Through the Bible with Les Feldick
LESSON 3 * PART 1 * BOOK 69
FOR SUCH A TIME AS THIS – PART 1
Book of Esther
We’re so glad you’re here this afternoon. For those of you joining us out there on television again, we thank the Lord for every one of you, and especially for your prayers and your giving and your letters. I have to make some comment on the letters. Now, I know I have stressed keeping them short, but I think I overdid it, because too many people will say, “Hi. God bless you. Is that short enough?”
Now, when I say short, I just mean I don’t want a whole ream of eight, ten, twelve pages. A one page letter doesn’t bother us a bit. But, I probably overdid it. Keep them short, but by that I mean not more than a page or so. If you have a testimony to write out and it takes two or three, that’s fine, we’ll still read it. So, again, thank all of you out there for everything.
Okay, we’re going to be doing something a little different today. After studying the Book of Ruth, I couldn’t help but think of the other book written concerning a woman in Israel, the Book of Esther. So, we’re going to look at the Book of Esther in a little bit. But in order to give us biblical permission to really spend a lot of time in the Old Testament, I still like to come back to what Paul says in Romans chapter 15 verse 4 where the apostle writes. Now watch this! This is interesting.
“For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning,…” What’s he referring to? The Old Testament and all the things written back in the Old Testament. You know, a lot of people probably think that since I emphasize Paul, that I’m intimating we don’t need the rest of our Bible. I have never said that! I have never even implied that! It’s just that Paul is writing directly to us Gentiles, and it’s in that area of Scripture that we find those things that are pertinent doctrinally for us. But Paul says, “All Scripture has been inspired of God and is profitable.”
All right, here is another good instance. He refers us back to the Old Testament, not for doctrine. You won’t find the plan of salvation back in the Old Testament. You won’t find a teaching concerning the Rapture in the Old Testament. Those things were all unknown. But look what he says. “Whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning.”
My goodness, I dare say that 90% of even professing Christians really don’t know why they believe what they believe. They really don’t know. Why? They’ve never been taught anything. Now, I read sometime ago and I won’t name the denomination. But I read in the paper of that denomination that 80% of converts to the four major cults – Seventh Day Adventists, Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witness, and at that time it was Worldwide Church of God – 80% of their converts came out of this particular denomination. They were writing it in their own newsletter. Why? They’re so biblically ignorant. When these people come to the door and seemingly are skilled with the Scriptures, hey, they fall for it. This is why we have to learn, learn, learn. God doesn’t want us to remain ignorant. Even Peter says, “That we might grow in grace and knowledge.” Well, how do you grow in grace and knowledge? You study the Scriptures! And not just the New Testament, but even here he says to study the things “that were written aforetime.” All right, I didn’t finish the verse, did I?
“For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.” So, whenever you do study Old Testament, I don’t care whether it’s Jacob and the twelve sons, or whether it’s Joseph or Moses or Noah, it’s all for the purpose of increasing our hope from the Scriptures, because it’s all true.
All right, now the Book of Esther. You can turn back to it, if you haven’t already, here in the studio. I’m going to make a couple of comparisons between these two women. Then I’m going to make a couple of other statements before we actually start studying chapter 1.
Now, since we just finished Ruth, this should all be fresh on your minds, as it is mine. Number one, Ruth was a Gentile who married a Jewish husband. Esther, we’ve got just the inversion. We’ve got a Jewish girl ending up marrying a Gentile husband. Ruth was poverty stricken. She didn’t have anything until she married Boaz. Whereas Esther is in the very center of a sumptuous castle, or capital of the empire, a palace, whatever you want to call it. What a difference. Yet there are so many comparisons.
Now, when we taught the Book of Ruth–I’m going to have to go back and look at it. You can put it on the screen, too. Go back to the Book of Ruth a minute. Chapter 2 I think it was. Go back to Ruth chapter 2. When we were studying it, I said, this is almost the capstone of this little Book of Ruth. In verse 3:
“And she went, and came, (After having come up from Moab with Naomi, remember.) and gleaned in the field after the reapers: (without knowing where she was going or without picking out any particular field) and her hap was to land on a part of the field belonging unto Boaz,…”
She just happened – well, as I said without putting the wrong connotation on it, it was just her good luck we’d say today, even though we don’t like the word luck in Christian terms. But nevertheless, as I mentioned, one of the old Scottish terms came from this very ancient word. That it was just her hap. She accidentally, without any previous conniving, without any previous instruction, she happened to light (or end up gleaning) on a field belonging to Boaz. Well, it was a Divine appointment. It was the very thing that God wanted to be accomplished.
