Bible Studies in the Book of Esther

Esther Chapter 2: The Preparation for the King

 

By I Gordon

Introduction


The first study concerned the invitation of the king. This second study involves the preparation for the king. Now I hope and trust you have accepted the first and are prepared for the second! Within this chapter we shall be introduced to the one whom the book obtains its title form. She shall arise from humble surroundings and, under the direction of her cousin Mordecai, shall make a bid to be the new queen. But will that succeed? Well, I can’t really hype it up... it’s not like I’m telling the story to someone who doesn’t already know the conclusion so yes, obviously she will succeed! No surprises there! But what may be new to you is that in this chapter we have some great little pictures and types of the preparation that believers go thorough for the true king, Jesus Christ. We shall explore those and be reminded again of that which we will likely experience as we move forward in this Christian life. Let’s have a look!

 

Once the party is over and the lights are out...

 

Esther 2:1-4  After these things when the anger of King Ahasuerus had subsided, he remembered Vashti and what she had done and what had been decreed against her.  (2)  Then the king's attendants, who served him, said, "Let beautiful young virgins be sought for the king.  (3)  "Let the king appoint overseers in all the provinces of his kingdom that they may gather every beautiful young virgin to the citadel of Susa, to the harem, into the custody of Hegai, the king's eunuch, who is in charge of the women; and let their cosmetics be given them.  (4)  "Then let the young lady who pleases the king be queen in place of Vashti." And the matter pleased the king, and he did accordingly.

 

The passage starts off ‘after these things..’ and from Esther 2:16 we find out that it is about 3 years on from the events of chapter one. So the extravagant party-banquet of chapter one is well in the past and the king is feeling sad. You see, things aren’t going well for the king. History records for us that the king had recently returned from a failed military mission against Greece[1]. On top of that, He misses queen Vashti. Nothing is going well and nothing can cheer him up. There is no joy at home and he can’t even get some pleasure from beating up on the Greeks. What can you do for such a man? Clearly there is nothing that can please a man in such a state. Well, apparently almost nothing. The wise men of Persia have one little suggestion. How about a ‘Miss Persia’ contest they ask with smiles on the faces. There is of course a small twist. The winner of this contest becomes the new queen! To this our once-sad king agrees and the contest begins![2]

 

Introducing Mordecai and his good looking cousin

 

Esther 2:5-7  Now there was at the citadel in Susa a Jew whose name was Mordecai, the son of Jair, the son of Shimei, the son of Kish, a Benjamite,  (6)  who had been taken into exile from Jerusalem with the captives who had been exiled with Jeconiah king of Judah, whom Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon had exiled.  (7)  He was bringing up Hadassah, that is Esther, his uncle's daughter, for she had no father or mother. Now the young lady was beautiful of form and face, and when her father and her mother died, Mordecai took her as his own daughter.

 

These verses introduce us to two of the main players in the story that will unfold before us... namely, Mordecai and his beautiful cousin Esther (whose Hebrew name was Hadassah). Both lived in Susa after the exile from Israel. Susa, also known as Shushan, was the capital of the Medo-Persian empire and it was from here that Daniel saw one of his visions (Daniel 8) as well as where Nehemiah began his public life (Neh 1:1-11). Now the parents of Esther had died when she was only young so Mordecai took over the role of bringing her up. The Bible tells us that Esther was ‘beautiful of form and face’. Given that the Bible often uses understatement in such matters, it is fair to say she was a bit of a stunner! Now I’m not sure about you, but there is a chance that this may be useful in a Miss Persia contest!     

 

The gifts of the king

 

Esther 2:8-11  So it came about when the command and decree of the king were heard and many young ladies were gathered to the citadel of Susa into the custody of Hegai, that Esther was taken to the king's palace into the custody of Hegai, who was in charge of the women.  (9)  Now the young lady pleased him and found favor with him. So he quickly provided her with her cosmetics and food, gave her seven choice maids from the king's palace and transferred her and her maids to the best place in the harem.  (10)  Esther did not make known her people or her kindred, for Mordecai had instructed her that she should not make them known.  (11)  Every day Mordecai walked back and forth in front of the court of the harem to learn how Esther was and how she fared.

