Friday, March 3, 2017

Queen Esther: A Destiny Fulfilled. Day 14, Victory For The Jews

Queen Esther:
A Destiny Fulfilled
Day 14
Victory For The Jews

The time is fulfilled for the edict that the evil Haman induced King Xerxes to sign.

"On the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, the month of Adar, the edict commanded by the king was to be carried out." (Esther 9:1a) The twelfth month of the Jewish calendar is not our December but March. It just so happens that, as we study the book of Esther, we are currently in the month of Adar.

"On this day the enemies of the Jews had hoped to overpower them, but now the tables were turned and the Jews had hoped to overpower them, but now the tables were turned and the Jews got the upper hand over those who hated them." (Esther 9:1b) Haman wasn't the only person in the kingdom who harbored racially motivated hatred toward the Jews. They still have enemies willing to carry out the edict for exterminating all the Jews in the Medo-Persian Empire. But because the king has signed a new bill into law, the Jews are allowed to defend themselves, and they've had several months to arm themselves and train for battle.

"The Jews assembled in their cities in all the provinces of King Xerxes to attack those determined to destroy them. No one could stand against them, because the people of all the other nationalities were afraid of them. And all the nobles of the provinces, the satraps, the governors and the king's administrators helped the Jews, because fear of Mordecai had seized them. Mordecai was prominent in the palace; his reputation spread throughout the provinces, and he became more and more powerful." (Esther 9:2-4) Some of the king's high officials may have wanted to join in the slaughter of the Jews, but they were afraid to do so. Mordecai is now the king's right-hand-man and they fear his power. Who knows what punishment Mordecai might mete out to avenge his people?

Yet there still remain enemies who are willing to fight against the Jews, because we find them engaged in battle. "The Jews struck down all their enemies with the sword, killing and destroying them, and they did what they pleased to those who hated them. In the citadel of Susa, the Jews killed and destroyed five hundred men. They also killed Parshandatha, Dalphon, Aspatha, Poratha, Adalia, Aridatha, Parmashta, Arisai, Aridai and Vaizatha, the ten sons of Haman son of Hammedatha, the enemy of the Jews. But they did not lay their hands on the plunder." (Esther 9:5-10) In Esther 8:11 the Jews were given the right to seize the property of all those they would defeat in this battle, but they decline. The Bible doesn't tell us why, but perhaps they wanted nothing to do with the belongings of those who hated them. Up til now the Jews had enjoyed a fairly prosperous existence in the Persian kingdom, owning their own houses and lands and businesses, and they have no need of the spoils of battle. I believe their disdain for the property of their enemies reflects a great faith in the Lord. He has protected them and provided for them thus far; they trust Him to continue to provide everything they will ever need.

"The number of those killed in the citadel of Susa was reported to the king that same day. The king said to Queen Esther, 'The Jews have killed and destroyed five hundred men and the ten sons of Haman in the citadel of Susa. What have they done in the rest of the king's provinces? Now what is your petition? It will be given you. What is your request? It will also be granted.'" (Esther 9:11-12) The king asks Esther what more he can do for her people. 

"'If it pleases the king,' Esther answered, 'give the Jews in Susa permission to carry out this day's edict tomorrow also, and let Haman's ten sons be impaled in poles.'" (Esther 9:13) Haman's sons are already dead but it was an ancient custom to display the bodies of defeated enemies on poles as a warning to others. It was considered a shame and disgrace to have one's body hanged on a pole. Esther wants the enemies of the Jews to see what happens to anyone who hates the covenant people of God. 

"So the king commanded that this be done. An edict was issued in Susa, and they impaled the ten sons of Haman. The Jews in Susa came together on the fourteenth day of the month of Adar, and they put to death in Susa three hundred men, but they did not lay their hands on the plunder." (Esther 9:14-15) Esther realized there were still deadly enemies of the Jews in the kingdom and, if not dealt with now, they would have to be dealt with in the future. If King Saul had dealt with Haman's forebears the Amalekites (from which King Agag and the Agagites were descended) as God commanded him, the Jews would not have had to deal with them in the time of Esther. This young Jewish woman, the Queen of Persia, is simply fulfilling the command that King Saul failed to carry out, "This is what the Lord Almighty says: 'I will punish the Amalekites for what they did to Israel when they waylaid them as they came up from Egypt. Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy all that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys." (1 Samuel 15:1-3) 

Old Testament vengeance seems harsh to us in our times, particularly the deaths of children. I cannot fully understand or explain such a command from God except to say that He called the Amalekites "wicked people" in 1 Samuel 15:18. They were wicked when Israel came out of Egypt, they were wicked in the days of King Saul, and they would be wicked in the future. God sees all of time all at once and He knew nothing was going to change the hatred of the Amalekites for the Jews. They are the offspring of Esau's line and we recall that the Lord disliked Esau while he was still in the womb, before he had yet done anything good or anything bad, because God was able to look into the future and see what kind of man Esau was going to be. He knew Esau would never have any heart for Him. He knew Esau would always be carnally minded and not spiritually minded. I think the same principle is at work when the Lord commands the Amalekites to be wiped out. He knew that as long as the Amalekites lived they would persecute the Jews. They were never going to turn to the Lord and love Him or love their fellow man. Taking them out of the world was the only way to solve this problem. 

"Meanwhile, the remainder of the Jews who were in the king's provinces also assembled to protect themselves and get relief from their enemies. They killed seventy-five thousand of them but did not lay their hands on the plunder. This happened on the thirteenth day of the month of Adar, and on the fourteenth they rested and made it a day of feasting and joy. The Jews in Susa, however, had assembled on the thirteenth and fourteenth, and then on the fifteenth they rested and made it a day of feasting and joy. That is why rural Jews---those living in villages---observe the fourteenth of the month of Adar as a day of joy and feasting, a day for giving presents to each other." (Esther 9:16-19) Is there any greater joy or sense of relief when we realize we are not soon to perish? Have you ever gotten suspicious test results and had to wait anxiously to see how your follow-up tests would come out? Is there any better feeling than when those tests come back clear? When we receive scary news we can't help thinking the worst, picturing ourselves dying of some lingering disease, and then when we are told it was a false alarm we feel like jumping up and down for joy. This is how the entire population of the Jews felt as they celebrated their victory. They are able to say along with King David, "I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living." (Psalm 27:13)

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