Esther 3:1 King Ahasuerus
The jump from Daniel to Esther includes a jump of 100 years. By Esther’s time, a large group of the Jews had been released from Babylon according to the prophesied 70 years of captivity. They had already returned to Jerusalem and rebuilt the temple. Esther and Mordecai were not part of that group. They are part of the larger group of Jews who had been spread all over the Near East, which at the time approximated the kingdom of Persia.
By Esther’s time, the kings of Babylon had been subdued by the kings of Persia, including Cyrus and Darius. Their successor, King Ahasuerus, is also known as Xerxes I (485 – 465 BC). The Persian Empire was huge as the Bible tells us, “Ahasuerus… reigned, from India even unto Ethiopia” (Esther 1:1). Esther and Mordecai lived in Shushan, or Susa, the capital of Persia, symbolic of the way most Jews would live for centuries to follow—outside the lands of their promised inheritance—outside Jerusalem. In terms of modern geography, we left Daniel in Iraq to find Esther in Iran.
“Xerxes I succeeded his father Darius I and appears to have continued his policy, at least concerning the western front, where the Persians were attempting to expand into the Balkans and Greece…
“Xerxes I’s reputation has suffered more than that of any other Achaemenid king. Plato describes him as raised under the care of women in the royal harem, and thus lacking the same hardened experience of his father Darius I. Furthermore, Herodotus claims that he was put in power because of the influence of his mother, Atossa, and allowed himself to be persuaded to undertake the Greek expedition, where he acted with ruthless pride, made many irrational decisions… And in the biblical book of Esther, Xerxes I was satirized as Ahasuerus, a king who makes illogical decisions and is dominated by women.” (Barry J. Beitzel, ed., Biblica: The Bible Atlas, [Australia: Global Book Publishing, 2006], 345-346)
Esther 3:2 Mordecai bowed not, nor did him reverence
The Old Testament often demonstrates the nationalism of the kingdom of Israel in preference to an understanding of the kingdom of God. Mordecai, as a proud Jew, refuses to bow to Haman. If he were to ask counsel from church leaders today, he would likely have been reminded to respect the law of the land. He may even be quoted the following, “We believe that all men are bound to sustain and uphold the respective governments in which they reside” (D&C 134:5). Right or wrong, a sense of Jewish nationalism would not allow Mordecai to bow nor revere Haman.
Should we consider Mordecai to be a hero or a villain? The Book of Esther paints him as a hero, but his stubborn refusal to show reverence almost cost all the Jews their lives!
Esther 3:6 Haman sought to destroy all the Jews
Now there was one Haman, the son of Amedatha, by birth an Amalekite, that used to go in to the king; and the foreigners and Persians worshipped him, as Artaxerxes had commanded that such honor should be paid to him; but Mordecai was so wise, and so observant of his own country's laws, that he would not worship the man. When Haman observed this, he inquired whence he came; and when he understood that he was a Jew, he had indignation at him, and said within himself, that whereas the Persians, who were free men, worshipped him, this man, who was no better than a slave, does not vouchsafe to do so. And when he desired to punish Mordecai, he thought it too small a thing to request of the king that he alone might be punished; he rather determined to abolish the whole nation, for he was naturally an enemy to the Jews, because the nation of the Amalekites, of which he was; had been destroyed by them. (Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, Book XI, 6:5)
Esther 4:12 they told to Mordecai Esther’s words
Chieko N. Okazaki
Mordecai… and Esther were sending messages back and forth through a harem eunuch because, once Esther had entered the house of women, she could never have direct contact with another man besides the king. (Aloha! [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1995], 116)
Esther 4:14 come to the kingdom for such a time as this
Mary Ellen Smoot
Consider Esther’s dilemma: It was against the law to approach the king without being summoned. Such an act was punishable by death. If she were to remain quiet, she would likely enjoy a life of luxury and ease. She could live the life of a queen or risk her life to save her family and her people. She counted the cost and chose to heed the longings of her people and of her heart.
She asked Mordecai to gather all the Jews in Shushan and fast three days for her, and she and her handmaids would do the same. Then she said, “I [will] go in unto the king, which is not according to the law: and if I perish, I perish” (Esth. 4:16).
Spiritually prepared, Esther approached the king. She was received by him, and she invited the king and Haman to a feast she had arranged. During the feast, Haman’s plot was unveiled, and Mordecai received great honors. Esther, born for such a time, had saved a nation.
Everywhere I have traveled, whether it was Finland; Idaho; Brazil; Washington, D.C.; or Russia, I have witnessed the gospel of Jesus Christ in action and the radiant light of the gospel in the countenances of courageous and faithful sisters. The Spirit has borne witness to me that we each have been born “for such a time as this” (Esth. 4:14).
To each of you, no matter your nationality, race, social status, or individual talents, whether you are married, single, or widowed, whether you were born into the Church or are a new convert and the only member of your family, I say, “Welcome home!” The Relief Society is your home, and you are an integral part of a worldwide sisterhood with a divine mission.
The Prophet Joseph Smith taught that the Church was not fully organized until the Relief Society had been organized—the priesthood for the men and the Relief Society for the women. He stated, “I now turn the key in your behalf in the name of the Lord, and this Society shall rejoice, and knowledge and intelligence shall flow down from this time.” He stated further,
“If you live up to your privileges, the angels cannot be restrained from being your associates.” (“For Such a Time as This,” Ensign, Nov. 1997, 86)
Virginia U. Jensen
Sisters, I do not believe that you and I are here at this unique time by accident. I believe that, like Esther of old, we are “come to the kingdom for such a time as this” (Esth. 4:14), when our influence, our example, our strength, and our faith may stand as a bulwark against the rising tide of evil that threatens to engulf our homes, our families, and our loved ones. (“Creating Places of Security,” Ensign, Nov. 1997, 89)
Esther 4:16 Fast ye for me, and neither eat nor drink three days
Fasting for 3 days is quite a long time. If your life is at stake, perhaps it is a small sacrifice. Such abstinence, combined with prayer, exhibits great faith when miracles are needed.
