Esther 5 Sermon

Esther 5 Sermon

Let’s open our Bibles to the 5th chapter in the book of Esther for this Esther 5 sermon. We’ll be studying the 5th, 6th, and 7th chapters today. I’ll give this message the title “God’s Providential Poetic Justice”. Poetic justice happens in literature when good wins and/or evil is punished. And that’s just what we see in chapters 5, 6, and 7.

These chapters are full of action. I think they’re actually the most enjoyable part of the entire book. This episode has a striking flow to it. Have you ever noticed it? Chapter 5 starts with Esther facing death at the hands of the king if he doesn’t hold out the scepter to her. Then there’s a banquet. Next Haman talks with his friends and family. And those three scenes all serve to get us ready for the climax scene – in which Mordecai is honored instead of Haman. The rest is downhill, so to speak. Haman again talks with his family and friends. There’s another banquet after that. And finally, it’s not Esther who’s facing death at the end. Rather, the wicked Haman faces death by the king’s command.

So before we delve into the story, we’ll just take a minute to bring us to where we are in the story. Ahasuerus is king of the Persian empire. His wife, Queen Vashti surprises everyone by disobeying the king. He puts her away and seeks another queen. Esther, by God’s providence, is crowned queen in Vashti’s place. Mordecai – Esther’s adopted father – is also seen in the king’s gate. All seems well with these two Jews – Oh yeah, and don’t forget that no one knows that they’re Jewish at this point.

But then we see some major conflict in the story. Haman – a mortal enemy of the Jews – comes into power under Ahasuerus. Mordecai refuses to bow to him and reveals his reason – he’s a Jew. And so Haman schemes to destroy not only Mordecai but all the Jews on the 13th day of the 12th month. Ahasuerus gives this scheme his approval without any sort of investigation. Mordecai hears of Haman’s edict and laments publicly. He urges Esther to go before the king and plead for her people – the people she wasn’t identifying with at Mordecai’s insistence. Esther faces a crisis – will she identify with God’s people, the Jews and risk death? Or would she keep her identity a secret and… risk death? By faith, Esther chooses to identify with God’s people. So she, Mordecai, and all the Jews in Shushan fast for 3 days. On the 3rd day of that fast, Esther decides that it’s time for action. Let’s read about it in 5:1.

Esther 5 Commentary (1)

5:1 ¶ Now it came to pass on the third day, that Esther put on her royal apparel, and stood in the inner court of the king’s house, over against the king’s house: and the king sat upon his royal throne in the royal house, over against the gate of the house.

So Esther puts on her royal garments. And she takes her stand where the king can see her. This is the moment of truth. She will die, unless this rather volatile king chooses to have mercy on her. Let’s read how Ahasuerus reacts in 5:2-3.

Esther 5 Commentary (2-3)

5:2 And it was so, when the king saw Esther the queen standing in the court, that she obtained favour in his sight: and the king held out to Esther the golden sceptre that was in his hand. So Esther drew near, and touched the top of the sceptre. 3 Then said the king unto her, What wilt thou, queen Esther? and what is thy request? it shall be even given thee to the half of the kingdom.

Who knows what caused Ahasuerus to respond with such mercy. Well, ultimately we know it’s the sovereign — yet unseen — God of the Jews. But humanly-speaking, what softened Ahasuerus? We could think of several possibilities. Maybe he wasn’t as fierce as Esther originally imagined. Or maybe Esther was exaggerating his brutality in her mind when she was talking with Mordecai. Maybe Ahasuerus saw Esther’s beauty combined with her royal clothing and he was reminded that she was the one he hand-picked out of countless other women from his kingdom. And maybe his heart was moved with compassion. Maybe he sensed that something was really troubling her and was moved to assist her. We don’t know why. But we do know this — Esther found favor in his sight. Just like Joseph – himself, a Jew in a foreign land – found favor in the eyes of all who were around him. How did that happen? In Joseph’s case we’re told that God was with him. And that’s the same thing that’s happening here. God – though unseen and unmentioned – is with Esther.

And because of that, Ahasuerus is inclined to hear his queen’s petition. And he makes a big bold promise – to the half of my kingdom it shall be given! It’s hard to tell if that’s hyperbole or if there would be some limititation to what the king could actually grant to individuals. But at the very least we can take this statement as an indication that he is well-disposed towards Esther and ready to do whatever she wants him to do.

So now’s the time, right? Esther should just tell the king about Haman’s plot and get it over with! Is that what Esther does? No. Let’s read 5:4.

Esther 5 Commentary (4)

5:4 And Esther answered, If it seem good unto the king, let the king and Haman come this day unto the banquet that I have prepared for him.

You might wonder if Esther is a little nervous and trying to delay. I thought that at first. But I don’t anymore. Why? Notice the tense of Esther’s verb at the end of verse 4. “The banquet that I … HAVE PREPARED…” – It’s a past kind of thing. This banquet was prepared. Esther planned this out. She wasn’t just trying to bide time. She wasn’t halting when it came to executing the plan she conceived-of while fasting to the unmentioned God. She took care of her waffling back in chapter 4. If she perishes, she will perish. That’s her resolve. And now she has her plan. She’s putting it into action. And all the pieces just need to fall into place. This will be fun to watch.

Let’s just notice one other thing in this verse. Esther had the banquet all prepared. She knew full-well that she might die at the king’s hands. But she went ahead and made her plans and executed them anyway. The attitude in her heart was like James in the New Testament says, “If the Lord wills, we will live, and also do this or that.” And we see in verse 5 how Ahasuerus responds to this invitation.

Esther 5 Commentary (5)

5:5 Then the king said, Cause Haman to make haste, that he may do as Esther hath said. So the king and Haman came to the banquet that Esther had prepared.

Ahasuerus — never one to pass up a banquet — is favorable to this suggestion of Esther’s. And did you notice who else Esther invited besides the king? She invites Haman! What?! The enemy of her people? Oh yes. Just wait. Let’s read what happens at the banquet in 5:6-8.

Esther 5 Commentary (6-8)

5:6 And the king said unto Esther at the banquet of wine, What is thy petition? and it shall be granted thee: and what is thy request? even to the half of the kingdom it shall be performed. 7 Then answered Esther, and said, My petition and my request is; 8 If I have found favour in the sight of the king, and if it please the king to grant my petition, and to perform my request, let the king and Haman come to the banquet that I shall prepare for them, and I will do to morrow as the king hath said.

