Esther, an orphan Jewess of a noble family of the tribe of Benjamin, was the first notable woman in the bible, who lived outside of Palestine.
Esther meaning “star” was originally known as Hadassah meaning “myrtle”. Her name was changed when she became queen in Persia. After her parent's death, she was left in care of Mordecai, her cousin, who was a wise and devout man. She was a courageous woman, who stood against the odds to save her people from a strategically planned genocide. Appearing as one of the humblest of figures, she rose to the position of an amazingly powerful queen, who managed to use her powers wisely.
Both Esther and Mordecai were among the Jews that were exiled to Susa, the capital of the Persian Empire, under the ruler ship of King Ahasuerus who reigned from 486 BC to 466BC.
King Ahasuerus Empire consisted of 127 countries, from India to Ethiopia. He was a quirky man, grandiose, but childish. He arranged a feast that lasted 180 days, to which he invited royal princes, his chief ministers, Median and Persian nobilities and the provincial kings and governors of his far flung realm.
His intended purpose was to impress everyone with the wide sway of his power and the wealth and glory of his empire.
After the festival, he gave an elaborate party for the entire staff of Susa, which lasted for an additional 7 days. The guests drank from golden goblets and, the dishes were unending. Wine of the best vintage was in abundance. For each table, the King assigned a wine steward, who poured the wine generously as desired by the guests.
The King’s wife, Queen Vashti also had a banquet for the women of the Palace during the same time. Vashti was a respected woman of nobility and honor, who displayed great courage in refusing to obey an unjust command from her husband. This act of non-compliance provided an opportunity for Esther to later become the next queen in Persia.
On the seventh day of the feast, when the King was more than merry from all the wine he had drunk, he instructed his seven eunuchs to have the Queen appear in his royal presence, arrayed in her crown and royal apparel. He wanted to display to all his dignitaries, his wife’s beauty, for she was a gorgeous woman. However, the Queen refused to make this grand appearance, at which the king lost his temper and flew into a rage.
He asked his counselors what punishment should be meted out to her for refusing to honor his summons. His counselors were all Persian nobles, who were experts in the Persian laws and tradition. In response, one of the counselors whose name was Memucan suggested that since Vashti did not only snub His Majesty but all his dignitaries and even the simple citizens, she should be banished from the throne, so one more respectable could replace her. He included that she should not be left there to model her misconduct to other wives, lest they should remind their husbands, if the Queen could dishonor the King’s request, then they could slight their husbands too, if so desired.
This notion pleased the King and, the decree was passed throughout the province that every man great or small should assert their authority and be masters in their homes.
After a time, the King’s anger subsided and, he started to miss the queen while focusing his mind on her. To distract him, his aides and ministers arranged for a series of young beautiful women to parade before His Royal highness, so another Queen could replace his lost jewel.
In the palace of Susa, there lived Mordecai a captive of King Nebuchadnezzar, who besieged the city of Jerusalem in 539 BC (2 Chronicle 36:10). Mordecai, a wise devout Israelite, who became an official at the palace gate, sponsored his fostered child Esther, to challenge the other beauties of Susa for the rivaled crown and, because of her astonishing beauty, she was chosen as one of the king’s prospects. Among the other chosen beauties, she was committed to the hands of Hegai the Eunuch, for the preparation of the royal induction.
Under the Eunuchs custody, she became his favorite. She was allowed to occupy the best rooms of the harem and was endowed with cosmetics and food, along with seven maids to her attendance.
Being a concerned parent, Mordecai paced the court yard daily, wondering what future lays ahead for his daughter.
The girls spent 12 months being socially groomed and cosmetically rehabilitated. The first 6 months, their skin were regularly anointed with myrrh and the other six, with a variety of perfumes and unguents.
After the cosmetic preparation, on the night of the induction, each girl departed from her harem, being endowed with jewelry and accessories of her choice, as she proceeded to the Kings chamber. After the induction, she would leave the next morning to be lodged permanently in a second harem under the charge of Shaashgaz, who looked after all the royal concubines. She would not be called again, unless the King had really enjoyed her company and asked for her by name.
When Esther time arrived, she displayed a character of purity, by disdaining all the ornaments, except what Hegai the Eunuch forced upon her. She appeared ravishing beyond description, that when she was brought into the kings bed chamber, she found unprecedented favor in his sight. Her surpassing loveliness, above all the others, captured his heart and he immediately set the royal crown upon her head, making her queen of one of the most powerful empires in the world. The king had a magnificent wedding feast, which lasted seven days.
Under the direction of Mordecai, Esther at that time did not reveal her ethnicity to the king. His position at the entrance of the palace became practically permanent. As a result, he overheard two of the king’s Eunuch plotting to assassinate him. Mordecai immediately conveyed the information to Esther, who in turn informed the king. There was an investigation, the plot was exposed and the Eunuchs were executed.
