“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 Hegai the king’s chamberlain, the keeper of the women, appointed. And Esther obtained favour in the sight of all them that looked upon her.” — Esther 2:15
When our oldest daughter was entering her teen years, she approached me asking about using some of the numerous beauty products she had seen promoted in advertisements. While understanding her desire to look attractive, I was also concerned about the impact of advertising that suggests young women are somehow lacking or less beautiful if they do not use particular beauty products or wear specific brands or styles of clothing.
Not wanting to inflate the issue, but recognizing the need for God’s help to give a wise response, I breathed a quick prayer asking for guidance. Then I responded, “If your time spent in devotion, prayer, and Bible reading is proportional to the amount of time you spend in preparing your clothing, face, and hair, I am sure God will help you know what is right.” She smiled and simply said, “Okay, thanks.”
In the years that followed, that brief discussion did not absolve me from my responsibility as a parent. Occasional direction and correction in this matter was still needed along the way. However, I believe it did emphasize the Biblical truth that what exists in the heart will be evident in the life.
In our text today, Esther was an example of that truth. While the king apparently chose this young Jewish woman to be queen because of her physical beauty, her heart and character were what truly set her apart from the others. Verse 15 of our text relates, “Esther obtained favour in the sight of all them that looked upon her.” When the time came for Esther to appear before the king, she went in simply, bringing only what the chamberlain advised. And ultimately, Esther received the king’s favor, love, grace, and kindness.
My daughter, too, has grown into a fine Christian woman with a heart for the Lord’s work and her family, thus reflecting true beauty. The Holy Spirit has been faithful to teach her over the years concerning what is important to bring before her King, and like Esther, she is now the recipient of God’s favor, love, grace, and kindness.
Chapter 2 of the Book of Esther relates the events surrounding King Ahasuerus’ choice of Esther as his new queen. According to the date given in verse 16, these events occurred about four years after the celebration in chapter 1 which resulted in Vashti’s banishment.
Esther’s relative and guardian, Mordecai, was a Benjamite in Shushan, approximately eighty to ninety years after his great-grandparents had been taken there in captivity. In spite of the passage of that significant amount of time, he had not lost sight of his heritage nor his identity as a Jew. Mordecai had raised his orphaned family member whose name was Hadassah in Hebrew, but Esther (meaning “star”) in Persian.
Esther was “fair and beautiful” (verse 7), and she was among the young women chosen to come to the king’s palace as candidates for queen after the former queen was banished. She joined other candidates under the care of Hegai, the king’s chamberlain who had charge of their beautification and preparation for royal inspection, and soon won his favor. The kindness extended by this chamberlain to Esther is described by the Hebrew word hesed, the word used in several Old Testament texts to describe the mercy and loving kindness of God.
Mordecai instructed Esther not to disclose her Hebrew lineage (verse 10), possibly due to the prejudice of the Persians, or a supposition that her Jewish lineage might have kept her from being chosen as queen. During the year of preparation for the candidates, Mordecai checked daily on Esther’s status from outside the preparation compound, and she was obedient to his instruction. Ultimately, Esther won the favor of all, including the king.
Mordecai may have had a part in the legal system of Shushan since he “sat in the gate” of the city where civic leaders conducted business. Verses 21-23 describe an assassination plot against the king, which Moredecai overheard and reported to Esther. She then “certified,” or made known, this plot to the king. As a result, the assassination attempt was foiled, the guilty plotters were executed, and the matter was documented in official records.
The seemingly insignificant facts of Esther’s hidden Hebrew heritage and Moredecai’s spotless character and loyalty to the king played a significant role in God’s preservation of the Jewish people, detailed in later chapters of the book.
I. The danger to the Jews
A. The background to the plot
2. The elevation of Esther (2:1-18)
a. The search for a successor to Vashti (2:1-4)
b. The qualifications of Esther (2:5-7)
c. The preparation of Esther (2:8-11)
d. The selection of Esther (2:12-18)
(1) The procession of elimination (2:12-15)
(2) The choice of Esther (2:16-18)
3. The service of Mordecai (2:19-23)
True beauty and character are developed inwardly, but ultimately the outward evidence will be recognized by those around us.