The Uniqueness of the Book of Esther
The Book of Esther is so unique and different, because it is a book that does not contain the Name of God one time, but if you read the Book of Esther and understand what’s happening in the story, God is on every page!
He is everywhere present as you see the drama unfolding. It is wonderful to be studying this book at this time, because it reminds us that God has always had a people and that He has always seen fit to make sure that His people are protected from the attacks of those who would annihilate them.
The Book of Esther is about the mighty provision of God in positioning one of His people in a strategic place so that when an evil man wished to annihilate the Jews, that very person would be there to stem the tide of the attack.
In the first chapter we learned about the king, a very vain and impulsive man. Remember at the end of the chapter he had divorced his wife, because she was more noble than he was.
She refused to be used as a play-thing by all of his drunken friends, and would not be summoned to a drunken party, which the king was conducting in order to sell all of the political allies on the upcoming war he wished to wage against Greece, and in the first chapter, we learned that the king had divorced his wife, but lived to regret it.
We need to understand that a great deal of time has transpired since the end of chapter one, probably as much as four years between the first and second chapters.
We have to turn to secular history to find out what happened between the two chapters. The king was defeated in his “Battle with Greece” and his fleet of 300 ships was destroyed.
THE BATTLE AGAINST THE GREEKS
“After these things, when the wrath of King A-has-u-e-rus was appeased, he remembered Vashti, and what she had done, and what was decreed against her.”
After what things? After his defeat he returned in deep dejection to his palace. Added to his misery was the absence of his queen and the fact that the law of the Medes and Persians could not be altered even by the king himself. Vashti could never be his queen again.
We must turn to secular history for the campaign of King Xerxes (Ahasuerus) against the Greeks. The secret of the strength of the Persians was in numbers, but the individual Persian soldier was not as well trained as the individual Greek soldier. His entire fleet was destroyed.
One Greek soldier could take care of ten Persian soldiers. It was a great defeat for Xerxes but God was overruling. After his defeat and in his loneliness, he paces up and down the palace. He is thinking of Vashti, but the Law that he has made concerning the queen cannot be changed. He has set aside this beautiful woman and he can’t ever have her back.
THE NEW QUEEN
The servants know his state of mind. They’re watching him. They know that something must be done.
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 Shu-shan the palace, to the house of the women, unto the custody of He-ge 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.
The first thing you notice in verses 1-4 is that there is a tremendous insistence on the part of those who are in the kingdom that now a new queen be selected.
And as we pick up the story in God’s Word, the king is brooding over his lost war, and his loss of Vashti and you can tell by reading the first few verses that he has a feeling of remorse in what he says. His assistants realize how sad he is, and that it is not possible to go and bring Vashti back, because the laws of the Medes and Persians were not undoable.
The servants knew it and the only way that they could cheer up their king and restore order to the palace was to conduct a national beauty contest and select a new queen. The plan was enacted and this pleased the king (Verse 4).
THE SEARCH FOR THE NEW QUEEN
Now to search for a new queen! The Persians extended to all the corners of the 127 provinces. Elaborate machinery was set up that no possible candidate would be ignored.
The men of the king suggested that the king appoint officers in all the provinces of his kingdom that all the fair maidens be gathered together at Shu-shan and that they place all the young virgins in the house of the women into the custody of He-ge, the king’s chamberlain. This was where the harem was kept and they were to bring all these beautiful women and put them in this beautiful compound and they were to be cared for, as they ran for “Queen for a Day”.
They wanted to find out if they were going to be acceptable to the king. The “house of women” is a common expression in oriental literature, and it was the place where the harem was kept.
In the first four verses we still don’t have any word of Esther. In all that we have studied so far is simply the preparation that the Lord has allowed so that when Esther comes to the kingdom, she will be there at the exact right moment so she can fit into the plan that ultimately will be God’s method of saving the Jewish people.
In verses 5-7 we see the insertion of Mor-de-cai and Esther into the scene. Notice verses 5 and 6, what it says about Mordecai.
“Now in Shu-shan the palace there was a certain Jew whose name was Mor-de-cai, the son of Ja-ir, the son of Shim-e-i, the son of Kish, a Benjamite; who had been carried away from Jerusalem with the captivity which had been carried away with Jec-o-ni-ah king of Judah, whom Neb-u-chad-nez-zar, the king of Babylon had carried away.”
