1 - 2 The Exaltation of Mordecai
1 On that day King Ahasuerus gave the house of Haman, the enemy of the Jews, to Queen Esther; and Mordecai came before the king, for Esther had disclosed what he was to her. 2 The king took off his signet ring which he had taken away from Haman, and gave it to Mordecai. And Esther set Mordecai over the house of Haman.
King Ahasuerus gives the possession of Haman to Queen Esther (verse 1). All that the wicked have built up shall be possessed by the saints (Job 27:16-17; Pro 13:22b). Haman wanted to capture the possessions of the Jews, but the opposite happens. Haman, the opponent of the Jews, loses his possessions to a Jewish woman. We will often get that in this chapter. We have seen the same with Haman, who has been given the place he had assigned to Mordecai (Pro 11:8), while Mordecai is now given Haman’s place.
Thus, the power of satan as the ruler of the world will soon come to an end. Christ, as the true Mordecai, will take control of the government of the world. Now satan still has the power over all the kingdoms of the earth (Lk 4:6). When Christ returns, satan will be thrown bound into the abyss and Christ will reign in peace for a thousand years and the saints with Him (Rev 20:1-6). Then the final reversal of affairs will take place. The now persecuted saints will then share in the glory of Christ. Those who are now persecutors will then suffer the judgment (2Thes 1:6-7).
Then Mordecai comes to visit the king. Esther has told the king “what he was to her”, that is, in what relationship he stands to her. Now there is complete openness. This leads the king to give his signet ring, which he first gave to Haman, but took back, now to Mordecai (verse 2). This is where the official change of power takes place.
In picture God, when the adversary has been dethroned, hands over the authority over the world to Christ. The same happens to Joseph when he becomes viceroy. Pharaoh appoints him over all Egypt: he takes off his signet ring from his hand and put it on Joseph’s hand (Gen 41:41-42).
Then it is not the king, but Esther who appoints Mordecai over the house of Haman. That is the reason for the king to make Mordecai great. This shows us in picture that God is using the remnant of His people for the glorification of the Lord Jesus. The remnant will in the future, after the deliverance out of the great tribulation, will volunteer freely in the day of the power to honor their Savior (Psa 110:3a).
Christ will be glorified by a willing people. It is as if He is overcome by their willingness: “Before I was aware, my soul set me over the chariots of my noble [or: willing] people” (Song 6:12). This is how He wishes to experience it. He does not want to violently take His place in the hearts and lives of His own. Surely it is true that He is made great by God. At the same time it is true that He also likes to be made great by His own people (cf. 1Chr 11:10; cf. Phil 1:20). This also applies to the church in all places where they come together. Christ desires to be the center of the assembled church, a place which He does not compel, but which we may give Him.
3 - 6 Esther’s Pleading
3 Then Esther spoke again to the king, fell at his feet, wept and implored him to avert the evil [scheme] of Haman the Agagite and his plot which he had devised against the Jews. 4 The king extended the golden scepter to Esther. So Esther arose and stood before the king. 5 Then she said, “If it pleases the king and if I have found favor before him and the matter [seems] proper to the king and I am pleasing in his sight, let it be written to revoke the letters devised by Haman, the son of Hammedatha the Agagite, which he wrote to destroy the Jews who are in all the king’s provinces. 6 For how can I endure to see the calamity which will befall my people, and how can I endure to see the destruction of my kindred?”
Esther appears again in the presence of the king to speak to him (verse 3). When she is with him, she falls down at his feet and weeps and implores. She comes to him in this way, because of the plan Haman devised against the Jews. Haman may have been killed, but not what he devised. The creator of the annihilation has been judged, but the threat of annihilation has not been removed. Evil can survive a human being and the evil he devised can be carried out after his death. What people plan and write can be very useful or very harmful after their death.
Esther can’t really be happy with the threat of annihilation still hanging over her head. She lives for her people and also wants to die for them, to which she goes again in the presence of the king. By going to the king to plead for her people, she shows true brotherly love (1Jn 3:16). The king again grants her the golden scepter as a sign that she is in favor with him (verse 4; Est 5:1-2). This time she does not touch the scepter, but takes the liberty of standing before the king without giving up the place of complete dependence.
Her approach to the king shows both trust and dependence. She appeals to him in the awareness that everything depends entirely on his goodness. This is apparent from a fourfold appeal to the king’s mind with which she introduces her question:
“If it pleases the king
and if I have found favor before him
and the matter [seems] proper to the king
and I am pleasing in his sight” (verse 5)
There’s no sign of any posturing. She’s modest. Nor is there any reproach as to why the king has still not answered that part of her question in which she asked for the life of her people (Est 7:3).
