Esther Made Queen (2:1–18)
1–4 Later Xerxes remembered Vashti (verse 1); he likely had begun to miss her. So his attendants proposed that a search be made for the most beautiful girls in the kingdom and that they be brought to the king’s harem; then Xerxes could choose the one he liked best and make her his queen in Vashti’s place. Xerxes agreed, and the search commenced.
5–9 Here we are introduced to the secondmost important character in the book of Esther, Mordecai the Jew.8 Mordecai lived in the citadel of Susa; he was probably an official of some kind (see verse 19 and comment). His great grand father Kish had been carried into exile in Babylon along with Jehoiachin king of Judah(2 Kings 24:10–14). Mordecai had a cousin named Hadassah, whose Persian name was Esther. Because she was lovely in form and features (verse 7), she was brought to Xerxes’ harem as a possible candidate to become the new queen. It is unlikely that she or Mordecai had any choice in the matter (see 2 Samuel 11:4).
10–11 Mordecai told Esther to keep her Jewish identity a secret; if it were known, she would never be selected as Xerxes’ queen. Was Mordecai hoping that Esther would be chosen and thus end up marrying a GENTILE in violation of Jewish law? We are not told. The writer does not make judgments about the questionable actions of Esther and Mordecai; he simply reports what happened. But we, the readers, understand that everything that happened was under God’s control.
12–18 In these verses the writer describes how the king’s harem operated. Each girl got to spend just one night with the king; if he didn’t care for her, she would live the rest of her life as a widow in a section of the harem reserved for concubines (2 Samuel 20:3).
When Esther’s turn came, she won Xerxes’ favor and approval—so much so that he at once chose her to be his queen (verse 17). This all took place in the seventh year of King Xerxes’ reign, four years after he had deposed Vashti.
Mordecai Uncovers a Conspiracy (2:19–23)
19 The virgins—the beautiful unmarried girls of Persia—were assembled a second time. It seems that even after Esther had been chosen queen, there were still virgins being brought to Xerxes’ harem. However, the main point of this verse is to show that Mordecai was sitting at the king’s gate. The city or palace gate was a place where official business was transacted and where legal judgments were made. From this verse, we can understand that Mordecai was one of the king’s officials.
20–23 While Mordecai was sitting at the king’s gate, he “by chance” learned of a conspiracy to assassinate Xerxes. He immediately informed Queen Esther, who then told the king. Esther named Mordecai as the source of her information. The conspiracy proved true and the conspirators were executed; but Xerxes forgot all about rewarding Mordecai.
This incident may at first seem inconsequential; but later we shall see that it was all part of God’s plan to save the Jews from annihilation (see Esther: Introduction).