Some might think Esther is a book without God. After all, God’s name has yet to be mentioned in the text. And it never will be. Instead, there’s a king named Ahasuerus who seems to rule the world. Throwing a banquet. Divorcing his wife. And summoning hundreds of virgins to sleep with him.
I mean, can this book be any less godly? But the past few weeks have revealed God’s hand at work. We’ve seen His sovereignty despite a prideful king. And this week is no different. God’s name is never mentioned, but He is sovereign in the silence.
God’s Word says, “Now there was a Jew in Susa the citadel whose name was Mordecai, the son of Jair, son of Shimei, son of Kish, a Benjaminite, who had been carried away from Jerusalem among the captives carried away with Jeconiah king of Judah, whom Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon had carried away” (Esth. 2:5-6 ESV).
The author of Esther now introduces us to a Jew named Mordecai. It’s the first reference of a Jew in Esther’s narrative. And it leaves us wondering why Jews are present in the Persian Empire in the first place.
If you remember, the Jews are taken into Babylonian captivity (Dan. 1:1-4). The Persian Empire defeats the Babylonian Empire in 539 B.C., and even though a previous king had offered to let the Jews go home, some of them remain (see Ezra 1-2). It’s unlikely that Mordecai himself chose to remain, but his family did. Which is a great reminder of how our decisions affect those who come after us. But that’s another message for another time.
The main thing we should realize is that, ideally, the Jews shouldn’t be in Susa. And Mordecai isn’t the only one here.
The Bible continues, “He was bringing up Hadassah, that is Esther, the daughter of his uncle, for she had neither father nor mother. The young woman had a beautiful figure and was lovely to look at, and when her father and her mother died, Mordecai took her as his own daughter” (v. 7 ESV).
It’s finally time to meet Esther. And she’s a beautiful Jewish girl without a mother or father. And Mordecai, her cousin, supports her. Raises her. Takes her as his own. It’s a beautiful picture of adoption. But, once again, that’s another message for another time.
The author wants us to recognize her beauty. After all, King Ahasuerus is summoning beautiful young virgins to his harem, remember?
God’s Word says, “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” (v. 8 ESV).
Now, we’re not sure how Esther and Mordecai respond to this situation. It’s possible that Esther is taken by force. It’s also possible that Esther, so accustomed to the culture, willingly comes to King Ahasuerus when called. Either way, this beautiful Jewish girl is about to be “tested” as a potential queen.
“And the young woman pleased him [Hegai] and won his favor. And he quickly provided her with her cosmetics and her portion of food, and with seven chosen young women from the king’s palace, and advanced her and her young women to the best place in the harem” (v. 9 ESV).
Esther is given special attention. She’s treated better than most other virgins. Why? Because she wins Hegai’s favor. But don’t miss God’s hand at work. Here’s a Jewish girl with a good shot at becoming queen of Persia. Interestingly, however, she doesn’t want people to know she’s Jewish.
“Esther had not made known her people or kindred, for Mordecai had commanded her not to make it known. And every day Mordecai walked in front of the court of the harem to learn how Esther was and what was happening to her” (v. 10-11 ESV).
Why does Esther conceal her identity? Perhaps she is concealing her conviction. Seeking approval from the world rather than God. But regardless of the reason, here’s a young foreign girl with a good chance at becoming queen. And God is present through it all. He is sovereign in the silence. And as we’re about to see, God uses Esther to save His people from destruction.
Upon reading these verses, let’s be reminded of God’s sovereignty at work. Even when we can’t see Him. Even when we can’t hear Him. He is working to fulfill His promises both for our good and His glory. Even when COVID-19 tries to tell us otherwise.
Isaiah Pauley is the Minister of Worship for Faith Baptist Church in Mason, W.Va. Find more at www.isaiahpauley.com. Viewpoints expressed in the article are the work of the author.