In an amazing rise from poverty and obscurity to wealth and fame Esther found herself queen of the Persian Empire. But no sooner was she crowned than she was suddenly plunged into a world of political turmoil which threatened to engulf her and God’s beloved people, the Jews.

A new way of life

Esther’s new life brought about in her a deepening of her character, a refining of her faith and a strengthening of her relationship with the King and her God. She embarked on a journey which would lead her to a position of immense influence, involving great risk but release and opportunity for her people.

Haman

After some time (Est 3:1) Ahasuerus the King promoted Haman the Agagite “above all the princes that were with him”. Mordecai, among all the other servants found in the King’s gate, was expected to give reverence to Haman but he “bowed not, nor did him reverence”. Mordecai’s refusal to acknowledge Haman was soon brought to his notice and, enraged with this news, Haman set out to destroy not only Mordecai but his entire race, the Jews. Such was the king’s trust in Haman at this time that he empowered him to do so and a decree was made “to destroy all the Jews that were throughout the whole kingdom … both young and old, little children and women in one day” (3:6,13). The decree was sent out by post into all the king’s provinces, “but the city Shushan was perplexed” (3:15).

Fasting and prayer

To Esther’s secluded domain however, the news had not yet come. Then her maids and chamberlains hastened to inform her of the alarming news that Mordecai sat without the gate of the palace clothed in sackcloth, fasting and mourning. Esther anxiously enquired into the cause of Mordecai’s distress: a copy of the decree was brought back to her through her faithful chamberlain Hatach that her people were to be destroyed and that she should make request to the king for the deliverance of her people from destruction. She responded quickly to Mordecai, “I have not been called to come in unto the king these thirty days”, and told him the law forbade her to enter into the King’s presence uninvited! But Mordecai could see further, and asked her to go beyond the law, to reach out in faith and save not only her people but her own life as well (4:13–14). Mordecai broadened her understanding so that she could appreciate the opportunity she had to be involved in God’s great plan for His people. Esther had a choice to make that would shape not only her own destiny but that of an empire, and that of the people of God.

The years of careful instruction and nurture by Mordecai would become evident in subsequent events. Esther made a quick and faithful decision. Requesting support from Mordecai and all the Jews in Shushan to fast and pray for her, Esther made the choice to go in unto the King. Her response showed strength of character, supreme trust in God and identification with her people. She put her life in God’s hands with the words, “I will go in unto the king, which is not according to the law: and if I perish, I perish” (4:16).

True friends

Esther was surrounded by loyal servants, Hatach the chamberlain and the maids who attended her shared her experiences and ultimately her fate (4:16). Mordecai also provided invaluable support through his prudent advice and wise judgment. Those who love God will seek the companionship of others with similar mind: friends who reassure in times of distress and rejoice with us in our times of joy. “I am a companion of all them that fear thee, and of them that keep thy precepts” (Psa 119:63).

Into the presence of the King

With due care and fastidiousness, Esther put on her robes of state to approach before the King. She contrasts sharply with Vashti who, when called to come unto the king with the crown royal, refused. Esther, in adorning herself, endeavoured to be a reflection of her husband. She appreciated his excellent qualities, identified with his high ideals and wished to present herself with appropriate royal etiquette. “A virtuous woman is a crown to her husband” (Prov 12:4).

With courage and faith she ascended the steps of the palace. She knew that only the King’s favour would save her, and she depended on his gracious love. She reminded herself that the cause was greater than the individual as she walked past the palace guards, through the marbled hall, and entered without announcement into the very presence of the King himself.

Such an audacious act could bring instant death. But in her mind there was no thought of turning back. She stood trembling, eyes fixed on the face of the king waiting for his decision. He instantly responded by stretching out to her the golden sceptre, and asked, “What wilt thou, queen Esther? and what is thy request? it shall be even given thee to the half of the kingdom.”

He understood the extremity of her need by her presence before him, his words confirming this when he asked, “What wilt thou?” or literally in the Hebrew, “What ails thee?” As a type of Yahweh Himself in this beautiful parable he knew she had a problem and was anxious to remedy any difficulty that befell her. Though her need was great and the matter urgent Esther was careful about presenting her petition. She did not reveal her distress immediately but simply invited the King to an exclusive banquet with herself and his recently honoured prince, Haman.

The first banquet

The king accordingly commanded Haman to attend with haste. “So the king and Haman came to the banquet that Esther had prepared. And the king said unto Esther at the banquet of wine, What is thy petition? and it shall be granted thee” (5:5,6).

Esther’s first banquet was a deliberate move to buy time and obtain a private audience with the King. She moved with discretion and care. She needed Haman exposed at the right time and in the right place. His growing conceit and boldness would lead him to betray himself and prepare the way for his own destruction. Such is the way of the wicked. “Let destruction come upon him at unawares; and let his net that he hath hid catch himself: into that very destruction let him fall” (Psa 35:8).

The banquet concluded, Haman hastened home and called his wife and friends to celebrate this wonderful promotion. He was to go tomorrow to another exclusive feast with the King and Queen: and gathering his audience around him, he boasted of this great honour.

