Sermon Text: Esther 8:1–10:3
Preacher: Pastor Brian Sauvé
Plundering Haman’s House
Alright! Buckle up, guys. We’ve got three chapters of Esther— almost 2,000 words—to cover, and only 2 more hours of sermon to do it in.
Just kidding. About the 2 hours part, not the 3 chapters part. So listen, we’ve got no time for cute introductions. We’ve gotta move!
So what we’re going to do is to keep it really simple, and to go through the text first, just making sure we understand what happens in this final act of the story of Esther, and then I’m going to say maybe 10 or 20 minutes worth of big idea sort of takeaways that I believe the Lord would have us see and believe and grab onto with all our might as we close the book of Esther and move on next week into the book of Hebrews.
So if you would, please, get Esther 8:1 in front of you and let’s get to work.
“On that day…”
Perfect, 3 words down, 1,997 to go. No, we need o pause here and make sure we remember what “that day” is where we’re picking up. On what day? On the day, remember, that God delivered Mordecai and Esther from the evil plot of wicked Haman, turning all his schemes bak on his head and leaving him pierced on his own stake, the very stake where he had planned to kill Mordecai. So verse 1 again,
“On that day King Ahasuerus gave to Queen Esther the house of Haman, the enemy of the Jews. [This is the key sentence of the final act of this story. I want you to hold it in your minds.] And Mordecai came before the king, for Esther had told what he was to her. And the king took off his signet ring, which he had taken from Haman, and gave it to Mordecai. And Esther set Mordecai over the house of Haman.”
In the Ancient Near East, it was common practice for the entire estate of an executed criminal to become the property of the king. Typical, right? The government is like, “Hey, we voted, and we now own your stuff. Good talk.”
So the king gives the estate of Haman to Esther. Now I want you to tune in, here, because there is going to be a theme running through this final act of the story of Esther that goes something like this:
When God wins the decisive battle in the war, the people follow after him, conquering and even plundering their enemies—and then they feast on the still-smoking battlefield—turning the chaos and wasteland that sin had made into a joy and a celebration. Ok? So tune into that.
There is a meaningful twist to the story of Esther when it comes to our theology of plundering that we’ll see, but try to tune into the big picture that is emerging as we complete this final act of Esther.
So the king gives Esther the estate of rich Haman, and he gives Mordecai his signet ring, which basically means, “I am entrusting you with crown authority. When you decree, it is as if the king is decreeing.” Verse 3, and we’ll read a long section now, all the way to verse 14.
“Then Esther spoke again to the king. She fell at his feet and wept and pleaded with him to avert the evil plan of Haman the Agagite and the plot that he had devised against the Jews. When the king held out the golden scepter to Esther, Esther rose and stood before the king. And she said, “If it please the king, and if I have found favor in his sight, and if the thing seems right before the king, and I am pleasing in his eyes, let an order be written to revoke the letters devised by Haman the Agagite, the son of Hammedatha, which he wrote to destroy the Jews who are in all the provinces of the king. For how can I bear to see the calamity that is coming to my people? Or how can I bear to see the destruction of my kindred?” Then King Ahasuerus said to Queen Esther and to Mordecai the Jew, “Behold, I have given Esther the house of Haman, and they have hanged him on the gallows, because he intended to lay hands on the Jews. But you may write as you please with regard to the Jews, in the name of the king, and seal it with the king's ring, for an edict written in the name of the king and sealed with the king's ring cannot be revoked.”
The king's scribes were summoned at that time, in the third month, which is the month of Sivan, on the twenty-third day. And an edict was written, according to all that Mordecai commanded concerning the Jews, to the satraps and the governors and the officials of the provinces from India to Ethiopia, 127 provinces, to each province in its own script and to each people in its own language, and also to the Jews in their script and their language. And he wrote in the name of King Ahasuerus and sealed it with the king's signet ring. Then he sent the letters by mounted couriers riding on swift horses that were used in the king's service, bred from the royal stud, saying that the king allowed the Jews who were in every city to gather and defend their lives, to destroy, to kill, and to annihilate any armed force of any people or province that might attack them, children and women included, and to plunder their goods, on one day throughout all the provinces of King Ahasuerus, on the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, which is the month of Adar. [Remember this date? That’s the date that was set by Haman with a roll of the dice for the Jew’s destruction.] A copy of what was written was to be issued as a decree in every province, being publicly displayed to all peoples, and the Jews were to be ready on that day to take vengeance on their enemies. So the couriers, mounted on their swift horses that were used in the king's service, rode out hurriedly, urged by the king's command. And the decree was issued in Susa the citadel.”
