The Book of Esther, Part One
Well hellooooo there and welcome to my first installation of the Superwomen of the Bible series! Today we’re going to look at the Book of Esther.
But before we get into it, for those of you that don’t know, which is like all of you because this is what, my first post (lol!) I was reading the bible one day, minding my own business, when I was given the idea to summarize the biblical stories in terms that we can relate to today. For me, sometimes when I come across a story, I skim it over thinking that it isn’t relevant or that I can’t relate to it, or that the stories are SO OLD, who does that anymore but I realized that this is far from the truth. The bible and its stories parallel everything that we, both individually and as a society, are going through today. We can still connect to the stories of love, joy, faith, hope, forgiveness, redemption and even the not so rainbow-y stories of jealousy, hate, anger, depression, doubt, DRAMA. I love me a good drama and some of those stories in the bible puts ShondaLand to shame! So juicy. Anyways, what I’d like to do with my Women of the Bible series is have a little bible study with you, if that’s cool?
I am going to break down each story, chapter by chapter, and summarize the details in a way that I makes it more relatable for us in today’s world. And I hope to do so in a way that makes bible study just a tad bit more enjoyable because let’s be honest…bible study can be kind of a drag sometimes #imjustsayin.
For now, I am going to focus on stories of the women of the bible because I am a woman and I like to hear the stories of other women, especially the don’t-take-no-bullcrap-they’ll-kick-your-butt-twice-before-the-rooster-crows ones. And just so you know, I use the NLT version of the bible but I look into other versions like the King James version when I need to get the full effect of what is going on.
Oh and, any words from Jesus will not be paraphrased, remixed, summarized or chopped and screwed, because they don’t need to be, in my opinion.
So that being said and before we dig in, I encourage you all to not just take my summary of these books but to read the actual text in the bible for yourself. It’s some good stuff in there that may speak to you in different ways. If nothing else, I want my summary to encourage you to dust off your bible (or open up the Bible app), read it for yourself, and dig a little deeper and find out what verses speak to you. Let’s start a discussion!
Alrighty then. Who is on the hot seat today?
“She’s your Queeeeeeeeeeeeeen to beeeeeeee”.
Because you just canNOT start the Book of Esther without singing that.
Ok lets dig in.
Chapter 1- The Party
King Xerxes (reign 486-465 B.C.) throws a big 7-day party at his winter palace in Susa. There was lots of wine and in verse 8, we see that by edict of the king, no limits were placed on the drinking. The king had instructed all his palace officials to serve each man as much wine as he wanted. I think it’s safe to say that folks were drunk off their behinds.
On the last day of the party, (spoiler alert) the king was really drunk (unlimited wine will do that to ya) and feeling nice and wanted to bring his then Queen, Queen Vashti, in to show her off in front of his men. The Queen was gorgeous and King Xerxes wanted his men to ‘gaze on her beauty’ or lust for her, maybe. (While I was reading this in the bible I got the weird imagery of me waiting in line at El Pollo Factory, salivating over the rotisserie chicken and somehow related this to how the king wanted his men to drool over the Queen, haha). Anyways, Queen Vashti was not having that. It was against Persian custom for a woman to appear publicly in front of a gathering of men. In response to the king’s order for her to come show off, she tells the king’s men, “nah, I’m good,” which pisses the King OFF.
The king’s pride was undoubtedly hurt. As a king, he expected that all of his demands, especially the one given to his queen, be followed. He then consults with his advisors on what he should do and they tell him that because the queen publicly disrespected him, ALL women were going to disrespect their husbands. They told him that the only way to reprimand the situation was to kick the queen out of the empire. King Xerxes takes their advice and does just that. He also sends a letter out to everyone declaring that every man should be the ruler of his own home.
Chapter 2- Esther becomes Queen
After that whole fiasco, the king’s attendants decided that they will search the empire for some pretty young thangs to join his harem. (A harem is a group of women associated with one man). The plan for the women was to give them 12 months of beauty treatments: 6 months of myrrh followed by 6 months of special perfumes and ointments.
