Quest for Beauty
Lord, You are the God of truth and life. As You speak words of truth to me, may they bring life.
Read Esther 2:1-14
Scripture taken from the THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION, NIV Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Read 1 Peter 2:13-17; consider how these words of Scripture, and the example of Esther, can give insight to living in difficult situations.
In the four years since Vashti was deposed (1:16), Xerxes had been preoccupied with a failed Greek invasion. On his return, he “remembered Vashti” (1)–possibly wishing he could reverse her action and his decree. He became so obviously bereft by her absence that his courtiers suggested a process to find a new queen. We are not sure what characteristics–beyond physical attractiveness–Xerxes was looking for in Vashti’s replacement, but it may have included a more compliant spirit! At the time of her inclusion in the kingdom-wide quest, Esther would have been regarded as respectful of authority (e.g., 1:15,20) as well as possessing great natural beauty.
The process for enhancing the desirability of the young women was elaborate and lengthy, involving perfumes, moisturizers and diet. Today we are critical of beauty pageants, which parade glamorously-attired bodies. Also we recognize that the moral ambiguity of the harem culture does not sit easily with Christian (or Jewish) values of marriage and sexuality. However, the verbs used of Esther suggest she was a passive participant in the search process, not an active seeker for the role. Once conscripted into the draft of eligible young women, she quickly won favor.
We are introduced to Mordecai as a Benjaminite, the descendant of Kish, an exile to Babylon over a century earlier. Identifying his tribal links to King Saul, the son of another Benjaminite Kish, will help interpret later parts of the story. It is not explained here why Mordecai instructed Esther to racial secrecy, but again it is important to the story that no one knew of her Jewish background until the time came to reveal it.
“Esther’s position forces her to make compromises. . . suggesting that within a foreign context there is an order of priorities that were needed if one were to be faithful” (David G. Firth). How do you handle situations that demand compromise?
Heavenly Father, I pray for the renewing of my mind, so that the world will not squeeze me into its mold.