Sermon: Crisis averted – Esther 8:1-10:3

On that day King Ahasuerus gave to Queen Esther the house of Haman, the enemy of the Jews. And Mordecai came before the king, for Esther had told what he was to her. 2 And the king took off his signet ring, which he had taken from Haman, and gave it to Mordecai. And Esther set Mordecai over the house of Haman. 

3 Then Esther spoke again to the king. She fell at his feet and wept and pleaded with him to avert the evil plan of Haman the Agagite and the plot that he had devised against the Jews. 4 When the king held out the golden scepter to Esther, Esther rose and stood before the king. 5 And she said, “If it please the king, and if I have found favor in his sight, and if the thing seems right before the king, and I am pleasing in his eyes, let an order be written to revoke the letters devised by Haman the Agagite, the son of Hammedatha, which he wrote to destroy the Jews who are in all the provinces of the king. 6 For how can I bear to see the calamity that is coming to my people? Or how can I bear to see the destruction of my kindred?” 7 Then King Ahasuerus said to Queen Esther and to Mordecai the Jew, “Behold, I have given Esther the house of Haman, and they have hanged him on the gallows, because he intended to lay hands on the Jews. 8 But you may write as you please with regard to the Jews, in the name of the king, and seal it with the king’s ring, for an edict written in the name of the king and sealed with the king’s ring cannot be revoked.” 

9 The king’s scribes were summoned at that time, in the third month, which is the month of Sivan, on the twenty-third day. And an edict was written, according to all that Mordecai commanded concerning the Jews, to the satraps and the governors and the officials of the provinces from India to Ethiopia, 127 provinces, to each province in its own script and to each people in its own language, and also to the Jews in their script and their language. 10 And he wrote in the name of King Ahasuerus and sealed it with the king’s signet ring. Then he sent the letters by mounted couriers riding on swift horses that were used in the king’s service, bred from the royal stud, 11 saying that the king allowed the Jews who were in every city to gather and defend their lives, to destroy, to kill, and to annihilate any armed force of any people or province that might attack them, children and women included, and to plunder their goods, 12 on one day throughout all the provinces of King Ahasuerus, on the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, which is the month of Adar. 13 A copy of what was written was to be issued as a decree in every province, being publicly displayed to all peoples, and the Jews were to be ready on that day to take vengeance on their enemies. 14 So the couriers, mounted on their swift horses that were used in the king’s service, rode out hurriedly, urged by the king’s command. And the decree was issued in Susa the citadel. 

15 Then Mordecai went out from the presence of the king in royal robes of blue and white, with a great golden crown and a robe of fine linen and purple, and the city of Susa shouted and rejoiced. 16 The Jews had light and gladness and joy and honor. 17 And in every province and in every city, wherever the king’s command and his edict reached, there was gladness and joy among the Jews, a feast and a holiday. And many from the peoples of the country declared themselves Jews, for fear of the Jews had fallen on them. 

9 Now in the twelfth month, which is the month of Adar, on the thirteenth day of the same, when the king’s command and edict were about to be carried out, on the very day when the enemies of the Jews hoped to gain the mastery over them, the reverse occurred: the Jews gained mastery over those who hated them. 2 The Jews gathered in their cities throughout all the provinces of King Ahasuerus to lay hands on those who sought their harm. And no one could stand against them, for the fear of them had fallen on all peoples. 3 All the officials of the provinces and the satraps and the governors and the royal agents also helped the Jews, for the fear of Mordecai had fallen on them. 4 For Mordecai was great in the king’s house, and his fame spread throughout all the provinces, for the man Mordecai grew more and more powerful. 5 The Jews struck all their enemies with the sword, killing and destroying them, and did as they pleased to those who hated them. 6 In Susa the citadel itself the Jews killed and destroyed 500 men, 7 and also killed Parshandatha and Dalphon and Aspatha 8 and Poratha and Adalia and Aridatha 9 and Parmashta and Arisai and Aridai and Vaizatha, 10 the ten sons of Haman the son of Hammedatha, the enemy of the Jews, but they laid no hand on the plunder. 

