Esther: Chapter 3, 4 – Plot Against the Jewish People

Esther: Chapter 3, 4

Esther: Chapter 3, 4 – Plot Against the Jewish People 

The “Name of God” does not appear in this book.  Esther means, “Something hidden.”  The book mentions fasting, but not prayer.

We meet a new player in this chapter, Haman.

  • God told Moses to write in a book that He had declared war on the Amalekites
  • Would one day utterly destroy them because of what they had done to His people,
  • Why because the Amalekites attacked God’s weary people in the rear ranks of the marching nation (Deut 25:17-19)..
  • “God will have war with Amalek from generation to generation” (Ex 17:14-18).
  • The prophet Samuel told King Saul to “go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not.” (1 Sam 15:1-3).
  • But Saul failed to carry it out. He spared Agag, and
  • So God took the kingdom from Saul (1 Sam 15:7-28)
  • Gave it to King David.
  • It was an Amalekite who claimed he put Saul to death on the battlefield (2 Sam 1:1–10).

Had Saul been obedient, Haman could never have appeared on the scene.

Samuel showed Agag no mercy; but some of his children escaped him.

Six hundred years later, a Royal Amalekite by the name of Haman would pursue a plot to destroy all the Jews in the known world at that time in attempt to thwart the plan of God (2 Sam 16:5-13; 19:16-23;1 Kgs 2:36-46).

We covered Shimei in detail last time in Chapter 2.

This is interesting how God works for His plan for mankind.

  • King David’s sparing of Shimei resulted in a Mordecai in our story.
  • King Saul’s (Esther family) sparing of Agag, he was not suppose to, resulted in Haman. King Saul family was tied to both men. 

Haman Plots Against the Jews, about 453 BC

Esther 3:1 After these events, King Xerxes honored Haman son of Hammedatha, the Agagite, elevating him and giving him a seat of honor higher than that of all the other nobles.

  • Haman, an Amalekite of the royal seed of King Agag.
  • Gave him the position of prime minister
  • Put all the officers of state and princes under his direction and of
  • Highest seat and position in the kingdom,
  • Just under the king, which was next to the king.

The king had a number of princes from his many lower wives.

Esther 3:2 All the royal officials at the king’s gate knelt down and paid honor to Haman, for the king had commanded this concerning him. But Mordecai would not kneel down or pay homage honor.  {reverence him}

  • Jewish traditions was Haman set up a statue for himself
  • All were to lay down face first, hands and feet extended as worshiping a god.
  • King’s servants were to reverence and worship Haman
  • Mordecai would not do this to Haman.
  • If it was just mere civil honor and respect, for that of course is different. Haman considered Mordecai as a trouble maker.  (you think?)

This was somewhat similar to what was commanded of the three Hebrew young men in Daniel 3:8-15.

  • All of this occurred after Mordecai had saved the king from the assassination and the two men were executed.
  • Remember, Mordecai heard about it, then told Esther and Ester told the king.
  • It is reasonable to suppose that Mordecai expected a reward for his effort on behalf of the king.
  • But no reward was given then, probably because of some normal government paperwork mess-up.
  • We can see God’s hand is involved in what is happening.
  • The story is for us showing God’s timing is always perfect.

Esther 3:3-4 Then the royal officials at the king’s gate asked Mordecai, “Why do you disobey the king’s command?”  (4)  Day after day they spoke to him but he refused to comply. Therefore they told Haman about it to see whether Mordecai’s behavior would be tolerated, for he had told them he was a Jew.

Mordecai no longer hide who he was, a Jew.

Esther 3:5-6 When Haman saw that Mordecai would not kneel down or pay him honor, he was enraged.  (6)  Yet having learned who Mordecai’s people were, he scorned the idea of killing only Mordecai. Instead Haman looked for a way to destroy all Mordecai’s people, the Jews, throughout the whole kingdom of Xerxes.

  • Mordecai’s daily refusal to worship Haman
  • This will fill the official with such rage that he sought to destroy and kill all Jewish people in the Persian Empire including the land of Israel.
  • So much hate against God, does he have a demon or even Satan in him.
  • What about the hate the left have against Christians.
  • Satan is always trying to void the promises of God to His people.
  • Hamas was someone in power who could do Satan will.

Satan has so much hate against God and His saints.

The Apostle Peter tells us that devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour, us God’s Saints.  Is this why the left have so much hatred against Christians.  *1 Peter 5:8

The entire Bible can be laid out as a drama in which Satan’s work is repeatedly stopped by God so God’s plan will progress in history.

God is always working behind the scenes on behalf of His people. 

