In our study of Esther chapter one, we look at how God takes care of His people even when they are disobedient. God has always preserved His people and this book gives us an example of how He does that through some ordinary people. Jerusalem fell to Babylon (modern Iraq) and God's people were taken into exile. Later, Persia (modern Iran) defeated the Babylonians and the king allowed the Israelites to return to Jerusalem to rebuild. (see the books of Ezra and Nehemiah) A minority of the Jewish people went back to Jerusalem. This book tells us of the people that disobeyed God and stayed in Persia. Even though God's name is never mentioned in this book, it is easy to see the hand of God at work behind the scenes to preserve His people.
This is what happened during the time of Xerxes, the Xerxes who ruled over 127 provinces stretching from India to Cush.
We see here that this book is a historical record of actual events that can be verified. We also see that the Persian empire was quite huge as it stretched from India to Ethiopia.
At that time King Xerxes reigned from his royal throne in the citadel of Susa, and in the third year of his reign he gave a banquet for all his nobles and officials. The military leaders of Persia and Media, the princes, and the nobles of the provinces were present. For a full 180 days he displayed the vast wealth of his kingdom and the splendor and glory of his majesty.
The king threw a massive party and anyone who was anyone was there. This banquet was held to get support for the king's plans to attack Greece and expand his kingdom. This party was a way to show the people that the kingdom had the money to pay for the planned war. The party lasted for a full six months in which the king tried to show how great he was.
When these days were over, the King gave a banquet, lasting seven days, in the enclosed garden of the king's palace, for all the people from the least to the greatest, who were in the citadel of Susa.
After the big party for the rich folks, the King threw another shorter party for everyone in the city. He opened his garden to show everyone how great he was.
The garden had hangings of white and blue linen, fastened with cords of white linen and purple material to silver rings on marble pillars. There were couches of gold and silver on a mosaic pavement of porphyry, marble, mother-of-pearl and other costly stones. Wine was served in goblets of gold, each one different from the other, and the royal wine was abundant, in keeping with the king's liberality. By the king's command each guest was allowed to drink in his own way, for the king instructed all the wine stewards to serve each man what he wished.
This wasn't your ordinary garden or your average party. The king allowed the common folks to come in and see his greatness and wealth as sort of a pep talk for the coming war. He gave them as much to drink as they wanted.
Queen Vashti also gave a banquet for the women in the royal palace of King Xerxes.
The women were even involved in the party although their party was separate from the men.
On the seventh day, when King Xerxes was in high spirits from wine, he commanded the seven eunuchs who served him - Mehuman, Biztha, Harbona, Bigtha, Abagtha, Zethar and Carcas - to bring before him Queen Vashti, wearing her royal crown, in order to display her beauty to the people and nobles, for she was lovely to look at. But when the attendants delivered the king's command, Queen Vashti refused to come. Then the king became furious and burned with anger.
So, at the second party, the king got drunk and decided to show off his wife. When the king's servants told her what the king wanted, she refused to obey and the king became mad.
Since it was customary for the king to consult experts in matters of law and justice, he spoke with the wise men who understood the times and were closest to the king - Carshena, Shethar, Admatha, Tarshish, Meres, Marsena, and Memucan, the seven nobles of Persia and Media who had special access to the king and were highest in the kingdom. 'According to law, what must be done to Queen Vashti?' he asked. 'She has not obeyed the command of King Xerxes that the eunuchs have taken to her.'
So, King Xerxes had to consult the experts to see what he could do about the queen's refusal to obey his command. The experts not only knew the law but they also "understood the times" meaning they knew that the queen was popular with the people. Therefore, they would adjust the law to fit the situation. Men are always trying to bend if not break the rules to suit their own needs but we cannot change the Word of God. Xerxes did not know God's laws so he relied on the laws of man but we, as Christians, are to follow the Word so that we can bring glory to God.
Then Memucan replied in the presence of the king and the nobles, 'Queen Vashti has done wrong, not only against the king but also against all of the nobles and the peoples of all the provinces of King Xerxes. For the queen's conduct will become known to all the women, and so they will despise their husbands and say, "King Xerxes commanded Queen Vashti to be brought before him, but she would not come." This very day the Persian and Median women of the nobility who have heard about the queen's conduct will respond to all the king's nobles in the same way. There will be no end of disrespect and discord.'
So, the king's expert doesn't quote any law that the queen broke but points out the fact that all of the men in the kingdom will lose control of their wives. The expert also points out that it is going to start immediately so they have to act promptly.
'Therefore, if it pleases the king, let him issue a royal decree and let it be written in the laws of Persia and Media, which cannot be repealed, that Vashti is never again to enter the presence of King Xerxes. Also let the king give her royal position to someone else who is better than she.'
Memucan continues to counsel the king by giving him an answer to his problem. That answer is for the king to replace the queen with another. Up to this point, it doesn't seem like these events have anything to do with God or His people. But, you can almost feel God at work behind the scenes putting His people in place. The same thing is true in our lives today as we may not see all that God is doing but we can be assured that He is at work looking out for His children.
'Then when the king's edict is proclaimed throughout all his vast realm, all the women will respect their husbands, from the least to the greatest.'
Memucan must have had problems at home with his own marriage as that is the focus of his reasoning. These men (who do not know of God) are preparing a law to protect marriages which were designed by God. They do not know that, without God at the center, a marriage cannot be successful as only God has the wisdom to unite two people.
The king and his nobles were pleased with this advice, so the king did as Memucan proposed. He sent dispatches to all parts of the kingdom, to each province in its own script and to each people in its own language, proclaiming in each people's tongue that every man should be ruler over his own household.
The king issued the proclamation and we will see how God used that to protect His people. We must stop here and contrast this pagan idea of the man being the "ruler" of the house with what God says about the husband. This concept of being the ruler is not exactly what God wants for the Christian home. As we see in Ephesians 5, the husband is the head just like Christ is the head of the church. Christ rules over His church with love instead of harsh decrees.