The Book of Esther Chapter 1
There are many good commentaries on the introduction of the book of Esther each offering different points of interest about the book I will start with Schofield who summed up the best and then add some of the other interesting details later
Book Introduction – Esther
The significance of the Book of Esther is that it testifies to the secret watch care of Jehovah over dispersed Israel. The name of God does not once occur, but in no other book of the Bible is His providence more conspicuous. A mere remnant returned to Jerusalem. The mass of the nation preferred the easy and lucrative life under the Persian rule. But God did not forsake them. What He here does for Judah, He is surely doing for all the covenant people. The book is in seven parts:
1. The Story of Vashti (Esther 1:1-22).
2. Esther made queen (Esther 2:1-23).
3. The conspiracy of Haman (Esther 3:1-15).
4. The courage of Esther brings deliverance (Esther 4:1 - 7:10).
5. The vengeance (Esther 8:1 - 9:19).
6. The feast of Purim (Esther 9:20-32).
7. Epilogue (Esther 10:1-3).
The events recorded in Esther cover a period of 12 years (Ussher).
No one is sure who actually wrote the book of Esther, many think it was Mordecai.
It is assumed that Ahasuerus is Xerxes. Ahasuerus is a Median title whereas Xerxes is a Persian title for the office of king. Neither being an actual personal name. It is also thought that Esther’s reign spanned the reign of two kings: Xerxes and his son and successor Artaxerxes and that Esther’s life was contemporary with Ezra and Nehemiah, and that Esther actually outlived Nehemiah as she was quite young when she became queen.
“While the more faithful of the Jews had gone back to Palestine to repair its wastes and were rebuilding the Temple, the Lord was not negligent of the remainder of the people who had not been sufficiently zealous to return to "the land of promise" under the decree of Cyrus granting them the privilege. Hundreds of thousands of Jews resided in all parts of the Persian empire, which then included Babylonia and Persia and nearly all Asia, including India. While special lessons and peculiar trials were given to those rebuilding the Temple, the Lord's favor was upon the remainder of the chosen people to the extent that he permitted to come upon them a great trial, severe testing, which undoubtedly taught them a valuable lesson in their far-off homes. A record of this great testing is furnished us in the book of Esther.”-- Russell
Est 1:1 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:)
Est 1:2 That in those days, when the king Ahasuerus sat on the throne of his kingdom, which was in Shushan the palace,
.The head of Gold (Babylon) had been replaced by the next universal empire that of the Medes and the Persians. The Medes were represented by Darius who phased out and the Persians became more dominate with Cyrus coming to power.
We are given the scope of their empire (from India to Ethiopia) and we see the capital was in Shushan.
Wikipedia has an interesting note on Sushan, or modern day Shush and anciently Susa
Susa is also mentioned in the Ketuvim of the Hebrew Bible by the name Shushan, mainly in Esther, but also once each in Nehemiah and Daniel. Both Daniel and Nehemiah lived in Susa during the Babylonian captivity of the 6th century BCE. Esther became queen there, married to King Ahasueurus, and saved the Jews from genocide. A tomb presumed to be that of Daniel is located in the area, known as Shush-Daniel. The tomb is marked by an unusual white stone cone, which is neither regular nor symmetric. Many scholars believe it was at one point a Star of David.
Est 1:3 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:
Est 1:4 When he shewed the riches of his glorious kingdom and the honour of his excellent majesty many days, even an hundred and fourscore days.
Gill Commentary: Xerxes was the fourth king of the Persian monarchy, and was "far richer than all" that went before him, all their riches coming into his hands, Dan_11:2, and now that prophecy began to be fulfilled, "that by his strength, through his riches, he should stir up all against the realm of Grecia"; which he began to do in the third year of his reign, and for which these his nobles might be called together, as to have their advice, so to animate them to come in the more readily into the expedition, by showing them the riches he was possessed of; for to none of the kings of Persia does this largeness of riches better belong than to Xerxes:
Hawker’s Commentary: Reader! what a pitiful feast is this after all! to what good but waste. To what purpose but gluttony. To what intention but to feed our corrupt passions, lust and vanity. But turn your thoughts to JESUS. He hath made a feast indeed to all his princes and servants. A feast of fat things; and where he himself is both the LORD of it, and the whole of the banquet. Ahasuerus’ feast was held for his princes and his nobles: But JESUS hath made a feast to all people: Isa_25:6. Ahasuerus’ feast lasted for 180 days: JESUS’ feast forever, Ahasuerus showed the riches of his kingdom: JESUS hath not only showed his people his glory, but made them partakers of it, and causeth them to sit down with him in his kingdom. Oh! for grace to adore the sovereign Redeemer as the king in Zion, and the LORD both of heaven and earth.
