Esther married a fool who impetuously divorced his first wife when his advisers told him to do so. Then he chose a second wife for her beauty – all very fine, except when the woman is to be queen of a vast empire. A queen needed more than beauty to navigate the shoals of a corrupt and dangerous court. Heroines of the Bible
Foolish King, Wise Queen
The story of Esther has two sources: the ‘Book of Esther’ and ‘Esther with Additions’. There are important differences between the two: the Book of Esther has no direct reference to God; it does not show Esther obeying the rules of a Jewish woman in her diet, clothes, etc.; the Jewish people behave quite savagely towards their enemies.
Many people were uncomfortable with this, especially with the omission of God. So the ‘Additions’ were added, providing important prayers to God and toning down the vengeance of the Jewish population. The Greek Additions to the Hebrew text of Esther are accepted by Catholicism and the Orthodox churches, but not by Judaism or the Protestant churches.
Who is the fairest in the land?
Esther with Additions, Addition A, Chapter 2
Esther, Minerva Teichert
After these things, the king’s anger abated, and he no longer was concerned about Vashti or remembered what he had said and how he had condemned her.
Then the king’s servants said ‘Let beautiful and virtuous girls be sought out for the king.
The king shall appoint officers in all the provinces of his kingdom, and they shall select beautiful young virgins to be brought to the harem in Susa, the capital. Let them be entrusted to the
Esther, by Minerva Teichert
king’s eunuch who is in charge of the women, and let ointments and whatever else they need to given them.
And the woman who pleases the king shall be queen instead of Vashti. this pleased the king, and he did so.
Now there was a Jew in Susa the capital whose name was Mordecai son of Jair son of Shimei son of Kish, of the tribe of Benjamin;
he had been taken captive from Jerusalem among those whom King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon had captured.
And he had a foster child, the daughter of his father’s brother, Aminadab, and her name was Esther. When her parents died, he brought her up to womanhood as his own. The girl was beautiful in appearance.
So, when the decree of the king was proclaimed, and many girls were gathered in Susa the capital in custody of Gai, Esther also was brought to Gai, who had custody of the women.
Preparations in the Harem
The Grooming of Esther, Theodore Chasseriau
The girl pleased him and won his favor, and he quickly provided her with ointments and her portion of food, as well as seven maids chosen from the palace; he treated her and her maids with special favor in the harem.
……Now the period after which a girl was to go to the king was twelve months. During this time the days of beautification are completed — six months while they are anointing themselves with oil of myrrh, and six months with spices and ointments for women.
Then she goes in to the king; she is handed to the person appointed, and goes with him from the harem to the king’s palace.
In the evening she enters and in the morning she departs to the second harem, where Gai the king’s eunuch is in charge of the women; and she does not go in to the king again unless she is summoned by name.
Esther wins the Beauty Contest
When the time was fulfilled for Esther daughter of Aminadab, the brother of Mordecai’s father, to go in to the king, she neglected none of the things that Gai, the eunuch in charge of the women, had commanded. Now Esther found favor in the eyes of all who saw her.
So Esther went in to King Artaxerxes in the twelth month, which is Adar, in the seventh year of his reigh.
And the king loved Esther and she found favor beyond all the other virgins, so he put on her the queen’s diadem.
The Festival of Esther, Edward Armitage
The Festival of Esther, Edward Armitage
Esther’s Prayer to the Lord God
Esther with Additions, Addition C, chapter 14
Then Queen Esther, seized with deadly anxiety, fled to the Lord.
She took off her splendid apparel and put on the garments of distress and mourning, and instead of costly perfumes she covered her head with ashes and dung, and she utterly humbled her body; every part that she loved to adorn she covered with her tangled hair.
She prayed to the Lord God of Israel, and said: ‘O my Lord, you only are our king; help me, who am alone and have no helper but you.
Esther is Received by the King
Esther with Additions, Addition D, chapter 15
Beaten gold necklace from a tomb at Nimrud
On the third day, when she ended her prayer, she took off the garments in which she had worshiped, and arrayed herself in splendid attire.
Then, majestically adorned, after invoking the aid of the all-seeing God and Savior, she took two maids with her;
There was a law that anyone coming unbidden into the King’s presence would be instantly killed.
Esther had not been bidden to his presence, and therefore risked death.
on one she leaned gently for support,
while the other followed, carrying her train.
She was radiant with perfect beauty, and she looked happy, as if beloved, but her heart was frozen with fear.
When she had gone through all the doors, she stood before the king. He was seated on his royal throne, clothed in the full array of his majesty, all covered with gold and precious stones. He was most terrifying.
Esther Before Ahaseurus, Artemesia Gentileschi (see link to Famous Esther Paintings at top of page)
Lifting his face, flushed with splendor, he looked at her in fierce anger. The queen faltered, and turned pale and faint, and collapsed on the head of the maid who went in front of her.
Then God changed the spirit of the king to gentleness, and in alarm he sprang from his throne and took her in his arms until she came to herself. He comforted her with soothing words, and said to her,
‘What is it, Esther? I am your husband. Take courage;
You shall not die, for our law applies only to our subjects. Come near”.
Then he raised the golden scepter and touched her neck with it;
he embraced her, and said ‘Speak to me….’
Book of Esther 6:14, 7:1-10, 8:1-2
14 While they were yet talking with him, the king’s eunuchs arrived and brought Haman in haste to the banquet that Esther had prepared.
1 So the king and Haman went in to feast with Queen Esther. 2 And on the second day, as they were drinking wine, the king again said to Esther, “What is your petition, Queen Esther? It shall be granted you. And what is your request? Even to the half of my kingdom, it shall be fulfilled.” 3 Then Queen Esther answered, “If I have found favor in your sight, O king, and if it please the king, let my life be given me at my petition, and my people at my request. 4 For we are sold, I and my people, to be destroyed, to be slain, and to be annihilated. If we had been sold merely as slaves, men and women, I would have held my peace; for our affliction is not to be compared with the loss to the king.” 5 Then King Ahasu-e’rus said to Queen Esther, “Who is he, and where is he, that would presume to do this?” 6 And Esther said, “A foe and enemy! This wicked Haman!” Then Haman was in terror before the king and the queen. 7 And the king rose from the feast in wrath and went into the palace garden; but Haman stayed to beg his life from Queen Esther, for he saw that evil was determined against him by the king. 8 And the king returned from the palace garden to the place where they were drinking wine, as Haman was falling on the couch where Esther was; and the king said, “Will he even assault the queen in my presence, in my own house?” As the words left the mouth of the king, they covered Haman’s face. 9 Then said Harbo’na, one of the eunuchs in attendance on the king, “Moreover, the gallows which Haman has prepared for Mor’decai, whose word saved the king, is standing in Haman’s house, fifty cubits high.” 10 And the king said, “Hang him on that.” So they hanged Haman on the gallows which he had prepared for Mor’decai. Then the anger of the king abated
1 On that day King Ahasu-e’rus gave to Queen Esther the house of Haman, the enemy of the Jews. And Mor’decai came before the king, for Esther had told what he was to her; 2 and the king took off his signet ring, which he had taken from Haman, and gave it to Mor’decai. And Esther set Mor’decai over the house of Haman.