Job 32-42: The Slaughtered Lamb

Chapter 32

The three friends, Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar, ceased to answer Job (v.1) – because Job was righteous in his own eyes.  However, then comes Elihu (whose God is he (Jehovah)), the son of Barachel (whom God had blessed) the Buzite (from “Buz” – one of the chiefs of the tribe of Gad – 1 Chronicles 5:14, meaning “contempt“).  So Eliphaz burned with anger, the man who hails from the tribe who strikes at the heel of his raiders (Genesis 49:19).  He identifies himself as one of the young, one of those who would have listened to Job during Job’s days of glory (c.f. chapter 29), yet he recognises that the true teacher is the Breath of the Almighty (v.8; indicative of the Holy Spirit; c.f. Genesis 2:7, 7:22, Job 4:9; see also Job 33:4-5).  It is the Holy Spirit Who is the Wisdom that makes man understand, the very Wisdom whom Job spoke of in chapter 28.  He will not show partiality due to his youth, for the spirit within him shall speak words of truth unveiled and without flattery (v.21-22; c.f. Psalms 5:9; Romans 16:18; 1 Thessalonians 2:5).

It is interesting that Elihu as a character is only verbal between chapters 32 and 37.  He was not introduced at the outset, for is he mentioned by the LORD when the LORD rebukes Job’s three friends.  In the coming chapters, Elihu’s words will show that his focus is not on behavioural modifications leading to God’s stamp of approval; quite the contrary, it is in the LORD’s sovereignty and Ransom (chapter 33.v22-24) by the power of His Wisdom, the Holy Spirit, that Job can plead for this very Mediator.  In a sense, Elihu is akin to Elijah – both figures of Christ, but also foreshadows of John the Baptist, he who prepares the way for the LORD’s coming.  Just as Elihu ceases to speak in chapter 37, so the LORD speaks immediately in chapter 38 as if ushered by this prophetic and mysterious figure.

 

Chapter 33

The Spirit of God has made Elihu, and the breath of the Almighty gives Elihu life – this is how Elihu’s words of truth begin.  He does not set a weighty yoke on Job as Bildad, Eliphaz and Zophar did (v.7; c.f. Matthew 11:30).  Elihu speaks as though he is the author of the book of Proverbs – “For God speaks in one way, and in two, though man does not perceive it” (v.14; e.g. Proverbs 6:16; 30:18, 30:21, 30:29).  So also God’s truth is not interpreted merely from one angle of man’s perception, but also from the perspective of a dream, in a vision of the night, in deep sleep (v.14-15), to give man a revelation to turn such man aside from pride and evil deed (v.17), to preserve a man from the bottomless pit (v.18, 24) – this is most predominantly shown in the Ransom (v.24), the Angel of the LORD, the Mediator, one and only (v.22-23).  It is through the propitiation, intercession and mediation of Christ Jesus that Job’s flesh can become fresh with youth, returning to the days of his youthful vigor (v.25), allowing Job to pray to God through the intercessor (v.26; c.f. Book of Hebrews), salvation by the gift of righteousness.  The fulfillment of the Kinsman Redeemer in Job 19:25 is thus fulfilled in the words of Elihu in Job 33:28 – Christ has redeemed Job from going down into the pit, and his life shall look upon the light.  Behold, God does these things, twice, three times with a man – to resurrect his soul from the pit.  Such is the act of the glorious and divine resurrection!  So Elihu enlightens Job to the true wisdom whom Job had been alluding to in his self-defence.

Adam Clarke comments:

It is this that gives efficacy to all the preceding means; without which they would be useless, and the salvation of man impossible. I must think that the redemption of a lost world, by Jesus Christ, is not obscurely signified in Job 33:23, 24.  While the whole world lay in the wicked one, and were all hastening to the bottomless pit, God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him might not perish, but have everlasting life. Jesus Christ, the great sacrifice, and head of the Church, commissions his messengers-apostles and their successors-to show men the righteousness of God, and his displeasure at sin, and at the same time his infinite love, which commands them to proclaim deliverance to the captives, and that they who believe on him shall not perish, shall not go down to the pit of destruction, for he has found out an atonement; and that whoever comes to him, through Christ, shall have everlasting life, in virtue of that atonement or ransom price.”

 

Clarke also further provides the following paragraph for v.26-29:

 

Ver. 26. He (Jesus Christ, the head and ransom price) shall pray unto God, (shall make intercession for the transgressors, for he is the Mediator between God and man.) And he (God the Father) will be favourable, ( yirtsehu, will manifest his good will towards him.) And he shall see his face ( panaiv, his faces, God the Father, Son, and Spirit) with joy, ( bithruah, with exultation or triumph,) for he will render unto man his righteousness, ( yasheb leenosh tsidkatho, “He will restore to wretched man his righteousness;” i.e., he will create the soul anew, and restore to the fallen spirit that righteousness and true holiness which it has lost, and bring it again to its original state of perfection, through the grand atonement mentioned Job 33:24.) But when is it that wretched miserable man shall be brought to this state of salvation? This is answered in Ver. 27. When God, looking upon men, seeth any of them saying, I have sinned and perverted that which is right, and it hath profited me nothing-has afforded nothing equal to my wishes, and the tribulation which I sustained in seeking happiness in forbidden things. Redeem my soul from going down to destruction, and my life shall see the light, or shall be as the light. This is the prayer of the penitent, which God has promised to hear. This is one of the best, the deepest, the most spiritual, and most important chapters which the reader has yet met with in the Book of Job. It is every way important, and full of useful information. It is a grand exhibition of the WAY of salvation as revealed to patriarchs and prophets.”

 

So, just as Clarke defines the way of salvation, as specifically revealed to the patriarchs and prophets is no different from the way we see it – Job, Elihu and Paul and Peter all look to Jesus Christ the eternal mediator for the restoration of their souls, so that they too, like Jesus (c.f. Psalm 16:10; Acts 2:27), would be resurrected on the Day of the Bridegroom.

 

Chapter 34

Elihu continues his words, in answer not only to Job but also to his other three friends (v.2).  Obviously his words are laced with sarcasm – “Hear my words, you wise men” (v.2).  In particular, Elihu charges Job very high upon his words.  As Matthew Henry comments:

Did you ever know such a man as Job, or ever hear a man talk at such an extravagant rate?” He represents him, (1.) As sitting in the seat of the scornful: “He drinketh up scorning like water,” that is, “he takes a great deal of liberty to reproach both God and his friends, takes a pleasure in so doing, and is very liberal in his reflections.” Or, “He is very greedy in receiving and hearkening to the scorns and contempts which others cast upon their brethren, is well pleased with them and extols them.” Or, as some explain it, “By these foolish expressions of his he makes himself the object of scorn, lays himself very open to reproach, and gives occasion to others to laugh at him; while his religion suffers by them, and the reputation of that is wounded through his side.” We have need to pray that God will never leave us to ourselves to say or do any thing which may make us a reproach to the foolish, Ps. xxxix. 8. (2.) As walking in the course of the ungodly, and standing in the way of sinners: He goes in company with the workers of iniquity ( 8), not that in his conversation he did associate with them, but in his opinion he did favour and countenance them, and strengthen their hands. If (as it follows, 9, for the proof of this) it profits a man nothing to delight himself in God, why should he not lay the reins on the neck of his lusts and herd with the workers of iniquity? He that says, I have cleansed my hands in vain, does not only offend against the generation of God’s children (Ps. lxxii. 13, 14), but gratifies his enemies, and says as they say.”

It would appear, then, that Job has somewhat lost sight of the joys of being with the LORD, although his description of God is far more accurate than that of Bildad, Eliphaz and Zophar.  Elihu’s words can be summed up as follows – “Will he then make repayment to suit you, because you reject it?” (v.33).  Elihu, rather than speaking words of what appears to be rebuke, is actually trying to reclaim the Christological perspective in Job’s suffering.  God will never allow wickedness, and he is neve wrong (v.10); indeed, of a truth, God will not do wickedly, and the Almighty will not do wickedly (v.12).  However, throughout this, Elihu does not accuse Job as wicked.  He is merely reminding Job that, in the midst of Job’s suffering, if indeed Job is righteous, then what Job is experiencing is still just.  It is still the sovereign act of God; the God who will not pervert justice (v.12, 17); the God who is righteous and mighty and is impartial to men of all stature (v.18-32).  Although Job is declaring in the recent chapters his pain and anguish as one who obeys the LORD, and considers that “It profits a man nothing that he should take delight in God” (v.9), he is indeed better off than if he had sinned (chapter 35:3).

