It was a rags to riches story for young Hadassah, as the Wednesday morning Bible Study group dug into the second chapter of Esther. It’s here that the title character enters the story, and undergoes a name change. Hadassah is her Jewish name; Esther is how she will be known to her husband’s far flung subjects. We meet Hadassah/Esther as she’s about to enter an empire-wide beauty contest.
Some time has passed since the events of chapter one when the king, Ahasuerus (aka Xerxes) got rid of Vashti, his disobedient queen. The king needs some cheering up, having returned from a disastrously unsuccessful attempt to conquer Greece. Not only did the Greeks give him a good going over but he no longer has a dazzlingly beautiful queen to show off to his friends.
His advisors can’t do anything about Greece, but they can certainly help with his other problem, so the hunt is on for a new trophy wife. Young girls are rounded up from all over the realm and subjected to a complicated round of beauty treatments and grooming before they get their chance with the king. And one of these girls is Esther.
At this point, Wednesday’s discussion got into what the story doesn’t tell us. Esther’s cousin and adoptive father Mordecai has a job at the palace. What is his role in getting Esther into the competition? Does he have no choice but to hand her over when the king’s agents came knocking, or as one member of the group delicately put it, is he “pimping her out?”
It’s all very hedonistic, this business with the harem and all the goings-on in the king’s bedroom. But is this Esther’s big chance as a humble orphan makes good, or is she a pawn in a game played by her cousin? Mordecai has a job in the palace and is in a position to know what’s going on.
When Esther wins the jackpot and becomes Queen he gets a better job, at the palace gates. Then something happens; he gets wind of a plot against the king. He tells Esther; Esther tells the king; Mordecai gets the credit. The event with Mordecai’s name included is written down in the annals of the kingdom, and the stage is set for what happens next. Wednesday’s discussion ended with some unanswered questions.
There’s a good chance that Mordecai is the author of the book of Esther. Whoever it is knows how to tell a good story, with foreshadowing and inuendoes of things that will come into play later. Next week, things take a new turn, and it begins to become obvious why this book is in the Bible.
Anyone wanting to join in the discussion on Wednesday at 11 am can find instructions by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
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