Carole asks, “Did Esther do as she was told in signing up for the contest to be queen, or did she choose the life of being queen?”
While the Bible does not give us clarity on this question, there are inferences we can make. One is an inference from the grammar and the other is an inference by omission.
In Esther 2:8, the Hebrew verb “to take” is used to describe Esther being taken into the palace to participate in the king’s contest. Some people have argued that this means she was taken without her consent and against her will.
But the same verb “to take” in verse 8 is also used in verse 7 to describe Mordecai taking Esther as his own daughter after her parents died. There is no inference that Mordecai took her by force, and because the same word is used to describe her going to the palace, we cannot assume that force was used in that instance either.
The inference by omission we can make here is that we trust the Bible to give us all the information we need to clearly understand God and His Word and the lessons He wants us to learn. It would be significant to Esther’s story if she was taken by force, it would make her a more sympathetic figure, and so we can conclude that information would have been included in the text if it was true.
The most likely explanation for Esther’s decision to go to the palace is that both Esther and Mordecai had been integrated into the pagan culture of the Persians and were not adhering to the law of God. Esther compromised herself by engaging in immorality with the king as part of this trial, and both Esther and Mordecai used her sin to advance their own personal careers and gain power in Persia.
God does not whitewash the legacies of biblical figures because, through their failures, we see that God can use sinful, fallen people—just like you and me—to advance His kingdom and our sanctification.