Sentenced to a Harem: Esther Chapter Two
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Being knocked down by circumstances can cause regrets to rise to the surface. This is where we find the king at the beginning of this chapter. His depression will cause young virgins to be sentenced – harem life.
Three years pass between chapters one and two. King Xerxes lost the battle of Salamis against the Greeks and returns to Susa in defeat. Our text tells us: The king’s anger subsides and he ‘remembers Vashti.’
This map shows the vast kingdom belonging to the King. His defeat at the Battle of Salamis (Greece) whips the stuffing out of him.
The king has some serious anger issues if it takes three years to simmer down…just sayin’
To cheer him up, his advisors come up with the great idea of finding him another wife. They round up all the beautiful young virgins from the 127 provinces of the King’s realm.
Meet Mordecai and Esther
Esther is an orphan, daughter of Mordecai’s uncle. Mordecai cares for Esther as his own daughter after her parents die.
Throughout scripture we see the repetition of genealogies. We often skip over the ‘begets’ so we can get to the good stuff. Our story feels it’s important to relay Mordecai’s lineage. So, let’s take a closer look.
Esther 2:5-7 says, “Mordecai, son of Jair, son of Shemei, son of Kish, a Benjamite…”
Bear with me for a moment as I shed light on this bit of information. It is important to our story. Look up the following verse and take note what you find:
Interesting…this family tree connects Mordecai with King Saul. This detail will make more sense in chapter three, but for now highlight it in your mind. We’ll connect the pieces then.
Sentenced – Harem Life
The beautiful young girls are taken and placed under the care of Hegai, the king’s eunuch. Esther finds favor with Hegai and he provides her with choice food, seven maids, and a place in the best harem. The girls spend a year in preparation for their one night with the king. Then, the king will choose one to be his queen.
When the time comes the girls are given the choice of anything they would like to take to the king’s chamber: clothing, jewels, perfumes, etc. This is a kind of dowry offered to them which they can keep after spending the night with the king. It may even be considered payment for services rendered.
Those who are not chosen are sentenced – harem life – forever.
Who needs soap operas? This is like reality TV at its best. [Click to Tweet]
Esther asks Hegai to advise what to bring with her to the king’s bedchamber. And, it must have worked because King Xerxes finds favor with Esther and chooses her above all the others to be his queen. The king then throws a big banquet for Esther to celebrate.
It doesn’t take long before there’s discord in the palace.
Read Esther 2:21-23 and take note of what happens. This sets us up for the drama of chapter three. We will pick up the story there next time.
In the meantime join the conversation in the comments below:
Share a time when defeat caused you to remember.
Share a time when you found favor.
Life can be difficult. Have you ever found yourself thrust into a situation you didn’t choose?
How might Esther’s story be an encouragement?
And, be sure to put any questions or insights in the comments so we can get some discussion going. 🙂
Printable for today’s lesson: Chapter Two Notes
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