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The Christian Counter

   
Esther – Beautiful Savior
Lesson 43
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The Bible is the most amazing book on Earth and it takes time and effort to get acquainted with its treasures. Pure gold and precious gems do not lie on the surface of the ground and neither do the riches of God’s grace lie on the surface of the pages in the Bible. Patient and persistent effort must come first, before the precious nuggets of truth are discovered.

In this chapter, I would like to share another dramatic Bible story that has important end time parallels for your consideration. It is the story of how God used two beautiful women, Vashti and Ester, to rescue His people. God included this story in the Bible for several reasons, and I would like to share some insights about their story that fascinate me. This story begins in 483 B.C., during the third year of King Xerxes. I have modified the biblical narrative in the Book of Esther in several places for clarity and brevity. Comments in [brackets or italics] are my insertions.

Part I – Vashti Says “No” [Biblical Narrative]

[King] Xerxes ruled over 127 provinces stretching from India to Cush [Egypt]. [He] reigned from the royal throne in the citadel of Susa, and in the third year of his reign he gave a banquet for all his nobles and officials. The military leaders of Persia and Media, the princes, the nobles of the provinces were present. For a full 180 days he displayed the vast wealth of his kingdom and the splendor and glory of his majesty. When these days were over, the king gave a banquet, lasting seven days…for all the people from the least to the greatest, who were in the citadel of Susa…Wine was served in goblets of gold, each one different from the other, and the royal wine was abundant, in keeping with the king’s liberality….

[Simultaneously] Queen Vashti hosted a banquet for the [women of Susa] in the royal palace of King Xerxes. On the seventh day, when King Xerxes was in high spirits from wine, he commanded the seven eunuchs who served him… to bring Queen Vashti, wearing her royal crown, in order to display her beauty to the people and nobles, for she was lovely to look upon. But when the attendants delivered the king’s command, Queen Vashti refused to come. Then the king became furious and burned with anger. Since it was customary for the king to consult experts in matters of law and justice, he spoke with the wise men who understood the [protocols and laws of the day]…”According to law, what must be done to queen Vashti?” he asked. “She has not obeyed the command of King Xerxes that the eunuchs have taken to her. Then [one of the wise men] Memucan replied in the presence of the king and the nobles, “Queen Vashti has done wrong, not only against the king but also against the nobles and the peoples of all the provinces of King Xerxes. For the queen’s conduct will become known to all the women [throughout the kingdom because many women are with her at the feast next door], and they will despise their husbands and say, ‘King Xerxes commanded Queen Vashti to be brought before him, but she would not come.’ This very day the Persian and Median women of the nobility who have heard about the queen’s conduct will respond to all the king’s nobles in the same way. There will be no end to the disrespect and discord [toward men]. Therefore, if it pleases the king, let him issue a royal decree and let it be written in the laws of Persian and Media, which cannot be repealed, that Vashti is never again to enter the presence of King Xerxes. Also, let the king give her royal position to someone else who is better than she. Then the king’s edict is proclaimed throughout all his vast realm, all the women will respect their husbands, from the least to the greatest.” The king and his [less than sober] nobles were pleased with the advice, so the king did as Memucan proposed. He sent dispatches to all parts of the kingdom, to each province in its own script and to each people in its own language, proclaiming in each people’s tongue that every man should be ruler over his own household.” (Taken from Easter 1)

Comments

When Vashti was summoned to the banquet room, she knew the king and all his friends were drunk because they had been partying for seven days. She instinctively knew that to parade before a bunch of drunken men was a recipe for trouble. Vashti was well aware of her beauty and the influence it had on men. Evidently the king wanted a sensual display of beauty. She knew that if one drunken fool made a suggestive remark about her in the king’s presence, the hilarity and high spirit of this grand occasion would suddenly turn into an ugly brawl of rage and violence.  She was trapped in a difficult situation because the women of the kingdom looked to her as an example of what they should do. She rightly chose to refuse the invitation of the king, even though she knew it would cost her dearly. Contrast the different parties: The king was drinking, feasting, and having a jolly good time. The queen, on the other hand, was in her chamber on the verge of tears.

