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Bible Commentaries

James Nisbet's Church Pulpit Commentary

Esther 4



Verses 14-16


‘Who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this? Then Esther bade them return Mordecai this answer, Go, gather together all the Jews that are present in Shushan, and fast ye for me: … I also and my maidens will fast likewise; and so will I go in unto the king, which is not according to the law: and if I perish, I perish.’

Esther 4:14-16

It was a time of great national peril, of danger averted by the forethought of Mordecai and the courage of Esther, who must always hold a high place among the heroines of history. For the book of Esther is undoubtedly of historical value, though it is no less certainly coloured by the picturesque imagination of its author. It was a crisis in the history of the Jews, and so in the history of humanity. Esther was appealed to for deliverance at her own great risk, and she was not deaf to the appeal. Had she refused to play her part in the affair, it is hard to say what would have been the consequence; but she was put to the test, and proved loyal to her God and her nation. And so she stands out before us as an ideal which we shall do well to imitate.

At first, and not unnaturally, she hesitated to provoke the tyrant’s wrath by disregard of a domestic order; but, moved at last by her uncle’s appeal to her sense of responsibility, she declared her belief in the providential care of the God of her fathers, and, with a noble scorn of consequence, her willingness to act.

I. Now, I would have you notice first—as the root of all conscientious action in any crisis of individual life—Esther’s proud scorn of consequence in the fulfilment of her duty.—We may compare it with that of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego a century before in Babylonia—on the edge of the burning fiery furnace—‘Our God … will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods.’ The story of this past heroism may well have nerved the young Queen to her noble self-renunciation—‘if I perish, I perish.’

It is a conflict which is constantly presenting itself in Christian warfare. If it should please God that she, Esther the queen, should perish because she asserted the claims of down-trodden humanity, then it were better so—better to cast in her lot with righteousness, to take the suffering that God willed, and bear it, rather than to enjoy life and wealth, equipages, palaces, attendants, as the wages of sin. On the one side right, on the other enjoyment. Right shadowed with pain, enjoyment coloured by sin. Esther’s answer was free and decisive—and yet she had counted the cost. We glory in it to-day—‘if I perish, I perish’—and would fain act as she acted.

II. Notice further Esther’s trust in God.—She would hold herself still in Him. This second point of teaching comes home to us to-day as fresh as when the words were spoken. A trust in God can exorcise all evil tendency—which goeth not out save by prayer and fasting. ‘Fast ye for me … I also and my maidens will fast likewise.’ ‘Though He deny me, yet will I trust in Him.’ There is the same scorn of consequences which rests proudly on trustfulness in God, when some one says, ‘Whatever happens, I will do what my father and my mother taught me to be right. I will obey my conscience, my Bible, my Saviour. If truth is death, then let me die.’ To do this, and to be thus, is to have constant and watchful regard for opportunity.

III. ‘Who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?’ These were wise words of Mordecai.—They are words which, in things both great and small, we do well to account as teaching an important lesson for ourselves. This was Esther’s opportunity. If she had failed to grasp it, the massacre would have taken place, and history would not have told of her magnificent heroism. The world of the twentieth century would have been the poorer for the failure of a Jewish maiden. For may we not account her position in the monarch’s harem as raising her far above the commonplace? When God claims from you some special stress of service—some act of self-surrender in conduct or in judgment—can you honestly picture yourselves in the character which my text suggests, and in answer to the appeal of God’s Spirit—‘Who knoweth whether thou art come to the Kingdom for such a time as this?’—can you catch anything of the controlled enthusiasm of Esther? ‘Fast ye for me … I also … will fast likewise; and so will I go in unto the king, which is not according to the law.’ In your case it may be the law of rank, or party, or learning, or fashion. But these are of no account when duty calls. Catch, I repeat, her spirit: ‘if I perish, I perish.’

—Canon R. D. Swallow.


‘It was by the loving providence of God that the Jews were saved, and it is by that same wise, over-ruling care that our lives are shaped day by day. In these materialistic times we are drifting away from the great truth that God guides and moulds human life. Every believing soul is in the hands of a strong and loving Father, Who is fashioning it wisely and well. Esther’s God is our God. He who helped His people in trouble twenty-five hundred years ago is just as ready to help us to-day. Dependence upon God is the way to true success.’


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These files are public domain.
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Bibliography Information
Nisbet, James. "Commentary on Esther 4:4". Church Pulpit Commentary. 1876.

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