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the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11
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Bible Commentaries
Esther 8

Ironside's Notes on Selected BooksIronside's Notes

Verses 1-17

Chapter 8

The Despised Man Exalted And The Decree Of Grace

It was not enough that Haman should be put to death. Some means must be devised whereby the people of the Jews could be saved and yet the unalterable laws of the Persians and the Medes remain unviolated. Of this the present chapter treats.

“On that day did the king Ahasuerus give the house of Haman, the Jews’ enemy, unto Esther the queen. And Mordecai came before the king, for Esther had told what he was to her. And the king took off his ring, which he had taken from Haman, and gave it unto Mordecai. And Esther set Mordecai over the house of Haman” (vers. 1, 2).

The power of the enemy is overthrown. Haman’s house is presented to Esther and she appoints Mordecai over it. She tells at last what relation he bore to her, and there is nothing more to hide.

Her discipline, and his too, has been severe, but at last both reach a place where they can be used in blessing to their people. There must ever be a divine schooling ere there can be usefulness and enlargement. But although the circumstances are so remarkably altered, the decree condemning “all Jews, both young and old, little children and women,” to be slain on the thirteenth day of the twelfth month still stands unrevoked. Nor can it be revoked-for the laws of the kingdom once made were unchangeable. But strong in faith that some means would be found -whereby the evil might be averted, and yet the dignity of the laws remain untouched, we are told that “Esther spake yet again before the king and fell down at his feet, and besought him with tears to put away the mischief of Haman the Agagite, and his device that he had devised against the Jews” (ver. 3). The position of her people was strikingly analogous to that of unsaved men and women in general; conscious of having richly deserved the judgment of God, the curse of the broken law hanging over their heads: “Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them” (Galatians 3:10; Deuteronomy 27:26). So runs the unchangeable decree of a holy God. All are worthy of death; for all have sinned. None have continued in obedience to all the commandments of God. Therefore all are under the curse. It will not do to plead ignorance of the law, or sorrow for having failed. “The soul that sinneth it shall die.” The law knows no mercy for the violator of it. Neither will it do to promise to do better in days to come; to endeavor to obey the Word in the future. A better future, if that were to be, could not change the past-and “God requireth that which is past” (Ecclesiastes 3:15).

If saved at all, it cannot be at the expense of God’s character or by the violation of His word in any manner whatsoever.

But it is right here that the gospel comes in. God can say, “Deliver him from going down to the pit: I have found a ransom” (Job 33:24). The Lord Jesus has borne the sinner’s judgment. Yea “God hath made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21). He, ever spotless and undefiled, was not under the curse. The sentence of condemnation did not hang over Him. But in infinite love and mercy He stooped vicariously beneath our load, and “bare our sins in His own body on the tree” (1 Peter 2:24). “He was wounded for our transgressions; He was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed “(Isaiah 53:5). A righteous basis has now been laid, upon which God can act according to the love of His heart, and yet in perfect holiness. A second decree goes forth, not contradicting or annulling the former one; but which, while in perfect harmony with it, will provide a means whereby all can be saved who avail themselves thereof. So we read “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree” (Galatians 3:13). The work that saves is finished. All can find deliverance from the judgment of God who in simple faith receive and act upon the message of grace.

And so, returning to our chapter, it is beautifully in keeping with this that “the king held out the golden sceptre toward Esther.” Grace is reigning and upon that ground alone can there be deliverance for her people. “So Esther arose, and stood before the king, and said, If it please the king, and if I have found favor in his sight, and the thing seem right before the king, and I be pleasing in his eyes, let it be written to reverse the letters devised by Haman the son of Hammedatha the Agagite, which he wrote to destroy the Jews which are in all the king’s provinces: for how can I endure to see the evil that shall come unto my people? or how can I endure to see the destruction of my kindred?” (vers. 4-6.)

