The Book of Esther
There is a book in the Bible that many believe does not belong there, and that is the Book of Esther. Those who have read it have been puzzled by it; it is a very curious thing to find in the Bible; in the entire Book of Esther, it not only does not mention the name of God once, it doesn’t even use the mere title, God, once. It never mentions prayer to God for help or thanksgiving to God for deliverance. It is completely and brutally materialistic story of murder and robbery; and how did this get into the bible in the first place?
First of all, let us summarize what it says in the Book of Esther. The scene is laid in the Persian empire, after the overthrow of Babylon by the Medo-Persian empire: Persia swallowed up Media and it became just the Persian empire.
It opens with the statement that Ahasuerus gave a six month long feast, or more properly a debauch, for his nobles. Now, Ahasuerus is, not the name of any person literally, it means the mighty one, and in English usage it would correspond to “his majesty.” You could not apply it to any king of any kingdom in all world history, and it would apply as well to one as to another.
Hebrew #325 'Achashverowsh (akh‑ash‑vay‑rosh'); or (shortened) 'Achashrosh (akhash‑rosh') (Esth. 10:1); of Persian origin; Achashverosh (i.e. Ahasuerus or Artaxerxes, but in this case Xerxes), the title (rather than name) of a Persian king: KJV‑‑ Ahasuerus. (Strong’s Concordance)
There has been considerable speculation as to which Persian king it was talking about, and there is nothing whatsoever in either the Book of Esther or history to guide them, but judging by the approximate time it was supposed to have occurred, some have guessed that this Persian king might have been Xerxes.
Brown-Briggs-Diver: #325 'Achashverowsh or (shortened) 'Achashrosh‑(Esth. 10:1) Ahasuerus = "I will be silent and poor"; the title of the king of Persia, probably Xerxes
Some modern translations put in the name Xerxes, which is downright forgery and falsification because, in any of the original version of the Book of Esther, it doesn’t name anyone specifically. All the known history of Xerxes’ reign proves that the events of the Book of Esther did not take place during his reign.
So anyway, this un-named king gave a six month long feast for his nobles, and it mentions who plentiful the wine supply was, and at the end of a six month debauch for the nobles, he gave a lesser party of one week for the less important people who worked at the palace.
While drunk, he commanded that his queen, Vashti, be brought out and shown to the people, that they could see her beauty; and if you think that meant Vashti being brought out dressed in royal robes, it didn’t. She was to be brought out naked, so they could see her physical beauty.
Well, she, (supposedly - performing as such) being a dignified and moral woman, refused to do this. So the drunken king called a council of some seven or eight of his drunken nobles to decide what should be done to punish a queen who refused to do what her husband told her to do. And, by the way, you cannot find a Persian name among all these nobles; they are all Semitic and Babylonian names. These noblemen said, “Well, this is more serious than you realize: it is not only that she defied you, but if you let her get away with this, then our wives will also refuse to obey us, and every husband in the kingdom is going to have trouble making his wife obey.” So they said, “Depose her as queen; fire her, get another queen to take her place.”
They decided that that sounded like the best thing for drunken people to decide, so they went ahead with that decision, and he deposed her. That in substance is chapter one of the Book of Esther.
So the king, according to the book had all the most beautiful virgins of the kingdom brought in and put in his harem, and they were to be there a year before he inspected any of them to see if any of them was sufficiently attractive to become the queen. During that time, if one was too fat, they could put her on a diet and slim her down; if she was too thin, they could feed her well and build her up, so that whenever she got to see the king, she was in her most attractive condition.
The story goes on to say that one Mordecai, a Jew who lived at the king’s palace, had brought up his cousin as, ostensibly, his daughter. In the English translation, they give her name as Esther; in the original, it gave her name as Hadassah. Have you read in the society columns of your newspapers about the Jewish women’s society of Hadassah doing this and that? Well, that is the Hebrew equivalent of what is called Esther in your Bible.
When the king was having all the most beautiful virgins brought into his harem, Esther or Hadassah was among them, and she was kept there in the king’s harem for a year before she got to see this king. Now during all this time, although this was an oriental country with oriental customs, Mordecai got to go into the harem every day to talk with Esther; according to the book.
Mordecai was well known as a Jew. Esther was known to have been raised as his daughter; and every day during the year she was in the king’s harem, this Jew, supposedly her father, actually her uncle, called there to talk with her, and yet nobody suspected that she was a Jewess.
