Esther, the Jewish maiden, was taken from her familiar surroundings and the care of her beloved uncle, Mordecai, and placed in the palace to become one of the women who would be used to satisfy the sexual desires of the king. King Ahasuerus was the son of the famed king, Darius I, who is mentioned in Ezra 4:24; 5:5-7; 6:1-15; Daniel 6:1, 25; Haggai 1:15; and 2:10. The year of the incident between Esther and King Ahasuerus was about 483 B.C. The empire of King Ahasuerus was enormous; in fact, it was the largest the world had ever seen. It covered the area now known as Turkey, as well as Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, Jordan, Lebanon, and Israel; it also encompassed sections of modern-day Egypt, Sudan, Libya, and Saudi Arabia.
As with most of the pagan Gentile kings of that day, King Ahasuerus enjoyed putting on public displays of his wealth and power, which included feasts that sometimes lasted for as much as 180 days. Evidently, during the feast that is mentioned in Esther 1:10-11, the king requested that his wife, Queen Vashti, come before the entire gathering of important men and officials to show them her great beauty wearing her crown. The speculation is that King Ahasuerus wanted Vashti to appear wearing only the crown. Queen Vashti refused to put her nude body on public display, and so the king—who was not used to being denied anything—became enraged, dethroned her as queen, and banished her from the kingdom. Afterwards, he made a decision to replace his wife with another woman. Josephus, the Jewish historian, records that King Ahasuerus had a total of 400 women selected to fill the harem, from which he would eventually choose his wife and queen.
The time came, after a full year of preparation, for each of the women to spend a night with the king. Until that time, they were kept in the harem, by Hegai, but afterwards, because they were no longer virgins, they were moved to the area set aside to house the concubines – or mistresses – where they were put under the watchful eye of another eunuch, named Shaashgaz. Eventually, Esther’s time came, and because of her humility and acceptance of her position as servant, she went into the king’s chamber. She was so extraordinarily beautiful, both inside and out, that the king was immediately smitten with her and made the decision to name her as the replacement for Queen Vashti, so he placed the crown upon her head.
Almost as soon as Esther was confirmed as queen, the king appointed an evil man over his affairs. His name was Haman, and he despised the Israelite people. Haman was a descendant of Agag, who was the king of the Amalekites, a people who were Israel’s sworn enemy for generations (Exodus 17:14-16), and bigotry and prejudice against Israel were deeply rooted within his darkened heart. Esther’s uncle, Mordecai, knew the heart of this wicked man and knew he hated the Israelite people. Haman manipulated and maneuvered until he was able to get into a position of authority from which he would be able to destroy them, so Mordecai enlisted Esther’s aid in correcting the situation.
Esther took her life in her hands and decided to intercede with the king on behalf of her beloved people, Israel, no matter the consequences to herself. Anyone approaching the king without being summoned was immediately put to death (Esther 4:11). She enlists Mordecai to gather the Israelites together and fast for three days, and by implication pray for her. Esther’s fast could have no other object but to obtain God’s favor and protection in the dangerous course on which she was about to enter: “When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish” (Esther 4:16). Her bravery and faith in God are a testament to the trust this young woman had in the living God. She is a lesson in God’s sovereignty over His creation. He maneuvers every aspect of life to position people, governments, and situations for His plan and purpose. We may never know what God is doing, but a time might come when we realize why we have gone through certain experiences, or met certain people, or lived in certain areas, or shopped in certain stores, or taken certain trips. The time may come when everything comes together, and we look back and see that we, too, were put in that moment of time, just as Esther. She was put into a harem “for such a time as this.” She was given to a king “for such a time as this.” She was strengthened and prepared to intercede for her people “for such a time as this” (Esther 4:14). Esther is truly a reminder of God’s promise, as written in Romans 8:28: “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”