- A Royal Decree
- Passing as a Persian
- Mordecai Looks Out for the King
- References & Footnotes
- Other Pages to View
Born with the name Hadassah, Esther is orphaned as a young child. She is raised by her first cousin, an Israelite from the tribe of Benjamin named Mordecai. Esther is known for her beauty and obedience to Mordecai, a bit of a contrast to Vashti. This made her the perfect candidate for the king's new wife.
An interesting thing to note is that the name Esther is possibly derived from the pagan goddess Ishtar. Alternatively, it could mean star—in Revelation 1, stars are seen as symbols of angels or messengers.
A Royal Decree
After Vashti is ordered to leave the king's presence, and his wrath is appeased, he "remembers Vashti." Most likely this means he missed her, or at least the presence of such a queen. Therefore he begins to search for a replacement. The king calls for all the virgins to be brought to him to find a new wife. A G-rated depiction of this would be like the ball in Cinderella, where all the eligible maidens (who likely would have also been virgins) were paraded before the prince at the ball. However, what actually happened was a little more like the bachelor. The women were housed in the palace and taken care of by the king's chamberlain. The women were given what ever they wished; however, once most women were given to the king, they were sent back as concubines. After having been with the king (likely having sex with the king as well), they were not only undesirable to society but viewed as belonging to the king. He kept them as concubines (i.e., lesser wives), since he had not found one he wished to make queen.
Before Esther joins the women, Mordecai charges her not to reveal herself being Jewish. Esther obeys Mordecai and never reveals her origin. After almost a year, she is chosen as the favored woman among the women, and the king choses to make her his new wife. Esther went from an orphan of the people who had been taken captive to the queen of the most powerful empire of her time. That's what you call a true Cinderella story!
Passing as a Persian
In every renaissance painting, the Jews are painted as very European. In Hollywood movies about the Bible, the stars are often of European descent. Most of the Jews I know support this depiction, but the Bible seems to tell us a different story. When the Jews were in Egypt, Moses successfully passed as an Egyptian. Two of the tribes (Manasseh and Ephraim) were the descendants of an Israelite father and Egyptian mother. The tribe of Judah was born of a Canaanite woman (Tamar). Moses married an Ethiopian. There was quite a bit of mixing with the Hamites early in the Israelites' history, and once they reached the promised land, they continued to intermarry with other nations. The Jews of today appear European because they were absorbed into the Roman empire. After the Roman's destroyed the Temple the Jews were dispersed throughout the empire and married into European families. There are also people who claim Jewish ancestry (and are recognized as Jews) in Africa and Asia. The fact that Esther was able to simply not tell that she was of Jewish ancestry means that she had to blend in with the Persians of that time. I think the fact that the Jews of the Bible were able to "pass" among so many nations speaks volumes to the fact that God does not judge us by race.
Mordecai Looks Out for the King
When Mordecai learns of a plot against the king, he tells Esther who is able to inform the king now that she is queen. Not only does this earn them the trust and respect of Ahasuerus, it becomes the catalyst for Ahasuerus siding with the Jews over Haman later in the book.
References & Footnotes
1. “Esther”. Behind The Name; visited November 2022