Esther, Lesson 5: Going to See the King

Esther Readies Herself to See the KingConfronted by Mordecai’s veiled threat that Esther will not survive Haman’s purge of the Jews, Esther decides to act.  She will go see Ahasuerus unannounced, which can mean execution if he is not pleased by her showing up without earlier approval. 

Both Mordecai and Esther prepare.  What we now explore are the prayers of Mordecai and Esther, which are not in the Masoretic Text but in the Septuagint.

 

Lesson 5, Esther as a Chiasm

 

Mordecai’s Prayer

We find that when Mordecai spoke about God, he used use theos, “God” or basileus, “king.”  When speaking to God, he used the-more intimate kurios, the Greek translation of Yahweh (a form of “He Is”), God’s personal name.  Here is what Mordecai prayed as Esther prepared to see the King.

He [Mordecai] then beseeched the Lord, remembering all the works of the Lord, and said,

“O Lord, Lord, almighty King, all things are under Your power, and there is no one to oppose You in Your desire to save Israel.  For You have made heaven and the earth, and every wondrous thing under heaven, and You are the Lord of all, and there is no one who shall resist You, Lord.”

  • What two characteristics fill the beginning of Mordecai’s prayer?

 

  • How can that help shape our prayer lives?

 

“You know all things: You know, O Lord, that it is not out of disrespect or arrogance or love of honor that I did this, to refuse to bow down to the haughty Haman, for I would have been happy to kiss the soles of his feet for the salvation of Israel.  For I did this in order that I not place the glory of man above the glory of God.  I will not bow down to anyone but You, my Lord, and I will not do these things out of arrogance.”

  • In what way is Mordecai not being completely truthful? (For if he did not bow down to honor the other King’s authorities of the King, he would not be working for him.)

 

  • Yet, Mordecai prayed, having faith in the Messiah to come. That is the same as “praying in Jesus’ name.”  Why would God hear his prayer?

 

  • “Praying in Jesus’ name” means praying because of who Jesus is and what He does, including His role as our intercessor to God the Father (Romans 8:34, 1 Timothy 2:5). What happens to the sins in our prayer before they reach the Father?

 

  • Apart from Jesus’ intercession, apart from faith, will any prayer reach the Father?

 

“And now, O Lord God, King, God of Abraham, save Your people, for they look upon us for our destruction, and they desire to destroy Your inheritance from the beginning.  Do not disregard Your portion which You redeemed for Yourself out of the land of Egypt.  Hear my prayer and be merciful to Your inheritance.  Turn our mourning into feasting so we may live and hymn Your name, O Lord.  Do not destroy the mouth of those who praise You.”

Then all Israel cried out with all their might, for their death was before their eyes.

  • Who else prayed to God for deliverance?

 

Esther’s Prayer

And Queen Esther, seized with the agony of death, fled to the Lord for refuge.  And removing her royal garments, she put on the garments of distress and mourning.  Instead of the magnificent perfumes, she covered her head with ashes and dirt.  She humbled her body exceedingly.  She set aside everything of her worldly joy, and her hair was unkempt.  She implored the Lord God of Israel, and said:

“royal garments”: literally, “clothes of glory.”  Her actions are to give God all the glory.  She does not approach God based on her “glory” as Queen.

“dirt”: literally some form of dried excrement.  As a sign of repentance, ashes were more standard (Lamentations 3:16, Isaiah 3:24 [LXX only], Judith 9:1), but Prophet Malachi also mentioned using dung (Malachi 2:3).  This again was to remove all glory associated with her earthly status as Queen and only approach God based on the “glory” He gave her.

“O My Lord, You alone are our King.  Help me, who am alone and have no help but You!  For my risk of danger is in my hand.  I have heard from my birth in the tribe of my family that You, O Lord, chose Israel out of all the nations, and our fathers out of all their ancestors, for an everlasting inheritance, and do for them whatever You have spoken.”

  • Like Mordecai, what does Esther say about God, which she includes in her prayer?

 

  • Ahasuerus’ edict, written by Haman, started out: “The great King Artaxerxes [Xerxes].” In her prayer, what does Esther recognize instead?

