Esther in the Bible is often praised for her courage, shrewdness, and her faithful obedience to her guardian Mordecai. But did you know that Esther represents much more than a brave Jewish queen in Persia? That Mordecai is actually the great hero of the story? Or that Queen Esther teaches us important lessons on how to deal with challenges the Christian way? Learn all of this and more in this article.
The Book of Esther was most likely written between 486 and 465 BC, during the reign of King Ahasuerus (also called Xerxes) of Persia. In those days, the Jews were living in a land that wasn’t their home, since they had been taken captive by King Nebuchadnezzar.
Interestingly, the Book of Esther never mentions God’s name and it doesn’t mention prayer. I believe that this was done on purpose so that the historic events could be shared freely, and did not have to be hidden. Because through the eyes of an unbeliever, the story seems to give credit to King Ahasuerus, Queen Esther, and Mordecai. Which all comes down to the glorification of the king. As you will see after reading this in-depth article: This is all part of God’s amazing providence.
When you read the Book of Esther in what I like to call 3D, you will find that the events actually symbolically speak about events from Genesis all the way to Revelation!
The parallels I see are too numerous to mention all of them, but a great start is to analyze the main persons and see whom they resemble.
King Ahasuerus had great wealth and great power, and he lived in a palace that in splendor resembles the temple Solomon built for God.
When he held a feast in the garden of his palace, he called for his beautiful wife Vashti to show her off, but she refused to come. He was enraged and talked to the wise men who were by his side about how to deal with the situation according to the law.
They saw her refusal as an act of rebellion that would set a bad precedent for all the other women in the kingdom. They wanted to prevent all the other women from rebelling against their husbands’ authority and avoid the contempt and wrath that would flow from that, so they advised the king to write an irrevocable law. That law said that Vashti could never enter the king’s presence again- for all women should give honor to their husbands. They also wanted him to give Vashti’s position to another who was better than her.
Does this remind you of another event in the Bible?
It reminds me of Genesis 3, which describes how Eve was cursed and expelled from the Garden of Eden as a result of her rebellion against God. God then told her that her husband would rule over her (verse 16). Eve had been living in the closest imaginable proximity to God, but from that point on, she was expelled from His presence.
Although Eve was the first, all who rebel against God or the authority instituted by God, bring judgment on themselves (Romans 13:2). And I believe that Vashti’s judgment illustrates this distancing from God.
Now you might start to see the picture God is painting through the people and events in this Book: King Ahasuerus seems to be a depiction of God the Father. Once you realize that, you can also decipher the symbolic meaning of his scepter and his eunuchs.
We learn about the king’s scepter when Esther says: “All the king’s servants and the people of the king’s provinces know that if any man or woman goes to the king inside the inner court without being called, there is but one law—to be put to death, except the one to whom the king holds out the golden scepter so that he may live. But as for me, I have not been called to come in to the king these thirty days.” (Esther 4:11, ESV)
We know from various books in the Old Testament and Hebrews 9:1-10 that people weren’t allowed into the inner courts, the Most Holy Place of the temple of God, where the Law of God resided. The priest had to be called, cleansed, and anointed to be able to do so unpunished.
The king’s scepter in the Book of Esther might have been a representation of this: Only when God extends His mercy, may we enter His presence and live.
Sinners cannot normally enter the presence of God, but Jesus’ sacrifice has paved the way for us. By His blood, He secured our sanctification, so that we may come before His throne and make a request.
Psalm 45 beautifully talks about God and His scepter: “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom. You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions.” (Hebrews 1:8-9, ESV)
The king’s eunuchs
Early on in the Book, we learn that the king is served by eunuchs (Esther 1:10), in other words, castrated men. It wasn’t uncommon for kings to be served by eunuchs. We read about it in for example Isaiah 39:7, Jeremiah 38:7, Daniel 1:3, and we continue to read about them in the New Testament.
But if you look closely at the job King Ahasueres’ eunuchs had, don’t you agree that they resemble God’s angels?
