Esther: Chapters 1-5

Chapter 1
The Royal Feast, And Divorce Of Yashti

In the opening verses we note the wide extent of the Persian dominion. “Now it came to pass in the days of Ahasuerus, (this is Ahasuerus which reigned from India even unto Ethiopia, over a hundred, seven and twenty provinces,) that in those days, when the king Ahasuerus sat on the throne of his kingdom, which was in Shusan the palace, in the third year of his reign, he made a feast unto all his princes and his servants; the power of Persia and Media, the nobles and princes of the provinces being before him: when he showed the riches of his glorious kingdom and the honor of his excellent majesty many days, even a hundred and fourscore days.”

These verses bring before us something of the earthly grandeur and glory of the “silver” kingdom, which had succeeded the “head of gold,” depicted in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, as recorded in the second chapter of Daniel. Worldwide dominion would be exercised by but four powers till He should come whose right it is to reign, and should set up a kingdom that shall break in pieces all the others, and shall never be destroyed.

The sphere of lordship is larger in the case of each succeeding empire, and yet the metal ever deteriorates, from gold to iron mixed with miry clay, or, according to Tregelles, brittle pottery; the reason doubtless consisting in this, that Babylon presents to us an absolutely unlimited monarchy, while in Persia, Greece and Rome the powers of the chief become more or less circumscribed, first, by assistant counselors, and at last by a sort of union of royalty and democracy, which will eventually result in the election of the final Roman emperor yet to come, in the days of the ten toes, which will be the last form assumed by the beast (Rev. 13:l-9) after the Church has been raptured away to heaven.

It is certainly a splendid scene to which our chapter introduces us, and in a certain sense, no doubt, a typical one. But it is clear that all is but the glory of this world, though not in the utter independence of God that we find in Dan. 5. There is no mention of impiety connected with the feast described in the following verses: “And when these days were expired, the king made a feast unto all the people that were present in Shushan the palace, both unto great and small, seven days, in the court of the garden of the king’s palace; where were white, green and blue hangings, fastened with cords of fine linen and purple to silver rings and pillars of marble: the beds (or couches) were of gold and silver, upon a pavement of red, and blue, and white, and black marble…And the drinking was according to the law; none did compel: for so the king had appointed to all the officers of his house, that they should do according to every man’s pleasure” (vers. 5, 6, 8).

If in Israel’s subjection to Babylon we get a picture of the days of darkness and bondage through which the Church passed during the ascendency of the papacy, it would seem that in the “liberal slavery” during the Medo-Persian supremacy, we have foreshadowed the present anomalous and outwardly prosperous condition of Protestantism. In other words, Babylon might be said to find its counterpart in Thyatira, when Satan sought to force the children of God to bow the knee to idolatry—to commit spiritual adultery. Sardis answers more to the conditions of Esther’s day—great outward prosperity, with a faithful few who have not defiled their garments, but nevertheless, on the part of the vast majority, a complete union between the world and the professing body. Philadelphia corresponds well with the returned remnant, while Laodicea is suggested by the Pharisaic outgrowth of self-righteousness and formal- ity that followed. At least, it is plain that there are many striking similarities, which would seem to be more than mere coincidences.

Looking at it from this standpoint, while in Ezra and Nehemiah we have a people separated to the name of the Lord, gathered around God’s centre, and, in measure at least, subject to His Word; in Esther we have a people equally the Lord’s, quite content to go on with the world’s patronage; and though here and there some are characterized by great devotion, there is in no sense the same liberty, blessing and understanding of the word of God as might have been theirs had they sought His glory more, rather than their own convenience.

This feast, then, is but the general rejoicing in the light and liberty afforded by the spread of knowledge and civilization—something far different from the feasts kept at Jerusalem, where all points to the Lord Jesus—His sufferings and His glories.

It is true the various colors of the hangings and furniture of the banquet hall may all have some typical meaning, but at present scholars are far from agreement as to the meaning of the words employed; so we do not attempt to enter into it. It is noticeable that “the drinking was according to the law: none did compel.” What has been called “the right of private judgment” was fully recognized. The harlot of Rev. 17 had in her hand a golden cup (for of divine things she professed to speak) full of abomination and filthiness. The language used in verse 2 seems to imply that she practically forced to the lips of the earth-dwellers the wine of her fornication. She would brook no objection. All must drink what she provided. This is ever the rule of papacy. It is otherwise in Protestantism: you may drink or not, as you please. “None did compel;” and if you like not the design of the cup you have, there are plenty of others to choose from, all of gold, all alike professedly of God, and yet diverse one from the other.

Well it is for those who refuse every cup of man’s design, and in lowliness and self-judgment are found poring over the word of God in the place where He has caused His name to dwell (Neh. 8:3; 9:3).

The wine is “royal wine” it is true, and it will exhilarate and excite and fill one with goodly thoughts of flesh and of the glory of earth; but it is not the wine that speaks of a Saviour’s precious blood shed for guilty sinners, who in His very death upon the tree was telling out the judgment of this world. That is seen as you stand by the altar in the ruined city of God, and behold the drink-offering poured out upon the holocaust, ascending as a sweet savor to God (Ezra 3:3).

The next few verses give us a picture which we find difficult to apply. After counseling with his wise men the king puts Yashti away. They all agree that she has proved untrue to her place as the leading woman of the empire, and that it must be given to another. One might suggest this as an illustration of Rom. 11—the disobedience of the Gentiles giving occasion for the restoration of the Jews to the place of favor. But, shrinking from any interpretation which might not commend itself to the spiritual mind, we introduce our readers at once to the subject of the next chapter.

Chapter 2
The Choice Of Esther And The Treason Thwarted

When the days of feasting and excitement described in our previous chapter had passed away, and the king had opportunity quietly to weigh his hasty action, his heart seems to have relented, as we are told in the first verse of chapter 2 that, “After these things, when the wrath of king Ahasuerus was appeased, he remembered Yashti, and what she had done, and what was decreed against her.” Bound by the law of the kingdom, which made it impossible for him to revoke his own imperial decree, he seems to have become a prey to a measure at least of remorse as he reflected on his way towards Vashti, of whom he had been so proud.