 

“Now we sinned before You, and You have delivered us into the hands of our enemies because we have worshiped their gods.  O Lord, You are righteous.  But now they are not satisfied with the bitter state of our bondage, but they have pledged to their idols to abolish the decree You have spoken and to destroy Your inheritance, to close the mouths of those who praise You, and to extinguish the glory of Your Temple and Your altar, and to open the mouths of the heathen to proclaim the virtues of their false gods, and to extol a human king forever.”

  • Nowhere in the book of Esther do the Jews worship the Persian gods? What then does Esther’s prayer recognize about the nature of “idolatry”?

 

  • Esther lived in Persia, yet what did she know about what has taken place in Israel?

 

  • Although taking place in the realm of humans, what unseen battle is taking place?

 

Ephesians 6:12: For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against rulers, authorities, cosmic powers in the darkness around us, and the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

“O Lord, do not give Your scepter over to those who are not.  Do not let them laugh at our fall, but turn their counsel against themselves, and make an example of the one who rules against us.  Remember us, O Lord.  Manifest Yourself in the time of our affliction, and encourage me, O King of gods and ruler over every power.  Grant to my mouth proper words in the presence of the lion, to turn his heart to a hatred of our enemy, so that he and those agreeing with him may perish.  Save us by Your hand, and help me who am alone and have no one but You, O Lord.”

“those who are not”: Earthly rulers and the “idols” in whom the Jews have trusted “are not” even though they may seem to be the ones “who are.”

Wisdom 14:13: [False gods] have not existed from the beginning, nor will they exist for ever.

Galatians 6:3: For if anyone considers himself to be something when he is nothing, he deceives himself.

  • How does Esther want God to use her?

 

  • Through that, what does Esther want God to do?

 

  • What does this reveal about her understanding of one’s vocation?

 

“You know all things, and You know I hate the glory of the lawless and abhor the bed of the uncircumcised and of every foreigner.  You know my necessity, for I abhor the symbol of my proud station which is upon my head on the days when I appear in public, as if it were a menstrual rag, and I do not wear it on the days I am alone.  Your handmaid has not eaten at the table of Haman, nor have I honored the banquet of the king, nor drunk the wine of libations.  Neither has Your handmaid rejoiced since the day of her elevation, except in You, O Lord, God of Abraham.  O God, who have power over all, hear the voice of us in despair, and deliver us from the hand of those acting wickedly, and deliver me from my fear.”

  • Like Mordecai, how is Esther not being completely truthful?

 

“menstrual rag”: To us, this sounds disgusting.  Within a Jewish context, a woman’s menstruation cycle made her “unclean.”

Leviticus 15:19: When a woman has a discharge, the blood of her menstrual discharge, she will be unclean due to her menstruation for seven days.  Whoever touches her will remain unclean until evening.

Men also became impure with a discharge of semen.  This sounds odd to us but it helped prevent the Israelites from participating in pagan practices where one could offer his or her bodily fluids as an offering to the Lord.

Esther brought that disdain to her role as being required to serve as Queen.

  • What does Esther ask of God?

 

  • Contrast Esther’s characterizations of God (who He is) and what she asked Him to do in her prayer. How does this properly understand God?

 

Esther and the King

Read Esther 5:1-2

  • What did Esther do at the end of her praying and fasting?

 

  • How did King Ahasuerus respond?

 

  • Read Christologically, how did God the Father’s mercy become real for us “on the third day”?

 

Read Esther 5:3-4

  • Not only did the King not have Esther killed (mercy), but what does he extend beyond that?

 

  • By giving to Esther “even to the half of [his] kingdom,” what is King Ahasuerus doing in advance?

 

  • Remember, we learned earlier that Esther had her own eunuch and attendants. What were they doing when she was praying and fasting?

 

Read Esther 5:5

  • What does the King agree to do?

 

Her we have a reversal: Esther now becomes the one in charge.  Unlike Vashti, whom the King commanded to appear as his banquet, Esther now asks the king to appear at hers. 

Read Esther 5:6-8

  • Again what does the King do?

 

  • The King repeats his promise. However, what does Esther not do?

 

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