Esther 10:1-3 - The Conclusion of the Book of Esther
Our text this morning is Esther 10:1-3. It says,
10 King Ahasuerus imposed tax on the land and on the coastlands of the sea. 2 And all the acts of his power and might, and the full account of the high honor of Mordecai, to which the king advanced him, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the kings of Media and Persia? 3 For Mordecai the Jew was second in rank to King Ahasuerus, and he was great among the Jews and popular with the multitude of his brothers, for he sought the welfare of his people and spoke peace to all his people.
In the broader context of chapter 9-10 we see that the book of Esther has focused much attention upon two of the main characters within this historical narrative: Esther and Mordecai. Yet, as we come to the end of this story we are somewhat surprised by the fact that we are told about King Ahasuerus and a tax that he imposed upon all of his kingdom. This tax was subjected upon all of the land and also on the coast lands of the sea. In other words, there was nothing within the kingdom that was not taxed and there was nothing that came into the land from distant countries that were not subject to this tax.
For some time now I have wondered why this bit of information was put into sacred scriptures for us to consider. Why did the Holy Spirit inspire these words at this point in the story? Why does this information matter? Why do we need to know about it?
It seems that we would already assume that King Ahasuerus was imposing taxes upon all the providence's throughout his kingdom. Let’s be honest, none of us are surprised by these words. We would naturally assume that King Ahasuerus, who liked to show off his great wealth and power (Esther 1) would be collecting taxes from the people.
The LORD had told Israel, when they demanded to have a king like all the other nations, would mean that the king would impose upon them many obligations. These obligations could include taxes or some kind of forced labor. We read of this for example in 1 Samuel 8:9-18. There the LORD said to Samuel, “...you shall solemnly warn them and show them the ways of the king who shall reign over them.” Then we read that Samuel said to the people, “These will be the ways of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons and appoint them to his chariots and to be his horsemen and to run before his chariots. 12 And he will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and some to plow his ground and to reap his harvest, and to make his implements of war and the equipment of his chariots. 13 He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. 14 He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive orchards and give them to his servants. 15 He will take the tenth of your grain and of your vineyards and give it to his officers and to his servants. 16 He will take your male servants and female servants and the best of your young men and your donkeys, and put them to his work. 17 He will take the tenth of your flocks, and you shall be his slaves. 18 And in that day you will cry out because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves, but the Lord will not answer you in that day.”
There have been some suggestions as to why Esther 10:1 mentions taxes. First, this is a sign that life is returning to normal within the kingdom. These sort of obligations are to be expected when a society returns to normal. Let me give you an example of this from our day. When the pandemic hit our country we saw that it disrupted many things. Under those circumstances some normal obligations were overlooked because people were experiencing some level of hardship. For example, student loan payments were not required, some medical bills were not required, foreclosures were restricted, rental default was over looked, the cost of funerals was subsidized, etc. But as life returns to normal these things will all be reinstated and expected to be received from the people.
Secondly, some point out that at this time King Ahasuerus’ treasury had become depleted because of his battles against Greece. King Ahasuerus was not victorious in these battles; rather, he was defeated by them. As a result, he had the expense of those battles but none of the plunder, spoils and taxation that he may have counted on.
There is something that we ought to consider at this point. We have seen in the book of Esther how God had saved His Jewish people from Haman’s evil plot. Through this the nation of Persia would be blessed. We have seen God place Esther and Mordecai in positions of great honor, power and authority. Because these godly people are exalted the kingdom would be blessed. But this does not mean that everything King Ahasuerus would attempt to do would be successful. King Ahasuerus would enjoy many blessings because of what God was doing to save His people but he would not experience God’s blessing apart from them. He would not experience God’s blessing in every area of His life and kingdom. King Ahasuerus experience some blessings by association but not directly because he has repented and turned to the LORD.
Thirdly, Esther 10:1 shows us that King Ahasuerus is not trying to gain financial advantage through wicked means anymore. We have seen the king sign Haman’s letter against the Jews when he was told that it would profit himself and the kingdom. His gain would mean the suffering, destruction, and the plunder of others. But now King Ahasuerus is content to gain revenue through legitimate means of taxation upon all of the people.
