Esther – the Jewish bride
Esther – the Jewish bride
The book of Esther and the book of Ruth are the only books in the Bible that are named after a woman. Each of them deals with a young woman who receives grace and mercy beyond expectation and, in this respect, both books are closely linked with the Song of Solomon. The latter book, also referred to as the Song of Songs, likewise deals with a young lady of humble background receiving a place of privilege and happiness.
None of the three women is a type of the church. For Ruth and for the Shulamite this has been shown in separate chapters. Now we turn to the book of Esther to ascertain who is foreshadowed by this Jewish queen, espoused to the monarch who held the absolute rule at this time.
Having said this, many details in each of these books can be usefully applied (not to the church as a whole but) to Christians individually.
The book of Esther deals with the fate of the Jews who remained in Babylon after the 70-year captivity was over. The Babylonian Empire had given way to the Medo-Persian Empire. King Ahasuerus (known in history as Xerxes I) ruled over the 127 provinces composing that vast empire stretching from Ethiopia to India (Esth. 1:1).
Esther had been adopted by her uncle (or cousin, see 2:7), Mordecai. Through God’s providence she receives not only the attention but the favour of the king and becomes his wife. However, Haman, an ambitious and evil character aspiring to high honours at the Persian court, is so enraged by Mordecai’s refusal to bow to him that he plots to kill not only Mordecai, but the entire Jewish race. In his quest for revenge, a decree is passed that, effectively, mandates the genocide of the Jews.
Esther pleads with the king to show mercy to her people. She brings to his attention that Mordecai had saved the king’s life by uncovering an assassination plot. King Ahasuerus decides to reward Mordecai, exalts him to great honours, condemns to death Haman the antagonist and passes a second decree – this time to save Esther’s people who were on the brink of extermination.
The main characters and their typological meaning
Whilst many practical lessons for Christians can be gleaned from the book of Esther (Esther’s courage, her confidence, God’s overruling providence, etc.) our focus here is on the typological interpretation. We begin with a brief outline of the typological meaning of each of the main characters. Following this we will concentrate on Esther, the main character.
- King Ahasuerus is the mighty monarch, the absolute ruler, and, as such, represents God.
- Mordecai is described as a Jew, who acts fully in the king’s interest and is finally exalted by him, represents Christ.
- Haman, the “wicked” (7:6), is Mordecai’s great antagonist. He seeks to exalt himself and to kill Mordecai, as well as his entire people, the Jews. But just when he seems about to triumph, he is exposed and judged. Haman represents the opposition to Christ through Satan and his instruments.
- Vashti, the original queen who refuses to obey the king and who dishonours him by her refusal to attend his great meal (a picture of the gospel invitation), is a type of Christendom, the false bride, being set aside to make way for the true bride on earth.
- Esther represents that true bride: the future Jewish faithful remnant. This point we will examine in detail in the following section.
Esther – as a type of the future Jewish remnant
The interpretation that sees Esther as a type of the future Jewish remnant that will be formed after the rapture and will receive Christ is supported by the following details:
1. Esther’s Ethnicity
Esther’s lineage and nationality play a central role in the entire narrative. Mordecai had charged her not to reveal her nationality or “birth” (2:10, 20). The Jews are described as “her people” (2:20; 4:8; 7:3). This detail (whilst entirely inapplicable to the church) casts much light on the true meaning: the fate of the entire people hinges on their representative, the faithful remnant (typified in Esther). The fate of the Jewish people is central to the book.
The Hebrew word for “Jew” or “Jewish” is exceptionally frequent in the book of Esther: it occurs no less than 52 times. Taking into account that the total number of occurrences of this word in all the other books of the Old Testament amounts to merely 23 references, the message is clear: the Jewish ethnicity is central to the message of this book. Esther is a Jewess and Mordecai is a Jew and the entire story revolves around the fate of the Jews.
The diagram below illustrates this point.
2. Mordecai’s ethnicity
Likewise, it is emphasised that Mordecai was a Jew. It is striking how often this circumstance is repeated (3:6; 5:13, 6:10; 8:7; 9:29, 31; 10:3. Christ was – as He Himself stated – the salvation “out of the Jews” (John 4:22). He was the Son of David, the Son of Abraham (Mt. 1:1). He had come, as far as His natural descent through Mary is concerned, out of Israel (Rom. 9:5).
