Now it came to pass in the days of Ahasuerus, (this is Ahasuerus which reigned, from India even to Ethiopia…
We have in the opening chapter of this Book of Esther the description of a royal feast; it may remind us of two other feasts to which we of this land and age, and they of every clime and century, are invited guests.
I. THE FEAST OF THE KING OF PERSIA. "It came to pass in the days of Ahasuerus" (ver. 1),... "in the third year of his reign, he made a feast unto all his princes and his servants" (ver. 3). A "great monarch" was this king, ruling "from India to Ethiopia, over a hundred and seven and twenty provinces" (ver. 1). His palace at Susa (Shushan, ver. 2), surrounded with beautiful gardens, was a place where labour and art had furnished everything that could minister to bodily gratification. Here he entertained "the power of Persia and Media (ver. 3) for 180 days (ver. 4), the guests probably coming and going, for all the satraps could hardly have been absent from their provinces at the same time. Then, after these days were expired (ver. 5), the king gave a banquet of a more indiscriminate kind - "a feast unto all the people that were present in Shushan the palace, both unto great and small" (ver. 5). Every possible preparation was made for the guests, a beautiful "awning of fine white cotton and violet" (ver. 6; 'Speaker's Com.') being spread, the couches being of gold and silver, and placed on pavement of variously-coloured stones (ver. 6); wine from the king's own cellar being served in golden goblets, with liberty for the guests to drink as they pleased (vers. 7, 8). It was a feast -
1. In which regal bounty was lavishly poured forth; no pains or expenses were spared, as these particulars show, to make the guests joyous.
2. In which there was more of selfish ostentation than genuine kindness. The spirit of it is seen in the fact that by so doing "he showed the riches of his glorious kingdom, and the honour of his excellent majesty" (ver. 4).
3. In which there was more of short-lived gratification than lasting joy. There was, no doubt, much exhilaration expressing itself in revelry; and revelry soon ended, as it always must, in satiety and suffering. We are reminded, partly by contrast, of -
II. THE FEAST OF THE LORD OF NATURE. God, our King, who is in deed and truth the "King of kings," and not in name only, like these Persian monarchs, spreads a regal feast for his subjects. It is one that
(1) lasts all the year through: not for even "a hundred and eighty days," but "daily he loadeth us with benefits" (Psalm 68:19);
(2) extends to all his creatures: there is "food for man and beast." In this Divine provision is
(3) every needful thing for the senses: "food for all flesh" (Psalm 136:25), beauty for the eye, odours for the smell, delicacies for the palate, melodies for the ear;
(4) truth and fact for the mind: "Wisdom hath builded her house," etc. (Proverbs 9.);
(5) love for the heart of man: the love of kindred and of friends, the feast of pure affection. Of this feast of the Lord of nature we may say that, like that in the text, it is one of regal bounty; it is the constant and lavish kindness of a King; that, unlike that in the text, there is more of kindness than ostentation in it - a "hiding of power" (Habakkuk 3:4) rather than a display; and that it is one in which those who wisely accept the King's invitation may find a continual and life-long enjoyment. They who eat and drink at his table, as he invites them to do, go not through an exciting intoxication followed by a remorseful misery and ennui? but find in the gifts of his hand a perennial spring of pure and lasting pleasure.
III. THE FEAST OF THE PRINCE OF PEACE. Jesus Christ, the" King's Son," has made for us a spiritual feast (Matthew 22:1-14): "royal wine in abundance" (ver. 7); "bread enough and to spare" at his princely table for all thirsting and hungering souls (Isaiah 55:1; John 6:35). In this gospel feast there is
(1) no ostentation, but marvellous love; the marked absence of all stately pomp and material splendour (Isaiah 53.), but the presence of all generosity and self-sacrificing goodness.
(2) Provision, without distinction of rank (contrast vers. 3, 4, 5) or sex (contrast ver. 9), for all subjects, in whatever part of his kingdom they dwell (contrast ver. 5); and
(3) provision which lasts not for a number of days (contrast vers. 4, 5), but so long as the heart hungers for the bread of life, as the soul thirsts for the waters of salvation. - C.
Parallel VersesKJV: 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:)