Book of Esther
Chapter 4 Part 8
June 3, 2012
“When Mordecai perceived all that was done, Mordecai rent his clothes, and put on sackcloth with ashes, and went out into the midst of the city, and cried with a loud and a bitter cry; And came even before the king's gate: for none might enter into the king's gate clothed with sackcloth” (Esther 4:1, 2). “When Mordecai perceived all that was done…” Or, when Mordecai found out what the king had agreed to at the request of Haman, he was grieved to his deepest parts. He knew what this meant for himself and his people so he, “rent (tore) his clothes, and put on sackcloth with ashes” which means he went immediately into mourning for the Jews were about to die at Haman’s command.
http://www.Thefreedictionary.com defines sackcloth and ashes this way: Noun 1. sackcloth and ashes - a display of extreme remorse or repentance or grief display - behavior that makes your feelings public; "a display of emotion".
http://mw3.merriam-webster.com defines sackcloth as: a coarse cloth of goat or camel's hair or of flax, hemp, or cotton. Sackcloth is a very rough fabric that is painful to wear.
If his appearance wasn’t enough to capture the attention of the people in Shushan, Mordecai “went out into the midst of the city, and cried with a loud and a bitter cry.” He wailed! He bemoaned the losses that would soon be felt in the Jewish community. By placing himself in the center of Shushan crying out his lamentation over the Jews, he revealed to everyone his genetic connection to the Jews. He, in essence, laid his life on the line to warn the Jews what was coming.
How Mordecai found out what Haman planned is disputed. Some say he read the edict, others that the Holy Spirit revealed the truth to him. I doubt it matters to the story how this information came to him. I’m on the side of his having read the posted edict because he was an important figure in the city and the palace. It would have been difficult for him not to find out about what Haman planned.
That not being dangerous enough, Mordecai went to the palace and wailed. It was a law at the time that no one was to enter the palace dressed in sackcloth with head covered in ashes because these things forebode sadness. Only joyful, happy, positive things were allowed to reach the king. The superstition behind this law was that if you kept out the garments of mourning, you denied entry to sickness, death, and sorrow. Mordecai knew better than to take his place in the palace gate, so stayed outside want wailed.
“And in every province, whithersoever the king's commandment and his decree came, there was great mourning among the Jews, and fasting, and weeping, and wailing; and many lay in sackcloth and ashes” (verse 3). As we read before, the provinces of the kingdom went far and wide of the palace. It would take months to deliver the edict to all of them. As each province received and posted the command to kill all Jews on site on a specific day, the Jews joined Mordecai in his wailing and mourning. They no longer sat at tables laden with good foods and drink. They no longer slept on comfortable beds. Now they fasted and slept in sackcloth with ashes on their heads. Each one mourned for their families and countrymen who were about to be slain, and for themselves. What abundant sorrow now filled the kingdom of Persia!
In all their grief, I’m sure many thought how safe they’d be if they had returned to Israel when Cyrus ended the captivity and gave them permission to return to their own country. But the Jews were well established in the kingdom and didn’t want to give up everything for which they had worked so hard. They stayed back and now would become targets of Haman’s hate of Mordecai.
“So Esther's maids and her chamberlains came and told it her. Then was the queen exceedingly grieved; and she sent raiment to clothe Mordecai, and to take away his sackcloth from him: but he received it not” (verse 4). The people who worked for Esther, her maids and chamberlains
(Those who ran her household) brought the local “gossip” to Esther. Remember, they didn’t know Esther was a Jewess. They were just sharing news with her. But it cut Esther to the heart. She had not been made aware of the edict against the Jews that placed her dear cousin Mordecai’s life in danger as well as the people of her land.
Even in her grief, her thoughts of Mordecai were twofold. 1. She didn’t want to see him in such a condition as sackcloth and ashes, so she sent new clothing for him to comfort him. 2. She wanted him to dress in a manner that would allow him to enter the palace where she would have easier access to him. Although the queen wasn’t allowed to meet with Mordecai personally, it would be quicker to get information if he was available within the palace.. Mordecai refused the gifts. He had admitted he was a Jew, now he would stand among them, come what may.
I’d venture to say that Mordecai refused Esther’s gift of new clothes because it would associate her with the Jews. As long as he kept his distance, there would be no question of Esther’s nationality. She would be safe from the purge.
