Her name was Hadassah. You might know her as Esther. She was a Voice in the Desert who saved her people from destruction and death. She was beautiful. She was obedient. She was courageous. She was a Jew. Hers is a beautiful story of love, courage, and obedience. The story of Purim is most commonly associated with the Jews of Persia (modern-day Iran) being victorious over their enemies. However, there is so much more to this story. Purim is a lesson in being courageous, what it means to be obedient, how to be a voice in the desert, and how to be a Bride that is worthy of her King. This and so much more is what we learn from Hadassah and the story of Purim.
Over the course of time, King Ahasuerus gained victory over his adversaries and brought peace to his kingdom. To celebrate this peace, he held a large banquet for the royals in his kingdom. At the end of this long banquet (and much drinking), the king summoned Queen Vashti to come before him so he can parade her as his prize to the other nobles. Queen Vashti refused to come before the king and the king’s wise men advised him to send out an edict that Vashti be queen no more and was to be replaced by someone better and more worthy.
Enter Hadassah. When Hadassah was a young girl, her parents were killed and she was left an orphan. The text does not tells us how her parents were killed but we can presume it had something to do with a battle during the captivity of the Jews. As an orphan, Hadassah is taken in and raised by her older cousin Mordecai. When the edict goes out to the kingdom that all “lovely young maidens be sought for the king,” Hadassah is taken to the citadel of Susa. Mordecai instructs Hadassah not to reveal her Jewish identity and she is obedient. After 12 months of preparations, Hadassah is brought before the king.
Each young woman could ask for anything to take with her to go before the king. While the other young women asked for jewels and gold, Hadassah asked for only what the guardian of the women advised. When she went before the king, he “loved Esther more than all the women, and she found favor and loving-commitment in his eyes more than all the maidens. And he set the royal crown upon her head and made her queen instead of Vashti.”
In time, there arose to power an evil man named Haman. He hated Mordecai and sought to have him killed. Haman devised a plan that would not only kill Mordecai but all the Jews in Persia. He manipulated the king into signing a decree which would destroy all the Jews in the province. When Mordecai learned of Haman’s plan, he told Hadassah that she must use her position with the king to stop this annihilation from happening. At first, Hadassah does not see a way to do this as she has not been summoned by the king…and no one can appear before the king unless called upon.
In one of the most famous passages of the book, Mordecai tells Hadassah,
“Do not think within yourself to escape in the king’s palace any more than all the other Jews. For if you keep entirely silent at this time, relief and deliverance shall arise from another place, while you and your father’s house perish. And who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”
In the second most famous passage, Esther responds, “Gather all the Jews in Susa and fast for me. Then I shall go to the king, which is against the law. And if I perish, I shall perish!”
Hadassah goes before the king and after two strategic banquets, exposes her true identity and the deceit of Haman. The king then signs another edict allowing the Jews to bear arms and defend themselves against their enemies and Haman is hanged on the gallows he had built for Mordecai. It was a great victory for the Jews of Persia.
However, there is so much more to this story than just the victory over Israel’s enemies. Underneath all the layers, there is a story of a courageous bride; one who has made herself ready and has done the hard work so that she is found ready when she appears before the King.
Hadassah had to leave the life she knew and move to the palace where the king dwelt. We envision life at the palace as this glamorous life of food, fun, and freedom. But in reality, the palace was a harsh place for a woman. She could only stay in the women’s quarters, unless of course, she was summoned. She had to essentially compete with the other women and concubines for her place in the palace and her life certainly was not her own. But Hadassah was obedient to go and when she arrived, she won favor by being submissive to the servant of the king.
In the same way, we need to leave our life and all we envisioned for our lives behind when the King calls us to His palace. We should never expect our King to leave His palace and come to live in our house. We have to conform to His ways, not Him to our ways.
Hadassah underwent twelve months of preparations before she could go in to the King. Twelve months. That was just for their one night, that doesn’t include the waiting period afterwards for him to decide which girl to make queen! Hadassah obediently and patiently waited and went through all the preparations that were given to her. She understood that she would not be ready for the king without them. She did not fight the hard work or deny the areas in which she lacked. Instead, she embraced this time as a time to make herself perfect and ready for her king. And it paid off! We read that she found favor in eyes more than all the other maidens and that he loved her.
