Bible Discussion Thread

  • Pam on Esther 1
    When it says that Esther told her servant maids and others to fast, did they also pray? What was the custom of the Persian Jews about fasting and prayer?
  • Chris - in Reply on Esther 1
    Hi Pam. As you know, those Jews that were carried away into Babylon by King Nebuchadnezzar remained there until the Persian army, under Cyrus, conquered Babylon. Cyrus was very lenient with the Jews & he gave them permission to return to their homeland. However, only a few did, and others did so over time, under Persian rule. People, like Mordecai & his cousin Hadassah (Esther), were born in captivity & only knew this Babylonian/Persian culture & the Jewish practises that were brought over by their forefathers. So, under Xerxes (Ahasuerus), the story of Mordecai & Esther is given to us. Having mentioned all that, I would think that the Jews living in Persia, who didn't want to return for various reasons (old age, loss of lifestyle/privileges, etc.), continued to perform many of the Jewish practises, as far as they were remembered. Many things would have been forgotten, abandoned, or even inter-mixed with heathen practises, but Israel still maintained their Jewish ancestry and their position before God & sought to follow His regulations.

    So, when we read of Esther's call to the Jews of Shushan the palace & her handmaidens to fast ( Esther 4:15-17), I would think that both fasting & prayer were intended (if her helpers were Jews of course). The idea of fasting for the Jew at that time, was linked to deep sense of need & dependence and/or an utter helplessness in the face of calamity (present or anticipated). Also times of mourning, repentance, or a deep spiritual need could prompt fasting & prayer. Of King David we read that he prayed & fasted over his sick child ( 2 Samuel 12:16) coupled with weeping (vv 21,22). And Daniel in Daniel 9:1-19, went a similar way before the Lord with prayer, petition, fasting, in sackcloth & ashes, over the coming destruction of Jerusalem.

    Fasting then was a particularly important act of one's seriousness & being cast before the Lord for help. Throughout the fast, this attitude of laying up the matters before God would have occurred.

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