3. Mordecai’s actions
Mordecai, from the beginning, shows kindness, love and concern for Esther. He has not only adopted her in her dire need (Esther having neither father nor mother) but he instructs her (2:10, 20) and watches from the background so as to know all that happens to her (2:11). So Christ was keenly interested in the faithful remnant of Israel during His time on earth, and will be so when the future remnant will be formed.
Mordecai does not bow to Haman, the wicked (7:6). As we will see, Christ refused to bow to Satan.
Mordecai frustrated the plan of the king’s enemies when they had rebelled against him. He intervened to save the king’s life. For a long time, his act of valour seemed forgotten but, in due time, it was remembered by the king and Mordecai was rewarded and exalted. How beautifully significant and typical this is of Christ, His work on the cross and His subsequent exaltation we hardly need to point out.
4. The root of Haman’s hatred
Haman hates the Jews and plots to exterminate them because he hates Mordecai. This is the same principle as seen in Revelation 12, where the dragon persecutes the woman because of the male child she had borne. Anti-Semitism has its root in hatred against Christ.
But why did Haman hate Mordecai in the first place? The reason was that Mordecai refused to bow to him. Satan sought, but failed, to make the Son of God worship him. Likewise, the Antichrist will press – with all his might – the faithful ones to worship the beast – but to no avail (Rev. 13).
5. Vashti, the false queen
Vashti was a Gentile and she is set aside; Esther replaces her. Vashti corresponds to the (lifeless part of) professing Christendom – self-complacent and unsubmissive to the Lord, finally set aside (Rev. 3:16).
6. The replacement of Vashti by Esther
This change corresponds to Paul’s warning in Romans 11. Addressing Christians from a Gentile background (comparing them to the grafted-in branches of the olive tree), he warns them against the danger of being high-minded, despising the natural branches. If they were to be proud and self-complacent, they would risk being removed from the olive tree themselves so that the natural branches (that had been cut off), i.e. Israel, might be grafted back in (in the form of the remnant).
Vashti embodies this high-mindedness. Her abasement prefigures the judgment on professing Christendom. But, following this, the “natural branches” will once again be brought into the place of blessing and testimony (the olive tree) – just as Esther is accepted following the demise of Vashti.
7. The fate of the Jews and the exaltation of Mordecai
At the centre of the “drama” of the book of Esther, there is the terrible royal decree that pronounces death on the entire nation. Due to Mordecai’s act of great merit, a second decree is passed, revoking the first and granting liberty to the Jews and judgement to their enemies. They are blessed and Mordecai is exalted.
This is the message of the entire prophetic word. The Jewish nation had forfeited God’s favour, they had heaped a death sentence upon themselves, and thus they were doomed to destruction. But due to the work of Messiah their sentence will be revoked: they will be saved and blessed under the reign of Messiah.
Having this outline of the typical interpretation before our eyes, we are now in a position to consider some of the details of each chapter so as to fill in some gaps and to develop this interpretation in the context of each chapter.
In chapter 1, the glory of the king (representing God) and his generosity and grace are described. He invites to a feast extending over an extremely extended time period (180 days!), which he uses to display “the splendid magnificence of his grandeur”. In the typical interpretation, the king’s feast may be taken as a picture of the gospel feast (cf. Luke 14). But Vashti has neither sympathy nor fellowship with the king in this and even greatly dishonours him through disobedience and her refusal to acknowledge this great feast – following which she is set aside. She aptly represents nominal Christendom, disobedient to God, refusing the gospel invitation.
Vashti having been set aside, the king looks for a new queen. The timing corresponds to the future events we expect based on Scripture: professing Christendom will be set aside, the false church, Babylon, will be judged and then the way will be free for the millennial reign of Christ in which Israel will be blessed.
So the search for a new queen begins. The candidates are brought together in the fortress Shushan under the auspices of a certain Hegai, who had the oversight over the women during the time of their preparation. They had to proceed according to his instructions.
A number of points strike us as important on the typical front:
- Esther undergoes a time of preparation before she can meet the king. Equally, there will be a preparation time for the remnant. It will be under the guidance and instruction of the Holy Spirit (as prefigured in Hegai) that the true Esther will be prepared, and her beauty be brought into display. Incidentally, this still applies to Christians today: the Spirit needs to show us the way. We can’t attain beauty based on our own thinking.
