Esther 4



Mordecai Persuades Esther to Help (4:1–17)

1–5 Mordecai, being an official himself, quickly learned about Haman’s plan. Since Mordecai himself had been the cause of Haman’s anger against the Jews, he must have felt terribly grieved. According to the usual Jewish custom, he expressed his grief by tearing his clothes and putting on sackcloth and ashes (verse 1). All the other Jews throughout the kingdom did likewise.

Esther’s servants noticed Mordecai’s behavior and told her about it. Esther was distressed and sent Mordecai some clothes. Since no one wearing sackcloth was permitted inside the king’s gate (verse 2), Esther sent Mordecai clothes so that he could come and see her. When he refused the clothes, Esther sent one of her eunuchs out to see Mordecai.

6–8 Mordecai told Hathach the eunuch what had happened; he even told him how much money Haman had agreed to pay into the royal treasury for the destruction of the Jews(Esther3:9). Mordecai then gave Hathach a copy of the king’s edict, and he asked him to urge Esther to go to the king and beg for mercy for the Jews (verse 8).

9–11 Esther sent a reply back to Mordecai reminding him that anyone approaching the king without being summoned would be put to death—unless the king extended his gold scepter and pardoned that person. She hadn’t been summoned by the king in the past thirty days, she said; perhaps she had fallen out of favor. If she went to the king, she would surely lose her life. Though Esther didn’t actually refuse to see the king, she was clearly putting her own welfare before that of the thousands of Jews throughout the kingdom.

12–14 Then Mordecai sent back an answer to Esther. And Mordecai’s answer, given in these verses, constitutes the central theological truth of the book of Esther. First, Mordecai informed Esther that she herself would not escape death if Haman’s massacre of the Jews took place. Yes, she would risk death by going to the king; but she would face certain death if she did not. By seeking to save her life, she would surely lose it (Mark 8:35).

Furthermore, said Mordecai, if Esther remained silent, relief and deliverance for the Jews would arise from another place (verse 14). God would save His people by one means or another. But Mordecai clearly believed that Esther was the “means” God had chosen to use. Mordecai’s words to Esther were gentle: “. . . who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?

No person could have foreseen that Haman would rise to power and threaten to destroy the Jews; but God foresaw it. And God—by natural means—caused Queen Vashti to be deposed and Esther to be chosen in her place. God knew His people would be in danger, and in advance He set in place the means of their deliverance.

Esther now needed to realize why she had become queen. Yes, she could refuse to save her people; she could refuse God. But if she did, she would be the loser. And that is true for all of us who have been called by God to a particular task: we are free to refuse it; but if we do, O how great are the blessings we will forfeit.

God’s sovereign purposes will be accomplished; yes, God’s human instruments may fail, but God’s purposes will not. Sometimes God will choose to “promote” His human instruments—as He did in Esther’s case. At other times, He may choose to “demote” them, as He did in Joseph’s case (see Genesis 37:28; 39:19–20; 45:4–7). We need to see ourselves as God’s instruments in the world. Then, whether we are cast down or lifted up, we will understand that God is working out His eternal purposes through us; and understanding that, we can rejoice (see Romans 8:28).

For further discussion of the relationship between God’s sovereignty and human responsibility, see Exodus 17:10–13; Jeremiah 18:1–10 and comments.

15–17 Esther agreed to risk her life for her people. But she asked Mordecai to gather together all the Jews in Susa to fast for her (verse 16); she and her maidservants would also fast.12 Among the Jews, fasting was always associated with prayer; so we can understand that Esther and the Jews of Susa would be both fasting and praying—praying that Xerxes would respond favorably to Esther’s plea that the Jews be spared.

For Christians today, the book of Esther has a special spiritual application. Like Esther, we too are intimate members of the family of the King. We too are instruments to be used for saving thousands—millions—of people doomed to destruction. Are we, like Esther, willing to risk our lives to save them?