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Jun 5 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

May 21, 2017 – Esther chapter 2

Persia’s New Queen

After these things when the anger of King Xerxes had subsided, he remembered Vashti and what she had done and what had been decreed against her. Then the king’s attendants, who served him, said, “Let beautiful young virgins be brought for the king. 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. 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. Esther 2:1-4

Intro: Last week we saw that the message of Esther’s story is:
For such a time a time as this

We were introduced to Xerxes, the king of Persia
– he was a comical character starring in a comical role
• self-indulgent, spoiled, over-protected,
◦ unable to think for himself or make up his own mind
◦ he was easily influenced by others

This word pleased the king and . . . the king did as [his counselor] proposed (Est. 1:21)

• we have just seen this same decision making repeated in verse 4
◦ whatever advice pleased him, that is what he did
– when Queen Vashti refused his command, he became furious
• we will see how, at specific points in story, the plot is turned by anger
◦ here, it was as his anger subsided that the king had a change of heart
◦ I get feeling he regreted losing Vashti
• his attendants picked up on it and were quick to resolve his sadness
◦ earlier, male fear regarding losing control was projected on all women in all the provinces
◦ now a search is made for a new queen in all provinces among all young women
• the criteria for the “contestants”: beautiful, young , virgin
◦ nothing is said about intelligence, talent or creativity

This proposal created a rare opportunity for ordinary families
– queens were usually chosen for political reasons
• to enhance the king’s status, consolidate political power, form an alliance
• so candidates came from a royal line or the aristocracy
– the only concern here is that she please the king
• any woman from any class was eligible if her foot fit the glass slipper

Vv. 5-7, Here we meet Mordecai and Esther

First, we are given their background (we’ll return to this later)
– for now our interest is in the plot’s development
• Mordecai’s ethnicity is specified, “a Jew”
◦ he had taken on the role of a parent for his cousin, Esther
◦ he had filled this role ever since her mom and dad died
• Esther fit the criteria for the royal audition

Vv. 8-9, Right away, Esther was a hit in the palace

In the development of stories, there is often a “helper” who assists the hero
– Hegai is that character in Esther’s story
• that she pleased him means she was off to a good start
• even more important, she found favor in his eyes
◦ this is a special grace that Joseph and Daniel also enjoyed
◦ it turns out to be a critical factor that made promotion possible
– Esther was provided with seven maids–another good sign
• then Hegai moved them to the best place in the harem
• immediately Esther is given unique advantages

Vv. 10-11, A footnote re: Esther and Mordecai

Esther was following Mordecai’s “instructions”
– later this same word is translated “command”
• we are not told why he put this restriction on her
◦ either people knowing her ethnicity could be a threat
◦ or else secrecy was an advantage
• perhaps her compliance is the point — he was still the boss
– in verse 11 it look as though Mordecai is pacing “back and forth”
• he stayed close by and move when Esther was moved
• from now on, they could not have direct contact

Vv. 12-14, How the presentation of the candidates was organized

A year of beauty treatments was divided in half

  1. The focus of the first six months was their bodies
  2. The focus of the next six months was devoted to accessories

– each woman’s turn to visit the king went like this:
• she was given anything she asked
◦ she also took her personal belongings with her
◦ she would not be returning to the first herem
• she spent the evening through the night with the king
• in the morning, she was moved to the second harem
◦ here she entrusted to a different eunuch
• she would not see king again unless she was “summoned by name”

Vv. 15-18, Esther’s turn

I mentioned that Hegai was a helper
– he reminds me of a character in the “Hunger Games”
• Cinna was assigned to design formal attire for Katniss
◦ he not only made her look stunning,
◦ he also expertly set her apart as someone to take note of
• Esther relied on Hegai completely
◦ now she received “special favor” from everyone
– “royal” carries us back to the palace in first scene
• the king immediately fell for Esther
◦ she not only “found favor,” but he “loved” her
◦ even more, she “found kindness” from him (Heb. hesed)
• Xerxes placed the “royal crown” on her head
◦ this circular emblem of authority was transferred to her
◦ this foreshadows another circular emblem of authority that will twice be transferred

The culmination of all of this is that it is time for another feast

Vv. 19-23, Transition to the next scene

Verses 19-20 are simply a reiteration of previous events
– they also serve to place Mordecai at the king’s gate
• I think we’re to assume he’s doing same as he was in verse 11
◦ checking up on Esther
• while there, he overheared a conspiracy
◦ he got word to Esther and Esther relayed it to king
– movies amd literature use a device known as “foreshadow”
• in movies, for example, the camera may close-in on an object and the music gets intense
• “hanged on a gallows” and written in records are foreshadows of coming events

Conc: I said we would come back to Mordecai and Esther’s background

We are given three important pieces of information
– they have to do with their genealogy, with geography, and with history
– these are compass points for triangulating their psychological map

  1. Genealogy (DNA): their biological compass point
    • nor are the alone, for they belong to a “people”
    • for the Jew, community is always greater than one’s self
  2. Geography (Jerusalem): their spiritual compass point
    • Jerusalem was for them the center of the world
    • no matter where they were on earth, they felt the tug of Zion
  3. History: their chronological compass point
    • the memory of how they got to where they were

In the the beginning . . . the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters
– the Spirit has always moved through creation
• when we affect nature, we bend it from within nature
◦ God’s Spirit acts upon nature from, not “outside of,” but beyond
◦ a transcendent Agent
• this is one way God works his will into the natural word

Esther could not help but be beautiful
Hegai could not help but favor Esther
Xerxes could not help falling in love with Esther

You have been prepared
– what you need to be, you already are
• what you need in order to do God’s will is already in your hand
– we live with our DNA in a world moved by cause and effect
• but we are not restricted by these things
• they are tools that serve God’s purpose

And what God has engineered, God will energize
So we wait and watch
because opportunities come to us
and when they do,
we want to feel the timely nudge of God’s indwelling Spirit

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