Generally no one like’s to pay taxes. But there are times when paying taxes does not seem so bad. For example, when a government is being wise, when a government is just and righteous, when a government is good, godly and well-respected the people don’t mind paying the taxes that are due. At this point in the kingdom of Persia things have taken a turn for the better and because of this the people may not have opposed these taxes.
For example, the Jews probably don’t mid these taxes because they have received support from the communities which led to a victory over their enemies. When my son was born he had to spend a week in the hospital. Overall the cost of his care was around $60,000 dollars. My insurance paid that entire amount. I have tried to remember this fact when I pay my premiums so that I will do it with thankfulness and not with grumbling and complaining.
The people of Persia may have not opposed these taxes because they had seen that the Jews had been saved. When Haman’s edict first came they were confused by it; but now they were glad to have read Mordecai’s decree. The Jews were victorious and life was returning to normal.
On top of all of this the people were beginning to notice that the king was now surrounded by admirable people, godly people, righteous people, and wise people. Because of this the people probably did not mind paying these taxes as much as they may have previously.
Remember when we read in 1 Samuel 8:10-18 about all the obligations that the people would have by having a king. Under a good and just king those obligations would have seemed like a little thing. In fact, under a godly king, whose life was bringing God’s blessing upon the people, they would want to be a part of that kingdom. They would want to be as close to the king as they could under those conditions. But if the king was wicked, faithless, godless and harsh; the people would feel the crushing weight of those obligations.
Let’s be honest, all human authority fails short in some way. All human authority, even the best, are tainted with sin. That is why Christians look to Christ Jesus our Lord. He is pure, righteous, holy, sinless, faultless, faithful, humble, loving, benevolent, selfless and generous. Because of this every believer ought to desire to draw as close to Him as they can by faith. And they ought to consider any command that He gives us to obey is to be done with joy. Any obligation we have been given ought to be done without complaining, with love and not from compulsion, with zeal and not procrastination, with faithfulness and not with forgetfulness.
You may be asking, “Why have you spent so much precious time on Esther 10:1? I still find myself asking, “Have I answered the question, why is the Holy Spirit talking about taxation at the end of this book?”
I believe that there is one last thing that should be said before moving on. As we come to the end of this book I think that the Holy Spirit wants to convey that we should be expecting something better. We should be hoping for something more to happen. Mordecai is great but he is not the Messiah. Mordecai has been promoted by King Ahasuerus but he is still only second in the kingdom. The Jews have been saved but they are still in Persia and they are paying taxes to King Ahasuerus. Because of this they are to long for God to restore His Kingdom and fulfill His promises.
Recently I read Isaiah 60 and I was reminded that when the LORD sends His Servant and fulfills His promises that His people would be blessed far more than what we have seen in Esther. Let’s consider Isaiah 60:1-7. It says,
Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. For behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the Lord will arise upon you, and his glory will be seen upon you. And nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising.
Lift up your eyes all around, and see; they all gather together, they come to you; your sons shall come from afar, and your daughters shall be carried on the hip. Then you shall see and be radiant; your heart shall thrill and exult, because the abundance of the sea shall be turned to you, the wealth of the nations shall come to you. A multitude of camels shall cover you, the young camels of Midian and Ephah; all those from Sheba shall come. They shall bring gold and frankincense, and shall bring good news, the praises of the Lord. All the flocks of Kedar shall be gathered to you; the rams of Nebaioth shall minister to you; they shall come up with acceptance on my altar, and I will beautify my beautiful house.
There is a sense in which through Isaiah the LORD is reminding His people that they will be exiled and the temple will be destroyed; but there will be a time when the LORD will once again bless His people. When this happens the LORD will use the wealth of the nations to beautify His house.
There is also a sense in which this text is fulfilled in an even greater way when His Servant the Messiah comes and establishes His church which will be made up of both Jews and Gentiles. When He comes He will draw many people to Himself. Consider what Matthew Henry says of these verses, “We meet with nothing in the history of the Jews which can be deemed a fulfillment of the prophecy in this chapter; we must conclude it relates principally to future events. It predicts the purity and enlargement of the church. The conversion of souls is here described. They fly to Christ, to the church, to the word and ordinances, as doves to their own home; thither they fly for refuge and shelter, thither they fly for rest. What a pleasant sight to see poor souls hastening to Christ!”
