In many ways the story of Esther reminds me of the Protestant Reformation in England. Though God used both Darius and King Henry VIII to bring about a Reformation, neither king was godly. Neither king was really interested in a Reformation. Both were driven by political expediency. Both were driven by lust. Neither of them had a high value for life. And in both cases God turned the opposition of Satan to work against Satan under the strangest of circumstances. When I read D'Aubigne's history of the English Reformation it made me amazed at the intricate and sometimes ironic wisdom in God's Providence. Let me read you just one example.
"King Henry VIII of England sent a delegation to the Vatican to patch up the political differences between himself and the Pope. The delegation was led by the Earl of Wiltshire [which was Anne Boleyn's father - and king Henry wanted to marry Anne, and the pope was refusing permission. Anyway, it says, "the delegation was led by the Earl of Wiltshire"], who took along his dog. As was customary at that time, the Earl prostrated himself before the Pope and was about to kiss the Pope's toe. The pope, willing to receive the homage thrust his foot toward the Earl, and his dog, watching, misunderstood the action and went to the defense of his master. Instead of a kiss, the Pope got a bite on the toe! This enraged the Swiss guard and they killed the dog. And this so angered the Earl that he refused to proceed with the mission for which he had been sent - and he returned home without having accomplished anything. After his return to England, King Henry VIII took steps to separate England from the jurisdiction of Rome." [Tan # 121, from Christian Victory]
Now in a sense you could say that a dog bite brought about the English Reformation. Obviously not by itself, but God was using the anger of men, the loyalty of a dog, the lust of a king and thousands of other details to accomplish His purposes. As we have seen before, if God does not control everything, He cannot control anything. Though He is not the author of sin, does not tempt people to sin and is in no way tempted by sin Himself, yet amazingly he can control the sins of men so that no plan of His is ruined. Every detail of the crucifixion was planned; every detail of Joseph's being sold into Egypt had to be controlled. Yet Joseph could say, "You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good." This is the amazing thing about God's providence. God is in total control while leaving men's actions free.
Who would have thought that this petty conflict between two men could threaten the life of every Jew in the empire? I don't think anyone could have anticipated that. And yet God used this event to humble the Jews, to bring repentance and to bring even greater blessing into their lives. And if you read history with an eye to God's providence, you find numerous examples of trivial events which are fulcrums of God for moving history.
Apparently General Ulysses Grant would not have been a military man if had not been for the fact that his rival for a West Point cadetship had been found to have six toes on each foot instead of five. If Napolean had been born two months earlier, he would have been an Italian, not a Frenchman. God used an accidental fire which destroyed years of William Carey's missions work to precipitate a huge outpouring of money and people to India.
The Power Behind the Pur (v. 7)
And while the dice, or what is called here in verse 7 the "pur," was the symbol of chance to many, we see a power behind the pur. Let's read verse 7. Verse 7 says, "In the first month, which is the month of Nisan, in the twelfth year of King Ahasuerus, they cast Pur (that is, the lot), before Haman to determine the day and the month, until it fell on the twelfth month, which is the month of Adar." Haman thinks that there is a power of luck behind the Pur. It was customary among pagans to have trained priests check with the gods on what was a lucky or propitiouis day in which to do a major undertaking. So he is sitting there in front of these priests waiting for the outcome, and they keep casting and casting and casting the dice. The word "until" implies that there was a repeated casting, and Haman may have thought it a little strange that the gods were postponing things so late into the year.
According to verse 12 this was cast on the 13th day of the first month, and the day of doom for the Jews is the 13th day of the 12th month. That's eleven months away! Maybe he should have gotten the hint that someone is looking out for the Jews. It is postponed almost as far away in that year as it can be. But anyway, it finally lands on a day that he thinks is lucky, but the reader knows better. The real power behind the Pur is not luck, but Providence. Scripture says, "the lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord." (Prov 16:33) That verse indicates that there is no such thing as luck. It doesn't matter how bad things get, nothing can happen to you apart from God's control. Just as the month and day and hour of the crucifixion was determined by God, the day and month on which this battle of Gog and Magog would occur was determined by God. And it was perfectly planned. Even the month was anticipated in Ezekiel as we will see.
The Reason Behind the Prejudice (v. 8)
Now that is encouraging. But we need to look at the flip side of the coin. Just because God controls history, does not mean that God lets men off the hook. Though he overrules their sinful actions, it is still important that we see that God holds men responsible for their actions. Acts 2 says about Jesus, "Him being delivered by the determined counsel and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified and put to death." He lays the blame for the crucifixion on sinful men. Even though God controlled the event, He didn't force them to do it. It was their decision, their sinful heart, their sinful desires, and they were to blame.
And the same is true here. Verse 8 looks at the human reason behind the prejudice. God intends it for good, but boy there is evil motivation in Haman's heart. "Then Haman said to King Ahasuerus, 'There is a certain people scattered and dispersed among the people in all the provinces of your kingdom; their laws are different from all other people's, and they do not keep the king's laws. Therefore it is not fitting for the king to let them remain.'" Haman is crafting his answer to seem reasonable to the king. Let's go through some of his argument.
