After Vashti's execution, Achashverosh's anger subsided. He remembered his
beautiful wife and became depressed. The king's servants noticed the king's
state of mind and approached him with an idea. They told him that a search
should be put out for beautiful young women. Commissioners should be
appointed in every region of the kingdom who will be responsible for
gathering these young women together and sending them to Shushan. Once in
Shushan, the women should be given cosmetics and time to prepare themselves,
and the one that the king likes most shall be the new queen.
When the king normally had a matter for which he needed advice, he turned to
his wise and trusted ministers and advisors. However, once Achashverosh
changed the law and was now able to judge matters concerning himself, his
advisors and ministers were afraid to approach him. Achashverosh was not in a
good mood, and they were afraid that if they angered him, they would be
killed immediately, as they had no tribunal to turn to for salvation. Hence,
the only people who saw the king on a regular basis were those who had no
choice: the butler, the waiters, the scribes, the cleaners, and all the
servants who attended to the king's personal needs. These servants were not
of the same intellectual caliber as the ministers. They figured that
Achashverosh was upset because he no longer had a beautiful queen. Therefore,
the solution was obvious: have "beauty contest" to find another one. Had
Achashverosh consulted his advisors, he would have received other advice.
They would have suggested finding a women with a distinguished and perhaps
royal lineage. They would have suggested finding a women who overall was fit
to be a queen - although beauty would have certainly been a factor. However,
the advisors were not around to give advice, and therefore the servants
presented their ideas, to which Achashverosh agreed .
If it was not for the fact that the only quality being looked for in a new
queen was beauty, Esther (who we will soon meet) would never have been
selected. The Jews were despised by the nations of the world , and
Achashverosh had no love for the Jews (as we will see, he agreed to Haman's
plan to annihilate the Jews). If one of the prerequisites for a new queen was
a royal or distinguished pedigree, Esther would never have been chosen by
Achashverosh, and there would not have been anyone in the palace to save the
Jews in their time of need. It was truly a miracle that Achashverosh was
advised by his servants, and that he followed the advice, thereby allowing
Esther to become queen.
Before the Megilla tells us about the "beauty contest," we are introduced to
the heroes of our story: Mordechai and Esther. Mordechai was one of the
wisest and most respected men of his generation. He was exiled from the land
of Israel by Nevuchadnezzar, the king of Bavel, and lived in Shushan. In
Shushan, he raised his orphaned niece, Esther. Mordechai realized his niece
was very special, and taught her and provided the environment for her to grow
into a very righteous woman.
Esther was also very beautiful, and because of that, Esther was afraid that
she would be taken to the king's palace and forced to enter the "contest."
Esther hid from the king's commissioners until she heard that anyone who knew
of a beautiful young woman and did not "turn her in" would be killed. Once
Esther was discovered, she did not go willingly to the palace, but rather she
was forced to go by the commissioners against her will.
All the women were brought to Shushan and placed under the charge of Hegai,
the Guardian of the Women. Hegai recognized immediately that Esther was going
to be the one to be chosen queen, and he therefore treated her with great
respect. He gave her maids, cosmetics, and delicacies, and placed her in the
best area in the harem. Nevertheless, Mordechai was very worried about
Esther. He instructed her not to reveal her birthplace and her nationality.
The commissioners knew that Esther was taken against her will, and if it was
discovered that she was Jewish, the commissioners would then spread the word
that Jews did not want to marry the king, and this would cause grave problems
for the Jews. Although Esther herself saw that she was treated with great
respect and no one ever mentioned the fact that she was there against her
will, she still heeded the advice of Mordechai and told no one of her
Mordechai checked on Esther every day. He knew that she must be in great pain
over the fact that she was forced to be in the hands of this wicked king. He
wanted to be sure that she did not become physically ill from this anguish.
He also checked daily to see if anyone ever brought up the issue of her
reluctance to come, and if any punishment was meted out against her because
of it. Throughout the time Esther was in the harem, she, as well as all of
the women there, were given cosmetics and oils so that when the time came for
each woman to appear before the king, they would be at their height of
beauty. Esther did not take advantage of any of this. In fact, her pain from
being in her predicament caused her to develop a greenish, unattractive
pallor. However, as we will see, Achashverosh, because of a miracle, still
found Esther attractive.
Part III: Vashti's Demise
Part V: A New Queen, A Foiled Assassination, & Haman's Wrath