Joseph Lee Robinson
The Lord gave us a beautiful daughter. But she became afflicted and had fits, and it seemed we could not stop them. We had heard the Prophet Joseph say that if any member of a family was sick and the head of the family would fast three days, the sick should get better. Knowing him to be a true prophet of God, we believed what he said.
My wife proposed to fast. I replied, "If you think you can stand it nursing a child, I certainly will try it."
I was afflicted with rheumatism in my back and hips, so I had this also to fast and pray for.
The first day was the hardest day for me. The second day came and no eating, but plenty of work. The third day we ate no dinner until supper time. We felt satisfied that our three days' fast was completed. We ate our supper, but as yet there had been no change with the fits on the child or with my lameness. We retired to our bed to rest after saying our prayers as usual, and as the Lord liveth those fits upon our child stopped, and my lameness went entirely away. We received this as a signal favor and a great blessing from the hand of God. (Hyrum L. Andrus and Helen Mae Andrus, comps., They Knew the Prophet, [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1974], 164-165)
Esther 5:1 Esther put on her royal apparel, and stood in the inner court of the king’s house
Barbara B. Smith
Esther had the strength born of good teaching. It enabled her to determine to ask all of the Jews of the kingdom to fast and pray with her. It was then she made personal preparation by looking her most beautiful, as she went in to see the king.
With every step she must have wondered, “Will he hold out the royal sceptre?” “Will he condemn me to death?” “Will he drop me into poverty and oblivion?” She stood before him, young, beautiful, calm—knowing that she was totally vulnerable. She also knew that she had appealed to God for help and that there was a great moral wrong about to be committed. She had to be responsible to God who made her, no matter what the mortal consequences.
Each woman in today’s world has responsibilities akin to those which Esther faced. The circumstances of each life are significantly different, yet each woman faces the challenge of being true to the principles of the gospel if she would improve the quality of her mortal life and make herself worthy of the opportunity of eternal progression. She should begin by understanding who she is and that she has a magnificent potential as a daughter of God. Her goal then should be lofty…
It was in 1874 that Eliza R. Snow said, “Paul the apostle anciently spoke of holy women. It is the duty of each one of us to be a holy woman. We shall have elevated aims, if we are holy women. We shall feel that we are called to perform important duties. No one is exempt from them. There is no sister so isolated, and her sphere so narrow but what she can do a great deal towards establishing the Kingdom of God upon the earth” (Woman’s Exponent, 15 Sept. 1873, p. 62). (“Women for the Latter-Day,” Ensign, Nov. 1979, 107-108)
Cheiko N. Okazaki
The story of Esther teaches us about faith. The quality of Esther's faith is realistic. It's not based on sweet sentiments or pretty feelings. She knows exactly what the risks are. She faces squarely the possibility that she may die as a result of her efforts to help her people. This is a life-and-death situation. She knows that God can help her, but she doesn't know if God will help her in this particular situation. It is in that context of doubt and uncertainty that she exercises her faith…
Service is the second aspect of the story of Esther. It's very significant to me that Esther exercised her faith to perform an act of service. Mordecai was probably wrong. She would have been safe in the king's house, especially since her nationality was a secret. But her desire to serve her people was stronger than her desire for safety and comfort. She took the risk because she accepted service as her right and her responsibility. (Aloha! [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1995], 118, 122)
Esther 7:10 So they hanged Haman on the gallows that he had prepared for Mordecai
The Book of Mormon teaches us that the righteous can expect the retribution of the Lord:
…that great pit which hath been digged for the destruction of men shall be filled by those who digged it, unto their utter destruction (1 Ne. 14:3).
From the Psalms, the promise is:
[The wicked man] made a pit, and digged it, and is fallen into the ditch which he made.
His mischief shall return upon his own head, and his violent dealing shall come down upon his own pate. (Ps. 7:15-16)
The heathen are sunk down in the pit that they made: in the net which they hid is their own foot taken.
The LORD is known by the judgment which he executeth: the wicked is snared in the work of his own hands. (Ps. 9:15-16)
They have prepared a net for my steps; my soul is bowed down: they have digged a pit before me, into the midst whereof they are fallen themselves. (Ps 57:6)
While imprisoned in Liberty Jail, the Prophet Joseph expressed the same principle to the recently persecuted saints in a letter dated December 16, 1838.
We want you to remember Haman and Mordecai: you know Haman could not be satisfied so long as he saw Mordecai at the king's gate, and he sought the life of Mordecai and the people of the Jews. But the Lord so ordered it, that Haman was hanged upon his own gallows.
So shall it come to pass with poor Haman in the last days. Those who have sought by unbelief and wickedness, and by the principle of mobocracy, to destroy us and the people of God, by killing them and scattering them abroad, and wilfully and maliciously delivering us into the hands of murderers, desiring us to be put to death, thereby having us dragged about in chains and cast into prison, and for what cause? It is because we were honest men, and were determined to save the lives of the Saints at the expense of our own. I say unto you, that those who have thus vilely treated us like Haman, shall be hanged on their own gallows; or in other words, shall fall into their own gin and snare, and ditch and trap, which they have prepared for us, and shall go backwards and stumble and fall, and their names shall be blotted out, and God shall reward them according to all their abominations. (History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 3: 227)