Chapter 2 begins the story of God’s redeeming grace for His covenant people, Israel. It’s a strange story that starts with the king looking for something or somebody to satisfy his restless soul, someone to fill the void in his life, and ends with the preservation of the Jews once again. It’s a picture of the sinner seeking satisfaction for the longing in his soul and it is also a preview of God’s future redemption of His people, Israel.
Chapter one ended with the divorce of the king from queen Vashti, in a fit of anger.
ESTHER 2:1-4. “After these things, when the wrath of king Ahasuerus was appeased, he remembered Vashti, and what she had done, and what was decreed against her. 2: Then said the king's servants that ministered unto him, Let there be fair young virgins sought for the king: 3: And let the king appoint officers in all the provinces of his kingdom, that they may gather together all the fair young virgins unto Shushan the palace, to the house of the women unto the custody of Hegai the king's chamberlain, keeper of the women; and let their things for purification be given them: 4: And let the maiden which pleaseth the king be queen instead of Vashti. And the thing pleased the king; and he did so."
This is a picture of man’s endless search for something to satisfy the deep need of his heart.
Apparently sometime after deposing his queen, the king’s anger subsided and he realized that he had been foolish in his actions. Throughout the book it’s evident that the king was led by his officials. In chapter 1, seven men went to summon his wife for him and when she refused the wise men suggestion that he replace her with another as queen.
Like all men of power, he relied on other men for information and advice and he didn’t always get the best information or advice.
They suggested that beautiful young virgins be brought to the palace and placed under Hegai, the eunuch in charge of the harem, and given beauty treatments and then the king could pick a girl from them to replace Queen Vashti. It was a well-known practice then for young men who served the king to be rendered unable to reproduce so they would have no ideas of starting their own dynasties. Since they had no desire for women they were trusted to guard the king’s harem from others who did.
The seven nobles, called "the wise men who understood the laws” in chapter 1, advised him to depose Vashti. Verse 1 here suggests the king was having second thoughts about his hasty divorce, and these men certainly didn’t want him to reinstate her for fear she would turn against them. Their suggestion of taking a second wife from the fairest girls in the land appealed to the king and he evidently jumped at the chance.
Verses 5-7. “Now in Shushan the palace there was a certain Jew, whose name was Mordecai, the son of Jair, the son of Shimei, the son of Kish, a Benjamite; 6: Who had been carried away from Jerusalem with the captivity which had been carried away with Jeconiah king of Judah, whom Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon had carried away. 7: And he brought up Hadassah, that is, Esther, his uncle's daughter: for she had neither father nor mother, and the maid was fair and beautiful; whom Mordecai, when her father and mother were dead, took for his own daughter."
Mordecai may be the most important character in this story. He was a Jew of the tribe of Benjamin and he tried to hide the fact he was a Jew, but God’s emissary to the whole human race throughout human history has been the Jew.
Mordecai’s function throughout this story gives us a picture of the Holy Spirit whose function is to exalt the One who came to redeem man, and whose specific work it is to restore man’s lost fellowship with God.
Esther was from the tribe of Benjamin also and was a cousin of Mordecai. She was a beautiful young Jewish girl and lovely in every respect. Apparently both her mother and father died when she was young and she had been raised by Mordecai.
Verses 8-11. “So it came to pass, when the king's commandment and his decree was heard, and when many maidens were gathered together unto Shushan the palace, to the custody of Hegai, that Esther was brought also unto the king's house, to the custody of Hegai, keeper of the women. 9: And the maiden pleased him, and she obtained kindness of him; and he speedily gave her her things for purification, with such things as belonged to her, and seven maidens, which were meet to be given her, out of the king's house: and he preferred her and her maids unto the best place of the house of the women. 10: Esther had not shewed her people nor her kindred: for Mordecai had charged her that she should not shew it. 11: And Mordecai walked every day before the court of the women's house, to know how Esther did, and what should become of her."
In one sense, the king had no right to have this girl. She belonged to a special race that was forbidden by God’s law to marry with another race. She would be obliged to commit adultry with the king before she could be chosen queen. She was a Jewess, living in a foreign land but by the sovereign grace of God she was placed in the line of the king's search. When the king found her he knew she was the one his heart longed for.
How beautifully that represents the fact that we have no right to a redeemed spirit. One man wrote, "The only right man has is to be damned, if we insist on our rights, that's where we'll end up.” God’s grace can overrule and place us where we can find what we’re looking for.
When the Holy Spirit leads our spirit to faith in Christ, we discover that this is the one thing that our life has been yearning for, Christ, the One who satisfies the hunger of our souls.
Esther was taken into the king’s harem along with girls from many nations because the king was king over most of the countries in the Middle East. From the words in verse three, it doesn’t appear that a virgin girl had the option to refuse this offer.
Esther immediately pleased Hegai, the eunuch in charge of this search for a queen, and she was given a very favorable position in the harem. God was leading even in these things.
She received beauty treatments and special food and was given seven maids to attend her and she held this favored position during the long wait before her night with the king.
Verse 12-17. “Now when every maid's turn was come to go in to king Ahasuerus, after that she had been twelve months, according to the manner of the women, (for so were the days of their purifications accomplished, to wit, six months with oil of myrrh, and six months with sweet odours, and with other things for the purifying of the women. 13: Then thus came every maiden unto the king; whatsoever she desired was given her to go with her out of the house of the women unto the king's house. 14: In the evening she went, and on the morrow she returned into the second house of the women, to the custody of Shaashgaz, the king's chamberlain, which kept the concubines: she came in unto the king no more, except the king delighted in her, and that she were called by name. 15: Now when the turn of Esther, the daughter of Abihail the uncle of Mordecai, who had taken her for his daughter, was come to go in unto the king, she required nothing but what Hegai the king's chamberlain, the keeper of the women appointed. And Esther obtained favour in the sight of all them that looked upon her. 16: So Esther was taken unto king Ahasuerus into his house royal in the tenth month, which is the month Tebeth, in the seventh year of his reign. 17: And the king loved Esther above all the women, and she obtained grace and favour 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.”
