The Almighty Is Never AWOL.

That very day the number of those killed in Susa the citadel was reported to the king. And the king said to Queen Esther, “In Susa the citadel the Jews have killed and destroyed 500 men and also the ten sons of Haman. What then have they done in the rest of the king’s provinces! Now what is your wish? It shall be granted you. And what further is your request? It shall be fulfilled.” And Esther said, “If it please the king, let the Jews who are in Susa be allowed tomorrow also to do according to this day’s edict. And let the ten sons of Haman be hanged on the gallows.” So the king commanded this to be done. A decree was issued in Susa, and the ten sons of Haman were hanged. The Jews who were in Susa gathered also on the fourteenth day of the month of Adar and they killed 300 men in Susa, but they laid no hands on the plunder. – Esther 9:11-15 ESV

In reading this particular passage, it would be easy to conclude that Esther was a cruel and vindictive individual. After all, the second edict had been a success and the ten sons of Haman had been executed. But now, when the king asks her if there is anything else she wants, she requests that the edict be extended for a second day in the capital of Susa and for permission to hang the bodies of the tens sons of Haman on spikes for all to see. In other words, she wants to put them on public display. Were the 500 men killed that day not enough? Was the elimination of Haman’s sons as viable threats against the Jews not sufficient payback? Did she really need to publicly humiliate them? Was Esther simply bloodthirsty and out for revenge?

Obviously, there are things going on in the story to which we are not made aware. Esther knows something we don’t know. The first day of the edict it seems that the 500 individuals who died were all in the royal section of the city, known as the citadel (9:6). The majority of the threats the Jews were coming from the powerful and influential. They were the ones who felt the most threatened by Esther, Mordecai and the Jews. But Esther knew that there were still others who had either fled the citadel into other parts of the capital or there were pockets of resistance that needed to be eradicated. So she asked for a second day. The king gave his permission and the second day resulted in an additional 300 individuals losing their lives. But once again, the Jews refused to take their land and goods as plunder. They were not doing this for material reward. This was solely an attempt to prevent Haman’s original intention to eradicate the Jews from taking place. For Esther and the rest of the Jews, it was about self-preservation, not financial remuneration.

The public display of the bodies of Haman’s sons was intended to send a message. The very means by which he had planned to murder Mordecai was used to reveal to the citizens of Susa that his efforts had failed miserably. His hatred for the Jews had resulted in his own death and that of his ten sons. All the way back in chapter five of this story, Haman had returned from the first banquet thrown by Esther, and had been beside himself with joy. He arrived at home, bragging about his unprecedented good fortune.  “And Haman recounted to them the splendor of his riches, the number of his sons, all the promotions with which the king had honored him, and how he had advanced him above the officials and the servants of the king” (Esther 5:11 ESV). But now, Haman was dead. His ten sons were as well. His riches belonged to Esther. His former position and the king’s signet ring, symbol of his power, had been given to Mordecai. Haman, the prideful, arrogant, conniving, ruthless, power-hungry enemy of God’s people was gone. His decree had been an abject failure. And all traces of his ever having existed had been eliminated.

Esther’s actions, while somewhat mysterious to us, were not based on a whim. She knew what she was doing. She recognized that the threat to the Jews was not yet over. Susa was still harboring dangerous individuals who were on a mission to destroy Jews and take their possessions and property. The very fact that an additional 300 individuals were killed the next day reveals that this was true. For Esther, this was a matter of eliminating any threat against the Jews once and for all. She wisely used her position as queen and her influence over the king to arrange for a more-than-satisfactory end to this story. But none of this would have been possible without the sovereign, providential hand of God. This story is not about the cunning of Esther or the wisdom of Mordecai. It is not about the bravery of a young girl facing insurmountable odds and an all-powerful enemy. It is a story of the unseen, imperceptible, yet invincible power of God. It is a reminder to all who read it that God may not always be observable, but that doesn’t mean He’s AWOL. He is always there, whether we see Him or not. He is always in control, whether we believe it or not. He is always working His plan, whether we sense it or not.


Our Invisible God.

