Studies in the Book of Esther Chapter 1: The Invitation of the King

By I Gordon

Introduction
When I wrote my study on the book of Ruth1, I started by saying that it was a fantastic book that ‘had it all – well, apart from a nasty villain, but we can’t ask for everything.’ Well, I can now tell you that I have found you the particularly nasty villain you have been desperate for. You asked for him... and now you’ve got him! His dastardly deeds are very prominent within this book of Esther as we shall soon see. Now, in many ways this is that study series I never thought I would write! Not because it is not worthy of study... Not at all! But mainly because Major Ian Thomas’ book ‘If I perish, I perish’ basically wrecked this book for me. ‘Wrecked’ in a very good way I should add. You see, after reading Thomas’ book, it is near on impossible, in my humble view, to get anything better and if you have limited time feel free to put this study down and go and find that one!2 If you are still with me however, I had better say a little in this introduction about this unique book and the way I will present the study. Let me say at the start that the book of Esther is unique. One very noticeable aspect is that it is the only book in the Bible that doesn’t mention God!3 Now that is rather odd wouldn’t you agree? Especially for a book that is God-breathed! And yet in the events of this book we see the workings of the invisible God as He acts in providence on behalf of His people. Not only that, but we see some remarkable types and illustrations of both gospel and prophetic truth that are the signature of the Almighty God upon the books in the Old Testament. So that is what I will be concentrating on in these studies. Both the events and characters in the book of Esther will provide useful insight into the Christian life as well as the things to come. A most interesting little book indeed!4 The background to the book
Esther 1:1-2 Now it took place in the days of Ahasuerus, the Ahasuerus who reigned from India to Ethiopia over 127 provinces, in those days as King Ahasuerus sat on his royal throne which was at the citadel in Susa…

While the author of the book of Esther is uncertain, some have suggested that it may have been written by Mordecai (a character we will become acquainted with later in the book) somewhere around 465 BC. According to the Ryrie Study Bible the events of this book cover a 10 year period (483-473 BC) during the reign of Xerxes I (486-465 BC). Ahasuerus, mentioned
1

Apart from Esther, Ruth is the only other book in the Bible named after a female. Not sure what you can do with that fact though and it is fair to say that this particular footnote isn’t going to change much in your life!
2

You can download a pdf copy here: http://www.amcbryan.btinternet.co.uk/perish.pdf

3

J. Vernon McGee, in his introduction to this book writes: ‘The Book of Esther in one sense is the most remarkable in the Bible, and that is because the name of God is not mentioned in this book at all. There is not even a divine title or pronoun that refers to God. Yet the heathen king is mentioned 192 times. Prayer is not mentioned—it wouldn't be, since God is omitted. The Book of Esther is never quoted in the New Testament. There's not even a casual reference to it. But the superstition of the heathen is mentioned, and lucky days, and we'll be introduced into a pagan, heathen court of a great world monarch who ruled over the then-known world. This is indeed an unusual book.’
4

Boy... The fourth footnote already and I haven’t even got out of the introduction! Ooops. But I did want to acknowledge from the start some useful resources that have helped in my study of Esther. First and foremost, as already mentioned, is ‘If I perish, I perish’. This looks at the book of Esther as an allegory of the Christian life where Haman stands for the flesh, Mordecai the Holy Spirit, Esther the human spirit and King Ahazuerus as the soul of man. Brilliant. Some of the prophetic insights in this study have been drawn from notes in ‘the Annotated Bible’ by A Gaebelin and the outline presented by J. Sidlow Baxter in Explore the Book.

