Mordecai and Esther Win Deliverance for their People
Mordecai’s triumph over adversity started with King Xerxes recognizing that intense hatred by his second in command Haman resulted in a decree to annihilate Jews, including Esther, his queen. The king also recalled that Mordecai, a lowly attendant at his palace gate, foiled an assassination plot against him but was never rewarded for the courageous act. He ordered Haman executed, elevated Mordecai to second in command, and issued a decree that empowered Jews with the right of self defense. All these occurred in one evening, but started years earlier by Mordecai raising his orphaned cousin as his daughter, reporting an assassination plot against the king, and refusing to worship Haman—all because he lived according to his commitment to worship and serve God in all circumstances, even in adversity.
Mordecai overcame adversity because of unwavering commitment to worship and serve God in all circumstances. He endured hardship due to living in captivity, modest economic conditions, and a conspiracy against him and his people that was hatched in reaction to his refusal to compromise worship. While living through the hardship, he raised his orphaned cousin as his own daughter and guided her to become the queen of the land; reported an assassination plot against the king and earned recorded credit for the report; and refused to worship Haman, an agent of the king that people honored in a way that connoted worship. Mordecai’s refusal to worship Haman triggered a sequence of events that initially increased the scope and intensity of his adversity but ultimately led him to overcoming the adversity.
As we discuss in a previous bible study under Finding the Bigger Picture in Adversity, Haman reacted to Mordecai’s “disobedience” by issuing a decree under the authority of the king to annihilate all Jews on a chosen date. The decree became law through all 127 provinces under King Xerxes. Jews protested and mourned everywhere. Mordecai protested at the king’s gate until he convinced his stepdaughter Queen Esther to appeal to the king against the annihilation order.
Queen Esther initially was reluctant to appeal to the king because she was concerned about violating a law against visiting the king uninvited, which could attract punishment by death. However, Mordecai redirected her to see the request as an opportunity to use her royal access to appeal the annihilation order and maybe win deliverance for her people. Having thus seen the bigger picture, she called for prayer and fasting and vowed to appeal to the king even if it meant the ultimate punishment [Esther 4:16]: “And so I will go to the king, which is against the law; and if I perish, I perish!”
Esther’s appeal to the king was successful. The conspiracy against Jews was overturned. Another decree was published on the king’s authority that gave Jews the right to assemble, protect themselves, and destroy their enemy. Thus, Mordecai’s refusal to worship Haman triggered an event sequence whereby he triumphed over the conspiracy against him and his people, defeated his enemies, and overcame poverty. This study focuses on Queen Esther’s appeal and Mordecai’s triumph over adversity as a result.
Esther Granted Audience but Delays Appeal
After three days of prayer and fasting, Esther sought an audience with the king. She dressed up in her royal robe, entered the inner court of the king’s palace and stood where the king would notice her. Thus, she violated the law against going to the king uninvited and could be executed as a punishment. However, the king could waive the law and grant her audience. He did. He granted her audience, symbolized by extending her the golden scepter. Esther accepted the offer by touching the scepter. The king asked her to present her petition and promised her request would be granted, up to the maximum she could ask: “What do you wish, Queen Esther? What is your request? It shall be given to you—up to half the kingdom” [Esther 5:3].
However, Esther postponed presenting her petition. Instead, she invited the king to a banquet and asked him to come with Haman: “If it pleases the king, let the king and Haman come today to the banquet that I have prepared for him” [Esther 5:4]. Esther’s postponement of the petition became a strategic victory because two events favorable to Mordecai occurred during the postponement. The king later offered Esther two more opportunities to present her petition. The second was during the banquet. Esther again postponed the petition but instead invited the king to come with Haman for another banquet on the next day. The next day, during the second banquet, the king asked for her petition a third time. Esther presented the petition this time as we discuss in a subsequent section.
Unplanned Strategic Victory
Postponement of Petition Setup Favorable Events
Although Esther’s postponement of the petition appeared as a deliberate choice, she had no hand in bringing about two events favorable to Mordecai that occurred during the postponement. She could not have known the events would occur. Nor could she have known how the events would progress to favor her and Mordecai. Therefore, we can surmise as follows:
- Her decision to postpone and the events that occurred during the period of postponement were a divine favor—an act of God.
- The Holy Spirit guided her to postpone.
- She sought direction from God by calling for and observing three days of prayer and fasting before seeking audience with the king.
- She received and followed God’s direction.
That is, Esther’s decision to postpone her petition, even if a deliberate choice of hers, was an act of God in that the postponement allowed time for occurrence of events that favored her cause. Both events were a favor to her cause because they defined a positive image of Mordecai in the king’s mind prior to the king hearing Esther’s petition.
