Esther: Day 2

The King Searches for a Queen

by

Today's Text: Esther 2, Proverbs 31:10-31

Scripture Reading: Esther 2, Proverbs 31:10-31

Well, I have to admit; the circumstances of Esther’s appointment as queen are a bit… gritty.

I wish I could say that everything in the book of Esther is beautiful because it’s in the Bible. But the truth is, the Old Testament is filled with the stories of ordinary people who make extraordinarily bad choices. Yes, “All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching” (2 Timothy 3:16), but clearly, we aren’t meant to emulate the idol-loving Jezebel, the jealousy of Joseph’s brothers, or the murderous Cain.

It’s not Esther I take issue with; it’s her circumstances. I can’t help but read her story and feel a little disturbed by the idea of a young woman kept in a harem. It’s creepy to imagine a king trying out different women until he picks his favorite. And it sure seems like Esther was beloved largely because of her looks (Esther 2:15). I suppose that makes her sound eerily similar to a contestant on some reality television show. It makes for an entertaining show, but it’s surely not showcasing the most life-giving way to date in real life.

So then, what can we learn from Esther’s appointment as queen?

First of all, it is good to remember that God works through imperfect circumstances. I don’t know about you, but that’s a huge relief to me. Contrary to the gospel of social media, we don’t need to have perfect lives for God to move in our lives. Esther was a persecuted orphan girl living in a brothel, but the Lord used her to save His people in a big way.

The heart of the Father is to bring beauty from ashes (Isaiah 61:3). This is demonstrated in His redeeming work again and again, through the imperfect circumstances of Scripture’s heroes and heroines. Esther is a godly woman who’s called to act in a precarious situation. What you might notice is that Esther took the wise counsel of those she trusted, keeping her ethnicity a secret until the right time as Mordecai advised, and adorning herself as the king’s eunuch instructed.

Sure, Esther could have been prideful, determining she ultimately knew best. She could have blurted out her secret and chosen her own fashion statements. But had she gone that route, it might have changed the king’s reaction and the entire story.

So was Esther passive or humble? Weak or wise?

While the circumstances surrounding Esther’s story may raise a few eyebrows in today’s culture, the woman herself seems to be an admirable and fierce role model. Esther knew that “charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting,” but the wisdom found in learning to fear the Lord does not fade (Proverbs 31:30). Out of wisdom and humility, she sought the help she needed. And through that counsel, God gave her the courage to walk into a life-threatening situation on behalf of His people.

Esther trusted in her God and in His perfect will. Through her story, we are reminded that our pasts are never too crooked, our circumstances never too disappointing, to take part in the world-changing work of our heavenly Father.

SRT-Esther-instagram Day2

Kaitie Stoddard is a professional counselor who recently relocated from Chicago to Colorado with her husband. She has her Master’s degree in Clinical Psychology and is passionate about helping couples and families find healing in their relationships. On any given weekend you’re likely to find Katie snowboarding in the Rocky Mountains, checking out new restaurants with friends, or catching up on her favorite Netflix and podcast series.

  • I was going through another study of Esther recently with a small group and the women in my group were also perturbed by the focus on Esther’s appearance. I feel like this misses the point a little bit. Esther isn’t favoured because she’s beautiful; she’s beautiful because she’s favoured. God set her apart and chose to give her beauty to accomplish his purposes. He made her and favoured her first, before she entered the harem, met the king, and helped save her people.

    All we have and are was given to us by God. Let’s also be good stewards of what we’ve been given, as Esther was. Let’s not be distracted by what others have been given or get caught in the comparison game. May we all be faithful with what we’ve been given, big or small.

    • Candice Lucik

      Let us be goos stewards of what God has given us, as Esther was. Love this!

  • Wow! I think we are missing the point when we start discussing whether or not Esther was sinning. The Talmud lists Mordecai and Esther as prophets, but Christians don’t list them as prophets. The the Jews, who included Jesus’ ancestors, were not annihilated because of Mordecai’s and Esther’s obedience to God. That is the point of the story, not whether or not Esther was committing adultery. Any person searching for Jesus would not find Him in that discussion!