This is the second time Ahasuerus asks Esther’s petition. The suspense must be killing him! And Esther keeps leading him on. I can imagine the conversation going something like this. Esther: “OK, I’ll tell you my petition and request…” Ahasuerus: “Oh good! Finally!” “If I’ve found favor in your eyes…” “Yes, go on!” “And if you’re pleased to grant my petition…” “I am, please continue!” “Well, you and Haman can come to my second banquet tomorrow. Then I’ll tell you what my request is.” I can imagine all three of the attendants with a smile on their face. Ahasuerus gets to attend another banquet. Esther by this point knows that to some extent she has the king in her hand. And Haman? Well, we see how he’s feeling in 5:9.

Esther 5 Commentary (9)

5:9 ¶ Then went Haman forth that day joyful and with a glad heart: but when Haman saw Mordecai in the king’s gate, that he stood not up, nor moved for him, he was full of indignation against Mordecai.

Haman, I’m sure, was just beaming as he left Esther’s 1st banquet. He was invited to attend a private party of the royal couple. What could bolster his ego any more than that? His elation – however – comes to a complete halt when he sees Mordecai sitting in the king’s gate. Mordecai – that Jew, that mortal enemy! Mordecai – the one who refuses to bow to Haman!… Ah yes, but Mordecai – the one who, along with his entire race – will be exterminated soon. But not soon enough! Haman wished Mordecai would be dead sooner. But he composes himself and goes home in verse 10. And he does what any humble sane man would do to calm his homicidal rage… he calls together his wife and his friends and brags about himself to them! Let’s read 5:11-14.

Esther 5 Commentary (11-14)

5:11 And Haman told them of the glory of his riches, and the multitude of his children, and all the things wherein the king had promoted him, and how he had advanced him above the princes and servants of the king. 12 Haman said moreover, Yea, Esther the queen did let no man come in with the king unto the banquet that she had prepared but myself; and to morrow am I invited unto her also with the king. 13 Yet all this availeth me nothing, so long as I see Mordecai the Jew sitting at the king’s gate. 14 Then said Zeresh his wife and all his friends unto him, Let a gallows be made of fifty cubits high, and to morrow speak thou unto the king that Mordecai may be hanged thereon: then go thou in merrily with the king unto the banquet. And the thing pleased Haman; and he caused the gallows to be made.

It seems like Haman was trying to console himself about Mordecai’s disrepect. He tried his best to build himself up – not only in his own eyes but in the eyes of those closest to him. He boasts of his wealth and of how many children he has. He boasts of his promotion by Ahasuerus. And the latest reason to brag – he was invited to a special VIP banquet for only him, the king, and the queen! But I can see Haman’s countenance fall as he envisions Mordecai the Jew sitting – not standing as he ought to be – sitting in the king’s gate.

This reminds me of old king Ahab, one of the kings of the northern tribes of Israel. Do you remember how he pouted when Naboth – based on religious principle – refused to sell Ahab his vineyard? Now, Ahab had a wife. Do you remember her name? Jezebel. She has become the classic example of an ungodly woman in Scripture. And you probably remember that Jezebel hatched a plan to get Naboth’s vineyard for her husband. What did that plan involve? It involved the removal of the person who was in the way of the king’s happiness. She planned for the unjust execution of Naboth, the man of religious principle.

And here, too, in the book of Esther we have something similar happening. Mordecai won’t bow to Haman out of religious principle. That enfuriates Haman. Haman goes home and eventually pouts to his wife. And his wife, along with his friends, form a plan for him to rid himself of his problem. Make a gallows 75 feet high. 75 feet! Take the tallest man in our assembly, clone him 10 times, and stand all of his clones on his shoulders — and you still won’t get 75 feet. This seems unnecessarily tall to me. But of course sinful human wrath and vengeance can get pretty out-of-control. And that’s just what Haman wants – an extreme end to this foe of his who refuses to bow to him. So rather than wait until the 12th month for Mordecai to be killed along with all the Jews, Haman plans to prematurely kill Mordecai. There’s no earthly reason to think he’ll fail. Haman has the king’s ear and utmost respect. Esther’s plan is unfolding far too slowly, it seems. What if Haman kills Mordecai before Esther is able to fully make her plan known to the king? This feels tense! It should. The climax to the action of chapters 5-7 is coming.

Esther 4 Sermon

Esther 4 Sermon

As we begin this Esther 4 sermon, we realize that so far this story is what literary folks would call a tragedy. Mordecai started off well. He was in the gate of the city, a place of prominence. But because of his religious convictions he opened himself up to satanic attack. And now not only was he in imminent danger of destrcution, but so were all his people. And their destruction seems certain. How does Mordecai react to these terrifying realities? Let’s read 4:1-2.

Esther 4 Commentary (1-2)

4:1 ¶ When Mordecai perceived all that was done, Mordecai rent his clothes, and put on sackcloth with ashes, and went out into the midst of the city, and cried with a loud and a bitter cry; 2 And came even before the king’s gate: for none might enter into the king’s gate clothed with sackcloth.

Mordecai mourns loudly and publicly. If there was a time when he wanted to conceal his identity as a Jew, now was not it. His reaction would have let everyone know who his people were. So, he wanders through the city to the gate – where he worked. But he can’t come into the gate because the king didn’t want mourners to get near to him – they couldn’t enter his gates with signs of mourning.

Verse 3 then tells us that this wasn’t the reaction of Mordecai’s only. It was one shared amongst all the Jews everywhere throughout the empire. Then we see Esther’s response in 4:4-6.

Esther 4 Commentary (4-6)

4:4 ¶ So Esther’s maids and her chamberlains came and told it her. Then was the queen exceedingly grieved; and she sent raiment to clothe Mordecai, and to take away his sackcloth from him: but he received it not. 5 Then called Esther for Hatach, one of the king’s chamberlains, whom he had appointed to attend upon her, and gave him a commandment to Mordecai, to know what it was, and why it was. 6 So Hatach went forth to Mordecai unto the street of the city, which was before the king’s gate.

So Esther hears about the edict. And it grieves her exceedingly. She very lovingly sends clothes to her adopted dad to replace the ones he tore but he was so grieved he wouldn’t accept them. So Esther wants to understand what exactly is going on. She knows it’s something bad, but she doesn’t know the whole story. So Esther’s servant goes out to talk with Mordecai. Let’s read what he says in 4:7-8.

Esther 4 Commentary (7-8)

4:7 And Mordecai told him of all that had happened unto him, and of the sum of the money that Haman had promised to pay to the king’s treasuries for the Jews, to destroy them. 8 Also he gave him the copy of the writing of the decree that was given at Shushan to destroy them, to shew it unto Esther, and to declare it unto her, and to charge her that she should go in unto the king, to make supplication unto him, and to make request before him for her people.