“Then called Esther for Hatach, one of the king's chamberlains, whom he had appointed to attend upon her, and gave him a commandment to Mordecai, to know what it was, and why it was” (verse 5). Hatach was one of the king’s employees. After the king married Esther, he assigned Hatach to care for her household affairs. The king trusted Hatach, and Esther came to trust him above most. It was because of this trust that Esther called for him specifically to go to Mordecai on her behalf.
Esther commanded Hatach to find Mordecai and question him as to why he was mourning so and why he had refused her gift. Esther was a smart lady. She didn’t trust in the gossip that was brought to her. She wanted the truth from the horse’s mouth, so to speak. This would necessarily be a secret meeting between the men, and Hatach was to return to Esther with any news, telling no one else.
“So Hatach went forth to Mordecai unto the street of the city, which was before the king's gate” (verse 6). Mordecai wasn’t hard to find. His lamenting and that of the people surrounding him would be an attention getter. Hatach simply went to the place near the gate where Mordecai normally sat and found him there.
“And Mordecai told him of all that had happened unto him, and of the sum of the money that Haman had promised to pay to the king's treasuries for the Jews, to destroy them” (verse 7). When Hatach told Mordecai he was there at Esther’s request for information about why he was in such a state of grief, Mordecai opened up and told him everything. He told Hatach about Haman’s hatred of him for not bowing to worship him. He told him how Haman had manipulated the king into allowing the people of the nations of the kingdom to exterminate the Jews. He told him how much money Haman had offered to pay into the king’s treasury for killing the Jews. How Hitleresque was that?
Talk about having a price on your head! And these people were innocent. They most likely bowed to Haman and followed all the laws of the land and worshipped their false gods and idols. Yet, because one man refused to participate, they must all die.
“Also he gave him the copy of the writing of the decree that was given at Shushan to destroy them, to shew it unto Esther, and to declare it unto her, and to charge her that she should go in unto the king, to make supplication unto him, and to make request before him for her people” (verse 8). Now the things within the Book of Esther begin to heat up. Mordecai gave Hatach a copy of the edict pronouncing the death sentence on all Jews for her to peruse. It was all there, everything Esther wanted to know even to how much of his own money Haman was willing to spend to be rid of his enemy: Mordecai.
Mordecai gave Esther a command that she should take herself quickly into the presence of the king to plead in behalf of the Jews that they might be saved by her appeal to the king. He wanted Esther to tell the king all that had happened and what Haman planned to do and that this murderous plan was against her own people. He thought that, since the king highly regarded Esther, he would grant her wish.
“And Hatach came and told Esther the words of Mordecai” (verse 9). Hatach gave Esther the copy of the edict. He also relayed Mordecai’s demand that she present herself to Ahasuerus to make a petition of him that Haman’s order regarding the purging of the Jews from the kingdom be reversed.
Book of Esther
Chapter 4 Part 9
June 10, 2012
“Again Esther spake unto Hatach, and gave him commandment unto Mordecai; All the king's servants, and the people of the king's provinces, do know, that whosoever, whether man or women, shall come unto the king into the inner court, who is not called, there is one law of his to put him to death, except such to whom the king shall hold out the golden sceptre, that he may live: but I have not been called to come in unto the king these thirty days” (Esther 4:10, 11). Hatach was faithful and brought the report to Esther from Mordecai which included what was going on, who was responsible and what she needed to do about it. Her first reaction was one we can understand. “Mordecai, you know as well as I do, and as well as everyone in this kingdom does, that it’s against the law for anyone to go before the king before he calls. If I enter the inner court it will probably cost my life.” Esther hadn’t been called to see the king in thirty days. Her fear of what might happen to her was very real. Also, another reason for Esther’s fear is, she knew what happened to Vashti. She didn’t want to be the next queen on the king’s hit list.
The law wasn’t written to keep the king safe as it was to keep him separated from the people. Matthew Henry said, “This law was made, not so much in prudence, for the greater safety of the king's person, as in pride, that being seldom seen, and not without great difficulty, he might be adored as a little god. A foolish law it was; for, it made the kings themselves unhappy, confining them to their retirements for fear they should be seen. This made the royal palace little better than a royal prison, and the kings themselves could not but become morose, and perhaps melancholy, and so a terror to others and a burden to themselves.” It was pride that kept the king from being involved in the lives of the people.