- The preparation is described as a process of purification (v. 12). The Spirit will work towards the purification of the remnant (as indeed He leads Christian believers to self-judgement, purifying themselves).
- Esther is accepted by the king and finds “grace and favour” in his eyes (v. 17). She is chosen as queen and brought into a place of great privilege, against merit and all expectation. So it will be with the remnant.
- The fact that Esther, at this time, does not reveal her pedigree or people is significant: the character of the remnant, and its relationship with Christ, will yet be unknown during the tribulation period.
- Meanwhile Mordecai is there, in the background but full of interest in Esther’s well-being (v. 11, 19) – but at the right moment he carries out a deed of tremendous value to the king: he discovers and frustrates a plot. This deed, which will turn out to be the basis for Esther’s salvation, and that of her people, reminds us of the greatest deed ever carried out by the true Mordecai: the work of Christ on the cross.
In chapter 3, Haman comes to the fore. A number of circumstances strike us as being significant:
- Haman appears out of nowhere, not having been mentioned a single time in the previous chapters.
- Haman is exalted by the king himself, and everyone has to bow to him.
Difficult as it may seem to understand this at first, God will allow wickedness to come into full display: Antichrist, the man of sin, the son of perdition will appear on the scene. He will be prominent in Israel and demand worship. He will be in league with the Roman emperor (the first beast in Revelation 13). Both will be energised by Satan and all will be made to bow before the beast.
God will allow all these things and in His providence He will even make sure they come to pass: the revival of the Roman Empire, arising from the abyss, the man of sin coming to prominence, “the apostasy” (2 Thess. 2:3) – in short, all the events to take place during the end times.
Mordecai, however, refuses to bow before Haman (verse 2). The Lord refused to bow before Satan when tempted, and the faithful remnant will refuse to bow before the triad of evil, many paying for this with their lives.
Haman is furious and decides to persecute not Mordecai only, but his entire people (v. 5-6). Haman accuses the Jewish people before the king and is exposed as “the Jews’ enemy” (v. 10; cf. 8:1; 9:10, 24) – all of which is significant in relation to Satan and his agents (cf. Rev. 12:4, 10). His plan is ratified by a royal decree according to which all Jews must die (v. 12-15). This illustrates the fact that there is a divine death sentence on the Jewish nation. How good to know that – as we will see – the king later passes a second decree which overturns the first. The sentence of death is turned into life and peace.
Chapter 4 opens with Mordecai in deep distress, his garments rent, in sackcloth and ashes, crying with a loud and bitter cry. He is deeply affected by the prospect of suffering for the Jewish people. He typifies Christ who not only suffered from men during his lifetime on earth but also identified with the remnant in all their sufferings. “In all their affliction he was afflicted” (Isa. 63:9). The time lag of around 2000 years at least that must lie between the sufferings of the true Mordecai and the suffering of the remnant need not disturb us. The time of the church is passed over in silence in the prophetic word (more on this in the section on “Objections”).
Regarding Esther, the following points are particularly striking for the typical interpretation:
- Esther receives sight of the royal decree and thus learns that her fate, and that of her people, is sealed. The remnant will have to learn that they, and their nation, are the object of God’s judgement.
- Esther has no right to come into the king’s presence: She had not been “called” to see the king for 30 days! This appears rather strange given she was the king’s wife and had found great favour in his eyes. To make things worse, the “one law” forbidding – by penalty of death – access into the kings presence, seemed to apply to Esther as it did to anyone else (v. 11).
Again, the typical message seems clear: the remnant will have to come to God but will have forfeited its right to so, being Lo-Ammi, the relationship having been broken.
- Esther, in an act of faith, recognises that she is reliant on pure grace. She decides – after fasting and contrition ‒ to go to the king, knowing that her fate will depend on his mercy: “and so will I go in unto the king, which is not according to the law; and if I perish, I perish” (v. 16). This is how the remnant will come to approach God, in contrition of heart and trusting in His mercy.
Interestingly, Esther goes to the king on the third day. It will be on the ground of the resurrection of Christ that the remnant will be accepted (as are we). Then the king sees Esther, she finds grace in his sight and he stretches forth the golden sceptre, the gesture of royal acceptance and favour. Hosea anticipates the day of Israel’s restoration, in the form of a remnant, using the figure of resurrection: “On the third day he will raise us up, and we shall live before his face” (Hos. 6:2).
