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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Don Smith :: Esther - The Study of Providence

Don Smith :: The Study of Providence - Esther 1

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Exposition of Esther - Chapter One

How Was God’s Providence at Work in the Days of Ahasuerus, King of Persia?

  1. God Established the Kingdom of Ahasuerus – Esther 1:1-9
    1. Esther 1:1 “Now it came to pass in the days of Ahasuerus…” (His rule is alluded to in Ezra 4:6).
      • It is a classic Hebraism, a common way of introducing the providential history of the Jews.
      • By His providence, God raises up and takes down earthly rulers to accomplish His ordained purposes.
      • 1 Chronicles 29:11-12 – “Yours, O LORD, is the greatness, the power and the glory, the victory and the majesty; For all that is in heaven and in earth is Yours; Yours is the kingdom, O LORD, And You are exalted as head over all. Both riches and honor come from You, and You reign over all. In Your hand is power and might; In Your hand it is to make great.”
      • 2 Chronicles 20:6-7 – “O LORD God of our fathers, are You not God in heaven, and do You not rule over all the kingdoms of the nations, and in Your hand is there not power and might, so that no one is able to withstand You?”
      • Romans 13:1-4 – “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. For he is God's servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God's servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.”
      • The king was a proud, pompous, impetuous man who was intoxicated with earthly power.
      • He inherited great wealth and power from his father Darius, who had conquered Egypt and completed its canal.
      • After the third year of his reign (B.C. 483), he also completed the construction of great royal palaces, wonderful hanging gardens and a magnificent capital acropolis begun by his father.
      • His rule of 127 provinces from India to Ethiopia included Judah (Nehemiah 1:2).
    2. Esther 1:2 –Ahasuerus proudly sat on his throne in Shushan/Susa, while God was on His eternal throne in Heaven
      • Everything in the capital was designed and constructed to exalt him as bigger-than-life—deity.
      • The king wished to display his majesty, wealth and power to impress the nobles and princes of his empire.
      • To consolidate his ultimate rule over his extensive kingdom, Ahasuerus called for an opulent royal feast to impress the world.
      • He sent out an edict for the provincial leaders and nobility of Media and Persia to come to Susa to attend a six-month celebration of his rule and kingdom.
    3. Esther 1:3-4
      • Xerxes sent out an edict at the end of BC 483 (third year of his rule, which began in BC 485) to princes, governors, nobility, servants (like Nehemiah), wise men and sorcerers (like Daniel), military generals and commanders to convene for a banquet in his own honor.
      • It was a conspicuous display of regal wealth and power to exalt his authority and consolidate his rule over his widespread kingdom
      • He may have also used this time (180 days) for planning the invasion of Greece, which took place four years later in BC 481 and was later defeated in BC 480
      • Esther came to the throne in BC 479 (seventh year of the king), 2 years after the king’s defeat.
    4. Esther 1:5-8
      • At the end of the prolonged 180-day feast, the king invited the populace of Suza to join the festivities for another week long celebration.
      • To hold the multitudes, the king held this extravagant feast outside in a beautiful in a beautiful garden hung with fresh flowers and lush trees.
      • Black and white marble colonnades draped in brightly colored banners provided a regal setting.
      • There were specially made reclining couches and tables for serving sumptuous foods and delicacies imported from each of the provinces in his vast empire.
      • Thousands of silver and gold cups, each individually designed and crafted, were filled with the king’s rarest and finest collection of wines.
      • He also made a royal edict that every guest could drink as much or as little as their hearts desired.
    5. Esther 1:9
      • Queen Vashti also hosted a separate feast for women in the king’s royal palace.
      • This made it possible not only to host such a large mixed multitude but also a way to cater to the tastes of both men and women.
  2. God Used the King’s Foolish Demands for God’s Good Purposes – Esther 1:10-12
    1. Esther 1:10 – God directs the heart and path of man
      • On the last day of the week the king’s heart was “merry” (drunk) with wine.
      • The fool drinks to excess and to his destruction.
      • Proverbs 16:9 – “A man’s heart plans his way, But the LORD directs his steps.”
      • Proverbs 21:1 – “The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD, like the rivers of water; He turns it wherever He wishes.”
    2. The wisdom of King Solomon warns of this inclination of kings
      • Proverbs 31:4-7 “It is not for kings, O Lemuel, It is not for kings to drink wine, Nor for princes intoxicating drink; Lest they drink and forget the law, And pervert the justice of all the afflicted. Give strong drink to him who is perishing, And wine to those who are bitter of heart. Let him drink and forget his poverty, And remember his misery no more.”
      • Solomon also cautions all who drink wine.
      • Proverbs 20:1 – “Wine is a mocker, strong drink is a brawler, and whoever is led astray by it is not wise.”
      • Proverbs 21:17 – “He who loves pleasure will be a poor man; He who loves wine and oil will not be rich.”
      • Proverbs 23:29-35 – “Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has contentions? Who has complaints? Who has wounds without cause? Who has redness of eyes? Those who linger long at the wine, those who go in search of mixed wine. Do not look on the wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup, when it swirls around smoothly; At the last it bites like a serpent, and stings like a viper. Your eyes will see strange things, and your heart will utter perverse things. Yes, you will be like one who lies down in the midst of the sea, or like one who lies at the top of the mast, saying: ‘They have struck me, but I was not hurt; They have beaten me, but I did not feel it. When shall I awake, that I may seek another drink?’”
