Introduction to the Book of Esther – The author most likely was not Esther. In those days, the culture was not conducive to women having scribe roles. It may have been Mordecai. The writer most likely was Jewish who knew a lot about Persian culture and gave much encouragement to the Jews who had returned from the exile. The Book was written sometime after 473 BC. It’s inspiration was called into question many years ago because it never directly mentions God’s name. Some have claimed that God’s name (Yahweh) written in tetragram (vowels omitted) is encoded in Chapter 5 verse 4. “Encoded” refers to the fact that the first letters of four words in that verse are Y,H,W,H. The significance of this is unconvincing to most scholars. Although the book does not directly mention God, it would be difficult to read it without sensing the providence of God working in powerful, though at times subtle, ways to rescue his people from danger and possible extermination.

Esther 1:

1-2: These verses tie history to the author’s words (time frame, names of kings, name of a capital city, geographical rule), lending credibility to the message.

3-12: King Ahasuerus showed off his riches during a 180-day long banquet for all his dignitaries. After that, he gave one for all the common people in the capital city of Susa for 7 days. His beautiful queen, named Vashti, also gave a banquet for the women in the palace. On that 7th day when the men had their fill of wine, the king wanted to show-off her beauty to his invitees. She refused and he became furious.

13-15: Having a sense of law, the king consulted his law experts as to what could be done to Queen Vashti.

16-18: One expert claimed that Vashti’s insubordination to her husband and her king would tempt all women to disrespect their husbands, especially considering the fact that she was the queen and did this to the one who had ultimate authority.

19-21: The law expert suggested that the king banish the queen from ever coming into his presence again and to replace her with someone “more worthy.” The king agreed.

22: The king sent out an edict that “every man should be the master in his own house and the one who speaks the language of his own people.”

Ahasuerus is the Hebrew name of the Persian king, Khshayarsha, whom is better known in history by his Greek name, Xerxes. The Greek historian Herodotus described King Ahasuerus as a cruel, fickle, and sensual man. Which seems apt considering this Biblical passage. It is not possible to determine why Vashti refused to obey the king’s summons. Rabbis added embellishments claiming her refusal was because she had to appear naked. According to the Talmud she refused to come because Gabriel had smitten her with leprosy. In any case, the important point for the writer was that she did not appear, not why she did not. The Persian Empire included many different language groups. When a marriage took place between people of different ethnic backgrounds, the mother’s language would normally prevail in the home and tend to become the language of the children (Nehemiah 13:23-24). The last phrase of verse 22 apparently equates the husband’s authority with the fact that his native language was spoken in the home.

Application for Today: Should Queen Vashti have gone to that party? This is a difficult question. I’ve read good responses from both points of view. A huge cultural gap makes this even more difficult to assess. One key seems to be whether or not the king was asking her to do something sinful, i.e., dance sensually before the men who had been drinking wine for a while. In this case, I believe she did right, because authority that God puts over us is to be obeyed unless the command goes against God’s laws. In Vashti’s case, however, there is no concrete evidence claiming that a sensual dance was commanded or tacitly expected. If this was the case, then she may have thought the experience would be embarrassing and degrading. If accurate, then she should have explained her feelings to him, and he should have understood and not demand that she go through with it. But she probably had no opportunity to speak with him privately (access to kings in those days was rare, even for queens as we later learn from Esther’s experience), and her decision was going to be on public display instantly. Another possibility is that she had built up resentment toward him because she was not at this second banquet that was for the common people. We don’t even know if she was invited to the long 180-day one with the dignitaries. This may be why she made a party of her own with the women. So when her presence was suddenly demanded, she wasn’t about to obey. This spite would have put her on the wrong side.

