Lesson 38: Daniel (Part 1) and Esther

Reading Preperation:
  • Daniel 1, 3, 5-6
  • Esther
Lesson Notes:
1. The Book of Daniel
1.1. Introduction to the Book of Daniel – Part 1
The book of Daniel has been criticized by some Bible critics as being not history, but fiction, written to strengthen the people during times of persecution. The evidence to the contrary is strong. (1) Daniel is called a prophet by the Savior (Matthew 24:15); (2) He is regarded by Ezekiel as a righteous man (Ezekiel 14:14,20); and (3) in latter day revelation, he is referred to as a prophet and his teachings are alluded to in latter day revelation. (see Doctrine & Covenants 65:-16; 116:1;138:44).
Richard D. Draper states,
“The Book of Daniel easily divides into two sections… The first half of the book (chapters 1-6) deals with the experience of Daniel and his associates and shows the supremacy of Jehovah over gods, kings, and nations… The second portion of the book (chapters 7-12) deals with God’s dominion over later nations and, finally, with the establishment of his kingdom in the latter days” (“The Book of Daniel” in Studies in Scripture 4. Edited by Kent P. Jackson. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1993, 322-323).
In Part 2, the next chapter, we will address Nebuchadnezzar’s dream and Daniel’s interpretation. His interpretation provides a vision into the establishment and destruction regarding a numbers of kingdoms throughout history and the final establishment of the Lord’s kingdom on earth.
1.2. Daniel 1: Faith in God Proceeds Blessings
Richard D. Draper states,
“Daniel was probably a youth when he was taken into exile by Nebuchadnezzar’s forces (approx, 606 B.C.)… It was apparently Babylonian custom to train promising captive young men to serve in the royal court… Daniel and some of his friends showed great promise, however this was not by chance as ‘God had brought Daniel into favour’ (Daniel 1:9). (“The Book of Daniel” in Studies in Scripture 4. Edited by Kent P. Jackson. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1993, 323).
The fact that the Lord was watching over Daniel is further confirmed by scripture.
Daniel 10:12
12 Then said he unto me, Fear not, Daniel; for from the first day that thou didst set thine heart to understand, and to chasten thyself before thy God, thy words were heard, and I am come for thy words.
Daniel had sought the Lord’s guidance and direction and even “to chasten thyself before thy God” his humble petition was heard by the Lord. This blessing is not just reserved for Daniel, but is a promise of the Lord to each of us who humbly seek his blessing.
Daniel, finding himself among strangers who held different beliefs than himself, promises the Lord that he will remain faithful to the covenants he had made.
Ezekiel 1:8
8 … Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself…
Following Daniel statement of faith in the Lord to continue to honor his covenants, his faith is then put to the test. This is not much different for Daniel than for many of us. It is often just after we have committed ourselves to become more righteous, the test comes. Daniel, along with the other selected captives including his three associates, is expected to partake of the king’s meat and wine during meal time. Daniel refuses to indulge in these food items for at least two reasons. Daniel’s acceptance of the Mosaic law (Leviticus 11; Deuteronomy 14) forbade his eating of this food. But there is another reason.
Old Testament student manual states,
“the heathens consecrated the food at their feasts by offering up part of the food and drink as sacrifices to their gods… Daniel [therefore] was strictly loyal to the Lord and refused to be involved in any practice associated with anything unclean or idolatrous” (Old Testament student manual 1 Kings–Malachi. Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1982, Second Edition, 298).
The king’s servant was concerned regarding Daniel’s refusal, along with his three friends, for if they appeared sickly before the king, the servant would then lose his head (Daniel 1:10). Daniel suggests an alternative diet for the four of them consisting of pulse (vegetables) and water for a period of ten days. At the end of the trial period, Daniel and his three associates appeared markedly different.
Daniel 1:15-16
15 And at the end of the ten days their countenances appeared fairer and fatter in flesh than all the children which did eat the portion of the king’s meat.
16 Thus Melzar [prince of the eunuchs] took away that portion of their meat, and the wine that they should drink; and gave them pulse.
The reason for the noticeable difference in their appearance and later their knowledge and understanding when they came before the king is due to their receiving special blessings from the Lord.
Daniel 1:17
17 As for these four children, God gave them knowledge and skill in all leaning and wisdom: and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams.
The four Israelite young men are now brought to meet with the king as part of their personal evaluation.
Daniel 1:19-20
19 And the king communed with them; and among them all was none found like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah: therefore stood they before the king.
20 And in all matters of wisdom and understanding, that the king enquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and astrologers that were in all the realm.
When we willing choose to be faithful to our covenants, we also can qualify for the Lord’s guidance and support. Most often the blessings do not come immediately as the American prophet Moroni stated,
B/M, Ether 12:4
12 And now, I, Moroni, would speak somewhat concerning these things; I would show unto the world that faith is things which are hoped for and not seen; wherefore, dispute not because ye see not, for ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith.
Spencer W. Kimball stated,
“The gospel was Daniel’s life. The Word of Wisdom was vital to him… His moderation and his purity of faith brought him health and wisdom and knowledge and skill and understanding, and his faith linked him closely to his Father in heaven, and revelations came to him as often as required” (Conference Report: Mexico and Central America Area Conference 1972, 31).
This first choice made by Daniel and his three associates sets the tone for the events that will follow in the lives of these young men as recorded in the scriptures. They willingly choose to be obedient and honor the covenants each had made. They are far from home; separated from their loved ones; in a strange land; but still they remain faithful and obedient to what they believe, even at the risk of their lives! It is however their obedience that sets them apart from all others then and now.
