Inspirational women of the Bible
In part one of this four part series on queen esther, we will dig into who esther was, the history of the book of esther, The cultural, social, and political happenings during this time, and real talk about what happened in Esther Chapters 1-3.
Who was Queen Esther?
What's happening in the book of esther?
Culturally, Politically, Historically:
Esther in the Bible
let's Talk Esther Chapters 1-2
Esther is a WILD BOOK. It's a soap opera-esq story that has the drama level of an episode of Season 17 of the Kardashians. Reading Esther is like watching an episode of the Bachelor, except this time it actually is the most dramatic rose ceremony ever. It tells a story that is very unique to the Bible and is filled with crazy irony. Here's an interesting fact about Esther you might have notice while reading: God is not directly named one time. I think it's obvious to see God's deliverance, presence, and redemption in this story, but many Bible scholars find that to be a very odd piece of information and another unique quality about the book. I also find that this scripture is packed with lessons about leadership, character, and trusting God.
When you start the book of Esther, it feels like you're jumping into a book that's already a couple of chapters in. The successful King kills it in another battle and is having an elaborate, week long party in his beautiful, huge palace, which he appears to hold in his own honor. From the outside, Xerxes looks like his life is completely perfect. But, Xerxes' lack of impulse control and immaturity is shown when he calls for his wife Vashti, after partying and drinking for a week, and she refuses to come. Vashti doesn't want to show off her beauty and nice figure to her drunk husband and all of his, most likely also drunk, friends. Xerxes, impressionable, angry, and intoxicated, asks his servants what to do and immediately agrees to their plan to banish Vashti from the palace.
Imagine being Vashti for two seconds: You're the queen of Persia, you live in a palace with all of your needs met, married to a king, and ten minutes after you tell your husband you don't want to come to his party, he agrees to grant a government document that dethrones you as queen, boots you out of the palace, and states that you'll never see your husband again. This is SERIOUSLY CRAZY.
Then, Xerxes orders all of the young and beautiful virgins to move into his harem so they can get beautified for a year and then he can pick his favorite one [It seems like an episode of the Bachelor because it is] . If you watch the Bachelor you're familiar with the next part of the story: Xerxes takes alllll these young beautiful virgins to the "fantasy suite", aka he sleeps with all of them and then sends the girls home in the morning if he's not into them. The girls he likes move on to be one of his concubines, i.e. moving on to the final rose ceremony.
Esther, a young, beautiful orphan is chosen [and literally could not turn down the opportunity] to undergo the crazy process to possibly become the queen. Esther finds favor with a lot of people: the eunuch, Hegai, who was in charge of the young virgins prepping for Xerxes, literally everyone who saw her in the palace, and with the bachelor himself, King Xerxes.
Back up and think about how wild her journey has been: She's a Jewish virgin, hiding her identity, doing spa treatments for a year to possibly become the queen of Persia, which is incredibly ironic because of the racial tension and discrimination between the Persians and the Jews at this time. Esther is well liked, is given special privileges, and gets to see her cousin/guardian every day since he works at the palace. Then, the crazy part happens: Esther spends the night with the king. Let's not dilly dally: they have sex, which according to the Old Testament, would technically make her married to Xerxes. Esther technically marries this man, sans the ceremony, and extra wild points because she didn't even know if he would choose her to be his wife in the end! [I'm feeling extra vibes from Peter's season of the bachelor]
Xerxes falls head over heels for Esther and, in what seems to be a few moments after their late night date, decides to make Esther his new wife and queen. She gets a crown, a party, and the King makes the day a holiday.
Esther becoming queen of Persia is only the first five minutes of the dramatic soap opera, Mordecai overhears two of the King's officials detailing Xerxes' assassination plot. Mordecai tells his cousin the queen who saves Xerxes life by sharing the conspiracy with her husband. Read that all again because this. is. wi. ild.
Let’s talk about Xerxes:
Xerxes banishes his wife from their home because she rejected him. He feared disappointing his servants and officials, so he did exactly what they said without a raise of an eyebrow. This happens throughout Esther a lot: Xerxes doesn't take the reigns or responsibilities to lead well. He doesn't ask questions and think of his people, he seems to be afraid to disappoint so he agrees to everything. Historically, we know from other historical documents that he was pretty foolish, impulsive, and often succumbed to the pressure of those around him.
Xerxes agrees to his servants’ idea to hold a beauty pageant to find his wife. He doesn’t want to be alone. Xerxes sleeps with who knows how many women vying to be his queen. If they’re not wife material, they’re just added to his group of concubines. It seems like all these things are telling us something: Xerxes wants love. He wants security, validation, and friends. Throughout Esther, it looks like Xerxes is doing what a lot of us do: he’s trying to fill the need for God in his heart with things that aren’t God. Xerxes tries to use wealth, acceptance from people, love, sex, and beautiful women to be his security and satisfy the desire only God can.
I think if we judge Xerxes without realizing a lot of the same traits we share or have shared with him, we are being majorly hypocritical. We all want to tell ourselves we are always the heroine of the story, Queen Esther, but sometimes we really are Xerxes; we want acceptance or love or friends so we do anything to get them. We aren’t seeking God to satisfy our desires, so we try the counterfeit, human versions.
What are the counterfeits in your life? What do you try to use to satisfy your need for God? How can you seek God to satisfy your heart, desires, and needs?