Let’s see if this comparison holds true throughout the Bible.
- The eunuchs guarded the gate to the palace garden (2:21). When Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden of Eden, God placed one or more cherubim (a kind of angel) to guard the way to the Tree of Life.
- The eunuchs served in the presence of the king (1:10) and spoke to him (7:9). We know from the Book of Job that angels also come in the presence of God and speak to Him.
- They delivered commands and messages (1:10-15, 4:4-17). In the Old Testament angels were often tasked with delivering God’s commands and messages to people. And Paul says that the Law was put in place through angels (Galatians 3:19). In the New Testament we still see that angels communicate messages, for example in Luke 1 when angels announced Jesus’ birth, and in Revelation where angels spoke to John and Jesus spoke to the angels of the churches.
- The eunuchs attended to anyone over whom the king put them in charge (2:3, 2:14, 2:15). We see angels ministering in various ways throughout the Bible, for example when they ministered to Jesus in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1).
- They carried or accompanied people from one place to another (6:14). We see this happening with Abraham’s servant in Genesis 24, and the nation of Israel in Exodus 14 and 23. And Jesus said that when Lazarus died, he was carried by angels to Abraham’s side (Luke 16:22).
Jesus also seems to compare angels to eunuchs when He explains that people will not marry anymore after death; for they will be like angels in heaven (Mark 12:25).
Esther’s relative Mordecai was a Jew, who came from Jerusalem, the city of God (Psalm 135:21, Hebrews 12:22). He was a father to Esther since her parents (his uncle and aunt) had died.
We can conclude from the way the events unfold, that Mordecai was very wise. We are not told why, but for some reason, he knew ahead of time that it would be wise for Esther not to make known that she was Jewish.
He also found out about the eunuchs plotting against the king and knew how to deal with the situation wisely and with respect for the king.
So, when he persistently refused to praise and bow down to Haman (the king’s highest official and an evil man), it was not a matter of foolishness or of disrespecting his authorities, but of something else.
The reason he gives to the king’s servants is that he is a Jew. And Jews were not allowed to bow down in worship to anything but God (Exodus 20:4-6, Daniel 3).
Mordecai would talk to Esther every day that she was in the court, clearly caring about her. And Esther faithfully followed his commands, just as she did when she was brought up by him (Esther 2:20). Because she obeyed his wise instructions, the destruction of the Jews, including him and Esther, was averted.
You might have guessed by now, but Mordecai seems to be a picture of Jesus. Let me show you some of the parallels:
A good Father
Esther’s birth parents were dead, and Mordecai took her as his own daughter. That is precisely what Jesus does for us: He adopts us to be His child.
“In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will,” (Ephesians 1:11, ESV).
Just like Mordecai cared for and about Esther, Jesus cares for us and about us too.
He teaches us to obey Him more and more, to faithfully follow His commands. For His good (glory), for the good of His people, but also for our own good. Obeying is always for our own good because if we don’t follow His instructions we will be destroyed too.
When Esther was hesitant to obey because she was afraid, Mordecai told her: “Do not think to yourself that in the king’s palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews. For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:13-14, ESV).
How true is this for us today! After a while of receiving God’s blessings, we might just start to get comfortable and forget that we have been chosen for a purpose. Our ministry is important, but if we don’t do it, God can raise up someone else to do it. And where will that leave us?
Jesus has warned us many times: Trees that don’t produce good fruit will be cut down (Matthew 21:43, Luke 3:9).
Persecuted for righteousness
Mordecai refused to bow down to the enemy (Haman), just like Jesus refused to bow down to Satan (Matthew 4:9). And for that, he was hated and persecuted, just like Jesus. Haman tried to get to Mordecai by killing all Jews, just like Satan persecuted Jesus and all of His people (John 15:20, Revelation 12:13-17).
Haman wanted to hang Mordecai on a wooden pole or beam (Esther 5:14). And, interestingly, the Hebrew word for wooden beam or pole is mostly used for the word tree (e.g. in Genesis 1:11 and 3:1, or Proverbs 11:30).