Shushan is the Hebrew name and means "lily. there was no compulsion. and the royal wine was plentiful according to the king's bounty. It derives its name from its principal character. It is worth pausing at this stage to think about our King . (7) Drinks were served in golden vessels of various kinds. Esther. 1). so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.)” 6 For other references check out Psalm 145:5 which tells us to meditate on God’s glory.. marble.. (Eph 3:16-17) 6 Just as all were invited to the kings banquet in Esther’s day." Ahasuerus held court in Shushan (Susa. Had you lived 2500 years ago in Susa. (Xerxes came to power in 486 BC. It is an 5 The Believers Bible Commentary says the following concerning the Background and theme to the book: “The events in this book took place between the sixth and seventh chapters of Ezra. 8). God. mother-of-pearl and precious stones. not exactly. That is why Paul wrote: To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you. (4) And he displayed the riches of his royal glory and the splendor of his great majesty for many days. during the reign of Ahasuerus (Xerxes). means "star" and may have been derived from the goddess Ishtar. NASB). displays the riches of His glory in what He does in and through our lives. For more background info check out the fine print.above in Bible quotation above is the Hebrew form of his name. means "myrtle. Now obviously this was just a small humble affair with a few guests because the king didn’t want to flaunt his wealth and power in the people noses right? Well. But we would have made the second one! This was a 7 day banquet for everyone and involved the finest of what the king could display – ‘hangings of fine white and violet linen held by cords of fine purple linen on silver rings and marble columns. Esther. Nehemiah served there after Esther's day (Neh.’ Plus a fair amount of wine. This one was for the ‘upper class’ and included the princes. So the King of Medo-Persia decided to give a banquet. the hope of glory. her Hebrew name. like me. for so the king had given orders to each official of his household that he should do according to the desires of each person. Though most refuse the invitation it is still open to all. the orphan girl who became queen. and Babylon. so all are invited to receive of the riches of God’s glory today. 180 days . NKJV marg. Hadassah. His glory is His grace. majesty and splendour. nobles and army offices. and couches of gold and silver on a mosaic pavement of porphyry. Persian style Esther 1:3-8 in the third year of his reign he gave a banquet for all his princes and attendants. the first of which lasted a mere 180 days.5 Party time. the others being Achmetha (Ecbatana. the army officers of Persia and Media. marble.. mother-of-pearl and precious stones. (8) The drinking was done according to the law. her Persian name. the nobles and the princes of his provinces being in his presence. 3. (6) There were hangings of fine white and violet linen held by cords of fine purple linen on silver rings and marble columns. In what ways does He display ‘the riches of His glory’? Have you read about that term in the New Testament? Do you know what it relates to? In contrast to the king of Medo-Persia. Actually. in this age. from the greatest to the least. character and nature and these riches are encapsulated in a person – Jesus Christ – whom God has given to all that believe in Him. See also Eph 1:18 and Phil 4:19 . in the court of the garden of the king's palace. there is a good chance that you. It is there that our story takes place. would have waited in vain for the invitation to this party.). beginning in the year 483 BC. king of Persia. one of three principal capital cities in Persia. the king gave a banquet lasting seven days for all the people who were present at the citadel in Susa. The book is concerned with those Jews who decided to remain in Babylon rather than go back to Jerusalem with the small remnant that returned to Jerusalem under Zerubbabel (Ezra 2)." The Prophet Daniel spent time there (Dan..The King of kings that is. not at all! He wanted to flaunt his power and wealth and ‘display the glory of his riches’ so he gave a couple of banquets. (Col 1:27) I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being. (5) When these days were completed. chapter 1 opens in the third year of his reign—v... and couches of gold and silver on a mosaic pavement of porphyry.

and the king did as Memucan proposed. that every man should be the master in his own house and the one who speaks in the language of his own people. is striped of her position as queen. those that have accepted His invitation in this age and are fellow heirs with the Son. Milquetoast. who is our life. Bigtha. The female-rights movement is quickly squashed Esther 1:13-22 Then the king said to the wise men who understood the times. great as it is. she is refused entry into the king’s presence. So the furious king asks his ‘wise men’ what should be done to the queen for refusing his invitation.’ (Rom 8:21). when the heart of the king was merry with wine. "Something must be done to protect our homes in this matter. let a royal edict be issued by him and let it be written in the laws of Persia and Media so that it cannot be repealed. 7 McGee writes: “There is also the story about the man who told the people in his office that his wife said that he was a model husband. That is what Memucan was. The third banquet was one held by Queen Vashti. Harbona. for we know that ‘when Christ. and letters are sent to each of the kings providences advising that it is the man that is master in the household! And note that this decree. He was henpecked. Instead she said. A "model. He said loud and clear.. He told this to a hard-boiled secretary and she did not commend him.” . because she did not obey the command of King Ahasuerus delivered by the eunuchs?" (16) In the presence of the king and the princes.."According to law. Then the king became very angry and his wrath burned within him. Abagtha. (11) to bring Queen Vashti before the king with her royal crown in order to display her beauty to the people and the princes. wives throughout the kingdom will rise up and rebel against their husbands! He is possibly being a little bit melodramatic there with that conclusion but the king isn’t in the mood for mercy and agrees. And the true extent of the riches of the glory of God will be displayed through God’s people." And actually it was a real crisis because the king and queen set an example for the kingdom. Memucan said. (17) "For the queen's conduct will become known to all the women causing them to look with contempt on their husbands . Fair enough too! Some say it was the custom of the day to have separate banquets and given the events of the men’s party I can see why! And yet a problem arose on the last day when the drunken king called for the queen to come and display ‘her beauty’ before all these men! Would you want to be ‘gawked’ at by a room full of men who had been drinking for 7 days? Rightly or wrongly (and I can understand why she would NOT want to go!) Vasti refused. to each province according to its script and to every people according to their language. (10) On the seventh day. then all women will give honor to their husbands.. great and small. And Memucan.. (12) But Queen Vashti refused to come at the king's command delivered by the eunuchs. for she was beautiful. Biztha. the seven eunuchs who served in the presence of King Ahasuerus. Zethar and Carkas.invitation to participate in a banquet feast and a kingdom where even creation itself shall be ‘free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. People. There’s trouble a-brewin’. is revealed.’ (Col 3:4) The third banquet Esther 1:9-12 Queen Vashti also gave a banquet for the women in the palace which belonged to King Ahasuerus. and let the king give her royal position to another who is more worthy than she. (19) "If it pleases the king. seizing upon the opportunity7. that Vashti may no longer come into the presence of King Ahasuerus. even queens. then you also will be revealed with Him in glory. suggests that this may not be an isolated incident and if left unchecked. what is to be done with Queen Vashti." He took her advice. (22) So he sent letters to all the king's provinces. Oh dear. written in the laws of Persia and Media cannot be altered or repealed. (20) "When the king's edict which he will make is heard throughout all his kingdom. and you won't be so proud of it. was a small imitation of the real thing. don’t tend to refuse the kings of Medo-Persia and get away with it. he commanded Mehuman. because of her refusal to go to the kings’ banquet feast. "Why don't you look up the word model in the dictionary." (21) This word pleased the king and the princes. So Vashti. he was Mr. "Queen Vashti has wronged not only the king but also all the princes and all the peoples who are in all the provinces of King Ahasuerus. She held a banquet for the women of the palace and it seems that they were pretty keen to keep some distance from the drunken party the men were having." he found out.

