Esther: Chapters 6-10

Chapter 6
A Sleepless Night, And Its Results

It has been well said that “although the name of God is not in this book, the hand of God is plainly to be seen throughout.” Nowhere is this more clearly manifested than in the present chapter, every verse of which attests His overruling providence and His unfailing love and care for His people, in a wrong place though they were. He is behind the scenes, it is true; but, to use the expression of another, He moves all the scenes that He is behind.

It is not until the last night that He interferes:

    “God never is before His time,

    And never is behind.”

To all appearances, Satan was to have everything his own way, at least so far as Mordecai was concerned. In Haman’s tessellated courtyard the now completed gallows stands fifty cubits high. The lofty Amalekite is already gloating over the death of the unyielding descendant of Kish, and tosses restlessly upon his couch as he waits for the first glimmer of the morning for the execution of his wrath. He is not, however, the only restless one, for “on that night could not the king sleep.”

In itself this was apparently a very trifling thing. How many a crowned head before and since has turned uneasily on its pillow and courted slumber in vain! But in this case, how much that sleepless night was to mean to Mordecai, and all his condemned brethren!

In his insomnia, the king, at last despairing of natural rest, called for “the strangest soporific ever sought.” “He commanded to bring the book of records of the chronicles; and they were read before the king” (ver. 1). Surely in those bloodstained annals there was enough to have driven away sleep forever. But One is overruling all, and the august Iranian emperor is but as a puppet in His hand to be moved by Him at will.

As the records of his reign are read aloud in his hearing, “it was found written that Mordecai had told of Bigthana and Teresh, two of the king’s chamberlains, the keepers of the door, who sought to lay hands on Ahasuerus” (ver. 2). How well had all been timed! He who knows the end from the beginning had caused this service to be here recorded. He had also so ordered it that, at the time it was rendered, the preoccupied monarch should overlook entirely the one to whose faithfulness he owed his life. To Mordecai this may have seemed at the time like base ingratitude, though we read of no word of complaint. Possibly he had learned to “endure as seeing Him who is invisible.” At any rate it was now made manifest that there was a divine reason for the king’s forgetfulness. God had timed everything well, and He “makes everything beautiful in its season.”

Do these pages meet the eye of some tried and discouraged saint? Have you been overwhelmed at times by a nameless dread as though God had utterly forgotten you, and you were cast off forever? Have you wearied yourself devising one human expedient after another, in the vain hope of averting threatened disaster by the arm of flesh? Learn, then, from God’s dealings with His servant of old that His heart and hand are for you still. And “if God be for us, who can be against us?” He has heard every sigh; noted, and stored in His bottle, every tear; taken account of every cry of anguish; heard every confiding prayer. His arm is in no-wise shortened; His ear is in no sense deaf to your cry. At the appointed time He will awake in your behalf, and you shall know that it is “the God of all grace” with whom you have to do. Only look up: be not cast down, for you are ever on His heart; and if you just leave all with Him, He will make your affairs His care. “Casting all your care upon Him, for He careth for you.” How sweet the words! He careth. He, the most high God: yea, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ careth. He is no indifferent spectator—no callous, unconcerned looker-on; but, as no one else can, He careth for you. Assured of this, may not the reader and the writer well cry, “I will trust, and not be afraid”?

The hitherto neglectful king is at once aroused as his memory is refreshed in regard to Mordecai’s service in days gone by. “And the king said, What honor and dignity hath been done to Mordecai for this? Then said the king’s servants that ministered unto him, There is nothing done for him” (ver. 3). He had shown himself to be a loyal and faithful subject, despite the fact that he was of the children of the captivity; but though the king had profited by his devotion, he allowed him to go utterly unrewarded, while bestowing favors with lavish hand on so worthless a character as the selfish and despicable Haman. Such is the favor of princes. “Cursed is the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the Lord. For he shall be like the heath in the desert, and shall not see when good cometh; but shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, in a salt land, and not inhabited. Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is. For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green, and shall not be careful in time of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit” (Jer. 17:5-8). How sharp the contrast between the time-serving man of the flesh, whose eyes are fixed on man for his reward,—doomed ever to disappointment,—and the God-fearing man of faith, who rises above all creature-help to the Most High Himself! Mordecai has left all in His hands. He is now about to make his way prosperous.

And yet even at the last moment how active is Satan in his efforts to thwart God’s purpose of grace! At this moment a step is heard in the outer court of the royal sleeping apartment. “And the king said, Who is in the court? Now Haman was come into the outward court of the king’s house, to speak unto the king to hang Mordecai on the gallows that he had prepared for him. And the king’s servants said unto him, Behold, Haman standeth in the court. And the king said, Let him come in” (vers. 4, 5).

If God is at work, so is the great adversary. Haman, still burning with wounded vanity, is early on the scene. He would forestall all further slights from Mordecai by getting the easily-influenced and luxurious despot to sign the order for the Jew’s execution as soon as he shall rise. Then, the hated object out of the way, he will be in good humor for the festive board. He is, however, but to learn that “those who walk in pride, God is able to abase.” He has reached the highest pinnacle of earthly glory to which he can lawfully aspire. He is about to be hurled into the lowest depths of shame and ignominy.

The king’s first words fairly cause his head to swim with wild exultation, and seem to point so the early fulfilment of his most cherished dreams. “What,” asks his royal master, “shall be done unto the man whom the king delighteth to honor?” It is hardly to be wondered at that the vain-glorious prince whose only concern was the advancement of his own interests “thought in his heart, To whom would the king delight to do honor more than to myself?” What a place that same “myself” had in this conceited, wretched man’s mind! And what a snare is self-occupation, in any form, to the saint of God! Pride is distinctly said to be the cause of Satan’s fall. “Thy heart was lifted up because of thy beauty; thou hast corrupted thy wisdom by reason of thy brightness: I will cast thee to the ground” (Ezek. 28:17). And when giving instruction concerning overseers in the house of God, in the New Testament, the Holy Ghost says, “Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil” (1 Tim. 3:6).