First Event Sequence Favorable to Mordecai
The first event sequence started with Haman being in high spirit after the first banquet and continued with him being enraged that Mordecai saw him returning from the banquet but “…did not stand or tremble before him” [Esther 5:9]. Haman contained his rage until he got home. Then he called in his wife and friends, boasted about his greatness and fortune, but lamented that all his accomplishment meant nothing to him because of Mordecai: “Yet all this avails me nothing, so long as I see Mordecai the Jew sitting at the king’s gate” [Esther 5:13]. On their advice, Haman had a gallows built in front of his house and intended to hang Mordecai on it the next day.
This event sequence was favorable to Mordecai because it brought Haman’s hatred of Mordecai to the surface, clear enough for the king to understand as later events showed. As we discuss in a subsequent section, Haman would later be hanged on the gallows he intended for Mordecai.
Second Event Sequence Favorable to Mordecai
The second event sequence started with King Xerxes being sleepless on the night of the first banquet, maybe wondering what his wife’s petition might be, or some other cause. He ordered the book of chronicles, the record of his reign, to be read to him. The reading reminded him of Mordecai’s credit for exposing an assassination plot against the king. He asked [Esther 6:3]: “What honor or dignity has been bestowed on Mordecai for this?” His attendants informed him that Mordecai had not been offered any reward or recognition.
At the same time, Haman had just entered the outer court of the king’s palace intending to request authority to hang Mordecai on the gallows he built. The king invited him in and inquired of him [Esther 6:6]: “What shall be done for the man whom the king delights to honor?” Believing that it was him (Haman) that the king wished to honor, he recommended a glorious honor indeed. The king accepted his recommendation and ordered him to do it all for Mordecai: “Hurry, take the robe and the horse, as you have suggested, and do so for Mordecai the Jew who sits within the king’s gate! Leave nothing undone of all that you have spoken” [Esther 6:10].
This event sequence was favorable to Mordecai because of its immediate outcome but was more so because the king developed a positive view of Mordecai as a result. The favor to Mordecai was even more when the king’s positive view of him weighed against his realization of Haman’s intense hatred for Mordecai. As we discuss in a subsequent section, the king did not accept Haman’s hatred and punished him severely.
Esther Presents Her Petition
The king and Haman came for Esther’s second banquet as scheduled. After the king prompted her, Esther presented her petition in two parts. First, she informed the king about the annihilation decree and requested the king to save her life and spare her people [Esther 7:3–4]: “Then Queen Esther answered and said, ‘If I have found favor in your sight, O king, and if it pleases the king, let my life be given me at my petition, and my people at my request. For we have been sold, my people and I, to be destroyed, to be killed, and to be annihilated. Had we been sold as male and female slaves, I would have held my tongue, although the enemy could never compensate for the king’s loss.’”
The king determined that the plan to annihilate all Jews (including his queen) was hatched by Haman and that Haman had setup a gallows to hang Mordecai. Then he ordered Haman to be hanged immediately on the gallows he built for Mordecai. Thereafter, he gave Haman’s estate to Esther and appointed Mordecai to the position formerly occupied by Haman. Esther placed Mordecai in charge of the estate that was just assigned to her.
In the second part of the petition, Esther reminded the king that the annihilation decree was still in force [Esther 8:5–6]: “‘If it pleases the king,’ she said, ‘and if he regards me with favor and thinks it the right thing to do, and if he is pleased with me, let an order be written overruling the dispatches that Haman … devised and wrote to destroy the Jews in all the king’s provinces. For how can I bear to see disaster fall on my people? How can I bear to see the destruction of my family?’” In response, the king authorized Mordecai and Esther to write another decree in his name “… as seems best to you, and seal it with the king’s signet ring—for no document written in the king’s name and sealed with his ring can be revoked” [Esther 8:8].
Mordecai and Esther, assisted by the royal secretaries, wrote a decree that “granted the Jews in every city the right to assemble and protect themselves; to destroy, kill and annihilate the armed men of any nationality or province who might attack them and their women and children, and to plunder the property of their enemies” [Esther 8:11]. The decree became law in all 127 provinces under King Xerxes. The Jews rejoiced everywhere, and people of other nationalities became Jews. “Mordecai was prominent in the palace; his reputation spread throughout the provinces, and he became more and more powerful” [Esther 9:4].
Summary of What We Learned
Mordecai’s triumph over adversity started with King Xerxes recognizing that intense hatred of Mordecai’s people by his second in command Haman resulted in a decree to annihilate Jews, including Esther, his queen. The king also recalled that Mordecai, a lowly attendant at his palace gate, foiled an assassination plot against him but was never rewarded for the courageous act. He ordered Haman executed; elevated Mordecai to a high position in his palace, second only to the king; and issued a decree that empowered Jews with the right of self defense. All these occurred in one evening, but started years earlier by Mordecai raising his orphaned cousin as his daughter, reporting an assassination plot against the king, and refusing to worship Haman—all because he lived according to his commitment to worship and serve God in all circumstances. He lived in the image of God, even in adversity.