They are a threat
The first reason that Haman gives is that the Jews are a threat. But he is careful not to mention that they are Jews. He calls them "a certain people" to give an air of mystery to what he is saying. Just like today it would seem more scary to know that there was a mysterious rebel movement throughout the states than to realize that one of the states had decided to rebel. The nameless movement sounds harder to nail down and potentially more dangerous. But he adds to this sense of danger by saying that they were "scattered and dispersed among the people." This is a clear reference to the fact that Babylon had previously perceived them to be a threat.
They are everywhere
The second reason that he gives is that they are everywhere. Not only are they scattered, but they are in every province. You never know where they will pop up.
They are different
The third reason is that these people are different. One version has it that they were "scattered, yet unassimilated." Actually, another versioni translates that as unassimilated. The NEB translates it as "who keep themselves apart." Moore's commentary says, "The first participle refers to the Jews' being scattered throughout the hundred and twenty-seven provinces of the empire, while the second participle refers to their self-imposed separateness, or exclusiveness, a practice which helped them to preserve their religious and ethnic identity." That is a hint that these Jews were not as compromised as some people make them out to be. Everybody recognizes them as different. In modern lingo they were "weird." Doesn't the New Testament say that we are to be a peculiar people? It simply means that we are different in the way we think and do things.
I think this idea of the Jews being different is the basis for all discrimination isn't it? – they are different. This is what leads to racism. People fear those who are different than them. In grade school you see kids picking on another child simply because that child is different. When you add different to dangerous, it raises the desires to isolate or get rid of. And so he is trying to paint a picture of a conspiracy here.
They have a higher law
The fourth reason has to do with law: Verse 8 says, "their laws are different from all other people's…" Why would they care that the Jews had different laws? And the answer I think is that Darius would see any competing laws as being competing authorities. Submission to law implies a higher authority, right? But, so long as a higher authority was seen as being under Darius and would change if a conflict came, Darius would not see it as a threat. But here, it's not just that they have different laws, but when the differences come into play, their laws take precedence. Notice that he says in verse 8, "their laws are different from all other people's, and they do not keep the king's laws." Now, he had only one example of that. Mordecai was unwilling to disobey God's commandment in Exodus 17 and Deuteronomy 25 that forbad any Israelite from honoring an Amalekite – an Agagite. Maybe he did some research and found that with any of these Jews, if push came to shove and Jews were commanded to disobey Biblical law, that God's law would take precedence over the laws of the king.
Haman's not dumb. He knows that this will upset Darius because it demotes Darius from Sovereign to subject. It makes God as king of kings and lord of lords. It makes Darius accountable to someone. And we have already seen that the state has been claiming a monopoly on power. Show me the laws of a nation and I will show you its god. The god of this nation was Darius. And unfortunately our nation is drifting more and more in that direction. Earlier in America we recognized the principle that all authority is derived authority and that the state has limited and delegated authority. Magistrates recognizes that they no authority that is not granted by God in the Scriptures. Americans saw our nation as one nation under God. We used to have biblical law. That is not the case any longer. God's laws have been cast out of the court room to such a degree that when judges have quoted a verse out of the bible, appeals courts have nullified the decision and declared a mistrial. God's laws no longer govern Congress. They have been cast out of the classroom. America has moved itself jurisdictionally out of accountability to God and into accountability to itself alone. That is humanism, pure and simple. And the idea that the state has limited powers, limited jurisdiction and accountability to God is just as offensive to many today as it was to Darius back then.
Pluralism has its limits
The last reason given by Haman is that pluralism has its limits. He says in verse 8, "therefore it is not fitting for the king to let them remain." We have already seen that Darius was very broadminded and very pluralistic. So why this attitude? Just like the modern faith based initiative, he gave money to build Israel's temple, and he gave money to build many pagan temples around the country. But he always claimed jurisdiction over those temples. That's the issue that churches need to face today on incorporation and 501(c)3 status. It is jurisdictional. It's interesting that archeology has shown the stamp (or the royal seal) of Darius on the bricks used to build the Egyptian temple. So pluralism has its price. Part of the price is that the state is no longer seen as a side by side government with the church. Instead, the state sees itself as the authority over the church. And the irony to me is that modern churches have willingly, without compulsion, voluntarily made themselves state-churches by applying for incorporation and 501 c-3 status. And so they ought not to complain when the state starts dictating to them. There's always a price.
The second aspect to the price of pluralism is that pluralism can't stand anyone who says there are absolutes and there is only one right way, and no one can come to the Father except through Christ. Exclusivity like the Jews had and like Christians should have, is offensive to them. You see, back in Darius' day, all religions could exist side by side so long as they were willing to submit to His authority. That's all he asked. Pluralists today are willing to accept anyone's beliefs, so long as those beliefs are not exclusive. The one thing that pluralism considers heresy is absolutes. Pluralists are absolutely opposed to absolutes. They become extremely intolerant of narrow views. And this is something a lot of Christians don't realize when they have embraced pluralism. Pluralism sounds tolerant, but boy is it intolerant of Biblical Christianity. Pluralists may not get rid of people by killing them as here, but they may force them out of jobs if they aren't willing to accept homosexual lifestyles as OK, etc. "It is not fitting for the king to let them remain." Just remember, there are always limits of tolerance for pluralists.
