Esther 2:1–18—How could Esther participate in a pagan beauty contest?

Problem: It is evident that Esther was selected by God as His instrument to deliver Israel from evil at the appointed time (Esther 4:14). However, as a devout Jew, how could Esther take part in a pagan pageant and then become part of the harem of King Xerxes?

Solution: First, it is not clear that Esther had a choice as far as being part of the display of beautiful women before the king. According to Esther 2:8, Esther was “taken to the king’s palace.” This seems to imply that Esther had no choice in the matter, but was drafted into the service of the king.

Second, it is not clear that participants in the pageant had to do anything explicitly immoral to be in the contest. Knowing Esther’s character, we can be sure she would have refused to do anything contrary to God’s law.

Finally, once she had been chosen by the king, she was compelled to belong to his court. It was the providence of God that brought Esther to this place at precisely the appropriate moment. When the time was right, Esther was willing to place her life on the line for the people of her God.

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This excerpt is from When Critics Ask: A Popular Handbook on Bible Difficulties (Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1992). © 2014 Norman Geisler and Thomas Howe. All rights reserved. Used by permission. Click here to purchase this book.