sackcloth and ashes

extreme repentance or grief
After lying to the people, the mayor’s only hope for staying in office is to come out in sackcloth and ashes and give a full, heartfelt apology.

In biblical times, a person outwardly showed his sadness or shame by wearing clothing made from sackcloth—the rough material used for making sacks—and by pouring ashes on himself. One example of this comes in the book of Esther, which tells about some Jews living in Persia.

The king of Persia selected the Jewish Esther to be his queen, though he did not know she was a Jew. When Esther’s cousin, Mordecai, refused to kneel down before Haman, a high official in the government, Haman became angry. In order to get rid of Mordecai, Haman convinced the king to sign a decree calling on the people of Persia to kill the Jews on a certain day.

Now when Mordecai became aware of all that had been done, he tore his garments and put on sackcloth and ashes. He went out into the city, crying out in a loud and bitter voice. But he went no further than the king’s gate, for no one was permitted to enter the king’s gate clothed in sackcloth. Throughout each and every province where the king’s edict and law were announced there was considerable mourning among the Jews, along with fasting, weeping, and sorrow. Sackcloth and ashes were characteristic of many. (Esther 4:1-3)

In the end, Esther appealed to the king, who decided to honor Mordecai and execute Haman. Then he sent out a new decree that allowed the Jews to defend themselves against those who wanted to kill them. Thus, with the help of the king’s officials, the Jews fought their enemies and defeated them.

Comments are closed.
  • All scripture quotations, unless otherwise noted, are from the NET Bible® copyright ©1996-2017 by Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C. http://bible.org. Used with permission. All rights reserved.

    Scripture in brackets is from the King James Bible.

  • Creative Commons License
    This work is licensed by Craig Thompson under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

    Any reproduction of this content using passages from the NET Bible must follow NET Bible's copyright policy for use of those passages.

    For information on creating translations of Putting Words in Our Mouths, please go here.

  • Visit My Blog: Clearing Customs

    God’s Speed: Slowing Down, Listening, and Learning

    Matt Canlis, an Anglican pastor, has some good friends who appear with him in the video Godspeed. Some are rather famous: Eugene Peterson and N. T. Wright (whom he calls “Tom”). Others are not so well known, at least not outside Aberdeenshire, Scotland: Alan Torrance (with whom he started a “wee kinda group of men” […]

    The Origins of “Culture Shock,” Part 2

    In Part 1 of my discussion of culture shock, I examined the genesis of the phrase. In this follow-up post, I’d like to take a look at what seems to be Kalervo Oberg’s extreme dependence on Cora Du Bois for his views on adapting to a new culture. A copy of Oberg’s “Culture Shock,” spoken […]