 

Chapter 35

So chapter 35 opens with Elihu comparing the predicament of a sinner and that of a righteous man – what advantage is there, if the guilty flourishes and the innocent perish?  Elihu answers, by indicating that those who cry out for help (v.9-11) may not receive an immediate answer (because of the pride of evil men) (v.12).  As v. 10 states, such cries are merely cries for deliverance – but they do not cry out to the Deliverer.  Yet, that is not the case with Job.  However, despite the LORD not yet speaking in the book of Job since Job’s afflictions, Elihu reminds Job that the LORD’s silence should not be taken as an opportunity for Job to doubt the timing of the LORD’s judgment, lest he opens his mouth to proceed in empty talk and multiply words without knowledge (V.15-16).  As Adam Clarke comments – “they cry for deliverance from the pride of wicked men; but they are not heard, because they cry not to God… He will not attend to such vain cries; they cry from their oppressions, but they cry not to God.”  This indeed is timely advice for a day when Christ’s Second Coming has been approximately 2000 years in the waiting, with people not girding themselves for His return, perhaps even doubting that He would even return at all.  He who was once a righteous man, like Job, would be tempted to grow weary of waiting for the Bridegroom.  However, as sure as the sun shall rise from the east to pursue his Bride, the Church, to the west – so also Christ’s return is imminent hope for Job and Christian alike.

 

Chapter 36

So Elihu continues to elaborate on the just timing of the LORD’s judgment – as in the days of Noah when the LORD closed the door to the ark at his divine appointment, so also Job should look forward to the appointed climax of Christ’s return.  He is described as:

 

  • He is mighty in strength of understanding (v.5);
  • He will exalt the afflicted by giving them their right (v.6; 15-16);
  • His eyes are on the righteous (v. 7 c.f. Psalm 34:15);
  • He sets us as kings upon the throne (v.7 c.f. Revelation 1:5-6, 3:21)
  • He will bless those who listen and serve him (v.8-11)
  • He will allow those who do not listen to perish (v.9-14)

 

From v.17 onwards, Elihu warns Job to not fall into the camp of those who scoff by being enticed by wrath (v.18), that Job should not long for the night nor turn to iniquity (v.17-21), and remember that the LORD is a powerful teacher (v.22-33).  As Elihu sums – “Behold, God is great, and we know him not; the number of his years is unsearchable” (v.26).  This humility before God far exceeds that of Bildad, Eliphaz and Zophar who have claimed no knowledge of the vastness of God’s personality and yet they still make definitive charges against Job as if they were God Himself.

 

Indeed – “let not the greatness of the ransom turn you aside” (v.18).  This verse is quite difficult to understand although Matthew Henry sees this as regarding a bribe turning Job away:

 

Even a great ransom cannot deliver thee when God enters into judgment with thee. His justice cannot be bribed, nor any of the ministers of his justice. Will he esteem thy riches, and take from them a commutation of the punishment?”

 

No gold is sufficient to satiate the price – except for the “gold” found in the salvation of Christ Jesus, the true Ransom of all ransoms shadowed by the deaths of the innocent sacrifices under the Levitical law.

 

Chapter 37

Starting with chapter 36:27, after Elihu admits the vastness of God’s unsearchable character, he describes God’s majestic act of creation in intimate detail:

 

  • The spreading of the clouds, the thundering of his pavilion (v.29)
  • Lightning is scattered about him, covering the roots of the sea (v.30)
  • Lightning strikes its mark, its crashing declares His presence (v.33)

 

These themes are carried through and brought to a climactic end in chapter 37, acting as a cloud-like shroud to usher in the LORD’s majesty in chapter 38:

 

  • That his words are like a thunder, thundering with his majestic voice (v.2, 4, 5)
  • His lightning to the corners of the earth, unrestrained when his voice is heard (v.3, 4)

 

The Genesis-type language in chapter 37, combined with the LORD’s booming voice and Word, are indicative of Elihu’s understanding of how creation came into being and his focus on God’s intention for man, vs. Job’s three “wise-men”’s views of man’s intention of God.  Elihu’s words in this chapter illustrates the powerful and authoritative aspect of the LORD’s words and commands – the imperative nature of His Word causing immediate transformation.  And yet – God has not actually “spoken” in the way that Job has stated God to be in silence!  Elihu is still able to identify the gospel in the creation, that God has not ceased to speak, and that it is only by his Word and anything can be sustained (c.f. Colossians 1:15).  So Elihu displays in this chapter to us, fallen man, that God’s revelation is just as powerful by his spoken word as can be traced in the sky, in the snow and in the very ice of His breath.

 

So Elihu goes on immediately in this chapter to describe the life that is breathed from God’s Word.  From v.6-13, he explains that the LORD’s sovereignty in all events of life and uses the winter imagery; that snow shall fall on earth in his mighty downpour (v.6), whilst the hand of every man is sealed and beasts remain in their dens (v.7-8); that by His breath, ice is given and broad waters frozen (v.10) – ultimately, “whether for correction or for his land or for love, he causes it to happen”.  Even in the nature of this world, God’s love is wildly imprinted.  Such are the wondrous works of God which, if Job considered further, would reveal the reasons for his current demise (v.14-18).  Job is revealed for his over-presumption of the LORD’s perspective, with Elihu stringing question after question:

 

  • Do you know how God lays his command upon them and causes the lightning of his cloud to shine?
  • Do you know the balancings of the clouds…?
  • Can you spread out the skies, hard as a cast metal mirror?

 

Chapter 38

After 37 chapters of apparent silence (which Elihu would of course dispute, as he would affirm the LORD’s presence during Job’s friends’ “wise” counsel), the LORD booms into the scene by answering Job out of the whirlwind (very different to the LORD who spoke a whisper in 1 Kings 19 to Elijah), his first words being:

 

Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?

 

It is important that the LORD’s first words are words of justice.  The LORD immediately identifies those with false counsel, just as the LORD, upon reacting to the enemy’s work in Genesis 3, immediately adjudicates the situation at hand.  Without such justice, there can be no mercy by the power of the Passover Lamb.  Yet, the LORD does not begin to provide answers.  Instead, as fitting to the precursor by Elihu, He continues with the questions in this chapter with regard to the majesty of his creation (a total of 26 questions including his very first statement!).  Several of these questions validate Elihu’s position in chapters 36 and 37.

 

However, whilst these words appear to be directed to the men who have darkened counsel by words, to the men who have misrepresented God in their attempts to be humble; God’s questions are most fitting if they are posited against the enemy, the Satan.  Just as if God is speaking to the prince of Tyre in Ezekiel 28, or the Day Star, son of Dawn, the king of Babylon in Isaiah 14:  WHO is this enemy?  Did he lay the foundation of the earth?  Where was he when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy?  God’s accusation is that of the enemy’s lack of wisdom and knowledge.  “You know, for you were born then, and the number of your days is great!” – fitting words of irony against the prince who so heavily relied on his wisdom and understanding (Ezekiel 28:4).  Even the enemy has not seen the gates of death and deep darkness, the very Sheol which is the prison the LORD has prepared for the father of lies and his children (John 8:44; 1 John 2:22).  While the LORD is clearly speaking to Job here (c.f. Job 42:7), similarly his words directed at the prince of Tyre and king of Babylon and not merely to those men, but to the evil spirit speaking behind those men.

 

Chapter 39

So the LORD continues his questions, which hones in onto the lives of the creatures He has made (15 questions), covering:

 

  • Mountain goats, from the old giving birth to the young becoming strong (v.4);
  • Wild donkey, who has the arid plain for his home, the salt land for his dwelling place, scorning the city (v.5-8);
  • Wild ox’s unwillingness to serve man, unwillingness to be bound (v.9-12);
  • Ostrich, who appear beautiful but can hardly be called pinions and plumage of love (v.13-17)
  • Horses, which are mighty, leaping like locusts, with terrifying snorts and great exultation in strength (v.19-25)
  • Hawks, which soar (v.26)
  • Eagle, which mounts up high and makes his nest, dwelling at his stronghold and where the slain are, spying out the prey and  (v.27-30)

 

The LORD therefore spent two chapters – 38 and 39 – describing His activity in the nature of creation, and in the life of creation.  The vastness of his glory which transcends man’s feeble understanding and role in His large universe.

 

Chapter 40

So Job responds in this chapter humbly – “Behold I am of small account; what shall I answer you?” (v.4)

 

The LORD’s response in v.7 is a refrain from chapter 38:3 – “Dress for action like a man; I will question you, and you make it known to me”.  As Adam Clarke interprets:

 

Verse 3. Gird up now thy loins: I will not confound thee with my terrors; dismiss all fearful apprehensions from thy mind; now act like a man, kegeber, like a hero: stand and vindicate thyself. For I will demand of thee-I will ask thee a series of questions more easy of solution than those which thou hast affected to discuss already; and then thou shalt have the opportunity of answering for thyself.”

 

Sometimes we forget the majesty of the Lord.  Sometimes we blaspheme, use his name in vain, treat him like a theological topic to be discussed, molded, politicized for our debased desires.  Yet have we an arm like God, thunder with a voice like his (v.9)?  Can we truly treat our workmanship as though we have adorned ourselves with majesty and dignity, clothe ourselves with glory and splendor, abase those who are proud and bring them low and tread down the wicked where they stand (v.10-12), let alone bind the enemy (v.13)?  No – although we are God’s workmanship created in Christ Jesus to do His works (Ephesians 2:10).  We are none of these things outside of Jesus – that is the LORD’s response.  Without the Lord, our own right hand cannot save ourselves (v.14).  Even a grand creature such as the Behemoth cannot contend with the Lord himself, although he may be the fear of men (v.19-24)!

