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Bible Commentaries
Esther 4

Old & New Testament Restoration CommentaryRestoration Commentary

Introduction

Esther Chapter 4

Esther 4:1 "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;" Haman made sure that the king did not know what the edict said, until it was too late to stop it. Now, it seems to be common knowledge even to the Jews themselves. When Mordecai heard of this, he went out in the middle of the street so all could see, and rent his clothes, and threw ashes upon his head in mourning. Either thing that he had done would have revealed mourning, but this is a very deep type of mourning. He cried out with a loud voice as well, which drew the attention of the people to him. However, he was crying to God, as well.

Esther 4:2 "And came even before the king’s gate: for none [might] enter into the king’s gate clothed with sackcloth." He had, possibly, gone all over the town in this manner. He lived in the palace, so he had come back there, still mourning. He might arouse the attention of Esther with his cries. No one could come inside the gate in mourning clothes, so he must stay outside the gate.

Esther 4:3 "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." There was no way to stop this, but by God. They were fasting, praying, and mourning in hope the LORD would see their problem, and come to their rescue.

Esther 4:4 "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." The chamberlains, here, were the eunuchs who served Esther. The queen had many maids who helped her. One of the jobs the eunuchs did, was to keep Esther in touch with what was happening outside the palace walls. They ran errands for her, and did things that her maids could not do. One of them took clothing out to Mordecai for her. Modecai was so grieved, he would not be comforted, or take the clothing.

Esther 4:5 "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]." Esther wanted to hear from Mordecai exactly what this was all about, and how this edict was made.

Esther 4:6 "So Hatach went forth to Mordecai unto the street of the city, which [was] before the king’s gate."

Esther 4:7 "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." Mordecai did not know that Haman had tricked the king into this edict. The king had not written this, Haman had. The mistake the king had made was to let Haman use his signet ring.

Esther 4:8 "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." This was a big load to put on the head of Esther. If the edict was carried out, she would die the same as all of the other Jews, however. The king did not know that she was a Jew. Haman did not know that at this point, either. Mordecai sent her a copy of the edict, so she would know in detail what it said. Mordecai knew that the king loved Esther. He felt if anyone could sway him to stop this senseless murder of the Jews, it would be Esther.

Esther 4:9 "And Hatach came and told Esther the words of Mordecai." Hatach must have suspicioned that Esther, too, was a Jew. He was her servant, so it was not likely he would tell anyone.

Esther 4:10 "Again Esther spake unto Hatach, and gave him commandment unto Mordecai;"

Esther 4:11 "All the king’s servants, and the people of the king’s provinces, do know, that whosoever, whether man or woman, 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 scepter, that he may live: but I have not been called to come in unto the king these thirty days." Esther explained to Mordecai, that if she went in to the king, when he did not call for her, he would have the right to kill her. There was one exception to the rule. If the king reached out his scepter to her she could live and have audience with him. She knew if she went in, it could mean her death.

Esther 4:12 "And they told to Mordecai Esther’s words." The messenger took the message to Mordecai and waited for his answer to take back to Esther.

Esther 4:13 "Then Mordecai commanded to answer Esther, Think not with thyself that thou shalt escape in the king’s house, more than all the Jews." It would make no difference at all, that she was the queen. If they killed the rest of the Jews, they would kill her, also. Someone would tell the king that she was a Jew and he would have to kill Esther along with all the rest, because it was the law.

Esther 4:14 "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?" Mordecai was sure that God would stop the murder of the Jews. If Esther did not do what she could, God would do it another way. There had been many people who had given their lives to save their fellowman. This was what Mordecai was asking Esther to do, here. If it was the will of God for Esther to do this and she did not, God might destroy her himself. Mordecai, now, believed that was why Esther was chosen by the king. He believed that God placed her there to help her people.

