The world paused to honor a queen whose passing leaves us all a bit bereft. After 70 years of ruling her monarchy with honor, grace, and dedication she has gone in her words to “lay my crown at the feet of Jesus Christ.” Queen Elizabeth II was a worthy queen indeed, the likes of which we are unlikely to see again. She was born into royalty, and she assumed the crown with dignity and wore it well.
But as history records her amazing reign, it long ago recorded the reign of a queen who was not born into royalty but had it thrust upon her in a most unusual way. Like Queen Elizabeth, she showed courage in the face of danger and refused to shirk her duty, realizing that with royal power came great responsibility for her people. Her name was Esther, or Hadassah in Hebrew.
Esther’s reign is recorded in the book of Esther in the Holy Bible. The author is unknown and this is the only book of the Bible that does not mention God, although as scholars note His providence and mercy are evident throughout. It details events leading up to the creation of the Jewish feast of Purim, a celebration observed to this day to remind the Jewish people of how a brave queen stepped up at risk of her own life to ask her husband, King Xerxes, not to annihilate the Jewish people.
But I’m getting ahead of the story. Unlike Elizabeth who was born with a royal silver spoon in her mouth, Esther was an orphan who was brought up by a kind uncle named Mordecai. When King Xerxes banished Queen Vashti for disobeying his request to appear before his guests, the word went out throughout the kingdom that all beautiful young virgins should present themselves to the king so he could choose a new queen. Esther is described as “lovely in form and features” so wanting the best for her, Mordecai presented her for consideration.
The “bachelorette” process was long and involved but in the end Esther got the rose. She was now Queen Esther, married to King Xerxes of Susa. Yet every good story has a villain, and this one has Haman. One of the royal officials, Haman noticed that Mordecai, a man of God, failed to bow to the king as ordered. He set about to destroy not only Mordecai but all the Jewish people throughout the kingdom.
Following Mordecai’s advice, Esther had not revealed her Jewish heritage to the king. When Mordecai asked her to now do so and to appeal to the king to save her people, she was understandably reticent at first. But Mordecai said, “Do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape… and who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:13,14).
So what happens? I encourage you to put down whatever novel you’re reading and read the Book of Esther instead because this true account has all the elements of a fascinating novel. I will tell you that Esther plays a role in Haman getting what’s coming to him, armed with her faith, wisdom, and the feminine arts. (You’ll love the details!)
Two queens, one mission: to use the position granted them in service to their people. At the age of 21, a few years before her coronation, Elizabeth said, “I declare before you all that my whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong.” Before approaching the king to make her request that her people be spared, and knowing that to appear before him unsummoned could mean losing her life, Esther said, “I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish” (Esther 4:16).
We can learn so much about honor, strength of character and loyalty from these two queens. May they both rest in peace knowing they ruled their kingdoms and served their people well.