Esther 4




HEARING OF THE DECREE (vs. 1-3). Haman had no doubt kept

his intentions secret until the king’s consent to them was not only granted,

but placed beyond his power to recall The Jews first heard of the terrible

blow impending over them by the publication of the edict. Then they

became acquainted with it quickly enough. The edict was for a while the

talk of the town. Placarded openly in some conspicuous and frequented

place, every loiterer read it, every gossip spoke of it, every one whom it

threatened could with his own eyes see its exact terms. Mordecai soon

perceived all that was done” (v. 1) — perused the edict, understood

whence it had originated, was fully aware that he himself and his whole

nation stood in the most awful peril. His first impulse was to rend his

garments and put on sackcloth and ashes; after which he quitted the

environs of the palace, and “went out into the midst of the city,” where he

gave free vent to his grief and alarm, “crying with a loud and bitter cry.”

The signs of mourning were not permitted within the walls of the royal

residence, and Mordecai could come no nearer than the space before the

gate, where he probably sat down in the dust astonied (see ch. 9:4).

Nor was he long alone in his sorrow. In every province — and therefore at

Susa, no less than elsewhere — “there was great mourning among the

Jews, and fasting, and weeping, and wailing” (v. 3). The proscribed race

made bitter lamentation — “lay in sackcloth and ashes,” humbled itself

before God, and waited. As yet no thought of escape seems to have

occurred to any, no resolution to have been taken. Even Mordecai’s

thoughtful brain was paralyzed, and, like the rest, he gave himself up to



1 “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;”

Mordecai rent his clothes. Compare Ezra 9:3, 5 with the

comment. The meaning of the act was well understood by the Persians.

Put on sackcloth with ashes. So Daniel (Daniel 9:3), and the king of

Nineveh (Jonah 3:6). Either act by itself was a sign of deep grief; both

combined betokened the deepest grief possible. And went out into the

midst of the city. The palace was not to be saddened by private griefs (see

the next verse). Mordecai, therefore, having assumed the outward signs of

extreme sorrow, quitted the palace, and entered the streets of the town.

There, overcome by his feelings, he vented them, as Asiatics are wont to

do, in loud and piercing cries (comp are Nehemiah 5:1).


2 “And came even before the king’s gate: for none might enter into

the king’s gate clothed with sackcloth.”  And came even before the king’s gate.

After some aimless wandering Mordecai  returned toward the palace, either his

proper place or with some incipient notion of obtaining Esther’s help. He was not

allowed, however, to pass the outer gate on account of his garb of woe,

and he remained outside.


3 “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.”  And in every province. As fast as the news spread, as province

after province received the decree, the Jews spontaneously did as Mordecai

had done — everywhere there was great sorrow, shown commonly by

fasting, weeping, and wailing, while in numerous instances the mourners

even went the length of putting on sackcloth and ashes. Thus an ever increasing

cloud of grief overshadowed the land.



The Cry of a Doomed People (vs. 1-3)


The decree against the Jews was not yet known in the palace; Esther

herself was not yet informed of it. And the signs of sorrow and mourning

were prohibited within the royal precincts; nothing of ill omen was suffered

to come before the king and his household. But in the city evil tidings

(which ever travel fast) soon came abroad.



MORDECAI. The rending of clothes in grief was practized by the Persians

as well as by the Jews. The Ninevites in their penitence sat in sackcloth and

ashes. It was and is the custom of Orientals to weep aloud in times of

mourning. All these expressions of sorrow and lamentation were in the

circumstances natural and proper. It was the woe of a patriot. Mordecai

was not thinking so much of himself as of his people; he made their

sorrows and alarms his own. It was the sorrow of a godly man. He did not

simply mourn; he evidently humbled himself before God, and implored

Divine pity and help.



JEWS THROUGHOUT THE EMPIRE. The news of a great victory flies

and flashes through a land, awakens the universal joy, and the land is filled

with gladness and song.. And the tidings of the impending calamity spread

far and wide through the provinces of Persia, and created consternation in

thousands of hearts. They mourned as they thought of the land of their

fathers, and of all the privileges enjoyed in that sacred and fertile territory

their proper home and inheritance. For now they were not only doomed

to exile; they were marked for destruction. They fasted, doubtless, as a

religious exercise, accompanying their fasting with repentance and with

prayers. They wept and wailed, knowing that though their cry could not

pierce the walls of the palace at Shushan, it would penetrate the gates of

heaven, and reach the ear of THE KING OF KINGS!  They lay in

sackcloth and ashes, as permitting themselves no comfort or ease in prospect

of their own and their brethren’s ruin. Thus they prepared a way for the

tender mercy of God to visit them from on high.  (Luke 1:78)


Ø      Practical lesson:Sinners against whom a sentence of Divine wrath

might rightfully be issued should lose no time in humbling themselves

before the Lord, and confessing their sins with contrition and repentance,

that they may partake in the mercy of heaven, and, through the redemption

of Christ Jesus, be saved from THE WRATH TO COME!




