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Esther 4:1 Now when Mordecai found out all that was done, Mordecai tore his clothes and put on sackcloth with ashes, and went out into the midst of the city, and wailed loudly and a bitterly- He wished to now come out openly as a Jew. He doubtless realized that so much suffering was going to come on God's people because of his refusal to bow to Haman, due to his personality clash with him (see on Esther 3). And this in itself was good for him spiritually- for he openly identified himself now with God's people, instead of teaching Esther not to do so, and not being known to Haman as a Jew initially (Esther 3:4). His wailing is recorded in the LXX: "A nation that has done no wrong is going to be destroyed". If this is indeed so, he was far from understanding the persistent prophetic message- that Judah had indeed done wrong and were therefore in exile, and were worthy of complete destruction.

Esther 4:2 He came even before the king’s gate; for no one was allowed inside the king’s gate clothed with sackcloth-
He was hoping to thereby be noticed and the message relayed somehow to Esther, with whom he didn't have constant contact. He wanted her to "come out" and do as he was doing.

Esther 4:3 In every province, wherever the king’s commandment and his decree came, there was great mourning among the Jews, and fasting, weeping and wailing; and many lay in sackcloth and ashes-
This may well be the language of repentance. God's plan had been that the exiles would repent and then return to restore the Kingdom. But they generally didn't return, preferring the kingdom of Babylon and their own wealth to that of Yahweh. This persecution was the sending of "hunters" to chase them back, and bring them to repentance (Jer. 16:16). And they did repent- but when their destruction was averted by the prayer and repentance of a minority, they returned to their old position. Which is why the book of Esther finishes rather sadly, with the Jews again wealthy and even more prosperous and established within their local societies, and thereby even less likely to return to the land.

Esther 4:4 Esther’s maidens and her eunuchs came and told her this, and the queen was exceedingly grieved. She sent clothing to Mordecai, to replace his sackcloth; but he didn’t receive it-
She this began to openly identify herself with Mordecai and the Jews, although at this point she had not heard about the decree; for it was known that Mordecai was a Jew, and now she is moved to identify with him. This first response from her was then developed by God until she totally "came out" in self-identification as a Jewess. She did what was not worldly-wise, because of her grief for people. God likewise gives us opportunities to make small responses to Him, He develops our consciences until we are then given larger opportunities to respond. She could of course have disowned any knowledge of Mordecai or stressed she was only his adopted daughter. But we must ask how we would have responded; how emotionally do we feel connected to the rest of God’s people?

Esther 4:5 Then Esther called for Hathach, one of the king’s eunuchs, whom he had appointed to attend her, and commanded him to go to Mordecai, to find out what this was, and why it was-
As noted on :4, Esther at this point didn't know about the decree; but she had been moved to identify with the Jews by deciding to openly care for Mordecai and thus identify herself with him. And God was going to move her further along the path of "coming out" for Him.

Esther 4:6 So Hathach went out to Mordecai, to the city square which was before the king’s gate-
See on :10.

Esther 4:7 Mordecai told him of all that had happened to him, and the exact sum of money that Haman had promised to pay to the king’s treasuries for the destruction of the Jews-
Meaning apparently that he would pay this if he had permission to plunder the Jews (Esther 3:9). This meant they had acquired significant wealth; and this was doubtless why most of them didn't return to the land under Cyrus, and thereby precluded the reestablishment of God's Kingdom which was then possible. They therefore chose their little kingdom rather than the things of God's kingdom. And this is the problem with wealth. The huge financial offer was perhaps attractive for the king because of the need to prepare for the upcoming war with Greece which was then looming.

Esther 4:8 He also gave him the copy of the writing of the decree that was given out in Shushan to destroy them, to show it to Esther, and to declare it to her, and to urge her to go in to the king to make supplication to him, to make request before him for her people-
Heb. 'ask for favour'.
The passion and love of God leads Him time and again to apparently contradict Himself. He says that He will cast Judah out of their land, they would go to Babylon and serve other gods there, “where I will not show you favour” (Jer. 16:13). But actually Esther and her people were shown favour there [s.w. Esther 4:8; Esther 8:5]. She was to ask the king for favour, but clearly she was asking God for favour, even though they were unworthy of it. And God was gracious [s.w. ‘show favour’] to those in exile (Is. 30:18,9; Am. 5:15; Mal. 1:9), and their deliverance from Haman is an example of it. But Jer. 16 goes on to state that God would not ever hide His eyes / face from the iniquity they had committed, i.e. the reason why they were in captivity (Jer. 16:17). But actually He did do just that- He hid His eyes from the sin of Judah and the sin of the exiles (Is. 65:16); the hiding of His face from them was in fact not permanent but for a brief moment (Is. 54:8). God then outlines a plan- He will recompense their sin double, and this would lead them back to Him (Jer. 16:18). But this was to be an unrepeatable, once-for-all program that would “cause them to know mine hand… and they shall now that my name is The Lord” (Jer. 16:21). This double recompensing of Judah’s sin happened in the exile in Babylon (Is. 40:2), and therefore the joyful news was proclaimed to Zion in Is. 40 that now the Messianic Kingdom could begin. But there wasn’t much interest nor response to the call to return to Judah in order to share in it. The exile didn’t cause God’s people to repent nor to know His Name. It wasn’t the once-for-all program which He intended. Now none of this makes God out to be somehow not serious or unreliable. Rather is it all an indication of His passion and how deeply He wishes His plans of redemption for us to work out. He’s not ashamed to as it were humiliate Himself, lay Himself open to petty critics, in His passion for us. Thus God was so [apparently] sure that the exile would bring about Judah’s repentance and return to Him: “Thy lovers shall go into captivity: surely then shalt thou be ashamed and confounded for all thy wickedness” (Jer. 22:22). But actually the very opposite happened. It’s rather like “They will reverence my son” (Mt. 21:37)- when actually they crucified Him.

