Thursday, May 14, 2009

Esther's Family History

If you’re a woman, it’s easy to get mesmorised by the beauty contest in Esther 2. It reminds me of Trinny and Susannah crossed with The Biggest Loser. Esther has seven beauty consultants assigned to her (2:9). She has 12 months of treatments, 6 months with oil and 6 months with perfumes and cosmetics (2:12). It’s mind-boggling.

And so we can slip past 2:5-7, which introduces Esther in terms of her family history.

Now there was in the citadel of Susa a Jew of the tribe of Benjamin, named Mordecai son of Jair, the son of Shimei, the son of Kish, who had been carried into exile from Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, among those taken captive with Jehoiachin king of Judah. Mordecai had a cousin named Hadassah (2:5-7a).
The word ‘exile’ is repeated four times in vs 6. It takes us back to the lowest point of Old Testament Jewish history at the end of 2 Kings, when King Nebuchadnezzar laid siege on Babylon and took the Jewish people captive.

There were two waves of exile:

(1) The upper class were deported in 597BC (2 Kings 24:10ff)

Jehoiachin king of Judah, his mother, his attendants, his nobles and his officials all surrendered to him. In the eighth year of the reign of the king of Babylon, he took Jehoiachin prisoner. As the LORD had declared, Nebuchadnezzar removed all the treasures from the temple of the LORD and from the royal palace, and took away all the gold articles that Solomon king of Israel had made for the temple of the LORD. He carried into exile all Jerusalem: all the officers and fighting men, and all the craftsmen and artisans—a total of ten thousand. Only the poorest people of the land were left.
(2) The common people were deported in 587BC (2Kings 25:11ff)

Nebuzaradan the commander of the guard carried into exile the people who remained in the city, along with the rest of the populace and those who had gone over to the king of Babylon. But the commander left behind some of the poorest people of the land to work the vineyards and fields.
It seems Esther’s family were part of the 1st wave, which could explain which Mordecai had access to the king’s courtyard (Esther 2:11, 3:3) and why Xerxes’ beauty scouts considered her for the contest (2:2). Esther’s family members were vulnerable exiles, but probably among the upper classes of the exiled community.

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