Esther 4:1-17

Esther 4:1-17
Narrative Lectionary 114


1 When MordecaiI learnedII allIII that had been done,IV

Notes on verse 1a

I “Mordecai” = Mordekay. From Marduk (Marduk – “Bull Calf of Utu {the solar deity)”); {Sumerian Amarutu (Marduk); {from anum (god); {from an (sky, sky god)} + buru (calf) + shamshu (sun); {from ud (sun, day)}}}; {with a tongue in cheek Hebrew derivation of mar (bitterness literal or figurative) + dak (crushed so figuratively it refers to the injured or afflicted)}. This is Mordecai, a name meaning, “of Marduk” or “of bitter oppression.” See & &
II “learned” = yada. This is to know, acknowledge, advise, answer, be aware, be acquainted with. Properly, this is to figure something out by seeing. It includes ideas of observation, recognition, and care about something. It can be used causatively for instruction, designation, and punishment.
III “all” = kol. From kalal (to complete). This is all or every.
IV “done” = asah. This is to make, do, act, appoint, become in many senses.

Mordecai toreV his clothesVI and put onVII sackclothVIII and ashesIX

Notes on verse 1b

V “tore” = qara. This is to tear or cut out in a literal or figurative sense. It can also be to revile or to apply eye make up – as though they are made to look larger.
VI “clothes” = beged. From bagad (to cover or conceal; figuratively, to act in a covert or treacherous way, to transgress or pillage). This is clothing, garment, robe, or some other kind of clothing. Figuratively, it can be treachery or pillaging.
VII “put on” = labash. This is to wrap around, which implies clothing oneself or someone else. This is wrapping around in a literal or figurative way.
VIII “sackcloth” = saq. Perhaps from shaqaq (to run, rush; to pursue like a predator; to search for with greed or appetite). This is sack or sackcloth. It is a mesh fabric used for bags or clothes. It is used as clothing for times of grief or humiliation. It is perhaps the same root that the word “sack” comes from.
IX “ashes” = epher. Root may mean to strew. This is ashes or dust.

and went throughX the city,XI wailingXII

Notes on verse 1c

X “went through” = yatsa + tavek. Yatsa is to go or come out, bring forth, appear. It is to go out in a literal or figurative sense. Tavek is among, middle, in the midst, the center. Perhaps, properly, to sever.
XI “city” = iyr. From uwr (to awaken or wake oneself up). This can mean excitement in the sense of wakefulness or city. Properly, this is a place that is guarded. Guards kept schedules according to watches. This sense of the word would include cities as well as encampments or posts that were guarded.
XII “wailing” = zaaq. This is to cry or call out. It can be a call to assemble or gather together. By analogy, this could refer to a herald who announces a public gathering. It could also be a shriek from pain or danger.

with a loudXIII and bitterXIV cry;XV 

Notes on verse 1d

XIII “loud” = gadol. From gadal (to grow up, become great, become wealthy – to advance. The root meaning may be to twist in the sense of the process of growing). This is great, high, bigger, noble, old, marvelous. It can also refer to someone who is powerful or distinguished.
XIV “bitter” = mar. From marar (to be bitter, embittered, weep, troubled). This is bitterness literal or figurative. It could be fierce, angry, or discontented.
XV “cry” = zeaqah. Related to “wailing” in v1. 19x in OT From zaaq (see note XII above). This is a cry, shriek. It is crying out as lament or distress.

he went upXVI to the entranceXVII of the king’sXVIII gate,XIX for no one might enterXX the king’s gate clothedXXI with sackcloth. 

Notes on verse 2

XVI “went up” = bo. This is to enter, come in, advance, fulfill, bring offerings, enter to worship, attack. It can also have a sexual connotation.
XVII “entrance” = paneh. From panah (to turn, face, appear). This is face in a literal or figurative sense. It could be face, presence, anger, respect. It can also be used of God to indicate divine favor or presence.
XVIII “king’s” = melek. From malak (to be or become king or queen, to rise to the throne, to be crowned; by implication, to take counsel). This is king or royal.
XIX “gate” = shaar. May be related to sha’ar (to calculate or reckon; may come from a root that means to open up or split). This is a gate, door, or other opening like a port.
XX “enter” = bo. Same as “went up” in v2. See note XVI above.
XXI “clothed” = lebush. Related to “put on” in v1. From labash (see note VII above). This is clothing literally or figuratively. It can be used as a euphemism for a wife.

