Esther Episode 2

Beth's Notes

Chapter Two begins with King Xerxes’ anger towards Vashti subsiding and Scripture reads as if he were remorseful over his rash and foolish decision to take away her royal position.  Is it not true that rash decisions and words quickly spoken and not well thought through often end up biting us?  We would do well to always put our words through the sieve of whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, praiseworthy and necessary!  Remember, loose lips sink ships and they also wreck lives.  We are to be careful what we spout out!  You simply cannot put the toothpaste back in the tube.  Scripture tells us:19 When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise.   Proverbs 10:19 (NIV)11 The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life, but violence overwhelms the mouth of the wicked.   Proverbs 10:11 (NIV)32 The lips of the righteous know what is fitting, but the mouth of the wicked only what is perverse.   Proverbs 10:32 (NIV)1 A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. 2 The tongue of the wise commends knowledge, but the mouth of the fool gushes folly.   Proverbs 15:1-2 (NIV)

It certainly appears that King Xerxes’ mouth gushed folly!  The word translated “remember” is the Hebrew word “Zakar” which means to reflect upon.  I am sure he was left alone wondering:  “Now why did I do that?”  Indeed, the Jewish historian Josephus states:  “When his anger was over he would have been reconciled to Vashti but that, by the constitution of the government, the judgment was irrevocable.”  We see in this that God uses King Xerxes’ rashness to set up Esther, a Jewess, as Queen.  God would place her in a position in which she could help the nation Israel.  God was just preparing the way.  Just like He always does.  She would be elevated to Queen even before Israel needed her help.  It’s called in Scripture “In the fullness of time”.  And that is God’s time!  God is always about His work whether we perceive it or not.  That is how God works.  We see so unclearly yet God sees perfectly and orchestrates accordingly. The original readers would have realized that this was yet another instance of God protecting His covenant people.  Scripture tells us:

12 Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.    1 Corinthians 13:12 (NIV)

9 Remember the former things, those of long ago; I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me. 10 I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say: My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.   Isaiah 46:9-10 (NIV)

Later in Esther we will also see more of this king’s foolish and rash behavior in his decree to have the Jews exterminated.  It is evident throughout the Book that the king was led along by his officials.  It appears that he was somewhat provincial in his outlook.  Like all men of power he had to rely on others to be his eyes and ears on the outside, and did not always receive the best information (to say the least) …but I am running ahead of myself here!  

Next, we see in Scripture, the extravagant course taken to please the king in obtaining another wife for him instead of Vashti.  To make him forget her, the king’s personal attendants planned how to entertain him first with a great variety of concubines.  Since, more than likely, they were the ones who had suggested Vashti be deposed, these personal attendants certainly did not want him in a weak moment to take her back.  If she were reinstated there would certainly be fear that she would turn against them as well as turn King Xerxes against them.  Everybody is always was seeking to cover their own skin!  Amen?  Never underestimate the wielding power wives often have over their spouses and that we, as wives, are accountable for what we insist that they do.  Think Eve, think Sarah.  Surprise, surprise, sometimes we do not know what is best!  Go figure!

It was suggested to Xerxes that beautiful young virgins be brought to Susa by commissioners that he would appoint from every province in his realm.  All the provinces of the kingdom must be searched thoroughly for fair young virgins, and the officers were appointed to choose them – or actually just take them!  You do not get the feeling that these maidens nor their families had had any choice in the matter which would have certainly been an offence to the Godly Jews.  Obviously, Mordecai did not like it as he stayed ever so close by!   

When brought to Susa, these virgins would be placed under Hegai the eunuch in charge of the harem.    They would undergo intense beauty treatments and then the king would select one among them to be queen in replacement of Vashti.  This sounds all so glam.  I mean who wouldn’t want a yearlong spa treatment?  Never mind what it would lead to.          

On a side note, Kings normally had men castrated to serve him in the capacity of taking care of his harem as there would have been no temptation nor chance of misconduct.  A high price to pay to be in charge of a harem.  Interestingly and sadly, new women were constantly being brought into the Persian harem to replace the older women.  After the king had taken them to his bed they would have been looked upon as secondary wives but would have been maintained by the king accordingly.  

