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QUEEN ESTHER-GOD'S PROVIDENTIAL CARE-
Although God disciplined His people by allowing their captivity, He never abandoned them, He is Sovereign and in control of History. God's influence of care and protection of His people permeates through out the lives of Esther and her cousin Mordecai, and the nation of the Jewish people.The Jewish exile was over and all the Jews (southern Israel) were allowed to return to Judah, but many exiles decided to stay in their adopted countries, for they had been settled there for seventy years and had become prosperous with their new ventures outside the Promised Land. At this time most Jews lived in the major populated centres.
In the year 479 B.C. between the first trip back to the promised Land with Zerubbabel and the second trip with Ezra, God raised up a Jewish girl, Esther an orphan who became Queen of the most powerful Empire in the world at that time, Persia, that had conquered Babylon. It was the dominant military and economic authority in the world. King Ahasuerus (also known as The Great Xerxex I),the wealthiest man in the world, was the son of King Darius I of Persia who had given permission to the Jewish people to return to Jerusalem and rebuilt the Temple of God and the City of Jerusalem. These events took place at least 50 years after Darius' I decree for Jewish exiles to return,and span over a ten year period.
Esther's Jewish name is Hadassah, meaning 'myrtle' and her Persian name Esther means 'star' but comes from the Babylonian goddess Ishtar. Her cousin, Mordecai, also was named after a heathen God. This was the practice of the exiled Jews to have their Hebrew name and their foreign names. Mordecai, who was a devout Jew raised Esther as his own daughter, when her parents died. Their families, who were related to the family line of King Saul, of the Jewish Benjamin tribe had been taken captive by the King of Babylon about 100 years prior to these events. Mordecai was a minor official in the King's Court at Susa, the King's winter palace, east of the Euphrates River, (Southern Iran).
The King held a lavish banquet to impress neigbouring leaders, showing his wealth of the Kingdom and to convince them to agree to join his armies to attack the nation of Greece. The King ordered Vashti, (his Queen prior to Esther), to leave her women's banquet and appear before him and his guests, but she refused to come and that caused the King to banish her from his sight and seek throughout his empire for beautiful young virgins to add to his harem. From these girls he would choose a Queen.
Esther was among the virgins taken into the palace. Whether Esther had a choice in the matter is not said. Her cousin advised her not to mention her Hebrew background for her own protection as hostility and jealousy was beginning to show against the Jewish comfortable settlements. Esther underwent twelve months of beauty treatments before seeing the King. These consisted of treatments on the skin of oil, perfume and cosmetics. She was a beautiful women and made such an impression on the King she was chosen by him to be his Queen, bypassing the influential Persian elite families. She found favour with everyone she encounted. The head eunuch admired her qualities and personality that he gave her the best quarters in the King's harem. She was honest, loyal and had a charasmatic character. She was obedient to her cousin who had raised her. In his position as a court official, Mordecai overheard a plot to assassinate the King, and he was able to get word through Esther and avoid the disaster. The matter was investigated and two men were found guilty of treason.
Haman, an Amekelite, had become a very wealthy high government official, he was a descendant of King Agag. God had ordered King Saul 500 years prior to kill the heathen King and his people, but Saul disobeyed which cost Saul his Kingship. The Amekelites and the Jewish race were ancient enemies, for the former had tried to annihilate the Israelites in the wilderness with Moses, before the Israelites reached The promised land of Canaan, so the Jews refused to bow in respect of Haman's position because of the bitterness between the two nations. Haman hated Mordecai because they both worked at the King's court and it was embarrassing to him not to be shown homage before other officials. Mordecai told the officials why he would not give honour to Haman, because he was a Jew.
An evil plan was put into motion by Haman, the Prime Minister, that all the Jewish race had to be killed, including the first group of Jewish exiles that had returned to rebuild The Temple in Jerusalem. Anyone could kill a Jew, plunder their property and wealth. The date was chosen by the roll of a dice, and the decree was sent out to all by the efficient postal system throughout the realm. This decree had been executed by order of the King, who did not know that Haman had misled him, by telling him that some subjects were rebellious and harmful to the realm, nor did he tell him he intended to exterminate the Jewish people in every part of the Kingdom, which stretched from Turkey to the north, India in the south and as far as Egypt in the west, 127 provinces in all. Haman did not tell the King he had an obsessive hatred for God's people, or that they were ancient family enemies of the Amekelites who were also descendants of Esau, the twin brother of Jacob, from whom the Israelites are descendant, and from that time the both sides of the families had been hostile to each other.
The Jewish people refused to give sufficient respect or honour to Haman. His decree could not be reversed under Persian Law. Haman was determined to kill off the Jewish race. The future of God's people was in great jeopardy. The Messiah was to come through the Jewish nation, and Haman's edict was to destroy all Jews. Mordecai appealed to Esther to speak to the King.
God's guidance brought miracles. Mordecai was certain that God would deliver his people from this decree, he said to Esther, "If you remain silent, another will be raised to deliver the Jews, who knows but you have come to royal position for such a time as this?" Queen Esther asked that the Jewish people support her as they all prayed and fasted for three days. Fasting for the Jews always meant prayer to God and sacrificing personal needs. She used her God-given opportunity to act. She risked her life for her own race of people. She prepared herself spiritually and physically. Esther was used of God and today God's Sovereign power is still caring for and protecting his people. (A person could not approach the King; it was the death penalty to do so. A person had to be called for by the King.) Twice Esther approached the King without being called for an audience.
God is in sovereign charge of all events, nothing happens by mere chance. That night the King could not sleep he decided to read the chronicles of the City and he remembered he had never repaid Mordecai for saving his life. He decided to greatly honour Mordecai publicly in the City square, and appointed Haman to be in charge of this duty, much to the dismay of Haman, but he could not refuse the King's orders. The citizens were confused for how could they kill a man honoured by the King.
Esther revealed her identity to the King and also Haman's plans. Haman was hung under the order of the King and his estate was given to Queen Esther. God promised Abraham that any individual who cursed God's people would themselves be cursed. The King knew that his Jewish subjects were the most productive and of much worth to keep alive, throughout his realm. The Jewish race was saved because of Esther's courage by her request of another decree sent to all the Jewish exiles throughout the Persian Empire, allowing them to defend themselves. This they did and many foreigners came to learn of The One True Living God because of this decree. Esther alone was Queen, even though the King had many wives in his harem. Her cousin, Mordecai became the new Prime Minister, second in authority to the King and the many rulers of the Persian provinces were now under the authority of a Jewish Prime Minister.
God's involvement is shown by the selection of Esther among many to be the Queen of the Persian Empire, the plot discovered by Mordecai against the the Persian King, the King of Persia receiving Esther twice, extending his scepter towards her when not requested and giving Mordecai a high position by which he and Esther could save the Jews from the previous decree.
Many people who achieve success in the world receiving power and popularity usually forget and lose their ties with their area of origin, even become ashamed of it, not so with Esther. She sought divine guidance at a time of great difficulty for others as well as herself. She was willing to renounce self for the good of others. She had confidence in God's provision. She was a woman with clear judgment and self-control.
A two day feast is still celebrated today, called the feast of Purim, of great rejoicing to God for the deliverance of the Jewish people, saved from extinction. ESTHER 1-10.
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