Remember when Reality Television was first spreading its wings? One of the most popular shows was The Bachelor. I watched the first season and I know many people who still watch the Bachelor and The Bachelorette. It’s an entertaining sociological train wreck without the travel expenses of a family reunion. A man is selected by a network to be The Bachelor, numerous ladies apply and go through a selection process. Then the girls meet the Bachelor and share events and some special dates with the Bachelor. Each the girls hold their breath while the Bachelor asks the girls he’s pleased with, “Will you accept this rose?”- meaning she can stay. By the last week he will have selected the future Mrs. Bachelor- under penalty of contract or dropped ratings.
Many Christians criticized the show. They declared it an unrealistic, staged beauty pageant where the guy hooks up with all the girls and then picks just one after he’s had fun with them all. In reality, The Bachelor is very biblical. In fact, the first season starred Ahasuerus, or Xerxes, in the Persian capital city of Susa. The account is recorded in the Book of Esther- one of my favorite ‘princess stories’ of all time.
Cue our interview with The Bachelor, episode 1. First, we need the back story on our guy from an introduction interview. I can just hear it. “Well, I’ve had my party days and had serious relationships. Now that I have the security (royal treasury) and career (King of Persia) I want I really want to meet a lady to share it with.” Our Bachelor is deemed cute and lovable- under penalty of death.
Leaving out a few details of why the past relationships didn’t work out, Mr. Bachelor? In the biblical account we get a better pre-show introduction. We meet our Ahasuerus at his own party where he is ‘merry with wine’, surrounded by buddies, and demanding his stunningly gorgeous wife- who has been hosting a feast- to come and parade before the men in her royal crown (and some scholars say that may have been it!) Oh, dear. This marital squabble is witnessed by all and ultimately poor Queen Vashti is banished from Persia to allow “every man to be master in his own household”. The old boy’s network is active behind the scenes in both situations, I see. They even poll ratings at the feasts in chapter 1.
Now, it’s time for the show.
Step 1: Be unattached and picked as Bachelor. Check. Step 2: Find some ladies.
Without internet in Persia, dispatchers and officials are sent out to gather up eligible ladies to compete to wed our Bachelor, King Ahasuerus. This is an epic Miss Persia competition. Get the hairspray and double-sided tape- thus saith the Word of God. No, really. “Let their cosmetics be given them.” Esther 2:4B. Amen!
“Now when the turn came for each young woman to go in to King Ahasuerus, after being twelve months under the regulations for the women, since this was the regular period of their beautifying, six months with oil of myrrh and six months with spices and ointments for the women- when the young woman went into the king in this way, she was given whatever she desired to take with her from the harem to the king’s palace.” (2:12-13)
Yes, 12 months of regulated beauty preparation. Charm school, food regiments, spa days, and LOTS of hormones, and no outside contact for a year. Homesickness, mood swings, sharing the mirror, nervousness… pretty accurate for the show, as I recall.
Step 3 of process is in a set of verses that are quickly read over, although they warrant attention: What happens on the one-on-one ‘date’. If you heard yelling about The Bachelor kissing two girls in the same week, get your earmuffs for this one. “In the evening she would go in, and in the morning would return to the second harem in custody of Shaashgaz, the king’s eunuch, who was in charge of the concubines. She would not in to the king again, unless the king delighted in her and she was summoned by name.” (2:14-15)
Ouch. Once kicked off the show the girls can go home and start over, maybe getting an interview in an entertainment magazine. These poor girls- all of them before Esther- were groomed, slept with, and then cast off as concubines. If the king never called her by name she would be doomed to be alone in a harem; no husband, no children, no other life. Whew. Being a Bachelor candidate is a voluntary application; these girls were drafted and taken for mandatory service.
Now we meet the lucky contestant, Esther. She’s off to a great start. She has women to attend to her, is getting special advice from the eunuch in charge, and is ‘winning favor in the eyes of all who saw her.’ Atta girl. Way to make the best of the situation! “ And when Esther was taken to King Ahasuerus, into his royal palace…the king loved Esther more than all the women, and she won grace and favor in his sight more than all the virgins, so that he set the royal crown on her head and made her queen instead of Vashti.” (2:16-17)
Don’t play the sappy music and relationship montage yet. Our story is far from over. In fact, Esther’s married life plays out like another reality show entirely. If a girl is to keep alive in this game, we have to play by the rules. As in the show, the girls have to wait their turns. They can’t have an off-line conversation; they have to wait to be called on.
Now we hit relationship trouble. Communication gets a little rocky. The Bible says Esther goes more than thirty days without being summoned by the king. Without a royal invitation, the Queen doesn’t see her man. Next, he has some really nasty friends. His key advisor, Haman, out of intense hatred for Mordecai the Jew (Esther’s uncle- a big reveal for Season 2) is plotting genocide to kill Esther’s people. Of course, The Bachelor on ABC didn’t feature women at risk of racial genocide like Esther did- apparently insurance beat entertainment value on that one.
Once Queen, Esther has some family conflict. Her uncle, desperate as the day of genocide approaches, begs Esther to go uninvited to appeal to the king. Ultimately, she will risk death to appeal to the king for her life and her people. When Esther can wait no longer she goes uncalled into the inner court under penalty of death. Dramatic music…the doors open… there stands our girl, facing the king and his court. What will the reaction be? Pan over to the king and…commercial. COMMERCIAL?! Will our girl get a rose? Will her life be spared? (Either way, she won’t be the Bachelorette next season!)
“And when the king saw Queen Esther standing in the court she won favor in his sight and he held out to Esther the golden scepter. “ Esther, will you accept this scepter? It’s not a rose, but he is the king. Our girl, now Queen, will survive to the next season! Of course, there has to be tabloid drama after the show…and the remaining chapters of Esther do not disappoint! Lies, murder attempts, wicked advisors, genocide, parades, hangings, battles in the city… I think it beats the ratings off of The Bachelor.
Perhaps being on a reality show is not the best method for Scripture life application but let’s not miss the similarities of Ancient Persian drama to our own ‘reality’. Don’t go overboard; when Haman is played by Flava Flav you’ve gone way too far.
Perhaps instead of watching a reality show tonight, give Esther a read-through. If you haven’t watched A Night With The King, I highly recommend it. Dear ones, we are offered much more than a rose or golden scepter. The King offers you a new and more abundant life as part of His Bride, which is much better than a rose and a diamond ring from a tabloid-making Bachelor or even being the Queen of Persia.