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Sermon Notes

Please note that these are only notes, not transcripts, and as such are not identical to the recorded sermons. They also contain frequent abbreviations.

Introduction

    1. At the end of chap. 7 Haman is dead, and the King’s wrath is pacified. All’s well that ends well. You might expect the book would end, but three more chapters.

      1. The King thinks that everything has now been resolved.

        1. The Queen is safe; Haman has been exposed as a traitor & hanged on his gallows.

        2. Now the King can relax, and enjoy himself. No more sleepless nights.

      2. In fact, the King rewards M, the Jew who 5 years before this had saved his life.

        1. Esther had kept her Jewish identity hidden, and her relationship to Mordecai was a secret. Now Esther reveals that M. is in fact her cousin and adopted father.

        2. Because of M.’s association with Queen E., and also b/c of his prior saving the king’s life, Ahasuerus promotes M., taking Haman’s estate and giving it to M.

    2. But still Esther is not satisfied.

      1. So, she enters the King’s presence again as a humble suppliant.

        1. This time her plea is even more emotional than the previous requests: she falls before the king; she weeps bitter tears before him.

        2. And the king, as a gesture that he still favors Esther, holds out golden scepter.

        3. Esther, who had been ignored for 30 days, is now back in the king’s firm favor: the king is anxious that E. be happy; he encourages her to make her request.

      2. Again, Esther makes an elaborate request with proper, fitting deference

        1. Note the four “if” clauses in 8:5 – and notice that Esther appeals to the King’s own newfound pleasure in her.

        2. Esther’s request is this: put away the mischief of Haman (8:3);”let it be written to reverse the letters devised by Haman” (8:5).

        3. But there is a problem: the laws of the Medes and the Persians are irreversible. Not even the King himself can reverse them.

REVERSING THE IRREVERSIBLE”

 

I. Countering Haman’s Decree

 

 

II. Using Mordecai’s Influence

 

 

III. God Giving the Victory

 

 

  1. COUNTERING HAMAN’S DECREE

    1. There is really only one way to reverse an irreversible decree. Make another irreversible decree. That’s what Mordecai does.

      1. In verses 7-8 Ahasuerus, in an irresponsible way, gives carte blanche to E & M.

        1. Ahasuerus has not learned much. He gave Haman his ring, and told him to do whatever he wanted; now, he does the same thing to M.

          1. Here we see the foolishness of Persian law: it was supposed to be an honor to Persian kings that their decrees were irreversible. It would be a testimony to their power and wisdom.

          2. But, time and time again, the Medes and Persians became trapped in their own decrees. Remember the anxiety of Darius the Mede who was forced to cast Daniel to the lions; or Ahasuerus himself when he could not reverse his own divorce decree against Vashti.

          3. With Haman dead, Haman’s wickedness lives on. Will our sins live on after us? Actions have consequences even after we are dead, for good and for bad.

        2. Is there a legal loophole, some way of wriggling out of Haman’s decree?

          1. No, Ahasuerus acknowledges it: “the writing which is written in the king’s name and sealed with the king’s ring may no man reverse” (8:8).

          2. Haman had done everything legally: he had sought permission from the king, the king has given Haman his ring; the decree was fully in force.

          3. So, Mordecai has one option. Write another decree, which, although not reversing Haman’s decree, serves to neutralize its force. But notice how foolish Ahasuerus is here: he gives Mordecai his ring; he allows Mordecai to write whatever he wants; he does not check the wording or take any further interest in the law. Has he learned nothing?

      2. A counterbalancing decree, that’s Mordecai’s solution. This way the two decrees are legal and enforceable but one cancels out the other.

        1. The two fully legal, irreversible decrees are remarkably similar in language. It appears that M. modeled his decree on Haman’s (cf. 3:13 with 8:11).

          1. Both decrees authorize death: “destroy, kill and cause to perish.”

          2. Both decrees authorize the killing of men, women and children.

          3. Both decrees authorize the plundering of the enemies’ possessions.

        2. In addition, both decrees are issued with full royal authority & with urgency.

          1. Haman’s decree was issued on the 13th day of the 1st month; Mordecai’s on the 23rd day of the 3rd month (2 months, 10 days later).

          2. Both decrees had reference to 13th day of 12th month (thus from M.’s decree there was a nine month waiting time before the decrees could be enforced).

          3. If anything, Mordecai’s decree was more urgent than Haman’s: read 3:13, 15 and 8:10, 14 (more detail on the swift postal service of the Persian empire).

    2. But, for all the similarities, there are important differences between the two decrees.

      1. There are differences in the decree itself

        1. First, Haman’s decree is mainly offensive. It gives the Persians in every province of Ahasuerus’ kingdom the right to attack the Jews who had done nothing to provoke such an attack.

          1. The decree itself was triggered by the pride of Haman: M. had offended H. by not bowing to him, but what had the rest of the Jews done to Haman?

          2. Mordecai’s decree is mainly defensive. It gives the Jews permission to defend themselves against their enemies, to stand for their lives.

