Esther 2:1-11 (In Search of a Queen)

Esther 2:1-11
In Search of a Queen

Bad starts do not always mean bad finishes. We all know this. We’ve seen the game, we’ve heard of the person born in poverty who rose above his circumstances, and so on. The same is true in the Bible. There are bad starts, and there are great finishes. Humanity started out poorly in Adam, but Christ turned things around. What lies ahead is rather magnificent because of Him.

Of the sons of Israel, some started out well. Reuben was the firstborn of Jacob, but he didn’t finish too well. His father’s final words from his deathbed were rather terse, and they close out with the anticipation of things not excelling for Reuben in the future.

Benjamin did not start out well. He was the last of Jacob’s sons, and his mother died in giving him birth. In fact, she named him Ben-Oni, Son of My Suffering. Were it not for dad renaming him with a very positive name, it would have seemed like he would always be on the bad side of things. But like his naming and renaming, Benjamin’s history takes a parallel course.

He remained somewhat in obscurity, but eventually during the time of the judges, he was caught up in something so wicked and so perverse that it looked like he might not survive at all. He was reduced to a mere 600 men. He may have blinked off into extinction at this point, but he continued on. The bad-streak didn’t end there. Saul, the first king of Israel was from Benjamin, and it seemed like things had turned around for them. But Saul re-turned them around and lost the kingship. Benjamin’s infancy was one of suffering, and it seemed that it was destined to continue.

But along with these, and other bad things, which happened to him, he is now given a chance to make things better. That really isn’t apparent in the story yet, but the very fact that Benjamin is singled out shows us that this is possible. Will the son of suffering take on a new direction? Will he really become the son of the right hand? Well, all things are possible. The apostle Paul sure found that out…

Text Verse: “If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so: circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.” Philippians 3:4-6

What? Paul… a Benjamite! And proud of it! Where does he get such confidence? While penning his words to those at Philippi, he probably was thinking about the events from the book of Esther. And probably about verse 5 of chapter 2. He knew the story, he celebrated it year by year at the Feast of Purim, and it could have been a great source of boasting for him that he was from this tribe, highlighted here for the first time, in the book of Esther.

Great things had come from Benjamin, including the Apostle Paul. But Paul would have us less happy for him about his heritage and lineage than he would have us fix our eyes on Jesus, the true Son of the Right Hand. These names, these stories, these actual events in human history… all of these things only point to the One who provides the greatest finish of them all.

We have little victories in life that change our destiny and put us on a path to success, fame, wealth, or whatever, but unless the Lord is in the equation, in the end it just doesn’t matter. The billionaire will turn back to the same dust as the bum in the streets. The movie star will putrefy just the same as the ditch digger, and the stock broker is heading to the same end as the 7-11 clerk.

Benjamin started poorly, but Benjamin will get a chance to end well. But that good ending is only because of the Lord who directs the events and calls people to Himself. If the response is made, then good will come of things – not just for this life, but for all the ages to come. After finishing the list of things he could brag in… that he COULD brag in, Paul tells of what value those things are in relation to what is truly worthy of boasting – “But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ.” In the end, the entire Bible is to lead us to that one Person who is worth boasting in – Jesus. This is a truth which is to be found in His superior word. And so let’s turn to that precious word once again and… May God speak to us through His word today and may His glorious name ever be praised.

I. Queen Instead of Vashti (verses 1-4)

After these things, when the wrath of King Ahasuerus subsided,

The words “After these things” take us back to all that occurred concerning Vashti, her refusal to heed the king, and everything resulting from that embarrassing ordeal. It is at some point after this that kesok khamat ha’melekh akhashverosh – “was subsided wrath the king Ahashuerus.” The word used for “subsided” is rather rare. It was seen in Genesis and Numbers. It will be seen here in Esther twice, and then only one more time in Jeremiah.

It comes from a root meaning “to weave a trap.” And so figuratively, through the idea of secreting away, it gives the sense of subsiding or pacifying. The second time it will be seen in Esther is in verse 7:10 where it is again used to speak of the subsiding of the king’s wrath. Thus, it is the basis for forming a new set of two’s. This first subsiding of the king’s anger is after his actions against Vashti, and it will set up the decision to find a queen to replace her, leading to Esther being selected to fill her vacancy. The second subsiding of his anger is after his actions against the wicked Haman, and it will set up the decision to replace Haman with Mordecai, filling his his vacancy.

In both, there is a replacing of a Gentile with a Jew. One is a female, one is a male. The two accounts contrast, and yet they confirm the hand of God in the appointment of two of His chosen people to fill the highest roles of the king’s life and government. Both are of the same tribe and family, Benjamin, or “Son of My Right Hand.” It is a fitting name when considering that in verse 8:8 both Esther and Mordecai are given royal authority, using the king’s signet ring, to then issue an edict which will save the Jews.

As the signet is a symbol of the king’s right hand, or authority, the fact that they are from Benjamin points directly to Christ as the true Savior of the Jews, and the true Son of the Right Hand. All of this can be gleaned from a simple statement using a particular word that the king’s wrath had shakakh, or subsided. It prefigures the replacement of Adam by Jesus pictured by Mordecai, and also those merely circumcised in the flesh with those circumcised in the heart, seen in Vashti/Esther. Paul speaks of both. First Mordecai –

“The first man was of the earth, made of dust; the second Man is the Lord from heaven. 48 As was the man of dust, so also are those who are made of dust; and as is the heavenly Man, so also are those who are heavenly. 49 And as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly Man.” 1 Corinthians 15:47-49

Mordecai will replace Haman who acted wickedly, being a follower of the works of the devil, as we are shown in 1 John 3:8. Christ came and replaced Adam who acted wickedly when he believed the lies of the devil. For man, that sad state is overturned by the work of Christ. Second we see Esther –

“Therefore, if an uncircumcised man keeps the righteous requirements of the law, will not his uncircumcision be counted as circumcision? 27 And will not the physically uncircumcised, if he fulfills the law, judge you who, even with your written code and circumcision, are a transgressor of the law? 28 For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; 29 but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God.” Romans 2:26-29

Esther replaces the wayward bride, Vashti. She was externally beautiful, but her internal attitude was not directed towards the king’s command (circumcision of the flesh only). Esther will be both internally and externally obedient towards what is right (circumcision of the heart).

Although we are jumping ahead in order to understand our sets of two’s, it’s ok because we will get to number 2 too, and when we do, we can then review everything that here we looked into. That is, if it’s ok with you.

It won’t be seen until verse 16 of this chapter exactly when Esther will be chosen as queen, but for now, we can review the historical timeline. The feast at Susa of Chapter 1 was in the year 483BC. In the spring of the year 481BC Ahasuerus, or Xerxes, set out for Greece. It is some time between these dates that these events began to come about. There is a long absence of time between the events of chapter 1 and later in chapter 2 which is perfectly explained by the Greek campaign which is recorded in extra-biblical history. In other words, the account is perfectly reliable, and it fits with historical records found elsewhere.

1 (con’t) he remembered Vashti, what she had done, and what had been decreed against her.

The words here give us the sense that the king actually wished he had not made the decision and enacted the decree. Whether he could actually override his edict, or whether it was impossible according to law, hardly matters. Even if he could, by overriding it, he would demonstrate that his decision wasn’t firm, fixed, and final. It would reflect a vacillating king who had been more influenced by wine than by sound judgment.

This could not be allowed. And so the sense of almost sadness at what had come about is seen in these words. The king was left without a queen that he probably otherwise adored, and his decree finalized the matter. This is all the more surely the case, because he already would have had a harem, and yet there is no sense of pleasure in any of them. Otherwise, the “another” of verse 1:19 would have been an easy replacement. But none of the harem interested him. We can almost see one of the royal court asking him, “Why haven’t you chosen a new queen to replace Vashti?” His answer, “None of the concubines interests me.” And so, to repair the situation, an exciting new avenue is recommended…

Then the king’s servants who attended him said: “Let beautiful young virgins be sought for the king;

The king’s servants mentioned here are not the royal court of seven. Instead, they are probably the attendants of the court, such as the eunuchs and the like who served the king, and who would be personally affected by his disposition, and aware of his demeanor. They would also know of his preferences concerning the harem, and were aware that none of them was agreeable to the king as a replacement queen. And so, as a point of self interest in having a happy king, they set forth their proposal.

Four words are used to describe the women in the proposal, nearot betulot tovot mareh – “young women, virgins, beautiful in appearance.” In this, they have covered all of the desired bases. They are to be young, and thus not set in mind and demeanor. They are to be virgins, an obvious qualification. To not be a virgin would be wholly unsuited to the distinction of being presented to the king. And they were to be beautiful in appearance, another obvious requirement.

and let the king appoint officers in all the provinces of his kingdom,

The kingdom consisted of 127 provinces from India to Ethiopia with princes appointed over them. It is a giant swath of land, with an enormous number of cultures and languages. In appointing officers in each province, they would be able to search out the most beautiful and cultured of all of the women. Even if only one was chosen from each province as the epitome of those she represented, it would increase the king’s harem by 127 women – of every color, culture, and ethnicity. The officers would be meticulously careful to find the very best, as it would then reflect favorably on them and on their status before the king.

(con’t) that they may gather all the beautiful young virgins to Shushan the citadel,

From their home, to which they would never return, and unless chosen as a queen, from their family whom they would never see again, these women would become property of the king, and would spend their lives at the citadel, awaiting his call.

(con’t) into the women’s quarters,

el beit hanashim – unto house the women. This would be a house where women were separately maintained. In one part of the house would be the virgins. In another part would be the wives or concubines. They would be kept under separate governors who would be over them, serving the king’s interests.

(con’t) under the custody of Hegai the king’s eunuch, custodian of the women.

Hege, as the Hebrew reads, is seen only here in Chapter 2. He will be also be called Hegai, but it is the same person. The context of the passage seems to show that he is the keeper of the entire house of the women, both virgins and the non-virgin concubines or wives. He is a eunuch, something rather necessary for someone being placed in such a position of authority under the king of the land.

(con’t) And let beauty preparations be given them.

v’naton tamruqehen – “and a giving cosmetic purification.” The verb is in the infinitive absolute form, which highlights and gives prominence to the act. As John Lange says, it “presupposes the subject as being self-evident.” If this was modern English, the thought might be, “And of course, naturally, she will be purified in the usual way.”

This customary way of purification introduces the word tamruq. In the Bible, it will only be seen three times, all in this chapter. It comes from the word maraq, meaning to polish or scour. Thus, it would be a purification of rubbing. There would be cosmetics combined into a soap or oil, and then the rubbing may have been with hands, towels, or a nice soft luffa. Whatever is intended, it would have been a pretty delightful way to be pampered.

Then let the young woman who pleases the king be queen instead of Vashti.”

Going under the assumption that only one young woman was selected from each province, that still leaves the odds extremely slim for any particular girl to be chosen. Therefore, in order to be the one who pleases the king, she would have to be not only beautiful, but cultured; wise; pleasantly emotional, but not overly so; bold in one way, but completely submissive in another; and so on. The idea of, “You only get one chance to make a first impression,” is wholly true here. To be chosen would mean a completely different type of life lay ahead than to be rejected and to forever remain a concubine.

(con’t) This thing pleased the king, and he did so.