So the enemy was hung on his own stake, killed, and his estate plundered. But the Jewish world was still under the threat of his evil work. So what the Lord does is to send out a message that the death sentence has been averted, the enemy of God’s people thrown down into the dust, and to put a sword in their hand with which to destroy and plunder the enemy’s kingdom.
I hope I’m being obvious enough, here, about what’s going on. Again, the story of Esther is no mere historical vignette for the purposes of entertainment. It is the story of the gospel of the Kingdom in miniature. More on that after we’ve seen the rest of the story, but he who has ears, let him hear, he who has eyes, let him see. Verse 15,
Then Mordecai went out from the presence of the king in royal robes of blue and white, with a great golden crown and a robe of fine linen and purple, and the city of Susa shouted and rejoiced. The Jews had light and gladness and joy and honor. And in every province and in every city, wherever the king's command and his edict reached, there was gladness and joy among the Jews, a feast and a holiday. And many from the peoples of the country declared themselves Jews, for fear of the Jews had fallen on them.”
As I told you last week, the author of Esther has set this story up in the form of a chiasm, meaning that the events of the first half are reflected in a parallel, but ironic, way in the second half. Here’s an example of that: This section is the mirror and negative image of Esther 3:14–15, where the decree to destroy the Jews resulted in chaos and confusion in Susa. Now, the decree to deliver the Jews results in joy and feasting—ironic reversal.
When wicked men rule, chaos ensues and cities become wastes. When the Lord rules and delivers, chaos and upheaval becomes joy and feasting.
Verse 1, now of chapter 9,
“Now 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. The Jews gathered in their cities throughout all the provinces of King Ahasuerus to lay hands on those who sought their harm. And no one could stand against them, for the fear of them had fallen on all peoples. All the officials of the provinces and the satraps and the governors and the royal agents also helped the Jews, for the fear of Mordecai had fallen on them. For Mordecai was great in the king's house, and his fame spread throughout all the provinces, for the man Mordecai grew more and more powerful. The Jews struck all their enemies with the sword, killing and destroying them, and did as they pleased to those who hated them. In Susa the citadel itself the Jews killed and destroyed 500 men, and also killed Parshandatha and Dalphon and Aspatha and Poratha and Adalia and Aridatha and Parmashta and Arisai and Aridai and Vaizatha, the ten sons of Haman the son of Hammedatha, the enemy of the Jews, but they laid no hand on the plunder.”
The earlier part of the text makes it clear that the people who are being struck down are people who are attempting to destroy the Jewish people. So even when the text later uses the word “vengeance” to describe what’s happening, the root sense of the word, even in Hebrew, is that of vindication.
Meaning that justice is being done in the vindication of the Jewish people against their enemies. This isn’t the Jews doing what was going to be done to them, but the Jews ironically reversing what was going to be done to them. They’re not initiating, they are conquering against enemies who have already initiated hostilities.
What about the sons of Haman? Hang on until the end of the story, and we’ll see the importance of what is happening in the destruction of Haman’s line.
We will also see now repeated several times, that they “…laid no hand on the plunder.” That will be meaningful at the end. Verse 11,
That very day the number of those killed in Susa the citadel was reported to the king. And the king said to Queen Esther, “In Susa the citadel the Jews have killed and destroyed 500 men and also the ten sons of Haman. What then have they done in the rest of the king's provinces! Now what is your wish? It shall be granted you. And what further is your request? It shall be fulfilled.” And Esther said, “If it please the king, let the Jews who are in Susa be allowed tomorrow also to do according to this day's edict. And let the ten sons of Haman be hanged on the gallows.” So the king commanded this to be done. A decree was issued in Susa, and the ten sons of Haman were hanged. The Jews who were in Susa gathered also on the fourteenth day of the month of Adar and they killed 300 men in Susa, but they laid no hands on the plunder.
