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17 LoRD, thou hast heard the desire of the humble;
18 To judge the fatherless and the oppressed,
When Mordecai had gained access to Esther, through the medium of the eunuchs, he communicated to her the decree of Haman, and the unhappy state of the Jews throughout the provinces, and charged her to “go in unto the king, to make supplication unto him, and to make request before him for her people.” The queen returned answer that such a measure would be likely to prove instant death to her, for, said she, “All the king's servants, and the people of the king's provinces, do know, that whosoever, whether man or woman, shall come unto the king into the inner court, who is not called, there is one law of his to put him to death, except such to whom the king shall hold out the golden sceptre, that he may live; but I have not been called,” added she, “to come in unto the king these thirty days.” The reply of Mordecai was characteristic of his stern courage, and his unconquerable faith in the providence of God. “Think not,” said he, “with thyself that thou shalt escape in the king's house, more than all the Jews. For if thou altogether holdest thy peace at this time, then shall there enlargement and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place; but thou and thy father's house shall be destroyed: and who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” It was a moment of intensest interest. The nation's destiny was suspended in the balances. Not an hour was to be lost. The queen consents. “Go,” said she to Mordecai, “gather together all the Jews that are present in Shushan, and fast ye for me, and neither eat nor drink three days, night or day: I also and my maidens will fast likewise: and so will I go in unto the king, which is not according to the law; and if I perish, I perish.” The hour arrived which was to determine the fate of the nation and the life of the queen. Esther attired herself, and went forth into the central court of the palace, and stood opposite the royal apartment where the king sat upon his throne. As she stood in the court in the range of the entrance gate, where the king received guests, he saw her, though at a distance, and “she obtained favour in his sight; and the king held out to Esther the golden sceptre that was in his hand. So Esther drew near and touched the top of the sceptre.” So extraordinary a visit was not without a corresponding cause, and the king kindly asked her what was her request? The case demanded some delay, and to be approached cautiously; and Esther now addressed herself in courtly formality to the delicate business before her. Two successive banquets, during two successive days, were served by the queen, at which the king and Haman were present. She had during these occasions fully tested the favourable sentiments of the king and was now prepared to disclose the mighty burden of her heart. The secret that she was a Jewess must now be told, and the king's favorite, Haman, must be boldly met and fully exposed. It was an occasion which demanded the courage and fortitude of a hero and a martyr. She could not longer defer the final moment of her request, for which all the previous courtly ceremonies had been undertaken, and to hear which, we may well imagine, the expectation both of the king and Haman was now thoroughly awakened. It was impossible to forestall what would be the effect of the announcement of her Jewish birth, and of the murderous plot of Haman, but she was inspired with the noblest sentiments of patriotism and religion, and was prepared for any result. “And the king said again unto Esther, on the second day at the banquet of wine, ‘What is thy petition, Queen Esther? and it shall be granted thee: and what is thy request? and it shall be performed, even to the half of the kingdom.” Then Esther the queen answered and said, ‘If I have found favour in thy sight, O king, and if it please the king, let my life be given me at my petition, and my people at my request: for we are sold, I and my people, to be destroyed, to be slain, and to perish. But if we had been sold for bondmen and bondwomen, I had held my tongue, although the enemy could not countervail the king's damage.” Then the king Ahasuerus answered and said unto Esther the queen, ‘Who is he, and where is he, that durst presume in his heart to do so o' And Esther said, ‘The adversary and enemy is this wicked Haman.’” These words fell like the death-summons upon the ears of Haman. The king arose from his seat in great anger, and by his countenance Haman quickly saw his doom was sealed. The next hour he was executed upon the gallows he had erected for Mordecai. The queen now informed the king of her relation to Mordecai, who was immediately promoted, and set over the house of Haman. But the impending evil was not yet averted, and the ponderous burden of Esther's heart was not yet relieved. No provision had yet been made for the prevention of the wicked sentence of Haman against the Jews. Haman's edict had gone abroad everywhere, sealed with the king's signet, and it must be counteracted. Wherefore “Esther spake yet again before the king, and fell down at his feet, and besought him with tears to put away the mischief of Haman the Agagite, and his device that he had devised against the Jews. Then the king held out the golden sceptre toward Esther. So Esther arose, and stood before the king, and said, “If it please the king, and if I have found favour in his sight, and the thing seem right before the king, and I be pleasing in his eyes, let it be written to reverse the letters devised by Haman, which he wrote to destroy the Jews which are in all the king's provinces: for how can I endure to see the evil that shall come unto my people ( or how can I endure to see the destruction of my kindred 7” The king again yielded to her entreaty, and invested Mordecai with all the authority of the crown to defeat the mischief that Haman had decreed. It must be remembered, however, that Ahasuerus had no power directly to reverse the decree of Haman. It seems strange to us, and shocking to our sense of justice and propriety, that, by an irreversible law of the realm, the Persian monarchs had no power to recall a sentence, or annul a law, that had once received the king's signet. Cyaxares II., or “Darius the Mede,” had suffered great distress and embarrassment from the inexorable severity of this law, sixty years before, in the case of Daniel. Daniel vi, 1–20. And Ahasuerus, however he might now desire to relieve the distress of Esther, and save the lives of thousands of his unof. fending subjects, had no authority to recall the fatal and sanguinary edict. The most that could now be done was to issue another edict, authorizing the Jews to arm themselves and to stand in their own defence on the day which Haman had fixed for their indiscriminate slaughter. This measure would have the effect virtually to counteract, or practically to annul, the bloody order of Haman, which, by the “laws of the Medes and Persians,” the king could not alter. It would have the effect to intimate the altered mind of the king. None but the baser and more desperate would take advantage of the legal embarrassment of the king and attack the Jews. None would do it but those with whom desire of plunder overbore all motives of justice and humanity. This was now all that could be done for the Jews. When Haman first contemplated the destruction of the Jews, he endeavoured to ascertain, by casting lots, what day of the year would be unlucky to them and favourable to him, in order to fix upon that day for the execution of his plot. In this he was governed by a silly superstition which has always been recognized and practiced among all heathens from the earliest ages. He begun to cast lots for this purpose in the “first month,” (March,) and continued without intermission from day to day, till the “twelfth month,” (February,) and found that the fortunate day for the execution of his purpose, was the twelfth day of Adar. Esther iii, 7. He must, consequently, defer another year for the return of this day. This gave the Jews time to recover themselves through the influence of Esther and Mordecai, and was evidently a disposal of circumstances especially directed by Divine Providence. The Jews received the edict of Mordecai with universal demonstrations of joy. The fall of Haman, and the advancement of Esther and Mordecai to power, had given ascendency to the Jewish party, and brought them into honour before the provinces of the empire. The fatal day set for their destruction arrived. They were armed and stood in their own defence. Bloody scenes were enacted, but the Jews everywhere obtained a signal and terrible victory over their assailants. So great and marvellous was this deliverance, that they ever afterward solemnly observed an annual feast commemorative of the event, called the feast of “Purim,” that is “lots;” because the day of their intended destruction had been determined by the casting of lots.
Psalm crxiv is allowed on all hands to commemorate some great deliverance of the nation from an imminent and overwhelming catastrophe. Dr. A. Clarke says: “It appears to me more likely that it is a thanksgiving of the Jews for their escape from the general massacre intended by Haman, prime minister of Ahasuerus king of Persia.” Read Esther, chapters iii to x.
ON THE DELIVERANCE OF THE JEWS FROM HAMAN. The Church blesseth God for a miraculous deliverance.
T A Song of Degrees of David.
! If it had not been the LoRD who was on our side,
a Prov. 1.12.