The Oil That Greases the Wheels (v. 9)
We need to hurry on. Verse 9 shows the oil that greases the wheels of this bureaucracy. And of course that oil is money. Haman says "If it pleases the king, let a decree be written that they be destroyed, and I will pay ten thousand talents of silver into the hands of those who do the work, to bring it into the king's treasuries." One commentator said, "this represents a fabulous sum." It was equivalent to two thirds of the gross national product of the empire. Apparently the Jews were wealthy, and the confiscation of their properties would help the king's dwindling finances.
Unfortunately, it is money that continues to grease the wheels of bureaucracy today. Not too many months ago the US and Israel joined with communist Northern Angola in a joint venture. We helped the Northern Angola murderous thugs to find and kill Savimbi, one of the finest Christian statesmen in Africa. Savimbi was the leader of Southern Angola. And what made us do this? The president of Northern Angola promised us a healthy stake in their offshore oil. If you examine the conflicts we refuse to involve ourselves in and the conflicts we desire to get into, I think you will frequently find that it is a similar motivation. Here Darius' decision is basically bought with money. When the king says in verse 11: "The money and the people are given to you, to do with them as seems good to you", he wasn't refusing the money. Moore points out that this was a common and accepted way to politely receive a gift. Moore paraphrases the drift of what is meant with this paraphrase: "if you want to spend it that way, it's alright with me."
The Limits of One Man's Controls (v. 10-14)
Lack of Omniscience forces magistrates to trust others
But Darius has another problem. This is point IV. There are limits on what one person can control. He wants to control everything, but he knows that he can't. He can't be everywhere at the same time. Lack of time, resources, abilities will cause many civil leaders to abdicate responsibility rather than truly delegating. That's what happens here. Verse 10 shows Darius giving Haman enormous leeway. "So the king took his signet ring from his hand and gave it to Haman, the son of Hammedatha the Agagite, the enemy of the Jews" By giving that ring he was giving his signature. He was giving Haman a blank check. He was basically saying that Haman could act in his name. "I don't have time to investigate this. You deal with it." It is a problem that every administration has to wrestle with when Messianic government is as pervasive as America's has become. Congress can't possibly do all the work needed to play god, so they have to give away work with very little accountability. This is the reason so many agencies have multiplied on Capitol Hill. Congress by itself could not possibly do all the work of even one of the agencies that have multiplied. If you have ever been to Washington DC you have seen the massive agencies that have crept up. I think I was most amazed by the size of the Department of Agriculture. It's an incredible agency. Congress has a hard time even keeping up with the paperwork generated by these agencies.
Many congressmen have complained that they can't possibly do all the research necessary on every issue they vote on. They don't have the time. A tax bill comes in with thousands of pages of detailed text. Finding pork barrel projects that have been snuck in and that need to be opposed, or even finding every objectionable expenditure is difficult to do. Multiply that many times over with all the paperwork being generated every day by Congressional agencies, and you realize that lack of omniscience forces magistrates to trust their aids to do the work for them. Sometimes they will just tell the people they trust to just do what is necessary and let them know the results. I think that is in part what is happening here. Darius doesn't have the time or energy to oversee this new project.
Delegation should not be abdication
Government wants to play God, but doesn't have the attributes of God, and so there is ungodly abdication of responsibility. That's a problem of big state, a problem of big church and sometimes even of big business.
The Power of Unaccountable Agencies (vv. 11-14)
When I read verses 11-14 I thought immediately of the enormous power of unaccountable agencies in our own government. Let's start reading at verse 11:
Esther 3:11 And the king said to Haman, "The money and the people are given to you, to do with them as seems good to you."
The leeway he gives is almost breathtaking in its scope and power. But that is exactly the kind of ungodly abdication that Congress has taken when it comes to agencies. "Here's the money. Do what seems good to you." And if you know how to write a good report, Darius will be happy. Congress will be happy.
Esther 3:12 Then the king's scribes were called on the thirteenth day of the first month, and a decree was written according to all that Haman commanded — to the king's satraps, to the governors who were over each province, to the officials of all people, to every province according to its script, and to every people in their language. In the name of King Ahasuerus it was written, and sealed with the king's signet ring.
Just like the IRS, OSHA and other organizations can make life and death decisions over businesses, Haman is given total authority to act in Darius' name. He doesn't have to ask for persmission. He's got the ring. And the decrees start rolling in verses 13 and following.
You know - I will begin to get excited over the results of this election only when I see agencies beginning to be terminated, big government beginning to get smaller, and more accountability. The kind of unaccountable delegation and power that Darius gives away is dangerous.
