1 Out of the choice of virgins a queen is to be chosen. 5 Mordecai the nursing father of Esther. 8 Esther is preferred by Hegai before the rest. 12 The manner of purification, and going into the king. 15 Esther best pleasing the king is made queen. 21 Mordecai discovering a treason is recorded in the chronicles.
Esther 2:1 Later when King Xerxes’ fury had subsided, he remembered Vashti and what she had done and what he had decreed about her.
Vashti had ceased to be queen, but Ahasuerus seemed to be in no haste to confer upon anyone else the dignity that had been hers. His harem was no doubt well supplied with wives and concubines, but none stood out above the rest.
Ahasuerus probably “remembered Vashti,” either upon becoming sober again, or after the lapse of a considerable period. That had been in the third year of his reign. (ch. 1:3), and Esther came to the palace in response to the royal summons in the sixth year (ch. 2:12, 16). For a considerable portion of this time Ahasuerus (Xerxes) was away from Shushan on his ill-fated Greek campaign.
He left Greece in Oct. or Nov., 480 b.c., and Esther came to the palace in January, 479 b.c.). The gathering of the virgins took place during his absence.
Ahasuerus may have considered bringing Vashti back and making her queen again. Had he done so the officers who had proposed her humiliation would have been in danger. Vashti’s disgrace had been their doing; her return to power would accordingly have meant their undoing—dismissal, if not execution.
Esther 2:2 Then the king’s personal attendants proposed, “Let a search be made for beautiful young virgins for the king.
This proposal was certain to be most agreeable to an Oriental monarch like Xerxes. Furthermore, the suggestion that he might find someone even more beautiful and to his liking than Vashti would take his thoughts away from her, and thus safeguard the interests of the men who had proposed her humiliation.
Esther 2:3 Let the king appoint commissioners in every province of his realm to bring all these beautiful young women into the harem at the citadel of Susa. Let them be placed under the care of Hegai, the king’s eunuch, who oversees the women; and let beauty treatments be given to them.
In an Oriental palace the harem was always separate from the residence of the king and other men, usually in another building.
Their establishment was presided over by eunuchs, often called “chamberlains.” In the palace of Xerxes the harem was situated in the northeastern quarter of the palace area (see on ch. 1:5).
Hegai, v. 8) seems to have been keeper of the virgins only. Another royal eunuch oversaw the women who had been presented to the king (v. 14).
Persian kings may have considered themselves demigods and thought it necessary even for virgins to undergo an extended period of “purification” before they were fit to consort with the king.
Let me make use of your imagination while walking over the ruins of the once-beautiful palace.
Esther 2:4 Then let the young woman who pleases the king be queen instead of Vashti.” This advice appealed to the king, and he followed it.
Est 2:5 Now there was in the citadel of Susa a Jew of the tribe of Benjamin, named Mordecai son of Jair, the son of Shimei, the son of Kish,
Abruptly, the scene changes from the court of Persia to a humble Jewish home somewhere in the capital. So far as is known no Jews were ever taken captive to Shushan, and the Jews who lived there probably did so by choice. According to Jewish tradition, Mordecai was engaged in some commercial enterprise before destiny linked him with the Persian court.
Mordecai was a Jew of the tribe of Benjamin destined to occupy a place of honour in the annals of his people.
Nearly 60 years prior to the events narrated in the book of Esther, Cyrus decreed that all Jews desirous of doing so might return to Palestine, but Mordecai’s parents had chosen to remain in the land of their captivity.
This seems to have been the case with most of the Jewish people (see PK 598). When Mordecai’s cousin, Hadassah, was left an orphan he adopted her and reared her as if she were his own child.
While working on certain cuneiform tablets in the Berlin Museum, Prof. A. Ungnad found a text that mentions a certain man named Marduka (the Babylonian transliteration for Mordecai) as one of the high state officials in Shushan during the reign of Xerxes.
His title, sipîr, indicates high rank and influence The presence of a man of influence bearing the same name, living in the same city at the same time, is significant.
Est 2:6 who had been carried into exile from Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, among those taken captive with Jehoiachin king of Judah.
There were three captivities: the first in 605 b.c., when Daniel was taken, the second in 597 b.c., when Jehoiachin was made prisoner, and the third in 586 b.c., when Zedekiah was taken and Jerusalem was burned. Mordecai’s ancestors had been taken to Babylon in the second captivity, 118 years previously.
Ezekiel was among them. Clay tablets in the archaeological museum confirms it.
Esther 2:7 Mordecai had a cousin named Hadassah, whom he had brought up because she had neither father nor mother. This young woman, who was also known as Esther, had a lovely figure and was beautiful. Mordecai had taken her as his own daughter when her father and mother died.
Hadassah was Esther’s original Hebrew name. It is from the root hadas, “myrtle,” with the usual feminine ending ah.
Esther. Heb. ’Ester. This may possibly be a Persian loan word. It closely resembles Stâreh, a modern Persian name meaning “star.” This name is transliterated into Greek as Aster or Esther (LXX).
The Greek root aster appears in such English words as “aster,” “star,” and “asteroid,” which means “starlike.” The Babylonian form of the word was Ishtar, which became ‘Ashtoreth (plural ‘Ashtaroth) and Astartē in Greek. In Babylon the planet Venus was deified as Ishtar. Mordecai’s selection of a Persian name may have been due to a desire to conceal Esther’s Jewish ancestry (v. 10).Beautiful, to’ar, “something to gazed at,”
Esther 2:8 When the king’s order and edict had been proclaimed, many young women were brought to the citadel of Susa and put under the care of Hegai. Esther also was taken to the king’s palace and entrusted to Hegai, who had charge of the harem.