1.3. Daniel 3: None Can Stay His Hand
We have noted the actions of Daniel and his three associates, now we will observe how the three act without Daniel as their spokesman. Daniel’s three associates have been given positions of responsibility in the province of Babylon which has generated some animosity toward them. The king set up an image of gold on the plain of Dura. He then sent [ordered] all to attend the dedication.
Daniel 3:2
2 Then Nebuchadnezzar the king sent to gather together the princes, the governors, and the captains, the judges, the treasurers, the counselors, the sheriffs, and all the rulers of the provinces, to come to the dedication of the image which Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up.
Daniel H. Ludlow states,
“The golden image [‘threescore cubits, and the breadth thereof sis cubits’] would have been approximately ninety feet high and nine feet wide!” (A Companion to Your Study of the Old Testament. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1981, 350).
The edict by the king to the people is clear as is the penalty for non-compliance.
Daniel 3:4-6
4 Then an herald cried aloud, To you it is commanded, O people, nations, and languages,
5 That at which time ye hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, dulcimer, and all kinds of musick, ye fall down and worship the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king hath set up.
6 And whoso falleth not down and worshippeth shall the same hour be cast into the midst of a burning fiery furnace.
The music sounds and the brass instruments blare and all the people fall down, except three young men from Jerusalem! No one could have avoided seeing them, but for certain they were being watched by those where they served the king.
Daniel 3:12-13
12 There are certain Jews who thou hast set over the affairs of the province of Babylon, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego; these men, O king, have not regarded thee: they serve not thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.
13 Then Nebuchadnezzar in his rage and fury commanded to bring [them]. Then they brought these men before the king.
The king decided to give them a second chance with the warning that if they refuse, “ye shall be cast the same hour into the fiery furnace; and who is that God that shall deliver ye out of my hands?” (Daniel 3:15). There is no hesitation on the part of any of the three young men.
Daniel 3:16
16 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, answered and said to the king, O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter.
Adam Clarke states,
“We are not careful. We have no need to put you to any further trouble; we have made up our minds on this subject, and have our answer ready… ” (Adam Clarke’s Commentary on the Bible. Abridged by Ralphe Earle. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House, [Ninth Printing March, 1991], 695).
Daniel 3:17-18
17 If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king.
18 But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.
Their response echo’s through the ages even to our present day. They had no doubt regarding God’s ability to save them if it was his will, He could. But, and this is important, whether He did or not, it did not change their decision. They would “not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image.” If their unanimous decision meant that they would then face death, they were determined to be obedient.
Nebuchadnezzar is further angered by their response and orders “that they should heat the furnace one seven times more that it was wont to be heated” (Daniel 3:19). As the guards approached the opening with the three young men, “the flame of the fire slew those men that took [them] up” (Daniel 3:22). This is proof that no one could have withstood the heat even for a few moments. Nothing short of divine intervention could have saved them.
Once the three are inside the furnace, the king cannot believe what he sees inside the furnace. He questions others.
Daniel 3:24-25
24 Did not we cast three men bound into the midst of the fire? They answered and said unto the king, True, O king.
25 He answered and said, Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God.
Richard D. Draper states,
“The [king’s] confession did not mean, however, that the king was ready to follow him as Lord and God. But God’s hand was upon him, and the king would learn firsthand of Jehovah’s power” (“The Book of Daniel” in Studies in Scripture 4. Edited by Kent P. Jackson. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1993, 327).
As the three young men are brought from the furnace, it is clear that a miracle has occurred on their behalf.
Daniel 3:27
27 And the princes, governors, and captains, and the king’s counselors, being gathered together, saw these men, upon whose bodies the fire had no power, nor was an hair of their head singed, neither were their coats changed, nor the smell of fire had passed on them.
The king who had been so enraged and angry moments earlier, now stood in awe of the power of the Israelite God who had just spared the lives of these three young men. He now decrees.
Daniel 3:28-29
28 Then Nebuchadnezzar spake, and said, Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, who hath sent his angel, and delivered his servants that trusted in him, and have changed the king’s word, and yielded their bodies, that they might not serve nor worship any god, except their own God.
29 … every people, nation, and language, which speak any thing amiss against the God of Shadrach, Meshach,and Abed-nego, shall be cut in pieces… because there is no other God that can deliver after this sort.
1.4. Daniel 5: Belshazzar’s Feast and the Fall of Babylon
Some may not be familiar with the name, “Balshazzar” as it relates to the book of Daniel. Therefore the following information is provided.
Sidney B. Sperry states,
“Balshazzar is the first-born son and co-regent of Nabonidus, the last king of the Neo-Babylonian Empire… Balshazzar would be the ‘son’ of Nebuchadrezzar in the sense that his mother was the daughter of that rule. That is to say he was a descendant of Nebuchadrezzar” (The Voice of Israel’s Prophets. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1952, 52).
It was under Balshazzar that the nation of Babylon fell to the Medes-Persians in 539 B.C. The city of Babylon was believed to be impregnable to outside forces. Belshazzar had no reason to fear the army of the Medes and Persian’s led by Cyrus.
The Old Testament student manual states,
“Herodotus and Diodurus [pre-Christian writers] describe [the walls of the city] so massive as to almost defy the imagination… this wall was eighty-four feet wide and three hundred and thirty-six feet hight. He also claimed that small one-story houses were built on the top of the wall on either side, and there was even then space enough between the houses to permit four chariots to drive abreast… To breach such a wall, even with constant sieging, would take months, and yet there is no hint in Daniel’s record that the city was under siege at this time. Could a city of Babylon’s size and fortifications be taken in one night? Historical sources other than the Bible indicate that this is exactly what happened, supporting Daniel’s record exactly” (The Old Testament student manual 1 Kings—Malachi. Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1982, Second Edition, 231,302).
