Esther part 2


Esther 1:1  Now it came to pass in the days of Ahasuerus (this was the Ahasuerus who reigned over one hundred and twenty-seven provinces, from India to Ethiopia),  2 in those days when King Ahasuerus sat on the throne of his kingdom, which was in Shushan the citadel,  3 that in the third year of his reign he made a feast for all his officials and servants -- the powers of Persia and Media, the nobles, and the princes of the provinces being before him --  4 when he showed the riches of his glorious kingdom and the splendor of his excellent majesty for many days, one hundred and eighty days in all.


Most scholars believe that King Ahasuerus is the same king known as Xerex I who reigned from 485 to 486 B.C. He had huge territory to look after, which included India and Ethiopia. The The New Layman's Bible Commentary, p. 551 offers the following proof from archeology.


"A foundation tablet has been recovered from Xerxes' palace at Persepolis which lists both India and Ethiopia as provinces of Xerxes' realm.  Also Herodotus mentioned that both the Ethiopians and the Indians paid tribute to Xerxes."


The Persian kings are always mentioned as sitting on the throne of their kingdom. For example Keil notes:


Herodotus wrote that Xerxes watched the battle of Thermopylae (480 B.C.) seated on a throne!  And Plutarch wrote the same thing regarding the battle of Salamis, which came that same year." (C. F. Keil, Keil and Delitzsch's Old Testament Commentaries, op. cit., p. 321.)


Shushan also called Susa was one of the four capitals of the Persian Empire. The majority of the events of the book Esther happened in this city. This is also the city where Daniel had his vision of the ram and the goat (Dan. 8:2) and it where Nehemiah was serving as cupbearer. Shushan is one of the four capitals that the kings of Persia would rule from. The other capitals of Persia are Babylon, Ecbatana, and Persepolis.


It was common for the kings of that time to show off their wealth by having these extravagant feasts. This 180 day feast mentioned in our text happened in the 3rd year of Ahasuerus’ reign. According to Bible, one purpose of this feast was to show off his wealth and another possible purpose for this feast comes from history. According Mr. Rawlingson:


"The special occasion of the entertainment seems to have been the summons to Susa of all the chief men of the kingdom, and particularly the satraps, or "princes of provinces," to advise upon the projected expedition against Greece, which Herodotus mentions in his seventh book (chapter viii).  Banquets on an enormous scale were not uncommon in Persia; and the profuseness and vainglory of Xerxes would naturally lead him to go to an extreme in this, as in other matters."

This would make sense because if you wanted to impress those who were fighting your battles for you and prove that you could supply them with all the supplies they needed for battle this would be the way to do it.


Esther 1:5 And when these days were completed, the king made a feast lasting seven days for all the people who were present in Shushan the citadel, from great to small, in the court of the garden of the king's palace.  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.  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.  8 In accordance with the law, the drinking was not compulsory; for so the king had ordered all the officers of his household, that they should do according to each man's pleasure.  9 Queen Vashti also made a feast for the women in the royal palace which belonged to King Ahasuerus.


After the 180 days of feasting for those special guests, the king had a 7 day feast for everyone in the city. According to Rawlingson, the court of the garden was around 60,000 sq feet. We are give a description of  how elegant this place was decorated. Adam Clark notes,


It was customary, on such occasions, not only to hang the place about with elegant curtains of the above colours, as Dr. Shaw and others have remarked, but also to have a canopy of rich stuffs suspended on cords from side to side of the place in which they feasted. And such courts were ordinarily paved with different coloured marbles, or with tiles painted, as above specified. And this was the origin of the Musive or Mosaic work, well known among the Asiatics, and borrowed from them by the Greeks and the Romans. The beds of gold and silver mentioned here were the couches covered with gold and silver cloth, on which the guests reclined.


As you can see, the king spared no expense in showing off his wealth. Could you imagine drinking out of cups made of gold with every one of them being a different design? Now the king did not force people to drink a certain amount of wine. Instead, it was left up to them how much they drank and this often led to many to over drink, which caused many problems just like it causes many problems today.


Based on the custom of the day, the men and women did not mingle with each other, and this is why there was a separate feast for the men and the women.