With the coming war with Greece, the order would go out, and there would have been plenty of time for selecting the finest virgins, for the women to be gathered, and then to educate them in the Persian language, and to properly prepare them according to the standards of purification. Further, an extended period under eunuch control would ensure that no chance of an already-pregnant girl could be presented to him. There was no rush in the matter, and the longer the period, the better for both the king and for the potential queen. He is pleased with the suggestion, and it would be carried out in a thorough and meticulous way.

A chaste virgin, to be presented to the King
Prepared and presented for His delight
A woman who will make His heart sing
A woman to outshine the darkness of night

Who will it be that is presented to the King?
Who is the one chosen for the King’s delight?
The call has gone out; like a bell it does ring
For a chaste and perfect virgin; beautiful to the sight

So the King will rejoice in His precious bride
The beautiful virgin in whom He does delight
Forever she will remain at His side
And together they will outshine the darkness of the night

II. Hadassah, That is, Esther (verses 5-7)

In Shushan the citadel there was a certain Jew

The Hebrew is laid out in a completely different way than almost all the English translations. It begins with ish yehudi hayah – “man, Jew, there was.” It is an abrupt and sudden change from the previous narrative concerning the king, the royal court, and the various things which transpired there. It is obviously a grammatical form used to introduce a complete contrast to what has been stated, and a look forward to what lies ahead. Cambridge states, “The influence which he, a Jew, is to have upon the history is thus placed in significant contrast with the brilliancy of the court of Susa.”

This is correct. The Jews had been in exile – though the exile was ended by Cyrus in 529BC. Many are scattered among the nations, and they have been out of favor with God. Jerusalem was not yet a walled and vibrant city. That wouldn’t occur until the time of Nehemiah in 445BC. The Jews are in a lowly state which is completely contrasted to the royal scene which has thus far been presented.

This Jew is right in Shusan, the citadel. From later in the narrative, it would rightly be assumed that he is either a eunuch or a doorkeeper in the king’s employ. Although there could be some further explanation for his ability to access the women’s court. More about this Jew is next revealed…

(con’t) whose name was Mordecai

The name Mordecai is generally debated as to belonging either to a Persian word, mordkai, meaning “Little Man,” or it is tied to the name of the Babylonian god Marduk, and thus it would mean “Pertaining to Marduk.” If this is so, it is not without precedent. The name of Daniel was changed to reflect a Babylonian god, as were others. If Mordecai was a eunuch or a doorkeeper, he would serve among the royals, and would be renamed accordingly. As Paul means “Small,” I would go with Mordecai – Little Man – showing a connection between the two.

(con’t) the son of Jair, the son of Shimei, the son of Kish,

Here are listed four names which are widely debated. Some see them as his four immediate ancestors. But this is unlikely. Names of ancestors in Scripture are, at times, given to highlight a particular genealogy without specifically naming all in that genealogy. This is the case with Jesus’ record in Matthew 1. The term ben, means “son,” but it can be, and often is, a generational term. One can be a son of Abraham even today, for example.

In this case, he was either the direct son of Jair, or Jair may be listed for another reason which I will explain in verse 6. From there, Mordecai is the son by ancestry of Shimei who is recorded as having cursed King David in 2 Samuel 16:5. Eventually, this same person was executed by Solomon in 1 Kings 2:46. Kish then is named as his next important ancestor. Though Shimei’s father was Gera, it is Kish who is significant, being the father of King Saul, the first king of Israel.

Therefore, Kish is the tie between the two genealogies. It is from his house that both King Saul and Mordecai, through Shimei, come. They are both sons of Kish according to ancestry. This Kish is mentioned by Saul, or Paul, in Acts 13:21. The importance of this connection to Kish lies yet ahead in the story. The name of Kish is connected to the word qush, a verb meaning to ensnare. Thus it may mean “To Snare.”

(con’t) a Benjamite.

Finally, we learn here that the term yehudi, or Jew, only indicates that he fell under the broader term which is by now being used to designate any person from any tribe of Israel. He is thus both a Jew and a Benjamite. Again, Benjamin means “Son of my right hand.”

Kish had been carried away from Jerusalem with the captives who had been captured with Jeconiah king of Judah, whom Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon had carried away.

The name Kish is incorrectly inserted here. The Hebrew simply says, “Which has been carried away.” It is speaking in a general term, not of either Kish or of Mordecai. Rather, this means that this family line, leading to Mordecai, had been carried away. In fact, it very well may be Jair who then is listed for this very reason. He being the ancestor who saw exile. Though more a paraphrase, the New Living Translation gives the correct sense of this verse –

“His family had been among those who, with King Jehoiachin of Judah, had been exiled from Jerusalem to Babylon by King Nebuchadnezzar.” NLT

It is this family line which eventually was carried away along with Jeconiah, king of Judah, by Nebuchadnezzar. That was more than 100 years before (598/597BC). As a side note, this is the only time Jerusalem is mentioned in Esther. Further, it is spelled in an alternate way Yerushalayim.

As a completely amazing point. Of the acrostics found in this one verse, four are one and the same word, mehera, or “In a hurry.” Two are in the noun form, and two are in the verb form. They form from reading the verse both forward AND backwards. It is exceptional! The chances of this being random are zero.

And Mordecai had brought up Hadassah,

This is the only time that the name Hadassah is used in the Bible. It means “Myrtle.” The myrtle is one of the branches used by the Jews to build their sukkah in the Feast of Tabernacles according to Nehemiah 8:15. The hadas, or myrtle, is from the same root at hadom, or footstool. The root means, “to stamp upon.” One can think of stamping out sin. It is also one of the prophetic pictures of God’s promised blessings in Isaiah 55:13. Thus, it is quite appropriate to this story of saving and blessing the Jewish people.

(con’t) that is, Esther,

The name Esther comes from a Persian word meaning “star.” Specifically, it would be the “star” Venus, indicating beauty and good fortune. However, the name of Esther to a Hebrew would remind the audience of two different thoughts, both having a bearing on the story. The first is a compound word which would sound like, “She Searches out Evil.” That would be relevant to the heroine. The second is even more relevant to the story itself. The name sounds like a word signifying “hiding.” And so Esther would sound like “I Am Hidden.” It is exactly what we discussed in the hidden, and yet fully evident, presence of the Lord in the book, and of the hidden acrostics pointing to the Lord in the book as well.

7 (con’t) his uncle’s daughter, for she had neither father nor mother.

This makes her his own first cousin. He was obviously older and took care of her from the time of the parent’s passing. As the Lord directs the life of man, it is obvious that He directed the death of the parents in order to bring Esther into Mordecai’s life to save the Jews. One can make obvious deductions by simply stepping back and seeing how God has orchestrated each step of what occurs in order to meet His purposes, and to fulfill His promises.

(con’t) The young woman was lovely and beautiful.

The same words are used to describe both Rachel and Joseph as that of Esther – beautiful of form. In addition to this another adjective signifying “beautiful in sight” is added on. She was both shapely and pleasing to the eyes – each a gift of God, but the opposite in appearance cannot be considered a curse. God endows beauty according to His wisdom, and in order to complete the course of His will. One can anticipate details of the story at this point. She has met the requirements for beauty of the royal decision. Now we just have to watch the story unfold.

(con’t) When her father and mother died, Mordecai took her as his own daughter.

This was not by chance, but according to will. God’s will was for the saving of the Jews, and so according to that greater purpose, the parents were taken away. Mordecai’s will was for the safety of his cousin, and the preservation of her Jewishness, and so according to that greater purpose, he took her in as his own daughter. Possibly being a eunuch or a doorkeeper, he was already close to the royal court. This further met the plan which was to be realized by the Lord. This realization begins in verse 8…

In search of a queen to be by My side
A radiant beauty to live with through the ages
A chaste virgin prepared as a bride
Whose beauty exceeds the poems on thousands of pages

Adorned as a queen in royal splendor
Gloriously appareled, such a beautiful sight
A bride like no other, so soft and so tender
And glistening with jewels, shining and bright

A bride fit for a King, radiant and lovely is she
One to bring joy forever to the King’s heart
The perfect union, so shall it forever be!
Nothing will separate them, nor tear them apart

III. Under the Hand of Hegai (verses 8-11)

So it was, when the king’s command and decree were heard, and when many young women were gathered at Shushan the citadel, under the custody of Hegai, that Esther also was taken to the king’s palace,

The king’s command is his spoken approval. The decree, or written law is what would have been issued based on that. Josephus records that there were approximately 400 women gathered together at this time, Esther being one of them. It is possible that the name Esther is being used in a future manner, having been given to her some time after coming into the palace. However, it very well may be that Mordecai called her Esther, and told her to use this name in order to hide her identity before entering the palace. It would go along then with what is stated in verse 10.

This now introduces another set of two’s. This one corresponds to the second gathering of virgins recorded in verse 2:19. The first gathering is to find a queen, the second gathering is after a queen has been selected. The first gathering was for the king to find sufficiency in a queen; the second is to fill a void in the king’s desired harem. One meant a good life for Esther; the second could mean death for her. They contrast, and yet they confirm that the king was always on the lookout for others to find pleasure in.

(con’t) into the care of Hegai the custodian of the women.

el yad hegai shomer hanashim – literally, “into the hand of Hegai keeper of the women.” The spelling of the name of Hegai varies from Hege of verse 3, but it is referring to the same person. The only difference in the spelling of the names is the final letter which changes from an aleph to a yod, previously known as a yad, which means “hand.” In this verse, Esther has been placed into the hand of Hegai, and the spelling of his name reflects that change. It is into his hand that care of this vitally important woman has been placed.

Now the young woman pleased him, and she obtained his favor;

Esther’s beauty must have been extraordinary. Hegai would have had countless girls under his care – virgins, concubines, lesser wives, and female attendants for them all. And yet, he was truly smitten with Esther – probably both in her physical looks, and in her comportment and demeanor. He saw someone who truly was fitting as a queen, and in preparing her, he would be possibly finding even greater favor in the eyes of the king.

For him to place her in the order in which she arrived would be to keep her away from the king longer. This might be a source of the king’s wrath for him later. If the king chose someone else before coming to Esther, and then was given Esther as a concubine, Hegai might look like the world’s worst keeper of the women.

These words bring in another set of two’s. Here, Esther finds khesed lepanav, or “lovingkindness before him.” This will be repeated concerning Esther in the eyes of the king in verse 2:17. Here it is favor of the keeper of the women, there it concerns the love of the king. They contrast, and yet they confirm that she was pleasing in all ways as a refined and beautiful woman. Because he has found her exceptional, he moves to prepare her for the king with all alacrity…

(con’t) so he readily gave beauty preparations to her, besides her allowance.

The word translated as “so he readily” is v’bahel. The word bahal gives the sense of being dismayed. In this, the sense of hurriedly, or urgently is seen. In 2 Chronicles 26, King Uzziah illegally burnt incense before the Lord. When he did, his forehead broke out in leprosy. In response to this, the priest hurried him out of the sanctuary. This is the sense of the word. Hegai was almost in a panic to have this marvelous beauty prepared for the king.

In this is seen the second of the three times tamruq, or items for purification, is found. She was quickly started on this course of preparation and also given manah, or a special diet of food, as most good translations state it. Those selected for the king’s service, be it virgins or wise men, were given a special portion of food as their diet.

(con’t) Then seven choice maidservants were provided for her from the king’s palace,

The word “maidservants” is prefixed with the word “the.” In other words, it is stating that there were designated seven maidservants to assist her and prepare her as a candidate to being queen. This then is more than just a glamour-fest. It is an entire body of training and introduction into how to conduct oneself in the king’s palace. These seven would prepare both her physical looks, such as in bathing, hair care, and the like, but they would also train her in etiquette, manners, customs, and so on.