According to the scriptures, king Belshazzar is in the palace holding a great feast in honor of his god.
Daniel 5:1
1 Belshazzar the king made a great feast to a thousand of his lords, and drank wine before the thousand.
As the evening progresses, the king makes a request of his servants.
Daniel 5:2
2 Belshazzar, whiles he tasted the wine, commanded to bring the golden and silver vessels which his father Nebuchadnezzar had taken out of the temple which was in Jerusalem; that the king, and his princes, his wives, and his concubines, might drink therein.
It is important to understand that while these items have been removed from the temple as part of the spoils of battle, they remain holy and sacred items to the Lord. Suddenly, without warning, the feast is interrupted in dramatic fashion.
Daniel 5:5, 25
5 In the same hour came forth fingers of a man’s hand, and wrote over against the candlestick upon the plaister of the wall of the king’s palace: and the king saw the part of the hand that wrote.
25 And this is the writing that was written, MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN.
The king is visibly upset as to the event that he has just witnessed.
Daniel 5:6
6 Then the king’s countenance was changed, and his thoughts troubled him, so that the joints of his loins were loosed, and his knees smote one against another.
He immediately ordered his “astrologers, the Chaldeans, and the soothsayers… the wise men of Babylon… to read this writing and shew me the interpretation thereof.” He also stated that the interpreter of this message, “shall be clothed with scarlet, and have a chain of gold about his neck, and shall be the third ruler in the kingdom” (Daniel 5:7).
Despite the offer of glory and royal authority, there was no one, to the king’s knowledge who could “read the writing, nor make known to the king the interpretation thereof” (Daniel 5:8).
The Queen offers the name of someone who in the past gave assistance to his father regarding spiritual interpretations.
Daniel 5:11-12
11 There is a man in thy kingdom, in whom is the spirit of the holy gods; and in the days of thy father light and understanding and wisdom, like the wisdom of the gods, was found in him; whom the king Nebuchadnezzar they father, the king, I say, thy father, made master of the magicians, astrologers, Chaldeans, and soothsayers;
12 Forasmuch as an excellent spirit, and knowledge, and understanding, interpreting of dreams, and shewing of hard sentences, and dissolving of doubts, whom the king named Belteshazzar: now let Daniel be called, and he will shew the interpretation.
Daniel, now a old man and no longer in the position of ruler and chief advisor of the king, is brought to the royal court. The king informs Daniel of the reward he will receive if he is able to “read the writing, and make known to me the interpretation thereof” (Daniel 5:16).
Daniel 5:17
17 Then Daniel answered and said before the king, Let thy gifts be to thyself, and give thy rewards to another; yet I will read the writing unto the king, and make known to him the interpretation.
Nothing in Daniel’s character has changed over the years. He does not seek for temporal rewards or earthly power; those things have no meaning to him. He seeks only to serve his Lord.
Before Daniel complies with the king’s request, under divine assignment, he speaks to the royal gathering. The Lord wants the leaders to understand why this extraordinary event has occurred. He speaks first of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar’s father, and why he lost his reign.
Daniel 5:20-21
20 … when his heart was lifted up, and his mind hardened in pride, he was deposed from his kingly throne, and they took his glory from him:
21 … till he knew that the most high God ruled in the kingdom of men, and that he appointeth over it whomsoever he wilt.
Daniel then spoke directly to king Belshazzar and told him events that had transpired that evening of which he personally would have had no knowledge.
Daniel 5:22-23
22 And thou his son, O Belshazzar, hast not humbled thine heart, thou thou knewest all this;
23 But hast lifted up thyself against the Lord of heaven; and they have brought the vessels of his huse before thee, and thou, and thy lords, thy wives, and thy concubines, have drunk wine in them; and thou hast praised the gods of silver, and gold, of brass, iron, wood, and stone, which see not, nor hear, nor know: and the God in whose hand thy breath is, and whose all thy ways, hast thou not glorified.
Having given the message he was sent by the Lord to give to the king and his guests, Daniel fulfills the purpose for which the king had summoned him.
Daniel 5:25-28
25 And this is the writing that was written, MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN.
26 This is the interpretation of the thing: MENE; God hath numbered thy kingdom, and finished it.
27 TEKEL; Thou art weighted in the balance, and art found wanting.
28 PERES; Thy kingdom is divided, and given to the Medes and Persians.
The king again stated his previous offer to Daniel regarding kingly rewards, to which, we can safely assume, Daniel decline. What the king did not know was that the Medes and Persians under Darius, the Median, were at this moment at the door of his city!
The venerability of the city of Babylon was certainly not her impregnable walls which were so massive. It was the source of the city’s water supply. A river than ran through the walls into the city.
The Old Testament student manual states,
“The ancient Greek historian, Herodotus; recorded that ‘Cyrus had previously cause the Pallacopas, a canal which ran west of the city, and carried off the superfluous water of the Euphrates into the lake of Nitocris to be cleared out, in order to turn the river into it; which, by this means, was [the river] rendered so shallow that his soldiers were able to penetrate along its bed into the city” (Old Testament student manual 1 Kings—Malachi. Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1982, Second Edition, 302-303).
Daniel, chapter five, concludes with these facts.
Daniel 5:30-31
30 In that night was Belshazzar the king of the Chaldeans slain.
31 And Darius the Median took the kingdom,…
1.5. Daniel 6: Daniel and the Lion’s Den
Of the kingdoms we have addressed, Persia becomes the third kingdom. The first was Assyria, with the second being the Babylonian or Chaldean kingdom. The Persian kingdom will last two hundred years and will rule all the lands named in the Bible.
