Undoubtedly many people remember that last year, around this time, they were hearing that God’s Judgment Day was about to come. There were billboards throughout the world announcing it; and if you did any regular travelling in or near a city, you were most likely offered a tract about Judgment Day – possibly many times. The date announced as Judgment Day was May 21, 2011. As you know, May 21 came and went just as any other day. There was nothing spectacular about it, and the world is still going on the same as ever. Does this mean that the effort to warn the world about Judgment Day was all a big mistake? There’s no doubt that there was a misunderstanding about the nature of that day, because there was no great earthquake or any other type of physical sign. However, there is more to this than meets the eye.
You may remember reading or hearing a Bible verse about the Genesis Flood given as proof that Judgment Day would begin on May 21 of 2011. The verse has to do with the fact that last May 21 was the 17th day of the second month in the Hebrew calendar. Jews the world over use that calendar, although it doesn’t follow exactly the same rules as the lunar calendar God instructed ancient Israel to use after they left Egypt (see Exodus 12:1-2). Why is it important that last May 21 was identified with the 17th day of the second month in the modern Hebrew calendar?
When we read about the great Flood of Noah’s day in the book of Genesis, we find that it began on the 17th day of the second month according to the calendar in use at that time (in 4990 BC). God calls our attention to that date, as we learn from Genesis 7:11:
In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, the seventeenth day of the month, the same day were all the fountains of the great deep broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened.
In the Flood, God destroyed all mankind with the exception of Noah and his family. Only eight people out of the whole world survived. Aside from the last day of the world, when God will destroy all the unsaved on earth as well as the earth itself, the Flood is the only other occasion when God brought physical judgment on the whole world.
It’s important to realize that the verses about the Flood weren’t used to determine that last May 21 was a key date in the sequence of dates discovered by Family Radio’s Mr. Harold Camping. Rather, the Flood’s connection to May 21 was discovered only after Mr. Camping had calculated that date.
When we read about the Flood, we are reading about an historical event; but that account can also be understood as a picture or parable of God’s Judgment. We know from the Bible that God uses such pictures to instruct us about past and future events. Therefore, the fact that the flood began on the 17th day of the second month was understood to be an important confirmation for May 21 as the beginning of Judgment Day.
You might not know it, but the book of Esther is also an historical parable about the end of the world. This was known several years before 2011; it was written about and discussed on many occasions by various Bible teachers heard over Family Radio. Collectively, they have spent many hours looking into this book of the Bible during the last few years. We may, therefore, think it’s amazing that we can still learn something new from Esther; but that is apparently what has happened.
Something New from the Book of Esther
If you’ve ever read the book of Esther, you might not have paid much attention to the dates recorded there. Those dates, however, are very important. The new information has everything to do with those dates.
God has shown us that we can understand His word, which is the Bible, only if and when He opens it up to our understanding; so we really shouldn’t be surprised when we learn something new from the Bible – even if it’s something that was right there in front of us all the time, like those dates from the book of Esther.
What has been learned from Esther proves that we have correctly understood a major date in the discovered timeline of events in God’s salvation plan. More proofs may yet be discovered as people continue searching the Bible; but this new confirmation is really special. It is the sort of thing that should make us suspect that God has waited until now to reveal it so that He could encourage His people.
A Wicked Prince, an Evil Plot, and a Courageous Queen
In order to understand what has been learned, some background information about the book of Esther is needed. The time setting for Esther is about two hundred years after the fall of Jerusalem, during the time of the Media-Persian kingdom. Most of the events we read about in this book take place in and around the palace at Shushan.
In the book, we read about a wicked prince named Haman. The king has promoted Haman above all the other princes (Esther 3:1), and now Haman expects all the king’s servants to bow before him (Esther 3:2). However, a man named Mordecai, who is a Jew, refuses to bow before Haman. We read of Haman’s reaction to this in Esther 3:5:
And when Haman saw that Mordecai bowed not, nor did him reverence, then was Haman full of wrath.
Haman decides not only to punish Mordecai, but also to destroy all the Jews throughout the kingdom (Esther 3:6). The date for their destruction is determined by casting a lot (Esther 3:7). Haman then speaks to the king, making the case that the Jews ought not to be permitted to remain in the kingdom (Esther 3:8-9) and should be destroyed. The king agrees to allow Haman to determine what should be done about the Jews (Esther 3:10-11). Haman then has the king’s scribes write a decree for the destruction of the Jews, and has it sent throughout the kingdom (Esther 3:12-15). Notice that this happens on the thirteenth day of the first month.
