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Bible Commentaries
Esther 4

Gaebelein's Annotated BibleGaebelein's Annotated

Verses 1-17



1. The great lamentations of the Jews (Esther 4:1-3 )

2. Esther’s discovery (Esther 4:4-9 )

3. Esther’s helplessness (Esther 4:10-12 )

4. Mordecai’s answer (Esther 4:13-14 )

5. Esther’s decision (Esther 4:15-17 )

Esther 4:1-3 . When Mordecai heard of what had been done and the plan to exterminate his people became known to him he rent his clothes. This and the putting on of sackcloth and ashes were the outward expressions of the most intense grief. The sackcloth was a coarse hair-cloth of a black color. Then his bitter cry and wailing was heard in the midst of the city. Because of the sackcloth, which was also used as a sign of mourning over the dead among the Persians, it was regarded as unclean, and inasmuch as the palace of the king was looked upon as a clean and holy place, Mordecai could not enter the king’s gate. He had to stand outside the wall. And throughout the provinces as the proclamation became known and was read by the condemned race, there was the same weeping and wailing with fasting. Prayer unquestionably was also connected with this grief.

Esther 4:4-9 . Esther in the secluded portion of the palace knew nothing of the great edict which had gone forth. Her maids and chamberlains, whom she may have used to keep in touch with her uncle, then informed her that Mordecai was missing inside of the gate and that he was sitting outside in a most pitiable condition, weeping and wailing. How this report must have shocked Esther! She was exceedingly grieved and then sent raiment to Mordecai. This was according to Persian custom in connection with mourning over the dead that the nearest relations should send the mourner new garments, to put these on instead of the sackcloth. The Jews must have conformed to some of these customs. Esther thought that some one of the family of Mordecai had died. But Mordecai refused the garments for he was not mourning over death. This must have mystified Esther still more. She therefore sent Hathach, one of the king’s chamberlains, her personal attendant, to Mordecai to find out the cause of his mourning.

And Hathach went forth. Mordecai told him of Haman’s plot. As he possessed a copy of the decree he gave it to Hathach to deliver to Esther and then Mordecai’s message to Esther. “To charge her that she should go in unto the king, to make supplication unto him, and to make request before him, for her people.” He did not say “for this people” but “for her people.” This made known to Hathach Esther’s Jewish origin. Mordecai knew the great favor Esther had found before the king and he hoped that her supplication would avert the doom of the race. There is nothing said of Mordecai calling upon God, no record of his supplications to the God of Abraham. Undoubtedly he did call on Him. This is in accord with the character of the people; they are seen as out of the land and out of touch with the Lord. Yet Jehovah in unchanging mercy watcheth over them. And Hathach delivered the message.

Esther 4:10-12 . Esther sent the answer. Mordecai heard the alarming news that the king was unapproachable. Esther herself had not seen his face for a whole month. To enter the king’s presence unbidden would mean sure death. Death to all “except such to whom the king shall hold out the golden sceptre, that he may live.” Esther thus informed Mordecai that she is subject to the same law, and if she transgresseth it, no exception would be made, though she be the queen.

Esther 4:13-14 . Mordecai’s answer to Esther is a sublime one. It would have been quite natural for Mordecai to say “If thou canst not save all the people, at least save me, and the house of thy father, for thou belongest to the unassailable house of the king.” He does not think of his personal interest and safety; it is the salvation of his people which is upon his heart. He knows that Esther is in a position not only to be saved herself, but also to save her people. He gives her to understand if she does not act now and if she holds her peace deliverance for the Jews would be granted through another source. She would lose a great opportunity and she and her father’s house would perish. In these words Mordecai expressed his deep conviction that the Jewish people cannot perish. He knew the history of the past and trusted God that He would find a way out at this time also. And he believed more than this, that Providence had put her on the throne just to effect the deliverance: “Who knoweth whether thou art not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” “The answer of Mordecai is a masterpiece of eloquence. He who loved and cherished Esther as a daughter, seeks now that she should risk her life for the deliverance of Israel. He wills it, because he believes in the deliverance; because he draws from the history of Israel the assurance that as a race they cannot become extinct, and because he sees in the exaltation of Esther the divine purpose to use her in the deliverance. He encourages her to act and to risk her life and this he did by stimulating her faith in an overruling providence and that therefore she had nothing to fear.”

Esther 4:15-17 . She responded to this eloquent appeal; her believing heart had laid hold on the suggestion of her uncle. The Jews are to be gathered together in Shushan, she requests, for three days and three nights, neither to eat nor to drink. She would do the same with her maidens. “And so will I go in unto the king, which is not according to the law, and if I perish, I perish.”

Fasting in the Old Testament is always the symbolic form of prayer; it cannot be disassociated from prayer. In giving this command she expressed her dependence on God and put Him first before attempting to go in to the king. And then her noble word--If I perish, I perish. Her faith measured up to Mordecai’s expectation. She is ready to sacrifice herself in order to save her people. How it reminds us of Him who did more than say, “If I perish, I perish,” who gave Himself and took upon Himself the curse of the law. And Mordecai did according to all that Esther had commanded him.

Typical Application

In the weeping, and wailing of Mordecai and the Jews, the rent clothes, the sackcloth and the ashes, we have a prophetic foreshadowing of the earnest turning to God of the Jewish remnant during the end of this age. How vividly Joel speaks of this man in the name of Jehovah. “Therefore also now saith the LORD, turn ye even to me with all your heart, and with fasting and with weeping, and with mourning” (Joel 2:12 ). And then comes for them the final deliverance as revealed by Joel and foreshadowed in the deliverance of the book of Esther. Mordecai’s faith and Esther’s noble decision are equally typical of the trust and confidence of that godly portion of the Jewish people who will pass through the time of Jacob’s trouble (Jeremiah 30:4 ) and who will be delivered out of it.

As we pointed out in the previous chapter, the great proclamation typifies what God has said as to the race of sinners, that the wages of sin is death. “Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things that are written in the book of the law to do them.” The whole race is therefore under condemnation. And the Jews read this awful proclamation and reading they believed, and believing what was written they gave expression to their grief in fasting and turning to God. Alas! that God’s proclamation telling the sinner of his dreadful condition, of the death and wrath which hangs over him is less believed than the proclamation of the Persian enemy of the Jews. Yet to know and to enjoy real salvation and deliverance, the realization of our real condition as lost sinners is eminently necessary.

As already stated, Esther is a faint type of our Lord in that she was willing to sacrifice herself in behalf of her people; while He gave that blessed life and died for that nation (John 12:27 ).

Bibliographical Information
Gaebelein, Arno Clemens. "Commentary on Esther 4". "Gaebelein's Annotated Bible". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/gab/esther-4.html. 1913-1922.
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