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  • Writer's pictureDavid and Marilynn Chadwick

Hidden Heroes: Esther, The Teenager Who Saved a Nation

by Marilynn Chadwick

The book of Esther tells the dramatic story of a 15-year-old teenager who saved an entire nation. Years earlier, the Jews had been taken from Jerusalem into captivity by Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon (Esther 2:5-7). Babylon was then defeated by Persia. Esther was a Jew living in the Persian empire and being raised by an older cousin named Mordecai. Described as “lovely in form and features,” her name had been changed from her original Hebrew name, Hadassah, to the Persian name Esther, or “star.” Life as a Jew in exile was all Esther had ever known—that is, until she became the Queen of Persia.


King Xerxes of Persia banished his previous queen, Vashti, for embarrassing him in public. The king’s advisors came up with a plan to bring beautiful young women from every province in the Persian Empire to the king’s palace. Esther was one of these women. During her year of beauty treatments and preparation, Esther won the favor and respect of all who knew her. The king was so impressed with Esther’s beauty and grace that he selected her to be his new queen, not knowing she was a Jew. Esther kept her Jewish identity a secret and remained steadfast in her allegiance to Mordecai and her people.


Haman, the king’s highest-ranking official, despised both Mordecai and the Jewish people. He manipulated the king into signing an edict to slaughter every Jew in the Persian empire, which at the time stretched from India to Ethiopia. This move would wipe virtually every Jew from the face of the earth.


When Mordecai learned of Haman’s genocidal plot, he pleaded with Esther to beg for mercy from the king. Esther was devastated and terrified by the news of the king’s edict. The risk for Esther was huge. Everyone throughout the palace courts knew the rule: If someone went to the king without being summoned, it was an automatic death penalty—that is, unless the king extended his golden scepter. Mordecai challenged Esther with these words: “Who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14 NIV).


Esther told Mordecai to have all the Jews gather for three days of fasting. She and her maids would do the same. When this was done, she assured him, “I will go to the king, even though it is against the law.” Then she uttered words that are among the most stirring faith declarations in the entire Bible: “And if I perish, I perish” (Esther 4:16).


At that point, Esther broke the back of the adversary. The fasting and prayer set the stage for a miraculous series of events that brought about the salvation of an entire nation. Through her courageous faith, wisdom, and ingenuity, Esther exposed Haman’s wicked plot. King Xerxes sent Haman to the very gallows he had built to hang Mordecai and then promoted Mordecai as second in command to the entire Persian empire, where Esther ruled as queen.

We sometimes underestimate the power of a young person who fervently loves God. I think back to how I was the girl who walked away from God at age fifteen. Yet at about that same age, this brave young woman risked her life to save her people. God’s people owe their very existence to this young Hebrew girl. God chose to work out his plan of deliverance through the courageous actions of an ordinary teenager.

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