His servants, noticing his dejection, make the proposal that another be sought to take the place of the deposed queen. Accordingly they gather together the fairest maidens of all the provinces, and bring them to Shushan the palace (identical with the Susa of profane history). From this company the future queen was to be chosen.

There is some interesting data afforded by profane history on this point, to which we advert for a moment.

In the third year of Xerxes’ reign, he made a feast to deliberate concerning the invasion of Greece. Four years later he returned discomfited to Susa, where he plunged into all kinds of pleasures and excesses to drive from his mind the bitter memories of his defeats. His queen was chosen at this time, and her name is given as Arnestris—which, it will be seen, bears a close relation to Esther. All this goes far to prove the contention that Xerxes is the great king here referred to. The name Ahasuerus presents no difficulty, as it is simply an imperial title, like Pharaoh, or Agag, which is said to mean, according to Sir Henry Rawlinson, “Venerable King.” It is noteworthy that in Ezra 4:6 Cambyses is called by this name, while in Dan. 9:1 it is applied, in all probability, to Cyaxares.

Returning to the Scripture narrative, charming in its simplicity and straightforwardness, we are introduced in verse 5 to the stouthearted Jew who is to figure so prominently in future chapters, as well as in verse 7, to his beautiful cousin Hadassah, or Esther.

“Now in Shushan the palace there was a certain Jew, whose name was Mordecai, the son of Jair, the son of Shimei, the son of Kish, a Benjamite; who had been carried away from Jerusalem with the captivity which had been carried away with Jeconiah king of Judah, whom Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon had carried away” (vers. 5, 6).

The Hebrews, and many Christians, have gathered from this that Mordecai was a lineal descendant of Kish, the father of Israel’s first king. Josephus so understood it, for he refers to Esther as being “herself of the royal family also” (Ant. vi. 1); and as she was cousin to Mordecai, both were necessarily of the same lineage. Kish was, however, a common Hebrew name, especially among the Benjamites; but standing here, as it does, for the father of a family, the presumption is certainly in favor of the above view. As we shall see farther on, there would appear to be a divine fitness in thus bringing forward at so crucial a period a member of the failed house of Saul. Had that rebellious and obstinate king (1 Sam. 15:22, 23) faithfully performed the commandment of the Lord in regard to the utter destruction of Amalek, the book of Esther would in all probability never have been written, as Israel would never have been exposed to the danger therein recorded. We shall see why, further on.

The name Mordecai is said to mean “Little man,” and was probably given to him owing to his lack of that “which made Saul so much admired, namely, greatness of stature.

He must have been very young indeed when carried away to Babylon, as the captivity of Jeconiah, or Jehoiachim, took place b. c. 599, something over eighty years ere our chapter opens. This aged patriarch “brought up Hadassah, that is, Esther, his uncle’s daughter: for she had neither father nor mother, and the maid was fair and beautiful: whom Mordecai, “when her father and mother were dead, took for his own daughter” (ver. 7). She, by her grace and beauty, attracted the attention of the officers whose business it was to find a bride for the king, and she was given into the custody of the chamberlain Hegai. “And the maiden pleased him, and she obtained kindness of him; and he speedily gave her her things for purification, with such things as belonged to her, and seven maidens, which were meet to be given her, out of the king’s house: and he preferred her and her maids unto the best place of the “women” (ver. 9).

It was a strange position surely for a Jewish maiden to occupy, in strange contrast -with Moses, in whom, however, she no doubt gloried. He, picked up as a waif, to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, by faith relinquished this high place. As one has remarked, “Providence had placed him in Pharaoh’s house, but faith took him out of it.” With Esther it is otherwise. There can be no question that her position was entirely opposed to the word of God. Providence might seem to favor her, but faith “would assuredly have led her at once to declare herself as a despised Jewess, one of the afflicted people of God. This she does not do, Mordecai having expressly urged her to carefully conceal it. “Esther had not showed her people nor her kindred: for Mordecai had charged her that she should not show it.” Faithful above many, Mordecai yet had not entered into God’s mind in regard to the complete separation of His people from the nations. The law expressly forbade the giving of the daughters of Israel in marriage to the Gentiles; but it is very evident that both Mordecai and Esther thought they saw in the proposed union a means of blessing to their people. And so, indeed, it proved to be; but this by no means disannulled or made of none effect the word of God.

In the same way people reason concerning much that goes on in our day. We have often been asked concerning the public ministry of women, “If not of God, how is it that He so frequently blesses it to the salvation of souls? Many women occupying the public platform as teachers and preachers are assuredly blessed of God: does He not therefore set the seal of His approval upon their position? “Admitting the premise, which may not always be before God as it appears to man, the conclusion by no means follows. Clearly and unmistakably the Holy Ghost has said, “I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence” (1 Tim. 2:12). And again, “Let your women keep silence in the churches (assemblies); for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law. And if they will learn anything, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church” (1 Cor. 14:34, 35). Then, solemnly, he adds in verse 37, “If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord.” Here is the unerring word of God upon the subject. If that Word is violated, and still blessing results, what does it prove? That God has changed His mind, or ignores, and would have us ignore, His own Word? Ah, no! What then? Simply that He is sovereign, and uses His truth wherever proclaimed, and by whomsoever; but the judgment-seat of Christ will manifest all that was contrary to His mind.

We knew of a man saved in a Roman Catholic church while an ungodly priest, as his after-life proved, was reading the gospel for the day from Luke xv. Are we therefore to reason that the Roman priesthood is according to God because He sets the seal of blessing upon His Word used by one of them? Every unprejudiced mind will say, No! We give Him glory that, in spite of all the failure and disorder of Christendom, His love is so great that it breaks every barrier, and reaches men and women in their deep, deep need by any and all means whereby He can make Himself known; but we deprecate all disobedience to Him as sin.

This principle apprehended in the soul will save from much confusion of mind. Had Mordecai apprehended it, he would never have counseled his cousin as he did. The word of God was ignored. That He deigned to use the ignorers of it in blessing to His people was an act of pure grace.

In marked contrast with Esther’s course is that of another Israelitish captive—the little maid of 2 Kings 5, who waited upon Naaman’s wife. Her sphere was much more circumscribed, but how faithfully she glorified God in it! “A word spoken in season, how good is it!” Such was her testimony to her heathen mistress, and so wonderfully did God own and bless it that it brought a proud Syrian captain to confess Israel’s God as the only true God, whom alone he -would henceforth serve. Oh for grace thus to buy up opportunities and to use them to His glory while ourselves walking in singleness of heart in the path marked out in the Scriptures of truth!