Did you catch that last part? Mordecai wants Esther to go into the king and make request before him for her… what? People. Note the change in approach here. Mordecai was the one who kept telling Esther to keep her people secret. Now, for the first time, he’s telling her she needs to plead for her people and thereby reveal her identity to the king. Esther responds in 4:10-11.

Esther 4 Commentary (10-11)

4:10 Again Esther spake unto Hatach, and gave him commandment unto Mordecai; 11 All the king’s servants, and the people of the king’s provinces, do know, that whosoever, whether man or woman, shall come unto the king into the inner court, who is not called, there is one law of his to put him to death, except such to whom the king shall hold out the golden sceptre, that he may live: but I have not been called to come in unto the king these thirty days.

Esther makes an excuse. “Hey, I can’t go in there. Don’t you know my husband’s violence and quick temper? He even has a law that if I go in there without permission he might kill me…unless of course he holds out the golden scepter.” Her excuse is understandable, given Ahasuerus’ explosive character. And I’m inclined to sympathize with Esther. That is, until Mordecai cuts through her excuse with hard reality in 4:13-14.

Esther 4 Commentary (13-14)

4:13 Then Mordecai commanded to answer Esther, Think not with thyself that thou shalt escape in the king’s house, more than all the Jews. 14 For if thou altogether holdest thy peace at this time, then shall there enlargement and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place; but thou and thy father’s house shall be destroyed: and who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?

Mordecai tells Esther she can keep silent if she really wants to. And it’s at this point we see Mordecai’s faith in the God who goes unmentioned in this book. He’s convinced that God will rescue the Jews from this plot. But he says that if Esther keeps silent, she and her father’s house will perish. She’s not impervious to the king’s law, even in the palace. They will discover she’s a Jew and they’ll kill her as well, while God ultimately finds someone else to deliver his people. But, Mordecai adds, who knows whether Esther came into the kingdom for such a time as this – to deliver her people. This is big pressue for this girl. How will she respond? This is a crisis moment. Will she identify with God’s people and face possible death? Or will she keep her identity hidden, enjoying the passing pleasures of this life for a season? Let’s finish with 4:15-17.

Esther 4 Commentary (15-17)

4:15 Then Esther bade them return Mordecai this answer, 16 Go, gather together all the Jews that are present in Shushan, and fast ye for me, and neither eat nor drink three days, night or day: I also and my maidens will fast likewise; and so will I go in unto the king, which is not according to the law: and if I perish, I perish. 17 So Mordecai went his way, and did according to all that Esther had commanded him.

In the midst of this dark dark scene we have a ray of hope. Esther calls a fast for 3 days. After that time she’ll approach the king, which may result in her demise. But she looks at death at the hands of her king and husband on the one hand… and on the other she looks at separation from the God of her fathers, and still the real possibility that she’d be found to be a Jew and exterminated with them. Maybe she takes a hard gulp. Maybe a wave of peace washes over her countenance as she stops trying to live in two worlds. And she utters her famous words of surrender to the Lord – She says she’ll do what she knows to be right. And “if I perish, I… perish.” She didn’t count her life as dear unto herself.

Esther’s name isn’t mentioned in the so-called “Hall of Faith” in Hebrews 11. She’s one of those whom the author of Hebrews had no more time to mention. But if God would have superintended for her to be mentioned by name in that chapter I imagine he would have said something like this: “By faith, Esther approached the king, fully aware that he might put her to death. By faith she determined to lose her life in order that she might gain it. She identified with the people of God and refused to enjoy the passing pleasures of this life. By faith the king responded by…” Well – we’ll talk about his response next week.

May the Lord help us to Live by faith in the unseen God.

Esther 3 Sermon

Esther 3 Sermon

In this Esther 3 sermon we’re going to see the two protagonists in this story – Esther and Mordecai – Live by faith in the unseen God.

This is our 3rd lesson in the book of Esther.

The first lesson we did an overview of the entire book. It was there that we noticed that God leads his people providentially. In the book of Esther God wasn’t in the business of working direct noticeable miracles. In fact as we noted God isn’t even directly mentioned in the book of Esther. I was reading a book this week. And it made the point that King Ahasuerus’ name is mentioned over 100 times in this short book, while the name of God is conspicuously and unprecedentedly absent. What are you supposed to make of that? Again as we saw before — I think the point is that even though God is not mentioned, he’s still active in the lives of his people. But he’s active not with signs and wonders to be observed. Rather, he’s active behind the scenes. Providentially. And isn’t that how you experience him today? He’s not parting the sea for you to walk through on dry ground. These days he orchestrates engineers and city planners to build a bridge over that sea. And yet, he’s behind it all when it comes down to it.

Then last time we saw the introduction to the book in chapters 1 and 2. It was there we noticed some element of humor. Does it shock you that God authored a book in his Bible that’s intended to be somewhat funny? If you’re inclined to not see any humor in the book of Esther you’re going to miss the message God has for you. Now, I have a dry sense of humor as you might have caught onto. I know, it’s hard to believe. There, that’s an example of my humor… Well I work at the library at Maranatha Baptist University. One day I saw a note from our library system that e-mailed one of my student workers telling her she had a book due in a few days. So I responded to her saying something like “return this immediately.” I know it’s hard to see it, but I actually intended that to be funny – again, dry sense of humor and poor execution of it to boot. Why was it funny to me? Well, who can describe such things? Let’s not even try. But here’s what I want to point out. I “encoded” that message, if you will, as a joke. How did my student respond? She did wonder if I was being humorous. But she decided to interpret my weak attempt at a joke as a command. And so she brought the book back and wondered why I was so adamant that she bring it back immediately… Now, what do I intend to highlight with that example? Simply that if you misinterpret the type of writing we have here you will miss the message. My student took my joke which was intended to cause a laugh. And she interpreted it as a command and acted accordingly. So we do need to recognize that there are elements of humor throughout this book. You can’t escape this fact if you read any commentary on this book. They all agree there’s humor in it.

How can there be humor in this book? Because the recipients of the book know the end from the beginning so to speak. They know that their people were delivered from Haman and Ahasuerus. By the way, I read another commentary this week that called Ahasuerus a “playboy”, a “dunce”, “obtuse”, portrayed “satirically”, and one who “is held up to ridicule every time he enters the action.” Not my words. The words of a very accomplished literary and Bible scholar. So the Jews could have seen humor in this book precisely because they know who wins in the end. This isn’t the Holocaust. Certainly there’s no humor in the Holocaust where millions of Jews actually did perish. In contrast, in this book, the plot of the Jews’ enemies never materializes, very thankfully. So we can find humor in this book without shame.

