by Wayne Blank
Esther's family had been among those of the southern kingdom of Judah, composed of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin (1 Kings 12:21) (see Jews At War With Israel) who had been conquered by the Babylonians under King Nebuchadnezzar (see Why Babylon?). After the Babylonian empire was itself conquered by the Persians under Cyrus the Great (see Ancient Empires - Persia), the Jews (actually, Jews and Benjamites) were permitted to return to Jerusalem - their descendants form the Jewish people today.
When orphaned at a young age, Esther was raised by her older cousin, Mordecai, who worked in the household of the Persian king (Esther 2:5-7). They apparently did not make use of the permission granted by Cyrus for the exiles to return to Jerusalem (approximate dates):
After the king divorced Vashti, Esther was chosen to be his wife. There has long been speculation why Queen Vashti refused to appear before the people at the great banquet (Esther 1:10-12), which triggered the divorce (Esther 1:19). While it may be that she simply had enough of a banquet that had turned into a 7-day binge (Esther 1:10), others believe that the correct translation of her refusal "to appear wearing her royal crown" is "to appear wearing only her royal crown." This theory would seem to be supported by the statements that the king was very drunk (Esther 1:10) when he made the demand to "display the queen's beauty to all the people" (Esther 1:11). If that is what happened, it would seem that the king was little more than a common fool - a condition that The Lord capitalized on to move Esther into position to fulfill her mission.
Esther's role in the saving of the Jewish people came after Haman the Agagite, in effect the prime minister of Persia, managed to get a royal decree to kill all of the Jews throughout the Persian empire, which would then have included those who had returned to Jerusalem. Although the original order could not be revoked according to Persian royal custom, Esther's convincing of the king to give the Jews the means and military authority to defend themselves within the Persian kingdom (Esther chapter 8) successfully averted the genocide. Also, through Esther, Haman was hanged on the gallows that he had intended to use for Mordecai (Esther chapter 7).
There is virtually no doubt that Esther was directly chosen by God to avert the destruction of The Chosen People - from whom came the ancestors of Jesus Christ. To commemorate that deliverance, the Jews began the festival of Purim (Esther 9:18-32), which is still observed to this day.
Fact Finder: What incident made Haman want to kill all of the Jews in the Persian kingdom?