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Esther 2:1-18

Context
Esther Becomes Queen in Vashti’s Place

2:1 When these things had been accomplished 1  and the rage of King Ahasuerus had diminished, he remembered 2  Vashti and what she had done and what had been decided 3  against her. 2:2 The king’s servants who attended him said, “Let a search be conducted in the king’s behalf for attractive young women. 4  2:3 And let the king appoint officers throughout all the provinces of his kingdom to gather all the attractive young women to Susa the citadel, to the harem 5  under the authority of Hegai, the king’s eunuch who oversees the women, and let him provide whatever cosmetics they desire. 6  2:4 Let the young woman whom the king finds most attractive 7  become queen in place of Vashti.” This seemed like a good idea to the king, 8  so he acted accordingly.

2:5 Now there happened to be a Jewish man in Susa the citadel whose name was Mordecai. 9  He was the son of Jair, the son of Shimei, the son of Kish, a Benjaminite, 2:6 who had been taken into exile from Jerusalem 10  with the captives who had been carried into exile with Jeconiah 11  king of Judah, whom Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon had taken into exile. 2:7 Now he was acting as the guardian 12  of Hadassah 13  (that is, Esther), the daughter of his uncle, for neither her father nor her mother was alive. 14  This young woman was very attractive and had a beautiful figure. 15  When her father and mother died, Mordecai had raised her 16  as if she were his own daughter.

2:8 It so happened that when the king’s edict and his law became known 17  many young women were taken to Susa the citadel to be placed under the authority of Hegai. Esther also was taken to the royal palace 18  to be under the authority of Hegai, who was overseeing the women. 2:9 This young woman pleased him, 19  and she found favor with him. He quickly provided her with her cosmetics and her rations; he also provided her with the seven specially chosen 20  young women who were from the palace. He then transferred her and her young women to the best quarters in the harem. 21 

2:10 Now Esther had not disclosed her people or her lineage, 22  for Mordecai had instructed her not to do so. 23  2:11 And day after day Mordecai used to walk back and forth in front of the court of the harem in order to learn how Esther was doing 24  and what might happen to her.

2:12 At the end of the twelve months that were required for the women, 25  when the turn of each young woman arrived to go to King Ahasuerus – for in this way they had to fulfill their time of cosmetic treatment: six months with oil of myrrh, and six months with perfume and various ointments used by women – 2:13 the woman would go to the king in the following way: Whatever she asked for would be provided for her to take with her from the harem to the royal palace. 2:14 In the evening she went, and in the morning she returned to a separate part 26  of the harem, to the authority of Shaashgaz the king’s eunuch who was overseeing the concubines. She would not go back to the king unless the king was pleased with her 27  and she was requested by name.

2:15 When it became the turn of Esther daughter of Abihail the uncle of Mordecai (who had raised her as if she were his own daughter 28 ) to go to the king, she did not request anything except what Hegai the king’s eunuch, who was overseer of the women, had recommended. Yet Esther met with the approval of all who saw her. 2:16 Then Esther was taken to King Ahasuerus at his royal residence in the tenth 29  month (that is, the month of Tebeth) in the seventh 30  year of his reign. 2:17 And the king loved Esther more than all the other women, and she met with his loving approval 31  more than all the other young women. 32  So he placed the royal high turban on her head and appointed her queen 33  in place of Vashti. 2:18 Then the king prepared a large banquet for all his officials and his servants – it was actually Esther’s banquet. He also set aside a holiday for the provinces, and he provided for offerings at the king’s expense. 34 

1 tn Heb “after these things” (so KJV, NASB, NRSV). The expression is very vague from a temporal standpoint, not indicating precisely just how much time might have elapsed. Cf. v. 21.

2 sn There may be a tinge of regret expressed in the king’s remembrance of Vashti. There is perhaps a hint that he wished for her presence once again, although that was not feasible from a practical standpoint. The suggestions by the king’s attendants concerning a replacement seem to be an effort to overcome this nostalgia. Certainly it was to their advantage to seek the betterment of the king’s outlook. Those around him the most were probably the most likely to suffer the effects of his ire.

3 tn Or “decreed” (so NAB, NASB, NRSV); TEV “and about his proclamation against her.”

4 tn Heb “young women, virgins, good of form.” The same phrase also occurs in v. 3.

5 tn Heb “the house of the women” (so KJV, ASV). So also in vv. 9, 11, 13, and 14.

6 tn Heb “their ointments”; cf. NIV, CEV, NLT “beauty treatments.”