(vs.4-17). Esther, in the seclusion of the harem, knew nothing of

what the king and Haman had determined on. No one in the palace

suspected how vitally she was concerned in the matter, since none knew

that she was a Jewess, and state affairs are not commonly discussed

between an Oriental monarch and a young wife. It was known, however,

that she took an interest in Mordecai; and when that official was seen

outside the palace gate in his mourning garb, it was reported to the queen.

Not being aware why he grieved, but thinking that perhaps it was some

light matter which he took too much to heart, she sent him a change of

raiment, and requested him to put off his sackcloth. But Mordecai, without

assigning any reason, refused (v. 4). Esther upon this caused inquiry to

be made of Mordecai concerning the reason of his mourning, and in this

way became acquainted with what had happened (vs. 5-9). At the same

time she found herself called on by Mordecai to incur a great danger, since

he requested her to go at once to the king, and to intercede with him for

her people (v. 8). In reply, the queen pointed out the extreme risk which

she would run in entering the royal presence uninvited, and the little chance

that there was of her receiving a summons, since she had not had one for

thirty .days (v. 11). Mordecai, however, was inexorable. He reminded

Esther that she herself was threatened by the decree, and was not more

likely to escape than any other Jew or Jewess; declared his belief that, if

she withheld her aid, deliverance would arise from some other quarter;

warned her that neglect of duty was apt to provoke a heavy retribution,

and suggested that she might have been raised to her queenly dignity for

the express purpose of her being thus able to save her nation (vs. 13-14).

The dutiful daughter, the true Jewess, could resist no longer; she only

asked that Mordecai and the other Jews in Susa would fast for her three

days, while she and her maidens also fasted, and then she would take her

life in her hand, and enter the royal presence uninvited, though it was

contrary to the law; the risk should be run, and then, as she said with a

simple pathos never excelled, “if I perish, I perish” (v. 16). Satisfied with

this reply, Mordecai “went his way,” and held the three days’ fast which

Esther had requested (v. 17).


4 “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.” Esther’s maids and her chamberlains. A queen consort at an

Oriental court is sure to have, besides her train of maids, a numerous body

of eunuchs, who are at her entire disposal, and are especially employed in

going her errands and maintaining her communications with the outer

world. Told her. Esther’s interest in Mordecai would be known to the

maids and eunuchs by Mordecai’s inquiries about her (ch.1:11) and

communications with her (ibid. v. 22).


5 “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.”

i.e. “to know what the mourning garb exactly meant, and for what reason he

had assumed it.”


6 “So Hatach went forth to Mordecai unto the street of the city, which

was before the king’s gate. The street of the city. Rather, “the square.


7 “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.”

The sum of money. Mordecai evidently considered that the

money was an important item in the transaction, and had mainly influenced

Ahasuerus. This would not have been the case if Ahasuerus had at once

given it back (see the comment on ch. 3:9).


8 “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.  9 And Hatach came and told Esther the words of




  Sympathy (vs. 4-9)


Although Esther was lodged in a palace and surrounded with luxury and

honor, she did not lose sight of her kinsman, Mordecai. Least of all was

she indifferent to his trouble and sorrow. Hence, when informed of his

mourning, she sent to him, and, when aware of the cause of his distress,

entered into it, taking his grief as her own. A beautiful illustration of

sympathy — an emotion and disposition which adorns our humanity, and

relieves men of many of their sorrows, and lightens many of their cares.

The sympathies of some are restricted to their own household, or their own

nation; but it becomes us to cherish a fellow-feeling for all mankind. Still,

as in this narrative, kindred is a proper ground for special sympathy.



Scriptures teach us that God has made of one blood all nations of men.

(Acts 17:26)  We are children of one family. Not only so, but the same

Father has pitied us, and the same Savior has died for us. What emphasis

do these facts give to the inspired admonitions: “Look not every man

upon his own things, but every man also upon the things of others.”

