Esther 1 (NRSV)
The book of Esther: Nothing supernatural occurs, but what ultimately occurs is a miracle!
—Daniel Schaeffer, Dancing with a Shadow
King Ahasuerus Deposes Queen Vashti
This happened in the days of Ahasuerus,
King Ahasuerus, also known as . . .
Xerxes the Great, ruled Persia from 486 to 465 B.C.E. At this time (approximately 483 B.C.), Ahasuerus was planning what would be a doomed invasion of Greece, which would take place several years later.
At this same time the city of Athens was in its classical glory and in Greece they were celebrating the 79thOlympic games.
Also at this time Ezra had returned to Jerusalem after it had been conquered by the Babylonians. The temple had been rebuilt some 30 years before, although more simply and without the glory of Solomon’s temple.
In 40 years, under the successor of Ahasuerus (Artaxerxes I), Nehemiah would return to Jerusalem to rebuild the walls of the previously conquered city.
Although the Greek victory at Salamis brought humiliation to Ahasuerus, it was a significant step for the Greeks toward their own vast empire to come.
the same Ahasuerus who ruled over one hundred twenty-seven provinces from India to Ethiopia.
2In those days when King Ahasuerus sat on his royal throne in the citadel of Susa, 3in the third year of his reign, he gave a banquet for all his officials and ministers. The army of Persia and Media and the nobles and governors of the provinces were present, 4while he displayed the great wealth of his kingdom and the splendor and pomp of his majesty for many days, one hundred eighty days in all.
Given by the king for his nobles, officials, and military leaders — lasting about six months.
5When these days were completed, the king gave for all the people present in the citadel of Susa, both great and small, a banquet lasting for seven days, in the court of the garden of the king’s palace. 6There were white cotton curtains and blue hangings tied with cords of fine linen and purple to silver rings and marble pillars. There were couches of gold and silver on a mosaic pavement of porphyry, marble, mother-of-pearl, and colored stones. 7Drinks were served in golden goblets, goblets of different kinds, and the royal wine was lavished according to the bounty of the king. 8Drinking was by flagons, without restraint; for the king had given orders to all the officials of his palace to do as each one desired.
Given by the king for all the people living in Susa — lasting one week.
9Furthermore, Queen Vashti gave a banquet for the women in the palace of King Ahasuerus.
Given by the queen for the women who lived in the palace — lasting seven days, as above.
10On the seventh day, when the king was merry with wine, he commanded Mehuman, Biztha, Harbona, Bigtha and Abagtha, Zethar and Carkas, the seven eunuchs who attended him, 11to bring Queen Vashti before the king, wearing the royal crown, in order to show the peoples and the officials her beauty; for she was fair to behold. 12But Queen Vashti refused to come at the king’s command conveyed by the eunuchs.
“Undoubtedly, for a woman, pretentiousness and inebriation are not a comforting combination in a man.”
–Charles D. Harvey, Finding Morality in the Diaspora
At this the king was enraged, and his anger burned within him.
13Then the king consulted the sages who knew the laws (for this was the king’s procedure toward all who were versed in law and custom, 14and those next to him were Carshena, Shethar, Admatha, Tarshish, Meres, Marsena, and Memucan, the seven officials of Persia and Media, who had access to the king, and sat first in the kingdom):
15“According to the law, what is to be done to Queen Vashti because she has not performed the command of King Ahasuerus conveyed by the eunuchs?”
16Then Memucan said in the presence of the king and the officials, “Not only has Queen Vashti done wrong to the king, but also to all the officials and all the peoples who are in all the provinces of King Ahasuerus. 17For this deed of the queen will be made known to all women, causing them to look with contempt on their husbands, since they will say, ‘King Ahasuerus commanded Queen Vashti to be brought before him, and she did not come.’ 18This very day the noble ladies of Persia and Media who have heard of the queen’s behavior will rebel against the king’s officials, and there will be no end of contempt and wrath!
19If it pleases the king, let a royal order go out from him, and let it be written among the laws of the Persians and the Medes so that it may not be altered, that Vashti is never again to come before King Ahasuerus; and let the king give her royal position to another who is better than she. 20So when the decree made by the king is proclaimed throughout all his kingdom, vast as it is, all women will give honor to their husbands, high and low alike.”
21This advice pleased the king and the officials, and the king did as Memucan proposed;
When King Ahasuerus heeded this advice from Memucan, he showed himself to be unreasonable and wrong. He should have honored the dignity of his Queen. Yet, history’s profile of Ahasuerus shows him to be an unreasonable and foolish man in many cases. On one occasion, Ahasuerus executed the builders of a bridge because an ocean storm had destroyed it; then he commanded that the water and waves be whipped and chained to punish the sea.
22he sent letters to all the royal provinces, to every province in its own script and to every people in its own language, declaring that every man should be master in his own house.
Other thoughts on marriage:
Only two things are necessary to keep one’s wife happy. One is to let her think she is having her own way, the other, to let her have it.
–Lyndon B. Johnson
I first learned the concepts of non-violence in my marriage.
To keep your marriage brimming,
With love in the loving cup,
Whenever you’re wrong, admit it;
Whenever you’re right, shut up.
Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.
–Ephesians 5:21 (NIV)
One of my favorite musicals is Camelot — too bad King Arthur wasn’t around to give this advice to Ahasuerus! HERE is Richard Harris and “How to Handle a Woman.”
The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.