The Suggestion for the Hour
Esther 4:14
For if you altogether hold your peace at this time, then shall there enlargement and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place…

And knoweth whether the art come to the kingdom for such a time as this? The history is very easily understood as carried forward in the preceding thirteen verses of this chapter. The faith of Mordecai does not always seem at its best, and his apparent suspicion of Esther (ver. 14) seems scarcely in close accord with the thought that deliverance will arise to the Jews" from some quarter. Probably he felt that it was his to use all the means, to let nothing go by default, and to tax himself with an hundredfold earnestness of effort, since by his conduct it was that the present calamity had found its occasion. And, on the other hand, one cannot but notice and admire how his mind evidently searched all round for the providence of the God of himself and his people. This it is which transpires in this passage, "And who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?" We may forget awhile the relation which existed between Mordecai and Esther; for it is neither teacher nor taught that need monopolise attention, though in this case they naturally attract it. But let us notice -


1. It was one that could not have been calculated for or provided against. It was unforeseen, and it would have been unreasonable to exact that it should have been foreseen. As matter of fact, Mordecai's stored memory might possibly have been able to produce historical instances of atrocities in their outside like the present. But, even then, not as the result of the offence of one unimportant individual offered to one courtier. The hand of Mordecai had indeed touched a spring which set going unexpected machinery of fearful kind to unexpectedly threatening effect. But the touching of that spring was not an idle act. It was not an accidental or an inquisitive act. It was better even than an innocent act. For it was right and brave, and full of moral courage. Of the many times we find ourselves involved in perplexity, in unexpected danger, how often can we say as much as this?

2. It was one involving the tenderest considerations. Apprehensions were indefinitely intensified by the interests of incalculable moment which were known to be concerned. Hearts inexpressibly dear, lives innumerable, and invested now more than ever with an awful and mysterious sacredness, were in question. These were the very things to unedge discernment and to unnerve purpose.

3. It was an occasion, the whole weight of which showed now as if gathering into one bulk, and moving over the head and anxious heart of one woman. It is apparent throughout, even when Mordecai seems to urge Esther, and not to pity, that her one. her only unresting desire was to know the rightest, best course to take. She was already a gilded victim, a captive bird that had ever most of all loved freedom, a prisoner in fetters, not less fetters because each link was of wrought gold. How could she tune her harp, and sweep its strings, and sing her song in that strange place? Yet he who loved her dearest and most prised all that she was, helpless to resist the rapacity of those who rifled his honest threshold, kept as near as possible to that prison of a palace, that it was, which held her (Esther 2:11). He found in his heart the undying seed of some faith, and some inexplicable hope, that there was possibly a reason in it all, and a use for it all, and that "somehow good would be the final goal of ill" so hard to bear. In all the inimitable brevity of Scripture, what a tale of love and loss, and of the hanging on to uncertain hope, escapee from within these fewest words! And was it she, the object of this tender solicitude, who was competent to bear the overhanging load of responsibility, and the brunt of blame, in case of failure? Stouter hearts and of sterner stuff than all with which we can credit Esther would collapse before the prospect.

4. It was an occasion distracted by aggravating contradictions. If all is to depend on Esther, as she is now urged to believe, there was every motive for action, but overwhelming reasons for inaction. Love, apparent duty, urgent expostulation, the pressure of beloved command, the impetus of long habits of obedience, all pointed one way, and said one thing. But it was not the merely slothful man's lion in the way that bid her beware of that way, and think of another. No; it was reason, by the dictates of which men not only rightly act, but also rightly abstain from acting. It was calmness of judgment, the more to be admired because the circumstances were enough to unbalance almost any judgment. It was matter of knowledge with Esther, and of universal consent in addition, that the peril was what none but the madman, or the desperate, or the extremity of despair itself would dare to face. Can this be defended then as just ground for moral action, when there are ten thousand chances against you, and what you endanger is your all? There can be no doubt as to the right answer to this, except for the occasion, the emergency of which lies in the fact that some advance must be made. Those passages of life, far from unknown to us, which are of this kind still present the most trying problems of our whole history.


1. It was one that seemed hard, that inclined to the unfeeling. This is exactly what a teacher's position must not unfrequently seem, seem without being so. Even to those who overhear, his tones sound sharp and quick, just as those of Mordecai do now to us. We must do justice to Mordecai. We may justly suppose that he knew the circumstances precisely, the mental character of Esther precisely, the precise point of the dangerous way where she would need a moment's quick help, the momentary stimulus of the master's sharp summons, lest she should yield. "Even as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty." Mordecai knew that history, and dared not take for granted that his Esther was better, safer, stronger than God's Eve. The luxurious palace of Persia was a poor travesty of the charms of Eden, but it had its seductions. And there was no knowing where the serpent did not lurk.

2. It was one that applied itself to move at once that whole description of hindrance to right action which arises from self-regard. This is a native principle, one of the greatest significance, of essential and unnumbered uses. The vast mass of humanity could never be moved along of any external force whatsoever; but this Divine contrivance, this merciful provision - a spring of energy and action in each and every unit of which the mass is made - throws life into it. The unwieldy loses its unwieldiness, its movements are determined, and its advance is irresistible. Valuable, however, as this principle of self-regard, it easily oversteps a certain border-line. All the indications with regard to Esther look another way. She has self-regard, she is the opposite of selfish. At first the tone of Mordecai seems somewhat out of harmony, however, with this supposition. But, on the other hand, it is quite open to us to believe that he had no individual suspicion of Esther. He distrusted not her, but the extreme peril of the situation for human nature. His well-versed knowledge, by experience and by observation, of the dangerous points where human nature was liable to the most sudden and disastrous break-downs made him tremble for the Esther he loved so well. These two things he knew: first, that there was in sight a certain powerful assault of temptation for Esther; secondly, that one of the grandest achievements of any shepherd of souls is when he cuts off the enemy's approach by the simple method of preventing the object of attack from straying away alone.

3. Last of all, when these negative preparations were made a great step in advance is taken. We will suppose that Mordecai had done some little violence to his own feelings and affections, for he had not been accustomed before to use such peremptory tones or personal arguments to Esther. But it was worth while to take some pains, in order to prepare for the moment that was coming. The moment had come. He plies his last argument. He knows it is his best by far. He watches for its effect, but without much doubt as to what it would be. From the lower arguments of policy, of appeal to feeling, of memory dishonoured, he crosses over to religious appeal. It scarcely amounted to appeal. It was a fruitful hint. Let it fall in the right soil, and fertile as the soil, so fruitful would the seed be. A woman's discernment is notably quick, and her sight intuition, and the eye of Esther opened and met the eye of Heaven falling on her and on all her anxiety. This eye, like that of a portrait, followed her now everywhere. And timid, baffled, almost numb faith felt its own hand again, and reached it forth to that which was offered to it. This was the suggestion that solved the problem, exiled hesitation, and decided that action should get the better of inaction, - "And who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?" - B.

Parallel Verses
KJV: For if thou altogether holdest thy peace at this time, then shall there enlargement and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place; but thou and thy father's house shall be destroyed: and who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?

WEB: For if you remain silent now, then relief and deliverance will come to the Jews from another place, but you and your father's house will perish. Who knows if you haven't come to the kingdom for such a time as this?"

The Principles of Divine Providence
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