Esther 1:10 On the seventh day, when the heart of the king was merry with wine, he commanded Mehuman, Biztha, Harbona, Bigtha, Abagtha, Zethar, and Carcas, seven eunuchs who served in the presence of King Ahasuerus,  11 to bring Queen Vashti before the king, wearing her royal crown, in order to show her beauty to the people and the officials, for she was beautiful to behold.  12 But Queen Vashti refused to come at the king's command brought by his eunuchs; therefore the king was furious, and his anger burned within him.

The King and these men had been drinking for 7 days now and the king was drunk. The king had already showed off his wealth to these men and now he wanted to show off his wife. The custom was that the women were supposed to be kept in seclusion and they were to wear veils because no man was to see the expression on their face. But, the king wanted these drunken men to see her beauty, which indicates he wanted her to come before them unveiled.


Only the eunuchs were allowed to go into the king harem and so these 7 eunuchs were sent to queen Vashti with this unreasonable request from the king. This a just another example of how alcohol can cause a person to make decisions they wouldn’t normally make.


Proverbs 31:4It is not for kings to drink wine, Nor for princes intoxicating drink;  5 Lest they drink and forget the law, And pervert the justice of all the afflicted. 


Not only will alcohol cause you to make bad decisions, it can also keep you out heaven as Paul said,


1 Corinthians 6:9 Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites,  10 nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God.


When queen Vashti heard this request she refused. Certainly she knew there would be consequences to her response, but she was not about to compromise her morality by parading herself in front of these drunken men. We need more men and women today that are like queen Vashti who are willing to take a stand for what is right and not comprise their morality just because the king or the world demands us to.


While the Bible doesn’t give us a specific length of clothing to wear or how low our neck line should be, it does tell us to dress in a way that will profess godliness. A good test we can give ourselves when we go out in public is would we wear those clothes if you knew that you were going to be standing in front of Jesus? If you are dressing like the world and wearing shorts that look like underwear and shirts that reveal most of your body do you think that professes godliness or worldliness? I never have been able to figure out why some wouldn’t dare walk out of there house in their underwear, but they give no thought to wearing a two piece bathing suite out in the public when it shows the same amount skin.


As Christians, we really need to think about how we are dressing ourselves because we are supposed to be example of what Christianity is all about. The Bible stresses over and over again to follow the example of Christ and no one in right mind would think of Jesus wearing a Speedo, and no Christian man should wear one those in pubic either.


It is important that we teach our children at an early age that their beauty can be seen by who they are not by showing off their bodies. Sometimes we become unpopular parents when we deny our children of wearing some of the latest fashions, but if we want to instill morality in our children and be pleasing to God, then we need take a stand against worldliness.


Esther 1:13 Then the king said to the wise men who understood the times (for this was the king's manner toward all who knew law and justice,  14 those closest to him being Carshena, Shethar, Admatha, Tarshish, Meres, Marsena, and Memucan, (meh-mue-kan) the seven princes of Persia and Media, who had access to the king's presence, and who ranked highest in the kingdom):  15 "What shall we do to Queen Vashti, according to law, because she did not obey the command of King Ahasuerus brought to her by the eunuchs?"  16 And Memucan answered before the king and the princes: "Queen Vashti has not only wronged the king, but also all the princes, and all the people who are in all the provinces of King Ahasuerus.  17 "For the queen's behavior will become known to all women, so that they will despise their husbands in their eyes, when they report, 'King Ahasuerus commanded Queen Vashti to be brought in before him, but she did not come.'  18 "This very day the noble ladies of Persia and Media will say to all the king's officials that they have heard of the behavior of the queen. Thus there will be excessive contempt and wrath.  19 "If it pleases the king, let a royal decree go out from him, and let it be recorded in the laws of the Persians and the Medes, so that it will not be altered, that Vashti shall come no more before King Ahasuerus; and let the king give her royal position to another who is better than she.  20 "When the king's decree which he will make is proclaimed throughout all his empire (for it is great), all wives will honor their husbands, both great and small."  21 And the reply pleased the king and the princes, and the king did according to the word of Memucan.  22 Then he sent letters to all the king's provinces, to each province in its own script, and to every people in their own language, that each man should be master in his own house, and speak in the language of his own people.   


