Jesse Tree – Day 18: Esther

For today’s Jesse Tree reading, we’re going to go into Esther’s story. And I have to say, this is actually one of those stories that I really wasn’t familiar with! But I am sooo glad that I read it. It’s an awesome story with an amazing heroine who rises to the challenge and saves her people.

But I am getting ahead of myself!

First, here is a picture of the ornament:

A scepter! Crochet pattern for the ornament, if you’re interested in making your own, is here.

It is a scepter, which is actually quite important because it is a symbol of the king! And, not only that, but if the king doesn’t point the scepter at you and you come toward him without permission, you’re basically dead.

Now, I would looove to dive into scripture, but you kind of need some background information first, otherwise you’re going to be a little confused.

And so, let’s backtrack a little and give you some of the background information, shall we?

The Background Information

In the beginning of the Book of Esther, we learn that the king is not afraid of removing his favorite queen. In fact, that’s basically how the book begins. He removes his favorite queen and then replaces her with Esther, a beautiful woman who is also secretly a Jew. She is meek and mild and the king loves her because she actually seems to love him without wanting anything from him, unlike many of his other wives.

The king also has a close adviser, Haman, who basically hates Jews because they refuse to bow to him. And so, jealousy and pride launch him to convince the king to give a decree in which the king states that he will kill all the Jews in the kingdom by a certain day. (Remember, the king doesn’t know that Esther is a actually a Jew!)

The Jews find out because of the official decree, and Mordecai, who is Esther’s adopted father (since Esther was an orphan) makes his presence known to Esther by throwing on sackcloth and ashes and hanging around near the palace. Disturbed, Esther and he begin communicating through messengers of the decree, which Esther had no idea about. And Mordecai urges her to do something about it.

Doesn’t that sound exciting???

And that is where our story begins…

The Scripture

(Following passage from Esther 4:6-17, 4D:1-12. Scripture source.)

Esther then summoned Hathach, one of the king’s eunuchs whom he had placed at her service, and commanded him to find out what this action of Mordecai meant and the reason for it.

So Hathach went out to Mordecai in the public square in front of the royal gate, and Mordecai recounted all that had happened to him, as well as the exact amount of silver Haman had promised to pay to the royal treasury for the slaughter of the Jews.

He also gave him a copy of the written decree for their destruction that had been promulgated in Susa, to show and explain to Esther. Hathach was to instruct her to go to the king and to plead and intercede with him on behalf of her people.

Hathach returned to Esther and told her what Mordecai had said.

Then Esther replied to Hathach and gave him this message for Mordecai:

“All the servants of the king and the people of his provinces know that any man or woman who goes to the king in the inner court without being summoned is subject to the same law—death. Only if the king extends the golden scepter will such a person live. Now as for me, I have not been summoned to the king for thirty days.”

When Esther’s words were reported to Mordecai, he had this reply brought to her: “Do not imagine that you are safe in the king’s palace, you alone of all the Jews. Even if you now remain silent, relief and deliverance will come to the Jews from another source; but you and your father’s house will perish. Who knows—perhaps it was for a time like this that you became queen?”

Esther and Mordecai, by Hendrick van Steenwijk the Younger, c. 1616. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., United States.
Esther and Mordecai, by Hendrick van Steenwijk the Younger, c. 1616. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., United States.

Esther sent back to Mordecai the response:

“Go and assemble all the Jews who are in Susa; fast on my behalf, all of you, not eating or drinking night or day for three days. I and my maids will also fast in the same way. Thus prepared, I will go to the king, contrary to the law. If I perish, I perish!”

Mordecai went away and did exactly as Esther had commanded.

*

On the third day, ending her prayers, she took off her prayer garments and arrayed herself in her splendid attire.

Queen Esther, by Edwin Long, c. 1878. National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Australia.
Queen Esther, by Edwin Long, c. 1878. National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Australia.

In making her appearance, after invoking the all-seeing God and savior, she took with her two maids; on the one she leaned gently for support, while the other followed her, bearing her train.

She glowed with perfect beauty and her face was as joyous as it was lovely, though her heart was pounding with fear.

Esther Esther, by Jean-François Portaels, c. 1869. Art Gallery of South New Wales, Sydney, Australia.
Esther Esther, by Jean-François Portaels, c. 1869. Art Gallery of South New Wales, Sydney, Australia.

She passed through all the portals till she stood before the king, who was seated on his royal throne, clothed in full robes of state, and covered with gold and precious stones, so that he inspired great awe.

As he looked up in extreme anger, his features fiery and majestic, the queen staggered, turned pale and fainted, collapsing against the maid in front of her.

Esther Before Ahasuerus, by Giovanni Bonati, c. 1650-75. Musei Capitolini, Rome, Italy.
Esther Before Ahasuerus, by Giovanni Bonati, c. 1650-75. Musei Capitolini, Rome, Italy.

But God changed the king’s anger to gentleness. In great anxiety he sprang from his throne, held her in his arms until she recovered, and comforted her with reassuring words.

“What is it, Esther?” he said to her. “I am your brother. Take courage! You shall not die; this order of ours applies only to our subjects. Come near!” Raising the golden scepter, he touched her neck with it, embraced her, and said, “Speak to me.”

Esther before Ahasuerus, by Jacopo Tintoretto, c. 1546-47. Royal Collection Trust, London, United Kingdom.
Esther before Ahasuerus, by Jacopo Tintoretto, c. 1546-47. Royal Collection Trust, London, United Kingdom.

*

After that, it was pretty easy, considering, for Esther to get the king to save her and the Jews. But, it took a remarkable amount of courage (and prayer!!!) for her to appear to the king like that, unannounced.

And you should totally read how the story ends… here’s the link to the Book of Esther, again, starting with chapter 1! 🙂 It’s a fairly short book, considering, and it is an awesome narrative which definitely keeps you engaged! I recommend it wholeheartedly.

All right! The next reading? A prophecy… with a fairly limited art selection. (EEP.) Fortunately, I found a couple of pieces that illustrate it wonderfully. 🙂 Stay tuned!

Karina Tabone

Karina Tabone is a wife, mother of three, author, blogger, and lover of Christian artwork. She's the author of the Illustrated Rosary series, which pairs every prayer of the Rosary with beautiful religious artwork. She likes also milkshakes, sunshine, and mystery novels. Follow her on Twitter at @illustr_prayer

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