The story of Esther is of more importance to Jewish people than to Christians, but we might see something in it for us. Let’s look at its historical background. The seventy years of the Babylonian captivity of the Jews ended in 530 when the Persians, after defeating the Babylonians, allowed the Jews to return to Jerusalem.
However, a large number of Jews settled in as part of the Persian homeland. The Story of Esther takes up with those Jewish settlers in Persia seventy years later. It features a Jew named Mordecai and his beautiful niece, Esther. The villain of the story was Hamas, the chief minister of King Ahasuerus.
Mordecai, for his own religious reasons, refused to bow to Hamas, who greatly resented being snubbed, and his dislike for Mordecai became a hatred for the whole population of Jews residing in Persia.
It happened that Vashti, the Persian king’s queen refused to come at the king’s summons. That resulted in his banishing her, and his going on to command that all the kingdom’s most comely virgins be lined up for him to choose a queen. Smitten by Esther, he chose her for his new queen.
Hamas, after seeing Esther so exalted, came to fear that her uncle Mordecai could become a threat to his influence as the emperor’s chief minister. So, he went to the king with stories of how the Jews were planning to overthrown the kingdom, and he talked the king into allowing him to draw a lot indicating the day for a mass slaughtering. The lot fell on a date between our February and March; and the Jews still keep that day as the Feast of Purim, which is Hebrew for a “lot.” Meanwhile, Hamas constructed a fifty-foot-tall gibbet for hanging Mordecai.
Esther wanted to plead to the king for the doomed Jewish people, but she was forbidden under pain of death from entering the king’s presence without being summoned. In today’s reading she prayed for her people, and she prayed for courage to enter the king’s presence unbidden.
All went well, with the king sparing the Jews, and commanding Hamas to try out his high gibbet.
Our papers everyday carry stories of people in Iran, Egypt, and Syria who are being jailed for speaking out against the bad policies of those governments. The story of Esther could be the feast day for those brave men and women who risk their lives by speaking out for what is Godly.