Esther 2:1 Some time later, when King Ahasuerus’s (Xerxes’) rage had cooled down, he remembered Vashti, what she had done, and what was decided against her. 2 The king’s personal attendants suggested, “Let a search be made for beautiful young women for the king. 3 Let the king appoint commissioners in each province of his kingdom, so that they may assemble all the beautiful young women to the harem at the fortress of Susa. Put them under the care of Hegai, the king’s eunuch, who is in charge of the women, and give them the required beauty treatments. 4 Then the young woman who pleases the king will become queen instead of Vashti.” This suggestion pleased the king, and he did accordingly.(HCSB)
Remember from earlier that we discussed that between chapters 1 and 2 the Persian Greek War, the war the movie “300” made famous once again, occurred and that Xerxes came home with his army left behind and losing. Therefore, when it says, “some time later” the “later” it is referring to is after he came home from the war.
After Xerxes comes home we know of one major event in his life from the writings of Herodotus, the Greek historian, his affair with his daughter-in-law. What occurred from this affair, I believe, along with the riggers of war, helped to turn Xerxes mind back to Vashti. You see, Xerxes gave to his daughter-in-law, the wife of his eldest son, a robe that Vashti had given him. She then took the robe and wore it in public, a royal robe of the King. Vashti then has her mother killed (Xerxes sister-in-law and also a former lover). This was a warning. It appeared that the daughter-in-law was seeking to claim power for her father, Xerxes brother and general. This act of Vashti’s may have caused Xerxes to turn his affections toward her and once again think he might be able to trust her. I told you there was a lot of family intrigue in Xerxes’ life. Every where he turns he is looking for someone to love and trust. He is seeking a home for his heart.
It is at this point that Xerxes’ attendants step in and keep him from breaking his own law. Their suggestion pleases the king. But what was it? Basically to collect the young pleasing virgins of the kingdom who could be a potential bride. This collection of young women were to be brought to the eunuch, Hegai, in the palace at Susa. Interestingly, the word for harem can also mean palace or even temple. Considering the meaning for the treatments it is an intriguing thought to think that Esther may have been taken to a temple of Ahura Mazda for this preparation.
Yes, they were to undergo treatments. These treatments, as we learn later in the chapter, were two sets of six month long treatments. Here I believe the King James Bible gets it right. It refers to these treatments as a means of purification. They were to be purified before coming into the presence of the king. It is here that I must begin our look at the prophetic nature of the book of Esther. King Xerxes on some levels is a type of Christ or Messiah. Here is one of these places. Before we, the Bride of Christ, enter His presence we undergo a time of purification. We call it sanctification. We will someday enter His presence pure and blameless, without spot or wrinkle. Again Xerxes is just a type, he by no means is a perfect representation of our Messiah.
Then Xerxes’ attendants speak of Xerxes choosing the one that pleases him, remember Xerxes’ anger toward Vashti was hot displeasure and that he is looking for the exact opposite of her. It would be this one that is most pleasing to him that would receive the crown of the Queen. They have set a plan before Xerxes and it pleases him. It would be this that sends him into the intrigues of the harem, which is also where Herodotus tells us his heart goes. It will be there we meet Esther.
What is meant by intrigues of the harem?
The intrigues of the harem is simply Xerxes turning his attentions toward the women of his harem. That seems to be one of the ways he found solace after his defeat in Greece.
Thank you for your question, Glenda.