I feel like no one talks about the book of Esther much.

There are only a few books of the bible that tell just one specific historical story without a lot of extra baggage.  In fact, I’d argue that only Ruth, Esther, and Jonah fit that bill.  These three books tell the story of a specific person whom God brought to a specific place at a specific time to fulfill a specific purpose.  “Specific” is the key word here.  We can’t forget that this is a historical story about real people.

There are only two books in the bible named after women.  Ruth was a Gentile who married a Jew, while Esther was Jew who married a Gentile.  Both books focus on God’s providence for His chosen people—Esther brings about the physical salvation of all the Jews in Persia, while Ruth becomes a key part of the lineage of Christ, and thereby the salvation of the whole world.  Both books show that God is looking after His people even when those people are unaware or indifferent.  And both books are also full of symbolism that can help transform an interesting, sometimes weird, historical anecdote into a meaningful story for modern-day followers of Christ.

No allegory is perfect and all analogies break down at a certain point.  This is a true story, and there are a few different ways of looking at the symbols/allegory.  Most sources I’ve read say that the king represents the soul and Haman represents the flesh, Mordecai represents the holy spirit and Esther the human spirit.  I can’t say that’s flat-out wrong, but honestly I don’t think it’s necessarily right, and over-complicates things—I actually believe that the symbolism in the book of Esther is far more overt and clear than that.  More importantly, I believe that there is one clear warning that Esther’s story highlights that, regardless of your feelings on allegory, we can’t afford to ignore.

From a timing standpoint, the key events in the book of Esther appear to happen right around Passover.  Haman’s decree was written on Nisan 13 (Esth. 3:12; Passover is on Nisan 15), and we can assume Mordecai—sitting in the king’s gate—found out fairly soon and went into mourning.  When Esther finds out, she mentions that she hasn’t been called into the king for the past 30 days, and commands a fast for three days and nights before she will go before him to try and save her people.  So while we don’t know the exact dates, it’s almost certainly Passover timing.

FIRST, I strongly recommend reading through the whole book—it’s short, it will seriously will take about 15 minutes, and it’s worth it.  We’ll quickly run through two allegory symbolism scenarios to get the whole picture, then get down to the heart of what we need to learn from Esther.  If you’re a total spoilsport, you can skip this part and jump to the moral of the story at the end, but I think this part is pretty fascinating and fleshes out some important details…

One thing I believe is important in either of these allegories is not to read too much into the king symbolism.  Whether he represents Christ or the Father, the role of the king throughout the story kind of irritated me, as he can seem capricious, tossed about by the whims of those around him.  But the reason I don’t think it’s that important is that this story isn’t about him—it’s about the other characters and how they interact with him and make decisions.

