For Such A Time As This

Esther Chapter Ten

I

sther chapter ten is an unusual chapter for a few reasons. The first unusual feature of this chapter is the fact that it only contains three verses. This makes Esther chapter ten one of the shortest chapters in the Bible (only Psalm 117 with two verses is shorter).

Next, Esther chapter ten functions as a kind of epilogue for the book. An "epilogue" (or afterword) is the concluding section of a literary work that's used to bring closure to the piece. In this chapter, we'll find some closing remarks concerning Mordecai and King Ahasuerus but surprisingly, nothing is said regarding Esther. This means that Esther is never mentioned in the first or last chapters of the book that bears her name. So just as God's work among His people is not clearly visible in the book of Esther, so Esther remains unseen at the beginning and end of her own book.

These few verses will go on to tell us a little about the tax policy that King Ahasuerus enacted. They will also describe Mordecai's stature as a statesman and champion of the Jewish people during that time. Now admittedly, this may seem like a strange way to end this book but remember that God rewards the dedicated student of His Word. You never know what new application of truth God may seek to reveal to you when you make the time to prayerfully invest in reading the Scriptures each day- even those that may seem unusual at first glance.

"And King Ahasuerus imposed tribute on the land and on the islands of the sea" (Esther 10:1).

According to one source, the word "tribute" seen above, "may refer both to taxation and forced labor that the king imposed on all his territory." (1)  So how did the mention of this tax program find its way into the Word of God? Well, there are a few possibilities that may help explain why the king's revenue plan is mentioned here. 

First, this tax may represent a simple but powerful expression concerning the extent of the king's power. You see, the ability to impose a tax is usually a good representation of authority. Remember that the Persian Empire covered large areas of what we know today as the modern day countries of Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, Jordan, Lebanon, and Israel as well as parts of Egypt, the Sudan, and Libya. That represents an area of about 600,000 square miles (1,550,000 square km). Any king with the ability to collect taxes over such a wide geographical area would certainly be very powerful indeed.

(1) Radmacher, E. D., Allen, R. B., & House, H. W. (1997). The Nelson study Bible : New King James Version. Includes index. (Es 10:1). Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers. 

II

"And King Ahasuerus put a tax on the land and on the islands of the sea" (Esther 10:1 BBE).

How did a statement regarding the king's tax policy find it's way into the book of Esther? Well, its thought that the Persian government controlled some important naval areas during this time, including the islands of Cypress and Tyre. Since we know that Ahasuerus' influence extended throughout a tremendous land area, this verse tells us that the king's power also extended to some strategic (and probably wealthy) island areas as well.

Its also possible that Mordecai provided some valuable assistance in helping the Persian Empire maintain its financial well being during this time. In light of the king's disastrous (and expensive) military campaign against the Greeks some years earlier, Mordecai may have counseled the king to rethink his policy of military expansion (at least to some extent) and switch to a tax based method of funding the government's operations.

In any event, the extent of the king's empire, the ability to levy taxes (perhaps beyond what was thought to be reasonable at the time), the power to order forced labor, and the control of some strategically important island areas gives us a more complete picture of King Ahasuerus, a man who was immensely powerful during this period.

"Now all the acts of his power and his might, and the account of the greatness of Mordecai, to which the king advanced him, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Media and Persia?" (Esther 10:2).

Sadly, "the record books of the kings of Media and Persia" (CEV) mentioned here in verse two no longer exist today. It certainly would have been interesting to look over this history of the Medo-Persian Empire as recorded by the royal secretaries (especially the section that King Ahasuerus was reading on the night that Haman came to seek his permission to execute Mordecai). 

However, this verse seems to be more concerned with validating the accuracy of this book for the benefit of those who originally received it and not necessarily for those who would be born thousands of years later. In any event, the historical nature of this book can be confirmed simply by the fact that the holiday celebration of Purim still exists. Without a record of these events (such as the book of Esther or the official government histories), it seems unlikely that people through the Persian Empire would have continued to observe Purim.

III

"For Mordecai the Jew was second to King Ahasuerus, and was great among the Jews and well received by the multitude of his brethren, seeking the good of his people and speaking peace to all his countrymen" (Esther 10:3).

