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Bible Commentaries
Esther 1

Grant's Commentary on the BibleGrant's Commentary

Verses 1-22


(vv. 1-4)

Ahasuerus was a name given to the chief king of Persia.The Ahasuerus of verse 1 is recorded in history as Xerxes 1. His empire extended over a very large area, including 127 provinces from India to Ethiopia.The capital of his empire was Shushan, a beautiful city surrounded by mountains and rich in vegetation.It is here called a citadel, for it was a fortress, a castle built not only for residence, but for military defense (v. 2).

It was in the third year of his reign that he entertained all of his officials and servants including representatives of the many provinces, with a great feast that lasted for 180 days! (v. 4). What was his object? He wanted to impress them with the splendor of his own glory! The wealth expended on this celebration must have been enormous.No doubt he had many things to show to these visitors make them marvel that he was so greatly increased in riches.


(vv. 5-8)

Possibly not all were able to be present for the full time, but the king desired a grand conclusion to this event by inviting all the people to a feast lasting seven days, provided in the court of the garden of the king's palace (v. 5). The description of the luxurious circumstances of this is given in verses 6-7, which shows how the religious world likes to adopt for itself principles they recognize to be beautiful, but become only a show without reality. For in reality white and blue linen speak of the purity (white) and heavenly character (blue) of God's testimony among His people. Purple speaks of royal character and the silver rods speak of redemption; all of these being of vital value to those who are redeemed by the blood of Christ. When in the hands of merely religious formalists, however, it is really only imitation, adopted because attractive.

Marble pillars are imposing, and speak of God's sustaining power, while couches of gold and silver speak of resting places where God's glory (gold) is present and redemption (silver) is known. But formal religion, though it often speaks of giving glory to God, does not even know whereof it speaks: it indulges merely in lip service. Redemption (silver) is unknown to the Persians, though they may imitate it because it seems so nice.

Drinks were served in golden vessels, all being different from the others. All of this lavish provision was "according to the generosity of the king" (v. 7). If a Persian king was able to make such a feast as this for all his subjects, how much more able is our great God to provide in glory a feast of unending wonder for those who know Him as revealed in His beloved Son, the Lord Jesus!

Because Ahasuerus had wealth for it, he could show a most magnanimous spirit in this great provision and at the same time fully indulge the people's desire as to whether or not they wanted to drink. This is a striking imitation of the grace of God, who provides every necessity with no legal bondage, encouraging each believer to act on his own faith. But even in Christendom, ungodly men turn the grace of God into lewdness (Jude 1:4), just as the king was thinking merely of his own gratification.


(vv. 9-12)

A feast also was made at the same time for the women, by Queen Vashti.Thus the celebration of the splendor of the kingdom was complete.

On the last day of the feast, Ahasuerus had no doubt consumed too much wine, and commanded seven eunuchs to go and bring Vashti back with them with the object of displaying her beauty before all the people (vv. 10-11). Why did he need to do this? Simply because it was to his credit that he had such a beautiful wife, just as all the glory of the kingdom was to his credit. Such is the pride of the natural man.

However, one jarring note marred this celebration.Vashti refused to come (v.12). What reason she had we are not told.The king had not expected any such refusal, and he became furious.His authority had been challenged by one from whom he would expect fullest cooperation.


(vv. 13-22)

The king then consulted with seven prominent princes of Persia as to what action should be taken in regard to Vashti's defiance of his order (vv. 13-15). The Medes and Persians prided themselves on having just laws which could not be changed (Daniel 6:12), and the king's question therefore was, what should be done according to law. Nebuchadnezzar would not have required such consultation: he was an absolute dictator: "whomever he wished, he executed; whomever he wished he kept alive; whomever he wished he set up; and whomever he wished, he put down" (Daniel 5:19).

One of the princes, Memucan, took the lead in suggesting what should be done. He said that Vashti had not only wronged the king, but also all the princes and all the people who were in all the provinces of King Ahasuerus (v. 16). No doubt it was true that Vashti's behavior would become well known to all women, so that they would feel free to despise the authority of their husbands unless drastic action was promptly taken (vv. 17-18). Memucan therefore made the suggestion that if the king agreed, a royal decree would be proclaimed and recorded in the laws of the Persians and Medes, therefore unchangeable, that Vashti be banished and her royal position given to another woman better than she (v. 19).

The Annotated Bible by A.C. Gabelein records that "Jewish tradition gives several reasons why Memucan was so hostile to Vashti. One is that his own wife had not been invited to Vashti's feast, and another, because he wanted his own daughter promoted and become the Queen" ("The Book of Esther, page 86).

Memucan then appealed, not only to the matter of the king's authority in his own house, but his authority also over the kingdom, for prompt action in this case would have the beneficial effect of moving wives to honor their husbands (v. 20).Those who advocate "Women's Lib" today would not be agreeable, but the king and the princes considered such action was necessary to preserve the kingdom from internal corruption and disintegration. Of course the Christian viewpoint differs from this and from the "Women's Lib" viewpoint, but a heathen nation does not act on Christian principles, and neither does "Women's Lib."

The king and the princes were all favorable to Memucan's solution to the problem (v. 21), and letters were sent to all the provinces under the king's rule to the effect that every man should be master in his own house. Thus the letter practically agreed with the Christian principle that the husband is head of the wife (Ephesians 5:23), but it failed to agree with the instructions given to husbands in this same chapter, "Husbands, love your wives" and "husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies" (Ephesians 5:25; Ephesians 5:28).

Bibliographical Information
Grant, L. M. "Commentary on Esther 1". Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lmg/esther-1.html. 1897-1910.
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