WHAT KIND OF KING IS THIS?
Lord, protect me from the effect of unlawful decrees.
Read ESTHER 2:1–14
Esther Made Queen
2 Later when King Xerxes’ fury had subsided, he remembered Vashti and what she had done and what he had decreed about her. 2 Then the king’s personal attendants proposed, “Let a search be made for beautiful young virgins for the king. 3 Let the king appoint commissioners in every province of his realm to bring all these beautiful young women into the harem at the citadel of Susa. Let them be placed under the care of Hegai, the king’s eunuch, who is in charge of the women; and let beauty treatments be given to them. 4 Then let the young woman who pleases the king be queen instead of Vashti.” This advice appealed to the king, and he followed it.
5 Now there was in the citadel of Susa a Jew of the tribe of Benjamin, named Mordecai son of Jair, the son of Shimei, the son of Kish, 6 who had been carried into exile from Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, among those taken captive with Jehoiachin[a] king of Judah. 7 Mordecai had a cousin named Hadassah, whom he had brought up because she had neither father nor mother. This young woman, who was also known as Esther, had a lovely figure and was beautiful. Mordecai had taken her as his own daughter when her father and mother died.
8 When the king’s order and edict had been proclaimed, many young women were brought to the citadel of Susa and put under the care of Hegai. Esther also was taken to the king’s palace and entrusted to Hegai, who had charge of the harem. 9 She pleased him and won his favor. Immediately he provided her with her beauty treatments and special food. He assigned to her seven female attendants selected from the king’s palace and moved her and her attendants into the best place in the harem.
10 Esther had not revealed her nationality and family background, because Mordecai had forbidden her to do so. 11 Every day he walked back and forth near the courtyard of the harem to find out how Esther was and what was happening to her.
12 Before a young woman’s turn came to go in to King Xerxes, she had to complete twelve months of beauty treatments prescribed for the women, six months with oil of myrrh and six with perfumes and cosmetics. 13 And this is how she would go to the king: Anything she wanted was given her to take with her from the harem to the king’s palace. 14 In the evening she would go there and in the morning return to another part of the harem to the care of Shaashgaz, the king’s eunuch who was in charge of the concubines. She would not return to the king unless he was pleased with her and summoned her by name.
a Esther 2:6 Hebrew Jeconiah, a variant of Jehoiachin
New International Version (NIV)
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“Say among the nations, ‘The Lord reigns.’ The world is firmly established, it cannot be moved; he will judge the peoples with equity” (Psa. 96:10).
I don’t know about you, but I struggle now to read these verses without wanting to weep. What saddens me most, I think, is that I have read them many times without really noticing what an absolutely appalling situation of government-sponsored abuse they describe. I read it with an “Oh yes, this happened” mentality, without thinking of what it meant for those young girls and their families. As with so much trafficking happening in today’s world, these families are probably told that this is a huge opportunity for them, and it might be they are promised lots of money for their daughters to compete with others for the “privilege” of experiencing a one-night stand with this decadent older man. If not “chosen,” they are virtually imprisoned for the rest of their lives with no opportunity for marriage and family. One might think it unrealistic if similar things were not happening across the world in our own times. I strongly recommend Elaine Storkey’s book Scars Across Humanity—not easy reading, but it helps us to realize what goes on today.
So why did God want this awful practice to be described in his Word? We can’t excuse the king’s behavior by simply saying “the culture was different then.” Nobody could have read the Law and the Prophets—at least with their eyes open—without realizing how far this situation was from God’s intention for life and leadership at any time in history. Surely this chapter demands special notice. We should be appalled by what happened then, and also by similar practices that forward the overall decadence in our world today.
Think about things in your society which you might have excused as “part of our culture” but should actually be recognized as appallingly corrupt. Should you be taking any action?
Lord, we understand that You place rulers in position of authority, whether good or evil. Help us to come to grips with some of Your decisions along these lines.