In everyXXII province,XXIII whereverXXIV

Notes on verse 3a

XXII “every” = kol. Same as “all” in v1. See note III above.
XXIII “province” = medinah. From din (to judge, defend, dispute, govern, strive). This is an area or province overseen by a judge So, it’s a jurisdiction, region, or province.
XXIV “wherever” = maqom. From qum(to arise, stand, accomplish, establish, abide; rising against, getting up after being sick or asleep, arising from one state to another, becoming powerful, or rising for action; standing in a figurative sense). This is a standing, which is to say a spot or space a place. It can also refer to a locality or a physical/mental condition. HaMaqom is also a Jewish name for God – the place, i.e. the Omnipresent One.

the king’s commandXXV and his decreeXXVI came,XXVII there was greatXXVIII mourningXXIX

Notes on verse 3b

XXV “command” = dabar. From dabar (to speak, declare, discuss). This is speech, a word, a matter, an affair, charge, command, message, promise, purpose, report, request. It is a word, which implies things that are spoken of in a wide sense.
XXVI “decree” = dath. This is a law or command of the king.
XXVII “came” = naga. This is touch, reach, arrive, come near, strike. This is touching for any reason including sexual or violent.
XXVIII “great” = gadol. Same as “loud” in v1. See note XIII above.
XXIX “mourning” = ebel. From abal (to mourn, bewail). This is mourning or lamentation.

among the Jews,XXX with fastingXXXI and weepingXXXII and lamenting,XXXIII and most of them layXXXIV in sackcloth and ashes.

Notes on verse 3c

XXX “Jews” = Yehudi. From Yehudah (Judah, son of Jacob, his tribal descendants, a name for the southern kingdom. Literally, it means praised); probably from yadah (to throw one’s hands into the air in a gesture of praise); from yad (hand). This is Jew or Jewish – one descended from Judah.
XXXI “fasting” = tsom. From tsum (properly, covering one’s mouth; by extension, abstaining from food). This is fasting or a fast.
XXXII “weeping” = beki. From bakah (to weep, complain, lament). This is ongoing weeping, overflowing. By analogy, this can also mean dripping.
XXXIII “lamenting” = misped. 14x in OT. From saphad (to wail, mourn; properly, lamenting by tearing one’s hair and beating one’s chest; implies wailing). This is wailing and mourning.
XXXIV “lay” = yatsa. 4x in OT. This is to lay, to spread a bed.

When Esther’sXXXV maidsXXXVI and her eunuchsXXXVII came and toldXXXVIII her,

Notes on verse 4a

XXXV “Esther’s” = Ester. From Old Persian a-s-t-r (star) OR Akkadian ishtar (Ishtar) OR Median astra (myrtle). This is Esther or Ester, a name meaning, “star” or “myrtle.” See &
XXXVI “maids” = naarah. From naar (child or a servant; a child in their active years so they could be aged anywhere from infancy to adolescence); perhaps from naar (to shake, toss up and down, tumble around). This is a girl or young lady ranging anywhere in age from infancy to adolescence.
XXXVII “eunuchs” = saris. Root is likely foreign and may mean castrate. So, this could be a eunuch, valet, or other kind of officer.
XXXVIII “told” = nagad. This is to declare, make conspicuous, stand in front, manifest, predict, explain.

the queenXXXIX was deeplyXL distressed;XLI she sentXLII

Notes on verse 4b

XXXIX “queen” = malkah. Related to “king’s” in v2. From melek (see note XVIII above). This is queen.
XL “deeply” = meod. Perhaps from the same as uwd (firebrand, a poker). This is very, greatly, exceedingly. It can also mean vehemence, force, abundance.
XLI “distressed” = chul. This is whirling around so dancing as in a circle or writhing in pain. It is used particularly for the pain of childbirth or from writhing due to fear. It can also be falling in pain or waiting.
XLII “sent” = shalach. This is to send out, away, send for, forsake. It can also mean to divorce or set a slave free.

garmentsXLIII to clotheXLIV Mordecai, so that he might take offXLV his sackcloth, but he would not acceptXLVI them. 

Notes on verse 4c

XLIII “garments” = beged. Same as “clothes” in v1. See note VI above.
XLIV “clothe” = labash. Same as “put on” in v1. See note VII above.
XLV “take off” = sur. This is to turn aside in a literal or figurative sense – to depart, decline, rebel, remove, or withdraw.
XLVI “accept” = qabal. 13x in OT. This is to receive, undertake, choose, adopt as a custom. It can be literal or figurative.

Then Esther calledXLVII for Hathach, one of the king’s eunuchs who had been appointedXLVIII to attendXLIX her, and orderedL him to go to Mordecai to learn what was happening and why. 