Esther, being granted a request, asks for a royal banquet to be made with the king and with Haman. This invitation further brings out Haman’s character of pride (boasting to his family about it) and his delusion (thinking he is about to rise to ever greater favour and prominence).
Again, Mordecai still refuses to bow to Haman, who is enraged as he cannot bear anyone failing to recognise his presumed glory and authority. He accepts the advice to erect a gallows for Mordecai to be hanged. It has always been Satan’s objective to oppose Christ (cf. Gen. 3:15a, Rev. 12:4b).
In chapter 6, the tables are turned. All begins with Mordecai’s heroic deed being brought to the king’s remembrance. Ahasuerus is struck by what he reads and recognises that Mordecai deserves to be honoured and rewarded. Haman, completely unaware of this turn of events, is asked what should be done to the man whom the king delights to honour. Thinking this description could fit none but himself, he compiles a list of greatest honours to be bestowed on such. To his shock and horror, he has to discover that this man is not himself but Mordecai – whom he had wanted to be hanged.
All this is very telling when interpreted typically. Satan, the arch-enemy of Christ, wanted to bring Him to the cross to defeat Him there – not knowing that this very cross would turn out to be the emblem of his own demise.
The king commands Haman to “make haste” (v. 10). Mordecai’s deed was too great to allow for any delay in honouring and exalting him. So with Christ: God not only wanted to exalt Him but to “glorify him” and to “glorify him immediately” (John 13:32).
As far as Esther is concerned, it is significant that Mordecai’s great deed is the turning point for her fate: the king wants to reward Mordecai for his deed – and this turns out to be for the deliverance of Esther and her people. So Israel will be delivered on the basis of the work of Christ on the cross.
Esther had asked the king to attend a second festive meal she would prepare. She uses this occasion to inform the king of the plight of her people – and her own plight. Haman is identified as the originator of this evil extermination plan and is sentenced to death. This reminds us of how the remnant will pour out their sorrows to God – as is witnessed in many Psalms.
The fact that Haman is hanged on the gallows he had prepared for Mordecai is beautifully significant. At the cross, Satan was vanquished. By death, he who had the power of death was annulled (Heb. 2:14). What looked like a great defeat turned out to be the greatest victory of all times – and the demise of the adversary.
The final judgement of the “triad of evil” will be in the lake of fire. The two beasts of Revelation 13 (the Roman dictator and the Antichrist) will be cast into the lake of fire, as will Satan be at a later date (Rev. 19:20; 20:10).
In chapter 8, Mordecai is rewarded with the signet ring the king had taken away from Haman. The signet ring is the emblem of royal authority (cf. Gen. 41:42; Esth. 3:12).
This illustrates that finally, Satan, the prince of this world (John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11), will be dethroned and Christ will have supreme authority, all things being brought together under one head (Rev. 20:1-4; Eph. 1:10).
Esther supplicates the king to issue a second decree revoking the first, the sentence of death on her people. Ahasuerus agrees, and the new decree is passed, copied and sent – by the renowned Persian express mail – into each of the 127 provinces.
The Jewish people being saved on the basis of Esther’s approach to the king illustrates that, in the end, “all Israel shall be saved”. How will this come to pass? Through the remnant that will return to the Lord and be received by God as “all Israel” (Rom. 9:27; 11:26). See also Jeremiah 31:7: “Jehovah, save thy people, the remnant of Israel”. The remnant will be the people.
The final paragraph describes Mordecai’s exaltation: the royal garments, the crown – everything underlining the glory of the man “whom the king delights to honour”. God will not fail to bestow greatest honour on Christ who glorified Him on the cross. God has exalted Him to the place of honour at His right hand (as we saw in chapter 6) and one day God will honour Him publicly. Just as “Mordecai went out from the presence of the king in royal apparel …, and with a great crown of gold” (v. 15), so Christ will appear in glory, coming from the presence of God, in order to be recognised and honoured on the earth. What a joy this will be for His people who will then have accepted Him (cf. v. 16, 17) and, incidentally, for us who will share His glory.