According to 2 Chronicles, chapter 36, there are three different deportations of Jews under Nebuchadnezzar, from Jerusalem. You might wonder why wasn’t Mordecai back in Palestine? There were 42,360 people (Ezra 2:64) who returned and remember Ezra was allowed to go back and rebuild the temple, but when we read the story, Mordecai had not gone back and he is going to find his place in this story in the Book of Esther.
Esther 2:7, we meet the next major player and that is the woman whose name bears this book.
“And he (Mordecai, my note) brought up Ha-das-sah, 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.
It is evident that Mordecai was a kind man for he had taken Esther to his home after her parents had died. The fact that Esther has two names reminds me of Daniel and all those who were deported with him.
“So it came to pass, when the king’s commandment and his decree was heard, and when many maidens were gathered together unto Shu-shan 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.”
It says that Esther was brought. Did she come willingly or was she brought against her will? Some people question that, but anyway, she was made a part of the beauty pageant that was to unfold, and she was placed in the care of Hegai.
“And the maiden (Esther, my note) 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.”
When we are told that she found favor in the eyes of Hegai, it should not surprise us, because God is working all of this out, behind the scenes and all of this is part of His Divine plan.
The seven maidens that were given her, were appointed to attend her in rotation, one for every day of the week. Hegai provided special quarters for her, which became hers alone—and in this way you see God’s evidence again of His provision for Esther while she is awaiting the exact timing that will unfold.
“Esther had not shewed her people nor her kindred: for Mordecai had charged here that she should not shew it.”
Another translation reads, “Esther did not make known her people or her kindred, for Mordecai had instructed her that she should not make them known.”
Perhaps if we knew all the circumstances we might understand this better, but it’s quite possible, of course, that the primary purpose in this hiding of her identity was to protect her from violence. Perhaps there were already among the Persians a hatred for the Jewish people, and probably there was jealousy on the part of the other girls because of her special treatment.
Because all these girls were hoping to win the king’s heart, it seems to me that if Esther had told them she was a Jew, the contest would have been over, for her, before it started. Notice verse 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.”
I think Mordecai realizes that he had put this young girl in a place of danger, and she’s in a place where he no longer can care for her needs. While he has done this, apparently under his understanding of the purpose and will of God, he cannot ever for a day not think of her and wonder how she is doing.
Some think that since Mordecai had access to this house, that he may be involved in the Persian government to some degree. There’s another passage of Scripture that speaks of his being seated at the gate, which might be a place where a judge might sit.
It seems that Mordecai had the freedom to move freely about the kingdom, and no doubt he walked by the house daily to see if her needs have been met.
It’s not hard to understand how some have said that Mordecai is a type of the Lord; he has many of the qualities of the loving, caring Lord that are embodied in the way in which he conducts his business.
Now if you go back and review the first ten verses, what you see now unfolding in this drama is a new queen being insisted upon by the rulers who rule with King Xerxes
You see Esther and Mordecai gradually being inserted into the story. Esther is involved with the many women, who will (one at a time) be called to go before the king. Some say that there are as many as four hundred in the beauty pageant (127 Provinces) who had been gathered from all these provinces of Persia. In verses 12-13 we have the rules of the beauty contest.
“Now when every maid’s turn was come to go in to King A-has-u-e-rus, after that she had been twelve months, according to the manner of the women, (for so were the days of their purification 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;) 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.”
What this tells us is that all of these women that have entered into the pageant have one entire year of preparation before their moment of their audience with the king. In other words, they were given one year to go to beauty school: 12 months to learn how to sharpen all of their charms, so that each would have the best possible chance and opportunity to attract the king’s attention.
Six months were spent with oil of myrrh. Myrrh served a double purpose in that it was not only fragrant, but it is also credited with having purifying powers. It was an ingredient in the holy anointing oil used in the anointing of the priests in Israel, according to Exodus 30:22-33. It was among the gifts that were presented by the Magi, when they came from the East to worship the Lord Jesus soon after His birth, Matthew 2:11.
It was mingled with wine and offered to the Lord, when He hung on the cross, when He was suffering and He received it not, Mark 15:23 — and finally this very substance was used in the burial when Nicodemus came to get the body of our Lord and bury Him. It was mixed with myrrh and aloes, about one hundred pounds weight, John 19:39.
The Bible says in addition to myrrh for the beautification and the purification of the women, there were also sweet odours, and other things.
