Monday, February 18, 2013

The Book of Esther, part 1


Let's look at the Old Testament book of Esther. We don’t know who wrote it, but it is generally thought to be written by Mordecai, Esther’s cousin, who plays a major role in the story.

It is the time of rebuilding Jerusalem. Esther becomes queen and saves the Jews from extermination. Though the name of God does not occur even once in this book, His providence is evident as well as His protection of His people. Esther is spelled in Hebrew with the same letters as “I will be hid”. Isn’t that cool? It seems like God loves anagrams, codes and puzzles. Me, too. God is hidden in the book of Esther.

The events of Esther fit chronologically between chapters 6 and 7 of Ezra and tell us that anti-Jewish hostility is intolerable to God. First there is the story of queen Vashti. Esther 1: 10-12, and 19 give the highlights:

10 On the seventh day, when King Xerxes was in high spirits from wine, he commanded the seven eunuchs who served him—Mehuman, Biztha, Harbona, Bigtha, Abagtha, Zethar and Karkas— 11 to bring before him Queen Vashti, wearing her royal crown, in order to display her beauty to the people and nobles, for she was lovely to look at. 12 But when the attendants delivered the king’s command, Queen Vashti refused to come. Then the king became furious and burned with anger.  

19 “Therefore, if it pleases the king, let him issue a royal decree and let it be written in the laws of Persia and Media, which cannot be repealed, that Vashti is never again to enter the presence of King Xerxes. Also let the king give her royal position to someone else who is better than she. 

Look again at verse 11. The implication is that she was summoned to appear wearing nothing but the crown! Yes, sir, naked. No wonder she refused to come.

Nevertheless, Vashti is out, banished, and now this Persian king needs a new queen. It took a while to round up the “many virgins” who would receive special baths, beauty treatments, clothing and accessories. Chapter 2 tells us that they completed 12 months of beauty treatments before spending a night with the king. Each girl was then one of his concubines, but would not get another night with him unless she pleased him. Then Esther (whose Hebrew name was Hadassah, meaning myrtle or joy) gets a turn. Her Jewish heritage is hidden from the king (2:10) who is very much attracted to her. She wins his favor and he crowns her as his queen. 

Meanwhile, there is a conspiracy brewing and I’ll cover that in the next post.
(parts taken from Crossing the Scriptures, Kindle edition or Paperback)