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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Don Smith :: Esther - The Study of Providence

Don Smith :: The Study of Providence - Introduction

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The Study of Providence

God’s Hidden Hand at Work in the Life of Esther
Introductory Comments

What Is Providence?

  1. Theological Doctrines at a Glance
    • Foreordination – The act by which God determined from eternity whatever shall came to pass (either by His causative, directive will or by His will to permit foreseen free acts) It includes possible and actual, determined and free acts.
    • Predestination – Is God’s foreordination in regards to salvation. God being Holy takes the initiative to accomplish and complete salvation with complete freedom and decisive effect. God’s grace seeks, secures, saves, restores and preserves sinners according to His holy pleasure.
    • Creation – The free act of God in creating the world just as He willed.
    • Preservation – The continual preservative power of God towards His creation.
    • Providence – The continual direction and guidance of His creation towards its designated ends.
  2. Theological Definition of Providence prov (before) + videre (to see) = “To provide & protect what was seen before.”
    • “Providence “is the (hidden) hand of God in the glove of history.” —Vernon McGee
    • “Providence is that continuous agency of God by which He makes all events of the physical and moral universe fulfill the original design with which He created it.” —Strong
    • “Providence is God’s sovereign rule over all His creation by which He accomplishes all He was pleased to ordain before the foundation of the world.” —D.R. Smith
    • “Providence is the means by which God’s hidden hand directs all things, both animate and inanimate, seen and unseen, good and evil toward a worthy purpose…which means that His will must finally prevail.” —D.R. Smith
    • “The term confluence refers to the flowing together of two or more currents. It derives from the Latin root that means to flow with. The term confluence can also be rendered from its synonym, concurrence. This word is crucial for our understanding of the doctrine of the providence of God because an aspect of the doctrine of providence is the doctrine of concurrence, or confluence. The doctrine of concurrence refers to historical events in which the work of Providence has been acted out through human agencies. That means at the same time human agents are acting, God is acting in and through them.” —R.C.Sproul
  3. Scriptural Evidence
    • Psalm 77:19-20 – “Your way was in the sea, Your path in the great waters, And Your footsteps were not known. You led Your people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron.”
    • Psalm 103:19 – “The LORD has established his throne in heaven, and his kingdom rules over all.”
    • Psalm 135:6 – “The LORD does whatever pleases him, in the heavens and on the earth in the seas and all their depths.”
    • Isaiah 42:16 – “I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them.”
    • Daniel 4:35 – “All the peoples of the earth are regarded as nothing. He does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. No one can hold back his hand or say to him: “What have you done?”
    • Ephesians 1:11 – “In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will….”
    • Matthew 6:25-34 – “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”
  4. Biblical Examples
    • God provided a lamb for Abraham at the place named “The Lord Will Provide” – Genesis 22: 8,14
    • God provided a wife for Isaac through the miraculous coincidence of events – Genesis 24:27
    • God brought judgment on Ahab through the random shot of an enemies’ arrow – I Kings 22:34
    • God brought Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem through an edict made by Herod to fulfill Micah 5:2
  5. Westminster Confession of Faith (v/1) and R.C. Sproul’s commentary from The Invisible Hand
    • “God the great Creator of all things doth uphold, direct, dispose, and govern all creatures, actions, and things, from the greatest even to the least, by his most wise and holy providence, according to his infallible foreknowledge, and the free and immutable counsel of his own will, to the praise of the glory of his wisdom, power, justice, goodness, and mercy.”
    • “God’s providential upholding of all things is ‘by his most wise and holy providence.’ The word by in this phrase indicates the means by which God sustains what He upholds. Here the means are rooted in His wisdom and holiness. He sustains whatsoever He sustains to a perfect degree precisely because He upholds according to His perfect wisdom. The upholding work of God is also a holy sustaining. In this regard the term ‘holy’ refers both to His transcendent majesty and to His perfect righteousness. There is no flaw of intelligence, wisdom, or righteousness in His work of sustaining. What God keeps, He keeps righteously. His foreknowledge is both infallible and absolute. God knows all future contingencies yet He does not know them ‘contingently’. That is, if we were to ask God about some future possibility, He would never answer us by saying, “that depends.’”
    • “God upholds all things by the free and immutable counsel of His own will. The sustaining providence of God is driven by His will, and His will is absolutely free. It is bound and determined by no creaturely thing. It is not subject to our whims or actions. His will is not only free but immutably so. Nothing can change His freedom or suddenly arise to block it. His counsel remains forever. He does not change His mind because He receives new information or needs to correct an error. He has an eternal plan that contains no defects. There is no ‘Plan B’ for God. His counsel is immutable because He is immutable in all that He is. His omniscience does not change. His omnipotence never weakens. His wisdom never falters. His memory never fails. There are no mutations in the diving being or character. To what end or purpose does God uphold all things? It is to the praise of His glory.”
  6. Key Scripture in Esther: “And who knows but that you have come to this royal position for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14)

How Do All Things Work Together for Good?

