We are now at our third study of Esther, which brings us to chapters 3-4! Like last time, they aren’t too long, so I’d advise that you go read them, but here’s an overview:
- Our villain, Haman, gets a promotion, and it is decreed that everyone has to bow to him.
- Mordecai gets Haman mad by not bowing, and since harming Mordecai wouldn’t be enough for Haman’s ego, he decides he wants to kill all the Jews.
- Haman casts lots to decide when (don’t do this at home, kids), and then he tricks the king into agreeing with his scheme and even funding it.
- When all the Jews find out, they start mourning and put on sackcloth and ashes, including Mordecai. And then he goes to the king’s gate in sackcloth, even though it’s not allowed.
- Esther is concerned, so she sends garments to him, but he refuses them. Then Mordecai tells her the whole “all of the Jews are going to be destroyed” problem and asks her to go to the king on their behalf.
- Esther explains that anyone who goes to the king without permission will be killed, but Mordecai convinces her, so she asks for a fast and courageously says, “If I perish, I perish.” (Esther 4:16.)
While I was studying Esther 3-4, I noticed a lot of things about these chapters that I hadn’t noticed before. Here are four of the coolest.
A Fun Fact About Mordecai and Haman
Did you know that Mordecai was related to King Saul?
Now there was a Jew in Susa the citadel whose name was Mordecai, the son of Jair, son of Shimei, son of Kish, a Benjaminite… – Esther 2:5 (ESV)
Mordecai’s great grandfather was Kish, who was also Saul’s dad.
Haman was an Agagite (Esther 3:1), and King Agag was an enemy of King Saul (1 Samuel 15:1-33).
Mordecai and Haman’s conflict mirrors King Saul and King Agag’s conflict! Pretty neat, huh? And—spoiler alert!—like King Saul, Mordecai won. 😉
Haman Sought Help From False Gods
In the first month, which is the month of Nisan, in the twelfth year of King Ahasuerus, they cast Pur (that is, they cast lots) before Haman day after day; and they cast it month after month till the twelfth month, which is the month of Adar. – Esther 3:7
Haman cast lots every single day for nearly an entire year to decide when to kill the Jews. He set aside a little bit of his day, every day, to decide what date he would do it. Why did he go through all that bother? He wanted to please false gods and was hoping they could help him choose just the perfect day to make everything go right.
So even though he must have been very excited to kill the Jews as soon as possible… Day after day, month after month, he cast lots.
…and (spoiler!) it didn’t work.
The Significance of “For Such a Time as This”
This is undoubtedly one of the most famous verses in Esther, if not the most:
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? – Esther 4:14
Numerous Esther studies, devotionals, and retellings take their name from “such a time as this” and I’ve read it many times, but I only recently took the time to grasp its significance.
In this verse, Mordecai is trying to explain to Esther why she should go to the king on the Jews’ behalf—even if it means death. And while he is saying it, he clearly points to a sovereign God.
Unlike Haman’s gods, our God is sovereign. He orchestrates the world perfectly, and He knows exactly what will happen ahead of time. He purposefully put Esther in that place, and Mordecai knew that very well.
What “If I Perish, I Perish” Shows Us
If “for such a time as this” isn’t the most famous verse in Esther, then this one definitely is:
Go, gather all the Jews to be found in Susa, and hold a fast on my behalf, and do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my young women will also fast as you do. Then I will go to the king, though it is against the law, and if I perish, I perish. – Esther 4:16
“If I Perish, I Perish” is also a popular title for Esther studies, devotionals, and retellings. And it is easy to see why—such courage!
It comes almost directly after Mordecai’s encouraging words, and Esther’s response to them is truly inspiring. Could I say something like that in the face of possible death? I may never know. Situations like that are pretty rare.
But situations where we need to be counter-cultural for our faith—they’re all around us. Can we say, “If I’m embarrassed, I’m embarrassed,” with the same courage as Esther? Could we say “If it’s awkward, it’s awkward,” or “If I mess up, I mess up,” the same way she said her line? You can put any number of things in there. Whatever the stake is, it doesn’t matter as long as you are obeying God. Have the courage to do what’s right, and He’ll be right there with you.
What Do You Think?
What did you think of this study? Did you learn anything new? Which point did you find the most interesting?
I love the last point, especially substituting words like “if it’s awkward, it’s awkward.” It reminds of a line I’ve heard somewhere else, “sit with the awkward,” which helps me so much whether I’m making new friends or trying to reignite the old.
Thanks! =) “Sit with the awkward” is a very inspiring quote—I’ll have to remember that!
I am late in leaving my feedback but I enjoyed your thoughts on Esther. It is such a great book.
I had not realized that Haman had cast lots for that length of time. God timing is perfect.
Thank you! Yeah, that was surprising to me too! I agree—Esther is an awesome book, and God’s timing is perfect indeed. <3