Esther 4:15 "Then Esther bade [them] return Mordecai [this answer],"

Esther 4:16 "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." Esther had gathered up all the courage she had. She decided to go ahead and speak to the king, even if it meant her death. She did want them to fast and pray for her safety. She would do the same with her maids. It was almost as if she was saying I might perish either way, so what do I really have to lose. We are all going to die sometime. The important thing is to make our lives have a purpose. She had realized that the life of all the Jews was worth taking the risk.

Esther 4:17 "So Mordecai went his way, and did according to all that Esther had commanded him." This was saying he gathered the Jews together and proclaimed a three day fast. Many of the Jews realized the seriousness of the edict, and they would have gladly fasted with him to try, to get help from God.

Esther 4 Questions

1. When Mordecai heard the edict, what did he do?

2. Where did Mordecai do this?

3. Why did he choose the place for this show of mourning?

4. Why could he not enter the king’s gate?

5. Who was mourning, besides Mordecai?

6. What was the Jew’s only help?

7. Who told Esther about Mordecai?

8. What did she send to Mordecai?

9. Would he take it?

10. Who were the chamberlains, here?

11. Who did she send to ask Mordecai, what the problem was?

12. Who had promised to pay money to have the killing done?

13. Mordecai did not know that Haman had _________ the king into getting this sealed with his ring.

14. What did Mordecai give to Esther’s chamberlain?

15. What did Mordecai ask Esther to do to stop this?

16. The king did not know that she was a ________.

17. Why did Mordecai want Esther to speak to the king?

18. What law did Esther remind Mordecai of?

19. How is the only way she could keep from being killed?

20. How long had it been, since she had been called to the king? 21. What word did Mordecai send Esther in Esther 4:13?

22. What was Mordecai sure that God would do?

23. Why did Mordecai believe that Esther had become queen?

24. What did she insist Mordecai do. if she agreed to go in to the king unannounced?

25. Who fasted with Esther?

Verses 1-3

Est 4:1-3

Introduction

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.

Esther 4:1-3

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.

E.M. Zerr:

Esther 4:1. The decree was known to Mordecai since it was made so public. It caused him to go into a period of mourning. Sackcloth and ashes were put on and about the body on about the same principle on which people once wore dark crepe after the death of a near relative. Rending the garment was done also as a sign of grief and anxiety. Mordecai displayed his forms of mourning through the central portions of the city, accompanying the material demonstrations with bitter outcries.

Esther 4:2. There were restrictions against going inside the king’s gate while wearing mourning. Mordecai went as far as he could; he came before the gate.

Esther 4:3. The mourning became general because the Jews were scattered throughout the empire. Some went to the extent of lying prostrate with their bodies covered with sackcloth and ashes scattered over them.

Verses 4-8

Est 4:4-8

Esther 4:4-8

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.

E.M. Zerr:

Esther 4:4. Esther had the service both maids and eunuchs or chamberlains. They saw the condition of Mordecai and told her about it. She did not know the reason for his strange behaviour, and sought to have his mourning attire removed and replaced with raiment. He refused the raiment and we are aware of his reason for it.

Esther 4:5-6. Upon the refusal of Mordecai to accept the raiment sent to him by Esther, she realized that something very extraordinary was going on. The king had placed at her service one of his own eunuchs. She commanded him to inquire as to the reason for Mordecai’s actions.

Esther 4:7. The refusal of Mordecai to use the clothing that Esther offered him was not from a spirit of ingratitude or sullenness. When her special servant asked for an explanation, Mordecai gave the information without evasion. He had learned even of the detail about the money that Haman promised to furnish to be applied on the expenses of having the Jews destroyed.

Esther 4:8-9. There seems not to have been any attempt to conceal the plan for the destruction of the Jews, for Mordecai was able to furnish the servant of Esther a copy of the royal decree. Upon the strength of the order, Mordecai sent a request to her to go in unto the king to make supplication for her people. This was the first information that Esther had of the terrible decree of the king. While she knew it was a royal document, she knew also that Haman was the instigator of it. However unjust it might be, she felt sure that the king was in the dark as to the undercurrent flowing from the wickedness of this man. She also knew of the law of the court, that no one of any rank dared come into the court uninvited by the king. She accordingly sent the information to Mordecai stated in the next paragraph.