Queen Esther gained favor with the people as she displayed sound judgment, fine self-control and the ability to think firstly of others. It was not long before she learned that Haman, the king’s favorite, hated her people. Haman a descendant of Agag, whom the king promoted to Prime Minister, could be considered a typical Hitler. Being inflated with pride and ambition, he impressed the royal personnel at the palace gates to salute and bow to him, except Mordecai who refused such demand.
This raised some questions among the other personnel and they brought it to Haman’s attention. He was very provoked at the seemingly disrespectful behavior and was consumed with anger. When he learned that Mordecai was a Jew, his fury made him eager not only to destroy him but, to annihilate the entire Jewish race.
Haman with his viciousness, manifested such intense hatred against these God-fearing people, that he made the king signed an edict to have them massacred, as he allegedly declared they were a threat to the kingdom of Persia. Mordecai, being on the alert, heard the news. He rented his clothes in despair, put on sack cloth and ashes, then went out into the street, crying with a loud and bitter voice against this impending and undeserving race massacre. He stood outside the Palace pouring out his anguish.
In every province and town where the decree was passed, there were mourning, fasting, weeping and lamentation among the Jews. This news reached the ears of Esther and she was deeply distressed. She sent clothes to cover Mordecai, but he refused to accept her gesture of comfort. Later she sent Hatach her personal attendant to get the details from Mordecai, and he in turn related to her Haman’s plot.
Mordecai sent Esther a copy of the edict which was hanging on display in Susa, for her to see it for herself. He also requested that she go to the King and plead for her people. Esther being aware of the deadly consequence of approaching the King without being summoned dreaded this request. She knew she must act promptly and wisely but the thought of approaching the king without the golden scepter being extended to her was chilling, so she sent messages to Mordecai reminding him of the danger of embarking on such a venture.
In reply, Mordecai sent this message, “Don’t imagine your life is any safer than the rest of us Jews, just because you are in the Palace. If you keep quiet now, a time will come when the Jews are saved some other way, then you and your relatives will be destroyed. Perhaps this is the very reason that fate has put you in the palace at a time like this” (Esther 4:14).
Esther’s faith was being tested with a life and death venture. Her response to Mordecai was, “Go assemble all the Jews you can find in Susa and fast for me. Eat nothing for three days and three nights and I and my maids will fast with you. Then I shall go to the King, forbidden though it is and if I perish, I perish (Esther 4:16).
She had a decision to make; she could either risk her life by approaching the King uninvited; or risk the lives of her people by remaining silent. She needed inner strength and unparalleled favor from God, so she went into the inner chamber to be reinforced and fortified in Him. That was her only source of strength to aid her in boldly approaching the King. She realized that favor must come from God first, before she could have gotten favor from man. With the words “if I perish, I perish”, she faithfully chose to risk her life for her people.
Esther exhibited real loyalty in her co-operation with her foster father, who was largely responsible for the fact that she was then sitting on the throne of Persia.
God’s providential power was experienced when Esther approached the king, and intercepted Haman’s plot on behalf of her people. When she appeared before him in her most royal apparel, his first tender word towards her was “What wilt thou, Queen Esther? And what is thy request? It shall be even given thee to the half of the kingdom” (Esther 5:3).
In her prudent and fearless approach, though dealing with a powerful and sinister force, Esther slowly sought the King’s help. During a strategically planned process, she eventually revealed to him all the hidden facts. She unveiled Haman’s wickedness. He went to her crawling on his knees, seeking her forgiveness and begging for his life. His position was revoked and, the death sentence by gallows he had initiated for Mordecai, he and his family suffered instead. After his execution, Mordecai replaced Him as the Prime Minister.
Although the King’s original decree could not have been rescinded, he gave the Jews special permission to defend them against the impending massacre. Esther exhibited solicitude for the permanent protection of her people, she was instrumental in having it incorporated in the law, that they not only could defend themselves but slay their enemies.
The Jews stood fearlessly against their foes, as they received favor from all the rulers of the provinces, the senior authorities and officers of the King, who were afraid of Mordecai, because he waxed greatly in power. They resisted those who wanted to exterminate them, smote, plundered and defeated every opponent.
The historical detail of this book shows how the Jewish people were protected and delivered from impending annihilation by God’s intervention through Queen Esther. Though God’s name is not specifically mentioned, there is evidence of His providence throughout this book. It was also written to provide a record of an historical background to the Jewish Feast of Purim, which is a two day celebration, to commemorate their deliverance from Haman’s sinister plot for the Jewish genocide. The feast was called Purim because Haman used “Pur” or lot, which is similar to dice, to determine the day they were to be destroyed (Esther 3:7). It outlined the obligation for the annual commemoration of Purim, as was established by Mordecai (Esth. 9: 20-24, 28-32).
It is clear that God cares for His people, even though we may be in exile under pagan rulers. Once we have faith in him and live for His righteous cause, He would hear our cries from the deepest dungeon and rescue us from the teeth of the lion. He promised that no weapon formed against us shall prosper and when the enemy comes in like a flood, His Holy Spirit would lift up a standard against him.
June Morton, a retired Bookkeeper, who enjoy sharing inspirational thoughts with others
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