Advent Series - December 22
In the year 539 B.C. King Cyrus the Great and his Persian armies took over Babylon. The Jews had been captive in Babylon for 58 years since the Chaldeans forced them to go there in 597 B.C.
The Jews had a prophecy;
“I am the Lord, that make all things…that raise up the word of My servant, and perform the counsel of My messengers, who say to Jerusalem: Thou shalt be inhabited: and to the cities of Juda: You shall be built, and I will raise up the wastes thereof…Who say to Cyrus: Thou art My shepherd, and thou shalt perform all My pleasure. Who say to Jerusalem: Thou shalt be built: and to the temple: thy foundations shall be laid.” (Isaias 44:24-28)
Thus read the prophecy which was written by the prophet Isaias, more than 70 years before the Jews were taken captive to Babylon, and more than 110 years before Cyrus was born!
The Jews took this prophecy to King Cyrus and;
“the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus, king of the Persians: and he made a proclamation…saying, “The Lord the God of heaven…hath charged me to build Him a house in Jerusalem…Who is there among you of all His people? ..Let him go up to Jerusalem…and build the house of the Lord…Then rose up the chief of the fathers of Juda and Benjamin..and everyone whose spirit God had raised up, to build the temple of the Lord…And king Cyrus brought forth the vessels of the temple of the Lord, which Nebuchodonosor had taken from Jerusalem.” (Esdras Chapter 1)
So the next year, in 538 B.C. King Cyrus allowed 42 000 Jews to return to their homeland, which was now called Judea.
Over time, King Cyrus died and Artexerxes ruled Persia.
Esdras led the Jews in the rebuilding of the Temple.
13 years later, Nehemias came to help Esdras. Nehemias was the cup bearer of King Artexerxes. This was a position of honor, but he left everything when he heard that his people were in need. (you can read more about this time in the book, “Victory on the Walls” by Bethlehem Press)
In 445 B.C. Under the leadership of Nehemias, the walls of Jerusalem were rebuilt. Remember the prophecy of Daniel....The angel Gabriel revealed the time of the coming of the Saviour; which would be 69 weeks of years (69 X 7 = 483 years) from the rebuilding of Jerusalem (Dan 9:25)
Well, just as Daniel foretold, 69 weeks of years or 483 years later from the time the walls were completed, Our Lord began His public ministry!
Today we're going to tell a story which happened during this time.
While Jerusalem was being rebuilt, there were still many Jews living in Persia. Among them was a certain man named Mardochai. Mardochai was one of the original Jews taken captive by the Chaldeans and forced to move to Babylon.
Mardochai had a niece named Esther, whom he took care of after the death of her parents.
The king at that time (probably Artaxerxes, who was also called Ahasuerus) was looking for a wife, and all the most beautiful girls were brought to the palace.
Among them was Esther, and since she was the most beautiful of all the girls, the king chose Esther for his wife.
After Esther became queen, her uncle, Mardochai overheard 2 men who were planning to kill the king.
Mardochai told the plan to Esther, who warned the king and thus saved his life.
Now every good story has a bad guy. The bad guy in this true story was Aman. Aman was the king’s right hand man and had a lot of power.
Aman was very proud of his position. He wanted everyone to bow down before him as if he was a god. This was something the Jews could not do, so when Aman got to Mordechai, Mordechai would not bow down and worship him.
This made Aman very angry. When he heard that Mardochai was a Jew he decided to get rid of all the Jews.
Aman told lies about the Jews to the king, and the king gave Aman permission to have all the Jews killed.
An order went all over the land that every Jew should be killed on the thirteenth day of the twelfth month.
There was great wailing and weeping among the Jews, and Mardochai sent word to Esther that she should plead to the king to save her people.
Esther was afraid to go to the king, for anyone who came to the king without being invited could be killed.
Esther asked her uncle, Mordochai to gather all the Jews to pray for her. After 3 days of prayer and fasting, she gathered courage and went to see the king.
The king was pleased when he saw Esther standing before him. Much to her relief, he held out the golden scepter, sparing her life and asked her what she wished. Esther replied, inviting the king and Aman to a banquet that evening in her rooms.
After they had eaten and drank, the king asked Esther to make her request. Instead, Esther invited both men to come again for another banquet the next day.
Aman was full of pride that he would dine again with the king and queen. After leaving the banquet, Aman strutted by Mardochai sitting at the gate of the palace. Again Mardochai would not honor Aman, and this made Aman so angry that he ordered a gibbet to be prepared from which he could hang Mardochai the next day. Just one thing was needed ...Aman needed to ask permission from the king to kill Mardochai.
While all this was going on, the king was trying to sleep, but he could not, so he asked that the history of recent events be read to him.
And when it was read how Mardochai had overheard the plan of the traitors and saved the king’s life, the king asked if any reward had been given for this act.
When king heard that no reward had been given, he called for Aman, who was just then coming to the king to ask if he could hang Mordechai.
(Keep reading! This part is really good!)
Before Aman could speak, the king asked him, “What ought to be done to the man whom the king is desirous to honor?”
But Aman thinking in his heart, and supposing that the king would honor no other but himself answered:
“the man whom the king desireth to honour ought to be clothed with the king’s apparel, and to be set upon the horse that the king rideth upon, and to have the royal crown upon his head. And let the first of the king’s princes and nobles hold his horse, and going through the street of the city proclaim before him and say, “Thus shall he be honoured, whom the king hath a mind to honour.” (Esther 6:6-9)
And the king said to him:
"Make haste and take the robe and the horse, and do as thou hast spoken to Mardochai the Jew (!), who sitteth before the gates of the palace. Beware thou pass over any of those things which thou hast spoken.” (Esther 6)
Can you imagine Aman’s face?!?!
So Aman had to do all that the king commanded, leading Mardochai on the king’s horse and proclaiming, “This honour is he worthy of, whom the king hath a mind to honour.” (oh, this would make a good play!)
Afterwards, the Bible says that Mardochai went back to the palace gate,
“and Aman made haste to go to his house, mourning and having his head covered.” (Esther 6:12)
The day was not over for Aman, however. He still had to go to the queen’s banquet. This time, Esther put her request before the king, asking him to spare her life and the life of her people.
Neither Aman nor the king knew that Esther was Jewish. When the king asked her who was planning her death, Esther said;
“It is this Aman that is our adversary and most wicked enemy.” (Esther 7:6)
You can imagine the king’s response to this! In the end, Aman was hanged on the same gibbet, which he had prepared for Mardochai. Mardochai was given Aman’s position of authority and all the Jews were saved.
(I love this story!)
Today’s O Antiphon is, “O Rex Gentium”
“O King of Gentiles and their desire, Thou cornerstone that makest both one: come and deliver man whom Thou didst form out of the dust of the earth.”