Esther 4:1-14 1 When Mordecai perceived all that was done, Mordecai rent his clothes, and put on sackcloth with ashes, and went out into the midst of the city, and cried with a loud and a bitter cry; 2 And came even before the king’s gate: for none might enter into the king’s gate clothed with sackcloth. 3 And in every province, whithersoever the king’s commandment and his decree came, there was great mourning among the Jews, and fasting, and weeping, and wailing; and many lay in sackcloth and ashes. 4 So Esther’s maids and her chamberlains came and told it her. Then was the queen exceedingly grieved; and she sent raiment to clothe Mordecai, and to take away his sackcloth from him: but he received it not. 5 Then called Esther for Hatach, one of the king’s chamberlains, whom he had appointed to attend upon her, and gave him a commandment to Mordecai, to know what it was, and why it was. 6 So Hatach went forth to Mordecai unto the street of the city, which was before the king’s gate. 7 And Mordecai told him of all that had happened unto him, and of the sum of the money that Haman had promised to pay to the king’s treasuries for the Jews, to destroy them. 8 Also he gave him the copy of the writing of the decree that was given at Shushan to destroy them, to shew it unto Esther, and to declare it unto her, and to charge her that she should go in unto the king, to make supplication unto him, and to make request before him for her people. 9 And Hatach came and told Esther the words of Mordecai. 10 Again Esther spake unto Hatach, and gave him commandment unto Mordecai; 11 All the king’s servants, and the people of the king’s provinces, do know, that whosoever, whether man or woman, shall come unto the king into the inner court, who is not called, there is one law of his to put him to death, except such to whom the king shall hold out the golden sceptre, that he may live: but I have not been called to come in unto the king these thirty days. 12 And they told to Mordecai Esther’s words. 13 Then Mordecai commanded to answer Esther, Think not with thyself that thou shalt escape in the king’s house, more than all the Jews. 14 For if thou altogether holdest thy peace at this time, then shall there enlargement and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place; but thou and thy father’s house shall be destroyed: and who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?
Chapter four starts with Mordecai imploring Esther to intervene on behalf of her people or they would all be killed. Esther reminded Mordecai that anyone who came before the king without being called, even the queen, would be subject to death. The only exception to this would be if the king extended mercy by holding out the golden sceptre (verses 10-12).
Mordecai then uttered the most famous line from the book when he said, “For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. “Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this”? (Esther 4:14).
Esther then agreed to risk her life for her people. She asked Mordecai to have her people fast for her success, and she put her life on the line by going to the king for help (verses 15-16).
Mordecai reads the decree issue by the king, and his first act to rent his clothes and put on sackcloth with ashes. What is sackcloth and ashes? What is the significance of that act? According to https://www.gotquestions.org/sackcloth-and-ashes.html with read the following:
Sackcloth and ashes were used in Old Testament times as a symbol of debasement, mourning, and/or repentance. Someone wanting to show his repentant heart would often wear sackcloth, sits in ashes, and put ashes on top of his head. Sackcloth was a coarse material usually made of black goat’s hair, making it quite uncomfortable to wear. The ashes signified desolation and ruin. When someone died, the act of putting on sackcloth showed heartfelt sorrow for the loss of that person. We see an example of this when David mourned the death of Abner, the commander of Saul’s army (2 Samuel 3:31) Jacob also demonstrated his grief by wearing sackcloth when he thought his son, Joseph, has been killed (Genesis 37:34) These instances of mourning for the dead mention sackcloth but not ashes.
Ashes accompanied sackcloth in times of national disaster or repenting from sin. Esther 4:1, for instance, describes Mordecai tearing his clothes, putting on sackcloth and ashes, and walking out into the city wailing loudly and bitterly. This was Mordecai’s reaction to King Xerxes’ declaration giving the wicked Haman authority to destroy the Jews (Esther 3:8-15). Mordecai was not the only one who grieved. “In every province to which the edict and order of the king came, there was great mourning among the Jews, with fasting, weeping, and wailing. Many lay in sackcloth and ashes” (Esther 4:3). The Jews responded to the devastating news concerning their race with sackcloth and ashes, showing their intense grief and distress.