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

What began as one man’s act of civil disobedience has suddenly escalated into a royal edict officially sanctioning genocide. Through the casting of lots, a date had been selected on which the total annihilation of the Jewish people would take place. The fateful day was  less than a year away, on the 13th day of the month of Adar. Now it was just a matter of letting the rest of the kingdom know what Haman and the king had determined to do to the Mordecai and every other Jew who lived in the lands of the Persians – “all Jews—young and old, including women and children—must be killed, slaughtered, and annihilated on a single day” (Esther 3:13 NLT). This devastating news was to be disseminated via mail. Couriers carried the king’s decree to the far reaches of the kingdom, providing the cold-hearteds detail in clinical-like language. And as a somewhat sadistic form of incentive, the news was relayed that “The property of the Jews would be given to those who killed them” (Esther 3:13b NLT).

This was not going to be a case of the royal army waging war on the Jews. King Ahasuerus was not sending his troops to do this dirty deed. He was assigning the job to all the people in the land. This was going to be an empire-wide, community-based affair. Everyone was expected to do their part. And just so there was no confusion as to what the expected outcome was to be, the edict carried very precise terms. They were expected to “to destroy, to kill, and to annihilate ” all the Jews. Isn’t it interesting to note that this was basically the same instructions that had been given to King Saul of Israel when God told him to wipe out the Amalakites.

Thus says the Lord of hosts, “I have noted what Amalek did to Israel in opposing them on the way when they came up out of Egypt. Now go and strike Amalek and devote to destruction all that they have. Do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.” – 1 Samuel 15:2-3 ESV

Saul had been clear instructions as to what to do, but he failed to follow through on God’s command. Now, years later, the tables were turned and Haman, an Amalakite, was ordering the complete destruction of the Jews – every man, woman, and child. Saul’s failure to obey was going to come back and haunt the Israelites, in a major way. In a single day, the entire Hebrew population of Persia was to be wiped out and their goods plundered. It was to be an empire-wide, mass extinction of an entire people group. All because one man had his pride hurt.

And while the couriers carried this dark news throughout the realm, Haman and the king “sat down to drink.” They celebrated their joint accomplishment with a drink or two, and most likely toasted their lightning-like response to this threat to the kingdom. The amazing thing is that the date set for this slaughter to take place was nearly a year away. Why was it so necessary to get the news out so quickly? Why was Haman so driven to have this edict disseminated in record time? It would appear that he simply wanted to make Mordecai and the Jews discover the news as soon as possible in order to prolong their agony and force them to live with a sense of dread for as long as he could. We are told that as news of the king’s edict spread, it threw the city of Susa into a state of confusion. People couldn’t believe what they were hearing. The Jews had not been a problem. What was prompting the king to issue a decree of this magnitude and why were they being required to play a part in the murder of innocent men, women and children?

In verse 12, we read, “the king’s scribes were summoned on the thirteenth day of the first month (NIssan), and an edict, according to all that Haman commanded, was written.” This is significant because the Jews were to begin their celebration of Passover on the 15th day of Nissan. So just two days prior to their annual festival of Passover, the Jews were to receive the devastating news that they were to be wiped out. The irony of this would not have gone unnoticed. Passover was a celebration of God’s miraculous protection of the people of Israel when the death angel passed over the homes of all those who had sprinkled the blood of the Passover lamb on the doorposts and lentils of their homes (Exodus 12:7). As part of the Passover celebration, they would have selected their own lamb on the 10th day of Nissan, the very same day that Haman had cast lots to determine a day for the mass slaughter of the Jews.

The timing of all of this is far from coincidental. There is something far greater going on behind the scenes. If you look carefully you can begin to see the puzzle pieces coming together and forming an increasingly clearer image. Esther’s rise to prominence. Haman’s promotion. Mordecai’s place at the gate of the king’s palace. His discovery of the plot to kill the king. And his refusal to bow down to Haman. The seemingly random alignment of the dates. And on top of all that, the fact that he was a Jew and Haman was an Amalakite. These are not mere cases of coincidence. They are subtle insights into God’s invisible, yet undeniable role in the affairs of men. While Haman and the king celebrated, the citizens of Susa wrestled with confusion and anxiety. And the Jews were left to wonder where their God had gone. Yet the hidden story is that God was far from absent. As in the days of Moses and the Exodus, God was about to rescue His people. Just when everything looked hopeless, God was going to show himself fully in control and completely worthy of His people’s trust.