When we see pride in another, how hateful a thing it is! Haman is the very incarnation of it; and how we loathe so despicable a character! Yet, alas, how readily we tolerate in ourselves what is so detestable in others. “The proud He knoweth afar off,” but “the meek will He guide in judgment; the meek will He teach His way.”

Filled with a sense of his own self-importance, Haman replies to the king’s question in the boldest manner. He would have the man whom the king delights to honor appear before men as king himself in all but name. That, too, might come later if the populace but grew used to him appearing in royal garb, and the king’s most noble princes were made to have a due sense of his power and ability. How plainly the Amalekite shows himself! The hand which of old was upon the throne of Jah is now stretched out to grasp the throne of the world! “And Haman answered the king, For the man whom the king delighteth to honor, let the royal apparel be brought which the king useth to wear, and the horse that the king rideth upon, and the crown royal which is set upon his head: and let this apparel and horse be delivered to the hand of one of the king’s most noble princes, that they may array the man withal whom the king delighteth to honor, and bring him on horseback through the street of the city, and proclaim before him, Thus shall it be done to the man whom the king delighteth to honor”(vers. 7-9). Could human pretension and ingenuity go farther? Intending all this for himself, can there be any doubt regarding his desire to have the people behold him in all the outward trappings of royalty, in order to accustom their minds to a future usurpation of imperial power?

Did the king begin to see beneath the surface? Did he already commence to mistrust his favorite? Or is it only in our imagination that we see a touch of genuine irony, meant to cut to the very quick, in the brief and pithy command, “Make haste, and take the apparel and the horse, as thou hast said, and do even so to Mordecai the Jew that sitteth at the king’s gate: let nothing fail of all that thou hast spoken.” Did the royal eye detect the way the color came and went in Haman’s face? Did it note the downcast countenance and the disappointment too deep for words that marked him as he turned away without reply? We do not know. But the readiness with which the erstwhile favorite is given up to a richly deserved judgment later in the day, would imply a lack of confidence already cherished in his heart.

“Then took Haman the apparel and the horse, and arrayed Mordecai, and brought him on horseback through the street of the city, and proclaimed before him, Thus shall it be done unto the man whom the king delighteth to honor” (ver. 11). A terrible come-down, surely, and a remarkable turn of events! No wonder that we read, “And Mordecai came again to the king’s gate. But Haman hasted to his house mourning, and having his head covered” (ver. 12). Did Mordecai see in this sudden transition from ignominy to honor the pledge of his deliverance from condemnation? It would seem so, for he made no effort to resist the changing of his attire on this occasion. Haman too reads a lesson in it all, and in shame and confusion of face hurries from the public gaze to the seclusion of his own house. He knows it is in vain now for him to seek permission to hang Mordecai. The gallows stands like a monument to folly and vanity, still towering up to heaven, casting a shadow that speaks of approaching disaster.

“And Haman told Zeresh his wife and all his friends everything that had befallen him. Then said his wise men and Zeresh his wife unto him, If Mordecai be of the seed of the Jews, before whom thou hast begun to fall, thou shalt not prevail against him, but shalt surely fall before him” (ver. 13). Little comfort indeed does he find in this, which is all too true, as the sequel shows.

“And while they were yet talking with him, came the king’s chamberlains, and hasted to bring Haman unto the banquet that Esther had prepared.” His enthusiasm is greatly dampened. He would, without question, prefer retirement until he has regained his accustomed poise and self-confidence, but the king’s command must be obeyed. Yesterday he would have needed no chamberlains to summon him. To-day all is changed. Already he has been greatly humbled. Ere the remaining hours of light pass, he shall have more crushing experiences still, and shall prove to the full the truth of the ominous prophecy of his wife and friends.

Chapter 7
The Second Banquet And The Amalekite’s End

It is hardly to be supposed that the remarkable happenings of the forenoon had all taken place without Esther’s knowledge. We know that she was in daily communication, through her chamberlains, with her aged cousin; and there can scarcely be any question as to her having been made familiar with his sudden elevation to the imperial favor. This would account for the lack of hesitancy and the implicit confidence with which she prefers her request when “the king and Haman came to banquet with Esther the queen” (ver. 1).

The feast was not yet concluded when the king said, “What is thy petition, queen Esther? and it shall be granted thee: and what is thy request? and it shall be performed, even to the half of the kingdom?” (ver. 2). It is the same invitation to ask largely with the same assurance, as on the previous occasion, that all shall be given. “In the word of a king there is power.” How much more to be relied on is the word of “God that cannot lie,” who has said, “Everyone that asketh, receiveth;” and who invites implicit confidence, on the part of His own blood-washed and redeemed saints, in His faithful promises.

“Then Esther the queen answered and said, If I have found favor in thy sight, O king, and if it please the king, let my life be given me at my petition, and my people at my request: for we are sold, I and my people, to be destroyed, to be slain, and to perish. But if we had been sold for bondmen and bondwomen, I had held my tongue, although the enemy could not countervail the king’s damage” (vers. 3, 4). Knowing that her lord’s favor is toward her, she pleads both her own cause, and her people’s. She petitions him to spare their and her life.

How surprised must the king have been to hear her so speak. Who would dare seek the life of his beloved queen? And who could her people be who were thus placed in jeopardy of their lives? It is to be remembered that Esther’s kindred had not yet been made known to the king. He was in ignorance of the fact that she was a Jewess.

Her words must have deeply agitated the already toppling son of Hammedatha. Was there not even a designed coincidence on her part between the decree drawn up by Haman and the queen’s words as she said, “We are sold, I and my people, to be destroyed, to be slain, and to perish? How could he forget that such had been the language he had caused the king’s scribes to write? What an appalling discovery to learn that he had included the wife of Ahasuerus in his bold scheme of blood-shed and revenge! How earnestly he would listen for the king’s reply.