 

So the selected young ladies are gathered together and each is taken in turn before the king. Esther, who at the instruction of Mordecai kept her nationality secret, quickly pleases the king and is given further gifts of food, cosmetics and personal staff that would help to make her even more beautiful in view of her final presentation before the king. At this presentation, the final choice of the king would be made and the new queen would be crowned.

 

The gospel illustration in this soon becomes apparent. Believers in Jesus Christ are said to be espoused to Jesus Christ, the king of Kings. The marriage takes place after the second coming of Jesus Christ when His kingdom is established on earth. In this age, we find favour with the king through faith and come into a time of preparation for the wedding to come. Paul wrote it like this:

 

2 Corinthians 11:2-3  For I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy; for I betrothed you to one husband, so that to Christ I might present you as a pure virgin.  (3)  But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.

 

Ephesians 5:25-27  Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her,  (26)  so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word,  (27)  that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless.

 

2 Timothy 2:20-22  Now in a large house there are not only gold and silver vessels, but also vessels of wood and of earthenware, and some to honor and some to dishonor.  (21)  Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work.  (22)  Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.

 

So Paul encourages us to remain pure to Christ Jesus, and not be led astray by the ever-increasing deception that abounds. Beware of the enemy’s craftiness! He also encourages Timothy (and in extension, all of us) to be a vessel of honour for his master, free from youthful lusts, by pursuing righteousness, faith and love. To this end, just as king Ahasuerus gave Esther gifts to enable and aid in her preparation, so the king of Kings has given us what we need for our preparation and sanctification. The ‘food’ that our king gives us is the Word of the God for ‘man does live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God’ (Deut 8:3). It is the word of God that informs us of the will and ways of God. Instead of the seven maids that king Ahasuerus gave Esther, God has us the seven-fold Spirit to lead and guide us into all truth[3] and supply the inner strength required to perform the will of our king. Both are precious gifts! But without this later gift of the Spirit, the former gift of His Word would lead only to frustration and despair. But thank God that He is willing to be in us that which His will and word asks of us!    

 

So let the preparations begin...

 

Esther 2:12-15  Now when the turn of each young lady came to go in to King Ahasuerus, after the end of her twelve months under the regulations for the women--for the days of their beautification were completed as follows: six months with oil of myrrh and six months with spices and the cosmetics for women--  (13)  the young lady would go in to the king in this way: anything that she desired was given her to take with her from the harem to the king's palace.  (14)  In the evening she would go in and in the morning she would return to the second harem, to the custody of Shaashgaz, the king's eunuch who was in charge of the concubines. She would not again go in to the king unless the king delighted in her and she was summoned by name.  (15)  Now when the turn of Esther, the daughter of Abihail the uncle of Mordecai who had taken her as his daughter, came to go in to the king, she did not request anything except what Hegai, the king's eunuch who was in charge of the women, advised. And Esther found favor in the eyes of all who saw her.

 

So Esther and the other ‘contests’ were given one year of preparation after which they were called by name to come before the king. And what a year it was! Six months of oil of myrrh treatments... six months of spices and cosmetic treatment... The ultimate in skin, beauty and day spa therapy! And yet there was only one overall winner and the consequences for missing out could be pretty bleak.[4]

 

The comparisons and contrasts with the Christian life are clear. As mentioned earlier, we are currently in a time of preparation for our King. This period doesn’t just last one year though... it takes one lifetime.[5] So keep going and don’t lose heart! Our preparation is not through oil of myrrh and spices, but through the training of the Holy Spirit. In this regard, it should be noted that it was myrrh and spices that were added to the ‘anointing oil’[6] in the tabernacle which was poured out upon all objects and priests who ministered within the tabernacle. This symbol, as we have with Esther’s preparation of myrrh and species in the passage before us, is a picture of the Holy Spirit’s presence upon those that are consecrated to the Lord. We can also take comfort that just as the king called Esther by name, so the king of kings knows His own by name. He knows you intimately and personally and His word to those that are His is:

 

"Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine!” (Isa 43:1) 

 

Crown the Queen and let the celebrations begin!