This verse identifies a few important things about Mordecai's character for anyone who is willing to look for them. First, we're told that "...Mordecai the Jew was second in rank to King Ahasuerus..." (ESV). So what's so important about that? Well, unlike those who will do whatever it takes to achieve the top position, Mordecai apparently didn't feel that it was necessary promote himself at the expense of the king.

Mordecai's lack of self promotion also had another effect as well. While other monarchies throughout history featured lots of drama and intrigue, Mordecai brought a different attitude to the king's court. One thing that King Ahasuerus didn't have to worry about was the possibility that Mordecai was quietly plotting to take his throne or secretly attempting to undermine him. 

You see, Mordecai didn't strive to be something he wasn't or try to gain something valuable at the expense of someone else. Instead, it appears that he was content to honor God with his job responsibilities and fulfill the secondary role that God had given him. This doesn't mean that Mordecai failed to work hard or do his best, but like the author of the New Testament book of 1 Timothy, it appears that Mordecai knew that "godliness with contentment is great gain" (1 Timothy 6:6).

Although Mordecai held the second ranked position in the government of the Persian Empire, there was an area where he was one of the very best: "...(Mordecai was) great among the Jews" (RV). In other words, Mordecai maintained a good reputation among others in the Jewish community. Unlike Haman, Mordecai wasn't wasn't prideful or arrogant, nor did he carry an exaggerated opinion of himself. Instead, his good example helps brings to mind something that Jesus once said...

"'...Among the heathen, kings are tyrants and each minor official lords it over those beneath him. But among you it is quite different. Anyone wanting to be a leader among you must be your servant. And if you want to be right at the top, you must serve like a slave. Your attitude must be like my own, for I, the Messiah, did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give my life as a ransom for many'" (Matthew 20:25-28 TLB).

IV

"For Mordecai the Jew was second in rank to King Ahasuerus, and he was great among the Jews and popular with the multitude of his brothers, for he sought the welfare of his people and spoke peace to all his people" (Esther 10:3 ESV).

Even though Mordecai had risen to the second highest position within the Persian Empire, he never forgot where he had come from before he became a "success."

You see, its not uncommon for people to change over time, sometimes in ways that are not so good. For instance, Mordecai could have used his position to enrich himself. He might have insisted that others bow down to him, just as Haman had done. Mordecai's new job could have meant new friends, new interests, and new priorities- and very little time for those he left behind. But success didn't change Mordecai; instead, he took on the responsibilities of leadership and worked to help others.

Finally, we're told that Mordecai "spoke peace to all his people." Once again, this brings to mind something that Jesus once said:"Blessed are the peacemakers, For they shall be called sons of God. " (Matthew 5:9 NKJV). Unfortunately, peacemakers are not always in popular demand and it sometimes seems as if the aggressors and ultra-violent are the most respected people in society today. 

But God's attitude is different. For example, the Old Testament book of Psalms says that, "The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love. The Lord is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made" (Psalm 145:8-9 NIV). In the New Testament, we have the teachings of Jesus who said, "...love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful" (Luke 6:35-36 NIV).

While it is certainly true that God punishes wrongdoing, God demonstrated His desire for peace with humanity through Jesus' death on the cross. We know this because the Scriptures tell us, "...since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ" (Romans 5:1). Those who act as peacemakers are following in His footsteps and those who act as reconcilers and mediators are acting as true sons and daughters of God. This is the good example that Mordecai followed as he "spoke peace to all his people."

V

So we have finally reached the end of the book of Esther and now its time for an epilogue of our own. 

For some people, the Bible is nothing more than a book that was written thousands of years ago with no lasting value for anyone living in the 21st century. But as we've gone through the book of Esther, we've found that it actually has much to say to people living in our world today. That's because the Scriptures tell us that "These things happened to them as a warning to us. All this was written in the Scriptures to teach us who live in these last days" (1 Corinthians 10:11 CEV). In other words, the book of Esther was written for your benefit in following the good examples found there and to help avoid making some serious mistakes.

