The Book of Esther describes the peril of the Jews who, after having been captured and removed from their homeland of Israel to Babylon under King Nebudchadnezzar around 605 B.C., find themselves on the brink of extermination a century later.

A new world power has emerged, Babylon having been conquered by the Medes and the Persians. From his Persian throne King Ahasuerus controls a vast kingdom consisting of 127 provinces.

To administer this grand domain he has appointed Haman as his chief executive officer. Haman, a descendent of Amalekite King Agag, has been granted such sweeping powers that in his haughtiness he expects obeisance from the king’s subjects. Mordecai, a devout Jew who served the king in the palace, in his insistence upon worshipping God alone as did Daniel before him, refuses to bow to Haman. This act of disrespect enrages Haman who, as an Edomite (Genesis 36:1,12) harbors an historic ill-will toward the Jews. In response, Haman requests of the king and is granted the ability to rid the kingdom of the Jews through a mass execution, to be conducted on a single day as determined by lot (Pur).

As these events are taking place, another drama is unfolding in the palace. In the midst of a long-lasting party King Ahasuerus has commanded his queen Vashti to come to his side so that he can show her off to his companions. She refuses his humiliating request, after which he casts her out in anger. Responding to advice from his guests, he conducts a search for the prettiest maidens in the kingdom, from whom he shall pick a queen to replace the banished Vashti. He eventually selects a beautiful lady whose name is Esther.

Esther, it turns out, had been put into the mix by her uncle Mordecai, the same Jew who was the object of Haman’s wrath. Orphaned at an early age, she had been Mordecai’s ward ever since. Knowing of the anti-Semitism in high places, Mordecai had cautioned her against exposing her Jewish roots during the process of being selected as the next queen.

As the threat of extermination approached ever closer, Mordecai asked the new Queen Esther to intervene with the king on behalf of her Jewish people. There was an obstacle to her ability to carry this out: it was customary for the queen to enter the king’s chamber only in response to his specific request. Violations to this sort of custom were usually appeased by the death of the offender. The king had not summoned Esther, so to approach him would be to invite her death. Nevertheless, her uncle Mordecai’s comment that “. . .who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom sor such a time as this?” lay heavy on her heart. Speaking her famous line “. . .if I perish, I perish,” she braved the king’s wrath and approached him after fasting for three days.

Inviting the king and Haman to a special feast, she exploited the occasion to inform the king of her own Jewish roots, after which she exposed Haman’s evil plans for genocide which would naturally include the deaths of both Mordecai (for whom Haman was preparing a gallows) and Esther. In response to this information, King Ahasuerus reversed the commandment to kill the Jews and ordered that Haman be hanged on the very gallows that he had prepared for Mordecai. Thus did God through Queen Esther save the Jews from extermination.

The story doesn’t end there. The feast of Purim (lots) is observed to this day as a yearly celebration of Esther’s brave deed. Purim, a happy Mardi Gras-like revelry, was held this year on March 20; next year it will be held March 8. Also to this day stands a memorial to Esther and Mordecai in Iran of all places, in the city of Hamadan. As would be expected, Iranian officials are in the process of revising the history of Esther and Mordecai; they are calling her salvation of the Jews a genocidal act against the Persians and have removed the sign that identifies the mausoleum as associated with Esther and Mordecai.

There is yet much more, an intimate involvement of Esther in an intersection with the prophet Daniel, the Babylonian captive who preceded Esther by about a century. In Chapter 9 of the Book of Daniel, he delivers a prophetic message that is still being studied intently by both Jews and Christians as containing important information regarding the end of the age as noted by Jesus in His Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24 and Mark 13), His Temple Discourse (Luke 21) and His Revelation to John. The message starts with fervent prayer:

“In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, of the seed of the Medes, which was made king over the realm of the Chaldeans; in the first year of his reign I Daniel understood by books the number of the years, whereof the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah the prophet, that he would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem. And I set my face unto the Lord God, to seek by prayer and supplications, with fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes: and I prayed unto the Lord my God, and made my confession, and said, O Lord, the great and dreadful God, keeping the covenant and mercy to them that love him, and to them that keep his commandments; we have sinned, and have committed iniquity, and have done wickedly, and have rebelled, even by departing from thy precepts and from thy judgments: neither have we hearkened unto thy servants the prophets, which spake in thy name to our kings, our princes, and our fathers, and to all the people of the land. O Lord, righteousness belongeth unto thee, but unto us confusion of faces, as at this day; to the men of Judah, and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and unto all Israel, that are near, and that are far off, through all the countries whither thou hast driven them, because of their trespass that they have trespassed against thee. O Lord, to us belongeth confusion of face, to our kings, to our princes, and to our fathers, because we have sinned against thee. To the Lord our God belong mercies and forgivenesses, though we have rebelled against him; neither have we obeyed the voice of the Lord our God, to walk in his laws, which he set before us by his servants the prophets. Yea, all Israel have transgressed thy law, even by departing, that they might not obey thy voice; therefore the curse is poured upon us, and the oath that is written in the law of Moses the servant of God, because we have sinned against him. And he hath confirmed his words, which he spake against us, and against our judges that judged us, by bringing upon us a great evil: for under the whole heaven hath not been done as hath been done upon Jerusalem. As it is written in the law of Moses, all this evil is come upon us: yet made we not our prayer before the Lord our God, that we might turn from our iniquities, and understand thy truth. Therefore hath the Lord watched upon the evil, and brought it upon us: for the lord our God is righteous in all his works which he doeth: for we obeyed not our voice. And now, O Lord our God, that hast brought thy people forth out of the land of Egypt with a mighty hand, and hast gotten thee renown, as to this day; we have sinned, we have done wickedly.