The year or more wait before they would spend a night with the king was no doubt used to groom these girls for the king’s pleasure and to establish that they were virgins and were not carrying another man’s child. Any child that might be conceived by these unions would be the kings child.
This wasn’t to be a beauty contest to win the king's approval of their beauty; the girls were being prepared to have sexual relations with the king. This is plainly understood by the fact that they would go in to him in the evening and in the morning they would go to what is termed the “second house” of the women where his concubines lived. Those women spent the rest of their lives in the harem of the concubines, and, unless the king called for them by name, they never returned to visit the king.
Esther had followed the instructions of Hegai the eunuch when she went in to the king and the king was so attracted to her that he made her queen in place of Vashti. She would live in the “house royal,” (or palace), and wear a crown.
Verse 18. “Then the king made a great feast unto all his princes and his servants, even Esther's feast; and he made a release to the provinces, and gave gifts, according to the state of the king."
When Esther's turn came to be brought to the king He recognized that this beautiful girl was the answer to the emptiness in his life. He put a crown on her head and gave her authority in his kingdom. Then the king made a big wedding feast, declared a national holiday, lifted the tax burden and gave out royal gifts liberally. Finding this girl had changed the king’s life completely and it had an immediate effect throughout the kingdom.
When we come to Christ for salvation, our life also takes on a new dimension. In 2 Corinthians 5:17, it says, "If any man be in Christ, he is a new creation. Old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” We become “a new man in Christ Jesus.”
Verses 19-20. “And when the virgins were gathered together the second time, then Mordecai sat in the king's gate. 20: Esther had not yet shewed her kindred nor her people as Mordecai had charged her: for Esther did the commandment of Mordecai, like as when she was brought up with him.”
Esther still hadn’t revealed that she was Jewish. Mordecai had told her to keep her nationality a secret. This, along with some other statements in the book, project a clear picture that God protected and used Esther and Mordecai in spite of the fact they weren’t living according to the Law as God had commanded His people.
By God’s Law, she was not to have sexual relations with a man who was not her husband (Exodus 20:14. “Thou shalt not commit adultery”), or marry a pagan (Deuteronomy 7:3. "Neither shalt thou make marriages with them; thy daughter thou shalt not give unto his son, nor his daughter shalt thou take unto thy son.") yet she had been brought into the harem for those very purposes.
Verses 21-23. “In those days, while Mordecai sat in the king's gate, two of the king's chamberlains, Bigthan and Teresh, of those which kept the door, were wroth, and sought to lay hand on the king Ahasuerus. 22: And the thing was known to Mordecai, who told it unto Esther the queen; and Esther certified the king thereof in Mordecai's name. 23: And when inquisition was made of the matter, it was found out; therefore they were both hanged on a tree: and it was written in the book of the chronicles before the king.”
Mordecai’s position at the gate as one of the king’s judges points out again that God is sovereign and He is in control over these events. When Mordecai found out about a plot by two of the royal guards to assassinate the king, he told Queen Esther and she told the king. She gave credit to Mordecai for uncovering the plot and the two men were made a public example and hanged.
This interpretation reads "hanged on a tree" but the literal Hebrew reads "nailed to a tree." When Christ was nailed to the tree, He, too, became a public example only it was for the good of man, not for any sin He had done because He was sinless. He died for your sins and mine. In Colossians 2:13-15 we read: “And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; 14: Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; 15: And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it."
This Old Testament story is a graphic example of the evil force in our lives that tries to overcome us. The life of the king was being threatened; that pictures the existence of Satan’s forces who are at work perverting the mind and will of man, trying to oppose the glory of God and His purpose in man's life.
Since that same force is at work in our personal kingdom, the life of the king in our life is at stake. Our warfare is with Satan who wants control of the soul within each of us.
The enemy tried to strike the king, but God used Mordecai, as a type of the Holy Sprit, and prevented that. The Holy Spirit helps the believer in Christ defeat the wiles of the Devil. We know who the enemy is, and that his doom is certain, but that isn’t the end of the story.
The king didn’t seem to remember Mordecai’s deeds that were recorded in the Book of Chronicles of the Medes and Persians. Later on in the story he will become aware and reward him.
By the same token, God has recorded all that He has done for us in a book, and when we become aware of what that book says about the deliverance that has been wrought for us, and realize what and Who has been nailed to the tree and made a public example for us, we’ll experience the deliverance that God intends for your life and mine.
Doesn’t this story remind us of where God has brought the believer to today? If we are Christians, we have known the restlessness of living without God.
The Book of Esther is about real people that God was using for His purpose and His glory. It’s a great short story. The fact that Mordecai held a position as one of the king’s judges helped set the stage for events important to the Jews in all 127 provinces that this king governed.
It was while Mordecai was a judge that he saved the king’s life by uncovering an assassination plot. Later, when he was rewarded for this, it thwarted the plot of his enemy that threatened to exterminate the entire Jewish nation.
In chapter 3, Mordecai’s antagonist, Haman, comes into the picture and his conflict with Mordecai begins and Mordecai the Jew and Esther are again used by God, this time to save the lives of all the Jews in this Gentile kingdom.
Many years after this,
a Man with Jewish blood was sent from God
to give His life to save both Jews and Gentiles.
That Man was Christ Jesus.