Summary: An intended genocide against the people of God is thwarted. Behind all the machinations of human deliverers, we see the quiet unassuming hand of providence. Praise the LORD!
A FEAST TO REMEMBER
Esther is a book of feasts. First there was the extravagance of a six-month long drinking feast for the army and the princes of the 127 provinces (Esther 1:3-4). This was immediately followed by a seven day drinking feast for the inhabitants of the palace (Esther 1:5), with a separate feast for the women (Esther 1:9) – this latter being the occasion of the demise of Queen Vashti. Then the king held another feast upon the accession of Queen Esther (Esther 2:18).
As the plot unfolds, we next find the king and Haman sitting down to eat and drink (Esther 3:15). Was the king’s mind so befuddled with wine that he is oblivious to the evil that he has just lent his seal to? In the midst of all this feasting, there would also be rending of clothes, sackcloth and ashes, and a loud and bitter cry (Esther 4:1); mourning, fasting, weeping and wailing (Esther 4:3).
Thankfully, the change of consort opened up the way for deliverance to come from a beautiful, wise, obedient, brave, and – dare we say? – Godly woman, who was brought to the kingdom ‘for such a time as this’ (Esther 4:14). Esther also legislated a fast (Esther 4:16-17) before daring to approach the unapproachable throne of her unpredictable husband. The young queen’s wisdom, courage, and tact would eventually win the day – yet even in a book which makes no direct reference to the LORD, it is evident that the victory is His, not hers.
Next it was Esther’s turn to hold a banquet of wine, to which she invited both the king and Haman (Esther 5:4-5). The king asked her what was really on her mind, but she at this time only proposed another feast the next day (Esther 5:7-8). This lulled Haman into a sense of his own importance, yet with a tinge of regret that Mordecai lived on.
Esther is also a book of reversals. Earlier, Mordecai had foiled an assassination plot against the king, and this was duly recorded in the book of the king’s chronicles (Esther 2:21-23). Then, when the future looked at its very bleakest for God’s people, the king providentially had a restless night and called for the book of records to be read to him. The choice of passage was surely something more than mere coincidence (Esther 6:1-3) – and the promotion of Mordecai saw Haman in mourning, and with his head covered (Esther 6:12).
Now Haman was rushed away to Queen Esther’s second feast. The language used makes it almost sound as if he was under arrest (Esther 6:14). Once again the king asked for Esther’s petition, and at this she almost burst into prayer (Esther 7:3-5).
We should be thankful that we have access to the throne of God Most High – not the throne of an unpredictable despot, but of a loving Father, who receives us in the name of Jesus, and hears and answers the prayers of His people (Hebrews 4:14-16).
The petition of Esther is in tactful court language, but recalls the language of the Exodus. The blustering king was enraged, and demanded to know who had presumed to do this thing (Esther 7:5). Thus the wicked Haman was unmasked (Esther 7:6) - but only to have his head covered (Esther 7:8) in order to be hanged from the enormous gallows that he had intended for Mordecai (Esther 7:9-10).
At this point the irreversible law of the Medes and Persians appears to be very much in the way – but with Mordecai’s further promotion, he worked out a way to cancel the former edict without either retracting it or changing it (which he could not do). I think the author is secretly laughing at just how ludicrous such laws are, especially when the land is ruled by someone who is as indecisive and easily led as Queen Esther’s buffoon of a husband. The people of God now had light, and gladness, and joy, and honour; a feast and a good day (Esther 8:16-17).
Although the deliverance appears to be of man’s devising, the covenant promises of Almighty God - who is still in control, even when His people are scattered and maligned - lie quietly at the back of it. The spontaneous feast now became an annual feast of remembrance, recalling the days when sorrow was turned into joy, and mourning into a holiday: days of feasting and gladness, and of sending of gifts of food to one another, and to the poor (Esther 9:22). Such was the decree to God’s people, both near and far (Esther 9:20) – and such is the comfort of God’s people down through the ages (Isaiah 57:19).