Esther: Queen of Persia

Esther is first introduced to us in chapter 2:7 as Hadassah the adopted daughter of Mordecai.  We are told according to the NIV that she “was lovely in form and features”.  What does that mean?  These are two separate Hebrew words here that can both be translated “beautiful” and therefore emphasizing her physical beauty, however, the first can also be translated “pleasant” and the second translated “favored”.  Both definitions are very important because it points out that not only was she beautiful in form but also in character.  These second definitions are also ones repeated often in our story and so must be taken seriously.

When the edict of Xerxes went out many young women were brought to the citadel in Susa, but if you remember Esther already lived there with Mordecai.  Therefore, Esther was one of the closest and therefore first to be brought to the harem within the actual palace of the king.  She along with many others were entrusted to Hegai the eunuch in charge of the harem and the one responsible for preparing the girls to go into the king.  This was a long process that would take a year to accomplish. 

It was Esther who first caught the eye of Hegai.  She “pleased him and won his favor” and so he immediately began to put her through the purification rites and to provide her with the best food.  What is interesting about these two words her is that not only do they mean “pleasing” and “favor”, which they do and you remember these words are important, but both of these words can mean either “pleasing” or “favor” and they can also both mean “best”. 

In other words, Hegai thought Esther to be pleasing, pleasing and the best, best and so he showed her favor, favor.  I am emphasizing these words because of their importance and also to remind you that when a thought is repeated in Hebrew, either with the exact same word or not, it is done to add weight to the point.

Hegai not only began her purification, but also gave her seven maids from the king’s palace and moved her to the “best” accommodations within the harem.  This again is emphasizing what he thought of her and her chances for being the one selected.

Then we find out that she has been commanded by her father, Mordecai, not to reveal who her people are or her homeland.  The text makes it clear that she followed this command showing her to be obedient to her father and loyal to her people.  She is a young women of character and distinction.  She knows who she is and what that means. 

We also see the love her father has for her as he goes everyday to inquire of her at the harem courtyard.  These two, father and daughter, are very close and loyal to one another.  It is not until verse 15 of chapter 2 that we learn that they are actually cousins.

This part of Esther’s biography reminds me of one of my favorite Psalms, Psalm 45.  It is found it verses 10 and 11 where it says, “Listen, daughter, and pay careful attention: Forget your people and your father’s house.  Let the king be enthralled by your beauty; honor him, for he is your lord.”  This is the Psalm of a wedding that foreshadows the great wedding in Revelation 19.  We are to forget our past focus only on our Lord, our Bridegroom.  Here Esther is to do just that, she is to focus on her potential bridegroom.  The difference is that Esther is doing it to protect herself and her people.  She is also from God’s family, Israel, and it is the king in this case who will be joining through marriage, even though he does not yet know it.  Remember, I said in an earlier post he is looking for a home for his heart.

Esther underwent her required twelve months of purification, no doubt having some religious significance within Zoroastrianism.  When it was her turn to go to Xerxes, presumably one of the first, she asked for only what Hegai suggested she take. 

It is at this point I find the statement in verse 15 quite interesting that states, “Esther won the favor of everyone who saw her.”(NIV)  I find this interesting because it seems to be out of place or at the least unexpected at this point.  We already know she has won the favor of Hegai and it is yet to speak of the favor of Xerxes so who might the text be referring to when it says “everyone”?  Possibly, Shaashgaz, the eunuch in charge of the concubines, perhaps the other young women, perhaps her maids,

I can’t help but wonder if there is another important person this may be referring to.  My thoughts go to Xerxes mother, Atossa.  Remember she is still alive at this point and I find it hard to believe she had nothing to do with the selection process of the next queen, at least in her own mind anyway.  If that is the case, this is a huge statement and not one so out of place.  Notice though we are once again hearing how Esther won the “favor” of people.

Finally, she is taken to the king in December of 479 B.C. or January of 478 B.C.  She would only return to the king if he called for her by name, until then she would remain in the part of the harem where the concubines dwelt under the protection of Shaashgaz. 

Yes, this does imply that their night together was a physical one, an intimate one and Scripture gives us no indication that it was not.  Regardless, she is now waiting to see if he will call for her again or if the rest of her life will be spent alone in the harem.

Scripture does not leave the reader to the suspense that Esther must have felt at first.  Rather, it lets us know very quickly that Xerxes loved Esther more than the others.  This love he felt for her was not purely physical, but much deeper than that; even to the point of friendship. 

They liked each other in a genuine way that makes for a strong bond and marriage.  It is obvious that he not only loved her for her beauty, but that they also enjoyed each others company as well.  Esther won the favor of Xerxes, this word “favor” can also be translated “grace”, she found grace with him.  She also won his approval, the word “approval” can also be translated “mercy”.

Therefore, with Xerxes, Esther found grace and mercy.  He was pleased with her so he made her is wife and queen by setting a crown on her head presumably at their wedding.

Xerxes then throws a banquet and calls it, “Esther’s Banquet”.  He is not showing off his own glory, but that of his Queen.  She has become a reflection of him and his glory or majesty.  He does not keep his bride hidden, but shows her off and once again the officials and nobles of the kingdom, i.e., family, are there.  He doesn’t stop there, but declares a holiday in the provinces, which would have included Israel, and lavishly gave out gifts.

The symbolism in this portion of the account is breathtaking. 

Remember in an earlier post I said that Xerxes is a type of Christ.  Well, here it is obvious and shines through with abundance. 

Yeshua our King has found his bride and paid for it all.  He paid the bridal price, He paid the cost of the wedding and the banquet.  He gives out gifts through His Holy Spirit.  He has chosen us to be blameless and holy and made us so through the sanctification or purification of the Holy Spirit.  He has made us a part of His family according to His good pleasure and will, by His grace and mercy.  He has lavishly poured out His favor or grace upon us. 

What an awesome picture of the wedding that is to come.  What a glimpse of the fulfillment of the mystery of the Bridegroom and His Bride.  It becomes so obvious doesn’t it?  Now do you see why I said this book was also prophetic?

Rejoicing in our King,

Vicky

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