Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Bible Study Notes in Esther- Chapter 2

Esther 2

-There are a few years between the time of Ahasuerus’ extravagant banquet (Esther 1:3) and the beginning of chapter two (Esther 2:16). Historically, there may have been a military campaign that went somewhat unsuccessful, and upon his return he enters a time of reflection, after his anger had subsided, and remembered his former Queen Vashti with all that had transpired in that situation. It appears from the text that his forlorn spirit was perceived by one of his attendants that served him, and this particular individual recommended that “beautiful virgins be sought for the king.” He continued to advise that overseers should be appointed by the king in all the provinces of his kingdom that all the available beautiful young women be gathered to the citadel in Susa and placed in a harem under the custody of one Hegai, the king’s eunuch who was in charge of the women. They would be given cosmetics for even more beautification and then present themselves before the queenless king for inspection. This was a type of Cinderella story that recent movies and works have depicted for us to relate. The young lady that impressed the king the most would then be named queen in the place of Vashti. This advice from his attendant pleased the king, and God’s will was becoming manifest through unforeseen circumstances. Then, this plan was carried out which had pleased the luxurious king so much (Esther 2:1-4).

-Now, providentially there was at the same time of all that was going on in the royal family at Susa a Jew by the name of Mordecai. He was a Benjamite who had been taken into exile from Jerusalem with the captives taken by Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, during the time of Jeconiah, king of Judah. He was bringing up an orphaned young lady by the name of Hadassah (Hadaccah- myrtle), or Esther ('Ecter- star), who was his uncle’s daughter. She was beautiful of form and face, and when her father and mother died, Mordecai, her elder cousin presumably, took her as his own daughter. It came about when the decree and command of the king were heard, Esther was taken to the king’s palace into the custody of Hegai, who, again, was in charge of the women ushered into the king’s harem. Esther found favor in Hegai’s eyes and she pleased him, which led to her getting all the cosmetics and food she needed very quickly along with seven choice maids from the king’s palace. Hegai transferred (shana- to change, to alter) her and her maids to the best place in the harem. But Esther, for all this blessing, did not make known her people or her kindred. Mordecai, her caretaker, had instructed her that she not make this information available to those who were holding her people captives in a foreign land. Every day Mordecai would pace back and forth in front of the court of the harem to learn about how Esther was doing and how she was faring. This was a man who took great concern and cared for his extraordinary cousin. Even though the text does not express it explicitly, I believe he was praying fervently for her (Esther 2:5-11).

-At the end of twelve months under the regulations for the beautification of the women, each lady was to take a turn to come and go in to King Ahasuerus. They had had six months with oil of myrrh and six months with spices and the cosmetics of women. Anything that the women desired for their appearance to become attractive was given to them as they came from their harem into the king’s presence. Does this sound pretty plush ladies or what? They had their dream opportunity to make an impression before royalty. In the evening she would go in and in the morning she would return to the second harem under the custody of Shaashgaz, the king’s eunuch who was in charge of all the concubines. They would not return to the king unless the king delighted in her and she was summoned by name. Probably some pretty tough competition there. When Esther’s turn came up to go in to the king, she did not request anything except what Hegai advised. This was the first sign of wisdom in this profound woman. She took council from someone who assuredly knew what the king delighted in. A fashion consultant if you will. Esther was the bomb. She found favor in the eyes of all who saw her before she was taken to the king in his royal palace. This happened in the tenth month of Tebeth (December/January in our calendar), in the seventh year of Ahasuerus’ reign (Esther 2:12-16).

-“The king loved Esther more than all the women, and she found favor and kindness with him more than all the virgins, so that he set the royal crown on her head and made her queen instead of Vashti.” Then, Queen Esther received a banquet in her honor for all the king’s princes and his servants. The king declared a holiday for the provinces and gave gifts according to the king’s abundant bounty (Esther 2:17-18). The LORD had elevated her to a very prominent position for His glory and the preservation of His chosen people.

-An unspecified elapsing of time goes by as the narrative moves to verse 19. It was somewhere between the time Esther was named queen in the later part of Ahasuerus’ 7th year of his reign and the twelfth year of his reign (Esther 3:7). The virgins were gathered a second time (unknown as to the reason for this occurrence), and Mordecai found himself sitting at the king’s gate there in Susa. Esther still had not yet made known her nationality or people, even as her cousin had commanded her; “for Esther did what Mordecai told her as she had done when under his care.” This shows us, as the readers, that there continued to be interaction between the queen and her beloved relative as the days went by in her kingdom. She displayed a tremendous amount of loyalty and respect here (Esther 2:19-20).

-In those days of sitting at the king’s gate, Mordecai discovered a plot by two men who were the king’s officials that guarded the door. These guys, named Bigthan and Teresh, had become angry over some matter and sought to lay hands on the king, King Ahasuerus. He told Queen Esther about the situation, and Esther informed the king in Mordecai’s name. When the plot was investigated and found to be true, both of the infidels were hanged on a tree (gallows). The matter was providentially recorded in the Book of the Chronicles in the king’s presence. This is an important development that would play out later in the story (Esther 2:21-23; 6:1-2).

*Application* God is working behind the scenes of our lives to orchestrate and work His good plan even when we may be completely unaware of it (Romans 8:28). God uses imperfect people to do providential things that accomplish His plans and His purposes in remarkable ways. Stay yielded to God when things don’t quite make sense in all that we go through. In time, and with wisdom, we can endure and see the fruit of what God wants in all His glory, blessings, and favor. We don’t have to stress. We don’t have to strive. God will develop the plot, even as it thickens, and rescue us from all evil. Just wait, be patient, and see. Dreams do come true.

Verse to Memorize: Esther 2:17

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