It would be an understatement to say that6 King Xerxes was highly embarrassed by his wife’s refusal. Each time I read this part of the story I laugh out loud. I can picture a befuddled king consulting with his befuddled advisors – all of them trying to figure out what to do with a woman who just said “No.” Judging by the conversation, their biggest fear was that Vashti’s example would encourage all of the women in the kingdom to say “No,” to their husbands’ demands. How ironic that these mighty men of valor are fearful that there will be no end to trouble from women. So, they concoct a plan that is supposed to keep all women in submission. Their advice, inflamed by drunkenness, prompted the king to make a great proclamation in many different languages. In short, the decree said: “Women must obey their husbands.” What is so amusing about this situation is that the drunken king issues a decree to 127 provinces than even he cannot fulfill. Xerxes ruled over much of the known world. He had power over life and death, but he could not control his wife. (I do not think there is a end time parallel in this part of the story – I am still smiling.) Even though Vashti wisely refused her husband’s command, she was not physically harmed. Perhaps the Lord protected her from the usual punishment issued for defiance. However, Vashti’s refusal did not set a sequence of events in motion that eventually propelled a beautiful Jewish girl to Xerxes’ side as Queen of the Medes and Persians! Actually, the hand of God caused this episode of musical chairs. It was God’s purpose to move Vashti off the throne and let Easter replace her on the throne because a sinister event was about to unfold.

Part II – Easter Made Queen [Biblical Narrative]

[About three years] later when the anger of King Xerxes had subsided, he remembered Vashti and what she had done and what he had decreed about her. Then the king’s personal attendants proposed, “Let a search be made for beautiful young virgins for the king. Let the king appoint commissioners in every province of his realm to bring all these beautiful girls into the harem at the citadel of Susa.”…Now there was in the citadel of Susa a Jew of the tribe of Benjamin, named Mordecai son of Jair…Mordecai had a [young female] cousin named Hadassah, whom he had brought up because she had neither father nor mother. This girl, who was also known as Esther, was lovely in form and features, and Mordecai had taken her as his own daughter when her father and mother died. When the king’s order and edict had been proclaimed, many girls [including Esther] were brought to the citadel of Suza and put under the care of Hegai…who had charge of the harem. [Esther] pleased him and won his favor. Immediately he provided her with beauty treatments and special food. He assigned to her seven maids selected from the king’s palace and moved her and her maids into the best place in the harem. Ester had not revealed her nationality and family background, because Mordecai had forbidden her to do so…. Esther was taken to King Xerxes in the royal residence in the tenth month, the month of Tebeth, in the seventh year of his reign. Now the king was attracted to Esther more than to any other women, and she won his favor and approval more than any of the other virgins. So he set a royal crown on her head and made her queen instead of Vashti. And the king gave a great banquet, Esther’s banquet, for all his nobles and officials. He proclaimed a holiday throughout the provinces and distributed gifts with royal liberality. (Taken from Esther 2)

Part III – Haman Loathes Mordecai [Biblical Narrative]

[A few weeks after Esther’s banquet, Uncle] Mordecai was sitting at the king’s gate [when], Bigthana and Teresh, two of the king’s officers who guarded the doorway, became angry and conspired to assassinate King Xerxes. But Mordecai found out about the plot and told Queen Esther, who in turn reported it to the king, giving credit to Mordecai. When the report was investigated and found to be true, the two officials were hanged on a gallows. All this was recorded in the book of the annals in the presence of the king…