Often times, the Holy Spirit will send people or circumstances our way that highlight the areas in our lives in which we lack. Many times we fight these changes because we don’t think we need to change, we don’t see the point, or we don’t want to wait the time it will take in order to complete the work. Don’t fight these preparations…embrace them as a gift from YHVH. It is in these times of hard work and preparation that we are making ourselves more beautiful, more pleasing, for our King. And how worth it will it be when our King says to us, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”
When she appeared before the king, we see that she only took that which her guardian advised her. This is key; it’s what set her apart from all the other women vying for the king’s affections. She took the time to seek the king’s desire by asking his servant. Often times, we think we can pick what gift we bring to our King. We think that just because we bring Him a gift that He should accept it. That’s not how His kingdom or any earthly kingdom works. When you bring someone a gift, especially the King of Kings, you should always ask what He wants to receive. She desired to know what would please him. Again, we should conform to His ways instead of making Him fit ours. The fact that Hadassah sought the servant about what the king desired, demonstrates her willingness to obey and submit.
Unlike Vashti, Hadassah knew to whom to submit herself. Hadassah started with her family, Mordecai. She obeyed his command to not reveal her identity and she listened to his counsel when it was time to rise up in order to save her people. We can assume that as a young girl, she obeyed him and learned to submit herself to authority. Vashti, who clearly had an issue with authority, had gotten prideful in her place as queen. So prideful, she thought she was even above the king himself! Sometimes we can get too comfortable with where we are in life and this can produce a sense of pride. When we no longer listen and obey, shema in the Hebrew, to the voice of our King, we put ourselves in a dangerous situation. We set ourselves up to be removed. If we learned anything from the book of Esther, its that everyone is replaceable if they refuse to play their part. Vashti’s rebellion towards her husband and her unwillingness to submit to her king caused her to be removed from her position for someone “who is better than she.” Don’t be a Vashti.
Hadassah was not only beautiful and lovely, she was incredibly courageous and strong. She was a warrior. When the time came for her to lay down her life for her people, she was ready and prepared. Had she not submitted and done the hard work, she may not have been ready at the right time. And just like we learned from Vashti, “do not think you will escape because you are in the king’s palace. For if you remain completely silent, relief and deliverance will arise from another.”
Hadassah had lived her whole life as a sacrifice to God. YHVH never leaves us unprepared. Think back to the circumstances you have faced or are facing. All of these things are actively being used by YHVH to prepare you for His destiny for your life. Don’t doubt your abilities; don’t doubt the call on your life. God uses ordinary people to do extraordinary things.
It’s not about us; it’s always about bringing Him the glory He rightfully deserves. Because everything is to bring YHVH glory, if you refuse your position, like Vashti, there will be another to replace you. We tend to think that God will go on begging us to play our part and to do His work. The truth is that He doesn’t need us to accomplish His work. He wants us and desires us to be part of His plan, but He is King of the Universe, He doesn’t need us to do anything! So how merciful and beautiful that He would choose us to bring Him glory. Don’t refuse Him. There is always someone else who would love to take your place.
Hadassah also had to face the enemy seeking to destroy her and her people. She did not cower and she did not back down. She was smart and cunning when dealing with Haman and was able to find favor with the king on behalf of her people. We all face the enemy seeking to destroy us every day. Our enemy is not flesh and blood but the one who seeks to destroy the people of YHVH. He will try everything he can to deceive us and destroy us. He will whisper in our ears lies that keep us deceived. Lies that tell us we aren’t good enough. Lies that we didn’t really hear from God. Fear is one of his favorite tactics. If he can make us so afraid that we refuse to act, then he will be victorious over us every time.
Being afraid is normal, but it doesn’t have to stop us. Think about skydiving. You can be afraid, but you can’t let it stop you from jumping out of the plane. Don’t be afraid to stand up and be a voice in the desert. YHVH will never leave you alone; He will never leave you unprepared. Never be afraid to stand for what is right, even if it is against the law. Seek the Lord and ask for His wisdom and He will be faithful to provide and show you the way in which to walk.
This year, Purim begins on Saturday, March 15 at sundown and ends Sunday, March 16 at sundown. As you celebrate Purim, reflect on the story of Purim and the life of Hadassah, a courageous bride who saved her people.