Esther, Chapter 1:1-22

Esther, Chapter 1:  Introduction                January 12, 2019

Esther is a story of human love, palace intrigue, bad and good people, possible murder, war, banquets, is a party animal book, drinking and eating  and during the perfect glory days of the Persian Empire.

  • Esther is the last of the historical books of the Bible, so its main character is named Esther (Mordecai, Jewish cousin named, Hadassah).
  • The deeds of Queen Esther cast a ray of light forward into Jewish’s history from a dark time. 
  • Esther name is not mention in any other part of the Bible except in the Book of Esther. Maybe implied in Nehemiah 2:6.

Nehemiah 2:6 Then the king, with the queen sitting beside him, asked me, “How long will your journey take, and when will you get back?” It pleased the king to send me; so I set a time.

  • The Book of Esther is titled by the Jews, “the volume of Esther,” or simply “the volume.”
  • In ancient times, it was always written on a separate roll, which was read entirely at the Feast of Purim.
  • The Greek translators retained only “Esther,” which thus became the ordinary title among Christians.

A Jewish maiden, elevated to the Throne of Persia as queen, and is used by God to preserve His people against a Hitler-like holocaust.

The Book of Esther celebrate the deliverance of the Jews, on this day—the Feast of Purim.  We find”

  • No mention of the name of God;
  • No reference to worship or faith;
  • No prediction of the Messiah;
  • No mention of heaven or hell…nothing “religious” about it.
  • It is a gripping tale, but why is it here in the Bible? Is it a revelation of God’s invisible hand behind His people.  Martin Luther believed it should not be part of the Canon! 

The Apostle Paul tells us these stories are examples, to teach us and warning or instruction for us today to give us encouragement so we might have hope:  *1 Corinthians 10:11; *Romans 15:4 

  • This is an actual history, historical events: not just a story, but told and written in a story format.
  • It deals with the escape of the Jews in the whole world at this time from being completely destroyed.
  • The book takes place in the Persian period, after many Israelites had returned from the Exile to the land of Palestine to rebuild the temple.
  • The events in this book occurred roughly 10 years between those recorded in Ezra 6 & 7, and before the Book of Nehemiah by about 30 years.  

The King’s Royal Banquets, Feasts

Esther 1:1 This is what happened during the time of Xerxes {Greek name or Ahasuerus, Persian name}, the Xerxes who ruled over 127 provinces stretching from India to Cush {or Ethiopia}:                

  • Xerxes is well known to history and he inherited the vast Persian Empire from his father, Darius 1 {mention many times in the Bible}
  • Xerxes reigned for twenty-one years after his father Darius (485-465 B.C.)     He had a number of wars against Greece.
  • The two countries, India and Ethiopia, are chosen as the extreme boundaries of the Persian empire.  We would say, Maine to California.  The Persian Empire was the largest the world had ever seen. 

Esther 1:2  At that time King Xerxes reigned from his royal throne in the citadel {or palace} of Susa {or Shushan},   {map}

Nehemiah said he was in the citadel of Susa, *Nehemiah 1:1

  • Ezra had returned to Jerusalem to rebuild the Temple
  • Nehemiah (cupbearer to Xerxes) would return to Jerusalem 40 years later to rebuild the walls.
  • Shushan the Royal palace”: ten-acre citadel is located on an elevated area, about 200 miles E of Babylon, 150 miles north of the Persian Gulf;
  • Temperatures soared to as high as 140 degrees in the summer, the court moved north to Ecbatana.

Shushan – Susa:  The palace was a square building over 350 feet on each side, featuring seventy-two stone columns each estimated at sixty-five to eighty feet tall.  The ruins have been located where these events happen.

Shushan, the kings of Persia used to keep their courts in winter, as at Exbatana in summer (higher elevation and cooler weather).

Esther 1:3 and in the third year of his reign he gave a banquet {or feast} for all his nobles and officials. The military leaders of Persia and Media, the princes, and the nobles of the provinces were present.   {lasted 6 month-party}

  • Xerxes did have an irrational temper, occasionally exhibiting fits of rage 
  • His drinking parties were known to host up to 15,000 guests at a time
  • Susa 6 month party was the start for 4 years preparations to invade Greece in 481 B.C.
  • He will marry Esther four years later, in the 7th year of his reign;
  • Xerxes made feast for officials and servants – 180 days (Esther 1:3)
  • Xerxes made feast for all the people – 7 days  (Esther 1:5)
  • Queen Vashti made feast for the women (Esther 1:9)

Along with these three banquets, at least six other feasts are recorded in this book:

  • Esther’s coronation banquet (Esther 2:18);
  • Haman’s celebration feast with the king (Esther 3:15);
  • Esther’s two banquets for Haman and the king (Esther 5 and 7);
  • The Jews’ banquets when they heard the new decree (Esther 8:17);
  • The Feast of Purim (Esther 9:17-19).  Celebrated to this day.

