When studying the book of Esther, the first word that comes to mind is “providence.” Providence is God carrying out His will in the world by natural means without interfering with the individual choices of man. God’s name is never mentioned in the book of Esther, but His presence is seen throughout. I think that this is a reason why the book of Esther can be so relatable for the Christian, because we live in an age where miracles have ceased (cf. 1 Cor. 13:8-10) but God’s providence is active (cf. Matt. 6:25-34). Even though Esther lived in a period where God did perform miracles, not one miracle is performed in the book of Esther. I believe this sets the tone for the book of Esther and helps us begin our study of how Esther lived in the world but not of the world.
The book begins with King Ahasuerus’ seven-day feast. On the last day of the feast, a drunk Ahasuerus calls for his wife, Queen Vashti, to come before all and show off her beauty, but she refuses (1:10-12). Because of Queen Vashti’s disobedience, the king intreats his wise men for help. Memucan advises the king to put out a decree, which ultimately states that the king is searching for a new queen (1:16-20).
In chapter two of the book, we are introduced to lovely Esther, who has been brought up by her cousin Mordecai (2:7). On his search, the king commands all the beautiful young virgins to be brought to the palace. Here we begin to make out the character of Esther. After the period of beautification, the women can take whatever they wish from the women’s quarters before being presented before the king (2:12-13). We see that Esther requests nothing but what is advised, and in doing so she “obtained favor in the sight of all who saw her” (2:15). This provides us with the first window into Esther’s character: She does not place her hope on the treasures of this earth. Even when she is allowed to take whatever she wants, she limits herself to what is advised; therefore, we can see where her heart is (cf. Matt. 6:19-21). The king chooses Esther to be his new queen, and we soon see another aspect of her character: “Now Esther had not revealed her family and her people, just as Mordecai had charged her, for Esther obeyed the command of Mordecai as when she was brought up by him” (2:19-20). Esther respects and obeys the one who raised her, like God commands in Exodus 20:12.
In chapter three, we see a true test of Esther’s character. Haman, a man the king has placed in a high position, hates Mordecai for his refusal to bow to him. Rather than destroy Mordecai alone, Haman convinces the king to decree the annihilation of the Jews (3:8-15). When the news reaches Esther, she is “deeply distressed” (4:4). Mordecai urges Esther to go before the king, and Esther at first responds with fear: “Any man or woman who goes into the inner court to the king, who has not been called, he has but one law: put all to death, except the one to whom the king holds out the golden scepter, that he may live. Yet I myself have not been called to go in to the king these thirty days” (4:11). Sometimes we are afraid to do the right thing, because we understand the earthly consequences that could follow, but Mordecai reminds Esther that the Jews will eventually be delivered, whether she chooses to do the right thing now or not. However, if she remains silent now, she and her family will not escape this decree (4:13-14). Esther understands that it is within her power to do something about the current situation, and so she responds, “Go, gather all the Jews who are present in Shushan, and fast for me; neither eat nor drink for three days, night or day. My maids and I will fast likewise. And so I will go to the king, which is against the law; and if I perish, I perish!” (4:16). What faith!
Esther understands that it is within her power to do something about the current situation, and so she responds, “Go, gather all the Jews who are present in Shushan, and fast for me; neither eat nor drink for three days, night or day. My maids and I will fast likewise. And so I will go to the king, which is against the law; and if I perish, I perish!” (4:16). What faith!
As we enter chapter five, we see Esther go before the king. An answer to her and her people’s prayers, she finds favor in the king’s sight, and he says, “What is your request? It shall be given to you—up to half the kingdom!” (5:3). Esther eventually reveals her answer to the king at a banquet in chapter seven. She pleads, “If I have found favor in your sight, O king, and if it pleases the king, let my life be given me at my petition, and my people at my request. For we have been sold, my people and I, to be destroy
ed, to be killed, and to be annihilated” (7:3-4a). The king is furious at the discovery of Haman’s plot and has him executed. Because of Esther’s courage, the Jews are able to defend themselves and have “light and gladness, joy and honor.” So much so that “many of the people of the land became Jews, because fear of the Jews fell upon them” (8:16-17).
In Esther 4:13-14, Mordecai tells Esther that if you live your life according to the will of God, He can use you. But if you won’t, He will bring it about another way. But as we can see, Esther’s character is in accordance with the will of God and not in accordance with the world. How encouraging is this, that when we live our lives according to the Word of God, He can use us to carry out His plan! Let us take heart in reading the story of Esther, knowing that when we look back over the span of a life lived for God, we can see His providence at work.
By Shelby Polk