 

It is here that we realize the Lord, at this point, is but using the Behemoth as an analogy both for himself (see Job 41:10) and for us.  If we cannot even contend against the Behemoth, how can we contend against God?  And yet, even if we think ourselves equal to Behemoths, are they not also humbled by the Father above?  No matter how much we boast, we are but the clay of the potter.  We who mold are but molded daily by His grace.  As Matthew Henry commented:

 

The behemoth perhaps is here intended (as well as the leviathan afterwards) to represent those proud tyrants and oppressors whom God had just now challenged Job to abase and bring down. They think themselves as well fortified against the judgments of God as the elephant with his bones of brass and iron; but he that made the soul of man knows all the avenues to it, and can make the sword of justice, his wrath, to approach to it, and touch it in the most tender and sensible part. He that framed the engine, and put the parts of it together, knows how to take it in pieces. Woe to him therefore that strives with his Maker, for he that made him has therefore power to make him miserable, and will not make him happy unless he will be ruled by him.”

 

Chapter 41

The analogy at the end of chapter 40 continues here, from Behemoth to Leviathan.  Can we play with Leviathan, a type of the Lord?  Can we draw the Lord out with a fishhook, press down His tongue with a cord, put a rope in His nose, pierce His jaw with a hook (v.1-2)?  Will He make many pleas to us, speak to us with soft words, make a covenant with us and make Himself a servant forever?  (v.3-4)  Will we play with Him as with a bird, or will we put him on a leash for our girls?  Will traders bargain over Him, divide Him up among the merchants?  Can we fill His skin with harpoons or His head with fishing spears?  Lay our hands on Him? (v.5-8)  Can we strip off His outer garment, come near Him with a bridle, open the doors of His face?  (v.13-14)

 

Yet, all these things we have attempted to do and have done against our Lord Jesus Christ!  Is he not the lamb led to the slaughter (Isaiah 53:7)?  Was he not whipped and his flesh torn (Psalm 22:6)?  Did we not divide his garments (Psalm 22:18)?  Did we not spit and laugh at him (Mark 14:65)?  Such is the grace of God – that the Lord had the power, majesty and authority to be like the Leviathan, and yet condescended himself incarnate as though a lamb.  Here is Jesus, whose very sneeze could have flashed forth light, with eyes like eyelids of the dawn, flaming torches coming out of his mouth, smoke from his nostrils – this is the power imbued in the creature from the Creator.  Is our Christ the same one who can make the deep boil like a point, make the sea like a pot of ointment – indeed, is he your king over all the sons of pride (v.18-34)?

 

Chapter 42

So Job understands – the grace of God found in the Kinsman Redeemer who would humble himself (Job 19:25); the God who is like Behemoth or Leviathan; the Christ who, from Job’s sight, would be flogged just like an innocent lamb slain.  Job repents in dust and ashes, recognizing the grandeur of the Father’s glory and grace, and the Lord turns to Job’s “friends” in judgment – a judgment and righteous anger which Job is shielded from (Romans 3:25; Hebrews 2:17).

 

The Lord is angry with Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar – they have simply spoken lies of Him.  He is not a Lord who is a glory-monger; or requires us to work in order to receive glory.  Quite the opposite.  Look now on the seven bulls and seven rams which Job is honoured to sacrifice as their mediator (v.8).  The Lord institutes Job as their mediator and intercessor, as their model of Jesus; it is on Job’s basis and merciful prayer that the Father chooses not to deal with the three according to their folly, for they have not spoken of Him what is right, as Job had (v.7-8).  In accepting Job’s prayer, and witnessing what appears to be a mindless slaughter of bulls and lambs (symbolically numbered at seven, the Lord’s rest), the friends should now see that Behemoth and Leviathan are what the Lord is entitled to.  Yet, it is the form of the lamb which the Lord took on, in order that even the likes of Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar would be saved, so that they too can be like Job and be the mediators and intercessors of other “friends”.

 

Therefore, from Job 42:10, we see that Job is prosperous again and is restored beyond what he initially had.  He had twice more than before – in Job 1:3 it stated he had 7000 sheep, now he has 14,000; 3,000 camels, and now 6,000, and so forth.  Although Psalm 90:10 states that a normal man should only have a lifespan of 70 to 80 years, Job 42:16 states he lived 140 years and saw up to four generations.  He also had beautiful daughters, named Jemimah (“sunshine”, to answer the dark night of his suffering), Keziah (“beautiful smell”, like Kaziah, cinnamon, compared against the offensive breath to Job’s wife in Job 19), Keren-happuch (“little make-up box” as his youngest, beautiful taughter, compared against Job 16 where Job’s face was red with weeping, this beautiful daughter covering Job’s sorrow).

 

More radically, in v.15, Job grants them an inheritance among their brothers, which is not introduced until Moses’ time hundreds of years later (Numbers 27; Deuteronomy 25)!  Yet, it is also because only by allowing the inheritance to pass through the women can Jesus Christ be the rightful king!  Through Job’s obedient act, we are on step closer to the birth of the offspring who would stamp on the enemy’s head.

 

We look to Isaiah 61, which Jesus said spoke of himself – in v.7, the Word shows that because of Christ, we too (like Job) would be brought through our suffering to a new body, a new family – a double portion.  We are therefore looking forward to a future far outstretching the paradise of Eden, so that we might have a blessing in Christ which we would never have had with Adam.  There would be no enemy causing death and destruction, for our hope (which is not in our hope or found independent of God, c.f. Job 41:9) is in the Son.

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Job 32-42: The Slaughtered Lamb

Esther 9-10: Co-heirs with Esther

Chapter 9

Now that the Israelites are victorious, chapters 9 and 10 are the aftermath of what it means when Christ is risen indeed.  On the very day when the enemies of the Jews hoped to gain the mastery over them, the reverse occurred: the Jews gained mastery over those who hated them (v.1).  This could, word for word, be interpreted as “On the very day when the Satan of Christ hoped to gain mastery over Him, the reverse occurred: Christ gained mastery over the enemy who hated Him“.  V.2-14 then describe with detail the result of those who had persecuted the body of Christ and the reversal of fortunes at the hand of God’s sovereignty; such cleansing occurring not only on the 13th day of Adar but also on the 14th day of Adar as requested by Esther (v.13).  The house of Haman, as inherited now by Mordecai, has no more descendants as the ten sons of Haman were also punished on the tree (v.14). Such destruction of the Amalekites and of the enemies of the Jews is but a type of the final judgment on the day of Christ’s second coming (Malachi 4:1-3).  Paul Blackham goes on to state in his Book by Book guide on Esther:

“For many people in the world, their enemies are much more serious and their actions really do cause an outcry that is heard in the heavenly throne room.  Those that suffer serious abuse and injustice call out to the Living God as the only one who can give them help or hope.  They are killed, raped, enslaved and humiliated… yet there seems to be no possibility of overthrowing the tyrant.  These enemies of humanity are enemies of the LORD God, who defends the widow and the orphan.

When the Amalekites killed the weak and wounded of the Hebrews in the exodus from Egypt, they showed a terrible heartlessness and cruelty.  They showed how godless they were by this vicious slaughter.  The problem of the human condition is not always so clearly seen.  If we live far from the Living God then the darkness gets ever deeper into our souls and we are driven further away from light and love and goodness. 

The LORD God saw the hardness and evil in the Amalekite people.  Their wicked lives provoked His anger and His verdict was just and true.  There was time for repentance, but the Amalekites remained entrenched in their godlessness and cruelty.  In the case of the people of Jericho, although they were all under the fatal judgment of the LORD, yet Rahab found mercy as she joined with the Hebrews (Joshua 6).  In the case of the Amalekites, they seemed to have harboured their evil and malice down the generations.  Finally, under the leadership of Saul the day of judgment arrived and they were mostly removed from the LORD’s earth. 

However, as we saw, Saul’s disobedience left a root to re-grow.”

Therefore, it is by the hands of Mordecai and Esther that Saul’s disobedience is rectified; that the root of sin is removed completely, allowing the Israelites to live new lives without persecution by the old enemy. 

Note, however, that the Jews laid no hand on the plunder (v.10, 14, 16).  This is compared with Esther 3:13 where Haman’s decree demanded the enemies of the Jews to take the Jews’ plunder; similarly under Mordecai’s decree in 8:11, they are entitled to take the spoil as well.  Yet, this is the act of mercy the Jews decided to show to their enemies – although they were entitled to the spoil, they relinquished this right to the true vengeance of the LORD on the day of Christ’s return (1 Corinthians 10:23-34; Hebrews 10:30).

