Sometimes the competition to select a new queen for King Xerxes is presented as a beauty pageant. But it’s nothing of the sort. No, before a ″contestant″ even goes to the king, her beauty treatments last a whole year. She is prepared for six months with oil of myrrh and six months with perfumes and cosmetics (Esther 2:12). Then she is allowed to take whatever she wants into the king’s bedroom to please him (v. 13). She has one night to satisfy the king in his bed, and then in the morning she returns to be part of his harem, as a concubine, for the rest of her life. Unless of course, she is chosen to be queen. As an orphaned Jewish girl, Esther’s chances of being selected out of all the virgins from across the 127 Persian provinces were slim.
So try to put yourself in their position. You’re stuck in the king’s service; you don’t get to go home again; you don’t get to marry anyone else. And unless you pleased the king, he won’t call you back on another night. The women are treated as objects for the king’s pleasure. They are used for his entertainment, then disposed of until he fancies them again-if he ever does (Esther 2:14).
But before you think the king’s policy is sexist, observe that the boys don’t get away scot-free either. King Xerxes has the power to conscript them too. After some ″modification″, they become eunuchs in his service, like Hegai and Shaashgaz (Esther 2:8, 14). As eunuchs, they pose less threat to the king and they are less likely to molest his harem of women.
Would you rather be a boy or a girl in the Persian Empire?
Israelite kings were meant to maintain justice, as Solomon prays in Psalm 72:1-2. Yet the prophet Samuel warned that kings would misuse their power (1 Samuel 8:11-18). This became reality in Israelite history, starting with Solomon himself using forced labour in his construction projects (1 Kings 5:13-17).
Nonetheless, not all kings abuse their power for their own pleasure. In the Old Testament, kings such as Hezekiah, Josiah, and especially David were approved by God. These kings anticipate an even better king from David’s line. Christ Jesus did not treat His people as objects. Instead, He loved them so much that He was willing to die for them. Praise God that we serve such a king!
In King David’s old age, a search was made for a companion (1 Kings 1:1-3). How was this search different from that of King Xerxes? What does this tell us about King David?
Read Philippians 2:5-11. What did King Jesus willingly give up? How should we respond to Him?