Esther 2:8-11 "Esther Is Taken To Susa"
Over the weekend we said goodbye to 2021 and we welcomed in 2022. Each of us may have a vision of how we would like to see things go for us in this new year. But the reality is we do not really know what may happen to us in the next 365 days. Some of us may have a pretty normal experience in 2022 and there will be others who will face unexpected events that will take us in a direction that we may never have seen coming.
That is exactly what had happened to Esther in our text today. She woke up one morning thinking that her life would look one way, but when the decree of the king came everything changed. Immediately she was taken from her home, from her family, from everything that she was comfortable with and she was taken to the palace along with hundreds of other young ladies.
Since we took a week off from the book of Esther for Christmas it will be beneficial if we would remind ourselves of the context of our text today. A couple of weeks ago we looked at Esther 2:5-7. This is what we read,
Now there was a Jew in Susa the citadel whose name was Mordecai, the son of Jair, son of Shimei, son of Kish, a Benjaminite, who had been carried away from Jerusalem among the captives carried away with Jeconiah king of Judah, whom Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon had carried away. He was bringing up Hadassah, that is Esther, the daughter of his uncle, for she had neither father nor mother. The young woman had a beautiful figure and was lovely to look at, and when her father and her mother died, Mordecai took her as his own daughter.
As this story begins and already we discover that Esther has had some struggles in life. Esther is a young Jewish girl whose family had been taken away from their homes and brought to a huge Gentile city called Susa. And we discover that she was growing up without her parents.
As I consider these events concerning Esther’s life I am reminded of something that Charles Spurgeon said when he spoke about how difficult things can be for young people. He says, “We have heard persons talk of the days of childhood as the happiest in mortal life, but we do not agree with them: the sorrows of childhood take a very great toll on the little ones.” Spurgeon then goes on to say, “Childhood in grace is by no means our best time either; for its trials, though less in themselves, are greater to our weakness and rawness of mind.”
Every parent here can testify to the fact that our children, even the ones growing up in a fairly stable environment, experience things that overwhelm them. And all of us who have been around new believers can testify that they experience great trials in their new faith that can be a real challenge for them to deal with and overcome.
Esther has experienced both tragedies and comforts in her short life. And God has used all of these things to prepare her for the challenges that she will soon face. These things are meant to produce godly character, godly hope, maturity, patience, trust in God and other graces in us. We will see that Esther has had many of these things developed in her.
Spurgeon said, “Childhood in grace is by no means our best time; for its trials, though less in themselves, are greater to our weakness and rawness of mind.”. If this sentence is true and it is applied to Esther then we would have to say that the trials of her childhood were less than what the trials are that lie ahead for her. And to consider this fact is truly sobering. As a child these trials took advantage of her weakness and rawness of mind, but they also were used by God prepare her for what we see her going through in this book and in our text today. As we come to our text we see that Esther’s past has equipped her for the challenges that lay ahead. God is always working in the events we are experiencing to perfect our faith and trust in Him. He has always been about the business of preparing us for what lies ahead. This should encourage any of us who will experience hardships, trials and unexpected events in 2022.
Our text this week is Esther 2:8-11,
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.
We will look at four main facts in our text today.
Ester was taken to Susa
Esther found favor with the kings chief official
Mordecai continues to look after Esther
Esther was taken to Susa
Our text begins with the words, “So when the king’s order and his edict were proclaimed…”. Some of you may be wondering what it is that has been ordered and proclaimed throughout the kingdom.
We read what this decree was in Esther 2:2-4, “Let beautiful young virgins be sought out for the king. And let the king appoint officers in all the provinces of his kingdom to gather all the beautiful young virgins to the harem in Susa the citadel, under custody of Hegai, the king's eunuch, who is in charge of the women. Let their cosmetics be given them. And let the young woman who pleases the king be queen instead of Vashti. This pleased the king, and he did so.”
We also see in the opening words of our text three important words: order, edict and proclaimed. We have often seen these words throughout this book but here they are all together. These words speak of the fact that the king spoke something, it became a law, and it was immediately passed on throughout the kingdom to be obeyed by the people. There was no hesitation in carrying out this order. There was no red tape to cut through before the orders could be carried out. As a result, many young women were immediately gathered together in Susa under the custody of Hegai. And just like that, these young girls lives were forever changed.
We are told, “...many young women were gathered in Susa” (8). The verb ‘gathered’ is in the passive form. In other words, these young women were gathered up, collected, and rounded up by the officials. They were taken from their homes, their families, their friends, and from their communities and they were brought to Susa. We are not told that they could take anything with them. We are not told if they were given any time to prepare for this. There was no appeals process that these young women or their parents could apply for.