The mention of “light” in verse 16 is hardly understandable on a mere historical level (why should the Jews have more “light” because of a new decree having been passed, or because of Mordecai wearing a golden crown?). Prophetically, however, the mention of light is beautiful: it speaks of the new day that will dawn and of the knowledge of the Lord this day will bring (Mal. 4:2; Isa. 11:9; Hos. 6:3; Hab. 2:14).
In this chapter we learn how Esther’s people defeat their enemies (v. 5-16). The prophetic word confirms that so it will be in the end: the Jews will take revenge and be instrumental the judgement of their enemies (see, for instance, Zech. 12:1-7; Mic. 5:5-8; etc.).
This will only be the case once Israel is received. It is only when their Lo-Ammi sentence is lifted (Hos. 2:23) that God will be able to recognise them as His people and to be associated with them and to use them in battle. Prior to this point in time, this will not be the case (in Revelation 19, the Lord judges the Roman armies all by Himself).
Verse 22 uses beautifully significant language: the Jews were to celebrate the 14th and the 15th day “as the days on which the Jews rested from their enemies” and “the month that was turned to them from sorrow to joy”, and “from mourning into a good day”.
Finally, the time of Jacob’s trouble (Jer. 30:7) will be over, the Jews – long dispersed and persecuted – will “rest from their enemies”, and Israel will enter its sabbath rest.
The final chapter of the book is brief but beautiful. The following points are particularly striking in the context of the typical interpretation:
- King Ahasuerus lays a tribute upon the land and the isles of the sea;
- Mordecai’s “acts of his power” and of his might, and his greatness, are emphasised;
- He has been “advanced” to such honour by the king;
- He is a Jew – having dominion over the vast Persian empire;
- He is great among the Jews, and accepted of the multitude of his brethren;
- He is found “seeking the welfare of his people” and “speaking peace to all his seed”.
All of these points prefigure the coming exaltation of Christ among His people, the Jews. Christ will reign supreme. The time of the Gentiles during which Jerusalem is trodden down by the nations will have come to an end (Lk. 21:24). God’s people will be the head, not the tail, of the nations (Deut. 28:44; Ps. 18:43). Christ will reign supreme, not only in Israel, but to the ends of the earth (Ps. 72:8; Zech. 9:10). It will be God Himself who “advances” the Man of His counsel (Isa 46:11) to such glory.
Christ was – as He Himself stated – the salvation “out of the Jews” (John 4:22). He had come, according to flesh, out of Israel (Rom. 9:5). And Christ will be accepted by the multitude of His brethren. They will be His “willing people”: “Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power, in holy splendour” (Ps. 110:3).
The Lord has always been “seeking the welfare of his people”, even during His lifetime on earth, but then he was rejected by the majority. In the day to come, it will be acknowledged and experienced by His people. He will not only seek but will bestow the greatest welfare on them, and “speak peace to all his seed”.
Some objections considered
There are a number of objections that are sometimes brought forward against the typical interpretation set out above (and some of them are genuine difficulties, at least at first sight). Let’s consider these briefly:
Objection 1: “How can a heathen monarch be a type of God?”
Scripture typology often uses characters to foreshadow the Lord, although they, sadly, became entangled in things that were very much unlike Christ (e.g. David). And Scripture also uses unbelievers, even heathen kings, to set forth in type the coming and reign of Christ.
Example 1: Pharaoh, in exalting Joseph from prison and setting him over the whole land of Egypt, is clearly a type of God, who exalts Christ, the true Joseph.
Example 2: King Cyrus was announced by Isaiah in terms that leave no doubt as to his significance as a type of Christ: “… that saith of Cyrus, He is my shepherd, and he shall perform all my pleasure” (Isa. 44:28). In the beginning of chapter 45, God even refers to him as His “anointed”: “Thus saith Jehovah to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have holden, to subdue nations before him”.
Objection 2: “If Esther represents the remnant, why is she not married to Mordecai?”
This is a real difficulty, at least at first sight, especially if compared with the Song of Solomon.
- In the Song of Songs, the Shulamite is the bride of Solomon, type of Christ as King of peace.
- In the book of Esther, the same remnant is seen in Esther, becoming espoused to the king (who is a type of God, not a type of Christ as such, and is typified by Mordecai).
