Esther 1:1-2:4

Scripture Reading

Now in the days of Ahasuerus, the Ahasuerus who reigned from India to Ethiopia over 127 provinces, 2 in those days when King Ahasuerus sat on his royal throne in Susa, the citadel, 3 in the third year of his reign he gave a feast for all his officials and servants. The army of Persia and Media and the nobles and governors of the provinces were before him, 4 while he showed the riches of his royal glory and the splendor and pomp of his greatness for many days, 180 days. 5 And when these days were completed, the king gave for all the people present in Susa the citadel, both great and small, a feast lasting for seven days in the court of the garden of the king’s palace. 6 There were white cotton curtains and violet hangings fastened with cords of fine linen and purple to silver rods and marble pillars, and also couches of gold and silver on a mosaic pavement of porphyry, marble, mother-of-pearl and precious stones. 7 Drinks were served in golden vessels, vessels of different kinds, and the royal wine was lavished according to the bounty of the king. 8 And drinking was according to this edict: “There is no compulsion.” For the king had given orders to all the staff of his palace to do as each man desired. 9 Queen Vashti also gave a feast for the women in the palace that 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 and Abagtha, Zethar and Carkas, the seven eunuchs who served in the presence of King Ahasuerus, 11 to bring Queen Vashti before the king with her royal crown, in order to show the peoples and the princes her beauty, for she was lovely to look at. 12 But Queen Vashti refused to come at the king’s command delivered by the eunuchs. At this the king became enraged, and his anger burned within him. 13 Then the king said to the wise men who knew the times (for this was the king’s procedure toward all who were versed in law and judgment, 14 the men next to him being Carshena, Shethar, Admatha, Tarshish, Meres, Marsena, and Memucan, the seven princes of Persia and Media, who saw the king’s face, and sat first in the kingdom): 15 “According to the law, what is to be done to Queen Vashti, because she has not performed the command of King Ahasuerus delivered by the eunuchs?” 16 Then Memucan said in the presence of the king and the officials, “Not only against the king has Queen Vashti done wrong, but also against all the officials and all the peoples who are in all the provinces of King Ahasuerus. 17 For the queen’s behavior will be made known to all women, causing them to look at their husbands with contempt, since they will say, ‘King Ahasuerus commanded Queen Vashti to be brought before him, and she did not come.’ 18 This very day the noble women of Persia and Media who have heard of the queen’s behavior will say the same to all the king’s officials, and there will be contempt and wrath in plenty. 19 If it please the king, let a royal order go out from him, and let it be written among the laws of the Persians and the Medes so that it may not be repealed, that Vashti is never again to come before King Ahasuerus. And let the king give her royal position to another who is better than she. 20 So when the decree made by the king is proclaimed throughout all his kingdom, for it is vast, all women will give honor to their husbands, high and low alike.” 21 This advice pleased the king and the princes, and the king did as Memucan proposed. 22 He sent letters to all the royal provinces, to every province in its own script and to every people in its own language, that every man be master in his own household and speak according to the language of his people. 1 After these things, when the anger of King Ahasuerus had abated, he remembered Vashti and what she had done and what had been decreed against her. 2 Then the king’s young men who attended him said, “Let beautiful young virgins be sought out for the king. 3 And let the king appoint officers in all the provinces of his kingdom to gather all the beautiful young virgins to the harem in Susa the citadel, under custody of Hegai, the king’s eunuch, who is in charge of the women. Let their cosmetics be given them. 4 And let the young woman who pleases the king be queen instead of Vashti.” This pleased the king, and he did so.

Scripture Exposition

God blessed the Israelites.

He chose then, rescued them, led them to the Promised Land, and protected them from their hostile neighbors. He provided them his Word and solid teachers. He loved them and led them in the way they should go. No other nation had such a relationship with the Creator and Sustainer of the universe.

God covenanted with the Israelites.

He sovereignly presented to them their “rules of operation.” A national covenant of works was presented to them. If they obeyed and followed rightly, they would receive his blessing. However, if they dishonored, disobeyed, and failed to repent, horrid curses would fall upon them.

God witnessed their faithlessness.

As the years multiplied and the monarchs came and left, God’s chosen nation proved to be foolish, idolatrous, and blasphemous. God continued to show longsuffering mercy. He sent them priests, judges, prophets, priests, and kings to call them to repentance. He warned them over and over again. However, they spurned his love, played the fool, and proved to be incorrigible.

God kept his word.

God — being holy, just, true, and immutable – did exactly what he said he would do. The Sovereign King gave them some of what they had earned and deserved. He divided the Israelites; no longer were they “one nation under God.” God then poured out temporal and temporary blessings upon the Assyrians, Egyptians, Babylonians, Medes, and Persians. Then he sent these foreign foes to invade, plunder, slaughter, rape, kidnap, defile, burn, and repopulate.

This was why Jews like Mordecai, Esther, and many others were struggling in a land not their own.

