GOD MADE ESTHER QUEEN
Esther 1:1-2:23, Key verse 2:17
“Now the king was attracted to Esther more than to any of the other women, and she won his favor and approval more than any of the other virgins. So he set a royal crown on her head and made her queen instead of Vashti.”
Thank God for blessing our study the book of Exodus. Through last Sunday’s message, we learned that people willingly gave necessary materials and talents to build the tabernacles so that God can dwell among them. In spite of their sins, God forgave and dwelt among them as they repented and obeyed his instructions given through Moses.
Thank God for granting us the best house of prayer and worship not in my time but in God’s time. May the presence of God be with us as we purify us through the blood of Jesus and obey God’s word in this rebellious generation. May God use us to raise 1,200 Bible teachers for this nation to be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.
Now we are studying the book of Esther. The author is unknown and it probably written during or soon after King Xerxes. This is the only book in the Bible has no mention the name of God. Without the name of God; however, the author reveals God’s presence, preserving his people and thus fulfilling his promise through one man, Mordecai, and one woman, Esther. In this end, this is telling how the Jewish festival Purim came about. Through studying this book, I pray that we learn how to live in this world where there is no God’s name as a man and woman of God. May God reveals his presence through each one of us as we live by faith and make decision of faith like Mordecai and Esther.
Today’s passage is introduction of the whole book. The author is contrasting between ungodly people and godly people. Please, keep in mind that we have to go back to the time and custom of Persian Empire, around 480 BC. Yet, we should see the world through Biblical values which is unchanging.
I. Worldly king and queen, and their subjects (1:1-22)
It was the time of King Xerxes, the son of Darius the first king of the Persian Empire. King Xerxes ruled 127 provinces stretching from India to Cush, a modern-day Egypt and northern part of Libya. After his kingdom is well established, the king invited all his nobles and officials, military leaders from Persia and Media, and the princes and the nobles of the provinces to the capital city of Persian Empire. He displayed his vast wealth and his splendor and glory of his majesty during 180 days and held a great banquet for the last seven days. It was so eloquent and extravagant; goblets and even couches were made of gold. The guests were allowed to drink whatever they wanted in the palace. Interestingly, he did not invite his wife, Queen Vashti, in this banquet.
Yet Queen Vashti imitated to the king’s banquet for the women in the royal palace. According to the history of Jews, the queen was a daughter of Belshazzar, the last king of Babylon. When Darius conquered Babylon, he took her and gave her to his son Xerxes in marriage. The status of man and of woman was equal in the culture of the time because woman could work and earn as much as a man. Maybe she felt equal to the king as she could hold another banquet like the king though it was only women of nobles and officials.
During the banquet when the king was in high due to much wine, he asked the queen come out and show her beauty in her royal crown because she was lovely to look at. It was for the king’s last showoff, revealing that he had everything, including the most beautiful woman. Probably, he thought that she also would like to show off as the queen of the vast empire. He is a typical man who does not understand what woman wants but demands what he wants. He was treating his wife as his badge of honor and glory, instead of showing his love. Does a woman like to display her beauty when she knows that she is beautiful? I think so.
But the queen refused the king’s order. Why? What was she thinking? In history, not many queens disobeyed their king before all their subjects. Did she feel disrespected by the king since he did not invite her from the beginning of the banquet and asked her to come and showoff for him? Did she feel that she was equal with the king? Some feminist leaders use the queen’s refusal as the best example for their cause. She is the first queen who refused the king and survived. Maybe she was the first feminist. Though we do not know her specific reason, we know that she was not a happy camper, who disrespected her husband, the king of the empire, in front of all his princes, nobles, generals and governors of 127 provinces. They had a broken relationship for some reasons.
The king became furious and burned with anger. A king of the time had highest authority and power. What he said become the law of the land though it may be unfair to majority of people. King Xerxes had all the right to become furiously angry because the queen disobeyed his order before all his subjects. What was his resolution? He took a logical and legal way instead of trying to understand the reason why the queen disobeyed. It is the example of civilized country. He did not do anything irrational but consulted experts in matters of law and justice and sought the counsel, asking a question, “According to law, what must be done to Queen Vashti? She has not obeyed the command of King Xerxes that the eunuchs have taken to her.”