In the meantime, Mordecai discovered that some people were conspiring to murder the king, to assassinate him. So he went to the harem and told Esther about this. Now here again we get another curious thing brought in here. According to the book, even the queen herself could not send any message to the king, no matter how important; she would have been killed if she had done so. She had to wait until such times as the king chose to send for her; and then, if he said, you may speak, she could say, well, can I tell you something? And if he said, yes, she could go ahead; otherwise they would kill her; according to the Book of Esther.
During the year she was in the harem, Esther, knowing about the plot to murder the king, had to keep silent about it. Eventually the king chose her as queen, and then she got an opportunity to tell him about the assassination plot, and so he had the conspirators hanged. But remember now, the king knew of this, because he is the one who ordered the hanging of the conspirators, and he ordered the official record to be made that Mordecai was the one who had given the information that enabled him to hang the conspirators before they could get around to assassinating him.
The book does not explain why they were so negligent in letting it drift almost a year before Esther got a chance to warn the king, but, anyway, they hadn’t “bumped him off” in that time. It says that one Haman, an Agagite, had become the prime minister of the kingdom: he was given authority above all the princes. Well now, Agag was a descendant of Amalek. You remember, the most pestilential of the Jews were the Edomites, the descendants of Esau. Amalek was a grandson of Esau, and of all the Edomite Jews, the Amalekites were the worst of the lot. You will find that the Bible condemns them in the strongest terms, and God told Moses that God Himself was going to direct war against the tribe of Amalek until their very memory had been blotted out from under heaven.
So Haman, an Amalekite Agagite, a real Jew, became prime minister. Now he was a very wealthy man, and it gives you a hint of how this came about; it says, all year long “...they cast Pur, that is, the lot, before Haman from day to day, and month to month...” casting lots; in other words, dice. This was an early progenitor of Las Vegas; and since in all gambling games the odds are weighted in favor of the house, and quite often helped along a little bit by sundry scientific methods, Haman became very, very wealthy, in addition to being second in power only to the king, in the kingdom.
Now Mordecai the Jew refused to bow to Haman, which enraged Haman greatly. This was a insult to his dignity, so he began plotting revenge. He went to the king and told the king that the Jews were a people scattered abroad and dispersed among the people in all the provinces of the kingdom; and it said the kingdom was divided into 127 provinces. And here were these wicked Jews scattered throughout the kingdom.
Haman offered to pay the king ten thousand talents of silver, if the king would grant him the privilege of massacring the Jews and stealing whatever property they might have. A talent was 65 pounds in weight. So 65 times 10,000 would be 650,000 pounds of silver, which worked out as roughly equal to about 20 million dollars which Haman offered for the privilege of killing off the Jews and taking their property.
Contrary to the actions of any oriental monarch that we have ever read about, the king turned down the offer and said, “O, be my guest; do it free of charge.” He wouldn’t accept this 20 million dollars. He said, “Just go ahead and kill them.”
The king issued an edict which he ordered published in all the provinces of the kingdom, and he ordered it translated from the Persian into whatever the most common language spoken in each province, stating that at a time to come, on the 13th day of the month Adar, that the people should kill the Jews and take their property. Now, if anybody was still in doubt that Mordecai was a Jew, all doubt was now dispensed with.
Mordecai went into public mourning, fasting and wearing sackcloth, as did the rest of the Jews when they heard that they were going to be slaughtered. Now the book never says that any one of them prayed to be delivered from this massacre; they simply put on sackcloth and fasted, in mourning against their coming massacre.
Then Mordecai sent word to Esther, who by this time was queen, that unless she could get the king to change this edict, that she like the other Jews would be killed, because she was a Jewess also. She agreed she would try to persuade the king to change his mind.
The new queen, Esther, known by all who knew her as having been raised as the daughter of the Jew Mordecai, now doubly advertised here Jewishness by also dressing in sackcloth and fasting and mourning, and compelling all her maidservants to do likewise. Unless any of the people of the kingdom were in a state of total unconsciousness, how they could have avoided knowing that she and Mordecai were Jews, is not explained.
Esther decided how to do this, how she would change the king’s mind. She gave two great banquets some little time apart, and she had the king and Haman invited to attend these two banquettes, which they did. At both of these, the first one was well as the second, the king was so well pleased that he told Esther, “I will give you anything whatever that you ask.” Did she ask, “Well, don’t massacre the Jews?” No, not a word; not until the second one, and she wasn’t even sure that he would be in a good mood when he came to the second; but she let it go until the second banquet.
