Esther and Mordecai – Faith Heroes or Faith Zeroes?

What kind of people were Esther and Mordecai? Were they the kind of faithful people that belong in Hebrews 11? Are they worthy of emulating? Were they God-fearers? And why does the book of Esther never mention God directly?

The opinions of commentators are many and varied. One commentator I have been consulting does not think so highly of them. Pointedly, he declares:

The writer did not omit God’s name and references to Israel’s theocratic institutions because God’s presence was absent. He did not do so because thousands of Gentiles died at the hands of Jews, nor because the Jewish hero and heroine were personally self-willed, as some commentators have suggested. I believe he left them out because they were of little concern to Esther, Mordecai, and the other Jews who did not return to the land.

Certainly, Esther and Mordecai have some positive things to teach us, but perhaps the commentator (Constable) is right that we should be careful to avoid making them out to be high-end heroes of the faith. That being said, it is really important to remember that no one, whether in or outside the Bible, is without blemish and worthy of ultimate imitation (1 Corinthians 11:1) – save Jesus who alone can ultimately save and transform. Esther and Mordecai are no Jesus, and Jesus is the true and better Esther and Mordecai.

If the commentator/editor is right, then ironically it is the silence of God that actually amplifies God’s heroics. God can faithfully fulfill His promises to His people (Genesis 12:1-3), even when His people fall way short of being fully faithful.

Using other commentators, here is the rest of what the commentator/editor has to say about Esther and Mordecai:

The personal relationship that Esther and Mordecai enjoyed with Yahweh is a very interesting subject of study. The answer to this puzzle explains why God’s name does not appear in the book and what God’s purpose was in preserving this book for us.[109]

Without question Mordecai was a man of great ability and admirable character. He also demonstrated faith in the Abrahamic Covenant and in God’s providential care of His people (4:13-14). Esther too showed some dependence on God for His help (4:16). However these qualities characterized many Jews who Jesus Christ in His day said were not pleasing to God (cf. Matt. 3:96:16John 8:39). Mordecai and Esther, it seems, were eager to preserve their nation and their religion, but they give little evidence of desire to do God’s will personally. In this respect they contrast with Daniel, Ezra, and Nehemiah.

No one forced Esther into Ahasuerus’ harem.[110].

She evidently ate unclean food for months (2:9; cf. Dan. 1:58). Furthermore the king did not know she was a Jewess for five years (2:163:7).

“For the masquerade to last that long, she must have done more than eat, dress and live like a Persian. She must have worshipped like one!”[111]

We cannot excuse her behavior on the ground that she was simply obeying Mordecai’s orders (2:20). Her conduct implicates him in her actions.

“The Christian judgment of the Book of Esther has been unnecessarily cramped through our feeling that because Mordecai is a Bible character, he must be a good man. . . . Like Jehu he may have been little more than a time-server. The Bible makes no moral judgment upon him, but it expects us to use our Christian sense. He was raised up by God, but he was not necessarily a godly man.”[112]

The Book of Esther shows how God has remained faithful to His promises in spite of His adversaries’ antagonism and His people’s unfaithfulness.

“The lovely story of Esther provides the great theological truth that the purposes of God cannot be stymied because He is forever loyal to His covenant with His eternally elected nation.”[113]

The writer did not omit God’s name and references to Israel’s theocratic institutions because God’s presence was absent. He did not do so because thousands of Gentiles died at the hands of Jews, nor because the Jewish hero and heroine were personally self-willed, as some commentators have suggested. I believe he left them out because they were of little concern to Esther, Mordecai, and the other Jews who did not return to the land.

“In His providence He [God] will watch over and deliver them; but their names and His name will not be bound together in the record of the labor and the waiting for the earth’s salvation.”[114]

“The early Jews sought to remedy the lack of explicit references to God and religious observances by attaching six Additions to Esther (107 verses) in the Greek version, including a dream of Mordecai, and prayers of Mordecai and of Esther. These sections form part of the Old Testament Apocrypha, which was declared to be canonical for the Catholic Church by the Council of Trent in 1546 in reaction to Protestant criticisms [of the Book of Esther].”[115]

“There are few books of the Old Testament more relevant to life in a society hostile to the gospel.”[116]

About brentprentice

Brent is the lead pastor and one of the Elders at Eagle Heights in Stillwater, Oklahoma. He has been married to Lacey for 14 years and together they love two sons, Luke and Elijah, and a daughter, Bella.

Posted on April 17, 2018, in Bible Thoughts. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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