(Philippians 2:4)  “Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the

law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2)  “Rejoice with those who do rejoice, and

weep with them that weep.” (Romans 12:15)



IT, AND TO HIM WHO IS ITS OBJECT. The heart is richer and happier

for entering into the feelings of another. And the heart is relieved that feels

another shares its burden. Human society is made more bright and blessed

by the prevalence of the sacred habit of sympathy. Of this virtue, as of

mercy, it may be said, “It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.”



Mere sentimental, unpractical sympathy is worse than vain; it is a mockery.

But where right feeling leads to right action, it proves its intended value. In

the case before us, Esther’s sympathy with her kinsman’s anxiety and

sorrow led her to put forth all her efforts, in compliance with his wish, to

secure the end dear to his heart.



BENEFICIAL ACTION. Esther’s first attempt to comfort Mordecai

having failed, she sent a trusted servant to him to ascertain what his so

loudly-pronounced manifestations of sorrow really meant. She could not

live in peace while he was in such visible unrest. She longed to know all,

that she might do all that she could. It is not good to indulge in idle

sentiment. Many are content if they feel well, or surrender themselves for a

time to tender emotions. No practical good results from their sensibility,

nor is any intended. There is a good feeling which is satisfied with itself.

Such was not Esther’s. Let us beware of it (see Matthew 7:21; 21:28-31;

Luke 10:33-35).




learned through Hatach the cause of Mordecai’s distress, and received the

copy of the royal decree, her sorrow and sympathy would be greatly

intensified. They were now extended to all her people. Yet, queen as she

was, she felt unable to do anything to give help. There are troubles before

which the most powerful have to confess themselves powerless. Few griefs

are so keen as that which springs from a conscious inability to satisfy the

heart’s compassionate yearnings. In connection with Esther’s difficulties let

us notice here:


Ø      Mordecai’s charge. It was that, after reading the royal decree, Esther

should go to the king and make supplication before him for her people

(v. 8). This he laid upon her as a solemn duty. The obligations of duty

Are increased by high position and influence.


Ø      Esther’s strait. However willing to obey Mordecai, Esther was aware of

a twofold obstacle to her following his guidance in this instance. It was a

universally known law of the Persian court that no one, man or woman,

should approach the king uninvited under the penalty of death (v. 11).

The life of any intruder, on whatever mission, could only be saved by the

king’s holding out to him or her his golden scepter. In ordinary

circumstances the unbidden entrance of the queen would be most likely to

receive the royal sign of safety and welcome. But Esther had a special fact

to communicate to Mordecai on this point. For thirty days, or a month, the

king had never sought her company, and she had no hope that he might

now give her an opportunity of speaking to him. This forgetfulness of

Esther on the part of the king may perhaps have been owing to the

Vicious influence of Haman.





OF CHRISTIANS. They want something more than mere doled-out

crumbs of charity; they need a heartfelt sympathy, and real help. This is

what Christ gave them on earth. He, the most intellectual, refined, and

sinless Being that ever lived, bent to the lowliest, strengthened the

weakest, bore with the frailest, came into closest contact with disease and

sin, so that it seemed that He “Himself took our infirmities and bare our

sicknessess (Matthew 8:17) and became “sin for us.” (II Corinthians 5:21)

His whole life was a going out of self and living for others.


10 “Again Esther spake unto Hatach, and gave him

commandment unto Mordecai;”  Also he gave him the copy. In the original

it is “a copy.”  Mordecai had had a copy made for the purpose of handing it to

Esther. To make request to him for her people. If this was the phrase used by

Mordecai to Hatach, Esther’s nationality must now have ceased to be a

secret, at any rate so far as her immediate attendants were concerned.

Probably Mordecai felt that the truth must now be declared. It was only as

the compatriots of the queen that he could expect to get the Jews spared.


11 “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.  12 And they told to

Mordecai Esther’s words.”  All the king’s servants seems to mean here

all the court,”  “all those in the immediate service of the king.” The inner court.

The palace had, as it would seem, only two courts, the “outward court” of ch.

6:4, and the “inner court” of the present passage. There is one law of his

to put him to death. Rather, “there is one law for him. ‘Whoever he be,

there is one and the same law regarding him — he must suffer death.

