Esther 4

The Word Made Fresh

1When Mordecai learned what had been done, he tore his clothes, dressed in sackcloth and ashes and went through the city weeping loudly. 2He stood outside the entrance to the king’s gate (no one was permitted to enter the gate wearing sackcloth).

3In every province where the king’s decree was announced there was a great outcry among the Jews. They fasted and wept and mourned. Most of them dressed in sackcloth and ashes.

4When Esther’s maids and eunuchs told her about the decree, she was greatly distressed. She sent clothing to Mordecai, but he would not remove his sackcloth and ashes. 5She summoned Hathach, one of the king’s eunuchs appointed as her attendant, and told him to go ask Mordecai what was happening and why he was in mourning. 6Hathach approached Mordecai in the city square in front of the king’s gate, 7and Mordecai told him about the destruction of the Jews, including the amount of money Haman had promised for the king’s treasuries. 8He gave Hathach a copy of the decree issued in Susa for the destruction of the Jews and asked him to give it to Esther and tell her she must go to the king and beg him to spare her people.

9Hathach then told Esther what Mordecai had said. 10Esther gave him this message to take back to Mordecai: 11“All of the king’s servants and people know that anyone who enters the inner court of the king without being summoned is to be put to death. Only if the king holds out the golden scepter may such a person live. It has been thirty days since I have been summoned to go to the king.”

12When Mordecai received Esther’s response, 13he sent this reply to her: “Don’t think that just because you are in the king’s palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews. 14If you are silent in such a time as this, the Jews will be rescued from another quarter, but you and your father’s family will die. How do you know you haven’t been elevated to a royal position for just such a time as this?”

15Esther sent this reply to Mordecai: 16“Send word to all the Jews in Susa to enter into a fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days and nights. I and my attendants will fast also. Then I will go to the king even if it is against protocol, and if I die, I die.”

17Mordecai then left the king’s gate and did as Esther had instructed him.


1-3: Mordecai is mortified, as are all the Jews all over the country.

4-8: Esther hears that her cousin Mordecai is in sackcloth and ashes. Her response is to send him some decent clothes. When he refuses to wear them, she sends her attendant Hathach to find out what’s going on. Mordecai gives Hathach a copy of the decree and asks him to deliver it to Esther so that she might go to the king and try to set things right.

9-17: Esther sends Hathach back to Mordecai to explain to him that she can’t just drop in on the king. Such arrogance is a capital crime unless the king pardons the trespass by holding out his scepter to prevent the guards from killing the intruder on the spot. Mordecai’s response is famous and historic. “If you keep silence at such a time as this,” he says, “deliverance will come from elsewhere, but you will perish.” Those words serve as a reminder to every generation that turning a deaf ear to injustice and oppression is itself as great a sin. He also suggests to Esther that her rise to royal status may have occurred “for such a time as this.” God is never mentioned in the book of Esther, but certainly stands behind the scenery looking on and directing the cast, or at least part of the cast. Esther is persuaded and offers to risk her life, asking only that the Jews undergird her mission with three days of fasting and prayer. Mordecai promises to get the word out to all the Jewish communities in the Persian Empire. This would normally take weeks to accomplish with runners carrying the letter to every corner of the empire, but to continue advancing the action as every story must, we’ll pretend he e-mailed it, and the fasting begins right away.


When God’s people see injustice, they must speak out.