“Then the king Ahasuerus answered and said unto Esther the queen, Who is he and where is he, that durst presume in his heart to do so?” (ver. 5). He at once makes her enemy his; and demands the name of the infamous wretch who could dare conceive so fearful a plot. The guilty conspirator reclines but a few feet from him. His sin is to find him out at last!

“And Esther said, The adversary and enemy is this wicked Haman. Then Haman was afraid before the king and the queen” (ver. 6). He is manifested now in his true character. The fawning and politic courtier appears as the deep-dyed villain whose perfidy is almost too great to be believed. Satan has again been foiled in his attempt to destroy the line of promise, and God has once more vindicated His Word.

It is easy to cherish a feeling of contempt and disgust for so low and vile character as Haman. But it is well to remember, that in every man’s heart is found the same evil thing, which when brought to its full fruition, appears so abominable in the ungodly Agagite. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked,” and God asks the question, “Who can know it?” He solemnly answers Himself: “I the Lord search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings” (Jer. 17:9, 10). It is “out of the heart,” says the Lord Jesus that all kinds of evil things proceed, and He names “evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false-witness, blasphemies” (Matt. 15:19). “These are the things which defile a man,” He adds; and we desire affectionately to remind the reader, lest any should be in danger of forgetting it, that it is the grace of God alone which makes one man to differ from another.

No amount of education or culture, nay, nor self-restraint or religiousness, will eradicate the evil. It is the nature that is wholly and utterly corrupt and pernicious. Therefore before one can please God there must be a new nature imparted, and this is the result of new birth. “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” Nothing but this second birth, through receiving the word of God, will avail to place any natural man on a different footing before the throne of the Majesty on high, than that occupied by the Hamans, the Pharaohs, and the Herods of the Bible. “There is no difference, for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.”

People often consider it a mark of superior virtue to be shocked and horrified by the crimes of others whom they imagine to be worse than themselves. It is well to realize that the worst acts of the worst men all spring from a nature identical with that of all other sons and daughters of Adam. It is because of this humbling fact our Lord had to tell a religious doctor that “except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God,” and again, “Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.”

Is my reader certain that he or she is the subject of this great change? Have you truly turned to the Lord for yourself, and from the heart believed the gospel-message which declares that “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners?” If not, I beseech you, read no further, but stop right here and consider, until you have, as a guiltly, helpless sinner, cast yourself unreservedly upon that blessed One, “who died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto Him which died for them and rose again” (2 Cor. 5:15).

If truly a Christian, turn with us once more to our narrative. The poor discovered wretch trembles before the king and the queen; as some day men will tremble before the Omnipotent Judge when all their secret guilt shall be made known before an assembled universe and it will be too late to seek a hiding-place.

It would seem that Ahasuerus is dazed for the moment, as he begins to realize what Haman had obtained his royal consent for. He is, in a very grave sense, a party to the proposed indiscriminate slaughter of the Hebrews, which would include his beloved spouse. We are told that “the king arising from the banquet of wine went into the palace garden: and Haman stood up to make request for his life to Esther the queen; for he saw that there was evil determined against him by the king” (ver. 7). The man who without a twinge of remorse could devote a nation to destruction, is in dire distress at the thought of himself losing life or liberty. He takes the place of suppliant at the feet of the now triumphant Esther, cousin to the unbending old man he had led through the streets in the morning. One is reminded of the word to Philadelphia, “I will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee” (Rev. 3:9, last clause).

In his desperation Haman oversteps the bounds of both court etiquette and ordinary decency, by throwing himself upon the divan where the queen was reclining. At this juncture “the king returned out of the palace garden into the place of the banquet of wine; and Haman was fallen upon the bed where Esther was. Then said the king, Will he force the queen also before me in the house? As the words went out of the king’s mouth they covered Haman’s face” (ver. 8). His very importunity, unwise in the extreme, is the means of his complete undoing. At a signal from the outraged monarch his face is covered—token of his condemnation to death. Hope is gone. He shall never see the king’s face again; nor shall he be troubled by Mordecai’s uplifted form evermore. “It is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you” (2 Thess. 1:6). The ungodly may now be supreme, while to the righteous “waters of a full cup” are wrung out; “but the triumphing of the wicked is short.” God is still the moral Governor of the world, to whom all men must give an account. He will manifest His power eventually when “all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the Lord of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch” (Mai. 4:1). This passage has no ref- erence to judgment after death. It is not the unsaved dead being cast into the lake of fire. It refers solely and simply to God’s judgments which will be meted out to the oppressors of His people at the end of this age. Of this Haman’s case gives us a hint.

The chamberlains, quick to discern the mind of the king, waste no sympathy on the fallen premier. “Harbonah, one of the chamberlains, said before the king, Behold, also, the gallows fifty cubits high, which Haman made for Mordecai, who had spoken good for the king, standeth in the house of Haman. Then the king said, Hang him thereon” (ver. 9). So certain had the now friendless wretch been in the morning of his having no difficulty about getting the king’s permission to hang the refractory Jew, that he appears to have made no secret of his intention. It is evident that Harbonah was quite familiar with it, and as it is very unlikely that such information had been vouchsafed after the procession through the street in the forenoon, it would seem that Haman had but added to his own discomfiture by explaining the purpose of his early visit to some of the chamberlains before being summoned to the royal presence. The attendant mentions now the fact of the gallows having been erected, and the reason for it. Mordecai would have been strung up there had not Providence interfered. The king, hearing of it utters but three words, “Hang him thereon,” and the Amalekite’s doom is sealed.