11 That very day the number of those killed in Susa the citadel was reported to the king. 12 And the king said to Queen Esther, “In Susa the citadel the Jews have killed and destroyed 500 men and also the ten sons of Haman. What then have they done in the rest of the king’s provinces! Now what is your wish? It shall be granted you. And what further is your request? It shall be fulfilled.” 13 And Esther said, “If it please the king, let the Jews who are in Susa be allowed tomorrow also to do according to this day’s edict. And let the ten sons of Haman be hanged on the gallows.” 14 So the king commanded this to be done. A decree was issued in Susa, and the ten sons of Haman were hanged. 15 The Jews who were in Susa gathered also on the fourteenth day of the month of Adar and they killed 300 men in Susa, but they laid no hands on the plunder. 

16 Now the rest of the Jews who were in the king’s provinces also gathered to defend their lives, and got relief from their enemies and killed 75,000 of those who hated them, but they laid no hands on the plunder. 17 This was on the thirteenth day of the month of Adar, and on the fourteenth day they rested and made that a day of feasting and gladness. 18 But the Jews who were in Susa gathered on the thirteenth day and on the fourteenth, and rested on the fifteenth day, making that a day of feasting and gladness. 19 Therefore the Jews of the villages, who live in the rural towns, hold the fourteenth day of the month of Adar as a day for gladness and feasting, as a holiday, and as a day on which they send gifts of food to one another. 

20 And Mordecai recorded these things and sent letters to all the Jews who were in all the provinces of King Ahasuerus, both near and far, 21 obliging them to keep the fourteenth day of the month Adar and also the fifteenth day of the same, year by year, 22 as the days on which the Jews got relief from their enemies, and as the month that had been turned for them from sorrow into gladness and from mourning into a holiday; that they should make them days of feasting and gladness, days for sending gifts of food to one another and gifts to the poor. 

23 So the Jews accepted what they had started to do, and what Mordecai had written to them. 24 For Haman the Agagite, the son of Hammedatha, the enemy of all the Jews, had plotted against the Jews to destroy them, and had cast Pur (that is, cast lots), to crush and to destroy them. 25 But when it came before the king, he gave orders in writing that his evil plan that he had devised against the Jews should return on his own head, and that he and his sons should be hanged on the gallows. 26 Therefore they called these days Purim, after the term Pur. Therefore, because of all that was written in this letter, and of what they had faced in this matter, and of what had happened to them, 27 the Jews firmly obligated themselves and their offspring and all who joined them, that without fail they would keep these two days according to what was written and at the time appointed every year, 28 that these days should be remembered and kept throughout every generation, in every clan, province, and city, and that these days of Purim should never fall into disuse among the Jews, nor should the commemoration of these days cease among their descendants. 

29 Then Queen Esther, the daughter of Abihail, and Mordecai the Jew gave full written authority, confirming this second letter about Purim. 30 Letters were sent to all the Jews, to the 127 provinces of the kingdom of Ahasuerus, in words of peace and truth, 31 that these days of Purim should be observed at their appointed seasons, as Mordecai the Jew and Queen Esther obligated them, and as they had obligated themselves and their offspring, with regard to their fasts and their lamenting. 32 The command of Esther confirmed these practices of Purim, and it was recorded in writing. 

10 King Ahasuerus imposed tax on the land and on the coastlands of the sea. 2 And all the acts of his power and might, and the full account of the high honor 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? 3 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. 

Prayer 

Our heavenly Father, 

6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7 Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this. 

Lord, we continue to praise you in this Christmas season that it’s a time when we remember that the Prince of Peace came into the world.

He came into a dark world to bring life, a dead world to bring life, a fallen world to bring the kingdom of heaven. 

Father, in spite of the struggles we’ve all faced this year, in spite of the personal and family struggles we might be going through right now, may we not be weighed down by the stresses of life and circumstances, but let us rejoice in Christ our Lord. 

May we continue to praise you for your deliverance of as a church family through this year and this virus. We continue to pray for your hand of protection. 

Prayers of supplication: Trey, Barb, Charlie.

Lord, we pray that you would bless our time in your word. May we be pointed to you and to your gospel. 

Introduction 

We’re concluding the Book of Esther this morning. And the plan for today is to look at the story and then close with a few comments on the passage and the Book of Esther. 

I keep talking about the major events in Esther like those in a play. Two weeks ago was act 3. We reached the climax of the story. 

This week, we actually cover acts 4 and 5. The falling action and the resolution of the story. 

As I said, last week was the climax of the story. Haman who had risen in the empire and plotted against the Jews falls victim to his pride and schemes and he is executed. 