Herodotus excepts six persons from the operation of this law (3:84, 118),

but in making the exception shows the general rule to have been such as

here represented. Except such to whom the king shall hold out the

golden sceptre. No other writer tells us of this custom, but it is in perfect

harmony with Oriental habits and modes of thought. Some have objected

that the king would not always have a golden sceptre by him; but the

Persepolitan sculptures uniformly represent him with a long tapering staff

in his hand, which is probably the “sceptre” (sharbith) of Esther. I have

not been called to come in unto the king these thirty days. The king s

passion had cooled, and Esther now, like his other wives, waited her

occasional summons to his presence. She had not been called for a whole

month, and did not know when a summons might come. It would not do to

trust to so mere a chance; and therefore, if she was to interpose on behalf

of her nation, she must intrude on the king uninvited, and risk being put to




The Golden Scepter (v. 11)


The superstitious reverence which surrounded the throne of Ahasuerus is

manifest from the whole tenor of this narrative. Capricious and absolute,

his frown was feared as the most awful of earthly ills; and his smile was

sought, with abject slavishness and adulation, as the herald of honor,

riches, and power. Even his wife could not approach unbidden into the

presence of the “great king,” save at the peril of her life. When he was

pleased to stretch forth the golden scepter of clemency and mercy, all was

well. The golden scepter, which encouraged the timid, assured the

suppliant of a gracious reception, and was the earnest of royal favors and

blessings, may be taken as an emblem of the merciful regard and purposes

of the King of kings. In the gospel of His Son our heavenly Ruler and Lord

extends to us the golden scepter of His grace.


  • It is a scepter OF ROYAL POWER. Originally the scepter was the rod

of the chief with which he smote the cowardly and the recreant, and thus

it became the emblem of kingly rule. All God’s acts are acts of a just

authority, enforced by an IRRESISTIBLE POWER!  Whilst His sway

extends over His whole creation, as a moral sway it is exercised upon

righteous principles over His moral and accountable subjects.


  • It is a scepter OF ROYAL FAVOR. It is evident from the narrative

that Esther had no hope except from the clemency of the king. Her position

as queen did not even give her the right to approach the throne unbidden.

When Ahasuerus stretched forth the golden scepter she knew that she was

regarded with favor. Our heavenly King extends to us the favor of His

royal nature. His word, His gospel, is the expression of His regard for men.

His anger is turned away, and He comforts us.


  • It is a scepter OF ROYAL MERCY. Esther’s approach was a

presumption, an offense. But the symbolical act we are considering assured

her that her offence was overlooked, and she herself accepted. In the

gospel God appears not only as kind, but as merciful. He addresses the

sinful suppliant, and says, Fear not! I am the Lord that hath mercy on

thee!  Thou shalt not perish, but shalt have pardon and life eternal.


  • It is a scepter OF ROYAL BOUNTY. The act of Ahasuerus was the

earnest of further kindness. “What is thy petition, and what is thy request?”

She had, in response, only to ask, and to have. God has given us His Son,

and the gospel, which tells us of this gift, tells us that all provision is made

for us. This is the language of our royal Father: “All that I have is thine!”

(Luke 15:31)


13 “Then Mordecai commanded to answer Esther, Think not with

thyself that thou shalt escape in the king’s house, more than all the

Jews.”  Think not with thyself. Literally, “imagine not in thy mind.”

That thou shalt escape in the king’s house. i.e. “that being an inmate of

the palace will be any protection to thee ;” it will be no protection — you

will no more escape than any other Jew.


14 “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?” Then shall there enlargement, or respiration (marg. literally,

breath”), and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place.

Mordecai is confident that God will not allow the destruction of His people.

Without naming His name, he implies a trust in His gracious promises, and a

conviction that Haman’s purpose will be frustrated; how, he knows not,

but certainly in some way or other. If deliverance does not come through

Esther, then it will arise from some other quarter. But thou and thy

father’s house shall be destroyed. A denunciation of Divine vengeance.

Though the nation will be saved, it will not benefit you. On you will fall a

just judgment — having endeavored to save your life, you will lose it —

and your “father’s house will be involved in your ruin. We may gather from

this that Esther was not Abihail’s only child. Who knoweth, etc. Consider

this also. Perhaps (who knows?) God has raised you up to your royal

dignity for this very purpose, and none other, that you should be in a

position to save your nation in this crisis.



