Now in the twelfth month, which is the month of Adar, on the thirteenth day of the same, when the king’s command and edict were about to be carried out, on the very day when the enemies of the Jews hoped to gain the mastery over them, the reverse occurred: the Jews gained mastery over those who hated them. The Jews gathered in their cities throughout all the provinces of King Ahasuerus to lay hands on those who sought their harm. And no one could stand against them, for the fear of them had fallen on all peoples. All the officials of the provinces and the satraps and the governors and the royal agents also helped the Jews, for the fear of Mordecai had fallen on them. For Mordecai was great in the king’s house, and his fame spread throughout all the provinces, for the man Mordecai grew more and more powerful. The Jews struck all their enemies with the sword, killing and destroying them, and did as they pleased to those who hated them. In Susa the citadel itself the Jews killed and destroyed 500 men, and also killed Parshandatha and Dalphon and Aspatha and Poratha and Adalia and Aridatha and Parmashta and Arisai and Aridai and Vaizatha, the ten sons of Haman the son of Hammedatha, the enemy of the Jews, but they laid no hand on the plunder. – Esther 9:1-10 ESV
When the fateful day arrived, the one for which Haman had planned and the Jews had dreaded for almost a year, the outcome was much different than anyone had anticipated. The 13th day of the month of Adar would be marked by death as Haman had desired. But it would not be the Jews whose lives were taken. It would not be their blood that was spilled. This day would feature a complete reversal of fortunes and the author of the book of Esther makes it quite clear.
The Jews gained mastery over those who hated them.
And no one could stand against them…
…the fear of them had fallen on all the peoples.
…the governors and royal agents also helped the Jews…
…the fear of Mordecai had fallen on them.
…for Mordecai grew more and more powerful.
…the Jews struck all their enemies with the sword…
…the Jews killed and destroyed 500 men…
…and also killed…the ten sons of Haman.
…but they laid no hand on the plunder.
The author tells us, “on the very day when the enemies of the Jews hoped to gain the mastery over them, the reverse occurred” (Esther 9:1b ESV). In the roughly eight months since the issuing of the second decree, Mordecai’s influence in the kingdom had grown. The peoples’ respect for him and for the Jews had increased greatly. And the Jews had been given ample time to prepare themselves for the looming day of slaughter. So when that day arrived, things turned out dramatically different than anticipated. The enemies of the people of God found themselves on the short end of the stick. The playground bully found himself on the receiving end, getting a taste of his own medicine.
Once again, as has been the case throughout the book of Esther, God is no where mentioned in the events of the 13th day of Adar. But this entire reversal of fortune is the clear result of the sovereign will of God. It is important to note that the Jews mentioned in this chapter are made up of those who chose to stay behind in Persia rather than return to the land of Canaan under the leadership of Ezra and Nehemiah. Years earlier, during the reign of King Cyrus, he had decreed the return of the Jews to their land in order to rebuild the city of Jerusalem and the temple.
Whoever is among you of all his people, may his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and rebuild the house of the Lord, the God of Israel—he is the God who is in Jerusalem. And let each survivor, in whatever place he sojourns, be assisted by the men of his place with silver and gold, with goods and with beasts, besides freewill offerings for the house of God that is in Jerusalem. – Ezra 1:3-4 ESV
But not everyone returned. Many of the Jews had chosen to stay in Persia. Perhaps the journey was too risky. The thought of having to return to the scene of so much destruction could have been too much for them to consider. Or maybe some of them had become content in Persia, enjoying their new land and acclimating themselves to their new lifestyle. But whatever the case, Mordecai, Esther and the rest of the Jews living in the capital of Susa and throughout the 127 provinces of Persia, were those who had chosen to remain and not return. But God had not abandoned them. While their fellow Jews were busy rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem and restoring the temple so that the Jews could worship once again, they were living in relative comfort and ease in Persia. That is, until Haman had issued the first decree. Then, their world had become darkened and their hearts had been filled with despair. They had mourned. They had feared. But God had acted on their behalf. Mordecai had confronted Esther. She had boldly approached the king. Haman had been exposed. The second edict had been issued. And when the day arrived, the Jews gained the upper hand on their enemies. This was all an act of God. It was the sovereign, providential work of God Almighty. Even His rebellious children living in the land of Persia would know what it means to experience the faithful love of God and to enjoy His undeserved mercy and grace.
The prophet, Ezekiel, tells us why God would do such a thing. He tells of the day when God will rescue all His people, the Jews, from their exile throughout the world.
Therefore, give the people of Israel this message from the Sovereign Lord: I am bringing you back, but not because you deserve it. I am doing it to protect my holy name, on which you brought shame while you were scattered among the nations. I will show how holy my great name is—the name on which you brought shame among the nations. And when I reveal my holiness through you before their very eyes, says the Sovereign Lord, then the nations will know that I am the Lord. For I will gather you up from all the nations and bring you home again to your land. – Ezekiel 36:22-24 NLT
Why is God going to do this? What would motivate Him to rescue a people who have proven to be unfaithful to Him? The holiness of His own name. God is protective of His own reputation. He has made the Jews His chosen people. He has called them His very own. And while they may have proven unfaithful to Him, rejecting His Son as their Messiah and refusing to accept God’s repeated calls to repent and return to Him, He has remained faithful. He has kept His promises. And He will one day restore them. All one has to do is look at the history of Israel to realize that God has been preserving and protecting them for centuries. Their very existence is the handiwork of God. Despite repeated attempts by dictators, despots, nations and movements to eradicate the Jews, they remain. This is not the result of their own stamina and strength, but because God is not done with them yet. During the days of Mordecai and Esther, God was preserving a remnant in Persia. And God is still protecting His people all across the world. And one day, He will restore them to a right relationship with Him. He will return them to the land of Canaan. He will place His Son on the throne of David where He will rule and reign. The story of Esther is a small glimpse into the story of God’s redemptive plan for Israel and for the world. The tables will be turned. The fortunes of God’s people will be reversed. The righteous will win. The name of God will be revered. The King will reign.