So anyway, last time we saw the introduction to the book. And in it we saw all the glory and splendor of the ancient Persian empire. We had long extravagant parties. The details of the scenery in the palace and court were extraordinary and lavish. The king Ahasuerus – remember that name sounds something like “headache” in Hebrew – the king was powerful and had everything he could need. Although he was missing one thing – namely a wife that would obey him. Vashti doesn’t give her reason for disobeying her husband the powerful and fearful yet ridiculous despot. So we won’t guess why she disobeyed. And we’ll take that silence to indicate that this whole scene intends to show us the behind-the-scenes weakness of this king who seemed to be on top of the world. Yet, he couldn’t keep his own house in order.

But this disobedience by Vashti also providentially allows for Esther to enter the scene. Esther is obedient and honorable in many ways. And so is her adopted father Mordecai. And yet, we see both of them hiding their Jewish identities. This gives us some pause concerning their godliness. But we have plenty of reasons to love these two characters and cheer them on.

So finally Esther in God’s providence becomes queen of the most powerful empire in the world. And at the end of chapter 2 we see Mordecai in the gate – in a position of some authority. Things are looking positive for these two. I wonder if that will last. Let’s read 3:1-3 to start to find out.

The Jews’ good fortune ends

3:1 ¶ After these things did king Ahasuerus promote Haman the son of Hammedatha the Agagite, and advanced him, and set his seat above all the princes that were with him. 2 And all the king’s servants, that were in the king’s gate, bowed, and reverenced Haman: for the king had so commanded concerning him. But Mordecai bowed not, nor did him reverence. 3 Then the king’s servants, which were in the king’s gate, said unto Mordecai, Why transgressest thou the king’s commandment?

So, Ahasuerus promoted Haman. Well, what’s the big deal? Did you catch whom Haman descends from? What group was he a part of? He was an Agagite. Agag was an Amalekite. Let’s try to remember some biblical history here. I mentioned parting the Red Sea earlier. Well, as you know, there is in the book of Exodus a time when God parted the Red Sea and the children of Israel walked through on dry ground. They were escaping the Egyptians — after God gave them deliverance from that oppressive nation. After Israel got through the Sea they went to Mount Sinai to receive the Law. But between those two points – Red Sea and Mount Sinai – they were attacked by a group known as the Amalekites. This group was actually some of the descendants of Esau, Jacob’s brother. This is the scene in which Joshua fights Amalek while Moses holds up his staff. And at the end of that scene God promises to have war with Amalek from generation to generation and to blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven. Later when king Saul was over Israel God wanted to punish Amalek. He wanted Saul to utterly destroy all that belonged to Amalek, even his posterity which included this king named Agag. But Saul didn’t obey. He allowed Agag to live and certainly didn’t carry out the utter destruction that God had planned. In fact the prophet Samuel had to kill the captive king of Amalek because Saul wouldn’t do it. And certainly some of Agag’s progeny lived on. And that’s how we have Haman now. So Haman was a descendant of the mortal enemies of God’s people. And now he’s promoted by King Ahasuerus to a place of supreme power. This doesn’t bode well for the Jews…

And notice that the king commanded that all bow to Haman. But did Mordecai? No. In fact he refused to do so even when prompted continually by the king’s servants. They ask him in utter disbelief – “Are you really disobeying the king?” Mordecai was not one to stir the pot. He’s no common rebel looking for any excuse to disobey even secular authority. After all, he’s the one who uncovered the conspiracy on Ahasuerus’ life in the last episode. So this is very unusual for Mordecai – to not obey the king’s command.

People who study this book make a big deal about Mordecai’s possible reasons for not bowing. Some wonder if he was just being stubborn. Others think he had good reason to not bow. Does the text say something about his reason for refusing to bow? Let’s read 3:4-6.

Why Mordecai doesn’t bow

3:4 Now it came to pass, when they spake daily unto him, and he hearkened not unto them, that they told Haman, to see whether Mordecai’s matters would stand: for he had told them that he was a Jew. 5 And when Haman saw that Mordecai bowed not, nor did him reverence, then was Haman full of wrath. 6 And he thought scorn to lay hands on Mordecai alone; for they had shewed him the people of Mordecai: wherefore Haman sought to destroy all the Jews that were throughout the whole kingdom of Ahasuerus, even the people of Mordecai.

So the king’s servants keep asking Mordecai why he won’t bow. This constant questioning finally reveals something very interesting to all those around. Mordecai wouldn’t bow, why? He told them he was a Jew. Isn’t that interesting how sometimes we might be tempted to kind of minimize our association with God’s people? And sometimes God needs to put some pressure on us in order to evoke a confession from us – “yes, please stop bothering me, I’m one of them”. Have you ever had a situation where something you do is bizarre and noticeable to all around you and the only reason you do it is because you’re a Christian? You didn’t do it before you were saved. And it makes you stick out like a sore thumb. Mordecai, because he was a Jew, could not bow to one of the Jews’ mortal enemies. He was under the Old Covenant. And for him as a Jew he would not bow to an Amalekite. So, I’m not inclined to think his motives were wrong. I tend to think Mordecai was acting based on religious principle.

And you see how the enemy of God’s people reacts to someone acting on religious principle – genocidal rage! Haman is a pure villain. We’re not supposed to feel any sympathy for him at all. Don’t identify with him. That’s not why he’s in this story. He was completely opposed to God’s people. If Mordecai knew the Jews’ history with the Amalekites and Agagites, then you can be sure Haman also knew of this historical conflict. And so when Haman hears that Mordecai won’t bow to him he’s filled with rage. But see, at this point Haman could have reported Mordecai’s disobedience to the king’s command. Justice could have been carried out on Mordecai in a lawful and orderly fashion. And really, I think Mordecai would have probably lost his case. The king commanded everyone to bow to Haman. And Mordecai refused. He was in the wrong, legally-speaking, and could have been prosecuted. But Haman is no law-abider. He takes matters into his own selfish hands. He seeks to destroy Mordecai and yet he doesn’t stop there. Haman heard that Mordecai was a Jew. So Haman hates the idea of retaliating against Mordecai alone. He wants to destroy all of the Jews throughout the kingdom of Persia.

