June 8th Esther, 1
A The Characters take their place
1v1-22 Vashti defies Ahasuerus
1: 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:) 2: That in those days, when the king Ahasuerus sat on the throne of his kingdom, which was in Shushan the palace, 3: 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: 4: When he shewed the riches of his glorious kingdom and the honour of his excellent majesty many days, even an hundred and fourscore days. 5: 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; 6: 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. 7: 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. 8: 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. 9: Also Vashti the queen made a feast for the women in the royal house which belonged to king Ahasuerus. 10: 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, 11: 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. 12: 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. 13: 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: 14: 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;) 15: 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? 16: 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. 17: 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. 18: 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. 19: 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. 20: 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. 21: And the saying pleased the king and the princes; and the king did according to the word of Memucan: 22: 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.
2v1-18 Esther is made Queen
1: After these things, when the wrath of king Ahasuerus was appeased, he remembered Vashti, and what she had done, and what was decreed against her. 2: Then said the king's servants that ministered unto him, Let there be fair young virgins sought for the king: 3: And let the king appoint officers in all the provinces of his kingdom, that they may gather together all the fair young virgins unto Shushan the palace, to the house of the women unto the custody of Hege the king's chamberlain, keeper of the women; and let their things for purification be given them: 4: And let the maiden which pleaseth the king be queen instead of Vashti. And the thing pleased the king; and he did so. 5: Now in Shushan the palace there was a certain Jew, whose name was Mordecai, the son of Jair, the son of Shimei, the son of Kish, a Benjamite; 6: Who had been carried away from Jerusalem with the captivity which had been carried away with Jeconiah king of Judah, whom Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon had carried away. 7: And he brought up Hadassah, that is, Esther, his uncle's daughter: for she had neither father nor mother, and the maid was fair and beautiful; whom Mordecai, when her father and mother were dead, took for his own daughter. 8: So it came to pass, when the king's commandment and his decree was heard, and when many maidens were gathered together unto Shushan the palace, to the custody of Hegai, that Esther was brought also unto the king's house, to the custody of Hegai, keeper of the women. 9: And the maiden pleased him, and she obtained kindness of him; and he speedily gave her her things for purification, with such things as belonged to her, and seven maidens, which were meet to be given her, out of the king's house: and he preferred her and her maids unto the best place of the house of the women. 10: Esther had not shewed her people nor her kindred: for Mordecai had charged her that she should not shew it. 11: And Mordecai walked every day before the court of the women's house, to know how Esther did, and what should become of her. 12: Now when every maid's turn was come to go in to king Ahasuerus, after that she had been twelve months, according to the manner of the women, (for so were the days of their purifications accomplished, to wit, six months with oil of myrrh, and six months with sweet odours, and with other things for the purifying of the women;) 13: Then thus came every maiden unto the king; whatsoever she desired was given her to go with her out of the house of the women unto the king's house. 14: In the evening she went, and on the morrow she returned into the second house of the women, to the custody of Shaashgaz, the king's chamberlain, which kept the concubines: she came in unto the king no more, except the king delighted in her, and that she were called by name. 15: Now when the turn of Esther, the daughter of Abihail the uncle of Mordecai, who had taken her for his daughter, was come to go in unto the king, she required nothing but what Hegai the king's chamberlain, the keeper of the women, appointed. And Esther obtained favour in the sight of all them that looked upon her. 16: So Esther was taken unto king Ahasuerus into his house royal in the tenth month, which is the month Tebeth, in the seventh year of his reign. 17: And the king loved Esther above all the women, and she obtained grace and favour in his sight more than all the virgins; so that he set the royal crown upon her head, and made her queen instead of Vashti. 18: Then the king made a great feast unto all his princes and his servants, even Esther's feast; and he made a release to the provinces, and gave gifts, according to the state of the king.
2v19-23 Mordecai saves Ahasuerus’ life
19: And when the virgins were gathered together the second time, then Mordecai sat in the king's gate. 20: Esther had not yet shewed her kindred nor her people; as Mordecai had charged her: for Esther did the commandment of Mordecai, like as when she was brought up with him. 21: In those days, while Mordecai sat in the king's gate, two of the king's chamberlains, Bigthan and Teresh, of those which kept the door, were wroth, and sought to lay hand on the king Ahasuerus. 22: And the thing was known to Mordecai, who told it unto Esther the queen; and Esther certified the king thereof in Mordecai's name. 23: And when inquisition was made of the matter, it was found out; therefore they were both hanged on a tree: and it was written in the book of the chronicles before the king.