It is a touching plea that she gives utterance to. It hangs on this, “If the thing seem right before the king, and I be pleasing in his sight.” She does not attempt to plead the good works, the benevolence, or the loyalty of the Jews. She would have him deal with them according to his estimate of her. Like the great apostle of the Gentiles who, when entreating Philemon in behalf of Onesimus writes, “If thou count me therefore a partner receive him as myself” (Philemon 1:17). And surely we have more than a hint, both there and here, of the great and wondrous truth expressed in the blessed words of inspiration, “Pie hath made us accepted in the Beloved.” Esther had risked her life for her people and would now have them dealt with according to the king’s thoughts of herself. The Lord Jesus Christ gave His life a ransom for lost, guilty sinners, and now all who trust in Him are dealt with by God according to His thoughts of His Son. How tenderly this precious truth is expressed in the Lord’s great intercessory prayer! He says, “I in them, and Thou in Me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that Thou hast sent Me, and hast loved them even as Thou hast loved Me” (John 17:23).

Esther’s touching plea avails, and “the king Ahasuerus said unto Esther the queen, and Mor- decai the Jew, Behold, I have given Esther the house of Haman, and him they have hanged upon the gallows, because he laid his hand upon the Jews. Write ye also for the Jews as it liketh you, in the king’s name, and seal it with the king’s ring: for the writing which is written in the king’s name, and sealed with the king’s ring, may no man reverse” (vers. 7, 8). He who “had the power of death” has been destroyed. The message of grace can now be sent out “to deliver those who through fear of death “had been subjected to so cruel a bondage.

“Then were the king’s scribes called at that time, in the third month, that is the month Sivan, on the three and twentieth day thereof; and it was written according to all that Mordecai commanded unto the Jews, and to the lieutenants, and the deputies and rulers of the provinces which are from India unto Ethiopia, a hundred twenty and seven provinces, unto every province according to the writing thereof, and unto every people after their language, and to the Jews according to their writing and according to their language” (ver. 9). Less than nine months remained ere the decree of Haman was due to be put into execution. Short enough time if the message of grace was to reach the farthest limits of the kingdom ere the day of slaughter appointed! The proclamation is as universal as the previous one, and is written in every language of the known world. Its text is given in the verses that follow.

“And he wrote in the king Ahasuerus’ name, and sealed it with the king’s ring, and sent letters by posts on horseback, and riders on mules, camels, and young dromedaries: wherein the king granted the Jews which were in every city to gather themselves together, and to stand for their life, to destroy, to slay, and to cause to perish, all the powder of the people and province that would assault them, both little ones and women, and to take the spoil of them for a prey, upon one day in all the provinces of king Ahasuerus, namely, upon the thirteenth day of the twelfth month which is the month Adar” (vers. 10-12). It will be seen that this proclamation in no sense contradicted the one that had gone before. The other gave the people command to destroy the Jews. This one gave to the afflicted nation the privilege of defending themselves. In other words it provided a means of salvation which they could accept or reject as they chose. It is not otherwise with the glad tidings proclaimed in the gospel. A Saviour is provided. All who avail themselves of God’s gracious interference are saved. All who reject the means of His providing, do so at their own peril.

No time is lost in sending out the joyful tid- ings. Would that Christians were as much in earnest in making known to all people, far and near, the good news of eternal salvation through a crucified and risen Saviour! “The copy of the writing for a commandment to be given in every province was published unto all people, and that the Jews should be ready against that day to avenge themselves on their enemies. So the posts that rode upon mules and camels went out, being hastened and pressed on by the king’s commandment. And the decree was given in Shushan the palace” (vers. 13, 14). To every corner of the habitable earth the messengers go forth “being hastened” by the monarch’s word, reminding us forcibly of another commission given by a greater than Ahasuerus. “And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto Me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach (Gk., “disciple”) all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway even unto the end of the world. Amen” (Matthew 28:18-20). His commandment was urgent. Men were in danger of something far worse than temporal destruction-in danger of the eternal judgment of God against sin. Nothing was to hinder. “Go ye,” He says. And, commissioned by the Lord Himself, they went forth to make known to Jew and Gentile the exceeding riches of His grace.

