Purim: God Brings Deliverance Through One Woman’s Courage

A depiction of Esther, painted by Edwin Long (1878).

“One person can make a difference!” It’s a clichéd phrase that gets trotted out at every national election—the idea that one man or woman among thousands or even millions can have a significant impact. Well, cliché or not, it was certainly true in the case of Esther, the Biblical woman who stood up to injustice and saved an entire people from genocide.

Today, Jews around the world observe the holiday of Purim, which commemorates Esther’s bravery and the deliverance that God brought about through her. Have you read the story of Esther? The Bible recounts the story in the appropriately-named Book of Esther. It’s short, inspiring, and very much worth reading. You can start reading Esther’s story here.

Here’s one of the key moments in the story—when the wicked Haman, outraged that a Jewish man named Mordecai refused to bow down before him, plots to destroy all of the Jews in the Persian Empire. When he learns of the plot, Mordecai turns to the young queen Esther for help:

When Haman saw that Mordecai was not bowing down or paying him homage, he was filled with rage. And when he learned of Mordecai’s ethnic identity, Haman decided not to do away with Mordecai alone. He planned to destroy all of Mordecai’s people, the Jews, throughout Ahasuerus’s kingdom.

In the first month, the month of Nisan, in King Ahasuerus’s twelfth year, Pur (that is, the lot) was cast before Haman for each day in each month, and it fell on the twelfth month, the month Adar. Then Haman informed King Ahasuerus, “There is one ethnic group, scattered throughout the peoples in every province of your kingdom, yet living in isolation. Their laws are different from everyone else’s and they do not obey the king’s laws. It is not in the king’s best interest to tolerate them. If the king approves, let an order be drawn up authorizing their destruction, and I will pay 375 tons of silver to the accountants for deposit in the royal treasury.”

The king removed his signet ring from his finger and gave it to Haman son of Hammedatha the Agagite, the enemy of the Jewish people. Then the king told Haman, “The money and people are given to you to do with as you see fit.”

The royal scribes were summoned on the thirteenth day of the first month, and the order was written exactly as Haman commanded. It was intended for the royal satraps, the governors of each of the provinces, and the officials of each ethnic group and written for each province in its own script and to each ethnic group in its own language. It was written in the name of King Ahasuerus and sealed with the royal signet ring. Letters were sent by couriers to each of the royal provinces telling the officials to destroy, kill, and annihilate all the Jewish people—young and old, women and children—and plunder their possessions on a single day, the thirteenth day of Adar, the twelfth month.

A copy of the text, issued as law throughout every province, was distributed to all the peoples so that they might get ready for that day. The couriers left, spurred on by royal command, and the law was issued in the fortress of Susa. The king and Haman sat down to drink, while the city of Susa was in confusion.

When Mordecai learned all that had occurred, he tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and ashes, went into the middle of the city, and cried loudly and bitterly. He only went as far as the King’s Gate, since the law prohibited anyone wearing sackcloth from entering the King’s Gate. There was great mourning among the Jewish people in every province where the king’s command and edict came. They fasted, wept, and lamented, and many lay on sackcloth and ashes.

Esther’s female servants and her eunuchs came and reported the news to her, and the queen was overcome with fear. She sent clothes for Mordecai to wear so he could take off his sackcloth, but he did not accept them. Esther summoned Hathach, one of the king’s eunuchs assigned to her, and dispatched him to Mordecai to learn what he was doing and why. So Hathach went out to Mordecai in the city square in front of the King’s Gate. Mordecai told him everything that had happened as well as the exact amount of money Haman had promised to pay the royal treasury for the slaughter of the Jews.

Mordecai also gave him a copy of the written decree issued in Susa ordering their destruction, so that Hathach might show it to Esther, explain it to her, and command her to approach the king, implore his favor, and plead with him personally for her people. Hathach came and repeated Mordecai’s response to Esther.

Esther spoke to Hathach and commanded him to tell Mordecai, “All the royal officials and the people of the royal provinces know that one law applies to every man or woman who approaches the king in the inner courtyard and who has not been summoned—the death penalty. Only if the king extends the gold scepter will that person live. I have not been summoned to appear before the king for the last 30 days.” Esther’s response was reported to Mordecai.

Mordecai told the messenger to reply to Esther, “Don’t think that you will escape the fate of all the Jews because you are in the king’s palace. If you keep silent at this time, liberation and deliverance will come to the Jewish people from another place, but you and your father’s house will be destroyed. Who knows, perhaps you have come to your royal position for such a time as this.” —Esther 3-4 (HCSB)

Want to know what happened next? Keep reading…

Related posts:

  1. The unlikely heroine of Purim
  2. Peter Brings the Gospel to the Gentiles
  3. Is God a Moral Monster?

Posted by Andy

Filed under History, Holiday