7 tn Heb “who is good in the eyes of the king.”

8 tn Heb “the matter was good in the eyes of the king.” Cf. TEV “The king thought this was good advice.”

9 sn Mordecai is a pagan name that reflects the name of the Babylonian deity Marduk. Probably many Jews of the period had two names, one for secular use and the other for use especially within the Jewish community. Mordecai’s Jewish name is not recorded in the biblical text.

10 map For location see Map5 B1; Map6 F3; Map7 E2; Map8 F2; Map10 B3; JP1 F4; JP2 F4; JP3 F4; JP4 F4.

11 sn Jeconiah is an alternative name for Jehoiachin. A number of modern English versions use the latter name to avoid confusion (e.g., NIV, NCV, TEV, NLT).

12 tn According to HALOT 64 s.v. II אמן the term אֹמֵן (’omen) means: (1) “attendant” of children (Num 11:12; Isa 49:23); (2) “guardian” (2 Kgs 10:1, 5; Esth 2:7); (3) “nurse-maid” (2 Sam 4:4; Ruth 4:16); and (4) “to look after” (Isa 60:4; Lam 4:5). Older lexicons did not distinguish this root from the homonym I אָמַן (’aman, “to support; to confirm”; cf. BDB 52 s.v. אָמַן). This is reflected in a number of translations by use of a phrase like “brought up” (KJV, ASV, RSV, NIV) or “bringing up” (NASB).

13 sn Hadassah is a Jewish name that probably means “myrtle”; the name Esther probably derives from the Persian word for “star,” although some scholars derive it from the name of the Babylonian goddess Ishtar. Esther is not the only biblical character for whom two different names were used. Daniel (renamed Belteshazzar) and his three friends Hananiah (renamed Shadrach), Mishael (renamed Meshach), and Azariah (renamed Abednego) were also given different names by their captors.

14 tn Heb “for there was not to her father or mother.” This is universally understood to mean Esther’s father and mother were no longer alive.

15 tn Heb “beautiful of form.” The Hebrew noun תֹּאַר (toar, “form; shape”) is used elsewhere to describe the physical bodily shape of a beautiful woman (Gen 29:17; Deut 21:11; 1 Sam 25:3); see BDB 1061 s.v. Cf. TEV “had a good figure.”

16 tn Heb “had taken her to him.” The Hebrew verb לָקַח (laqakh, “to take”) describes Mordecai adopting Esther and treating her like his own daughter: “to take as one’s own property” as a daughter (HALOT 534 s.v. I לקח 6).

17 tn Heb “were heard” (so NASB); NRSV “were (had been NIV) proclaimed.”

18 tn Heb “the house of the king.” So also in vv. 9, 13. Cf. NLT “the king’s harem.”

19 tn Heb “was good in his eyes”; NLT “Hegai was very impressed with Esther.”

20 tn Heb “being looked at (with favor).”

21 tn Heb “of the house of the women” (so KJV, ASV). So also in vv. 11, 13, 14.

22 tn Cf. v. 20, where the same phrase occurs but with the word order reversed.

23 tn Heb “that she not tell” (NRSV similar); NASB “that she should not make them known.”

24 tn Heb “to know the peace of Esther.”

25 tc The LXX does not include the words “that were required for the women.”

tn Heb “to be to her according to the law of the women”; NASB “under the regulations for the women.”

26 tn Heb “second.” The numerical adjective שֵׁנִי (sheniy, “second”) is difficult here. As a modifier for “house” in v. 14 the word would presumably refer to a second part of the harem, one which was under the supervision of a separate official. But in this case the definite article would be expected before “second” (cf. LXX τὸν δεύτερον, ton deuteron). Some scholars emend the text to שֵׁנִית (shenit, “a second time”), but this does not completely resolve the difficulty since the meaning remains unclear. The translation adopted above follows the LXX and understands the word to refer to a separate group of women in the king’s harem, a group housed apparently in a distinct part of the residence complex.

27 tc The LXX does not include the words “was pleased with her.”

28 tn Heb “who had taken her to him as a daughter”; NRSV “who had adopted her as his own daughter.”

29 tc The Greek MSS Codex Alexandrinus (A) and Codex Vaticanus (B) read “twelfth” here.

30 tc The Syriac Peshitta reads “fourth” here.

31 tn Heb “grace and loyal love.” The expression is probably a hendiadys.

32 tc The LXX does not include the words “more than all the other young women.”

33 tn Heb “caused her to rule.”

34 tc The LXX does not include the words “and he provided for offerings at the king’s expense.”



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