Esther 2:1-4, 7-12, 16-18
After these things, when the anger of King Ahasuerus had abated, he remembered Vashti and what she had done and what had been decreed against her. Then the king’s servants who attended him said, “Let beautiful young virgins be sought out for the king. And let the king appoint commissioners in all the provinces of his kingdom to gather all the beautiful young virgins to the harem in the citadel of Susa under custody of Hegai, the king’s eunuch, who is in charge of the women; let their cosmetic treatments be given them. And let the young woman who pleases the king be queen instead of Vashti.” This pleased the king, and he did so.
He had brought up Hadassah, that is, Esther, his cousin, for she had neither father nor mother; the young woman was fair and beautiful, and when her father and her mother died, Mordecai adopted her as his own daughter. When the king’s order and his edict were proclaimed and when many young women were gathered in the citadel of Susa in custody of Hegai, Esther was taken into the king’s palace and put in custody of Hegai, who had charge of the women. The young woman pleased him and won his favor, and he quickly provided her with her cosmetic treatments and her portion of food and with seven chosen maids from the king’s palace, and he advanced her and her maids to the best place in the harem. Esther did not reveal her people or kindred, for Mordecai had charged her not to tell. Every day Mordecai would walk back and forth in front of the court of the harem to learn how Esther was and how she fared.
The turn came for each young woman to go in to King Ahasuerus, after being twelve months under the regulations for the women, since this was the regular period of their cosmetic treatment: six months with oil of myrrh and six months with perfumes and cosmetics for women.
When Esther was taken to King Ahasuerus in his royal palace in the tenth month, which is the month of Tebeth, in the seventh year of his reign, the king loved Esther more than all the other women; of all the virgins she won his favor and devotion, so that he set the royal crown on her head and made her queen instead of Vashti. Then the king gave a great banquet to all his officials and ministers: “Esther’s banquet.” He also granted a holiday to the provinces and gave gifts with royal liberality.
This is a series on strong women and men of the Old Testament. These pericopes are coming from a children’s Bible so that we can encounter a variety of characters. Let’s be honest. This is a tricky story to look at with modern eyes and find virtues of strength. We know that Esther will go on to do great and strong things as the Queen, but this story is just focusing on how she became Queen. I think it is important for us to acknowledge that God has given Esther gifts that will be used to protect God’s people and allow them to be faithful to God. One of these gifts is beauty. In this context and even in our own times, beauty can play a role in how people perceive and treat others. For Esther, the gift of her beauty and the courage that God has given her to endure the loss of her parents is evident. Esther shows strength in her time in the palace and eventually becomes Queen. It is important for us to recognize that God also gives us gifts that we can use to further God’s kingdom and care for God’s people. Even when we are afraid, we can move forward in faith because we have been empowered by God.
Holy God, we give You thanks for Your many gifts. Help us to be thoughtful about how we use those gifts and to be courageous in answering Your call to love our neighbors. Help us find strength to be Your people today. Amen.