Today, we are starting a new book of the Bible, Esther. As with the start of all our new books, I want to give you a quick background on what is happening. Esther takes place in the Old Testament. Esther is a Jewish woman and at the time Jews were the minority in Persia where this takes place (specifically in Susa, where the king lived) under the leadership of King Xerxes. Mordecai, who you will hear lots of, is Esther’s older cousin. And our application tells us that the whole purpose of this book is to show us God’s sovereignty and the way he loves and cares for his people. Crazy fact, but God is actually not mentioned once in this book, but it is absolutely clear to see he was at work through his people.
Queen Vashti Deposed
1 This is what happened during the time of Xerxes,[a] the Xerxes who ruled over 127 provinces stretching from India to Cush[b]: 2 At that time King Xerxes reigned from his royal throne in the citadel of Susa, 3 and in the third year of his reign he gave a banquet for all his nobles and officials. The military leaders of Persia and Media, the princes, and the nobles of the provinces were present.
4 For a full 180 days he displayed the vast wealth of his kingdom and the splendor and glory of his majesty. 5 When these days were over, the king gave a banquet, lasting seven days, in the enclosed garden of the king’s palace, for all the people from the least to the greatest who were in the citadel of Susa. 6 The garden had hangings of white and blue linen, fastened with cords of white linen and purple material to silver rings on marble pillars. There were couches of gold and silver on a mosaic pavement of porphyry, marble, mother-of-pearl and other costly stones. 7 Wine was served in goblets of gold, each one different from the other, and the royal wine was abundant, in keeping with the king’s liberality. 8 By the king’s command each guest was allowed to drink with no restrictions, for the king instructed all the wine stewards to serve each man what he wished.
9 Queen Vashti also gave a banquet for the women in the royal palace of King Xerxes.
10 On the seventh day, when King Xerxes was in high spirits from wine, he commanded the seven eunuchs who served him—Mehuman, Biztha, Harbona, Bigtha, Abagtha, Zethar and Karkas— 11 to bring before him Queen Vashti, wearing her royal crown, in order to display her beauty to the people and nobles, for she was lovely to look at. 12 But when the attendants delivered the king’s command, Queen Vashti refused to come. Then the king became furious and burned with anger.
13 Since it was customary for the king to consult experts in matters of law and justice, he spoke with the wise men who understood the times 14 and were closest to the king—Karshena, Shethar, Admatha, Tarshish, Meres, Marsena and Memukan, the seven nobles of Persia and Media who had special access to the king and were highest in the kingdom.
15 “According to law, what must be done to Queen Vashti?” he asked. “She has not obeyed the command of King Xerxes that the eunuchs have taken to her.”
16 Then Memukan replied in the presence of the king and the nobles, “Queen Vashti has done wrong, not only against the king but also against all the nobles and the peoples of all the provinces of King Xerxes. 17 For the queen’s conduct will become known to all the women, and so they will despise their husbands and say, ‘King Xerxes commanded Queen Vashti to be brought before him, but she would not come.’ 18 This very day the Persian and Median women of the nobility who have heard about the queen’s conduct will respond to all the king’s nobles in the same way. There will be no end of disrespect and discord.
19 “Therefore, if it pleases the king, let him issue a royal decree and let it be written in the laws of Persia and Media, which cannot be repealed, that Vashti is never again to enter the presence of King Xerxes. Also let the king give her royal position to someone else who is better than she. 20 Then when the king’s edict is proclaimed throughout all his vast realm, all the women will respect their husbands, from the least to the greatest.”
21 The king and his nobles were pleased with this advice, so the king did as Memukan proposed. 22 He sent dispatches to all parts of the kingdom, to each province in its own script and to each people in their own language, proclaiming that every man should be ruler over his own household, using his native tongue.
What were your thoughts as you read through this first chapter? Was there any particular part that stood out to you?
In verse four, we see that this celebration lasted 180 days, what I found out about this is that it was so long because “the real purpose was to plan the battle strategy for invading Greece and to demonstrate that the king had sufficient wealth to carry it out.”
Looking at verses 10-12, there was a lot happening “behind the scenes”. First, we see Xerxes make a huge decision based on his feelings (and a little tipsy). I loved what our application had to say about that, “base your decisions on careful thinking, not on the emotions of the moment. Impulsive decision making leads to severe complications.” Have you ever made a decision on a quick impulse that left you feeling like it was not the right one? Interesting fact that we can learn about Queen Vashti is that one of the reasons she may not have obeyed the kings command is because it was actually against Persian customs for her to go in front of a group of men, which would make his decision all the more rash. However, in this time, once a king made up a command, he couldn’t take it back. So I don’t know, days later, when he wasn’t so angry, it would be too late to change his mind.
We also see Xerxes’ fear of people thinking that his queen did not obey him, that he feared that if his queen didn’t that all the other women of his land would not respect their husbands, which is obviously not true and out application says “respect between men and women comes from mutual regard and appreciation for each other as those created in God’s image, ( I LOVE THAT!) not from legal pronouncements and orders. Forced obedience is a poor substitute for the love and respect wives and husbands should have for each other.”
Lord, thank you for this book in your word, we know that you are about to teach us so much through this story. Thank you for helping us understand the times of this taking place. We ask that you guide us, that when we have a decision to make that we seek you first, help us not to run straight into it without asking you, help us to avoid making rash decisions like Xerxes. Give us the guidance into knowing what is from you and what is from our self or our flesh. We thank you for your Spirit that lives within us to do so, help remind us of your Spirits presence in moments of decision making. It’s in your loving name we pray, AMEN!