This was why pagan men like Xerxes (Ahasuerus) were found fat and happy. God was allowing a sadistic, materialistic, hedonistic, gluttonous, selfish, idolatrous, and godless man to thrive on his planet.

Xerxes is an incredibly powerful man.

In his day, he is the most noted military leader and nation builder. His reign spans 20 years (485-465 BC), and his realm extends over 127 provinces from modern-day Ethiopia to modern-day Pakistan. At this point, he is the most powerful man on the planet. God is allowing the wicked to prosper.

Xerxes is an incredibly rich man.

He rules from the capital city of Susa which is in modern day Iran, and his house is that which one might see on “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous,” MTV’s “Cribs,” or HGTV’s “Extreme Homes.” Scripture comments on its fabric, structure, pillars, furniture, marble, gold, silvery, mother-of-pearl, and other precious stones. There is no doubt about, life is good for the godless dictator.

Xerxes is a notorious hedonist.

In the 3rd year of his reign, after consolidating his empire, Xerxes is ready to party. For 180-days he hosts a festival for his officials, servants, nobles, and governors. It is an incredible display of the king’s great power and lavish wealth. Then, following his six-month festival, he throws an additional seven-day blowout for all Susa. Basically, there is only one rule for the party – there is no compulsion; each man should be allowed to drink and do whatever he desires. The scene is crazy; it is out of control. It is like six months of Woodstock followed by one week of Mardi Gras.

History tells us of Xerxes’ exploits. In addition to his many vices, he is a noted womanizer. Like many kings of the day, he has earned a reputation like Wilt Chamberlain, Gene Simmons, Charlie Sheen, Hugh Hefner, or Leonardo DiCaprio. Xerxes stole his brother’s wife, then he stole his brother’s daughter, and this is on top of his harem business. Sure, Xerxes had only one queen, but don’t kid yourself, he had many, many, many women. This is how he rolls. Life seems pretty good for the playboy king.

Xerxes is an arrogant chauvinist.

According to the custom of the day, the women of the city are enjoying a more subdued banquet at the palace. This is probably good, for Xerxes’ party is not the place any respectable woman would like to be found.

However, on the seventh day, as he is “high in spirits,” he commands his servants to go to the place and bring out Queen Vashti. It is time for him to parade his trophy wife before his drunk companions.

Believe it or not, Xerxes is refused. Queen Vashti refuses to obey the king’s summons. In doing so, she humiliates her husband, enrages the most dangerous man on the planet, and places herself in great peril. It is a very gutsy move; going to the party must be truly terrifying.

Xerxes is a fool counseled by fools.

The king who is burning with anger, turns to his collection of wise men, astrologers, prophets and interpreters. (I.e. Daniel) The question is asked, “What is to be done to the queen who dishonored the King and his kingdom?” Vashti doesn’t have a chance. She lives in a culture that belittles the role and status of women and see them as possessions. Well, these “wise men” determine something public must be done or else other wives will hear and follow suit. Together they consult to make a statement:

  • Vashti is never to come before the king again.
  • She is to lose her royal crown and position.
  • Someone better than her will take her place; the king will trade-in and trade-up.
  • All women had better respect their husbands, or else.
  • This decree is to be expressed in every province, in all the various languages of the kingdom.

However, what sort of “wise” counsel is this? Vashti is in the right, and the king is the drunken fool. He should confess, repent, and seek reconciliation. Additionally, he will soon miss his queen and regret his decision. Also, that which is embarrassing and should be kept under wraps, instead it is publicized throughout the kingdom. Because of their “wisdom,” we are still reading of his folly today. But this is what you get when you are a fool walking in the counsel of fools.

Xerxes is a self-worshiping, abusive, narcissist.

History tells us of his sadistic tendencies. For example, a father in his kingdom had five sons. They were all serving in Xerxes army. The father then requested that his eldest son return home. He was getting very old and feeble and really needed his eldest son’s assistance. Xerxes was infuriated by this request. He ordered that the eldest son be procured, killed, and cut in half. Xerxes then had his army march between the two pieces. On another occasion, Xerxes beheaded the builders of a bridge because he found it poorly constructed after a storm destroyed that bridge. He was a brutal dictator, and he was the one set up for success by the Sovereign God.

Scripture records, “After these things, when the anger of King Ahasuerus had abated, he remembered Vashti and what she had done and what had been decreed against her.” (2:1)  He misses his queen. He realizes he has acted rashly. He has divorce remorse. Therefore, the “wise guys” decide it is best to spring into action for it is very dangerous them to allow him to remain in this irritated state. So, what is their plan?

  • Harem hunters are to be sent out throughout all the kingdom.
  • Young beautiful virgins are to be sought out for the king.
  • They are to be kidnapped from their family and carted off to the king’s harem in Susa.
  • King, you just sit back, relax, and we will bring all the best virgins to your doorstep and bed.
  • There they will be made up, put on display, and you can give them a test run.
  • Through this process, the king will find someone to replace Vashti.

Some might have a glamorized this story. Some might be imagining a young girl going from rags to riches, from rags to riches, from the poor house to the palace, or from the basement to the ballroom. However, this is not a beautiful, sweet, and lovely fairytale.

