Today: [Esther Two] The Sovereignty of God in Esther’s Life. In this chapter we see that Esther is taken into a competition of lovely women to see who would become the next queen. The king of Persia is lonely after banishing his first wife Vashti and now a queen will be chosen and God will see to it that Esther is that fortunate young woman. Her cousin Mordecai is also brought by God’s sovereignty into knowledge of an assassination plot and the king is spared – all by the hand of God preparing in the midst of political and military intrigue to bring a great deliverance to the Jews in captivity.
[Est 2:1-23 KJV] 1 After these things, when the wrath of king Ahasuerus was appeased, he remembered Vashti, and what she had done, and what was decreed against her. 2 Then said the king’s servants that ministered unto him, Let there be fair young virgins sought for the king: 3 And let the king appoint officers in all the provinces of his kingdom, that they may gather together all the fair young virgins unto Shushan the palace, to the house of the women, unto the custody of Hege the king’s chamberlain, keeper of the women; and let their things for purification be given [them]: 4 And let the maiden which pleaseth the king be queen instead of Vashti. And the thing pleased the king; and he did so.
In the previous chapter we read of king Ahausuerus of Persia getting drunk and losing the wife that he loved. Though he acted in an imprudent way the word of a king inebriated or not was considered unchangeable law. Therefore Vashti was put away from him and in this chapter we see that he remembered her and longed for her company. Why couldn’t he change his mind? Because he was the king and the word of the king was law. Now then the king is unhappy and his retinue of servants and stewards and counselors are deeply concerned and distract him from his foolishness and his loss with what we would call a beauty pageant.
Now did all of this take place over the course of one terrible weekend? In fact we can discover that there was a four year gap in between chapter one and chapter two of Esther. Secular history tells us during this time that Ahasuerus did execute a long planned invasion of Greece and was totally defeated. So we see the king defeated, disillusioned and lonely. What can we deduce from this? In the scope of events throughout the book we can look forward and see how God gives the king a bride who is instrumental in sparing the Jewish people in Persia from genocide. So we see that God is manipulating the events of the king’s life years in advance to create the circumstance and situation by which Esther will be promoted and a disaster averted.
This should help us trust in God when we look at world events and ask ourselves “where is God in all of this?” The same could have been said reviewing the events of Esther ch. 1 and what secular historians tell us what happened in between ch. 1 and ch. 2. God was exercising His sovereignty to set up circumstances to get glory for Himself and to spare His people. So we should not judge too quickly or just look on the surface of world events – we must know that regardless what men or nations are attempting to bring about in their minds it is God Himself at work in our behalf to bring out His purpose and ultimately our blessing.
5 [Now] in Shushan the palace there was a certain Jew, whose name [was] Mordecai, the son of Jair, the son of Shimei, the son of Kish, a Benjamite; 6 Who had been carried away from Jerusalem with the captivity which had been carried away with Jeconiah king of Judah, whom Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon had carried away. 7 And he brought up Hadassah, that [is], Esther, his uncle’s daughter: for she had neither father nor mother, and the maid [was] fair and beautiful; whom Mordecai, when her father and mother were dead, took for his own daughter. 8 So it came to pass, when the king’s commandment and his decree was heard, and when many maidens were gathered together unto Shushan the palace, to the custody of Hegai, that Esther was brought also unto the king’s house, to the custody of Hegai, keeper of the women. 9 And the maiden pleased him, and she obtained kindness of him; and he speedily gave her her things for purification, with such things as belonged to her, and seven maidens, [which were] meet to be given her, out of the king’s house: and he preferred her and her maids unto the best [place] of the house of the women. 10 Esther had not shewed her people nor her kindred: for Mordecai had charged her that she should not shew [it].
Who was Mordecai? He was a cousin of future queen Esther. He would have come to Persia in Babylonian captivity brought from the disastrous fall of the southern kingdom of Judea. Esther’s name in Hebrew means “star” and her Persian name Hadassah means “myrtle”. There was something stellar in her demeanor and beauty and her presence was a fragrant blessing to those that knew her. The scripture for the most part will generally understate its claims so when it says the Esther was beautiful then we absolutely know that she is a rare beauty indeed.
Remember we are talking about her natural appearance. Even beauty is a gift from God that those so graced should have the wisdom to realize they are steward of. Many men and women so blessed with physical beauty use the same for their own advancement without any accountability to God but remember this – God is not mocked. Your gifts, graces, talents, even your physical appearance is not the result of some random chance. You are wonderfully and fearfully made by God and should see this as a matter of stewardship before God.