“We may see by this instance, to what absurd practices those digress to which were destitute of divine revelation, and who, as a punishment for their idolatry, were given over to their vile affections.  Having broken through that law of creation which resulted from God’s making man, they broke through another law, which was founded on his making one man and one woman.  See what need there was of the gospel of Christ to purify men from the lusts of the flesh.”   Matthew Henry

“We judge things by their present appearance; but the Lord sees them in their consequences.  If we could do the same we would be perfectly of His mind; but since we can’t, it is an unspeakable mercy that He will manage for us, whether we are pleased with His management or not; and it is regarded as one of His heaviest judgments when He gives any person up to the way of their own hearts, and to walk according to their own wisdom.”  John Newton  

Scripture next introduces us to Mordecai a Jew from the tribe of Benjamin.  Mordecai’s cousin, Esther, also a Benjamite, had been raised by him as she had neither mother nor father - their having died when she was young.  The name “Esther” is Persian.  Her Hebrew name was “Hadassah” meaning myrtle.  Scripture states she was lovely in form and features and Mordecai had taken her as his own daughter when her parents had died.     

“Let God be acknowledged in raising up friends for the fatherless and motherless; let it be an encouragement to that pious instance of charity that many who have taken care of the education of orphans have lived to see the good fruit of their care and pains, abundantly to their comfort.”   Matthew Henry

Jesus, also, loved the little children and cared for their well-being when He walked this dusty earth.  Over and over in Scripture He commands His followers to care for the fatherless and the widows:  

13 Then little children were brought to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked those who brought them. 14 Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” 15 When he had placed his hands on them, he went on from there.    Matthew 19:13-15 (NIV)

James also tells us:

27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.   James 1:27 (NIV)

Mordecai being Esther’s guardian, loved and cared for her as his own child.  She was very respectful and obedient toward him though in relation she was his equal, yet, being in age and dependence his inferior, she honored him as her father – following his instructions.  When the king’s order and edict had been proclaimed we are told that Esther was one of the young virgins taken and placed in the citadel of Susa and placed under Hegai’s care.  She was to await the king’s choice along with many other young women of the kingdom.  Remember, Xerxes’ kingdom was huge!  We are not told how many virgins were brought but there had to have been a large amount of estrogen at the palace!  Don’t you know Mordecai fretted over this action!

As God would have it, we are told that Esther immediately found favor in the eyes of Hegai who was, of course, in charge of all the virgins.  He provides her with a most favorable position in the harem as well as he sets her up with extensive beauty treatments and special food – apparently food of a better-than-ordinary quality.  She was also given seven maids to serve her.  The wait would have been at least twelve months therefore Esther must have appreciated greatly her favored position.  You get the feeling she was very humbly appreciative – not expectantly. 

Esther kept her Jewish nationality a secret, not telling Hegai, her maids, or anyone else for that matter out of obedience to Mordecai as he had told her not to.  He did not tell her to lie he only told her not to proclaim her nationality.  He must have feared for her safety.   From this and other statements in the book it is clear the author was making the point that God protected and used Esther and Mordecai.  Who would have ever thought that a Jewess, a captive and an orphan was born to be a queen, an empress!  But God.  The king’s eunuch honored her and was ready to serve her.  The king himself fell in love with her and was attracted to her more than any of the others.  She was humility and obedience all wrapped up in a lovely package of beauty.

Let’s talk for a minute about the humble obedience that Esther portrayed.  God loves obedience and it is certainly a theme throughout all of Scripture.  Last lesson we touched on humility and now I would like to spend a little time on obedience.  God calls His children to obedience through faith which is, of course, always for our good as well as His glory.  Our obedience demonstrates that we believe He has our best interest at heart.  That His way is the best way.  Remember we will act on what we truly believe.  Indeed, His way for our lives was for the very purpose we were created – all else, including what we may think is the very best way, leads us into captivity.  Jeremiah tells us:

11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity.” Jeremiah 29:11-14 (NIV)  

We are all about success aren’t we in whatever we undertake?  But what is success?  What does it look like for the child of the King?  Success in God’s eyes is being obedient to His will and, BTW, being in the center of His will is good and pleasing and perfect according to Scripture:1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God--this is your spiritual act of worship. 2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will.  Romans 12:1-2 (NIV)

I love the prayer Epaphras prayed for the Church at Colosse which I have stated prior is a wonderful prayer to pray for ourselves and our families:12 Epaphras, who is one of you and a servant of Christ Jesus, sends greetings. He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured.   Colossians 4:12 (NIV)

The world looks at success quite differently than God.  And as we live our lives for an audience of One, I think it would behoove us to concern ourselves with what God (our Audience) thinks is important rather than what the world deems to be successful.  This is easier said or written than fleshed out to be sure!     

