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The Man Who Prepped His Cousin
Mordecai & Hadassah (Esther)Key Texts: Esther 4:12-17 Background Texts: (cf II Chronicles 36 - captives to Babylon, Ezra & Nehemia list Mordechai as returning exile)
The Purim Story
The Book of Esther begins with the Persian king Xerxes (Gr) Ahasuerus having a 6 month military planning council at his palace in Susa (Shushan). Everybody who was anybody was there from all over the 127 provinces of the vast kingdom stretching from N. Africa, Egypt (lower Nile area) on the SW and N. Greece - the Euro shores of the Black Sea, all of Turkey on the NW clear across Syria, Iraq, Iran, S Russia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, into India, down to the Indian Ocean. This was also the time of the great Persian attacks on Greece, heroically fended off by their smaller army and navy.
King Xerxes military strategy meeting finally concluded and to celebrate the king threw a great party for the whole city, rich and poor. It featured uninhibited drinking day after day. The men had their "party" and the women had theirs, too, led by the beautiful Queen Vashti. At the end of all this carousing, the king called for Vashti to dance (strip) for the drunken men and she refused. That infuriated the king and all the "good old boys" and he decides right there to get rid of her (banishment probably - killed maybe not.) This pleased all the good old boys, too, who were determined that no woman of theirs would dare to be so "headstrong" or disobedient after Vashti's "example."
Later, however, he "missed" her and seeks a replacement for his affections. So he orders his staff of eunuchs to recruit all the pretty young virgins and put them in his harem where they would be treated to a 12 month beauty and charm school. After that he would "interview" them privately in his chambers and select his favorite to be the new queen.
One of those "lucky girls" was a young Jewess named Haddassah, the orphan
cousin of one of the well-regarded advisors of the king named Mordecai. In
fact Mordecai had taken the young orphan girl under his care when she became
orphaned. But, to protect her, she took a local name, Esther rather than
give away her nationality.
Meanwhile, Mordecai indirectly keeps in touch with Esther and while doing his official duties near the gates of the palace he learns of a plot against the king and tells the king, so his noble deed is duly recorded in the official records and the plotters are hanged. But Mordecai's good deed was forgotten by the king.
Xerxes appoints his chief deputy and names Haman (a descendent of the king of the Amalakites - bitter enemies of the Jews). Haman is a vain and pompous man, and insists others bow down to him which Mordecai refuses to do (being a Jew, like Daniel, he would not show such worship to any man.) When Haman learns Mordecai is Jewish he plots with his friends to get rid of not just Mordecai, but of all the hated Jews dispersed throughout the empire. AND he gets the permission of Xerxes to do just that.
So Haman uses a "pur" device to cast lots for the day of execution for which he now has royal orders to carry out. (The day falls on the latter part of what we call February.)
Of course, Mordecai, one of the trusted people at the palace, when he hears of the plot passes the word throughout the Jewish community and orders widespread fasting and penitence, He, himself put on sack cloth & ashes and created a scene in public to call attention to himself. When Esther heard about it, she sent her aide to find out why. So when the reason gets back to Esther, now about 5 years into her time as queen, she requests Jews to fast and pray for 3 days with her.
But Mordecai tells her that saving her people is up to her. She must intervene with the king. But, being queen did not entitle her to just barge in to the king and have a private chat. Nobody was privileged to do that, you stood in the king's door and if he wanted to see you, he invited you in. Otherwise you could be killed. In fact, it had been about a month that she had even spoken with him.
But, when Mordecai heard this from Esther, he issued a stern challenge to
Meanwhile, Haman's anger against Mordecai is increasing to the point that he has a gallows built to hang Mordecai. That night, King Ahasuerus suffers from insomnia, and has the court's records read to him to help him sleep. In that reading Mordecai's reporting of the plot against him is read, but no award was given. So he decides he must do that. Next day, when Haman appears in court, he asks Haman what he should do for a man he wants to honor. Thinking the king planned to award him, he suggests an elaborate display with riding the king's horse around the city wearing the king's robes. But he is infuriated to learn his suggestion is going to go to Mordecai and that HE must be the one to carry it out.
Later that evening, Ahasuerus and Haman attend Esther's second banquet. At this time Esther reveals that she is Jewish and that Haman is planning to exterminate her people, which includes her. Right there, Xerxes (Ahasuerus) orders Haman hanged on the same 75' high gallows that he had prepared for Mordecai.
The previous decree against the Jews cannot be annulled by Persian law, but the King allows Mordecai and Esther to write another decree as they wish. They write one that allows the Jews to defend themselves during attacks, in fact to take the offensive. This set the stage for serious internal warfare, one segment of the empire against another.
This decree is propagated as fast as possible under the capabilities then available. The result, on the very day Haman's lot fell, five hundred attackers of the Jews and Haman's ten sons are killed in the royal city itself by the Jews who are now authorized to defend themselves. And across the empire another 75,000 who attacked the Jews were slain (Esther 9:16).
Mordecai assumes the position vacated by Haman in Ahasuerus' court, 2nd in command, and institutes an annual commemoration of the delivery of the Jewish people from annihilation, the feast of Purim. (In Ezra and Nehemiah his name is mentioned as influential in the resettling of Jerusalem and the surrounding area now called Judah.)
Lessons for Us From This
Purim celebrations of Jews continue still today. It includes synagogue
reading of Esther, sending food gifts and charity for the poor. There
is a feast with parades, boisterous kids with noisemakers (pur was a
noisemaker of sorts), fun and joy.
FOR YOU and ME - We will never know all the things that will happen to
us. We can never guess how those events could possibly work together
for GOOD. Keep your faith in God and accept the events of your life as God's
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