It is not the only time in Scripture history that in God’s governmental dealings such a thing has occurred. Daniel furnishes us with a similar instance. Saved himself by Almighty power from the lion’s jaws, his accusers are cast into the den and destroyed. David wrote of the wicked; “Behold he travaileth with iniquity and hath conceived mischief, and brought forth falsehood. He made a pit and digged it, and is fallen into the ditch which he made. His mischief shall return upon his own head, and his violent dealing shall come down upon his own pate” (Ps. 7:14-16). So shall it be with the personal Antichrist, “the Jews’ enemy” of the future, of whom Haman, if not a type, is at least an illustration. At the moment when his power shall seem to be supreme, and all hope for deliverance for the Remnant of Israel, who in that dark day shall cleave to the Lord, will have practically fled away, the warrior of the 19th of Revelation shall descend and hurl the impious usurper alive into the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone.

“So they hanged Haman on the gallows that he had prepared for Mordecai. Then was the king’s wrath pacified” (ver. 10). The sentence, as soon as uttered, is carried out. Haman is hanged as one “accursed of God.” Thus “the righteous is delivered out of trouble, and the wicked cometh in his stead” (Prov. 11:8). “Riches profit not in the day of wrath;” His wealth and power availed him nothing. In one moment all is manifested as being altogether lighter than vanity. He has gone out into eternity naked and alone; and as a later revelation tells us, “It is appointed unto men once to die, and after this the judgment” (Heb. 9:27). That stark, cold body suspended to the gallows preaches loudly, to all who will give heed, of the evanescent character of all earth’s baubles, and the importance of living for eternity.

“I have seen the wicked in great power, and spreading himself like a green bay tree. Yet he passed away, and, lo, he was not: yea, I sought him, but he could not be found” (Ps. 37:35, 36).

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” (Gal. 3:10; Deut. 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” (Eccl. 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 Cor. 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 Pet. 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 “(Isa. 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” (Gal. 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” (Phile. 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” (Matt. 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?” (Prov. 24:11, 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” (Rev. 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” (Psa. 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.

Chapter 9—1-19
The Deliverance

It was faith in the written word of the king that gave the Jews joy and gladness, even though the formerly dreaded thirteenth of Adar had not yet come. So does faith in the written word of God give boldness and confidence though the day of doom once feared has not yet arrived. The revelation of His grace and “perfect love” as revealed in the cross “casteth out all fear,” for “faith is the substance” (or confidence) “of things hoped for, the evidence” (or conviction) “of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1). “We walk by faith, not by sight,” for “what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for? But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it” (Rom. 8:24, 25). It was not an inward emotion or a passing feeling that gave to the people of Esther and Mordecai the assurance that they would not be destroyed, as originally intended by Haman. They had something far better than that. Their tears were dried, their sorrow-assuaged in resting upon the word alone. This cannot be insisted on too strongly. There are many to-day seeking peace in an utterly wrong way. Some hope, because of a restful feeling within, that they have at last been accepted of God, and are now on the way to heaven. Others trust in the fact that they pray and attend to various religious duties; while many more are without any confidence at all, but hope at last to have an inward sense of pardon ere they die. To all of these classes we would say, Do not rest in anything short of the revealed word of God. That Word believed, joy and peace must follow; but it is faith first, peace afterwards.

To go direct to Scripture is the only safe way for every soul. For instance: I am a sinner; my awakened conscience troubles me about many things I had formerly treated as matters of indifference; an awful sense of condemnation and wrath hangs over me; I long for deliverance. I pray, and groan, and weep. Still there is no peace. I try to change my ways; break loose from old habits; forsake evil companions,—I am miserable even then. I perhaps go to church; submit to baptism; partake of the Lord’s Supper; give of my means to assist the cause of Christ. But alas, alas, all is in vain! I am only more and more aware of my true state since so great changes seem to be necessary to fit me for God’s presence. I have no as- surance that my sins are forgiven: and it is this I must know if I would be at peace. At last, wearied and almost hopeless, I come to the Word itself. Perhaps such a passage as Acts 13:38, 39 meets my eye: “Be it known unto you.” Ah yes, that is it! I want to know. This awful uncertainty is what is harassing me and taking from me all rest, and plunging me into deepest anxiety. What is it that can be “known” in this verse? “Be it known unto you that through this Man”—that is, through Jesus—not through my prayers, my devotions, my benevolences, or my changed manner of life! Nor yet through the church, her services, her ministers, or her ordinances. No! blessed be God, I am turned from all these things—good as they may be in their place; I am turned to “this Man,” to Jesus—the Man of Calvary—the Man who is now in the glory. “Through this Man is preached unto you,”—how intensely personal it is: “known unto you;” “preached unto you;”—surely, then I cannot be mistaken in appropriating it to myself. “Preached unto you the forgiveness of sins!” Ah! That is what I want so earnestly. This is what I can never be happy without. How, then, is this preached forgiveness to be really mine,—known and enjoyed as mine? Here is the answer: “By Him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses.” Here, then, is the peace-giving testimony of God’s infallible Word. I can rest on that. I believe in the Lord Jesus. He died for me. I trust in Him alone. God declares all who so believe are “justified from all things.” I can trust His declaration. I have sure and perfect peace. “Being justified by faith, we have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ: by whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God” (Rom. 5:1, 2).

Resting on the word of the king, the Jews found peace. Now we are to learn how the word of the king is actually fulfilled. “Now in the twelfth month, that is, the month Adar, on the thirteenth day of the same, when the king’s commandment and his decree drew near to be put into execution, in the day that the enemies of the Jews hoped to have powder over them, (though it was turned to the contrary, that the Jews had rule over them that hated them,) the Jews gathered themselves together in their cities throughout all the provinces of the king Ahasuerus, to lay hand on such as sought their hurt: and no man could withstand them; for the fear of them fell upon all people” (vers. 1, 2). The day that had been so dreaded, ere the posts brought the message of grace, is now awaited with eager anticipation. It is to be a day of triumph and rejoicing to the Jews, and a day of overthrowing the power of their enemies. The government is for, not against, them. This is the reason of their gladness. “And all the rulers of the provinces, and the lieutenants, and the deputies, and officers of the king, helped the Jews; because the fear of Mordecai fell upon them. For Mordecai was great in the king’s house, and his fame went out throughout all the provinces: for this man Mordecai waxed greater and greater” (vers. 3, 4).