 

Esther 2:16-18  So Esther was taken to King Ahasuerus, into his royal palace, in the tenth month, which is the month of Tebeth, in the seventh year of his reign.  (17)  The king loved Esther more than all the other women, and she obtained grace and favor in his sight more than all the virgins; so he set the royal crown upon her head and made her queen instead of Vashti.  (18)  Then the king made a great feast, the Feast of Esther, for all his officials and servants; and he proclaimed a holiday in the provinces and gave gifts according to the generosity of a king.

 

So the ‘Miss Persia’ contest has reached its end and the king is ready to give his judgement. The envelope please... And the winner and new queen of Persia is (drum roll please)... Esther! Oh... What a shock! A complete outsider has become the queen! Who would have thought? My money was on that other lass! Now, it is fair to say that on a natural level, Esther was obviously beautiful (as we read about in verse 7), and this probably influenced the king to some degree. But there is more going on here than just pure beauty. The scripture tells us that ‘exaltation comes neither from the east nor from the west nor from the south. But God is the Judge: He puts down one, and exalts another.’ (Psalm 75:6-7) Esther found grace and favour with the king because God was working behind the scenes to move the chess pieces into place for the challenging events that were still to come in this story.

 

So the queen was crowned and a great marriage feast was prepared. The king also proclaimed a holiday and gave gifts throughout the provinces. Blow the trumpets... Get the fattened calf...  The day of great celebration had come and the joy of the king would resonate throughout the kingdom! All of this is a fantastic glimpse is it not, of the day when the marriage of the Lamb shall come and the whole earth will be filled with the rest, joy and peace of the Messianic kingdom. Read and enjoy the following passages for they speak of this coming great day of celebration to which Esther chapter 2 is but a small picture. A day when the grace and favour of the true King towards His bride will overflow to the entire world!

 

Rev 19:7-9 "Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready." It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. Then he *said to me, "Write, 'Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.'" And he *said to me, "These are true words of God."

 

Isaiah 25:6-9 On this mountain the LORD Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine-- the best of meats and the finest of wines. On this mountain he will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples, the sheet that covers all nations; He will swallow up death forever. The Sovereign LORD will wipe away the tears from all faces; he will remove the disgrace of his people from all the earth. The LORD has spoken. In that day they will say, "Surely this is our God; we trusted in him, and he saved us. This is the LORD, we trusted in him; let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation."

 

Isa 11:9-10 They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea. In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him, and his place of rest will be glorious.

 

Conclusion

 

So we have seen that Esther, though a foreigner to the Medo-Persian kingdom, rose from complete obscurity to be queen alongside her king. But behind all the preparation and events occurring on the natural level was a God working in providence to arrange all the actors and participants that would grace the stage for the unfolding of a truly historic story. That which we have seen is only the first of many scenes that will unfold in this story. There are many more twists and turns that shall be the subject of the chapters and studies to come. Think also about your story. Has God called you by name? Have you experienced the grace and favour of the King? Were you anything special that made God choose you? If you have come to know the Lord Jesus as your saviour then my guess is that you too were picked from obscurity, yet given a place alongside the King. I encourage you to meditate on the glory of the kingdom age to come when all true believers shall rule and reign alongside the King of kings.   

 

Bible Studies in the Book of Esther Series


Book of Esther Bible Study Chapter 1 - The invitation of the King
Book of Esther Bible Study Chapter 2 - The preparation for the King
Book of Esther Bible Study Chapter 3 - Haman the Madman
Book of Esther Bible Study Chapter 4 - If I perish, I perish
Book of Esther Bible Study Chapter 5 - Prayer and the power of the third day
Book of Esther Bible Study Chapter 6 - The sleepless king and the providence of God
Book of Esther Bible Study Chapter 7 - The downfall of Haman the wicked!
Book of Esther Bible Study Chapter 8 - The two eternal laws
Book of Esther Bible Study Chapter 9 & 10 - A victory to win and a day to celebrate!

