Royalty. As a little girl, I had often imagined what it would be like to be one. A princess, a queen, a monarch in my palatial home. I would ride horses and play the violin. Paint in the morning and play lawn tennis in the afternoon. Then have afternoon tea with scones and honey, whilst listening to Brahms and Mozart.
Lately, this idea of becoming royalty has surfaced once again. So I decided to open my Bible and read that one book which was named after a queen. Esther.
It’s been a while since I did a character study – the last one was two years ago, on Ruth (In the Waiting Room). I learned what it meant to live an honourable life as a single woman. This time, I took a look at what it means to be royalty.
The circumstances which brought Esther into the royal palace were intriguing, to say the least. Queen Vashti refused to appear before King Ahasuerus and his guests while he was in a drunken stupor. In response, the King stripped her of the crown and banished her from his presence. He even made a decree to empower all men to be masters of their households, and not allow their wives to disrespect or disobey them.
[Let’s not debate whether the queen or the king were justified in their own actions. The point was, these events occurred and allowed a young lady named Esther to enter the picture.]
Now the king needed a new queen. How does one go about finding a wife befitting a monarch? You stage a beauty pageant, of course. [Let’s not debate this, either.]
It was at this point that we first hear of Mordecai, a Jew who was exiled in Persia, and his young cousin Hadassah, also known as Esther. Mordecai brought up Esther as his own daughter, because she was an orphan. Esther, being beautiful and lovely, was brought into the citadel of Susa when the search for the new queen went into full swing. Eventually, after twelve months, Esther won the favour of the king and was named queen.
What was it that set Esther apart from the other young ladies?
As I read the text, one thing was clear – Esther had a healthy attitude towards authority. Her obedience and submission stood in stark contrast with Queen Vashti’s refusal to indulge King Ahasuerus. Esther remained obedient to Mordecai, and all figures of authority set over her. How was this displayed?
First, the Bible never mentioned whether Esther was asked if she would like to go to Susa and vie for queenship. It was simply stated as a fact –
So when the king’s order and his edict were proclaimed, and when many young women were gathered in Susa the citadel in custody of Hegai, Esther also was taken into the king’s palace and put in custody of Hegai, who had charge of the women.
Becoming a queen back then isn’t as glamorous as we think. It meant being a trophy wife, having no claim to your own life. You are treated as the king’s possession. You are to appear before him when he asks for you; outside of that, you pretty much just wait for him to call. Agreeing to be taken to the king’s palace meant Esther had to give up her freedom. There was no mention of her being asked what she thought, or whether she even got to choose. She simply allowed herself to be brought to Susa. She trusted those who made the decision for her.
Second, Esther kept quiet about her Jewish roots simply because Mordecai told her. Even when she wasn’t told why, she obeyed. Even when she was no longer living under his roof, she obeyed. The wonderful thing about her attitude was that it wasn’t blind obedience. It was was submission rooted in love, because she knew how much her foster father cared for her.
And every day Mordecai walked in front of the court of the harem to learn how Esther was and what was happening to her.
Esther understood that Mordecai’s instructions were coming from a place of concern and wisdom. There was implicit trust. Under his protection, she was able to obey.
Third, Esther listened to and sought advice from other figures of authority. While she was in the harem, Esther obeyed Hegai, the eunuch who was in charge of the women.
When the turn came for Esther the daughter of Abihail the uncle of Mordecai, who had taken her as his own daughter, to go in to the king, she asked for nothing except what Hegai the king’s eunuch, who had charge of the women, advised. Now Esther was winning favour in the eyes of all who saw her.
Esther won people’s favour not just through her outward beauty, but also through her demeanour. She knew whom she had to respect and obey. She followed them to the letter – asking for nothing except what was advised.
Here was a woman upon whom God’s favour rests, because she knew her place.
Oftentimes I find myself fighting for my position – for respect, for attention, for credit, or even just to be heard. Esther didn’t do any of that, and yet she was favoured by all. Why? She had that inner peace that is so elusive. Her heart rests in the Lord, and in those who take care of her. She has that quiet confidence of a woman who knows she is loved. How can you not be attracted to that?
Whilst Esther’s submissiveness and obedience brought her into the palace, it was the strength of her character and her discernment which made her a true queen.
Haman, one of the king’s officers, had devised a plot to annihilate the Jews. Esther’s roots were still unknown at this time. Mordecai told Esther to plead with the king on behalf of the Jewish people. Esther reminded her cousin that anyone who appears before the king without being summoned shall be put to death, except when he extends his sceptre in approval. She knew the cost of Mordecai’s request.
He cousin responded – don’t think that you will be spared. If you refuse, God will bring another deliverer for his people. Such was his faith in God, and this faith was imparted to Queen Esther.
Esther understood what was at stake. And she knew she needed the Lord’s help. She asked that all the Jewish people hold a three-day fast for her, prior to approaching the king. Esther and her ladies also kept the same fast, preparing her for the task ahead. She closed the conversation with six strong words, “and if I perish, I perish.” Esther was willing to pay the price for her people.
The willingness to bear the burden for the good of many – that was Esther’s royal calling. She knew it was not her choice to make, and she did not back down. She also knew that she had to appeal to God before she appealed to the king. Esther understood the lines of authority – God above all, then Mordecai and King Ahasuerus.
God must have spoken to Esther during those three days, because her actions showed great discernment and wisdom. Instead of immediately making her request known to the king, she approached him carefully, winning his favour in increasing measure.
[In case you’re wondering why Esther had to go through such a tedious process, her approach can be explained by modern sales psychology. When you are trying to close a big sale or make a grand request, you start out by making smaller, easily granted requests first. Once you have elicited the first yes, subsequent responses are more likely to be positive.]
Despite it not being overtly mentioned, God was clearly at work in this story. The extra day between Esther’s first and second banquets allowed King Ahasuerus to remember Mordecai’s act of loyalty. It made the king more positively disposed towards Mordecai, before Esther revealed her Jewish roots and their kinship. When Esther finally made her request known, she already had the king’s heart. Haman was hanged, the Jews were saved, and their enemies destroyed.
All because one woman understood her position in life – not as a favoured monarch, but as a humble servant. She won her people’s freedom because of her willingness to obey and to risk her life, relying on the Lord for the outcome.
The way I see it, that is how a true daughter of the King acts.