Esther 3:13 And the letters were sent by couriers into all the king's provinces, to destroy, to kill, and to annihilate all the Jews, both young and old, little children and women, in one day, on the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, which is the month of Adar, and to plunder their possessions. Esther 3:14 A copy of the document was to be issued as law in every province, being published for all people, that they should be ready for that day.
Actually, compared to the millions of pages of regulations that America's unregulated, unaccountable and unconstitutional agencies print up every year, what Haman is doing here is child's play. Certainly the repercussions of Haman's actions are more disastrous. But do not underestimate the evils that can come when government unwisely delegates their signet ring as it were to agencies to act in their name. It's not good government.
Actually, it is not true that Haman killed more people than America has. America has killed far more people through abortion than Haman ever set out to do. But anyway, I think you get the point.
Verse 15: "The couriers went out, hastened by the king's command;" Notice that Haman wrote it, but it's still the king's command. It's his ring, his authorization, and he can't claim ignorance. In the same way, we need to hold our elected officials responsible for the actions of the agencies they have established. They can't use the excuse that they didn't do it. Going on in verse 15: "and the decree was proclaimed in Shusan the citadel. So the king and Haman sat down to drink." This shows how cheap life is to them. Neither is bothered by the fact that a five minute decision will kill the lives of millions. And I think it is the same cavelier attitude that infects so many in America when it comes to abortion. It's out of sight and out of mind. Now that's not to say that this is always intentional. That last phrase says, "So the king and Haman sat down to drink, but the city of Shushan was perplexed." The reason they were perplexed is that the king had shown such favor to the Jews in the previous eight years. Personally, I think that the king had no idea what he was committing himself to. He doesn't know that it is the Jews who are condemned. You know how I know? Just a few days later he can't sleep, reads in his records that Mordecai saved his life, knows that he is a Jew – calls him Mordecai the Jew and wants to honor him. He doesn't have a clue that he has just signed a death warrant for Mordecai. Doesn't have a clue. And I think that is what happens many times in Congress. They don't have a clue as to the repercussions of some of their decisions, because big government always gets bigger than what one person can comprehend. It's just one more of many arguments against big government. You have to be God to have the attributes to run big government.
Citizens as Chattel Property (v. 11) and their lives are treated with a cavalier attitude (v. 15)
And that's related to point 5, that the citizens were treated as chattel property that could be transferred and disposed of as desired. Verse 11 again: And the king said to Haman, "The money and the people are given to you, to do with them as seems good to you." The people are treated no differently than the money given. They are statistics. They are to be read. Clearly these were not public servants or servants of the people. They were utterly unaccountable to the people. At least in America the people can hold elected officials accountable by not voting for them again. But there is no vote on the unconstitutional agencies. That's where the power is; it's not in congress. And the further away from local government you get, the less sense of accountability big government has. And so I think these verses are a remarkable description of the implications of humanistic government; of big government.
The Unwitting Fulfillment of Prophecy (vv. 12-14) See Parallels to God and Magog
Now the interesting thing about what is happening here is that it is a point by point fulfillment of a prophecy in Zechariah and two prophecies in Ezekiel, but especially Ezekiel's prophecy of Gog and Magog. When I was a dispensationalist I was always taught that there were two battles of Gog and Magog and both were still future to us. I now see that there are still two battles. One happened in the reign of Darius, and it became a symbol for a conflict in the end times. We will look at the Ezekiel passage more in the future, but let me give you a little bit of a feel for how Ezekiel 38-39 perfectly dovetails with the story of Esther. James Jordan first clued me in to this and I did further research and found several more reasons why he was right. [see appendix of "Ezekiel's Battle of Gog and Magog Fulfilled in Esther"]
The first four reasons on the overhead we looked at last week already. We saw that Agag was a term for any Amalekite leader (Numb. 24:7; 1 Sam. 15:8) , and how the Amalekites descended from Magog the son of Japheth. So there is a Magog connection. But there is also a Gog connection. We saw how Gog and Agag have the same meaning and are almost identical in the Hebrew,. But what is more to the point, the Septuagint actually translates Gog with the term Agag. (cf. Numb. 24:7 in Hebrew and LXX) We also saw reference to Haman's name in Ezekiel's prophecy (39:11,15,16). The valley where his dead would be buried would be called the valley of Hamon Gog and a city would be called Hamonah.
Just those first four points tie the passages together rather closely, but let me give you eleven other arguments that Esther is the fulfillment of the battle of Gog and Magog with Israel; that this is not something that is still future to us.
Point 5: even though both passages say that this will be an empire wide conflict, it is not the emperor or king who leads the conflict, but a prince, and specifically Ezekiel calls him the chief prince (cf. Ezek. 38:2,3; 39:1 NIV with Esther 3:1). Esther 3:1 says that Haman the Agagite was among the princes, but his seat was set above all the other princes. And so in both passages we have a prince who is the chief prince behind this slaughter.
