This 12-part series takes a new look at an old story and finds fresh words of courage, faith, and challenge for today’s Church. It is based on Carol Bechtel’s commentary on Esther in the Interpretation series (Westminster John Knox, 2002).
The Morning After
Read: Esther 2:1-18
Let the girl who pleases the king be queen instead of Vashti. (v. 4, NRSV)
When Ahasuerus wakes up after his 187-day drinking bash, he discovers that he has banished Queen Vashti. His courtiers comfort him by suggesting a contest for a new queen.
As we read the story of how the young Jewish girl, Esther, gets caught in the king’s dragnet, we would do well to remember that this is not like a modern day beauty pageant. The “Miss Persia” contestants are not volunteers and there are no scholarships or parting gifts. Even the winner gets only the dubious honor of marrying King Ahasuerus. For all of his power and majesty, this king is not the brightest light in the harbor. And for a Jewish girl, the prospect of marrying a heathen king could not have been very appealing.
Remember, too, that Esther is triply vulnerable: she is an exile, a woman, and an orphan. When she is conscripted to compete for Miss Persia, it’s no wonder her guardian and cousin, Mordecai, spends his days pacing with worry at the gates of the harem.
When Esther “wins” we’re not sure whether to laugh or cry. She may have wondered herself. And she must surely have wondered why God had put her in this odd position.
Prayer: Guide us, O God, when we wonder what your plans are for us. Help us to trust you and to follow where you lead.