William Kelly Major Works Commentary
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:)Esther Chapter 1
Esther 1. We at once plunge into a remarkable feast made by the king Ahasuerus, who, I presume, is the one who is known in profane history as Xerxes. That is a matter of no great consequence - whether it was Xerxes or Artaxerxes, or even another who has been put forward as the true answer to it. We must remember that the title of Ahasuerus was a general one, just as Pharaoh was the general one in Egypt, and Abimelech among the Philistines; that is, there were many Pharaohs and many Abimelechs. So also among the Persians there were several that bore the name of Ahasuerus. Which Ahasuerus is meant is a question, but it is a matter of no importance; if it were, God would have told us. I presume, however, that it was really Xerxes, partly because of the character of the man - a man of prodigious resources, unbounded wealth, immense luxury and vanity - a man, too, of the most arbitrary and capricious character. We shall see this in his conduct towards his wife; we shall see it, too, in his conduct towards the Jew. We shall see, accordingly, the history of a remarkable part of this capricious monarch's reign; for if there was a single Persian king with whom it might have been supposed to go hard with the Jew it was this one. Darius was a great admirer of Cyrus, and, consequently, a great friend of the Jews. Xerxes was a friend of nobody but himself. He was just simply a man who lived to please himself - to gratify his tastes and passions according to the ample means which the providence of God had placed in his hands, but which he wasted on his own luxury, as, alas I most men do.
Well, he is here shown to us in that epoch of the Persian empire when it consisted, not of 120 provinces only, which was the case when Darius the Mede, and Cyrus the Persian, reigned. We find in the Book of Daniel that there were seven provinces added afterwards through conquest. Xerxes reigned at a time, therefore, when the Persian empire was in the height of its glory and its resources, and he has all the pomp and circumstance of the empire around him - all the grandees and satraps of his vast empire. Under these circumstances it is that he calls for Vashti, who refuses to come. This provoked the capricious and arbitrary monarch. Vashti disobeyed the king. She refused according to the peculiar love of retirement which characterised Persian women. She refused to meet his wishes. He would display her beauty to all the world, and she declined. The consequence was that the king seeks counsel with his nobles, and one of them ventures upon very bold advice, namely the dismissal of Vashti. This, accordingly, is the first great step in the providence of God brought before us in the book, and all the remarkable issues follow.
Now, this of itself even, is of the greatest interest; but then there is more than this. The book not only is a book of providence - God's secret providence - when He could not name His name in behalf of His people - in behalf of the Jews in their poor and dispersed condition among the Gentiles; but, further, it is typical of the great dealings of God that are yet to be, because what, mainly, does the book open with ? This - the great Gentile wife of the great king is discarded, and the singular fact comes that a Jewess takes her place. I cannot doubt, myself, that it is what will follow when the Gentile has proved himself disobedient, and has failed in displaying the beauty that should be in the testimony of God before the world. In short, it is what is going on now; that is, at this present time, the Gentile is the one that holds a certain position before God in the earth. The Jew, as you are aware, is not the present witness of God, but the Gentile. The Gentile has utterly failed. According to the language of the 11th of Romans, the branches of the wild olive - the Gentile - will be broken off, and the Jew will be grafted in again. Well, Vashti is the Gentile wife that is discarded for her disobedience and failure in displaying her beauty before the world. That is what Christendom ought to do. The Gentile, I say, will be broken off and dismissed, and the Jew will be brought in. This is what is represented by the call of Esther. She becomes the object of the great king's affections, and displaces Vashti, who is never restored. But I merely give this remark by the way to show the typical connection of the book with the great course of God's counsels in scripture.
That in those days, when the king Ahasuerus sat on the throne of his kingdom, which was in Shushan the palace,
In the third year of his reign, he made a feast unto all his princes and his servants; the power of Persia and Media, the nobles and princes of the provinces, being before him:
When he shewed the riches of his glorious kingdom and the honour of his excellent majesty many days, even an hundred and fourscore days.
And when these days were expired, the king made a feast unto all the people that were present in Shushan the palace, both unto great and small, seven days, in the court of the garden of the king's palace;
Where were white, green, and blue, hangings, fastened with cords of fine linen and purple to silver rings and pillars of marble: the beds were of gold and silver, upon a pavement of red, and blue, and white, and black, marble.
And they gave them drink in vessels of gold, (the vessels being diverse one from another,) and royal wine in abundance, according to the state of the king.
And the drinking was according to the law; none did compel: for so the king had appointed to all the officers of his house, that they should do according to every man's pleasure.
Also Vashti the queen made a feast for the women in the royal house which belonged to king Ahasuerus.
On the seventh day, when the heart of the king was merry with wine, he commanded Mehuman, Biztha, Harbona, Bigtha, and Abagtha, Zethar, and Carcas, the seven chamberlains that served in the presence of Ahasuerus the king,
To bring Vashti the queen before the king with the crown royal, to shew the people and the princes her beauty: for she was fair to look on.
But the queen Vashti refused to come at the king's commandment by his chamberlains: therefore was the king very wroth, and his anger burned in him.
Then the king said to the wise men, which knew the times, (for so was the king's manner toward all that knew law and judgment:
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;)
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?
And Memucan answered before the king and the princes, Vashti the queen hath not done wrong to the king only, but also to all the princes, and to all the people that are in all the provinces of the king Ahasuerus.
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.
Likewise shall the ladies of Persia and Media 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.
If it please the king, let there go a royal commandment from him, and let it be written among the laws of the Persians and the Medes, that it be not altered, That Vashti come no more before king Ahasuerus; and let the king give her royal estate unto another that is better than she.
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 honour, both to great and small.
And the saying pleased the king and the princes; and the king did according to the word of Memucan:
For he sent letters into all the king's provinces, into every province according to the writing thereof, and to every people after their language, that every man should bear rule in his own house, and that it should be published according to the language of every people.