Sixth, it would occur in a time of history when Jerusalem was still without walls. Ezekiel 38:11 says, "all of them dwelling without walls, and having neither bars nor gates" That kind of rules out anything future to us because Jerusalem has walls. Eight years from this chapter Nehemiah would return to Iarael to rebuild the walls. And so that rules out a fulfillment in the time of Antiochus Epiphanes. Jerusalem had walls during the time of the Maccabees. But at this point and continuing for the next eight years, Jerusalem is a city without walls. And so again we have a small window of time in which Ezekiel's prophecy can be fulfilled.
Seventh, the countries mentioned in Ezekiel as supporting this Gogite or Agagite in trying to destroy Israel are exactly the nations covered in the book of Esther (Ezek. 38:5,6,8,12,23,13; 39:1,6,7,21,27,28 with Esther 3:12-14). In fact let me put up an overhead so that you can see this. In Ezekiel's day Persia was not as extensive as it was in Esther's day, so he gives Persia as the far eastern country, Ethiopia as the far western country, Dedan in the south and Togarmah on the far, far north. And then Ezekiel covers everything in between by mentioning all the nations of the empire. We've already read in Esther 3:12-14 that this decree went out to every nation and province and chapter 9 indicates the conflict happened in every province. Again, it places the fulfillment of this within the reign of a king who rules over a vast region that includes India and Ethiopa – Darius fits the bill. One interesting fact that dawned on me is that this explains why Ethiopia is mentioned in Ezekiel,but not India. India isn't conquered for four more years - 506 B.C. So as we go through this you will see that the timing really is remarkable.
A chief motivation in both texts is both hatred for God's people and a desire to plunder the Jews (Ezek. 38:12,13; 39:10). So that's another connection.
Ninth, in both passages it starts out looking like the Jews will be completely wiped out, but it ends with the Jews destroying and plundering their enemies. And both passages hint that they don't touch the plunder for themselves, but that they devote it to the temple. But we will look at that on another day.
Tenth, both books deal with enormous numbers of dead which need to be buried.
Eleventh, Ezekiel says that it would take seven months before the land could be purified from all of these dead bodies. In the mean time, Ezekiel says that markers would laid out to locate the dead. And the reason for that is that the waters of purification for this were made on the feast of Tabernacles, exactly seven months after Purim.
One author said (and he gets this point right, but he messes up on the fact that it is history, not future. But anyway, it is an accurate comment:)
According to Ezk.39:15 seven months shall be needed to "cleanse the land." This gives another clue to when this prophecy might be fulfilled. According to Num. 19 anyone who touches a dead body must be cleansed, within a seven day period, with water mixed with ashes of the unblemished red heifer. The water needed for this cleansing is only drawn out of the Pool of Siloam, beginning on the 2nd day of the Feast of Tabernacles, called Simchat Beit Hashoevah. Until the ashes of the red heifer are available, and until the water is drawn during the Feast of Tabernacles, there will be no way possible to safely bury dead bodies left from the battle of Gog / Magog and remain undefiled under Mosaic law. This is why Ezk.39 says that for seven months the people of Israel will only place markers to point out where dead bodies lie. After 7 months Israel will employ people to bury the dead because they will be able to return from their work and be cleansed within the required time specified by Num. 19-- within 3 days after defilement, to be ended on the 7th day cleansing period. More specifically, the Feast of Purim is seven months prior to the Feast of Tabernacles, and those employed to bury the dead after a Purim battle would have to wait until the following Feast of Tabernacles to ensure that they would not be unclean for longer than seven days after touching these dead bodies.
And so the seven month timing mentioned in Ezekiel is perfect as well.
Another timing aspect is that Ezekiel 38:8 links Gog and Magog with Israel having just recently having come back into the land of Israel. Well, Israel hasn't been in the land for very long when Darius issues this decree.
A thirteenth argument is that this has to be fulfilled in a time when Israel is divided up into tribes (37:19) [and that rules out the present because there are no tribes of Israel].
Point 14 rules out a present fulfillment because this occurs at a time when the enemy army will use horses (38:15), swords (38:4)arrows, bows, war clubs (39:9), and wood instruments (39:10).
I'm not even sure if I should have included point 15, because it is iffy. But Esther has another 7 years after the battle before the walls are rebuilt and Ezekiel has Israel burning weapons perhaps as a memorial for seven years after the battle. You can skip that point. But I think there is plenty of evidence to link the two passages together.
And if this is true, then we are back to where we started this sermon aren't we? It shows that God had planned this. God was using even the most horrible of events to push God's people into holiness and commitment to His will. We ought not to look at the wars and rumors of war today as an evidence that things are out of control. They were perfectly timed to accomplish the advancement of God's purposes.
