A New Approach to Esther 4:14 Part I: “Who Else?”

David Nekrutman

April 1, 2024

The faithful remnant of Christians who actively support the State of Israel and the Jewish people, often find their scriptural authority for doing so from the Hebrew Bible. Passages such as Genesis 12:3, Esther 4:14, Ruth 1:16-17, Isaiah 62:6-7, Ezekiel 22:30, Zechariah 2:8 and Psalms 122:6 are commonly used to ground that support. As a relational bridge-builder between Jews and Christians for over twenty years, I know our bond is based in more than just a response to crisis. To “be a blessing,” for the “apple of His eye,” to serve “for such a time as this,” to be “standing in the gap,” as a “watchman on the wall” – these are not bumper sticker slogans. These pieces of scripture are profound and complex biblical mandates which demand careful attention.

The Foundations series offers a Hebraic deep dive into these verses, equipping us to truly understand the divine phenomenon of Christian intercessors standing with Israel and the great contemporary miracle of rapprochement between Christianity and Judaism. Our covenantal partnership reflects and honors God’s dwelling among us here on earth. Last week, we celebrated the holiday of Purim, which marks the events of the Book of Esther, so I thought we might begin our new series of Foundations by exploring Esther 4:14.

It wasn’t a given that the Book of Esther would be included in the Christian Bible. The book was absent from Melito’s canonical list, and Athanasius only recommended Esther for reading the catechumens. It was finally at the Council of Carthage that Esther was given a secure place in Christian Scripture. Despite Martin Luther’s hostile view toward Esther as too Jewish, the book remained firmly established in the canon of the Reformation. 

The Book of Esther presented a problem for Christian interpreters throughout history, due to the absence of God in the Hebrew text and the story’s elements of sensuality and cruelty. In fact, over the first seven centuries of Christian history, the Church did not produce a single commentary on Esther. Furthermore, John Calvin never preached from Esther nor did he include the book among his commentaries. Nevertheless, Esther 4:14 is one of the most oft-quoted scriptural excerpts for Christians seeking to explain their support for Israel and the Jewish people. Let us begin to unpack this verse, using a Hebraic lens. It is often translated like this:

For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (NKJV)


Many Jewish and Christian translators of Esther 4:14 assume that if Esther did not arise to save her people, they would still be rescued by some other agent. Moreover, if she failed to act, it would result in Esther and her household becoming lost to sacred history. The challenges to this reading of Esther 4:14 are:


  1.        Who else will be rescuing the Jewish people from attempted genocide?
  2.        Did Mordecai really think a guilt trip would move Esther to action?
  3.        Why would Mordecai, the adopted father of Esther, suffer from Esther’s inaction to save her people?

It is not my wish to discredit the traditional translation of Esther 4:14. However, I do believe there is a way to translate the verse without creating a complex pyramid of commentary to answer the above challenges. It all comes down to punctuation, and whether one imagines an exclamation point or a question mark midpoint in Esther 4:14.


Esther 4:14 (Part 1)

Traditional Translation

An Alternative Hebraic Translation

For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish!

For if you remain completely silent at this time, will relief and deliverance arise for the Jews from another place? Then you and the house of your father will be destroyed.


The presentation of the Hebrew Bible in scroll format does not contain chapters, verses, vowels, or punctuation marks. Scripture is written in units of text separated by space. Also, we ought to remember that the communication exchanged between Mordecai and Esther takes place via Hatach the messenger and not in a private room (Esther 4:5-6). Therefore, it is possible that the original Esther 4:14 communication began with a question, rather than a statement.

Photo credit: (Esther 1:1-20)

Hebrew is read from right to left

By changing our assumptions about punctuation, the verse could be understood not as Mordecai expecting some mysterious deliverer to rescue the Jewish people nor as his using a threat of divine retribution to motivate Esther. Rather, Mordecai is calling on Esther’s fidelity to her people: he is letting Esther know that she is the only person who can save the Jewish people. There are no other options!

Anticipating a possible query from Esther about when her advocacy on behalf of the Jewish people must begin, Mordecai is explicitly clear that the time is now: “And who knows if next year, at this time, you will attain royalty?” Finally comprehending the severity of the situation, Esther takes up her role and transforms from a passive character to an active one. 


Esther 4:14 (Part 2)

Traditional Translation

Second Traditional Translation

An Alternative Hebraic Translation

Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”

And who knows if it is not for a time like this that you have become queen?”

And who knows if next year, at this time, you will attain royalty?


I realize that this alternative translation for Esther 4:14 erases one of the most famous Christian slogans from the Bible, “for a time such as this.” Next week, we will explore this translation in greater depth.

Have a Question? Leave a message below