  1. In what way is God’s providence good and how does He work to use even bad things for good?
    • Romans 8:28-30 – “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.”
  2. Four distinct categories of “good” and “bad” used in God’s Providence by R.C. Sproul
    • Good Good: “It is goodness conceived in the full biblical sense. It is good that not only perfectly fulfills the outward law of God but proceeds from a perfect internal love for God. It is God at work producing good by His Spirit.”
    • Bad Good: “It is that good that outwardly conforms to the law of God but is motivated by impure motives. It is self-centered rather than God-centered. It is sinful humanity acting apart from faith in God to accomplish things that might be good but the means are bad.”
    • Bad Bad: “It is evil or badness that has no salutary aspect to it. It is unmitigated evil.”
    • Good Bad: “It is the bad we experience redeemed by God’s providence. God brings good out of the evil we experience. Often these ‘blessings’ are extremely well disguised, so well disguised that we can scant see the slightest possible good in them. What we have is a divine promise that these bad things within the providence of God are being used by God for our good. The blessings may indeed be heavily veiled by disguise, but they are blessings nevertheless.”
    • Illustration from Genesis 50:19-21 “Joseph said to them, ‘Do not be afraid, for am I in the place of God? But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive. Now therefore, do not be afraid; I will provide for you and your little ones.’ And he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.”

How Does Esther Fit into Biblical History?

  1. The Book of Esther is another example of God’s providence at work in redemptive history, whereby He fulfills His promise to provide, protect, propagate and preserve His Seed—Christ and His chosen people.
    • God promised to provide providential care for the Seed of the woman – Genesis 3:15
    • God preserved and protected His chosen Seed from Seth through Noah – Genesis 1-11
    • God preserved and protected Abraham’s through Jacob’s Seed – Genesis 12-50
    • God preserved and protected Moses and the Israelites in Egypt and delivered them through the Red Sea – Exodus 15
    • God preserved and protected Israel during captivity through promoting Daniel, Nehemiah, Esther and Mordecai to strategic places of authority.
  2. The Book of Esther is part of what Judaism refers to as the “Megillat,” one of the five books read in their entirety on the Feast of Purim at the temple.
    • “Purim” is the Hebrew word for “lots” taken from Esther 3:6-7, when Haman cast lots to see if it was a good day to ask the king for permission to kill Jews throughout the kingdom.
    • Haman’s toss of dice to determine the day to petition the king was all part of God’s providential timing for Esther.
    • Proverbs 16:33 “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD.”
    • Both the Pentateuch and Esther are deeply revered by Jews as they retell of God’s providential care in delivering Israel from Egypt as well as Babylonian Captivity.
    • Even though Esther is the only O.T. book without any reference to God, it was received as His Word.
    • Esther was reaffirmed in AD 90 at the Council of Jamnia to be a legitimate canonical book.
    • Rabbi Moses ben Maimonides wrote in 1006, “The wise men among the Jews affirm that the book was dictated by the Holy Spirit…and would be read even in the days of the Messiah.”
    • The author of Esther is uncertain, however, some suggest it was written and by Mordecai.

How Is Esther to Be Interpreted Historically and Allegorically?

