What would you do if someone offered you 10 million dollars, but you had to do something you knew was wrong? I like to think I would do the right thing, but I know it’s not that easy.
In fact, there are millionaires and billionaires out there today who either have no conscience or have rationalized immoral choices in order to live lives of luxury and privilege. Take a look at what Esther was offered in exchange for her courage and consider her response.
The King’s Offer
And when the king saw Queen Esther standing in the court, she won favor in his sight, and he held out to Esther the golden scepter that was in his hand. Then Esther approached and touched the tip of the scepter. And the king said to her, “What is it, Queen Esther? What is your request? It shall be given you, even to the half of my kingdom.” And Esther said, “If it pleases the king, let the king and Haman come today to a feast that I have prepared for the king” (5:2-4).
Mordecai warned Esther of Haman’s evil plan to kill all the Jews as a consequence of Mordecai’s refusal to bow down and worship him. Esther prayed and fasted and decided to do as Mordecai had instructed — talk to the King.
She might be killed for approaching him before she has been summoned, but as Mordecai said, her heritage as a Jew would be discovered, and Esther would die either way.
Esther was queen, but she was also disposable, as her predecessor had discovered. It’s by the grace and will of God that Xerxes favored Esther. One crisis averted, but then before she had time to say anything, he offered to give her up to half of his kingdom!
The King’s Rashness
The Bible is a book of contrasts. So often, what we know about God’s character and his instructions for us, his people, comes from witnessing the difference between God-fearing leaders and those who reject God’s rule.
Xerxes was impressionable and hasty. He signed an edict to have thousands of people killed without giving it any thought or researching the cause of Haman’s anger.
Maybe he was gullible, or possibly he was too lazy to find out more information and too self-involved to care about the people whose lives the edict would affect.
His rashness worked to Esther’s advantage but also tested her.
She hadn’t told him what she wanted yet — Esther could have said, “If it pleases the King, I would like to accept your offer of half the kingdom so that I might use it to spread your good name and your glory” or some other nonsense the king might have believed.
Xerxes was as quick to make a generous (and potentially disingenuous offer) as he was to have countless Jews murdered after all. No wise individual would have trusted his wisdom or his consistency.
Esther’s Cool Head
Esther could have taken his offer. She might have talked herself into the idea of saving the Jews with her newfound power. Remember The Fellowship of the Ring? Boromir exclaimed to the council, “Why not use the ring?”
Aragorn rebuked him, saying, “You cannot wield it!” Power such as Xerxes was offering Esther at that moment might have actually gone to Esther’s head and distorted her view of God; she might have forgotten about her people.
After all, she hadn’t been part of their world for a long time. Perhaps Mordecai was wrong: the rest of the Jews would die, but not her.
I think Esther was a smart girl, farsighted, with a wide-lensed view. She considered what was good for the future and for her people. She did not rush into anything the way her king did (remember those three days of fasting and praying).
Even though God was never mentioned, she had prayed to him and obtained discernment by his grace. Her discernment prepared her not to trust Xerxes' words — they were, after all, just words. There was no substance behind them.
He hadn’t thought his offering through. Esther would not give up her people in exchange for power. And if Xerxes’ hasty offer had tempted her, she was quick to overcome her surprise and quash any notion of greedy acceptance.
Esther might have also realized that a rash person will give quickly and take away his offer just as quickly. Remember the parable of the Sower? Some seeds were devoured by birds.
“Other seeds fell on rocky ground [...] and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them” (Matthew 13:3-8).
And, of course, seeds that fell on good soil produced hardy plants.
Xerxes reminds me of those unreliable growing conditions. Where the soil has not been well-tended and prepared, the fruit is pulled up before it has ripened. The roots of Xerxes’ promises were shallow.
Esther represented the good soil of God’s faithfulness to his people. In this perilous situation, the foundation of careful discernment was laid ahead of that meeting with the king through prayer and fasting.
So, I do believe, even though it isn’t stated, that Esther might have been wise enough to see through Xerxes’ overt generosity to the rocks and thorns of his unreliable character. It all happened so quickly, but I don’t want to overlook her wisdom and bravery.
Touching the Scepter
What about the symbolism embedded in touching the tip of Xerxes’ scepter? The ESV Study Bible explains the significance of the scepter as a sign of total rule.
The king could offer or refuse an audience with whomever he wished. Approach and be sent to your death. Approach and be heard, even receive your wish. It was really up to the whim of a fickle man.
Henry M. Morris, Ph.D., commented that touching the scepter “is also a picture of our own coming to Christ, the King of kings. One does not have to be a queen, however [...] if he has the courage to die to the world and the faith to believe that Christ can save.”
Compare Xerxes’ use of power and his attitude towards his subjects with Christ’s offer noted by Henry M. Morris.
Esther was putting her life in God’s hands, not the hands of an earthly king. She knew it — live or die, that would be according to the will of Almighty God, the actual wielder of total control and authority.
Even though Xerxes believed he was in control and that Esther placed her faith in him, nothing could have been further from the truth.
I think God might also be illustrating another contrast here: the scepter versus the rod. The rod of our Shepherd-King is suggestive of the shepherd’s rod.
John W. Ritenbaugh explains its symbolism: God “is giving us careful, close scrutiny. [...] The rod aids in identifying or making sure of possession. [...] We are under evaluation to determine to whom we really belong: God or Satan. Who is our shepherd?”
Xerxes didn’t scrutinize anything very closely (except the beauty of his women). He was setting Esther apart by favoring her, but her worth to him was superficial, while her worth to the Lord was of infinitely more value.
What Does This Mean?
The world hands us a scepter — distraction, earthly success — and Jesus extends his rod. He knows whom we belong to; whose offer we will accept. Esther demonstrated her trust in God.
She was set apart to do something brave and memorable out of a place of deep faith — not in a hasty, selfish king but in God Almighty, her true protector, and protector of her people.
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Candice Lucey is a freelance writer from British Columbia, Canada, where she lives with her family. Find out more about her here.