Esther 1 & 2: The Beautification Period
Majesty of King Xerxes
In the Book of Esther, King Xerxes reigns and King Xerxes, let me tell you, is extremely rich and powerful. He was actually called Xerxes the Great, son of Darius the Great, grandson of Cyrus the Great. King Xerxes reigned for 23 years in total, but when the Book of Esther picks up, he has about three years under his belt. King Xerxes was just 33 years old when he was named king over 127 provinces. To become the President of the United States to govern 54 provinces (the fifty states plus Guam, US Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, and American Samoa) you have to be 35. This man, at age 33 governed an area that was 2.1 million square miles, 127 provinces. “For more than two centuries, this empire would be the largest in history, fostering an unprecedented level of peaceful coexistence and commercial activity in the Middle East.” -National Geographic, “Women of the Bible”. And after just three years in office, he finds time to party.
If you girls have ever hosted an event, you know how expensive it is. You’ve got to decorate the place, provide food and drink, maybe even buy a new outfit for the occasion. One time I was hosting a potluck for forty people, a potluck, and I still managed to spend $100 in groceries for that evening. Now imagine not just having one night for the banquet. Not just three days, or seven. But 180 days. That’s about 26 weeks of partying and hosting that party. And you aren’t just inviting your closest ten friends, or forty, you’re inviting all the nobles, officials, military officers, and princes of an empire. That’s an expensive party. It was, as Esther 1:4 says “a tremendous display of the opulent wealth of his empire and the pomp and splendor of his majesty.” King Xerxes may have been called a king with great dominion, glory, that all peoples, nations, and languages serve him. In fact his title was King of Kings, which was a ruling title used by monarchs in the middle east. King of Kings Xerxes the Great.
The Beautification Period
As we head into Esther 2, we see that King Xerxes is searching for a wife, a queen, so all the beautiful young virgins from the entire empire are brought to King Xerxes. This is where we meet Esther. Can you imagine how many women that would have to be in an empire with a population of approximately 50 million and yet he chose just one to be queen?
For a king so great, he desired the most lovely wife. These women were brought into a year of beauty treatments which is commonly called the beautification period. Before the woman was to join with King Xerxes, she was given a prescribed six months with oil and myrrh and six months with special perfumes and ointments. Then when she was to go into the king’s palace, she could choose any beautiful outfit and any desired jewelry to present herself beautifully to him. Before she could come to the king, she had to be made beautiful. Before the king would even join with her, she had to go through a year of beauty treatments. She had to be completely washed of her dirt and completely purified from any stain. She was cut off from her family and her community as she dwelt in the harem for a year awaiting the king.
When I was in high school, getting ready for prom was the big thing. Months before, I would be looking for a dress that I could barely afford. I made sure I’d flirt with all my potential interests to give them the thought to ask me to the dance. If I got a date, I dare not show them the dress because the day we’d join for the dance would be a big reveal! I’d whiten my teeth, do a face mask, get my hair specially done. I’d put on new makeup and adorn myself with jewelry that looked expensive. The date would ring my doorbell, and there I’d come elegantly down the stairs, feeling like a fairytale. I prepared myself for the date. And for many of you who are getting married or are married I’m sure you know how a prom is a much smaller process than a wedding. And I’m sure you can relate to the year of planning and preparing it takes for the day you are to be joined with your husband.
I praise God that we do not serve a King like this and that our betrothal to Jesus does not involve great material expense or planning. That for you to be joined with Jesus, to be one with Him, to abide in Him, does not take any cleaning up, dressing up, or washing up, but it only takes showing up. Jesus does not make us wait to meet Him. In fact, He is the one in the harem waiting for us. Man sees the outward appearance, God sees the heart. I know many people who come to me asking about Jesus Christ, they want to live for Him, but they feel so much shame and guilt from the stain of their sin that they feel like they need to get their life in order before they can meet Him. Or for people who already live for Him and find themselves in sin. They feel they need to wash up their sin, make themselves clean, and present themselves beautifully to Jesus before they can come to Him in prayer and confession. Oftentimes, we try to put ourselves in a beautification period before we can join with Jesus but this is a faulty, punishing, frame of thought. Because God examines our heart, He knows everything about us, “He knows when we sit down or when we stand up, He knows our thoughts even when we’re far away” (Psalm 139)... The thing is, we are the ones that can be far away, not Him. And there’s no big reveal with Jesus! Everything is always revealed to Him. There’s no walking down the stairs in our elegance to answer His knocking or walking down the aisle beautifully prepared for His “first look”.
Jesus makes you beautiful, it is not a process you can do yourself for Him. For He is renewing your heart, your soul and your spirit when you go to Him. For as 1 Peter 3:4 says, “You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God.”
Jesus is the great King of Kings, higher than king of kings Xerxes:
1 Timothy 6:15 “At just the right time Christ will be revealed from heaven by the blessed and only almighty God, the King of all kings and Lord of all lords.”
Daniel 7:14 “And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion [is] an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom [that] which shall not be destroyed.”
Hebrews 1:3-4 “And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much better than the angels, as He has inherited a more excellent name than they.”
Psalms 103:11-12 “For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.”
1) What does it mean to clothe yourselves with the beauty that comes from within?
2) Was there a time in your life you tried to clean yourself up before confessing a sin to Jesus?
3) What is one sin you have trouble confessing? The depth of your disclosure is up to you.