And so, by way of application to the present we ought to ask, "Why does God allow these kinds things to develop in America? Why does God allow humanism? Why does He allow evil to dominate? Why does He allow disaster and persecution to happen? We don't know all of His reasons, but the prophets give us some. One of the repeated reasons for pagan domination and threat in the Scriptures are that God's people are backslidden and are failing to follow all of God's laws. Christ says that it is because the church has lost here saltiness and light and is fit to be cast out and trampled under foot of men. I think this is a good description of God's people being trampled under foot of men. Ezekiel 20 describes the reason for the exile many years before. He says, "I would scatter them among the Gentiles and disperse them throughout the countries, because they had not executed My judgments, but had despised My statutes, profaned My Sabbaths, and their eyes were fixed on their father's idols. Therefore I also gave them up to statutes that were not good, and judgments by which they could not live." It says, God gave them up to statutes that were not good. In effect He says to us in America, "If you refuse to live by my laws, I will force you to groan more and more under humanistic laws that are not good for you until you cry out and ask for relief." I think in part that is why America is going down the tubes. It's not an indication that God is not in control. No. On the contrary, it is an indication that God is letting us taste the bitter fruit of rejecting His laws, and despising His Sabbath. Most evangelicals have thrown out the Old Testament. They don't follow His case laws.
And in Ezekiel, God puts most of the blame on the Shepherds of Israel. They were supposed to be pastors preaching the whole counsel of God and ministering to the needs of the people, but those shepherds preached only what the people wanted to hear, did not feed the flock, and used the flock for their own advancement. And God said that he would use the horrible fruits of humanism to change all of that and to cause His people to once again be fed. And he says, "they shall no longer be a prey for the nations, nor shall beasts of the land devour them; but they shall dwell safely…" (34:28)
Can you see that God has a purpose in Esther? We started with stories of disaster that God used in modern times to advance his purposes. We can't second guess what He will do. But we can trust Him, we can repent of any lawlessness that we may have, we can try to do everything in our power to convince the church in Omaha that God's laws are good, that they need to be studied. We can seek to promote the Reformation of the church. If Israel had repented earlier they may not have needed such harsh treatment, and I would urge you to pray for Reformation in America so that the humanism we see may be reversed sooner rather than later. Amen.
Appendix A: Ezekial's Battle of Gog & Magog Fulfilled in Esther
In 1996, James Jordan argued that Ezekiel 38-39 was fulfilled in the book of Esther. He also argued that king Ahasuerus was Darius. I found his argument convincing and did further research of my own. The following points are a summary of the evidences presented in the sermon series relative to the battle of Gog and Magog.
An Agagite (see Esther 3:1,10; 8:3,5; 9:24) is any leader of Amalek (Numb 24:7; 1 Sam. 15:8; see Jewish Encyclopedia). Therefore, Haman represents the ancient spiritual struggle between Amalek and Israel (Ex. 17:8-16; Deut. 25:17-19).
The Amalekites were descendants of Magog, the son of Japheth (deduction of Gen. 10:2; Numb. 24:20; 24:7 in LXX; Ezek. 38:17; Ex. 17:16; Josephus) So there is also a Magog connection.
Gog is simply another spelling of the name Agag. The difference in spelling can be explained by the differences in Persian and Hebrew pronunciation. However, even in the Greek Septuagint translation of the bible, the connection of the two names can be seen in Numbers 24:7 where Agag is spelled Gog (compare the Hebrew with the LXX) So there is a Gog connection to the story of Esther as well. Saying that Haman was an Agagite is (using different national pronunciation) the same thing as saying that he is a Gogite.
Gog and Magog cannot be a new people who are unmentioned before the time of Ezekiel. Though this is the first time that a nation is mentioned by this name, Ezekiel says, "Are you not the one I spoke of in former days by my servants the prophets of Israel? At that time they prophesied for years that I would bring you against them." (Ezek. 38:17). If Gog and Magog are Amalek, then this makes sense. Many prophets spoke of Amalek including Moses (Ex. 17:16, etc), Balaam (Numb. 24:20), Samuel (1 Sam. 15:1-3,17-23), Deborah (Judges 5:14), Gideon (Judges 6-7), an unnamed prophet (Judges 10:11-14), David (1 Sam. 30) and Asaph (Psalm 83). They prophesied of multigenerational warfare in Exodus 17:16; Numb. 14:43; 24:20; Deut. 25:17-19; 1 Sam. 14:48; 15:18; etc.
Haman's name appears in Ezekiel's prophecy as Hamon (39:11,15,16). Again, this slight change in pronunciation (which is common with other names) can be explained by the language differences. The phrase, "the valley of Hamon of Gog" (Ezek. 39:11) would then be equivalent to Haman of Agag (or "Haman the Agagite" – Esther 3:1,10; 8:3,5; 9:24).
The battle of Ezekiel occurs when Jerusalem and the other towns still have no walls (Ezek. 38:11). This rules out an interpretation in the days of the Maccabees or later since Jerusalem has had walls ever since Nehemiah built them. However, at this point in Esther's story, no walls have been built. Nehemiah has not yet started that work.
The battle engages the same nations as are in the empire under Darius, year 12 (510 BC). (See map.) Since king Darius did not conquer India until year 16 (506 BC), it is very significant that India is not mentioned as one of the nations attacking Israel in Ezekiel's description. (See my paper defending the theory that Darius is king Ahasuerus. Also see map which outlines the border countries mentioned by Ezekiel. cf. Ezek. 38:5,6,8,12,23,13; 39:1,6,7,21,27,28) In Ezekiel's description, Persia is the far eastern border, Togarmah the central northern border, moving east to Tubal, Gomer and Meshech. The Western frontier moves south from Meshech, to the coastlands (Greece to Tyre) to Libya. The southern frontier moves east from Libya to Ethiopia to Dedan and back to Persia on the far east. Ezekiel covers everything in between by mentioning "all the nations" (39:21) of the empire. Esther 3:12-14 indicates that this decree went out to every nation and province in the empire and chapter 9 indicates the conflict happened in every province. All of this perfectly fits the twelfth year of king Darius.
