome them" (HCSB). In other words, many people suddenly became "religious" because it seemed to be in their best interest to do so.

In any event, we can be sure that God knew about those who were really committed to Him and those who were not, for as we're told in the New Testament book of 1 Corinthians, "...if any person loves God, that person is known by God" (1 Corinthians 8:3 NCV).

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