In the drama of the book of Esther, the Jews were raised from a common nation in subjection to the rule of the of Persian Empire to the preferred people of the land. God is not mentioned—but He is not absent. The final obstacle of the book recalls the reader to the contemporary world of the exiles. Although Haman had been hanged, the problems of the Hebrews had not yet been solved. For help, Esther and Mordecai looked to God’s sovereignty and the kindness of the king—whose benevolence did not disappoint.
Since Haman’s actions had become a personal offense to the king—especially when he witnessed Haman falling on the couch where the queen was seated (Esth 7:8)—“that same day King Ahasuerus awarded Queen Esther the estate of Haman, the enemy of the Jews” (Esth 8:1). But Ahasuerus went further still: “The king removed his signet ring he had recovered from Haman and gave it to Mordecai, and Esther put him in charge of Haman’s estate” (Esth 8:2). While Esther and Mordecai were safe for the moment, the edict Haman had arranged was yet valid. The Jews were in danger of being exterminated (Esth 3:9). Esther beseeched the king for legislation that would “revoke the documents the scheming Haman son of Hammedatha the Agagite, wrote to destroy the Jews who reside in all the king’s provinces” (Esth 8:5). As the king’s previous act could not be repealed, he allowed Mordecai to craft a complimentary piece of legislation which “gave the Jews in each and every city the right to assemble and defend themselves, to destroy, kill, and annihilate every ethnic and provincial army hostile to them, including women and children, and to take their possessions as spoils of war” (Esth 8:11).
Thus, when the Jews were attacked on the thirteenth of Adar, they could reply in kind. The result was jubilation amongst the people of Susa and the Jews throughout Persia. In fact, “many of the ethnic groups of the land professed themselves to be Jews because fear of the Jews had overcome them” (Esth 8:17). Just as Haman hoped to overpower Mordecai when he came to the second of the queen’s banquets, so too the enemies of the Jews had hoped to destroy them on the thirteenth of Adar but they were appointed to the same fate as Haman. As a result, “the Jews overpowered those who hated them” (Esth 9:1). Even the common Jew had help: “All the officials of the provinces, the satraps, the governors, and the royal civil administrators aided the Jews because they were afraid of Mordecai. For Mordecai exercised great power in the palace, and his fame spread throughout the provinces as he became more and more powerful” (Esth 9:3-4). In all, the Jews killed more than 75,000 of their enemies, but took no plunder (Esth 9:10, 15-16).
Their victory was a cause for celebration, and the annual Feast of Purim began (Esth 9:23-28), celebrated on the fourteenth of Adar in the rural areas and on the fifteenth in Susa (Esth 9:17-19). This was the month “when their sorrow was turned into rejoicing and their mourning into a holiday” (Esth 9:22). In the end, “Mordecai the Jew was second only to King Ahasuerus, famous among the Jews, and highly popular with many of his relatives. He continued to seek good for his people and to speak for the welfare of his kindred” (Esth 10:3).
The book of Esther dramatically reinforced the Jews’ faith in their God. Even in exile, God was faithful to those who remained devoted to Him. The book thus has a certain illustrative forcefulness for the argument of the storyline of Scripture. Although followers of Christ face multifaceted opposition in the present—and their ultimate hope lies in heavenly security and reward—it is nevertheless the case that God often displays His faithfulness to His people as they risk safety and comfort to identify with Him in the midst of opposition. In writing to the Corinthians, Paul argued that the resurrection of Christ, a display of the faithfulness of God no less than the preservation of Esther and the Jews, not only assured the resurrection of all believers, but also gives them assurance of God’s faithfulness in their labors for Him. He concluded his defense of the resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15 with an exhortation regarding God’s faithfulness to the ministry of His people in the here and now, saying, “Therefore, my dear brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the Lord’s work, knowing that your labor in the Lord is not in vain” (1 Cor 15:58).