The Purpose of Power (v. 14)


“Purpose” is a watchword of modem intellectual warfare. “Cause” and

purpose” are words that awaken keenest intellectual strife. Thinkers are

divided into those who believe that the will is the cause of human acts, and

that many of those acts are evidence of purpose; and those who believe our

acts to be the necessary results of physical antecedents acting upon our

nervous system. And those who do not believe in human purpose naturally

enough have no belief in Divine purpose. According to them mind counts

for nothing as a factor in the universe. Believing in purpose, both human

and Divine, we may nevertheless be on our guard against dogmatically

affirming that this and that event is evidence of the intention of Heaven.

Purpose is in the life of man; yet when we endeavor to fathom its

mysteries, it is well that we should propose the question with the

moderation and tentativeness which characterized the language of

Mordecai: “Who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such

a time as this?”



MEN GENERALLY. Whatever doubt we may have of individual cases,

however much we may be influenced by our own prejudices and fancies in

judging of such cases, it scarcely admits of doubt that human life has a

reason for its existence and for its opportunities. Especially in reading the

biographies of great and good men we are impressed with this belief. And

what strength does it impart to a man to believe that God has a work for

him to do. Divine purpose may be wrought out by unconscious agents.


“There’s a Divinity that shapes our ends,

Rough-hew them how we will!



DIVINE PURPOSE IS. Observe the expression: “such a time.” A crisis is

observable in the life of most men. An opportunity opens up. The vocation

is made apparent, or rather audible. A relationship is appointed. A service

is required. God’s finger is visible, and He is heard saying, “This is the way;

walk ye in it!”  (Isaiah 30:21)



RESPONSIBILITY. The call of Providence may be disregarded. Through

negligence, or fear, or distrust persons may shrink from responding to the

requirement of Heaven. But at how fearful a cost! On the other hand, to

have wrought the work of God is to have lived not in vain. And Divine

grace is sufficient for us.


Our reaction should be as Saul of Tarsus - “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?”

(Acts 22:10)  We should follow the leadings of God’s providence and say, “Lead,

Lord, and thy servant shall be found in thy steps!”



Discerning Opportunities (v. 14)


“Who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as




EVERY PLACE. They can benefit their family, the nation, or the Church.



they may have passed for ever. Generally the opportunities of doing the

greatest good are brief. The time of the death edict is approaching.



REMINDERS. Parents, friends, or ministers may be as reminding Mordecais.



BY GOD FOR SERVING HIM has a great effect in leading to the

performance of duty.



Providence and Human Agency (v. 14)


We are very apt to underestimate the value of our own lives. When we

contemplate the countless worlds which constitute the universe, the

countless ages which make up duration, how unspeakably insignificant do

we and our affairs appear! But we must not be misled by such reflections.

Even as the presence of the least particle conceivable affects all material

existence, so the most insignificant human life influences in some measure

the eternal course of events. Mordecai wished to impress Esther with a due

sense of her own responsibility. She was not an ordinary individual, but a

queen; she was allied to the man who swayed the destinies of nations; her

position invested her with boundless power for good or evil. The time had

come when she must either act in a manner becoming her resources, must

use the opportunities at her disposal to save her people, or incur the guilt

of neglecting her duty at the most momentous crisis. As a Jew, Mordecai

believed in Providence, but not in a Providence that weakened human

responsibility. Let us consider the main points emphasized here.



“For if thou altogether holdest thy peace at this time, then shall there

enlargement and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place.” These

words suggest:


Ø      That Providence is a well-established fact. The confidence of

Mordecai was doubtless begotten of a conviction that God

governs the affairs of men. To him this was not a matter of

speculation; for, apart from the teaching of reason, he enjoyed the

light of revelation, and was familiar with the wonderful history of

his people. Some profess to derive comfort from their atheism.

They rejoice to think that there is no God; or, if there be one,

that He has left the world to manage for itself. As well might the

passengers in a railway train be jubilant because they had got rid

of the engineer, and were left to the mercy of an unguided



Ø      That the designs of Providence ARE NEVER THWARTED!   The

Jews had not yet fulfilled their mission. The great Deliverer of

mankind who was to come out of Judah had not appeared. Mordecai

knew that until the Divine purposes were accomplished the nation

could not be destroyed. Hence the sublime assurance of his speech.

The Jews had passed through a similar crisis before, when Pharaoh

pursued them through the Red Sea. Profane history abounds with

like instances. The Greeks were about to be crushed by the iron heel

of the invader when they won the battle of Marathon. The English

nearly lost their independence through the Spanish Armada, which

the tempest scattered to the four winds of heaven. We should never be

bowed down by calamities. If we are children of the great Father we

need not fear. Above, beneath, and around us there are unseen powers

which steadily carry out His eternal decrees.


