Purim, a Jewish holiday whose story is told in the book of Esther, is a day of joy and celebration which generally falls between late February and late March in the Gregorian calendar—the 14th of Adar in the Hebraic/biblical calendar. It is a day to remember God’s mighty hand displayed to His people in the days of Esther and Mordecai—a time to commemorate His saving grace and protection.
Yet, most people who have heard of Purim, while of course remembering Esther—first known as Hadassah—hardly recall her cousin Mordecai. After all, Esther was the one God positioned to become queen and the one who risked her life to save the Jewish people. But it was also she who had gained the favor of the king—by God’s intervention—to give her and Mordecai the authority to make decrees in favor of their people by giving Mordecai his signet ring to seal those decrees. In this, Esther and Mordecai were instrumental in bringing about Purim itself, which is celebrated to this day…
However, if we look a little closer, while Esther is still the primary player, Mordecai maintains a prominent role throughout the narrative. A role which, in many ways, is as strong as his cousin Esther’s, whom he raised from the orphaned girl, Hadassah, to the queen who would be set in place “for such a time as this” (see Esther 4:14).
The book of Esther:
We all know the story…
Esther—then Hadassah—was orphaned at a young age and raised by her cousin Mordecai as if, and he was her father. She trusted him, obeyed him, and only appeared to revere God above him. Yet, when the king of the land took away the power and position of his then queen, Vashti, Hadassah’s life would change forever…
She, now a grown woman, was brought along with an untold number of other beautiful virgins, to the citadel in the city of Shushan. There she underwent a full year of beauty treatments before she would be brought before the king, and soon after, become his queen…
After she—now known as Esther—had been in the role of queen for some time, a man known as Haman, was put into a high position of power. Through trickery and the omission of certain facts, Haman quickly convinced the king that a certain group of people in his kingdom—the Jews—needed to be destroyed.
Esther, upon hearing the edict, fasted and prayed for three days, then went before the king unsummoned—an act punishable by death should he not hold out his golden scepter—to try to save her people. Yet, God gave favor to Esther, and after having Haman and the king dine with her for two days in a row, Esther pleaded for her people, softening the king’s heart, saving them, and ultimately establishing Purim to commemorate God’s move.
While this is a fairly accurate summation of the story, particularly when compared to how it is often portrayed—with Mordecai making only the odd guest appearance in Hadassah/Esther’s journey toward queenship and saving her people—it is not the whole story. Yes, Esther’s role is vital, but Mordecai played a far greater role than most of the “tellings” of the book of Esther allow.
What was Mordecai’s role?
“And Mordecai had brought up Hadassah, that is, Esther, his uncle’s daughter, for she had neither father nor mother. The young woman was lovely and beautiful. When her father and mother died, Mordecai took her as his own daughter.”—Esther 2:7
Long before the day Queen Vashti was deposed, Mordecai took his cousin into his household, raising her and loving her as if she were his daughter. This act of taking Hadassah in… of raising her to be the woman we know through biblical accounts—a woman of strength, courage, wit, Godly obedience, caring, and more—was all required for God to use her as He did. Yes, God could have imparted divine knowledge, character, and so forth, should Mordecai have failed, but God leaves nothing to chance. He led Hadassah to her cousin, a Godly, righteous man, so she could receive training far more important than any beauty treatments and learning she would find in her year of preparation to meet the king.
“The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, and He delights in his way.”—Psalm 37:23
Still, Mordecai’s role in the book of Esther did not stop at raising Hadassah. Indeed, those years of raising her, while likely preparing himself just as he prepared and cared for her, were only the beginning. Remember, as Psalm 37:23 says, “The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord…” and Mordecai was a good man. A man of God.
When Hadassah—known by those in the citadel as, Esther—was brought in for her year of preparation, Mordecai did not simply leave his cousin, the woman he thought of as a daughter, in the hands of strangers. He did not leave her to whatever fate she might encounter. No. Instead, he came to the court of the women’s quarters EVERY DAY to learn how she was and what was happening to her.
“Esther had not revealed her people or family, for Mordecai had charged her not to reveal it. And every day Mordecai paced in front of the court of the women’s quarters, to learn of Esther’s welfare and what was happening to her.”—Esther 2:10-11
Now, the Word does not specifically state that, “every day of the full year he came and paced,” however, it is very much implied that he did. He cared so much for the woman whom he considered to be his daughter that he charged her to keep her identity a secret—a directive which protected her AND eventually allowed God’s people to be saved through her. Yet, his care went beyond words and into action as he would come every day, pacing in front of the court’s quarters until he learned what was happening to her, and how she was. Imagine how much time this would have taken. Imagine the lessening of work hours, even if his walk and subsequent pacing lasted only a portion of an hour. God had put this girl into his charge, and he was not going to let her be wholly alone…
Yet, when the time came for her to go before the king and ultimately be chosen as his queen, Mordecai’s distance had to grow. It was surely already hard enough for Esther to hide her heritage with Mordecai coming daily to the area outside the women’s quarters… but now that she was queen, it was almost impossible. However, that did not keep him from looking out for her or her new husband.
“In those days, while Mordecai sat within the king’s gate, two of the king’s eunuchs, Bigthan and Teresh, doorkeepers, became furious and sought to lay hands on King Ahasuerus. So the matter became known to Mordecai, who told Queen Esther, and Esther informed the king in Mordecai’s name.”—Esther 2:21-22
When Mordecai informed Esther of the plot to kill the king, she informed the king in Mordecai’s name. The plot was thwarted, yet, Mordecai, while having his deed written in the book of chronicles, was not rewarded at that time. Instead, God held that honor back until the timing was perfect.
Still, life continued on for Mordecai, even as Haman was placed above the princes of the land by the king. Yet, due to Mordecai refusing to bow or pay homage to Haman—be it because he would not bow to anyone but God, or perhaps to no one but God AND the king and queen—Mordecai, and all the Jewish citizens of Persia, were about to have a rude awakening…
Haman’s anger burned within him. Instead of striking out against Mordecai alone, Haman decided he would not be satisfied unless ALL the Jews in the kingdom suffered. So, before even approaching the king on the matter, Haman cast lots to determine the month and day he would destroy the Jews, for he was certain he could trick the king into carrying out his plan.
So, was Mordecai in some way responsible for the planned destruction of the Jewish people? Would they have never faced the threat had he pretended to honor Haman?
No. For, while Mordecai “triggered” Haman’s wrath, Haman’s evil—the spirit of evil within him—was so great that even if Mordecai had bowed to him, it is likely he would have come after the Jews eventually. However, what the enemy meant for evil, the Lord would turn for good…
In Part Two of this two-part blog series, we will see how Mordecai was used of God to not only bring the news of Haman’s evil to Esther but to speak the words she needed to hear—to give her a God-given view and remind her of God’s power—ultimately turning the tide in favor of God’s people. Finally, we will explore how Mordecai played an important role in the creation of Purim, as well as, the legacy and honor he ultimately rose to.