The king’s scribes were summoned at that time, in the third month, which is the month of Sivan, on the twenty-third day. And an edict was written, according to all that Mordecai commanded concerning the Jews, to the satraps and the governors and the officials of the provinces from India to Ethiopia, 127 provinces, to each province in its own script and to each people in its own language, and also to the Jews in their script and their language. And he wrote in the name of King Ahasuerus and sealed it with the king’s signet ring. Then he sent the letters by mounted couriers riding on swift horses that were used in the king’s service, bred from the royal stud, saying that the king allowed the Jews who were in every city to gather and defend their lives, to destroy, to kill, and to annihilate any armed force of any people or province that might attack them, children and women included, and to plunder their goods, on one day throughout all the provinces of King Ahasuerus, on the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, which is the month of Adar. A copy of what was written was to be issued as a decree in every province, being publicly displayed to all peoples, and the Jews were to be ready on that day to take vengeance on their enemies. So the couriers, mounted on their swift horses that were used in the king’s service, rode out hurriedly, urged by the king’s command. And the decree was issued in Susa the citadel. Then Mordecai went out from the presence of the king in royal robes of blue and white, with a great golden crown and a robe of fine linen and purple, and the city of Susa shouted and rejoiced. The Jews had light and gladness and joy and honor. And in every province and in every city, wherever the king’s command and his edict reached, there was gladness and joy among the Jews, a feast and a holiday. And many from the peoples of the country declared themselves Jews, for fear of the Jews had fallen on them. – Esther 8:9-17 ESV
This passage virtually mirrors, word-for-word, an earlier portion of the story of Esther. Back in chapter three, we read:
Then the king’s scribes were summoned on the thirteenth day of the first month, and an edict, according to all that Haman commanded, was written to the king’s satraps and to the governors over all the provinces and to the officials of all the peoples, to every province in its own script and every people in its own language. It was written in the name of King Ahasuerus and sealed with the king’s signet ring. Letters were sent by couriers to all the king’s provinces with instruction to destroy, to kill, and to annihilate all Jews, young and old, women and children, in one day, the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, which is the month of Adar, and to plunder their goods. A copy of the document was to be issued as a decree in every province by proclamation to all the peoples to be ready for that day. The couriers went out hurriedly by order of the king, and the decree was issued in Susa the citadel. And the king and Haman sat down to drink, but the city of Susa was thrown into confusion. – Esther 3:12-15 ESV
The precise wording and attention to details is intentional. The author wants us to know that what Haman had intended was being countermanded by God Himself. The powers of evil that had been behind the original decree were being matched by the sovereignty of God as He brought the desires of the wicked back on their own heads. In an eerily similar fashion, God was using the same methodology used by Haman, but to protect His people, not destroy them. God would use the name of the king, representing his power and authority, and all the resources of the king, to accomplish His divine will. And it would all be sealed with the king’s own ring, making it irrevocable and unavoidable. The tables were being turned. Originally, the instructions were “to destroy, to kill, and to annihilate all Jews, young and old, women and children, in one day…and to plunder their goods.” But now, the Jews were “to destroy, to kill, and to annihilate any armed force of any people or province that might attack them, children and women included, and to plunder their goods.” The exact same wording, but a completely different outcome. It is fascinating that God did not choose to eliminate or eradicate the king’s original edict. It remained in place. It was still the law of the land. But God simply countered it with His own version of the same decree that put power into the hands of His people. It was going to pit the forces of evil against the forces of the people of God. Both decrees were issued under the king’s name and sealed with the king’s ring. But one of them was now backed by the power and providence of God. These two decrees, while similar in wording, were anything but equal in their authority and ultimate outcome. The Jews, the people of God, would have the help of God on their side. Two groups were going to be pitted against one another, both with the authority to wipe out the other. But the Hebrews would not be alone. They would be accompanied and assisted by the same God who had defeated the Egyptians and helped them conquer the inhabitants of Canaan.
And it’s hard not to miss the two distinctly different reactions that accompanied the issuing of these two decrees. After Haman had convinced the king to place his seal of approval on the first decree, the two of them celebrated with drinks, while the people of Susa were left in confusion. And the Jews were left to mourn their fate. But with the sealing of the second decree, Mordecai walked out of the presence of the king wearing royal robes and a crown, not sackcloth and ashes. “The Jews had light and gladness and joy and honor.” Rather than mourning, there was celebration. Rather than confusion, there was elation. The Jews went from being pitied to being feared. In fact, we’re told, “And many from the peoples of the country declared themselves Jews, for fear of the Jews had fallen on them” (Esther 8:17b ESV). The people of Susa sensed the tides were turning and that it would be safer to be a Jew than to be attempt to stand against them. What a remarkable shift in circumstances. What an incredible turn of events. But God has a way of doing the impossible and improbable. Just when we think all is lost, God steps in to prove us wrong. We should never count God out. We should never conclude that God has given up. No matter how bleak the circumstances may appear, our God is fully capable of reversing the tide, turning the tables and accomplishing the impossible.