Go, gather together all the Jews that are present in Shushan, and fast you for me, and neither eat nor drink three days, night or day…
If I perish, I perish. The suggestion of Providence being concerned in the matter was like life from the dead to Esther. The idea of Providence having been now some time working up to this point was an immense comfort and impulse to her mind. It was a flash of light that lit up the whole scene for one moment. And when that one moment was sped, the darkness that returned was not. as before, unrelieved. There was a distinct line of light athwart it. Confidence as to the final issue of all was far from present. Nothing like absolute conviction that in the end all would be well could Esther boast. Suspense in some shape still prolonged its unwelcomed sojourn. But it was no longer the agonised suspense of not knowing what to do, of not knowing whether to move at all. The pent-up heart is bad enough, but solitary confinement must make it much worse. Pent-up hope is a terrible strain, but the strain becomes much worse when it must be tolerated without one active effort, one healthy struggle. This phase of things had now passed by for Esther. She had gone faithfully through it, and was none the worse for having treated it as a thing that needed to be gone through faithfully and unhurriedly. Mordecai was not necessarily in the right when he seemed to wonder at Esther's hesitation. Though we credit him with being a wise man, a good man, and very full of pride in Esther and love to her, Esther very likely felt that he had not put himself quite in her position, and could not do so. But it was because she had gone faithfully through the struggle, and well looked at the question on both sides, and considered its alternative difficulties and perils, that when enough light did come she used it in a moment; and when thought had done its fair amount of work, hesitation fled, and determination succeeded to its place. To wearied human inquiry, to exhausted human resources, to bewildered human wisdom, comes in most welcome the ministry little thought of before, of the Invisible. You are immediately disposed to gift it with omniscience and all power. And the theory of a Providence, anticipating, interposing, overruling, becomes faith. It is embraced with ardour, and soon shows that it possesses the highest stimulus to duty. This never fails to answer obedient to its call, even though when it answers obedient it brings this exclamation to the steps of the altar, "If I perish, I perish!" Let us observe that this is the impassioned exclamation -
I. Of one WHO FELT THE RELIEF OF AT LAST SEEING DUTY. The mind must have groped about in darkness, must have been distressed by doubt, must have known conflict even to anguish, before it would have expressed itself thus, and here is some part of its relief. Esther had come to see it, not "through tears," perhaps, with their more purified light, but through the most painful obscurities and harassing incertitude.
II. Of one WHO SAW DUTY TO FOLLOW IT at its proper cost. The sight of duty is often the signal for shutting the eyes, for turning the back, for filling the mind with diverting occupation, for trying, by one method or another, to forget it. Not so here.
III. Of one whose fixed resolve WAS NOT DUE TO DESPERATION, nor to stoicism; not due to over-wrought feeling, nor to blunted sense and affection and faculty. The fixed determination here betokened was that of one who had "counted the cost," who evidently felt the cost to be that denoted by a very large price, and one which merited consideration first.
IV. Of one WHO HAD SO ESTIMATED THE TASK WHICH SHE WAS TO ATTEMPT THAT SHE BEGGED HELP, begged sympathy - begged that chiefest kind of help, the union of all kindred souls in religious exercises, in religious prostration before the Unseen, in the faith unfeigned which believed it possible and right to strive with all conceivable endeavour to influence and prevail upon the sovereign Disposer of all things.
V. Of one WHOSE ENTERPRISE, IF FATAL, WAS BOUND TO WIN THE CROWN OF THE MARTYR. Whose enterprise, if not fatal, but yet unsuccessful, bore testimony to the will, the courage, the spirit of the martyr. Whose enterprise, if neither fatal nor unsuccessful, but, on the contrary, leading the way to more abundant glory and joy here, yet still had this testimony about it, that it had practically shown the best part of any sacrifice, and through the cross had reached the crown.
VI. Of one WHOSE SPIRIT BREATHED RESIGNATION WHERE IT DID NOT REACH TO THE SUBLIMER HEIGHT OF TRUST. For whatever reason, Esther had not attained to the exercise of a calm trust. She more distrusted the badness of the circumstances than she trusted the goodness of her cause; the badness of the king's whim than the goodness of the purpose which was far above his; the badness of the earthly law than the goodness of that mercy which is "high as the heavens and vast as the clouds." It would seem evident that her knowledge was not clear. One of the people of God, yet, for want of priest and prophet, of sacrifice and of temple-worship, of dream, of oracle, of seer, times went hard with her religious education. The "word of God was precious in those days," and in that land of her captivity; and she the sufferer thereby. The lessons suggested by the language of this supreme scene in the conflict of Esther are numerous, and of a remarkably diversified kind.
1. The figure of human virtue here is impressive in its consent to bow to vicarious suffering, though it were only consent; in its love, and solicitude, and obedience, and in the conduct of its own struggles.
2. The reproach is ever memorable which it conveys to how many - whose knowledge is light itself, yet whose thought and deed fall so far below those of one whose knowledge was manifestly very partial, very clouded.
3. The cry is arresting because of its strong sympathy of tone with the cry of one who feels himself a real sinner against the law of God, and finds himself as yet more "driven" because of the conviction of that sin, and the overshading dread of its liability to punishment, than he finds himself drawn of the mercy of his God, and able to repose deep, calm trust in his Saviour. The soul urged by conviction of sin, oppressed with the sense of its desert of wrath, and tremblingly afraid of death, has often found its way aright to the cross, though to use words carrying the most impossible of significations for any, once arrived there - "If I perish, I perish!"
4. Whatever we may justly admire of the spirit of Esther here displayed, and of the steps by which she rose to it as she contemplated her own possible and, as she thought, likely sacrifice, how glad we are to turn away to the tremendously favourable contrast of him whose vicarious sufferings, whose infinite love, whose eternal sacrifice, was certain, was voluntary, was cheerful amid surpassing anguish, and patient with the patience of the lamb sacrificed. - B.
Parallel VersesKJV: Go, gather together all the Jews that are present in Shushan, and fast ye for me, and neither eat nor drink three days, night or day: I also and my maidens will fast likewise; and so will I go in unto the king, which is not according to the law: and if I perish, I perish.
WEB: "Go, gather together all the Jews who are present in Shushan, and fast for me, and neither eat nor drink three days, night or day. I and my maidens will also fast the same way. Then I will go in to the king, which is against the law; and if I perish, I perish."