Now in Shushan the palace there was a certain Jew whose name was Mordecai, who had come from Jerusalem with the captives who had been carried away… And he had brought up Esther, his uncle’s daughter, for he took her as his own daughter when her parents died, and she was very beautiful.
So it came to pass… when many maidens were gathered together to Shushan the palace, that Esther was brought also to the king’s house, to the custody of Hegai, keeper of the women. And Esther pleased him, and she obtained kindness of him; and he speedily gave her everything she needed…. And he moved her… to the best place of the house of the women.
Now when every maiden’s turn was come to go in to King Ahasuerus… whatever she desired was given her to go with her out of the house of the women unto the king’s house. In the evening she went, and the next day she returned into the second house of the women, to the custody of… the king’s eunuch, who kept the concubines. She came in unto the king no more, unless the king delighted in her and she was called by name.
Now when Esther’s turn came, she required nothing but what Hegai the king’s eunuch, the keeper of the women, advised. And Esther obtained favor in the sight of all them that looked upon her. So Esther was taken to king Ahasuerus into his royal house….. And the king loved Esther more than all the women, and she obtained grace and favor in his sight more than all the virgins; so that he set the royal crown upon her head, and made her queen instead of Vashti.
from Esther 2:5-17
Everybody Loved Esther
Everyone who saw Esther loved her. Even the king found love at first sight. And it wasn’t just because she had a pretty face. Clearly she had something the other women didn’t, something that set her apart from the rest: a beauty from within, a beauty that cannot be painted on or worn. Her very spirit radiated grace and beauty. As we know, God had a greater purpose in the entire event. He was setting things up for Esther to save her people from destruction. Could He have done it some other way? Of course He could. But this was the way God chose to work.
This is not the first time God used physical beauty to put someone in a strategic place. Do you remember Moses? He was born during a time when Pharaoh had commanded that all boy babies be fed to the crocodiles in the river! But his mother saw that he was “a goodly child” (i.e. good-looking; Ex. 2:2), and so she put him in the river, all right, but well protected from those crocodiles, and purposefully placed where the princess would find him while under the close supervision of his big sister Miriam. This wasn’t merely a case of a mother who believes her baby is the most beautiful child ever born. He truly was remarkable. In fact, his cuteness, if you want to call it that, was mentioned twice in the New Testament as well (Acts 7:20; Heb. 11:23), where it is said that Jochebed acted on faith in God. Moses’ cuteness saved his life so that one day he could deliver all of the Israelites out of slavery.
Just as Moses was chosen to be the son of Pharaoh because of his exceptional appearance as a baby, so the lovely young virgin Esther was chosen to replace Vashti as queen. Only God knew how significant her role would be.
How Did Esther Respond to the Attention?
First of all, how did she get there? The Bible only says that she was brought to the palace (2:8); it does not elaborate on how she got there. Did Mordecai submit her as a candidate, as the movies suggest, or was she chosen by officers of the king? Did she object or go willingly? I’m sure she was frightened, as the other girls also must have been. But Esther’s faith was in God, and she knew that as long as she obeyed Him, she was perfectly safe anywhere.
Esther was a humble, unassuming young woman. The account of her life gives absolutely no indication that she thought herself special or particularly beautiful. She did not put herself down, but neither did she lift herself up. Indeed, Esther apparently gave little if any thought to herself at all, which is the true definition of humility. Humility is not thinking little of oneself; humility is not thinking of oneself at all. Let that sink in a moment.
Esther was obedient. She obeyed Mordecai, who had raised her as his own daughter, even when obedience could mean death for her. When the critical time came for her to act and save her people from total annihilation, Esther hesitated, but I believe only because of the weight of the task at hand. Jesus, shortly before His crucifixion, prayed, “O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me. Nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will” (Mt. 26:39). He too balked at the gravity of the cross before Him, but He did not deviate one iota from doing the will of the Father. Instead, He prayed to the Father, who in turn gave Him the strength to fulfill redemption’s plan. Esther, in her hesitation, united all the people together in prayer and fasting to the God who had the power to deliver them. She knew it was not her. Deliverance could only come from God. So with resolve she said, “If I perish, I perish (4:16), then she went before the king.
Esther was prudent. After the king received her into his presence, she could have blurted out her accusation against Haman right then and there, but she didn’t. The king needed time to see that his trust had been betrayed by the second in command, “that wicked Haman.” So Esther wisely waited for just the right time, when the king’s heart was softened and Haman’s heart hardened, to make her big reveal.
What About the Other Women?
The Bible does not say that Vashti was put to death. In fact, as soon as the king sobered up, he deeply regretted what he had done. I believe he genuinely loved Vashti and spared her life, allowing her to spend the remainder of her days in the house of the concubines. The much sadder story was all the virgins who went to the king before Esther, who had one night with him and then spent the rest of their days in the house of the concubines, waiting to be called back to him again. They would never know what it was like to be married, loved, raise children, keep home. My heart goes out to them. But if Esther was at all the loving girl that I believe her to have been, I’m sure she made these poor girls feel blessed beyond measure and happy to endure the cross God had chosen for them to bear. But we will talk more about Esther next week.
What Can I Learn from Esther?
- If you are beautiful, do not take it to heart. It’s God who created you and gave you your good looks, so you have nothing to brag about. Instead, be like Esther and don’t give your looks a single thought. After all, beauty does not last forever; but while it does last, let it bring glory to God alone.
Proverbs 31:30 Favor is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman who fears the LORD, she shall be praised.
- Obey God and those in authority over you. And if you must disobey (as Esther disobeyed the king), then make sure you are doing so only in order to obey God.
Acts 5:29b We ought to obey God rather than men.
- Be kind to others. In so doing, they will see Jesus in you. It has been said that you are the only Bible some people will ever read. To the extent such is the case, what do they know about God?
Ephesians 4:32 And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.
- Practice humility. But I’m warning you: you won’t know when you have learned humility, for you won’t be thinking about yourself. Others will see it though, and they will glorify God.
Matthew 23:12 And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.
- Be content with where God has placed you. Esther could have complained. She could have mourned the loss of her family, her virginity, and her freedom. But she chose not to. Granted, none of us is likely to be chosen for a line-up of potential queens, but we must make similar choices, opting to be happy doing what God has called us to do, happy in the place where He has chosen to place us. This too brings glory to God.
1 Timothy 6:6 But godliness with contentment is great gain.
If you have faced a difficult decision, where you trusted God even when you could not see how it was going to work out, I’d love to hear about it in the comments below. Thank you for reading. Have a blessed day!
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Photo taken in Suffolk, Virginia, 2012
Next week: Phoebe