The Pagan Harem and the Christian Home
Esther 2:5-16
Now in Shushan the palace there was a certain Jew, whose name was Mordecai, the son of Jair, the son of Shimei, the son of Kish…

Every one is inclined to feel kindly toward the orphan Esther, who, at her own great risk, rendered such signal service to her race. But her introduction to us as one of the candidates for royal favour, among several other women of the harem, is far from pleasing. Under the teaching and influence of Christian truth we have formed habits and acquired instincts and sensibilities which are so far removed from those of Eastern lands, that it is difficult to read, without a strong prejudice, even this purely-written page. We have suggested to us -

I. A. STRIKING CONTRAST BETWEEN A PAGAN HAREM AND A CHRISTIAN HOME. We have the virgins "requisitioned" from all the provinces (Ver. 8), the fairest and finest being taken from their parents and friends, a large part of the palace specially assigned them before admission to the king's chamber (ver. 8), and another devoted to them afterwards, when they had become his concubines (ver. 14); the extensive and protracted preparation, or "purification," including everything that could conduce to bodily comeliness and sensuous gratification, and extending over an entire year (ver. 12); the introduction to the royal presence after a choice made by the maiden herself of whatever she thought would adorn her person (vers. 13, 14). In all this we have an extravagant and evil provision for one man's satisfaction. Well had Samuel warned his countrymen (1 Samuel 8.) against the monarchy of those times and lands. It meant the elevation of a single individual to a post of such dignity and power that the people were much at his mercy and held their life, property, and honour at the caprice of one erring and passionate mortal. How excellent and how pleasing to be led away in our thought by the suggestion of contrast from the heathen harem to the Christian home. This is based on mutual spiritual attachment. It is spiritual; for the love which precedes and justifies a union of man and wife is not an ignoble passion nursed by such sensuous attractions as the king's chamberlain spent his ingenuity in perfecting; it is a beautiful combination of esteem and affection; the pure admiration which is felt for the beauty of virtue, for spiritual graces, as well as for fineness of form and sweetness of face. It is mutual. No union is sacred, in Christian morality, if the love of the one is not returned by the affection of the other. And, therefore, it is lasting; not lingering for a few weeks or months at most, but extending through the whole life, and becoming more real as the years go by. Begun in youth, it glows in prime, and shines with serene and steady light through declining years. Let us mark here a proof of the excellency of our holy faith. One of the very worst consequences of the reign of sin in this world is the degradation of woman. Meant to be man's helpmeet and companion as he walks the path of life, she became, under its dominion, the mere victim of his ignoble passion. But what has the Christian faith done for woman, and through her for society? It has introduced such purity and elevation of spirit, that it is painful even to read a page like this; so that it has become a" shame to us even to speak" of the things heathenism does without any shame at all. What a contrast between the Christian home, at this day, and the home of the Mahommedan and the heathen! It is the handiwork of Jesus Christ.

II. AN INSTRUCTIVE INSTANCE OF GOD'S WAY OF WORKING (vers. 16, 17). It is true that (vers. 6, 7) Mordecai was a kindly and generous man, treating his uncle's daughter, Esther, as his own child; it is true that the "fair and beautiful" Esther was modest, and cared not to deck and trim herself with ornaments, that "she required nothing but what Hegai, the king's chamberlain, ... appointed" (ver. 15). But we should not have supposed that God would condescend to use such a heathen custom as this to place one of his people on the Persian throne, and, by such means, to provide for the rescue of the Jewish race. Yet he did. He thus brought it about, in his providence, that one who feared him and was disposed to serve his chosen people "obtained grace and favour in the sight" of the king (ver. 17), and had "the royal crown set upon her head." He who "makes the wrath of man to praise him" can make other passions of men to serve him. We must not be hasty in concluding that God is not working in some sphere, or by some instrument, because it may seem to us unlikely. God not only rules, but overrules. And when we can take no part in institutions, or are obliged to refuse to enter circles, or can have no fellowship with men, because to do so would compromise our principles, we may stand by and pray that the overruling hand of Heaven will compel even those things, or those men, to subserve his cause and the welfare of the world.

III. A HOPEFUL FACT FOR THE FUTURE OF THE WORLD. As heathenism and Mahommedanism perish - and both are "marked to fall" - such a system as that described in this chapter becomes impossible. In place of it is the purifying influence of the Christian home. What flowers and fruits of virtue, wisdom, kindness, diligence, purity, bloom and ripen there. The future of the world is in the Christian parent's hand. Let the fathers and the mothers of Christendom do their duty in

(1) teaching the truth of Christ, and in

(2) training their sons and daughters in all Christian virtues, and then there will go forth an influence for good which will permeate and regenerate the world. - C.

Parallel Verses
KJV: Now in Shushan the palace there was a certain Jew, whose name was Mordecai, the son of Jair, the son of Shimei, the son of Kish, a Benjamite;

WEB: There was a certain Jew in the citadel of Susa, whose name was Mordecai, the son of Jair, the son of Shimei, the son of Kish, a Benjamite,

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