The Book of Esther: A Display of God's Providence
The biblical book of Esther presents a powerful exhibition of God’s providence. Some of the smallest details mentioned in the book turn out to be indispensable links in the chain of events.
Consider the following occurrences which at face value appear to be inconsequential:
Each of these seemingly insignificant details is essential in the development and outcome of the plot.
Each key figure in the narrative has their true character increasingly revealed and solidified as they face difficult decisions (e.g., Because Haman takes offense at one Jew who will not bow to him, Haman is willing to order a complete genocide against the Jewish nation).
In the Esther narrative, as in all of history, God’s providence is carried out through a string of second causes. A “second cause” is an act or decision performed by an individual. Central to the understanding of second causes is that the decisions people make are NOT made by divine compulsion (from the outside). The decisions made by people are decisions which are agreeable to their nature, character and wishes. Second causes brought Esther to the throne. Her selection was NOT like a lottery. Her advancement to the position of queen depended upon second causes -- her submission, her beauty, her wisdom, her teachability, her grace and her purity were all involved.
God normally accomplishes His providence through the use of ordinary means (the exception would be when He works above ordinary means by the supernatural and miraculous – God’s direct working through the miraculous falls under the category of first cause).
As the plot in the Esther narrative rises to its climax, the tension becomes like a taut rope ready to snap. In 3:13, the decree to annihilate all Jews and seize their property becomes irrevocable law (the laws of the Medes and Persians could not be overturned). In 5:14, Haman constructs gallows to have Mordecai hung. In 6:4-9, Haman’s timing in seeking permission to hang Mordecai could not have been more ill advised (the king wants to honor Mordecai at that very moment). In 7:7-10, Haman’s plea for his life at the banquet is interpreted by the king as an assault upon the queen.
Consider what God accomplishes in the account of Esther. Meek little Esther pushes for a one day extension for the execution of the Gentile anti-Semites until finally 80,000 are killed! Only God could allow Medo-Persian Gentiles to pass a law which would permit captive Jews to legally kill 80,000 Gentiles who were anti-Semitic. Think of it, a pagan king allows Jews in his kingdom to legally round up and execute every known enemy of theirs.
The truly amazing thing is how God did it. He brought it to pass by first allowing an irrevocable law to be passed that called for a total Jewish genocide (3:13). But God turned the tables, and He did so through a Jewish orphaned virgin whom He brought to the throne of a world empire.
The first decree that called for the destruction of the Jews was necessary in order to bring out of the woodwork every enemy of the Jews. The second decree reversed the whole situation in a moment of time, for suddenly the victims become the judges.
Only those who believed in the God of Scripture understood the might of God’s providential dealings. (So also, only the believer in God’s Word understands history.) Both Mordecai and Esther understood that God had ordained her rise to queen in order to rescue the Jewish nation from its bitter enemies (See 4:13,14).
1.) How did the characters of the personalities in the book become increasingly revealed and manifested? (Name some of the circumstances that revealed character.)
2.) Why do you think that God allowed the circumstances to be so hostile to the Jews before He turned things around for their benefit?
3.) Discuss the risks taken by Esther in order to save her people.
4.) List the second causes that brought Esther to the throne.
5.) Comment on Haman’s speech before his friends and family. What did it say about his character? How did he respond to their suggestions?
6.) Explain why the “dread of Mordecai” came upon the people. How did God bring this about? (see 9:3 ff.)