In the place of Balshazzar, Cyrus the commander of the Persians, made Darius king until the time when he was ready to rule the kingdom for himself. King Darus will honor the aged Daniel who is between 70 and 80 years old, a high position of honor and power within the Persian kingdom.
Daniel 6:3
3 Then this Daniel was preferred above the presidents and princes, because an excellent spirit was with him; and the king thought to set him over the whole realm.
However like those whose jealousy had brought Daniel’s three associates to the fiery furnace years earlier, those over whom Daniel now presided were jealous of the power he held. They now sought his death. The how was through his religious beliefs.
Daniel 6:4-5
4 Then the presidents and princes sought to find occasion against Daniel concerning the kingdom; but they could find none occasion nor fault; forasmuch as he was faithful neither was there any error or fault found in him.
5 Then said these men, We shall not find any occasion against this Daniel, except we find it against him concerning the law of his God.
They devised a plan that would bind the king into signing a royal decree that the king could not reverse that would directly apply to Daniel and his religious practices. In order to make their plan successful that had to know of Daniel’s practice of going in private to his chamber and facing “toward *Jerusalem [where] he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God” (Daniel 6:10). [*Daniel prayed facing Jerusalem even though at this time Jerusalem was in ruins; the Temple was no longer standing, and its previous location was hundreds of miles away.]
Joseph Smith, on the importance of prayer, stated,
“make yourself acquainted with those men who like Daniel pray three times a day toward the House of the Lord” (History of the Church 3. Edited by B.H. Roberts. Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1932-52, Second Edition, Revised, 39).
President Wilford Woodruff in the Dedicatory prayer of the Salt Lake Temple [April 6, 1893] admonished the Saints,
“Heavenly Father, when Thy people shall not have the opportunity of entering this holy house to offer their supplications unto Thee, and they are oppressed and in trouble, surrounded by difficulties or assailed by temptation and shall turn their faces towards this Thy holy house and ask Thee for deliverance, for help, for Thy power to be extended in their behalf, we beseech Thee, to look down from Thy holy habitation in mercy and tender compassion upon them, and listen to their cries” (Temples of the Most High. Compiled by N. B. Lundwall. Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1971, Nineteenth Printing, 127).
While facing the direction of the temple is not the practice today, what is important is the turning of one’s heart to the Lord and recalling our covenants to be more like him.
The decree presented by the murders to king Darius now read as follows “whomsoever shall ask a petition of any God or man for thirty days, save of thee, O king,, he shall be cast into the dean of lions” (Daniel 6:7). In order to ensure that the decree could not later be rescinded they insured that the king “establish the decree, and sign the writing, that it be not changed, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which altereth not” (Daniel 6:8). Initially, the king was pleased with this law which would set him even above the gods. The scriptures reference Daniel’s response to the writing [decree] and his unswerving devotion to His God.
Daniel 6:10
10 Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went into his house; and his window being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees…
Spencer W. Kimball stated,
“Was there any question what Daniel should do? He could save his life by abandoning his prayers to the Living God. What was he to do? A man of integrity could not fail. Daniel was the soul of integrity” (“Integrity,” in Brigham Young University Speeches of the Year, February, 1964, 17; see also Daniel H. Ludlow. Your Companion to Your Study of the Old Testament. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1981, 353).
The accusers upon witnessing, “Daniel praying and making supplication before his God” (Daniel 6:11), reported to the king their witness. The king had been betrayed. He responded to their witness against Daniel.
Daniel 6:14
14 Then the king, when he heard these words, was sore displeased with himself, and set heart on Daniel to deliver him; and he labored till the going down of the sun to deliver him.
Daniel’s accusers plan was found even by the king to be irrevocable. The law had been signed. It must be enacted. Daniel is brought before the king and the sentence is pronounced. The words of the king to his friend Daniel were meant to give them both support, Daniel as well as the king.
Daniel 6:16
16 … Thy god whom thou servest continually, he will deliver thee.
Daniel is delivered to the den of lions and the king returns to the palace, but not to sleep!
Daniel 6:18-19
18 Then the king went to his palace, and passed the night fasting; neither were instruments of musick brought before him: and his sleep went from him.
19 Then the king arose very early in the morning, and went in haste unto the den of lions.
Upon arriving at the lion’s den, the king was greatly concerned regarding the well-being of his friend, and with a note of hope in his voice, inquired into the darkness of the den.
Daniel 6:20
20 … O Daniel, servant of the living God, is thy God, whom thou servest continually, able to deliver thee from the lions?
What joy must have filled his soul and he heard in the darkness, Daniel’s words of assurance.
Daniel 6:21-22
21 Then said Daniel unto the king, O king, live for ever.
22 My God hath sent his angel, and hath shut the lions’ mouths, that they have not hurt me: forasmuch as before him innocency was found in me; and also before thee, O king, have I done no hurt.
Adam Clarke clarifies,
“Before me innocency was found in me. Because I was innocent God has preserved me; and now that I am preserved, my innocence is fully proved” (Adam Clarke’s Commentary on the Bible. Abridged by Ralph Earle. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House, 1967, [Nineteenth Printing March 1991], 697).
Daniel 6:23
23 … Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no manner of hurt was found upon him, because he believed in his God.
Because of Daniel’s faith and obedience to the Living God, his life is spared. King Darius orders that the traitors and their families, including their children, be cast into the lion’s den. The fate they had sought in their murderous hearts, now becomes their own!