Ø      That Providence is the refuge of the oppressed. To no other power

could the Jews have appealed in their dire distress. The wealth, and

rank, and influence of the greatest empire in the world were against

them. We need not wonder if they gave way to despair. But the God

of Abraham had arranged for their sure deliverance. The labors of

legislators, philanthropists, and divines had been powerless to release

the black race in the United States of America from their intolerable

bondage. Their wrongs seemed to multiply, and their fetters to be

more securely fastened, as the years rolled on. But an incident as

terrible as it was unexpected — the civil war — led them to liberty.

Let the oppressor tremble, and the oppressed be encouraged; for the

triumph of might over right cannot be permanent.



“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?” Providence

is not a synonym for fate. While it employs human agency, it never

interferes with individual liberty; it leaves every man accountable for his

conduct, whether of omission or commission. The words of Mordecai



Ø      That Providence places men in certain positions for definite ends:

“Who knoweth,” etc. The supposition in this case was natural. The

elevation of Esther, just before the threatened destruction of the Jews,

was most significant. It pointed out to her the way of duty with

unmistakable precision. Are we in difficulties as to what our own

life-work may be? If so, it must be due to want of reflection. Rulers

and subjects, rich and poor, learned and unlearned, have their distinct

spheres of action in reference to material interests; their work is cut out

for them, so to speak, by the very circumstances in which they are

placed.  In like manner we might nearly always answer the question,

“Lord, what wilt thou have us to do?” by answering another question

far less profound, “What can we do?”


Ø      That Providence chastises men for their unfaithfulness. “But thou and

thy father’s house shall be destroyed.” Mordecai felt certain that if Esther

failed to do what lay in her power to avert the coming calamity she would

be singled out for retribution. To be in a position of influence at the very

time when that influence could be turned to such a noble account, and yet

remain culpably inactive, would have been to invite the reproaches of men

and the anger of God. Deliverance would doubtless have arisen from

another quarter, and in that case she might have persuaded herself that her

own efforts were superfluous; but the sophistry which so easily deluded her

own mind would have been powerless to arrest the course of righteous

punishment. The ways of Providence are very mysterious; things come to

pass in the most inexplicable manner; but we need not be baffled thereby.

What is to be will be, in spite of our negligence, in spite of our indolence,

in spite of our opposition; but woe be to us, for all that, if we fulfil not the

duties of our position. In the checking of war, in the progress of

civilization, in the diffusion of knowledge, in the advancement of religion,

we have each his allotted share, and there is a tribunal before which we

must all answer for the manner in which we acquit ourselves. The Jews in

the time of Deborah and Barak triumphed over their enemies, but Meroz

was not therefore excused for its cowardly inactivity. “Curse ye Meroz,

said the angel of the Lord, curse ye bitterly the inhabitants thereof; because

they came not to the help of the Lord, to the help of the Lord against the

mighty.”   (Judges 5:23)


15 “Then Esther bade them return Mordecai this answer,

16 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.”

Fast ye for me. Fasting for another is fasting to obtain God’s

blessing on that other, and is naturally accompanied with earnest prayer to

God for the person who is the object of the fast. Thus here again the

thought of God underlies the narrative. It has been supposed that Esther

could not have meant an absolute fast — complete abstinence from both

food and drink — for so long a period as three days; but Oriental

abstemiousness would not be very severely taxed by a fast of this length.

The time intended — from the evening of the first to the morning of the

third day — need not have much exceeded thirty-six hours. I also and my

maidens will fast likewise. “Likewise” is to be taken here in its proper

sense, as meaning “in like manner.” We also will abstain both from meat

and drink during the same Period.



A Fast (v. 16)


Fasting is often mere superstition, as when men suppose that there is merit

in their abstaining on certain days from certain kinds of food, thinking that

mortification of appetite is in itself a virtue, and that God must needs be

pleased with what pains or distresses His creatures. Fasting is sometimes a

mockery. It is well known that many religionists keep the letter whilst they

break the spirit of a fast. It is certainly difficult to sympathize with the

asceticism of those who fast on Fridays upon salmon and champagne. Yet

this, like other religious observances that are now largely superstitious, or

at all events formal, has its origin in laudable desires, and springs from

good tendencies in human nature.