Let me just broaden our thinking for a moment. If Haman’s plan goes through he will destroy all the Jews everywhere in the kingdom. Remember, that kingdom spanned from India to Ethiopia. What small nation is included in that? We just read about it in Ezra and Nehemiah. Yeah, the Jews in Judah and Jerusalem would feel the wrath of the enemy if Haman’s plan goes through. This is a big deal with far-reaching consequences… The destructive tendencies of the enemies of God’s people are marvelous in a very bad way. So, Haman is filled with genocidal rage. He wants to destroy the Jews. What’s his next move? Let’s read 3:7.

Haman’s next move

3:7 ¶ In the first month, that is, the month Nisan, in the twelfth year of king Ahasuerus, they cast Pur, that is, the lot, before Haman from day to day, and from month to month, to the twelfth month, that is, the month Adar.

Here’s what I think this is saying. Haman was seeking “wisdom” to know when to execute his genocidal plan against the Jews. So he cast Pur or the lot. Casting lots was something practiced even by good characters in the Bible. And the understanding was that even when the lot is cast to help people decide what to do, it’s decision is ultimately and providentially from the Lord. That’s according to Proverbs 16:33. This isn’t to say that we ought to be casting lots today to figure out how to order our lives. I’m just trying to explain how this worked in those days.

So Haman casts a lot to discern when to destroy the Jews. And I think what that last line means is that the lot somehow indicated that the 12th month was the time to do it. That’s the month Adar. So with this time frame now in mind, Haman goes to the king with his plan. Let’s read 3:8-9.

Haman tells the king his plan

3:8 And Haman said unto king Ahasuerus, There is a certain people scattered abroad and dispersed among the people in all the provinces of thy kingdom; and their laws are diverse from all people; neither keep they the king’s laws: therefore it is not for the king’s profit to suffer them. 9 If it please the king, let it be written that they may be destroyed: and I will pay ten thousand talents of silver to the hands of those that have the charge of the business, to bring it into the king’s treasuries.

Haman proposes the destruction of the Jews. Only he doesn’t mention them by name to Ahasuerus. Haman only mentions their reportedly-lawless behavior. This proves that they’re incompatible with the king’s realm and rule. So they need to be destroyed. And if this alone was Haman’s proposal it may not have gone far. But he sweetens the deal with basically a bribe. He offers the king 10,000 talents of silver. 1 talent weighs 75 pounds. We’re talking then about 750,000 pounds of silver. Today this would amount to something like $220 million USD. $220 million to destroy all the Jews. Haman offers to pay this much to the folks who carry out this unjust task. Well, how does this “noble, wise” king respond? Read 3:10-11.

The king responds

3:10 And the king took his ring from his hand, and gave it unto Haman the son of Hammedatha the Agagite, the Jews’ enemy. 11 And the king said unto Haman, The silver is given to thee, the people also, to do with them as it seemeth good to thee.

Did you see how much thought the king gave to this momentous decision? Hardly any. He just takes his ring off, symbolizing his authority to carry out this order, and gives it to Haman. And then he says something very interesting. “The silver is given to thee.” But I thought Haman was the one who was giving the silver. That’s right, he was. So what the king is really saying is “The silver is yours. And just like the silver is yours, and because you’re going to line my pockets with it, the people – whomever they may be – are yours to do with them whatever you want.” So much for nobility from Ahasuerus. Apparently he didn’t read the proverb in Scripture that says it’s the glory of a king to search out a matter. Because he didn’t even so much as ask a single question to Haman. He’s really going to allow Haman to exterminate a whole people group without so much as a question? Not wise. And yet that’s what happened.

Isn’t it frustrating when wicked men are promoted to positions of power and from those positions they oppose God’s people? It sometimes doesn’t take much for them to win over incompetent, thoughtless authorities to carry out their wicked plans on the godly. And Haman wastes no time in carrying out his satanic plan. Read 3:12-15.

Haman carries out his plan

3:12 ¶ Then were the king’s scribes called on the thirteenth day of the first month, and there was written according to all that Haman had commanded unto the king’s lieutenants, and to the governors that were over every province, and to the rulers of every people of every province according to the writing thereof, and to every people after their language; in the name of king Ahasuerus was it written, and sealed with the king’s ring. 13 And the letters were sent by posts into all the king’s provinces, to destroy, to kill, and to cause to perish, all Jews, both young and old, little children and women, in one day, even upon the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, which is the month Adar, and to take the spoil of them for a prey. 14 The copy of the writing for a commandment to be given in every province was published unto all people, that they should be ready against that day. 15 The posts went out, being hastened by the king’s commandment, and the decree was given in Shushan the palace. And the king and Haman sat down to drink; but the city Shushan was perplexed.

So we’re still in that first month. I believe this is the month in which Haman started casting lots. The same month he approached the king with his genocidal plan. In this very month he quickly gathered all the king’s scribes together to write out this edict. This edict has full authority. It’s sealed with the king’s ring. And it goes to everyone in the empire – to the lieutenants, governors, and rulers – in descending hierarchical order. And this edict is brutal – notice the three words used to describe the destruction of the Jews – destroy, kill, cause to perish. And Haman wants everyone everywhere to be involved in this. He wants them to be ready against that day.

On to our Esther 4 commentary…

Esther 2 Sermon

Esther 2 Sermon

As we begin this Esther 2 sermon we need to remember, the king issued this edict when he was very angry. I wonder what happens when he cools off. Let’s read 2:1-4.

What happens when the king cools off

2:1 ¶ After these things, when the wrath of king Ahasuerus was appeased, he remembered Vashti, and what she had done, and what was decreed against her. 2 Then said the king’s servants that ministered unto him, Let there be fair young virgins sought for the king: 3 And let the king appoint officers in all the provinces of his kingdom, that they may gather together all the fair young virgins unto Shushan the palace, to the house of the women, unto the custody of Hege the king’s chamberlain, keeper of the women; and let their things for purification be given them: 4 And let the maiden which pleaseth the king be queen instead of Vashti. And the thing pleased the king; and he did so.

It’s almost as if Ahasuerus was having second thoughts. That’s kind of surprising to me. He’s such a superlative man – extreme and extravagant. But it seems like he almost regrets what he decreed in his burning anger. And yet he did issue a decree. So Vashti could not come into his presence again. Because we all know that a law of the Medes and Persians cannot be revoked. So while the king is hesitating, his attendants encourage him to follow-through on his decree. And that idea pleases the somewhat forlorn king. So the king had officers throughout the kingdom collect all the young beautiful women and bring them to the royal harem in Shushan. And verse 4 states the main objective – “let the maiden which pleaseth the king be queen instead of Vashti.” So the search is on. Who will be the lucky one to take Vashti’s place? I’m glad you asked. Because in the next section we’re introduced to a really good candidate. Let’s read 2:5-8.