Now the rest of the Jews who were in the king's provinces also gathered to defend their lives, and got relief from their enemies and killed 75,000 of those who hated them, but they laid no hands on the plunder. This was on the thirteenth day of the month of Adar, and on the fourteenth day they rested and made that a day of feasting and gladness. But the Jews who were in Susa gathered on the thirteenth day and on the fourteenth, and rested on the fifteenth day, making that a day of feasting and gladness. Therefore the Jews of the villages, who live in the rural towns, hold the fourteenth day of the month of Adar as a day for gladness and feasting, as a holiday, and as a day on which they send gifts of food to one another.
And Mordecai recorded these things and sent letters to all the Jews who were in all the provinces of King Ahasuerus, both near and far, obliging them to keep the fourteenth day of the month Adar and also the fifteenth day of the same, year by year, as the days on which the Jews got relief from their enemies, and as the month that had been turned for them from sorrow into gladness and from mourning into a holiday; that they should make them days of feasting and gladness, days for sending gifts of food to one another and gifts to the poor.
So the Jews accepted what they had started to do, and what Mordecai had written to them. For Haman the Agagite, the son of Hammedatha, the enemy of all the Jews, had plotted against the Jews to destroy them, and had cast Pur (that is, cast lots), to crush and to destroy them. But when it came before the king, he gave orders in writing that his evil plan that he had devised against the Jews should return on his own head, and that he and his sons should be hanged on the gallows. Therefore they called these days Purim, after the term Pur. Therefore, because of all that was written in this letter, and of what they had faced in this matter, and of what had happened to them, the Jews firmly obligated themselves and their offspring and all who joined them, that without fail they would keep these two days according to what was written and at the time appointed every year, that these days should be remembered and kept throughout every generation, in every clan, province, and city, and that these days of Purim should never fall into disuse among the Jews, nor should the commemoration of these days cease among their descendants.
Then Queen Esther, the daughter of Abihail, and Mordecai the Jew gave full written authority, confirming this second letter about Purim. Letters were sent to all the Jews, to the 127 provinces of the kingdom of Ahasuerus, in words of peace and truth, that these days of Purim should be observed at their appointed seasons, as Mordecai the Jew and Queen Esther obligated them, and as they had obligated themselves and their offspring, with regard to their fasts and their lamenting. The command of Esther confirmed these practices of Purim, and it was recorded in writing.
King Ahasuerus imposed tax on the land and on the coastlands of the sea. And all the acts of his power and might, and the full account of the high honor of Mordecai, to which the king advanced him, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the kings of Media and Persia? For Mordecai the Jew was second in rank to King Ahasuerus, and he was great among the Jews and popular with the multitude of his brothers, for he sought the welfare of his people and spoke peace to all his people.”
Our Spoils From Esther’s Story
That’s the story. This story is part of God’s breathed-out and therefore profitable to us Word, his Word that 2 Timothy 3:16–17 tells us is given to equip us for every good work, so that we can be complete and trained in righteousness.
So what would the Lord have us see and believe and grab onto and carry with us as we close the book of Esther and walk away from it? If we were to plunder the book and take the spoils, what would those spoils be? Let me leave you with four words that I’m convinced serve that end, the first three just short reminders, the last word a little longer:
1. There is no enemy over which the Lord cannot and will not prevail.
None. Not one. No army, no politician, no schemer. No demonic power and no earthly power. No plot and no weapon will prevail against the Lord and his people. No enemies within, not even our own hearts, can frustrate his purposes. His arm is not shortened that it cannot save.
2. There is no such thing as chance in a world ruled by a sovereign and divine King.
The story starts with enemies rolling the dice to determine the day on which God’s people will be annihilated, and it ends with a feast commemorating the people’s deliverance and vindication… And God names the feast “Dice.” In his sovereignty—just to make us laugh, probably—the feast ends up with the label “Purim,” which is just a Persian word for dice.
