After King Xerxes banishes Queen Vashti from his presence, he regrets his irrevocable edict. His aides suggest a plan to find a replacement. Their proposal is to round up the most beautiful virgins in the land for the king to try out. Yes, it is as bad as it sounds.
The most pleasing one will be crowned queen. This isn’t a voluntary beauty pageant. This is conscripted service that forces the selected women into a harem.
They effectively become well-cared-for sex slaves. Esther (Hadassah) is rounded up in their dragnet. She waits at least four years for her assigned time to sleep with the king.
Finally, it’s her turn. Though inexperienced, Esther’s night with the king must have been most pleasing to him, because the next morning, he proclaims her queen. This, however, is not a Cinderella story where she lives happily ever after.
In the expanded version of this story, found in some Bibles, Esther says she abhors sleeping with the king. As an uncircumcised foreigner, he repulses her.
She finds no joy in her position as queen. However, aside from involuntary sex with the king, she keeps herself true to her upbringing.
Later, when Haman plots the Jews’ extermination, Esther is challenged by Mordecai, her cousin who adopted her, to intervene with the king on the Jews’ behalf. She balks.
It’s been a month since she’s seen the king and she risks immediate execution by appearing before him without being summoned. Mordecai begs Esther to take the risk, saying, “What if God put you in this position so you could address this situation?”
Eventually, she agrees: “If I die, then I die.” In preparation, Esther fasts for three days and asks others to fast with her.
When she approaches the king, he spares her life. However, instead of directly appealing to him, she invites him and Haman to a private banquet with her.
She then requests they come a second evening and at that time she reveals Haman’s plot, appealing to the king for justice. Because of her actions, Haman is executed, and the Jews are spared. The Purim celebrates Esther and her heroics in saving the people.
Though she needed to think about it and took time to fast, Esther bravely set her own safety aside and risked her life to save others.
Are we willing to save lives regardless of the risk?
[Discover more about Queen Esther in Esther 2:7–17, 4:1–17, 5:1–7, 7:1–10, and 9:12–15. For more information, see “Bonus Material: The Full Picture.”]
Learn about other biblical women in Women of the Bible, available in audiobook, e-book, paperback, and hardcover.
A lifelong student of the Bible, Peter DeHaan, PhD, wrote the 1,000-page website ABibleADay.com to encourage people to explore the Bible. His main blog and many books urge Christians to push past the status quo and reconsider how they practice their faith in every area of their lives.