This hastening towards someone is what we see happening in Esther 10:3. It says, “For Mordecai the Jew was second in rank to King Ahasuerus, and he was great among the Jews and popular with the multitude of his brothers, for he sought the welfare of his people and spoke peace to all his people.”
Notice that the people are not hastening towards Mordecai because he is second in rank to King Ahasuerus, but because he sought the welfare of his people and spoke peace to all his people. The people liked Mordecai for two reasons. First, he sought the welfare of His people and acted in a way that served the good of his people. Secondly, Mordecai spoke peace to all his people. We can understand how Mordecai would be so popular among the people that he served for these reasons. Yet, Jesus is better. We ought to hasten to Jesus quickly!
Jesus has come and obeyed the Father completely even to the point of death. And now He speaks peace to His people who so desperately need it. And He sends to them the Holy Spirit who continually reminds God’s people of these very things. Consider John 14:25-31, “These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I will come to you.’ If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. And now I have told you before it takes place, so that when it does take place you may believe. I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no claim on me, but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father.”
Jesus came to give His life for sinners; so that all who would come to Him might have life and peace. He suffered so that we could be forgiven of our sins and have peace with God. Do you remember what Matthew Henry said, “What a pleasant sight to see poor souls hastening to Christ!” We are all poor souls who flee to Christ because He has sought the welfare of His people and because He has spoken peace to His people.
Is the Holy Spirit drawing your heart to hasten to Christ? Is the Holy Spirit drawing you to Jesus for salvation? Does your heart long to hear words of peace? Do you need to come to Jesus who has sought your welfare and is ready to bestow upon you His rich blessings? Now is the time for you to come to Him.
Bear with me one more moment as I address one more thing for us to consider as we draw near to the celebration of Christ’s death and resurrection. The book of Esther has shown us how we ought to prepare our hearts for such occasions. You see, it is not enough that we should come next Sunday to celebrate Resurrection Sunday if we have not prepared our heart to do so in the days leading up to it. We will be missing something in our celebration of Christ’s resurrection if we put more effort into the details of that day than we would put effort into preparing our own hearts to celebrate.
Let me remind us about what we have learned in Esther as we look back at Esther 9. In that chapter there were two letters that were sent out throughout the Persian Empire which authorized a Celebration every year about God’s deliverance of His people. In the first letter we read these words in Esther 9:20-22, “And Mordecai recorded these things and sent letters to all the Jews who were in all the provinces of King Ahasuerus, both near and far, obliging them to keep the fourteenth day of the month Adar and also the fifteenth day of the same, year by year, as the days on which the Jews got relief from their enemies, and as the month that had been turned for them from sorrow into gladness and from mourning into a holiday; that they should make them days of feasting and gladness, days for sending gifts of food to one another and gifts to the poor.”
They are to remember that God had given them relief from their enemies and delivered them from their great sorrow. Notice that this letter emphasizes the fact that they are to celebrate with gladness and with feasting.
Yet, there is a second letter in this chapter that reminds the people to prepare their hearts for this celebration. This day of celebration is not just about the feasting and gladness but it is also about remembering how they turned to God in that moment of despair. Esther sends out a letter that encourages them to remember that their deliverance first began by them to turn to the LORD with fasting and lamenting. We read in Esther 9:30-32, “Letters were sent to all the Jews, to the 127 provinces of the kingdom of Ahasuerus, in words of peace and truth, that these days of Purim should be observed at their appointed seasons, as Mordecai the Jew and Queen Esther obligated them, and as they had obligated themselves and their offspring, with regard to their fasts and their lamenting. The command of Esther confirmed these practices of Purim, and it was recorded in writing.”
In this letter the Jews were reminded that if they really want to have a heart of celebration at the Feast of Purim then some heart work will need to be done.
This heart work will be a time of reflection about our great need of deliverance from indwelling sin, from the world and from the devil.
We will need to spend some time humbling ourselves before God by prayer, fasting, and repentance; so that we can celebrate the deliverance that we have in Christ through His death and resurrection which has brought us peace with God.
We may need to spend some time remembering that there may be some ways in which we have neglected to look to Christ and hope in not only His resurrection but also His return when we will be restored, confirmed, strengthened and established (1 Peter 5:10)
Let us consider these things that we have learned from the book of Esther and come next week with our hearts prepared to celebrate with gladness the death and resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.