To return to Esther: Daily Mordecai walked before the court of the house of the women to learn if all was well with her. One after another, the maidens were presented to the king, each vying with the other in the effort to add to her natural charms by means of the sweet odors and other preparations given her. Esther—to her credit be it noted—disdained all these things, save -what were officially appointed, and when she was presented to the king “the king loved Esther above all the women, and she obtained grace and favor in his sight more than all the virgins; so that he set the royal crown upon her head, and made her queen instead of Yashti” (ver. 17). A signal honor, doubtless, but how low had she stooped to obtain it! How had she lost that character of holy separation to Jehovah which should ever have been hers! How truly was she degraded in her very exaltation! The favored wife among many, and her lord an uncircumcised Gentile! How low had the nation fallen when Mordecai, one of the noblest of them all, could rejoice in such a dubious honor being accorded her! And how low spiritually must the Church be, to seek, as she does, the patronage of the world! This can only be purchased by the loss of the holiness and separate character enjoined by the word of God. Such is the lesson we would seek to impress upon our reader’s conscience. Far better had it been for Esther to have been poor and unknown, yet cleaving to the Lord her God among the returned captives at Jerusalem, than to be thus exalted in the house of the conqueror. And so to-day; far better to be little and despised in the eyes of a haughty world, and an equally haughty Christendom, while seeking to carry out the truth as to the Christian’s heavenly calling, than, through forgetting this, to be made much of by those “whose glory is in their shame; who mind earthly things.” This is a snare against which the Lord’s separated people need to be specially warned to-day. The word of Jehovah to Jeremiah should be often called to mind: “If thou return, then will I bring thee again, and thou shalt stand before Me: and if thou take forth the precious from the vile, thou shalt be as My mouth: let them return unto thee; but return not thou unto them” (Jer. 15:19). The present is a time of great sweeping-away of the ancient landmarks. It is a day of marked indifference to evil—of chronic inability to try the things that differ. Let us not be carried away with the tide, but faithfully guard the treasure committed to us, and spurn the patronage of that which is so obnoxious to God.

The account of Esther’s marriage-feast is but sorrowful reading if one be able to detect the sad departure from the Word which it indicates. “Then the king made a great feast unto all his princes and his servants, even Esther’s feast; and he made a release to the provinces, and gave gifts according to the state of the king” (ver. 18). It would seem that Mordecai too was advanced to a position of trust; for in the next verse we learn that “when the virgins were gathered together the second time, then Mordecai sat in the king’s gate,” which implies that he became a petty judge, according to the Oriental manner of expressing it. One is reminded of “righteous Lot,” who sat in the gate of Sodom; and of how many other dear children of God since, who have sought and obtained positions of power and influence in this poor “Christ-less world,” hoping thereby to be used in its improvement, only to be bitterly disappointed at last, besides being degraded themselves.

Significantly, the next verse tells us again that “Esther had not showed her kindred nor her people, as Mordecai had charged her; for Esther did the commandment of Mordecai, like as when she was brought up with him” (ver. 20). This, no doubt, “would be considered good policy on Mordecai’s part, and lovely obedience in Esther, but it was real unfaithfulness to God, often duplicated in our own times. What a contrast with Ruth, the converted Moabitess! “Thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God” is her bright confession. How much more honoring to the Lord than the shrewdness of Mordecai and Esther!

In the last three verses of our chapter an event is recorded which becomes of grave importance farther on in the book. “In those days, while Mordecai sat in the king’s gate, two of the king’s chamberlains, Bigthan and Teresh, of those which kept the door, were wroth, and sought to lay hands on the king Ahasuerus. And the thing was known to Mordecai, who told it unto Esther the queen; and Esther certified the king thereof in Mordecai’s name. And when inquisition was made of the matter, it was found out; therefore they were both hanged on a tree: and it was written in the book of the chronicles before the king” (vers. 21-23). Although in an unscriptural position, God, who knows the heart of His servant, who sees in Mordecai and Esther true lovers of Israel, will use them signally for His own ends of good to His people, whom He truly loved. If they cover their nationality, and shame Him so that He hides His name too, He will make them nevertheless the instruments of His providence. Mordecai becomes the instrument by which a plot against the life of the king is thwarted. But for the present no notice is taken of him. The conspirators are hanged, the service of Mordecai is recorded in the records of the kingdom, but he himself is, apparently, forgotten. Such is the favor of this world! In a darker hour, however, One, in whose hand is a sleepless night of the king, shall see that the overlooked service shall be brought to the monarch’s attention, and turn it to account for deliverance of that people for whose care His eyes never slumber.

It is of all importance that the saint should ever remember that “all things work together for good to them that love God, who are the called according to His purpose.” There may be times when God seems to have forgotten; when clouds are dark; when one is allowed to be neglected, unjustly treated, or coldly set at nought. But rest assured all is naked and open before Him with whom we have to do. Every purpose shall be manifested in its season; and all at last shall be cause for eternal thanksgivings.

Chapter 3
The Wrath Of The Amalekite, And The Decree Of Doom

Haman is now brought upon the scene, who occupies a large place in the book, and who is execrated by all Hebrews to this day: “Haman, the son of Hammedatha the Agagite, the Jews’ enemy,” is his significant title. When his name is mentioned even now, orthodox Jews spit and curse him, so hateful is his memory.

“After these things did king Ahasuerus promote Haman, the son of Hammedatha the Agagite, and advanced him, and set his seat above all the princes that were with him” (ver. 1). Agag was the name given to the kings of Amalek, the people “against whom the Lord, hath indignation forever.” Haman, then, is a royal Amalekite—the last of his proud house to occupy a position of influence and power; for with his death, and that of his ten sons, the name of Amalek, according to Jehovah’s word, is blotted out from under heaven.

In order to understand the reason for Morde- cai’s unyielding attitude in regard to Haman, it will be necessary to look into the history of this warlike and impious people.