Verses 9-12

Est 4:9-12

Esther 4:9-12

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.

E.M. Zerr:

Esther 4:8-9. There seems not to have been any attempt to conceal the plan for the destruction of the Jews, for Mordecai was able to furnish the servant of Esther a copy of the royal decree. Upon the strength of the order, Mordecai sent a request to her to go in unto the king to make supplication for her people. This was the first information that Esther had of the terrible decree of the king. While she knew it was a royal document, she knew also that Haman was the instigator of it. However unjust it might be, she felt sure that the king was in the dark as to the undercurrent flowing from the wickedness of this man. She also knew of the law of the court, that no one of any rank dared come into the court uninvited by the king. She accordingly sent the information to Mordecai stated in the next paragraph.

Esther 4:10-12. The harsh rule was to the effect that the inner court of the king was to be avoided by all men and women. No one dared venture therein uninvited, and if one disregarded the rule he was liable to suffer death. The only chance for escape lay in the graciousness of the king. Should he be pleased to suspend the rule in any given instance, he indicated it by extending toward that person his golden scepter. That was a rod or baton held in the hand of a monarch that denoted his authority. Esther stated this law in her reply to Mordecai, then told him that she had not been invited to come to the king for 30 days. We do not have any information as to why the king had not called for his beloved wife for so long a time. However, the fact that such a long period had passed thus might have been an indication that some unusual condition existed in which perhaps the king would not wish to be disturbed. If that were the case then it would be especially dangerous to intrude; this information was given to Mordecai by Esther.

Verses 13-17

Est 4:13-17

Esther 4:13-17

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 I perish, I perish." (Esther 4:16). Esther accepted her dreadfully dangerous mission, "In a spirit of resignation."

E.M. Zerr:

Esther 4:13. Mordecai may have misjudged Esther. No one could know what she expected to experience through her relationship to the king. But Mordecai thought her refusal to grant his request was because of her confidence in that relationship, and the security she thought it would give her. He warned her not to depend on that feeling of security; that being in the king’s house would not make her any safer than the other Jews when the edict of the king was ready to be put into effect.

Esther 4:14. Enlargement means literally room or space, which would mean that provision was made for escape from the destruction intended by the decree. Mordecai meant to express his faith in the providence of God, and the refusal of Esther to cooperate in the effort to avoid the destruction would not prevent the deliverance coming from some other source. Who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?’ This means the same as if Mordecai had said: "Who knows but that thou wert brought to the kingdom at this time for the very purpose of bringing about the deliverance of thy people?" We are sure that his question was timely, and that God had indeed caused the procedure of selecting Esther as the queen.

Esther 4:15-16. Fasting was not generally commanded by the law of Moses, but it was encouraged and blessed by the Lord. It was resorted to in times of great distress or anxiety. See 1 Samuel 31:13; 2 Samuel 12:21; Ezra 8:21; Judges 20:26; 1 Chronicles 10:12. Esther had great confidence in the mercy of God. She also had much respect for Mordecai, and doubtless believed his plans were just. All of these considerations outweighed, in her mind, the law of her husband. Not according to the law was uttered to indicate that she had full realization of the seriousness of the thing she was about to perform. But it would be at the request of her beloved cousin, and after humble devotions to God. If, after such considerations, she took the risk of breaking the law, and "worst came to worst," all that could possibly come to her would be that she perish. In other words, if the request of Mordecai should have the effect he expected, the risk she would run would be more than justified. On the other hand, if the plan of Mordecai did not work, it could not make matters any worse than they would have been anyway, for she could only perish. With this spirit of loving resignation to whatever might be in store for her, she sent word to Mordecai of her decision.

Esther 4:17. Mordecai was cooperative also, and did as Esther bade him do in preparation for the great venture into the king’s presence.

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Esther 4". "Old & New Testament Restoration Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/onr/esther-4.html.
 
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