Daniel 6:24
24 … and the lions had mastery of them, and brake all their bones in pieces or ever [before] they came at the bottom of the den.
The Old Testament student manual states,
“Some have attacked the cruelty of condemning the women and children, too. To an absolute monarch, however, it probably seemed the logical thing to do, for out of these families might come insurrection in the future. The lesson must be severe enough to warn any others who might be jealous of the king’s favorite and most valuable servant… [and] a monarch would likely feel that any other course would slowly cause him to lose his absolute power” (Old Testament student manual 1 Kings—Malachi. Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Chrsit of Latter-day Saints, 1982, Second Edition, 304).
The king makes a written decree which he has circulated to all his subjects.
Daniel 6:26-27
26 I make a decree, That in every dominion of my kingdom men tremble and fear before the God of Daniel: for he is a living God, and stedfast for ever, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed, and his dominion shall be even unto the end.
27 He delivereth and rescueth, and he worketh signs and wonders in heaven and in earth, who hath delivered Daniel from the power of the lions.
Adam Clarke provides a fitting epitaph regarding Daniel’s years of royal service,
“So this Daniel prospered. He had served five kings: Nebuchadnezzar, Evil-merodach, Belshazzar, Darius, and Cyrus. Few courtiers have had so long a reign, served so many masters without flattering any, been more successful in their management of public affairs, been so useful to the states where they were in office, been more owned of God, or have left such an example to posterity” (Adam Clarke’s Commentary on the Bible. Abridged by Ralph Earle. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House, 1967, [Nineteenth Printing March 1991], 697).
2. The Book of Esther
2.1. Introduction to Book of Esther
Bible critics have rejected the idea of Ester being an actual person. It is regarded by some as only a novel with a moral.
Victor L. Ludlow states,
“Esther was one of the last books to be received into the cannon of scripture… It is the only Old Testament book not found among the Dead Sea Scrolls. It is one of two books (along with the Song of Solomon) that does not mention God by name. However, it does show the faith, fasting, and prayers of some Jews in precarious circumstances, and it demonstrates the love the Lord maintains for his children in the house of Israel wherever they may be” (Unlocking the Old Testament. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1981, 117).
The LDS Bible Dictionary notes,
“The book contains no direct reference to God, but he is everywhere taken for granted, as the book infers a providential destiny (Esther 4:13-16), and speaks of fasting for deliverance… [T]he the book has a religious value as containing a most striking illustration of God’s overruling providence in history, and as exhibiting a very high type of courage, loyalty, and patriotism” (Esther, Book of, LDS Bible Dictionary. Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, 1979, 667).
2.2. Esther 1: Vashti, wife of king Ahasuerus is deposed as Queen
W. Cleon Skousen states,
“King Ahasuerus [Xerxes: name given by Greek historian] was a young son of Darius who was appointed before his father’s death… In between military campaigns Xerxes held the most extravagant and elaborate banquets at the palace” (The Fourth Thousand Years. Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1966, [Sixth Printing 1972], 780-781).
Duane S. Crowther notes,
“Xerxes, the great Persain ruler, held a great feast in preparation for his expedition again Greece in 482 B.C. It was apparently at this time that he deposed Queen Vashti. He did not take Esther to wife until four years later, in 478 B.C., after his return from the expedition. Esther’s actions constituted one of the most important events in Jewish history, for she saved the entire nation from annihilation” (Prophets and Prophecies of the Old Testament. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1966, 579).
At the king’s feast, an event occurs that will impact the annuals of Jewish history and will catapult the name of Esther to be known among the books of the Old Testament.
Esther 1:10-12
10 On the seventh day, when the heart of the king was merry with wine, he commanded… the seven chamberlains that served in the presence of Ahasuerus the king,
11 To bring Vashti the queen before the king with the crown royal, to shew the people and the princes her beauty: for she was fair to look on.
12 But the queen Vashti refused to come at the king’s commandment by his chamberlains; therefore was the king very wroth, and his anger burned in him.
There are at least two positions regarding Queen Vashti’s refusal and the kings action.
Jesse Lyman Hurlbut states,
“among the Persians it was held to be very wrong for a woman ever to allow her face to be seen by any man except her husband. Queen Vashti’s refusal to come to the feast was that these drunken men might stare at her” (Hurlbut’s Story of the Bible. Philadelphia: The John C. Winston Company, 1947, 449).
Another reason is that the king as monarch held absolute rule over his subjects. Requests that he made of his subjects, including his wife, were to be obeyed without reservation. The queen must have understood that her decision not to comply with the king’s request would result in his embarrassment before his subjects and consequences would immediately be forth coming. It is possible that she did not believe that the result of her refusal would be her deposal, but according to the scriptures, after conferring with “the wise men” (Esther 1:13) that is what occurred.
Esther 1:19
19 … let there go a royal commandment… and let it be written among the laws of the Persians and the Medes, that it be not altered, That Vashti come no more before king Ahasuerus; and let the king give her royal estate unto another that is better than she.
2.3. Esther 2: Esther is chosen as Queen
According to Crowther, Esther was not crowned as queen until four years after Queen Vashti had been deposed, possibly because the king was away at battle. We learn that the king’s servants initiated the selection process (see above Prophets and Prophecies of the Old Testament. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1966, 579).
Esther 2:3
3 And let the king appoint officers in all the provinces of his kingdom, that they may gather together all the fair young virgins unto Shushan the palace, to the house of the women…
We are introduced to Mordecai. He is a Jew who traced his lineage to the tribe of Benjamin (Esther 2:5), He had been brought to Persia as a captive.