The king relied on the advice of his wise men and he wanted to know what he should do about Vashti’s refusal of his command. Memucan believed that if Vashti wasn’t punished for disobeying the law of not obeying the kings command that news would spread to other woman in his kingdom and all of them would start to rebel. While this principle is true, none of this would have happened if hadn’t been for the unreasonable request of the king.


Under the O.T., women didn’t have many rights especial the gentile women and the kings advisors wanted to keep it that way, so the king thought this good idea and he sent out royal decree to all provinces that each man should be the master of his house and the household should speak in the language of the man. This royal decree would have been sealed with a royal signet and not even the king could reverse it. So, now he could never see his Vashti again and he would have to seek a new queen.



Esther 2:1 After these things, when the wrath of King Ahasuerus subsided, he remembered Vashti, what she had done, and what had been decreed against her.  2 Then the king's servants who attended him said: "Let beautiful young virgins be sought for the king;  3 "and let the king appoint officers in all the provinces of his kingdom, that they may gather all the beautiful young virgins to Shushan the citadel, into the women's quarters, under the custody of Hegai the king's eunuch, custodian of the women. And let beauty preparations be given them.  4 "Then let the young woman who pleases the king be queen instead of Vashti." This thing pleased the king, and he did so.


Most believe that after Ahasuerus sent out his royal decree that he went on his 4 year campaign against Greece, which ended up being a disaster for him. So, this would mean that 4 years passed between chapters 1 and 2 and this backed up by the fact that he banished Vashti in 3rd year of his reign and her married Esther in the 7th year of his reign.


After the king had banished Vashti from his site, he began to remember his beautiful wife and what she had done, and how he had made this royal decree. Even though we are not told specifically in what way he was thinking about her, it seems that he was remembering her with fondness and may have been feeling bad about his decision of banning her from his presence. In our overview of this book, we talked about how this king would make rash decisions and it possible that he could have even went against the law and brought Vashti back into his life.


This why I believe his servants came up with the plan of him finding another beautiful woman to take her place. I think we can all relate to the king at this moment because we have all done things that we wished we could change, and when we think about those instances, it makes us feel bad because we know there is nothing we can do take back that rash decision that we made in the past.


So, all the virgins from 127 provinces of his kingdom were to be brought to Shushan and they were to be prepared for the king, so he could decide which one would become his new queen. None of these of the young virgins would have a choice in this matter and all of them would become part of the kings harem.


Esther 2:5 In Shushan the citadel there was a certain Jew whose name was Mordecai the son of Jair, the son of Shimei (shem-ih-uh), the son of Kish, a Benjamite.  6 Kish had been carried away from Jerusalem with the captives who had been captured with Jeconiah king of Judah, whom Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon had carried away.  7 And Mordecai had brought up Hadassah, that is, Esther, his uncle's daughter, for she had neither father nor mother. The young woman was lovely and beautiful. When her father and mother died, Mordecai took her as his own daughter.  8 So it was, when the king's command and decree were heard, and when many young women were gathered at Shushan the citadel, under the custody of Hegai (heg-i), that Esther also was taken to the king's palace, into the care of Hegai the custodian of the women.  9 Now the young woman pleased him, and she obtained his favor; so he readily gave beauty preparations to her, besides her allowance. Then seven choice maidservants were provided for her from the king's palace, and he moved her and her maidservants to the best place in the house of the women.  10 Esther had not revealed her people or family, for Mordecai had charged her not to reveal it.  11 And every day Mordecai paced in front of the court of the women's quarters, to learn of Esther's welfare and what was happening to her.


Both Mordecai and Esther are introduced to us and we can see that Mordecai’s belonged to the tribe of Benjamin and that his forefather Kish had been taken into captivity. If you will remember the Jews were taken into captivity in 3 different raids and Kish was taken captivity in the second raid.


Mordecai was born in captivity otherwise he would be over 100 years old. He adopted his cousin Esther as his own daughter because she had no one else to take care of her. She was a beautiful young lady, which why she was one of the women chosen to go before the king.


She stood out from the other virgins to Hegai (Heg-i) and he made sure she got extra beauty treatments that the others did not. Each woman was provided 7 maidservants and Hegai moved Esther along with her maidservants to the best part in the house of the women. It is my opinion that she stood out not because of her outer beauty, but because of her inward beauty because all the virgins that were brought to him were beautiful.