And what did Satan do to Jesus? Acts 5:30 (ESV) says it as follows: “The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree.”
But what the enemy meant for evil, God intended for good. Because instead of killing Mordecai, he actually exalted him. He had to dress Mordecai in royal robes and lead him on a horse through the square of the city while proclaiming that that was precisely what would be done to the one the king delights to honor.
Mordecai did nothing special to deserve this treatment, all he did was be humble and faithful to the king. And the same applies to us: if we are humble and faithful to God, He delights in lifting us up in due time (Luke 18:9-14).
At the Father’s right hand
Mordecai’s honor did not end there. After Haman’s defeat, the king gave Mordecai royal robes and a great golden crown and made him second in rank to himself. He was feared and he was popular amongst his people (Esther 8:15, Esther 10).
Now compare this to Jesus’ words:
“Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” He said this to show by what kind of death he was going to die.” (John 12:31-33, ESV)
After the defeat of the enemy, Jesus would be lifted up on the cross, but then also raised up and exalted. Then God gave Him all authority in heaven and on earth (Matthew 28:18).
The end-time harvest
When Jesus explains the parable of the weeds in Matthew 13, He says this:
“The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world, and the good seed is the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one, and the enemy who sowed them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. Just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place, there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.” (Matthew 13:37-43, ESV).
So, God’s people will be separated from the rest, and evil will be rooted out. In Revelation 6-9 we see this happening through angels on horses, in response to opening the sealed scroll. And that as a consequence, people greatly feared God and Jesus (Revelation 6:15-17).
When you read what Mordecai was doing, it is very much the same! He sent out messengers on royal horses with sealed letters saying that the Jews (God’s initial people) were allowed to gather and defend themselves against all their enemies. The result was that a great number of evildoers were destroyed, and people greatly feared the Jews and Mordecai (Esther 9:2-3). Because of this, the Jews had light, gladness, joy, and honor (8:16), which sounds a lot like Jesus’ words: “The righteous will shine like the sun.”
Sharing the Word
There are many more parallels concerning Mordecai and Jesus, but I would like to address just one more that I think is particularly interesting. On three occasions we see that Mordecai shares a word. The first was when Mordecai was deeply troubled and made sure that Esther got a copy of the king’s decree that would lead to the destruction of the Jews (Esther 4:8). The decree could not be revoked, because what the king had sealed with his signet ring, was irrevocable. Esther needed to see the decree for herself so that she knew why and how to plead for mercy. But before she would be able to plead for mercy, she had to be allowed to enter the presence of the king.
The second time was when Mordecai wrote a decree to save the Jews all throughout the kingdom. That decree did not undo the first, but it extended power to the Jews to defend themselves against their enemies. Many enemies were defeated as a consequence of this decree.
The third time is when Mordecai sent a letter to command the yearly celebration of their deliverance (Esther 9:20). To commemorate that their sorrow was turned into gladness, and mourning into a holiday. They should feast, send food to one another, and gifts to the poor.
Then Esther also wrote a letter together with Mordecai to confirm these practices and sent it to all the Jews. The letters were written, “in words of peace and truth” (Esther 9:30).
These three occasions remind me of the irrevocable Law of God. The Law as it was, could not save us from sin, and therefore it led to death (Romans 7). On top of that, one needed special permission to enter the presence of God to plead for mercy.
When Jesus came, He did not come to abolish the Law, but to fulfill it (Matthew 5:17). Jesus made a new covenant with us, that didn’t undo the first, but added something new: Through the power of His Spirit, we would be able to defeat sin.
His Spirit of Truth gives us joy and peace, and when the time is right, there will be no more death, mourning, crying, or pain, and we will reign with the Lord forever and ever (Revelation 21:4, 22:5).
Now that we have discussed the parallels between Mordecai’s life and Jesus’s, you might wonder what Esther’s role would be.