Est 1:5 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;
Est 1:6 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.
Est 1:7 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.
Est 1:8 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.
Two feasts Ahasuerus made: - 1. One for his nobles and princes, which lasted a hundred and eighty days, Est_1:3, Est_1:4. Not that he feasted the same persons every day for all that time, but perhaps the nobles and princes of one province one day, of another province another day, while thus he and his constant attendants fared sumptuously every day. The Chaldee paraphrast (who is very bold in his additions to the story of this book) says that there had been a rebellion among his subjects and that this feast was kept for joy of the quashing of it. 2. Another was made for all the people, both great and small, which lasted seven days, some one day and some another; and, because no house would hold them, they were entertained in the court of the garden, Est_1:5. The hangings with which the several apartments were divided or the tents which were there pitched for the company, were very fine and rich; so were the beds or benches on which they sat, and the pavement under their feet, Est_1:6. Better is a dinner of herbs with quietness, and the enjoyment of one's self and a friend, than this banquet of wine with all the noise and tumult that must needs attend it. –Henry Commentary
Est 1:9 Also Vashti the queen made a feast for the women in the royal house which belonged to king Ahasuerus.
There is some dispute on who exactly Vashti is. If Ahasuerus is Xerxes, then Vashti is Amestris. The name Vashti means beautiful woman and is probably not her proper name.
Vashti made a feast for the women because the King had his own feast and his feast was for the men and women did not participate.
Est 1:10 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,
Est 1:11 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.
Gill has some interesting comments on these verses:
when the heart of the king was merry with wine; when he was intoxicated with it, and knew not well what he said or did; and the discourse at table ran upon the beauty of women, as the latter Targum; when the king asserted there were no women so beautiful as those of Babylon, and, as a proof of it, ordered his queen to be brought in:
he commanded Mehuman, Biztha, Harbona, Bigtha, and Abagtha, Zethar, and Carcas, the seven chamberlains, that served in the presence of Ahasuerus the king; or "eunuchs", as the word is sometimes rendered; and such persons were made use of in the eastern countries to, wait upon women, and so were proper to be sent on the king's errand to the queen.
Est 1:12 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.
Most of the commentators commend Vashti for refusing to come before a drunken host naked just to please the vanity of the King. Some say it was against Persian custom for woman (especially the queen) to appear in public.
While these things may be true, we are not given all the details to make certain. We are told the King was drunk and wanted Vashti to come so he could show off her beauty. She refused the command of the King. Again we are not told how she refused, if it was a respectful decline or a snooty refusal. I guess we will have to await the resurrection of the dead in the Kingdom to find out.
Some ancient commentaries say he sent the chamberlains more than once to fetch her.
Est 1:13 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:
Est 1:14 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;)
Est 1:15 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?
While the King made a hasty command to call for the Queen to parade naked in front of his friends, he decided to talk to his lawyers before he made another hasty decision.
Est 1:16 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.
Est 1:17 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.
Est 1:18 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.
Here we see the real problem the others had. If Vashti disobeyed her husband, what would happen when the rest of the women of the country heard about and got the same bright idea? There would be utter chaos!
They were afraid their own wives would follow the example of the Queen, so they needed to teach Vashti a lesson.
Est 1:19 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.
The lawyers came up the King divorcing Vashti and finding a replacement.
Women of that era or area didn’t have a lot of rights and still don’t. It was a male dominated society and there is no true love of their wives. Woman’s sole object in life was to please the man and when that didn’t happen they would just get a new one.
We see even today how women are treated in that eastern society, the way they are made to dress and how a man or husband can kill a women and get away with it and even call it an “honor killing”.
Thank God for opening in the eyes of His people from the darkness that covers the land. There is neither male or female in God—that is we all have the same standing before the Creator and all get the same reward for their faithfulness (the woman does not get a lesser reward because she is a woman).
Est 1:20 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.
Est 1:21 And the saying pleased the king and the princes; and the king did according to the word of Memucan:
The men were not about to let a woman think she is more than a servant, so they came up with this political strategy to keep the woman down.
Est 1:22 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.
The divorce of the queen was a big deal. They sent letters to 127 provinces to try to squash the effects of the queen’s disobedience. From this we can see a little bit into the feast that Ahasuerus had. He probably had princes or nobles from these different provinces and they wanted to verdict to reach the provinces about the same time the news of Vashti’s disobedience to the King did.