1) On the
third day, ending her prayers, she took off her prayer garments and arrayed
herself in her splendid attire.
Remember, nobody can come into the King’s presence unless dressed
fabulously, as he sees befitting his court.
2) In making her appearance, after
invoking the all-seeing God and savior, she took with her two maids;
won’t attempt this without all the support she can get, human or divine.
3) on the one she leaned gently for
things are so terrifying that you can hardly walk forward to meet them—or at
least I’ve felt that way at times. You
feel light-headed, wobbly kneed, and every step drags. You can hardly breathe! But the important thing, when the situation
demands it, is to keep on forward anyway.
4) while the other followed her, bearing
a burden splendor can be! She can’t even
carry all of her ornamentation by herself.
5) She glowed with perfect beauty and her
face was as joyous as it was lovely, though her heart was pounding with fear.
part of her enslavement she has had to learn to fake happiness, so she’s very
good at it by now. Why fake happiness
when she must discuss dark matters?
Because she doubts that this playboy king will let her get close
otherwise. But how accurate is that,
really? We shall see. How often we think that we have to fake
things that we don’t.
6) She passed through all the portals
till she stood before the king, who was seated on his royal throne, clothed in
full robes of state, and covered with gold and precious stones, so that he
inspired great awe.
for by Haman and who knows how many other bestowers of bribes. Somebody’s got to fund his extravagant
7) As he looked up in extreme anger, his
features fiery and majestic, the queen staggered, turned pale and fainted,
collapsing against the maid in front of her.
you ever felt scared enough to faint? I
have. It’s instinctive: a last-ditch
survival mechanism when the much better options of fight or flight have failed. The body decides to play dead and hope at
least that the predator won’t trust meat that hasn’t died freshly from its own
attack. And it’s the most horrible
feeling, visceral and inescapable—your body itself, flooded with the chemicals
of your fear, has lost all faith in your ability to survive by any other means,
and so it rapidly bleeds strength and volition, nauseating you and rendering
you still more helpless so fast that you can’t do anything about it, you can’t
even choose how or where you fall, you just go down.
The non-Deuterocanonical text doesn’t mention this
extreme fear. Esther seems confident and
strong, a queen and not a prisoner. It
makes it easy to see heroes as different from ourselves, unburdened by our
dreads and capable of anything. We look
at our fear as a character flaw, decide that we’re not in the same category as
Esther, and give up all the more easily.
But you can be so afraid of doing the right thing that you faint, yet
still go ahead and do it anyway.
8) But God changed the king’s anger to
gentleness. In great anxiety he sprang from his throne, held her in his arms
until she recovered, and comforted her with reassuring words. 9) “What is it, Esther?” he said to her.
“I am your brother. Take courage! 10) You shall not die; this order of ours applies only to our
subjects. 11) Come near!” 12) Raising the golden scepter, he touched
her neck with it, embraced her, and said, “Speak to me.”
thing that Esther did not plan, that just overcame her, turned out to be
exactly the right—and probably the only—way to get out of this alive. So in that sense God changed the King’s anger
to gentleness by causing Esther to faint, touching his heart, melting his anger
into concern and tenderness. Also, one
can hardly feel defied by somebody fainting with fear of you; he had no doubt
that Esther knew in full the gravity of her actions and did not need “taught a
I also take note that while Ahasuerus may be a
playboy, he is not a sociopath. He has
compassion. He’s just been raised all
(As we saw in Tobit, married people often called each other brother or sister
in that time and place.)
13) She replied: “I saw you, my lord, as
an angel of God, and my heart was shaken by fear of your majesty. 14) For you are awesome, my lord, though
your countenance is full of mercy.”
the sort of thing that he wants to hear.
To get by in a harem you have got to learn flattery. Also, this further confirms that she’s not
there to defy him, or needs “taught her place”—always an important
consideration for a tyrant who cast out his last queen for insisting on some
dignity. Tragic that Esther has to be in
that position, though!
15) As she said this, she fainted. 16) The king was shaken and all his
attendants tried to revive her.
Again. She finds it so hard to
push forward! Even though he has
forgiven her for coming to him unbidden, she still has to face outing herself
as a Jew—something that now carries a death penalty even for children.