But that’s not the end of all conflict in the story. 

Because there’s actually a very significant matter that’s still on the table. 

Even though Haman is dead, the decree which had been issued to kill off the Jewish people in the Perisan Empire is still in effect. 

In chapter 8, Esther and Mordecai seek to have that decision reversed. 

Chapter 8 begins, and we see the spoils going to Esther and Mordecai. At the beginning of the chapter, Esther is given Haman’s house. Mordecai is given Haman’s signet ring, which could be used to issue royal decrees. So a very significant thing to have. 

Beginning in chapter 8, verse 5: 

 “If it please the king, and if I have found favor in his sight, and if the thing seems right before the king, and I am pleasing in his eyes, let an order be written to revoke the letters devised by Haman the Agagite, the son of Hammedatha, which he wrote to destroy the Jews who are in all the provinces of the king. 6 For how can I bear to see the calamity that is coming to my people? Or how can I bear to see the destruction of my kindred?” 

Again, there was never really any indication in the story that the king himself had any animus against the Jewish people. The king was impressionable and easily swayed and he was willing to go along with Haman. 

Esther reminds the king that the Jews are her people and that she can’t bear to see this destruction carried out. 

The king tells Esther in verse 8:

you may write as you please with regard to the Jews, in the name of the king, and seal it with the king’s ring, for an edict written in the name of the king and sealed with the king’s ring cannot be revoked.”

The rest of chapter 8 revolves around the process of the new order being written and going out throughout the Persian Empire. 

Just to highlight part of that passage: 

the king allowed the Jews who were in every city to gather and defend their lives, to destroy, to kill, and to annihilate any armed force of any people or province that might attack them, children and women included, and to plunder their goods, 12 on one day throughout all the provinces of King Ahasuerus, on the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, which is the month of Adar. 13 A copy of what was written was to be issued as a decree in every province, being publicly displayed to all peoples, and the Jews were to be ready on that day to take vengeance on their enemies. 

When they change the order, they don’t so much revoke the previous order because the order of extermination has already gone out under the authority of the king. His word is law and is binding. 

So instead they issue orders that the Jewish people have the right to defend themselves. 

This does not give the Jewish people carte blanche to be violent and destructive. It doesn’t give them permission to go on the offensive or be the aggressor. But they do have the right to defend themselves. 

With that, we come to chapter 9. 

And we see the fruit of this new decree. 

There would be some bloodshed in the empire, because there were still people set on carrying out Haman’s plans. But the Israelites also had help from government officials in defending themselves. 

Verse 10 mentions that the Jews did not plunder their aggressors. They were not out for personal gain. 

Vengeance would also be extended to the Sons of Haman, in order to quell further plots and the chapter records that they were executed.

The world is fallen. Were the deaths of Haman’s sons morally justified? I’d say no. But it was part of the cultural practices of the time. Again, not everything ever mentioned in the Bible is an endorsement. 

But the major takeaway from this scene is that the Jews are saved. 

And Esther makes a request for celebrating this salvation. 

And that’s how chapter 9 ends. The creation of the feast of purim. 

20 And Mordecai recorded these things and sent letters to all the Jews who were in all the provinces of King Ahasuerus, both near and far, 21 obliging them to keep the fourteenth day of the month Adar and also the fifteenth day of the same, year by year, 22 as the days on which the Jews got relief from their enemies, and as the month that had been turned for them from sorrow into gladness and from mourning into a holiday; that they should make them days of feasting and gladness, days for sending gifts of food to one another and gifts to the poor. 

Purim is a celebratory holiday of remembrance. 

Now in Leviticus, the holy days are outlined…

Purim is not one of the high holy days in Judaism, and in some ways, it’s more significantly nationally than religiously. 

Because it’s less sacred, it is a pretty big celebration. It’s kind of like taking some of our favorite elements of all of the other holidays and rolling them into one holiday. People eat, some dress in costumes and get candy. 

As chapter 9 winds down, it gives the reason for the naming of the holiday. 

For Haman the Agagite, the son of Hammedatha, the enemy of all the Jews, had plotted against the Jews to destroy them, and had cast Pur (that is, cast lots), to crush and to destroy them. 25 But when it came before the king, he gave orders in writing that his evil plan that he had devised against the Jews should return on his own head, and that he and his sons should be hanged on the gallows. 26 Therefore they called these days Purim, after the term Pur. 