          3. But there is also a vengeful aspect to the decree, 8:13, 9:5.

        2. Second, Haman’s decree was against the Jews, but not written to the Jews; but, Mordecai’s decree was written to and for the Jews themselves.

          1. 3:12, “there was written acc. to all that Haman had commanded unto the king’s lieutenants, etc.”

          2. 8:9, “written acc. to all that M. commanded unto the Jews & to the lieutenants, etc … and to the Jews acc. to their writing & acc. to their language.”

          3. Thus, in his new position as Prime Minister M. addresses his own countrymen.

      2. The responses to the two decrees are different too.

        1. Haman’s decree created perplexity among the people of Shushan, even among those who were not Jews, and great public mourning among the Jews.

          1. M., remember, wore sackcloth & ashes & cried bitterly in streets of Shushan.

          2. And all the Jews in every province mourned publicly and bitterly (“there was great mourning among the Jews and fasting and weeping and wailing and many lay in sackcloth and ashes” (4:3).

        2. But Mordecai’s decree is met with a mixture of joy and fear: joy among the Jews, and fear among the Jews’ enemies.

          1. 8:16-17, “The Jews had light and gladness and joy and honor … the Jews had joy and gladness a feast and a good day.”

          2. There were even mass conversions to Judaism, because it was clear to many that the tables had turned: the King now favored the Jews; it was a good time to be a Jew, and a bad time to be an enemy of Jews. some of these conversions may have been sincere, but most were conversions of convenience.

  2. USING MORDECAI’S INFLUENCE

    1. This second decree would have been impossible without the elevation of Mordecai. From chapter 8 to the end of the book, Mordecai is the dominant character. We see a complete role reversal. Haman loses everything and Mordecai receives everything which Haman had and more.

      1. Haman is a traitor. Therefore, all his goods (his house, his estate) are confiscated by the Persian gov’t. The king gives everything to E, who gives it all to Mordecai.

        1. Chap. 8:2, “And Esther set Mordecai over the house of Haman”

          1. How galling this would have been to H; and how humiliating for Haman’s wife, ten sons and friends who had advised H to build a gallows for Mordecai.

          2. H. had everything but he threw it away b/c of a petty squabble with a rival.

          3. All of Haman’s wealth belonged to M. who could dispose of it as he would. Likely, Haman’s wife, Zeresh, and his sons became Mordecai’s servants.

        2. Before Haman was taken away to be executed on the gallows Ahasuerus took his ring from Haman’s finger and gave it to Mordecai.

          1. Thus M. receives the position of power which Haman had. He had the same official position, the same access to the king, the same right to make laws.

          2. Thus, Mordecai becomes the second most powerful man in the greatest kingdom of that day.

          3. And, if anything, the book of Esther suggests that Mordecai exceeded Haman in power (9:4). And he was a more popular leader than Haman had been (“the city of Shushan rejoiced and was glad”).

        3. Haman suffers the ultimate disgrace: publically hanged as a traitor to the king, a cruel, painful, shameful death. Mordecai is honored above even the honor which Haman received.

          1. M. goes forth from the presence of the king in the trappings of royalty, 8:15.

          2. M.’s fame spreads far and wide. Everyone knows that Mordecai is the King’s favorite and many of the lower ranking rulers in Persia hold Mordecai in awe.

          3. With Mordecai as the Jews’ protector and the king as Mordecai’s promoter few will dare attack the Jews. In fact, many officials help the Jews.

      2. Everything seems to be going so very well for the Jews. The moment of truth will come at the end of the year on the 13th day of the 12th month.

    2. But is this picture as satisfying as it could be? Is Mordecai a God-fearing leader?

      1. There are three problems with Mordecai’s leadership here.

        1. First, is M. not guilty of hypocrisy here in accepting for himself the honor which he refused to give Haman earlier.

          1. Remember from chapter 3 that the prevailing view among Christian commentators is that M. refused to reverence Haman out of a zeal for God’s glory. He would not idolize a mere man.

          2. But, now where are M’s religious scruples against idolatry when the Persians receive him in the place of Haman? It is true that we are not specifically told that the people bowed before Mordecai, but Mordecai is dressed in the trappings of royalty, he has more honor than even Mordecai. How could we conclude anything else?

          3. These final chapters show that M. is a proud, nationalistic Jew, not one concerned about the worship of the true God [if he had been he would have returned to Jerusalem, and he would not have tolerated Esther marrying Ahasuerus].

        2. Second, why does Mordecai’s decree authorize the slaughter of men, women and children and the taking of the enemies’ spoil? Does this not make M. as cruel as Haman?

          1. It is very possible that M. did this because he sought revenge of Haman, the Agagite. Remember I Sam. 15 where God commanded the destruction of the Amalekites. There God commanded the destruction of men, women and children and animals, but forbade at the taking of spoil.

          2. Some have attempted to soften the language of 8:11. The NIV, for examples, reads this way: “The king's edict granted the Jews in every city the right to assemble and protect themselves; to destroy, kill and annihilate any armed force of any nationality or province that might attack them and their women and children; and to plunder the property of their enemies.” (The issue is whether the text means that the decree gave permission to destroy those who would attack the Jews and the Jews’ children OR the decree gave permission to the Jews to destroy their attackers and their attackers’ children.