Once the cleansing is complete, the Jews in the king’s provinces (i.e. the rural towns) rested on the 14th day – yet, under Esther’s request, the Jews in Susa rested only on the 15th day since they were given one more day of relief after the 13th (v.16-18).  Such day of rest is for gladness and feasting – as a holiday – as a day on which the Israelites send gifts of food to one another (v.19), as grateful remembrance of the divine reversal of the enemy’s plan to purge the world of Christians.  This is recorded and sent in letter form to all the Jews in the provinces of the king, both near and far, not too dissimilar to the letters of the apostles and disciples of Christ when Christ was risen – teaching the ancient Church to respond appropriately to the typological victory of Esther over Haman, of Jesus over Satan (v.20-28).  The days of Purim (meaning “lots“, an ironical term of the method which Haman used to destroy the Jews) should never fall into disuse among the Jews, nor should the commemoration of these days cease among their descendants (v.28).

Thus, the festival of Purim was initiated by the hand of Queen Esther and Mordecai the Jew in this chapter (v.29-32) – a new Jewish festival, a new practice; just as the new spiritual practices developed from the Mosaic law upon Christ’s resurrection – from passover to communion, from circumcision to baptism. 

Chapter 10

The book ends on the king imposing a tax on the land and coastlands of the sea – and yet, the ultimate focus is not on the king, but on Mordecai.  Even Mordecai was recorded in the book of the Chronicles of the kings of Media and Persia, spreading the gospel down the line of Gentile heritage.  Such reference to the Chronicles also indicate that the book of Esther is primarily a book about Jesus, and not a historical recording of Ahasuerus’ actions. 

Finally, despite Esther’s mediatorial actions, it is Mordecai who is exalted as he served as the faithful Christian who bookended this book.  His faithfulness is lauded as he inherited the house of Haman (which was Esther’s) and received the power of the king by His signet ring (which was Esther’s).  All of such things were shared with Esther as if she were Mordecai’s sister; and yet, this is the picture of the gospel, that we share in Jesus’ inheritance (Romans 8:17) – all that is His is ours, for in Esther we saw a glorious picture of the king fighting for his bride. 

 

 

 

Esther 9-10: Co-heirs with Esther

Esther 5-8: Esther our Mediator

Chapter 5

It would appear that Esther’s fears are allayed – and her expectation of victory is sweetly met.  She touched the tip of the scepter of Ahasuerus, a scepter of power (v.2).  Paul Blackham states in Book by Book guide on Esther:

“John Preston (1587-1628) produced a book called “The Golden Sceptre” held forth to the Humble”.  The title is derived from this scene in Esther.  Preston powerfully describes our Heavenly Father as a Great King into whose presence we cannot safely go.  In fact, it is fatal for any sinner to be in the presence of the Living God.  However, Preston portrays the gospel as the golden sceptre that is held out to the sinner to give them safe welcome into the presence of the Living God.”

Her request is that Haman is brought to the feast she has prepared for the king (v.4); and after having such a feast she requested Haman join them again (v.8).  Paul Blackham states:

“The joy of [verse 5] is seeing it in stark contrast to what happened in chapter 1.  [Quoting Tull, page 26:]

 

(Xerxes) calls for Haman saying, ‘Bring Haman quickly, so that we may do as Esther desires‘ (5.5).  Literally the Hebrew says, ‘so we may do the word of Esther‘.  This is a deliciously ironic twist on a king who only three chapters before was terrified that women might not do the word of their husbands.  Vashti was banished for not coming when the king called, but now Esther has gotten away with coming when the king did not call.  The king who worried about women obeying their husbands is now obeying his wife, and ordering Haman to obey her as well.  And to add irony to irony, Haman not only obeys a woman, but delights in being hosted by a Jew – a Jew passing as a Persian so splendidly that she puts a lie to all he said about her people’s disruptiveness.

Such is Esther’s plan that Haman would appear to be exalted temporarily only for Haman, the type of Satan, to pride and boast in his self-praises and unwarranted accolades (Ezekiel 18) – the same Haman whose sole wish is still to destroy the ancient promised church of God (v.8-13) as one would if one was the son of the devil (John 8:44).  Yet, this is all in Esther’s plan as Haman is dancing in her palm.  The irony that the Satan should wish to use the same tool of death to destroy the Christ, and yet this tool of death has become the iconic symbol in Christianity of Christ’s victory (v.14).  Again, although the ESV states “gallow”, it is more likely a stake for impalement – the Hebrew word ates simply means tree.  From a biblical and prophetic perspective, the clearer comparison between Haman and Satan is shown when Haman is seen to have set up a 75 foot tree for Mordecai to be killed on.

Chapter 6

By the LORD’s providence, the king’s inability to sleep allowed him to read the chronicles of Mordecai the Jew who saved the king (v.1-2).  By Mordecai’s faithfulness to the king as stipulated under Romans 13, he receives the royal robes of righteousness and honour (v.7-11) – suggested by Haman himself since he thought such honour would be given to him (v.6-9).  What ironic mockery! Such theology of divine reversals is saturated throughout Scripture.  As Paul Blackham states:

“An important biblical theme, very much related to Haman’s highs and lows, is the theme of reversal, of divine justice turning power upside down.  This theme is so pervasive in the Bible, and so commonplace in Christian discourse, that its radical implications can sometimes be forgotten.  Explicit reversals characterize many Proverbs, such as 16:18: “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” Reversals also permeate narratives, such as the story of Joseph and his brothers (Genesis 37-50), the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt (Exodus 1-15), and the poem of Isaiah’s suffering servant who will be exalted (Isaiah 52:13-53:12).  The narrative of reversal best known to Christians, of course, is the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection (quoting Tull, 30-31).”

Note how beautifully this was done before Haman’s sins were exposed – just as Satan was never in power, nor was he ever honoured, and he certainly had no leverage to offer Christ anything (Luke 4) for Christ was the only Honoured One of the Father.  This status of matters was already the case before Satan was nailed to the cross – just as Haman is shamed by handing over all honour (which only appeared to be his) over to Christ.  What prophetic words of Zeresh (v.13):

“If Mordecai, before whom you have begun to fall, is of the Jewish people, you will not overcome him but will surely fall before him”.

Indeed – if Christ, before whom Satan has begun to fall, is of the Jewish people, Satan will not overcome him but will surely fall before Him!  Clearly even Zeresh has heard of the prophecy of the Offspring of Adam, and that the LORD protects the Jewish people.  What ridicule that Haman could think he could uproot the promise that the LORD has made to Israel!  Immediately after Zeresh’s statement of judgment, the impending demise of Haman comes to his doorsteps (v.14).

Chapter 7

There is an eery sense of parallel between the death of John the Baptist and the death of Haman here.  Where Herod also offered the same vow (c.f. Mark 6:22-23) as Ahasuerus, Herodias’s daughter was no Esther.  Esther, the type of Christ, sought to protect the Jews; and where Herod and Ahasuerus were cut from the same cloth, the role of the mediator plays a large role.  If Esther was like Vashti (who did not appear to have Israel’s interests at heart) – what would have happened?  Yet it was Mordecai’s plan to place Esther into the courts of Ahasuerus, the same Mordecai and Esther who obeyed the LORD despite their imminent deaths at the hands of Haman and Ahasuerus.  What is your wish, Queen Esther?  The Head of Mordecai, or the Head of Haman?  The latter.

The parallel is more astounding here – the last time the king was recorded to be drunken with wine was in chapters 1-2, when Vashti was banished from his sight; yet here, Esther uses the situation to remove Haman upon pleading the truth to Ahasuerus (v.1-6).  Yet this is the gospel story summarised – the king who was jealous for his wife; the king who is angry against the Satan as personified by Haman; the king who hung Satan by his own devices, nailing him to the same cross that he planned to destroy the Christ with.  As the Father cries “Will he even assault the Bride in my presence, in my own house?” in parallel to Ahasuerus’ words (v.8), His jealous love for us covers us in his righteousness and holiness whilst he never ceases to destroy the enemy whose only plan is to destroy us, rape us, annihilate our heritage, and kill our future (v.4; c.f. Psalm 73 for a summary of the LORD’s view of Haman’s types of actions).

Chapter 8

This is a chapter of victory.  Esther, the type of Christ, inherited the heritage of Haman (v.1; Henrietta Mears subtitles her chapter on this book: “Esther portrays Jesus Christ, Our Advocate”) – the enemy (Satan) of the Jews.  Esther, before the king as a type (albeit a flawed type) of the Father, recognises Mordecai here as the church and community under which Esther was nurtured.  Thus, the signet ring, as a seal and sign of the deposit of the Holy Spirit and of His election (c.f. Song of Solomon 8:6; Haggai 2:23; Ephesians 1:14; 2 Corinthians 1:22, 5:5; 2 Timothy 1:14, 2:19) was given from the Father to the Son (i.e. Esther), and from Esther to the church (i.e. Mordecai) to rule over the house of Haman, just as we rule over the enemy by His power.

