by Alexander Carson
Comprising the History of Providence as Unfolded in the Book of Esther
The great design of the Book of Esther in the Holy Scriptures is to display the wisdom, providence, and power of God in the preservation of His people and in the destruction of their enemies. We learn from it that the most casual events which take place in the affairs of the world are connected with His plans respecting His people, and that the most trifling things are appointed and directed by Him to effect His purposes.
It decides a question that philosophy has conversed for ages and will never fathom; recording a number of events as the result of man's free agency—yet evidently appointed of God and directed by His providence.
From this book the believer may learn to place unbounded confidence in the care of his God in the utmost danger, and to look to the Lord of omnipotence for deliverance when there is no apparent means of escape. It demonstrates a particular providence, in the minutest things, and affords the most solid answer to all the objections of philosophy about this consoling truth.
The wisdom of this world, with all its acuteness, is not able to perceive how God can intervene on any particular occasion without deranging the order of His general plans. Philosophers account for the prosperity of the wicked, and the afflictions of the righteous, from the operation of general "laws." A villain grows rich by industry, and oppresses the virtuous poor; a rich man loses his all by a storm at sea, or is himself overwhelmed in the ruins of an earthquake. In all this, the philosopher's "god" cannot intervene, for he is tied down by the order of a general providence. He is fettered by his own previously established laws, as effectually as the gods of the heathen were when they swore by the river Styx. [A river in ancient Greek mythology that formed the boundary between Earth and the Underworld—often called Hades.]
The philosopher's "god" must quietly look on amidst all the occasional mischief resulting from his plans, which, though upon the whole the best possible, yet have many unavoidable defects. Storms and earthquakes result from the operations of general laws established at first by the Author of nature; and the Almighty, it is supposed, without unsuitably counteracting the order appointed by Himself, can neither prevent them nor deliver from their dreadful consequences. Famine and war, with all the evils that destroy or afflict men, are accounted for on principles that exclude a particular divine providence. The arrogance of the oppressor cannot be restrained, nor the sufferings of the virtuous prevented, without an unbecoming deviation from the order of nature. Philosophy cannot see how her god could dispose every particular event without a miracle on every occasion of interference. On this supposition, she thinks that he must be continually suspending and counteracting the general laws which he at first established for the government of the world.
How different from this philosophic God is the Lord God of the Bible! Jehovah has indeed established general laws in the government of the world, yet in such a manner that He is the immediate Author of every particular event—that is, He works directly, without any intermediary or middle agent. His power has been sometimes displayed in suspending these laws, but is usually employed in directing them to fulfill His particular purposes. The sun and the rain minister to the nourishment and comfort equally of the righteous and the wicked, not from the necessity of general laws, but from the immediate providence of Him Who, in the government of the world, wills this result. Accordingly, the shining of the sun and the falling of the rain on the fields of the wicked are represented in Scripture, not as the unavoidable effects of general laws, but as the design of supreme goodness. A rifle well aimed will strike a particular object, but divine truth has assured us that a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without the permission of the Ruler of the world.
This book of Esther teaches us that God exerts His particular providence in an inconceivably wise and skillful manner, even by the operation of His general laws and the exercise of the free determinations of men. The very laws that, in the opinion of the philosopher, stand in the way of a particular providence are here exhibited as the agents that He deputes to effect His purposes. The most astonishing interventions that ever were recorded are here effected solely through the operation of general laws and the actions of voluntary agents. The people of God are delivered out of the most imminent danger, and their enemies most marvelously overturned, without a single miracle. The glory of the divine wisdom, power, and providence shines here the more illustriously, because God effects His work without suspending the laws of nature, or constraining the determination of the agents employed in the execution of His work. Had the earth opened and swallowed the enemies of the Jews, the power of Jehovah would have been displayed; but when He saved them by a train of events according to the general laws of nature—each of which separately viewed seems fortuitous, yet when seen in combination must necessarily have been designed to bring about the one great end and result—then the existence of a particular providence is proved, and the nature of it is delightfully illustrated. It is not merely taught in doctrine, but it is exhibited in example.
In the history of the deliverance of the Jews through the exaltation of Esther we have the whole history of the world in miniature. The Book of Esther is the "history of providence." In the inspired account that we have here of an interesting portion of Jewish history, we have an alphabet, through the judicious use of which we may read all the events of every day, age, and nation. This is a divine key that will open all the mysteries of providence. It is God's commentary on all that He has done and all that man has done since the finishing of the works of creation. All is natural and seemingly random; yet, if the whole had been a work of mere fiction for amusement, the events could not have been better adapted to the end. There is all the simplicity of nature, yet all the surprise and interest of romance. The grand object is evolved like the plot of a regular drama; every event recorded contributes its influence in producing the effect. There is nothing lacking; there is nothing superfluous. Had the most trifling incident refused its aid, the whole plan would have been deranged—and the most fatal results would have followed. From the first to the last, all parts are connected and influenced like the machinery of a watch. By a thousand wheels the mainspring guides the index.
1) first, a train of events to raise up deliverance to the Jews, even before they were brought into danger.
2) Next, we have a train of events to bring them to the brink of ruin.
3) Then following, the surprising means of their preservation and the destruction of their enemies.
To one or other of these objects, every circumstance recorded in the history contributes, and the whole forms one of the grandest displays of the wisdom, power, and providence of God that is to be met with in the Scriptures. It is well calculated to represent that noble plan by which the kingdom of Satan is overturned, and God's people are delivered from the power of their great enemy, through the very means intended for their utter extirpation.
Table of Contents
1. Events Used for the Deliverance of the Jews
2. Events Used to Bring the Jews to the Brink of Ruin
3. Events Used for the Deliverance of God's People
4. An Inspired Record