Mordecai learns about the decree, puts on sackcloth and publicly displays his grief throughout the city, even near the palace (Esther 4:1-2). Esther, who is queen, learns what Mordecai is doing and is grieved exceedingly. In fact, Esther is Mordecai’s younger cousin and was raised by Mordecai (Esther 2:7). Her Jewish ancestry, however, is unknown at the court (Esther 2:20). To Esther, Mordecai must have seemed more like a father than a good cousin.
Esther sends “raiment to clothe Mordecai, and to take away his sackcloth from him” (Esther 4:4). Mordecai doesn’t accept the clothing, and so she sends one of the king’s chamberlains to speak with Mordecai (Esther 4:5). Mordecai tells the chamberlain about the decree and gives him a copy of it, saying that Esther should go to the king and make a supplication for her people (Esther 4:7-8).
The king’s chamberlain tells Queen Esther what Mordecai has said. She then sends another message to Mordecai, telling him that if she goes into the inner court to see the king without being called, she will lose her life unless the king holds out the golden scepter to her (Esther 4:9-11). Her message includes the detail that she has not been called to come in unto the king “these thirty days.”
In Esther 4:13-14, you can read Mordecai’s response to this message. He tells her not to think that she will escape, being in the king’s house; and that, if she doesn’t speak, help will come from another place. He ends his message to her by saying “and who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”
Esther sends her reply to Mordecai, asking him to gather all the Jews present in Shushan and to fast for her for three days. She says “and so will I go in unto the king, which is not according to the law: and if I perish, I perish (Esther 4:16).”
After the time of fasting, Esther goes to see the king and finds favor in his sight (Esther 5:1-3). Her petition to the king is that he and Haman should come to a banquet she has had prepared for that day (Esther 5:4). At the banquet, the king asks Esther what her petition is. Curiously, Esther asks the king to come with Haman the following day to another banquet that she will prepare for them (Esther 5:6-8).
When Haman comes home after the first banquet (Esther 5:10), he tells his friends and his wife how he is being honored by Esther’s invitations (Esther 5:11-12). Nevertheless, he is upset at the sight of Mordecai (Esther 5:13). His friends and his wife advise him to have a great gallows prepared, and to speak to the king the following day so that Mordecai can be hanged on it (Esther 5:14). Haman is pleased by this advice, and has the gallows built.
That night, the king cannot sleep. He orders a certain book of records to be brought and read before him (Esther 6:1). During the reading, the king hears the record of a plot that had been made against him. It had been discovered and reported by Mordecai (Esther 6:2). The king learns that nothing has been done to honor Mordecai for his service (Esther 6:3).
At that same time, Haman has come to the court to speak with the king about having Mordecai hanged on the gallows (Esther 6:4-5). Before Haman has an opportunity, the king – intending to honor Mordecai for his past service – asks Haman what shall be done for a man whom the king takes delight in honoring (Esther 6:6).
Haman advises the king to have the man dressed in the king’s royal apparel, and a crown set on his head, and led through the city on the king’s own horse by one of the king’s most noble princes as it is proclaimed before him “Thus shall it be done to the man whom the king delighteth to honour” (Esther 6:7-9). The king then commands Haman to do all those things to honor Mordecai, the Jew (Esther 6:10).
Haman manages to carry out the king’s command (Esther 6:11); but in Esther 6:12, we read about his state afterwards:
And Mordecai came again to the king’s gate. But Haman hasted to his house mourning, and having his head covered.
Haman tells his wife and his friends what has happened, and while they are yet talking the king’s chamberlains arrive to quickly bring Haman to the banquet Esther had prepared (Esther 6:14).
At the banquet, the king again asks Esther what her petition is. He tells her it will be granted to her, even to half of the kingdom (Esther 7:2). Esther then tells the king that her petition is for her life and the lives of her people (Esther 7:3). She tells the king “For we are sold, I and my people, to be destroyed, to be slain, and to perish” (Esther 7:4).
The king asks Esther “Who is he, and where is he, that durst presume in his heart to do so?” In Esther 7:6, we read Esther’s answer:
And Esther said, The adversary and enemy is this wicked Haman. Then Haman was afraid before the king and the queen.
The king, in anger, gets up and goes out into the palace garden (Esther 7:7). Haman realizes that his life is in jeopardy and goes over to where Esther is reclining, even falling over her to ask for his life. The king returns to see what he believes is Haman assaulting Queen Esther. One of the king’s chamberlains points out to the king the great gallows that Haman had built for Mordecai’s execution, and the king orders Haman to be hanged on it (Esther 7:8-10).