This is so opposite to God’s throne where we can come boldly (Hebrews 4:16) to bring our petitions and have them heard and answered. God never rejects us when we approach Him. He is always happy to see us and hear our supplications.
Wikipedia describes a scepter as being “a symbolic ornamental rod or wand borne in the hand by a ruling monarch as an item of royal or imperial insignia.” www.thefreedictionary.com says it is, “a ceremonial staff held by a monarch as the symbol of authority. 2. imperial authority; sovereignty.”
“And they told to Mordecai Esther's words” (verse 12). Hatach carried Esther’s words to Mordecai. When he heard her excuses, he became incensed and sent Hatach back with a word for Esther.
“Then Mordecai commanded to answer Esther, Think not with thyself that thou shalt escape in the king's house, more than all the Jews” (verse 13). He warned Esther that, just because she lived in the palace, she could not count on living through the purge. Soon as anyone found out Esther was a Jewess, she would be killed, no matter her connection to the king, because it was an edict that had the king’s seal on it. Mordecai was pointing out her choices. Speak not and surely die, or take a chance on going before the king where the chances of survival were 50/50.
We have decisions to make in our lives too. Each one of us is called to serve God somehow. We have to decide if we will face the challenge or flee from it. The one thing we must take into account when we are weighing our options is Luke 12:4, 5. “And I say unto you my friends, Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear him.”
Although God is never mentioned by name in this Book, look at Mordecai’s deep faith in the deliverance of the Lord to the Jews. “For if thou altogether holdest thy peace at this time, then shall there enlargement and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place; but thou and thy father's house shall be destroyed: and who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Verse 14) If Esther decided not to approach the king: If she feared this more than what would surely happen to her eventually if the king’s mind wasn’t changed, her fate was sealed. She would die and all memory of her father’s house would die with her. But the nation of Jews would be preserved. Implication: God would raise up someone else to go before the king to deliver His people.
Notice that Mordecai doesn’t downplay the danger to Esther. He knows the rules of the kingdom better than she, yet he pushes her forward. One of my favorite portions of Scripture is contained in this verse where Mordecai asked Esther, “and who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” We have all been called to take our place in God’s kingdom “for such a time as this.” We are not here by mistake any more than Esther was there by mistake or Joseph was in Egypt by mistake. We were not born too soon or too late; we are in God’s kingdom at the perfect time.
Esther had been raised by a God-fearing cousin, so she knew that, “It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:31). That is, to come under judgment and condemnation by God. It is a much easier thing to face the wrath of men than that of God. Man’s wrath is for an hour, God’s wrath is for eternity.
“Then Esther bade them return Mordecai this answer, ‘Go, gather together all the Jews that are present in Shushan, and fast ye for me, and neither eat nor drink three days, night or day: I also and my maidens will fast likewise; and so will I go in unto the king, which is not according to the law: and if I perish, I perish’” (verses 15, 16). Now Esther put her big girl shoes on and made her mind up to walk into the inner court to face the king who would decide her fate. She set conditions for this venture that proved her own deep faith when she called for a fast. If you have read Psalms, Matthew, or Acts, and many other Bible Books, you will see that fasting is most often done in conjunction with prayer. Esther was calling on the Jews to fast with prayer for her safety. She was committing her life to the hands of God, trusting that He would keep her safe as He used her to save His people.
Understand this. The people in Shushan had already read the edict calling for their murder. They knew what was coming at the end of the year on a certain day. When Mordecai explained to them that Queen Esther wanted them to fast for her for the three days and nights, they had no questions.
Esther was going to involve her maids in the fast also. It’s not known for sure how Esther ended up with Jewish maids, maybe by hand picking them from the women the king made available, or maybe by proselytizing them (converting them to Judaism).
The final message for Mordecai for the day was, “Once we have fasted and prayed and carried our petitions to the Lord, I will enter the inner court. If the king kills me, so be it.” Esther was resigned to the fact that she was no longer in control of her life. So, whatever came, she would deal with it. She realized that she was the only hope for the Jews and she was ready to step into the role God had for her.
“So Mordecai went his way, and did according to all that Esther had commanded him” (verse 17). Mordecai got the answer he wanted. He rushed off to speak with the people. He would get the fast started.