Esther 1:1

One peculiarity of this Book of Esther is that the name of God nowhere occurs in it; yet the reader discerns the finger of God throughout. Its story is an illustration of the Divine providence. A complicated chain of events and actions is so governed as to work out the deliverance of the exiled Jews from a plot which aimed at their destruction; and this without any miracle or mention of Divine interposition.

1. A fact disclosed. That the Jews while in exile, under judgment, and without vision, were remembered and cared for by God. Outcast, they were not cast off, they were still the children of promise; God was still faithful to them.

2. From this fact an inference may be drawn. There is a Divine providence in the world; no supernatural exercises of power are needed to enable God to effect his will; all laws and things are his creatures, and therefore under his control; human dramas and tragedies take place every day in which acutest plans are foiled, and, by seemingly natural processes, truth and right vindicated. Our introduction to this king is in connection with a great FEAST. Its barbaric magnificence - prodigality and waste. All the princes and governors were invited - not together, but in companies, so that the revelry continued for the long period of six months (a hundred and fourscore days). What its motive? If we take the king to have been Xerxes, it may have preceded his expedition into Greece, as a boastful anticipation of triumph, or as a means of uniting in the monarch's resolve all the governing forces of the empire. But our story says nothing of any special purpose; that was beside the object for which it was written. The feast itself was described only because, in connection with it, a thing occurred which had a direct influence on the subsequent rescue of the Jews from a conspiracy against their life. The lines are in God's hands. He sees the end from the beginning. Every point in the narrative is necessary to the great issue, and to the general and abiding lesson. Yet enough is said to indicate that, so far as the king was concerned, the chief motive was vanity - a childish love of display, a vainglorious desire to witness the effect of the splendours of his person and palace on the magnates of his empire. During all the days of the feast "he showed the riches of his glorious kingdom, and the honour of his excellent majesty." His mind was puffed up by the conceit of his high-mightiness; he thirsted for the admiring homage of the world - not an homage attracted by mental greatness or moral worth, by elevation of character or heroism of conduct, but that low and degrading homage which fawns and flatters in presence of the vulgar ostentations of material pomp and power. This king of Persia was no Solomon, who could draw to his capital princes from all quarters by a wisdom and worth which were not overshadowed even by an unrivalled material splendour. Let us learn -


II. THAT HOMAGE TO RICHES AND THE LUXURIES THEY PURCHASE IS UNWORTHY OF A HUMAN SOUL. Not confined to any condition, place, or age. As readily exacted and given now as at any time. Wealth too often goes before worth. The material receives more respect than the moral or spiritual. The unspoken language is common-better be rich than good; better be surrounded with the showy emblems of worldly prosperity than have our character and homes adorned with the Christian virtues of truth, uprightness, and charity. The power to form right estimates as between the seen and the unseen, the material and the spiritual, much needed. How acquire such a power? Only by looking and listening to Jesus Christ, by having conscience, mind, and heart enlightened at the feet of him who said, "Learn of me, for I am meek and lowly in heart." Best gifts and possessions, and truest springs of honour and happiness, in Jesus. Study his truth, his spirit, his life, and our idolatries of earthly good will shame us, and make us wonder how men with a Christ before them can sacrifice the benefits of a higher and nobler life for the material and perishing things of the present world. Our Lord himself presents the true test in Matthew 16:26.

III. THAT MEN ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR THE USE THEY MAKE OF THEIR WEALTH. Hospitality is a Christian virtue; but it is often sadly abused - a feeder of vanity and an incentive to sin. While showing a liberal and kindly spirit, it should avoid all extravagance. How much of the money that is spent on rich, showy, and self-glorifying banquets might be put to better use! A deep spirit underlies the words of our Lord in Luke 14:12-14.

IV. THAT MUCH POWER IN ONE HAND IS A DANGEROUS THING. Nothing tries a man more than a flood of prosperity. Ahasuerus was to be pitied, and the empire which he governed still more. Few heads or hearts can stand strong and erect under the burden of anything approaching an absolute authority. How terribly is this taught by history! It is well for the happiness of nations that improved ideas of government are now the rule. But the individual man, whatever be his rank, is to be put on his guard against the intoxications of what may seem to him good fortune, and against the temptation to abuse whatever power he possesses. Many who have acted worthily in adversity have been carried off their feet by a tide of prosperity.

V. THAT GOVERNMENTS OR EMPIRES ARE STABLE OR THE REVERSE ACCORDING TO THE PRINCIPLES AND LAWS THAT GOVERN THEM. It is hardly credible that the miserable nation whose Shah we have seen could ever have occupied a position like that described in our narrative. How great the contrast between then and now! Not alone, however; other and greater empires have gone the same way. In all edifices the foundation is the main thing. No empire, however strong, can last unless founded on Divine truth and righteousness. "Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord." As with nations, so with men. A living trust in God, a true fellowship with God's Son, is the only safeguard that will give victory to a human life over all the evils that assail it, and enable it to enter at last into full possession of the life everlasting. - D.