Scenario 1 – Esther as Christ figure, Mordecai picturing the church

  • Esther and Mordecai had an adoptive relationship since she was an orphan – we have been adopted into the family of God with Christ as our Elder Brother (Esth. 2:7, Rom. 8:15-17)
  • The king sets Haman above all the princes – Satan was the anointed cherub who covers, over the mercy seat (Esth. 3:1, Ezek. 28:14)
  • Mordecai angers Haman by refusing to bow and worship him – Satan has great anger against God’s church because they refuse to worship him as the god of this world (Esth. 3:2-6, Rev. 12:12, many others)
  • The king gave his signet ring to Haman for a while, Haman uses it to try and destroy the Jews – Satan has been given dominion over this world for now, and he uses it to try and destroy God’s chosen people (Esth. 3:10-11, II Cor. 4:4, Matt. 4:8-9)
  • The death decree is signed, the Jews are condemned – we have also been condemned to death (Esth. 3:13, Rom. 6:23, Eph. 2:1)
  • Esther wasn’t allowed to go before the king for 30 days, plus the three days she fasted – Jesus could not go before the God in the throne room for the 33 years He lived a physical life on earth (Esth. 4:11, 16)
  • Esther asks her servants and all the Jews to fast with her for three days and nights before she goes to see the king – in addition to Jesus’s three-year ministry, He was in the grave for three days and nights before being resurrected and ascending to be accepted by God in the throne room (Esth. 4:16, Matt. 12:40)
  • At the end of the three day and night period, Esther goes before the king in his throne room, he holds out the golden scepter and accepts her – after three days and nights in the grave, Jesus is resurrected and ascends as the wave sheaf to the throne room in heaven to be accepted by God and re-takes His rod of authority (Esth. 5:1-2, John 20:17, Lev. 23:10-11)
  • Esther prepares a feast for the king and Haman – while this is harder to fit into the chronology, I find her eating with the one who betrayed her an interesting parallel to Jesus eating with the one who betrayed Him at the Passover (Esth. 5:5-8)
  • Haman continues to be fixated on Mordecai, plots to kill him separately – Satan continues to be fixated on destroying God’s church, but what I find interesting here are parallels between Haman listing his great riches, children, promotions, etc. and the verses about Satan being lifted up by beauty & riches & trading (Esth. 5:9-14, Ezek. 28:16-17)
  • The king is having some kind of official record book read to him, which details Mordecai’s service to the king, the king decides to honor Mordecai – the members of the church who faithfully serve God until the end will have their names written in the Book of Life (Esth. 6:1-3, Rev. 21:27, Phil. 4:3)
  • The king honors Mordecai for what he has done, gives him a robe and a horse and parades him through town – the faithful firstfruits will be clothed in white linen robes, following behind Christ on white horses (Esth. 6:8-11, Rev. 19:8, 14)
  • After Esther reveals Haman’s treachery, he is hanged, and the Jews also kill his ten sons later during the uprising – Satan will be overthrown and his power fully broken, along with the ten “kings” that have power at the end time (Esth. 7:10 & 9:10, Rev. 17:12, Rev. 13:1)
  • The original death warrant/law wasn’t repealed, but instead replaced by another law allowing the Jews to defend themselves – the law of death we earn for our sins was not repealed, but replaced by a higher, better law through Christ’s sacrifice, allowing us the opportunity for repentance and eternal life (Esth. 8:11, Heb. 9)
  • The king gives Haman’s estate to Esther and his signet ring (signifying dominion) to Mordecai , and Esther gives Mordecai Haman’s estate, then there’s a feast – once Satan is overthrown, Jesus Christ will be given the earth (Satan’s current domain) and heaven to establish the kingdom of God, the firstfruits are promised the earth, and He and the firstfruits will reign, and of course then there’s a wedding feast (Esth. 8:1-2, Rev. 20:4-6, Rev. 19:7-10)

Other notes that seem to support this scenario:

  • Esther means “star” in Persian, and Jesus calls Himself the “Bright and Morning Star (Rev. 22:17)
  • Esther as Advocate, putting herself in the place of death for her people—in which case I think this would be the only woman shown to be a Christ figure

Scenario 2 – Esther as the church, king as Christ (or possibly Mordecai as Christ)

A number of the parallels above still apply; additionally, consider:

