When the king’s order and edict had been proclaimed, many young women were brought to the citadel of Susa and put under the care of Hegai. Esther also was taken to the king’s palace and entrusted to Hegai, who had charge of the harem. She pleased him and won his favor. Immediately he provided her with her beauty treatments and special food. He assigned to her seven female attendants selected from the king’s palace and moved her and her attendants into the best place in the harem. Esther 2:8-9
If “harem” could be translated “spa,” then this passage might not be so bad. Beauty treatments and special food might sound more like a generous gift certificate rather than orders from a tyrant. But, this was another place, a long time ago and far, far away. It’s hard to imagine.
This scene was less like a slumber party and more like a women’s prison. No woman voluntarily joined a harem. They were either given as a gift from a powerful ruler, or they were enslaved. Esther and the other women who were rounded up didn’t have a choice. So, here in an unwelcomed and horrible circumstance, Esther finds favor with the guy in charge, Hegai. Unlike Joseph, who also found favor during enslavement, and yet escaped a sexual advance (Genesis 39:6-16), Esther was being prepared for one. It seems unbelievable that this would be part of God’s plan.
Yet, here in a much less than ideal circumstance, Esther was singled out from among every young woman in the kingdom. Esther found favor with the king’s servant. We don’t know how much Hegai’s kindness wiped away Esther’s despair, but we do know that she was especially looked after and cared for. Perhaps she had a small glimmer of God’s favor as well.
While we can often identify with the people and circumstances in the Bible, this one is more than a little challenging. Not many of us could comfortably put ourselves in Esther’s shoes. But, if we’ve ever been in despair or felt that God has forgotten about us, then we might have a sense of what Esther experienced.
What situation do you feel has been forced on you these days? When have you felt (or do you feel) that God has abandoned you? What circumstance are you facing that you would rather avoid?
How has God shown favor to you? What person has God brought along to help you? What advantage has He given?
God has a plan for each of our lives. It often takes many unexpected twists and turns. God hasn’t forgotten you.
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