The Man Behind the Woman
Mordecai the Jew was second in rank to King Xerxes, preeminent among the Jews, and held in high esteem by his many fellow Jews, because he worked for the good of his people and spoke up for the welfare of all the Jews. Esther 10:3
The book of Esther is masterfully written with plot twists, irony, powerful and lowly people, hidden identities, reversals of fortunes, fear and courage when threatened with death.
Many of us recognize the words “who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14) These words were said to Esther by her not as famous cousin, Mordecai. He too was placed in Susa “for such a time as this.” God had given Mordecai the role of being Esther’s guardian when her parents had died.
Many Jews returned to Jerusalem to rebuild the city, but some, including Esther and Mordecai, remained in Susa in what had been Babylon. They were ruled by a highly volatile Persian king, Xerxes I. When Queen Vashti refused to appear before the drunken king who wanted to show off her beauty, she was de-throned. A new queen would be chosen by a beauty contest. Mordecai encouraged Esther to enter, and she was chosen and found favor with the king (Esther 2).
God’s name isn’t mentioned in the book, but God was most certainly present, placing Mordecai in position as guard at the gate where Esther, who had to live among the concubines, was able to talk to him. When he overheard a plot against the king, he told Esther and she reported it to the king, saving his life.
Haman, second in command, hated Mordecai and all the Jews—an old hatred going back to Amalek and Israel (Exodus 17:8-16), and he plotted to have the Jews destroyed (Esther 3:1-15). He got an irreversible law written to kill the Jews.
Mordecai appealed to Esther to take action against Haman but she feared to enter the king’s presence without being sent for. Mordecai confronted her, “Do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish” (Esther 4:14).
Esther told Mordecai to ask the Jews to fast with her for three days. Then, “I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish,” she said, “I perish.” (4:15)
One night when the king couldn’t sleep, the records were brought and read to him—dull enough to put him to sleep, maybe—until they came to the plot to assassinate the king. “Hey,” Xerxes must have thought, “Mordecai saved my life and should be honored.” (6:1-3)
When the king asked how a man should be honored, Haman, thought the king must be referring to himself. He was mortified to learn the king meant Mordecai and Haman had to be the one to lead him on horseback through the city streets, proclaiming, “This is what is done for the man the king delights to honor!” (6:4-11)
Esther asked the king to spare her and her people. He granted her request and asked who had plotted against them. When she revealed that it was Haman, the king was furious and had Haman impaled on the huge stake he’d erected for Mordecai, (Esther 5:14, 7:9-10).
The king couldn’t change an irreversible law. But another law was written, and the Jews were allowed to defend themselves and kill thousands of their enemies (8:1-11, 9:5-16).
God has placed each of us for “such a time as this.” How might God be using you where he has placed you?
Read Esther 9:20-32. What did Mordecai ask the Jews to do to remember what had happened? This, called Purim, is celebrated still today. See https://www.britannica.com/topic/Purim.
In Esther 10:1-3, how was Mordecai further honored by the king? What did Mordecai seek for his people? How do you see the welfare of the people around you?
Compare Mordecai’s story and Joseph’s: Genesis 41:34-57. How does your story compare with theirs? How has God placed you in specific places to be used for his purposes?
Nancy J. Baker
This devotion is part of our series on Not-As-Famous Men and Women of the Bible.