Esther is the last of the historical books in the Bible, the next book is Job and with that comes the section commonly known as the wisdom literature. At the time these events took place, the Persian Empire was the biggest empire that the world had ever seen, and archaeology has found remnants of the palace in which many of these dramatic moments happened ¹.
We join the story around 30 years after Ezra had returned to Jerusalem, and around 40 years before Nehemiah would join the returned and endeavour to rebuild the walls of the city. King Ahasuerus, commonly known as Xerxes, consistently comes across as a prideful and arrogant person, and in Esther 1 he is seen to be giving feats for all his officials and servants…while he showed the riches of his royal glory and the splendour and pomp of his greatness. These feasts, then, seem to be for no other reason than to show off how great he thinks he is.
The king then makes the first of many terrible decisions, when the heart of the king was merry with wine, he decides to up the ante of his prideful boasting and parade his wife in front of his friends those gathered. Here is our first lesson; drunk decisions are bad decisions. Paul writes pretty clearly about this,
Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit…
He wants to show the peoples and the princes her beauty, for she was lovely to look at. Different sources will give different interpretations of what was means by show the peoples; some think it meant to dance, some think she was to be paraded in naked, but, either way, Vashti refused and chose instead to keep her modesty and dignity in tact (v.12). However, refusing the king had terrible consequences, and Xerxes was enraged and his anger burned within him.
The king then makes another terrible decision when he listens to the bad counsel of Memucan and decrees that Vashti is never to again come before King Ahasuerus. The goal is somewhat noble, that all women will give honour to their husbands, high and low alike, but the method of seeing it through (the deposition of Vashti) was heavy-handed, to say the least.
How thankful we are that to be loved by a God who has the highest of standards for our character, our homes, our marriages, our lives, but never seeks to impart them on us by any other method than love and personal demonstration.
Rather than commanding us to do this and that and hoping we don’t rebel against the harsh and heavy yoke imposed on us, the God of the Bible, God Most High, loves us to the point of death – and resurrection – and would rather demonstrate His love for us than command and decree that we must live as simple robots with flesh and blood, as Xerxes wanted to have Vashti be.
How thankful we are to serve a God who asks us to do nothing more than He did Himself in the person of Jesus, who, though being equal with God, made the decision to [humble] himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross (Philippians 2.8).
If you have never read Esther 1, you can do so here;