For instance, Esther chapter one introduces us to King Ahasuerus, a man whose drunken attempt to parade his wife in front of his equally drunken guests led to a situation that made him look bad. That made the king angry and led him to issue an executive order that permanently demoted the queen. However, the following chapter indicates that the king began to regret the decision he made while he had been drinking. So one important message behind this event is that a decision made in anger (and/or under the influence of alcohol) will often to lead to bad results.

The solution to the king's problem (as suggested by the king's ministers) was to hold a sort of "beauty contest" with the winner to be crowned as the new queen. One of the "contestants" who was chosen (forced, actually) to enter this contest was a young lady named Esther, a strikingly beautiful young woman whose inner beauty matched her physical appearance. Esther was taken to live with a group of other “supermodels,” a situation that surely led to a high levels of drama, competition, and infighting on a daily basis.

Yet despite these things, we're told that Esther's new supervisor “...was very much impressed with her...” (Esther 2:9 TLB). This tells us that Esther must have been just as beautiful on the inside as she was on the outside. Without that inner beauty, there was little else available to set her apart from anyone else in the harem. This reminds us that a physically attractive person can still be an ugly human being. Real beauty starts from the inside out and an attractive person who is smug, haughty, or conceited doesn't impress anyone.

VI

After Esther had been taken away, Mordecai, her adoptive father, tried to get as close as he could to her new address in the hope of hearing something about how she was getting along. In fact, Mordecai cared for Esther so much that he didn't just stop by once or twice to see how she was doing- he visited there every day out of his concern for her.

Eventually, Esther was chosen to become the new queen and Esther chapter three introduces us Haman, the villain of our account. Because of his high governmental position, everyone had been instructed to bow before Haman whenever he approached. However, a closer look at this chapter tells us that Haman probably received an almost god-like level of respect from others- and that was something that Mordecai would not agree to participate in.

The problem was that Mordecai's "lack of respect" infuriated Haman so much that he convinced the king to allow him to author a decree that would effectively wipe out Mordecai and every other Jewish person within the Persian Empire. Unfortunately, the king was irresponsible and failed to thoroughly examine Haman's request- and that's how he unknowingly signed the death warrant for his own queen.

When Mordecai found out about Haman's decree, he sent a message to Esther: “...go to the king and beg him to have pity on her people, the Jews!" (Esther 4:8 CEV). But in the days of the Persian Empire, it was a capital offense for anyone -even the queen- to approach the king without an invitation. This meant that Mordecai's request was more than just a request- it was a potential suicide mission, and Esther knew it.

However, Mordecai also told Esther, “...who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?" (Esther 4:14). This reminds us to consider the possibility that God has orchestrated the events of our lives for a purpose and a reason- and like Esther, we may have also been born “for such a time as this.”

You see, the real test of faith is not in simply saying what you believe, but in acting on what you believe. Esther chose to demonstrate her faith when she said to Mordecai, “'Go, gather all the Jews who are present in Shushan, and fast for me; neither eat nor drink for three days, night or day. My maids and I will fast likewise. And so I will go to the king, which is against the law; and if I perish, I perish!' (Esther 4:16).    

VII

As Esther followed through on her promise to approach the king, we're told that "...when the king saw Queen Esther standing in the court, she won favor in his sight, and he held out to Esther the golden scepter that was in his hand" (Esther 5:2 ESV). The message behind this passage is that even though Ahasuerus was a powerful king, God is a King who is infinitely greater and more powerful than Ahasuerus ever was. 

Yet unlike Ahasuerus, God is graciously willing to “extend the scepter” to anyone who comes to Him through Jesus Christ. We know this because the Scriptures tell us, “...there is only one God and one Mediator who can reconcile God and humanity—the man Christ Jesus. He gave his life to purchase freedom for everyone..." (1 Timothy 2:5-6 NLT).

So the king received Esther and she responded by inviting the king -and Haman- to two dinner parties. When Haman returned from the first of those two dinner parties, he noticed that Mordecai did not stand up or display any fear in his presence- a fact which infuriated him. Unfortunately for Haman, he was not aware of an important Biblical warning that we would do well to remember today: “Pride goes before destruction and haughtiness before a fall. Better poor and humble than proud and rich” (Proverbs 16:18-19 TLB).