The word “choice” to describe these maidservants is a participle of the verb raah which is used for a particular purpose in both the Talmud and in rabbinical Hebrew, and which occurs only here in the Bible. It shows the special care of Esther as she is being readied for her encounter with the king. Hegai has gone to enormous lengths to ensure that Esther would be ready, that she would be ready quickly, and that she would be fully ready. And as a sign of true endearment to this fabulous beauty he does more…

(con’t) and he moved her and her maidservants to the best place in the house of the women.

It is as if Hegai anticipates the outcome of the selection. He not only does all that he can for her to prepare her for what was to come, but he gives her the quarters which reflect what she would receive. The rooms would have been palatial, airy, and a delight to the senses. It is obvious that even if the king had not yet made his selection, Hegai had already done so for him…

10 Esther had not revealed her people or family, for Mordecai had charged her not to reveal it.

This verse is supplementary to what has just been said about Esther’s exceptional treatment, but the reason for it is not stated. Here, she has been commanded by Mordecai to not reveal either her people, meaning being Jewish, or her line of birth, meaning being of the stock of Israel. Many scholars say that if her Jewish roots had been known, it would have been a setback to her chances to becoming the queen, as if being Jewish in itself was a liability. But that makes no sense. If the best beauties of all the provinces were gathered together, it would include the province of Judea. There is no reason to assume that to be correct.

However, being raised in Sushan, her spoken Persian would be flawless. It would be a plus if she were assumed to be a native Persian, even if it was not a minus to be a foreigner. If she, without lying, said “I am from Sushan,” it would be utterly delightful to both Hegai and the king that such a beauty was reared right in their backyard. Such seems to be the thinking on Mordecai’s mind.

This verse initiates yet another set of two’s. It is that Esther has concealed her identity. That is first found here, and then again in verse 2:20. The first is at the command of Mordecai, and the second is in obedience to his command. They contrast, and yet they confirm the obedience of Esther to her adopted father.

*11 (fin) And every day Mordecai paced in front of the court of the women’s quarters, to learn of Esther’s welfare and what was happening to her.

Unlike the parents of all of the other girls who would probably never again hear of the state of their daughters, Mordecai was able to find out about Esther’s affairs. In whatever capacity he served, he was able to access the front of the women’s quarters and inquire about her there. Even in this, one can see the Lord’s hand working behind the scenes. He has chosen someone with at least partial access to find out what is going on, and to maintain a relationship with the person who would eventually become queen.

Each step of the story continues to show that despite Israel’s inability to stay faithful to their God and the covenant cut between them, such is not the case with the Lord. He is there, tending to His promises, and ensuring that His chosen people would not be destroyed by a wicked plot against them. They had been exiled, some had returned and begun life in Israel again, but there were still many scattered throughout the nations. And soon, all of them would be threatened by the evil intent of one man.

But God has a greater plan that is being worked out in the background. Like a meticulous clock that strikes the seconds, and then the minutes, and then the hours, ever faithful to proclaim the march of time, the Lord is there, silently moving circumstances as He sees fit to faithfully proclaim the cycle of redemption from beginning to end.

He took Enoch away, for His purposes. He saved Noah through the flood, to continue them on. He called Abraham, He chose Isaac, and He faithfully led Jacob. His favor went toward Rahab, a harlot, and He called Ruth, a young Gentile widow to be His own. Here in Esther, this beautifully woven tapestry is continuing on – for Israel, in anticipation of Christ, and to secure a people from the Gentiles.

He is never distant or uninterested. Though we normally don’t see it until after the fact, He is working to bring all things to a good end for those who trust Him. This must be true. What would God merit in stepping out of the eternal realm, uniting with humanity, and dying on a cross, if it wasn’t for a very good end. If nothing else, the cross of Christ shows us that God is completely interested in every one of us. So be of good cheer, do the right thing, and call out to Jesus. As caring as the Lord is about what occurred in the palace at Shushan, He is just as caring about what occurs with you.

Closing Verse: “Oh, that you would bear with me in a little folly—and indeed you do bear with me. For I am jealous for you with godly jealousy. For I have betrothed you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. For if he who comes preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or if you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted—you may well put up with it!” 2 Corinthians 11:1-4

Next Week: Esther 2:12-23 What will be the outcome of this thing? (A Night With the King) (4th Esther Sermon)

The Lord has you exactly where He wants you. He has a good plan and purpose for you. At times, you might feel as if he has no great design for you in life, but he has brought you to this moment to reveal His glory in and through you. So follow Him and trust Him and He will do marvelous things for you and through you.

In Search of a Queen

After these things, when the wrath of King Ahasuerus subsided
He remembered Vashti, what she had done
And what had been decreed against her
After the course of his wrath had run

Then the king’s servants who attended him said
———-with a notable ring
“Let beautiful young virgins be sought for the king

And let the king appoint officers
In all the provinces of his kingdom, so to you we tell
That they may gather all the beautiful young virgins
To Shushan the citadel

Into the women’s quarters
Under the custody of Hegai
The king’s eunuch, custodian of the women
Whom on the virgins he keeps his eye

And let beauty preparations be given them
Then let the young woman who pleases the king
Be queen instead of Vashti
This thing pleased the king, and he did so; yes he did this thing

In Shushan the citadel there was a certain Jew
Whose name was Mordecai the son of Jair
The son of Shimei, the son of Kish, a Benjamite
More of Modecai, you can bet we will hear

Kish had been carried away from Jerusalem
With the captives who had been captured in the fray
With Jeconiah, king of Judah
Whom Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon had carried away

And Mordecai had brought up Hadassah
That is, Esther, his uncle’s daughter; so they were related
For she had neither father nor mother
As the Bible to us has stated

The young woman was lovely and beautiful
When her father and mother died
Mordecai took her as his own daughter
Parenting skills to her he applied

So it was, when the king’s command and decree were heard
And when many young women were gathered
———-at Shushan the citadel
Under the custody of Hegai
As the story does tell

That Esther also was taken to the king’s palace, there and then
Into the care of Hegai the custodian of the women 

Now the young woman pleased him
And she obtained his favor, so we know
So he readily gave beauty preparations to her
Besides her allowance, to her he did bestow

Then seven choice maidservants
Were provided for her from the palace of the king
And he moved her and her maidservants
To the best place in the house of the women
———-so for her he did this thing

Esther had not revealed her people or family one little bit
For Mordecai had charged her not to reveal it

And every day Mordecai paced
In front of the court of the women’s quarters
To learn of Esther’s welfare
And what was happening to her from any passing reporters

Lord God, thank You for Your presence that is with us
Even when we don’t realize that You are there
Because You sent Your own Son Jesus
We can know that You truly do care

And so Lord, be real to us in a wonderful new way
Open our minds and our hearts to seeing You always
Through every step we take, and throughout every day
Be real to us, O God, and to You will shall give all of our praise

Hallelujah and Amen…

Esther 1:13-22 (Master of the House)

Esther 1:1322
Master of the House

There are probably as many reasons to have faith in the word of God as there are people who read the word of God. Each person who picks it up and finds strength in their faith through it does so because it speaks to them personally. In strengthening their faith, their assurance of the word itself is also strengthened.

Though it is as common as candy bars at 7-11 today for people to say they trust the Christian God in general, or the Lord Jesus in particular, and yet not trust the Bible, that is a logical contradiction. One cannot say he trusts the Lord properly in one breath, and then say he does not trust the source which tells of Him in another.

Not only is it illogical, but frankly, being illogical, it is then also stupid. It would be like saying, “The neighbor built a new concrete house next door to us, but I don’t believe it’s concrete.” “Did you see them build it?” “Yes.” “Did they use concrete?” “Yes.” So, why don’t you believe it’s concrete?” “I just don’t believe it is. They aren’t the kind of people to live in a concrete house.” “So you’re basing your idea about the makeup of the house on what you think, not on what it is made up of.” “Of course! Why would I ever believe that they would live in a concrete house.” Any normally thinking person would find that both illogical and stupid. And yet, the number of people who say they believe in Jesus, but then say that they don’t believe in the word which tells us about Jesus could fill the Pacific Ocean.

But enough about them. For those who actually read the word, accept it as the word, and who then are strengthened in their faith concerning the word, they do so for a ton of reasons. Some, because they find it uplifting, just as God Himself is uplifting. Some because they see the harmony in the message – stretching from Genesis to Revelation. And yet, it was authored by 40 or so men, over 1600 years, in several languages, and in various countries. Despite this, it is seamless and continuous in what it states, how it states it, and the way things are stated.

Some realize that Jesus is revealed pretty much everywhere, and so they come to strength of faith because of this. We could go on and on with things like this because this word is an inexhaustible source of information, wonder, and delight. If we treat it as such, it will always fill our lives with the faith it was intended to impart.

Text Verse: The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.” Deuteronomy 29:29

For me, all of the things I just mentioned increase my faith in the word, and also in the Lord who gave us the word. But one of the things that just amazes me, and which I can always refer to in my mind when I have doubts, is the patterns found in the Bible. There are numerical patterns, there are pictorial patterns, and there are word patterns. There are also literary patterns such as poetic, chiastic, parallelistic, and acrostic. It goes on and on.

Many of the patterns overlap. Many of the patterns have only been discovered in the past few years. Some of them in the… past few days. And then some that were discovered in the past have been built upon by others using new technologies. Today, guess what we will see in some of our verses? If you said to yourself, “Patterns,” give yourself an A+. We’ll start with some today, and they will continue to develop in the chapters to come.

If you are like me, these will help you in your times of doubt. “Lord, are You there? I feel distanced from You.” Just think on the word, remember the patterns, and they will let you know that He is, in fact, there. If He spent so much time hiding stuff in this word that has never been seen before in order to bring the curious mind to a state of ecstasy, how much more do you think He wants you to trust the stuff that is right there in the open! Be of good cheer. He is there. He has not forsaken you nor abandoned you. This is some of the marvel to be found His superior word. And so let’s turn to that precious word once again and… May God speak to us through His word today and may His glorious name ever be praised.

I. A Question of Law (verses 13 & 14)

13 Then the king said to the wise men

The words here show that the king, though probably rather incensed at the embarrassing situation, still had enough restraint to not fly off the handle. It needs to be remembered that this has been a banqueting party, and he certainly would have been enjoying the banqueting. That alone is enough to lower one’s restraint. But further, he was embarrassed in front of everyone who attended the party, regardless of the propriety of his initial request – something noted in our last sermon. And yet, he kept his demeanor as a wise king before deciding anything, and refers to his wise men.

What type of “wise men” referred to here is debated. The word is a common one which simply indicates intelligent, skillful, and wise-hearted. Some scholars define the counselors of a Persian king as being in two categories. The first being astrologers and astronomers who looked to the heavens for direction. The second would be those schooled in laws and customs of the empire.

Others disagree and state that, unlike the Babylonians, diviners and astrologers were not a known part of the Persian kingdom. Regardless of this, in this case and for the type of decision, the words of the wise men seem to point to a body of men who were familiar with law and custom, rather than seekers of divination. This is seen in the following words…

13 (con’t) who understood the times

The king’s counselors had an understanding of the state of the empire, how Vashti’s actions might affect it, and what the consequences of not taking action appropriate to the situation might be. In saying they “understood the times,” it is almost a metonymy where the things done in the times are spoken of as the times themselves.