Mordecai instructed Esther not to reveal that she was a Jew. One possible reason that he told her this was because the Jews may have been looked down and he didn’t want her ethnic background to cause her become a mere concubine in the kings harem. We can see Mordecai’s love for his adopted daughter as he paced around the women’s quarters waiting for updates of Esther’s welfare.


Esther 2:12 Each young woman's turn came to go in to King Ahasuerus after she had completed twelve months' preparation, according to the regulations for the women, for thus were the days of their preparation apportioned: six months with oil of myrrh, and six months with perfumes and preparations for beautifying women.  13 Thus prepared, each young woman went to the king, and she was given whatever she desired to take with her from the women's quarters to the king's palace.  14 In the evening she went, and in the morning she returned to the second house of the women, to the custody of Shaashgaz, (shay-ash-gaz) the king's eunuch who kept the concubines. She would not go in to the king again unless the king delighted in her and called for her by name.  


This had to be a stressful situation for these women. First, they taken from their homes knowing they were going to belong to the king. They had to go through 1 year of preparation, which included these oils and perfumes being used on them.





According to Rawlingson:


"Myrrh was highly esteemed, both for its scent and for its purifying power, by the ancients;.  In Egypt it was employed largely in the preparation of mummies (Herodotus, ii, 86).  The Jews were directed to make it one of the chief ingredients of their "holy anointing oil" (Exo. 30:23-25).  Dresses and beds were scented with it (Ps. 45:8; Prov. 7:17) ...  The word translated "sweet odors" (perfumes NKJV) seems to mean "spices" generally” 


After this one year of preparation they were allowed to wear whatever they wanted to try and impress the king when they went to his bed that night. They knew that if the king did not choose them to be his queen that they would be sent to the second house, which was the place where his concubines would have to stay for the rest of their lives and the only time they would ever see the king again was if he asked for them and the chances of that would be slim.


Esther 2:15 Now when the turn came for Esther the daughter of Abihail the uncle of Mordecai, who had taken her as his daughter, to go in to the king, she requested nothing but what Hegai the king's eunuch, the custodian of the women, advised. And Esther obtained favor in the sight of all who saw her.  16 So Esther was taken to King Ahasuerus, into his royal palace, in the tenth month, which is the month of Tebeth, in the seventh year of his reign.  17 The king loved Esther more than all the other women, and she obtained grace and favor in his sight more than all the virgins; so he set the royal crown upon her head and made her queen instead of Vashti.  18 Then the king made a great feast, the Feast of Esther, for all his officials and servants; and he proclaimed a holiday in the provinces and gave gifts according to the generosity of a king.


Once again, we see that Esther stood out and gained the favor of all that saw her. When it came her turn to go to the king, she relied on the eunuch to pick out what she should wear before the king. Well, the eunuch’s advice paid off because the king chose her out all the women that came before him and he made her queen in the 7th year of his reign. The date given here corresponds to part of our December and January. As the custom was, he made a great feat for this occasion and proclaimed a holiday in honor of his new wife.


Esther 2:20 Now Esther had not revealed her family and her people, just as Mordecai had charged her, for Esther obeyed the command of Mordecai as when she was brought up by him.  21 In those days, while Mordecai sat within the king's gate, two of the king's eunuchs, Bigthan and Teresh, doorkeepers, became furious and sought to lay hands on King Ahasuerus.  22 So the matter became known to Mordecai, who told Queen Esther, and Esther informed the king in Mordecai's name.  23 And when an inquiry was made into the matter, it was confirmed, and both were hanged on a gallows; and it was written in the book of the chronicles in the presence of the king.


Here we can see that Esther was obedient and she respected Mordecai as her adopter father because she did not reveal who her family was. Since Mordecai was sitting in the gate and was able to stay outside the woman courtyard, it believed that he was employed by the kings perhaps as a gatekeeper.


Mordecai found out about the plot of the two eunuchs and told Esther who then told the king. If Mordecai had not spoiled their plans it would had been fairly easy for them to kill the king because they had access to the king when he was sleeping. When the king found out about this, he investigated the matter and found it to be true and had these 2 men hung and Mordecai deed was recorded in the chronicles. Now the king did not reward Mordecai at this time and we are not told why, but later on he will.


Well these first two chapters sets the stage for Esther to be able save her people and all this came to pass through the providence of God.