Esther 2:6-7
6 [Mordecai] Who had been carried away from Jerusalem with the captivity which had been carried away with Jeconiah king of Judah, when Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon had carried away.
7 And he brought up Hadassah, that is, Esther, his uncle’s daughter: for she had neither father nor mother,…
Esther, because she “was fair and beautiful” (Esther 2:7), was one of the women selected to come to the king’s palace and be considered to become the king’s wife. She had a secret which she had been instructed to keep private.
Esther 2:10
10 Esther had not shewed her people nor her kindred: for Mordecai had charged her that she should not shew it.
Esther was Jewish, being raised by a captive taken in battle and had her lineage been known, she would not have been considered as a candidate for queen.
Upon being introduced to the king, “the king delighted in her” (Ether 2:14). Following the period of purification, Esther was again taken to the king.
Esther 2:17
17 And the king loved Esther above all the women, and she obtained grace and favour in his sight more than all the virgins; so that he set the royal crown upon her head, and made her queen instead of Vashti.
In spite of Esther now being queen, she kept her secret as directed by her uncle and “had not yet shewed her kindred nor her people” (Esther 2:20).
At the conclusion of chapter two, Mordecai while at the king’s gate overhears a plot by two royal chamberlains to kill king Ahasuerus. Mordecai makes the plot know to Esther. who then reports the plan to the king in Mordecai’s name. The two individuals are put to death. This seeming minor action by Mordecai, later increases in importance.
2.4. Esther 3: Haman’s Plot
Haman was promoted by the king to a position above all the princes, and according to protocol, all were to bow in reverence to him. When he passed by Mordecai, he “bowed not, nor did him reverence” (Esther 3:2). Mordecai, acting upon his religious beliefs bowed only to his God. Haman took his action not only as a direct insult to him, but the insult also extended in his mind to all Jewish people.
Esther 3:5-6
5 And when Haman saw that Mordecai bowed not, nor did him reverence, then was Haman full of wrath.
6 And he thought scorn to lay hands on Mordecai alone; for they had shewed him the people of Mordecai: wherefore Haman sought to destroy all the Jews that were throughout the whole kingdom of Ahasuerus, even the people of Mordecai.
Haman’s anger, originally directed toward Mordecai for his lack of reverence due to his religious convictions, now spills over to include all the Jews in the kingdom! Haman is so personally offended that he takes his case before the king.
Esther 3:8
8 And Haman said unto king Ahasuerus, There is a certain people scattered abroad and dispersed among the people in all the provinces of they kingdom; and their laws are diverse from all people; neither keep they the king’s laws: therefore it is not for the king’s profit to suffer them
The response of the king to Haman’s request is greatly alarming to all concerned.
Esther 3:11
11 And the king said unto Haman, The silver is given to thee, the people also, to do with them as it seemeth good to thee.
Haman’s rage directed originally towards one individual and by extension to all the people of his faith, now has the kings blessing! One is struck with the lack of value or worth that a people in captivity have under the directive of an absolute monarch. Such was the case with Daniel and his three associate under the Babylonians. Little seems to have changed now the land is ruled by Persia.
Esther 3:13
13 And the letters were sent by posts into all the king’s provinces, to destroy, to kill, and to cause to perish, all Jews, both young and old, little children and women, in one day, even upon the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, which is the month of Adar, and to take the spoil of them for a prey.
The date for the death of all Jews to occur was determined by purim [lots] (see Esther 9:24). The date selected was almost a year away.
2.5. Esther 4: Responsibility and Importance of Fasting
Mordecai is greatly distraught when he hears of Haman’s actions against his people and the king’s approval.
Esther 4:1
1 When Mordecai perceived all that was done, Mordecai rent his clothes, and put on sackcloth with ashes, and went out into the midst of the city, and cried with a loud and a bitter cry;
When Esther learned of his actions, she, obviously unaware of the kings decree, “sent raiment to clothe Mordecai and to take away the sackcloth from him: but he received it not” (Esther 4:5).
Now, due to her concern regarding Mordecai, Esther sent one of her servants to speak with him. Mordecai explained to her servant all that Haman had done, and the king’s decree regarding the death of all Jews in the kingdom. He then made the following request of Esther, “she should go in unto the king, to make supplication unto him, and to make request before him for her people” (Esther 4:8).
Obvious Mordecai is unaware of royal protocol regarding a subject approaching the king without an invitation. Esther plains to Mordecai the protocol and the penalty attached.
Esther 4:11
11 All the king’s servants, and the people of the king’s provinces, do know, that whosoever, whether man or woman, shall come unto the king into the inner court, who is not called, there is one law of his to put him to death, except such to whom the king shall hold out the golden scepter, that he way live: but I have not been called to come in unto the king these thirty days.
Mordecai’s response is to remind Esther that first and foremost her responsibility is to the Jewish people.
Esther 4:13-14
13 Then Mordecai commanded to answer Esther, Think not with thyself that thou shalt escape in the king’s house, more than all the Jews.
14 For if thou altogether holdest thy peace at this time, then shall there enlargement [relief] and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place; but then thou and thy father’s house shall be destroyed: who knoweth whether than art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?
A great blessing has come to Esther to serve as the Queen. With that blessing comes responsibility. If she does not protect her people, another will be called and she will suffer the consequences of failing to do her duty. In fact, her call to be the Queen at this time may even be in response to divine design.
It is now know how long Esther considered her response to her uncle and her responsibility to a people that she has not previously acknowledged, never mind the consequences to her personally, but she had made her decision.
Esther 4:16
16 Go, gather together all the Jews that are present in Shushan, and fast ye for me, and either eat nor drink three days, night or day: I also and my maidens will fast likewise; and so will I go in unto the king, which is not according to the law: and if I perish, I perish.
