"Many of the People of the Land Became Jews"!

August 25, 2011

Through a dramatic turn of events in the kingdom of Ahasuerus, Haman, who sought to have all the Jews exterminated, was instead put to death himself (Est. 3:1-7:10). Moreover, the king exalted Mordecai, whom Haman had plotted to kill (8:2-15).

How did this incredible reversal come about? Although the book of Esther never mentions God, Scriptural teaching elsewhere makes clear that God the Judge exalted Mordecai and abased Haman:

“I said unto the fools, Deal not foolishly: and to the wicked, Lift not up the horn: Lift not up your horn on high: speak not with a stiff neck.For promotion cometh neither from the east, nor from the west, nor from the south. But God is the judge: he putteth down one, and setteth up another.For in the hand of the LORD there is a cup, and the wine is red; it is full of mixture; and he poureth out of the same: but the dregs thereof, all the wicked of the earth shall wring them out, and drink them. But I will declare for ever; I will sing praises to the God of Jacob. All the horns of the wicked also will I cut off; but the horns of the righteous shall be exalted” (Ps. 75:4-10).

Through His marvelous intervention, the Judge brought kingdom-wide blessedness to the Jews:

“Then were the king’s scribes called at that time in the third month, that is, the month Sivan, on the three and twentieth day thereof; and it was written according to all that Mordecai commanded unto the Jews, and to the lieutenants, and the deputies and rulers of the provinces which are from India unto Ethiopia, an hundred twenty and seven provinces, unto every province according to the writing thereof, and unto every people after their language, and to the Jews according to their writing, and according to their language. . . . Wherein the king granted the Jews which were in every city to gather themselves together, and to stand for their life, to destroy, to slay, and to cause to perish, all the power of the people and province that would assault them, both little ones and women, and to take the spoil of them for a prey, upon one day in all the provinces of king Ahasuerus . . . And Mordecai went out from the presence of the king in royal apparel of blue and white, and with a great crown of gold, and with a garment of fine linen and purple: and the city of Shushan rejoiced and was glad. The Jews had light, and gladness, and joy, and honour. And in every province, and in every city, whithersoever the king’s commandment and his decree came, the Jews had joy and gladness, a feast and a good day” (8:9; 11-12a; 15-17c).

What’s more, He brought blessings upon many Gentiles as well at this time: “And many of the people of the land became Jews; for the fear of the Jews fell upon them” (8:17d). This fascinating statement merits close attention because it points to some glorious truths that could easily be overlooked.

First, the inspired writer of Esther highlights this conversion of many Gentiles by placing it at the end of this passage. Second, it points to the working of the Judge to bless both Jews and Gentiles, and not just Jews.

Third, this conversion record argues for the genuine devoutness of at least some Jews in the land because it is untenable to hold that God intervened in this breathtaking way so that many Gentiles converted to join an unfaithful or even apostate group of Jews. Had that been the case, this conversion record itself would be an anticlimactic ending to an otherwise glorious account of the working of God the Judge to exalt His people and abase their enemies.

Such pessimism about the Jews in Ahasuerus’ kingdom is unwarranted because no explicit data in the book conveys that the Jews at this time were without exception living unfaithfully to God. Furthermore, the mere lack of an explicit record of the mention of God’s name by the leading Jews in the book of Esther is not sufficient evidence to support such an assessment.

This interpretation is confirmed by the teaching of Psalm 75 and other Scripture (e.g., 1 Sam. 2:1-10) that the Judge acts to exalt the righteous, which implies that His intervention in the kingdom of Ahasuerus was to exalt at least some Jews who were righteous and trusted in Him. Regardless of whether Esther and Mordecai had been righteous prior to this point or not, God’s exaltation of Mordecai and the Jews points to the presence of at least some devout Jews in the kingdom at that time.

Let us praise God the Judge through whose working the wicked were abased, the righteous were exalted, and “many of the people of the land became Jews” (8:17d)!

Rajesh

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