Esther says she’ll try to stop the holocaust
Mordecai goes into mourning1When Mordecai found out about Haman’s plans to slaughter the Jews, he ripped his clothes in anger and grief. Then he changed into sackcloth, threw ashes on himself, and took to the streets, where he sobbed and screamed in public. 2He walked to the palace gate but couldn’t go inside. People dressed in mourning clothes weren’t allowed inside the palace area.
3In provinces all over the Persian Empire—wherever the king’s messengers announced his edict—Jews went into deep mourning. They dressed in sackcloth and threw ashes on themselves. Then they went without eating as they wept and grieved over the news.
Mordecai briefs Esther on the scheduled holocaust4Queen Esther found out about this when her eunuchs and female servants told her. She was horrified. She sent clothes to Mordecai, hoping he would drop the public mourning and wear his regular clothing again. He refused.
5Esther asked Hathach, one of the eunuchs assigned to serve her, to go to Mordecai and find out what was going on. She wanted to know why the king would do such a thing. 6Hathach found Mordecai in the city square outside the gate leading into the palace area. 7Mordecai told him what was happening. And he told him how much silver Haman said he would donate to the palace treasury, for the authority to erase the Jews.
Mordecai asks Esther to stop the king8Mordecai gave him a written copy of the decree posted in Susa. He wanted Esther to see for herself that the king had signed off on the extermination of all Jews. And he wanted Esther to go to the king and plead for the lives of her own people, the Jews of Persia.
9Hathach told Esther everything Mordecai said. 10Esther gave the eunuch a message for Mordecai:
11“Everyone in Persia knows what happens when you go to the king uninvited. Palace servants and people scattered among the provinces know it’s a capital offense. If you step foot on the palace’s inner courtyard, there’s only one thing that can save you. The king has to lift the royal scepter, granting you permission to proceed. We don’t call on the king. He calls on us. And he hasn’t called me to see him in the 30 days.”
“Maybe this is your moment”12Mordecai got Esther’s reply. 13He told the messengers to give this answer to Esther:
“Don’t kid yourself into thinking you’re safe from this slaughter because you live in the palace. 14If you stay quiet about this, help will come from somewhere else. But it won’t save you or your family. We’ll die here. Who knows? Maybe this is your moment—the reason you are where you are right now. The reason you’re the queen.”
15Esther sent this reply to Mordecai:
16“I want you to call a meeting of all the Jews in Susa. Tell them to fast for three days and nights because of what I’m about to do. I will fast, as well. So will my servant women. Then I’ll go to the king, though it’s illegal. If I die, I die.” 17Mordecai did what Esther told him to do.
Sackcloth is a rough fabric like burlap feed sacks. It was made from goat hair and camel hair. Farmers and their customers used those sacks to store grain. People mourning in Bible times dressed in rough clothes and sprinkled their heads and bodies with cooled ashes from firewood. This disheveled look expressed the chaos and grief inside them. Our version in the Western world is to wear stylish clothes and makeup. We often dress in black clothes or wear an armband. But nothing raggy.
There’s no mention of God in the book of Esther. But some students of the Bible say they see God in this sentence that Mordecai spoke. It’s as close as the story comes to hinting of God. The implication is that God would find a way to save the Jewish people, even if only after many are slaughtered. For students of history, it’s impossible to read this story without remembering the four million Jews slaughtered in the Holocaust before and during World War Two.
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