I need to briefly digress here to introduce an important figure of the story: Mordecai. During this time, there was a Jewish man named Mordecai living in Susa and he had a beautiful cousin, Hadassah (aka Esther). When Esther’s mother and father died, Mordecai adopted Esther into his family and raised her as his own daughter. Because of the king’s orders, Esther, and many other young women, became part of the royal harem. She quickly gained favor amongst the person in charge of the harem, Hegai. Mordecai kept tabs on her and instructed her to not let them know that she was a Jew.
When it was Esther’s turn to be taken to the king’s bed, she was given her choice of whatever clothing and jewelry from the harem that she wanted. She must have made a great impression on the king that night because the next morning she was promoted to the second harem. The second harem was where the king’s wives (yep, plural.) lived. There she would be under the charge of Shaashgaz, the king’s eunuch who was in charge of the concubines. She was given orders to never go to the king again unless he had specifically requested for her by name. The king eventually called for her and it is said in verse 17 that the king loved Esther more than any of the other young women so much so that he crowned her and made her queen. And just like that, folks, we have a new queen.
Meanwhile, one day, Mordecai was keeping watch at the king’s gate and he overheard two of the king’s eunuch’s plotting to assassinate the king. Mordecai told his cousin, Queen Esther about it and she told the king, who subsequently impaled the two eunich’s on a sharpened pole.
Chapter 3- Enter Haman
Here we meet another important character of this story: Haman. The king appoints Haman to be in charge of the other nobles and officials, thereby making him the most powerful official in the empire. The king commanded that all other officials bow down to Haman as a sign of respect. Mordecai, however, was not about that life and refused to bow down to Haman because he (Mordecai) was a Jew and Haman’s ancestors were enemies of the Jews. When Haman saw that Mordecai would not bow down for him and show respect, he was furious. He was so angered that he decided that he would punish ALL of the Jews, not just Mordecai. He went to the king and requested that a decree (order) be made to destroy the Jews, young and old, women, men and children, nearly a year later on March 7 for refusing to obey the laws of the king.
As a sidetone: the March 7th date was determined based on the casting of lots. The casting of lots is a method used to determine the will of God. Think of it like, rolling dice or flipping a coin to make a decision. In biblical times, the dice or coin was likely sticks or stones with symbols that were thrown into a small area where the results were interpreted, like flipping a coin to make a decision. The king agreed and a decree was written in the name of King Xerxes and sealed with his signet ring.
Chapter 4- Mordecai requests Esther’s help
When Mordecai finds out about everything that is to come, he is devastated. When news broke out to all of the Jews there was great mourning amongst them. In verse 3, we see that the Jews fasted, wept, and wailed.
Not knowing what was going on, Queen Esther asked her attendant to go find out why Mordecai was mourning. Mordecai told her attendant the plot against the Jews and had the attendant deliver her a copy of the decree that the king signed. He asked the attendant to ask Queen Esther to go to the king to beg for mercy on her people. Esther received Mordecai’s message but in return, she had her attendant tell Mordecai: “Anyone who appears before the king in his inner court without being invited is doomed to die unless the king holds out his gold scepter. And the king has not called for me to come to him for thirty days.”
Mordecai replied, basically saying, “don’t think you will be exempt when all the Jews are killed. Remember, these are your relatives and loved ones that will die.” And then he says what will become one of the two greatest verses in this book:
“Who knows if perhaps you were made queen for just such a time as this?”
This message must have struck Esther deeply because she then instructed Mordecai to gather all the Jews of Susa and fast. She tells them not to eat or drink for 3 days and nights and that she and her maids will do the same. She says that though it is against the law, she will go to see the king and then she says the other important verse in the book:
“If I must die, I must die.”
Mordecai went and did as ordered.
This is a great cliffhanging stopping point, isn’t it? I’m stopping here because, well, this post is already long and I’m sleepy. Isn’t this some good stuff?! DRAMA, DRAMA, DRAMA.
So how am I doing on the retelling of the Book of Esther? What’s your favorite part of the story so far?
Image by Brooke Cagle via Unsplash
Graphics and Content by Cefion