God favored her, set her above her enemies, and used her to save His people.
Esther was born as Hadassah in the capital of Elam, Persia called Susa also known as Shushan. Her mother and father Abihail, direct descendants of the Tribe of Benjamin, died of unknown circumstances making her an orphan. However, Mordecai, the nephew of Abihail and the older cousin of Esther took her as his daughter and raised her into a fair, kind, and virtuous young woman who did not know God had wonderful plans for her future.
According to various biblical timelines, Esther was about 14-years-old when King Ahasuerus (Xerxes 1) was entering his 3rd year of reign of the Persian Empire and its 127 provinces and held a great feast. This feast lasted for 180 days which was to honor his kingdom’s majesty and glory. All was invited to attend, from the nobles and servants to the princes of every province in Media and Persia (Esther 1:1-8).
In the King James Bible, it says that wine was freely given in this feast that lasted seven days, causing the men to be “merry with wine” or excessively drunk (Esther 1:10). Ahasuerus decided it was a great idea to show off his queen who was said to be the most beautiful of the world. Queen Vashti at the time was hosting her own feast for the women in a separate quarter and when the King’s chamberlains came for her, she refused, not wanting to be demeaned and disrespected by drunken men. Irrational and drunk, Ahasuerus was ill-advised by his princes and nobles and banished Vashti from the kingdom. They created a decree that men small and great were rulers over their wives in every way (Esther 1:12-22).
Due to his poor decision to banish his queen, Ahasuerus was forced to find another woman to replace Vashti. He sent another decree for every virgin woman to be collected and brought to the palace in Shushan to compete for the royal seat (Esther 2:2-4). Esther was taken from Mordecai who charged her ahead of time to conceal her true Jewish identity and name. Her name Hadassah meaning myrtle in Hebrew for the myrtle tree, a symbol of the nation of Jews, was changed to Esther, a Persian name meaning star (Esther 2:5-11).
Esther’s journey of faith starts at this point of the story as she tries to keep her Jewish values at the same time concealing them. Yet, there was one value that could not be hidden so well. Her loving and virtuous spirit of God (who was never mentioned in the Book of Esther but indeed implied) shined bright. Everyone she met came to favor her, especially the chief of the eunuchs, Hagai who expressed his favor by giving her own seven maidens to care for her hand and foot (Esther 2:8-9).
For twelve months the women had to undergo a purification period. Six months they had to be purified with the oil of myrrh and the next six with sweet perfumes. When this was over, every woman was given the opportunity to have a private moment with the king in hopes of finding favor with him. They were permitted to adorn themselves in royal apparels and keep those items if they were not chosen (Esther 2:12-14). When the 10th month of Tebeth arrived entering the 7th year of Ahasuerus’ reign, Esther’s turn came. She was brought before Ahasuerus and he found favor in both her beauty and personality. He fell in love with her and crowned her Queen of Persia in the approximate year of 478 BC (Esther 2:15-18).
During her blessed transition from peasant to queen, a certain man also found favor with Ahasuerus. His name was Haman, son of Hammedatha the Agagite. He was promoted above the princes of the provinces and enjoyed the pleasures of royalty and people who bowed and worshiped him. However, one man caught his eye who refused to give him any honor. That man was Mordecai. The Holy Bible says that Haman soon was filled with indignation towards Mordecai and sought to destroy all Jews (Esther 3).
He convinced the unwise Ahasuerus to destroy the Jews who possessed laws contrary and opposing to the crown’s. On the 13th day of the month of Nissan, in his 12th year of reign, Ahasuerus wrote and sent a decree to eradicate and to confiscate the property of every Jew in the 127 provinces until the 13th day of the month Adar (Esther 3).
During the persecution, Mordecai and many Jews in hiding fell into constant weeping, praying, and fasting for mercy and deliverance. Esther, who sent her chamberlain Hatach to be a messenger between Mordecai and herself, heard about the devastation and knew what she had to do. She sent instructions for the Jews to fast and to pray for three days with her and at the end, she would go unto Ahasuerus. Now, the laws of Persia during this time, forbade people of any status to approach the king without being summoned. Being the queen who was to be a supporter of a king’s every decision was not summoned to him for thirty days (Esther 4).
At the end of the three days of fasting and prayer, Esther approached the king unsummoned and by the mercies of God, he held up his scepter and accepted her approach. Because the king loved and favored Esther, he asked her reasons for the approach and instead of asking for mercy upon the Jews, she used the wisdom of God. She invited the king and Haman to a private feast. When they attended, the king promised to give her whatever she desired even if it was half the kingdom. Instead of disclosing her wishes, she invited them to a second feast on the next evening (Esther 5:1-8).
Filled with wisdom and faith in God, Esther bravely revealed her true identity and Jewish heritage to Ahasuerus in the second feast. She had said to Mordecai, “If I perish. I perish,” knowing that this deed was risky for Ahasuerus was known historically as an impulsive king (Esther 4:16). As expected, Ahasuerus was filled with wrath and left the feast to decide what to do. Haman stayed behind and fell at Esther’s feet seeking mercy and forgiveness for the evil he had placed upon the Jews. According to the Word of God, Ahasuerus returned and found Haman on her royal bed, which was against the law, but he interpreted as Haman trying to seduce Esther (Esther 7). Within the hour, Haman was executed on the noose he had prepared for Mordecai, whom he hated, and was forced by the king to honor (Esther 6).
Many stories about Esther always stops at this point when Ahasuerus delivers the Jews from persecution and sets Mordecai as prince of the princes of the provinces and was given the house of Haman (Esther 8:1-2). However, the story continues and is more in depth in the Book of Esther. See, when Esther’s request to deliver the Jews were given, Ahasuerus couldn’t reverse the first decree because decrees could not be recanted. So, in a new decree authorized by Mordecai and sealed by Ahasuerus, the Jews could defend themselves against anyone who tried to persecute them and to also reclaim any property confiscated (Esther 8:4-17).
By the 12th month of the year, the Jews had avenged the death of their people by thousands more including the ten sons of Haman who upon request of Esther was hanged like their father. On the 14th and 15th day of Adar, Esther and Ahasuerus established a new holiday to be celebrated every year to remember how things had turned “from sorrow to joy, and from mourning to a good day” for the Jews (Esther 9:22). This feast came to be called Purim and was written in the chronicles of Persia and Media and is still recognized today by some Orthodox Jews (Esther 9).
Although, the Bible does not give a date of Queen Esther’s death, historians believe she reigned for 13 years even after the death of Ahasuerus. It is believed that she lived to see her son Darius 2nd reign over Persia who assisted Nehemiah in the building of the holy temple in Jerusalem. She was buried in Hamadan (Ecbatana) in what is today western Iran.
Queen Esther can now say the words of King David in this victorious moment. Psalm 18:48, “He delivereth me from mine enemies: yea, thou liftest me up above those that rise up against me: Thou hast delivered me from the violent man.” God found favor in Queen Esther and placed her above his enemies. Her story expresses how we must always put our trust in Him and through every moment in our lives we must remember that we are special to God. With faith, prayer, and love we can shine just like Queen Esther and make good changes in the world in the power and will of God.
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Written by: L.C. Harrison
King James Version Bible – http://www.biblegateway.com
“Esther.” Wayne Blank. Daily Bible Study. http://www.keyway.ca/htm2002/estherb.htm
The Bible Timeline. http://timeline.biblehistory.com/home
“Queen Esther of the Bible.” Israel-a-history-of.com. http://www.israel-a-history-of.com/queen-esther-of-the-bible.html
Photo of Esther and King Ahasuerus by Professional Photographer James C. Lewis
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