The king will send out his henchmen. They will rip the most pure, young, and beautiful girls away from their family, siblings, parents, neighbors, and potential lovers. They will be shipped a long way from home to the sex- harem of Xerxes, and there, he will have his way with them against their wills. This is not Cinderella. This is not the King and I. This is not Pretty Woman. This is gross!

But, to the king, this is an awesome plan. Why? Because he is the sadistic, materialistic, hedonistic, gluttonous, selfish, idolatrous, godless, perverted, and kidnapping rapist.

Scripture Application

What’s going on here?

God is on his throne.

He is the Sovereign One who blesses Israel. He also is the Sovereign One who blesses Assyria, Egypt, Media, and Persia.

He is the Sovereign One who blesses Joseph, Moses, Joshua, and David. He is also the Sovereign One who blesses Pharaoh, Sennacherib, Nebuchadnezzar, Belteshazzar, Darius, and Xerxes.

He is the Sovereign One over monumental events and the smallest of details.

He is the Sovereign One over men, the days they live, and the decisions they make.

He is the Sovereign One over holy angels, holy saints, and hellish rebels.

He is the one who decrees whatever comes to pass, and he is the one who providential uses willing individuals in his eternal plan.

He is the one who allows evil to thrive.

He is the one who allows his worshiping ones to struggle.

He is the one who allows little girls to be born stunningly beautiful and surprisingly exalted.

God’s name is not mentioned in this book, but as we walk through it we will see his fingerprints are everywhere.

God is silent, mysterious, and confusing.

Esther is a book where the supernatural is not front and center, as a matter of fact it is hidden. There are no miracles, angels, visions, or prophecies. God is not mentioned specifically, and he is silent, mysterious, and confusing. He is not letting us in on what is going on. Anything he is doing is going on behind the scenes. So true is this that Martin Luther, wrongly, believed this promoted too highly the Jews. It led him to doubt the inspiration and canonicity of this book.

God is mocking his enemies, improving his people, and showing forth his glory.

As the story continues, it will become more clear what the all-powerful, all-watching, all-knowing, always-present, sovereign, silent, mysterious, and confusing God is doing. He is on the move. Haman and his clan are going to be humiliated. Mordecai, Esther, and their people are going to be helped. God’s name is going to be exalted; he is going to be further honored.

The same is true today.

God is still on his throne, and he is still sovereign.

He is exercising his will over viruses, individuals, families, states, economies, and nations. Everything that is happening to you is under the watchful eye and hand of the Sovereign One. We may doubt this, but Scripture will teach us otherwise. God is in control of viruses, nurses, and ordinances. He is in control of progressions, recessions, and depressions. Both wise and foolish governmental decisions and declaration are under his control. Whether one loses his job, his retirement, his loved ones, or his life – God’s fingerprints are all over him. God is in control.

God is still silent, mysterious, and confusing.

He does not owe us an explanation of what his is causing or allowing, and quite often he does not give us one. He is not under obligation to answer our questions – now, later, or ever. Questions such as:

  • Where is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob?
  • Where is the God of Sarah, Rachel, Hannah, and Ruth?
  • Where are you?
  • What are you doing?
  • How can you let the wicked prosper?
  • Why will you not step in right now and do something?
  • What of your promises to protect and prosper?
  • What of your promises to the alien, the orphan, and the mistreated?
  • Why are you silent? If you told me what’s going on it might help!
  • Do you exist?
  • Do you answer prayer?
  • Do you care?
  • How can you call yourself good and all-powerful?
  • How can this be love?

Friends, let us be careful here. Some of us might be looking at other people and saying, “How could any good Christian engage in such “arrogant and unseemly” conversation with the Almighty God?” Perhaps we are under the impression that good worshipers do not ask such questions. Well my friends, if this is our position, I think we are errant, disingenuous, and harmful.

  • Errant – Such questions are asked by Job, Abraham, Sarah, David, Habakkuk, John the Baptist, Mary, Martha, and Jesus. They are not arrogant and unseemly.
  • Disingenuous – Such questions are asked by all of us in our darkest of hours.
  • Harmful – Failure to acknowledge and encourage such questions adds undo guilt upon the shoulders of really hurting brothers and sisters. This is legalism and it is harmful.

Finally, God is mocking his enemies, improving his people, and promoting his glory.

God is planning his work and working his plan. Just as he used the evil in Joseph’s, Moses’, David’s, Esther’s, and Jesus’ lives, he continues to do so today. Somehow, in our Coronavirus state, God is orchestrating Satan’s humiliation, the improvement of his people, and the advancement of his glory.

We might not enjoy it.

We might not understand it.

But we mustn’t deny it. Our current pandemic is part of “all things,” and “all things” are being worked out for God’s glory, his church’s good, and the advancement of God’s name. And perhaps, as it became clear at a later date for Esther, God will make it clear to us as to why he has upset our families, plans, businesses, cities, nations, and world.