Now you know, as long as I’ve been teaching. I think from the very first program or so that I taught in Genesis. I’m always making the comment: Isn’t it amazing. I can’t understand it, I can’t define it, but I can certainly teach it as a fact, that when God set the whole ball of human history rolling, He never took away the freedom of men and nations to do as they please. Nations build armies. They build navies. They sign peace treaties. They declare war. God isn’t pulling them like a puppet on a string. They’re doing it out of their own free will. Yet here we are now, 6,000 years later, and we’re right on God’s schedule. We’re not a day late.
Well, how does it happen? Well, I can’t explain it, but I know it does. God does not control men and nations like a puppet on a string. Yet after just so much time and Divine appointments, everything is exactly where and when and how He wants it. And that’s one of the miracles of His Book. All right, the same way here with Ruth. He didn’t just take her like a robot and say, okay, here’s the field you’re going to glean. Just through normal circumstances she ends up in the right place.
All right, now in Esther our key verse is going to be Esther chapter 4. Drop down to verse 14. Now here we are centuries later. The Jews have been taken captive, first the northern ten tribes and then a little later Judah. So, they are all out there in the eastern area of what we now call Iraq and Iran. They’re out there in Mesopotamia. Esther, of course, is east of Baghdad, out in what is presently Iran in the ancient city of Susa. We’ll look at that a little later.
But now, in the midst of all these Gentiles, here’s this one Jewish young lady. Nobody knows that she’s a Jewess. She has kept it secret. But her uncle, who was more or less in charge of getting her to where she is in the harem, you might say, of the king. Her uncle Mordecai approaches her. Look what he says.
“Then Mordecai, commanded to answer Esther, Think not with thyself that thou shalt escape in the king’s house, more than all the Jews.” Because, as we’re going to see in a little bit, the decree has gone out to kill every Jew in the kingdom.
Her uncle is telling her don’t think for minute that just because you haven’t told them what you are you’re safe. They’ll find out. They’ll kill you just like they will the rest of us. All right, so that’s what he’s driving at.
“…Think not with thyself that thou shalt escape in the king’s house, more than all the Jews. 14. 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: (Now here’s the part of the verse that I want you to latch on to for the whole afternoon.) and who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom (that is the kingdom of the Medes and Persians) for such a time as this?”
Well, what’s he talking about? To bring the sparing of the Jewish nation. It will rest on one young girl, Esther. All right, now with that as a backdrop, let’s go back to chapter 1. As you’re finding that, I want to remind you and our television audience that from the very moment that God sent the human race on its way down through history, Satan has moved in and does everything he can to thwart God’s plan of the ages.
First, of course, he had Cain rise up and kill Abel. Satan thought he now had God in a dilemma, because, after all, Abel was to be in the line of the righteous. And ol’ Cain got rid of him. Well, it wasn’t Cain’s idea – it was Satan’s. This is the Devil at work.
Well, as we come up to the appearance of the Nation of Israel, immediately Satan goes to work, now on the offspring of Abraham. The first instance, of course, is the confrontation between Ishmael and Isaac. Then it goes a little further, when you get to the confrontation between Jacob and Esau. And it just keeps coming up. Satan is constantly trying to thwart the godly line that’s going to bring about the Messiah.
Anytime that he can disrupt by killing a key person, Satan thinks that he can stop God’s program. And it would. Because, you remember, every jot and tittle that God has prophesied has to be fulfilled. I just told somebody that yesterday on the phone. They were asking about something, and I said, “Well, you just mark it down. If this Book has prophesied something, even though we may think it’s just completely out of comprehension, it will be fulfilled!” It has to. Otherwise, this Book would fall apart.
So, everything that has been prophesied, even though we can’t comprehend it and it may seem to us ridiculous, it will be fulfilled. Judas, I guess, was the one that prompted the question. Judas was a good example. Judas had to betray. Not because God had brought him on the scene for the simple reason that he’s going to be a hardhearted betrayer. But somebody had to betray Jesus Christ, because it was prophesied in the Psalms that there would be a betrayer. It had to happen. All these things that are going to come on the earth, they have to happen because God said it. Well, fortunately, God has said some things concerning Israel. No matter how hard Satan tries. No matter how much he connives to upset God’s prophetic program, he’s never going to succeed. Never! Because then prophecy would fall apart.