Among the seven nobles of Persia and Media, Memukan replied that the queen did wrong not only to the king but also to the nobles and the people of the empire, showing a bad example for all women, following her disrespectful behavior to a husband and discord of a family value. Therefore, they advised that the queen should be dismissed and her queenship should be given to someone better than she. We see typical men who are for themselves, yet it reveals man’s fundamental desire, respect from a wife. We also find a typical broken relationship between a husband and a wife who go through a legal divorce, saying that they have character conflicts.
What is the biblical teaching between a husband and a wife? Ephesians 5:21-33 enlighten us, and I quoted 24-24 and 33, “24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. 25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. 33 However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.” In short, the Bible is commanding a husband to love his wife, and a wife respect her husband. It seems simple and easy. If so, the Bible does need to mention even. According to the world famous author and speaker on marriage, Dr. Gary Chapman, it is because a man and a woman speak a different love language, saying that man mainly wants respect from his wife, while a woman wants love from her husband. Yet, both of them demand what they want but do not want to fill each one’s needs. Simply speaking, a most human being is so selfish, demanding what they want to, saying toward each other, “You do not understand me.” Or we love others in our own way, saying, “I did my best to love.” But we Christians should do better than worldly people; otherwise, we cannot be the salt and light in this corrupted and dark world. May God help us to grow in understanding others more than wanting to be understood, so that we can love in the way others can need even if not married yet. Amen!
II. Godly man and woman, Mordecai and Esther (2:1-23)
Even though Memuka suggested to find another woman in the place of Queen Vashti, there was no specific plan. When King Xerxes’ fury subsided and remembered Vashti, the king’s personal attendant suggested to have a beauty pageant, appointing commissioners in 127 provinces in order to bring all these beautiful virgins, and putting it under Hegai, the king’s eunuch, in charge, searching for candidates for the king to choose one. When such a search is made, no virgin can marry until the queen is chosen. When a woman is chosen to be one of the candidates by the commissioners, she has to obey directions no matter who she may be. I believe a lot of women had dreamt to be chosen and become a queen of the kingdom like Cinderela.
There was Mordecai, son of Jair, the son of Shimei, the son of Kish who was taken captive at the time of Jehoachin, king of Judah, exiled to Babylon. Usually a captive is treated as a slave unless you are a kingly or nobles like Daniel and his friends during the time of King of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar. His relatives also came together and they had lived in Susa for four generations. Maybe Mordecai’s status changed or got a status of citizen as the Persian King Darius conquered Babylonian kingdom. We cannot imagine how hard life he and his family were living in the exile? Yet, he did not become a selfish, thinking about himself only. When his aunt and uncle died, they left one young girl named Hadassah. In Korean history after Korean war, so many parents sent their own children to orphanages because they had no means to raise one baby. Likewise, Mordecai could have sent his cousin to an orphanage, but he had adopted her as his daughter when her parents died. He was a compassionate man, who obeyed the spirit of God’s command even though the situation was hard as if God abandoned his people in the exile.
After adoption, he changed her name from the Hebrew names, Hadassah, which means hope, to the Persian name, Esther, which means star. Maybe it was his prayer for the star of Messiah to come. Esther had a lovely figure and was beautiful. As the King’s order and edict had been proclaimed, so many young women were chosen and brought to the citadel of Susa. Since Esther was in the citadel of Susa, she was noticed by people who recommended to Hegai, and she was chosen. Interestingly, the author mentioned that she won Hegai’s favor.
But how did she please him and won his favor right away? There is a few ques. In verse 15b says, “She asked for nothing other than what Hegai, the king’s eunuch who was in charge of the harem, suggested.” She was like a good student who listens her professor, who gives ques for future exams, and thus getting the best grade, A+. In fact, it was not just because she wanted to win the pageant and become the queen, but it was her character from young age. Look at verse 20b, “…for she continued to follow Mordecai’s instructions as she had done when he was bringing her up.” It was her virtue, adorning herself with. It is not only her outward beauty but also her attitude and character pleased Hegai, who knew what was needed to be the queen, not arrogant like Vashti but obedience. He found that she was beautiful outside and had character fitting to be one of the best candidates and provided her with her beauty treatments and special food.
