Sunday, March 27, 2011
Esther Chapter 2
- Living in the city of Susa is a Jewish man by the name of Mordecai. Mordecai's family was exiled with King Jehoiachin.
- If you read the book of Daniel, there's a king of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar. Nebuchadnezzar in his 8th year as king, came against Jerusalem in a siege. Jehoiachin had been king for a grand total of 3 months. But he, just as his father before him, did evil in the sight of God. So God forcefully removed him from his position... quickly...
- King Jehoiachin, his mother, advisers, commanders, and officials, surrendered to Babylon.
- Nebuchadnezzar took 10,000 people back to Babylon.
- Only the poorest of the poor were left in the land...
- So Mordecai's family was either a family of nobility, warriors, or very good craftsmen. Given that it lists Mordecai as being from the lineage of Saul, I would guess some kind of soldier or noble.
- footnote- “The Babylonian policy for taking captives was different from that of the Assyrians who moved most of the people out and resettled the land with foreigners. The Babylonians took only the strong and skilled, leaving the poor and weak to rule the land, thus elevating them to positions of authority and winning their loyalty. The leaders were taken to Babylonian cities, where they were permitted to live together, find jobs, and become an important part of the society. This policy kept the Jews united and faithful to God throughout the captivity and made it possible for their return in the days of Zerubbabel and Ezra as recorded in the book of Ezra.”
- Now what does Babylon have to do with Persia? Well Persia conquered Babylon. And Susa, used to be part of Babylon... So now we are in Persia with the carry over captives from the time of Babylon.
- II Kings 24:8-17
- Mordecai has a beautiful young cousin named Hadassah, who was also called Esther. I thought maybe Esther was a retranslation or something, so I was reading through some of the commentaries... Hadassah meant “myrtle”. Which in context meant something that was good or denoted a good person. Esther was very Persian and meant “star”. However, this one had a neat side note... it said that Esther could have been derived from a word that means “to be hidden”. Which I think is neat since she had to hide her identity. Nor is it clear when she got the name... Whether it was Mordecai's name for her, or Xerxes, later.
- Esther's parents had died and Mordecai had adopted her into his family and raised her as his own daughter.
- With the servants out looking for the most beautiful girls in the land... Esther was brought to the palace with all the other girls and taken to the harem under the charge of Hegai.
- Now, if you remember, Hegai was the eunuch in charge of the King's harem.
- footnote- “Some advisers and government officials were castrated in order to prevent them from having children and then rebelling and trying to establish a dynasty of their own. A castrated official was called a eunuch.”
- Esther found favor with Hegai. He saw something in her worth keeping around. My NLT version says that he was “impressed” with her.
- He ordered a special menu for her meals, provided her with beauty treatments, assigned her 7 maids specially chosen from the king's palace, and moved she and her maids into the best place in the harem.
- Favoritism much? Lol geesh!
- Hegai was in charge of all these women... which means Xerxes probably trusted him... a lot... So here's this man, who apparently REALLY likes Esther... you think he may have brought her name up or mentioned something about her to the king? I figure the king was kinda curious as to how things were going with the process and search... And I think that the king would have probably taken it into serious consideration if this man he trusts to watch all his wives were to say “hey, this one's really awesome.”
- When God places us where He wants us, He doesn't just drop us in and leave us hanging. He paves the way. He allows us to have favor in the eyes of those above us.
- You know, I don't know how many times I've heard my mom praying that her kids would find favor in the eyes of our bosses or professors and so on.
- Sometimes, life just gets hard. Sometimes, there's persecution galore... but when God needs to pave the way, He REALLY paves the way.
- I would not have put it past Hegai to be pushing for his favorite...
- Proverbs 3:1-10; 11:14
- Ecclesiastes 17-18
- I Corinthians 1:18-29
- Esther told no one of her nationality or family. Mordecai had told her not to... and she continued to follow this father figure's direction.
- This may seem a little odd.... why would she keep something like that a secret?
- Being that Persia as an empire sort of collected nationalities and held it as a good thing to be inter-mingled (mainly so the people felt united as Persia... so they were less likely to revolt against the nation...) I don't know that it would have created problems. However, Mordecai felt a need to direct her to be silent on that point... so she was.
- Part of me wants to question how right this was. She wasn't lying... but it still feels deceptive.
- One of my footnotes related it to us not being loud and obnoxious about our faith, but rather waiting on the right time to be forth coming... when “we have won the right to be heard.”
- While that aspect is very true especially when dealing with relationships with people who are unbelievers, or who are unreceptive to religion in general or Christianity specifically, I still have to ask why Esther was told to be silent.
- There have been a lot of times in history that Jews or Christians have had to hide their identities in order to survive persecution.