  1. The Book of Esther is an accurate record divinely inspired by the Holy Spirit to communicate for all history God’s faithfulness to His promise to elect and preserve His chosen Seed by a work of His sovereign grace.
    • It was written during the Persian period of Israelite history, BC 539–BC 336, from the fall of Babylon to the Persians, to the fall of Persia, to Alexander the Great of Macedonia.
    • It specifically records Israel’s deliverance from extermination in BC 473, during the reign of king Ahasuerus, the Persian King often known as Xerxes BC 485–BC 465
    • His rule extended to 127 provinces from Mesopotamia, east to India, west to Israel and south to Ethiopia.
    • Throughout his reign, he had his eye on conquering the empires in the West (Greece) and ultimate world domination.
    • The events recorded in Esther come between Ezra (chapters 6-7) and Nehemiah.
    • It is estimated that less than 600,000 Jews returned from captivity leaving a significant remnant in Persia.
  2. The Book of Esther also has important allegorical (type and shadow) significance.
    • Learning to discover God’s redemptive plan throughout the Scriptures and preparing us to see Christ is something no generation can afford to lose.
    • Christ is concealed in Old Testament types and shadows while the New reveals God veiled in human flesh.
    • Therefore, we need to understand the historicity of biblical events while attempting to understand the flow of biblical history that finds fulfillment in Christ.
    • This becomes extremely relevant and practical even in the church age.
    • 1 Corinthians 10:11 directs us to look for these things, “These things happened to them [Old Testament and New Testament events and stories] as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come.”
    • The lives of Esther, Ruth and Rahab illustrate God’s providential care for His chosen Seed.
    • In each of these stories the “woman” is used to bring about the protection and propagation of Christ’s progeny.
    • The first proto-evangel promise was made in Genesis 3:15 by the Lord, foretelling the serpent’s enmity against the Seed of the woman and God’s deliverance through the woman’s Seed, Christ.
    • Esther illustrates the serpent’s continual enmity in history against the Seed of the woman (Israel) in an attempt to stop the coming of the “Heel-Crusher.”
  3. The types and shadows in Esther:
    • Ahasuerus – (high father) is a type (even poorly) representing God’s sovereign rule, and even though he was anything but godly, he is a type representing God the Father.
    • Whatever he declared was incontrovertible law…the Law of the Medes and Persians.
    • Esther – Her Hebrew name was Hadassah which meant “Myrtle Tree” and her Persian name Esther meant “Star.” She was the daughter of Abihail, who was the uncle of Moredecai (Esther 2:15).
    • She was the woman God had chosen to providentially work through to bring deliverance for God’s persecuted Seed.
    • Her parents were of the Seed of Benjamin (Esther 2:7).
    • Apparently they were killed in Nebuchadnezzar’s second wave of destruction on Jerusalem in 597 B.C.
    • Mordecai, Esther’s older cousin and perhaps closest “kinsman redeemer,” adopted her as his daughter.
    • His role in adopting Esther as his child and being the object of Haman’s enmity is similar to that of Christ adopting and delivering the Church from the serpent’s wrath.
    • Haman definitely fits the typology of the serpent.
    • He is identified in Esther 3:1 as a “son of Hammedatha, the Agagite.”
    • This would make him an Amalekite, a historical enemy of God and His Seed, Israel.
    • If his lineage is traced it looks like this: Abraham, Ishmael, Esau, Amalekite.
    • Ishmael hated Isaac; Esau hated Jacob; the Amalekites and Edomites (from the seed of Ishmael and Esau) hated Israel (Exodus 17:16; Numbers 24:17-19; I Samuel 15:32-33; Malachi 1:4).
    • Herod the Great (an Edomite) was used by the serpent to threaten the destruction of the “woman’s Seed” (Christ), and sought to kill him by killing all baby boys born in Judah under the age of two.
    • Haman definitely fits the role as the serpent and his seed attempting to exterminate the woman and her Seed that would bring forth the Savior of the nations.
    • Haman is repeatedly described in Esther as “the enemy of the Jew” (Esther 3:10; 8:1; 9:10, 24).
  4. Scriptural evidence: The New Testament uses these types and shadows to help explain the life and death of Christ.
    • In John 8:43-45 Jesus said, “Because you are unable to hear what I say. You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”
    • Paul in Romans 15:3-4 uses similar language to encourage the Church, as it faced the world’s enmity. “For even Christ did not please himself but, as it is written: ‘The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.’ For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” And in Romans 16:20, “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.”
  5. Application to Esther: The historical figures in Esther not only wonderfully illustrate God’s providence but also anticipate God’s faithfulness to fulfill His ancient promise of providing, protecting and propagating His chosen Seed until the “Seed,” Christ, was revealed as the “Seed of the woman.”
    • Ahasueras, though a very imperfect man, represents God, the Father‘s sovereign rule in history to provide and protect the woman and her Seed.
    • Esther represents the bride (Israel/Church) chosen and accepted by the Father to draw near to His throne for fellowship and for making petitions.
    • She and her Seed, like the Church, were the objects of the enemy’s hatred because of their association with Jacob and his Seed, Christ.
    • Mordecai is like Christ in that he adopted Esther even as Christ adopted us.
    • Mordecai like Christ was wise, the object of scorn, the one who would not be tempted to bow to earthly authority, the one who was going to be publicly hanged but instead rode triumphantly through the city after three days.
    • Haman stands in a long line of those representing the serpent’s seed.
    • He sought to exterminate the Jews out of envy and spite.
    • The death he planned for Mordecai, by the providence of God, became the means of his own defeat.
    • The king’s authority given to Mordecai is like God the Father giving Christ all authority.
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CONTENT DISCLAIMER:

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.

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