She was beautiful, but there was something else about her—poise, strength. She stood tall and I greeted her as Queen Esther. She replied, “My name is Hadassah: I am Jewish, although you may know me as ‘Esther’. I hid my Jewish heritage for many reasons, but I am no longer afraid to reveal who I am. Before I was taken to the harem I lived with my Uncle Mordecai.”
She lifted her chin a bit, a polite smile was on her face when she added, “I am also unafraid to share that I was taken into the harem of King Xerxes of Persia, and I am Queen Esther. You see, my history is very different from what most people experience. The Babylonians conquered my people and they took us into captivity. Then the Persians conquered the Babylonians and they ruled over us when I was a child.”
“My uncle schooled me in the ways of our God, Yahweh, and he was very protective of me. However, we were subject to Persian rule. The King’s men came into our settlements looking for beautiful women.” She shrugged her shoulders. “Maybe he was tired of Persian women,” she said, smiling at her own little joke.
“It did not matter whether the families wanted to send their young girls away or not. Some were eager to give their children to the king. I guess they thought it would benefit them. My uncle Mordecai tried his best to shield me but when the men came to our home; he had no choice but to allow them to see me. It did not matter, obey the King or die was the law. The only thing my uncle knew to do was to follow me and remain close to me. Uncle Mordecai was a wise man, and he even prevented a coup that would have endangered King Xerxes.”
“What was it like in a harem? It was not like what many think. We were educated in the ways of the palace. Hegai, the keeper of the harem, was our protector, but it was also his job to prepare us to serve the King in every way. He taught us the queen’s duties. So, I learned the laws of the Persians, how to conduct myself, and how to…please him. My uncle had taught me to respect authority; in my world, Hegai was my teacher and the King was my ruler. Hegai approved of me and when I was called before the king, I was ready.”
She looked down at her hands, clasped in her lap, and she continued, “And I pleased him; I became the queen.”
“I understood the laws, but soon I learned about the jealousy and deceit of politics within the kingdom. Hamman, one of King Xerxes’ advisors, manipulated Xerxes into proclaiming an irrevocable law that put the lives of all the Jews in danger. I was almost paralyzed with fear for my own life as well, but my uncle encouraged me to give my fear to God and to do the right thing.”
“’Who knows if God has sent you for such a time as this,’ my uncle said. The only thing I knew to do was to fast and pray to God. I asked all my maidens to fast and pray. I told my uncle to send a message to all the Jewish people to fast and pray to God for protection, because I was going to break a sacred Persian law and approach the King without an invitation. Only God could protect me.”
“God not only protected me, he showed me a way to speak with Xerxes without offending him. I was able to reveal the danger that Haman was to the King, as well as to my people. The King even allowed me to enlist help from my uncle to find a way to circumvent his proclamation.”
Hadassah lifted eyes to heaven as she said, “God be praised! My people were even able to defeat their enemies.” Looking toward me she added, “Beauty belongs to God. What he allowed to happen in my life showed me His beauty, His love and grace. God is the true King, and I want to please Him.”
This story is found in Esther 1-9. A lesson for this story is on The Women Speaks page.