Today’s Text: Esther 2:17-18
ISRAEL’S PRESERVATION: Purim
Read the Context: Esther 1-2:18
The 21st century world is programmed to think that events happen as the result of random cause and effect relationships. The message of the Old Testament book of Esther, however, articulates a much different worldview. God is sovereign and providentially intervenes in the affairs of men.
In the biblical account of Esther even though God is never mentioned, He orchestrated events to impact the course of history.
“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.”
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.”
Ahasuerus Xerxes, King of Persia
The scene opens on a banqueting hall in ancient Persia with King Ahasuerus hosting a feast (1:2). Although the king was actually Xerxes, the monarch who ruled from 486 B.C. to 465 B.C., the author uses the official designation “Ahasuerus” employing a repetitive title to emphasize status.
Xerxes was an impressive personage ruling an expansive empire of 127 provinces and a kingdom stretching from India to Ethiopia.
Historians calculate that the feast mentioned in the book of Esther occurred during the third year of Xerxes’ reign shortly before his attempt to conquer Greece—a four-year venture that ultimately ended in defeat. In preparation, Xerxes brought key officials from his kingdom to the winter palace at Susa. For almost six months, Xerxes and his officers strategized, calculated the cost and determined the viability of the campaign based on the strength of the treasury the of Medo-Persian Empire (Est. 1:3-4). At the conclusion, the king hosted a lavish celebration.
The feast was an opulent affair that lasted seven days (vv. 6-7). On the final day of the banquet, an inebriated Xerxes ordered Queen Vashti—who hosted a separate banquet for the women—to appear before his gathered guests. Xerxes intention is not detailed in the passage. But having put every facet of his kingdom on display, it seems likely he wanted to show-off his beautiful queen. Vashti refused to comply.
Angered by Vashti’s insubordination, Xerxes consulted with advisors who counseled him to quickly depose the queen and seek another to fill the position. Xerxes responded favorably to their counsel, removed Vashti and sent letters throughout the empire announcing the edict (vv. 19-20).
History describes Xerxes as easily influenced relying heavily on his advisors. After his defeat at Thermopylae and Salamis, Xerxes returned regretting his decision to depose Vashti.
The wording of his edict coupled with the laws of the Medes and Persians prevented him from rescinding the judgement. It was left to his advisors to devise a plan for filling the vacancy of queen consort.
On the surface, the situation seemed little more than a domestic scandal that had spiraled out of control. In reality, Xerxes’ decision to seek a new queen would be crucial to the survival of the Jewish people.
Two key individuals emerged in the unfolding drama.
Mordecai and Esther
The first, Mordecai, was a Jewish man from the tribe of Benjamin whose great-grandfather, Kish, had been taken into exile by Nebuchadnezzar (Est. 2:6). Mordecai held an undisclosed government position in Susa.
The second, a young woman with the Babylonian name, Esther (a derivative of Ishtar), was also known by her Hebrew name, Hadassah. She was under the guardianship of her cousin Mordecai after her parent’s untimely death (v. 7).
Seeking a replacement for Vashti, the king’s officers conveyed Esther along with other beautiful young women of the kingdom to the “women’s quarters” in the palace at Susa. Sequestered from the general population, the women were subjected to a 12-month protocol of preparation before presentation to the king.
As soon as Mordecai became aware of Esther’s situation, he counseled her not to divulge her ethnic identity; Esther heeded his warning. (v. 10).
Adjusting to her new environment, Esther gained favor from everyone she encountered including Hegai, the eunuch, responsible for the welfare of the women.
Following her course of preparation, Esther was presented to the king. The record states:
“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” (v. 17).
Xerxes announced the Feast of Esther that was celebrated with a luxurious banquet at the palace and as a special holiday among all the provinces of the empire (v. 18).
The extraordinary situation was more than a good story with a fairy-tale ending. In what appeared to be an ironic turn of events, a beautiful young Jewish woman was now queen of the Medo-Persian Empire.
What Esther and her contemporaries could not have anticipated was God’s providence in placing her in a position of royal prominence.
While God set the stage for a dramatic intervention, the players who had been strategically positioned to meet a clear and present danger still had a choice as to whether they would fulfill their destiny.
We are not always privileged to see the minutiae unfolding behind the scenes in our lives. The account of Esther and Mordecai, however, is proof that every detail of life’s circumstance has a purpose in God’s providence.
(To be continued.)
Charles E. McCracken is an international Bible teacher, long-time friend of Israel and advocate for the Jewish people. Known for authenticity in communicating biblical truth, Rev. McCracken’s presentations are relevant for those seeking to understand the significance of Israel and the church in Bible prophecy. He staunchly supports the nation of Israel and the Jewish people’s right to exist and live in peace.
© Charles E. McCracken 2016, devotional comments only. Repost/Reprint with permission from the author via Contact Form under ABOUT. Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved. (Emphasis added.)
1) Detail of Bas Relief: Limestone Magen David, Capernaum. © Charles E. McCracken Archives.
2) Queen Vashti deposed (c. 1890). By Ernest Normand [Public domain].
3) Esther and Mordechai confer. By Aert de Gelder (1645-1727) [Public domain].