ESTHER CHAPTER 1.
The Feast of Ahasuerus and the Repudiation of Vashti.
THE KING’S BANQUET. — V. I. Now it came to pass in the days of Ahasuerus, the great Persian king known in secular history as Xerxes, (this is Ahasuerus which reigned from India even unto Ethiopia, over a large part of Asia and the northeastern part of Africa, over an hundred and seven and twenty provinces, the larger divisions of the empire, known as satrapics, being, in turn, divided into smaller sections,) v. 2. that in those days, when the King Ahasuerus sat on the throne of his kingdom, the Persian monarchs always being pictured as sitting on a throne under a lofty canopy, which was in Shushan, the palace, his favorite winter and spring residence, in the eastern part of the Assyrian Plain, v. 3. in the third year of his reign, he made a feast unto all his princes and his servants, a banquet on a magnificent scale and extending over a number of days, the power of Persia and Media, his most important military officers, especially those of his body-guard, the nobles and princes of the provinces, at least those of the twenty satrapies, and probably those of all the provinces included in his domain, being before him; v. 4. when he showed the riches of his glorious kingdom, displayed all the resources of his might, and the honor of his excellent majesty, the extent of his influence and power, many days, even an hundred and fourscore days. During this time of prolonged entertainment the king took the opportunity to bind his subordinates to him in closer allegiance and to consult with them concerning measures he hoped to carry into effect. V. 5. And when these days were expired, all the princes and rulers having been gained for his plans, the king made a feast unto all the people that were present in Shushan, the palace, the inhabitants in general, both unto great and small, seven days, in the court of the garden of the king’s palace, in the great park surrounding the royal palace, the remains of which have been excavated; v. 6. where were white, green, and blue hangings, exquisite and costly tapestries of the finest linen and glistening, hyacinth-colored fabric, white and blue being the royal Persian colors, fastened with cords of fine linen and purple to silver rings and pillars of marble, these curtains thus admitting both light and warmth and being altogether in keeping with the climate of Shushan; the beds, that is, the sofas on which the guests reclined, were of gold and silver, upon a pavement of red, and blue, and white, and black marble, altogether a magnificent setting. V. 7. And they gave them drink in vessels of gold (the vessels being diverse one from another, a fact which increased their costliness) and royal wine in abundance, gotten from the royal vineyards and vaults, according to the state of the king, the great quantity dispensed doing honor to the wealth and bounty of the king. V. 8. And the drinking was according to the law, as the etiquette of the Persian court demanded; none did compel, there was no need of urging, all being ready to show their appreciation of the king’s bounty; for so the king had appointed to all the officers of his house that they should do according to every man’s pleasure, all the guests being put at their ease and enjoying the hospitality of the king. The contrast between all this pomp and glory and the present desolation of that country shows the vanity of all earthly riches and power.
VASHTI’S INSUBORDINATION AND ITS PUNISHMENT. — V. 9. Also Vashti, the queen, made a feast for the women in the royal house which belonged to King Ahasuerus, in her own apartments of the palace, for according to Oriental custom the sexes did not mingle at the banquet and feast. V. 10. On the seventh day, the last day of the feast, the climax of the banqueting, when the heart of the king was merry with wine, drunkenly happy with the excess of revelry, he commanded Mehuman, Biztha, Harbona, Bigtha, and Abagtha, Zethar, and Carcas, the seven chamberlains that served in the presence of Ahasuerus the king, the eunuchs who usually transmitted the king’s orders to the queen’s apartments, v. 11. to bring Vashti, the queen, before the king with the crown royal, in full regal apparel, including the high, pointed turban distinctive of her rank, but evidently without her veil, to show the people and the princes her beauty; for she was fair to look on, beautiful of countenance, and Xerxes was very proud of her beauty, as reflecting credit also upon himself. V. 12. But the Queen Vashti refused to come at the king’s commandment by his chamberlains; therefore was the king very wroth, all the more because her refusal of obedience happened upon this state occasion, and his anger burned in him, since his authority both as husband and as king had been set aside. V. 13. Then the king said to the wise men, which knew the times, the astrologers and magicians of the Persian court, who were also his advisers, (for so was the king’s manner toward all that knew law and judgment, he followed this course of getting expert advice in all his undertakings; v. 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, being his ministers or the members of his cabinet,) v. 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? Her refusal had, accordingly, been absolute, not qualified. V. 16. And Memucan, undoubtedly after a consultation of the counselors, answered before the king and the princes, Vashti the queen hath not done wrong to the king only, her flat disobedience setting aside his authority as husband and king, but also to all the princes, and to all the people that are in all the provinces of the King Ahasuerus. V. 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. They feared the consequences of the queen’s evil example. V. 18. Likewise shall the ladies of Persia and Media, the wives of the nobles, 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, literally, “in sufficient amounts,” that is, more than enough to suit us. V. 19. If it please the king, let there go a royal commandment from him, a special order, or decree, with special reference to this occurrence, and let it be written among the laws of the Persians and the Medes, that it be not altered, having the legal authority that such decrees had in the Persian Empire, That Vashti come no more before King Ahasuerus, being deposed entirely from her royal dignity; and let the king give her royal estate unto another that is better than she. V. 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 honor, both to great and small, the harsh measures adopted would have this effect of strengthening the authority of the husbands. V. 21. And the saying pleased the king and the princes. And the king did according to the word of Memucan; v. 22. for he sent letters into all the king’s provinces, into every province according to the writing thereof, in its own script or characters, and to every people after their language, this feature of communicating with all conquered nations in their own language being found in Persia at that time, that every man should bear rule in his own house, and that it should be published according to the language of every people, the language of the husband being given the preference in the home. This was, in view of the circumstances, not an idle and superfluous, but probably an ineffectual protest against a real and growing evil. So far as Christian households are concerned, the position of the husband over against his wife is not one of absolute authority, but of head-ship, with the example of Christ held before all spouses at all times, Eph. 5,20; Cal. 3, 18; 1 Tim. 2, 11-15.