This empire-wide conflict is led by a mere prince rather than by the emperor, and yet this prince is called the "chief prince" implying that he was one of several princes in the empire (cf. Ezek. 38:2,3; 39:1 NIV with Esther 3:1)
The seven months wait in Ezekiel 39:12-16 is equivalent to the time from Purim till the feast of Tabernacles when cleansing waters are made with the ashes of the heifer.
Israel has just recently come back into the land (Ezek. 38:8 makes Ezek. 38-39 sequential with Ezek. 34-37). On our chronology of Esther, Mordecai had already returned to Israel under Zeruabbabel (Esther 2:2; Neh. 7:7), but like Nehemiah, was called back to serve in Persia. Likewise, on our chronology, Ezra left for Israel again with a large group of Jews just months after Esther was coronated.
Occurs in a time when Israel is divided up into tribes (37:19) This rules out any interpretation after the Middle Ages since Israel is so intermixed that there are no tribal divisions discernable.
The enemy lives in a time when they use horses (38:15), swords (38:4) arrows, bows, war clubs (39:9), and wood instruments (39:10). Again, this would tend to rule out any fulfillment future to us.
In Esther the fighting occurs in every province. In Ezekiel we see a focus on Palestine, but Ezekiel indicates that "all the nations will see the punishment" (Ezek. 39:21) and God will "send fire on Magog and on those who live in safety in the coastlands" (Ezek. 39:6). So both passages portray the fighting as occurring universally, and not just in Palestine.
The motive in both passages involves anti-Semitic hatred (see hatred of Haman in Esther 3:6,8-9 and his designation as "the enemy of the Jews" [3:10;9:1,10]. Also notice the phrase "those who hated them" [9:1]; cf. Ezek. 38:16).
Another motive in both passages is the desire to plunder the Jews (Ezek. 38:12,13; 39:10; Esther 3:13)
Both passages show that the Jews were authorized to plunder those who fought against them (Esther 8:11; Ezek. 39:10). Yet both passages imply that the enemy was under the ban, and that the plunder was therefore to be devoted to the Lord. Notice the sacrificial language in Ezekiel 39:17-20. According to Ezekiel, these Amalekites and all that they had were being sacrificed upon the table of the Lord. This may explain why the Jews in Esther "did not lay a hand upon the plunder" of Haman's ten sons (Esther 9:10), or the Jewish enemies in Shushan (9:15) or the Jewish enemies in the provinces (Esther 9:16). James Jordan's hypothesis is that the money was devoted to the temple. (In this connection, notice the preoccupation with the restored temple in the chapters after Ezekiel 39.)
In both passages Gentiles are called to arms against Israel by the prince (Ezek. 38:8 in NIV [Heb = dqp]; Esther 3:13-14)
The planned destruction of the Jews is reversed in both passages and comes upon the enemy.
There are an enormous number of dead in both passages (Ezek. 39:12-16; Esther 9:12-16).
In both passages, God disarms many of the enemies before they can even use their weapons (Ezek. 39:3; Esther 9:2). This may account for the enormous numbers of weapons being burned in Ezekiel 39:9-10. Perhaps those who changed sides and favored Israel might have been required to symbolically turn over their weapons.
In both passages there are Gentiles who fight on behalf of Israel against their own nationality (Ezek. 38:21; Esther 9:3; 8:17).
In both passages the fear of the Lord falls upon the Gentiles and there is a conversion of Gentiles to the true faith (Ezek. 38:23; 39:7; Esther 8:17).
In both passages Israel is humbled and drawn into a closer walk with God (Ezek. 39:22,21-29; Esther 4:1,3,15-16).
In both passages, Israel (the Jews) gain respect and influence among the nations (Ezek. 39:21; ,23,27; Esther 8:17; 9:3-4; 10:1-3).
Since points 6, 11, and 12 rule out a future interpretation, and since Gog and Magog represent a nation that has been mentioned repeatedly in the Bible prior to Ezekiel (point 4), and since the near annihilation of the Jews in the book of Esther is an event of huge significance, and since Ezekiel's prophecy seems to fit the descriptions in Esther to the smallest details, we should assume that Esther is the fulfillment unless there is strong evidence to the contrary. It is this author's firm conviction that Ezekiel's battle of Gog and Magog is fulfilled. The battle of Gog and Magog in Revelation 20 has so many differences with Ezekiel's descriptions that most commentators agree it is an entirely different battle. Revelation uses the extinct people of Magog as a symbol of an entirely different revolt in the same way that it uses the extinct people of Sodom as a symbol of apostate Jerusalem in Revelation 11:8. In other words, Revelation is using well known, fulfilled history to teach new moral lessons in God's governance of the nations.
