In perhaps the world’s first beauty pageant, what was it about a young Jewish girl that stood out from among the most ravishing females in the Persian empire? And this was no fly-by-night affair. Entrants were painstakingly coached and prepared for their appearance before the king. They were beautified for six months with oil of myrrh and six months with perfumes and exotic cosmetics. Perhaps it was her poise, her radiance, her modesty, her bodily features, her tender eyes. Something captivated the king.
It all began during a great feast planned by King Ahasuerus. On the seventh day of the feast, the king sent for his queen, Vashti. She flatly refused to display her body to hundreds of half-drunk men. As a result, she was banished as queen, and eventually, Esther was selected in her place. When Esther was chosen queen apparently no one except her uncle, Mordecai, knew she was a Jewess.
Mordecai had reared the orphaned Esther. After she became queen, he often sat outside the royal court hoping to hear how Esther fared. One day, he overheard several of the king’s chamberlains plotting to assassinate the king. Mordecai reported the plot, thus saving Ahasuerus’ life. Somehow his loyal deed escaped notice and he was never rewarded.
King Ahasuerus had a favorite noble named Haman, whom he promoted above all other princes in his kingdom. Wherever Haman went, people bowed low before him—that is, everyone except Mordecai. In a simmering rage, Haman determined that he would not only attempt to destroy Mordecai, but all the Jewish remnant throughout the Persian empire. Representing the Jews as a rebellious people, Haman asked the king for permission to destroy them. The king agreed to endorse a pronouncement that all Jews in the empire were to be exterminated on the thirteenth day of the twelfth month of the year.
Mordecai sent anguished word to Esther expressing that she was the only one who could prevent this holocaust. Esther went before her king and invited him and his favored Haman to a private dinner. Then another. The night before the second dinner, the king couldn’t sleep, so he asked that the kingdom chronicles be read to him. The reading included an account of Mordecai’s foiling of the assassination plot.
The next morning, the king commanded Haman to honor Mordecai by leading him through the streets proclaiming: “Thus shall it be done to the man whom the king delights to honor!” Not exactly an ego-booster for Haman. Later on that same day, during her second private dinner with the king and Haman, the queen pled for the lives of herself and her kinsmen. Confused, the king asked who wished to destroy them. “The adversary and enemy is this wicked Haman!” cried Esther. In a rage, the king commanded that Haman be hanged and endorsed the Jews in avenging themselves on their enemies.
The main focus of this story is the incredible courage Esther demonstrated. Many kings of past ages were intoxicated with power and thought little of sending individuals to their death. No one could appear unbidden before the king. If the king chose not to raise his scepter when Esther appeared before him, she would be summarily executed before sundown. Esther also knew Haman was a favorite of Ahasuerus, second only to the king in power. If her exposure of Haman were to backfire, she had to know that her life was in the balance. Yet, Queen Esther combined bravery with wise charm, and God saw that she was protected. Her act saved the lives of thousands, and that is why this beautiful, young Jewess is still honored today. One of the most interesting things about Esther’s story is that not once is God mentioned in the story though we see his unmistakable involvement in even the details.
What can we learn from Esther?
Esther is a powerful reminder of our priceless heritage. We follow in a long line of biblical heroes and saints who have courageously stood for what is right and good. Like Esther, they have risked their lives to protect others and to protect a faith that is founded on the Word of God.
Bible Verses about Esther
What questions does this help to answer?
- Who was Esther in the Bible?
- How did God use Esther?
- What is the story of Esther?
Steve Fortosis served for six years as youth minister in several parishes. Meanwhile he was also working toward his masters, then his doctorate in religious education. Through the years he has enjoyed teaching on the college and seminary levels and writing professionally. He has published a number of books including story and prayer compilations, missionary biography, Biblical character biography, devotional lit, children’s lit, and even stories of Bible translation. Presently he resides in Florida with his wife, Debra, where he teaches part-time and writes on a free-lance basis.Steve Fortosis