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Introduction to Esther
A. As we begin the book of Esther, it is appropriate to "set it up" by way of little history.
1. The book was written approximately 465 years before the birth of Christ!
a) That would put the events of the book somewhere between chapters 6 and 7 of the book of Ezra.
(1) By way of reminder, at that point in Ezra, King Darius has just made a search of the archives in Babylon and discovered that His predecessor, King Cyrus has issued a decree for the Temple to be rebuilt and paid for out of the royal treasury!!
(2) And so it was, and thousands Jews went back to their homeland in great celebration under the leadership of Ezra!
(a) But, there were many, many more Jews who had grown comfortable in the prosperous kingdom of the Kings of Persia!
(i) They did not return! And it is this group of people that the book of Esther encompasses and the events take place over a 10 year time period!
2. We do not know who wrote the book!
a) We do however know that he was a Jew by nationality and very personally acquainted with the reign of King Ahasuerus, the Persian empire, and the palace in Shushan!!
3. The book of Esther is different than most of the books of the Bible because the name of God is not even mentioned throughout the entire book!
a) But as you will see, God's sovereignty and providence is evident all the way through.
b) We will see God arrange everything necessary to keep His people, the Jews, from mass murder by the hand of a principle character named HAMAN.
c) So, Lets get started!
A. Est_1:1 (NKJV) Now it came to pass in the days of Ahasuerus (this [was] the Ahasuerus who reigned over one hundred and twenty-seven provinces, from India to Ethiopia)
1. Ahasuerus was the Hebrew name given to the king!
a) His real Persian name was Khshayarsha and the Greeks called him Xerxes!
b) Bible scholars believe this is the same king referred to in Dan_11:2 as the 4th and richest of the Persian kings.
B. Est_1:2 (NKJV) in those days when King Ahasuerus sat on the throne of his kingdom, which [was] in Shushan the citadel,
1. It is interesting to note that the city of Shushan (or Susa in Greek), was visited by Daniel in 551 B.C. in a vision according to ( Dan_8:1-8 ). That was 86 years prior to the writing of this book!
a) In that vision he saw the rapid rise of the Medo-Persian Empire beginning with Cyrus - which, by the way, began 1 year after his vision!!
b) Something else worth mentioning, about 20 years after the events of the book of Esther, we find a guy by the name of Nehemiah serving in Susa (Hebrew = Shushan), as cupbearer to king Artaxerxes.
(1) So, these events occur before our last study of the book of Nehemiah.
(2) And we will see how the hand of God was working in a pagan society to prepare it for Nehemiah!
C. Est_1:3 . . .in the third year of his reign he made a feast for all his officials and servants--the powers of Persia and Media, the nobles, and the princes of the provinces [being] before him-
1. The Hebrew word for "feast" here means literally "a drinking feast."
2. Dr. J. Vernon McGee estimates that there were between 2 and 3 thousand guests at this party and that the cost was in the millions of dollars.
D. Est_1:4 (NKJV) when he showed the riches of his glorious kingdom and the splendor of his excellent majesty for many days, one hundred and eighty days [in] [all].
1. So, for 180 days he "puts on the feed bag" for a couple thousand people!
2. What's his motive?
a) He is about to launch a military campaign to capture Greece and make himself supreme ruler of the world and he wants their wholehearted support!
b) He wants them to know that he has the finances to support such a war and that they can count on victory!
(1) There is only one problem.God is against him! He cannot and does not succeed!
E. Est_1:5 And when these days were completed, the king made a feast lasting seven days for all the people who were present in Shushan the citadel, from great to small, in the court of the garden of the king's palace.
1. When he was done with the guests, the last 7 days of the banquet he brings in thousands of the citizens of Shushan!
F. Est_1:6-7 (NKJV) [There] [were] white and blue linen [curtains] fastened with cords of fine linen and purple on silver rods and marble pillars; [and] [the] couches [were] of gold and silver on a [mosaic] pavement of alabaster, turquoise, and white and black marble.
7 And they served drinks in golden vessels, each vessel being different from the other, with royal wine in abundance, according to the generosity of the king.
1. Archaeological digs of these palaces have proven the riches and opulence of this empire!
2. Xerxes proved his point. He DID have the money to pull off the war!
3. On a much smaller scale we see the same thing today in business!
a) Companies go to tremendous extremes to "wine and dine" those that have influence.
G. Est_1:8 (NKJV) In accordance with the law, the drinking was not compulsory; for so the king had ordered all the officers of his household, that they should do according to each man's pleasure.
1. Evidently there was a law that did not require people to drink at this royal function!
a) Unlike the more "civilized" bosses of today who will sometimes even fire someone for not participating in their drunken orgies!
(1) You would think that corporate executives would want non-drinking people running their business.
H. Est_1:9-11 (NKJV) Queen Vashti also made a feast for the women [in] the royal palace which [belonged] to King Ahasuerus.