EXPRESSION. When a community is smitten by a general calamity, it is

unbecoming that any members of that community should indulge in

feasting and mirth. When the Jews were threatened with destruction, how

natural that, at Esther’s suggestion, the Hebrew population of the city

should join in a general fast.



SUPPLICATION. Together the people were endangered; together they

sought deliverance from their redeeming God. A fast is not only a time of

abstinence from pleasure, it is a time of prayer; and God in heaven is

gratified by conjoined and blended supplication and intercession. What

mercies await the society, the city, the nation which will agree with one

heart to seek the Lord.



THE SEARCHER OF HEARTS. Often, in the presence of fasts which are

merely outward, has He addressed the indignant question to formal

religionists, “Is it such a fast that I have chosen?” (Isaiah 58:5)  Often has

the appeal been addressed to such, “Rend your hearts, and not your

garments!”  (Joel 2:13)  The case of the Ninevites (Jonah 4) is an illustration

of the combination of a formal with a real fast, and is a proof that such a fast

is not disregarded by God. Let the words of our Savior be remembered:

“When thou fastest, anoint thy head and wash thy face, that thou appear

not unto men to fast; and thy Father who seeth in secret shall reward

thee openly.”  (Matthew 6:17-18)


“If I perish, I perish!” (v. 16)


The bosom of the queen must, when she uttered these affecting words,

have been rent with diverse emotions. The entreaty of Mordecai, the

danger of her people, the benevolence of her own nature, all urged her to

venture into the presence of the august yet capricious king. Yet her

knowledge of the court rules, her fears for herself, must have withheld her

from the daring act. She faced the possible consequences, she prepared

herself for the worst. Doubtless she commended herself to the care of

Heaven, and, forming the resolve, exclaimed, “If I perish, I perish!”

Hearers of the gospel have sometimes been convinced of their sin, and yet

have not been able to appropriate to themselves the promises of God’s

word. They have felt that there is no refuge save in the cross of Christ, and

no hope save in the mercy of God. After long, sore conflict, such

anguished sufferers, with a faith which is half despair, have been able to

cast themselves before the feet of the King, whose displeasure they dread,

and in whose mercy they scarcely dare to hope. They have ventured all

upon Divine compassion, and the earnestness, the distress, the utter

helplessness of their hearts have found utterance in the cry of Esther,

“If I perish, I perish!”


  • The cry is the utterance of SINCERITY AND EARNESTNESS. The

language is full of feeling, of passion. It was no feeble emotion which

could prompt to such a determination. This is the spirit in which a

sinner should come into the presence of the King, seeking for pardon.


  • It is the utterance of FELT UNWORTHINESS. And none can come

aright unto God save he who comes with the cry of the penitent publican,

“God be merciful to me a sinner!”  (Luke 18:13)


  • It is the utterance of CONSCIOUS NEED. Nothing but the keenest

sense of the necessity of the case could have impelled Esther to the course

of action she took. Similar is the motive which brings the sinner to the



“Nothing in my hand I bring,

Simply to thy cross I cling.”


  • It is the utterance of MINGLED FEAR AND HOPE. Uncertainty and

dread mingled in the queen’s mind with some gleam of hope. It is not

unnatural that the poor helpless sinner should shrink from the view of a

holy God, should scarcely dare to hope for His favor.


  • It is the utterance of A MIND UPON WHICH THE KING WILL

HAVE MERCY. As Esther’s fears were dispelled by the attitude and

language of her consort, so the penitent, lowly, believing, and prayerful

suppliant shall never be rejected by a God who delighteth in mercy.

(Micah 7:18)  The spirit which God will not disdain is that of the lowly

suppliant who casts aside every plea save the Divine compassion.


“I have tried, and tried in vain,

Many ways to ease my pain;

Now all other hope is past,

Only this is left at last:

Here before thy cross I lie,

Here I live, or here I die.

“If I perish, be it here,

With the Friend of sinners near;

Lord, it is enough — I know

Never sinner perished so:

Here before thy cross I lie,

Here I cannot, cannot die!”



often tempted to act in opposition to the dictates of our inward judgment.