“Pur” is the word for “lots” which Haman had cast in determining the time of destruction for the Jews. 

And in an ironic twist, to remember that day, they named the holiday of celebration after the lots that were cast for their genoicde. 

Chapter 10 has an interesting, seemingly unrelated conclusion to the book. 

It’s just three verses. 

 King Ahasuerus imposed tax on the land and on the coastlands of the sea. 2 And all the acts of his power and might, and the full account of the high honor 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? 3 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.

There are a couple of things to take away from these closing verses to the book. 

One, in a story where so much of the action is a genocidal plot against the Jews, we see it ending with a relatively peaceful, almost mundane note. 

It mentions the king and taxes. It’s a reminder that this earthly king still does have power and influence over the lives of the Jews and that they go on living in a fallen world where they are influenced by their society. 

And then the book simply ends by talking of Mordecai being a high ranking official, advocating for his people. 

Interestingly, the next Book in the Bible is another book that deals with suffering and trusting in God: the Book of Job. 

But that concludes the Book of Esther.  

Conclusion 

One of the things we’ve done each week in this book is tried to talk about themes in the Book of Esther that we also see in the Christmas story. 

And part of why we can do that is because everything in the Bible is about Jesus. 

So as we conclude our study, I want to focus on two things in this week’s passage as we celebrate this final Sunday before Christmas. 

First, the ultimate result of the Book of Esther is the salvation of the Jewish people. 

Haman had used his authority to order genocide of the Jewish people throughout the Persian Empire. 

In God’s divine providence, this plan could not ultimately succeed. The salvation of Israel in the Book of Esther does point to the gospel and the salvation that Jesus brought into the world. 

In Esther, the Jews faced destruction because of hatred. 

Jesus came into a world that was dead because of sin. 

In the Book of Esther, we see lives saved. Through the gospel, we see eternal life given. 

Because the Jews were saved in the Book of Esther, that also meant that the family line which led to Christ was preserved. 

The second point of focus from these closing chapters of Esther is the Feats of Purim. 

With many of the holy days in the Jewish calendar, a significant theme is remembrance. 

The Feast of Booths, something we talked a lot about in our study in John. Part of the purpose of that holiday is remembering God’s provision for the Israelites during their desert wanderings. 

Passover calls for remembering God freeing the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. 

Hanukkah remembers the Maccabees victory over the Syrians in the intertestimental period and a miracle where oil used for lighting the lamp at the temple dedication lasted eight days when it should have lasted one. 

And Purim remembers God’s deliverance of the Israelites against the Persian genocide. 

Remembering is such an important command in the Bible. It’s such an important activity in our Spiritual lives. Remembering God’s goodness. Remembering his gospel. Remembering that Jesus is the light who came into a dark world. Remembering the love that God has for us. Remembering God’s provision for us, that he has a plan for us and for our world, that he is in control, that he has blessed us with every Spiritual blessing. 

Remembering who God is, what he has done, and what he has promised. 

We’re called to continually remember because we so often forget. 

It’s been a year where there have been lots of times where we could either forget God or remember that God is all we need. 

And I don’t meant to be flippant. 2020 has been a rough year. 

We’ve all had rough years in our lives. 

But we don’t have a lot of years that are rough years for everyone. Some of us have had it tougher than others. Some of us have lost people very dear to us this year. I know there are some of us who have gone through personal struggles, or injuries, or physical struggles this year. 

It’s been a rough year. 

And in that, if you’re not actively remembering God and who he is and how good he is, it can be easy to forget all of that. 

And remembering is important at Christmas time. 

Because Christmas calls us to remember specific events in human history. Namely, the Christ coming into our world. God with us. The word who became flesh and dwelled among us. 

But it’s not just that. Because in that, we are to also remember the gospel itself. To remember why he came, what he did, the life he lived, and the death he would die. 

It’s easy to forget, but Christmas is a time of year where we can remember the truth that God does love us, he loves the world, and that he is good.  

So that is my hope for all of us this Christmas. That we remember. That we remember that in a dark world, in a world where there was oppressive rule, where God could have seemed very distant, that Jesus came. 

May remember his incarnation, but may we also remember his crucifixion. That the reason why our fallen world does have hope is because that baby was born, that he lived a sinless life, that he went to the cross, and that he died for all who believe in him.