DIG: Subplots abound: Secrecy, faithfulness, and assassins! Which one most concerns Ahasuerus? Mordecai? Esther? Why? What was the Persian method of execution? What should the king have done for Mordecai?
REFLECT: In your life, what do you see more of: Fate? Chance? Design? Or destiny? Explain. Have you ever done a great job on something, only to have your efforts go unappreciated or even acknowledged? How did it make you feel?
After Esther’s coronation the unsuccessful contestants (the virgins) who were not chosen by the king, were assembled a second time (the first time was in 2:19a). That same day Mordecai was sitting at the king’s gate (2:19b, 2:21, 3:2, 5:9 and 13, 6:10 and 12). It seems that by the date of her coronation, Esther already had her cousin appointed a magistrate or judge, which was a lesser position in the elaborate hierarchy of Persian officials. More than likely, she couldn’t have given him a higher position without disclosing her relationship to him.
The gate was the court for commercial and legal business (Ruth 4:1-11). The king’s gate was the entrance to his palace, the fortress that towered above Susa. There the king’s officials sat (Proverbs 31:23), and people seeking justice could come and stand before them. If archaeological evidence from Susa has been correctly interpreted, the gate built by Ahasuerus’ father, Darius, measured 131 by 92 feet. The king’s gate opened into a large building consisting of a central hall that led into the royal compound and two rectangular side rooms. The central hall was supported by four columns with trilingual inscription on the bases that read, “By the grace of Aura Mazda (the creator and upholder of truth in the Persian pantheon), the Gate, Darius the King made it, he who was my father.” The excavation of the king’s gate and the square in front of it correspond well to the details of the palace given by the author of Esther (4:6), indicating that the author was familiar with the palace complex at Susa.31
During the time Mordecai was sitting at the king’s gate, Bigthana and Teresh, two of the king’s officers who guarded the doorway. Consequently, they need to be his most trusted servants. However, they became angry and conspired to assassinate King Ahasuerus (2:21). These two men guarded with their life the doorway of the royal house, but in doing so they had unique opportunities to conspire against the king. According to the Targum, they plotted to poison his wine, but the cause of their anger is not stated directly. Many monarchs have died at the hands of their own servants, eventually including Ahasuerus.
But Mordecai found out about the plot and told Queen Esther, who in turn reported it to the king, giving credit to Mordecai (2:22). The rabbis teach that Mordecai’s discovery of the plot was by God’s design, not by Mordecai’s wisdom. It should not be surprising that Mordecai just happened to be at the exact right place, at the exact right time to overhear the plot against the king. It was no accident that Esther was his niece and Mordecai could report the plot to the very person who had access to the king. Providence!
And when the report was investigated and found to be true, the two officials were impaled on poles (2:23a). Many years later, King Ahasuerus was killed in an assassination plot. But for now, ADONAI protects him, so that God’s own purposes can be fulfilled.32 Rather than being hanged by the neck on a modern-type gallows, Bigthana and Teresh were impaled with nails on a wooden pole in public view, as a lesson to the populace. This was not an unusual method of execution in the Persian Empire. Darius, the father of Ahasuerus, was known to have once impaled 3,000 men.
By making known to Esther what has happening, Mordecai saved the life of the king, who, like the butler in Genesis (see my commentary on Genesis Jo- Then the Chief Baker said to Joseph: I Too Had a Dream), promptly forgot the man who saved him. The would-be assassins were impaled and all this was recorded in the book of the annals in the presence of the king (2:23b), literally, the book of the acts of the day. This was in the nature of a royal diary. The ancient kings of Babylon, Assyria and Hebrew kings kept such annals as well. Persian kings normally rewarded acts of loyalty very quickly and generously. But Mordecai was not even thanked for his faithfulness.33
Just like Mordecai, we may deserve credit, appreciation, or reward for something we’ve done or accomplished. Maybe we weren’t acknowledged publicly for our efforts in completing a project and others were. Or maybe our boss took credit for the contract we got. We can’t expect to receive all the credit we deserve, but ADONAI knows everything we do. Even if we don’t get the credit now – even in our lifetime – the LORD will generously reward us in heaven.34 Some of the rewards will be crowns we’ll wear in heaven (see my commentary on Revelation Cc – For We Must All Appear Before the Judgment Seat of Christ).
So at this point in the story, Esther has been introduced as the new queen, and Mordecai has a place of high standing at the king’s gate. Vashti has exited almost as fast as she entered, yet she will be remembered throughout because any reference to Queen Esther will remind us of whose place she took. Ahasuerus is consumed with power, but powerless, as the sovereignty of God unfolds behind the scenes.35