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Esther 4:1-17

Context
Esther Decides to Risk Everything in order to Help Her People

4:1 Now when Mordecai became aware of all that had been done, he 1  tore his garments and put on sackcloth and ashes. He went out into the city, crying out in a loud 2  and bitter voice. 4:2 But he went no further than the king’s gate, for no one was permitted to enter the king’s gate clothed in sackcloth. 4:3 Throughout each and every province where the king’s edict and law were announced 3  there was considerable 4  mourning among the Jews, along with fasting, weeping, and sorrow. 5  Sackcloth and ashes were characteristic 6  of many. 4:4 When Esther’s female attendants and her eunuchs came and informed her about Mordecai’s behavior, 7  the queen was overcome with anguish. Although she sent garments for Mordecai to put on so that he could remove his sackcloth, he would not accept them. 4:5 So Esther called for Hathach, one of the king’s eunuchs who had been placed at her service, 8  and instructed him to find out the cause and reason for Mordecai’s behavior. 9  4:6 So Hathach went to Mordecai at the plaza of the city in front of the king’s gate. 4:7 Then Mordecai related to him everything that had happened to him, even the specific amount of money that Haman had offered to pay to the king’s treasuries for the Jews to be destroyed. 4:8 He also gave him a written copy of the law that had been disseminated 10  in Susa for their destruction so that he could show it to Esther and talk to her about it. He also gave instructions that she should go to the king to implore him and petition him on behalf of her people. 4:9 So Hathach returned and related Mordecai’s instructions 11  to Esther.

4:10 Then Esther replied to Hathach with instructions for Mordecai: 4:11 “All the servants of the king and the people of the king’s provinces know that there is only one law applicable 12  to any man or woman who comes uninvited to the king in the inner court – that person will be put to death, unless the king extends to him the gold scepter, permitting him to be spared. 13  Now I have not been invited to come to the king for some thirty days!”

4:12 When Esther’s reply 14  was conveyed to Mordecai, 4:13 he 15  said to take back this answer to Esther: 4:14 “Don’t imagine that because you are part of the king’s household you will be the one Jew 16  who will escape. If you keep quiet at this time, liberation and protection for the Jews will appear 17  from another source, 18  while you and your father’s household perish. It may very well be 19  that you have achieved royal status 20  for such a time as this!”

4:15 Then Esther sent this reply to Mordecai: 4:16 “Go, assemble all the Jews who are found in Susa and fast in my behalf. Don’t eat and don’t drink for three days, night or day. My female attendants and I 21  will also fast in the same way. Afterward I will go to the king, even though it violates the law. 22  If I perish, I perish!”

4:17 So Mordecai set out to do everything that Esther had instructed him.

1 tn Heb “Mordecai.” The pronoun (“he”) was used in the translation for stylistic reasons. A repetition of the proper name here is redundant in terms of contemporary English style.

2 tn Heb “great.”

3 tn Heb “reached” (so NAB, NLT); KJV, NASB, NIV “came”; TEV “wherever the king’s proclamation was made known.”

4 tn Heb “great” (so KJV, NIV, NRSV, NLT); NAB “the Jews went into deep mourning.”

5 sn Although prayer is not specifically mentioned here, it is highly unlikely that appeals to God for help were not a part of this reaction to devastating news. As elsewhere in the book of Esther, the writer seems deliberately to keep religious actions in the background.

6 tn Heb “were spread to many”; KJV, NIV “many (+ people NLT) lay in sackcloth and ashes.”

7 tn The words “about Mordecai’s behavior” are not in the Hebrew text, but are supplied in translation for the sake of clarity. Cf. NIV, NLT “about Mordecai”; TEV, CEV “what Mordecai was doing.”

8 tn Heb “whom he caused to stand before her”; NASB “whom the king had appointed to attend her.”

9 tn Heb “concerning Mordecai, to know what this was, and why this was.”

10 tn Heb “given” (so KJV); NASB, NRSV, TEV, NLT “issued”; NIV “published”; NAB “promulgated.”

11 tn Heb “the words of Mordecai” (so KJV); NIV, NRSV, CEV “what Mordecai had said”; NLT “with Mordecai’s message.”

12 tn Heb “one is his law”; NASB “he (the king NIV) has but one law”

13 tn Heb “and he will live”; KJV, ASV “that he may live”; NIV “and spare his life.”

14 tn Heb “the words of Esther”; TEV, NLT “Esther’s message.”

15 tn Heb “Mordecai.” The pronoun (“he”) was used in the translation for stylistic reasons. A repetition of the proper name here is redundant in terms of contemporary English style.

16 tn Heb “from all the Jews”; KJV “more than all the Jews”; NIV “you alone of all the Jews.”

17 tn Heb “stand”; KJV, NASB, NIV, NLT “arise.”

18 tn Heb “place” (so KJV, NIV, NLT); NRSV “from another quarter.” This is probably an oblique reference to help coming from God. D. J. A. Clines disagrees; in his view a contrast between deliverance by Esther and deliverance by God is inappropriate (Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther [NCBC], 302). But Clines’ suggestion that perhaps the reference is to deliverance by Jewish officials or by armed Jewish revolt is less attractive than seeing this veiled reference as part of the literary strategy of the book, which deliberately keeps God’s providential dealings entirely in the background.

19 tn Heb “And who knows whether” (so NASB). The question is one of hope, but free of presumption. Cf. Jonah 3:9.

20 tn Heb “have come to the kingdom”; NRSV “to royal dignity”; NIV “to royal position”; NLT “have been elevated to the palace.”

21 tn Heb “I and my female attendants.” The translation reverses the order for stylistic reasons.

22 tn Heb “which is not according to the law” (so KJV, NASB); NAB “contrary to the law.”



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