|Today’s reading is drawn from Esther 2:17-23.
After the Persians conquered the Babylonians, Esther’s ancestors chose — along with many other Jewish families — to move to Persia instead of returning to Judah.
About 50 years after King Cyrus’s exile-ending decree, his grandson, Persia’s King Xerxes, throws a party to show off the splendor of his kingdom. While drunk, he calls for his stunning wife Vashti to appear before his guests so that they can see her beauty. She refuses. He has her permanently removed as queen.
King Xerxes then begins an empire-wide search for Vashti’s replacement. Eligible young women from across the kingdom are brought to the king’s palace in Susa where they undergo 12 months of beauty treatments. Esther is one of the young women. Beautiful and kind, Esther finds favor in the eyes of the king’s eunuch, who gives her special attention and instruction. And when it is her night to go and see the king, he is smitten with her. The king crowns Esther his new queen.
Esther’s wise and honorable cousin, Mordecai, watches out for her, advising her not to reveal that she is Jewish, one of God’s people. He even spoils a plot to assassinate the king.
The King’s Heart
Esther is the only book in the Bible in which God isn’t mentioned by name. But even though he isn’t mentioned, God’s sovereign presence is beautifully evident as he masterfully guides and directs history.
In Esther, God formed a girl who grows up to be beautiful — at the exact right time she was the exact right age to be the queen Persia’s king was looking for. God caused this girl to find favor in the eyes of the king’s eunuch so she received special treatment. The beauty that God knit in her was exactly what attracted the affection of Persia’s king. God strategically placed her under the care of her cousin Mordecai who served as an official in the king’s court, where, not coincidentally, he could both look after her at the palace and keep abreast of royal events. God even positioned Mordecai to overhear and foil a death plot against the king.
When a sovereign God guides a story — as he always does — there is no such thing as a coincidence.
Esther’s story has many parallels to Joseph’s — another person God brought into a prestigious position in a foreign land in order to save his people (see Genesis 37 – 44). The writer of Esther may have presented the historical account this way so that readers would make the connection between the two rescues.