Notes on verse 5

XLVII “called” = qara. This is to call or call out – to call someone by name. Also used more broadly for calling forth.
XLVIII “appointed” = amad. This is to stand up in a literal or figurative sense. So it can be establish, continue, endure, take a stand, act, be a servant, stand still, remain, stand against an enemy.
XLIX “attend” = paneh. Same as “entrance” in v2. See note XVII above.
L “ordered” = tsavah. This is to charge, command, order, appoint, or enjoin. This is the root that the Hebrew word for “commandment” comes from (mitsvah).

Hathach went out to Mordecai in the open squareLI of the city in front ofLII the king’s gate, and Mordecai told him all that had happenedLIII to him and the exact sumLIV of moneyLV

Notes on verses 6-7a

LI “open square” = rechob. From rachab (to grow wide or enlarge in a literal or figurative sense; extend, relieve, rejoice, or speak boldly). This is a wide, open place like a plaza, square, or avenue.
LII “in front of” = paneh. Same as “entrance” in v2. See note XVII above.
LIII “happened” = qarah. This is to encounter, usually unintentionally. It can also mean to happen or to lay wood for a floor or roof.
LIV “exact sum” = parashah. 2x in OT. From parash (to make distinct, separate, scatter). This is exact sum or full account.
LV “money” = keseph. From kasaph (to long for, be greedy; to become pale). This is silver or money.

that HamanLVI had promised to payLVII into the king’s treasuriesLVIII for the destructionLIX of the Jews. 

Notes on verse 7b

LVI “Haman” = Haman. From Old Persian Imanis (Haman); {related to Old Persian hamayun (illustrious, magnificent)} OR from aman (to believe, endure, fulfill, confirm, support, be faithful, put one’s trust in, be steadfast. Figuratively, this is to be firm, steadfast, or faithful, trusting, believing, being permanent, morally solid) OR from hama (be noisy). This is Haman, which may mean rage, turbulent, noise, certainty, magnificent, trustworthy, unique. See &
LVII “pay” = shaqal. This is to weigh, spend, trade.
LVIII “treasuries” = genez. 3x in OT. This may come from a word that means to store and so this would be a chest. By extension, this would be a treasury. It may also mean carpet.
LIX “destruction” = abad. To wander off, lose self. This implies to perish, destroy, die, vanish, or be broken or corrupt.

Mordecai also gaveLX him a copyLXI of the writtenLXII decree issuedLXIII in SusaLXIV

Notes on verse 8a

LX “gave” = natan. This is to give, put, set, offer. It is to give literally or figuratively.
LXI “copy” = parshegen. 4x in OT – all in Esther. This is a loan word from Persian. It is copy or transcript.
LXII “written” = kethab. 15x in OT. From kathab (to write, decree, describe, record). This is something written so it could be a writing, letter, scripture, record, or book.
LXIII “issued” = natan. Same as “gave” in v8. See note LX above.
LXIV “Susa” = Shushan. 21x – 1x in Nehemiah, 19x in Esther, and 1x in Daniel. From the same as shushan (lily, Shoshan, or Shoshannah; other flowers that look like lilies, architecture decoration in the shape of a lily, a musical tune, or trumpets due to the similar appearance); {perhaps from sus (to rejoice, be glad; properly, to be bright or cheerful)}  OR from Elamite Inshushinak (a major god who protects Susa; meaning “lord of Susa;” may be represented by a snake); {perhaps from Sumerian en shushinak (“lord of Susa”)}. This is Susa, a Persian capital. See &

for their destruction,LXV that he might showLXVI it to Esther, explainLXVII it to her, and chargeLXVIII her to goLXIX to the king

Notes on verse 8b

LXV “destruction” = shamad. This is to demolish, destroy, perish, overthrow, pluck down.
LXVI “show” = raah. This is to see in a literal or figurative sense so stare, advise, think, view.
LXVII “explain” = nagad. Same as “told” in v4. See note XXXVIII above.
LXVIII “charge” = tsavah. Same as “ordered” in v5. See note L above.
LXIX “go” = bo. Same as “went up” in v2. See note XVI above.

to make supplicationLXX to him and to entreatLXXI him forLXXII her people.LXXIII

Notes on verse 8c

LXX “make supplication” = chanan. This is to beseech, show favor, be gracious. Properly, it is to bend in kindness to someone with less status.
LXXI “entreat” = baqash. This is to seek, ask, desire, or request. It can be any kind of searching. It can also mean to worship or pray – implies a striving for.
LXXII “for” = paneh. Same as “entrance” in v2. See note XVII above.
LXXIII “people” = am. From amam (to darken, hide, associate; creating shadows by huddling together). This is people or nation. It can be used specifically for a tribe, collectively of troops or armies, or figuratively to refer to a flock of animals.