© Copyright 2002 by Phil Kayser
"Agagite" can only be interpreted here as synonymous with "Amalekite" (compare "Agag," king of the Amalekites, the foe of Saul, I Sam. xv. 8, 20, 32; Num. xxiv. 7 … Oppert's attempt to connect the term "Agagite" with "Agaz," a Median tribe mentioned by Sargon, can not be taken seriously. ↩
deduction of Gen. 10:2; Numb. 24:20; 24:7 in LXX; Ezek. 38:17; Ex. 17:16; Josephus ↩
"Gog signifies 'high' and eminent, one in a very exalted station: it comes from the same root, and has the same signification, as Agag, to whose height and exaltation there is an allusion in Num 24:7 … where the Samaritan and Septuagint versions read Gog: it is the same with Arabic, 'Jagog', by which name the Arabians called the Scythians…" (the New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible) ↩
Ezek. 38:8 makes Ezek. 38-39 sequential with Ezek. 34-37 ↩
See James B. Jordan, "The Battle of Gog and Magog" in Biblical Horizons, Nos. 2 and 3. Gary DeMar's <em>Last Days Madness</em> 1999; pp. 363-9. Keil and Delitzsch, Iain Duguid, Daniel Block, Fairbairn, Lind, and Schroeder. ↩
""Agagite" can only be interpreted here as synonymous with "Amalekite" (compare "Agag," king of the Amalekites, the foe of Saul, I Sam. xv. 8, 20, 32; Num. xxiv. 7 … Oppert's attempt to connect the term "Agagite" with "Agaz," a Median tribe mentioned by Sargon, can not be taken seriously. ↩
Moore says, "Regardless of its original meaning, now it clearly represents a nomen gentilicium, meaning a descendant of Agag, king of the Amalekites. This is the view of Josephus (who rendered it amalekiten, the Talmud, and the Targums, as well as most commentators, who rightly view Haman as a descendant of the Amalekites, a people who frustrated Israel in Exodus xvii 8-16, whose downfall was predicted by Balaam (Num xxiv 7), and whose King Agag was slaughtered with many (1 Sam. xv 8) but not all (1 Chron iv 42f.) of the Amalekites." ↩
Note that the Amalekites are not descendants of Amalek, the grandson of Esau (cf. Gen. 36:12,16) since the Amalekites were already a major force to contend with in the day sof Abraham (Gen. 14:7). Furthermore, the Amalekites who were under God's curse in Exodus and following were said to be the "first (tyvar) of the nations" (Numb. 24:20). If they are identified with Magog, this makes sense. ↩
"Gog signifies 'high' and eminent, one in a very exalted station: it comes from the same root, and has the same signification, as Agag, to whose height and exaltation there is an allusion in Num 24:7 … where the Samaritan and Septuagint versions read Gog: it is the same with Arabic, 'Jagog', by which name the Arabians called the Scythians…" (the New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible) ↩
Though defending a futurist interpretation, one author correctly notes the following: "According to Ezk.39:15 seven months shall be needed to "cleanse the land". This gives another clue to when this prophecy might be fulfilled. According to Num. 19 anyone who touches a dead body must be cleansed, within a seven day period, with water mixed with ashes of the unblemished red heifer. The water needed for this cleansing is only drawn out of the Pool of Siloam, beginning on the 2nd day of the Feast of Tabernacles, called Simchat Beit Hashoevah. Until the ashes of the red heifer are available, and until the water is drawn during the Feast of Tabernacles, there will be no way possible to safely bury dead bodies left from the battle of Gog / Magog and remain undefiled under Mosaic law. This is why Ezk.39 says that for seven months the people of Israel will only place markers to point out where dead bodies lie. After 7 months Israel will employ people to bury the dead because they will be able to return from their work and be cleansed within the required time specified by Num. 19-- within 3 days after defilement, to be ended on the 7th day cleansing period. More specifically, the Feast of Purim is seven months prior to the Feast of Tabernacles, and those employed to bury the dead after a Purim battle would have to wait until the following Feast of Tabernacles to ensure that they would not be unclean for longer than seven days after touching these dead bodies."
See also the comments by F.F. Bruce on his NICNT Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews, section 9:11-14. "In course of time a closer connection seems to have developed between the red heifer ceremony and the Day of Atonement than the written law prescribed." See comments of F Delitzsch in Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews where he quotes Maimonides on this ritual at length. ↩
Of course, it is possible that this does not refer to every Israelite burning wood. Ezekiel could be intending either 1) memorial fires, or 2) temple fires that were kept burning for 7 years. In connection with memorial fires, it is interesting that the seven year period is the exact amount of time from this battle until Nehemiah comes to rebuild the walls (at least on our revisionist history). If these were temple fires, it is significant that if the Amalekites were put under the ban by God (see above and see the requirement in 1 Samuel 15, especially verse 3), then it would make sense that this was a gathering of wood for holy purposes. ↩