As the curtain is raised on the next scene, we find King Xerxes sobered up and calmed down. He then remembers that he banished his queen and needs to find a replacement (Esther 2:1). Does he come up with a plan himself? Again, no. The king’s ″young men″ (v. 2 ESV) make a suggestion that we would expect young men to make. They say, ″Let a search be made for beautiful young virgins for the king . . . Then let the young woman who pleases the king be queen instead of Vashti″ (vv. 2-4). This advice pleases the king.
Then, rather unexpectedly, we are introduced to a Jew, Mordecai (Esther 2:5). As we read on we find out that he has a cousin whom he has brought up as his own daughter. The king is seeking a young, unmarried, beautiful woman. Esther fits the bill and more for she also has a ″lovely figure″ (v. 7). And she is gathered and taken into the king’s harem (v. 8). Here Esther is very successful, pleasing the eunuch in charge of the harem and winning his favour. Soon, she is advanced to the best place in the king’s harem (v. 9).
Being a member of the king’s harem isn’t as glamorous as we might think. Once Esther is in the king’s harem, she is essentially a captive, placed in the custody of a eunuch (Esther 2:8). Historically, the women of a king’s harem would be confined to it for life. In a sense, she is a double captive and a victim of circumstances. God’s people, including the ancestors of Mordecai and Esther, were also carried away as captives by the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar (v. 6; see 2 Kings 25:1-21). Esther had no control over what happened to her ancestors, especially the disobedience that led to their exile in Persia (2 Kings 24:1-4).
But King Cyrus issued a decree allowing the Jews to return to the Promised Land at least fifty years before the time of King Xerxes (2 Chronicles 36:22-23). Esther’s ancestors in exile could have returned to their homeland then, but they didn’t. If she or her ancestors had returned home, further away from Susa, it might be easier to evade the king’s net. Back in the Promised Land she would be less likely to find herself in her current predicament.
God can still use his people outside the Promised Land, like Nehemiah. Although we are not sure why Esther and Mordecai remained in Persia, we do know that God can use flawed, ordinary people to fulfil His purposes. God can use us wherever we might be.
Do we sometimes think that we are a victim of circumstance or of other peoples’ decisions and actions? How can we allow God to use us even in such situations?
Turn to Romans 8:28. How does knowing that God uses every situation for the good of those who love Him provide hope for us?