However, this apparent difficulty disappears quickly once we take into account the secret of the Lord’s Person, being, on the one hand, the Son of Man (as foreshadowed in Solomon) and, on the other hand, God, the Lord (Jehovah) Himself. Hence there is no contradiction. Israel, through the remnant, will become espoused to God. As Isaiah says: “For thy Maker is thy husband: Jehovah of hosts is his name, and thy Redeemer…”. Israel was forsaken by Him for a time, but the prophet continues: “Jehovah hath called thee as a woman forsaken and grieved in spirit, and as a wife of youth, that hath been refused, saith thy God. For a small moment have I forsaken thee; but with great mercies will I gather thee” (Isa. 54:5-7). Or, as Hosea puts it: “And I will betroth thee unto me for ever; and I will betroth thee unto me in righteousness, and in judgment, and in loving-kindness, and in mercies: And I will betroth thee unto me in faithfulness: and thou shalt know Jehovah… And I will say to Lo-ammi, Thou art my people; and they shall say, My God” (Hos. 2:20, 21, 23).
Objection 3: “The interpretation mixes events that took place 2000 years ago with events still future”
Again, this is true and may seem difficult at first. But the problem is soon cleared up once we take into account that the period of the church is not the object of the prophetic word. There are many examples confirming this point:
Example 1: Messiah was crucified at the end of Daniel’s 69th week, but the 70th week only commences after the rapture. In between – not mentioned in Daniel 9 – lies the time of the church, to this point already around 2000 years.
Example 2: In Revelation 12, referred to previously, there is a woman about to give birth to a male child. A dragon wants to devour her son. The two things are mentioned in one breath: the male chid is raptured to God and His throne (which, however, happened around 2000 years ago) and the dragon persecutes the woman who flees into the desert and is sustained there by God for 1260 days – evidently yet to take place, during the great tribulation.
Example 3: Zechariah prophesies that Zion’s King will come, riding upon the colt of an ass (which was fulfilled), and immediately goes on to say that His reign will extend from sea to sea – which can only happen 2000 years later (Zech. 9:9, 10).
Example 4: The Lord quotes Isaiah 61, verses 1 and 2a – but not the second half of verse 2. He had come to proclaim the acceptable year of Jehovah – but not the day of vengeance. Again, at least around 2000 years lie in between.
Many more examples could be added. The prophets saw the peaks of two mountains: the 1st coming of Christ (in grace, 2000 years ago) and the coming of Christ when He appears in glory, but not the “valley” of the time of grace (or of the church) in between the two.
So with Mordecai: he is destined to be “hanged on a tree” (the gallows) and suffers affliction with Esther and carries out a heroic deed of great merit (all speaking of what Christ did two thousand years ago), and then he also keeps in the background, watches over Esther and shows interest in her well-being (primarily speaking of His concern for the future remnant). Then, Mordecai comes to be set over the whole land and to be honoured by all (as Christ will be, in a much fuller sense, in the millennial reign of peace).
However, this “time lapse” or “fast forward” to the time of the end is not a singular case either. Think of Joseph: he was despised by his brethren and later exalted and set over Egypt. Or think of David, the rejected king chased by Saul like a partridge, who then became the king of God’s grace in Zion.
Objection 4: Haman is not a well defined type (does he pre-figure Satan, the antichrist, or the Roman dictator?)
Haman is referred to as “the wicked” and “the enemy” of the Jews. Clearly, he is the chief adversary of Mordecai, and of Esther and her people. On a general level, there is no difficulty: Haman represents the adversary.
It seems to me that in the application of the details of Haman’s actions that they are sometimes more applicable to Satan himself (as in the case of Mordecai ‒ Christ ‒ not bowing to him), and sometimes more applicable to instruments Satan uses (interestingly, the numerical value of the Hebrew letters of “Haman the wicked” is 666).
However, this slight change in the typical interpretation of Haman does not need to disturb us. As a matter of fact, Satan and the two chief instruments he will use in the great tribulation are very closely linked:
- The dragon (Satan) persecutes the woman (Rev. 12). But how will this come to pass? By the two beasts that are the instruments of Satan (Rev. 13).
- The Roman emperor receives his might directly from Satan (Rev. 13:2b).
- The Roman emperor resembles the dragon (seven heads and ten horns, cf. Rev. 12:3; 13:1).
- Antichrist, the second beast, uses all his skill, power and influence to induce the earth dwellers to worship the first beast who, in turn, has received its power from Satan.
