Summary: Looking at the splendour and power of the Persian king, the author set the stage for his readers to appreciate the work of the unseen King who rules.
Last week Michael gave us an overview of the book of Esther. Let’s recap the timeline.
Cyrus (559-530) Ezra 1:1 – 1st year of his reign over Babylon, allowed Jews to return
Zerubbabel led the first returnees in 538 BC
Started rebuilding altar/Temple but halted until 2nd yr Darius (Ezra 4:24)
Completed 6th year (6:15). Stopped 16 years.
Darius (521-486) (Haggai and Zechariah ministered, encouraged rebuilding of Temple)
Ahasuerus* (485-464) ESTHER in Persia Susa, became queen 479 BC (7th year of Xerxes)
Artaxerxes (464-424) Ezra 7:7 returns (7th yr of reign) 458 BC sent by King
Neh 2:1 returns (20th yr of reign) 445 BC request granted by King
* NIV uses Xerxes (Greek), KJV, NASB, ESV uses Ahasuerus (Hebrew) ah har su air res
The author set the stage for us to understand what God has done.
• 1:1-2 This is what happened during the time of Xerxes, the Xerxes who ruled over 127 provinces stretching from India to Cush (Ethiopia): 2At that time King Xerxes reigned from his royal throne in the citadel of Susa…
• [Show map] It’s the greatest empire of the known world then. Read Esther 1:3-8.
Although we do not know the author is, we can tell he is someone familiar with the Persian court, referring to the customs and events as though he knew it from the inside.
• Looking at what God has already done, the author writes “this is what happened during the time of Xerxes…” to tell the Jewish remnant (his readers) how God has delivered them (His people) from an almost certain extermination.
• And this deliverance is now commemorated as the yearly Festival of Purim, when they read through this entire story.
The author made an effort to paint the detailed backdrop to this and help us appreciate God’s work.
• The Persian kingdom was huge and powerful, stretching from India (E) to Ethiopia (Cush) below Egypt, covering over 127 provinces, including Judah.
• We see in this opening chapter the splendour and the power of the Persian King.
• The King held an empire-wide banquet for all his nobles and officials, military leaders and governors, lasting 180 days (6 months) and showing off his great wealth and glory.
Greek historian Herodotus said this was likely a gathering where the king garnered support and made plans for his military campaign against Greece, which they lost.
• He said Persia’s wealth and magnificence wowed even Alexander the Great, when he entered the palace of Susa more than a century later.
• He found 40,000 talents of gold and silver bullion (1,200 tons) and 9,000 talents of minted coins (270 tons) which had been accumulated by the Persian kings.
Verse 5 says after this long banquet, there was another one that lasted 7 days, meant only for the people of Susa.
• It was held in the garden of the king's palace and the author took extra efforts to describe the sights to us.
• Even the goblets of gold they used to serve wine are mentioned and that each one is different from the other.
• They had free-flowing royal wine in abundance. Everyone is free to drink to his own delight.
Be impressed. It’s meant to impress. The author seems to be at a loss of words trying to describe the scene. It’s the awesome display of the splendour of the king!
And then the author went on to tell us about the king’s power. Read Esther 1:9-22.
Queen Vashti, the King’s wife, was at another banquet with the women.
• Her husband was intoxicated by the heavy drinking and asked for her to come over, “in order to display her beauty to the people and nobles.” (1:11)
• It wasn’t a proper context and Queen Vashti wisely refused, under such a circumstance.
• No reason was given. It wasn’t important. It set in motion what God wanted.
The King went into a rage and consulted his wise men what to do (or not so wise men).
• Memucan, one of the wise men, makes a mountain out of a molehill. What appears to be a two-person issue was suddenly escalated into a crisis of empire-wide proportions.
• “Everyone will hear of the Queen’s behaviour and do the same. Better to issue a decree and stop this.”
• The edict was passed. Vashti was barred from the King. She would be replaced. And all women are to respect their husbands, throughout the empire. (1:20)
The King could not get his Queen to listen to him (and that because he showed no respect for her), and now he ordered all women to respect their husbands.
• He is ordering his empire to do what he cannot accomplish in his own palace.
Despite these blunders, the reality remains. The king rules. He is the law. No one is above him. Power is in his hands.