Who will take Vashti’s place?

2:5 ¶ Now in Shushan the palace there was a certain Jew, whose name was Mordecai, the son of Jair, the son of Shimei, the son of Kish, a Benjamite; 6 Who had been carried away from Jerusalem with the captivity which had been carried away with Jeconiah king of Judah, whom Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon had carried away. 7 And he brought up Hadassah, that is, Esther, his uncle’s daughter: for she had neither father nor mother, and the maid was fair and beautiful; whom Mordecai, when her father and mother were dead, took for his own daughter. 8 So it came to pass, when the king’s commandment and his decree was heard, and when many maidens were gathered together unto Shushan the palace, to the custody of Hegai, that Esther was brought also unto the king’s house, to the custody of Hegai, keeper of the women.

Who’s the first character we’re introduced to? Mordecai the Jew. For some reason a number of commentators think everyone knew that he was a Jew. I don’t think they did. We are told he’s a Jew, but I don’t think that was common knowledge. At any rate he’s from the tribe of Benjamin. And his ancestor Jair was taken in the exile with king Jeconiah. And we’re supposed to love this man Mordecai. He’s a selfless father figure. He’s raising his deceased uncle’s daughter – his cousin – whose name is Hadassah. Well, that’s her Jewish name. But that’s a secret to everyone. She goes by Esther, a nice Persian name. And this girl is beautiful. So, with this royal decree to collect beautiful young women, Esther was chosen to go to the harem for a chance to be the new queen of Persia. So she’s placed in the custody of Hegai. What happens to her while she’s there? Let’s read 2:9-11.

What happens to Esther under Hegai’s watch

2:9 And the maiden pleased him, and she obtained kindness of him; and he speedily gave her her things for purification, with such things as belonged to her, and seven maidens, which were meet to be given her, out of the king’s house: and he preferred her and her maids unto the best place of the house of the women. 10 Esther had not shewed her people nor her kindred: for Mordecai had charged her that she should not shew it. 11 And Mordecai walked every day before the court of the women’s house, to know how Esther did, and what should become of her.

So Esther really finds favor with Hegai. He treats her very well. And all the while she’s managing to keep her identity hidden. Is that OK? Sometimes you read through a biblical story and you wonder if whatever’s being described is good or bad. Why are we left to wonder? Because the writer often doesn’t come out and tell you plainly whether it’s right or not. But this is when you need to think of the rest of Scripture and come up with a conclusion. So in this case, does the rest of the Bible commend identifying with God’s people? Or does it seem OK to deny your association with them? Daniel was commended for not eating the king’s un-kosher food because he was Jewish. His three friends wouldn’t bow to the idol because they were Jewish. Moses forsook his Egyptian upbringing to experience suffering with God’s people. So I think we’re supposed to look at Esther’s conduct and be a little uneasy about it. How does a godly girl fit in so well with the godless culture around her? How is it that her Jewish identity, which would certainly include moral norms as well as a number of ceremonial practices, how does that go unidentified for very long?

Now, we’re not supposed to get too upset with Esther. I mean, the text states that she was just doing what she was told. And I think a little contrast to Vashti is intended here. But Esther’s just obeying her adopted father Mordecai. OK, so let’s get angry at him. Well, I think verse 11 is meant to soften us even further to him. He was so concerned with Esther. He walked by the harem daily to see how his adopted daughter was doing. He loved her. He wanted the best for her. Was his love a little misguided? Should he have told her to reveal her identity? It’s easy for me to say yes. And yet, this is what happened – Esther obeyed Mordecai and concealed her identity.

Alright, so there was a pretty involved vetting process in this beauty pageant. Read about it in 2:12-14.

The beauty pageant

2:12 ¶ Now when every maid’s turn was come to go in to king Ahasuerus, after that she had been twelve months, according to the manner of the women, (for so were the days of their purifications accomplished, to wit, six months with oil of myrrh, and six months with sweet odours, and with other things for the purifying of the women;) 13 Then thus came every maiden unto the king; whatsoever she desired was given her to go with her out of the house of the women unto the king’s house. 14 In the evening she went, and on the morrow she returned into the second house of the women, to the custody of Shaashgaz, the king’s chamberlain, which kept the concubines: she came in unto the king no more, except the king delighted in her, and that she were called by name.

So, true to Ahasuerus’ superlative nature, these girls all underwent a full year of purification with oils and perfumes. There are probably some health benefits to these practices and we could probably explain them and such, but I think the point is again that this is over-the-top and very much in keeping with Ahasuerus’ character. So when the 12 months was done the girl would take whatever she needed with her to the king’s room for her one night with him. It’s nice that the Bible doesn’t say much more about that. And then in the morning the girl would go into the harem for the concubines. So she didn’t go home. She was an unofficial wife of the king. Unless, of course, he chose her to be queen.

And one day Esther had her turn with the king. Let’s read about that in 2:15-18.

Esther’s night with the king

2:15 ¶ Now when the turn of Esther, the daughter of Abihail the uncle of Mordecai, who had taken her for his daughter, was come to go in unto the king, she required nothing but what Hegai the king’s chamberlain, the keeper of the women, appointed. And Esther obtained favour in the sight of all them that looked upon her. 16 So Esther was taken unto king Ahasuerus into his house royal in the tenth month, which is the month Tebeth, in the seventh year of his reign. 17 And the king loved Esther above all the women, and she obtained grace and favour in his sight more than all the virgins; so that he set the royal crown upon her head, and made her queen instead of Vashti. 18 Then the king made a great feast unto all his princes and his servants, even Esther’s feast; and he made a release to the provinces, and gave gifts, according to the state of the king.

Esther was so beautiful she didn’t need to bring anything with her. But she did take the advice of Hegai – again we see her submissive spirit in opposition to Vashti. The text says Esther found favor with everyone who looked at her. And that included the king. He loved her and made her his queen. Now what would you expect Ahasuerus to do in response to the crowning of his new queen? Yep, he had a feast! I’m not sure how long it lasted this time, but it was lavish as usual.