Esther, like those before her, including as we have noted, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, knew that the Lord had the power to intervene, but if He chose not to do so each were prepared to suffer death rather than not fulfill their responsibility.
Let us not forget that Esther was acquainted with the blessing of fasting and the personal strength that can be gained from seeking heaven’s blessing. She knew also that there was strength to be gained by including the support and strength of others in her fast. She then sought the support of her uncle, personal servants and especially all the Jews in the area. It is an important truth for us to remember that today, and probably then, fasting and prayers of supplication for divine support and strength went together.
2.6. Esther 5: Esther meets with king and Haman build’s Gallows
Esther keeps her promise and after the joint fast, stood to be recognized by the king. He extended to her his golden scepter and asked her desire even if it meant giving “thee to the half of the kingdom” (Esther 5:3). Esther offered to host a banquet and that Haman be invited.
Haman is elated as he tells his wife of the invitation, however his joy “availeth me nothing, so long as I see Mordecai the Jew sitting at the king’s gate” (Esther 5:13).
His wife then offers that a “gallows be made of fifty cubits high and tomorrow speak to the king that Mordecai may be hanged thereon” (Esther 5:14). The gallows is constructed.
Daniel H. Ludlow states,
“The extreme height of the gallows (fifty cubits, or seventy-five feet) is probably a reflection of the extreme hatred of Haman and his family for Mordecai” (A Companion to Your Study of the Old Testament. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1981, 262).
2.7. Esther 6: Mordecai is Honored for Past Service
It has been said that all good deeds are rewarded. This saying certainly applies to Mordecai. The king, unable to sleep, peruse the book of records and is reminded of the previous attempt on his life by two chamberlains that was uncovered and reported by Mordecai. He also learns that nothing had been done to honor him for his action. (see Esther 6:1-3).
Haman comes to the palace to speak to the king regarding Mordecai being hanged. Before he can speak, the king asks him a question.
Esther 6:6
6 So Haman came in. And the king said unto him, What shall be done unto the man whom the king deligheth to honour? Now Haman thought in his heart, To whom would the king delight to do honour more than myself?
Haman speaks telling the king all the glory, pomp and ceremony that he himself desired. The king discloses to Haman that it is Mordecai whom he desires to honor and Haman to be the executor of the action. Once the honor is completed, Haman returns to his home dejected and reports to his wife his extreme disappointment. (see Esther 6:8-12).
Esther 6:13
13 And Haman told Zeresh his wife and all his friends every thing that had befallen him. Then said his wise men and Zeresh his wife unto him, If Mordecai be of the seed of the Jews, before who thou hast begun to fall, thou shalt not prevail against him, but shalt surely fall before him.
The words of Haman’s wife and his wise men likely spoken in ignorance, become prophetic regarding Haman’s fate.
Ellis T. Rasmussen adds,
“To a literary analyst these ironic and fateful developments might seem only to be elements of good storytelling, but to a believer in God, they may appear as evidence of divine intervention, even though it is not declared explicitly in this book” (A Latter-Day Saint Commentary on the Old Testament. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1993, 389-390).
2.8. Esther 7: Haman’s Plot to kill Jews revealed; He is Hanged
At the banquet, Ester has the opportunity to speak with the king and to share with him her gravest concerns.
Esther 7:3-4
3 … If I have found favour in thy sight, O king, and if it please the king, let my life be given me at my petition, and my people at my request.
4 For we are sold, I and my people, to be destroyed, to be slain, and to perish. But if we had been sold for bondmen and bondwomen, I had held my tongue, although the enemy could not countervail the king’s damage.
When the king asks who has sought to kill Esther and her people, she states, “The adversary and enemy is this wicked Haman” (Esther 7:6). The reaction to his wife’s revelation is anger. He leaves the banquet probably in order to calm his emotions and collect his thoughts.
In the king’s absence, Haman “stood up to make request of his life to Esther the queen; for he saw that there was evil determined against him by the king” (Esther 7:7).
Esther 7:8-10
8 Then the king returned out of the palace garden into the place of the banquet of wine; and Haman was fallen upon the bed whereon Esther was. Then said the king, Will he force the queen also before me in the house? Ss the word went out of the king’s mouth, they covered Haman’s face.
9 And Harbonah, one of the chamberlains, said before the king, Behold also, the gallows fifty cubits high, which Haman had made for Mordecai, who had spoken good for the king, standeth in the house of Haman. Then the king said, Hang him thereon.
10 So they hanged Hamanon the gallows that he had prepared for Mordecai. Then was the king’s wrath pacified.
The Old Testament student manual adds,
“In the Middle East in ancient times, banquets were served to the guests as they recline on pillows or couches… It seems likely that Haman rushed over to Esther at the banquet and fell on her couch to plead for his life… When the king returned to the banquet, he interpreted Haman’s position as a sexual advance and ordered his death. Thus, with no direct suggestion by Esther about what Haman’s punishment should be, circumstances brought about the swift execution of the man who would have proven even after his fall from favor, to be a powerful enemy to the queen” (Old Testament student manual 1 Kings—Malachi. Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1982, Second Edition, 331).
2.9. Esther 8: Mordecai Honored and Jews allowed to defend themselves
Following the hanging of Haman, Mordecai is given the princely responsibilities that previously were held by Haman.
Esther 8:1-2
1 On that day did the king Ahasuerus give the house of Haman the Jews’ enemy unto Esther the queen…
2 And the king took off his ring which he had taken from Haman, and gave it unto Mordecai.
Having been given this honor, Mordecai and Esther jointly make an appeal to the king regarding the preservation of their people. Esther plead with the king.