Hathach went and told Esther what Mordecai had said.LXXIV 10 Then Esther spoke to Hathach and gave him a messageLXXV for Mordecai: 11 “All the king’s servantsLXXVI and the people of the king’s provinces knowLXXVII that, if anyLXXVIII manLXXIX or womanLXXX goes to the king

Notes on verses 9-11a

LXXIV “what…said” = dabar. Same as “command” in v3. See note XXV above.
LXXV “gave…message” = tsavah. Same as “ordered” in v5. See note L above.
LXXVI “servants” = ebed. From abad (to work, serve, compel; any kind of work; used causatively, can mean to enslave or keep in bondage). This is a servant, slave, or bondservant.
LXXVII “know” = yada. Same as “learned” in v1. See note II above.
LXXVIII “any” = kol. Same as “all” in v1. See note III above.
LXXIX “man” = ish. Perhaps from enosh (human, humankind, mortal); from anash (to be weak, sick, or frail). This is man, husband, another, or humankind.
LXXX “woman” = ishshah. Related to “man” in v11. From ish (see note LXXIX above). This is woman, wife, or female.

inside the innerLXXXI courtLXXXII without being called, there is but oneLXXXIII law:LXXXIV to be put to death.LXXXV

Notes on verse 11b

LXXXI “inner” = penimi. Related to “front” in v2. From panah (see note XVII above). This is inside or interior.
LXXXII “court” = chatser. From chatsar (to blow a trumpet, trumpeter, to surround); from chatsotsrah (trumpet). This is an enclosure or court – a yard that is fenced in. It could also be a village or hamlet that is walled in.
LXXXIII “one” = echad. Perhaps from achad (to unify, continue on a path; figuratively, to gather one’s thoughts). This is the number one, first, united. It can also be alone, altogether, a certain, a few.
LXXXIV “law” = dath. Same as “decree” in v3. See note XXVI above.
LXXXV “put to death” = mut. This is to die in a literal or figurative sense. It can also refer to being a dead body.

OnlyLXXXVI if the king holds outLXXXVII the goldenLXXXVIII scepterLXXXIX to someone may that person live.XC I myself have not been called to come inXCI to the king for thirtyXCII days.”XCIII 

Notes on verse 11c

LXXXVI “only” = bad. Perhaps from badad (to divide or be separated; alone, solitary, lonely, isolated, straggler). This is white linen as a fabric of divide fibers, flaxen thread, or yarn.
LXXXVII “holds out” = yashat. 3x in OT. This is to extend.
LXXXVIII “golden” = zahab. Root may mean to shimmer. This is gold or something that has the color of gold like oil. It can also refer to a clear sky – to good weather.
LXXXIX “scepter” = sharbit. 4x in OT – all in Esther. From the same as shebet (a rod, staff, club, scepter, dart, or tribe; a stick that can be used for punishing, writing, fighting, walking, ruling; thus, figuratively for a clan). This is a scepter.
XC “live” = chayah. This is to live or keep alive in a literal or figurative sense. So, it can be revive, nourish, or save.
XCI “come in” = bo. Same as “went up” in v2. See note XVI above.
XCII “thirty” = sheloshim. From the same as shalosh (three, fork, triad). This is thirty or thirtieth.
XCIII “days” = yom. Root may mean being hot. This is the day in a literal or figurative sense. It can also mean birth, age, daylight, continually or other references to time.

12 When they told Mordecai what Esther had said, 13 Mordecai told them to replyXCIV to Esther, “Do not thinkXCV that in the king’s palaceXCVI youXCVII will escapeXCVIII any more than all the other Jews. 

Notes on verses 12-13

XCIV “reply” = shub. To turn back, return, turn away – literally or figuratively. Doesn’t necessarily imply going back to where you started from. This is also the root verb for the Hebrew word for repentance “teshubah.”
XCV “think” = damah. This is to be like, resemble, devise. It can be to think using analogies.
XCVI “palace” = bayit. Probably from banah (to build, make, set up, obtain children; to build literally or figuratively). This is house, court, family, palace, temple.
XCVII “you” = nephesh. Related to naphash (to refresh or be refreshed). This is soul, self, person, emotion. It is a breathing creature. Can also refer to appetites and desires.
XCVIII “escape” = malat. This is to be smooth, which implies to escape as slipping away from. It can also be release, rescue, deliver, or preserve. It can be used specifically to meaning giving birth or making sparks.

