ESTHER CHAPTER 2.
Esther Made Queen.
THE CHOICE OF VIRGINS FOR THE POSITION OF QUEEN. — V. 1. After these things, when the wrath of King Aliasuerus was appeased, when the excitement attending the banquet and the affair of the queen’s insubordination had subsided, he remembered Vashti, and what she had done, and what was decreed against her, his brooding over the matter tending to make him melancholy and causing the king’s counselors to suggest a course of procedure to him and to divert a threatening danger. V. 2. Then said the king’s servants that ministered unto him, Let there be fair young virgins sought for the king, the requirements being youth, beauty, and virginity; v. 3. and let the king appoint officers in all the provinces of his kingdom, a matter easy to perform with the extensive Persian post system, that they may gather together all the fair young virgins unto Shushan, the palace, to the house of the women, the apartments set apart for the royal harem, unto the custody of Hege (or Hegai), the king’s chamberlain, the chief eunuch, keeper of the women; and let their things for purification be given them, which, including cleansing and anointing with precious oils and perfumes, extended over some time; v. 4. and let the maiden which pleaseth the king be queen instead of Vashti. And the thing, the suggestion as made, pleased the king; and he did so. V. 5. 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, of the lineage of King Saul, apparently holding some office in the court of the Persian king, v. 6. who had been carried away from Jerusalem with the captivity which had been carried away with Jeconiah (or Jehoiachin), king of Judah, whom Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, had carried away, that is, his house had been carried into exile at that time, about 130 years before, Mordecai himself having been born in Babylonia. V. 7. And he brought up, nourished and reared, Hadassah, that is, Esther, his uncle’s daughter; although her cousin, he became her foster-father and guardian, since he was evidently very much older than she; for she had neither father nor mother, she was a full orphan, and the maid was fair and beautiful, both in face and form; whom Mardecai, when her father and mother were dead, took for his own daughter, taking the place of a full parent toward her. V. 8. So it came to pass, when the king’s commandment and his decree was heard, that concerning the selection of virgins for the position of queen, 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, especially the virgins included in this experiment. V. 9. And the maiden pleased him, she immediately gained the good will of this chief eunuch, and she obtained kindness of him, found grace and favor before him; and he speedily gave her things for purification, all the cosmetics required to enhance her beauty, with such things as belonged to her, especially portions of wholesome food, for a good diet was very essential for the purpose of the king, and seven maidens, which were meet to be given her, out of the king’s house, as her servants and companions; and he preferred her and her maids unto the best place of the house of the women, assigned the best apartments to her and her slave-girls. V. 10. Esther had not showed her people nor her kindred; for Mordecal, with a shrewdness which had the advantages of Esther in mind at all times, had charged her that she should not show it, she should not reveal her nationality. V. 11. And Mordecal walked every day before the court of the women’s house, as near the royal harem as he dared to go, to know how Esther did and what should become of her, ever solicitous of her welfare. V. 12. 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, as custom and etiquette demanded, (for so were the days of their purifications accomplished, to wit, six months with oil of myrrh, this massaging intended for the purpose of bringing out suppleness and grace, and six months with sweet odors, with the perfumes which the Orientals delight in, and with other things for the purifying of the women,) v. 13. then thus came every maiden unto the king, fully prepared and ornamented to gain the king’s pleasure; whatsoever she desired was given her to go with her out of the house of the women unto the king’s house, and many had taken the opportunity to bedeck themselves with every possible ornament in order to attain to the position of queen. V. 14. In the evening she went, and on the morrow she returned into the second house of the women, the harem of the concubines, to the custody of Shaashgaz, the king’s chamberlain, the eunuch in charge of these apartments, 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. In the entire narrative the vanity and nothingness of this world’s goods, also of mere physical beauty, is brought out with great impressiveness. A lair face alone will not bring lasting happiness.
ESTHER CHOSEN QUEEN. — V. 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 Regal, the king’s chamberlain, the keeper of the women, appointed, she called for no excessive cosmetics or jewelry, for she had no desire to practice any blandishments upon the king. And Esther obtained favor in the sight of all them that looked upon her, for modesty is the brightest jewel of female beauty. V. 16. So Esther was taken unto King Ahasuerus, into his house royal, into the king’s apartments, in the tenth month, which is the month Tebeth, in the seventh year of his reign, about four years after the degradation of Vashti, and after Xerxes had returned from his unsuccessful expedition against the Greeks. V. 17. And the king loved Esther above all the women, and she obtained grace and favor in his sight more than all the virgins, he chose her above all her competitors, who were retained merely as secondary wives, so that he set the royal crown upon her head and made her queen instead of Vashti, formally and officially elevated her to that position. V. 18. Then the king made a great feast unto all his princes and his servants, even Esther’s feast, in honor of the queen, to celebrate his marriage; and he made a release to the provinces, he relieved them from certain obligations, probably in the line of taxes, and gave gifts according to the state of the king, in agreement with his wealth and his bounty. V. 19. And when the virgins were gathered together the second time, this having reference to the time before Esther’s marriage, then Mordecai sat in the king’s gate, in his capacity as official of the court. V. 20. Esther had not yet showed her kindred nor her people, had not divulged her nationality, as Mordecai had charged her; for Esther did the commandment of Mordecai like as when she was brought up with him, since the Fourth Commandment applies to the relation to guardians also. V. 21. In those days, while Mordecal sat in the king’s gate, two of the king’s chamberlains, Bigthan and Teresh, of those which kept the door, guardians of the threshold, watchmen of the palace, were wroth and sought to lay hand on the King Ahasuerus, they planned his assassination. V. 22. And the thing was known to Mordecal, he got hold of the information in some way, as Josephus states, through the Jewish slave of one of the conspirators, who told it unto Esther, the queen; and Esther certified the king thereof, giving him the information concerning the plot, in Mordecai’s name. V. 23. And when inquisition was made of the matter, it was found out, the charge was found to be true; therefore they were both hanged on a tree, either hanged on a stake or impaled; and it was written in the book of the chronicles, the royal annals, before the king, deposited in the royal archives after being recorded in his presence. Apparently small and insignificant things, which are nevertheless guided by the hand of God, have often had a deciding influence upon the welfare of the Church of God.