Then Esther makes her proposal. She suggests that the king will write a letter to revoke the letters from Haman with his plan for the annihilation of the Jews (verse 5). She avoids any thought of reproaching the king that those letters were written in his name and sealed with his signet ring (Est 3:12). She places all the responsibility for the evil plan with its inventor, “Haman, the son of Hammedatha, the Agagite”.
In the motivation of her request, Esther identifies herself fully with her people in a penetrating, emotional way (verse 6). She asks the question in a way that the answer is clearly and unequivocally contained in the question. By doing so, she takes the king into her feelings. She wants it to penetrate deeply to him: “For how can I endure to see the calamity which will befall my people, and how can I endure to see it? And how will I be able to see the destruction of my family?” She’s saying that she’s absolutely not going to be able to do that.
She is the advocate of her people here with the king par excellence. We hear a similar way of speaking from the mouth of Judah when he pleads with Joseph to take Benjamin back home. Judah does this in view of his father’s grief if they would return to him without Benjamin (Gen 44:34).
7 - 9 The King’s Second Command
7 So King Ahasuerus said to Queen Esther and to Mordecai the Jew, “Behold, I have given the house of Haman to Esther, and him they have hanged on the gallows because he had stretched out his hands against the Jews. 8 Now you write to the Jews as you see fit, in the king’s name, and seal [it] with the king’s signet ring; for a decree which is written in the name of the king and sealed with the king’s signet ring may not be revoked.” 9 So the king’s scribes were called at that time in the third month (that is, the month Sivan), on the twenty-third day; and it was written according to all that Mordecai commanded to the Jews, the satraps, the governors and the princes of the provinces which [extended] from India to Ethiopia, 127 provinces, to every province according to its script, and to every people according to their language as well as to the Jews according to their script and their language.
Ahasuerus answers and acts as God will for the benefit of His people. He addresses his answer to Esther and Mordecai, who will have been present at Esther’s plea (verse 7). First he refers to two favors he has already granted. The first favor is that he gave the house of Haman to Esther. Thus, in the future God’s people will receive all that satan has possessed. The second favor is that Haman – “him”, with emphasis first mentioned – has been hanged. The king’s justification for Haman’s execution is interesting. After all, Haman was hanged “because he had stretched out his hands against the Jews”.
The direct reason for the execution is Haman’s supplication to Esther, where he fell on Esther’s couch, which the king interpreted as sexual assault (Est 7:8). This happened in the privacy of the king’s palace. The king’s observation and conclusion are correct. Haman had nothing to do with Esther. Although he did not try to approach her physically, he did try to persuade her to adopt an attitude that would make her unfaithful to her calling. This showed blatant overconfidence and could only be punished in this way. Here we see the devil’s work and fate in the secrecy of the heavenly realms, according to God’s judgment.
Now it is about what Haman has been in public. He has revealed his depraved plans everywhere and they will be carried out because they are written down in an irrevocable law. This applies to the remnant in the future as well as to us. The power of the enemy remains and turns against the people of God. Nothing can be changed. Even the greatest faith cannot stop that oppression. But the salvation is also unstoppable!
To undo Haman’s plans, a new order must be issued, a counter-order. The king hands the matter over to Mordecai and Esther with the order to write a new letter (verse 8). They may do so as is right in their eyes and in his name. They must then seal this letter with the king’s signet ring. This results in a new law that cannot be revoked. This new law does not replace the previous law, but makes it powerless.
Thus death as the wages of sin is an unchangeable law. God cannot take back that word. That is why Christ died. Thus, the law of sin is met, and then God’s love can go out to sinners. We can say that Christ is the second commandment for us, enabling us to escape the first commandment.
The solution is not that God takes away oppression, but that He gives His people the strength to fight and overcome their enemies. This also applies to us. Satan has been sentenced – of which the hanging of Haman is a picture – but his power has not yet been taken away from him. We live in the midst of hostile elements, so to speak in the midst of ‘the sons of Haman’, who have not yet been put to death – that will happen in the next chapter. The consequences of sin are not yet gone. We still have to go through a hostile world. But we have the strength to overcome. Through the struggle of the present, we are being formed for the reign of the future. Our lives are a preparation for our final destiny.
The scribes of the king are called (verse 9). They write everything “according to all that Mordecai commanded”. Not Esther, nor Esther and Mordecai together, but only Mordecai writes in the name of the king what must be done. Earlier the commands of Haman were written down (Est 3:12a), now everything Mordecai commands is written down. Mordecai takes Haman’s place in all things. And not only that. Mordecai’s authority and splendor are beyond those of Haman.