Esther 3:7 In the twelfth year of King Xerxes, in the first month, the month of Nisan, the pur (that is, the lot) was cast in the presence of Haman to select a day and month. And the lot fell on the twelfth month, the month of Adar.     {4 years had gone by since Esther had become queen – 478 BC}

“Nisan” was a Babylonian name for the Hebrew month “Abib,” which was superseded upon the return from the captivity.  “Adar” was also a Babylonian label adopted. 

  • Haman used a Pur, an Old Persian word for the lot, to decide when the Jews should be killed in this case.
  • Measures about one inch per side.
  • Pur is shaped like dice, this has an inscription (prayers for good luck) rather than dots.
  • One speculation concerning a way the month could be determined would be by casting the pur on a board that had each month’s name written on it to see in which space it would land.
  • The Persian religious system stressed fate and chance and the people were extremely superstitious.
  • Haman was allowing fate, by the casting of the lot, to dictate his move against the Jewish nation.
  • The fact that the lot was cast at the beginning of the year to determine the best time to destroy the Jewish people fits with the culture of the day.
  • The religion maintained that the gods gathered at the beginning of each year to establish the destiny of human beings.

Esther 3:8 Then Haman said to King Xerxes, “There is a certain people scattered and dispersed among the peoples in all the provinces of your kingdom who keep themselves separate. Their customs are different from those of all other people, and they do not obey the king’s laws; it is not in the king’s best interest to tolerate them.

  • Notice that Haman did not identify the race of people involved
  • He acted as if his motive were no more than proper concern for the welfare of the king
  • This group was rebellious, a danger to the king.

Esther 3:9 If it pleases the king, let a decree be written that they be destroyed, and I will pay ten thousand talents of silver into the hands of those who do the work, to bring it into the king’s treasuries.”

The King used all of his funds on the Greek wars and found a way to put funds into his treasury. Greed.

Persian army, these are the troops were garrisons placed in each of the nations that made up the provinces were put on alert for military action on the given day. 

The annual income of the entire Persian Empire was 15,000 talents of silver.[Herodotus Bk III, § 95] Silver was more rare and valued above gold.

  • Haman was willing to bear the costs involved in carrying out this decree. Haman, a man of immense wealth,
  • He admitted there would be a loss to the revenue
  • He will make up the different out of his own property.
  • However, he may also have factored in the wealth he would be taking the silver from the Jews he planned to kill.

Esther 3:10 So the king took his signet ring from his hand and gave it to Haman, the son of Hammedatha the Agagite, the enemy of the Jews.

By giving his signet ring to Haman, Xerxes was allowing “the enemy of the Jews,” as Haman was now called, to send out a proclamation to the empire in the king’s name.

The signet ring, when impressed on clay, made a special imprint, which, like a signature, represented the king’s authority.

  • Xerxes, as before, was easily influenced by his officials
  • He accepted Haman’s advice, disregarding the human lives involved
  • He did not even know which people would be affected

Esther 3:11  And the king said to Haman, “The money and the people are given to you, to do with them as seems good to you.”  {washing his hands}

  • The king noted that Haman could do with the people as he pleased.
  • Taking of their property then follows execution;
  • The goods of those put to death naturally went to the crown.
  • The king did not realize that his queen, Esther, was a Jew
  • She would be included in Haman’s plan to kill the Jews. 

Esther 3:12 Then on the thirteenth day of the first month the royal secretaries were summoned. They wrote out in the script of each province and in the language of each people all Haman’s orders to the king’s lieutenants, the governors of the various provinces and the nobles of the various peoples. These were written in the name of King Xerxes himself and sealed with his own ring.

  • Interesting, remember Passover is on the 14th,
  • letter sent out on the 13th,
  • What a way to celebrate Passover finding a new plot to kill them all on one day.
  • We seem to have problems before Passover. 

Esther 3:13  And the letters were sent by couriers into all the king’s provinces, to destroy, to kill, and to annihilate all the Jews, both young and old, little children and women, in one day, on the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, which is the month of Adar, and to plunder their possessions.

  • All Jews were to be put to death and their property confiscated
  • Haman intended to rid the world of all Jews
  • The executioners were ordered to confiscate property owned by Jews.
  • First “Pony Express,” with fresh horses and riders day-distanced
  • These stations throughout the empire provided swift communication. 

Esther 3:14 A copy of the text of the document was to be issued as law in every province and made known to the people of every nationality so they would be ready for that day.

The decree was dispatched in March 474 B.C. They had almost a year to get ready…on both sides…

Esther 3:15  The couriers went out, hastened by the king’s command; and the decree was proclaimed in Shushan the citadel. So the king and Haman sat down to drink, but the city of Shushan was bewildered (thrown into confusion).

  • This document bewildered the people in the city of Susa (cf. 8:15). Apparently such a decree had never before come from the royal court.
  • The city – Not only the Jews, but a great number of the citizens,
  • either because they were related to them, or
  • engaged with them in worldly concerns (business);
  • or out of humanity and compassion toward so vast a number of innocent people,
  • appointed as sheep for the slaughter.

