*Good morning. Today we continue our look into the Book of Esther. If you recall from Monday (I apologize for missing yesterday) the king is looking for a new queen. Young virgins from across the province have been brought in to the king's harem for a "try out" with the king. The one who "pleases" (leave the meaning to your imagination) will become the new queen. So, this brings us up to date.

"Now there was in the citadel of Susa a Jew of the tribe of Benjamin, named Mordecai...who had been carried into exile from Jerusalem...Mordecai had a cousin named Hadassah, whom he had brought up because she had neither father nor mother. This girl, who was also known as Esther, was lovely in form and features..." (Esther 2:5-7)

Well, this is where we are introduced to the book's namesake. Why did Esther have two names? Well, she has lived her life in exile away from Jerusalem. Many Jews in Diaspora (living away from Jerusalem) had both Jewish and non-Jewish names. Hadassah was her Hebrew name, and meant "Myrtle." She is brought up by her uncle because she was an orphan. Being an orphan makes one very vulnerable in the ancient world. Mordecai takes care of Esther.

Now, even though Mordecai was caring for the girl; what happened to her? She was taken from her home to be a part of the king's harem. All we really know about Esther was that she was "lovely in form and features." In other words; "She had it all going on." We are told that "the girl pleased him (king) and won his favor." (Esther 2:9) Where is Uncle Mordecai in all of this? "Every day he walked back and forth near the courtyard of the harem to find out where Esther was and what was happening to her." (Esther 2:11) One can almost sense Mordecai's powerlessness. There is nothing he can do. But, as we will see, he is at the right place at the right time throughout the entire story. So, is Esther. She awaits her turn, is given a year long make-over (even though she is already beautiful) and is summons to a repeat performance with the king. You know what they say, "If you're called in for a second interview, things are promising." Esther is crowned the new queen.

O.K., let's consider what is happening. Esther and her uncle Mordecai are foreigners. They are away from their homeland. Esther has been made queen of Persia. (Persia today is Iran) However, "Esther had kept secret her family background and nationality just as Mordecai had told her to do..." (Esther 2:20) Now, remember, God is not mentioned in this entire book. One could also argue that religion is not even an issue in this story. Nationality (Jewish) becomes a theme in the story as it develops, but, I will argue that there is something else going on here. (we'll get to later.) O.K., so Esther is queen, Vashti, the former queen is gone, Xerxes is the king, and Uncle Mordecai wonders around near the palace. The stage is now set. Now, keep asking yourself why the story began as it did. It is like the writer had to get all the players in place. Now, there are new characters that enter the story.

"During the time Mordecai was sitting at the king's gate, Bigthana (We can just call him Big) and Teresh (Mr. T.), two of the king's officers who guarded the doorway, became angry and conspired to assassinate King Xerxes. But Mordecai found out about the plot and told Queen Esther, who in return reported it to the king, giving credit to Mordecai..." (Esther 2:21-22)

Remember, Esther has revealed nothing as to her identity. There is no reason to believe that anyone knows that Mordecai is her uncle. He, being at the right place at the right time, uncovers this plot. As a result of the investigation the two conspirators, Big and Mr. T., (Not to be confused with Mr. T. or the "A" Team) were hanged. We are then told that "all this was recorded in the book of annals in the presence of the king." (Esther 2:23b) Keep this in mind, for it comes into play later. Next we are introduced to the main antagonist in the story.

"After these events, King Xerxes honored Haman...elevating him and giving him a seat of honor higher than that of all the other nobles. All the royal officials at the king's gate knelt down and paid honor to Haman, for the king commanded this concerning him. But Mordecai would not kneel down or pay him honor." (Esther 3:1-2)

Well, Mordecai was at the right place at the right time just a while ago and became the hero. Now, he is at the same place, but he is now at the wrong place at the wrong time and becomes the goat. In this story I believe we can see traces of both the Books of Daniel and Ruth. (We haven't gotten to Daniel yet.) In Daniel we discover scenes similar to this one. Mordecai reminds me in some ways of Naomi in Ruth, though the male version.

Although Esther has not revealed her nationality, Mordecai is now "forced" to do so as he is asked for his reason not to bow down to Haman. Mordecai reveals that he is a Jew. This is a turning point in the story.

"Yet having learned who Mordecai's people were, he (Haman) scorned the idea of killing only Mordecai. Instead Haman looked for a way to destroy all Mordecai's people, the Jews..." (Esther 3:5-6a)

The Jews are still a people. Here, one man and the people are connected, even though the rest of the people had nothing to do with Mordecai not bowing. Haman's argument to the king for annihilation of the Jews is: "There is a certain people dispersed and scattered among the peoples in all the provinces of your kingdom whose customs are different from those of all other people and who do not obey the king's laws..." (Esther 3:8) So, you know, since one is like that, then they all are! Haman gets the king on board with his plan. The king orders Haman to "do with the people as you please." (Esther 3:11)

Keep in mind the king's newly crowned queen, who has pleased him greatly, is one of "these people." The king, nor anybody else knows this. Was Mordecai wise for instructing Esther to keep her identity a secret? We will find out tomorrow. Join me tomorrow for the conclusion of the Book of Esther. -Pastor Rick

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