How truly had the word been fulfilled which says, “Them that honor Me, I will honor; and they that despise Me shall be lightly esteemed”! It will be remembered that in the beginning, when Mordecai sided with God, and refused to bow to the haughty enemy of Jehovah, that the king’s servants wondered “whether Mordecai’s matters would stand.” How has the Lord vindicated His servant now! Not only have his matters stood, but the despised man who acted for God—although that meant at the time to be misunderstood by almost every one else—is now-waxing greater and greater. And so will it ever be that he who sides with God will be triumphant at last. It is not to be expected that natural men, or carnal Christians, will understand a man who takes this ground. “He that is spiritual discerneth all things; yet he himself is discerned of no man” (1 Cor. 2:15—literal rendering). Such an one must ever be an enigma to men who reason from a human standpoint, and who have not the mind of Christ. But God will vindicate His servant in His own way and time, if all is humbly left in His hands. Of the greatest of all servants it is written that “when He was reviled, He reviled not again; when He suffered, He threatened not; but committed Himself to Him that judgeth righteously” (1 Pet. 2:23). And how gloriously has He been vindicated and exalted! Blessed Lord, may we Thy servants walk in Thy path until we see Thy face!

“Thus the Jews smote all their enemies with the stroke of the sword, and slaughter, and destruction, and did what they would unto those that hated them. And in Shush an the palace the Jews slew and destroyed five hundred men” (vers. 5, 6). It was the overthrowing of the enemies—not of the Jews only, but of the Lord. They impiously lifted their hands against the separated nation; and, however unfaithful they may have been, He made their troubles His own, and delivered their foes into their hands.

The Lord remembers, too, His word as to Amalek spoken in the wilderness so long ago: “I will utterly put out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven.” Hence we read of the destruction of the last of the nation mentioned in Scripture. “And Parshandatha, and Dalphon, and Aspatha, and Poratha, and Adalia, and Aridatha, and Parmashta, and Arisai, and Aridai, and Yajezatha, the ten sons of Haman the son of Hammedatha, the enemy of the Jews, slew they; but on the spoil laid they not their hand (vers. 7-10). The last of this ungodly race have perished. God’s word, whether telling of grace or judgment, will be fulfilled to the letter.

As typifying the lusts of the flesh, what comfort there is for the Christian in the utter destruction of Amalek! The day is not far distant when the old nature that dwells in every believer, and is the cause of so much of our failure, and sins, and sorrow, will be completely removed; and with it all lust and pride: yea, everything that hinders spiritual enjoyment will be gone forever. This never occurs -while we are in the body. The dream of the eradication of inbred sin, and of perfection in the flesh while in this life, is not founded on the word of God. As long as we are in this scene we have to “mortify” our members which are upon the earth; but at “the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and our gathering together unto Him,” we shall be fully delivered from our hated foe: “for our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ; who shall change our vile body” (or, transform the body of our humiliation), “that it may be fashioned like unto the body of His glory” (literal rendering); “according to the working whereby He is able to subdue all things unto Himself” (Phil. 3:20, 21). Then will the remembrance of the fleshly lusts that war against the soul, and now trouble us, be blotted out from under heaven.

A striking evidence of subjection to God is brought before us at the end of the verses noted above; “upon the spoil they laid not their hand.” The king had granted “the spoil of them for a prey.” But long before, God had said, when sending Saul to smite the Amalekites, that he should “utterly destroy all that they had.” They were to take no spoil in that day. Saul disobeyed the word and brought down Divine judgment upon himself and his house (1 Sam. 15, throughout). The scattered Jews of Esther’s time manifest greater faithfulness. They abhor the spoil and refrain from touching it. As it was an Amalekite that .had stirred up the enmity of the people against them, they class all morally in the same category. It is an example of disinterested obedience beautiful to notice. They overcome the world but do not seek to profit through it nor derive benefit by indifference to that which they see to be evil.

The news of the slaughter in the city of Shushan is reported to the king at the close of the day. “And the king said unto Esther the queen, The Jews have slain and destroyed five hundred men in Shushan the palace, and the ten sons of Haman; what have they done in the rest of the king’s provinces? now what is thy petition? and it shall be granted thee: or what is thy request further? and it shall be done” (ver. 12).

It would seem from Esther’s reply that the day had closed in the midst of conflict. There were still a large number of persons who were evil disposed towards the Jews. “Then said Esther, If it please the king, let it be granted to the Jews which are in Shushan to do to-morrow also according unto this day’s decree, and let Haman’s ten sons be hanged upon the gallows” (ver. 13). It must be borne in mind that the decree simply granted the Jews the privilege of self-defense. It is no indiscriminate massacre that Esther desires, but another day of opportunity in which to meet their foes if they sought to rise against them. She also desires the ten sons of Haman to be hung up before the people as accursed according to Deut. 21:22, 23. “And the king commanded it so to be done: and the decree was given at Shushan; and they hanged Haman’s ten sons” (ver. 14).

On the fourteenth day of the month therefore the Jews again met any who had the hardihood to oppose them and “slew three hundred men at Shushan,” over half the number of the previous day. Again we are told that “on the prey they laid not their hands” (ver. 15). They would not be enriched at the expense of the enemies of the Lord.

Throughout the rest of the empire they had been equally victorious. We read not of the death of even so much as one; but they “slew of their foes seventy and five thousand, but they laid not their hands on the prey” (ver. 16). Truly their sorrow had been turned into rejoicing. “Weeping may endure for a night but joy cometh in the morning.”