Haman’s bloodthirstiness, along with Xerxes’ seeming indifference to such evil, appeared incredible even to a society which was used to cruel behavior, utter unconcern for human life.

  • Perhaps other minority populations wondered if they would be the next to be annihilated.
  • What is the difference from the Muslim commitment to kill every Jew today?
  • How is this difference from Haman’s plan?

Esther Agrees to Help the Jews, “For Such a Time as This”

Esther 4:1  When Mordecai learned all that had happened, he tore his clothes and put on sackcloth and ashes, and went out into the midst of the city. He cried out with a loud and bitter cry.  {not allowed in the palace}

  • Wearing sackcloth and crying publicly signified mourning.
  • Dirt, dust or ashes on one’s head was a typical sign of mourning
  • Mourning was not permitted within the kings gates.
  • Perhaps he was remorseful for having revealed his nationality
  • Because having endangered the lives of thousands of his people.
  • Second thoughts about not bowing to Haman.

Esther 4:2  But he went only as far as the king’s gate, because no one clothed in sackcloth was allowed to enter it.  {common knowledge?}

Esther 4:3 And in every province where the king’s command and decree arrived, there was great mourning among the Jews, with fasting, weeping, and wailing; and many lay in sackcloth and ashes.

  • Jews heard the edict and knew they were under the sentence of death.
  • We see God was working behind the scenes to deliver His people.

Esther 4:4  So Esther’s maids and eunuchs came and told her, and the queen was deeply distressed. Then she sent garments to clothe Mordecai and take his sackcloth away from him, but he would not accept them.

  • Why was Mordecai in mourning.
  • Two types of personal attendants for the queen
  • Esther had not been in the presence of the king for a month (v.11),
  • This was normal, did not mean that she had fallen from his favor.

Esther 4:5 Then Esther summoned Hathach, one of the king’s eunuchs assigned to attend her, and ordered him to find out what was troubling Mordecai and why.

  • Fnd out why Mordecai was carrying on that way in public places.
  • She apparently was unaware of the edict about the execution of the Jews.

Communication with the women in the harem is very difficult to be obtained, and only through the medium of the keepers.

Esther 4:6-7 So Hathach went out to Mordecai in the open square of the city in front of the king’s gate.  (7)  Mordecai told him everything that had happened to him, including the exact amount of money Haman had promised to pay into the royal treasury for the destruction of the Jews.

Money was apparently a key motive.

Esther 4:8 He also gave him a copy of the written decree for their destruction, which was published at Shushan, that he might show it to Esther and explain it to her, and that he might command her to go in to the king to make supplication to him and plead before him for her people.

  • The words “her people” revealed to the eunuch Hatach,
  • if he did not know it before, that Esther was a Jewess.

Esther 4:9-10  Hathach went back and reported to Esther what Mordecai had said.  (10)  Then she instructed him to say to Mordecai,

  • Without some reprieve from the king, Esther and Mordecai and all their people would die.

Esther 4:11 “All the king’s officials and the people of the royal provinces know that for any man or woman who approaches the king in the inner court without being summoned the king has but one law: that they be put to death unless the king extends the gold scepter to them and spares their lives. But thirty days have passed since I was called to go to the king.”

  • The king had the power to execute anyone who disturbed him without an appointment.
  • Esther reminded Mordecai that she could not simply enter the king’s inner chambers unannounced
  • She might be put to death. It is not a simple thing to do. 
  • She did not know if the King attitude toward her would be favorable.
  • For the king to extend the golden scepter to someone showed that he approved of the visit and not in danger of death
  • Persian art works of kings in audience scenes depict them holding long, gold scepter (see picture)

Esther 4:12-13 When Esther’s words were reported to Mordecai,  (13)  he sent back this answer: “Do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape. 

  • Esther’s response to Mordecai was not encouraging;
  • Haman’s edict would even reach to the throne.

Esther 4:14 For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”

  • She apparently was not the only child of Abihail.
  • For such a time as this”: What about us, a key lesson for all of us!
  • No we do not know what God holds for us in the future.
  • God promotes us or puts us in a place for a reason, faith to walk in it.
  • By faith, Mordecai knew that God would protect His people
  • Notice the name of God is not mention

Esther 4:15-16 Then Esther sent this reply to Mordecai:  (16)  “Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my attendants will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish.”  {Famous Line used in history}

“if I perish, I perish”: Fasting also implies prayer. Esther looks to God, not man, for her deliverance.

Esther 4:17 So Mordecai went his way and did according to all that Esther commanded him.

His influence would have led to a general fasting and prayer among the Jewish community. 

Chapter 5-7, High Climax of Esther

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