Sackcloth and ashes were also used as a public sign of repentance and humility before God. When Jonah declared to the people of Nineveh that God was going to destroy them for their wickedness, everyone from the king on down responded with repentance, fasting, and sackcloth and ashes (Jonah 3:5-7). They even put sackcloth on their animals (verse 8). Their reasoning was, “Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish” (verse 9). This is interesting because the Bible never says that Jonah’s message included any mention of God’s mercy; but mercy is what they received. It’s clear that the Nineties’ donning of sackcloth and ashes was not a meaningless show. God saw genuine change—a humble change of heart represented by the sackcloth and ashes—and it caused Him to relent and not bring about His plan to destroy them (Jonah 3:10).
That old age bitter rivalry between the Israelites and the Amalekites has reared its ugly head after more than 550 years it would seem. Israelites vs. Amalekites. Benjamin vs. Agag. Mordecai vs. Haman. Good vs. Bad. The battle lines have been drawn. Mordecai knew in his heart, that it was because he refused to bow to Haman as commanded, and that he had told his colleagues it was because he was a Jew, that Haman sought not revenge on Mordecai only, but Haman decide to reverse the job that Mordecai’s ancestor king Saul failed to do when ordered by the LORD to totally wipe out the Amalekites (1 Samuel 15:9…..but Saul and the people spared Agag…….). If King Saul was so foolish to disobey the command of the LORD, thereby saving Agag, Haman was not going to be so lenient. He was going to execute the job of totally destroying the Israelites – wipe them off the face of the Earth – once and for all!!!
I do not think that Mordecai regretted or repented of his refusal to bow to Haman. I believe that he put on sackcloth and ashes because he was in deep sorrow – mourning at the loss of his people at the hands of an evil man.
Meanwhile, in the comfort of her palace, queen Esther is totally oblivious to what is going on. She is unaware of the running feud between Haman and Mordecai. She is in the dark regarding Haman requesting the king to sign an edict to destroy the Jews. She has no idea that her days are numbered – the 13th day of the month of Adar is just twelve months away. Basically, Esther is clueless. It falls to her maids and chamberlains to inform Esther that her dad Mordecai is by the king’s gate wearing sackcloth and ashes, and he refuses to be comforted. Esther sends a message back via her chamberlain Hatach pleading with him to cloth himself, and she would like to know why he is so distressed. Mordecai informs Hatach about Haman’s evil plan, with the sum of money involved, and a copy of the decree. Now Hatach – take this back with you and show it to queen Esther (Esther 4:5-8).
Esther I guess is very confused. How? When? What could have possibly transpired between her dad and Haman, to drive Haman to ask the king to get rid of the Jewish nation in all 127 provinces??? Shocked and bewildered, Esther sends another message back to Mordecai. Dear Daddy – UNLESS the king requests specifically to see me, I cannot just go into his presence – it can result in death – UNLESS he holds out the golden sceptre that I may touch the tip of it, and by the way – I have not been called into his presence for the last thirty days (Esther 4:9-11)
Hatach goes back to Mordecai with her reply. Now – I find it interesting to note that Mordecai told Esther not to reveal her identity to the king that she was a Jew right from the beginning. My reasoning is that if the king was not to know what race of people she hailed from, then neither was she to tell her maids or her chamberlains. We now have a situation where both her maids and her chamberlains know Esther’s true identity, and that she is a Jew – yet they remain loyal to her. They keep that vital information to themselves. They do not snitch. How they must have adored their queen? As I mentioned earlier, it is my belief that Esther did not only possess outward beauty, she was also very beautiful on the inside. A Godly woman, with Godly characteristics that exuded from her.
Esther 4:13-14: 13 Then Mordecai commanded to answer Esther. Think not with thyself that thou shalt escape in the king’s house, more than all the Jews. 14 For if thou altogether holdest thy peace at this time, then shall there enlargement and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place; but thou and thy father’s house shall be destroyed; and who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?
Well – that’s Esther told!!!