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Wednesday, October 1 2014
Esther 4: Mordecai's Sackcloth and Ashes
"When Mordecai perceived all that was done, Mordecai rent his clothes, and put on sackcloth with ashes, and went out into the midst of the city, and cried with a loud and a bitter cry"
In ancient times, sackcloth was often made of coarse, woven goat's hair. As the name indicates, it was used for sacks, but was also customarily worn by mourners, particularly black sackcloth (the ancient custom is still evident from mourners who wear black arm bands at funerals) or as a sign of deep repentance and humility. Ashes were often included as a further symbol of personal abhorrence and chagrin i.e. humility (see the Fact Finder question below).
When Mordecai discovered that his personal defiance toward evil Haman had escalated into an imminent genocide of the people of Judah (see Haman's Chess Board Plot), "Mordecai rent his clothes, and put on sackcloth with ashes, and went out into the midst of the city, and cried with a loud and a bitter cry." Mordecai was soon joined by Jews "in every province, whithersoever the king's commandment and his decree came, there was great mourning among the Jews, and fasting, and weeping, and wailing; and many lay in sackcloth and ashes."
"4:1 When Mordecai perceived all that was done, Mordecai rent his clothes, and put on sackcloth with ashes, and went out into the midst of the city, and cried with a loud and a bitter cry;
Esther had by then been firmly established as the Queen of Persia (see How Did Vashti's Refusal Change Bible History? and How Hadassah Of Benjamin Became The Queen Of Persia). When she heard of her cousin (and adopted father i.e. Esther 2:7) Mordecai's distress, she too became filled with sorrow, for "then was the queen exceedingly grieved; and she sent raiment to clothe Mordecai, and to take away his sackcloth from him: but he received it not."
"4:4 So Esther's maids and her chamberlains came and told it her.
Mordecai then delivered the explanation to Esther in the palace at Shushan (the same royal capital from which Nehemiah had been given to lead a return of the people of Judah to Jerusalem; see Nehemiah's Prayer From Shushan).
"4:6 So Hatach went forth to Mordecai unto the street of the city, which was before the king's gate.
Esther was a patriotic Queen of Persia, but she was also patriotic to her own origin (see Jews - Three Tribes and Three Meanings). Haman seemed oblivious that the Queen was herself a Jew - but he was soon to know it well.
"4:12 And they told to Mordecai Esther's words.
This Day In History, October 1
331 BC: Greek / Macedonian forces under Alexander the Great defeated Persian forces under Darius III at the Battle of Arbela (also known as the Battle of Gaugamela) in Assyria. Alexander's decisive victory led to the fall of the Persian Empire and the rise of the Greek Empire. The Persian and Greek empires, as well as Alexander and Darius, are all recorded and prophesied in the Bible (see The Prophet Daniel: The Ram and The He Goat, The Prophet Daniel: Nebuchadnezzar's Image, Israel In History and Prophecy: Babylon and Persia and A History Of Jerusalem: Greeks, Ptolemies, Seleucids).
959: Edgar the Peaceable became king of all England.
1189: Gerard de Ridefort, grandmaster of the Knights Templar since 1184, was killed in the Siege of Acre (see also Constantine's Crusades In History And Prophecy).
1273: Rudolf of Hapsburg was elected emperor in Germany, which became officially known as "the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation" (see The Holy Roman Empire Of The German Nation).
1553: The coronation of Queen Mary I of England.
1787: Russian forces under Alexander Suvorov defeated the Turks at Kinburn.
1795: The southern provinces of the Netherlands (known today as Belgium) became part of the French Republic.
1800: Under the Treaty of San Idelfonso, Spain ceded Louisiana to France - which later sold the territory (known to history as the Louisiana Purchase) in 1803 to the U.S. for $15 million.
1814: The Congress of Vienna opened. Its purpose was to redraw Europe's political map after the defeat of Napoleon Bonaparte the previous spring (see also The Holy Roman Empire Of The German Nation).
1818: The Congress of Aix-la-Chapelle began. It lasted until November 15. It was the first of four congresses held by Britain, Austria, Prussia, Russia and France to discuss and take common action on European problems following the Napoleonic Wars (1800-1815).
1853: The Toronto Globe became a daily paper.
1908: Henry Ford's "Model T" Ford went on sale for the first time, with a price of $825.
1914: During the First World War, Turkey (i.e. the Ottoman Empire) closed the Dardenelles to the Allies (listen to our Sermon The Ottoman Empire).
1936: General Francisco Franco was named head of the Nationalist government in Spain.
1938: German troops crossed into the Sudetenland following an agreement between Britain, France, Germany and Italy to avoid war over Czechoslovakia. The policy of appeasing Adolf Hitler's territorial demands ended the next year when Germany invaded Poland, thereby beginning the Second World War (see also Presidential Quotes On War, Terrorism, Religion).
1939: British Prime Minister Winston Churchill made his famous remark describing Soviet foreign policy as "a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma."
1945: David Ben Gurion sent a coded message to Moshe Sneh, the Haganah commander, to begin terrorist operations against British forces in "Palestine" (see Where Is Palestine?) - despite the fact that the British were lawfully there, under a UN mandate, to enable the people of Judah to become free and independent of the Muslim Ottoman Empire that had ruled the land of Israel for centuries (see Israel In History and Prophecy: Balfour Declaration; also Israel In History and Prophecy: Israel Of Judah).
1946: The first trial of Nazi leaders at Nuremberg ended, which coincided with The Day of Atonement that year on the Roman calendar (it's always the tenth day of the seventh month on the Biblical calendar). Twelve Nazi war criminals were sentenced to be hanged: Karl Donitz, Hermann Goring, Alfred Jodl, Hans Frank, Wilhelm Frick, Ernst Kaltenbrunner, Wilhelm Keitel, Joachin von Ribbentrop, Fritz Saukel, Arthur Seyss-Inquart, Julius Streicher, and Alfred Rosenberg.
1949: The communist Peoples Republic of China was formed with Mao Zedong as leader.
1961: The U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) was formed, becoming the country's first centralized military espionage organization.
1969: The British-French Concorde airliner broke the sound barrier for its first time in a test flight over France.
1974: The Watergate cover-up trial of the Nixon regime opened in Washington.
1979: The Panama Canal Zone was officially handed over to Panama after 70 years under U.S. control (despite the show of sovereignty, "independent" Panama remains a U.S. military colony).
1990: A small asteroid the size of a two-car garage and weighing about 100 tons entered the atmosphere over the Pacific Ocean about 1,900 miles (3,000 kilometers) off the coast of British Columbia, Canada. At an estimated speed of 40,000 miles per hour (65,000 kilometers per hour) it almost instantly broke apart and exploded about 20 miles (32 kilometers) above the ocean. The blast had a force about equal to the Hiroshima atomic bomb and for a moment must have looked like a second sun in the sky. No one on earth saw it coming, or saw it explode. The only record of the event came from a military satellite that watches for unannounced rocket launches and explosions. That satellite, and others like it, have recorded an average of 9 atmospheric bursts per month since 1975, all from the entry of small asteroids.
1995: A U.S. jury found Egyptian cleric Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman and 9 others guilty of plotting to blow up the World Trade Center, bomb the UN building, kill Egypt's president, and destroy vital highway tunnels in New York.