Coptic Orthodox Diocese of the Southern United States

Esther: A Daughter's Respect for Her "Father"

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Esther was a Jewish girl born in Susa the capital of Elam. She was orphaned at an early age and raised by a close older Jewish relative named Mordecai. Mordecai's family had been taken captive from Judah (many years prior to Esther taking residence in his home) after the fall of Jerusalem, to Nebuchadnezzar, some speculate about 586 B.C. Mordecai continued his care of Esther all her days until her marriage and he became as a father to her.

Through the Holy Book of Esther informing us that Esther and Mordecai were Jewish; we can assume that they were faithful to God; and be reassured that they remained faithful to God. The Holy Book exhibits Esther's and Mordecai's faithfulness to God and to the Jews who worshipped God.

Mordecai was a known palace official under King Ahasuerus that represented the Jewish people of his kingdom. King Ahasuerus was thought to be "mad" during his reign and today, probably would have been diagnosed with multiple mental illnesses. The King was feared for his brutality, his erratic decision making, inaccessibility, inability to sleep, and most of all his unpredictability. Even marriage to King Ahasuerus did not safe guard a wife.

King Ahasuerus' once principal wife, Vashti, was a very beautiful woman who refused to dance before the king and all his drunken friends at a banquet, leading to his rapid dismissal of her. King Ahasuerus could have been fearful of her assertive behavior and had an urgent demeaning need to make her an example for all the other wives in his kingdom that they must do whatever acts their husbands demanded of them and whenever the husbands demanded such acts of them.

Esther Heeded Her Father's Advice

Following the outing of Queen Vashti was where the story of Esther became a legend. Esther's Jewish name was Hadassah, meaning myrtle. "Esther" was a Persian name derived from the word "star". Mordecai continued to advise Esther not to tell anyone of her Jewish origin. She did as she had been told, retaining her Persian name and hiding her ancestry's origin. Esther was a young lady described as "beautiful and lovely" (Esther 2:7). Through Mordecai's palace connections, she honored him further by taking up his advice; and was trained in the arts of women which made her demeanor even more pleasant to behold.

By having taken her surrogate father, Mordecai's wise recommendations for her life, Esther captured the king's heart from her first appearance before the king; for King Ahasuerus "loved Esther more than all the women and she found grace and favor in his sight more than all the virgins" (Esther 2:17). The king immediately made Esther his next queen. We can be sure Esther was to have a difficult marriage based upon the history of King Ahasuerus previous marriage to Vashti and his personality.

Esther Did Not Forsake Her Father for Royalty

Throughout her reign as queen, Esther remained in contact with Mordecai, the only real father figure she had known. The contact would come to be through notes and quiet communication; as the king did not know she was a Jew and faithful to the advice of Mordecai, nor did Esther tell him.

Not long after Esther's move to the palace, Mordecai, while there, overheard the conversation of two soldiers planning to murder the king. He passed the soldiers' plotting quietly along to Esther who in turn told the king; and consequently the two palace guards were hung. While Mordecai had saved the life of the king, he soon fell into dire straits with the grand vizier of King Ahasuerus, Haman, by refusing to bow to him as he passed by. Most probably Mordecai only bowed before the Lord his God. This single act infuraited Haman so much that he vowed not only to kill Mordecai but the entire Jewish population of the kingdom he represented.

With the king's blessing, a date was set for the annihilation. But impatient, Haman could not wait for that date to have Mordecai killed; so, he had a huge gallows erected to hang him. When he went to King Ahasuerus to receive his assumed blessing once again for another killing, God intervened. The king, having difficulty sleeping, was having the royal journal read to him and discovered that Mordecai had saved his life and never been adequately rewarded for his deed.

When Haman entered the king's chambers to receive permission for the hanging of Mordecai, the king asked him, "What should be done to the man whom the king delights to honor?" (Esther 6:6). Haman, thinking the king meant rewading him, responded that a royal procession in his honor should be held. King Ahasuerus commanded Haman to order a royal parade in honor of Mordecai "the Jew who sits at the king's gate" (Esther 6:10). Now rather than to request Mordecai's death by hanging, Haman was responsible for suggesting a parade be held in Mordecai's honor.

Esther Honored Her Father

Earlier, Mordecai had told Queen Esther of Haman's plan to rid the kingdom of the Jewish population and that she had to intercede with King Ahasuerus on the Jews' behalf. Esther bravely and wisely decided to take his advice. With forethought, she requested that Mordecai gather the Jews together for three days of fasting. By this single act, we can learn many things about Esther. First,through the prayers of the people, Esther desired God, to give her strength and courage to approach such an unpredictable king, and to do what she must do in an acceptable manner unto Him. It further tells us that Esther was more than capable of making her own decisions by agreeing to enter into the king's presence. In addition,she honored her father by willing to sacrifice her life for her father and her people.

Esther courageously requested to have dinner with the king twice. It should be taken into account that the king had not called for Esther in the last thirty days prior to her request and certain death could be imposed upon someone who approached King Ahasuerus without him first having sent for them. This must have been a terrifying, as well as difficult, position for a wife to have been in.

Esther Honored Her Heritage through the Teachings of Her Father

It was at the second dinner that Esther revealed her Jewish identity to her husband. She then quickly explained that Haman was behind the massacre planned to kill her people. The king overcome with rage left the dinner and the room to contemplate a fate for Haman. On returning to the room he discovered Haman at Esther's feet begging for forgiveness. Quickly misinterpreting the action, the king assumed Haman to be attacking his queen and ordered him to be hung on the gallows Haman had earlier prepared for Mordecai to be hung upon.

Most probably in response to Esther's braveness, her quite manner of bringing the plot to his notice, and her honest openness regarding her heritage, induced the king to defend her and her people. King Ahasuerus rewarded Esther with all of Haman's estate, made Mordecai the grand vizier even though he was Jewish, and revoked the decree to kill all the Jews that resided in his kingdom.

What brought about such saving grace for the Jewish population? Firstly, Esther did not begin to do anything until after steadfastly seeking God's help in her undertaking through three days of Jewish fasting. Secondly, Esther honored her father in her daily life, keeping his teachings and Godly belief system within her; and when the appointed time to defend them had come, Esther did so.

May we all show respect and honor to our earthly fathers of faith that raised us up. May we utilize our childhood Godly teachings with wisdom and patience as did Esther, in carrying out God's special purpose for our life. And as Esther had accomplished, may we defend our faith, putting our trust in God.

Bishop Youssef
Bishop, Coptic Orthodox Diocese of the Southern USA

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