Hegai, Eunuch over the Harem

HegaiReference: Esther 2:1-18.

Heart of the Story: A eunuch, Hegai, facilitated Esther’s rise to the position of Queen of Persia. God is able to use unlikely individuals to further his purpose and kingdom.

Story Line: Hegai was a eunuch, a castrated male, who was in charge of the harem of virgins in the Persian king’s court in Susa. Shortly after Xerxes became king he divorced his wife, Vashti, then went to war. When he returned home after an unsuccessful campaign against the Greeks, Xerxes began to think about Vashti. To prevent reconciliation, Xerxes personal attendants proposed that the most beautiful young virgins in the Persian Empire be brought to Susa.

In Susa the virgins would be placed under Hegai’s care. After 12 months of beauty treatments – six months with oil of myrrh and six months with perfume and cosmetics – the virgins would spend a night with King Xerxes. From the virgins Xerxes would choose the next queen of Persia. The Jewish historian, Josephus, wrote that 400 virgins were assembled in the harem.

The Persian Empire stretched from India to Ethiopia. Searching for beautiful virgins in all 127 provinces and bringing them to Susa took months possibly even years. Virgins who lived in Susa were taken to the Susa harem first. One virgin was a Jewish girl named Esther. Esther’s parents were dead; she was reared by a caring older cousin, Mordecai. Esther was lovely to look at and had a beautiful figure.

In the harem Esther won Hegai’s favor. He treated her differently than other virgins in four ways. First, Hegai started Esther’s year of beauty treatments immediately; thus expediting her introduction to King Xerxes. Second Hegai gave Esther special food. Third, he assigned her seven maids. Fourth, Hegai moved Esther and her maids into the best suite of rooms in the harem. During her year-long preparation, Esther won the favor of everyone who saw her.

On the night a virgin went to the king, she could take anything with her that she desired. Possibly some virgins took cosmetics and perfume; others may have taken beautiful night gowns and jewelry. Some may have even taken the Persian equivalent of a toothbrush and mouth wash. The Bible doesn’t identify what Esther took with her to King Xerxes’ chamber. We are told only that Esther took what Hegai recommended. Perhaps Esther perceived that Hegai knew what appealed to King Xerxes. Esther trusted Hegai to provide her with the best advice available. The outcome of the night Esther spent with King Xerxes was that she became Queen of Persia.

Pondering Relationships: King Xerxes had many eunuchs in the royal court. His seven personal attendants were eunuchs as was the keepers of the king’s harem of the virgins and the harem of concubines. One estimate was that 500 boys were castrated every year to serve as servants of royalty and the rich in the Persian Empire.

Hegai who met the most exquisite virgins in the Persian Empire, saw something not only beautiful physically in Esther but something beautiful in her character. The Bible doesn’t identify why Hegai gave Esther such unmerited preferential treatment. Perhaps he selfishly hoped that if Esther became queen she would give him special favors; or perhaps, Hegai saw a lovely girl whose potential he didn’t want to see wasted in the harem of the concubines. Maybe Hegai was even a Jew. When he saw Mordecai walk outside the harem each day to check on Esther, he recognized Mordecai’s nationality; thus promoted Esther.

Finally and more reasonably, God ordained Hegai’s actions on Esther’s behalf. Whatever Hegai’s nationality or sexuality, God has ultimate control of each life on earth. He can harden or soften a heart toward an individual, as he softened Hegai’s heart toward Esther. God ordained for Esther to be in place to save the lives of the Jewish when Xerxes planned to have all of them killed.

Reflection: Are you open to being where God wants you? Or are you like me and want everything to be logical and rational to me limited mind?

Copyright: December 14, 2014; Carolyn A. Roth. Use only with permission.

3 thoughts on “Hegai, Eunuch over the Harem

  1. Absolutely insightful!! This was certainly a glorious and enlightening read. Thank You! I’m currently studying the book of Esther and I was wondering why Hegai took such a remarkable liking to Esther and what exactly his advise to her was before she went in to see Xerxes… I like how your perspective made me think of other possibilities in that circumstance… thanks again!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s