Esther 4:9 Hathach came and told Esther the words of Mordecai-
LXX adds that Mordecai appealed to her to respond, "remembering, said he, the days of thy low estate, how thou wert nursed by my hand: because Aman who holds the next place to the king has spoken against us for death". Her own salvation by grace was to move her to save others; and this again is a timeless principle for us all.

Esther 4:10 Then Esther spoke to Hathach and gave him a message to Mordecai-
All this communication through a messenger meant that surely the news of the Esther-Mordecai relationship and her intended actions would have not been secret and would have started to spread within the palace and further.

Esther 4:11 All the king’s servants and the people of the king’s provinces know that whoever, whether man or woman, comes to the king into the inner court without being invited, there is one law for him, that he be put to death; except those to whom the king might hold out the golden sceptre, that he may live. I have not been called to come in to the king these thirty days-
This lack of invitation would have made her wonder whether she had fallen out of favour with him; although he had many wives and concubines. "To come in to the king" could possibly allude to the sexual act; and "thirty days" might suggest she was menstruating. There is a purposefully ambiguity in these things. Because we are being invited to imagine how it might have been, to enter thereby into her angst. She was initially unwilling to risk death in order to save her people. She needed to be persuaded by the later reflection of Mordecai that she would be found out as a Jewess and also be slain herself; and that God would indeed deliver His people but her refusal to cooperate with His plan would result in her death anyway (:13,14). We see again her development; from selfish self-preservation to a wider sense of responsibility for her entire people. And in broad outline terms, this is something we are all to pass through. See on Esther 6:4; 8:3.

Esther 4:12 They told to Mordecai Esther’s words-
See on :10.

Esther 4:13 Then Mordecai asked them to return answer to Esther, Don’t think to yourself that you will escape in the king’s house any more than all the Jews-
As noted on Esther 3:6, we have here an insight into the thought processes of Esther which only an inspired record could give. The Bible continually emphasizes the importance of self-talk and how we think in our hearts. She was tempted to adopt a path of thought which was effectively saying that she would be the only Jew who would survive; and that was not going to happen. The 'house of the kingdom' of Babylon would not save her from death.

Esther 4:14 For if you remain silent now, then relief and deliverance will come to the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. Who knows if you haven’t come to the kingdom for such a time as this?-
Mordecai speaks with authority, but he is only making assumptions; that if help came from another quarter, then Esther and her family, including Mordecai, would "perish" even if the other Jews didn't. And the source of that 'perishing' would be God's judgment, not Haman. "Mordecai also seems confident that deliverance would arise from "another place". From another place" clearly means "God", but God is never mentioned in the book of Esther. Perhaps at the time Mordecai just had a distinct hunch that deliverance would come, but when he thought about who else, humanly, apart from Esther, could effect this deliverance... he would conclude that it would have to be God alone. So we see this otherwise secular, weak believer being provoked by circumstance to have a greater faith. Everyone in the story is being nudged towards greater faith and spirituality through the dysfunction of them all. This is the marvel of God's working. But the basis for Mordecai's confidence that "deliverance" would arise is because the same word was used by the prophets for how God's people would be "delivered" from the lands of their exile to return and reestablish His Kingdom in Zion (e.g. Ez. 34:10,12,27).

Esther 4:15 Then Esther asked them to answer Mordecai-
LXX "Esther sent the man that came to her to Mordecai, saying"; see on :10.

Esther 4:16 Go, gather together all the Jews who are present in Shushan and fast for me, and neither eat nor drink three days, night or day. I and my maidens will also fast the same way. Then I will go in to the king, which is against the law- 
The text carefully omits any mention of prayer to God, perhaps because of His statement that He would hide His face from them in the captivity. She was being taught what the king had been taught in Esther 1:15 (see note there); that law could not save. She had to go outside the law for salvation, which meant a total casting of herself upon grace. She clearly feels her inadequacy; she feels the need for the fasting of others. And she is now unashamed to identify herself with the Jews, for this message was sent through a messenger (:15) which would have meant that her identification with the Jews was now going to be spread around everywhere. There was a large Jewish community in Shushan; able to kill 300 men (Esther 9:15).

And if I perish, I perish- The idea may be that she was going to perish anyway, if the decree wasn't changed. She had accepted Mordecai's warning about this in :13,14. And yet it is hard to avoid a sense of fatalism, using the same construction as in Gen. 43:14. She had faith and weakness at the same time, as we would likewise have had. Again we are left wondering whether she had faith, or was merely fatalistic. This is to help us enter deeper into her possible feelings and to identify with her.

Esther 4:17 So Mordecai went his way, and did according to all that Esther had commanded him
- Again we see a breaking of the paradigm that a woman was always to be obedient to a man. LXX adds various exaggerated claims about Esther's righteousness and prayers to God, e.g. "And having taken off her glorious apparel, she put on garments of distress and mourning; and instead of grand perfumes she filled her head with ashes and dung, and she greatly brought down her body, and she filled every place of her glad adorning with the torn curls of her hair".