God displays the glory of His grace. And that is the context of the next chapter for it involves the selection and preparation of the one who shall be queen! It too gives us insight into gospel truths surrounding our preparation as the bride of Christ. She is put away. which belongs only to the Lord Himself. It reminds us of the parable of our Lord. YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS. How many there are who refuse the gospel invitation because they love their own things best. Lord. but for food that endures to eternal life. "The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent. and in Your name cast out demons. The great feast which he made reminds us of another feast which the Lord has spread. and in Your name perform many miracles?' "And then I will declare to them.8 Some believe that those who reject God in this life will be given another chance in the next.’ . And this is the sinner's fate who refuses to obey the gospel of Jesus Christ.. And yet those that refuse will in like manner be banished from His presence in an act that cannot be overturned or repealed. is now inviting all that will come to his banquet feast to honour His Son. While the Persian king displayed the glories of his great kingdom.' Now the above verse has been known to scare even true Christians. so God wants all men to be saved and offers the riches of His grace without money and without price. But that’s next time! 8 Gaebelin writes: ‘The Persian king claimed the title King of Kings. Now is the day of grace! If a person dies having refused God’s invitation to come then they will be sent from His presence on the day of judgement. which the Son of Man will give you. and they shall NEVER perish!’ But it should act as a clear warning to those who trust in the things they do and not in what Jesus DID. and the bidden guests who made excuses for not coming. She had her own feast. The queen is banished and a new bride will have to be found. Those that do the will of God will enter heaven and the Bible tells us what the ultimate will of the Father is for mankind. a symbol of the gospel. On him God the Father has placed his seal of approval. In Vashti we see a type of the refusal of the invitation. the God of heaven and earth.. never to return.. but to come. The Bible does not teach that. with no other conditions." Conclusion Chapter 1 is about the invitation to the banquet and the refusal of Vashti to come. Now is the day of salvation. Matthew 7:21-23 "Not everyone who says to Me.An illustration of this is given to us in the New Testament for the true King. As Ahasuerus invited all to come to his feast. "What must we do to do the works God requires?" Jesus answered. And Vashti is banished. This is not true believers of whom Jesus says ‘I KNOW my sheep. she would not come. which she probably would not leave. did we not prophesy in Your name. 'Lord.' will enter the kingdom of heaven. but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.. We do not have to be unsure concerning this. DEPART FROM ME. "Many will say to Me on that day. 'I never knew you. Those that accept find the richest of God’s grace and blessing upon their lives just the inhabitants of the Persian kingdom who came to the banquet found an abundance of the king’s provision. It shouldn’t for it concerns those that Jesus ‘NEVER knew’." Then they asked him. She had been invited to come and grace the feast with her presence. in which He speaks of the great supper. It was the very thing that the disciples wanted to know and asked of the Lord Jesus and was answered emphatically: John 6:27-29 Do not work for food that spoils. Lord. 'Lord.

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