The same type of thought is seen in 1 Chronicles 12:32 when the men of Issachar were said to have an understanding of the times concerning David’s position as king. They knew of the importance of aligning with him to unite the kingdom of Israel into one body and then to further the army in that state.

13 (con’t) (for this was the king’s manner toward all who knew law and justice,

Although not a king of Israel, Ahasuerus here displays the wisdom of Solomon. Several times in the proverbs, he expresses a similar thought to that of Proverbs 15:22 –

Without counsel, plans go awry,
But in the multitude of counselors they are established.” Proverbs 15:22

Instead of arbitrarily rendering a decision, or making one without consulting others who were skilled in law and justice, the king sought out his counselors. This was not a trait particular to Ahasuerus though. It was considered the right thing to do among each of the rulers of the empire.

This is expressed in the words davar ha’melekh, or “word (of) the king.” In this sense, the “word” doesn’t signify his command, but the matter and manner of how the king approached such things. It is similar to how the office of US President works. He has cabinet secretaries, a chief of staff, etc., who are there to consult before rendering a decision. In the end, the Bible says that this is the wise path to follow. As such, it is something that we all should apply to our own decisions. Is there someone that you can turn to when you need to make an important decision? Along with prayer to the Lord, seeking out wise human advice is the right thing to do when matters could otherwise go awry.

14 those closest to him being Carshena, Shethar, Admatha, Tarshish, Meres, Marsena, and Memucan, the seven princes of Persia and Media,

This verse closes out a set of two’s. The first was in verse 1:10, listing the seven servants of the king. Now it lists the second set of seven servants of the king. As I said in the previous sermon, two’s in the Bible signify a contrast and yet a confirmation of something. These contrast as they were seven lowly eunuchs and then seven high nobles, but they confirm the orders of the king in regards to Queen Vashti.

For now, like the eunuchs in verse 10, some of the names here are very difficult to pin down as to their meaning. To attempt to find a secret code in them would be an act of finding what one is looking for, rather than finding what is actually intended. But what is interesting is that the number seven arises again. There were seven eunuchs, sent out on the seventh day of the feast, and there are now seven counselors to the king. It is apparent that, like Israel, the number seven was an important one to the Persians.

Some say this is because of the seven planets known at the time, or that it is because of the seven-day cycle which permeates cultures, and which directs the movement of man. Or finally, the seven counselors may have been selected in order to correspond to the seven Amshaspands, or “glorious ones” of the spiritual and mental worlds. These go back to the Babylonian empire, but were known to the empire of the Persians and Medes as well. For whatever reason, the number seven is known to play an important part in the kingdom of the Persians and Medes. This is true with the appointment of these seven counselors…

14 (con’t) who had access to the king’s presence, and who ranked highest in the kingdom):

The translation here is more literally stated as, “who seeing the face of the king; those sitting first in the kingdom.” To sit indicates authority in this case, and thus these seven possessed authority equal to one another, but below that of the king. These seven counselors are most likely similar to those referred to again in Ezra 7:14 at the time of king Atarxerxes. Thus, this is more than just a counsel which would be adjusted based on circumstance and choice of the king. Rather, it was a set number during the duration of the empire.

As they were “seeing the face of the king,” it indicates that they had free and unrestricted access to him. Such was not the case with any others. This will be revealed as we continue through the book. For now, Ahasuerus takes advantage of the wise counsel of these men by asking for their advice.

Is there law and justice in the land?
How shall we approach this thing which has been done?
Can we let what occurred be left to stand?
If not handled, what course will we see run?

There must be order, and there must be law
If not, then things will surely get out of hand
Those who have seen will tell what they saw
No, what occurred cannot be left to stand

Give advice! Tell us what is found in the law
Let us do what is right, so that nothing gets out of hand
Our final decision should be rendered without a flaw
So we will be able to maintain peace throughout the land

II. Memucan’s Advice (verses 15-22)

15 “What shall we do to Queen Vashti, according to law,

The verse actually begins with, ke’dath mah la’asot, or “according to law, what shall we do.” “According to law” prefixes the question, as a strong stress. Further, there is no article in front of “law.” In other words, and as a paraphrase, “Legally, what is required?” Queen Vashti is placed as a subject of the kingdom, and thus one not immune from the standards set within the kingdom.

Along with that, it appears that the king is acting in a completely dispassionate manner concerning what should be decided. In all, the entire matter is being held as a breach of that which is legal and against the throne, rather than a mere offense to the king personally. This is then more fully expressed in the next words…

15 (con’t) because she did not obey the command of King Ahasuerus brought to her by the eunuchs?”

The king doesn’t say, “because she did not obey my command.” Instead, he refers to himself in the third person with, “the command of King Ahasuerus.” Here it uses a word, maamar, or command, which is found only three times in the Bible, and all are right here in Esther. It is derived from the word amar, or “said,” and thus it indicates a command, because it is the stated word of the king.

Interestingly, the first time it is used is here from the mouth of the king. The second will be from Mordecai, the cousin of Esther, and the third will be a command from Esther herself. It is an implicit note of the importance of both Mordecai and of Esther.

One point that John Gill makes while citing ancient sources, and which is worth repeating, is that it very well may be that all of this has occurred while the king and his counselors were still under the wine’s influence. He says, “it was the manner of the Persians at festivals, and when inflamed with wine, to consult and determine about matters of the greatest moment; yea, reckoned their counsels and decrees firmer than when made when they were sober; so the ancient Germans.”

If this is so, one can imagine them actually saying this in an open and even slurred way. In other words, this all may have been conducted in front of the entire group gathered before him, and he is making light of the matter while still being precise in the handling of it. The entire episode may be one of conduct outside of a state of sobriety. If so, it might reveal the substance behind the words of verse 2:1. It is all speculation, but it might help us to explain quite a bit to look at it this way.

16 And Memucan answered before the king and the princes:

Of the seven named princes, Memucan was named last, and yet he is the first and only one recorded as voicing an opinion. It is thus suspected then that he was the youngest of the advisers, and so he was asked to speak first. This is something which carried on even in legal circles of England where the puisne judges, and the youngest peers would voice their thoughts first. His advice now shows that there was no known law to cover this situation. Instead of citing law, he cites what the condition is and what should be done to correct it…

16  (con’t) “Queen Vashti has not only wronged the king, but also all the princes,

Before giving advice on what should be done, he gives a major consideration for the king to contemplate. The first portion of that consideration is the scope of the offense. In this, he goes from the specific, the king, to the general, those below the king. He notes that it is true that the king had been wronged, but then he says that the wrong extends also to those below him as advisers.

In other words, this could affect their positions, which would only cause more harm to the king. The royal court itself had been wronged, bringing the entire scope of the throne into question if the matter was to not be handled in a suitable way, appropriate to the level of the offense. But, Memucan doesn’t stop with this. As an adviser to the king, rejection of his advice would be rather embarrassing.

In fact, in 2 Samuel 17, Ahithophel, adviser to Absalom, son of David, gave advice as the king’s adviser which was rejected. The rejection was so displeasing to him that it says that “he put his household in order, and hanged himself.” And so, in order to have the best possible chance that his advice will be looked on favorably, he continues to exemplify the scope of the crime…

16  (con’t) and all the people who are in all the provinces of King Ahasuerus.

Not only was the king wronged, and not only was the royal court wronged – both of which might be straightened out or handled in a suitable fashion – but no indeed! The entire kingdom was affected. Memucan continues from the more specific to the more general, even to the house of every soul within the empire. It is a kingdom which stretched from India to Ethiopia, and which encompassed 127 provinces. To allow this offense to go unpunished would affect the whole sh’bang. To show how this would come about, he turns next to the second portion of his consideration…

17 For the queen’s behavior will become known to all women,

What Vashti did was against her husband, but it was also against the highest authority in the land. Memucan argues that eventually this will get out, and that when it does, all women will hear of it, and it will be known that the king himself was unable to control his disobediant wife. Thus, she will become a model for all women to follow…

17 (con’t) so that they will despise their husbands in their eyes,

Different words are translated as “husband” in the Bible. Though not uncommon, the word used by Memucan here is one of authority, baal. It means “master” or “owner.” The choice is certainly purposeful in using this word. When the conduct of Vashti towards the king is made known to the women of the realm, he argues that the obvious result will be that every woman will despise their baal.

But the wording is stronger than the NKJV makes it. Rather than “they will despise their husbands in their eyes,” it more literally says, “to render their husbands contemptible in their eyes.” In other words, it’s not just that the husbands will be despised, but that they will appear despicable. “If the king is so weak, then how much more is the man I’m married to who is just one of his lowly subjects!” This is the intent of the Hebrew. Memucan is passing along to the ears, and for the consideration of the king, that it will be empire-wide chaos…

17 (con’t) when they report, ‘King Ahasuerus commanded Queen Vashti to be brought in before him, but she did not come.’

The words “when they report” are actually masculine in the Hebrew. The masculine suffix is substituted for the feminine. It is they who usurp the normal order when they appeal to the disobedience of Queen Vashti. She was commanded, and yet she did not come. The entire body of Memucan’s words are intended to ensure that the king would consider no other option than accepting the advice he is to be given based on the consideration which has been laid before him. The king’s authority is in question, the judgments of the advisers are in question, and the order of the entire realm is in question – all because of disobedient Vashti. In fact, the cancer is already about to spread…

18 This very day the noble ladies of Persia and Media will say to all the king’s officials that they have heard of the behavior of the queen.

If you read the older English, KJV, it says, “Likewise shall the ladies of Persia and Media say…” Reading that in today’s English, one would think it is speaking of all of the ladies in the realm. This is not the intent of the words. The Hebrew word is sarah, which is identical to the name of Abraham’s wife, Sarah. It signifies a noble lady, a princess, etc. In older English, and among the more refined English today, the term “ladies” still carries this connotation, but just note that this is speaking of the wives of the nobility. Memucan is moving from the more general toward the more specific once again to prove his point, and to highlight the urgency of the situation which is…

18 (con’t) Thus there will be excessive contempt and wrath.

In marvelous literary fashion, a man after my own heart, Memucan uses two thoughts when but one might be sufficient. He first says a word unique in Scripture bizayon, or contempt. He precedes it with a preposition u-ke’day bizayon, or “and thus sufficient contempt.” The idea of “sufficient” here, however, is one of excessiveness. He then adds in va’qaseph or “and indignation” for good measure.

One would presume that the excessive contempt would be on the part of the wives, and the wrath would be on the part of the husbands. There would snippy attitudes, there would be angry words, and there would be scratches, punches, and shouting matches. Oh my! Could the realm survive? The entire tenor of Memucan’s consideration is given for the maximum effect upon the mind of the king. He is arguing as an orator before longing ears. And so with his words of consideration complete, he next proceeds to a recommended course of action…

19 If it pleases the king,

im al ha’melekh tov. The identical words are repeated by Nehemiah in Nehemiah 2:15. It is a way of saying, “I have a recommendation for the king to consider, and to act upon, if it is good in his eyes.”

19 (con’t) let a royal decree go out from him,

A royal decree is a published decree. It would be sent out to all provinces, and made public to all people. Coming from the king, it was considered established law.

19 (con’t) and let it be recorded in the laws of the Persians and the Medes, so that it will not be altered,

The Hebrew literally reads, “that it may not pass away.” Once recorded as a law, it would be considered fixed, firm, and unchanging. In theory, it is believed that the king could override the law, but it would be at the expense of his own honor to do such a thing. It would be considered weak and vacillating. Further, if it is written into law as recommended, the king couldn’t later blame Memucan for recommending that he dethrone Vashti. He would thus be safe from any later retribution.

