Saturday, March 19, 2011
Esther Chapter 1
Esther Chapter 1-2:4
- The following events occur during the rule of King Xerxes. Xerxes ruled over 127 provinces stretching from India to Ethiopia.
- The Persian Empire was a HUGE kingdom. Reading up on this kingdom... it was kind of a short-lived empire. Only about 250 years... I guess that's not abnormal... but I hadn't really thought about it before...
- The Persians had a policy... they would take over a nation, and they would continue to give that nation independence of rule etc. IF the people would pay taxes to the Persian empire.
- The Persian empire was the largest of the ancient world. It stretched from modern-day Turkey and Egypt through Iraq and Iran all the way to the border of modern-day India.
- Our king Xerxes ruled from the fortress of Susa. Susa was one of the capitols of the Persian Empire. It was in the province of former Babylon and was about 200 miles southeast of the city of Babylon.
- In this city, Xerxes decided to have a banquet for all his nobles and officials. All the military officers of Persia and Media and of all the provinces under his rule. A LOT of people.
- This banquet, was not a day thing. This was a celebration that lasted 180 days. Can you imagine? I mean this was 180 days of partying. Who has that kind of time on their hands? I mean, this guy is in charge of the largest kingdom in the world at this time... and he decides that all his officers and nobles can take 180 days off with him to party. Let the kingdom run itself for a half a year while we all get drunk and eat ourselves silly...
- Good grief! I mean can you imagine feeding that many people party food for that long? Or supplying the wine and entertainment for a bunch of drunk guys for 180 days? And for that matter, after a while, wouldn't you get bored with the same old thing?
- Now I have a footnote that says that this party was all a ploy. It was really to plan for the invasion of Greece and to show that the king had sufficient wealth to carry out the warfare... however... who plans strategic warfare while drunk?...
- Well anyway, so at the end of the 180 days, the king decided to give a banquet for ALL the people of Susa. Rich or poor, in the courtyard. This one lasted for 7 days.
- The courtyard of the garden was decorated to the max. White cotton curtains, blue hangings, purple ribbons, silver rings, couches of gold and silver, and mosaic pavement beneath the feet made of costly stones... once again... showing off his wealth...
- Drinks were served in gold goblets of all shapes and sizes and designs. More wine was provided. No limits were placed on the drinking... So... all the common people got just as much as they wanted of the kings wine... lol oh boy... FREE WINE! Only time you're gonna get it... drink up!
- At the same time this was going on for all the men, Queen Vashti gave a banquet for all the women in the royal palace. Probably all the wives and women that the men had brought with them...
- On the seventh day, Xerxes is pretty drunk... he's feeling pretty good... and so he decides to show off his wife. He's shown off his cooks, his decorators, his servants, his entertainment, his wealth... now it's time to show off his other possession... So he sends his seven eunuchs in to get Vashti and bring her out with the royal crown on her head.
- “See what kind of trophy wife I have? Isn't she more beautiful than YOUR wives?”
- But when the men went in to get Vashti... she refused to come...
- So now we have a very powerful king... who is very drunk and very angry... Who has just been refused a direct order... in front of literally everyone. (I wonder if the guys were secretly laughing hysterically at the king... wonder how many of them suddenly needed to go to the bathroom... or suddenly saw a gorgeous flower over in the corner that they wanted to go investigate...)
- If indeed he was planning to go to battle against Greece and this was all a show of how great and powerful he was... this just killed everything he had worked for... His status in the eyes of all these men, just went down a notch... He can't even control his WIFE... how's he going to control an army?
- footnote- “A Persian king was thought to be a god by many of the people.” So if god couldn't control his wife... what kind of fate did that spell for the empire's military conquests and the empire's life in general?
- Pride ever gotten in your way? Have you ever felt like you were doing pretty good with your faith or your walk and then all of a sudden, the ground fell in beneath you? Did you respond in anger? Did you get defensive and blame someone around you for all your sudden problems?
- Proverbs 8:12-16; 16:5, 18; 21:4
- Mark 7:20-23
- I John 2:15-17
- Romans 1:18-32
- James 4:6-7
- Obadiah 1:3-4
- Xerxes immediately gets his wise advisers together to consult with them... they know all the laws... so what does he do with Vashti now? What penalty can we lay on her? The queen who refuses an order though properly sent through the eunuchs...
- I mean this could very well spell death for this woman... I mean yeah... the king was being a jerk... he was drunk and not thinking... Vashti didn't want to be paraded around as a possession... she didn't want to have to stand up in front of who knows how many drunk men and hear the cat calls and whistles and comments... I can understand that... however... to refuse the king himself? Did she really think she had enough influence over him that he'd be ok with that? Or maybe she hated her life so much that it was better to die and she was hoping for death? Was life that bad with the king?
- Whatever the reason... She either had a lot of guts (or arrogance)... or a death wish...
- So one of the advisers says, well, “Queen Vashti has wronged not only the king but also every noble citizen throughout your empire. Women everywhere will begin to despise their husbands when they learn that Queen Vashti has refused to appear before the king. Before this day is out, the wives of all the king's nobles throughout Persia and Media will hear what the queen did and will start treating their husbands the same way. There will be no end to their contempt and anger.”
