Mordecai in the City Square

Twice in the book of Esther we find Mordecai in the city square. It would be easy to imagine that this was a marketplace in the center of town like is usually seen in Greco-Roman cities a few centuries later. However, enough detail is given in the book of Esther to identify the city square of Susa, and it was not in the center of town. Rather, it was an open plaza in front of the palace, the nearest most people could come to the palace without an official invitation. You can see the location of this plaza on the attached map.

Repeatedly in the book of Esther we are told that Mordecai worked at the King’s Gate. This gate structure, which is very large, was discovered by excavators at Susa in 1970. It is located on the east side of the palace and guarded the main entrance to the palace, which required crossing a bridge over a moat before reaching the gate.

Esther 4 gives two descriptions that indicate this city square or plaza was across the moat from the King’s Gate. In 4:2, Mordecai went “as far as the King’s Gate,” but could not enter it because of his state of mourning. In 4:6, Esther sends her man to take clothes to Mordecai “to the city square in front of the King’s Gate.” Both indicate that the city square was located in front of (to the east of) the King’s Gate, obviously on the other side of the moat. It was here, as close as he could get to the palace, that Mordecai “wailed loudly and bitterly” (Est 4:1).

In an ironic and almost humorous twist, it was also this same city square where Haman was forced to honor Mordecai by parading him around in the king’s robe (Est 6:11). Thus in the very place were Mordecai once mourned, this faithful man of God was given great honor.

The righteous is delivered from trouble, but the wicked takes his place.” -Prov 11:8

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