Pastor Josh Combs
“Hadassah, that is Esther…had neither father nor mother. The young woman had a beautiful figure and was lovely to look at…” Esther 2:7
Orphaned, exiled, and now the “winner” of a kingdom-wide search for a new queen is how we are introduced to Hadassah. Following the death of her parents, she would be raised and cared for in the home of her cousin Mordecai. They were Jews living in exile in the land of Persia. Hadassah, meaning “myrtle,” would be brought to the palace, where she would find favor with the king and be crowned queen. The previous queen had been deposed for refusing the command of her husband, Ahasuerus (Xerxes in Greek). When Hadassah, a Jew, now known by her Persian name of Esther, reaches the heights of power, she is soon informed of a plot to annihilate her native people.
Esther had been plucked from obscurity and powerlessness to a place of luxury, privilege, and authority. Her cousin states very plainly, “Who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” But to intercede on behalf of her people, she will have to tread on extremely thin ice. The previous queen had displeased and embarrassed the king and was removed. If she dares to approach the king without a royal invitation, will she suffer the same fate? Will all the Jews then be exterminated? A choice lies before this beautiful woman. Either she must embrace her new Persian identity as queen, which affords her safety and privilege, or put all that on the line, sacrificing herself and her life of luxury for the sake her people. Hadassah chooses sacrifice rather than safety. God intervenes and rescues the Jews, Mordecai, and the Jewish-born Persian queen.
The name Esther comes from the Persian word for “star” and probably is homage to the chief Babylonian (now Persian) goddess, Ishtar. This goddess of love and fertility was, according to one source, “fearsome, often violent…known as the ‘Lady of Battles.’” Hadassah on the other hand, as noted, means “myrtle.” The myrtle “is an attractive evergreen shrub or small tree…. [Its] leaves, bark, and berries are also fragrant. Manufacturers use them in making perfume.” Sacrifice is a beautiful perfume—dare I say, the most fragrant to the Lord.
From prison, the Apostle Paul writes to the church at Philippi thankfully telling them, “I have received full payment, and more. I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God” (Philippians 4:18).
When you and I sacrifice our comfort, privilege, time, money, resources, and ultimately ourselves, we offer to the Lord what amounts to an intoxicating aroma that is pleasing to the Lord. It is the perfume of sacrifice. Conversely, what does selfishness or self-preservation smell like to the Lord?
Hadassah was a myrtle. More than just attractive, she was used by the “manufacturer” to make a stunning perfume.
Today’s Bible Reading: The whole book of Esther
The Ultimate Encyclopedia of Mythology World Book Encyclopedia