10 On the seventh day, when the heart of the king was merry with wine, he commanded Mehuman, Biztha, Harbona, Bigtha, Abagtha, Zethar, and Carcas, seven eunuchs who served in the presence of King Ahasuerus,
11 to bring Queen Vashti before the king, [wearing] her royal crown, in order to show her beauty to the people and the officials, for she [was] beautiful to behold.
1. While the party was going on for the men, Vashti, the queen was hold one of her own for the women!
2. The king has displayed his opulence and his power, now in a drunken stupor, he wants to bring in his beautiful wife to display her like some kind of trophy!
a) But he gets a surprise!
I. Est_1:12 (NKJV) But Queen Vashti refused to come at the king's command [brought] by [his] eunuchs; therefore the king was furious, and his anger burned within him.
1. Whether she was afraid to be in the presence of all these drunken men, or she simply had enough pride and dignity to not be treated like "property" we are not told. But she refused to show up!!!
a) Imagine the insult to the kings power in front of all these people he was trying to impress!
b) Don't you imagine that the men were saying, "What kind of military leader can he be if he can't even control the queen!"
(1) On one hand you have to give this woman credit for standing up for what was right!
(2) On the other hand, she gave little thought to the possible failure of this military campaign as a result of her actions!
J. Est_1:13-15 (NKJV) Then the king said to the wise men who understood the times (for this [was] the king's manner toward all who knew law and justice,
14 those closest to him [being] Carshena, Shethar, Admatha, Tarshish, Meres, Marsena, and Memucan, the seven princes of Persia and Media, who had access to the king's presence, [and] who ranked highest in the kingdom):
15 "What [shall] [we] do to Queen Vashti, according to law, because she did not obey the command of King Ahasuerus [brought] [to] [her] by the eunuchs?"
1. It is hard for us to understand this today, but the queen's actions required an emergency cabinet meeting of the men closest to the king!
a) She had refused to obey a direct command of the king!
b) This was a serious issue but it seems that there was no precedence so there was no law they could exact for punishment!
(1) They needed to come up with one fast!
K. Est_1:16 (NKJV) And Memucan answered before the king and the princes: "Queen Vashti has not only wronged the king, but also all the princes, and all the people who [are] in all the provinces of King Ahasuerus.
Est_1:17 "For the queen's behavior will become known to all women, so that they will despise their husbands in their eyes, when they report, `King Ahasuerus commanded Queen Vashti to be brought in before him, but she did not come.'
Est_1:18 "This very day the [noble] ladies of Persia and Media will say to all the king's officials that they have heard of the behavior of the queen. Thus [there] [will] [be] excessive contempt and wrath.
Est_1:19 "If it pleases the king, let a royal decree go out from him, and let it be recorded in the laws of the Persians and the Medes, so that it will not be altered, that Vashti shall come no more before King Ahasuerus; and let the king give her royal position to another who is better than she.
1. Memucan, the chauvinist (and probably the most insecure) of the bunch, spoke first!
2. "She didn't just insult you king.She insulted your whole kingdom!"
a) "If we let her get by with this, it will spread to all the women and we will have revolt on our hands!"
b) "We won't get to do anything we tell them to anymore!"
c) Notice his proposal!
L. Est_1:19 (NKJV) "If it pleases the king, let a royal decree go out from him, and let it be recorded in the laws of the Persians and the Medes, so that it will not be altered, that Vashti shall come no more before King Ahasuerus; and let the king give her royal position to another who is better than she.
Est_1:20 "When the king's decree which he will make is proclaimed throughout all his empire (for it is great), all wives will honor their husbands, both great and small."
Est_1:21 And the reply pleased the king and the princes, and the king did according to the word of Memucan.
Est_1:22 Then he sent letters to all the king's provinces, to each province in its own script, and to every people in their own language, that each man should be master in his own house, and speak in the language of his own people.
a) For this one act of rebellion, Vashti lost her royalty! She was queen no more and never allowed into the presence of the king again!!!
(1) I'm sure that women all over the kingdom, secretly praised her for her strength and courage. But what a price to pay!
(2) As the story unfolds, you will the hand of God more clearly in this forfeiture!
b) Notice that Memucan's proposal "pleased the king".
(1) This gives us an idea of the moral character of King Xerxes!
d(2) Please keep in mind that this new law has nothing to do with God's spiritual laws!
(3) This was a pagan king in a pagan society who just enacted a pagan law to appease his pagan pride!
(a) It is now LAW that wives MUST respect their husbands!!
c) But, God is still at work even in this situation!
A. By the way, in God's economy, it is still advisable for a wife to respect her husband!!
1. Only now, as Christians, a husband shares that responsibility!!
a) Eph_5:33 (NKJV) Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife [see] that she respects [her] husband.
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Brown, John. "Commentary on Esther 1". Brown's Commentary on Selected Books of the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Fifth Week after Easter