    3. Esther 1:11-12 – The actions of a drunken king
      • The drunken king commanded his seven eunuchs, who served in his presence, to appear.
      • These eunuchs were male servants castrated, so they could serve him and not be inclined to intrude upon his harem and concubines.
      • The king ordered his beautiful Queen to make a guest appearance or show off at the men’s feast wearing her royal crown.
      • When Vashti received her husband’s edict she flat out said, “No way!”
      • Some say she refused his request as a demonstration of her resentment of his foolish ways.
      • Others suggest she was being ordered to parade around, perhaps in suggestive ways, to a crowd of drunken, yelling men.
      • Whatever he reasons, she made it clear she would disobey the king’s edict.
      • Obedience to every whim or law of the king was expected.
      • To refuse usually meant death.
      • The king was furious and consumed with a burning anger.
      • Her defiance was not only a rejection of his spousal and royal authority but a public embarrassment to the king who had a raging party of men waiting to behold his wife.
      • If he couldn’t make her do what he wanted, how could he expect to make any man or woman obey his word throughout his vast kingdom?
  3. God Used the Foolish Wisdom of Men for His Good Purposes – Esther 1:13-22
    1. Scripture explains the concurrence of man’s foolishness with God’s good providence the following way:
      • Proverbs 12:15-16 – “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but he who heeds counsel is wise. A fool’s wrath is known at once, but a prudent man covers shame.”
      • Proverbs 19:10 – “Luxury is not fitting for a fool, Much less for a servant to rule over princes.”
      • Proverbs 29:2 – “Do you see a man hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him.”
      • Proverbs 30:21-23 – “For three things the earth is perturbed, Yes, for four it cannot bear up: For a servant when he reigns, A fool when he is filled with food, A hateful woman when she is married, And a maidservant who succeeds her mistress.”
      • 1 Corinthians 1:27-30 – “But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence.”
    2. Esther 1:13-15
      • As was the practice of the king in times of making edicts, he consulted with his trusted seers, stargazers and astrologers, “those who supposedly understood the times” (like Joseph and Daniel).
      • With a blushing red face, the king asked them, “What shall we do to the Queen?”
      • The issue was troubling to him and others.
      • Since she defied his royal decree, she was breaking the Law of the Persians and the Medes.
      • This was the unquestionable, unalterable law of the king.
      • To do this was death.
      • Also, since she refused his command, she had publicly disgraced him and threatened his authority throughout his kingdom.
    3. Esther 1:16-20
      • Memucan, one of the so-called wise men, tried to articulate the charges against Vashti.
      • He argued that the Queen not only wronged the king but every prince and man in the kingdom.
      • Then he extrapolated the kinds of effects of her offense on the kingdom.
      • She had certainly threatened the king’s reputation, but also the authority of husbands throughout the kingdom.
      • The women of the kingdom might rise up and cause excessive contempt and wrath in marriages everywhere.
      • Memucan then made a recommendation for the king’s consideration.
      • He suggested that the king make another binding edict that couldn’t be altered.
      • He would give Vashti’s royal position to “another who is better than she.”
      • God opens the door to place His chosen woman to serve His purposes, unknown to her and to all.
      • The law would be circulated throughout the kingdom, making Vashti’s insubordination to her husband an example by ordering all wives to “honor their husbands both great and small.”
      • The hope was that the king could legislate for all men the submission of their wives.
      • It didn’t work then and it doesn’t now.
      • Law usually intensifies all our stubborn reactions to relinquishing our way to the way of others.
      • Submission in marriage requires a response of love both to God and to the husband.
      • Husbands and wives each have invaluable, unique and ordained roles to fulfill.
      • Submission in marriage requires each spouse living in “proper order,” acknowledging that all authority comes from God.
      • What is “proper order” in one marriage may not be the same for others.
      • Submission therefore is as much attitude and response, as it is a set of ordinances.
      • It is by faith that wives follow (within biblical parameters) their husbands, believing God can and does work through them even when they are at odds with their spouse’s opinion.
      • Wives have the right and responsibility to be included in all marriage and family decisions.
      • Her wisdom and warnings are necessary and essential in the marriage.
      • When there is disagreement between husband and wife regarding an important decision, they are wise to do one of three things:
        1. Pray until there is agreement or until a decision must be made.
        2. Consider agreement as essential; it is an indicator that in God’s providence, He has other plans.
        3. When a decision must be made and there still is disagreement after prayer and counsel, both can agree to disagree believing that God, in His providence, will work through the husband’s best efforts to honor God, his wife and children.
      • King Ahasuerus was pleased with this piece of legislation formulated behind closed doors to protect his image and reputation.
      • This new “marriage edict” was sent to all provinces and peoples in all languages throughout the kingdom, announcing “each man should be master in his own house.”
      • One can imagine the zeal of husbands anxious to read the law to their perplexed wives.
      • The king’s legacy was weakened not strengthened by such bravado.
CONTENT DISCLAIMER:

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.

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