Question: "What is the significance of Esther saying, "If I perish, I perish" (Esther 4:16)?"
Answer: God raised Queen Esther to her position in the royal palace for a holy purpose—to save her fellow Jews from annihilation. But the courageous act would require putting her own life in jeopardy. Esther dared to approach King Xerxes (or Ahasuerus) on behalf of her people, knowing that the death penalty awaited anyone who entered his presence uninvited. “If I perish, I perish,” was Esther’s declaration of faith and trust in God. She believed that obedience to the will of the sovereign Lord mattered more than preserving her own life.
The book of Esther is a beautiful story about a young heroine whose brave actions illustrate a living message for believers still today. We pick up the story when Esther has been queen for about five years. Her cousin Mordecai learns of a plot to annihilate all the Jews in the land. The mastermind behind the murderous scheme is Haman, the king’s second-in-command.
Mordecai unites with all the Jews in mourning, fasting, and prayer. At the same time, he sends a plea for help to Esther, asking her “to go to the king to beg for mercy and plead for her people” (Esther 4:8, NLT). Esther responds by messenger, explaining her predicament: “All the king’s officials and even the people in the provinces know that anyone who appears before the king in his inner court without being invited is doomed to die unless the king holds out his gold scepter. And the king has not called for me to come to him for thirty days” (Esther 4:11, NLT).
Mordecai answers, reminding Esther that, as a Jew, her life is in danger if Haman’s plot succeeds. Then Mordecai delivers these famous words: “For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14).
At this revelation, Esther’s fear turns to faith, and she accepts her divine purpose: “Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me,” she tells Mordecai. “Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my attendants will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish” (Esther 4:15–16).
On the third day, “Esther put on her royal robes and stood in the inner court of the palace, in front of the king’s hall. The king was sitting on his royal throne in the hall, facing the entrance” (Esther 5:1). The king receives Esther, and the prayers of God’s people are answered. Esther lives, the evil plot is overthrown, Mordecai is honored, Haman hangs on the gallows, the Jewish people are saved, and the Jews establish the Feast of Purim to commemorate God’s great deliverance forever. With the declaration, “If I perish, I perish,” Esther marks the pivotal moment of her trusting submission to the will of God. Her surrender resonates in these words expressed by the apostle Paul: “I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace” (Acts 20:24).
Later, Paul told the Philippians, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). Yielding to God’s divine purposes allowed Paul to consider everything in this life “a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ” (Philippians 3:8).
Sometimes, we are too concerned with our own safety and security to risk ministering to people in the world who are in desperate physical and spiritual need. Our fears blind us to the influence we could have, and we miss that “for such a time as this” God has placed us in a strategic position to bring salvation to others. Let us take courage and accept God’s challenge. Let us say like Paul, “My life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord” (Acts 20:24, NLT), and like Esther, “If I perish, I perish!”