In v.3-8 we see Esther mediating on behalf of the Jews – how can she bear to see the destruction of her kindred (v.6)?  Indeed, she cannot.  Yet, this is a picture of Christ pleading on our behalf – and with the Father’s seal (v.8), spiritual Israel shall not be harmed.  The elect body of Christ shall not be harmed.  The kindred of Esther shall not be harmed.  So we are similarly sealed by the Father by the sacrifice of His only begotten Son, and wrath is diverted onto the enemy.  And as we are given His power by the Spirit, His signet ring, whatever we command in His name (John 20:23) is released in this creation (v.10-12).  This is the great exchange – although it appears harsh that the Jews are allowed to gather and defend their lives, the retribution is exactly matching to the edict of Haman (Esther 3:13).  Note however that this is but the Jews’ response and only to armed forces – on the condition that the Israelites could defend, and attack only if they were attacked (symbolically on the same day that the Jews would have been destroyed – v.12; c.f. Esther 9:1).  Such is the beauty of our redemption, that we – like Mordecai – by the work of the true Esther Jesus Christ could wear the LORD’s righteous robes of salvation (Isaiah 61:11; c.f. v.15), the restoration of the Israelite traditions occurring not only in Jerusalem by Ezra and Nehemiah’s hands – but also in the kingdom of Persia.  This glory is felt not only by the Jews but also by the Gentiles, leading to mass conversion (v.17).

Esther 5-8: Esther our Mediator

Esther 1-4: Esther and the King

It is typical to see Esther simply as a book about a woman coming out of her young shell of faith to stand firm and risk death at the hands of her otherwise tyrannical husband.  However, it is also one of the core books which firmly portray by contrast the relationship between the true husband and the Church, as well as a rare example of Christ being portrayed typologically by a woman.

These events take place approximately in the 5th century BC, a number of years prior to the events in Nehemiah after the events of Ezra.

Chapter 1

Note the immediate contrast between the struggle of the Israelites in Ezra and Nehemiah and the lavishness of the kingdom of Ahasuerus in the first chapter of Esther.  V.1-5 is almost a mockery of the state of Israel and its traditions – a seven day feast (held in the court of the garden and the king’s palace – v.5) which is comparable to the Feast of Booths described in Leviticus 23:34-39, except that it is not bookended by solemnity in remembrance of the sacrifice of Christ; rather, Ahasuerus’ pomposity is very much summarised in v.7-8 – “There is no compulsion” and each man can do as each man desired.  Note also the distinction between the feast which was for men (v.1-8) and the one versed description of the feast for women held by Queen Vashti (meaning “beautiful“) in v.9 where the women only celebrated in the palace that “belonged” to King Ahasuerus.  This verb “belonged” will be a common refrain throughout these chapters, as is the undermining of women a common theme.

Noticeably v.10 begins with “on the seventh day”, which is a repeat of Genesis where the LORD rested on the seventh day to enjoy His creation.  Yet, the opening chapters of Esther 1 is a direct mockery of Genesis 1; where the LORD spent seven days to provide a beautiful creation for man and woman’s joint enjoyment, the king’s feast culminated in bringing Queen Vashti to “show the peoples and the princes her beauty, for she was lovely to look at”.  Paul Blackham states in his Book by Book guide on Esther:

“The Garden of Eden is called the Garden of God in the Bible (Ezekiel 28:13; 31:8-9), so Xerxes holds his seven day celebration in the Garden of Xerxes for everybody in the capital Susa!  Xerxes seems to position himself as (at the very least) the mirror of the Living God on earth.

The pride of Xerxes is also shown by the way he decorated his ‘garden’.  His blue and purple linen seems to echo the courtyard of the tabernacle of the LORD described in Exodus 38.  The temple of Solomon in Jerusalem had been destroyed by the Babylonians about 150 years earlier, so there must have been records of the architecture and furnishings of the temple.  His use of the pillars with silver rings also indicates this kind of knowledge and symbolism.  He formed a pavement of precious metals and jewels (v.6).  If we remember the banquet with God in Exodus 24:9-11 or the throne room of heaven in Revelation 4:1-6 we get an insight into the way that Xerxes viewed himself.  If we remember that the book of Daniel had been written 100 years before we can understand how Xerxes got so much knowledge of heavenly realities.  A book of such literary and theological significance, written by such a high official in the empire, would certainly have been in the royal library.  Daniel’s work included a vision of the throne room of heaven (Daniel 7:9-14), so it is not too much to imagine that Xerxes saw himself as a Son of Man figure over all the nations.”

Such objectification of Vashti, though beautiful, is a far cry from the personal intimacy of the LORD who not only looks on us but embraces us and exalts us.  The LORD does not require Eve, nor does he require His ancient church Adam and Eve, to celebrate in a room separate from the garden and the king’s palace.  Contrarily, He celebrates with us in His garden of Eden, the ancient prototypical Temple.  Unsurprisingly, the king’s anger and drunkenness (c.f. Proverbs 20:1, 23:29-35) is atypical of and a direct contrast to the LORD’s patience and steadfast love.

As if this were not enough, these “wise men” (v.13) who were versed in law and judgment decided to brand Vashti as a poor example of how women should behave towards their husbands and immediately replace her with someone else.  It is heavily implied that their edict is unreasonable, and given that Vashti had upheld her duty towards the king and was an upright queen by way of the brief mention in v.9, their method of stifling her voice is most concerning when compared with the LORD’s edict in Ephesians 5:22-33.  Rather than love and die for her wife, Ahasuerus decided to oppress her and drive her away.

Further, this oppressive edict serves as a background and platform for Esther when she enters the scene.  Will she be like Vashti, beautiful but unloved and ultimately rebellious – in many ways similar to the old Israel (save that the king here is atypical of the LORD)?  Or will she be a new example for the women of Persia and Medes as a follower of Jesus?

Chapter 2

What nonsense that the king should listen to his advisors to replace the queen (v.1-4) – and what contrast it is that the LORD should never forsake His firstborn Israel in spite of His love for the Gentiles (Romans 11:11).  Yet, it is also this foolish plan (c.f. 2 Timothy 4:3) that the LORD used to further His glory, by introducing Mordecai (meaning “little man“), the uncle of Esther (meaning “a star“, the Persian name of Hadassah, meaning “myrtle” – a type of flowering plant, a family of trees and shrubs that are usually evergreen; myrtle plants often produce aromatic oils and are used in spices (e.g. cloves), and seems to indicate fertility and usefulness in Scripture – c.f. Isaiah 41:19; 55:13, Nehemiah 8:15, Zechariah 1:8, growing on the hills about Jerusalem).  Here is the little man of Israel, taken into captivity and living in Persia to bring up his cousin Esther (v.5-7) – a man who is godly, mindful of the rebuilding of Israel and was mentioned once in Ezra 2:2.  The first description of Esther is that she is immediately contrasted with Vashti – where Vashti is a beautiful queen who hosted a banquet for fellow women, Esther is a star who is also beautiful to look at but with a torn past of deceased parents (v.7).  Although Mordecai commanded Esther to not make known her people or kindred (v.10, repeated at v.20), this is firmly distinguished from his later rebuke in Esther 4:12-14 where she is to no longer remain silent.  This is often seen as an example of Mordecai commanding Esther to be wise as a serpent and innocent as a dove (Matthew 10:16), allowing Esther to enter into the realms of Ahasuerus and be the example that Vashti was not, securing the safety of the future of the Israelites.  Mordecai had a very firm understanding of his position under Ahasuerus’ rule, and did not seek to destroy his kingdom; rather, through His understanding of Romans 13, he upholds Ahasuerus (v.21-23) – though the king’s two eunuchs were angry with the king. Notice how Mordecai was “sitting at the king’s gate” (v.19, 21), the gate being a place of public government and judgment in Scripture (c.f. Genesis 23:10-20, 34:20-24; Deuteronomy 21:19, 22:15, 25:7; Ruth 4:11; Job 29:7; Lamentations 5:14).  This may indicate that Mordecai was appointed as a judge or government official, possibly due to Esther’s coronation, another example of the LORD’s care and love for Mordecai and his and Esther’s house – enabling him to continue to preserve Esther’s interests.  Although Esther is the one who reveals the plot, she does so “in the name of Mordecai” (v.22) – clarifying that glory is due to Mordecai and not Esther.  These men were hanged on the gallows (v.23) – or more accurately, as the Hebrew puts it, “hanged on a tree” (see King James’ translation) – akin to the Hebrew curse under Deuteronomy 21.

Mordecai also seems to have harboured, in his own heart, the possibility that Esther is the rescuer of the Israelites should anything detrimental arise (c.f. Esther 4:14). Perhaps the Septuagint version of Esther, which provides several additions (including a prologue which describes Mordecai receiving a vision of a potential clash between the Israelites and its enemies), prompted Mordecai to prepare for such detriment.  The prologue is as follows:

“In the second year when Artaxerxes the Great was king, on the first day of Nisa, Mar- dochaios the son of Iairos son of Semeias son of Kisaios, from the tribe of Beniamin, saw a dream. 2He was a Judean man dwelling in the city of Susa, a great man, serving in the court of the king. 3Now he was of the group of exiles which Nabou- chodonosor, king of Babylon, took captive from Ie- rousalem with Iechonias, the king of Judea. 4And this was his dream: Look! Shouts and confusion! Thunder and earthquake! Chaos upon the earth! 5Look! Two great dragons came forward, both ready to fight, and a great noise arose from them! 6And at their sound every nation prepared for war, to fight against a nation of righteous people. 7Look! A day of darkness and gloom! Affliction and anguish! Oppression and great chaos upon the earth! 8And the whole righteous nation was in chaos, fearing the evils that threatened themselves, and they were ready to perish. 9Then they cried out to God, and from their cry, as though from a small spring, there came a great river, abundant water; 10light, and the sun rose, and the lowly were exalt- ed and devoured those held in esteem. 11Then when Mardochaios, who had seen this dream and what God had determined to do, awoke, he had it on his heart and sought until nightfall to under-stand it in every detail.

