The book of Esther reads a little bit like a fairytale. A peasant girl becomes the wife of a king. She is brought into a life of great luxury and is instrumental in saving her people. She’s a hero. And because the story ends after she saves her people, we like to think she and the king lived happily ever after. Today, I’d like to share 5 facts about the book of Esther that may have you looking at this fairytale story in a new way.
The book of Esther begins with an elaborate banquet that was held by King Xerxes. The banquet was 180-days long and was filled with opulence and splendor. At the end of the 6-month long banquet, the king held a feast for all the people who were in the citadel of Susa. What you may not have known was that this banquet was more than a boastful king showing off his riches.
It was a strategic meeting meant to gain the compliance and support of the king’s fighting men as they prepared for war. At the time of the banquet, King Xerxes was about to invade Greece, a territory his father Darius I had attempted to conquer ten years earlier.
Maybe you read the book of Esther and wondered why Esther was given seven maidens. You may even have noticed that the number seven appeared a number of times in the book: there were the seven chamberlains who were sent to Queen Vashti and the seven advisors of King Xerxes.
As Christians, we are familiar with the special significance of number seven. Seven is God’s perfect number and often represents completion and wholeness. But did you know that the number seven also had special significance in the court of King Xerxes?
Ancient Media-Persian society also considered the number seven to be the number of completion. Esther—and possibly all the maidens who had been taken—were given seven serving maids because there are seven days in a week.
Upon the advisement of his wife and friends, Haman starts the construction of a 50 cubit high gallows on which to hang Mordecai. But how high is that and is the height significant?
A cubit is believed to be equivalent to 18 inches or 1 ½ foot. 50 cubits would translate to 75 feet of roughly 23 meters. That was an extremely tall gallows as it would have been taller than a modern five-story building.
I’m guessing Haman wanted to send a message: this is what happens to my enemies. A body dangling from that height would have been visible for some distance. But God intervened and saved Mordecai and the rest of His people in a dramatic way.
The scene in Esther 5:9-11 has always intrigued me. Why would Haman need to tell his wife and friends about all he had accomplished and the number of children he had? Didn’t they already know?
In ancient Persia, a man’s prowess was based on two things: his skill in battle and the number of children he had. Haman had ten sons and would have been seen as a man among men in his society. He may also have received a special gift from the king because of his many off springs.
Haman had also gained the favor of the king who had elevated him to a high official. To understand his importance, consider Xerxes to be the president and Haman as his right-hand man aka the vice-president.
He was also the only prince allowed to eat with both the king and the queen—that almost never happened in Persian society. No wonder Haman was excited!
Am I the only person who found it odd when they mentioned the “House of the Women”? Do you also wonder if there had been a House of the Men? Well, yes and no. it is believed that there were a number of houses or apartments that made up Xerxes’ palace. There were at least three sections/apartments for the House of the Women. One for the queen, one for all the king’s concubines…and another for the virgins. The king maintained separate apartments.
The women taken with Esther started out under the care of Hegai who was in charge of the virgin harem. After they had been with the king, they were put in the custody of Shaashgaz (Esther 2:14)
Did you know any of these facts about the book of Esther? Which one was most surprising for you?
Explore these and other facts about the book of Esther in my new Bible study. Royal: Life Lessons from the Book of Esther is written for teenage girls and is perfect for personal or group study.
This Esther Bible study book is an in-depth exploration of the lessons and morals in the book of Esther and covers topics such as the importance of respect, how to be a good friend, and tips for having a relationship with God.
Royal: Life Lessons from the Book of Esther will be published on September 5, 2019, and is currently available for preorder on Amazon.