 





[1] McGee notes: ‘"After these things." After what things? Well, the things that had taken place in the first chapter, and the campaign to Greece where Xerxes was soundly defeated. After his defeat he returned in deep dejection to his palace. Added to his misery was the absence of his queen and the fact that the law of the Medes and Persians could not be altered—even by the king himself. Vashti could never again be his queen.

We must turn to secular history for the campaign of Xerxes against the Greeks, since the Bible gives us no record of this campaign. He led a great army against the Greeks. The secret of the strength of the Persians was in numbers, but the individual Persian soldier was not as well trained as the individual Greek soldier. The Greeks emphasized the individual, and as a result one Greek soldier could have taken care of ten Persians. So at the battle at Thermopylae, only a few men could get in the narrow pass. As a result the Greeks won a signal victory over the Persian army. It was an unfortunate defeat for Xerxes, but God was overruling. The power was about to pass from Persia to Greece.

 

[2] It should be noted that in reality even a Miss Persia contest is not going to satisfy the heart of man in his search for fulfilment. True joy and contentment comes only from a relationship with God Almighty for we were created for Him and nothing else can truly satisfy in the long run. Lots of ‘things’ give temporary pleasure. But as Blaise Pascal famously said: ““There is a God shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God, the Creator, made known through Jesus”.

 

[3] The seven fold spirit is based on Rev 5:6 which itself is based on Isaiah 11:2-3. It is seven different aspects of the one Holy Spirit whom the King, Jesus Christ, has sent to all believers just as He promised: And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever-- the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.” (John 14:16-17)

 

[4] Guzik comments on the reality of this contest saying ‘It sounds wonderful - a year of constant spa treatments. Yet the destiny of these women should also be considered: one evening with the king. If he chose them from the 400 others to be his queen, then she would be his companion (until she displeased him). As for the 399 who lost, they were banished to the harem where they stayed the wife or the concubine of the king, but rarely if ever saw him afterwards. And they were never free to marry another man, essentially living as a perpetual widow.’

 

[5] And what makes it interesting is that God desires our advancement in faith until the day we die. In normal life, people tend to work most of their life and then retire in their latter years. We like the idea of making hay while the sun shines and then putting the weary old feet up in our latter years when strength and health fade. And fair enough too! And yet, God isn’t interested in our old age ‘retirement’ when it comes to learning from Him. He cares too much for us to allow that. You had better get used to this idea for the preparation for the king will continue to the day you die and go to be with Him. Through every trial, through every blessing, through every sickness, through every healing... Whether a newborn Christian or an elderly saint longing to be home at last... God desires and looks for your development and continued preparation for the day that you are called by name to stand before Him.     

 

[6] Exo 30:23-25 Take the following fine spices: 500 shekels of liquid myrrh, half as much (that is, 250 shekels) of fragrant cinnamon, 250 shekels of fragrant cane, 500 shekels of cassia--all according to the sanctuary shekel--and a hin of olive oil. Make these into a sacred anointing oil, a fragrant blend, the work of a perfumer. It will be the sacred anointing oil.

It should also be noted that myrrh was associated with death and embalming. Thus, when the wise men brought gifts to the baby Jesus, they bought gold (symbolising deity & glory), frankincense (sinless perfection), and myrrh (a bitter herb speaking of death and suffering). So Esther’s preparation included myrrh just as our preparation involves bitterness and suffering. And yet, in the prophecy of Isaiah 60:6, which mentions the gifts brought to Jesus at His second coming, only gold and frankincense are presented to the king. No myrrh is to be found then for the suffering of Jesus and His bride are finished forever!