12 And Mardochaios took his rest in the court- yard with Gabatha and Tharra, the two eunuchs of the king who guarded the courtyard. 13He both overheard their deliberations and inquired into their ambitions, and learned that they were prepar- ing to lay hands on Artaxerxes the king, and he told the king about them. 14Then the king interro- gated the two eunuchs, and when they confessed, they were led away. 15And the king wrote these things in the record, and Mardochaios wrote con- cerning these things. 16And the king ordered Mar- dochaios to serve in the court and gave to him gifts for these things. 17But Haman son of Hama- dathos, a Bougean, was highly esteemed by the king, and he sought to harm Mardochaios and his people because of the two eunuchs of the king.”

Separately, it helps to compare her with Daniel (c.f. chapters 6-7 of Daniel) as Daniel and his friends were in a position where they could get on with obeying the law of the LORD, but Esther’s situation was directly forbidden (c.f. Deuteronomy 7:3-4 – marriage to a pagan man), and would make her a difficult witness.

It is peculiar that the 12 months of beautifying included six months of myrrh (one of the ingredients of the oil of holy ointment – Exodus 30:23, used also for embalming and preparation of the body either for love – Psalm 45:8; Proverbs 7:17; Song of Songs 1:13, 3:6, 4:6, 14, 5:1, 5, 13, or for burial – Matthew 2:11, John 19:39) and six months of spices and ointments – as if purifying the women for a holy act of divine marriage.  Esther’s charm is not lost on the king as she plays the game safely under the direction of Hegai the king’s eunuch, and is finally elected as the new queen (v.15-18).  Strangely, v.17 describes the king as loving Esther more than all the women – a verb not often associated with the king, given his failure to understand how marriage should work like Ephesians 5:22-33.  Yet, by contrast, the verbs associated to Esther do not fare much better – she is a woman often the object of other people’s initiations (she was adopted (v.7), she was taken into the king’s palace (v.8), she did not make knkown her people (v.10), she asked for nothing except whatever was advised to her (v.15), she was taken to the king (v.16)).  Her actions, so far, are mostly passive – indicating her vulnerability to the circumstances around her.  It is not until a later stage that Esther begins to take her own initiative to stand firm as a type of Christ the Mediator.

Chapter 3

Yet, in spite of Mordecai’s actions to protect the king, Haman the Agagite (perhaps one of the Amalekites – c.f. Numbers 24:7, Deuteronomy 25:17-19, 1 Samuel 15) gets promoted.  Saul’s failure to remove the Amalekites (1 Samuel 15) certainly laid the groundwork for Agag, the king of the Amaelkites, to live and prosper against the LORD’s command, the consequences of his sin creating this tricky situation for Mordecai to confront.  It is certainly peculiar that Mordecai should wish to protect the king (perhaps to lay the groundwork for Esther’s influence, since Mordecai warned the king through Esther) yet does not wish to bow down and pay homage to Haman – despite the king’s decree (v.1-3).  This is not taken lightly (v.3), filling Haman (the “magnificent“) with fury.  By Mordecai’s firmness in his faith, he was seen as an example of the Israelites – in many ways his act of rebellion being comparable to that of ex-Queen Vashti’s act of rebellion seen as an example of the women of Persia and Medes.  However, unlike Vashti who was eventually replaced, the LORD will continue to preserve the remnant of the Israelites despite the ridiculous genocidal decree (v.7-11) that Haman conjured (Genesis 45:7).  It is significant that the king grants Haman the signet ring (v.10, 13) – for without this ring, Haman could not act on behalf of the king.  Yet, it is more significant that Haman’s plot does not come to pass until the 12th month (rather than the first month upon casting lots), providing the Israelites one year to prepare for this incoming persecution (c.f. Proverbs 16:33).  What irony that Haman sets out to destroy the very man who uncovered the plot to destroy the king (v.9), such confusion which is lost on Haman and the king as they ironically sit down and enjoy their drink whilst the city of Susa was simply bewildered (v.15).

Chapter 4

Such a ridiculous edict is met with an appropriate response of the Israelites’ weeping and covering of sackcloth and ashes (v.3; c.f. Genesis 37:34, 42:35; 2 Samuel 3:31 – Matthew 11:21, and Jonah 3:8 – as a sign of repentance; Mordecai’s actions especially modeled after Daniel’s – see Daniel 9:3-19).  Yet, note the queen’s response is quite different.  Hers is an emotion of distress (v.4) – but she is far removed from Mordecai and the other Israelites’ scene and demise, as she had not voiced her heritage openly in the courts of Ahasuerus.  Even when Mordecai pleaded for the queen to beg his favour – this same Mordecai who had brought up Esther and who Esther owes her life to; the same Mordecai who disclosed to Hathach that Esther is of the same people who are being persecuted (v.8); the same Mordecai who would be murdered relentlessly by Haman’s edict, meeting the same end as the other Israelites in Ahasuerus’ reign – Esther’s response is cold (v.11):

“All the king’s servants and the people of the king’s provinces know that if any man or woman goes to the king inside the inner court without being called, there is but one law—to be put to death, except the one to whom the king holds out the golden scepter so that he may live. But as for me, I have not been called to come in to the king these thirty days.”

In other words – either the Israelites, including Mordecai, dies or Esther dies!  Mordecai immediately salvages this by rebuking Esther (v.12-14) and reminding her that even if Esther were to stay silent, “relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but [Esther] and [Esther’s house] will perish.”  What faith and trust that the LORD will indeed continue to rescue Israel His remnant (c.f. 2 Kings 19:4-31; Ezra 9; Isaiah 10:20-22, 37:4-32) through various possibilities not fatalistically predetermined through Esther.  Paul Blackham quotes Derek Prime’s “Unspoken Lessons about the Unseen God” (Evangelical Press, Darlington, 2001) pg. 20-21 which states:

“…crucial to the background of the book of Esther is the conflict described in God’s words to the serpent, the devil’s instrument, in Genesis 3:15… Satan’s activity is traceable throughout the Bible.  His tracks may be discerned, together with the aliases he employs – in this case, that of Haman.  Satan, the enemy of souls, was endeavouring to destroy the Jews, the people through whose seed the Messiah was to be born into the world, in order to make null and void God’s promise of a Redeemer… God was committed to preserving the Jewish people so that from them salvation might go out into the ends of the earth… God’s protection of his people was the protection of the Offspring of the woman though which he preserved and carried on his plan of redemption.”

Mordecai simply trusted in this Promised Seed, and knew clearly that whatever Satan’s plan was, the prophesied Offspring of Adam will protect His church of all times.

Esther’s response is finally one of initiation (v.15-17) – for the first time in these chapters, she proactively acted for God’s kingdom, commanding Mordecai to gather the Jews and hold a fast on Esther’s behalf (including her young women (v.16) which indicates that Esther’s quiet faith has also evangelised to others in Ahasuerus’ court to join the Ancient Church), for Esther may perish (v.16), although she is expecting a victorious outcome as a type of Christ the One who – to Esther – will be victorious from his mighty feat of resurrection by the third day (v.16).

Esther 1-4: Esther and the King

Nehemiah 7-9: Clear Understanding

Nehemiah 7

Upon the building of the wall, Hanani (God is gracious) and Hananiah (God has given) are appointed to take charge over Jerusalem, “for he was a more faithful and God-fearing man than many” – an indication that such restoration of the wall is to be maintained in the hands of one who is a Christ-follower.  This is accompanied by the need for the gates of Jerusalem to be open when the sun is hot (c.f. Exodus 17:12; Malachi 4:2; Revelation 1:16), a reminder that the Son is the one who allows the gates to be open for people to enter New Jerusalem (John 14:6; Revelation 3:12).  However, as of now, the city though wide and large – the people within it were few and no houses had been rebuilt (v.4).  A shame that there are not enough labourers sent out into His harvest (Matthew 9:38).

From v.6-73, the genealogy largely matches that which was stated in Ezra 2 – bringing us into the context of Ezra and remembering that Nehemiah’s actions are meaningless without the restoration of the Mosaic law through Ezra.  V.73 is a exact repeat of Ezra 2:70, except the new addition that “when the seventh month had come, the people of Israel were in their towns” – reminder of Leviticus 23, where the month of Tishri includes the keeping of the the Day of Atonement and Feast of Booths.

