Esther, Thoughts on

28 10 2007

I’ve been reading the first couple of chapters of Esther over and over again lately. Until I got here I never realized the limitless layers of complexity in the Bible. The very fact that I’ve read the same two pages for two weeks and I keep finding stuff should tell you something. The Holy Spirit is just that cool. (Italics are verses, plain script are my thoughts.)

Today’s thoughts are from 2.8-18. Keep in mind that it’s all “Meghan opinions”, if you have anything to add I’d love to hear it.

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 custody of Hegai, that Esther also was taken to the king’s palace, into the care of Hegai the custodian of women.

This leads me to think that Esther was probably one of the last ones to get there. That means that the others had probably formed friendships and groups. Think high school but with the most beautiful women in the kingdom and you’re the poor Jewish girl with nothing to recomend her but her looks. That must have been so intimidating!

Moreover, it’s important to note that Esther ‘was taken’. She didn’t initiate the whole thing.

Now the young woman pleased him [Hegai], and she obtained his favor; so he readily gave beauty preperations to her, besides her allowance. Then seven choice maidservants were provided for her from the king’s palace, and he moved her and her maidservants to the best place in the house of the women.

I am intrigued by the order of words in ‘[she] pleased him, and she obtained his favor’. She pleased him and so obtained favor. If she had been rude or proud she would not have pleased him (have YOU ever been pleased to be around someone like that?). One cannot have favor unless you please those around you. However, any positive attributes she had came straight from God. The Bible says that we have nothing good in and of ourselves.

She was given extra preparation because she had favor in Hegai’s eyes. This gave her a bit of a head start compared to the other girls.

Also, she was given the best place in the house of women. This was before she had been chosen queen. It was definitely before she had completed her beauty regiment. How the heck does that happen outside of God?!

Esther had not revealed her people or family, for Mordecai had charged her not to reveal it.

Obediance again. That too must have been hard. “Hey Esther, where ya from?” “Uh… Shushan.” “Yeah but who are your family?” “Excuse me please, I think I see a gray hair.” She must have felt so isolated, even from the other women.

And every day Mordecau paced in front of the court of the women’s quarters to learn of Esther’s welfare and what was happening to her.

Esther had people who were concerned with her well being; who cared for her deeply, even though she couldn’t interact with them. Physical beauty alone doesn’t inspire that kind of devotion. I picture her as a very pretty and very humble girl. I doubt she ever considered herself better than anyone else. Granted, she must have had character flaws. Maybe she was a little vain or had a problem with telling lies. Either way I think it’s important to remember that she was a very human girl who didn’t know that she would end up being a heroine.

Each young woman’s turn came to go in to King Ahasueres after she had completed twelve months’ preparation, according to the redulations for the women, for thus were the days of their prearation apportioned: six months with oil of myrrh, and six months with perfumes and preparation for beautifying women.

First, ‘each young woman’s turn came’. Esther had to wait while countless beautiful women had a chance to seduce the king. She had to wait and maybe every time she watched that girl leave she thought ‘there goes my chance’. It doesn’t say how long this was going on but I would guess that she probably lived in the palace for a couple of years before her turn came. Sit back and imagine that for a second. This was not an easy life.

Also, she had to undergo preparations. It says that she was already beautiful, but in this season she had that beauty tended to and refined. There is something in that… Emotionally it was a very hard time during which she had to prepare herself for a man whom she might never actually meet. That staggers me, to be honest.

In the evening she went and in the morning she returned to the second house of the women, to the custody of Shaashgaz, the king’s eunuch who kept the concubines. She would not go in to the king again unless the king delighted in her and called for her by name.

In the scheme of the times, that wasn’t a bad fate. You sleep with the king, then get a live in the palace where you are completely taken care of. You might not even have to bother with the king again. This was a lifetime of no worries that we’re talking about. That’s a pretty good deal but it wasn’t the best. None of these women were chosen queen.

Now when the turn came for Esther the daughter of Abihail the uncle of Mordecai, who had taken her as his daughter to go in to the king, she requested nothing but what Hegai the king’s eunuch, the custodian of the women, advised. And Esther obtained favor in the sight of all who saw her.

First, note that there is a reminder of who Esther is. It’s like God is reminding all the readers that this was a poor Jewish girl. He is reminding us that she had nothing to recomend her.

There’s that obediance again. I imagine that there were some things that Esther became pretty fond of while living in the house of women. Maybe she had a really pretty perfume bottle or some fancy jewelry that she really loved. She left it all behind at the bidding of him who was in authority over her. Any girl will tell you that that must have been stinking hard. Also, she obtained favor in the sight of ALL who saw her. Have you ever even heard of that?! Especially when this girl has been exalted over all the other virgins. She’s had the best of everything and that must have created jealousy. But it says ALL who saw her approved. That’s totally God.

So Esther was taken to King Ahasuerus, into his royal palace, in the tenth month, which is the month of Tebeth, in the seventh year of his reign.

Again she WAS TAKEN. She did not initiate. (More of that obediance stuff.)

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 and made her queen instead of Vashti.

Favor is defined as “something done or granted out of goodwill, rather than from justice or remuneration; excessive kindness or unfair partiality, preferential treatment” and grace is “a manifestation of favor”. You can’t inspire that kind of consistant favor in and of yourself. That has to be the hand of God on your life.

It’s interesting to note that she was made queen instead of Vashti. I think they kept Vashti around as a figurehead until the King picked Esther. So, this young woman wasn’t stepping into a vacant position, she was actively deposing a reigning monarch. Additionally, unless they killed Vashti, she would have still been in the house of women. It’s possible that Esther had to live with Vashti. Imagine that, you women. She had to live every day with the woman who’s position she took. That could not have been fun.

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 to the generosity of a king.

Other people benefitted from Esther’s position right from the beginning. They got a party and were able to enjoy the generosity of the king because of her position.  It wasn’t about her.

Concluding thoughts-
I think we would be mistaken to assume that Esther was some great and noble woman who wore destiny like a crown, even before she entered the palace. I think she was a young girl who was pure and humble but who had lots of difficulties to face. It is her obediance that enabled the Lord to work through her. Not that she lacked initiative, but rather that she knew when to use it and when not to.

I hope there was something in all of that that maybe you hadn’t thought of before. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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