In Gen. 36:12 we find the origin of Amalek, the progenitor of the tribe afterwards bearing his name. “And Timna was concubine to Eliphaz, Esau’s son; and she bare to Eliphaz Amalek.” See also 1 Chron. 1:36.

Amalek, then, sprang from Esau, which is Edom. Esau is ever a type of the flesh. Even ere the birth of the twins Esau and Jacob, they struggled together—picture of the flesh lusting against the Spirit and the Spirit against the flesh. Esau is the first-born, and then Jacob; for “that is not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual” (1 Cor. 15:46).

This is again and again set forth in Scripture, the first-born being set aside to make room for one who might stand for or set forth the Second Man. Cain is set aside, and Abel, revived in Seth, is given the pre-eminent place. Ishmael must be cast out that Isaac be honored. Manasseh, too, gives way to Ephraim, as Joseph had been given the place of the first-born in preference to Reuben.

The author of the notes in the Numerical Bible has pointed out the close similarity in sound and meaning between Adam and Edom. Edom is but old Adam revived, and from him Amalek springs.

What, then, comes from the flesh? Only ungodly lusts and passions. Of these Amalek is the type. “Among whom we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others” (Eph. 2:3).

In Gen. 14:7 we find the Amalekites, who had developed into a considerable tribe and inhabiting the valleys of southern Palestine, involved in the great conflicts of the Elamite ascendancy. But it is when next mentioned that we see their true character. In the seventeenth of Exodus they appear as the first of Israel’s foes, and they proved a most persistent enemy ever after. God had but recently delivered His people from the cruel Egyptian oppressor. Sheltered by blood, they had eaten the passover with holy confidence while the Lord judged the gods of Egypt and smote the first-born of those who despised His word. Redeemed by power, they had been led in triumph through the Red Sea, and on the eastern shore they sang their song of gladness as they beheld the power of the enemy broken, and knew that they were Jehovah’s purchased people. He took them under His own care, and made Himself responsible for all their needs. The waters of Marah He sweetened, and refreshed them beneath Elim’s shade. He gave them bread from heaven, and quails when they asked for flesh.

But they failed to realize who it was with whom they had to do. When they pitched in Rephidim, “there was no water for the people to drink.” They murmured against Moses, and charged him with having brought them out to slay them with thirst. But God, ever acting in pure grace, until, in their self-confidence, they put themselves under law, said unto Moses, “Go on before the people, and take with thee of the elders of Israel; and thy rod, wherewith thou smotest the river, take in thy hand, and go. Behold, I will stand before thee there upon the rock in Horeb; and thou shalt smite the rock, and there shall come water out of it, that the people may drink. And Moses did so in the sight of the elders of Israel” (Ex. 17:5, 6).

A lovely picture, surely, and easily understood in the light of two New Testament Scriptures. “That Rock was Christ” (1 Cor. 10:4). “Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto Me and drink…But this spake He of the Spirit, which they that believe on Him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified” (John 7:37, 39). The cross had to come in ere He could be glorified as man. That blessed Rock had to be smitten with the rod of judgment before the Holy Spirit could come to satisfy and fill all who would drink. Of this it is that mystic scene at Horeb speaks. Israel in type are drinking of the living waters. Surely their troubles are over now forever! Ah, it should have been; but, alas, it was not so. It is at this moment we read, “Then came Amalek and fought with Israel in Rephidim.” And so the lusts of the flesh would ever hinder the believer’s enjoyment of the refreshing influences of the Holy Spirit. The Christian is beset by a tireless and hateful foe who makes it his business to defraud him, if possible, of the blessing that is rightfully his.

It is to this the word in Gal. 5:16, 17 refers: “This I say, then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other; so that ye might not (literal rendering) do the things that ye would.”

How will the saint thus beset find deliverance and victory? Only by mortifying his members that are upon the earth. But this he cannot do in his own power. And so Moses says to Joshua, “Choose us out men, and go out, and fight with Amalek: to-morrow I will stand on the top of the hill, with the rod of God in my hand.” Beautiful picture, surely, of our great Intercessor above, “who ever liveth to make intercession for us.” Aaron and Hur had to hold up the hands of Moses, but our blessed Lord needs none to thus assist Him. His advocacy is ever going on. His intercessions for His saints are unfailing, and He is thus able to save evermore all who come unto God by Him. “This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith” (1 John 5:4).

It was on this first occasion of Amalek’s hatred and attack against His people that “the Lord said unto Moses, Write this for a memorial in a book, and rehearse it in the ears of Joshua: for I will utterly put out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven. And Moses built an altar, and called the name of it Jehovah-nissi: for he said, Because of the hand upon the throne of Jah, Jehovah will have war with Amalek from generation to generation” (Ex. 17:14-16—marginal reading). This was Amalek’s awful sin. He would, if possible, tear Jehovah from His throne, and usurp His authority. So would the fleshly lusts, which war against the soul, dethrone the Holy One and reign in His stead.

In Num. 14:44, 45 Israel disobeyed the word of the Lord, and presumed to go up unto the hill-top in their own strength to meet their foes. “Then the Amalekites came down … and discomfited them, even unto Hormah.” The moment a saint gets out of God’s order he exposes himself to the power of the flesh. There is no safety save in obedience to the Word.

Balaam foretells the doom of this haughty foe in Num. 24:20. “When he looked on Amalek, he took up his parable, and said, Amalek was the first of the nations; but his latter end shall be that he perish forever.” Moses too, in his last charge to the people, says, “Remember what Amalek did unto thee by the way, when ye were come forth out of Egypt; how he met the hindmost of thee, even all that were feeble behind thee” (it is ever such who are a prey to the lusts of the flesh), “when thou wast weary; and he feared not God. Therefore it shall be … that thou shalt blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven; thou shalt not forget it” (Deut. 25:17-19).

We will not refer at any length to the woes brought upon Israel by Amalek in the days of the Judges, only bidding the reader notice that whenever the people rose up in the energy of faith and the lowliness of self-judgment, all Amalek’s power was broken. It will be a profitable exercise to read at leisure and carefully study Judges 5, 6 and 10 on this subject.

In connection with the commission given to king Saul at the mouth of Samuel, in 1 Sam. 15, we get the inspired account of God’s command and Saul’s failure to carry it out. It is most instructive, as well as of special interest, in connection with our study of the book of Esther. Saul was commanded to “go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not.”