Now it came to pass in the days of Ahasuerus (this is Ahasuerus which reigned, from India even unto Ethiopia).
By almost universal acknowledgment now, the sovereign here referred to is Artaxerxes, surnamed Longimanus, or the long.handed; the term Ahasuerus being, like that of Pharaoh, expressive of the kingly dignity, and not the name of an individual. In his time the Persian empire was of vast extent, comprehending all the countries from the river Indus on the east to the Mediterranean on the west, and from the Black Sea and the Caspian in the north to the extreme south of Arabia, then called Ethiopia.

(A. B. Davidson, D. D.)

What rich gifts hath God often bestowed on men who know Him not! Think not, however, that God is more liberal to His enemies than to His friends. Some of the vilest of men possessed all the great and large dominions of the Persian empire. But if God has bestowed on you the least measure of true faith, of unfeigned love, of unaffected humility, He hath bestowed on you treasures of inestimably greater value than all the possessions of Artaxerxes Longimanus or of Nero.

(G. Lawson, D. D.)

A curse is mingled with all the prosperity of sinners, because they know not how to use or to enjoy, but are disposed, by their corrupt tempers, to abuse everything which they possess.

(G. Lawson, D. D.)

There is a want in the soul of man which all the wealth of one hundred and twenty-seven provinces cannot supply. There is a want which the best social arrangements cannot supply. There is a craving in the heart of man beyond all creature power to satisfy. Guilty man needs to be placed in a right relation toward God. Money cannot purchase for him peace and pardon. Artaxerxes was as poor as the humblest serf in his dominions in this respect, and far poorer than the poorest of the children of Judah, dispersed through his empire as exiles, but knowing Jehovah.

(A. B. Davidson, D. D.)

First to come before us in the story is the king, Ahssuerus, more familiar to us as Xerxes. Cruel, passionate, capricious, his character as set forth in contemporary history is wholly in keeping with all that we see of him here. This is the man who was hospitably entertained by Pythias of Lydia when on his way to Greece, and helped by an enormous contribution; but when the old man, who had given all his other sons to the service of the king, pleaded that the eldest might stay with him, Herodotus tells us that Xerxes in a fury commanded that the son should be slain, and he made his whole army pass between the severed body. Of him it is told how that when a storm destroyed the bridge by which he would cross into Greece, he commanded the engineers to be slain, and then had the sea beaten with chains to subdue it into better manners. He comes near to us by his association with the famous Greek heroes. Marching in his pride with a host of five millions, with which he would subdue the world, he is stayed by three hundred Spartans, whilst his vast fleet is destroyed by the skill and courage of the Greeks at Salamis, a victory that secured the deliverance of Europe from Oriental despotism, and preserved for us the literature and art which have uplifted and beautified our civilisation.

(Mark Guy Pearse.)

Which was in Shushan the palace.
is presented before us. Shushan was the metropolis of Persia, a magnificent city of about fifteen miles circumference, and the residence of the kings. In winter the climate was very mild, but in summer the heat was so excessive that an old writer says the very lizards and serpents were consumed by it on the streets. It was probably on this account that the seat of government was at Ecbatana in summer, and only in winter at Shushan.

(T. McEwan.)

Abagtha, Admatha, Ahasuerus, Bigtha, Biztha, Carcas, Carshena, Harbona, Marsena, Mehuman, Memucan, Meres, Persians, Shethar, Tarshish, Vashti, Zethar
Ethiopia, India, Media, Persia, Susa
127, Ahasu-e'rus, Cush, Divisions, Ethiopia, Hodu, Hundred, India, Kingdom, Pass, Provinces, Reigned, Reigning, Ruled, Ruler, Seven, Stretching, Twenty, Twenty-seven, Xerxes
1. Xerxes makes royal feasts.
10. Vashti, sent for, refuses to come.
13. Xerxes, by the counsel of Memucan, puts away Vashti, and decrees men's sovereignty.

Dictionary of Bible Themes
Esther 1:1

     5776   achievement

Esther 1:1-12

     4476   meals

Whether Boasting is Opposed to the virtue of Truth?
Objection 1: It seems that boasting is not opposed to the virtue of truth. For lying is opposed to truth. But it is possible to boast even without lying, as when a man makes a show of his own excellence. Thus it is written (Esther 1:3,4) that Assuerus "made a great feast . . . that he might show the riches of the glory" and "of his kingdom, and the greatness and boasting of his power." Therefore boasting is not opposed to the virtue of truth. Objection 2: Further, boasting is reckoned by Gregory
Saint Thomas Aquinas—Summa Theologica

In Judaea
If Galilee could boast of the beauty of its scenery and the fruitfulness of its soil; of being the mart of a busy life, and the highway of intercourse with the great world outside Palestine, Judaea would neither covet nor envy such advantages. Hers was quite another and a peculiar claim. Galilee might be the outer court, but Judaea was like the inner sanctuary of Israel. True, its landscapes were comparatively barren, its hills bare and rocky, its wilderness lonely; but around those grey limestone
Alfred Edersheim—Sketches of Jewish Social Life

The spirit of the book of Esther is anything but attractive. It is never quoted or referred to by Jesus or His apostles, and it is a satisfaction to think that in very early times, and even among Jewish scholars, its right to a place in the canon was hotly contested. Its aggressive fanaticism and fierce hatred of all that lay outside of Judaism were felt by the finer spirits to be false to the more generous instincts that lay at the heart of the Hebrew religion; but by virtue of its very intensity
John Edgar McFadyen—Introduction to the Old Testament

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