      2. But more important than those moral failings is Mordecai’s failure to acknowledge God in any of this. Mordecai does not acknowledge God in chastisement nor does Mordecai thank God for his promotion.

        1. It would surely be a golden opportunity when M. writes the decree to exhort the Jewish people to trust in Jehovah, to thank Jehovah for placing a sympathetic protector in Shushan the palace.

          1. M. could write whatever he wanted but he chose not to write about Jehovah. He chose not to praise Jehovah, but wrote a godless decree. In everything M. disappoints the believer who looks for evidence of true faith.

          2. Instead, M. is carnal; he was carnal when he fasted but did not pray, and even when he is clothed in fine linen as the king’s favorite, he is still carnal.

          3. With Mordecai, neither affliction nor prosperity are to his spiritual profit.

        2. Mordecai shows us that mere things do not produce spiritual benefits in a person when that person does not have the life of Christ, or true faith.

          1. Was Mordecai thankful in prosperity and patient in adversity? Did he in everything put his firm trust in the faithfulness of Jehovah. Did he urge Esther and the other Jews to do so? No, he did not.

          2. God wrought deliverance for Israel through M. and E, not because of their godliness, but in spite of it.

          3. The book of Esther teaches us that even the wicked are instruments in God’s hand for the sake of God’s elect. Really, M. and E were honored in Ahasuerus’ court not for their good but for ours.

  3. GOD GIVING THE VICTORY

    1. On 13th Day of 12th Month the day has arrived when two equal but opposite decrees will come into effect. One decree gives permission for the Jews to be slaughtered; the other decree gives permission for the Jews to defend themselves. Both decrees are valid, both are sealed with the king’s ring. Which decree will prevail?

      1. The issue in the minds of the citizens of Persia is this. Which decree will I follow; and which decree really has the king’s support?

        1. There really is only one answer. Mordecai is now the king’s favorite, not Haman. He has become famous, he has great power, he has the trappings of royalty. Both the King and Queen favor Mordecai. Wisdom would say, Follow M’s decree!

        2. And that is what happens: great fear fell open many of the Persians; many of the rulers not only did not attack the Jews, but they actively helped the Jews. And many Persians became Jews.

        3. The outcome was that none could withstand the power of the Jews. The downtrodden underdog becomes the victorious aggressor.

      2. This is clearly a miracle of God. Only that can explain the success of the Jews.

        1. Consider that the Jews were greatly outnumbered and outclassed. What weapons or military training did the Jews have, yet they were able to smite their enemies with the stroke of the sword.

        2. God, just as He had done throughout the history of the OT, was fighting for the Jews. Although this time God’s fighting was unseen. Only the eye of faith can see God in this.

        3. God fought for the Jews in order to preserve His people and to keep alive the line of Jesus Christ.

        4. The outcome was that 500 men were slain on one day in Shushan, and Haman’s 10 sons were killed in the fighting. While in the rest of Persia 75000 men were killed (about 590 in each of the 127 provinces).

    2. But, this does not mean that God personally favored Mordecai and Esther, nor that He personally favored the Jews living in the 127 provinces of Persia. God favored His elect remnant who had returned to Jerusalem and who through much opposition rebuilt the Temple. It was for the sake of them that the events in the book of Esther took place. Nor, does any of this justify the cruelty and vindictiveness of Esther and Mordecai or make their actions godly.

      1. It is striking that in chapter 9 Esther, in particular, is not satisfied with one day of slaughter. The king asks for a report. He hears that 500 men have been killed in Shushan, and then he asks Esther to make a further request.

        1. Esther asks for another day of slaughter in Shushan. And she asks that Haman’s tens sons be hanged on the gallows as a further humiliation of Haman’s family and as a warning to anyone who might favor Haman’s side.

        2. But why? Haman’s decree only gave provision for one day (3:13)! The second day cannot be seen as self-defense but vicious vengeance.

        3. And a further 300 men die on the 14th day of the 12th month. The total death toll is 75800 men. But interestingly, the other Jews outside of Shushan only fight for one day and then they rest.

      2. It is also striking that the Jews do not take the spoil. Three times we read that although Mordecai permitted them to take the spoil, they did not do so.

        1. Did they perhaps learn from the mistakes of their fathers, from Saul in particular?

        2. If they did, Mordecai did not.

      3. And finally, what a contrast between foolish laws of men and perfect law of God.

        1. When we broke God’s law, a law which cannot be changed, God did not seek to find a way to write a new law to circumvent the old law. God rather determined to honor His own law in the highest possible way.

        2. Not one demand of God’s perfect law is ignored or swept aside by the righteous and holy God. God fulfills His Law, not by writing a new one to contradict the old, but by having His Son fulfill it.

        3. That’s why Jesus was born and lived for 33 years. All those years He was fulfilling the Law; and that’s why Jesus died. On the cross He was answering the demands of God’s unchangeable Law. And that’s why God gave victory to the Jews, so that Christ could come to fulfill the Law for God’s people, for us, who believe in Jesus Christ. Amen!