Devotional # 79. 3/24/14. Esther 2:1-23.
Introduction. Last week we got an introduction to the book of Esther. But we only met king Ahasuerus (pronounced “Ack-ash-vay-roe-sh) – known as Xerxes, and his queen Vashti. The king divorced Vashti, trying to look good in front of his generals as he proposed a war to them. This week we get to meet Esther and Mordecai, the two central characters to our story.
vv. 1-4. The story continues some time later (“after these things“) possibly “during the latter portion of the king’s I’ll-fated war with Greece (ca. 481-479 B.C.)” (Source 1, p. 685). Once Vashti was gone, the king’s advisors suggest that he get a new wife. So the most beautiful women in the kingdom are prepared with perfumes and dresses to present themselves before him.
vv. 5-7. We are introduced to Mordecai. Being an Israeli living in Persia would have been difficult but he is wise and is part of the government there. It is thought that Mordecai wrote the book of Esther. We see Esther and Mordecai’s lineage and that they are cousins, although he plays more of an uncle or father-like role. Since we know Esther’s name (in Persian) we are given her true, Hebrew name: Hadassah. It means “myrtle” and came from the Persian word for “star” or “possibly from the name of Babylonian love goddess, Ishtar” (Source 1, p. 681).
vv. 8-9. This is a quick section that we might skip over but from the beginning we see that God is working in Esther’s life. We see that all the women were brought into the palace and a man named Hegai is put in charge of them. Hegai was supposed to keep them safe and manage their preparation. Little Esther, not from royal blood, probably questioning why she was there, is taken under Hegai’s wing. He gives her more supplies and moves her to the “best place” in the house. Isn’t it like God to provide for us with the best? Sure we may have gone through difficulties (like losing our parents as Esther did) but He provides security for us, prepares us and gives us the best room in His house!
vv. 10-11. Mordecai tells Esther not to reveal her lineage, not because he is ashamed of it but because it wasn’t necessary at that time. She was born in Persia and with both parents dead she didn’t have to declare it (Source 2).
vv. 12-15. I am so blessed that I don’t have a wife that takes a lot of time getting ready! These ladies took a year to get their makeup on, hair done and perfume sprayed. I can imagine what a person who swims for a few months in perfume would smell like. Esther was smart she only brought what Hegai told her to bring. Who has seen what the king likes in a woman more than the guy in charge of getting women ready?
So Esther goes in front of the king with the other ladies. This was the one chance to impress the king because you had to stand out to him. He had to remember your name if you were going to come back in for a second interview. And Esther gets it.
vv. 16-20. Esther gets the second interview…and wins the beauty competition. She impresses the king and is made queen over all of Persia. But the king still doesn’t know she is a Jew. It shouldn’t surprise us how highly pagan cultures prize outward beauty. These women were paraded in front of the king, after spending a year caking on make-up and trying to get pretty. It was fortunate for the king that Esther had such a good head on her shoulders. And it is fortunate for us that God doesn’t care what we look like but instead what our heart is like. Remember when God is picking a king for Israel and Samuel wants to choose the biggest, toughest guy? What does God say?
1 Samuel 16:7, “But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the LORD does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”
And He picks little David. What did God say about David’s heart? He said, ‘if I was a man, I would be like David’ (paraphrase of 1 Samuel 13:14). The Lord has softened our heart (Ezekiel 36:26) and cleansed it (Matthew 5:8; Jeremiah 17:10; 1 Timothy 1:5; Hebrews 10:22) so that we are pure before Him. We don’t have to swim in perfume or wear expensive clothes, it has nothing to do with what we’ve done – only that our king has made us His bride!
vv. 21-23. Here we start to see a little of what a great spy thriller this book is! Mordecai is part of the judges who sit at the gate, trying the community cases. In this court there are two guards who are mad at the king and plot his assassination. Mordecai finds out about it and reports it to Esther who tells the king. The accusation is verified, the traitors are tried, convicted and receive capital punishment. So Mordecai never gets thanked but notice that it does get documented.
Conclusion. The story of Esther is awesome and shows the power of God. Here Esther is a Jewish orphan with no future but God makes her queen. But that’s not the best part! If you haven’t read the story I won’t ruin it but just watch and see the twists and turns that happen. Even just from the first two chapters, what has God used? The king was having a party when he wanted his wife to strip but she doesn’t so he divorces her, which opens up the throne. Then they go looking throughout the whole land for beautiful women, and Esther actually gets nominated. Then she ends up getting taught how to be royalty in a palace for a year and after that she’s actually picked to be queen! An idiot would say she’s lucky but a believer would say, “yeah, my God can do that!”
Lord, we pray that You would give us a heart to hear and seek You! We pray that You would open our eyes to how our life isn’t just lucky, its blessed by You.
Source 1: John MacArthur, John MacArthur Study Bible.
Source 2: Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry Commentary, OT, p. 506.