I believe that Esther represents the Bride, aka the Church and the Body of Christ (Revelation 21:2, 22:17).
And this is why I say that:
In Ephesians 1:5 Paul says: “he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will,” (ESV), by which he is referring to the Church.
Esther was adopted by Mordecai and then presented as a bride to the king. All for a purpose that God had in mind long before Esther lived.
Besides being raised by Mordecai, Esther had to be beautified for quite some time before she was ready to be presented to the king. This seems to be a picture of the process of sanctification we go through as individual Christians and together as the Church as written in Ephesians 5:23-27 (NIV):
“For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.”
So as you can see, the picture of a bride being obedient to Jesus and the Father is not an unfamiliar one.
Obedience and favor
The Book of Esther mentions that Esther found favor on different occasions. But what is favor, really?
A dictionary describes favor as support, approval, or showing a preference for one person. And that is exactly what happened to Esther in those cases.
If you pay close attention to the story of Esther, you will see that before she is looked upon with favor, she has shown some kind of obedience:
- While she obeyed Mordecai’s command not to make her Jewish background known, she found favor in the eyes of Hegai, one of the king’s servants (2:9-10).
- When she followed the advice of Hegai, not to take what she desired but what he thought was best for the cause, she found favor in the king’s eyes (2:15-17).
- As she went boldly before the throne of the king in obedience to Mordecai, she found favor in the king’s eyes (5:2).
And isn’t that precisely what Jesus teaches us now? That obedience leads to favor?
The verses I mentioned from Ephesians 5 say that Christ is the head of the Church and that He is also the Church’s Savior. In other words: If we obey Christ, He saves us. Just like Esther was saved through obeying Mordecai.
But numerous other Bible verses teach us the same thing. Like John 3:36: “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.” (ESV).
And for example Psalm 34:15: “The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous and his ears toward their cry.” (ESV).
You will find other examples in John 15:10, Deuteronomy 11:13-15, Daniel 9:4, and Luke 8:21.
And of course, we obey Him because we love Him and trust Him, just like Esther did with Mordecai (John 14:15-21). Not because of fear, but despite the fear.
As you can see, the challenges Esther faced got harder and scarier as time went on. But she has a history of obedience (2:20) and so, even though it was frightening, she was prepared for the purpose she was given: to save many people through her obedient petitioning.
And in her obedience, the road was paved before her.
Let that be an encouragement to us: Whichever challenges we face, as long as we obey Jesus, He will hear us and He will come to our rescue. He will make a way for us!
Like I said before, prayer isn’t mentioned anywhere in the Book of Esther, or is it?
Well, if you look at all the symbolism, praying is exactly what she did. She went to the king, fell at his feet weeping and pleading for the king to do what is in his power: to save the lives of many.
That sounds a lot like what we do when we pray to God.
Each time she makes a request of the king, she adds: “If it pleases the king.” And isn’t that what we do? Praying that God’s will be done?
She was scared to approach the king because it might cost her her life, but Mordecai emboldened her. The symbolism holds true here as well: Through Jesus, we can boldly come before the throne of God with our request.
This is what Paul says about that: “His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.” (Ephesians 3:10-12 NIV)
So, when you face a challenge that seems way beyond your capacity to handle, I would advise you to do as Esther did: Fast and petition the One Who can actually resolve the problem.
Ruling with Jesus
Towards the end of the Book of Esther, we read that Mordecai’s power rose to the point that he became second in rank to the king. His people had light, gladness, joy, and honor (8:16). And also much like Jesus, he was looking out for the welfare of his people and he spoke peace to them.
And we also see that Mordecai and Esther worked together in exercising this authority. Just like the Church will one day rule with Christ (Revelation 3:21, 5:10, Ephesians 1:22-23).
One day, the suffering will be over. Put your hope in Jesus and know that one day there will be light, gladness, joy, and honor.
Haman is clearly the antagonist in the Book of Esther. With his evil schemes he fulfills what is said in James 3:16 (ESV): “For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.”