This is also the first of another of the author’s use of two’s in the book – the irrevocability of the law is noted here, and then it is noted again in verse 8:8. They contrast as one is concerning the authority of man over woman in the realm, and the second concerns the protection of the Jew throughout the Gentile realm. But they actually confirm what God has ordained in His word. Man is to have authority over the woman, and the Jew is to be preserved as a people forever. Such sets of two’s will continue to be used throughout the book.

19 (con’t) that Vashti shall come no more before King Ahasuerus;

The law is to read that the separation of them was to be, in fact, a permanent divorce. She would never again enter into the presence of the king.

Another backwards acrostic is seen in this verse. The first letters of the words tavow Vashti lipne ha’melekh Akhashverosh, or “shall come Vashti before the king Ahasuerus,” form the word ohalot, or “tents.”

Ohel, or tent, is the word used to describe the tent of meeting, for example, which was seen numerous times in Exodus. The tents of all men of the empire will be affected by the decree, and the tent of the king is now no longer accessible to the dethroned queen. Instead…

19 (con’t) and let the king give her royal position to another who is better than she.

The word Memucan uses for “another” is reuth. It is a rare one, so far only seen once in Exodus. It is a feminine noun which signifies a fellow woman. In other words, Memucan is anticipating one of the royal concubines would be elevated to queen in place of her. This would be the expected course of action, but there is a hidden Force behind the scenes, working toward a particular end in order to highlight, save, and exalt the people called by His name. The Name of that all-seeing Force is secretly hidden in the next words…

20 When the king’s decree which he will make is proclaimed throughout all his empire (for it is great), all wives will honor their husbands, both great and small.”

A new word, pithgam, or “decree” is used. It is of Persian origin and it will be seen just two times. Surprisingly, despite being Persian, the second and final time will be by Solomon in Ecclesiastes 8:11. As this is a royal decree, no wife would dare to challenge it and do less than honor her husband. If the queen was dethroned for her act, a common wife – after the edict was published – would possibly be libel to face execution. No other commentary is necessary on the surface. However, to get to the secrets of Esther, we have to stretch our minds a bit. To begin doing that, I’ll translate the sentence in the order that it is written in the Hebrew. It is a little clumsy, but it will still make sense – “And shall be heard decree the king which he shall make in all his kingdom (for great it) and all the wives shall give honor to their masters to from great and unto small.”

By the time we finish Esther, the words here will fit so many varied patterns that you will need a computer to sort them all out… literally. Some of the patterns came out only days before I typed the sermon as Sergio accessed the Superior Word computer over an entire night in order to run a program to find them.

Great scholars, such as Keil and Lange, note the structure of the verse. Lange says, “The predicate nishma (heard) is chosen, since it makes a presupposition for the yitenu (shall give) which is expressed.” In other words, the proclamation of the king will lead to the giving of honor by the wives to their husbands. Keil notes that the parenthetical clause, “for it is great,” is intended to flatter the king’s vanity, and induce an inclination to agree to the proposal.

These are both correct, but the structure is more purposeful than just that. We’ve already noted that the name of the Lord, Yehovah, is never mentioned in Esther. But this teeny book of 10 chapters with 167 verses, is said by one scholar to mention the king 192 times. The kingdom is mentioned 26 times. The name Ahasuerus is mentioned 29 times. That is a lot in so few verses. But it would actually be untruthful to say, Yehovah isn’t mentioned at all. The first time He is seen is in this oddly-structured verse. It is found in a backward running acrostic of the words hi v’kal hanashim yitenu, or “it and all the wives shall give.” YHVH, or Yehovah, is the first letter of each word, in reverse.

That could be mere coincidence, but it isn’t, as you will see.

Further, the verse itself forms an entire acrostic sentence. In proper sequence it reads, Yehovah harekhem mevi, or “Yehovah brings forth your (pl) mountain.”

Mountains in the Bible have a lot of memorable symbolism attached to them, but as an individual symbol, it represents the place where government is established. This is seen, for example, in Isaiah 2 –

Now it shall come to pass in the latter days
That the mountain of the Lord’s house
Shall be established on the top of the mountains,
And shall be exalted above the hills;
And all nations shall flow to it.
Many people shall come and say,
“Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
To the house of the God of Jacob;
He will teach us His ways,
And we shall walk in His paths.”
For out of Zion shall go forth the law,
And the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. Isaiah 2:2, 3

This same type of symbolism is used when speaking of Babylon in Jeremiah 51:25. Here in Esther, we can see that the Lord is behind the scenes continuing to bring Israel to the point where their mountain will be brought forth; the place from which Messiah will send forth His law. All of this is being pictured here in Esther. Further, it is rather amazing because this acrostic is found in a verse about the Persian government; its mountain.

The introduction of the Divine Name here brings in several instances of two’s which we already started earlier. First, this instance is spoken by Memucan, a Gentile. There will be four times the divine name Yehovah is seen in an acrostic. This and the third will both be spoken by Gentiles. Also, the first and the third are a pair because they both have the name spelled backwards. However, the first and the second are a pair because they have the Name formed using the initial letters of the four words of which they are comprised.

Further, the first and the fourth are a pair because they are spoken about Queen Vashti and then about Haman. The third and the fourth, as we will later see, will be spoken by Queen Esther and by Haman. But this in turn makes the first and second a pair because they are both in relation to (about and by) a queen, whereas the third and the forth are both in relation to (about and by) Haman.

And more, the first and the third, which both have the Divine Name spelled backward, form a pair revealing the truth that Yehovah is seen overruling what the Gentiles have counseled in order to effect His own purposes. And then even more, the first and the second, which have already been identified as a pair because they are formed from initial letters, both speak of initial facts within the story, and these initial facts are in relation to events where Yehovah initiates His will to overrule the events.

All of this may be confusing, but the information is so beautifully laid out that it is not possibly by random chance. We will see this as we highlight the other sets of twos which will arise as we get to the next three instances of the hidden Divine Name, Yehovah.

21 And the reply pleased the king and the princes, and the king did according to the word of Memucan.

The words here must be taken in a general way simply because the next verse does not say that the matter was recorded in the law of the Persians and Medes. It very well may have been, and it probably was so, but the king may have simply fired Vashti and put out a proclamation concerning wives being obedient to their husbands.

This is the third, and last, reference to Memucan in the Bible. However, some scholars believe that Memucan is the same as the wicked Haman who will be introduced in verse 3:1. If this is so, then the edict of his own suggestion will eventually lead to his own downfall. That can only be speculation, however. Regardless though, the king and the princes were pleased with the reply of Memucan, and his suggestions were accepted as far as the final verse now notes…

22 Then he sent letters to all the king’s provinces,

The king’s decree went forth copied as individual letters for each of the 127 provinces of the kingdom. It is noted by Herodotus that this was the first standardized postal system of its kind, one which is said to have been an excellent operation. Word was transmitted quickly, efficiently, and throughout the entire kingdom.

22 (con’t) to each province in its own script,

It is not known how many different scripts were used throughout the empire, but it would be a large number. In order to have competent scribes, people would certainly have been brought to the royal palace from each province, and there given an intensive study in the Persian language. From there, they would be maintained as scribes for all royal edicts and other governmental notices.

22 (con’t) and to every people in their own language,

This is an important addition to the verse. There can be many languages which use the same script. To send a note in German could be read, but maybe not understood, by the English. The same is true with the various languages which use Cyrillic symbols, but which are entirely different when spoken. The system employed to ensure all scripts and languages were clearly transmitted must have been massive. But for something as important as the next words, it was a necessary thing to have. They are good and relieving words for the often downtrodden and commonly ignored husband…

22 (con’t) that each man should be master in his own house,

Such words of wisdom. They go back to the creation of man, and they have often been interrupted by bad influence concerning what is right. Solomon speaks quite a bit on the matter, in the positive, and in the negative. In just one proverb, he defines both –

An excellent wife is the crown of her husband,
But she who causes shame 
is like rottenness in his bones.” Proverbs 12:4

From this point on, at least in the kingdom of Ahasuerus, things would be a lot better for the once overwhelmed man of the house. He was now officially appointed as master. A good deal indeed.

*22 (fin) and speak in the language of his own people.

The verse and the chapter close out with some of the most complicated words of the book. The thought, at least translated as it is here, has nothing to do with what occurred with Vashti, and so it seems to have nothing to do with the edict at all. Before analyzing it then, we should see how various translators have handled them –

using his native tongue. NIV

should say whatever he pleases. NLT

speak according to the language of his people. ESV

it should be published according to the language of every people. KJV

should be in charge of their wives and children. CEV

should be the master of his home and speak with final authority.  GNT

be the ruler in his own house and speak with authority. GWT

should publish it according to the language of his people. ERV

The intent here is that the man is to rule his house. If he has a foreign wife, she and the children were to be subject to him. They were to speak his language, thus he would be in control of the house, not a side piece to be picked on in a foreign tongue. This exact occurrence is seen in the book of Nehemiah –

In those days I also saw Jews who had married women of Ashdod, Ammon, and Moab. 24 And half of their children spoke the language of Ashdod, and could not speak the language of Judah, but spoke according to the language of one or the other people.” Nehemiah 13:23, 24

This was not to be accepted within the realm. The husband was to be master of the house, and the structure of the family would be based on that, including the language which he spoke. In this, there would be much less discontent for the once neglected, over-worked, and under-appreciated man of the house.

We’re finished with the first chapter of Esther, and frankly as I typed this (26 February, a few weeks before you got to hear it), I was completely excited about what lay ahead. I hope you feel the same now. The story itself is just fun to read and analyze. With the added bonus of hidden acrostics and the like, it is like opening a treasure chest and seeing wondrous riches.

But let’s also not miss the overall subject while analyzing the details. There is an ultimate point to what we have started in Esther. It is the protection of the Jewish people in order for God to reveal Himself in and through them. He’s done it in the word, as we have seen today, but He has also done it for His people, even in exile – just as His word said He would.

In the protection of Israel, despite their state as exiles and being subjected to foreign rule for disobedience to Him, we see that God is faithful to His covenants through the patriarchs and through Moses, and He is also faithful to His promises which predate those covenants. He said He would send a Redeemer all the way back in Genesis, and He is continuing to work on that promise here in Esther. By preserving Israel, He is preserving the line through whom He would enter the stream of humanity. This is the message of Scripture. Messiah is coming; Messiah has come; Christ will come again. Be assured and reassured of this.

Closing Verse: “For My own sake, for My own sake, I will do it;
For how should 
My name be profaned?
And I will not give My glory to another.”
Isaiah 48:11

Next Week: Esther 2:1-11 Beautiful virgins brought to Shushan. What does it mean? (In Search of a Queen) (3rd Esther sermon)

The Lord has you exactly where He wants you. He has a good plan and design for you. At times, you might feel as if he has no great purpose for you in life, but he has brought you to this moment to reveal His glory in and through you. So follow Him and trust Him and He will do marvelous things for you and through you.

Master of the House

Then the king said to the wise men
Who understood the times
(For this was the king’s manner
Toward all who knew law and justice, and how to handle crimes 

Those closest to him being Carshena
Shethar, Admatha, Tarshish, Meres, Marsena, and Memucan also
The seven princes of Persia and Media
Who had access to the king’s presence; anytime they could go

And who ranked in the kingdom highest
To them his voice he then addressed

What shall we do to Queen Vashti according to law
Because she did not obey the command
Of King Ahasuerus brought to her by the eunuchs?”
She has flippantly disobeyed my demand!