Nehemiah 8

The gathering of people “as one man” has been few and far in between, matching the language in Ezra 3:1 here (and the last time this happened was in 2 Samuel 19:14).  Their congregation around the Water Gate supplements the symbology of this gate, that the water of life, the Holy Spirit and the Word of God, should be the true food which these gates of Jerusalem are protecting.  This chapter therefore reinstates the importance of Ezra’s reforms as the undergirding element of Nehemiah’s rebuilding – in the presence of men and women and those who could understand (v.3).  This is different from the strict keeping of the great Jerusalem feasts by men alone (Deuteronomy 16:16-17) – instead, now the crowd is to all who could understand.  “And the ears of all the people were attentive to the Book of the Law” (v.3).  Ezra opened the Book of the Law in the sight of all the people and blessed the LORD (v.5-6), with several others (including both Levites and non-Levites) helping the people to understand the Law (v.7).  The Law of God was read “clearly”, and they “gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading”.  This type of detail is so far removed from what is the norm in the Mosaic books through to Ezra, where the keeping of the law was often not explained to come hand in hand with “clear understanding” – the theme of this chapter.  In many ways, this clear understanding and the inclusion of all who could understand (i.e. including women) is a shadow of the freedom in Christ (Galatians 3:28) only upon the circumcision of the heart, represented through Ezra (the priest and scribe) and Nehemiah’s (the governor) joint reformation of the Ancient Church.  Their spiritual emancipation and release from understanding the Law was transformed from weeping to joy – an eschatological picture of our weeping turning into joy in New Creation (Revelation 21:4).

It is interesting that instead of describing the keeping of Yom Kippur, v.13-14 immediately begins with the keeping of the Feast of Booths, as a restoration of a practice not done since the days of Yeshua the son of Nun (v.17), keeping to what the law had stated in Leviticus 23:34-39 / Deuteronomy 16:13-15.  In fact, this follows naturally from the hearing of the law earlier in this chapter – for the themes have been one of release, one of understanding, one of rejoicing that the LORD has taken away our grievances, as symbolised most starkly in the festival of Feast of Booths.  As Leviticus 23:35 states, “On the first day shall be a holy convocation; you shall not do any ordinary work.  For seven days you shall present food offerings to the Lord.”  Deuteronomy 16:14 states, “You shall rejoice in your feast, you and your son and your daughter, your male servant and your female servant, the Levite, the sojourner, the fatherless and the widow who are within your towns.”

Nehemiah 9

It is only upon such grateful thanksgiving that they then assemble with fasting and in sackcloth, confessing their sins and iniquities of their fathers (v.1-2), finding confidence first in the Word, then in confession, then in worship (v.3).  It is from v.6 onwards that we see a history of redemption, from Genesis up till now, His promises fulfilled through Abraham’s faithfulness (v.6-8), through the great exodus of the Israelites from Egypt (v.9-15) – and despite the stiffneckedness of the Israelites, He still remained faithful and gracious (v.16-21), sustaining them in the wilderness and instructing them by giving them the Holy Spirit.  Such goodness which came to them was completely by His hand (v.22-25).

Yet, the Israelites continued to be disobedient and ignored His law (v.26-31) – and here, His mercies are repeated (3 times “in your great mercies” repeated in these few verses) throughout the age of the judges and the kings from the time of Moses to the time of Zedekiah, the last king of Israel before the Babylonian exile.  By His prophets, by His saviors, by His warnings, by His Spirit (v.30) – all rejected and blasphemed (c.f. Leviticus 24:16; Mark 3:29; Luke 12:10).  Hence, their current state of slavery is one not caused by God – but (notably) it is the Levites who recognise that their kings, their princes, their priests and their fathers have not kept their law or paid attention to His commandments and His warnings.  Because of all this, the Levites (v.38) make a firm covenant in writing, with the names of Israel’s princes, Levites and priests.

Nehemiah 7-9: Clear Understanding

Nehemiah 1-3: Gates to the Gospel

Chapter 1

In Ezra, we see the heart of man being circumcised as the law is written on the hearts of those who now return from the long exile. Nehemiah builds on this rebirth by looking at Ezra’s work from the outside, the cupbearer who identified with the Church – weeping and mourning for days, fasting and praying before the LORD (v.4), repeating the refrain (c.f. 2 Chronicles 7) that the LORD is the one who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments. Nehemiah immediately is the mediator, the intercessor on behalf of the church, understanding the work of the Mediator – the Christ who is also the Comforter, the name which “Nehemiah” matches. He recognises that even in Egypt, it is the LORD who saved first before we became His servants (v.10 – they are your servants and your people, who you have redeemed by your great power and by your strong hand). So Nehemiah, the Comforting Intercessor and type of Christ the Mediator, stands before the king whilst his heart yearns for the church whom he is very much part of despite the geographical limitations.

Chapter 2

Nehemiah begins immediately with the sickness of his heart – sickness for the rebuilding and the reformation of the Ancient Church. Yet, the LORD’s hand was with him (v.8), that even Artaxerxes should provide materials for the meek to inherit (Psalm 37:11; Matthew 5:5) and to build the gates of the fortress of the temple and for the wall of the city and for the house that he shall occupy. Such timber is not provided by the Israelites themselves, but through Artaxerxes’ resources by the grace of God. From hearing the news of the destruction of the walls of Jerusalem where the laws are being written on the hearts of tender souls young in their rebirth upon returning from decades of exile, Nehemiah was there three days to rebuild the walls (c.f. symbolism of the third day when Christ resurrected). This is a very different story to Ezra who built the heart mind and soul of the Israelite; whereas Nehemiah built the foundation and the armour protecting the Israelites’ from external onslaught, the spiritual warfare realised on a national level (c.f. Ephesians 6:10-20).

V.11-16 is quite peculiar as it appears that on the evening of the third day, Nehemiah enters Jerusalem in the stillness of the night to:

(i) the Valley Gate, then (ii) to the Dragon Spring, then (iii) to the Dung Gate, then (iv) inspected the walls of Jerusalem (v.13). This is followed by (v) the Fountain Gate and (vi) to the King’s Pool (where there was no room for the animal to pass and (viii) inspected the wall and (ix) turned back and entered by the Valley Gate. These various steps are meaningless to the officials, yet v.17-20 reveals all: Nehemiah intends to remove Jerusalem of its derision and that the LORD will make the Ancient Church prosper (v.20) in face of difficult persecution. Yet, for all who jeer at the work the Lord has tasked us (v.19), they would have no portion or right or claim in Jerusalem (v.20). Are you rebelling against the earthly king? Or are you fulfilling the command of the One King, the Lord of Lords, to plead the protection of your heart?

Note however have Nehemiah only visits the southern part of the wall – the furthest part from the Temple. Incidentally the area he visits is where the brook Kidron is, commonly associated to weeping and cleansing throughout Scripture (see 2 Samuel 15:23; 1 Kings 2:37; 1 Kings 15:13; 2 Kings 23:4-12; 2 Chronicles 15:16; 2 Chronicles 29:16; 2 Chronicles 30:14; Jeremiah 31:40 and finally John 18:1, where Christ was betrayed). It is here that Nehemiah recalls the pain and suffering Israel had undergone as a refinery of the nation’s faith in Christ, that through this brook are our sins cleansed entirely and completely renewed as represented by the rebuilding of the wall of Jerusalem. To this, we turn to chapter 3 where the rebuilding begins and portrays with even more clarity how such cleansing is brought about through Nehemiah’s plan which is but a shadow of God’s plan of global redemption.

Chapter 3

1. Sheep Gate (v.1) – this reminds us of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross; it is the only gate without “locks or bars”, and the only gate that was specifically sanctified as it was repaired and edified by the High Priest and other priests – the door through which the saved walk (see John 10);

2. Fish Gate (v.3) – fishers of men, who are akin to lost souls (i.e. fish; see Habakkuk 1:14 and Mark 1:17);

3. Gate of Yeshanah (Gate of the old city) (v.6) – old wine replaced by new wine; old wineskin replaced by new wineskin; Jerusalem replaced by New Jerusalem (Luke 5:37-38);

4. Valley Gate (v.13) – for we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, the affliction through which we experience our life here and yet have a taste of new creation (Psalm 23:4)

5. Dung Gate (v.14) – where the dung of our lives are cleansed (Jeremiah 9:22);

6. Fountain Gate (v.15) – followed by the filling of the Holy Spirit, the true fountain of life (John 7; 14)

7. Water Gate (v.26) – following on from the Fountain Gate, the water of life the Word of God (Revelation 22:1), the seventh gate indicating the rest found in Christ alone and the only gate that required no repair;

8. Horse Gate (v.28) – reminder of the white rider on the horse in Revelation (Revelation 19:11), the return of Christ;

9. East Gate (v.29) – this return is symbolised by God’s glory returning “from the way of the east” (see Ezekiel 10:16-22, 11:22-25, 43:1-5);

10. Muster Gate (Gate of Judgment; Hammiphkad Gate) (v.31) – the word “miphkad” (קד ְפ ִּמַה) represents “appointment, account, census, mustering”, not so different from the “census” in the book of Revelation on the Day of Judgment (Romans 14:10; 1 Corinthians 3:10-20; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Revelation 20:11-15);

Then finally returning to the Sheep Gate (v.32) – as the Lamb is the Alpha (the first gate), so also the completion of the Muster Gate returns to the Omega – which is also the Sheep Gate, the Passover Lamb.