Between those two banquets, Mordecai again insults and angers Haman still more, so Haman is in a furious rage. Remember that he has already gotten authority from the king to kill every Jew in the kingdom. Not only is he second in command of the while kingdom, and therefore able to do it on his own, but he has even gotten the specific decree form the king, published as official law; and he knows that Mordecai is a Jew. But with all this fuming with rage he doesn’t do a thing about it. But after having been authorized to kill all the Jews, some day or other he is going to ask the king to have Mordecai hanged; and, in anticipation of it, he builds a big high gallows on which Mordecai can be hanged; he doesn’t wait until he has asked the king, to do that.
The book says that somebody reminds the king that Mordecai was the man who reported the assassination plot and saved the king’s life, and no reward has ever been given him for this. So Haman the prime minister comes in about that time and the king says, “Haman, what should be done for the man whom the king desires especially to honor?” Haman says to himself, “Well, that must be me, who else could it be?”
So Haman says, “Why, the thing to do is dress him in royal robes, have him ride upon your own horse, bring him through the streets, parade him before the people with heralds there blowing trumpets and telling the people; this is the man the king delights to honor.” The king says, “Well, that sounds like a good idea, Haman, you do that for Mordecai.”
That rather stuns Haman; he has waited too long to get Mordecai put away. So he goes home to consult with his wife, and his wife says, “If (note this now), if Mordecai is a Jew, you are certain to fall before him.”
How anybody could have had any question about whether Mordecai was a Jew or not, is not explained, but it is still apparently in doubt in everybody’s mind. But at this second banquet, Haman rather misbehaves himself, incurs the king’s wrath, and Esther now reveals to the king, what everybody in all of Persia must have known by that time, that she is a Jewess, and she says, “The official proclamation (the king’s edict) has gone out, to kill all the Jews in the kingdom.”
Remember how that came about; there was a personal discussion between Haman and the king; Haman offered a bribe equal to 20 million dollars for the privilege of killing all the Jews and taking their property, and the king thought it was such a good idea he wouldn’t even take any payment, and the king himself issued the edict that it should be done. But now, when Esther tells him that the edict has gone out, that on the 13th day of Adar, which is not yet come, the Jews are to be killed, the king is astonished to hear that any of this has happened; he doesn’t know anything about it. Well, he orders Haman to be hanged, and Haman is hanged on the big high gallows he had prepared for Mordecai.
Then the king tells Esther that he will set aside this decree, and he says, “You write a new decree: anything, whatever that you want, and seal it with my seal, so it is official; anything you want, send it out.”
Now remember, this was the same Medo-Persian empire which came in and conquered Babylon, and remember, in the early days of it, the prophet Daniel was still alive in Babylon; and that everything which archeologists have discovered, that has any bearing on the events in the Book of Daniel, has consistently confirmed the Book of Daniel as truthful. Jesus Christ Himself spoke of him as “Daniel the prophet,” (Matthew 24:15; Mark 13:14) so we think we can accept as true what is in the Book of Daniel.
Some of the pagans in Babylon wanted to get rid of Daniel, so they went to this Persian king and said, “We would like you to make a decree that, for a month to come, any man who offers any prayer to any god except you, oh King, shall be killed.” Well, that flattered the king. All the people would have to pray to him as god so he said, “Fine, I will do it.” and he made the decree.
The pagans watched Daniel for a few days and they caught him praying to Yahweh God. Then they went back to the king and said,” Aha, you remember that decree you made.” “Yes” the king answered. Well, we have caught this fellow Daniel praying to a different god; so under the law, he has to be killed thrown to the lions.”
It says that the king liked Daniel very much, and he tried to find some way to get around this, and relieve Daniel of the penalty. But the pagans reminded the king that the law of the Medes and Persians could not be altered. It doesn’t mean that they couldn’t ever make a new law, but what it meant was, that so far as the law which had been passed, could not be altered retroactively. Then the king, squirming around and trying to get out of it, found he couldn’t. So he had Daniel thrown into the lion’s den and only the help of God got Daniel out again.
But when Esther asks the king to set aside the law that was made, he does so and tells her to write any kind of decree she wants, sign it with his seal and make it official; changing the law of the Medes and Persians. So she wrote a new decree which says that the Jews are hereby authorized and commanded” to destroy, to slay, and to cause to perish, all the power of the people and province that would assault them, both little ones and women, and to take the spoil of them for a prey.” (Esther 8:11)