Therefore, you are totally safe. Do you understand what I mean there by “totally?” I mean, from eternity to eternity, from heaven to earth, body and soul, from all circumstances, before all times, now and forevermore, world without end—you are safe if you are in Christ.
You are safe, because God is sovereign, and he has given security in the form of his crucified Son, so that you and I through him could lean on his promised redemption.
3. The story of Esther is the story of Christ and the cosmos in miniature.
We are Christians, we read the whole Bible as Christians, because the whole Bible is a Christian book that preaches Christ and him crucified, risen, ascended, exalted, and reigning. So if someone ever asks you what the story of Esther is about, here’s what you say:
Oh, Esther is the story of the Universe in microcosm. It is, in fact, the Christian story. It’s the story of Christ and his salvation in miniature—a story where God saves through the scheming of his enemies, exalting his people and magnifying his glory.
And finally, number 4, and this is where I want you to see the final threads in Esther’s tapestry coming together:
4. We are living in the chapter of history corresponding to this final act in the story of Esther.
What is this final act in the story of Esther? It is the working out in practice what has already been accomplished in principle. Let me explain what I mean by that, and to do that we first need to look at the kind of plundering that did and did not happen in this final act of the story, and why it matters. One thing was plundered in the story—the household of Haman—and one thing was not plundered—the Persian people at large. Why is that?
Let’s start with what wasn’t plundered, that the Jewish people are said, over and over, even though the King expressly gave them permission to, not to have touched the spoil, the plunder. Why not?
Because there is an idolatrous kind of plundering that the people of God are never to engage in, and that kind of plundering is being repudiated here in Esther, vindicating the tribe of Benjamin in the process.
See way back in 1 Samuel 15, a man from the tribe of Benjamin, King Saul, failed as king and was rejected as King by God—for what? For idolatrous plundering. You remember the story:
He had defeated king Agag and his Amalekite enemies, and had been instructed by God not to leave anything alive, not to touch any of the spoil, but to devote all of it as a burnt offering to the Lord. And instead, he failed, left Agag alive, and preserved the best of the spoil. What was at the heart of that sin? It was idolatry. It was a rejection of God in favor of the spoil. Idolatrous plundering.
So what happens in Esther? The tribe of Benjamin specifically and Israel generally is vindicated as they refuse to touch the spoil.
Remember, the reason Mordecai was so opposed to Haman was that he was descended from Agag, that Amalekite ruler who became the disqualification of King Saul. So now, Mordecai and Israel stand where they had previously fallen.
This is also why the entire line of Haman is cut off, why his ten sons are destroyed—they are obeying the standing order that they had disobeyed, which ultimately led to their exile from the Promised Land, the command to destroy the line of the Amalekites.
So Esther is a story of Benjamin’s redemption in destroying the enemies of God’s people and refusing to touch the spoil—but that doesn’t mean that there is no plundering in the story. There is!
And not only that, the plundering that is in the story is what tells us that if Esther is the story of Christ’s victory in miniature, then this final act is the part of the story we find ourselves in today.
What gets plundered in the story? The house of Haman! Esther is given his whole household after he is pierced on his own wooden stake. Back up with me a ways and you’ll see why this is so significant:
What does Haman embody in this text? Satanic opposition to the people of God. So by the end of the story, what do we see? What is the shape of the story?
Haman wants to destroy Mordecai and God’s people, and builds a great big wood stake to pierce and impale Mordecai on.
Yet by the end of the story, Haman has paraded Mordecai through the public square in honor, hung on his own stake, had his line cut off, and his house plundered and genocidal plans reversed.
The moment Haman was humiliated in the center of the story in chapter 6 and hung on his own stake in chapter 7, the people of God had been rescued in principle, and all that remained was for that redemption to be walked out in practice. All that remained was for his house to be plundered and the word of redemption to go out to every corner of the kingdom.
That’s precisely where we find ourselves in history. Christ has already won the war in principle, and all that remains is for the house of Satan to be plundered and his word of redemption sent out to every corner of the kingdom of darkness.