God goes to great lengths to conform us into the image of His Son which, of course, demands our obedience.  This is not something that comes ever so natural!  It is much easier to go with the flesh!  Remember, we fall into sin but holiness is a pursuit!  We don’t want to kick against His best for our lives when it perhaps does not seem best to our fleshly minds.  Our whining and complaining only gets on His holy nerves, so to speak!  God tells us:

28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.  Romans 8:28-29 (NIV)

Also Scripture tells us:

16 He who obeys instructions guards his life.   Proverbs 19:16 (NIV)

19 “If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the best from the land; 20 but if you resist and rebel, you will be devoured by the sword.” For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.   Isaiah 1:19-20 (NIV)

10 Therefore I led them out of Egypt and brought them into the desert. 11 I gave them my decrees and made known to them my laws, for the man who obeys them will live by them.   Ezekiel 20:10-11 (NIV)

21 “Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.”   John 14:21 (NIV)

13 Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. 14 As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. 15 But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; 16 for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”   1 Peter 1:13-16 (NIV)

3 We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands. 4 The man who says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. 5 But if anyone obeys his word, God's love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him: 6 Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.   1 John 2:3-6 (NIV)

Christian love is manifested as a believer obeys the Lord’s words.  The rewards of loving Him are great: (a) the Father will show His love to him, and (b) the Son will love him and show Himself to him. This passage does not teach a “works” religion, but rather that one who believes and obeys Christ’s Word is loved by the Lord. Saving faith always results in obedience.  Enough on obedience now back to our story!!!

 As we stated, Esther had found favor in the eyes of Hegai and had become extremely popular during her year of preparation for her night with the king.  Each girl’s beauty treatments were designed to enhance her attractiveness.  Myrrh, a gum from a small tree, gives off a very fragrant smell.  Esther was not in a beauty contest simply to win the king’s affections; sadly, the women were being prepared to have sexual relations with the king.  This is suggested by the words “in the evening she would go there and in the morning return.”  After that, they would be transferred to another harem, under Shaashgaz, which consisted of the concubines. It would be like being transferred to the used car lot if you know what I mean as most of the women were relegated to living the rest of their lives in the harem of the concubines, many probably never again seeing the king.  This had to have been a devastating and demeaning process for both Esther and Mordecai who were seeking to please God in a pagan culture.

When Esther’s time to go before King Xerxes arrived, she followed explicitly the instructions of Hegai the eunuch, asking to bring with her nothing more than what he suggested.  Remember she could have taken anything she wanted from the harem with her which no doubt would have included plenty of jewels as the Persians loved to don themselves with jewelry.

Esther was taken to him in his seventh year in the tenth month.  First time readers would be reading this with bated breath!  Would he pick her?  Would she find favor in his eyes?  Acceptance is such an important theme in the Christian walk is it not? I mean, Jesus so demonstrated His love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.  The wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life in Jesus.  We are engraved on the palms of God’s Hands.  No one can snatch us out of His hand.  He has loved us with an everlasting love.  And on and on Scripture goes.   We are dearly loved and accepted because as believers in Jesus we are clothed in His righteousness – it is not by our works.  Praise God, through the blood of Jesus, we do not have to sit around wondering with bated breath whether or not The King of Kings and The Lord Of Lords is going to accept us and love us.  He has already demonstrated that by the cross.

King Xerxes was attracted to Esther more than any of the other young virgins and she won his favor.  He did not need to take time to deliberate.  He determined to set a royal crown on her head and make her Queen in place of Vashti.  He graced the ceremony of her coronation with a royal banquet – Esther’s Banquet – for all his nobles and officials and even proclaimed a holiday throughout his extensive realm, distributing gifts in keeping with his liberality.  This man knew how to throw a party!  Through all this though, Esther continue to follow Mordecai’s instructions just as she had done when he was bringing her up.  She did not reveal that she belonged to the Jewish nation.  This is an important point for us as well in teaching our children.  There will be many important decisions they will make when not in our presence.  We must teach the Truth well. 

Lastly, we discover in this passage, Mordecai uncovering a conspiracy against King Xerxes.  The virgins were again assembled and Mordecai was close to the gate more than likely making sure everything was a-ok with his little bird!   Because of his position at the gate, Mordecai was more than likely a judiciary official.  This points to God’s sovereign control over these events.  No step had yet been taken towards Haman’s plan for the Jews destruction, but several steps were taken towards God’s plan for their deliverance.  God now presents Mordecai with an opportunity of doing the King a good turn, that Xerxes might have the fairer opportunity afterwards of doing the Jews a good turn.  

A plot was laid out by two of the king’s servants - royal guards - who sought to assassinate him.  Mordecai got wind of this treason and by way of Esther, revealed it to the king giving Mordecai the credit for uncovering the scheme.  This both confirmed her in her new position and recommended Mordecai to the king’s favor.  The traitors were hung on a gallows, as they deserved, but not until their treason was, after investigation, fully proved against them and the whole matter was recorded in the king’s journals, with a particular remark that Mordecai was the man who discovered the treason.  God covers every detail in His Master plan!   

These are Beth’s personal notes, due to this fact sources are not often stated.

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