In the outside districts and distant provinces the fourteenth day was devoted to feasting and gladness, while in the palace-city the day following was so observed. It was a season of thanksgiving, and of congratulations one to another: gifts and portions being exchanged. From our record of it though, as described in vers. 17-19, it would be impossible to prove that they remembered the Lord in it at all, and gave the glory to Him. This, however, is but in keeping with the character of the book. There can be no question as to their hearts going out in gratitude to the God of their fathers who had so mercifully interfered on their behalf; but in describing their joy, as in making known their former sorrow, His name is unmentioned in the record, because they are not where He can publicly own them. How loudly does this very silence speak to every opened ear! God could do all Ave have been noting in our study of this book for His people who refused to gather to the place where He had set His name, (and where a few “afflicted and poor” ones were trying amidst many discouragements to rebuild His ruined temple and to order their ways according as “they found it written”), but though He so graciously watches over them in His providence, and loves them unto the end, He nevertheless takes care that the inspired record of it all shall not so much as mention His name.

Chapter 9—20-32
The Institution Of Purim

From this time, until he disappears from sacred history, Mordecai takes the place of a judge or a deliverer among his brethren. He has proven himself a faithful man in the main, whatever failures he may also have had. In a certain sense his position is very similar to that occupied by Joseph in Egypt. In position being next to the king, he has been the preserver of his people and is afterwards their protector.

He would have them never forget the great deliverance they had known, nor the means whereby it had been accomplished. From the twentieth verse, it has generally been concluded that he himself was the author of this book, and surely no person would be more likely to have been chosen for this service. He also, in conjunction with Esther the queen, established the feast of Purim, or “the lot” as a perpetual commemoration of the overthrowing of Haman’s device.

“And Mordecai wrote these things, and sent letters unto all the Jews that were in all the provinces of the king Ahasuerus, both nigh and far, to establish this among them, that they should keep the fourteenth day of the month Adar, and the fifteenth day of the same, yearly, as the days wherein the Jews rested from their enemies and the month which was turned unto them from sorrow to joy, and from mourning into a good day: that they should make them days of feasting and joy, and of sending portions one to another, and gifts to the poor” (vers. 20-22). There is no reason to believe that this was a divinely instituted festival, like the seven feasts of Jehovah in Lev. 23. It was simply the grateful remembrance of a rejoicing people for signal mercy vouchsafed at a time of deepest distress. Naturally the Jews in the land did not as readily observe it as those scattered among the heathen. History tells us that it was some years ere it became a universal season of festivity among the Hebrews, and many more elapsed before a distinctively religious character was given to it.

But, as commanded by Mordecai and Esther, all was in perfect keeping with the times. In full accord with their Lo-ammi condition—God’s name is in no wise connected with it. It has kept, however, the record of their providential deliverance, clearly before their minds. The exact reason for the name of the feast is given in the verses that follow: “And the Jews under- took to do as they had begun, and as Mordecai had written unto them; because Haman the son of Hammedatha, the Agagite, the enemy of all the Jews, had devised against the Jews to destroy them, and had cast Pur, that is, the lot, to consume them; but when Esther came before the king, he commanded by letters, that his wicked device, which he devised against the Jews, should return upon his own head, and that he and his sons should be hanged upon the gallows. Wherefore they called these days Purim, after the name of Pur. Therefore for all the words of this letter, and of that which they had seen concerning this matter, and which had come unto them, the Jews ordained, and took upon them, and upon their seed, and upon all such as joined themselves unto them, so as it should not fail, that they would keep these two days according to their writing, and according to their appointed time every year; and that these days should be remembered and kept throughout every generation, every family, every province and every city; and that these days of Purim should not fail from among the Jews, nor the memorial of them perish from their seed” (vers. 23-28).

How truly had they been made to know that “the lot is cast into the lap; but the whole disposing thereof is of the Lord” (Prov. 16:33). No device of the wicked against the people of the Lord can ever be carried out unless He see fit to permit it. Hence the Christian can exultingly cry, “If God be for us, who can be against us?” (Rom. 8:31.) But, though His care is over all His saints, it will always be observed that there is not that same direct, manifest interference on their behalf when not walking according to His revealed will, as when they take the place of absolute dependence on Himself in subjection to His Word. Thus also in Christendom generally, it is more this distant Providential oversight that is known.

In an indefinite way saints learn to look for divine interposition; for evidence of the Lord’s concern. But it is only as one walks with God and trembles at His word, manifesting real heart for Himself, that the special supervision and intimate Fatherly care of which Scripture speaks is entered into and enjoyed. This may be seen by turning for a little to that exceedingly striking passage in 2 Cor. 6:14-18. Believers are here counseled to avoid putting their necks into an unequal yoke with those who believe not. This would refer to every concern of life; whether it be in regard to business, marriage, or ecclesiastical associations. No child of God can be linked up with an unconverted man in a business partnership without viola- ting this Scripture. Neither could one enter into an engagement or marriage with an unsaved person and enjoy the approbation of the Lord. An old Puritan once wrote, “If you marry a child of the devil you can expect to have trouble with your father-in-law.” Alas, that so many, despising the Word of truth and the bitter experiences of thousands before them, should, with open eyes, yet venture on such a course, because through their affections they have been ensnared! How many Samsons have been thus shorn of their strength! And how many Solomons have thus had their hearts turned away!

But there are many who see the nature of the business yoke and the family yoke, who seem quite unconcerned as to ecclesiastical association with the world. “What agreement hath the temple of God with idols? For ye are the temple of the living God.” Believers, and believers alone, comprise this spiritual house. “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?” (1 Cor. 3:16). Of no unregenerate soul could this be said. Of those only who are born again and sealed with the Holy Spirit can it be true. It is therefore of the greatest importance that Christians refuse all association with worldlings in spiritual things. This is beautifully set forth in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah, where the faithful remnant, having come up from Babylon and Persia, are found not only separate from the nations, but, when gathered at the place where Jehovah’s name had been set of old, they indignantly refuse the help of the uncircumcised in building the house of God or the walls of the city. For them, despite the fact that the Lo-Ammi sentence remained unrepealed, God could act in a more open and manifest way than when He interfered for the scattered ones of the provinces who separated not from the nations when they had the opportunity presented to them in the imperial decree. For this remnant, He raised up suited ministry. Haggai and Zechariah were able to give with no uncertainty “the Lord’s message.” When failure came in, they w-ere in the place where all could be dealt with according to the Book; while teachers of the law, like Ezra and the Levites, were given to them to instruct them in what was there written.

