Editor’s note: The purpose of this series is to walk our readers through the book of Esther in order to help them understand what it teaches and how to apply it to our lives. This series is part of our larger commitment to help Christians learn to read, interpret, reflect, and apply the Bible to their own lives.
- David Dunham opened the series by looking at Esther chapter one.
- Today David looks at Esther chapter two.
We’ve been reading Esther wrong. At least that’s what I’ve argued in my previous post in this series. Esther is not a call for us to mimic her heroic stance before a pagan king. It is not intended to champion her faithfulness and bravery for us. In the last post we saw the poor example of King Xerxes, and that seems obvious to us as Christians. In this post I want to suggest that Esther is no better an example for the believer.
As chapter 2 unfolds we come to our main characters, Esther and Mordecai. They are Jews living in the capital city of Persia, called Susa. Now what’s important to point out at the outset is that these two Jews, along with a whole host of other Jews, are living in Persia nearly fifty years after King Cyrus had told them they were free to return to the Promised Land and rebuild the temple. What are they doing in Persia? I think the answer will become even clearer as we look at the text, but it’s immediately apparent that they are comfortable and happy in the Kingdom of Persia. Here’s how the story presents these facts to us.
First, we have the King looking for a new wife and so there’s going to be a parade of women presented to him, and he can choose which one he likes best. Mordecai decides that his cousin Esther needs to present herself to the King’s servants and she needs to try and win his favor. Now intermarrying was forbidden to the people of God. To propose that Esther marry herself off to this pagan king is no small thing, it is an indication of how far removed these Jews are from the cultural beliefs and practices of the people of God.
Likewise, Esther, once she is admitted to the potential candidates for Queen, accepts all the customs and practices of Persia. She enters into the process of grooming and adopts succumbs to any violations of her identity as a Jew. If we contrast Esther with Daniel we see that while he rose to power in the empire by obeying God’s law, not eating the royal food, not practicing their habits and customs which were contrary to God’s law, Esther, on the other hand, is more than willing to comply. You see in Esther 2:9 that she quickly won the favor of the empire and took their cosmetics and their food and was advanced.
Do you see how seductive the empire is? Do you see how seductive the world is? We can be so easily lured into thinking that to succeed, to get ahead, to do well we have to do things the way the world does. We are so often quick to do things just like the world, to be and act just like them. And we take no regard to do things as God would have us to do them. How often do you stop and judge the things you do and think about them according to the Scriptures? Do you judge your sex life by the Bible? Do you judge your television watching by the Bible? Do you judge your check book by the Bible? Do you judge your parenting, your tongue, your anger, your demands, your needs according to the Bible?
Esther conforms to the practices of the kingdom and she does get ahead, she is selected out of all the women to be the next Queen. Some will suggest that her success in the Empire must justify the means by which she rose to this place. But that is not the way we believe as Christians. God has a law, and He expects obedience to it. The end never justifies the means in God’s economy. Regardless of her newfound role in the Empire, Esther was wrong. She is not our example.
“Dare to be an Esther” is the wrong counsel to give a godly woman. It overlooks her blatant rebellion and disregard for the law of God. Esther was seduced by the kingdom. She is not our example but our warning. Cultural assimilation leads to spiritual devastation. The more she finds her home in Persia, the further into disobedience she runs.