The New Proof
We are now ready to examine the new information by reviewing only a few verses. Recall that the decree ordering the Jews to be destroyed was written by the king’s scribes on the 13th day of the first month (Esther 3:12). The decree would have had a date on it. Regardless of which calendar was used in the kingdom at that time, the date would have been the 13th day of the first month according to the Hebrew calendar of that day (the ancient Hebrew calendar differs from the modern one).
Next, we know that Esther told Mordecai she hadn’t been called to see the king “these thirty days” (Esther 4:11). Esther knew about the decree (Esther 4:8) because Mordecai had given a copy of it to the messenger to be given to her; besides, Esther in all likelihood had heard about the decree even sooner than that because she was queen! It is perfectly reasonable for us to understand her words “these thirty days” to mean that the date was now the same day of the month following the one on which the decree was issued.
The next thing we need to notice is in Esther 4:16. Esther’s message to Mordecai, recorded in that verse, is that he and the other Jews of Shushan should fast for her for three days. This was in the hope that the Lord would preserve her life and bless her effort to save the Jews when she appeared before the king. After three days of fasting that began on the 14th day of the second month, the date would be day 16 in the second month.
It was on that 16th day in the second month that Esther went to speak to the king (Esther 5:1-3). She asks him to come with Haman to a banquet that day. The king agrees to this (Esther 5:5).
At that banquet on the 16th day of the second month, the king asks Esther what her petition is. She asks the king to come to another banquet – again with Haman – on the following day, and she tells the king she will make her request then.
Early the next day, being the 17th day of the second month, the king orders Haman to honor Mordecai for a past service. (Mordecai once learned of a plot against the king (Esther 2:21-23) and revealed it, possibly saving the king’s life.) Ironically, Haman has just gone to the king to ask permission to have Mordecai hanged. Haman never has an opportunity to ask the king about this, because the king orders Haman to take charge of honoring Mordecai.
It is at the second banquet, held later that day and still on the 17th day of the second month, that Esther accuses Haman and the king orders him to be executed. Notice that the king’s chamberlain was able to see the gallows Haman had prepared some distance away, thus indicating that the sun had not yet gone down and that it was still the 17th day.
Based on what we read in Esther 8, we can conclude that Haman was executed that same day: the 17th day of the second month. Here is a summary of dated events leading up to and ending on that day.
Timeline Leading to the 17th Day of the Second Month
The decree to kill the Jews is written (Esther 3:12):
First month, day 13
Esther’s message to Mordecai that she hasn’t seen the king for 30 days since the decree (Esther 4:11); Esther asks Mordecai to fast with the Jews of Shushan for three days (Esther 4:16):
Second month, day 13
Esther goes to see the king (Esther 5:1) and asks him to come to her banquet with Haman that day (Esther 5:4). At the banquet, she asks the king to come to her banquet the next day, again with Haman (Esther 5:8):
Second month, day 16
Mordecai is honored; Haman is executed (Esther 7:10):
Second month, day 17
That’s the 17th day of the second month – the same date we find in Genesis 7:11!
What Does It All Mean?
To fully appreciate this new information, we need to remember that Moses recorded the book of Genesis, with its account of Noah’s flood, long before the book of Esther was recorded. We know from the book of Exodus and from Mr. Harold Camping’s work that the children of Israel left Egypt in 1447 BC. Both books – Genesis and Exodus – are dated from that time.
The final events in the book of Esther, on the other hand, have been dated to 391 BC. Mordecai may have been the man who recorded that book somewhere around that time. Over 1,000 years after telling Moses about the 17th day of the second month (as recorded in Genesis 7:11), God inspired the writer of Esther to record events just as it was done so that we would again find that date in God’s word.
We must realize that the importance is much greater than just finding that date in the book of Esther. When we read about Mordecai being honored on the 17th day of the second month, we are seeing a picture of something important: it’s a fulfillment of a stage in God’s salvation plan. In Esther 6:7-11, we read how the king honored Mordecai. Notice especially the crown in Esther 6:8:
Let the royal apparel be brought which the king useth to wear, and the horse that the king rideth upon, and the crown royal which is set upon his head:
The Hebrew word translated as “crown” in this verse is “kether,” Strong’s number H3804. Besides this verse, it’s only used in two other verses in the whole Bible: in Esther 1:11 and in Esther 2:17.
The first time it appears in the book of Esther, it is the word used for the crown placed on Queen Vashti. In Esther 1, we learn that Vashti was queen before Esther became queen. However, Vashti refused to come when the king summoned her (Esther 1:12); and so the king decided to choose another queen (Esther 2:4).
