Today: [Esther One] Vashti Defies Ahasuerus, king of Persia. In this chapter we see the opening scene of the book of Esther as a drunken king defrauds his queen in an unguarded moment. The lesson for us is how God works in the midst of this tawdry affair to set the stage for a great deliverance for His people.
[Est 1:1-22 KJV] 1 Now it came to pass in the days of Ahasuerus, (this [is] Ahasuerus which reigned, from India even unto Ethiopia, [over] an hundred and seven and twenty provinces:) 2 [That] in those days, when the king Ahasuerus sat on the throne of his kingdom, which [was] in Shushan the palace, 3 In the third year of his reign, he made a feast unto all his princes and his servants; the power of Persia and Media, the nobles and princes of the provinces, [being] before him: 4 When he shewed the riches of his glorious kingdom and the honour of his excellent majesty many days, [even] an hundred and fourscore days. 5 And when these days were expired, the king made a feast unto all the people that were present in Shushan the palace, both unto great and small, seven days, in the court of the garden of the king’s palace; 6 [Where were] white, green, and blue, [hangings], fastened with cords of fine linen and purple to silver rings and pillars of marble: the beds [were of] gold and silver, upon a pavement of red, and blue, and white, and black, marble. 7 And they gave [them] drink in vessels of gold, (the vessels being diverse one from another,) and royal wine in abundance, according to the state of the king. 8 And the drinking [was] according to the law; none did compel: for so the king had appointed to all the officers of his house, that they should do according to every man’s pleasure. 9 Also Vashti the queen made a feast for the women [in] the royal house 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, and Abagtha, Zethar, and Carcas, the seven chamberlains that served in the presence of Ahasuerus the king, 11 To bring Vashti the queen before the king with the crown royal, to shew the people and the princes her beauty: for she [was] fair to look on. 12 But the queen Vashti refused to come at the king’s commandment by [his] chamberlains: therefore was the king very wroth, and his anger burned in him.
Having completed the writings of Ezra the scribe we come to the last of the historical writings of the Old Testament. Esther is to the historical books what Malachi is the prophetic books. In fact all of the prophetic books were written and addressed issues that played out in the parenthesis of the historical books of which Esther is the last.
The book of Esther is also known in Hebrew as “the scroll”. It conveys the story of a young Hebrew woman in Persia who rises to the throne as the queen of the empire. She becomes involved in palace intrigues and through a set of circumstances thwarts a pogrom against the Jewish people. The account and legend of Esther is the basis of the Jewish festival of Purim and the book is actually read aloud twice during Purim, once in the morning and once in the evening.
Esther is an interesting book as it is one of two books that do not specifically mention God. The book of Esther is set in the Persian capital of Shushan and the king is identified as Ahasuerus otherwise known as Xerxes I, whose reign spanned 486 to 465 BCE as secular historians are fond of saying. Assuming that Ahasuerus is Xerxes I, the events described in Esther (according to Wikipedia) took place around 483 to 473 BC.
In the beginning of the book we find Ahasuerus in his palace holding an elaborate celebration including all his dignitaries and even inhabitants of the city. At this time Ahasuerus’ queen is the aristocratic Vashti who the king calls upon to display her beauty to all the gathered people. Vashti being called – refuses to come and be put on display in such an unchaste manner.
Ahasuerus is an established figure in history – who inherited his kingdom from Darius the first who appears in Ezra and Nehemiah. During the time that Ahasuerus was carrying out the events of Esther he was planning for a doomed invasion of Greece which would take place later. At this time the Persian empire was the largest empire the world had ever known. It encompassed modern day Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, Jordan, Lebanon, Israel, Egypt, Sudan, Libya and Arabia – a vast empire.
The feast Ahasuerus called Vashti to was actually a combination of 3 feasts – one of which lasted 6 months. In this particular 7 day feast Vashti was gathered separately with the royal women. When Ahasuerus summoned Vashti he was quite inebriated and apparently was expected according to some sources to appear wearing nothing but the royal crown upon her head. Vashti refuses and now sorrowful the king realizes that though he has done something foolish he cannot allow her disobedience to go unpunished.
13 Then the king said to the wise men, which knew the times, (for so [was] the king’s manner toward all that knew law and judgment: 14 And the next unto him [was] Carshena, Shethar, Admatha, Tarshish, Meres, Marsena, [and] Memucan, the seven princes of Persia and Media, which saw the king’s face, [and] which sat the first in the kingdom;) 15 What shall we do unto the queen Vashti according to law, because she hath not performed the commandment of the king Ahasuerus by the chamberlains? 16 And Memucan answered before the king and the princes, Vashti the queen hath not done wrong to the king only, but also to all the princes, and to all the people that [are] in all the provinces of the king Ahasuerus. 17 For [this] deed of the queen shall come abroad unto all women, so that they shall despise their husbands in their eyes, when it shall be reported, The king Ahasuerus commanded Vashti the queen to be brought in before him, but she came not. 18 [Likewise] shall the ladies of Persia and Media say this day unto all the king’s princes, which have heard of the deed of the queen. Thus [shall there arise] too much contempt and wrath. 19 If it please the king, let there go a royal commandment from him, and let it be written among the laws of the Persians and the Medes, that it be not altered, That Vashti come no more before king Ahasuerus; and let the king give her royal estate unto another that is better than she. 20 And when the king’s decree which he shall make shall be published throughout all his empire, (for it is great,) all the wives shall give to their husbands honour, both to great and small. 21 And the saying pleased the king and the princes; and the king did according to the word of Memucan: 22 For he sent letters into all the king’s provinces, into every province according to the writing thereof, and to every people after their language, that every man should bear rule in his own house, and that [it] should be published according to the language of every people.
As a result of a prolonged drunken party and the king’s lack of wisdom he is put into a position to be forced to banish Vashti to keep order throughout his empire. If he showed weakness before his bride the implications for the kingdom could have been catastrophic. The laws handed down by Persian kings were inviolate. One one occasion history tells us that this very king ordered that the sea be whipped with chains because of a destructive storm upon their shores.
The counselors of the king were concerned that if Vashti would go unpunished that women all throughout the empire would rebel against their husbands. Ahausuerus therefore corrected Vashti’s contempt for his drunken behavior but did not repent himself for his own lack of good judgment. Thus the first chapter of Esther sets the stage for Haddasah the niece of Mordecai to come forward according to God’s purposes to protect the people of God in Persian captivity from a genocidal maniac.
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