The story of Esther takes place after the Israelites had returned from exile. Many thousands of Jewish people had chosen not to return, but to continue to stay in the land they had settled in. Esther and her uncle Mordecai were among this number.
Why does this matter? It is important because the book of Esther is a story of how God intervenes in the lives of his people, how he constantly works to preserve them. He preserves not only those who live in the land he gave to them, but those who are spread far and wide across the world as well. Even though Esther and Mordecai did not return to Jerusalem, God was still watching over them.
Esther’s Jewish name, ‘Hadasseh’, means ‘myrtle’ – a beautiful and fragrant tree which in Jewish culture is a symbol of peace and thanksgiving. The name ‘Esther’ is Persian and means ‘star’. She was very beautiful and soon won the King’s heart.
Yet we see that her behaviour was perhaps not all that we would expect from a devout Jewish woman. Unlike Daniel who chose not to eat the unclean food during his period of preparation, Esther participated in all the rituals that were provided, entered a relationship with a man she wasn’t married to, and eventually did marry this pagan man. God used Esther as Israel’s deliverer, even though her behaviour was not perfect according to the Law.
Does this mean that we can ignore God’s commands? This is not the lesson we are to take from Esther’s story. In reality, all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. If God were only to use the perfect among us, he would have no servants to choose from except his own son. There is no doubt that God could still have accomplished his will had Esther obeyed the law. Yet God’s purposes are sovereign, despite what we do sometimes, rather than because of what we do. Praise God for his mercy and faithfulness towards us.