But, alas, though the young king gained a wonderful victory, and “utterly destroyed all the people with the edge of the sword,” he spared Agag; and Haman is witness that he likewise failed to exterminate the rest of the royal family. Had Saul been true to God, and yielded implicit obedience to His Word, Haman could never have appeared on the scene. Saul’s unfaithfulness made the plot of “the Jews’ enemy” possible, and exposed the chosen nation to destruction. What a triumph for Satan it would have been if, in place of Amalek’s “utter destruction,” Israel had been rooted out from among the nations!

There is a solemn lesson here. Sin unjudged, evil propensities unmortified, will result in grave trouble later. Is the reader conscious of indulging some fleshly desire—something, perhaps, that it seems hard to put to death, so dear is it to him, and, withal, so insignificant? Rest as- sured, it will be the cause of serious disaster if unjudged. It may go on unnoticed for years, but the day will come when it, like Haman, will rise in its power; and well it shall be then if it be not the cause of moral and spiritual shipwreck. Is it a young believer who sees these lines? Remember the word of the Holy Spirit to Timothy, “Flee also youthful lusts.” Any unholy desire tolerated in the soul must work eventually to the undoing of your discipleship, to the breaking-down of your testimony.

Samuel showed Agag no mercy; but some of his children—perhaps only one, and that one, mayhap, a weak and puny infant—escaped him; and behold, nearly six hundred years later, a royal Amalekite and a descendant of the house of Kish, the father of king Saul, confront each other!

Haman is advanced before all the princes, for well the flesh knows how to work its way to the front. All fall down before him and own his authority, save one unyielding old man, insignificant in stature and unknown among the great. “And all the king’s servants, that were in the king’s gate, bowed and reverenced Haman: for the king had so commanded concerning him. But Mordecai bowed not, nor did him reverence” (ver. 2).

Never was Mordecai’s moral elevation higher than at this moment. He is no longer the crafty, politic man of chapter two. He shines forth as a man who takes his stand upon the word of the Eternal, let the consequences be what they may. There is no longer a tendency to hide his people and his kindred. He lets all know he is a Jew. As such he cannot bow to the blatant enemy of Jehovah. The Lord hath indignation against Amalek. So also, in substance, says Mordecai. He sides with God. From now on he is a character delightful to contemplate.

“Then the king’s servants, which were in the king’s gate, said unto Mordecai, Why transgressest thou the king’s commandment?” (ver. 3). To them it seems the essence of foolhardiness and stubbornness. We read not of any other, even of his own nation, so unyielding as he. Why not, at least, incline his head? Why not go with the crowd? Why make himself so unpleasantly conspicuous by his peculiar obstinacy? Better men than he, perhaps, bowed to Haman, the king’s prime minister. Why should he be too narrow-minded to do so? To all this Mordecai might have replied, God has spoken. He declares He will have indignation against Amalek forever. I side with Him. It matters not what others do, I have to go by what I find written in the book.

“Now it came to pass, when they spake daily unto him, and he harkened not unto them, that they told Haman, to see whether Mordecai’s matters would stand; for he had told them that he was a Jew (ver. 4). There is no evasion now: all is out at last. The judge in the king’s gate is one of the despised captives, and he will risk the loss of name and station, yea, of life itself, rather than be unfaithful to the truth of God.

The king’s servants desire to see if Mordecai’s matters will stand. Of course they will stand, for does not he stand with and for God, who “is able to make him stand?” None ever falls who acts for God. His power is over all. He may permit testing and trial, but “whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world.” He is in the right who sides with God.

When Haman hears of the slight thus put upon him, he is “full of wrath.” He must have his revenge on the impudent Jew who thus refuses to acknowledge his prestige: but “he thought scorn to lay hands on Mordecai alone; for they had showed him the people of Mordecai: wherefore Haman sought to destroy all the Jews that were throughout the whole kingdom of Ahasuerus, even the people of Mordecai” (vers. 5, 6). What a mess had the obstinate little Jew made of it all now! If he must have such strong convictions, why could he not keep them to himself, and, by getting out of Haman’s way, refrain from making himself and all his people obnoxious to him? Could not he conform to the customs of the times? Did he not know that things were different now from what they were in the days of Moses, of the judges, and of Samuel? Is not this the way men reason today? And, doubtless, many so reasoned in the times of Mordecai: but to all he could have given the triumphant answer, It is my place to obey God, and to honor His Word. I leave all consequences with Him.

This is what characterizes ever the man of God in all dispensations. It was this spirit that sustained Noah in testimony against a corrupt, sin-loving world as he built his great ship on dry land. In this energy of faith Moses forsook Egypt; Caleb cried, “We are well able to overcome;” Gideon went forth to war with lamps and pitchers; David fought an armored giant with a shepherd’s sling and stones; Jehoshaphat set singers in the van of his army where others would have set mounted troops; Daniel opened his windows to pray to the God of heaven; and Paul lived his life of devotion to the crucified, exalted Lord, and refused to conform to the demands of the men of his day and age. In this spirit, too, of subjection to revealed truth, Athanasius suffered banishment rather than bow to the Arianism of the times;. Savonarola defied the licentious, gold-hoarding officials of church and state; Luther uttered his mighty “No! in the presence of the emperor, the bishops and grandees of the empire; Farel tossed venerated images into the river in the midst of furious priests and populace; Knox caused a queen to tremble; and the Covenanters chose rather to be hunted as the beasts of the field than own the spiritual authority of degenerate kings and bishops; and a mighty host, “of whom the world was not worthy,” refused to bow the knee or bend the neck to unscriptural, superstitious, and human legislation, making of none effect the word of God.

Men of this stamp are certain to be dubbed by the time-serving trucklers to the present age as schismatics, separatists, and what not. But let such be content to know that God is pleased, and they fear not the frown, and court not the approval, of flesh and blood.