When he explained this situation to his wife and friends, they advised him to build a gigantic platform and ask for the king's permission to hang Mordecai on it. Unfortunately, this advice from Haman's friends and family showed that they were just as wicked and depraved as he was- and perhaps even more so. Their ruthless advice should to help to remind God's people of two important things: 

  1. The need to get good counsel and Godly advice
  2. The importance of making good, God-honoring choices in our relationships 

But since their advice sounded good to Haman, he proceeded to act on their suggestion and have a gallows built.

Later that night, the king couldn't get to sleep. So he called for the official history of the Persian Empire to be read in his presence. As the narrator read, he came to an event that had described how Mordecai had once alerted the monarch to a potential assassination attempt. That led the king to inquire about what had been done to reward Mordecai for his faithful service, but he was informed that nothing had been done for him. That oversight was something that the king decided to correct immediately.

VIII

Since it was in the king's best interest to quickly reward those subjects (like Mordecai) who were loyal to him, these circumstances help to indicate that God was silently orchestrating the events within the book of Esther even though He is never actually mentioned by name. This should serve to remind us of an important truth: even though it may not always appear as if God is directly involved in our daily lives, that doesn't necessarily mean that He isn't involved at all. These experiences tell us that God may actually choose to get involved in the events of our lives in a way that doesn't draw attention to His presence. 

In the meantime, Haman had entered the king's outer court in order to seek his permission to execute Mordecai. The king was informed of his appearance and decided to ask Haman for his advice:"What would be appropriate for the man the king especially wants to honor?" However, Haman's first thought upon hearing that question was, "He must be talking about honoring me— who else?" (Esther 6:6 MSG)

This indicates that Haman was someone who was lacking in humility, or the positive personal characteristic that involves courtesy, respect, and a modest self-opinion. Unlike Haman, a humble person is someone who doesn't boast about who they are or what they have, but recognizes instead that every talent, skill, and ability they possess is actually a gift from God.

So Haman was operating under the delusion that he was the subject of the king's hypothetical question- and since he believed that the king had actually given him an opportunity to name his own reward, Haman began to design his own version of the ultimate tribute. When he was finished, the king replied, "Hurry... and provide these honors for Mordecai the Jew. Do everything for him that you have suggested" (Esther 6:10 GNB).

This passage holds an important truth for God's people to remember and apply today. You see, whenever someone attempts to hurt us (as Haman tried to do with Mordecai), our first tendency often involves a desire to strike back at the person who is responsible. That's what Mordecai could have done. But the New Testament book of Romans tells us, "Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: 'It is mine to avenge; I will repay,' says the Lord" (Romans 12:19). This passage in the book of Esther reminds us that if there is justice to be served, we can be certain that God will serve it

IX

So Haman returned home in embarrassment- and as soon as his wife and friends saw their godless advice had turned out to be worthless, they quickly began to find excuses to cover up for their bad counsel. Their example illustrates one reason why the Bible has so much to say about the need to choose our friends and advisors carefully... 

Unfortunately for Haman, he chose a group of friends and advisors who told him what he wanted to hear and not necessarily what he needed to hear. Shortly thereafter, Haman was escorted to Esther's second dinner party where he was identified for the evil he had done and ultimately put to death on the very gallows he had constructed to kill Mordecai. 

Mordecai was subsequently elevated to Haman's former position and allowed to author a counter-decree that effectively neutralized Haman's earlier law. Backed by these legal protections, the Jewish people defended themselves against those who were against them and 75,000 people who shared Haman's anti-Semitic attitude also shared his fate.

So there is much to learn and apply from the Biblical book of Esther for anyone who is willing to listen to God's message through His Word. Remember...

Like the Jewish people of the Esther's day, you never know what God may be doing behind the scenes on your behalf- and just because you can't see God at work doesn't necessarily mean that He isn't working to make good things happen. As the New Testament book of Romans says,

"...we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose" (Romans 8:28).

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