Nehemiah 1-3: Gates to the Gospel

2 Chronicles 34-36: Gospel of the Kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world

Chapter 34

Josiah, the last glorious king before Judah’s lengthy captivity in the hands of the Babylonians, sought the LORD when he was sixteen (v.3) and immediately purged the city and the temple in which was the Name of the LORD (2 Chronicles 6).  The cleansing involved the chopping down of altars of Baals (v.4), burning the bones of the priests on their altars as a retribution of the wrath they incurred upon themselves (v.5) and bearing the Asherim and images into powder, cutting down all the incense altars throughout all the land of Israel (v.7).  At 24 years old (v.8), upon cleaning the land, the Law of the LORD was found (v.8-18), commencing a reformation of Israel once again – just as Christ cleansed our hearts so that the law could be written on them (Jeremiah 31:33) and allow the spiritual Israelites to be reminded that the removal of idolatry comes hand in hand with worshipping the true God and find their identity as His collective children.  Josiah’s reaction (v.21) is exactly that of a person who understands the implications of not truly following Christ and merely “playing church”, as a worshipper of the LORD who does not have His law.  Yet, note the narrator’s decision to state clearly that Josiah had been walking with the LORD since 16; and for 8 years, Josiah had not the law of the LORD to guide Him, yet His mandates were already written on Josiah’s heart by the indwelling Holy Spirit – a reminder that the era before Moses, too, walked with Jesus without the written law.

Note, then, prophetess Huldah’s prophecy on Israel and Judah – that Josiah shall sleep with his fathers (v.28) before witnessing the inevitable tragedy and destruction to fall on Israel.  In the wake of this, Josiah immediately worships the LORD by making a covenant with Him, clearly understanding the purpose of the Law is relational and not simply that of a master bidding a slave to merely work.

Chapter 35

Josiah’s relationship with the LORD upon Huldah’s prophecy is most importantly marked by his keeping of the Passover through the properly elected divisions and positions of the Levites (v.1-6).  Such worship and sacrifice in the face of Israel’s impending disaster (v.7-9)!  Note clearly that no Passover of this grandeur and detail to the iota has been kept since the days of Samuel the prophet, indicating that Josiah’s keeping of the Passover is the ending bookend to the book of Samuel which opens the eras of the kings of Israel.  The repeating refrain in these verses are “according to the king’s command” and “as it is written in the Book of Moses” / “according to the rule“, which prove that the Law is closely adhered to, by the faithful Christian king’s command at a tender age of 26 years.

Yet, Josiah’s death is sudden and is indeed brought about the the Egyptian king Neco, who himself understands to be carrying out the LORD’s will (v.21-22).  It is a strange turn of events, for Neco to state that it would be against His will if Josiah opposes Neco; yet, Huldah had already prophesied that Josiah’s death was the LORD’s grace towards him, in preventing him from seeing Israel’s eventual downfall.  Surely, it is not contrary to God’s will that Josiah oppose Neco and is brought to the grave in return?  Is it not because of Josiah’s faithfulness to even the smallest iota of the Law that Israel has this temporary peace, and thus the king’s removal is tantamount to the LORD’s eventual disciplining of His elected nation?  Observe Matthew Henry’s commentary on Josiah’s death:

“From principles of religion: “God is with me; nay, He commanded me to make haste, and therefore, if thou retard my motions, thou meddlest with God.” It cannot be that the king of Egypt only pretended this (as Sennacherib did in a like case, 2 Kings xviii. 25), hoping thereby to make Josiah desist, because he knew he had a veneration for the word of God; for it is said here ( 22) that the words of Necho were from the mouth of God. We must therefore suppose that either by a dream, or by a strong impulse upon his spirit which he had reason to think was from God, or by Jeremiah or some other prophet, he had ordered him to make war upon the king of Assyria. (3.) From principles of policy: “That he destroy thee not; it is at thy peril if thou engage against one that has not only a better army and a better cause, but God on his side.”
…It was not in wrath to Josiah, whose heart was upright with the Lord his God, but in wrath to a hypocritical nation, who were unworthy of so good a king, that he was so far infatuated as not to hearken to these fair reasonings and desist from his enterprise. He would not turn his face from him, but went in person and fought the Egyptian army in the valley of Megiddo, 22. If perhaps he could not believe that the king of Egypt had a command from God to do what he did, yet, upon his pleading such a command, he ought to have consulted the oracles of God before he went out against him. His not doing that was his great fault, and of fatal consequence. In this matter he walked not in the ways of David his father; for, had it been his case, he would have enquired of the Lord, Shall I go up? Wilt thou deliver them into my hands? How can we think to prosper in our ways if we do not acknowledge God in them?”

Indeed, Josiah died in the Valley of Megiddo (symbolically called the place of crowns).  In further distinction to Matthew Henry’s views, Dev Menon’s commentary on the book of Revelations (chapter 16:15-16) reveals that Josiah’s death at Megiddo is prophetic of a greater death:

” The victory is assured – the armies of the world assemble at the Mount of Megiddo, the very place where Josiah (God supports) was pierced (2 Chronicles 35, Zechariah 12, John 19:37). That is the place of their destruction. The place of the cross.”

Josiah’s death is therefore compared in Zechariah 12 to the death of Christ; and it is in the death of Christ that the disciples were scattered, albeit for 3 days and 3 nights.  It is this short, dark period that the remainder of the Old Testament points towards – the fall and scattering of Israel until Christ’s resurrection, when similarly the Church is restored and shines gloriously.  Here, Josiah’s death prompts the inevitable downfall of Israel, as he is pierced in God’s plan by a Gentile, just as the first Passover was held in Egypt – the same Passover which only king Josiah has kept since the day of Samuel’s leadership.

Chapter 36

In this short chapter we see an usurping of the throne of Josiah’s appointed son (v.2-3), followed by the folly of Eliakim (raised up by God) / Jehoiakim (brother of Josiah’s son Jehoahaz, renamed as Jehoiakim – whom Jehovah sets up, as a mockery that the king of Egypt is Jehovah), and his son Jehoiachin (v.8-9, whom Jehovah has appointed), and Jehoiachin’s brother Zedekiah (justice of the LORD) – the narrator intentionally grouping the three kings together as having hard hearts against the LORD (v.13), leading to Israel’s unfaithfulness (v.14) and failure to keep and protect the house of the LORD (v.7, 14).  Yet, despite His unwavering steadfast love (v.15-16), they kept mocking the messengers of God.

It is in Israel’s own rejection of God that the house of the LORD is destroyed, just as the body of Christ had to be destroyed before being re-built (John 2).  So this temporary destruction of the house is but a prophecy of Israel’s own rejection of Christ, leading to the destruction of the true temple of God – Jesus’ body – just so we could be baptized in Christ’s death and raised in His resurrection (Romans 6:3), just as the Israelites are now scattered and baptised in Christ’s death, and whether they resurrect with His glory or not depends on whether they cling onto Christ or their empty religion for the generations to come.

This resurrection of Israel, akin to Christ’s resurrection, is described at the end of 2 Chronicles which is a sweeter note than that of 2 Kings.  Where in 2 Kings 25 we see a description of grace falling on Jehoiachin, both books of Chronicles’ intention is on a larger scale beyond that of microscopic mercy; rather, Chronicles detail the macroscope of the importance of the priesthood, and the victories of the kings when the priesthood and the Levites are restored to their proper duty – with the temple and Jerusalem being once again the focus of Israel’s identity (c.f. 2 Chronicles 26), given their dual importance as the place of Christ’s work on the cross and a multimedia presentation of the gospel respectively.  Jeremiah’s positive prophecy concerning Israel is therefore not surprising, and had been fulfilled (v.21-22), for Israel’s captivity is but a foreshadowing of Christ’s death on the cross leading to the scattering of the disciples.  That time of darkness was merely temporary.  Similarly, Babylon’s captivity would end under Persia eventual leadership, and Cyrus’ decision to release the Israelites and rebuild the destroyed house in Judah.  Here, for the first time, the Gentiles are not merely contributing to the house of God (i.e. Sheba / other kings paying tributes to Israel in the past) – but Cyrus is proactively commissioning Israelites to rebuild the temple, a foreshadowing of the global evangelism involving both Jews and Gentiles in building up the dwelling place of God on earth.  That is the hope we are left with at the end of 2 Chronicles, that not only Israel, but also the Gentiles, are workers of the resurrected global House of the LORD – but not until after being exiled and banished in the wake of the crucifixion of Josiah, a type of Christ.

2 Chronicles 34-36: Gospel of the Kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world