Haman’s colossal scheme for the annihilation of the Jewish race is worthy of its great instigator, that old serpent, which is the devil and Satan. The proud Agagite was but a mere puppet in his hands. Haman desired to obtain revenge for the slight put upon his dignity: the devil sought to make void the promises of God. The awful foe of God and man knew well that Jehovah had declared that from David’s house should arise the One who was to bruise his head—One who is to “destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver those who, through fear of death, were all their lifetime subject to bondage.” That nation destroyed—the promised Deliverer could not appear, and the word of God would be rendered null and void. Again and again had he sought to accomplish this. When the hand of Saul threw the javelin at the youthful David, it was Satan who inspired it, but God who protected the minstrel from the blow, that he might live to be the conservator of the promise. When the wicked queen Athalia sought to destroy all the seed royal, it was the devil who put the awful thought in her mind, but God who nourished the infant Joash in the temple courts.

And so it was the same foul spirit now who would sacrifice a nation to prevent the Redeemer’s advent; as in the day when that long-predicted event had actually occurred, he sought, through Herod, to destroy Him in His infancy by slaying the babes of Bethlehem, only to be outwitted once more; for God directed His Son to a distant land.

Some idea of Haman’s wealth and influence can be gained from the intimacy manifested be- twixt him and the king in verses 8 to 11, as also the immense amount of silver he offered for the accomplishment of his cherished plans: ten thousand talents in that age having about the value of twenty millions of dollars now.

His superstition too is evidenced in verse 7. Like many a tyrant before, and since, he was a great believer in lucky and unlucky days; so he had the wise men—the traffickers in the credulity of ambitious courtiers—to cast lots, called in Hebrew Pur, to determine a suited day when all signs would be propitious for the carrying out of his colossal massacre. Armed with what he considered to be the favor of the gods (for it is unlikely that he, like the Persians, was a monotheist), he entered the king’s presence, and, affecting concern for the interests of the state, he says, “There is a certain people scattered abroad and dispersed among the people in all the provinces of thy kingdom; and their laws are diverse from all people; neither keep they the king’s laws: therefore it is not for the king’s profit to suffer them.” And, as though in a burst of magnanimity, he offers to pay ten thousand talents of silver to rid the king of subjects so objectionable. Carelessly, without so much as inquiring the name of the race referred to, Ahasuerus, with that disregard of human life so common in Xerxes, “took his ring from his hand, and gave it unto Haman the son of Hammedatha the Agagite, the Jews’ enemy,” saying, as he did so, “The silver is given to thee, the people also, to do with them as it seemeth good to thee” (vers. 8-11).

Acting on this, Haman loses no time, but immediately summons the king’s scribes, and issues a proclamation, sealed with the king’s ring, to be “sent by posts into all the king’s provinces, to destroy, to kill, and to cause to perish, all Jews, both young and old, little children and women, in one day, even upon the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, which is the month Adar” (the date determined by the lot), “and to take the spoil of the people for a prey” (ver. 13). Thus had the entire nation been devoted to destruction, and under the unalterable laws of the Medes and Persians—the same laws that left Yashti still a lonely widow, and which would brook of no reversal.

To every people the news went forth, urging them to be ready against that day. “And the king and Haman,” as though the massacre of millions had not just been planned and sealed, “sat down to drink; but the city Shushan was perplexed” (ver. 15).

Chapter 4
In Sackcloth And Ashes

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; and came even before the king’s gate: for none might enter into 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” (vers. 1-3).

In such solemn manner was the decree received by the condemned Jews. To Haman, and to the king, the slaughter of a nation for the gratification of a prince’s vanity might be a thing indifferent; but to the people thus devoted, it was the cause of heartrending scenes. They believed the word of Ahasuerus. The proclamation was sealed with the royal signet. They knew they were under sentence of death, and their hearts were filled with grief and anguish. In this, how like the condition of awakened sin- ners! All unsaved men are under a far worse condemnation than that which darkened the sky of every Jew in the Persian dominions. Yea, more: because “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” that condemnation is, unlike the present instance, an intrinsically righteous one. Every honest man must side with the dying robber on the cross, and confess, “We indeed justly!” “Death passed upon all men, because all have sinned.” Therefore “it is appointed unto men once to die, and after this the judgment.”

If this be really true, how is it that men and women in general are so indifferent to the solemn fact? Alas, alas! though God has given His Word, men will not believe it. Wherever that Word is believed the result is prostration of soul before the offended Majesty in the heavens, as in the case of the repentant publican, who cried from the depths of an anguished heart, “O God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” It is because men do not believe God they can go on so carelessly with the dark clouds of doom gathering ever in greater density directly over their heads.

Is my reader one of this class? If so, I pray you, receive the testimony of God against yourself ere the judgment falls. You have grievously sinned, and righteously fallen under the ban of the Holy One. He has published broadcast the proclamation, “Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things that are written in the book of the law to do them.” You have not so continued. Therefore you are under the curse! Do not, I beg of you, try to forget it. How foolish would it have been for the Jews in the days of Esther to have instituted a series of games and popular amusements in order to banish from their minds the awful fact that their death-warrant had been signed, and was about to be put into execution! In such manner did the citizens of infidel Paris act in the days of the plague. Dancing, reveling and debauchery held full sway. The gay carnival went on as though all was well; but it was only the effort of a terror-stricken people to forget the presence of the dreaded and insidious foe. Hundreds fell, stricken on the ball-room floor; hundreds more dropped, grotesquely masked, amid the gayety of the romping crowds upon the streets. The fun and the forced merriment did not stay the hand of the destroyer; the death-cart ever followed the carnival parade! And in some such foolish manner do men, over whose heads eternal judgment hangs, act every day. Oh, the folly of it! Better far to join with Mordecai and his weeping countrymen, and “wear the sackcloth and ashes of self-condemnation.

    “No room for mirth or trifling here,

    For worldly hope or worldly fear,

    If life so soon is gone:

    If now the Judge is at the door,

    And all mankind must stand before

    The inexorable Throne!”

“Because there is wrath, beware lest He take thee away with His stroke: then a great ransom cannot deliver thee” (Job 36:18).

There was no levity on the part of the wailing multitude in our chapter. They were in desperate earnestness. They wished to be delivered from the condemnation. Nothing else would satisfy them. Sackcloth and ashes speak of repentance and self-judgment. In this garb Mordecai and the Jews arrayed themselves.

