Imagine yourself a beautiful Jewish virgin named Esther living in Susa under the domination of the Persian Empire. Are you old enough to care that King Darius the Great is dead, and his son, Xerxes, now reigns?
Xerxes put down rebellions in Egypt and Babylon in less than a year! And now he has a grand design to conquer Greece. Perhaps Mordecai has spoken to you of these things. Do you worry that Xerxes is amassing a 100,000-man army and some of your friends could be conscripted? What will become of them? Where is Greece anyway? Do you know?
Chances are you’re thinking about something much more intriguing to your young mind. Can it be that Queen Vashti actually defied the King and refused to answer his summons? It’s being whispered everywhere. Are you relieved to learn that she was only deposed and not executed? After all, no one dares to disobey the king!
Are you watching this fateful day as King Xerxes reviews his troops amid fanfare and ceremony, and finally moves them forward toward Greece and victory? The roar of the crowd must be deafening. You’re surely amazed at the sheer number of men and boys, wagons, horses, armaments and supplies as they pass by and slowly fade from view.
Since there are no newspapers in your day, word of their progress travels on the lips of travelers and merchants, or by royal dispatches, rehearsed at stops along the way. Men like your uncle sit at the gate with ready ears hungry for news, some of them undoubtedly reliving glory days and heartache of battles long ago fought.Does Mordecai share news of the Hellespont disaster? A storm destroyed the bridge over its waters. Xerxes became so angry he ordered the scourging of the sea with a huge whip, and yelled, “Miserable monster! This is the punishment which Xerxes your master inflicts upon you, on account of the unprovoked and wanton injury you have done him.” How horrified you must be to learn the fate of the bridge engineers and workers—every one of them beheaded!
The king worships pagan gods. It is common knowledge. So when he decided to summon the gods to assure success before crossing the Strymon River, he first offered five white horses to the river, and then he offered human sacrifices—nine young men and nine young girls—burying them alive. Are you fearful, foreigner?
It is years later. The king returns in defeat and turns his attention to choosing a new queen. Suddenly you find yourself one of the many beautiful virgins sequestered in the harem precincts. All await the king’s decision. Are you delighted with your new regimen—the months of preparation with oils, and potions and perfumes? Surely you luxuriate in the finest garments and dazzling jewelry. Do you ever wonder if this is a blessing…or a curse?
Then it is your day, the day you become Queen. Xerxes, King of the Persian Empire, has chosen you, Esther, to reign by his side. You have your own domain, your servants, and your duties to attend. Life seems good.
Where there is power, there is intrigue, particularly in Xerxes’s palace. You are forced into a confrontation with the wicked Haman. Much hangs in the balance, and you must act wisely.
I see you more clearly now. I better understand the urgency of your calling for a fast to seek divine help, your resolute moving forward to save your people. I have an added dimension—the historical backdrop of your declaration, “If I perish, I perish.” We both know that could be a very real, distinct possibility.