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©Laura Haverkamp

Chapter 2:8-18 (ESV)

Posted on November 23, 2023  - By Chris LaBelle  

Chapter 2:8-18 (ESV) - So when the king's order and his edict were proclaimed, and when many young women were gathered in Susa the citadel in custody of Hegai, Esther also was taken into the king's palace and put in custody of Hegai, who had charge of the women. And the young woman pleased him and won his favor. And he quickly provided her with her cosmetics and her portion of food, and with seven chosen young women from the king's palace, and advanced her and her young women to the best place in the harem. Esther had not made known her people or kindred, for Mordecai had commanded her not to make it known. And every day Mordecai walked in front of the court of the harem to learn how Esther was and what was happening to her.

Now when the turn came for each young woman to go in to King Ahasuerus, after being twelve months under the regulations for the women, since this was the regular period of their beautifying, six months with oil of myrrh and six months with spices and ointments for women— when the young woman went in to the king in this way, she was given whatever she desired to take with her from the harem to the king's palace. In the evening she would go in, and in the morning she would return to the second harem in custody of Shaashgaz, the king's eunuch, who was in charge of the concubines. She would not go in to the king again, unless the king delighted in her and she was summoned by name.

When the turn came for Esther the daughter of Abihail the uncle of Mordecai, who had taken her as his own daughter, to go in to the king, she asked for nothing except what Hegai the king's eunuch, who had charge of the women, advised. Now Esther was winning favor in the eyes of all who saw her. And when Esther was taken to King Ahasuerus, into his royal palace, in the tenth month, which is the month of Tebeth, in the seventh year of his reign, the king loved Esther more than all the women, and she won grace and favor in his sight more than all the virgins, so that he set the royal crown on her head and made her queen instead of Vashti. Then the king gave a great feast for all his officials and servants; it was Esther's feast. He also granted a remission of taxes to the provinces and gave gifts with royal generosity.

Question to consider: What are the positives and negatives of Esther becoming part of the king’s harem?

For some reason, I see parallels between Esther and the fictional character, Katniss Everdeen, from the Hollywood production of the Hunger Games (I didn’t read the books). Both went through a period of intense preparation to gain favor— Katniss with the audience and sponsors and Esther with the king, his servants, and the nobles. Both were hesitant volunteers for their adventures but did so out of a desire to protect their people. Both experienced a life of luxury and fame while facing a horrific set of circumstances. Both received help from a stylist to build their image and set them on a course for fame. Both were beautiful young women who achieved legendary status.

I guess I make the comparison because the Hunger Games was an event that seemed both terrifying and enviable, for glory would only be assigned to one person after surviving unspeakable things. Being thousands of years removed from Esther's situation, I consider the idea of women undergoing body preparation for a year in order to join a harem to please the desires of a king and hope that they are the one chosen to be his wife seems equally as barbaric as pitting young people against one another in a battle to the death.

The marital covenant was given by God to join together a man and a woman as one flesh for as long as they both shall live. A king being able to take the virginity of dozens of adolescent girls in order to find the one that temporarily brings him the most pleasure seems like a horrible corruption of this good gift. And yet, the author of this book obviously saw Esther as highly favored and heroic for this opportunity. The king appeared to have genuine feelings for Esther, for instead of having separate feasts, he held a feast in her honor and performed acts of generosity to the people so that she would be highly favored among them.

All of this happened in the tenth month called Tebeth which was significant because Tebeth was the same month that, “Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came with all his army against Jerusalem and laid siege to it.” (2 Kings 25:1) Going further back in history, it was the same month in which Noah began to see an end to the judgment of God, “And the waters continued to abate until the tenth month; in the tenth month, on the first day of the month, the tops of the mountains were seen.” (Genesis 8:5) I don’t know whether this was the intent of the author in mentioning this time, but the people would see the union of Esther with the king as the time in which God’s judgment against Israel in their exile was also coming to an end.


Dear heavenly Father, thank You for giving us the covenant of marriage. Please forgive us for corrupting and diminishing it and help us to elevate and restore it in our own eyes and in our culture. Amen.