  • “Contrary to the gospel of social media, we don’t need to have perfect lives for God to move in our lives.”
    THIS. HOWEVER. I feel like this is one of those Christianese, over-spouted statements that make your eyes gloss over. This story proves that it isn’t just about “come to Jesus” testimonies, where God moves in an imperfect life and transforms it. It doesn’t always look like that. Sometimes God moves and the king still has a harem. Sometimes God moves and the people are still promiscuous and still cuss and drink too much. Rid your mind entirely of what you think it looks like when God moves.

    • Paige

      Yes! Wish we had the ability to “like” comments.

      • Terri

        Liking as well. God has moved in so many unexpected ways that I just pray and wait. Sometimes with popcorn. :)

  • Katie Stoddard, you did so well appreciating the icky parts of this story AND high-lighting the inner heart & soul parts in a very positive way. Touché!

  • Hi Ladies! I think one thing that is so important when we study scripture is to get an understanding of the specific time frame in history, and the culture of that time. Many of the customs of that time would be considered outrageous right now in 2017. The message that permeates is that “all things work together for the good”. Esther’s story is FAR from a fairytale, it’s a real-life story of circumstances of that day and era. God used a crazy circumstance to save his people through a woman that loved him. I hope this helps!

    • Jen

      Definitely! And The OT as a whole can get a bit gritty and be maybe darker thank what we traditionally think of stories in the Bible but God was moving and the whole earth was in preparation for a Savior.

  • Cathylynn

    Doesn’t sound to me like Esther had a choice. Do what the king says or die… I’d bet that was the message. In that case, she would not have sinned, don’t you think?

  • Yeah, choosing brothel life doesn’t exactly sound like a Godly decision…

  • I’m glad I’m not the only one curious/concerned about the queen selection process. It seems like the king slept with all of them before he chose…wouldn’t that be wrong for Esther to do?

  • Armybandwife

    I’ve done some studying of the book of Esther and looking into the original Hebrew the words used to talk about her pleasing weren’t used when talking about a physical appearance. Based on the words used Esther had a pleasing personality. I think that since she was so beautiful on the inside, her outside was looked at as beautiful. I was taught that Esther wasn’t beauty queen beautiful. She was attractive and beautiful, but it was really the inner beauty that pleased the servants running the harem.

  • Vashti’s betrayal hit King Xerxes hard and while we sympathize with Vashti and the fact that she was banished from the entire kingdom for said betrayal; we can’t help but thank Vashti and dance a little jig because lets face it, we are Team Esther all the way. Once the search began for a new queen to be crown, we can see even more of Xerxes pompous and disturbing personality. The man literally welcomed 400 ladies to his home, (these women were snatched from their homes and families, some of them may not have been married but they were not single) ordered them to have rigorous and intense beauty treatments (which only shows his vanity even more), ordered them to deck themselves out in such a way that would be even more pleasing to the eye, and then he had sex with each them one right after the other. Can I please just say “EEEEeeeWWWW”. Each lady went through all of this just for her “one night with the king” and the unrealistic possibility of finding favor in the king’s eyes. Hadassah was also forced from her home and asked by her cousin and guardian Mordecai to change her name to Esther and to conceal her family background and her religion. This alone may seem a strange request but it is apparent that God was a work in this moment. I mean think about it. How could Mordecai know at this time that Esther would become queen, that an evil man named Haman would threaten the lives of all of the Jews (including Esther), and that Esther would save her people. If Esther had come before the king with the name Hadassah and told him that she was a Jew, the entire story would have been different. The king most likely would not have chosen her (because even though Jews were no longer in exile, they were not considered desirable. I’ll bet if people knew Esther was a Jew, she would have been sent right home) which means she would not have been put in the perfect position to ultimately foil Haman’s devious plan and save herself and her people. It is obviously God at work. Of course at the time, we have no idea why Mordecai chose to tell Esther to hide who she is but she loved, respected, and trusted Mordecai enough to simply roll with it. Once Esther got to the palace, she won the favor of everyone, even the women who were literally her competition (definitely God) and she ultimately won the favor and heart of Xerxes, which may seem lucky, but as we all know God works in mysterious ways and his plan may not be clear but we must never doubt that he does have a plan. God’s plan for Esther was obviously not clear but he had a plan none the less and his plan was going to be EPIC!!

  • This is one of my favorite books/story from the Bible! Esther is truly a role model.