So, Esther is queen. Esther, the lowly Jewish girl. The former orphan. Providentially placed by the God who is unusually silent throughout this book to be queen of the most powerful opulent empire in the world. What an unlikely turn of events. If you think that’s unlikely, you should see what happens next. We won’t read the details, but in verses 19-23 we see Mordecai in the gate. Yes, he was in the gate – the place where official business was conducted and judicial verdicts rendered. How did he get there? I’m thinking that Esther appointed him. At any rate, he’s there and it puts him in the position to overhear two of the king’s servants plotting to assassinate the king. And Mordecai, the law-abiding Jew reports this plot against his new in-law the king to his adopted daughter, Esther. Then Esther reports it to her new husband, Ahasuerus. And Ahasuerus investigates and discovers that Mordecai was right. The king hangs the perpetrators. And Mordecai’s heroic deed is written in a book… and promptly forgotten. What a story!

So in these first 2 chapters we’ve seen God Providentially Placing His People. He removed one queen in order to allow another queen – Esther – to take her place. He allowed Mordecai to be in Shushan to begin with and then to be in the gate to uncover the plot and have his name written down in a book. And we’ll see as the story unfolds in the next few weeks that these placements were crucial for the survival of the Jews. So, God Providentially Places His People.

Esther 1 Sermon Bible Study

Esther 1 Sermon: We’ll be studying the first 2 chapters of the book of Esther today. These first 2 chapters serve as an introduction for the whole book. And what do we see in this introduction? We’ll see the opulence and luxury of the ancient Persian empire along with its hidden weaknesses. We’ll see the fall of one queen and the rise of another. We’ll see a king whom I can only describe as “superlative” – everything he does is exaggerated and extreme. We’ll see a humble lowly Jew being promoted to a position of some authority. Reversals of fortune. Bizarre extremes. All this and more await us in this introduction to the book. And ultimately we’ll see that God Providentially Places His People. So, let’s dive in! Read 1:1-4.

Esther 1 Commentary (1-4)

1:1 ¶ Now it came to pass in the days of Ahasuerus, (this is Ahasuerus which reigned, from India even unto Ethiopia, over an hundred and seven and twenty provinces:) 2 That in those days, when the king Ahasuerus sat on the throne of his kingdom, which was in Shushan the palace, 3 In the third year of his reign, he made a feast unto all his princes and his servants; the power of Persia and Media, the nobles and princes of the provinces, being before him: 4 When he shewed the riches of his glorious kingdom and the honour of his excellent majesty many days, even an hundred and fourscore days.

So let’s take note of the setting. We’re in ancient Persia. And more specifically we’re in one of their several capitals which was named Shushan. This city today is known as Shush and it’s in Iran – on the western border between Iran and Iraq. And from this one city, this man named Ahasuerus reigned from as far east as India and modern-day Pakistan and as far west as ancient Ethiopia – Kush – the land just south of Egypt at that time. Needless to say, this is a vast amount of land. Today there are something like 20 individual countries occupying that land. And the text says this land was divided up into 127 provinces. The mention of all these things is supposed to impress us. We’re supposed to say “ooh” and “ahh”. But you can’t boo or hiss or rattle noise-makers yet because Haman hasn’t entered the story.

Well, if this doesn’t impress you, consider this next batch of proofs that this kingdom of Persia was opulent. This king Ahasuerus in the 3rd year of his reign has a huge feast. This man started reigning in 486 BC. And so the 3rd year of his reign would have been 483 BC. Since we just finished studying Ezra and Nehemiah, I’ll mention this. The story in the book of Esther occurs between Ezra 6 and Ezra 7 – after the Temple was constructed but before Ezra himself came to Jerusalem and stopped the mixed marriages. So, back to Ahasuerus. He’s actually in his early 30s when he throws this lavish party. And how long does it go on? 180 days! This is half a year. Now, we’re not told why he’s throwing this party. We know whom he invited – his advisers and the people in charge of those 127 provinces. But why? Well, from history we know that Ahasuerus was planning to attack Greece a few years later. Maybe he was gathering support and strategizing for that campaign. Maybe. But the reason isn’t specifically stated. All we’re told are the facts of how rich the kingdom of Persia is and how lavish their banquet was. So I think that’s what we’re supposed to focus on. Not why he’s throwing the party, but the fact that it’s happening and all the over-the-top details that are given concerning it. Well, I suppose everyone goes home after the half year, right? Well, they do. But king Ahasuerus isn’t done displaying his wealth and power just yet! Let’s read 1:5-9.

Esther 1 Commentary (5-9)

1:5 And when these days were expired, the king made a feast unto all the people that were present in Shushan the palace, both unto great and small, seven days, in the court of the garden of the king’s palace; 6 Where were white, green, and blue, hangings, fastened with cords of fine linen and purple to silver rings and pillars of marble: the beds were of gold and silver, upon a pavement of red, and blue, and white, and black, marble. 7 And they gave them drink in vessels of gold, (the vessels being diverse one from another,) and royal wine in abundance, according to the state of the king. 8 And the drinking was according to the law; none did compel: for so the king had appointed to all the officers of his house, that they should do according to every man’s pleasure. 9 Also Vashti the queen made a feast for the women in the royal house which belonged to king Ahasuerus.

So the king has another feast! This time it’s only 7 days long. And the company there is a bit different. Now anyone who is in Shushan can come and dine. And what a spectacle they meet when they arrive! Did you see all the glorious details in verse 6? Beautiful hangings, rings, marble, beds, pavement. All these colors and textures. These people came from very ordinary places to attend this banquet. To see this splendor would have been breath-taking. And if the ornaments didn’t take your breath away, maybe the alcohol would. The king had the drinking “according to the law” or according to an edict that he apparently issued. Usually at such feasts there was someone who would tell all the guests when they could drink and when they needed to stop. But not at this party! The wine was flowing, by the king’s command.

And then we’re told that the king had a queen. Her name is Vashti. She’s holding a separate party for Ahasuerus’ concubines in another location. This is not to say that Vashti and Ahasuerus were apart for the half year prior to this 7-day feast. It’s just that during the time when Ahasuerus was holding his shorter 7-day feast, Vashti was with the ladies – well, particularly Ahasuerus’ ladies/concubines – in Shushan. And I think Ahasuerus had her off with the ladies for a reason. We’ll see it in a little bit.

So we’ve been shown all of the king’s riches and glory and splendor. He’s on top of the world. He has everything. What more could he show his guests? Ah, he’s been saving his most valued possession, if you will, for last. Let’s read 1:10-11.

Esther 1 Commentary (10-11)

1:10 ¶ On the seventh day, when the heart of the king was merry with wine, he commanded Mehuman, Biztha, Harbona, Bigtha, and Abagtha, Zethar, and Carcas, the seven chamberlains that served in the presence of Ahasuerus the king, 11 To bring Vashti the queen before the king with the crown royal, to shew the people and the princes her beauty: for she was fair to look on.