We can already see that from the content of the writing. Haman has written to all nations in their own writing and language (Est 3:12b). Mordecai also writes to all in the same way, adding “to the Jews”, specifically saying that the writing is directed “as well as to the Jews according to their script and their language”. Mordecai’s letter is not only about the Jews, but is also addressed to the Jews.
10 - 14 The King’s Command Made Known
10 He wrote in the name of King Ahasuerus, and sealed it with the king’s signet ring, and sent letters by couriers on horses, riding on steeds sired by the royal stud. 11 In them the king granted the Jews who were in each and every city [the right] to assemble and to defend their lives, to destroy, to kill and to annihilate the entire army of any people or province which might attack them, including children and women, and to plunder their spoil, 12 on one day in all the provinces of King Ahasuerus, the thirteenth [day] of the twelfth month (that is, the month Adar). 13 A copy of the edict to be issued as law in each and every province was published to all the peoples, so that the Jews would be ready for this day to avenge themselves on their enemies. 14 The couriers, hastened and impelled by the king’s command, went out, riding on the royal steeds; and the decree was given out at the citadel in Susa.
The letter dictated by Mordecai is a letter “in the name of King Ahasuerus” (verse 10). What Mordecai speaks and causes to be written down are the words of the king. That the letter indeed comes from the king can be seen on the seal that is attached to the letter with the king’s signet ring. Everything that Mordecai commands bears the authority and stamp of the king’s approval. After the letter has been translated, the letters are sent. Haman sent his letters by couriers (Est 3:13), Mordecai sends them “by couriers on horses”. Mordecai’s messengers are much faster and can spread the new command throughout the kingdom as quickly as possible.
This second command indicates how the Jews can avert the threat of the first command (verse 11). They are told by the king that they may assemble. Being together gives strength and encouragement. We experience this when we gather as believers while the world threatens us (cf. Acts 4:23-31). It is not good for believers to forsake their own assembling together (Heb 10:25) because then they become an easy prey for the opponent. In the assembling together, believers build each other up and exhort each other to remain faithful to the Lord.
Haman has issued his command to “to destroy, to kill and to annihilate all the Jews” (Est 3:13). Mordecai’s command reverses and allows the Jews to “to destroy, to kill and to annihilate” those who threaten them, wherever they live. According to the first command, the enemies must kill the Jews’ wives and children and plunder their possessions. Mordecai’s command states that the Jews may kill the women and children of the enemies and plunder their possessions. Mordecai enables his people to defend themselves against anyone who threatens them, without calling for them to slaughter at random.
Mordecai’s law has the same scope and validity as Haman’s (verse 12). It concerns the whole area of authority of King Ahasuerus and it concerns that one day, “the thirteenth [day] of the twelfth month (that is, the month Adar)”. On that day the Jews may, in accordance with the written law that has been promulgated, “be ready ... to avenge themselves on their enemies” (verse 13). This contrasts with the first commandment issued and “published to all the peoples so that they should be ready for this day” (Est 3:14) to annihilate the Jews.
Mordecai is given a free hand to do whatever is necessary. Thus, the Lord Jesus will soon lead His people along the path of battle to victory. He will make His now still divided people one people again and give them the strength to be one people to defeat the enemies (Isa 11:14).
The extensive similarities between the two commands increase the effect of the differences. The main difference is that the roles are reversed and that the Jews may do to their enemies what their enemies are commanded to do to them. This fits in with the Old Testament command to retaliate evil with evil, according to the principle of retaliation as the law says: “Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot” (Exo 21:24). For the New Testament believer, he should not retaliate evil with evil, but learn to endure and seek what is good for all men (Rom 12:17).
The announcement of the command runs parallel to the first announcement, except that the couriers now ride on horses (verse 14; Est 3:15a). There is more haste in the salvation of the people than in the imminent annihilation of the people. If we apply this to the gospel, we see that the gospel is a power that can save the deepest fallen man under judgment from judgment. But there is an urgent need to bring the gospel. The message of grace must, as it were, overtake the message of judgment.
Permission to resist comes from the highest authority, for us from God. It means that He is for us. We have every reason to start this battle courageously. The enemy is judged on the cross – see verse 7, where the king refers to the hanging of Haman – and the Victor is with us. God says, as it were: “See what I have done for you on the cross. Then we may say: “If God [is] for us, who [is] against us?” (Rom 8:31b). As believers, we are not left on earth to become the happiest people, but to be delivered from our own will, so that we will dedicate ourselves to His cause. We have received the greatest blessings (2Pet 1:3-4), but does it encourage us to serve Him faithfully?
