v1 Mordecai discovered what had happened. He tore his clothes. He put on *sackcloth and ashes and he went into the city. He cried aloud because he was very sad.
v2 Nobody who was wearing *sackcloth could enter the king’s palace. So Mordecai stopped at the king’s gate.
v3 When the people of every district heard the king’s law, the *Jews were very sad. They did not eat food. They wept aloud. Many *Jews lay on *sackcloth and ashes.
Verses 1-3 The king’s law, that Haman had written, was very bad news for the *Jews. The lives of all the *Jewish people were in danger. They wore *sackcloth (clothing that they made from very rough material). They also put ashes on their heads. The *Jews used to follow these traditions when somebody died. So we know that this news upset them greatly.
Mordecai wore *sackcloth and ashes too and he cried aloud. It was his fault that Haman was so angry. Mordecai knew that. He had to stay outside the palace. The king did not want to see anyone who was wearing *sackcloth. The king would not want to see anything that would remind him about death.
Perhaps Mordecai also wore *sackcloth to get a message to Esther. He knew that Esther could help the *Jews (see Esther 4:14). She probably had not heard about the law to kill the *Jews (see Esther 4:8).
v4 Esther’s maids and male servants came and told her about Mordecai. She was very unhappy. She sent clothes for Mordecai to wear instead of the *sackcloth. But Mordecai would not accept the clothes. v5 Esther called for Hathach. He was one of the men who looked after the king’s wives. The king had appointed Hathach to serve Esther. She ordered him to go to Mordecai. She ordered Hathach to find out what was happening.
Verses 4-5 When Esther heard about Mordecai, the news made her very unhappy. She sent clothes to Mordecai. If he had put the clothes on, he could have entered the palace. But Mordecai did not accept the clothes. Now Esther would know that Mordecai was sad about something very important. She sent one of her servants to find out why Mordecai was so sad. Mordecai’s plan had worked.
v6 So Hathach went to Mordecai in the square of the city. The square was in front of the king’s gate. v7 Mordecai told him all that had happened. Haman had promised to pay the king a lot of money in order to arrange the deaths of the *Jews. Mordecai also told Hathach about this money. v8 Mordecai also gave Hathach a copy of the words of the law. This was the law, which the king had sent out from Susa, to kill all the *Jews. Mordecai asked Hathach to show the copy to Esther and to explain it to her. He also asked Hathach to urge Esther to go to the king. He wanted her to appeal to the king to save the *Jews.
Verses 6-8 It seems that Esther had not heard about the law to kill the *Jews. Mordecai sent Esther a copy of the law. And he asked her servant to explain it to her. Mordecai also told the servant about the large amount of money that Haman had promised to pay to the king. Now Esther would understand that the situation was very serious.
Mordecai asked Esther to appeal to the king. Esther had always obeyed Mordecai. (See Esther 2:20.)
v9 Hathach returned. He told Esther what Mordecai had said. v10 Esther told him to say this to Mordecai. v11 ‘All the king’s servants and the people of the *kingdom know that there is a certain law. No man or woman can go to the king, in the inner yard, if the king has not invited that person. If anyone does go, he must die. That person may only live if the king holds out his gold stick. But the king has not called me to see him for 30 days.’
Verses 9-11 Esther heard the news from Mordecai. She knew that it was not easy to obey Mordecai this time. He was asking her to risk her life. People could not go to see the king if he had not invited them. It was not safe to do that. This law would make the king feel important. But the law also helped to protect him from his enemies. The king had not called Esther to see him for a month. If he was not pleased with her, he might kill her. Then, of course, he would not grant her request. A dead queen could not help the *Jews.
The king had a long thin stick, which was gold. It showed his authority. The king might want to give a welcome to a visitor although he had not invited that visitor to see him. So he would use the stick to give a welcome to his visitor.
v12 Hathach told Mordecai what Esther had said. v13 Mordecai sent back this answer. ‘You will not escape when all the other *Jews die. Do not imagine that you are safe in the king’s palace. v14 If you do not speak to the king now, the *Jews will get help and rescue from another place. But you and your family will die. Perhaps you have become queen for this particular time.’
Verses 12-14 When Mordecai heard Esther’s reply, he sent back an answer. He said three things:
1. Your life is in danger too. Although you are the queen, you are also a *Jew. The law orders people to kill all the *Jews. (Perhaps Haman did not know that Esther was a *Jew. Perhaps he would have made a different plan if he had known that.)
2. God will help the *Jews in a different way, if you do not speak on their behalf.
3. This is what I think. God made you queen so that he could use you to help the *Jews.
These verses are very important. Mordecai did not mention God. But Mordecai was trusting God to save the *Jews. He was asking Esther to trust God also. She should not be afraid of the king.
v15 Then Esther sent this answer to Mordecai. v16 ‘You must gather together all the *Jews in Susa. You must tell them not to eat food on my behalf. Do not eat or drink for three days and three nights. My maids and I will do the same. Then I will go to the king, although it is against the law. And if I die, then I die.’
v17 Then Mordecai went away. He did everything that Esther had told him to do.
Verses 15-17 Esther heard what Mordecai said. She decided to obey him. Maybe she now understood that God was in control of all the events. Maybe she now understood why God had made her queen.
She asked Mordecai and the *Jews in Susa to help. There were probably many *Jews in Susa. (See Esther 9:15.) She asked the *Jews not to eat food for three days. Usually people do not eat food so that they can spend more time in prayer. So, Esther was probably asking the *Jews to pray for her. Esther and her maids would also not eat food.
After three days, Esther would go to see the king. She would go, although she was risking her life.
Some years later, Nehemiah served another king in Susa. He also did not eat food but instead he prayed. He did this before he asked the king to grant his request. (See Nehemiah 1:4.)