I’ve always liked the story of Esther. She was a peasant girl who won a national beauty pageant and became queen. In my imagination, I’ve given this tale a Cinderella-like grandness, with Esther and the king, falling in love and living happily ever after.
Alas, the story does not mention love and fails to include any thoughts of happiness. Let’s review the facts:
- Esther and her people had been taken captive and forcibly relocated to a foreign land; she was a spoil of war.
- Esther did not opt to take part in the beauty contest; all attractive virgins were compelled to participate.
- Esther’s heritage prohibited her from marrying outside her faith; to do so would be a shameful and disobedient act.
Add to this these reasonable conclusions about Esther’s “relationship” with the king:
- Even after she was made queen, he seemingly continued to enjoy the company of other women in his harem.
- She was estranged from him; she had not been “summoned” by him for thirty days.
- She feared him; she could be summarily executed by merely approaching him without permission.
In the New Jerusalem Bible, we are treated to the prayer that she offered in the midst of this. She says, in part:
- “I loathe the bed of the uncircumcised” (that would be the king)
- “I am under constraint” to wear the crown, that is, to be queen
- “Nor has your servant found pleasure from the day of her promotion until now”
- “Free me from my fear”
Sadly, there is no love, happiness, joy, or satisfaction in her role as queen. Even so she did use her unwanted position to save her people, the Jews, from a certain annihilation. So this account of Esther isn’t a love story, at least not in the traditional sense. It is, however, a tale of valor and bravery — and a reminder that one person can make a difference.