15 - 17 The Glory of Mordecai
15 Then Mordecai went out from the presence of the king in royal robes of blue and white, with a large crown of gold and a garment of fine linen and purple; and the city of Susa shouted and rejoiced. 16 For the Jews there was light and gladness and joy and honor. 17 In each and every province and in each and every city, wherever the king’s commandment and his decree arrived, there was gladness and joy for the Jews, a feast and a holiday. And many among the peoples of the land became Jews, for the dread of the Jews had fallen on them.
These verses elaborate on the contrast between Haman and Mordecai and the consequences of the change of power for the Jews. The glory of Mordecai can be seen in his clothing. The man who was shortly before dressed in a sack clothing (Est 4:1) now walks in royal clothes. The ashes on his head have been replaced by “with a large crown of gold”. In this way he leaves the king to appear in public. This had not yet happened. Just as Mordecai comes out of the presence of the king, so the Lord Jesus will appear when He returns from heaven, from the presence of God where He is already clothed with glory by God.
The blue reminds us of the glory of heaven from which the Lord Jesus descends. The white speaks of His spotless cleanliness. The fine linen shows His perfect righteousness that has been visible on earth in all His deeds and will be visible when He returns to earth to reign. The (red) purple is a reminder of the blood, of His suffering, and points to the foundation of His reign. That foundation is the atonement which He has made and which is the basis for God to give the reign over creation into the hands of His Son. He has earned it; He is worthy of that place and that honor!
The fabric from which the clothes are made is a reminder of the exuberant and eye-catching decoration of the king’s feast in the beginning of this book (Est 1:6). Remarkably, we first have a description of Mordecai’s clothing, then of his crown and then an additional description of his clothing. The mention of his crown is therefore between two descriptions of his clothing. Thus we see that his crown is as it were surrounded by the breathtaking glory of the feast. Mordecai, as crowned viceroy, is in the center of glory.
The combination of these different colors of the garments can also be seen in the fabrics of the tabernacle and the garment of the high priest (Exo 26:1-6; 28:6). Because of this we can also see Mordecai as someone who acts as a mediator with the king for the benefit of the people. He looks after the affairs of his people with the highest power. This is very reminiscent of the Lord Jesus as the High Priest who makes intercession for us with God (Heb 4:14-16; 7:25).
The city of Susa is confused by the command of Haman (Est 3:15), but the command and the exaltation of Mordecai cause cheer and joy in the city. Mordecai has been exalted and “with joy a city jumps up over the prosperity of the righteous” (Pro 11:10a). Haman has been hanged on the gallows (Est 7:10) “and when the wicked perish, there is cheer” (Pro 11:10b).
In the reversal of circumstances, the Jews also share in the whole realm of Ahasuerus. This is all due to the exaltation of Mordecai. His exaltation is the exaltation of his people. He, the highest of his people, identifies the people with himself. At that time the Jews mourned, fasted, wept and wailed (Est 4:3). These four expressions of misery are replaced by four expressions of happiness: “Light and gladness and joy and honor” (verse 16).
Light comes first. Darkness has given way to the light of the day brought into its power by the rising sun. Here we can see Mordecai as a picture of the Lord Jesus Who is “the Sun of righteousness” (Mal 4:2). That “it will come about that at evening time there will be light” (Zec 14:7), is through Him.
Joy and honor are with the Jews wherever the word of the king and his law have arrived (verse 17). This causes fasting to give way to “a feast and a holiday” (cf. Isa 61:3a). For the saved there is eternal joy. Actual salvation has yet to come, but Mordecai in his glory is the guarantee that salvation will come. What the king has written also gives that guarantee. For us it means that we believe in the written Word in which we read that Christ has “obtained eternal redemption” (Heb 9:12). If we rest in what God has said, we will have “peace with God” (Rom 5:1) and “the peace of God”, which is the peace that characterizes God, “will guard” our “hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil 4:7).
If the Jews had not been threatened and distressed, they would have had no reason for that extraordinary joy. God’s children sometimes have to sow tears so that they will reap with all the more joy (Psa 126:5). The sudden and surprising change of affairs, was so favorable to them, it contributed much to their joy. It seemed as if they were dreaming, but when they realize what happened, they say: “Then our mouth was filled with laughter” (Psa 126:1a-2).
Many people who see this become Jews. Haman wanted to annihilate the people; the opposite happens. Instead of annihilation, there is an increase. Many from the nations become Jews (cf. Zec 8:23). This happens for the dread of the Jews that has fallen on them (cf. Deu 28:10; Jos 2:9; Psa 105:38). This dread is the work of the God hidden in this book Who is working behind the scenes for the benefit of His people.