“O Lord, according to all thy righteousness, I beseech thee, let thine anger and thy fury be turned away from thy city Jerusalem, thy holy mountain: because for our sins, and for the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and thy people are become a reproach to all that are about us. Now therefore, O our God, hear the prayer of thy servant, and his supplications, and cause thy face to shine upon thy sanctuary that is desolate, for the Lord’s sake. O my God, incline thine ear, and hear; open thine eyes, and behold our desolations, and the city which is called by thy name: for we do not present our supplications before thee for our righteousness, but for thy great mercies. O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive; O Lord, hearken and do; defer not, for thine own sake, O my God: for thy city and thy people are called by thy name.”

In this sincere and heartfelt communication with his God, Daniel acknowledges the reasons for the calamity that has befallen the Jews as the precise fulfillment of the warning issued by Moses centuries before in Deuteronomy Chapter 28. But he also evoke the hope also given by Moses in Deuteronomy Chapter 30, that God, despite the falling away of His people, would show mercy to them and forgive their sins. God, in responding to this plea, gives His beloved Daniel a message of His own:

“Yea, whiles I was speaking in prayer, the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the beginning, being caused to fly swiftly, touched me about the time of the evening oblation. And he informed me, and talked with me, and said, O Daniel, I am now come forth to give thee skill and understanding. At the beginning of thy supplications the commandment came forth, and I am come to shew thee; for thou art greatly beloved: therefore understand the matter, and consider the vision.

“Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy.

“Know therefore, and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times. [Daniel 9:25]

“And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself; and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined. And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate.”

The astonishing precision with which Daniel’s prophecies have been fulfilled so far include that given in Daniel 9:25 (see above). The details of this particular fulfillment, in which during the first seven weeks of Daniel’s prophecy the city of Jerusalem is rebuilt, are given in the Book of Nehemiah, a portion of which (Nehemiah 1:11 through 2:8) is repeated below:

“O Lord, I beseech thee, let now thine ear be attentive to the prayer of thy servant, and to the prayer of thy servants, who desire to fear thy name: and prosper, I pray thee, thy servant this day, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man. For I was the king’s cupbearer.

“And it came to pass in the month Nisan, in the twentieth year of Artaxerxes the king, that wine was before him: and I took up the wine, and gave it unto the king. Now I had not been beforetime sad in his presence. Wherefore the king said unto me, Why is thy countenance sad, seeing that thou art not sick? This is nothing else but sorrow of the heart. Then I was very sore afraid, and said unto the king, Let the king live for ever: shy should not my countenance be sad, when the city, the place of my fathers’ sepulchers, lieth waste, and the gates thereof are consumed with fire? Then the king said unto me, For what dost thou make request? So I prayed to the God of heaven. And I said unto the king, If it please the king, and if thy servant have found favour in thy sight, that thou wouldest send me unto Judah, unto the city of my fathers’ sepulchers, that I may build it.

“And the king said unto me, (the queen also sitting by him,) For how long shall thy journey be? And when wilt thou return? So it pleased the king to send me; and I set him a time. Moreover I said unto the king, If it please the king, let letters be given me to the governors beyond the river, that they may convey me over till I come into Judah; And a letter unto Asaph the keeper of the king’s forest, that he may give me timber to make beams ofr the gates of the palace which appertained to the house, and for the wall of the city, and for the house that I shall enter into. And the king granted me, according to the good hand of my God upon me.”

Good hand of God indeed. There is a special reason why the Persian King Artaxerxes (Longimanus) was so amenable to Nehemiah’s request and so readily granted the event that in fulfillment of verse 25 of Daniel’s prophecy began the countdown to the triumphal appearance of Messiah in Jerusalem exactly 69 weeks later. Jerusalem was dear to him also, for he was half Jewish. His mother was Esther.


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