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THE ISRAEL OF GOD IN SACKCLOTH; ASHES; AND TEARS
The last verse of the previous chapter mentioned that the city of Susa was perplexed. "Although the Jews certainly had enemies in Susa, the majority of the Persians were Zoroastrians, and were likely to sympathize with the Jews. There might also have been other national groups in Persia who would have been alarmed and apprehensive at the king's decision to slaughter all the Jews." Some might have been fearful that their group might be next. It must have been a major shock to the Persian capital when the king's decree became known.
The Jews throughout the whole Persian empire at once exhibited their grief, alarm, mourning and fear, in much the same manner as did Mordecai.
MORDECAI LEARNS ALL THAT WAS DONE
"Now when Mordecai knew 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; and he came even before the king's gate; for none might enter the king's gate clothed with sackcloth. 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."
This great mourning prevailed in every province of the vast empire, including Jerusalem and Judaea of course. Although the name of God is not mentioned in Esther, this outpouring of grief on the part of the Chosen People was nothing at all unless it was an appeal for God's intervention to save his people from their threatened destruction. The sackcloth and ashes were universally recognized as signs of extreme grief and distress. "Either sackcloth or ashes was a sign of deep mourning; but both together were indications of the most distressing grief possible."
"All the Jews throughout Persia broke out into mourning, weeping, and lamentations, while many of them exhibited their mourning as did Mordecai." Mordecai's purpose for such a visible demonstration of his mourning was to alert Esther that something was terribly wrong and to get the truth of the situation and its seriousness to Esther.
ESTHER THE QUEEN GETS A FULL REPORT FROM MORDECAI
"And Esther's maidens and her chamberlains came and tom it her; and the queen was exceedingly grieved; and she sent raiment to clothe Mordecai, and to take his sackcloth from off him; but he received it not. Then called Esther for Hathach, one of the king's chamberlains, whom he had appointed, to attend upon her, and charged him to go to Mordecai, to know what this was, and why it was. So Hathach went forth to Mordecai in the broad place of the city, which was before the king's gate, And Mordecai told him all that had happened to him, and the exact sum of the money, that Haman had promised to pay to the king's treasuries for the Jews, to destroy them. Also he gave him the copy of the writing of the decree that was given out in Shushan to destroy them, and to show 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."
"Esther sent raiment to clothe Mordecai ... but he received it not" (Esther 4:4). "Mordecai's refusal to accept the clothing was evidence to Esther that his actions were not caused by personal sorrow, but by an unusually dire public caalamity."
"The exact sum of money that Haman agreed to pay" (Esther 4:7). Throughout the Book of Esther, it is evident that Mordecai had access to any information that he requested; and this mention of that ten thousand talents of silver Haman agreed to pay the king indicates, that regardless of the king's seeming refusal of it, that it became finally a binding part of the agreement. "The most natural interpretation of this is that the king's acceptance of the blood money was part of the transaction."
"The copy" (Esther 4:8). "A copy is the way this reads in the Hebrew, which is correct. Mordecai had made a copy in order to send it to Esther."
"To declare it unto her" (Esther 4:8). This means that Hathach was probably intended to read it to the queen; she might not have known the Persian language.
"Charge her ... to make request, for her people" (Esther 4:8). This means that Hathach, at least, and probably all of Esther's maidens and servants knew that she was a Jewess. Even if she had not told it to them, they would soon have known it through her concern for and interest in Mordecai. The king, however, probably did not learn of it until Esther told him.
MORDECAI'S REQUEST OF ESTHER LOADED WITH DANGER
"And Hathach came and told Esther the words of Mordecai. Then Esther spake unto Hathach, and gave him a message unto Mordecai, saying All the king's servants, and the people of the kinifs provinces, do know, that whosoever, whether man or woman, shall come unto the king in the inner court, who is not called, there is one law for him, that he be put to death, except those to whom the king shall hold out the golden sceptre, that he might live: but I have not been called to come in to the king these thirty days. and they told to Moredecai Esther's words."
"The golden sceptre" (Esther 4:11). "In all of the numerous representations of Persian kings (by sculptors and inscriptions recovered by archaeologists), the king holds a long tapering staff (the sceptre of Esther)." Death was the penalty for any person who came unbidden into the private area of a Persian king.
Esther did not by this reply refuse to accept Mordecai's charge; she merely apprised him of the extreme danger to herself in such a request. Esther was also apprehensive that the king had not invited her into his presence in a month, indicating that his love for her had cooled, and that at that time the king might have been sensually involved with someone else. There was certainly no guarantee that the king would be pleased by her coming uninvited into his presence.
MORDECAI CHARGED ESTHER TO TAKE THE RISK TO SEE THE KING
"Then Mordecai bade them return answer unto Esther, Think not with thyself that thou shalt escape in the king's house, more than all Jews. For if thou altogether holdest thy peace at this time, then will relief and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place, but thou and thy father's house will perish: and who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this? Then Esther bade them return answer unto Mordecai, Go gather together all the Jews that are in Shushan, and fast ye for me, and neither eat nor drink three days, night or day; I also and my maidens will fast in like manner; and so will I go in unto the king, which is not according to the law: and if I perish, I perish. So Mordecai went his way, and did according to all that Esther had commanded him."
For sheer courage, for faithful acceptance of an assignment fraught with mortal danger, for filial obedience to her beloved foster-father Mordecai, for her patriotic zeal and determination to rescue her people from massacre, yes, and for evident trust in God, and confidence in his blessing, Esther's action here equals or surpasses anything ascribed in the literature of all nations to the the greatest heroes of the human race. What a marvel was Esther!
"If thou holdest thy peace ... thou and thy father's house will perish" (Esther 4:14). "Mordecai's argument here was brutal in its clarity. Death awaited Esther whether or not she went in to the king. She had nothing to lose. If she failed, deliverance would come from some other place; but maybe, who knows, maybe God had made her queen just for the purpose of rescuing his people."
Some scholars make a big thing out of there being no mention of God's name in the Book of Esther; nevertheless a most vital and living faith in God is evident in every line of it. Why all that fasting (and prayer that always accompanied it)? Why? It was an appeal for God's help.
Note here that Mordecai expected deliverance from some other quarter, even if Esther failed. Why? He believed in God's protection of the chosen people.
"Esther was here invited by Mordecai to see that there was a divinely ordered pattern in her life, and that this was her moment of destiny."
"Although Mordecai did not speak of God nor allude directly to his promises, he still grounded his hopes for the preservation of God's People upon the word and promises of God as revealed in the Holy Scriptures."
Yea, even more than his hopes, his utmost confidence in that preservation is revealed. Note the words: "Relief and deliverance will arise from another place" (Esther 4:14). This could be nothing other than faith and trust in God.
"Fast ye for me ... I and my maidens will fast" (Esther 4:16). "Here we have more evidence of the religious element in Esther. Her fast could have had no object other than to obtain God's favor and protection in what she was resolved to do." Speaking of Esther's fasting, Dummelow wrote that, "This was Esther's request for united prayer on her behalf."
"If 50perish, I perish." (Esther 4:26). Esther accepted her dreadfully dangerous mission, "In a spirit of resignation."
Coffman's Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Esther 4". "Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Fifth Week after Easter