Esther: Part 1

Read: Esther 1:1-2:18

Before we get back to Ezra and Nehemiah, let’s pause and consider what’s happening back in the citadel of Susa, the mighty throne of King Xerxes. In Ezra 4, we read about the opposition writing letters to Xerxes and Artaxerxes, so it seems that Esther fits neatly around this point in Ezra’s narrative. Let’s begin the story of Esther as Xerxes celebrates the wonder of himself.

King Xerxes is throwing a serious party to celebrate his third year in power over a vast empire. This was to be a party no one would forget! After 180 days of showing off his accumulated wealth, he began the week of wine and entertainment with no limitations:

By the king’s command each guest was allowed to drink with no restrictions, for the king instructed all the wine stewards to serve each man what he wished. Esther 1:8

After seven days, the wine begins to speak within Xerxes and he commands his eunuchs to have Queen Vashti presented before his guests. The idea seems right to the man who’s had a week of drinking, but Vashti is not interested in being paraded in front of a group of men who have been partying for a week.

The king is outraged and asks his nobles for an appropriate response. My guess is that these nobles have been enjoying the party along with the king, so their response is probably not the best, but here you have their basis for action:

This very day the Persian and Median women of the nobility who have heard about the queen’s conduct will respond to all the king’s nobles in the same way. There will be no end of disrespect and discord. Esther 1:18

An edict with two provisions is sent out to the land, a law that cannot be repealed, whatever that really means:

  1. Vashti is never again to enter the presence of King Xerxes (Esther 1:19)
  2. every man should be ruler over his own household, using his native tongue (Esther 1:22)

My guess is #1 was for the king and #2 was primarily for the rest of the nobles.

After the wine wears off, the king has one of those moments where he realizes the above was a dumb idea, but he’s the king, so he can’t let anyone know! Vashti was most beautiful and is now outlawed from coming to him. In his brilliant mind, the next best thing is to have a beauty contest and find someone to replace her.

Esther was caught up in the collection of beautiful virgins.

Esther also was taken to the king’s palace and entrusted to Hegai, who had charge of the harem. She pleased him and won his favor. Esther 2:8-9

My guess is that Mordecai, the adoptive parent of Esther, gave her this advice as she was taken:

Esther had not revealed her nationality and family background, because Mordecai had forbidden her to do so. Esther 2:10

Esther played her part well, did what Hegai suggested, complied with all the beauty treatments, etc., and was finally presented to the king:

Now the king was attracted to Esther more than to any of the other women, and she won his favor and approval more than any of the other virgins. So he set a royal crown on her head and made her queen instead of Vashti. Esther 2:17

And so, Queen Esther is established. Let the story begin!

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