INTRODUCTION TO ESTHER CHAPTER 1
The party had been going on for 180 days. The tents had been erected supported by gold and silver pillars, fancy curtains made of linen and dyed purple, thousands were being served out of cups made of gold, the pavement was of precious stones, drink was on the house and no limit to the amount consumed; toward the end of the partying Ahasuerus sends for his beautiful wife to come and dance in front of his guests her refusal leads to a divorce.
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:)
Ahasuerus is the Hebrew name and Xerxes is the Greek name of this King. He ruled over 60 nations that stretched from India to Ethiopia.
2 That in those days, when the king Ahasuerus sat on the throne of his kingdom, which was in Shushan the palace,
In the time of Daniel, Susa was in the possession of the Babylonians, to whom Elam had probably passed at the division of the Assyrian empire, made by Cyaxares and Nabopolassar. The conquest of Babylon by Cyrus transferred Susa to the Persian dominion; and it was not long before the King determined to make it the capital of their whole empire, and the chief place of his own residence. The ruins of Shushan or Susa are about three miles in circumference. The great central hall was supposed to be 343 feet long and 244 feet wide. The kings gate where Mordecai sat was located near the entry and everyone had to pass thru this security entry room in order to gain entry to the palace. The ruins cover about 4940 acres; however the extent of the city itself covered an estimated 37,000 acres.
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:
In 483 B.C., Xerxes assembled the governors of provinces at Susa, in connection with his contemplated expedition against Greece. They probably paraded their war machine thru the city much like what we see today on television by the North Koreans.
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.
This kingdom had looted other nations and was rich beyond words. The feasting and partying went on for six months. They were laying plans to invade Greece.
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;
After 180 days this flamboyant grandiose affair climaxes with a 7 day feast. It was a super, ostentatious affair.
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.
White and blue were the colors of the Persians and the halls and porches were decorated with the royal colors. It was the custom of the Persians to recline on couches while dining and this custom was adopted by the Jews who had spent much time in Persia. The patio was paved with the most expensive mosaic of marble, mother-of-pearl and precious stones.
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.
All the gold cups were hand made by the finest artisans and no duplicates. This wine was probably the wine of Helbon spoken of in Ezekiel 27:18. This wine was the wine of the rich and was supposed to be the best that money could buy. There was no shortage of wine so everyone could drink all he desired.
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.
The Greek historian Herodotus wrote that the Persians “are very fond of wine, and drink it in large quantities . . . It is also their general practice to deliberate upon affairs of weight when they are drunk . . . Sometimes, however, they are sober at their first deliberation, but in this case they always reconsider the matter under the influence of wine.” When the master of ceremony raised his cup to drink each guest was obliged to keep the round, or leave the company: hence the proverb drink-or-be-gone. However, the king said that the drinking should be to every man’s pleasure and that no one should be compelled to drink.
9 Also Vashti the queen made a feast for the women in the royal house which belonged to king Ahasuerus.
Over at the royal house the queen was having a feast for her friends.
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,
This drinking party had been in full swing for a whole week and the king was under the influence of wine so he calls seven chamberlains (seven eunuchs NASB) these castrated men were in a high level of trust and attended to the harem.
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.
They were sent to the queen’s feast to request the presence of the queen at her husband’s party. Her husband has been on a week long binge and in his drunken state wants to show off his beautiful wife. The Targum adds naked. The Targums are interpretive renderings of the books of the Hebrew Scriptures. In synagogue services the reading of the Scriptures was followed by a translation into the Aramaic vernacular of the populace.
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.
Vashti refuses to show up for the men’s party! This produces panic among the nobility─they are worried about women having a mind of their own so they have the king to issue an irrevocable decree thus putting women in their place. Vashti is to be commended for possessing prudence and modesty and not wanting to expose herself to this bunch of drunken men.
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:
These men are astrologers who by the zodiac predicted the future so they are asked by the king to give their judgment on the matter of Vashti refusing to come to the king’s party.
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;)
These 7 men are the king’s counselors or advisers and they were his handlers so their advice is sought in the matter.
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?
It is interesting to note that this weak king seeks the advice of his councilors regarding a personal matter with his wife refusing to show herself to this bunch of drunken Persians.
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.
The advisors tell the king that this will get out and will ruin the men because their wives will no longer respect what they say.
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.
They want to make sure that no woman makes light of what her husband says. Her example must not be tolerated. They want the king to make her an example by removing her as the Queen.
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.
This amounted to a divorce and the queen would lose her privilege as the wife of the king. They are going to take extreme measures to stop this “woman’s right movement.” These officials are afraid that when the wives of the princess’s get wind of this insolence that they will get out of control. They are telling this drunken king that the country doesn’t need a bunch of women who don’t know their place.
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 king is urged to take immediate action and that it be made a law of the Mead’s and Persians, revoking her rights as queen and banning her from the king’s presence. They urge the king to get another woman to be queen and it should be one who knows her place.
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.
They get the king to issue an irrevocable decree to keep women in their place─that is wherever, whenever, or whatever their husbands want them to be!
21 And the saying pleased the king and the princes; and the king did according to the word of Memucan:
The proposal met with unanimous approval and the lawyers are instructed to prepare the document for the king’s signature.
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 king does as his advisors instruct him and it’ s duplicated—translated—and mailed to every city and province in the empire from India in the East to Asia Minor to Greece in the West and including Egypt and some of coastal Africa to the South. As we view that part of the world today you will see the same treatment of women. Today it imprisons women under the burqas and makes girls marry strangers against their will, forces women into polygamous marriages, mutilates their genitals, forbids them to drive cars and subjects them to the humiliation of “instant” divorce.