Esther 8:5-6
5 … If it pleas the king and if I have found favour in his sight, and the thing seem right before the king, and I be pleasing in his eyes, let it be written to reverse the letters devised by Haman the son of Hammedatha the Agagite, which he wrote to destroy the Jews which are in all the king’s provinces;
6 For how can I endure to see the evil that shall come unto my people? Or how can I endure to see the destruction of my kindred?
The decree that had been written could not be reversed, according to the law of the Medes-Persians, even by the king. What could the king then lawfully do in response to the petition before him by Esther and Mordecai?
Esther 8:11
11 Wherein the king granted the Jews which were in every city to gather themselves together, and to stand for their life, to destroy, to slay, and to cause to perish, all the power of the people and province that would assault them, both little ones and women, and to take the spoil of them for a prey.
The response of the Jews to the king’s decree that gave them authorization to defend themselves against any who would come against them was seen as a great blessing to them.
Esther 8:17
17 And in every province, and in every city, whithersoever the king’s commandment and his decree came, the Jews had joy and gladness, a feast and a good day. And many of the people of the land became Jews; for the fear of the Jews fell upon them.
2.10. Esther 9: Jews slay enemies and Feast of Purim Initiated
During this time, Mordecai had risen to a position of power and authority within the king’s house. He now used his influence to protect his people from her enemies.
Esther 9:3
3 And all the rulers of the provinces, and the lieutenants, and the deputies, and officers of the king, helped the Jews; because the fear of Mordecai fell upon them.
There were those who did rise against the Jews and they were able to defeat them. It is noted that 500 were killed in Shusham (vs.6) and 7,500 were killed in other provinces (vs.16). While they were given permission by the king to retain the spoils from those they defeated, the record states, “on the spoil [or prey] laid they not their hand” (Esther 9:10, 15-16).
Having been successful in defeating those who came against them, they sought permission from the king to have a feast and celebrate their success.
Esther 9:22, 26
22 As the days wherein the Jews rested from their enemies, and the month which was turned unto them from sorrow to joy, and from mourning into a good day; that they should make them days of feasting and joy, and of sending portions one to another, and gifts to the poor.
26 Wherefore they called these days Purim after the name of Pur…
This festival, initiated during the days of Esther continues to be celebrated today.
Victor L. Ludlow states,
“the festival of Purim or ‘lots’… held usually in mid-winter… includes a reading of Esther in the synagogue… [where] the story is read and acted out. Each girl hopes to be selected to portray Esther. Everyone has noisemakers and they are loudly used whenever the name of Haman is mentioned in the story, in order to drown out any sound of his name… Candy, treats, gifts, and games (usually involving dice or ‘lots’ are an important part of the festival” (Unlocking the Old Testament. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1981, 117).
2.11. Esther 10:Mordecai, Protector of his People
Mordecai, Esther’s Uncle, stands along side of Esther as a protector of the Jewish people who were in captivity during the reign of king Ahasuerus. He watched over and protected Esther from ridicule and shame for being a Jew in a foreign land, but when her people were in need, he admonished her to take her place as protector and do all that she could to preserve her people from annihilation. Both were honored by the king [Esther as his queen; and Mordecai as second in command] and by their people for the service they rendered. Individually, they stood up for what was right even at great risk to themselves.
Esther 10:3
3 For Mordecai the Jew was next unto king Ahasuerus, and great among the Jews, and accepted of the multitude of his brethren, seeking the wealth of his people, and speaking peace to all his seed.
3. Conclusions
Like Daniel, his three companions, Esther and Mordecai, we also live in an alien world that tests our faith regarding our religious principles. The prevalence of drugs, alcohol, immorality, abortion, pornography, homosexuality, pressure from others, and rampant dishonesty are but a few of the temptations we face. It is our responsibility today to also remain true to our religious beliefs in spite of pressure to set aside one’s standards. We can, if we will, be a light to others in a world that is growing progressively darker. We must also be willing to sacrifice our own lives, if necessary, in defending and sustaining the principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ we know to be true.
Lorenzo Snow stated,
“It may become necessary in the future–and this is the point I wish to make–for some of the Saints to act the part of Esther, the queen, and be willing to sacrifice anything and everything that is required at their hands for the purpose of working out the deliverance of the Latter-day Saints… it is our business to step forward as did Esther, and be willing to risk all for the salvation of her people” (Journals of Discourse 23. London: Latter-day Saints’ Book Depot, 1854-86, [Eighth Reprint 1974], 290, 293; see also Daniel H. Ludlow, Your Companion to Your Study of the Old Testament. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1981, 262).
It takes more than a prophet in order for the Lord to establish his kingdom on the earth. It takes members today who, like those of old, are willing to honor their covenants through their actions.
John Taylor stated,
“What is the first thing necessary to the establishment of his kingdom? It is to raise up a prophet and have him declare the will of God; the next is to have people yield obedience to the word of the Lord through that prophet. If you cannot have these, you never can establish the kingdom of God upon the earth” (The Gospel Kingdom. Selected, Arranged, and Annotated with an Introduction by G. Homer Durham. Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1943, 214).
The Books of Daniel and Esther taught the Jews that they could be steadfast in living their religion, despite exile or persecution. What lessons have we learned from the writings of Daniel or Esther? Will we find the strength we need from their examples to be more committed to living daily the covenants we have made? Will we also be valiant and stand up to others for what we know is true? Will we keep the commandments so that the light of Christ can be reflected in our lives and we will be a light to others? Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, Abed-nego, Esther, and Mordecai did. We can also.