  • I have always wondered what God’s perfect will was in this situation. Yes, He works His plan no matter what we do. However, since God tells us not to commit adultery, and in this situation the king likely required that from Esther , what was God’s perfect will?

    • She Reads Truth

      Hi Sheila, that is a great question! This would be a great discussion to have with a pastor, trusted spiritual leader or even your local small group. We believe that the Word of God is living and active, and meant to be lived out and processed in community with other believers. When interpreting the Scriptures, being able to process what you’re reading within the context of your local church can make a world of difference. We’re so glad to have you here! – Abby, The SRT Team

    • Courtney Renee

      Hi Sheila,

      I did a little research and found this: “Scripture designates adultery as sexual intercourse between a man, whether married or unmarried, and a married woman.” Therefore, what Esther did wouldn’t be considered adultery and thus, not against the Ten Commandments. According what I learned, sex between two unmarried people (specifically an unmarried woman in the Bible) is not considered adultery. Upon further reading, being a virgin until you’re married is supposedly a societal construct, not a Biblical one.

      At least this is what I’ve learned. It still seems like it would be a sin to me, but I can’t find any reason why it would be other than that that’s what I was told when I was growing up. Is it possible that as long as you aren’t married, that sex isn’t a sin in God’s eyes? In day one of this Esther study, we read about how the king banished Vashti because of what the men said of her actions, not God. Could this be another, long-lived version of that? I looked it up because I was also confused. Does anyone have any specific scripture example to show what Esther did was a sin?

    • Courtney Renee

      Since this is the Old Testament, it was only considered adultery if the woman was married.

      From christianbiblereference.com,
      “What is Adultery?
      Old Testament
      In the Old Testament, adultery was understood as sexual relations between a married (or betrothed) woman and a man other than her husband. It was therefore a sin against the husband.
      New Testament
      Jesus extended the definition of adultery to include sexual relations between a married man and a woman other than his wife (Mark 10:11-12, Luke 16:18). Other New Testament teachings also understand it that way (1 Corinthians 6:15-16, 1 Corinthians 7:2 ).
      Therefore, for Christians, adultery is the sin of a married man having sexual relations with anyone other than his wife or a married woman having sexual relations with anyone other than her husband.

      Exceptions?
      People sometimes wonder if an exception is allowed in case the spouse cannot or will not have sex, or if the couple is separated, or for other reasons. However, the Bible does not mention any possible exceptions. Therefore, as long as a couple is legally married, sex with anyone else is considered adultery.”

      • Claudia

        @Courtney Renee yes you are correct. Adultery is defined as sex between people where one is at least married. But the bible also talks about fornication which is sex before marriage. God does not approve of this and calls it a sin (Matthew 15:19, Mark 7:21, 1 Cor 6:18) Therefore he commands us to marry to avoid fornication. 1 Cor 7:2

      • Courtney Renee

        @Claudia Thank you for this!

  • Esther, in a way, reminds me of Mary. Her season was between her and God, no one else.

    Some points that really stood out to me this morning:
    – Contrary to the gospel of social media, we don’t need to have perfect lives for God to move in them
    – Esther was a persecuted orphan girl living in a brothel, but the Lord used her to save His people

    Best point to take away from today’s study is “our pasts are never too crooked, our circumstances never to disappointing, to take part in the world-changing work of our Heavenly Father!

    Good song to listen to – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WdUu6ZsdVfM

    Have a great Tuesday, everyone!

  • Diane Huntsman

    It would stand to reason that Esther’s future famous comment, “for such a time as this” was her heart.. so although she may have been confused or fearful about what was happening, her future statement comes out of faith.. she had faith in the God of Abraham and trusted her uncle Mordecai.. when our faith is grounded, when we trust with an unshakable trust, being thrown into circumstances that don’t make a whole lot of sense don’t have to move us because we know, in time, the full revelation of Gods purpose will come into focus.. we are all living out “such a time as this” lives.. we’ve been placed on this earth for this time to do the work of a disciple.. how are we making kingdom differences today? Her purpose was to save her people.. we have a similar purpose.. saving souls with the truth of the gospel..yes, Jesus saves, but we are His conduits! Let’s live our purpose for our such a time as this’!!

    • Susie

      It was Mordecai who said that I think, not Esther, when he was encouraging her to help save the Jews.
      It just goes to show that sometimes when fellow believers support and encourage each other, amazing things can happen!!!