When Jesus cried out the single word—Tetelestai! It is finished!—from the cross, the entire cosmos was, in principle, saved. That’s what it means in Colossians when Paul exults in the reality of the cross, that “…in [Christ] all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.”
When Jesus shed his blood on the cross, when he paid the ransom of holy blood due for sin, he freed the cosmos. That’s Paul’s point. The debt was paid, period. In principle, the whole transaction was finished.
So what remains? If, as Jesus told us in John’s gospel, the ruler of this world was judged on the cross, the devil…
And if, as he told us in the third chapter of Mark’s gospel, that strong man was bound…
And if, as he told us in Matthew 16, the defensive bulwarks of the kingdom of darkness wouldn’t prevail against his Church…
And if, as he said in Matthew 28, we are sent to the nations to plunder that house. And if, as Paul promised in Romans 16, the God of peace will soon crush Satan under our feet… Then what?
Then what we are doing in history now is the antitype to what the Jewish people in Esther were doing typologically in this final act of the story—plundering, rejoicing, feasting, and walking out what has already been won in principle through the cross of our Lord.
See, this is what’s happening now: When Pastor Norm and Logan and the guys go out on Thursday evenings to Temple Square, joining with a bunch of other churches and Christians, and proclaim the gospel and plead and reason with people, and see people believe and come to faith and baptism—or when they go out like they did yesterday at the Farmer’s Market here in Ogden and do the same… What is that?
It’s plundering. It’s plundering Haman’s house, Satan’s house, the Kingdom of Darkness. It’s the Kingdom of God’s beloved Son advancing—slowly, but powerfully and inexorably—over the smoking ruins of a world already won, bought, reconciled, and redeemed in principle.
When you repent of your sin—and let’s get specific—when you repent of adulterous lust—whether in mind or deed sleeping with someone you’re not married to while you’re married to someone else.
When you repent of fornication—whether in mind or deed or in the digital world sleeping with someone you’re not married to.
When you repent of gossip and busy-bodying from house to house as Paul warns against, talking about people who are not present when you ought to be talking to them…
When you repent of greed or covetousness, which Paul tells us is idolatry… When you repent, whatever that repentance is over, when the Holy Spirit brings to mind and cuts your heart with conviction for sin, and subsequently gives you repentance for that and you walk in his power and forsake that sin—by the Spirit put to death the deeds of the flesh—what is that?
That’s the Son of God taking back what is his, what he has already bought and paid for. It is the victory of the cross that is already finished in principle being walked out in real time and in practice.
We live today in the corresponding chapter of history to what we just read in the book of Esther. What we see there typologically is being worked out in antitype. What we see there in shadow—physical enemies being slain by physical swords—is being worked out in substance, enemies being subdued, not by sword, but by salvation.
Where the victory in Esther was temporary and physical, the victory of the cross is eternal and not limited to the physical, but capturing body and soul. Enemies that railed against the Son are saved by the Son.
The Gospel of the Kingdom of God is nothing less than the subduing, the defeating, and the plundering of the kingdom of darkness.
That’s why Paul tells us things like he does in 2 Corinthians 10:3–5, that “…though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh [They’re not physical swords in our hands, hacking enemies to pieces. That was type; we’re now in antitype. That was shadow; we live in the substance.] but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God.”
That’s what is happening when you repent of your sin, when you plead with sinners to be reconciled to God, when you see the gospel advance through the ordinary means of faith and repentance and evangelism.
That’s what is happening every week as we gather together in the name of the Lord to proclaim his excellencies and worship the King together, and we turn our eyes and our hearts to that throne of Jesus, and when we lay our sin down in confession and come to the table of friendship with God in Christ, and we eat and drink in proclamation of the Lord’s death until he comes.
What we’re doing—right now!—as we gather and listen to the proclamation of God’s Word, which he has put his signet ring of authority on, is feasting and celebrating on the smoking ruins of the enemy’s already-defeated kingdom—seeing the chaos and wilderness of sin watered and flowering again. We’re walking out in practice what has already been done in principle.
This is no mundane thing that we are doing. Your life is no mundane thing. It has cosmic significance in the hands of the Lord.