Have you ever been in the position of being able to do someone a favour they didn’t know they needed? Or – how have you benefited from someone else’s intervention in your own life?
15 When the turn came for Esther (the young woman Mordecai had adopted, the daughter of his uncle Abihail) to go to the king, she asked for nothing other than what Hegai, the king’s eunuch who was in charge of the harem, suggested. And Esther won the favour of everyone who saw her. 16 She was taken to King Xerxes in the royal residence in the tenth month, the month of Tebeth, in the seventh year of his reign.
17 Now the king was attracted to Esther more than to any of the other women, and she won his favour and approval more than any of the other virgins. So he set a royal crown on her head and made her queen instead of Vashti. 18 And the king gave a great banquet, Esther’s banquet, for all his nobles and officials. He proclaimed a holiday throughout the provinces and distributed gifts with royal liberality.
Mordecai uncovers a conspiracy
19 When the virgins were assembled a second time, Mordecai was sitting at the king’s gate. 20 But Esther had kept secret her family background and nationality just as Mordecai had told her to do, for she continued to follow Mordecai’s instructions as she had done when he was bringing her up.
21 During the time Mordecai was sitting at the king’s gate, Bigthana and Teresh, two of the king’s officers who guarded the doorway, became angry and conspired to assassinate King Xerxes. 22 But Mordecai found out about the plot and told Queen Esther, who in turn reported it to the king, giving credit to Mordecai. 23 And when the report was investigated and found to be true, the two officials were impaled on poles. All this was recorded in the book of the annals in the presence of the king.
She’s arrived! Esther has been chosen above all others to be Vashti’s successor (vs 17,18). The process of choice may have been discreetly described, but it reflects the nature and character of the society of the day, however much we may find it distasteful. Esther becoming queen is publicly celebrated with the second of the ten banquets this book records, with time off all round and plenty of presents (v 18)!
Almost as an aside, we learn that Mordecai has uncovered some important information. He has a habit of being in and around the environs of the palace to keep an eye on Esther and her well-being (vs 11,19). Somehow he discovered information prejudicial to the king’s well-being (v 21). There are immediate consequences to this. He tells Esther, Esther tells the king, Xerxes’ life is saved and there’s a grisly end for the conspirators (v 23). Mordecai’s part in exposing the plot is recorded – presumably for posterity, but it also has unforeseen consequences that are considerably more significant for him, and for others, as we will read in the remainder of Esther’s story.
Sometimes our actions result in consequences that are obvious from the start; on other occasions, our impact in a situation may be unknown at the time. Pray that you may act with godliness in every situation – and leave the consequences in his hands.
Deeper Bible study
‘How good is the God we adore! / Our faithful, unchangeable friend: / his love is as great as his power / and knows neither measure nor end.’1
You will gather that I have been struggling somewhat in my reading of Esther this time round! I don’t think I have heard a talk on this section without it saying something like ‘how wonderful that God so blessed Esther that everyone admired her, the king liked her better than anyone else, so she was able to win the contest’. Of course God can take and use all kinds of circumstances that are not in themselves what he desires for his people or his world. It maybe that you want, at this point, to concentrate on that and rejoice in God’s sovereignty. Surely, however, there is something not quite right with this argument and maybe the lack of mention of God is again significant. The account is clear as to what happened, but we need to ask more questions about the significance of what is recorded. The king had found himself another beautiful trophy wife to show off how clever and attractive he must be and held another banquet to display his ‘royal liberality’ (v 18).
However, does the fact that this happened mean that we must assume that it was God’s best plan for Esther? Or was God’s concern for the future of the Jews, who deliberately chose not to go back to the Promised Land but decided to remain in Persia, more significant than his concern for one Jewish girl? Scripture is clear that God is sovereign and that ultimately his purposes will be worked out, but it is also clear that sometimes God lets us bear the consequences for our own actions and that, sometimes, innocent people suffer as a result. The text here does not allow those for whom it raises ethical questions to blame God for what was happening in Persia at this time.
Do we sometimes use our conviction of God’s sovereignty to excuse things Scripture itself makes clear do not reflect God’s character? Is this a good way to argue?
1 Joseph Hart, 1712–68
Bible in a year
Read the Bible in a year: Jeremiah 11,12; John 5
Pray for Scripture Union
Please pray that Jim Winning, who has recently joined us as Supporter Care Lead, will quickly find his feet and begin to make positive changes to benefit you, our supporters. Pray too for Karina Motta who works alongside Jim.