In Esther 2:17, we read that Esther was made queen and that the king “set the royal crown upon her head.” Here again we see that Hebrew word “kether;” this time it’s used for Esther’s royal crown. The third and final time that word appears, it’s used for the crown set on Mordecai’s head. What might God be showing us in these verses?
When we compare these verses with some others in Esther, we get a glimpse of God’s salvation plan. First, notice that the king made Esther a “great feast” when she was crowned queen (Esther 2:18). Although we don’t read about a feast to celebrate Vashti on the occasion when she became queen, there should have been a great feast for her too. We then read about a conspiracy against the king by two of the king’s chamberlains who were his doorkeepers (Esther 2:21). This conspiracy apparently developed about the time Esther became queen (notice the words “in those days” in Esther 2:21).
After the conspiracy is discovered, we read about Haman’s promotion (Esther 3:1), and then later we see Mordecai in sackcloth and ashes (Esther 4:1) when he discovers the plan to destroy the Jews.
All of these events fit our understanding of God’s salvation plan and give us a glimpse of it. First, we know that God had chosen ancient Israel to be His people. God saved some of them, and for a time they were the external representation of His kingdom. Then, He moved to the next stage of His salvation plan – the Church Age. Notice how Vashti and Esther fit into this picture. Vashti represents ancient Israel and Esther represents the body of believers saved during the Church Age. The Church Age began on Pentecost Day after the resurrection and ended in 1988, based on the same analysis that led to the discovery of last May 21 as a key date.
Soon after Esther wears the crown, we read about the conspiracy by the two doorkeepers. This appears to correspond with the end of the Church Age. We then read about Haman’s promotion. You might remember hearing that God allowed Satan to begin ruling in the local congregations when the Church Age was over.
When Haman’s decree is made known, we read about Mordecai crying in sackcloth and ashes. This appears to be a picture of God’s people in mourning before May 21, when they saw the end of salvation approaching. We know that only a short time later, Haman was humiliated when he was commanded to lead Mordecai through the streets. Mordecai wore the royal apparel and the royal crown that day – the 17th day of the second month.
Just as Vashti appears to represent the body of believers saved out of ancient Israel until God ended that relationship, and Esther to represent those saved during the Church Age, Mordecai – as he is honored and as he wears the crown – appears to be a picture of the last group of believers to be saved.
Elsewhere in the book of Esther, Mordecai appears to be a picture of the Lord Jesus or the Holy Spirit; but when Mordecai wears the same crown that Vashti and Esther wore, he appears to represent those people God saved outside of the local congregations from the time the Church Age ended until Judgment Day began. This certainly agrees with our understanding that May 21 marked the end of salvation.
That date also marked the execution of a man who represents Satan. The Bible shows us that God will judge Satan near the end of time, although Satan won’t be destroyed until the world ends. In Daniel 7:11-12, we read about God’s judgment of Satan:
I beheld then because of the voice of the great words which the horn spake: I beheld even till the beast was slain, and his body destroyed, and given to the burning flame. As concerning the rest of the beasts, they had their dominion taken away: yet their lives were prolonged for a season and time.
The book of Esther confirms that there is a delay between the time God judges Satan and then destroys him, as indicated in the above verses. It does so by telling us that Haman’s ten sons are executed several months after Haman’s execution (Esther 9:1 and 9:10).
Also notice that in Daniel 7:13-14, we find that God’s judgment of Satan happens at the end of the world. This too agrees with our understanding that the book of Esther’s final chapter shows us a picture of God’s judgment against all the unsaved on the last day.
I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.
The story of Esther is well known to Jews today. It culminates with a great victory by the Jews over those who plotted to destroy them. It is this book of the Bible that established the days of Purim (occurring this year around the end of the first week of March), celebrated every year by Jews all over the world. We read about these days in Esther 9:28:
And that these days should be remembered and kept throughout every generation, every family, every province, and every city; and that these days of Purim should not fail from among the Jews, nor the memorial of them perish from their seed.
The book of Esther is probably less well known among Christians than most Old Testament books. Perhaps it’s because God’s name is not mentioned in it. There is no mention of prayer or dependence upon God in the book, and Esther is never quoted or mentioned in the New Testament. However, the book of Esther is the Word of God – just like the other 65 books of the Bible. Therefore, it is worth reading with a prayerful request that God may reveal any other spiritual lessons it may contain.
The new information from the book of Esther should be a big encouragement to anyone who sacrificed or suffered persecution in order to warn the world about Judgment Day coming on May 21. Some of these people are undoubtedly wondering if they made a mistake by being involved in that effort, despite the proofs about May 21 that were known back then. This new information is another wonderful proof that God did indeed guide His people to that date and that He wanted them to warn the world about it.