  • The king rejects his previous wife, Vashti, due to her rebellion and refusal to obey – the God of the old testament, the Word, rejected physical Israel as His wife due to her rebellion and infidelity (Esth. 1:9-22, Jer. 3:8)
  • The king issues an invitation, looked for a new pure bride – after rejecting Israel as the Word’s bride, God began to call and prepare His ekklesia to be Christ’s future bride (Esth. 2:1-8, II Cor. 11:2, Eph. 5:24-27)
  • Esther as a bride prepared for a king, preparation of six months with oil of myrrh, six months with perfume and beautifying – the ekklesia is being made ready to be presented as a pure and holy bride; the six months may also be a reference to the six days of man (Esth. 2:9-13, Rev. 19:7-8)
  • Esther is chosen above all others because she pleases him, taken from obscurity and given a crown – God called and chose specific people now out of obscurity to have His spirit and be a part of His firstfruits and to rule in the kingdom (Esth. 2:14-18, Eph. 1:4-5, I Pet. 2:9)
  • King gave his signet ring to Haman for a while, and he uses it to try and destroy Esther and her people – Satan has dominion over this world for now, and is trying to destroy God’s people (Esth. 3, John 12:31, II Cor. 4:4, Rev. 12:15-17)
  • Esther comes before king on throne after 3 days and nights because of the veil being torn – after three days and nights, Christ was resurrected and ascended to God, giving us access to “come before the throne of grace” (Esth. 4:10-7:4, Heb. 4:14-16, Heb. 9:12, Mark 15:38)
  • Haman is overthrown and removed, king gives half of kingdom to Esther, she gives Mordecai the signet ring (dominion) – once Satan is overthrown/destroyed, Jesus Christ will reign with the saints (Esth. 7:5-8:3, Rev. 20:4-6)
  • The original death warrant/law wasn’t repealed, but instead replaced by another law allowing the Jews to defend themselves – the law of death we earn for our sins was not repealed, but replaced by a higher, better law through Christ’s sacrifice, allowing us the opportunity for repentance and eternal life (Esth. 8:11, Heb. 9)

Other notes that seem to support this scenario:

  • The church often spoken of or symbolized as a woman, so Esther as church would fit

I have nothing against Scenario 2 and it definitely has some strong parallels (the Vashti/Esther bride role and the fact that Esther is chosen by the king, in particular).  The biggest issue I have with it is that it mostly ignores Mordecai’s role, when he seems to have an actual meaningful role in the story vs. something theoretical—in the story he’s given the signet ring and Haman’s estate, and rules alongside the king and Esther as second in command.  Plus, Haman wanted to destroy Mordecai and the Jews, not Esther herself, which makes that element of it a little more of a stretch.  Additionally, the firstfruits/church were unable to come before God’s throne to advocate for themselves until Jesus did it first and saved them from certain death.

Our Takeaway from the Book of Esther:  Let No One Take Your Crown

The allegory is incredible and it’s an insanely fascinating historical anecdote for history nerds like me, but it may leave you wondering what we’re supposed to take away from this story.  I submit that we should pay special attention to this warning by Mordecai, at the turning point of the story:

“Do not think in your heart that you will escape in the king’s palace any more than all the other Jews. For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esth. 4:13-14)

In every one of our lives there are points where we hesitate to stand up, speak up, or turn in the right direction instead of cruising forward.  The decisions themselves may be big (who we marry) or seem unimportant at the time (listening to a juicy piece of gossip), but these end up being major markers in our lives, and the choices we make at those moments define us.  God told Israel that He searched for someone among them who would “stand in the gap before Me on behalf of the land, that I should not destroy it; but I found no one” (Ezek. 22:30).  In other words, He could find no one willing to stand up for His way, to defend His truth.

Esther’s initial response showed fear, but God tells us His spirit is not one of fear—it is an empowering and outward-focused spirit.  Fear is among the first of the traits that we are told will not be allowed in citizens of the kingdom of God (Revelation 21:8, Matt 8, Mark 4).  He had placed her in that particular place and time for a reason, and He expected her to make the right choice.  But if she had failed, He would have brought about His will regardless.  It’s important to remember that God doesn’t need you to make the right choice for His sake—He can raise stones to do His work if necessary (Matt. 3:9).  But He needs you to make the right choice for your sake, so that you grow in godly character and ultimately move further down the narrow path toward eternal life in His kingdom.

After commending the church at Philadelphia for their faithfulness and works, Jesus warns them to “hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown” (Rev. 3:11).  Mordecai’s words to Esther are especially true for us as well—if you (or I) don’t stand up at the right times, someone else is going to, and they’ll take your place.  You will lose your crown.  Esther had a literal crown, but we have been promised a spiritual, eternal one (I Cor. 9:24-25).  When those little or big moments are before us, we generally already know what the right choice is.  So when we hesitate, the question in the back of our minds should always be, “Is this worth losing my crown?”

“Blessed in the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him” (James 1:12)

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