“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” (ver. 4). How little Esther entered into the terrible circumstances! “A physician of no value,” she would fain strip her aged cousin of the coarse and ugly garb of repentance and robe him in some beautiful court attire, as though a change of clothing would assuage his grief. But are there not many who deal in a similar manner with troubled souls to-day? How common is the thought that outward reformation, a change of habits, will give peace to an anxious soul! O be persuaded, dear reader: no religious ceremonies; no ordinances, however scriptural in themselves; no turning-over of new leaves will ever give a sinner peace with God. Something more than an outward change is required. Mordecai might well have cried, Take away your beautiful garments! How can they give peace to a man under the death-sentence? Does one find delight in fine raiment on the gallows? It is deliverance from condemnation I want, not a mere change of attire. And for the sinner to-day there is no true deliverance until he sees the blessed truth that Another has borne the wrath, endured the condemnation, exhausted the judgment of God against his sin,—then, and then only, does he find rest and peace.

“Mordecai received it not;” so the queen, realizing at last that his must be a grief she has failed to fathom, sends Hatach the chamberlain to him, to learn the cause of his strange behavior. “So Hatach went forth to Mordecai unto the street of the city, which was before the king’s gate. And Mordecai told him of all that had happened unto him, and of the sum of money that Haman had promised to pay to the king’s treasuries for the Jews, to destroy them. Also he gave a copy of the writing of the decree that was given at Shushan to destroy them, 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. And Hatach came and told Esther the words of Mordecai” (vers. 6-9).

Nothing but the knowledge that he and his people are freed from the ban will satisfy the man into whose soul the iron has so deeply entered. Esther is furnished with the evidence of the direful state of things, and doubtless well understands at last why Mordecai wept so bitterly, and why her fine raiment had no charm for him.

He would have her go in before the king and supplicate his favor for her afflicted people. She is, however, in a dilemma as to this, being herself, although a queen, subject to the iron-clad laws of Persian court etiquette. Doubtless genuinely distressed, but apparently helpless, she returns answer that “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 sceptre, that he may live; but I have not been called to come in unto the king these thirty days. And they told to Mordecai Esther’s words” (vers. 11, 12).

It has evidently not dawned upon her that the king’s proclamation, unwittingly, had included herself. But so the word ran: “All Jews … both men and women.” She had kept her nationality a secret; therefore, unknown even to Haman, she had been included in the bloody edict so soon to take effect if a means of deliverance is not discovered. She therefore hesitates about risking her life, by going into the dread sovereign’s presence uncalled.

Mordecai replies with spirit: “Think not with thyself that thou shalt escape in the king’s house more than all the Jews.” Yet, such is his faith at this moment in the certainty of God’s counsels that he adds, “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?”

It is a stirring message, and one that has the desired effect upon the queen, for she rises in the greatness of utter self-abnegation and devotion; and, with the sentence of death now in herself, “Esther bade them return Mordecai this answer: 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 (vers. 15, 16).

A greater than Esther not only took His life in His hand, but gave that precious life in order to deliver all who would confide in Him from the curse of the law and the just judgment of an outraged God. But though Esther’s action gives us just the faintest hint of this, it is altogether admirable as showing on her part a growing moral elevation, hitherto unmanifested by her. That her confidence is in the unnamed One is clear, else why the summons to fasting in the city, and her own abstinence in the palace? It is here one is so struck by the absence of all reference to prayer, where one would naturally expect it. It is as though she has a sense in her soul of the unowned condition of herself and her people; so nothing is said about crying to the God of her fathers. Yet surely He heard the unuttered petition of the heart, and answered it, too, in His own way and time.

“So Mordecai went his way, and did according to all that Esther had commanded him.” The appeal is to be made to the One they dare not mention. The sequel will show how deep is His concern for the chosen nation.

Chapter 5
The Sceptre Of Grace, The Banquet, And The Gallows

The days of fasting past, the queen ventures into the forbidden presence. “Now it came to pass on the third day, that Esther put on her royal apparel, and stood in the inner court of the king’s house, over against the king’s house: and the king sat upon his royal throne in the royal house, over against the gate of the house” (ver. 1). The die is cast. The queen has practically forfeited her life in order to save her people. If the king give it back to her it shall be well. She and all hers -will see in it the evidence of his grace. If not, she can but die, and for that she is prepared.

Her youth and beauty, as well as her confiding trust, draw out her lord’s admiration. “And it was so, when the king saw Esther the queen standing in the court, that she obtained favor in his sight: and the king held out to Esther the golden sceptre that was in his hand. So Esther drew near, and touched the top of the sceptre” (ver. 2).

Grace is reigning! Of this the sceptre of gold speaks. “The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, as the rivers of water: He turneth it whithersoever He will” (Prov. 21:1). He it is who has inclined the proud ruler of the Medes and Persians to extend the token of his favor to his trembling queen. “The most high God ruleth in the kingdom of men” (Dan. 4:25), whether they recognize Him or not, and all power is in His hand. He has heard the mute prayer of Esther and her people, and from henceforth we are to see how He worketh all things according to the counsel of His own will, despite every effort of the enemy to thwart His purpose.

    “His purposes will ripen fast,

    Unfolding every hour;

    The bud may have a bitter taste,

    But sweet will be the flower.”

Knowing that nought but some special guerdon desired could have brought his favorite wife thus unannounced and unsent for into the throne room, the king said unto her, “What wilt thou queen Esther? and what is thy request? It shall be even given thee to the half of the kingdom” (ver. 3). It is as if a blank check signed were handed her, reminding us of the many precious assurances of the New Testament: “My God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory through Christ Jesus,” for “He is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think.” He, who is neither enriched by withholding nor impoverished by giving, says to each trusting soul, “What is thy request?” And Omnipotence waits upon the petitions of His feeble people; and to faith He says: “Be it unto thee even as thou wilt.” May we have faith to thus enter into and enjoy His wondrous bounty.

Esther is not slow to proffer her request, though at first sight it seems a little thing indeed. “And Esther answered, If it seem good unto the king, let the king and Haman come this day unto the banquet that I have prepared for him” (ver. 4).

There is nothing that so emboldens a soul, burdened with anxiety, and desirous of obtaining help from another, like a season of communion and fellowship. Such a season Esther desires as a prelude to making known her real burden. As though to cover all suspicion, Haman, whose presence must have jarred terribly at such a time, is invited with the king. “So the king and Haman came to the banquet that Esther had prepared” (ver. 5).