All right, so always keep that in mind. So now Satan is at the epitome of his joy, because here in the Book of Esther it’s going to be decreed that every Jew in the then known world was to be put to death. Now think of that. Well, for those of you that are a little older, it wasn’t all that long ago we had another demonic dictator who thought he was going to do the same thing. Hitler. Hitler actually had it in his mind that he would not rest until he had seen every Jew on the planet removed. Well, now we’re hearing this rascal over there in Tehran, the president of Iran. That’s his whole hope. That’s his whole reason for ruling and reigning in the Nation of Iran. He wants to see every Jew thrown into the sea, is their expression, which merely means – destroyed.
Well, the way things are going, you almost wonder if he isn’t going to succeed. But he won’t. But Satan will never quit trying. He will never quit trying. So, all up through Israel’s history the whole premise has been that Satan is trying to stop the prophetic program from being fulfilled. If he can destroy any one of these key players, of course, it would happen. But God won’t let it. All right, here, too, it came close. My, it came close. But, just at the last moment, Esther was God’s instrument. She was there by Divine appointment. She reversed the decree.
All right, now when I first started preparing this, like I was telling Sharon, I thought I would do the whole Book of Esther, just skim through it maybe in a half hour program or maybe two. The more I got into it, I thought, I can’t do that. I’m just going to have to take it verse by verse. There’s just too much good stuff in here to skim over. So, even those of you out in television, I hope you’ll bear with me. We’re going to take this Book of Esther even though it’s relatively unknown. I don’t image anybody ever studies it verse by verse. But I think you’ll agree with me that it’s time well spent. All right, let’s just start at verse 1 chapter 1.
“Now it came to pass in the days of Ahasuerus, (this is Ahasuerus who reigned, from India even to Ethiopia, over 127 provinces:)” That is the then known world. All the way from India back west to the Mediterranean and down into Africa.
Now the term Ahasuerus is not his name. It’s just a term like Pharaoh or King or Premier. His real name was Astyages (in the Greek). He ends up, believe it or not, as one historian has decreed, not all will agree, but this one line of history decrees that this king that married Esther is also the father of Cyrus, who was named 150 years, you remember, before he was born. It was Cyrus that made the decree to the Jews to go back and rebuild Jerusalem and the Temple. So, all these things are falling in place.
“That in those days,…” Now this is back, remember, in the Mede and Persian Empires, east even of present day Baghdad. If you’ve got a map in the back of your Bible, when we have break time, look it up. Susa was the city. Shushan was the palace. It was in the area of present day Iran, a little north of the Persian Gulf and a little bit further east than the headwaters of the Euphrates.
“That in those days, when the king Ahasuerus sat on the throne of his kingdom, which was in Shushan the palace, (And Susa was the name of the city.) 3. In the third year of his reign, he made a feast unto all his princes and his servants; the power of Persia and Media, (See, that’s why we call it the Mede and Persian Empires.) the nobles and the princes of the provinces, being before him: 4. When he showed the riches of his glorious kingdom and the honor of his excellent majesty many days, even an hundred and fourscore.” That’s 180 days. That’s six-months! Six months of partying is what it really amounts to.
“And when these days were expired, the king made a feast unto all the people that were present in Shushan the palace, both unto great and small, seven days, in the court of the garden of the king’s palace;” Now, I read an interesting thing in an archaeology magazine the other day. A lot of people just slough this off and they think, oh well, this is just some Jewish figment of imagination and so forth, but no.
Here not too long ago, the archaeologists actually uncovered this ancient city of Susa, which of course had been covered up like most of those ancient cities were. They could still see the remains of the floor plan of that palace, and it fit perfectly the description here in the Book of Esther. I mean fit it perfectly. Like, from one palace to a garden, or one dining room to a garden into another one. And it was all laid out in the foundation stones, so that we know that this is not just some frivolous writing. All right, now verse 6; look at the sumptuousness of these monarchs and their palaces.
“Where were white, green, and blue hangings, (that is curtains.) fastened with cords of fine linen and purple to silver rings and pillars of marble: the beds were of gold and silver,…” Now, I’ve got to stop right there again. Most of you have seen even, I think, at the last supper. How did people at the time of even the Roman Empire, how did they sit at tables? Well, they reclined on couches. That was evidently what we’re referring to here. These were what we would normally refer to as our dining room chairs. It was instead their dining room couches on which they reclined as they ate.