Haman’s demise

“Yet all this availeth me nothing”, he concluded, “so long as I see Mordecai the Jew sitting at the King’s gate.” But Zeresh his evil-minded wife was quick with a solution, a plan to solve Haman’s problem. A gallows just 23 metres high should deal with it!

The new day, however, brought an ironic twist of circumstances for Haman. An amazing command was given him by the king. The very man Haman wished to destroy, Mordecai the Jew, he was now to lead through the streets of Shushan on the King’s own mule, dressed in the King’s own robe and wearing the King’s own crown! Haman was mortified.

Haman the Agagite, the enemy of the Jews, hastened to the refuge of his house with a bag on his head (6:12, cp 7:8; the same word in the Hebrew). His wife warned him that this conflict with Mordecai the Jew would be a battle to the death. A clear symbol of the enmity between the “seed of the serpent” and the “seed of the woman” could be seen emerging here and the conflict would be great.

Esther stands as the bride of Christ, who in faith intercedes on behalf of her people; Haman as the “seed of the serpent” intent on their destruction. With resourcefulness and wisdom she planned her moves, but only ever acted in accordance with her spiritual guide and mentor, Mordecai.

Esther’s request

Haman barely had time to explain his predicament to his family when a messenger came to hasten him to the next banquet that Esther had prepared (6:14). Once more three people gathered around a feast or “banquet of wine” – Esther, the King, and the treacherous Haman.

Up to this point Esther had kept her identity hidden, but now was the moment to reveal who each person really was. With resourcefulness and wisdom she had planned this banquet. The feast, spread next to the exotic palace garden, abounding with verdure and fragrance, beckoned its guests, but treachery and death lurked in the shadows.

Again the King asked his lovely Queen to state her petition and benevolently offered her half the kingdom. But Esther’s requirements were characteristically simple. With care she chose her words and petitioned her king on the basis of his grace and favour. With a piercing glance towards Haman she swung around to King Ahasuerus and pleaded for her life, pouring out the passionate words, “… let my life be given me at my petition, and my people at my request … For we are sold, I and my people, to be destroyed, to be slain, and to perish.” Now that the time was right, Esther’s accusation came swiftly: “The adversary and enemy is this wicked Haman!”

Haman’s countenance betrayed his guilt, and the King in his fury left the banquet hall to pace the palace courtyard. The full extent of Haman’s wickedness and the danger to his wife and kingdom dawned on the King. Returning to the feast he commanded Haman to be taken away and hung on the gallows he had prepared for Mordecai.

The salvation of a nation

The death of Haman led to his property being given to Esther and Mordecai, for she had “told what he was unto her”. Esther’s life was spared by the King and her enemy destroyed, but Esther’s character has a depth yet to be seen. When pleading for her own life she simply appealed for a favour she considered undeserved, shedding no tears. Now she wept for her people. She prostrated herself before the King and besought him to put away the mischief of Haman and his devices.

Ahasuerus again held out the sceptre of life to this lovely and faithful woman who, rising and standing as we all do before our Maker, pleaded for the thing that is “right before the king and pleasing in his eyes”. She is one of a class, the saints in Christ, who draw near to the throne of grace to plead not only for themselves but for the Israel of God, that He might bless them and make them partakers of the promises made to the fathers (Gal 3:26–29).

All in all

The humble Jewish maiden taken from obscurity, with nothing to commend her but her beauty and grace, had risen to first lady of the empire invested with favour, honour, life and power. She never lost her humility but “did the commandment of Mordecai, like as when she was brought up with him”. He was always her guide.

But in her hand now was the authority to save life or destroy it, for she was empowered to write letters in the King’s name enabling her people to stand for their life, destroy their enemies and take a spoil for themselves. Her wisdom and influence were not only felt by the King and his court but by the entire empire as she sent out decrees, establishing truth and righteousness.

The seemingly small choices made by this woman defined her life and the life of her people. If she arrested the eye of the king at her first presentation, she now commanded his love and complete trust.

Esther’s beautiful character, enriched by experience, stands as an enduring testimony to the truth of God long after the palace walls of Susa have crumbled and the desert sands have swept across the pavement where her feet had trod.

Esther, Daniel and Nehemiah all walked the marbled halls of fame, made royal decrees, advised kings and influenced empires. In them we find passion for the welfare of their people, the earnest desire to promote truth and to declare the righteousness of their God.

King Ahasuerus stands in this parable as God Himself, the one who has the bride’s interests always at heart. In the closing scene of this drama we find Esther has disappeared from the story. Or has she? She has not really gone, but united with Mordecai and Ahasuerus, her identity has merged with them.

We have no such access as Esther did to the political stage of this world, but we can come into the presence of God Himself through prayer, and in His mercy assist in bringing about the greatest changes yet in the history of the world. We pray for deliverance, not only of our own life but for the people of God, knowing our destiny is linked to theirs. Our identity has not been shown. We are obscure, hidden in Christ, and “it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2).