In the house of wine the king affirms again his promise to his beloved queen: “And the king said unto Esther at the banquet of wine, What is thy petition? and it shall be granted thee: and what is thy request? even to the half of the kingdom it shall be performed.” It is, in its measure, like the word of the Lord to “His own” at the “banquet of wine” in John 14:13, 14, after the traitor had gone out: “And whatsoever ye shall ask in My name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If ye shall ask anything in My name I will do it.” The king puts a limit: “even to the half of the kingdom.” Our blessed Lord puts a limit too: “in My name”—whatever His holy name may rightly be attached to. This is the only bound He will put to our asking. This, doubtless, is the secret of many unanswered prayers. “Ye ask and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts” (Jas. 4:3). Such prayer cannot have the name of the Lord Jesus attached to it. The expression really means, by His authority. One says to another, “Do so and so in my name.” All understand he means as representing, or having the authority of the speaker behind him. And so it is in approaching the God of all grace in prayer. There is holy confidence when the will has been so truly subdued that the heart’s only desire is that the Lord may be glorified. Then one can ask “in His name,” and He has pledged His Word to do it. We do not profess to say that queen Esther’s case is any parallel to this. It but gives us the hint; and we turn aside from the narrative to press it upon the reader’s attention, because of the great importance of the subject.

True prayer is perhaps much rarer than many have any idea of. It can only spring from fellowship with God in a practical sense. “If ye abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you” (John 15:7). It is for lack of this that the prayer-meeting, and the daily season of reading and prayer in the home—not to speak of the sacred moments which should be spent in the closet with closed doors—often degenerate into a mere lifeless form. Souls are conscious of some secret sin indulged; some unscriptural thing in business or family life being persisted in; and of course there cannot be real prayer as long as this is the case. One has no title to expect an answer from God if walking in any forbidden path. May this be deeply impressed upon our souls!

It has been sometimes said that “the prayer-meeting is the pulse of the assembly” and we believe the expression to be a correct one. A sluggish, lifeless prayer-meeting is the indication that, whatever the activity otherwise, things are in a very low state indeed. It is quite possible to carry on gospel and teaching meetings, and to preserve a certain amount of order and decorum at the table of the Lord, which deceives many into the belief that the Holy Spirit is leading; but it is not possible truly to pray out of fellowship with God. This is especially true of the secret place. Even in the meeting set apart for waiting on God, a loquacious, self-confident man, may be able to deceive himself and others into the impression that his is really the prayer of faith; but a few moments spent in the presence of God, alone, will show how things really stand. There is no liberty, no power; all is a weariness to the flesh if the will is not truly subject, and the supreme desire of the soul not expressed in the words, “Thy will be done.”

But we return to our narrative. It would appear that Esther has not yet that liberty that would lead her to plead her case with assurance; so to the king’s question she replies, “My petition and my request is, if I have found favor in the sight of the king, and if it please the king to grant my petition, and to perform my request, let the king and Haman come to the banquet that I shall prepare for them, and I will do tomorrow as the king hath said” (vers. 7, 8). To this he evidently agrees; but what momentous consequences would hang upon that twenty-four hours delay! Satan, knowing that his time is short, and realizing that if his unholy purpose is to be carried out something must at once be done, contrives to bring about if possible the death of Mordecai at least, ere Esther has the appointed opportunity to ask his life, with the rest.

“Then went Haman forth that day joyful and with a glad heart: but when Haman saw Mordecai in the king’s gate that he stood not up, nor moved for him, he was full of indignation against Mordecai” (ver. 9). The apparently triumphant Amalekite emerges in greater hauteur than ever from the banqueting house. His cup of earthly glory seems filled to the brim. Who so honored as he? He, alone of all the king’s favorites, had been admitted to the queen’s presence. But there is one bitter ingredient in that so full goblet. Mordecai, the sackcloth covered Jew, pays him no attention whatever, as he passes by. The flesh cannot brook being thus despised. He is deeply grieved and filled with wrath against the only man who failed to do him honor. “Nevertheless Haman refrained himself: and when he came home, he sent and called for his friends, and Zeresh his wife, and Haman told them of the glory of his riches, and the multitude of his children, and all the things wherein the king had promoted him, and how he had advanced him above the princes and servants of the king”(vers. 10, 11). What a disgusting exhibition of vanity and pride! Surely Haman is now “set in slippery places.” Even the heathen, noting how soon, in the moral government of the universe, disaster followed on unbounded self-sufficiency and inordinate self-esteem, had coined the proverb “whom the gods would destroy they first make mad.” And the one true God had, long ere Haman’s day, inspired a man to write, “Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall;” and “when pride cometh, then cometh shame: but with the lowly is wisdom” (Prov. 16:18 and 11:2).

With characteristic conceit the vain-glorious premier keeps what he considers the choicest morsel to the last. “Haman said moreover, Yea, Esther the queen did let no man come in with the king unto the banquet that she had prepared, but myself; and to-morrow am I invited unto her also with the king.” But he cannot conceal his wounded vanity in connection with the incident at the gate, for he adds bitterly, “Yet all this availeth me nothing, so long as I see Mordecai the Jew sitting at the king’s gate” (vers. 12, 13).

In the eyes of his satellites and his equally proud and vindictive wife, this is a matter that can readily be disposed of. Why should he wait the appointed time for the destruction of Mordecai with the rest of the Jews? Has he not just shown that none have such influence with the king as he? Why not, on some trumped-up pretext, despatch the insolent Hebrew at once? “Then said Zeresh his wife, and all his friends unto him, Let a gallows be made fifty cubits high, and to-morrow speak thou unto the king that Mordecai may be hanged thereon: then go thou in merrily with the king unto the banquet. And the thing pleased Haman; and he caused the gallows to be made” (ver. 14).

Fifty cubits would be about eighty feet: rather unduly high, one would think, for one insignificant, undersized Jew to swing from; but Haman will publish his revenge abroad and thus give an object-lesson to any other who would dare defy the man of the hour.

And so our chapter closes, with the last nails being driven in the gallows in Haman’s court, while Mordecai is all unaware of the fate which it is purposed to be meted out to him on the morrow; and a score of hours have yet to run ere the queen will prefer her request before the king.

“Hath God forgotten to be gracious?”