Esther 1:4 For a full 180 days he displayed the vast wealth of his kingdom and the splendor and glory of his majesty.

  • Xerxes character wanted to Impress others, of course, his pride.
  • He shows the riches of his kingdom to his nobles and chief officers
  • His huge army of over 2 million when he invaded Greece.
  • The Persian feasts were known for their length and luxury.

Esther 1:5 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.

  • Now, all the males of Susa were entertained with food and drink.
  • The women were entertain by Vashti the queen in the palace
  • The enclosed garden complex measured 150 by 50 feet area contained many trees and plants.

Esther 1:6 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.

  • The color of white and blue {or violet} were the royal colors of the Persians:  A man describing it?
  • Mosaic floors laid in designs forming them into pictures.
  • Persians rested or leaned upon couches or sofas on which the guests reclined at meals.
  • Guests were permitted to drink as much or as little as they chose.

Esther 1:7 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.

This is a small point, which must have come from an eye-witness, or from one who had received the account of the banquet from an eye-witness.

Esther 1:8 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.

According to the law – An exception to the ordinary practice of required to drink each time the king raised his cup had been made on this occasion by the king’s order.

Women’s banquet or feast for the women

Esther 1:9  Queen Vashti also gave a banquet for the women in the royal palace of King Xerxes.     {3rd feast mention}

  • The women and men stayed separate and did not feast together unless in the privacy of domestic life. 
  • The Queen gave a party to the women. 
  • The name “Vashti” means “beautiful woman.”
  • Vashti is identified as a granddaughter of Nebuchadnezzer in some Rabi sources.

Xerxes probably took her to wife as soon as he was of marriageable age, and before he ascended the throne, had a son by her, who in his seventh year was grown up. 

  • Now, we will see some important distinctions between the status of women and men in the Persian court and see what Esther had to go through.

Queen Vashti’s Refusal

Esther 1:10 On the seventh day, when King Xerxes was in high spirits {or drunk} from wine, he commanded the seven eunuchs who served him—Mehuman, Biztha, Harbona, Bigtha, Abagtha, Zethar and Karkas—

Eunuchs act as harem attendants and as agents of communication between the king and his harem. Because of the level of trust these men could attain, they might also function as administrators in the kingdom as well.

Eunuchs would be less likely to become involved in conspiracies, because they would have no heirs to put on the throne.

Esther 1:11 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.  

{was she expected to show herself in an immodest way – partly naked?} 

To bring Vashti the queen – This command, though contrary to Persian customs, is not out of harmony with the character of Xerxes; and is evidently related as something strange and unusual. Otherwise, the queen would not have refused to come.

Esther 1:12 But when the attendants delivered the king’s command, Queen Vashti refused to come. Then the king became furious and burned with anger.  

{She said no, an order which required her to make an indecent exposure of herself, to be paraded in front of drunken people – no veil}

Esther 1:13,14 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.

  • The Persian kings were very seldom seen by their subjects

First level of advisors,  Persian kings had a panel of judges with lifetime appointments whom the king relied upon for interpretations of the law, men of practical wisdom, who knew the facts and customs of former times.

These 7 families of the first rank in Persia, their chiefs were entitled to have free access to the monarch’s person.

History’s profile of Xerxes shows him to be an unreasonable and foolish man in many cases.

Example from History:  On one occasion, Xerxes executed the builders of a bridge because an ocean storm destroyed it; then he commanded that the water and waves be whipped and chained to punish the sea.

Esther 1:15 “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.”     {this is a big deal, what must he do}

  • King desired to know what law was provided in such a case
  • What to be done according to the law:

Esther 1:16 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.

These are the individuals telling the king what they think the king wants to hear.  Anything other than this, they would be telling the King He is wrong.

Esther 1:17 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.’    

Esther 1:18 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.

Esther 1:19  “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.

The law once given, it cannot be changed.

Daniel example where King Darius issue the decree and put it in writing so that it cannot be altered  *Daniel 6:8-9

  • Vashti’s punishment did not include execution or divorce. 
  • She was simply demoted within the harem  so that she would have no chance of an official presence in Xerxes court. 
  • This would effectively strip her of power and prestige,
  • Remove her from a position where she could hope to receive favors from the king.  

Esther 1:20-21 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.

Esther 1:22  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.

  • Type of pony express to send out these letters to the king’s provinces. 
  • It could be published very quickly. 
  • The system as featuring stations for every day of the journey with a man and a horse for each day.
  • That neither snow, rain, heat or darkness deters them from their task.

Xerxes writes letters to each of his provinces telling everyone that men should be the masters of their houses. (all I can say, Nice touch)

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