And Memucan answered before the king and the princes:
Queen Vashti has not only wronged the king
But also all the princes
And all the people who are in all the provinces of King Ahasuerus
———-to them also she has done this thing! 

For the queen’s behavior will become known
———-to all women, so that they will despise
Their husbands in their eyes

When they report, ‘King Ahasuerus commanded
Queen Vashti to be brought in before him, but she did not come
———-she refused what he demanded! 

This very day the noble ladies of Persia and Media
Will say to all the king’s officials; just do the math!
That they have heard of the behavior of the queen
Thus there will be excessive contempt and wrath 

If it pleases the king, let a royal decree go out from him
And let it be recorded in the laws of the Persians and the Medes
So that it will not be altered
That Vashti shall come no more before King Ahasuerus
———-for her wicked deeds

And let the king give her royal position; surely you will agree
To another who is better than she 

When the king’s decree which he will make is proclaimed
Throughout all his empire (for it is great)
All wives will honor their husbands, both great and small
It will be a slam dunk, and also a checkmate

And the reply pleased the king and the princes
———-it was really spot on
And the king did according to the word of Memucan

Then he sent letters to all the king’s provinces
To each province in its own script
And to every people in their own language
And this is what the letters did depict

That each man should be master in his own house
Great advice indeed
And speak in the language of his own people
Yes, each man his own house he should lead

Lord God, thank You for Your presence that is with us
Even when we don’t realize that You are there
Because You sent Your own Son Jesus
We can know that You truly do care

And so Lord, be real to us in a wonderful new way
Open our minds and our hearts to seeing You always
Through every step we take, and throughout every day
Be real to us, O God, and to You will shall give all of our praise

Hallelujah and Amen…

Esther 1:1-12 (Naughty Vashti – A Party Gone Bad)

Esther 1:1-12
Naughty Vashti
A Party Gone Bad

The book of Esther. Not having decided on what book we should do before returning to the Pentateuch, I asked my (our) friends Sergio and Rhoda to help me out. They never really gave me an answer until I had to know. Quite lazy of them I’m sure…

Friday before sermon typing is when I do the advanced work, such as typing poems and other non-sermon typing work. But one cannot type a poem for a book that they have not decided on. So I asked them that week. Sergio said, Esther; I wanted to do Song of Solomon. One had to give. Esther comes before the Song of Solomon, so at least they will have been done in the right order by choosing Esther. And so, I present to you the book of Esther.

Esther is the 17th of the 66 books in the Christian Bible. It thus corresponds to Malachi, the 39th book, and 2 Peter, the 61st book when the Bible is divided into three sets of 22 each. It is a part of the Old Testament known as the Ketuvim, or writings. The three major divisions are the Torah, meaning the five books of Moses, the Neviim, or the Prophets, and the Ketuvim, or the writings.

Esther is comprised of ten chapters and totals 167 verses.

Esther is also one of the five megillah scrolls. That comes from the word galal meaning “to roll,” and thus it is a story which is a detailed, or embroidered account; it rolls along. The five megillot are the Song of Songs, read each year at the Passover; Ruth, read each year at Shavuot; Lamentations, read each year on the mournful day of the Ninth of the month of Av; Ecclesiastes, read each year at Sukkoth; and Esther, which is read each year at Purim.

Esther was the last book of the Old Testament to have been canonized by the Jews, but it was canonized, and it was done so rightly. It is an important part of the canon of Scripture and also of Jewish history.

The writing of Esther dates to the 4th century BC, and the exact year will be given for the occurrences which it records. It is not sure who wrote the book, but it was probably not Mordecai, a main character of the story. The author distances himself from the person of Mordecai. However, several of the gospel writers do this as well, so it is not impossible that he authored it.

The purpose of the book is almost always cited as to bring to remembrance the people and events which brought about the feast of Purim for the Jews. Thus, it would be an anchor back to their history, and how they have remained a unified people.

A second, less-cited reason, but one which is made, is to show the conflict between the people of Israel and the Amalekites. This is certainly a highlight of the book – warring against and gaining victory over the enemies of the people. This will be explained when the main antagonist of the story, Haman, is introduced.

However, neither of these reasons is at all sufficient to describe the main purpose of the book. The book, and indeed all of the Bible, is not about the Jewish people. They are a main part of the subject matter, but the Bible is about the Lord – the Creator, the Sovereign, the Sustainer, the Protector of His people, the One who may not even be seen or acknowledged, and yet the One who is still there, working behind the scenes, to effect His purposes in redemptive history. In particular, the purpose of bringing to fruition His promise of a Redeemer – the true Subject of all of Scripture.

The people of Israel were the people through whom He would come, and therefore it was necessary to keep them as a people in order for Him to arrive. Further, promises were made to them that they would always be kept as a people, even after the arrival of the Messiah, and therefore, Esther shows the faithfulness of God to the stiff-necked and unfaithful group of people He had covenanted with.

Text Verse: “Therefore say to the house of Israel, ‘Thus says the Lord God: “I do not do this for your sake, O house of Israel, but for My holy name’s sake, which you have profaned among the nations wherever you went. 23 And I will sanctify My great name, which has been profaned among the nations, which you have profaned in their midst; and the nations shall know that I am the Lord,” says the Lord God, “when I am hallowed in you before their eyes.” Ezekiel 36:22, 23

It is kind of a depressing text verse for a sermon to start with, but it is the reality of what occurs in Esther. Ezekiel was specifically speaking about the second return from exile, meaning Israel’s return to the land in modern times. But the premise holds true for both exiles. Leviticus 26 explained what the Lord would do to the people if they failed to honor and obey Him. He did as He promised, especially the promise of exile.

It is the greatest tragedy of all of the curses for the Jewish people. They became a people without a land and without their God openly evident in their lives. The events in Esther actually occur after the return of the people to the land of Israel, but many Jews remained dispersed in the foreign lands willingly.

And so it is with the book of Esther that the Lord is not at all openly evident. He is never explicitly mentioned – as God or Lord. Other than fasting, which may not even have been to Him, there is no mention of prayer, worship, or sacrifice in the entire book. The people have all but left Him, and He has supposedly all but left them. And yet, the outcome of the book shows that to not be so.

Either extreme chance and happenstance directed the affairs, or the Lord was there, working behind the scenes to ensure things would come out as He covenanted with Israel. The truth of which is correct is obvious when searching the details of the book.

Deuteronomy 31 says that in disobedience, the Lord would hide his face from the people, and that many evils would befall them. He even repeats Himself saying, “And I will surely hide My face in that day because of all the evil which they have done, in that they have turned to other gods.” To hide His face means that they would not know He was there with them any longer. And thus it is in Esther. The Lord is hidden, they are not in their homeland, and they are about to face total annihilation.

But the Lord is there. Hidden, yes, but the Lord is there. Four times in the book of Esther the divine name, Yehovah, is secreted away in acrostics. Also, the name He proclaimed to Moses on Mount Sinai – EHYH or, I AM THAT I AM – is also hidden within the text. Though He has hidden His face from Israel, He has not hidden His face from His covenant with Israel. He is there, ensuring that all will turn out as it should.

In God, there is no lack, and for Israel who has forgotten the Lord, He has not forgotten them. His promise is to the people of the world. It is a promise of redemption, and restoration which goes back the very fall of man. Without Israel, Christ would not have come. Israel must stand, and Israel will stand. From them came Messiah, and to them Messiah will return. But it is not for Israel’s sake that these things have, and will, come about, but for the sake of the Lord’s holy name. This is the overarching purpose of the book of Esther – sanctifying the holy, and yet unseen name of the Lord. It’s all to be found in His superior word. And so let’s turn to that precious word once again and… May God speak to us through His word today and may His glorious name ever be praised.

I. A Feast of One Hundred and Eighty Days (verses 1-4)

Now it came to pass in the days of Ahasuerus 

The book of Esther begins with the words v’hi bime Akhashverosh, or, “And it came to pass in the days of Ahasuerus.” Beginning a book with the word “and” might seem a bit unusual to our ears. It is as if we are reading and come to a new book and find it is merely a continuation of the same story we have been reading all along.

And for all intents and purposes it is. God is revealing to us a single story, unfolding it in a logical sequence which may or may not be chronological, but each section fits in a fashion as orderly as if it is chronological.

This same “and” begins the books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings, 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Ezekiel, and Jonah. Beginning this way is certainly intended to show us an unraveling of a thought process which had already began elsewhere.

The name Akhashverosh, or as we transliterate it, Ahasuerus, is believed to come from the Persian Khshayarsha, signifying “mighty eye” or “mighty man.” The name here needs to be explained. The same name points to three different people in the Bible. One is found in Daniel 9:1, known as the father of Darius, and so he is identified as Cyaxares. Another is found in Ezra 4:6. He is identified as Cambyses, the son of Cyrus. The third is the person named here in Esther, believed to be Xerxes, a Greek name derived from the word Akhashverosh. Xerxes is believed to mean “warrior” or “hero among rulers.” Scholars do disagree on which Ahasuerus is being referred to, but Xerxes is generally accepted as correct. This is more probable because of…

1 (con’t) (this was the Ahasuerus who reigned over one hundred and twenty-seven provinces,

There is great specificity here in order to relay several things. The first is the greatness of the area over which Ahasuerus ruled. In this, it shows the magnitude of the danger in which the Jews would find themselves as a people in the coming narrative, and then also the greatness of the exaltation of the Jews because of the role of Esther and her cousin, the man Mordecai, both of whom will be introduced as we go on. The land he controls is inclusive of the land of Israel.

And secondly, the words are given to guide us to who the true Ahasuerus is. First, it says that he ruled over one hundred and twenty-seven provinces. Daniel 6:1 says that under Darius the Mede, there were one hundred and twenty satraps in the Persian empire. That could simply be a rounding down of the exact number, or it is that the empire expanded after that time. The latter is probably correct.

The word translated as “provinces” is medinah. It is derived from din, or “to judge.” This, in turn, comes from a root meaning to sail directly, in a straight course. Thus, one is to judge without deviating from what is proper. Herodotus writes that the nations of Xerxes were sixty, and so this is referring not to nations, but subdivisions of nations divided into provinces. In total, they equal one hundred and twenty seven. Thirdly…

1 (con’t) from India to Ethiopia),

Here it mentions Hodu, or India. The Hebrew Hodu is formed from the Persian Hidush, which speaks specifically of India. It was subdued by Darius Hystaspis, the father of Xerxes, and so Xerxes was inheritor of the rule of this province.

And then, finally, it mentions Kush or, Ethiopia. The name goes all the way back to Genesis 2:13 as a place identified with one of the four river heads which came from the river flowing from Eden. But that is only given to identify the name which later came from Kush, the son of Ham, noted in Genesis 10:6. Eventually, the name became associated with the people derived from this line who dwell in Ethiopia. The writings of Herodotus tell us that Kush, or Ethiopia, paid tribute to Xerxes.

The specificity of this first verse of Esther has been given to us to properly identify the right person named Ahasuerus here. It is Xerxes who most exactingly fits the details.

in those days

The words ba’yamim ha’hem, or “in days, the those,” signify a chronological explanation of the words of verse 1. Attention is being directed to this specific time of the reign of the Persian empire.