The fear the men had about women getting the message about disobeying their husbands was valid, although their attitudes were perhaps not all that proper. Today, too many women are the boss in the home, and many men do not know how to lead properly. One big misconception from feminists is they think that authority equals superiority when it doesn’t in God’s eyes. Men have also lacked good leading role models. Moreover, they have not sought God’s Word, and they have not sought God’s Spirit to flow in that role properly. This contributes to family breakdown. In a perfect world, the king should have known better than to put his wife through something like this, but he was probably too proud (and/or drunk) to be that sensitive to her perspective.

Some people may relegate this issue to the back burner by pointing out that it was God’s will that Vashti be removed from office so that Esther could take her place in order to save the Jews from being later annihilated. Bear in mind, however, that God does not make someone sin in order to fulfill a greater cause. He may harden a heart as in Pharaoh’s case, but that sin was already within his heart. God did not put it there. I view it as God using someone’s sin to the fullest extent in order to make His existence known to the whole world (in that case). So if He hardened Vashti’s heart, she was wrong because she was wrong before the hardening began. I conclude that the answer lies in what was going through Vashti’s mind when she heard the order/request….and this is not revealed in Scripture.

Esther 2:

1-4: Many beautiful women were brought to King Ahasuerus’ harem and whoever pleased him the most would become the next queen.

5-7: Esther was a beautiful Jewess but her parents died when she was young and her older cousin Mordecai raised her. He was in exile at this time and Esther was with him. She was selected to go to the king’s harem.

8-11: Mordecai told Esther not to tell she was Jewish. He was most likely concerned about prejudice.

12-17: Esther’s prep time was long — one year before even seeing the king. After finally seeing him, she could only return if he sent for her by name. The king loved her more than all the others and she became queen.

18-20: A banquet in her honor was given, and all during her time in the King’s quarters Mordecai kept tabs on her and she always obeyed his command about her being Jewish.

21-23: While standing by the gate, Mordecai overheard two of the king’s men plotting to overthrow him. He told Esther and she told the king using Mordecai’s name. The two men were hung. Not only is God favoring Esther with her social status as being selected queen, He also elevates her status further with the king by using her to save his life. She also did well to tell the king of Mordecai’s name so that he would later find favor as well. God is clearly setting up an intriguing stage.

Esther 3 – King Ahasuerus promoted Haman to so much power and authority that people were commanded to bow in his presence, but Mordecai, being a Jew, did not. This infuriated Haman so much that he got permission from the king the exterminate all Jews, including women and children of all ages.

Esther 4 – For Such a Time…..Mordecai discovers Haman’s plot and begins to weep and wail in public. Many of the Jews began to fast and mourn. He then gets word to Esther. She explains that the law prohibits her from going to the king in his inner court unless being summoned. She had not been summoned by the king for the last 30 days. She further explained to do so meant sure death unless the king holds out his golden scepter. Mordecai encouraged Esther at this point saying a rather famous line that remains to this day, “Who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this.” Esther tells Mordecai to organize the Jews to fast for three days and nights. She and her maidens would also fast the same way. She also agrees to approach the king with the attitude of “if I perish, I perish.”

Applications for Today:

1) The purpose of fasting is to gain more power to flow in God’s will and for good things to happen. It shows God that we mean business and are wholly committed to seeing His will performed.
2) God does raise up people in order to make critical decisions that have positive influence. Jesus said that His people are the “salt of the earth,” meaning that we preserve righteousness in society. Katherine Harris, the former Secretary of State in Florida actually quoted Mordecai’s line to Esther “for such a time as this.” She believed that God caused her last political victory so she could be in a position of power and influence for the close Bush-Gore vote in 2000. Harris comes from a family that is active in Christian evangelism. Her grandfather was a Christian missionary in Africa, while her aunt and uncle were missionaries in India and now head the Arab World Missions. Harris studied under Dr. Francis Schaeffer at a L’Abris Fellowship International Center. She attended an all-girls Christian camp in the hills of Asheville, North Carolina called Greystone. She says her faith is the most important thing in her life. As Secretary of State for the State of Florida, Harris was a central figure in the 2000 US presidential election. Harris certified that the Republican candidate, George W. Bush, had defeated Al Gore in the popular vote of Florida and thus certified the Republican slate of electors. The margin separating Bush from Gore was 537 votes. After several recounts Harris ordered a halt. Her ruling was upheld in the state circuit court, and U.S. Supreme Court in Bush v. Gore by a 7–2 vote overruled lower a lower appeals court’s reversal. God has also placed us in positions and situations to perform His will. They may not determine presidential elections, but if we perform God’s will, there are tremendous effects and rewards. Let us be open to this perspective from the eternal realm.