“…the beds (these couches) were of gold and silver, upon a pavement (they’re resting on a floor) of red, and blue, and white, and black, and marble.” Now, use a little imagination. They must have been beautiful! Now remember, this is back about nearly 600 BC. I had to think for a minute. Not quite, probably around 575 BC or 580 BC. That’s a long time ago. I suppose most of us have gotten the idea that in antiquity everybody lived like cavemen. No. They lived sumptuously. They had beauty all around them.
As we study this, I want you to be mindful as well that when we refer to these parties that they’re going to be having here in the palace of the king, what happens whenever a foreign dignitary comes to Washington? What do they have? Well, they have big White House dinners. It is the same thing here. They show the best that America has got. Money doesn’t mean a thing! Because, after all, they’re drawing their money, taxes, from so many million people.
I was reading the other day, and this is interesting. This guy was decrying the billions of dollars that we give to the United Nations. I would tend to agree. I mean, it’s just like pouring it down a rat hole. But even though it was billions of dollars, what it really boiled down to was just a few cents per head for you and me. Well, I’m not going to get all exercised if it’s only costing me 30 cents to supply the United Nations. But see, that’s the way the whole thing works. When you get these multitudes of tax dollars working, it doesn’t amount to anything, because there is so much of it coming in.
Well, they were the same way. Now, we’re going to see a little later on in the Book that the rank and file people in the street, as we say today, were living a life of misery. They were just barely existing. But, oh, the elite, they lived sumptuously. Well, I’ll never forget that when Communism fell, and all of a sudden it was revealed that all the apparatchiks as we called them in Russia were the same way. The Russian peasants were poor and devastated, but here they’d been living like these kings. Well, it’s been that way now for thousands of years. That’s what I want you to see – how they lived so sumptuously.
“And they gave them drink in vessels of gold, (the vessels being different one from another,) and royal wine in abundance, according to the state of the king.” What’s going to happen to these people? Well, they’re going to be drunk as lords. Yeah, they did. They drank until they were drunk. All right, verse 8, but fortunately here in the Medes and Persians they did have a limit.
“And the drinking was according to the law; none did compel; (In other words, none were compelled to partake. If they didn’t want to, they didn’t have to.) for so the king had appointed to all the officers of his house, that they should do according to every man’s pleasure.” If he wanted to get soused, he could. If he didn’t want to, he didn’t have to. Now, here we come to the first major player, Vashti the queen, the king’s wife.
“Also Vashti the queen made a feast for the women in the royal house which belonged to king Ahasuerus.” Besides the feast that’s already being held for the men, Vashti has now put up one for the women in the royal house.
“On the seventh day, (seven days of banqueting) when the heart of the king was merry with wine, (See how plain the language is? He’s already three sheets to the wind.) he commanded Mehuman, Biztha, Harbona, and Bigtha, and Abagtha, Zethar, and Carcas, the seven chamberlains (Now, they were usually eunuchs.) that served in the presence of Ahasuerus the king, 11. To bring Vashti the queen before the king with the crown royal, to show the people and the princes her (What?) beauty: for she was fair to look on.”
So, what you’re going to see throughout the whole Book of Esther is one humongous beauty pageant. That’s what the whole book’s about. Who is the most beautiful girl in Persia? All right, so Vashti has her own role. So, they are commanded to bring Vashti in to see her beauty, for she was fair to look on.
“But the queen Vashti refused to come at the king’s commandment by his chamberlains: therefore was the king very wroth, and his anger burned in him.”
Now, let’s just compare history with history. Had they pulled that on Nero, what would have happened to her? Why, she’d have been dead in thirty seconds. That’s the way a lot of the monarchs were. What prompted this guy to spare her, I still haven’t figured out. There’s nothing in the Book of Esther to indicate that he ever had her put to death. She merely was removed from her place of preeminence as his queen. And that, of course, is what brings about the appearing of Esther. All right, our time’s just about gone. We’ll just take one more verse.
“Then the king said to the wise men, who knew the times, (for so was the king’s manner toward all that knew law and judgment:” And so on and so forth. And when they saw, down in verse 14, the king’s face:
“…which saw the king’s face, and which sat the first in the kingdom;) 15. What shall we do unto the queen Vashti according to the law,…” Now, that’s where I’ll have to stop. We’ll pick it up in our next program.