(con’t) when King Ahasuerus sat on the throne of his kingdom,

To sit on the throne of one’s kingdom means to rule. In this case, it indicates that he is ruling with full authority over the entire kingdom just named. To sit would normally imply peace, but Persian kings sat on a throne even when they went to battle. This is actually seen in the movie 300, where this same king fought against the 300 Spartans at Thermopylae.

At this point though, he had not only assumed the throne, but all areas under his authority would have been subdued. Otherwise, he would have sat on a throne in battle, not in the royal residence. But there he sat, on the throne of his kingdom…

(con’t) which was in Shushan the citadel,

The name Shushan is identical to the Hebrew word Shushan, meaning a lily. That, in turn, is derived from sus, meaning to exult or rejoice. In some Bibles, the name is translated as Susa, rather than Shushan. Aristotle apparently visited this city and called it “a wonderful royal palace, shining with gold, amber, and ivory.”

The word used to describe the citadel here is birah. It signifies a castle, but it probably includes the idea of a fortress. David uses the same word twice in 1 Chronicles 29 to describe the temple to be built for the Lord. The naming of the citadel Shushan then extends out to the naming of the entire city. This will be seen in Esther 3. This was the main royal palace of the Persian empire, but Ecbatana and Babylon were also residences of the Persian kings. This was Xerxes’ favorite palace, and the one he used during the winter and spring months. It was from this main royal citadel that the story now begins to come alive…

that in the third year of his reign

The words here belong as a continuation of verse 1. “Now it came to pass in the days of Ahasuerus … that in the third year of his reign.” With the identification of Xerxes being the king during this story, we can then identify the year that this is taking place as 483BC. In fact, this has been identified as the time when he had called his leaders to make arrangements for invading Greece. It is for this most important campaign that…

(con’t) he made a feast for all his officials and servants—

The feasts of the Persian kings were well-documented by those who participated. Some were said to have entertained as many as 15,000 subjects. The hall where this would have occurred is said to have been big enough for thousands to attend.

Here the word feast is mishteh. It isn’t a feast as “a feast of the Lord” in Leviticus 23. Rather, it is a feast where banqueting takes place. It comes from the word shatah, meaning “to drink.” In this case, it is speaking of a banqueting feast revolving around the drinking of wine and the like.

(con’t) the powers of Persia and Media, the nobles, and the princes of the provinces being before him—

The kingdom is one of both Persia and Media. The Hebrew for Media is the name Maday, who was first noted in Genesis 10:2. He was a son of Japheth, the oldest son of Noah. Within this kingdom of the powers of Persia and Media, a large group of people have been invited to participate in the feast.

The word translated as “powers” is khel. It signifies an army, and thus by extension, an entrenchment. Thus, the word “powers” looks to those people entrusted to maintain and safeguard the power of the empire. It probably included the military generals, as well as the royal bodyguards, and the like.

Along with them were included the elites, and the lower rulers of nations and provinces. One group of them here are called ha’partemim, or “the nobles.” It is a Persian word brought into the Hebrew which literally means “first.” It may be more info than you care to know, but the word is similar to the Greek word protos, and the Latin word primus, which we are all aware of. They are etymologically similar to this Persian word as all three cultures descended from the same son of Noah, Japheth.

when he showed the riches of his glorious kingdom and the splendor of his excellent majesty

There are a lot of superlatives used here to describe the scene – riches, glory, kingdom, splendor, excellence, majesty. Each is a noun in the Hebrew, one being heaped upon the next to show how great the scene was. One word is a new one in the Bible, yeqartranslated here as “splendor.” It will be used 17 times, but for the author of Esther, it is a favorite, being used 10 times in this small book. It comes from a verb meaning “precious,” and so it signifies wealth, but abstractly, it gives the sense of honor, costliness, dignity, and so on. All of this pomp was on display for, and lavished upon, the nobles of the land, and it went on and on…

(con’t) for many days, one hundred and eighty days in all.

yamim rabim – “days in abundance.” As it would be unlikely that he would have all of his nobles present at one time, except maybe at an opening and closing of the feast, he extended it so that all could come, party, enjoy, and certainly give their thoughts on the conquest of Greece. It was a party united to conduct a war-planning session. During this time, troops would have been arranged, plans would have been made, resources from the provinces would have been mandated and allocated, ships would have been prepared, and so on. All of this is in accord with Daniel’s prophecy of this coming great king named Xerxes, even pinpointing the reason for such a banquet in his prophecy in Daniel 11:2 –

And now I will tell you the truth: Behold, three more kings will arise in Persia, and the fourth shall be far richer than them all; by his strength, through his riches, he shall stir up all against the realm of Greece.”

The riches of the King and of his kingdom
Are on display for all to see
And for those who are invited to come
A grand banquet for them there shall be

Those from near, and those from far away
All who are invited are instructed to come
The banquet is set, and it is a marvelous day
As arrive the subjects of the kingdom

To stand in the presence of the King!
What a thing to believe; what a thing to see
An honor that truly makes the heart sing
Yes, a grand banquet for the people there shall be

II. A Feast of Seven Days (verses 5-9)

And when these days were completed, the king made a feast lasting seven days for all the people who were present in Shushan the citadel, from great to small, in the court of the garden of the king’s palace.

After the one hundred and eighty days of feasting for the nobles, a feasting which was intended to prepare for the coming war with Greece, a larger feast of a week’s duration was then given for all of the citadel. This is defined as for the men of the realm in verse 9, but it included all, from the greatest to the least.

One might ask why he would do this, but if the previous feast was as a time of planning for war, now the plans have been made. In the military, planning is made by the higher ups, but eventually everyone is included in what has been decided. The king was probably so satisfied with the prospects of a successful engagement, that he held a feast to honor the battle to come, including everyone who would be affected by a win or a loss.

The word bitan, or “palace,” in this verse is not the same as “citadel” in verse 2. It is a rare word, found only three times in the book of Esther. It comes from the Hebrew word for “house,” and so it is actually at the residence of the king, and in his royal garden, that this feast took place. Hence, the amazing details of this royal palace are next given…

There were white and blue linen curtains fastened with cords of fine linen and purple on silver rods and marble pillars; 

The scene being described here is one of outdoor garden luxury. There would have been hangings above and along the open areas, especially of the royal colors of Persia – white and blue. The blue was, however, more especially a violet. The word translated as “linen” for the curtains here, karpas, was incorrectly translated by earlier versions as “green.” It is from a Persian word, found only here in Scripture, indicating fine linen. So if you have “green” there, make a note. These curtains would have been fastened to pillars of silver in bases of marble by beautifully dyed cords.

6 (con’t) and the couches were of gold and silver

It is debated whether these couches were made of gold and silver, or if they were covered with cushions and cloths of gold and silver embroidered into them. Both are possible, and records of antiquity speak of couches with frameworks of gold and silver work.

6 (con’t) on a mosaic pavement of alabaster, turquoise, and white and black marble.

Three of the words used in this portion of the verse are found only here in the whole Bible. Thus translations will vary widely as to what the colors and stones actually are. Being dogmatic might not be the best option, as the words are simply obscure. The final one translated as “black marble” is the word sochereth. It may be from socherah, meaning bulwark, and thus it would be a border pavement. Regardless of the meanings, the beauty of the garden was certainly stunning.

And they served drinks in golden vessels,

Considering the size of the gathering, the wealth relayed here is astonishing. All of the cups for drinking were of gold. With the great attention on drinking here, and in other verses of the book, the term “banquet” is probably better than the word “feast.” Wine is the prominent item on display rather than the food. And the wine is highlighted by the drinking vessels, and of special note…

(con’t) each vessel being different from the other,

The banquet was a form of artwork. The curtains, pillars, and pavement were extravagant, but so were the vessels. No two were made alike in order to excite the eyes and bring a note of delight to the conversations which would arise. Everything was considered unique and magnificent due to its originality.

(con’t) with royal wine in abundance,

As the king had access to every wine from India to Ethiopia, the storehouse would have been full, and it would have been immensely varied in type and potency. For the wine connoisseur of the time, it would be more exciting than a trip through the finest wine store. And surely nothing one enjoyed would be in limited supply because it was…

(con’t) according to the generosity of the king.

ke’yad ha’melekh – “according to the hand of the king.” The hand is what bestows. When a person holds something out with their hand, it is an indication of their generosity. If he holds out an immense or valuable amount, it is according to his wealth. Thus, “according to the hand of the king” means that his great riches and generosity to his subjects was being placed in prominent display.

Before we continue, verse 7 has an interesting acrostic in it. In the words v’kelim mi’kelim shonim v’yen malkut rav ke’yad ha’melek, or “and vessels from vessels diverse, with wine royal, in abundance according to the hand of the king,” the first letter of each word backwards reads, “And his name is ‘the Vine.’” It is at first interesting because the verse deals with wine, and more, Jesus proclaimed, “I am the Vine” in John 15:5. It is surely a reference then to Jesus, the Lord, being the one to watch over the events of the produce of the vine, meaning wine, which will then affect the outcome of what transpires during this banquet. In the Bible, wine symbolizes the merging together of expressions into a result. The thing that ought to happen can happen, symbolized by wine.

In accordance with the law, the drinking was not compulsory;

The word translated as “law” is found 21 times in the Bible, with 20 of them in Esther. The only other time is in Ezra, still speaking of the edict of a Persian. It is a foreign word which indicates that the law was enacted just for this feast. The king had given special orders that anyone could drink as they saw fit, and without compulsion. It is then at complete variance with the tradition of the Greeks who had the motto: “Drink or begone.”

(con’t) for so the king had ordered all the officers of his household, that they should do according to each man’s pleasure.

In this, the king is showing exceptional care for his subjects. In essence, he is elevating each man’s choice of drinking to the level of anyone else. As it said earlier, “from the greatest to the least.” No boss would dare counter the king’s edict, and so those under him were able to drink more than him, or less than him, without fear of punishment. This goes with all stations and all men. It brought the people to an equality that would not exist at any other time, and it would have been a great motivator of them to love the king and to be willing to honor him all the more with their work and their lives.

Queen Vashti

The wife of Xerxes was a woman named by the Greeks as Amestris. Herodotus and others say that she was cruel and led a dissolute life. There is much speculation about whether this is Vashti or not. Maybe it is his later wife, Esther. If Vashti, it may be that Vashti is more of a nickname than her true name. This is possible based on its meaning.

This Vashti is the only woman in the Bible with a name starting with “V.” There is an obvious reason for this. First, she is the only Vashti in the Bible, and she will only be mentioned ten times. Secondly, Hebrew technically does not have a V. The V sound is used, such as in the name Avraham, or the desert known as the Arava, but this is simply a B that is pronounced as a V.

This is no different than our C being pronounced as a K

Everything is OK

When it happens this way

There’s really nothing to C

Her name is Persian, and it means in Old Persian, “The Best.” In more modern Persian, it would be “Beautiful Woman.” However, the name when transliterated into Hebrew carries a meaning all its own, a rather stunning pun in fact. First, to spell it, it must be initiated with the letter vav. Vav at the beginning of a word or sentence normally means “and.” However, it can also “introduce a circumstantial clause” (HAW). Nehemiah 2:2 does this when the king asked Nehemiah why his face was sad, where it says, v’attah enekha holeh – “since you are not sick.”

