Today we meet the namesake of the book of Esther, and how she came to be associated with King Ahaseurus (Xerxes).
As chapter 2 opens, we see the king still angry over what his (now former) wife had done to him by refusing his request to join him at the party. While his anger was due to his ego being bruised and his public persona taking a hit, the intense rage eventually went away. The king was now in a funk, in the emotional muddle of one moment still having loving feelings for his former wife, the next moment being upset, remembering what she had done to him, and the next moment realizing that he could not back up and take her back because of his decree (v. 1).
So what was the king to do? He was fighting depression, unable to focus, and the kingdom was starting to suffer. The king likely took out his feelings of frustration and moodiness on those closest to him, on his advisers and cabinet members. So they had to come up with something that would get the king moving again, get him refocused and in a better state of mind.
Their plan? Find the king a new wife and make her queen. Search the entire kingdom for suitable young ladies, bring them to the capital city, and let the king pick a new queen. And just like that, the king was back (v. 4)
At this point in the story, we meet a Jewish man named Mordecai (his Persian name – we don’t know his Jewish name). Mordecai had been exiled from his home country of Israel (specifically, Judah), and was now living in Susa, the Persian capital. Mordecai was taking care of his younger cousin named Esther (her Persian name – her Jewish name was Hadassah), because her parents were no longer living. Verse 7 indicates that Mordecai was raising her as his own daughter, so she was likely orphaned at a young age.
When the king’s search for a new wife began, the king’s authorities visited every household, taking possible candidates to the king’s palace for training and beauty treatments. Esther was one of the young ladies chosen, and she quickly became the favorite of the man in charge of preparing these young women to meet the king. He assigned Esther the best room in the harem, and hand-picked seven of the best maids to care for her. Talk about living the pampered life!
Mordecai recognized his cousin’s beauty, and had prepared Esther for the possibility of being chosen and taken to the king’s house as a potential wife. He was obviously greatly concerned about her welfare, as she was Jewish, and knew that if found out, her life could be in danger. Mordecai instructed Esther to not reveal her Jewish heritage to anyone, for fear of her safety. After Esther was taken, Mordecai walked past that part of the king’s house every day to check on Esther’s welfare, hopefully catch a glimpse of her to let her know he cared, and if possible, even have a short word with her to encourage her (v. 11).
As Esther’s story unfolds, we see God’s hand of Providence quietly working in the background, watching over His people, even when far away from their homeland, living in exile and under foreign rule. And so God works in our lives today, showing His lovingkindness toward us in ways we will never know this side of eternity. Yes, there are hard times and difficult circumstances beyond our control. But God is bigger than our circumstances, and loves us with an everlasting love.