Summary: The book of Esther was hated and forbidden by the Nazis. Jewish inmates read in the days before their death at Auschwitz and Dachau among other death camps. Both the Nazis and the Jews understood its message – God would deliver His people.
Good morning church family and a special good morning to my friends at our second campus. I don’t think we do the ladies of our lives justice, so I want you to stand up and let’s really appreciate our wives and mothers. Happy Mother’s Days, Ladies! We appreciate you greatly.
We’re doing a short series on courage, entitled Fearless: Possessing a Lionhearted Righteousness. It’s based off of Proverbs 28:1: “The wicked flee when no one pursues, but the righteous are bold as a lion” (Proverbs 28:1). We are looking at some of the more familiar stories of the Old Testament for inspiration. Today, I want to tell you one of the most interesting stories in all of Scripture. It is a story that is as fascinating as it is controversial – the story of Esther. The book of Esther was hated and forbidden by the Nazis. Nevertheless, Jewish inmates read in the days before their death at Auschwitz and Dachau among other death camps. Jews recited the book from memory and they read it in secret. Both the Nazis and the Jews understood its message – God would deliver His people.
Esther’s story takes place in the ancient Persian Empire, who maintained a powerful rule over the known world from the mid 500s to the early 300s BC. The Persian Empire ranged from modern Pakistan and modern Turkey to what is today the islands of Greece and even North Africa. As you scan your world history during this time, you’ll note that the Chinese philosopher Confucius was alive during this day. Our story is set in the ancient city of Susa, which is modern Iran. But the story is interesting and fascinating for all of its sudden twists of plots. The moment you think the story is going one way, it turns like a roller-coaster and you jerked off in another direction. Let’s dive in.
Our story begins with a king and the events of Esther occur over a ten year span of time. There are essentially five characters to our story and the first is the king himself. King Ahasuerus (A hass u where us) is the Hebrew name for King Xerxes. History tells us that that he was the tallest and most handsome of the Persian kings. He was ruthless and a brilliant leader and warrior. But key to our story is this fact: the ancient historian Herodotus tells us that he was also a jealous lover.
The beginning our story has to do with an elaborate banquet. This banquet followed on the heals of a 180 council that displayed the immensity of the king’s vast wealth. Even in our oversized Hollywood publicity world, King Xerxes’ party is opulent (Esther 1:6-7). “It was in the midst of this immense party that the King decided to call on His queen: ‘On the seventh day, when the heart of the king was merry with wine, he commanded Mehuman, Biztha, Harbona, Bigtha and Abagtha, Zethar and Carkas, the seven eunuchs who served in the presence of King Ahasuerus, 11 to bring Queen Vashti before the king with her royal crown, in order to show the peoples and the princes her beauty, for she was lovely to look at’” (Esther 1:10-11). This was a party for the men to get drink and in the midst of his intoxication, he brags about the beauty of his queen. Finally, Xerxes decides to show everyone just how beautiful she is and calls for her.
Queen Vashti is a Persian queen who receives the king’s request: “I want you to come and stand and exhibit yourself before thousands of drunk men.” He had paraded his livestock and wealth in front of them and now he wanted to parade his greatest possession – his queen. But the queen refuses to dress up in front of a horde of drunk men. After an impromptu cabinet meeting, she is quickly banished from her throne and she is heard from no more. The king quickly sends men off throughout the empire to find the most beautiful young women in the Persian Empire. Some scholars feel that as many as a thousand women were brought together for the king to choose from. These ladies didn’t have a choice in the matter but were simply “taken” to the king (Esther 2:8).
I want to introduce you to Mordecai, our third character in our story. Mordecai is a Jew living in Persia. The Jewish people were conquered, captured, and forcibly brought out of their land to Persia. “Now there was a Jew in Susa the citadel whose name was Mordecai, the son of Jair, son of Shimei, son of Kish, a Benjaminite, who had been carried away from Jerusalem among the captives carried away with Jeconiah king of Judah, whom Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon had carried away. He was bringing up Hadassah, that is Esther, the daughter of his uncle, for she had neither father nor mother. The young woman had a beautiful figure and was lovely to look at, and when her father and her mother died, Mordecai took her as his own daughter” (Esther 2:5-7).