He did the opposite of obeying the Lord’s commands. All he did was hate and seek glory for himself.
But like the devil can’t do anything without God’s permission, Haman could not do anything without the permission of King Ahasuerus. And his evil deeds did not go unpunished: in the end, all the bad he did, struck him in the head like a boomerang.
And that is why Jesus teaches us to be kind to everyone. Even if we feel hurt, offended, or harmed in any way, we should treat people the way we would like to be treated, and love them even if they are our enemies. If we do not want to be condemned, then we should not condemn. If we want to be forgiven, we should forgive (Luke 6:27-37).
It was written in their names
If you have read any of the other articles I have written, you might know how I like to show you the meaning behind the names, and how those names demonstrate God’s providence. This Book is no different, as the hand of God is clearly present in the names He gave the key players in these events. Let’s look at some of them, and see how they fit perfectly in the parallels I have shown you throughout this article.
Esther means star or myrtle. Her Hebrew name Hadassah also means myrtle. It’s clear that a star emits light, which is precisely the role of the Church here on earth: to be a light in the darkness, as Jesus is Light (Matthew 5, Luke 11, John 1, John 9:5).
The symbolic meaning of myrtle might be less clear to us now, but its use throughout the Bible is very meaningful.
- Myrtle was used to provide temporary shelter (Nehemiah 8:15), and so is the Church here on earth.
- As a result of people seeking the Lord, God in His mercy shall cause the myrtle to grow instead of the brier (a thorny plant). He will do this to make a name for Himself, an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off (Isaiah 55:13). That is also a reference to the Church.
- And perhaps the clearest representation is in the vision of Zechariah (Zechariah 1:7-17), who saw a man on a red horse standing among myrtle trees. This man, I believe, represents Jesus. The reason I think that, is because He explains that the horses behind Him are sent by God to patrol the earth. And that seems to be a direct link to Revelation 6 where the riders of these horses came to bring judgment on this earth. Jesus standing among the myrtle trees seems to be a beautiful picture of Him and His Church.
This name is said to mean lion-king, prince, head, and chief. Which speaks for itself.
Mordecai means: Of Bitter Oppression. Mordecai was bitterly oppressed since Haman, the enemy of the king and the Jews, was plotting to kill him with shrewd tactics.
The meaning of the name Haman isn’t as clear-cut, since it is Persian, but it seems to mean “illustrious”, or “magnificent”, and to Jewish ears, the pronunciation sounds like the word for a noisy multitude.
Well, his arrogance certainly aligned with those meanings. But as you might know, the devil started out as a very powerful angel. He was likely magnificent and illustrious before he was cast down from heaven for his deceptiveness, his arrogance, and his rebellion (Revelation 12, Isaiah 14, 2 Thessalonians 9).
Vashti means “beautiful one”, or “goodness”. This is no surprise to everyone who knows that God called all that He had made very good (Genesis 1:31). And that early women, coming from Eve, were very beautiful (Genesis 6:2).
What to do with this knowledge
To me, it is amazing that the Book of Esther is, in essence, the Bible in short, without even mentioning God or prayer once. It is amazing how God in His providence, uses historic events as a parable that glorifies Him and teaches us more about His Word. Because for me personally, this illumination gave me a deeper understanding of other Books in the Bible as well. The Book of Revelation for example.
But besides teaching us more about Him and His plan, it also serves another purpose:
Throughout the ages, God’s people have been persecuted, suppressed, hurt, mistreated, and slandered. I believe that the Book of Esther was given to all of us who are or have been going through these painful seasons. But especially to those who cannot freely read the Bible or openly express their Christianity.
That is why I hope and pray that somehow this expository article, will reach those people in particular. Or maybe you can be the one to change a person’s life by sharing the deeper meaning of the Book of Esther. Because by knowing and understanding this one Book, a person who cannot freely read the Word of God can still share the knowledge of what has been, of what is, and of what is to come. And that is the great message of hope provided by Jesus.
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