But what lethargy has come in since those early days of devotion to His Name! What millions of heathen are unevangelized in this vaunted century of progress and enlightenment. Solemn indeed must be the reckoning with those by and by who are so indifferent to “the King’s commandment.” What would have been thought of one of the couriers of Ahasuerus who, forgetting the urgency and importance of his message, loitered among the leafy bowers of the wayside khans, or amused himself with the sights of the way; losing valuable time; forgetting that hundreds of lives depended upon his errand being fulfilled ere the thirteenth day of the month Adar. Would such an one not have justly deserved the severest censure, if not death itself? And what is to be thought of Christians who have heard the charge of the Lord Jesus, “Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15), but who, paying no attention to the appalling condition of lost souls on every side of them, think only of their own pleasure and comfort? “If thou forbear to deliver them that are drawn unto death, and those that are ready to be slain, if thou sayest, Behold we knew it not; doth not He that pondereth the heart consider it? And He that keepeth thy soul, doth He not know it? And shall not He render to every man according to his works?” (Proverbs 24:11, Proverbs 24:12). These are unspeakably solemn words and worthy of being carefully pondered in the presence of God by every converted reader of these lines. May grace be given to each one to weigh well their solemn import, and to seek day by clay to faithfully make known the only message which can deliver from the second death.

“And Mordecai went out from the presence of the king in royal apparel of blue and white, and with a great crown of gold, and with a garment of fine linen and purple; and the city of Shushan rejoiced and was glad” (ver. 15). The condemnation past, Mordecai puts off the sackcloth, to be worn no more. Robed now as befits his exalted position he goes into the king’s presence. His clothing of blue and white and purple may surely have a meaning for our hearts to enter into. Blue is the color of the heavens, and ever seems to speak, in Scripture, of that heavenly character which should be manifested by the redeemed soul. White is righteousness, and put on as a habit tells of the practical righteousness that should adorn the child of God. Of this too the fine linen reminds us for “the fine linen is the righteousness of saints” (Revelation 19:8). The purple is the color of royalty; while the “great crown of gold” would tell of the divine glory, in harmony with which Mordecai has now been raised from the depths of woe to the heights of power and blessing: blessing not for himself alone, but for all who harken to his word. And so, from time to time, even in the broken condition of things in which we see the professing Church to-day, does God raise up men who will honor Him in honoring His Word, and who are thus made a means of untold blessing to others.

The king’s message believed brought joy and gladness; even as the gospel, believed, brings the same to-day. “The Jews had light, and gladness, and joy, and honor. And in every province, and in every city, whithersoever the king’s commandment and his decree came, the Jews had joy and gladness, a feast and a good day. And many of the people of the land became Jews; for the fear of the Jews fell upon them” (vers. 16, 17). It is important to notice that it was the word of the king which brought all the grief and anguish of heart described in chapter four. The king had spoken. They believed his decree, and they were miserable. Now it is his word that gives them peace and happiness, and drives away their sorrow. Even so, God’s word as to man’s lost estate and the judgment hanging over him brings the soul to cry, “the pains of hell gat hold upon me: I found trouble and sorrow” (Psa. cxvi. 3). But the message of grace and truth which has come by Jesus Christ, truly believed, the gloom is banished, and the exultant heart cries with joy, “Thou hast delivered my soul from death, mine eyes from tears, and my feet from falling” (Psalms 116:3). It is in neither case a question of experience or wrought up feelings, but of faith in the message proclaimed.

And so God had turned the mourning of His people into rejoicing, and the result was that the fear of them fell on the people of the provinces, many of whom sought the God of Israel” and became proselytes, taking their places as members of the chosen nation. There is nothing that so appeals to the world as a happy, holy company of saints, whose spirits have been refreshed by the goodness of the Lord.

Bibliographical Information
Ironside, H. A. "Commentary on Esther 8". Ironside's Notes on Selected Books. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/isn/esther-8.html. 1914.
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