We don’t know any more about this except what we can learn from the heathen culture. It was simply a part of learning how to present themselves to the king, and give themselves the best possibility of being chosen as his new queen. So much is at stake. If the virgin failed to delight the king, she came unto the king no more.
Now Esther is involved in all of this, too. She’s going through all of this, too. Notice verse 14:
“In the evening she went, and on the morrow she returned into the second house of the women, to the custody of Sha-ash-gaz, 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.”
Regarding verse 14, apparently each of these virgins spent a night with the king, go in the evening and return the next day, and if the king delighted in her company she might be called again, if not, he would not see her again, and after she had had her opportunity, it was history for her.
And this was what was going on at this time, and I’m sure that Esther, if she was a godly woman, as we believe she was, at this particular moment in her heart, she must have been questioning what she would do, when her turn came to present herself to the king. We read in verse 15:
“Now when the turn of Esther, the daughter of Ab-i-ha il 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 favor in the sight of all them that looked upon her.”
Notice, when all the other women went in before the king, they could ask the keeper of the women for anything that was in the house, and they could take it with them and no doubt most of them took extra things that they thought might attract the king. But notice when it was time for Esther to go, she didn’t take anything except what was mandated. She went knowing that God was with her, knowing that she did not need to add to what the Lord already provided. She went in her strength and in the power of the Lord, who went with her.
THE NEW QUEEN
16“So Esther was taken unto king A-has-u-e-rus, into his house royal in the tenth month, which is the month Tebeth, in the seventh year of his reign. 17And the king loved Esther above all the women, and she obtained grace and favor 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.”
Verse 17 tells us that whatever she did and how she conducted herself, the king is so overwhelmed, that he decided to throw a great party. Notice Verses 18-20:
“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. And when the virgins were gathered together the second time, then Mordecai sat in the king’s gate. 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.”
Let’s get the picture clearly in our minds as to what was happening. Esther has now moved out of obscurity into the second most powerful position in all of the kingdom.
She has had nothing to do with that herself. It has been God working behind the scenes, orchestrating all of this, to make it happen. She is now the queen. All the other women have been dismissed. She is now in the place of Vashti in the Royal Palace and the Bible tells us that Esther continued, even now, as the Queen, to keep her identity as Jewess from her own husband, and it is interesting to discover why: because Mordecai who had brought her up, since she as a little girl, told her don’t tell them yet. We don’t want to lose the impact of this truth. It’s important to ask ourselves a couple of questions before we close our Bibles.
I don’t believe the Word of God should be opened, without there being practical application to our own hearts. We’re not here just to study history. If we just wanted to study history, we could just take a history book and get lots of information from the history book, but we’re here to study the Word of God, so that it will have an impact on our hearts, but in order for it to have an impact on our lives, we need to know some of the history.
We’re not these characters, but let’s remember we’re in the process of God’s will being worked out in our behalf. In our age we do have a chance to look back over our life. Like a stone breaking the surface of a pool of water, our interaction with the people around us has a ripple effect far beyond our initial point of impact.
Every life touches dozens of others, and the true measure of its influence will only be known in eternity. Each of you is able to have that Christian influence and reach some people, that no one else can.
God’s will is not frustrated by the failures of man. Isn’t that encouraging to all of us? I’ve failed the Lord so many times. If God gave up on us every time we failed Him, we’d be in trouble. If His will stopped the moment we failed, then His will in our lives would be greatly altered.
But I’ve been around long enough to know that God is a Master of taking things that look like they’re the broken pieces of a life and putting all those pieces together in a different order and still bringing glory to His Name in spite of our failures.
God’s will is not negated (denied) by difficult circumstances. The will of God is not frustrated by the failures of men.
God’s will is not complicated by the devices of man. Notice Verse 15 again. When Esther knew it was her turn, she decided not to take any of the stuff of the house with her. She would just go in her own strength and in the power of her Lord. We don’t need to complicate the will of God for our lives by trying to assist Him. We just need to be willing to be available.
Suppose Esther had gone to the king with all of this extra stuff from the house of the women and she had used all that stuff on King Xerxes and then she was chosen. She wouldn’t have known if the king chose her because of all that stuff and she was the best graduate from the school or that God wanted her there. Now she is second in the kingdom and she still cares to obey Mordecai, and keep her identity until just the right time (Verse 20).
You never get to the place where the will of God doesn’t matter. It’s very important. Esther is a Book which will never let us forget that God’s will is at work in our lives, when we don’t know it.
What is He doing in your life?