Esther, also known as Hadassah
This past weekend we heard an extraordinary message at church. I think the title of it was, “The Pressure to Perform.” And, as I pondered which woman would be my next focus in this series, Queen Esther came to mind.
Esther shows up in Biblical history approximately 465-475 B.C. She is the orphaned daughter of Abihail, the uncle of Mordecai. Esther has been adopted by her cousin Mordecai and is being raised in strict Hebrew traditions, in a Pagan country – namely Persia, in the area called Sushan. The entire book of Esther can be read here.
A History Lesson
Although the Jews were no longer in Babylonian exile, having been free to return to Jerusalem for more than 50 years, some of them remained in the country. Mordecai was one of those Jewish men and he had sole care of his cousin, Hadassah (also known as Esther). Esther’s parents were dead and she was being raised in the Hebraic tradition by her cousin Mordecai.
The Old Testament book of Esther’s authorship is unknown; however, it is quite possible that Mordecai or Ezra wrote the story. Another interesting fact about the book of Esther is that not once is God mentioned! How is that even possible? But it’s true! Yet, the imprint of God and His righteous principles are woven throughout.
King Ahaseurus dethrones Queen Vashti
I’m not convinced king Ahaseurus was a good king – apparently he had a party, or a banquet, which lasted six months! And, the purpose of this event was to show off his kingdom, his riches, and his splendid self. King A. was arrogant and stuck-up!
When this party was in its seventh day, Ahaseurus’ Queen, Vashti, who was throwing a banquet for the women in the royal palace, was summoned by the drunk king. He commanded the palace eunuchs to go “fetch the Queen.”
He wanted to show her off to all those in attendance at his feast. king A. told the eunuchs to bring Queen Vashti to him wearing her royal crown so he could show her beauty to the people and all the officials.
Horror of all horrors, the Queen refused. Ahaseurus was furious and he took counsel from those closest to him,
What should her punishment be for refusing to appear at the king’s summons?
Their answer will upset the majority of readers,
For the Queen’s behavior will become known to all women, so they will despise their husbands…and their behavior will be of excessive contempt and wrath. Esther 1.14-18
The Royal Decree
Queen Vashti was no longer to go before the king and her position was to be given to another. Esther 1.19-22
[Some accounts state that Queen Vashti was killed for this “treason” to the king.]
King Ahaseurus sent out letters to all the king’s provinces, each in their own script, and to every people in their own language, that each man should be master in his own house…Esther 1.22
The First Beauty Pageant
Let beautiful young virgins be sought for the king. (Esther 2.2)
Officers of the king went out into all the provinces of the kingdom and searched for beautiful, pure, young girls and brought them to the women’s quarters of the palace under the watchful eye and custodial care of Hegai, the king’s eunuch. And there, the beauty treatments began!
And, so it was, when the king’s command and decree were heard, and when many young women were gathered at Shushan the citadel, under the the custody of Hegai, that Esther also was taken to the king’s palace, in the the care of Hegai, the custodian of the women. Esther 2.8
Esther obtained favor
In plain terms, Hegai liked Esther. The Bible says, “she pleased him.” Remember, Hegai is a eunuch so this does not mean anything un-toward. Esther found favor in his eyes and he gave her, not only the beauty treatment allotted to all the young virgins, but many extras! Plus, he gave her seven maidens to tend to her every need and care. And, if that wasn’t enough? Hegai moved Esther and her maids to the best place in the house of women.
And, all the while, Esther did not reveal her people or her family because her cousin Mordecai instructed her not to.
Every single day, cousin Mordecai would walk in front of the court of the women’s quarters to learn of Esther’s welfare and to know what was happening to her. (Esther 2.11)
The big day came
After TWELVE months of beauty treatments, which consisted of six months with oil of myrrh, and six months of perfumes…one-by-one these young virgins were presented to the king. Before she went in to the king each girl was allowed to take whatever she wanted from the treasures of the women’s quarters, which included jewels and clothing.
This is how it worked: in the evening one girl at a time would go into the king and stay until morning. At which time the girl would go to a new location, the “second” house of women under the custodial care of another eunuch, Shaashgaz, who was in charge of the concubines. And, those girls would never again go into the king unless personally summoned by King Ahaseurus. (2.14)
It was Esther’s turn
She chose nothing from the treasury – but she took only what Hegai gave her to go into the king. We don’t know what that ‘something’ was but whatever it was? Everyone who saw her approved. (2.15)
Esther was taken to King Ahaseurus, in his royal palace. And, the rest, as they say, is history.
The king loved Esther more than all the other women, and she obtained grace and favor in his sight more than all the virgins; so he set the royal crown upon her head made her queen instead of Vashti. Then the king made a great feast, the Feast of Esther, for all his officials and servants; and he proclaimed a holiday in the provinces and gave gifts according the generosity of a king. Esther 2.17-18
Back to cousin Mordecai
We continue the story of Queen Esther next week!