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Saturday, March 26, 2011

What Good Is a Woman? Lesson 2

Study questions
Read Esther Chapter 2.

What are the criteria for the new queen? See Matt. 3:17.

What is the significance of Mordecai's ancestry? See Esther 3:1 regarding Haman's descent, and 1 Samuel 14:47,48 and 15:7,8. Note the long history of conflict. Compare to Gen. 3:15.

Esther's Hebrew name, Hadassah, means "myrtle." See Isaiah 41:19,20 and 55:12,13.

 Compare to descriptions of the Messiah in Psalm 45, especially vss.2, 7 and 8.
"Esther" may be a form of "Ishtar," the Babylonian goddess of love and war, who was said to have entered the underworld to rescue her beloved and succeeded after having the "water of life" poured over her. Worship of Ishtar was immoral and condemned by Hebrew prophets, but the name does suggest divinity, sacrifice and rescue (albeit perverted.)

"Esther" may also mean "star" in Persian. See Num. 24:17 and Rev. 22:16.

What is notable about Esther's parentage and upbringing? Compare 2:10 with Matt. 16:20.

 What substances are included in Esther's beauty preparations? Note Psalm 45:8, Matt. 2:11 and John 19:39.
How did people react to Esther in 2:15? See Luke 2:52.
Esther becomes queen (v.17). Comment on the replacement of the disobedient queen with the "perfect" one in light of 1 Cor. 15:45-49.

In vss. 21-23, how does Mordecai ingratiate himself with Ahasuerus? What is Esther's role?


            God planned Adam's replacement before all worlds. He would send "my Son, in whom I am well pleased" (Matthew 3:17). Ahasuerus must adopt a "Plan B." He seeks the advice of his servants. Vashti's replacement will be "the young woman who pleases the king" with her beauty (2:3,4). In Psalm 45:2, the coming Messiah is called "fairer than the sons of men." The criteria for the offices are similar.
            When God promised Adam and Eve that "the seed of the woman" would eventually triumph over the serpent, it was a clue that unusual circumstances would mark the birth of the Messiah and of those who would foreshadow Him. Moses was set adrift under a threat of death (Exodus 2:1-10). Samson was conceived by divine intervention and destined to deliver Israel (Judges 13:2-5). Melchizedek was "without father, without mother" (Hebrews 7:3). Esther was an orphan (2:7) and was raised by her relative Mordecai.    
            Esther's Hebrew name, Hadassah, means myrtle. The name leads to more symbols and suggestions of Christ. In Isaiah 41:17-20, the Lord promises a rejuvenation of the dry wilderness, in which He will plant several kinds of trees, including the myrtle. Seeing these trees will cause people to understand that "the hand of the Lord has done this." The connection becomes clearer in Isaiah 55:12,13. "Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress tree, and instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle tree." Christ wore the crown of thorns, took Adam's curse on himself, and promised new life for the world He loved. His kingdom would have no end, just as the sign of the myrtle "shall not be cut off."
            Botanical images of the Messiah are not uncommon in scripture. In Isaiah 4:2, we see that "the Branch of the LORD shall be beautiful and glorious." Ezekiel 34:29 promises a "plant (or garden) of renown." The Song of Solomon celebrates the "rose of Sharon" (2:1). In John 15, Jesus describes Himself as "the true vine." Surely a myrtle that springs up at the right time to save her people suggests a parallel with Christ.
            Even the Persian name Esther is full of symbolism. It may come from the Persian word for "star," or it may be a form of "Ishtar," a Babylonian goddess. The star leads us first to Numbers 24:17, where "a Star shall come out of Jacob... and destroy all the sons of tumult." This suggests the ultimate triumph of Christ. Esther also had a triumph over Haman and the enemies of the Jews. Jesus identifies himself unequivocally in Revelation 22:16. "I am the Root and the Offspring of David, the Bright and Morning Star." Given the importance of names in scripture, the linking of Esther with Christ is fairly compelling.
            Ishtar was a goddess of love and war in Babylonian mythology. Benet's Reader's Encyclopedia calls her "the most widely worshiped of all the deities of the Near and Middle East." She was said to have descended into the underworld to rescue her lover from death. After the "water of life" was poured over her, she succeeded. Worship of Ishtar was immoral, and the Hebrew prophets rightly condemned it, but her name is connected with divinity, sacrifice and rescue from death.
            Esther's beauty preparations make a striking connection with the Messiah and His death. For six months, the potential queens use oil of myrrh. In Psalm 45:8, the divine bridegroom wears garments "scented with myrrh." This prefigures the gift of myrrh brought by the wise men to the Christ child (Matthew 2:11) and its use in His burial (John 19:39).
            Anointed and adorned for her presentation to the king, Esther "obtained favor in the sight of all who saw her"(2:15). In Luke 2:52, we see a similar reaction to the young Jesus, who "increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men." Esther is apparently the most beautiful of all the virgins. The bridegroom in Psalm 45:2 is "fairer than the sons of men."
            When Esther moves to the king's palace, she keeps her identity secret at the behest of Mordecai (2:10). When Jesus began His ministry on the earth, He kept his identity secret (Matthew 16:20, Luke 9:20, 21). There would be a perfect time for each identity to be revealed.
            In the meantime, Ahasuerus approves so heartily of Esther that he places the crown on her head and calls for a great celebration (2:17,18). Instead of the corrupting example of Vashti, he will have the admirable Esther as queen. This is a shadow of the fall of Adam and his replacement with Christ, as explained in 1 Corinthians 15:22. "For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive." The Jews will soon owe their lives to Esther.

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