Summary: 2 lessons about God’s providence from Esther 1.
A Queen Deposed
Woodlawn Baptist Church
June 11, 2004
When you think of fascinating books of the Bible, there are many that might come to mind, and probably you have your favorites. Think of Genesis, with its wondrous accounts of Creation and the Flood, or of Exodus and the parting of the Red Sea. Maybe you like Jonah for obvious reasons, or Samuel, who tells of David and Goliath. Some might name a New Testament book like Acts, where the Lord’s churches began to multiply and grow throughout Asia, or Revelation, with its prophecies of End Time events. This morning I want to draw your attention to another fascinating book; one that tells us about a young woman by the name of Esther and her rise to fame; the story of a girl who went from being a Jewish orphan to the Queen of Persia and how she would save her people from genocide at the hands of a wickedly self-absorbed man named Haman.
The Book of Esther is one of only two books in the Bible bearing the name of a woman, giving us an idea of her great importance in Jewish history. We don’t know who wrote the book, but whoever it was showed an amazingly accurate knowledge of Persian palaces ad customs, and he elevates Esther’s importance by mentioning her name more than any other woman in the entire Bible. Esther’s name appears 55 times in these 10 short chapters. The name of no other woman is recorded so often. In fact, the next closest is Sarah, whose name appears only 51 times.# What really sets this book apart as so different from all the others is that God is never mentioned in it. From beginning to end, we are told the story from a human perspective, and though we see the affairs of men and women from long ago seemingly acting of their own accord, we are given great glimpses of the Person, the Presence, and the Providence of God at work directing the affairs of people and nations to accomplish His will.
As we consider the first chapter this morning, we’re going to be introduced to Persian royalty and customs during a time of celebration. We open the chapter with the king and queen entertaining, but the joy quickly ends. Because of time, we’ll not read all the chapter, but I want you to walk through it with me. First we are told about…
A Fabulous Celebration
In verses 1-9, we find king Ahasuerus throwing a grand party that had been going on for 6 months. We are not told what the king’s name is; Ahasuerus is only his title, like Pharaoh. The Bible doesn’t tell us, and historians disagree about which king this was, so we’ll be satisfied with his title. The Scriptures tell us that Ahasuerus had invited all the princes and rulers from all 127 of his provinces to this party just so he could show off what he was and what he had.
Ahasuerus had plenty of reason for pride. Persia had three capital cities: Susa, Persepolis, which was the official capital city, and Ecbatana, which was the royal refuge from the fierce summer heat of Susa.# Of the three cities, Susa’s winter palace was the finest. Verses 6 & 7 describe for us the hangings and pillars and marble and the various colors they used. Verse 7 mentions also that each one of the guests (and we’re talking about hundreds, if not over one thousand), was drinking out of gold cups or goblets that were different from each other. Each cup was individually hand crafted of gold. The wine was flowing and people’s hearts were merry.
In a separate palace, the royal house, Queen Vashti was throwing her own party. Many people talk about the Queen as though she were righteous, but it is my opinion (and you can do what you want with it), that being a Persian Queen of heathen descent, that these ladies were probably about as loaded as the men. The wine most likely flowed freely in both palaces. Regardless, here we have King and Queen, throwing fabulous parties that lasted 180 days. As the parties were nearing an end, during the last 7 days in fact, we are told that the king issued…
A Foolish Command
He decided that he was going to show off his beauty queen to all the guys, so in verses 10 & 11 he commanded his seven chamberlains, or seven court officials to bring Vashti over where he would parade her in front of everyone. When Vashti heard the command, she refused to do it, and determined not to obey the command or go to his party. The chamberlains were at a loss for what to do. No one disobeys the king! It didn’t matter that he was her husband: he was king, and the king was to be obeyed! When they went back to deliver the news, you can imagine the scene. The king has all his favorite national rulers gathered around him, they’re all pretty drunk, and the chamberlains come in. The king and men smile as they anticipate seeing Vashti’s beauty, ready to be swept off their feet. The chamberlains want to be discreet about telling the king, but he wants to boast and show off his bride, what bad news could they possibly be bringing? But when they deliver the news, the king lost his temper and was shamed in front of all the men he had been prancing around in front of. How dare that woman not come when he commanded her!