Persia gets a new queen, Esther
A beauty contest for the sad king1Sometime later, when King Xerxes cooled off, he started thinking about Queen Vashti. And he began to second-guess his decree that banned her from ever coming to see him again. 2The king’s personal servants dreamed up a suggestion for him. They said:
“Why don’t you send scouts to find beautiful young ladies for you, Your Majesty? 3Appoint officials in each province to look for the most beautiful women there. Bring them here to Susa. Then put them in a harem under the protection of Hegai, your top eunuch, the one in charge of your ladies. And tell the women to bring their makeup. 4Then you get to pick from these beautiful ladies, the one woman who gives you the most pleasure. That’s the woman you can pick to replace Vashti as queen.”
Sounded good to the king. So he gave the order.
Mordecai’s lovely cousin, Esther5A Jewish man named Mordecai lived in Susa. He was from the tribe of Benjamin. His father was Jair, son of Shimei and grandson of Kish. 6Kish was one of the Jews that Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar captured in Jerusalem, when he invaded the country and took Judah’s King Jeconiah captive to Babylon.
7Mordecai had a young cousin, Esther. Here Hebrew name was Hadassah. She was an orphan, so Mordecai adopted and raised her. She grew into a stunningly beautiful young woman.
8Officials took Esther and many other women to the Susa palace. They did this on the king’s order that the most beautiful women should report to Hegai, in charge of the harem.
9Esther impressed Hegai, and she quickly became his favorite. He loaded her up on cosmetics and beauty treatments. He gave her with the food he thought best. And he assigned her seven personal attendants, then gave them the best location in the harem. 10Esther didn’t tell anyone who she was related to or where her family came from. Mordecai had told her to keep quiet about that.
11Every day, Mordecai would walk over the harem courtyard, strolling back and forth, to find out how Esther was doing.
12Each young woman took a turn with King Xerxes—one night. But only after spending a full year on making themselves look and smell their best—and feel soft to the touch. For six months their servants massaged them with olive oil scented in myrrh. Then for the last six months, they were marinated in other perfumes and treated with cosmetics. 13When a woman got her one night with the king, she was allowed to take any supplies she wanted from the harem. 14She would go to the king in the evening. Then in the morning, she would leave the king and go to another harem, instead of the one she came from. Shaashgaz was the eunuch who managed this harem. It’s where the king’s concubines stayed. The young woman would never see the king again unless he called for her by name.
15The time came for Esther to go to the king. Everyone admired this lady, the daughter of a man named Abihail. He was the uncle of Mordecai, who adopted Esther. The only thing Esther asked to take to the king was the advice of Hegai, the managing eunuch.
16Esther met the king in the seventh year of his reign, during the winter month of Tebeth.
A big party for Queen Esther18The king threw a dinner party in honor of Esther. He invited his officials and other leaders to join them. He declared the day a holiday and sent expensive gifts all over the empire, to his scattered provinces.
19By the time all the young women in the hunt for a queen were together again in the harem, Mordecai had become an official, stationed at the king’s gate. 20Esther was still keeping the secret about who she was and where her family came from, just as Mordecai told her to do when she was growing up.
21While Mordecai sat at the king’s gate, two of the guards got so mad at King Xerxes that they decided to assassinate him. 22Mordecai found out about it and told Queen Esther. She reported it to the king and gave Mordecai the credit.
23Officials investigated the charges and found them accurate. So, they executed the guards, impaling them on stakes. Officials wrote the event into the palace records, in front of the king.
Babylonians leveled Jerusalem and the Temple in 586 BC, after destroying many other walled cities throughout the Jewish nation of Judah. Assyrian invaders had erased the northern Jewish nation of Israel more than a century earlier, in 722 BC.
Myrrh and frankincense were two of the most exotic and expensive fragrances available. They were made from sap of small trees and shrubs growing in what are now Saudi Arabia, northern Africa, and India. People would grind up the dried sap and put it in perfumes. They also burned it as a woody fragrance, and a sweet-smelling incense. They burned the incense in religious services. They also burned incense in homes as air fresheners in the days before soap and deodorants.
It’s anyone’s guess what a lady would take to improve her chances of becoming queen. Maybe makeup or perfume to mask the smell of body odor. For Esther, she apparently took some excellent advice about what the king likes to do on a date night.
This would keep in the dark the women who hadn’t seen the king yet, so they wouldn’t have the advantage of someone else’s experience. It’s a bit like keeping the kids from Period One in algebra from sharing test questions with the kids in Period Five.
A concubine was a woman who lived with a man in a legally binding relationship as a secondary wife, but who had less social status and fewer privileges than a wife.
That’s the tenth month on the Jewish calendar. It runs from mid-December to mid-January, from one full moon to the next.
This is an awkward verse that some scholars say may be an editor’s error. It seems to say Mordecai sat at the gateway entrance into the palace. Gates were places where people met and where officials dealt with problems and questions raised by the citizens and visitors. Legal cases were often settled there. Yet it’s unclear what Mordecai was doing at the gate.
- Sorry, there are currently no questions for this chapter.