The next time we look at Ezra will be during the reign of Artaxerxes, king of Persia. Between Darius, however, who rejuvinates the project of rebuilding the temple, and Artaxerxes (also known as Ahasruerus), who authorizes and finances the building of the city of Jerusalem, there is another king who ruled Persia for nearly twenty years. His name was Xerxes, and he is the king mentioned in Esther.
Mordecai is a distant relative of King Saul, being descended from Kish and Shimei (who cursed David in 2 Samuel 16:5). I wonder why Mordecai didn’t return to Jerusalem? It was always God’s intent for His people – emphasized in Zechariah 2:7 (also Isaiah 48:20). Whatever the reason, it becomes obvious that God used Mordecai to save them from extermination. Mordecai had been Esther’s adoptive father since the death of her own parents and he supremely has her best interests at heart. The text does not say that Mordecai encouraged Esther to “run” for Queen. Indeed, considering what being “in the running” meant, Mordecai likely opposed it, but as a Jew in a foreign land, he must have realized how powerless he was to prevent it. Better to “go with the flow” than be killed.
The beauty treatments sound like a lengthy spa treatment. What girl wouldn’t enjoy such pampering? But consider the end result. The girl would be brought to the king for a “one night stand.” If she pleased him, she might be made queen. But chances are, her life afterward would be relegated to little more than widowhood, for she might never see the king again, and never enjoy marriage to another man.
Esther is careful not to reveal her nationality. The ramphant anti-semitism of Persia will be disclosed shortly. She is also careful to follow Mordecai’s advice – which she has done since her youth. Were she a modern girl, she might well have questioned her cousin’s counsel. But to Mordecai’s credit, he has been a parent who lived in a way to cause his child to trust and obey. To Esther’s credit, she does both.
I see a parallel here between Esther and Israel. Both were captives. Both had to adjust to captivity and make compromises. Both were adopted (Israel, of course, was adopted by God – see Psalm 2:7-8). The difference between them is that Esther was obedient to her father. Israel, was not.