- Historically, sometimes it seems like the Jews just get picked on by all the big kids all the time. So maybe it was just Mordecai being a little paranoid. Or maybe there was still some persecution and he had reason to fear for Esther. Or maybe Mordecai knew that Jews would be looked down upon a little more than the other races and so Esther wouldn't even have a chance to become queen... Or maybe it was just a God thing... knowing that were her identity known, she wouldn't be able to have the same effect later, as she would otherwise.
- Whatever the reason, Esther was dutiful and followed orders as she was expected to do as a daughter and as a woman.
- Ephesians 6:1-9
- Colossians 3:18-25
- Mordecai kept watch over Esther. He walked near the courtyard of the harem every day so he could find out how she was doing and what was happening to her.
- Even if Mordecai couldn't talk to Esther, he at least was able to keep tabs on her. We have people in our lives who do that for us as well. Our church, our family, our neighbors... Sometimes it's a watch for our safety, sometimes for our health... sometimes it's for our witness.
- What is the world's perception of you? Do they see what is happening to you and see God in the mix? Do they see you respond to hard situations in a Godly manner? Do they see you even in your unguarded moments be real and true?
- Now once these girls had been taken into the harem, they were considered to be the wives or concubines of the king. There was no marriage ceremony... they were just his.
- The girls would have one night with the king... In preparation for that night, they were each given a year of beauty treatments. Six months of oil of myrrh, and six months of special perfumes and ointments.
- When it was time for her to go to the king, she had her choice of jewelry and clothing from the harem.
- Then she would be taken to the king's bed for one night. The next morning, she would be taken to the second harem. This second harem was under the care of a eunuch names Shaashgaz. He was in charge of the king's concubines.
- And this is the part that just blows my mind... She would never go to the king again unless he called for her specifically by name. If they were not remembered... then that was the only night that they would ever see the king.
- Isn't that HORRIBLE!
- Can you imagine getting married and only seeing your husband/wife ONCE?
- Thinking about this life... they had to have been fairly bored with life in general... All day, what do you do? Well... you sit and eat and talk and laugh... with the same people about the same mundane things... You have servants to work for you... you're just supposed to sit and look pretty... I mean good grief! There's only so much you could talk about day in and day out...
- Which in my mind brings up the question of faithfulness...
- If the king never called for you... never asked to see you... your life would pretty much be meaningless... no hope of children, nothing to change the color of the days...
- How many times did these women try to leave with another man? I mean granted, they were pretty well guarded... but still... I wonder how many of them tried to get free. Or were found to be pregnant without having been with the king.
- I mean other than the threat of death... what was there holding them back from trying to find a more... fulfilling life?
- Do you ever feel like that with your relationship with God?
- Have you ever gotten so caught up in life that you started to become apathetic in your faith? Or gotten so overwhelmed that you lost sight of the big picture? Or felt like God just wasn't giving you everything you thought you needed or wanted?
- Today in church we were talking about the “gods” that we have in our lives... like... money, relationships, sex/lust, power, etc. The kinds of things that we put before God. The things that we get caught up with and spend more time on seeking after and searching for than God.
- But isn't it awesome that God's not a distant king? He's a right here king. Yeah He has a lot of us kids. Yeah He has a lot of us to pay attention to... but He never forgets any of us. He's right there beside us working in our lives.
- Does God sometimes feel distant? Yeah... I think we all get in those places every now and again that just feels like God is SO far away... or that feel like God's just not providing everything we need/want.
- But you know... God never leaves us, never forsakes us... is always RIGHT THERE beside us... and He gives us EXACTLY what we need... it's maybe not what we expected... but God knows better than we what we need... and sometimes what we THINK we need... isn't truly what we need...
- Matthew 6:24
- Philippians 3:18-19
- Exodus 20:3
- Hebrews 13:4-6
- Psalm 18; 89
- Luke 16:10-12
- When it was Esther's turn to go in to the king, she took only what Hegai suggested. Again... this guy probably knows what the king likes and wants... so he's probably going to know what to suggest for his favorite...
- Esther was admired by all. She looked beautiful.
- She was taken to Xerxes in the early winter of his seventh year of reign. The king loved Esther more than any of the other women. He was so delighted with her, that he placed the crown on her head and declared her queen in Vashti's place.
- In Esther's honor, Xerxes gave a great banquet for all his nobles and officials and declared it a holiday for the provinces and gave gifts to everyone very generously...
- In other words, Xerxes was pretty happy with his find... lol
- But Esther still kept her identity a secret. Even after Mordecai became a palace official and all the other girls had been moved to the second harem... she still kept her family background a secret... still maintaining her silence by the direction of Mordecai.
- Psalm 25