The will may fail to be governed even by the deepest conviction. It is sad

when acknowledged truth and actual conduct are at variance with each

other. Esther affords us an example of loyal obedience to conviction, in

face of the weightiest temptation to set it aside. Having been convinced by

Mordecai’s representations, she resolved to do what these urged upon her

as a sacred duty. And in the words by which she conveyed her purpose to

Mordecai she gave a remarkable display of piety and heroism. The three days’

fast which she laid on herself and her maidens inside the palace, and on

Mordecai and the Jews of Shushan, was a humble and prayerful casting

of the whole matter on Divine help. Esther felt that the work

was God’s, and that she was but a feeble instrument in His hands; and,

therefore, she desired her countrymen to unite with her in humiliation and

supplication before the God of Israel. Trial achieves much of its purpose

when it brings a soul thus to the feet of God under a sense of dependence

on His merciful succor. Victory is really won when endangered weakness

feels itself under the shadow of the Almighty.  If I perish, I perish.

Esther’s words were not emotional, or self-confident, or desperate; they

were the result of earnest meditation, and must not be separated from her

proposal of a three days’ fast. We are reminded by them of the words of

our Lord when communing with his Father before He went to the cross:

“Nevertheless, not my will, but thine be done.”



OPEN AND FREE TO ALL who truly seek Him. To the earnest suppliant

or loving child the Divine majesty is not hedged round by formalities that

create distance and terror. God is near to all who call upon Him. He dwells

with the humble and contrite. (Isaiah 66:2)  All may come to Him by the way

that He has consecrated in His Son, and come at any time. None are refused

a hearing and a welcome. There is joy in the presence of His angels over every

one that seeks His face.


If I perish, I perish. The lessons suggested by the language of this supreme scene in

the conflict of Esther are numerous, and of a remarkably diversified kind.


  • The figure of human virtue here is impressive in its consent to bow to

vicarious suffering, though it were only consent; in its love, and solicitude,

and obedience, and in the conduct of its own struggles.

  • The cry is arresting because of its strong sympathy of tone with the cry

of one who feels himself a real sinner against the law of God, and finds

himself as yet more “driven” because of the conviction of that sin, and the

overshading dread of its liability to punishment, than he finds himself drawn

of the mercy of his God, and able to repose deep, calm trust in his Saviour.

The soul urged by conviction of sin, oppressed with the sense of its desert

of wrath, and tremblingly afraid of death, has often found its way aright to

the cross, though to use words carrying the most impossible of

significations for any, once arrived there“If I perish, I perish!”

  • Whatever we may justly admire of the spirit of Esther here displayed,

and of the steps by which she rose to it as she contemplated her own

possible and, as she thought, likely sacrifice, how glad we are to turn away

to the tremendously favorable contrast of Jesus Christ whose vicarious

sufferings, whose infinite love, whose eternal sacrifice, was certain, was

voluntary, was cheerful amid surpassing anguish, and patient with the

patience of the lamb sacrificed.




Prayer and Resolve (v. 16)


“Go, gather together all the Jews that are present in Shushan, and fast ye

for me,” etc.


  • ESTHER’S FAITH IN PRAYER. She looks to God, not to man. She

has faith not only in her own prayers, but in those of others. She feels her

need of the prayers of others. She is ready to share that which she enjoins

on others.


  • ESTHER’S PIETY KNOWN IN THE PALACE. Her maidens are so

under her influence that she knows that they all will be ready to join in the

observance of fasting and in offering prayer to the God of Israel. This was

a remarkable thing, remembering that these maidens belonged to an

Oriental and pagan court.



OF OTHERS. Great her decision of character! She will not let the

opportunity for helping others pass, and then strive to atone for her neglect

by useless regrets. How great her devotion! “If I perish, I perish!” She

would certainly have perished if she had not gone in to the king. (So will

any man who refuses to go to and through Jesus Christ, the King of Kings!

The attitude of Job is parallel when he said of God, “Though He slay me,

yet will I trust Him.”  (Job 13:15)  The decrees of a Persian monarch were

unalterable. Remember how Darius was sore displeased with himself, and

set his heart on Daniel to deliver him, and labored to the going down of the

sun to deliver him. He doubtless sought to devise means of maintaining the

law and yet evading its import. Into the den of ]ions Daniel, the king’s favorite,

was cast, and to the slaughter Esther, though queen, would have been, by

ruthless decree, when the time was come; but prayer, fasting, decision,

saved her. God interposed to soften the heart of the king, as well as to

give him a sleepless night, perhaps from a disturbed conscience.


17 “So Mordecai went his way, and did according to all that Esther had

commanded him.”  i.e. gathered the Jews together, and proclaimed a three days

fast. Though without authority, he would naturally, under the circumstances,

have sufficient influence over his countrymen to induce them to do his bidding.



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