September 23 (Daily reading: Esther 1-5) The book of Esther is named after a beautiful Jewish girl who was chosen by the Persian king, Xerxes (Ahasuerus), to become his queen. His magnificent palace occupied two and a half acres in the Persian capital of Susa. The book was written, author unknown, after the return of the exiles, so the Jews in the story are exiles who did not return to Jerusalem. God is not mentioned in the book, but it gives an example of divine providence and God’s care for His people.
King Xerxes pridefully declared a six-months feast to display “the riches of his royal glory and the splendor of his great majesty” (1:4). When his queen would not make an appearance, the king deposed her and chose Esther as the new queen. Esther had been adopted by her cousin, Mordecai, who took up a position at the king’s gate to be close to her. The king promoted a man named Haman, giving him his ring and authority over the kingdom. Those who sat at the king’s gate would bow in Haman’s presence, but Mordecai refused. This infuriated Haman, and because Mordecai was a Jew, his hatred extended to all the Jews in the kingdom. He used his authority to publish an edict of genocide against the Jews.
When Mordecai learned of this, he made a public display of mourning. Esther sent a servant to begin a dialogue with Mordecai, which led to his asking Esther to approach the king and plead for their people. She replied that if she approached the king uninvited, she could lose her life. Mordecai replied to her that, as a Jew, she was already condemned. He added, “And who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this?” Upon hearing this, Esther said: “I will go to the king…and if I perish, I perish” (4:14-16). By her willingness to die, she became God’s instrument to save His people.
– Al Gary