And so, in the passage we have under consideration, God says to those who “come out from among them,” and who “touch not the unclean thing,” that He will receive them; and He adds, “I will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be My sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.” This is unspeakably precious. God is the Father of all who are born again. All such have life eternal—divine life, and can say by the Spirit, “Abba Father;” but though He is the Father of all, He is not able always to act as a Father unto all.

It is the obedient who know His gracious and special care spoken of in this sense. Leaving all else for Him, they find Him to be more than all else to them, even in regard to temporal matters.

    “He knows, and loves, and cares;

    Nothing this truth can dim:

    He gives the very best to those

    Who leave the choice to Him.”

Separated to Himself, dependent alone upon His omnipotent power, they are given to see His hand and to discern His actings in grace as others cannot who “follow afar off,” and fear to leave all that is contrary to His mind, as revealed in His Word.

How blessed is it, on the other hand, that even where there is not this devotion to Himself that should characterize those redeemed at such cost, yet He never forgets His own, nor does He ever neglect them. But it is more in the manner of His actings in the days of Esther that He watches over and cares for them—often unseen and unacknowledged. “His mercy endureth forever,” and He who walked with His unbelieving people for forty years in the wilder- ness never ceases to care for His children now, however little they may realize it. “Having loved His own which were in the world, He loved them unto the end” (John 13:1).

The feast of Purim, then, witnesses the nation’s gratitude, however feebly it may set forth their recognition that it was God Himself who had so wondrously made their affliction the occasion for His acting in grace.

“Then Esther the queen, the daughter of Abihail” (Father of strength), “and Mordecai the Jew, wrote with all authority to confirm this second letter of Purim. And he sent the letters unto all the Jews, to the hundred twenty and seven provinces of the kingdom of Ahasuerus, with words of peace and truth, to confirm these days of Purim in their times appointed, according as Mordecai the Jew and Esther the queen had enjoined them, and as they had decreed for themselves and for their seed the matters of the fastings and their cry” (vers. 29-31). It is not likely that the name of God was left unmentioned in the publications they thus put forth, for “words of peace and truth” clearly connected the humiliation of the people and their fasting, with the deliverance God gave them at the end. “Their cry” is also mentioned. To whom could it be but to God? Were this narration of it then written by mere man, how natural would it have been to have added the words “to God” or “to the Lord.” But the pen of inspiration never errs. The One whose ways are perfect, is the real author of the book, whether Mordecai or some unknown one was the writer.

“And the decree of Esther confirmed these matters of Purim; and it was written in the book” (ver. 32). To the present day, and for ages past, it has been the custom of the Hebrews to read this book at the annual observance of the feast; and whenever the name of Haman is uttered, the orthodox Jews hiss, and stamp, and curse his memory.

In the days when our Lord was upon earth, the canon of Old Testament Scripture, as we now know it, had been long since completed, and was composed of “the law, the prophets, and the Psalms.” Esther was always included in the latter division, called in the Greek version “the Hagiographa.” Jesus spoke of all as Scripture. Therefore we cannot question the full inspiration of this book, as He has set His seal upon it. And yet we shall look in vain to find any quotation from or reference to it in the New Testament. It is the unique evidence of God’s unfailing care to a faithless people.

The feast of Purim is never referred to in the Gospels either. It did not properly belong to the people as in the land. While the yearly reminder of unchanging grace, it was also the evidence of their lack of heart for the One who had so acted towards them. At the present time it has degenerated into a season of godless merrymaking, and is more patriotic than devotional in character.

Chapter 10
Speaking Peace

The story of Satan’s effort to destroy the nation of promise, together with the manner in which he was thwarted, having been so minutely told, there remains nothing more but to picture the changed conditions resultant upon the destruction of Haman and his house, and the advancement of Mordecai. The far-reaching rule of the Persian monarch is first shown in the statement that “the king Ahasuerus laid a tribute upon the land and upon the isles of the sea” (ver. 1). All nations had to know and own his power, as soon they shall own the sway of God’s chosen King. How blessed the day when

    “Jesus shall reign where e’er the sun

    Doth his successive journeys run:

    His kingdom spread from shore to shore,

    Till moons shall wax and wane no more.”

“The powers that be are ordained of God;” but all are merely provisional during the present period of the true King’s rejection. Soon shall this groaning scene be changed to one of unmingled joy and gladness for the delivered nations when there shall be revealed from heaven “a righteous ruler over men, a ruler in the fear of God!” This, Ahasuerus was not. Consequently his world-wide domination soon passed to other hands; but when God’s Anointed reigns, His kingdom will never be superseded.

Let the reader not fall into a mistake very commonly made to-day. The Kingdom is not the Church. The latter is the body of Christ, composed of all who, in this dispensation, are called out from Jew and Gentile, and baptized in the power of the Holy Spirit. During the period in which God is doing this special work of His grace, the Kingdom, properly speaking, is in abeyance. It is true the principles of the Kingdom are spreading through the world, and all who are born again are, even now, in, and morally of it.

But for all that the reigning time has not yet come. It is still “the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ.” When the Lord returns from heaven He will descend “with a shout” into the upper air, accompanied by “the voice of the archangel and the trump of God.” The Church will then be complete and her period of testimony and rejection on earth will be accomplished. Therefore “the dead in Christ shall rise first: then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we be forever with the Lord” (1 Thess. 4:16, 17; see also 1 Cor. 15:51-56).

