The scenario is in Susa, the capital of the Persian Empire, following Babylon’s fall, where a substantial Jewish diaspora chose to remain behind after Zerubbabel led the first repatriation to Jerusalem. The story of Hadassah reads like a brisk palace intrigue; sub-plots with counter-plots, assassination and genocidal scheming, revenge and killings, and power plays. But the principal character of the narrative remains strangely unidentified, although his fingerprints are clearly recognizable in the story. God is not mentioned once in the Scroll. Several themes run through this enthralling chronicle, but I will just draw only on aspects of these three – the Mordecai-Esther milieu, the Haman-complex, and God’s invisible influence.
Hadassah is a younger cousin to Mordecai, and on her parents’ demise, he adopted her. She turned out to be a beauty with integrity and courage, dignity and wisdom. Mordecai’s far-sighted tutelage of his cousin is nothing short of remarkable, as unknown to him, moulding a potential queen is not accomplished in a jiffy. A raw jewel has to be polished to a point where others see the potential of its value. As Esther, she entered the palace, and her humility and desire to learn endeared her to others. Her new stature as queen and isolation in the palace, however, did not limit her desire to feel connected to her hidden roots and responsibilities, with Mordecai as her informant of the world outside. Time slips by and with the imminence of the Empire’s Final Solution, Mordecai seems to speak on God’s behalf when Esther hesitated to intervene (4:13-14) “who knows if perhaps you were made queen for just such a time as this?” God plans thus far, but the choice still lies with Esther: her own safety by her silence or the possible salvation of her people. A corporate fast and prayer is called by the exiles. Eventually she overcomes her fears as hope triumphs – laying down her life as she reveals her ancestry before her king to plead on behalf of the Jews, as the law governing their annihilation cannot be reversed. Esther realizes that her security did not lie with her exalted status as queen, but in her unchanging God – a journey of faith. When it comes to the crunch, it is imperative that we know our role and responsibility where our Creator has positioned us to the degree of being selflessly objective on the issues before us.
Haman, the Agagite or Amalekite, is Esther’s opposite in character. His arrogance propels him to measure his self-worth by the control or influence he has over others. As a consequence, he cannot accept anyone as his equal, apart from his monarch. His appointment near the pinnacle of power in the kingdom assures him that no mere mortal can challenge him, certainly not exiles. Mordecai’s resistance to bow in submission to him ignited his age long Amalekite-hatred for the Jews giving birth to his pogrom. He became the face of evil. We do not deny the horror of evil, but its power is never equal to God’s, and He always has the final word. A miracle of coincidence orchestrated by an anonymous God brought Mordecai’s earlier heroic deed of uncovering an assassination plot to the king’s attention during an insomniac evening. In the lives of God’s people, such reversals defy human explanation and reason. As events unfold, Haman was eventually impaled on the sharpened pole he intended for Mordecai on the king’s order.
The Lord works in a mysterious way His wonders to perform, and this is one graphic demonstration of the hidden hand of Providence working in circumstances that are not immediately discernible to historical participants, speaking volumes of God’s covenantal plans and interventions for His people. There will be times when in our journey of faith, we must trust the Lord and do the right thing irrespective of the cost to ourselves, knowing that He will vindicate us one day – death notwithstanding, as He has our best interests at heart.