The king has partaken of some spirits and so he himself is in high spirits. I think that the king was probably not totally inebriated. But I imagine he was at least a little buzzed – his heart was merry with wine. So he’s at least happy. And he wants to display the rarest jewel of his kingdom in his eyes – his beautiful queen. Vashti is her name, which I understand meant something like “sweetheart.” So the king, never lacking pomp, sends not one messenger. Not two. But seven messengers are sent to the queen. This is a high occasion. After displaying all of his opulence and glory, Ahasuerus wants to showcase his wife as the grand finale. The attendants are waiting. King Ahasuerus sits back and waits for all the people to see his beautiful queen. There’s anticipation in the air. What happens? 1:12.

Esther 1 Commentary (12)

1:12 But the queen Vashti refused to come at the king’s commandment by his chamberlains: therefore was the king very wroth, and his anger burned in him.

What would this have looked like? I imagine it’s like one of those scenes in a drama or a movie where there’s a room full of people, everyone relaxed, some soft music playing in the background, maybe on an old-fashioned record player. Then someone stands up and says something completely inappropriate. And everyone gasps. The record player screeches to a halt. And all in attendance are looking shocked. I picture that kind of scene being played out here. We were expecting to see queen Vashti enter the room in all her splendor, flanked by the 7 eunuchs who were sent to get her. Instead the eunuchs return, tail between their legs as it were. Did they whisper to Ahasuerus the embarrassing news? However the message was delivered, the king was not happy. True to his nature he gets angry. And he doesn’t just get a little angry. He gets really angry. He was very wroth. His anger burned in him.

What a coincidence that this should take place at this time. Who would have guessed that the queen would disobey the king’s reasonable request. Now, some throughout the ages have made excuses for Vashti’s behavior. The rabbis have decided that Vashti declined to come because the king wanted her to come dressed in her royal crown… only. Nude, in other words. I don’t think that’s the case. Granted, Ahasuerus was surely an ungodly man. But I don’t think he’d want to put his own wife on display like that. Want proof? Well later on when Haman looks like he’s attacking the king’s new wife – I won’t say who that is at the moment… — Ahasuerus is incensed. So, are we really supposed to believe that Ahasuerus would want to expose the woman he married to everyone in the palace while when just one person is appearing to mistreat his wife he explodes with anger and comes swiftly to her defense? I don’t think so. Others point to the fact that Vashti and Ahasuerus were separated for such a long time. They say this fact tells us there was a problem between them. But again all we know is that Vashti held her own party for the 7 days of this shorter feast. She wasn’t holding her own party for Ahasuerus’ concubines during the half year party. So they were apart for perhaps 7 days. Maybe more. But they probably had not been separated for a half-year.

So I conclude that we’re really not given the reason behind Vashti’s disobedience. Why? Well, in literature the type of character Vashti plays is what is called a foil. She’s a minor character who is intended to showcase some fact about the main character. And in this section the main character is who? Ahasuerus. What does Vashti’s mysterious unexplained action teach us about Ahasuerus? We learn this – though Ahasuerus seems to have everything and seems to be nearly god-like, yet he’s just a man. He has everything he needs, oh, except things aren’t well at home and his wife just made him look like a fool. I think this turn of events is intended to actually make us laugh. With the Persian empire there’s this veneer of invincibility that’s just torn through by this one destabilizing act of rebellion. It’s funny! Especially for Jews who were being oppressed by this king and his empire.

OK, well if that doesn’t make you laugh, maybe how he handles this disobedience will. Read 1:13-15.

Esther 1 Commentary (13-15)

1:13 ¶ Then the king said to the wise men, which knew the times, (for so was the king’s manner toward all that knew law and judgment: 14 And the next unto him was Carshena, Shethar, Admatha, Tarshish, Meres, Marsena, and Memucan, the seven princes of Persia and Media, which saw the king’s face, and which sat the first in the kingdom;) 15 What shall we do unto the queen Vashti according to law, because she hath not performed the commandment of the king Ahasuerus by the chamberlains?

So Ahasuerus basically calls together his 7 counselors to figure out how to handle his marriage issues. Maybe he’s just weak in this area and wants to have other people tell him what he ought to do. Or maybe he really is that dense that he needs 7 people to help him figure out the next step. Or perhaps he really did see this as quite a big issue that called for a well-thought-out response. Whatever his purpose, he does get what he’s looking for. Let’s read 1:16-21.

Esther 1 Commentary (16-21)

1:16 And Memucan answered before the king and the princes, Vashti the queen hath not done wrong to the king only, but also to all the princes, and to all the people that are in all the provinces of the king Ahasuerus. 17 For this deed of the queen shall come abroad unto all women, so that they shall despise their husbands in their eyes, when it shall be reported, The king Ahasuerus commanded Vashti the queen to be brought in before him, but she came not. 18 Likewise shall the ladies of Persia and Media say this day unto all the king’s princes, which have heard of the deed of the queen. Thus shall there arise too much contempt and wrath. 19 If it please the king, let there go a royal commandment from him, and let it be written among the laws of the Persians and the Medes, that it be not altered, That Vashti come no more before king Ahasuerus; and let the king give her royal estate unto another that is better than she. 20 And when the king’s decree which he shall make shall be published throughout all his empire, (for it is great,) all the wives shall give to their husbands honour, both to great and small. 21 And the saying pleased the king and the princes; and the king did according to the word of Memucan:

So one of the princes offers his advice to the king – send Vashti away and replace her with someone more worthy. His stated objective is that all the ladies in the realm of the king would respect their husbands. This is a noble cause – even biblically speaking. I don’t think this is meant to mock biblical roles in the home. I think what it is meant to do is to showcase the weakness and buffoonery behind all the pomp and splendor of this kingdom. I mean, Memucan the prince’s ideas are thoroughly selfish. He keeps mentioning the affect that this will have on the princes. Isn’t that convenient? He’s a prince himself. He further sees the need to bolster his superficially-strong but underlyingly weak empire – “for it is great” he insists. Is it really? And the fact that these great and mighty men can’t even get their wives to submit to them, I think to the Jews who would have first received this story, is pathetic – even laughable.

Verse 22 then describes the king sending a letter to all 127 of his provinces. The gist of the letter was that every man should be the master in his own home. It was translated into every language and script used throughout the vast multicultural Persian empire. Again, it’s laughable that this big strong empire needed to send out such a letter stating such an obvious fact.

On to our Esther 2 Commentary!