[Months later] King Xerxes decided to honor [his best friend, a very wealthy man named] Haman…. elevating him and giving him a seat of honor higher that that of all the other nobles. All the royal officials at the king’s gate knelt down and paid honor to Haman, for the king had commanded this concerning him. But Mordecai would not kneel down or pay him honor. Then the royal officials at the king’s gate asked Mordecai, “Why do you disobey the king’s command?” Day after day they spoke to him but he refused to comply. Therefore they told Haman about it to see whether Mordecai’s behavior would be tolerated, for he had told them he was a Jew. When Haman saw that Mordecai would not kneel down or pay him honor, he was enraged. Yet having learned who Mordecai people were, he scorned the idea of killing only Mordecai [for Haman and all of the nobles hated the Jews]. Instead, Haman looked for a way to destroy all Mordecai’s people, the Jews, throughout the whole kingdom of Xerxes.” (Taken from Esther 2 ands 3)

Part IV – A Universal Death Decree Approved [Biblical Narrative]

[About five years after Esther became queen] “In the twelfth year of King Xerxes, in the first month, the month of Nissan, they cast the pur (that is, the lot – see note on the following page) in the presence of Haman to select a day and month [to kill all of the Jews]. And the lot fell on the twelfth month, the month of Adar. Then Haman said to King Xerxes [cleverly, without mentioning the “Jew”], “There are a certain people dispersed and scattered among the peoples in all the provinces of your kingdom whose customs are different from those of all other people and who do not obey the king’s laws; it is not in the king’s best interest to tolerate them. If it pleases the king, let a decree be issued to destroy them, and I will put ten thousand talents of silver [about 375 tons!] into the royal treasury for the men who carry out this business.” So the king took his signet ring from his finger and gave it to Haman…the enemy of the Jews. “Keep the money,” the king said to Haman “and do with these people as you please…” Then on the thirteenth day of the first month the royal secretaries were summoned. They wrote out in the script of each province and in the language of each people all Haman’s orders…and sealed it with [the king’s] own ring.  Dispatches were sent by couriers to all the king’s provinces with the order to destroy, kill and annihilate all the Jews – young and old, women and little children – on a single day, the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, the month of Adar [February/March], and to plunder their goods. A copy of the text of the edict was to be issued as law in every province and made known to the people of every nationality so they would be ready for the day. Spurred on by the king’s command, the couriers went out, and the edict was issued in the citadel of Susa. The king and Haman sat down to drink, but the city of Susa was bewildered. (Taken from Esther 3)

Note: The casting of the pur (or lots) was an ancient method for determining the will of God. The casting of the pur was more than a casual or random decision. For example, we toss the coin at the beginning of a football game to determine who will possess the football. The casting of the pur was considered more serious. Gentiles (like Haman and the sailors that cast Jonah overboard – Jonah 1:7), as well as the Jews, used the pur because they believed it revealed the will of God. For example, on the Day of Atonement, the pur was cast in the presence of the Lord to determine which goat would be the Lord’s goat. (Leviticus 16:8) When Israel entered the Promised Land, the pur was cast in the presence of the Lord to determine how the land would be divided among seven of the twelve tribes. (Joshua 18:1-10) Even the Romans cast the pur to divide up the clothing of Jesus. (Matthew 27:35) The interesting point here is that the casting of the pur set the thirteenth day of the twelfth month. Because each month begins with a new moon in god’s calendar, it is possible for the thirteenth day of the month to be a full moon. (due to elliptical orbit of the moon, a full moon can occur as early as the thirteenth day and seeing that late as the fifteenth day of the moth.) Having the light of a full moon to finish off the Jews must have been a definite plus in Haman’s wicked mind when he saw the results. As it turns out, the Jews were able to use the light of the full moon to finish off their enemies. As you will see, there is more to the date and timing of the universal death decree issued on God’s people and it was more than just a random event.

Part V – Esther’s Test [Biblical Narrative]

When Mordecai learned of all that had been done, he tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and ashes, and went out into the city, wailing loudly and bitterly. But he went only as far as the king’s gate, because no one clothed in sackcloth was allowed to enter it…Then Esther summoned Hathach, one of the king’s eunuchs assigned to attend her, and ordered him to find out what was troubling Mordecai and why. So Hathach went out to Mordecai in the open square of the city in front of the king’s gate. Mordecai told him everything that had happened to him, including the exact amount of money Haman had promised to pay into the royal treasury for the destruction of the Jews. He also gave him a copy of the text of the edict for their annihilation, which had been published in Susa, to show to Esther and to explain it to her, and told [Hathach] to urge her to go into the king’s presence to beg for mercy and plead with him for her people.