Taking the name Vashti, and dropping this vav, then leaves the word sheti, meaning “a drinking.” That word is found only once in the Bible, in Ecclesiastes 10:17 where it mentions “drunkenness.” By reading the vav where it should be in front of this word to spell the name Vashti, you then have the conditional statement, “When Drinking” What is implied is, “That’s what you get!” (Abarim). Remember that as we watch her seal her own fate, but it is the king who also suffers, as will later be seen. In other words, “This is what happens when someone drinks too much.”

(con’t) also made a feast for the women in the royal palace which belonged to King Ahasuerus.

It was custom of the Persians that the feasts of men and women would be kept separate, and so Vashti made her own banquet for the women at the royal house. The word beit, or house, used here is one different from both verse 2 and verse 5, although it is similar to that found in verse 5. Interestingly, the words in Hebrew, beit ha’malkut asher la’melek, or “house royal which belongs to king” forms a backward acrostic l’ahav, or “to love.” How that will play into the story is yet to be seen.

A palace garden, filled with delight
Beautiful stones and curtains to grace the eyes
Everything makes such a beautiful sight
To walk in the garden is its own special prize

Cups of gold, each marvelous and unique
It adds to the joy of the wine within
A banquet of wonder to last an entire week
It will be over almost before it does begin

And wine to enjoy, any amount desired will do
A wonderful banquet fit for a king
We shall enjoy the feast, through and through
Such a marvelous time; it makes the heart sing

III. The Fury of the King, or “Naughty Vashti” (verses 10-12)

10 On the seventh day, when the heart of the king was merry with wine,

This is the ending of the special banquet for the people. The king was doing well from his seven days of drinking wine, and decided that the best thing to do to close out the feast would be to elate the hearts of the men even beyond what wine could do, and so…

10 (con’t) he commanded Mehuman, Biztha, Harbona, Bigtha, Abagtha, Zethar, and Carcas, seven eunuchs who served in the presence of King Ahasuerus,

Sets of two’s occurring in Esther are rather common. This is the first of them. There are two sets of seven names of the king’s servants. The second set of seven names will be seen in verse 1:14. As we go through the book, I will try to remember to give you the other sets of twos that are included. Two’s in the Bible signify a contrast and yet a confirmation of something. These contrast as they are seven lowly eunuchs and then seven high nobles, but they confirm the orders of the king in regards to Queen Vashti.

With the exception of Harbona, the names of these seven eunuchs are all mentioned only this once in the Bible. They are all Persian names, and unfortunately, it is total speculation as to what they mean. If there is a secret code in their meaning, it will remain that way. One may force meaning into them in order to find something secret, but it will not be what the Bible intends for us to see.

The number seven, like with the Hebrews, was a sacred number to the Persians of old. It is the seventh day, there are seven eunuchs, and verse 10 is comprised of 21 words, or seven times three. That’s about the most I can give you concerning the number 7 in verse 10. What I can tell you, is that these seven eunuchs are selected to go to the queen on a mission…

11 to bring Queen Vashti before the king, wearing her royal crown,

One eunuch was sufficient to accomplish the task unless it was an unusual task. We cannot read too much into this, but the king is merry with wine, and the command is rather odd – “bring Queen Vashti before the king in her royal crown.” The crown here is a unique word, kether. It will be seen three times in Esther, and not again in the Bible. It comes from the word kathar, meaning “to surround,” and thus it is a circlet. It would encircle her head as a beautiful highlight.

Albert Barnes says, “This command, though contrary to Persian customs, is not out of harmony with the character of Xerxes; and is evidently related as something strange and unusual. Otherwise, the queen would not have refused to come.”

The targums may explain the matter. They include the word “naked.” In other words, the king is tipsy, he is now at the end of a week of feasting, and he wants to end it in a way that the people would never forget, and thus he sends seven eunuchs as a protective measure because it is possible that the crown is all she was to wear. This would certainly be justification for Vashti’s response, and the following words make it a possibility…

11 (con’t) in order to show her beauty to the people and the officials, for she was beautiful to behold.

The king intended to show off her beauty. This is something she could do with all of her clothing on, and it is something that queens are famous for. And so unless she was being placed in a truly distressing situation, it makes little sense. Albert Barnes is right, something strange and unusual seems tied to the request. Additionally, the word “people” is plural. It would be an indication that there were people of all different races and cultures in attendance. This would make the request even more appalling, if this is what is being conveyed. It isn’t worth arguing over, but verses 10-12 each have their own subtleties that do point to this.

12 But Queen Vashti refused to come at the king’s command brought by his eunuchs;

The queen, for whatever reason, from innocently not wanting to be around a room full of wined-up men of different cultures and positions, to not wanting to be highly embarrassed in front of the same, refuses the command of the king. This is something that was far more serious than almost anything else that she could do. Her very life could be forfeit, and it shows that the request must have had something more than that which is explicitly stated.

Many scholars say that it was the custom of the time to keep women, and especially queens, from the view of other men. That is not at all borne out by either Scripture in general or the book of Esther in particular. Rather, Vashti’s refusal came from something which would have placed her in a truly undignified position. If the targums are correct, she has done the right thing. If not, then what comes upon her will be justly deserved. Either way…

*12 (fin) therefore the king was furious, and his anger burned within him.

This brings in another set of two’s. Here the king’s anger burns against Vashti. In verse 7:7, the king’s anger will burn against Haman. They contrast, one is to a woman, the other is to a man, but they confirm royal authority. One will lead to a new wife for the king, a Jewess, and the other will lead to a new second-ruler for the kingdom, a Jew. Of the anger of the king, Proverbs 16:13 says –

As messengers of death is the king’s wrath,
But a wise man will appease it.”

Such is true here. It will take the wise counsel of others to resolve the situation, and also to save the queen’s life. For now, all we can do is wait and see what will transpire in the pages ahead. But the story begins as it does for a reason. It is to show how certain circumstances will lead, one to another, to bring about an end which is completely unsuspected at the beginning.

This is often how the Lord works in us, if we just pay attention to how things come out. We can look back on all of the mistakes and stupid decisions we’ve made, and yet, they seem to lead to the most marvelous events of our life. We can look back and say, “If I didn’t do that, I would never have met such and so.” Or maybe, “If that terrible day didn’t happen, I never would have gotten that promotion.”

For those who don’t know the Lord, it all seems like random chance and accidental luck or misfortune. But when God is put into the equation, we see that with everything that happens – good or bad – it suddenly comes out as it does for a reason. This will be one of the major themes of Esther, and it is a major theme of everyone before meeting the Lord. We don’t even consider that He’s there, but He is. How much more then should we realize that now that we know Him personally!

If your week was tough, know that it had a purpose. If your week ahead is tough, know that it will serve a purpose. In the end, the Lord is in the background tending to you with care that you can’t even fathom. That is even true for those who haven’t called on Jesus, but who are destined to do so. Who knows, maybe you don’t know the Lord, but you decided to hear this sermon because you were curious about the book. I’ll do my best to instruct you on the book, but it is the Lord you should be seeking. If you haven’t accepted God’s offer of peace though Christ Jesus, let today be the day. And then you will understand not just why you came to this sermon, but why everything in your life has happened as it has. I assure you, the Lord will reveal it all to you in due time.

Closing Verse: “Wine is a mocker,
Strong drink is a brawler,
And whoever is led astray by it is not wise.”Proverbs 20:1

Next Week: Esther 1:13-22 You’d better do as he says if you are his spouse… (Master of the House) (2nd Esther Sermon)

The Lord has you exactly where He wants you. He has a good plan and purpose for you. At times, you might feel as if he has no great design for you in life, but he has brought you to this moment to reveal His glory in and through you. So follow Him and trust Him and He will do marvelous things for you and through you.

A Party Gone Bad

Now it came to pass in the days of Ahasuerus
(This was the Ahasuerus who reigned
Over one hundred and twenty-seven provinces
From India to Ethiopia), as the Bible has explained

In those days when King Ahasuerus
Sat on his kingdom’s throne
Which was in Shushan the citadel
As the Bible to us makes known

That in the third year of his reign
He made a feast for all his officials and servants too
The powers of Persia and Media
The nobles, and the princes of the provinces being before him
———-so he did do 

When he showed the riches of his glorious kingdom
And the splendor of his excellent majesty
For many days
Yes, days in all one hundred and eighty

And when these days were completed
The king made a feast lasting seven days
For all the people who were present
In Shushan the citadel, a feast surely to amaze

From great to small, so we are told this thing
In the court of the garden of the palace of the king 

There were white and blue linen curtains
Fastened with cords of fine linen also
And purple on silver rods and marble pillars
And the couches were of gold and silver, as we now know

On a mosaic pavement of alabaster; turquoise also
And white and black marble; really quite a show

And they served drinks in golden vessels
Each vessel being different from the other
———-a most impressive thing
With royal wine in abundance
According to the generosity of the king 

In accordance with the law
The drinking was not compulsory
For so the king had ordered all the officers
Of his household, that such was how it should be

That they should do according to each man’s pleasure
And serve freely, without measure

Queen Vashti also made a feast
For the women in the royal palace
Yes, in that royal place
Which belonged to King Ahasuerus

On the seventh day
When the heart of the king was merry with wine, he commanded
Mehuman, Biztha, Harbona, Bigtha, Abagtha, Zethar, and Carcas
Seven eunuchs who served in the presence of King Ahasuerus
———-so the kind demanded 

To bring Queen Vashti before the king
Wearing her royal crown
In order to show her beauty to the people and the officials
For she was beautiful to behold; she could really knock ‘em down 

But Queen Vashti refused to come
At the king’s command to be brought by the eunuchs of the king
Therefore the king was furious
And his anger burned within him, because Vashti refused this thing

Lord God, thank You for Your presence that is with us
Even when we don’t realize that You are there
Because You sent Your own Son Jesus
We can know that You truly do care

And so Lord, be real to us in a wonderful new way
Open our minds and our hearts to seeing You always
Through every step we take, and throughout every day
Be real to us, O God, and to You will shall give all of our praise

Hallelujah and Amen…





Now it came to pass in the days of Ahasuerus (this was the Ahasuerus who reigned over one hundred and twenty-seven provinces, from India to Ethiopia), in those days when King Ahasuerus sat on the throne of his kingdom, which was in Shushan the citadel, that in the third year of his reign he made a feast for all his officials and servants—the powers of Persia and Media, the nobles, and the princes of the provinces being before him— when he showed the riches of his glorious kingdom and the splendor of his excellent majesty for many days, one hundred and eighty days in all.

And when these days were completed, the king made a feast lasting seven days for all the people who were present in Shushan the citadel, from great to small, in the court of the garden of the king’s palace. There were white and blue linen curtains fastened with cords of fine linen and purple on silver rods and marble pillars; and the couches wereof gold and silver on a mosaic pavement of alabaster, turquoise, and white and black marble. And they served drinks in golden vessels, each vessel being different from the other, with royal wine in abundance, according to the generosity of the king. In accordance with the law, the drinking was not compulsory; for so the king had ordered all the officers of his household, that they should do according to each man’s pleasure.

Queen Vashti also made a feast for the women in the royal palace which belonged to King Ahasuerus.

10 On the seventh day, when the heart of the king was merry with wine, he commanded Mehuman, Biztha, Harbona, Bigtha, Abagtha, Zethar, and Carcas, seven eunuchs who served in the presence of King Ahasuerus, 11 to bring Queen Vashti before the king, wearing her royal crown, in order to show her beauty to the people and the officials, for she was beautiful to behold. 12 But Queen Vashti refused to come at the king’s command brought by his eunuchs; therefore the king was furious, and his anger burned within him.