Esther 5 – The king allowed Esther to approach him, and she requested that he and Haman attend a banquet that she would prepare. He and Haman agreed. But when Haman later saw Mordecai standing by the gate, and, of course Mordecai did not stand and tremble before him, Haman became furious again but suppressed the anger for the time being. He later boasted of himself to his friends and wife, but also told them how angry Mordecai made him. They advised him to make some gallows so that Mordecai would be hung in the morning. So he had them made.

Esther 6 – The king could not sleep so he had record books brought to him and discovered that Mordecai saved his life earlier. So he gave Mordecai a royal robe and horse, and had Haman parade him through the city square proclaiming how honored Mordecai was by the king. Afterward, Haman hastened home mourning and mortified because of Mordecai. His wife and friends warned that he would not be able to overcome Mordecai because he was Jewish. Immediately after saying this, Haman was brought to the banquet prepared by Esther.

Esther 7 – At the banquet, Haman was named by Esther as the one who wanted to kill Mordecai so the king hanged him on the gallows which Haman made for Mordecai.

Applications for Today:

1) Desiring to be powerful and have people bow to us will corrupt our moral fiber.
2) In Haman’s case, pride went before a fall (Proverbs 16:18).
3) God has continuously intervened in human affairs as in this case of the king’s insomnia which led to lots of good things. Some people, especially agnostics, believe that if God exists, then He does not intervene in history but is waiting to see how we turn out, and that everything depends on us. Nothing could be further from the truth.
4) Whether in this life or in the next life, since God sees and knows all, no one gets away with anything. All wrongs will be righted and God will promote only those worthy of promotion.
5) This story may also have deeper meaning: Haman = Satan (the one who wants to destroy God worshipers and desires to be worshiped himself), Esther = Christ (willing to sacrifice her life on behalf of God’s people), Mordecai = one who responds to Truth and follows it even though he is not perfect. Or perhaps he is a Holy Spirit-type who encourages the Christ-type Esther to be willing to die, The King = God the Father who destroys Satan (Haman) and promotes Mordecai much like the Father has exalted Jesus Christ above all the angels and is given all authority. Maybe this is all a stretch and certainly may not be the actual intention of the Scripture in Esther, but I couldn’t help but to think about seeing some parallels

Esther 8 – Esther influences the king to save all the Jews. He also gave her Haman’s house, and she brought in Mordecai to be the head of that house. The king also honored Mordecai with robes and authority. The king also gave the Jews the right to assemble and to fight enemies that attack them. It was a sudden and extreme turn around for the Jews. As a result, not only were precious lives spared, but many non-Jews became Jews because they were in awe of them.

Esther 9 – Mordecai grew greater and greater. The Jews now set out and killed all their enemies throughout the provinces but they never took the plunder. Haman’s 10 sons were also killed. Afterward, there was great rejoicing and they established a holiday for all their future generations to celebrate.

Esther 10 – Mordecai’s power became second only to the king. He had the favor of the people as well because he always looked out for their protection and interests.

This time in Jewish history was extremely significant. Important Jewish people were allowed to live on and accomplish great things for God. Queen Esther demonstrated for women all over the world how the role of “having influence” can be more powerful than having authority, and certainly firmly rebuked the worldly notion that authority means personal superiority over others. Finally, this Book’s account demonstrates that God’s Plan cannot be stymied because He is faithful.