The book of Esther is one of my favorite books in the Bible. But who is Esther in the Bible? What lessons can we learn from her?
Who is Esther in the Bible?
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In the book named for her, we read about a young Jewish girl named Hadassah who later became the queen of Persia.
Esther was an orphan who grew up in Persia as the adopted daughter of her cousin Mordecai. After Vashti was deposed as queen, Hadassah, also called Esther, was taken to the palace among an unknown number of young virgins.
But before she went to the palace, she was charged by Mordecai to keep her religion a secret. While she was in the care of Hegai, the keeper of the king’s harem, she impressed him so much that he assigned seven maids to care for her and moved her to the best place in the harem (Esther 2:8-9).
After her twelve months of beauty treatments, Esther was brought to see King Xerxes. He was so pleased with her that he made her his queen.
The story of Esther in the Bible may sound a bit like a fairytale but was more about God moving among His people to secure their future.
At some point during King Xerxes’ reign, after Esther became queen, Mordecai earned the wrath of one of the king’s inner circle. Haman hated the fact that Mordecai refused to bow down before him. Haman pledged revenge against all of Mordecai’s people (Esther 3:1-6).
After Haman had gotten the king to agree to the massacre of the Jews, Mordecai called on Esther to go before the king to save her people. When Esther seemed reluctant to go before the king, her cousin sent this message:
“Do not think in your heart that you will escape in the king’s palace any more than all the other Jews. “For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:13-14 NKJV)
The phrase “for such a time as this” has become synonymous with the story of Esther in the Bible. Her words as she decided to face the king regardless of her fate has become a symbol of courage in the face of great danger,
“I will go to the king, which is against the law; and if I perish, I perish!” (Esther 4: 16 NKJV)
What does Esther represent in the Bible?
Esther’s story is one of courage: how someone can do something for the greater good of others even at great cost to themselves. Esther’s story represents the providence of God. Though He’s never mentioned by name, His presence permeates the book on this story that speaks about how God protected the Jewish people when their enemy wants to destroy them.
What are the characteristics of Esther in the Bible?
This short story highlights some of the characteristics of Esther in the Bible. Let’s focus on her more admirable traits to see what we can learn from Queen Esther.
1. Obedient: one of the main characteristics of Esther in the Bible is her biddability. She obeyed Mordecai when he told her to hide her faith and her people (Esther 2:10). She also accepted Hegai’s advice on what to was to request before going in to see the king (Esther 2:15).
2. Brave: we often think that bravery is the absence of fear. But a better definition of bravery is doing what needs to be done even if it scares you. Going before the king without being summoned scared Esther, but she was willing to do it for other people (Esther 4:16).
3. Selfless: it’s not every day that someone is willing to die so that others could be saved (Esther 4:16). Jesus immediately comes to mind but there are not many other examples. It could also be that the story of Esther in the Bible offers a spiritual lesson of what Jesus would later do for His people and all humanity.
4. Smart: Esther knew that flattery would get her further with the king than pleas and petitions, at least in the beginning. That’s why she arranged two banquets that pondered to the king’s vanity and Haman’s ego before she told the king what she really wanted (Eather 5:4-8).
5. Humble: it’s not every day that you see a queen weeping and begging at the feet of anyone, even if it’s a king. But that’s what Esther did. She wasn’t too proud to humble herself before the king on behalf of her people (Esther 8:3-6).
Star of Persia: Esther’s Story Review
The story of Esther is one I’ve loved since I was a child. It was the perfect rags to riches story and I loved the idea of a queen who saved her people. But I have to admit, I’ve had mixed feelings about Vashti. Maybe it was because the Bible had so little to say about her. Or maybe it was because Esther’s story overshadowed hers.
Jill Eileen Smith humanized her for me. She took the material that I had studied about the culture of the Persians about the possible reasons for Vashti’s refusal and made it personal for me. Her treatment of Vashti’s character was done with compassion and eloquence and I will forever hold both Esther and Vashti in high esteem.
Know God: some of the questions Esther asked are still being asked today. Does God truly care about us? Does he hear our prayers? Will he answer?
As she learned more about His character, her response changed. Yes, He cares. Yes, He hears prayers, and yes, He will answer.
Read: Who Is God? Bible Study
Know yourself: Esther’s character did a lot of growing up. She went from a child who dreamed about marriage…to a woman desperate to have her own family…to the wife of a king.
Throughout the novel, we get a sense that at her core she was a woman of integrity. At the same time, there are characters like Amestris that were bent on destroying everything and anyone who got in their way.
The reader is encouraged to make a choice: do you want to be a woman of integrity or one who is self-centered and narcissistic? We learn a lot about Esther’s personality because of the choices she made over the course of the story.
Run your race: what do you do when you face choices you wished you didn’t? Do you run away? Blame someone else? Or make the best decision you can and live your life being a role model for others? Who do you choose to be? Someone who saves lives or who takes them?
There was a lot of juxtaposition in this book. Amestris made choices out of her own selfish desires whereas Esther (and Vashti) did what was in the best interest of others. As I read, I was able to see glimmers of how the choices affected each woman and the people around them.
I thoroughly enjoyed this retelling of Esther’s story. As you read this book, I encourage you to ponder the question, who do you choose to become? Think about the lessons you can learn from Vashti and Esther.
Purchase your copy of Star of Persia on Amazon. I received an advanced reader’s copy through the Revell Reads program; a positive review was not required.
About Star of Persia: Esther’s Story
In an effort to complete a war his father had planned to win, King Xerxes calls every governor, satrap, and official in his vast kingdom to his palace in Susa to strategize and feast. When they finally leave, he decides on one more week of frivolity, which ends in the banishment of his favorite wife, something he never intended to do.
But when he discovers Esther, Xerxes is sure he has a second chance at happiness.
In her wildest dreams, Esther could never have imagined that she would end up as queen of Persia. Yet she knows better than to become complacent. Another of Xerxes’ wives is vying for position, and his closest advisor has a deep and dangerous grudge against Esther’s adoptive father.
Caught in the middle of palace politics, Esther will find herself in an impossible position: risk her life or consign her people to annihilation.
With her impeccable research and her imaginative flair, Jill Eileen Smith brings to life the romantic, suspenseful, and beloved story of Esther, queen of Persia.
About Jill Eileen Smith
Jill Eileen Smith is the bestselling and award-winning author of the biblical fiction series The Wives of King David, Wives of the Patriarchs, and Daughters of the Promised Land, as well as The Heart of a King and the nonfiction book When Life Doesn’t Match Your Dreams.
Her research into the lives of biblical women has taken her from the Bible to Israel, and she particularly enjoys learning how women lived in Old Testament times. Jill lives with her family in southeast Michigan. Learn more at www.jilleileensmith.com.
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