Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Dec 6 2019 - Esther 2 – Esther made queen

King Xerxes had got rid of Vashti, his queen. So his advisors came up with a scheme to find him a wife as beautiful as the one he had dismissed in a drunken rage. In effect they suggest a beauty contest. The finest of young women are to be collected from every corner of the empire and brought before the king and, they suggested, "'Let the young woman who pleases the king be queen instead of Vashti.’ This advice appealed to the king, and he followed it" (v. 4).

We are now introduced to the two Jewish characters who will occupy a central place in this story. Mordecai's great-grandfather had been carried off into exile from Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon. Now, about 100 years later, he in living in Susa the capital of the Persian Empire and the home of Xerxes and his royal palace. Mordecai had a young cousin, Esther, whose parents had died and whom he had adopted and treated as his own child. Esther, we are told, "had a lovely figure and was beautiful" (v. 7). It is no surprise that she was picked up by the beauty hunters and, along with many others, placed in the harem to be prepared for her night with the king.

How did Esther feel about this? How did Mordecai feel about it? We are not told. But we should remember that Xerxes was the most powerful man around at the time and what he wanted he got. Esther was not asked if she would like to come along to the king's palace, she was carried there by the king's men and by royal decree. Mordecai was not asked if he would allow his "daughter" to go, she was simply taken from him. However, we are told that Mordecai managed to tell Esther that she should not reveal that she was Jewish. Mordecai probably feared that she would be rejected and perhaps even killed if her nationality was known. Secondly, we know that Mordecai remained deeply concerned for Esther: "Every day he walked to and fro near the courtyard of the harem to find out how Esther was and what was happening to her" (v. 11). This was all that he could do to watch over the child he had taken into his home and into his heart.

Many people today – including many Christians – find themselves in situations not of their own choosing, situations they may even find deeply repugnant. It is good to be reminded by this story that God is with his people even in such situations. He never abandons them nor does he ever cease to care for them and to watch over them. We can trust God even in the darkest situations.

Verses 12-14 describe the required preparations before a girl could be presented to the king – twelve months of beauty treatments. The girl would then be sent to spend a night with the king and only if he took a liking to her and asked for her again by name would she get the opportunity of spending more time with him. And the outcome? We read that, "the king was attracted to Esther more than to any of the other women, and she won his favour and approval more than any of the other virgins. So he set a royal crown on her head and made her queen instead of Vashti" (v. 17). The king's selection of a new queen was then celebrated with yet another great banquet.

Mordecai never ceased to care for Esther; day-by-day he sat at the king's gate waiting for news of her. While there, he overheard two of the king's officers conspiring to assassinate King Xerxes. Mordecai got word to Esther who in turn informed the king. The plotters were executed and Mordecai's service was "recorded in the book of the annals in the presence of the king."

Despite the cruel and distressing treatment of his beloved "daughter", Mordecai remained a loyal subject of the king, in accordance with the words of Jeremiah, "Seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper" (Jeremiah 29:7). Christians also are called to pray for, and be submissive to, even the worst of human governments (1 Timothy 2:1-4; Romans 13:1-7). Our prayers make a difference.

Father God, help us to live wisely and well in the situation where you have placed us and to be lights in the darkness, pointing the way to the Lord Jesus, the light of the world.

Peter Misselbrook