14 For if you keep silentXCIX at this time,C reliefCI and deliveranceCII will riseCIII for the Jews

Notes on verse 14a

XCIX “keep silent” = charash + charash. This is to scratch, which implies etching or plowing. It can mean to manufacture regardless of materials used. Figuratively, it can be to devise or conceal. It can also have a sense of secrecy. Hence, being silent or left alone. It can also be speechless. The word is repeated twice – the first time as an Infinitive Absolute. The Infinitive Absolute serves to emphasize the sentiment of the word. It is rather like Foghorn Leghorn’s speech pattern, “I said, I said.”
C “time” = eth. Probably from anah (to answer, sing, announce); from ad (forever, all, old); from adah (to pass on, advance, decorate oneself). This is a period or season. It can also mean whenever or continually.
CI “relief” = revach. 2x in OT. From ravach (to be large, spacious, to refresh, breathe free). This is a space or room. It could be an enlargement, interval, or a respite.
CII “deliverance” = hatstsalah. 1x in OT. From natsal (to snatch someone or something away in a good sense – as rescue, defend, or deliver – or in a bad sense – as strip or plunder). This is deliverance or rescue.
CIII “rise” = amad. Same as “appointed” in v5. See note XLVIII above.

from anotherCIV place,CV but you and your father’sCVI familyCVII will perish.CVIII Who knows? Perhaps you have comeCIX to royal dignityCX for just such a time as this.” 

Notes on verse 14b

CIV “another” = acher. From achar (to be behind, delay, be late, procrastinate, continue). This is following, next, strange, other.
CV “place” = maqom. Same as “wherever” in v3. See note XXIV above.
CVI “father’s” = ab. This is father, chief, or ancestor. It is father in a literal or figurative sense.
CVII “family” = bayit. Same as “palace” in v13. See note XCVI above.
CVIII “perish” = abad. Same as “destruction” in v7. See note LIX above.
CIX “come” = naga. Same as “came” in v3. See note XXVII above.
CX “royal dignity” = malkut. Related to “king’s” in v2 & “queen” in v4. From the same as melek (see note XVIII above). This is royalty, kingdom, realm, empire – the power the sovereign has.

15 Then Esther said in reply to Mordecai, 16 “Go,CXI gatherCXII all the Jews to be foundCXIII in Susa, and hold a fastCXIV on my behalf, and neither eatCXV nor drinkCXVI

Notes on verses 15-16a

CXI “go” = halak. This is go, come, walk. It is walk literally and figuratively and includes people and animals. It can be used figuratively for one’s moral life – how we walk according to God’s way or against it. It can also refer to the walk of life as in the course one’s life takes, the choices we make, etc.
CXII “gather” = kanas. 11x in OT. This is to gather, assemble, enfold.
CXIII “found” = matsa. This is to find, catch or acquire. It can also mean to come forth or appear. Figuratively, this can mean to meet or be together with.
CXIV “hold a fast” = tsum. Related to “fasting” in v3. See note XXXI above.
CXV “eat” = akal. This is to eat, devour, burn up, or otherwise consume. It can be eating in a literal or figurative sense.
CXVI “drink” = shathah. This is to drink literally or figuratively. It could also be a drinker.

for threeCXVII days, nightCXVIII or day. I and my maids will also fast as you do.CXIX After thatCXX I will goCXXI to the king, though it is against the law, and if I perish, I perish.” 17 Mordecai then went awayCXXII and did everythingCXXIII as Esther had ordered him.

Notes on verses 16b-17

CXVII “three” = shalosh. Related to “thirty” in v11. See note XCII above.
CXVIII “night” = layil. Properly, this refers to light twisting away. It is used for night or midnight. Figuratively, this can mean adversity.
CXIX “as…do” = ken. Perhaps from kun (properly, in a perpendicular position; literally, to establish, fix, fasten, prepare; figuratively, it is certainty, to be firm, faithfulness, render sure or prosperous). This is to set upright. Generally used figuratively to mean thus, so, afterwards, rightly so.
CXX “after that” = ken. Same as “as…do” in v16. See note CXIX above.
CXXI “go” = bo. Same as “went up” in v2. See note XVI above.
CXXII “went away” = abar. This is to pass over or cross over. It is used for transitions, whether literal or figurative. It can also mean to escape, alienate, or fail. This is the root verb from which “Hebrew” is drawn.
CXXIII “everything” = kol. Same as “all” in v1. See note III above.

Image credit: “Esther & Ahasuerus” by Giovan Andrea Biffi, 1629. Photo by Dimitris Kamaras, 2016.

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