The first direction Mordecai gave Esther as she went to live in harem, not to reveal her nationality and family background. It seems that she was an honest woman who would tell the truth, revealing her nationality and family background. A Jew was the exile during the time of Babylonian captivity, and how much Esther could be despised by the Persian and Medians? If she revealed her nationality and family background, she could be not only eliminated from the beauty peasant, but also treated like a slave and be abused like an Indian man has abused a woman in the lowest cast even today when there is no cast system in the law.
Though Esther was his adopted cousin, Mordecai cared for her a lot. Everyday, he walked back and forth near the courtyard of the harem to find out how Esther was doing and what was happening to her. Whenever there was a chance, he communicated with her and gave her instructions necessary.
After 12 months treatment: six months with oil of myrrh and six months with perfumes and cosmetics, Esther was taken to the king. Anything she wanted was given to her as she moves from the harem to the king’s palace. How many precious things for a young woman would like to have for herself and for the pageant, where all kinds of Jewels and gemstone were free for her to take! But Esther did not ask for anything other than what Hegai suggested. She had ears to hear what is important. She was humble enough to take the best advice from the man who knew the king’s favorites. If you were Hegai, what would you think of Esther. Isn’t she prepared herself to be one of the best candidates?
It is not surprising that the king was attracted to Esther more than any of the other women, because she decorated herself with not only outside beauty but also inside adornment with listening ears and obedient heart as written in 1 Peter 3:3-4, saying, “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. 4 Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.” Think about it: how the king would choose when he was seeing so many beautiful woman? If the king asked Hegai to provide his opinion about Esther, what would Hegai recommend her to the king? She had what the king wanted. Thus, she won his favor and approval.
The king set a royal crown on her head and made her queen instead of Vashti. In fact, the author is contrasting between Vashti and Esther. While Vashti lost her queenship due to her disrespect to her husband, Esther won the favor and approval of the king due to her characteristics. And the king gave a great banquet, Esther’s banquet, for all his nobles and officials. We know that it is God who raise Esther the queen, but let’s look at the author’s perspective? What if she was beautiful outwardly only and had no ears to hear, not humble and modest? I also agree with the opinion that she could have such a character because he was adopted and desire to win Mordecai’s approval. God is in charge, but uses the one who is prepared!
The king proclaimed a holiday throughout the provinces and distributed gifts with royal liberality. This shows how much the king was changed! He learned how to treat his wife in a right way. Have you received a gift from a wedding couple though you did not attend it? That is what the king did. We should learn from our past mistake and grow.
Though Esther became the queen, Mordecai did not seek benefit from her as the queen’s father. Rather, he was helping her in the best way, sitting at the king’s gate. In the meantime, he found that Bigthana and Teresh became angry and conspired to assassinate King Xerxes. As soon as Mordecai found it out, he told Esther about it. In turn, Esther told the king, giving credit to Mordecai. The king found it true and took them to death on the poles. But no award was given to Mordecai. Yet it is God’s providence for the future. It was God’s time for him to receive the reward. Ephesians 6:7-8 says, “Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people, 8 because you know that the Lord will reward each one for whatever good they do, whether they are slave or free.” God is our king who remembers everything we have done good and reward sooner or later. May God bless each one of us to serve Jesus and his kingdom, believing in His reward in His time. Amen!
Through today’s passage, we learned how the king and the queen of Persia had broken relationship. The Bible teaches that a husband should love his wife and a wife should respect her husband. May God help us to try to understand others more than to be understood, especially between a husband and a wife. We also learn from Mordecai’s compassionate and caring heart to his adopted daughter and how Esther could become the queen, winning the favor of Hegai and of the king. May God raise 12 Mordecai like shepherds who serve God and people with compassion and 12 Esther like women of God who has adorned with inner beauty.