Esther 2:9 She pleased him and won his favour. Immediately he provided her with her beauty treatments and special food. He assigned to her seven female attendants selected from the king’s palace and moved her and her attendants into the best place in the harem.
Knowing the king’s preferences, he apparently recognized in Esther the one who would be selected, and proceeded at once to treat her as the future queen. He selected for Esther the most suitable maidens as her attendants.
The “best place” in the harem could be none other than that reserved for the queen.
Esther 2:10 Esther had not revealed her nationality and family background, because Mordecai had forbidden her to do so.
The king would not easily favour a representative of a subject race. Nippur. Biblical Calne where the 593 BC exiles settle next to the Cebar River southwest of Susa, no doubt closely resembled many native inhabitants of that region. You read more about them on the recently discovered clay tablets.
Esther 2:11 Every day he walked back and forth near the courtyard of the harem to find out how Esther was and what was happening to her.
The context implies that Mordecai was already one of the minor officials who waited at the king’s gates to do his bidding. Mordecai nevertheless contrived to find time to leave the main entrance to the palace long enough to visit the court in front of the harem, that he might see Esther or at least obtain news concerning her.
Esther 2:12 Before a young woman’s turn came to go in to King Xerxes, she had to complete twelve months of beauty treatments prescribed for the women, six months with oil of myrrh and six with perfumes and cosmetics.
Myrrh was highly esteemed by the ancients both for its scent and for its supposed purifying power. In Egypt it was used in the process of embalming the dead (see on Gen. 50:2). The Jews used it as one of the chief ingredients of their “holy anointing oil” (Ex. 30:23–25). Dresses and beds were scented with it (Ps. 45:8; Prov. 7:17).
Esther 2:13 And this is how she would go to the king: Anything she wanted was given her to take with her from the harem to the king’s palace.
Some commentators suggest that each virgin was privileged to retain whatever jewels and garments she chose to wear upon this occasion.
Esther 2:14 In the evening she would go there and in the morning return to another part of the harem to the care of Shaashgaz, the king’s eunuch who was in charge of the concubines. She would not return to the king unless he was pleased with her and summoned her by name.
Another part. That is, the harem proper, where the permanent wives and concubines of the king lived.
Esther 2:15 Now when the turn of Esther, the daughter of Abihail the uncle of Mordecai, who had taken her for his daughter, was come to go in unto the king, she required nothing but what Hegai the king’s chamberlain, the keeper of the women, appointed. And Esther obtained favour in the sight of all them that looked upon her.
She required nothing. Esther accepted the judgment of Hegai without question, despite her privilege to wear clothing and jewels of her own choice.
Est 2:16 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.
The month Tebeth. This corresponded to the latter part of December and the first part of January. In the seventh year of Ahasuerus, Tebeth began on Dec. 22 (479 b.c.) and ended Jan. 20 (478 b.c.). Having returned from the disastrous Greek expedition the year before, he was no doubt content to dismiss military matters from his thoughts.
Esther 2:17 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.
Other woman. Including, no doubt, all his former secondary wives and his concubines as well as all the virgins who had thus far come to him. The king was content with Esther, and seems to have made her queen without waiting to see any other virgins.
What a moment in the life of Esther! Can you see the tears of joy flowing down her cheeks when she was chosen as the queen?
Esther 2:18 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.
The king remitted the usual levy of tribute in honour of Esther’s coronation. It was a royal custom in Persia to give the queen a tenth of all fines paid to the king. With this, the queen provided her wardrobe and other wants.
Esther 2:19 When the virgins were assembled a second time, Mordecai was sitting at the king’s gate.
The king’s gate. In other words, Mordecai became—if he was not already (see on v. 11)—a palace attendant or minor official. The gate of a palace was where the royal offices were located, and state business was transacted (see on Gen. 19:1).
Esther 2:20 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.
Profound respect for her benefactor led Esther to cherish his counsel even after she became queen. This fact speaks well of Mordecai as a foster parent, and of Esther as a loyal and obedient daughter.
Her beauty was essentially beauty of character and personality; beauty of appearance was incidental. Too often parental laxity on the one hand or overbearing strictness on the other, implants in young people the desire to be free from restraint and cultivates waywardness and delinquency.
Happy the home where parental authority is balanced with respect for the individuality of its youth, where parental control is exercised with the objective of developing self-control. Like Esther, such youth leave home with well-balanced personalities and disciplined characters.
Esther 2:21 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.
Bigthan and Teresh were apparently eunuchs responsible for guarding the entrance to the king’s private quarters, perhaps his sleeping apartment. Their position of high trust gave the conspirators an advantage. History records the fact that Xerxes eventually lost his life in a conspiracy of the kind here described.
Esther 2:22 But Mordecai found out about the plot and told Queen Esther, who in turn reported it to the king, giving credit to Mordecai.
Josephus (Antiquities xi. 6. 4), the Jewish historian, tells of a certain slave who betrayed the conspirators to Mordecai.
Esther 2:23 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.
That is, impaled, as traitors and rebels were commonly treated in Persia (see on Ezra 6:11).
A shocking decree was signed by Xerxes and Haman to cause the genocide of the Jews.