Ella sees her world turn upside down when her beloved mother dies, and her pained father remarries another woman. Just when a glimmer of hope arrives, Ella’s cruel stepmother prevents her from attending the Royal Ball. Lady Tremaine was hoping for one of her daughters two daughters, Anastasia and Drizella, to catch the eyes of the prince at this ball. Despite this dire situation, Ella was determined to honor her mother’s dying words,”have courage and be kind.”
Then the king’s personal attendants proposed, “Let a search be made for beautiful young virgins for the king. 3 Let the king appoint commissioners in every province of his realm to bring all these beautiful young women into the harem at the citadel of Susa. Let them be placed under the care of Hegai, the king’s eunuch, who is in charge of the women; and let beauty treatments be given to them. 4 Then let the young woman who pleases the king be queen instead of Vashti.” This advice appealed to the king, and he followed it, Esther 2:2-4.
Long before Cinderella’s fairy tale was written, a Jewish woman found herself in a similar situation. When King Ahasuerus banished his ungrateful wife, a beauty contest was organized by the king’s servants. Beautiful virgins were invited to come to the capital city of Shushan. According to Bible scholars, somewhere between 25,000 and 50,000 women competed in this Miss Persia Pageant. Uncle Mordecai persuaded Esther to participate, recognizing this contest as a divine opportunity.
Mordecai had a cousin named Hadassah, whom he had brought up because she had neither father nor mother. This young woman, who was also known as Esther, had a lovely figure and was beautiful. Mordecai had taken her as his own daughter when her father and mother died. 8 When the king’s order and edict had been proclaimed, many young women were brought to the citadel of Susa and put under the care of Hegai. Esther also was taken to the king’s palace and entrusted to Hegai, who had charge of the harem. 9 She pleased him and won his favor. Immediately he provided her with her beauty treatments and special food. He assigned to her seven female attendants selected from the king’s palace and moved her and her attendants into the best place in the harem, Esther 2:7-9.
The odds for Esther to win this beauty contest was far greater than Cinderella. Yet, each woman received divine intervention. Although none of the top contestants are mentioned by name, I’m sure there were characters similar to Anastasia and Drizella. Just as the prophet Samuel passed over David’s 7 older brothers to choose a lowly shepherd as king, Ahasuerus selected Esther to be his next bribe. This true story should give all men and women hope that nothing is impossible with God, Luke 1:37.
by Jay Mankus