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Esther: Chapters 1-5
The Royal Feast, And Divorce Of Yashti
In the opening verses we note the wide extent of the Persian dominion. “Now it came to pass in the days of Ahasuerus, (this is Ahasuerus which reigned from India even unto Ethiopia, over a hundred, seven and twenty provinces,) that in those days, when the king Ahasuerus sat on the throne of his kingdom, which was in Shusan the palace, in the third year of his reign, he made a feast unto all his princes and his servants; the power of Persia and Media, the nobles and princes of the provinces being before him: when he showed the riches of his glorious kingdom and the honor of his excellent majesty many days, even a hundred and fourscore days.”
These verses bring before us something of the earthly grandeur and glory of the “silver” kingdom, which had succeeded the “head of gold,” depicted in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, as recorded in the second chapter of Daniel. Worldwide dominion would be exercised by but four powers till He should come whose right it is to reign, and should set up a kingdom that shall break in pieces all the others, and shall never be destroyed.
The sphere of lordship is larger in the case of each succeeding empire, and yet the metal ever deteriorates, from gold to iron mixed with miry clay, or, according to Tregelles, brittle pottery; the reason doubtless consisting in this, that Babylon presents to us an absolutely unlimited monarchy, while in Persia, Greece and Rome the powers of the chief become more or less circumscribed, first, by assistant counselors, and at last by a sort of union of royalty and democracy, which will eventually result in the election of the final Roman emperor yet to come, in the days of the ten toes, which will be the last form assumed by the beast (Revelation 13:0:l-9) after the Church has been raptured away to heaven.
It is certainly a splendid scene to which our chapter introduces us, and in a certain sense, no doubt, a typical one. But it is clear that all is but the glory of this world, though not in the utter independence of God that we find in Daniel 5:0. There is no mention of impiety connected with the feast described in the following verses: “And when these days were expired, the king made a feast unto all the people that were present in Shushan the palace, both unto great and small, seven days, in the court of the garden of the king’s palace; where were white, green and blue hangings, fastened with cords of fine linen and purple to silver rings and pillars of marble: the beds (or couches) were of gold and silver, upon a pavement of red, and blue, and white, and black marble…And the drinking was according to the law; none did compel: for so the king had appointed to all the officers of his house, that they should do according to every man’s pleasure” (vers. 5, 6, 8).
If in Israel’s subjection to Babylon we get a picture of the days of darkness and bondage through which the Church passed during the ascendency of the papacy, it would seem that in the “liberal slavery” during the Medo-Persian supremacy, we have foreshadowed the present anomalous and outwardly prosperous condition of Protestantism. In other words, Babylon might be said to find its counterpart in Thyatira, when Satan sought to force the children of God to bow the knee to idolatry-to commit spiritual adultery. Sardis answers more to the conditions of Esther’s day-great outward prosperity, with a faithful few who have not defiled their garments, but nevertheless, on the part of the vast majority, a complete union between the world and the professing body. Philadelphia corresponds well with the returned remnant, while Laodicea is suggested by the Pharisaic outgrowth of self-righteousness and formal- ity that followed. At least, it is plain that there are many striking similarities, which would seem to be more than mere coincidences.
Looking at it from this standpoint, while in Ezra and Nehemiah we have a people separated to the name of the Lord, gathered around God’s centre, and, in measure at least, subject to His Word; in Esther we have a people equally the Lord’s, quite content to go on with the world’s patronage; and though here and there some are characterized by great devotion, there is in no sense the same liberty, blessing and understanding of the word of God as might have been theirs had they sought His glory more, rather than their own convenience.
This feast, then, is but the general rejoicing in the light and liberty afforded by the spread of knowledge and civilization-something far different from the feasts kept at Jerusalem, where all points to the Lord Jesus-His sufferings and His glories.
It is true the various colors of the hangings and furniture of the banquet hall may all have some typical meaning, but at present scholars are far from agreement as to the meaning of the words employed; so we do not attempt to enter into it. It is noticeable that “the drinking was according to the law: none did compel.” What has been called “the right of private judgment” was fully recognized. The harlot of Revelation 17:0 had in her hand a golden cup (for of divine things she professed to speak) full of abomination and filthiness. The language used in verse 2 seems to imply that she practically forced to the lips of the earth-dwellers the wine of her fornication. She would brook no objection. All must drink what she provided. This is ever the rule of papacy. It is otherwise in Protestantism: you may drink or not, as you please. “None did compel;” and if you like not the design of the cup you have, there are plenty of others to choose from, all of gold, all alike professedly of God, and yet diverse one from the other.
Well it is for those who refuse every cup of man’s design, and in lowliness and self-judgment are found poring over the word of God in the place where He has caused His name to dwell (Nehemiah 8:3; Nehemiah 9:3).
The wine is “royal wine” it is true, and it will exhilarate and excite and fill one with goodly thoughts of flesh and of the glory of earth; but it is not the wine that speaks of a Saviour’s precious blood shed for guilty sinners, who in His very death upon the tree was telling out the judgment of this world. That is seen as you stand by the altar in the ruined city of God, and behold the drink-offering poured out upon the holocaust, ascending as a sweet savor to God (Ezra 3:3).
The next few verses give us a picture which we find difficult to apply. After counseling with his wise men the king puts Yashti away. They all agree that she has proved untrue to her place as the leading woman of the empire, and that it must be given to another. One might suggest this as an illustration of Romans 11:0-the disobedience of the Gentiles giving occasion for the restoration of the Jews to the place of favor. But, shrinking from any interpretation which might not commend itself to the spiritual mind, we introduce our readers at once to the subject of the next chapter.
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Ironside, H. A. "Commentary on Esther 1". Ironside's Notes on Selected Books. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 19 / Ordinary 24