The story continues that a man (no doubt a royal eunuch) Hegai is put in charge of the bevy of beautiful women who will be paraded before the king. Secular history and the archeological record do tell us from extra biblical sources that this man Hegai existed and did serve in the court of the king of Persia during this time according to the Greek historian Herodotus.
Esther gained the favor of Hegai though it was doubtful her physical charms swayed him. Remember he would have been a eunuch and as such veritably impervious to sexual attraction or feminine charisma. It is very reasonable to deduce that it was Esther’s character, and inward beauty that brought her into favor with Hegai and he made special concessions toward her that would give her an advantage in the contest to choose the next queen.
In all of these events Mordecai had instructed Esther not to reveal her Jewish ethnicity. No doubt Mordecai was led by God Himself to do so because at this point the growing anti-Semitism in the court may not have been brought to Mordecai’s attention. We can learn from this ourselves in different situations that you may be led by God not to reveal your Christian faith. I know myself God put me in a position of employment where He told me not to reveal my faith. As a result I was able to be a great influence for the kingdom to many men and women under my supervision.
11 And Mordecai walked every day before the court of the women’s house, to know how Esther did, and what should become of her. 12 Now when every maid’s turn was come to go in to king Ahasuerus, after that she had been twelve months, according to the manner of the women, (for so were the days of their purifications accomplished, [to wit], six months with oil of myrrh, and six months with sweet odours, and with [other] things for the purifying of the women;) 13 Then thus came [every] maiden unto the king; whatsoever she desired was given her to go with her out of the house of the women unto the king’s house. 14 In the evening she went, and on the morrow she returned into the second house of the women, to the custody of Shaashgaz, the king’s chamberlain, which kept the concubines: she came in unto the king no more, except the king delighted in her, and that she were called by name. 15 Now when the turn of Esther, the daughter of Abihail the uncle of Mordecai, who had taken her for his daughter, was come to go in unto the king, she required nothing but what Hegai the king’s chamberlain, the keeper of the women, appointed. And Esther obtained favour in the sight of all them that looked upon her. 16 So Esther was taken unto king Ahasuerus into his house royal in the tenth month, which [is] the month Tebeth, in the seventh year of his reign. 17 And the king loved Esther above all the women, and she obtained grace and favour in his sight more than all the virgins; so that he set the royal crown upon her head, and made her queen instead of Vashti. 18 Then the king made a great feast unto all his princes and his servants, [even] Esther’s feast; and he made a release to the provinces, and gave gifts, according to the state of the king. 19 And when the virgins were gathered together the second time, then Mordecai sat in the king’s gate. 20 Esther had not [yet] shewed her kindred nor her people; as Mordecai had charged her: for Esther did the commandment of Mordecai, like as when she was brought up with him. 21 In those days, while Mordecai sat in the king’s gate, two of the king’s chamberlains, Bigthan and Teresh, of those which kept the door, were wroth, and sought to lay hand on the king Ahasuerus. 22 And the thing was known to Mordecai, who told [it] unto Esther the queen; and Esther certified the king [thereof] in Mordecai’s name. 23 And when inquisition was made of the matter, it was found out; therefore they were both hanged on a tree: and it was written in the book of the chronicles before the king.
After Esther was taken into the king’s palace Mordacai kept close and showed a keen interest in Esther’s progress in the contest for who would be the next queen. He no doubt knew she had a real possibility of becoming queen and also no doubt realized that Esther was also in great danger as well.
We also see that the women in the contest were given 12 months to prepare. Persia was a large empire and the perfumes and beauty products available were no doubt quite vast. We also deduce that the 12 month time frame was also to make sure that none of the women placed before the king were pregnant when they were taken into the palace. There is another sobering consideration. If Esther is not chosen she will not be released back to her old life. The women who are not chosen as queen will be sequestered to the king’s harem and will not doubt live as women put away without husbands or children the rest of their lives.
When Esther does go before the king she does not adorn herself with maximum finery, jewelry or perfumes. She dresses very simply and trusts in her God given natural beauty. I can testify to the power of this principle. I remember a young woman who was very plain, even ugly in appearance and very crude in speech and behavior. I was pastoring in a college town and there was not a young man who would give her a second glance. Over time this young girl gave her life to the Lord and without any obvious effort on her part her behavior and demeanor changed and I saw the most eligible bachelors on campus pursue her with great effort and determination. She wasn’t going to the beauty shop or the spa or seeing the cosmetic surgeon. It was literally the beauty of holiness that the young men could not resist.
Esther eventually brought before the king and becomes queen. Meanwhile Mordecai is put in a unique position to thwart and assassination attempt against the king. The people now are all in place for a great deliverance engineered by God and participated in by simple and godly people from the family of Mordecai and his lovely cousin Esther who is now queen.
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