The end of verse 8 describes this process in even more graphic language. We read, “Esther also was taken into the king’s palace and put in custody of Hegai, who had charge of the women.” Esther ‘was taken’into the kings palace, she was put in the custody of Hegai who had charge of all the women.
Esther did not sign up for any of this. She did not willingly desire to compete to see if she could go to the palace to compete to be the queen. She was not asked if she was willing to be a part of this. No, the officials showed up at the house of Mordecai and Esther was taken from his home.
Esther pleased Hegai the kings official
In Esther 2:9-11 we read, “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.”
What was it that made Esther find favor in the eyes of Hegai? It probably was not simply her physical beauty because Esther was just one of hundreds of young beautiful women who had been brought to the kings palace. Perhaps it had something to do with her character and disposition. But we also know that God was working behind the scenes to grant this favor toward Esther.
(You often read about how women are used and exalted because of their external beauty in so many industries.. Over time they are left depressed, in despair, and discouraged. The gospel is completely different than this. It exalts us up in Christ apart from our beauty. In fact, it does this when we had no beauty. Grace exalted us in Christ when as we sinned and rebelled against God. Grace can set us free from the depression, despair and discouragement that we are left in by our sinful condition.)
The favor that Esther had received from Hegai produced four practical results. First, she was quickly provided her cosmetics. Secondly she was given her portion of food. Thirdly, she was given seven chosen young women to attend to her. Fourthly, Hegai advanced her to the best place in the harem.
The LORD is behind the scenes providing all of these things for Esther. If the LORD is providing these things to Esther then we also must acknowledge the fact that the LORD would be providing the intangible graces that Esther would need at this time as well? What a blessing this must have been for Esther to receive these blessings during this time.
We have already seen that Esther was ‘taken’ to the palace. She did not sign-up for these things to happen to her.As she is gathered together with these other young ladies at the palace she might wish to sit in the back row and go unnoticed. She may have wanted to be somewhere in the background waiting to see how the Lord would get her out of this situation.
However, as soon as she arrived at the palace she caught the eye of the kings official and she was exalted to the top place in the harem. She is immediately thrust into the forefront of all of this commotion. She is quickly exalted and given favor by the chief official. If she had wanted the LORD to get her out of this situation somehow the exact opposite was happening to her. From this position that is given to Esther from the best place in the harem there would be no place for her to hide. Every eye would be upon her to see if she could retain this position of honor within the harem.
God allows some people to experience great challenges for long periods of time. And as I watch the LORD do this I often find myself saying, “Of all the people that God could have chosen for this He shows His great wisdom in picking that particular individual. If anyone can be successful in this situation it will be them.”
Some people succeed and others do not come through these things with a stronger faith and a more godly character. Some do not make it through these seasons of life by the grace and power of God; but instead trust in temporal things. They may be naturally gifted and blessed with many practical qualities but they are soon crushed, overwhelmed and burdened beyond their capacity to endure. They need the grace of God in these moments.
This is a reminder to us all of us that we should be grateful for the practical blessings that we see God grant us throughout our day, but we should also be praying for the intangible graces that we so desperately need each and every day.
Easter has a secret
We read in verse 10, “Esther had not made known her people or kindred, for Mordecai had commanded her not to make it known.”
We have discussed how the LORD was blessing Esther. We have seen that God was working behind the scenes to accomplish His will. Esther has been swept up in a series of events that are out of her control, but through it all God is proving to be with her. It seems that this would be the perfect time to testify concerning these blessings, both the practical blessings and the intangible blessings. And yet, she does not respond to this by testifying about God and about how she is part of the chosen people of God. Instead, we are told that Esther has been commanded by her uncle Mordecai to not make her Jewish heritage known to others.
There has been much discussion about why Mordecai had asked Esther to do this. Perhaps the Jews were looked down upon in the Persian Empire. This seems to be the case when Haman describes the Jewish people to the king. In Esther 3:8 Haman says, “There is a certain people scattered abroad and dispersed among the peoples in all the provinces of your kingdom. Their laws are different than from those of every other people, and they do not keep the king’s laws; so that it is not to the king’s profit to tolerate them.”
One of the things that we can see in Mordecai’s instruction to Esther is that when we are not obeying the Word of God our witness tends to diminish. Mordecai lived in Susa even after the LORD had opened up the way for the Jewish people to return to the promised land. He had made a life for himself in a large gentile city and was often found in the King’s Gate. At this point, it seems as though Mordecai wanted to keep a low profile about being Jewish. Whatever the reason was that made Mordecai tell Esther to hide the fact that she was Jewish we see that Esther honors Mordecai’s authority and obeys him. Ultimately God can use a person like this.
