Esther 3-4: Trouble begins

Okay, we’re going to do two chapters this time. I really don’t like dragging my feet through any book, but again, there’s a lot in this one.


Chapter three 

I’m not so sure how I feel about this one. I feel a little like Esther was setup and installed in the palace so that Mordecai can do the crap that he starts to do.

Not sure the exact timing of everything because all we get is “after these things” in the first line of the chapter but then it says that a guy named Haman is promoted real high and that everyone is supposed to bow down but Mordecai refuses.

Refuses.

As in the same thing Vashti did back in the first chapter. Mordecai is not banished or punished in any way and this goes on for days. People come talk to him about it. They are obviously noticing. Is it a guy thing? His consistent response is that he is a Jew. Does that mean that Ahasuerus is not his king or that they have some sort of exception?

I checked the study section of my Bible and there’s no help for figuring out why it is that Mordecai can scoff at the king’s orders to pay homage and bow down to this other guy but Vashti was banished and dethroned for not wanting to leave her own guests in order to entertain his, especially when the wine was as free-flowing as indicated in the first chapter. Well, except the obvious answer that punishing Mordecai doesn’t help them subjugate the Jews the same way that punishing Vashti helps them subjugate all women in the kingdom.

All we get so far is that he is a Jew. I don’t think it’s too far out of the realm of possibility to speculate that the bit of leniency came from two places that may have been helping each other out. The king was not necessarily there when Mordecai was not giving homage to Haman. It was a decree from the king, but not one that was specifically concerning how one treated the king, so it was of a lesser importance maybe.

All this so infuriates Haman that he decides to not just kill Mordecai but get rid of all the Jews everywhere in the whole kingdom, which does still include Jerusalem and the kingdom of Judah. Not just eradicate them, but essentially commit genocide then. Vashti’s punishment was immediate, but Mordecai’s was definitely going to be more severe.

He convinces the king to let him kill all the Jews and this is how he explains his reasoning to the king:

There is a certain people scattered abroad and dispersed among the peoples in all the provinces of your kingdom. Their laws are different from those of every other people, and they do not keep the king’s laws, so that it is not to the king’s profit to tolerate them. If it please the king, let it be decreed that they be destroyed, and I will pay 10,000 talents of silver into the hands of those who have charge of the king’s business, that they may put it into the king’s treasuries.

The king agrees and so the plan is set into motion. We also get confirmation that the Jews don’t abide by all the same laws as the rest of the kingdom, so maybe Mordecai wasn’t outside his ability to disobey this particular order at all.

I am, though, having a little trouble with Mordecai telling everyone he is a Jew now as opposed to everyone knowing already if the laws were different. Is it because he thinks he’s safe now that his niece is the queen? Does he think there would be no punishment for disobeying the king? Or just in disobeying the king about this guy? There’s no mention of his extreme faith before this, or is he just so convinced that God will spare him if it’s for religious reasons? Why would he have followed the rules as any other citizen before but let it all out now?

We’re not given much to work with here, but the plan is set and letters are sent out “to destroy, to kill, and to annihilate all Jews, young and old, women and children, in one day, the thirteenth day of the twelfth month”.


Chapter four

Mordecai hears of the plot and demonstrates a big display of despair and guilt. Apparently the decree was read in the middle of the city or something and all the Jews knew about it and lamented their impending doom. It doesn’t make any sense to me to not try this clandestinely, but it’s not my kingdom, so whatever. Perhaps they were giving them the opportunity to flee.

When news comes to Esther that Mordecai is bereft, there doesn’t appear to be mention of why, because she has to ask him what was wrong. There’s a bit of a back and forth where she reiterates that no one is supposed to request to go to the king but she eventually relents. What was most interesting about that was when Mordecai points out that she was not safe just because she was in the king’s house:

Do not think to yourself that in the king’s palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews. For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?

Basically, he just wants to make sure that she realizes that God always comes for the Jews. One way or another, He won’t allow them to be completely eradicated, especially not when they’ve returned to Him as is evident in both Nehemiah and Ezra. Okay, slightly evident. They were trying again, and that’s important. Anyway, the point is that Mordecai knows and he just wants to make sure that Esther knows that God will save the rest of them and likely come for her if she turns her back on them. He wants her to wonder if maybe she wasn’t the lucky one to become queen because God wanted someone in a position of influence.

She agrees to do it but wants everyone to fast in preparation.


Chapter links go to the ESV translations at Biblehub.com but I’m reading from the ESV Global Study Bible, which is available for free on the Kindle Reading App.

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