Hathach went back and reported to Esther what Mordecai had said. Then she instructed him to say to Mordecai, “All the king’s officials and the people of the royal provinces know that for any man or woman who approaches the king in the inner court without being summoned the king has but one law: that he be put to death. The only exception to this is for the king to extend the gold scepter to him to spare his life. But thirty days have passed since I was called to go to the king.” When Esther’s words were reported to Mordecai, he sent back this answer: “Do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?” Then Esther sent this reply to Mordecai: “Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. My maids and I will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish.”(Taken from Esther 4)

Commentary

Queen Esther, like Queen Vashti before her, found herself in a very distressing situation. Even though she was the queen, the king had young concubines constantly clamoring for his attention. His emotional attachment to Esther was not like that of a typical husband and wife. She had not seen the king for a month when Mordecai implored her to go before him and plead for their lives!  Esther knew that if she imposed herself upon the king by violating court protocol, she would likely die or faces the same banishment, as Vashti. She also knew that the law of the Medes and Persians, once made, could not be changed. As a female, she also knew that if she appeared too aggressive, the king might be repulsed. Esther had not forgotten Vashti’s experience. These facts motivated her reluctant response to her uncle.

Mordecai responded to Esther with some very sobering words: “Do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?” This statement shows how great Mordecai’s faith in god really was. He knew that if Esther refused, she too would perish because the law of the Medes and Persians showed no favoritism. Still, Mordecai encouraged her by saying that relief and deliverance for the Jews would arise from another place. Mordecai knew how God had promised Abraham that Messiah would come through his offspring and since Messiah had not appeared, Mordecai was 100% sure that God would deliver His people. The decree sent by Haman, bearing the name of King Xerxes, was actually a universal death decree. It left no way out – every Jew was to be killed. Period.

Part VI – Esther’s Banquet #1 [Biblical Narrative]

“On the third day [of fasting] Esther put on her royal robes and stood in the inner court of the palace, in front of the king’s hall. The king was sitting on his royal throne in the hall, facing the entrance. When he saw queen Esther standing in the court, he was pleased with her and held out to her the gold scepter that was in his hand. So Esther approached and touched the tip of scepter. Then the king asked, “What is it, Queen Esther? What is your request? Even up to half the kingdom, it will be given you.” “If it pleases the king, “ replied Esther, “let the king, together with Haman, come today to a banquet I have prepared for him.” “Bring Haman at once, “ the king said, “so that we may do what Esther asks.” So the king and Haman went to the banquet Esther had prepared. As they were drinking wine, the king again asked Esther, “Now what is your petition? It will be given you. And what is your request? Even to the half of the kingdom, it will be granted.” Esther replied, “My petition and my request is this: If the king regards me with favor and if it pleases the king to grant my petition and fulfill my request, let the king and Haman come tomorrow to the banquet I will prepare for them. Then I will answer the king’s questions.” (Taken from Esther 5)

Commentary

The timing of these matters is beyond coincidence. For the sake of discussion, let us suppose the first banquet takes place on Monday evening. The king and Haman are present for very different reasons. The king is full of curiosity, and Haman, his best friend, is full of ego. The king knows something is up with his lovely Esther because no one would dare to approach him as Esther did unless there was a serious problem troubling her. Esther is timid and nervous and to get her to divulge what is on her heart, the king generously offers her anything she wants – up to half his kingdom!

Evidently, Esther sensed the mood that evening was not right for her request. So, she stalled by asking for another banquet – the following night. If this stalling technique was planned from the beginning, it surely worked. The king left the banquet more puzzled than before, and of course, Haman was only too pleased to attend another banquet. What greater honor could he hope for than to be seen dining with the king and queen once again?


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