Book of Esther
“As the days wherein the Jews rested from their enemies, and the month which was turned unto them from sorrow to joy, and from mourning into a good day: that they should make them days of feasting and joy, and of sending portions one to another, and gifts to the poor.” –Esther 9:22 … this I believe shows the awesome power of rest!
The Book of Esther, written around 460-400 BC by an anonymous author, covers a period after the exile during the reign of King Xerxes. The Book talks much about a person named Esther who was chosen to become queen, about a plan that was crafted to destroy the Jews (and how it occurred), and about the triumphant Jews.
In the beginning of the book, an exhibition of riches was displayed before the officials and citizens, which lasted for many months. The current queen, Queen Vashti, was asked by the king to display her beauty before drunken men at this banquet, but she refused. This was defiance of the king’s authority, so therefore, she was removed from power. Soon, many young and beautiful women in the land were brought together in the palace, so that the king might choose one of them to be a queen. Among those women was a Jew, whom was also an orphan, named Esther. However, she didn’t make it known she was a Jew. After all the preparations, the women were brought before the king, and then he chose Esther and crowned her.
Now, a man named Haman, the king’s chief minister, had begun to demand people to worship him. Mordecai (cousin of Esther), refused to do this, because he was a Jew and worshiping Haman was against his religion. Haman wanted revenge because of this, and therefore decided to kill all of the Jews. Haman then gained the king’s permission to do so after he spoke that killing the Jews would greatly increase the royal treasury. The king trusted him that he gave Haman his ring, so that Haman could sign legal documents and put things into order.
However, Haman had to wait for eleven months before proceeding (to kill them). Haman decreed he would do it, which disturbed many of the people. Mordecai knew that Esther was a Jew and only she could help, so he asked Esther to have the king cancel the decree. God wanted His People alive, and so the urgency was great for Esther to do this, even though she’d be risking her life. However, she agreed to approach the king thusly, and attempt to get the problem resolved.
After a few days had passed, Esther invited the king and Haman to a couple of dinners, in hope to get favor from one or both of them. Haman was positive about the queen, likely flattered that he may have gotten the queen’s approval for killing the Jews. Haman then asked for a royal favor, in hopes to get Mordecai killed right away. However, when Haman made the request to the king, the king was hesitant because Mordecai had saved his life at an earlier time.
The king wanted to reward Mordecai, as we see in chapter six. However, Haman didn’t know about the reward, it seems, so Haman was astonished that the honor would go to Mordecai (not execution). Haman was humiliated and felt betrayed by the royal family. Later that night, another dinner was between the king, queen, and Haman, where Esther brought the case before the king that Haman had been plotting to kill the Jews (admitting she was also Jewish) and killing her, and therefore the king was angry because of it. Haman began weeping with anguish before the king, which was interpreted by the king as rape or other form of tactic by Haman to hurt the queen. Therefore, the king wanted Haman immediately executed.
Next, we see Mordecai promoted to chief minister. However, the king’s decree (from Haman’s proposal to kill the Jews) was still intact, but the king gave Mordecai and the queen power to counteract it with a new decree. Therefore, they acted promptly, and gave the Jews permission to do anything they could to defend themselves against attacks on the day (of war against them). When the day came for the Jews to be attacked, only a few of the enemies actually attacked them.
However, the Jews fought hard, it seems, and were even given an extra day to defend themselves and get revenge on the enemies. After the Jews won (and survived by the grace of God), a feast was thrown in celebration (which was done every year after that, as well). The book concluded quickly by talking about the reign of Mordecai, and how he helped the Jewish people under his leadership. Mordecai continued rule for many years.