This will be the end of the Christian dispensation, but not the end of the world. There are other periods to follow. The first will be very brief, and is commonly referred to in Scripture as “the great tribulation,” “the hour of trial,” and “the time of Jacob’s trouble.” In this season, (with which a great part of Scripture is occupied, notably Matt. xxiv. and the bulk of the Revelation—chaps. 4-19 inclusive) the Jewish nation will once more be taken up by God. A remnant of them in their unprecedented tribulation will turn to His Word and will there see that, on account of their rejection of Messiah, they had been given up to partial blindness “until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.” That time having been reached at the rapture of the Church, God will then open their eyes to their great sin. They will acknowledge the Crucified as the Anointed of Jehovah, and will separate themselves from the ungodly mass to wait for His appearing as their Deliverer. In the land of Palestine one will arise of whom Haman is a fit type—the personal Antichrist, referred to in Scripture under various titles, as “the king” of Dan. 11:36, who “shall do ac- cording to his own will;” “the idol shepherd” of Zech. 11:15-17; one who “shall come in his own name” in John 5:43; “the man of sin,” and “the wicked” or “lawless one” of 2 Thess. 2, “whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders;” and the two-horned beast of Rev. 13, who has the appearance of a lamb, to simulate the Lamb of God, but is betrayed by his speech, which is that of a dragon. This fearful character will be the bitter persecutor of the faithful Jews for a short period, but as in the matter of Haman and Mordecai, when all seems darkest, the Lord shall appear for the destruction of the power of evil and the salvation of His people. Then follows the establishment of the kingdom which is never to be given to another, when for one thousand years the Lord Jesus shall reign over all the earth.

Whenever world-wide dominion has been entrusted to man, he has, as in all else, utterly failed. But when “He shall come whose right it is,” He will judge the nations in righteousness and manifest Jehovah’s perfect rule on earth. This is the Kingdom which is the burden of the Old Testament prophecies and which is frequently referred to in the New Testament. One passage from this latter portion we shall here quote. “Having made known unto us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He hath purposed in Himself: that in the dispensation of the fulness of times He might gather together (or head up) in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth; even in Him” (Eph. 1:10, 11). When that long-waited for dispensation arrives, “the knowledge of the Lord shall cover the earth as the waters cover the sea.” The heavenly saints will then be associated with their Lord in government, while saints on earth will, with rejoicing, own His beneficent sway.

Misrule and oppression will have ceased forever. Earth’s long wail will have changed to a song of unending praise to the Lamb once slain.14 We cannot forbear referring the reader to one beautiful passage, this time from the Psalms, ere leaving this intensely interesting subject. We refer to Psalm 72, where Messiah’s kingdom is described most vividly. After telling how “He shall come down like rain upon the mown grass,” bringing refreshment and blessing to this poor parched world, we read that “He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth. They that dwell in the wilderness shall bow before Him; and His enemies shall lick the dust. The kings of Tarshish and of the isles shall bring presents: the kings of Sheba and Seba shall offer gifts. Yea, all kings shall fall down before Him: all nations shall serve Him” (vers. 8—11). No wonder that at the conclusion of the recital of His glories the inspired singer writes, “The prayers of David the son of Jesse are ended”! All will be then as it should be; for the whole earth will be full of His glory.

The evanescent character of human greatness and the crumbling kingdoms of earth as contrasted with the “stone kingdom” yet to come are well brought out in the second verse of our chapter in Esther. “And all the acts of his power and of his might, and the declaration of the greatness of Mordecai, whereunto the king advanced him, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Media and Persia?” These books are probably lost beyond recall. God has, however, preserved His own record of the events of those days. Were it not for this, we should never have known from secular history of Mordecai and of God’s intervention for the preservation of His people in the land of their exile.

Ahasuerus’ power was of the fading glory of this world. He is gone, and his records have perished. Mordecai had the interests of Jehovah at heart, despite the peculiar circumstances in which he was placed. His faithfulness will be remembered forever. “For Mordecai the Jew was next unto king Ahasuerus, and great among the Jews, and accepted of the multitude of his brethren, seeking the wealth of his people, and speaking peace to all his seed” (ver. 3). He appears as a thoroughly disinterested, unselfish person, who, though honored by the proud conqueror, never acts now as of old, when he counseled Esther against revealing her kindred; but is a guileless man, known to all as a Jew, and using his power for the blessing of the once jeopardized nation.

That from time to time, even where there is much that is contrary to the mind of God, He manifests His unbounded grace by giving to His people such deliverers is evident both in Scripture and in the dark and sorrowful annals of the Church on earth. Let no one conclude from this fact that it is a matter of small moment to Him if His saints go on with that which is contrary to His revealed Word. It is one thing to know a Father’s love and care, even though walking in self-chosen paths; it is another thing, like Enoch, to walk with God and have the testimony that one is pleasing Him.

As an evidence of how feebly man enters into Divine design in Scripture, I would draw attention, ere closing, to the well-known fact that in the Septuagint version of the Old Testament, and found in English in the Apocrypha, there are a number of additions to the book of Esther which are commonly supposed to be the work of pious Egyptian Jews who were troubled by the omission of all reference to God, and therefore supplemented the book with productions of their own, in which the glory would all be given to Him. These interpolations are rightly rejected in our version, as they never formed part of the Hebrew text, and were written after the voice of prophecy had ceased, in the days of Malachi. In one of these added portions, Haman is referred to as a Macedonian whose desire it was to turn the kingdom to his people. This would be quite in keeping with the times in which they were written. The Persian empire was overthrown, as we know, by Alexander the Great, whose Macedonian troops so readily routed the luxurious Iranian armies.

Man cannot tamper with God’s word save to his ruin, and to the marring of that which is absolutely perfect in itself. “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God (literally, God- breathed), and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Tim. 3:16, 17).

May writer and reader seek, ever more and more, to walk as men of God; thus finding in every portion of Holy Writ divine furnishing for our path through this scene.

14 The attentive reader who may desire further light on the Kingdom and connected themes will find great help in “Plain Papers on Prophetic Subjects,” by W. Trotter. $1.25. At the same publishers.