- This does not look good for Vashti. But instead of demanding her execution... as all this feels like it should lead to... they just want to banish her from the king's presence. That's not so bad right? She just couldn't ever see the king again...
- All this leads me to believe the following:
1. Vashti had some influence over the king.... and possibly that the advisers were getting a little afraid of the extent of that influence...
2. The advisers knew that the king liked, maybe even truly loved Vashti.
3. In the king's drunken anger, they could maybe get by with suggesting banishment... but they didn't want to push their luck in asking for outright execution... which in that day and age, they very well could've done...
- In addition, the advisers put this little side note in that the law for Vashti's banishment would be a permanent law... which meant that not even the king himself could take the law off the books... He could make another law sort of... balancing out the first... but he couldn't remove the law. So once he makes the decree... Vashti's not coming back...
- If Vashti had influence over the king, and if the advisers were already a little afraid of that influence... and they convinced the king to banish her, but only for a little while... man when she came back she was gonna come back with a vengeance... on them. So to slip that in there and make it a permanent thing... protected them from the anger of Vashti later. Because if the king truly did love her, he was going to eventually take her back...
- And not only will Vashti not be coming back... but they made sure to put in there that the king would be picking a new queen... one to replace Vashti... ouch... add salt to the wound much?
- So the king thought this sounded pretty good, so he sent out letters to every part of the Persian empire proclaiming that “every man should be the ruler of his own home and should say whatever he pleases.”
- I have to say... I know this is just a product of the time... but the way this is stated (in my mind anyway) completely does away with the whole point of the marriage relationship. Marriage was not meant to be a possessive relationship. It was meant to be a partnership... Yeah I agree that the man is supposed to be the head of the family and supposed to be in charge... but not... in charge in a mean and nasty way... just... he's supposed to be a stronger force in the family unit. He's supposed to be the leader. He may be the king... but the wife's not the lowest servant... she's the top general or lead adviser... lol. Queen of equal status and just as much influence...
- Have you ever lashed out in anger at someone? Someone close to you? Ever wished you could take it back? Even in the middle of saying the words, you wish you hadn't even started? Do you ever feel like you can't go back because of pride? Or because people were watching and you have to stick by your decision or your words?
- In Matthew 5:21-26, Jesus is talking about anger and He says that “if you call someone an idiot (or a fool), you are in danger of being brought before the court.” And also if you get down to pray and remember that someone has something against you, to leave the altar and go be reconciled to that person. Then come back to pray.
- Unlike Xerxes we have a way to change the decree so to speak. When we lash out in anger, we don't have to feel like we can't ask for forgiveness or come to a place of reconciliation. God is a just God... and we need to have the same attitude of forgiveness not only for others, but for ourselves, that He has for us.
- Exodus 34:5-7
- Psalm 30; 78:32-39
- Ephesians 4:26-27
- James 1:19-27
- Proverbs 22:24-25
- After Xerxes got over the anger of the moment... and probably after he sobered up a little... He started thinking about Vashti and his decree... He couldn't take it back. He couldn't recant his decision.
- How much sorrow must there have been if he really did love her? The Targum (which is like... the Aramaic commentary on the Jewish portion of the bible) says that the king was so angry with the advisers who had convinced him to banish Vashti, that he ordered them to be killed.
- The attendants to Xerxes wanted to cheer him up. They see that he's depressed and regretting that he can't go back on his decree... so they remind him of the other part of his decree...
- “Let us search the empire to find beautiful young virgins for the king. Let the king appoint agents in each province to bring these beautiful young women into the royal harem.”
- Now what you don't really get from this portion or what isn't really explained fully, is that these girls, were to be taken from their families never to return. They would become part of the king's harem... along with all his other wives. Later we see that... they may or may not ever see the king again after that first night. This was a lonely life... but their families couldn't exactly refuse the king right?
- The girls were to be brought to Susa and Hegai, the king's eunuch in charge of the harem, would see to their beauty treatments etc. Then the one that most pleased the king would be made queen in Vashti's place.
- Now why the king didn't just make one of the women already in the harem the new queen... I don't know. I don't know why he had to search out to find someone new. Other than God needed Esther in that position and worked it out...
- But maybe the women already in the harem had already been through the process and somewhere along the line had been found to be lacking in queen material... Whatever the reason... all across the empire, from Egypt to India, young girls were gathered up and brought to the palace for the king.
- When we find that we are feeling down about a decision we made or an action that has caused pain in someone else, or has caused us to sin, or something that has caused a bad situation... and we know it's our fault... What kinds of things does Satan stick in front of us to “make us feel better”? When we get in those low places, we have to be careful what kind of advice we listen to. Sometimes it's easier to give in and look to something new and different to ease the pain in our hearts than it is to go back to God.
- As hard as it is sometimes to look to God for our relief from our sin... knowing that we are returning as a prodigal... that's exactly what we need to do. We have to bow our hearts before God and ask Him to forgive us for our human impulses.
- Does that mean it'll never happen again and we'll never act on an impulse again? no... but it does mean that we'll be more conscious of the possible consequences and that we'll be less likely to lash out and more likely to ask for more immediate forgiveness...
- Psalm 78, 86
- Colossians 1:9-14
- Philippians 3:12-14
- II Peter 1:3-11
- Isaiah 55
- Hosea 14
- Matthew 6:12-15
- Proverbs 17:9
- Romans 4:7-8