Pastoral Commentary for Esther 1:1-2:18
Author: Pastor Bob Nordlie
The Hebrew name Ahasuerus is equivalent to the Greek name with which we are more familiar, King Xerxes. To his royal palace in Susa, which was the winter quarters for the Babylonian ruler, Xerxes brought officials from every province of his vast realm in order to demonstrate to them his wealth and power. At the end of this time King Xerxes held a lavish banquet for all the men of Susa in the garden of his palace. At the same time Xerxes queen, Vashti hosted a banquet at the palace for the women. On the final day Xerxes decided to show off his greatest treasure, his beautiful queen, having her appear at his banquet in her royal robes. Queen Vashti, however, refused to come. Xerxes was angry and consulted his closest advisors as to what should be done to her. One noble named Memucan, argued that all the women would hear of Vashti's disobedience and would begin to treat their own husbands in the same way. Therefore, she should be deposed and barred forever from the king's presence. They urged that her royal position be given "to another who is better than she." King Xerxes agreed and sent a decree throughout the realm "that every man be master in his own household." Then, another decree was sent seeking beautiful young virgins to participate in what amounted to a beauty pageant which would result in the crowning of a new queen for King Xerxes. One of the Jews living in exile in Susa was named Mordecai. He had adopted his orphaned niece named Hadasseh, whose Babylonian name was Esther. When Esther was chosen for the contest, Mordecai urged her not to reveal the fact that she was Jewish. By the grace of God, Esther immediately found favor in the eyes of Hegai who was in charge of the king's harem. He provided Esther with special food and beauty treatments in the finest quarters with her own attendants. Hegai also taught her how to please the king. Each of the virgins would spend a night with the king and would return to the harem in the morning. Unless the king summoned her by name she would not return to him again. When Esther's turn came, she followed Hegai's instructions and won the favor of everyone who laid eyes on her, most of all, the King. As a result, King Xerxes threw a great banquet for Esther and crowned her queen in Vashti's place. All of this, of course, was a part of God's plan to make provision for the safety and welfare of His chosen people in exile.