      • Diane Huntsman

        That’s right!! She said “if I perish I perish!’ But very good point.. the value when others speak powerful truth into us! Thank you for setting my doctrine straight! I though those were her words!

    • Brandi

      Love this! Thank you!

  • I love the story of Esther because it truly points us back to God’s hand even in a story where his name is never mentioned. Thank you Kaitie Stoddard for sharing some wisdom with us. One important aspect to note is that Esther was Jewish and living in a pagan culture as mentioned. However at this time period, the exile for the Jewish nation was over and she could have returned to the promised land. The fact that she and Mordecai stayed in Susa warrants some investigation into their motives. Perhaps they did not trust in God’s promises or value them as highly and rather chose to stay in a profitable pagan culture. So while Esther is no doubt a strong woman, I believe God used her despite the fact that she should have returned to the promise land and didn’t. Ultimately this points back to a God who is bigger than our circumstances and decisions and acts in our lives to accomplish His perfect plan. Just another thought to ponder.

  • Reading this put this whole part in a new light. It seems Esther is even stronger than I thought, and I agree it is gritty. God really does work through imperfect circumstances!

  • Churchmouse

    Just a note of appreciation to the SRT staff for correcting the problem with accessing the mobile study of Esther. It’s working now! Thank you!

  • Rebekah DeLibro

    I do love the book of Esther and do agree it is “gritty”. These are the stories in the Bible where I can’t wait when I’m in the Lord’s kingdom one day and I can ask Esther herself how she felt during this time. Find out the details of this story and the people involved. God does and will continue to work through imperfect circumstances to bring his will. I’m glad He sees us all as worth working on and with.

  • While I appreciate what the writer is saying, I think it is important to point out that harems and brothels are two very different things. Where a brothel is an open market, if you will, for numerous customers, a harem was considered a sacred space where the chosen wives and concubines of a ruler typically lived out their lives in segregation. To me, this makes Esther’s choice even more remarkable, as she (and the others) gave up their chance for a normal life and family, and in many cases, all contact with the world outside the harem walls once they entered. Through God’s mighty workings – coupled with her faith and obedience – Esther went from a potentially forgotten woman to an instrument of God’s deliverance.

    • Jeanna

      Thank you Jamie, such a great way to frame what we read today!

    • Nhu

      Thank you for this wise input.

    • Justine

      Thank you Jamie! Exactly what I wanted to say!

    • Amanda Bible Williams

      Hi Jamie- Thanks for this note. You’re correct that “harem” is a more accurate term here. We’ve update the post accordingly.

    • Beth L.

      Very true, but it seems that these girls were chosen and it was not their choice to be sent to the harem, that they had no say so in what was to happen to their lives. They were there to please the king, whether they wanted to be there or not.

  • Amy James

    Does anyone know how old Esther was during this time?

  • PursuedByHim

    Esther was wise because she had wise counsel that she listened to and acted upon their counsel. She was living in a pagan culture, and caught up in a pagan ritual, yet following her Jewish laws and wise counsel from others, she eventually saved a nation. She was very humble (accepting counsel) yet very strong (acting on it).

    Sometimes I act with strength without humility and sometimes I choose humility without strength. Neither one works by itself! Humility and strength and wise counsel through my faith are what I need if I want to please our God and savior Jesus Christ.

  • As always, Esther is a strong, thought provoking book.

  • Tricia C

    Amen Churchmouse.
    I always love this book of Esther. I pray that I would be willing to step out of my comfort zone to do God’s calling, as Esther surely did.

  • Churchmouse

    How fortunate it is to have friends who abound in wise counsel! How wise to humble oneself to listen and follow their advice. It’s not always easy to find those kind of trustworthy friends. It is not always easy to follow their advice. Especially in a secular society. Esther had Mordecai. Praying today that we all would have Mordecai’s in our lives – that we would seek them out. And I pray that we would be a Mordecai to another by faithfully studying and sharing God’s word. Who knows how it will affect our world? Who knows how personally life- changing? Let us risk the vulnerability it takes. Let us be willing to live counter culturally. Let us heed the calling of our King.

    • Susan

      Thank you for your heart! I simply wrote in my book as a reminder “have a Mordecai – be a Mordecai”.

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