Divine Reversals of Fortune
“In the twelfth month, which is the month of Adar, on the thirteenth day of the same, when the king’s command and edict were about to be carried out, 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” (9:1).- Esther 8–9
The author of Esther, as we have seen, makes no direct mention of the Lord as a way of highlighting the invisible way that God often works in our lives. Because the Lord is working out all things according to the counsel of His will (Eph. 1:11), there can be no true coincidences in history. Mordecai overheard the plot against King Ahasuerus and the king had insomnia on one particular night because the Lord was orchestrating things to make the king more favorably disposed to the Jews (Est. 2:19–23; 6:1–11).
We find more evidence of the Lord’s working in the story of Esther in the sudden reversals of fortune for the Jews in the history of that era. Haman the Agagite, the enemy of the Jews, seemed to be on the ascent. He had the royal authority to kill the Jews, even being granted the right to build gallows on which to hang Mordecai (Est. 3; 5). Yet, just when Haman thought his plan would come to fruition, Esther’s intervention turned the tables on him, and he was hanged on the gallows he meant for Mordecai, an ironic twist of fate that was possible only under the hand of God’s protection (ch. 7).
Haman was out of the way, but the king was unable to rescind his decree calling for the Jews’ destruction. So, King Ahasuerus allowed Esther to make a law empowering the Jews to defend themselves (ch. 8). And so, “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” (9:1). Instead of being destroyed, the Jews defeated their many foes, foreshadowing the final victory of God and His people over all of their enemies when Jesus returns to consummate His kingdom (vv. 2–19).
To commemorate the deliverance of the Jews from Haman, the people of God instituted the feast of Purim. The name comes from pur, the Persian term meaning “lot,” in reference to the lots Haman cast to determine when to kill the Jewish people (vv. 20–32; see v. 1; 3:1–13). Instead of days of mourning the destruction of a people, the thirteenth and fourteenth of the month of Adar became days celebrating God’s deliverance of the Jews (9:16–18, 29–32). A dramatic reversal indeed happened on those days, for the Lord brought good out of Haman’s desire to do evil to God’s people. Ultimately, this should not surprise us at all, for our Creator promises to bring good out of every evil that is instigated against His people (Gen. 50:20; Rom. 8:28).
The early church father Athanasius of Alexandria comments that the fifth-century-BC Jews “called a feast, thanking and praising the Lord, because he had changed the situation for them.” When God intervenes to rescue His children, the only appropriate response is celebration. We should never be afraid to express our joy to the Lord for the ways He has blessed us.
Passages for Further Study
1 Samuel 18:6–7
1 Corinthians 5:6–8