Mordecai continues to look after Esther
Esther 2:11 has become one of my favorite verses in Esther. We read, “And every day Mordecai walked in front of the court of the harem to learn how Esther was and what was happening to her.”
I think that we could assume that there was a part of Mordecai that would walk in front of the court of the harem and say to himself, “If only I had gone back to Jerusalem when the LORD had opened up the opportunity. If I had Esther would not have been in this place.”
As a father I realize that my actions have either helped or hurt my family. If I fail to learn the faith, live out the faith and pass on the faith to my kids they will suffer. J. Vernon MeGee said, “When we are in the will of God, we will be resting; but in Mordecai’s case, he was pacing.”1
‘Every day Mordecai walked in front of the court of the herem’. These words prove to me that Mordecai realized that there are more important things than the practical blessings that Esther was being given by Hegai. Esther lives in the palace, she is being provided for, she has been elevated to the highest place in the harem. She has been given fine clothes, food to eat, and cosmetics to wear; yet, Mordecai paces in front of the court of the harem out of concern for her.
Mordecai is found there in the rain and when the sun was shining. He was there in the cold and when it was hot. He was there every day of the week to check in on her. He came on holidays and on ordinary days. He came on busy days and on his days off. He came on the days when Esther could not come out to see him. He came on days when she would cry and be overwhelmed. There may have even been days when Esther said that he did not have to come, but there he was standing there in the court checking in on her and seeing how she was. Mordecai came every day.
Long before Spurgeon ever wrote, “Childhood in grace is by no means our best time; for its trials, though less in themselves, are greater to our weakness and rawness of mind”, Mordecai came daily to the court of the harem to see how Esther was and to see what was happening to her. In doing this Mordecai proved that he was more concerned about the intangible graces that Esther needed from the LORD than the luxury and temporal provisions that she could be given in the palace. Every day that Mordecai would come and hear what was happening to her he would encourage her in the LORD and in His grace.
Applications from Esther 2:8-11
We don’t know what 2022 has in store for us. We do know that God has prepared us for it. And we do know that God will provide for us the practical and spiritual blessing that we will need. We must trust God’s wisdom in the means as well as the end for which He is directing all things in our lives.2
We see in our text today that there are things that happen in our lives that we get caught up in. We too are ‘gathered’ up and ‘taken’ away by things beyond our control. We can trust that God will grant us practical and spiritual blessings in such times. We should look for both of these things and be grateful for them. Physical blessings are alone not enough to get us through these things. We must pray for and receive the grace of God to reach the end for which God is calling us too.
We have seen Esther receive instruction from Mordecai and humbly obey. God can use humble people. God gives grace to humble people. Therefore, cultivate humility in our lives and we will receive the grace of God. (1 Peter 5:5-6)
By the grace of God make your presence known to those that you are called to care for. Daily Mordecai went to see how Esther was and to see what was happening to her. A few months ago I started putting Esther 2:11 on our elder agenda for all of the elders to think about. It is our privilege and our responsibility to see how the congregation is doing and to know what is happening to them. We want to do this more and more.
As we enter into a new year (2022) we will find that God is calling His people into certain things.. For some of us, we will get to choose to engage in certain things. For others there will be no choice at all. 2022 will make some people engage in spiritual battles, health battles, emotional battles, relational battles, vocational battles, etc. Some will be given time to prepare while others will be swept up in it so fast that there would be no time to make preparation..
All believers, however, are called upon to live by faith in 2022. A strong faith will overcome laziness. A strong faith will overcome cowardice and the fear of what might happen. A strong faith will produce courage in the the midst of uncertainty. A strong faith will produce wisdom in the midst of great confusion. A strong faith will overcome complacency because a strong faith shows us what is necessary to do or not do in any given situation.
One way to begin to exercise our faith in 2022 is to celebrate Communion together. We gather around the Table of the LORD and remember His provision for us through the faithfulness of Jesus Christ. Through our faith in Jesus and what He has done for us we can live by a faith that is not lazy, cowardly, it rejects uncertainly and receives the certainty of the promises of God, it dispels confusion with the clarity of the gospel, and it is a faith that is not complacent but acts courageously to the glory of God.
1J. Vernon McGee, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, p. 194
2Iain Wright, God Is Always Better Than We Can Imagine, p. 39