Welcome Mummy Meditators to the first summary post of our new Esther series! I am very excited to kick off this series with you all, and who knows where God is going to take us over the next 16 weeks. We all probably know the Esther story reasonably well, it’s a Sunday School classic and a women’s ministry favourite too. But that is not why I have chosen it as our next series. I want us to step right into Esther’s shoes, to experience this story like we never have before, and to truly grasp to magnitude of the task set before her.
We started off with meditating on this verse this week:
“Mordecai had a cousin named Hadassah, whom he had brought up because she had neither father nor mother. This young woman, who was also known as Esther, had a lovely figure and was beautiful. Mordecai had taken her as his own daughter when her father and mother died.” Esther 2:7
What’s the situation?
We jump straight into being introduced to Esther, but its really helpful to know the cultural situation of the time. The Jewish people documented in the story are not in the promised land, they are resident in Persia despite being given the freedom to return to Jerusalem. After being taken into exile years before by the Assyrians and dispersed amongst various towns and cities, the lives of the Jewish people were now entwinned with those of the places they had moved to. They have lives, friends and family there, and the thought of going back to rebuild the temple and repopulate the promised land wasn’t that appealing. So they are not slaves, they are widely dispersed across the area, and they are mixed in with the other nations around them.
In my head before studying this I thought the Jews were still in exile, badly treated and forced to live in a foreign land, and that was why Esther didn’t want them to know her nationality. But clearly I was wrong! The king of the Persian Empire actually quite like the Jewish people and gave them freedom to worship as they pleased. Even if that was under his rule. So that begs the question….
why two names?
One of the things that lots of you Mummy Meditators picked up on straight away and wanted to look into was why did Esther have two names? You quickly found out that Hadassah was her Hebrew name and Esther her gentile name. Taking a deeper look, it seems that this was common practice, but it is not known if her name was changed when she married the king or before that. I guess it might have been a bit like when Chinese students come over here to study and adopt an English name that is a bit easier to pronounce for us who suck at Chinese! Either way, it allowed Esther to fit seamlessly into the Kings courts and not stick out as different.
Adopted, not orphaned
As mothers we were all drawn to the part of this verse where it says that her mother and father had died. When we step into Esther’s shoes we can feel this sadness, this loss of her parents, even though we are not told how old she was when they died, if they died at the same time or different times, and the circumstances surrounding that. We can perhaps assume that she was quite young when it happened, as no brothers and sisters are mentioned. This is not a sweet innocent girl who has had a sheltered life, this is a young woman who has been through some emotional times and had to find a way to deal with that. She would have questions, doubts and fears surrounding her.
Although our hearts break for Esther to hear that she lost her parents (and doesn’t seem to have any brothers or sisters to share the burden with), we are told the joyful news that she was not an orphan, she was not left to fend for herself or fall on the mercy of others, she was adopted! The way this phrase is written “that he took her as his own daughter” reveals a tenderness, a fondness and love between Esther and her cousin Mordecai who became her guardian. This may have been an adoption of necessity (if he was the next closest family member then it would have been his duty to take care of her in the circumstances) but she is now considered his daughter, a fully fledged member of his family.
It doesn’t mention a wife for Mordecai or any other children that he has, and so it seems like a really close set up between the two of them. Despite the awful events that have happened, Esther is loved and cared for by him and has a place of safety and security.
Beautiful for a reason
As we were chatting through this verse in the Facebook live I mentioned that it would likely have been written by a man, from a male perspective, and that was probably why it was mentioned that she was beautiful (men notice these things you know!). But looking deeper into it this week, actually we saw the necessity of this aspect of Esther for the story to succeed. If Esther was not beautiful and physically attractive in the eyes of men, she would not have been invited into the courts of the king. So this is not a throw away comment or slightly interesting character note, but a key piece of information for later on. Esther was beautiful for a reason, and it is amazing to see that God can use the things of this world to bring glory to himself.
Novella, not fact
One final thing to mention as we move on in our study of Esther, so that most people seem to think that the book of Esther is written as a historic novella and not a pure historical document. This means that not every detail in it is strictly historically accurate, but it is a historical story fleshed out so that we can understand better what happened at that time. It was written to explain to the Jewish nation about the origin of the Jewish Holiday of Purim, and why it should be celebrated. Amazingly, Purim is celebrated on the 20th March, which will be within this series, so hopefully we can celebrate this together in some way (suggestions welcome!).
Well what a way to start off the series! There is so much to take in, and this is just the introduction of the main character. Next week we will move on to meditating on this verse:
“She pleased him and won his favour. Immediately he provided her with her beauty treatments and special food. He assigned to her seven female attendants selected from the king’s palace and moved her and her attendants into the best place in the harem.” Esther 2:9
Do join me at 8pm on Monday night for a quick Facebook live discussion to start off the week over in the Mummy Meditations Facebook Group, and don’t forget there is still time to download a workbook or grab other resources in the shop.