- The three characters, Satan and his two chief instruments, share a common judgement: in the lake of fire (Rev. 20:10).
- Satan and the two beasts (the Roman dictator and the Antichrist) join forces in opposition to Christ.
Further typical elements
Once the overall scope and design of the book and its typical meaning has been discovered, there may be other aspects of the narrative that may strike the reader as relevant from a typical point of view. The following, for instance, might be considered:
- Esther knows her “husband” as “king” (similar to the Shulamite in Song of Songs 1:12). Christians, on the other hand, know God as their Father, and Christ as their Lord.
- Mordecai, the Jew, is a son of Benjamin (meaning “son of my right hand”). In Jacob’s blessing the tribe of Benjamin is described as wolf tearing his prey into pieces (Gen. 49:27). This, Mordecai achieves in relation to Haman the Agagite (in contrast to Saul who had failed in this task and had spared Agag, the Amalekite: cf. Exod. 17; Deut. 25:17-19; 1 Sam. 15). Christ is the true Benjamin, the true “Son of the right hand”. As such, He will carry out the required divine judgement.
- King Ahasuerus imposes a tribute on the various countries and even remote islands (10:1). So, the wealth of the Gentiles will be given to Israel (cf. Isa. 60:5)
Is there an application to the church?
The answer to the question of whether there is an application to the church depends on what we mean by application:
- It is possible to selectively apply certain details of the narrative to the church (or those who compose the church):
- The Lord will not forsake His church.
- He moves in the background, for her well-being.
- The church is surrounded by enemies (and the target of Satan’s hatred).
- For those composing the church all blessing depends on the work of the true Mordecai.
- It is impossible, however, to give a coherent interpretation of Esther as prefiguring the church. Even the attempt would be counterproductive as it would obscure the meaning of the book as well as the truth of the church.
Here are some examples of essential key points of the narrative that simply to not fit the church:
- Central to the entire book is the issue of “Jewishness” or Jewish ethnicity. One of the key features of the church, however, is that in it there is neither Jew nor Gentile – they all have the same position in Christ.
- Esther, importantly, is the Jewish bride.
- Esther is hated and in danger because she belongs to Mordecai’s race.
- If Esther were the church, who would be Vashti? The church does not take the place of nominal Christendom.
- Esther and her people are under a death sentence (by virtue of the first decree).
- Esther is found at a great distance from the king (not having been called to him for 30 days, not allowed to approach him, at risk of death unless the golden sceptre is extended to her by pure grace, etc.). Applying any of these points to the church would only obscure her nature and standing.
- The church is called the bride of Christ and the Lamb’s wife, but never the bride or wife of God. This is important as Esther is espoused to Ahasuerus, not to Mordecai.
- Esther’s intercession results in the salvation of her people (if Esther were the church, who would “the church’s people” be?).
- Esther requests the king to exercise judgement on their enemies.
- Esther and her people take part in the judgement of their enemies.
All of these problems disappear (or do not arise) if we recognise that Esther represents the faithful future Jewish remnant.
The book of Esther relates actual history: the circumstances, the plight and the deliverance of the Jews who had not returned from the Babylonian captivity but remained in what became the Medo-Persian Empire. God moves behind the scenes (His name Jehovah, or Elohim, does not even occur in the book) but He observes and controls everything (even whether or not a heathen king is able to fall asleep at night, and what he reads if he can’t). The book bears many lessons to do with trust in God and His providential dealings, the courage of faith, the beauty of grace, etc.
On the other hand, it is very evident that the book of Esther also has a deeper, typological meaning. It shows us aspects of the great theme that runs through the prophets and the Psalms (and the Song of Songs): that Israel, in the form of a remnant that returns to God, will be brought into a place of undeserved earthly blessing under the reign of Christ – and all this out of pure grace and on the basis of the great work of Christ, foreshadowed by Mordecai’s deed frustrating the plot against the king and leading to the salvation of Esther and her people.
As Christians reading this book, we will find joy in Christ’s joy; we will rejoice in the exaltation of the true Mordecai and in the fact that the desires of the heart of Christ – also those towards His earthly people – will end in full satisfaction:
“He will rejoice over thee with joy;
he will rest in his love;
he will exult over thee
 Sometimes these three characters (Satan and the two beasts) are designated as “trinity of evil” (and we know what is meant by this). However, it is no real trinity as there is no unity of being.