I think it’s interesting that we consider Esther the main character of this book, but we don’t meet her until the second chapter. Her introduction gives us a lot to consider, too. We talked about what kind of man King Xerxes might be when we met him in the first chapter. If you remember, he entered the scene throwing a massive party for his officials and then for the entire kingdom, which was nice, but then he banished his wife from the queendom (and ordered all other men with disobedient wives to do the same) for not parading around like a beauty queen contestant when he asked. So, I reckon King Xerxes has some good traits and some not so great ones, but so far, he doesn’t impress me as some heathen Babylonian king, which is often how I stereotype Babylonian kings.
Now, let’s talk about Mordecai and why on earth people don’t know he’s a Jew. Let’s remember where he is and how he got there. The chapter even gives us a little hint into Mordecai’s past (v. 6): he was an ancestor of the Israelites who were banished from Judah decades before when the Temple was destroyed. You can go back to the Chronicles if you need a quick recap of those events, but Mordecai is a direct product of them, and he has never known another home other than Babylonia. In fact, the Jews had lived in the area for so long that they were blending right in with customs and cultures and communities, and they’d been there so long, their neighbors didn’t even bother to ask, “Hey, where you from?” anymore. If you recall, also, Nehemiah from the previous chapter also lived in Babylon. He was the king’s cupbearer. And Mordecai is in Babylon – still – at least one and possibly two generations later. Get what I’m saying? The Jews who were exiled decades before weren’t even around anymore, but their children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren had integrated what looks to be “just fine” into Babylonian society. They are a mixed group. Neighbors are neighbors. Friends are friends. And it doesn’t really “occur” to people to ask where people are from. Plus, it seems King Xerxes (along with King Artaxerxes in Nehemiah) was pretty chill when it came to diversity. King Artaxerxes knew good and well that Nehemiah was a Jew, and he even let him go back to Judah to help fortify a new city that was half built against the surrounding communities’ wishes.
I guess I just wrote a whole bunch of stuff to say that while we know it’s a big deal that Mordecai is a Jew, the people around couldn’t have care much less … most likely for the above reasons. So, in turn, when Esther entered the kingdom all oiled up and smellin’ good after a year of beauty treatments, the king probably wasn’t thinking, “Hmmmm, I wonder if she is a Jew.” Which is a good thing and possibly what God had planned all along.
On a side and timely note, I said a year of beauty treatments because that’s how long the text says a woman underwent them (v. 12), but in actuality, Esther did not meet the king for four years after he deposed Queen Vashti. In verse 16, we learn that Esther meets the king during the seventh year of his reign. The first chapter tells us that the king was in his third year on the throne when he threw the big party and kicked his wife to the curb. So, a lot of time has passed. Mordecai has even moved up the ranks to palace official, where he apparently stood duty at the king’s gate, which is how he was able to overhear the eunuch’s plan to assassinate the king. Ahhhhh, so many people seem to be in the right place at the right time. Me thinks me smells a theme brewing.
Writing prompt: time, time, time
Write about a time you were in the right place at the right time.