Submission and Obedience
Spirit Warfare

October 17, 2004

Esther: Steps in Spirit Warfare, Part 3

The Search for a Queen - Esther 2:1-8

Why did King Ahasuerus wait four years to replace Vashti? Perhaps it's because soon after her rebellion, he went to war against Greece, a long trek and combat that were prolonged by having to travel on foot and/or wooden ship and fight one-on-one. His strong, well-organized military made deep inroads into the Grecian city-states, though, and he returned to Susa quite the victor. With his anger quelled, Ahasuerus was ready to choose a new queen.

Although the king ruled strictly, the government of Persia is known in history as being extremely fair with its citizens. In that spirit King Ahasuerus opened the contest for queen to include beautiful young virgins from across his entire realm, regardless of their family trees or national origins. Overseers appointed in every province located the most desirable women as candidates.

God's summon to salvation is just as encompassing. He extends His call to every land, people and tongue. The Holy Spirit tests each heart by giving it spiritual light in ways particular to the individual with whom He is dealing. The receptive heart may be compared to a 'beautiful' virgin, one who hears and listens. And yet in this very context comes this gleaning word from Jesus, "Many are called, but few are chosen."

Each girl was brought to Susa and put under the care of Hegai, the eunuch in charge of the harem for virgins. Judging from the king's edict that men were to speak in the tongue of their own province, Persia had no law that mandated a common language. Therefore, many languages and dialects must have been represented in the harem as the young women began coming from as far away as India to the east and Egypt to the west.

What a huge responsibility for Hegai! While hardly being able to communicate with many of the young women, he had to give each candidate special cosmetics for preparing herself to meet King Ahasuerus. Hegai also had to explain how to use them and to outline harem expectations. Maybe palace staff who originated from across the realm were assigned to the women according to native language, so they could translate Hegai's instructions.

However it worked, the young women had to understand the expectations Hegai outlined for their purification that would take a whole year. The first six months they used oil of myrrh and continued their beautification for six more months using spices and other cosmetics. While the Bible doesn't say so, the young women surely needed to learn palace protocols and how to approach the king, too. No wonder their preparation took so long!

Basic Preparation for the Throne

It's very compelling that almost in the shadow of the palace in Susa lived a certain beauty who was among those chosen for the harem. Her Hebrew name was Hadassah, but later she took the Persian name, Esther. Orphaned as a young girl, she was adopted by Mordecai, her older first cousin, who took her as his daughter.

About their lives, several items are worthy of notice:

  • Both Mordecai and Esther were Jewish, descendants of those Jews exiled from Judah by Nebuchadnezzar when the Babylonians sieged Jerusalem in 586 B.C.
  • However degenerate Judah's religious practices had been, her people retained God's laws, commandments and teachings in their collective memory during exile.
  • The prophet Jeremiah had told the Jews to settle into the places where they were exiled for 70 years, to build homes, marry, raise families and, above all, to promote their own welfare by seeking the welfare of the place where God would send them
  • One year after Cyrus the Persian took the throne, he decreed, as a designee of God, that the Jews were to return to Jerusalem, and underwrote the cost of rebuilding the city and the Temple.
  • Evidently Esther and Mordecai were among the many Jewish families that chose not to pull up roots and return to Israel, even though God had commanded they should.

So here we see Esther, a beautiful young lady of form and face, taken into the king's harem with the other girls. She, too, was one of the called. As we move into the next article of this series, we shall look parenthetically at the parable of the Sower and the Seed. There we shall see better what it means to be called before picking up the thread of Esther's life and the distinguishing features of her life that made a difference in her future and brought her to the position of being chosen.