This Week’s Focus Passage: Esther 6:1ff. ‘On that night could not the king sleep.’
This Week’s Focus Passage: Esther 6:1ff.
‘On that night could not the king sleep.’
We are able and blessed to witness, in the book of Esther, a remarkable account of God’s Providence in the lives and history of His people, and their nation. The book of Esther, a book which perhaps does not get the attention it might, has not been the subject of a great many commentaries, nor Esther herself the subject of many biographies, Christians or otherwise. In an admittedly superficial glance at a popular used book website, there were discovered only two titles referencing Esther. One has been written by Charles Swindoll, a.k.a., Chuck Swindoll, under the title, Esther, a woman of strength and dignity. The only other work that was found, is a volume, written by Dr. Atula Ao, and its title is Hidden Identity of Women in Church and Society: a Re-reading of the book of Esther. It has earlier been allowed that these are not results of even nearly approaching an exhaustive search; but it’s interesting.
Further, it is noted that, in a volume under the title ‘Survey of the Bible,’ by a commentator of the standing of William Hendriksen, there is nothing more about the book of Esther than a very brief synopsis at the top of page 304. In that synopsis, Hendriksen, informs his readers, that, “Esther, whose story is related in the book named for her, was a beautiful Jewish maiden, a cousin of Mordecai, who had adopted her. Some years after King Xerxes had rejected his wife Vashti, who had refused to permit herself to be displayed to revelers at a banquet, Esther was chosen to take her place. In this high position she availed herself of the opportunity to frustrate the plot of Haman, the king’s favorite, which he had devised against the Jews. As a result of the glorious deliverance of Jehovah’s people, the Purim Feast was instituted. The book indicates, in a most striking manner, the overruling providence of God in rendering possible the execution of God’s plan with respect to the Jews, from whom the Christ was to be born.”
Now, while there does seem to be a paucity of serious recent commentaries on the book of Esther, one site—Ligonier Ministries—suggesting the five most recommended volumes, the only name we recognized being that of Joyce Baldwin, who was described as an author of a ‘previous generation.’ Her small contribution (126 pages) was written way back in 1984 (being facetious about the ‘way back,’ of course). Happily, there is an exception to be found, but we must actually travel ‘way back’ to the year of 1851. Now, all of this is not to dismiss the many wonderfully fine commentaries upon the whole Bible which, of course, include comments upon the book of Esther. These ‘commentaries on the entire Bible,’ go back many centuries, making their way, of course, into our own century. But having said all this, there is a delightful commentary, already alluded to as having been written in 1851, written by one Alexander Carson. Alexander Carson has the most interesting distinction of having been a paedo-baptist until later in the midst of his career. We may read how that “In attempting to refute Haldane’s New Views on Baptism he was himself converted to Baptist principles, and afterwards published his best-known book, Baptism, Its Mode and Subjects (1831).” This was twenty years before he published this book which we have brought forward; namely, his work upon the book of Esther, under the title of The History of Providence as Unfolded in the Book of Esther. This commentary was bound together, in 1851, with an additional work, of eighty pages, under the title, The God of Providence, The God of the Bible. Alexander Carson wrote a number of other books, such as the Inspiration and Interpretation of Scripture; Transubstantiation, The Trinity, etc. Additionally, we are told, by a biographer, that he also co-operated with Robert Haldane, regarding the latter’s well-known Commentary on Romans.
His biographer continues to relate to us, that, “By his writings and the publication of his books Carson became widely known; and so much were they esteemed in America that two universities simultaneously bestowed upon him the honorary degree of LL.D. He also became well known nearer home by traveling through most of the English counties, preaching as he went on Baptist missions. Returning. from his last tour in 1844, while waiting at Liverpool for the steamer to Belfast, he fell over the edge of the quay, [God’s Providence?] dislocated his shoulder, and was nearly drowned. He was rescued and taken to the steamer; but on his arrival at Belfast he was unable to proceed further, and after eight days he died, on August 24, 1844, in the sixty-eighth year of his age. His remains were removed to ‘Solitude’, his house near Tubbermore, and buried near the meeting-house where he had preached and where six months before he had buried his wife.”
But to return to Carson’s commentary upon the book of Esther. He points out the obvious incidents [not accidents] where the remarkable Providence of God is brought into place at the precise time of its being absolutely essential for the design of God for the safety and deliverance of His chosen people, Israel. While Esther is famous, or infamous, for the fact that there is no mention of the Name of God to be found anywhere on its pages, it should be equally well-known for the stark reality of its occasions of the interposition of the Providence of God. Carson correctly cites these matters most helpfully for us. At the very outset of this peculiar narrative, the first instance of the intervention of God is to be noted. The book of Esther begins with the account of the king, Ahasuerus, ‘making a feast.’ This, in and of itself, was certainly not outside the parameters of a heathen king’s activities. Yet, what Carson maintains was not within the boundaries, even of a heathen monarch, was the terrible pride of this man; pride in the beauty of his queen, Vashti. Ahasuerus actually directed seven of his chamberlains to bring Vashti, even from the feast with which she was entertaining the women. And while excuse might be attempted on the basis of the statement that ‘the heart of the king was merry with wine,’ this would be only a subterfuge to justify wantonness. The truth that lay behind the king’s desire is given just a few verses later; with the order to bring Vashti the queen before the king with the crown royal, to show the peoples and the princes her beauty; for she was fair to look upon. This is nothing more, then, than the king being a braggart; bragging on the beauty of his queen. But this was all in the Providence of God, in order to set Esther in a position to be able to advocate for her people, delivering them from the plot of an enemy. Marvelous are the ways of God, and often past finding out.
An occasion of even greater mystery is found in our focus passage for this week. The plot of Haman, the second to the king, to avenge his honor by hanging Mordecai simply because Mordecai refused to bow to Haman; this vengeful plot was in its advanced stages, to the point of certainty, humanly speaking, Haman having gallows already constructed for the execution of his enemy. But something happened that very night; something inexplicable apart from God’s sovereign Providence. We are told, On that night could not the king sleep. The cause of this inability is not given us to know. But, not being able to sleep, he asked for something to read, but not just anything; he asked for a book of records of the chronicles. These chronicles, ‘state papers; records of past events;’ contained an account of how that Mordecai had been instrumental in the king’s deliverance from an assassination plot. Immediately, the king went into action to resolve a failure of Mordecai being rewarded for doing this.
The result of all this was that Haman was hanged upon his own gallows, and Mordecai was raised up and promoted. We read, in 8:2, And the king took off his ring, which he had taken from Haman, and gave it unto Mordecai. These are nothing less than examples of the powerful, sovereign, Providence of Jehovah God in action.
Carson sums up these many lessons with words unsurpassable encouragement.
“The book of Esther teaches us to see the hand of God, not only in the great events of the world, but in all the transactions of men. It calls on us to see him in every occurrence of every day in our lives; and to trust in him for provision, protection, health, comfort, peace, and all the blessings of life. Innumerable dangers are around us every moment; it is only the arm of God can ward them off from us. The most trifling accident might destroy us, as well as an earthquake; it is the watch-fulness of Providence must guarantee our safety. How then in this book calculated to nourish our gratitude, increase our dependence on God, and invigorate our confidence.” May every believer echo a resounding ‘Amen.’
David Farmer, elder
Fellowship Bible Church
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