Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Book of Esther 4

The Book of Esther 
Esther 2:1-7

After these things, when the wrath of king Ahasuerus was appeased, he remembered Vashti, and what she had done, and what was decreed against her. Then said the king's servants that ministered unto him, Let there be fair young virgins sought for the king:  And let the king appoint officers in all the provinces of his kingdom, that they may gather together all the fair young virgins unto Shushan the palace, to the house of the women, unto the custody of Hege the king's chamberlain, keeper of the women; and let their things for purification be given them: And let the maiden which pleaseth the king be queen instead of Vashti. And the thing pleased the king; and he did so.

 Now in Shushan the palace there was a certain Jew, whose name was Mordecai, the son of Jair, the son of Shimei, the son of Kish, a Benjamite;  Who had been carried away from Jerusalem with the captivity which had been carried away with Jeconiah king of Judah, whom Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon had carried away. And he brought up Hadassah, that is, Esther, his uncle's daughter: for she had neither father nor mother, and the maid was fair and beautiful; whom Mordecai, when her father and mother were dead, took for his own daughter.

After These Things
Xerxes, or as we know him, Ahasuerus, went off to war with Greece from 481-479 BC. World History teaches us that he lost a naval battle off Salamis and was driven out in utter defeat. It was during these bad times Xerxes, Ahasuerus, began longing for the most beautiful of his harem, Vashti. Vashti had been banned from his presence and this brought fear to his advisers. Not only would restoring Vashti as Queen threaten them, but seeking ways to nullify the decree would take away their public influence. They proposed a beauty pageant and every candidate would spend a year making ready to meet the king. This matter pleased the king and they did as was devised and continued in their scheme.
Mordecai, a Benjamite of Saul's descendants, Kish is now introduced. This new character, being a Jew from the tribe of Benjamin, has been employed in the imperial court as a nobleman of Judah being among the fourth generation of deported Jews. Mordecai had raised his younger cousin as his own daughter since her parents death and was now supporting Esther in the up-coming appointment with the king. Esther was described as not only having a grand physical beauty, but an exceptional feminine grace that captured one’s heart.
Thoughts: Turmoil, defeat and maybe some depression had gripped the heart of King Ahasuerus. He had lost his queen, been utterly humiliated in battle against Greece and now was contemplating reuniting himself with Vashti. Loss is very devastating and to those who have suffered such deprivation there is only One who can ease and console the heart of man, that is our Lord. Did King Ahasuerus have a personal relationship with God? I am of the impression, he did not. Where would he get support or comfort? Fallen man fills his mind and heart with everything and anything he thinks that will cheer or reassure him in the disappointments of life. A beauty contest and the thought of a new relationship appeared to bring relief to the heart of King Ahasuerus, for a time. 
When looking for comfort and assurance of love, look to the One who loves you above all else, and remember the words from the Apostle Paul who said: Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.   Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:30-39)

Saturday, February 19, 2011

The Book of Esther 3

The Book of Esther 
Esther 1:10-22

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, 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. 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.

 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: 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;)  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? 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.  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.  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.  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.

 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.  And the saying pleased the king and the princes; and the king did according to the word of Memucan: 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 Defied
The banquet hall at Shushan the palace was impressively beautiful with such magnificent furnishings. The King had provided food at this banquet which was sumptuous and extravagant with the over abundance of wine to be indulged as one saw fit. When the king’s heart was merry with much wine, he requested the presence of Queen Vashti (his most beautiful and prized possession) to come before his guests to show her beauty; for she was fair to look on. Queen Vashti, for reasons we do not know, refused to obey the command of the king causing him to become very angry with her disregard for his authority.
Some have said that she was with child (Artaxerxes) and did not wish to come before the people in this manner. Usually, Persian queens ate at the king’s table; but, Queen Vashti was engaged in having her own banquet for the women of the kingdom and must have feared for her dignity in front of this drunken group. Nonetheless, she did go against the desires of the king of Persia and in doing so, brought condemnation upon herself. The queen’s conduct would be known to all women of the kingdom as an example that none would repeat such defiance to their husbands especially when it came to the king and his seven princes in counsel. The Law of the Medes and Persians could not be repealed, and Queen Vashti would no longer be allowed to come before the king.
The king was instructed by Memucan, one of the seven princes, to turn the royal family’s affair into a public and national crisis and send out a proclamation to all the land that every man should be the master of his own house and through this proclamation it would achieve the desired submission. In this royal decree, the king included a bill of divorcement to Queen Vashti banishing her from the royal palace and his presence. Strong consideration was conveyed to all women discouraging them from any thought or act of defiance against their husbands.
The Persian Empire had a great communication system; something like our “Pony Express” was used to send the message from the king to all the people.  The decree was written in every known language, given to all the people in the king’s providences, and to every people in the surrounding areas.
Thought:  Much speculation has been given why Queen Vashti defied her husband, the king, and did not come before him when he summonsed her. Although we cannot condone a wife’s unwillingness to be submissive to her husband, it is fair to to say, we can understand her reluctance and defiance with regards to the drunken state of her husband and those in his company. All seems quite unfair for Queen Vashti, but God, in His providential care, used this very plan to bring into view a young Jewish woman that would inevitably change the heart of the king in history.