B The Characters make their moves
3v1-15 Haman makes his plot
1: After these things did king Ahasuerus promote Haman the son of Hammedatha the Agagite, and advanced him, and set his seat above all the princes that were with him. 2: And all the king's servants, that were in the king's gate, bowed, and reverenced Haman: for the king had so commanded concerning him. But Mordecai bowed not, nor did him reverence. 3: Then the king's servants, which were in the king's gate, said unto Mordecai, Why transgressest thou the king's commandment? 4: Now it came to pass, when they spake daily unto him, and he hearkened not unto them, that they told Haman, to see whether Mordecai's matters would stand: for he had told them that he was a Jew. 5: And when Haman saw that Mordecai bowed not, nor did him reverence, then was Haman full of wrath. 6: And he thought scorn to lay hands on Mordecai alone; for they had shewed him the people of Mordecai: wherefore Haman sought to destroy all the Jews that were throughout the whole kingdom of Ahasuerus, even the people of Mordecai. 7: In the first month, that is, the month Nisan, in the twelfth year of king Ahasuerus, they cast Pur, that is, the lot, before Haman from day to day, and from month to month, to the twelfth month, that is, the month Adar. 8: And Haman said unto king Ahasuerus, There is a certain people scattered abroad and dispersed among the people in all the provinces of thy kingdom; and their laws are diverse from all people; neither keep they the king's laws: therefore it is not for the king's profit to suffer them. 9: If it please the king, let it be written that they may be destroyed: and I will pay ten thousand talents of silver to the hands of those that have the charge of the business, to bring it into the king's treasuries. 10: And the king took his ring from his hand, and gave it unto Haman the son of Hammedatha the Agagite, the Jews' enemy. 11: And the king said unto Haman, The silver is given to thee, the people also, to do with them as it seemeth good to thee. 12: Then were the king's scribes called on the thirteenth day of the first month, and there was written according to all that Haman had commanded unto the king's lieutenants, and to the governors that were over every province, and to the rulers of every people of every province according to the writing thereof, and to every people after their language; in the name of king Ahasuerus was it written, and sealed with the king's ring. 13: And the letters were sent by posts into all the king's provinces, to destroy, to kill, and to cause to perish, all Jews, both young and old, little children and women, in one day, even upon the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, which is the month Adar, and to take the spoil of them for a prey. 14: The copy of the writing for a commandment to be given in every province was published unto all people, that they should be ready against that day. 15: The posts went out, being hastened by the king's commandment, and the decree was given in Shushan the palace. And the king and Haman sat down to drink; but the city Shushan was perplexed.
4v1-17 Mordecai asks Esther for help
1: When Mordecai perceived all that was done, Mordecai rent his clothes, and put on sackcloth with ashes, and went out into the midst of the city, and cried with a loud and a bitter cry; 2: And came even before the king's gate: for none might enter into the king's gate clothed with sackcloth. 3: And in every province, whithersoever the king's commandment and his decree came, there was great mourning among the Jews, and fasting, and weeping, and wailing; and many lay in sackcloth and ashes. 4: So Esther's maids and her chamberlains came and told it her. Then was the queen exceedingly grieved; and she sent raiment to clothe Mordecai, and to take away his sackcloth from him: but he received it not. 5: Then called Esther for Hatach, one of the king's chamberlains, whom he had appointed to attend upon her, and gave him a commandment to Mordecai, to know what it was, and why it was. 6: So Hatach went forth to Mordecai unto the street of the city, which was before the king's gate. 7: And Mordecai told him of all that had happened unto him, and of the sum of the money that Haman had promised to pay to the king's treasuries for the Jews, to destroy them. 8: Also he gave him the copy of the writing of the decree that was given at Shushan to destroy them, to shew it unto Esther, and to declare it unto her, and to charge her that she should go in unto the king, to make supplication unto him, and to make request before him for her people. 9: And Hatach came and told Esther the words of Mordecai. 10: Again Esther spake unto Hatach, and gave him commandment unto Mordecai; 11: All the king's servants, and the people of the king's provinces, do know, that whosoever, whether man or woman, shall come unto the king into the inner court, who is not called, there is one law of his to put him to death, except such to whom the king shall hold out the golden sceptre, that he may live: but I have not been called to come in unto the king these thirty days. 12: And they told to Mordecai Esther's words. 13: Then Mordecai commanded to answer Esther, Think not with thyself that thou shalt escape in the king's house, more than all the Jews. 14: For if thou altogether holdest thy peace at this time, then shall there enlargement and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place; but thou and thy father's house shall be destroyed: and who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this? 15: Then Esther bade them return Mordecai this answer, 16: Go, gather together all the Jews that are present in Shushan, and fast ye for me, and neither eat nor drink three days, night or day: I also and my maidens will fast likewise; and so will I go in unto the king, which is not according to the law: and if I perish, I perish. 17: So Mordecai went his way, and did according to all that Esther had commanded him.
Today we begin the daily Bible readings in the book of Esther. The message of this book could best be described as the phrase ‘God is in control’. This little book of only 9 chapters has the longest verse in the Bible. (Ch 8v9) The book describes a period between 483-471 BC. Esther and her friends are captive in a hostile land. Held by a king who is a total despot. An evil man - Haman is out to kill her and her people. How will God help her? The book is like a great game of chess in which God brings moves pieces into position and the battle commences. God moves us today into positions were we can fulfill his plans, but we need to have the insight and courage to live up to it. This is one of just two books named after a woman. Ruth is the other book. While Ruth tells of a Gentile who married a Jew, Esther tells of a Jew who married a Gentile. The writer is unknown. The Name of God is not specifically mentioned in the Book, except where it is hidden, five times, in the form of acrostics. Ezra and Nehemiah describe the return of Israel to Canaan. Esther tells the story of those who stayed behind. When the feast of Purim was celebrated, the listeners traditionally, would ‘cheer’ when Esther’s name and Mordecai was mentioned and ‘boo’ at the mention of Haman. Perhaps the key verse is… Esther 4v14 ‘For if thou altogether holdest thy peace at this time, then shall there enlargement and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place; but thou and thy father's house shall be destroyed: and who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?’
And so the players are set and first the main players must take their place. Vashti the queen defies the command of Ahasuerus her husband and king. Then we see that the king divorces her and seeks a new young wife and Esther is chosen. Then we have another interesting key event. Mordecai saves the kings life and yet he is not honoured by the king. Then we see the first few moves – the opening gambit. First Haman (Booooo) makes his move to plan a plot to kill all the Jews. But Mordecai (Hurray) asks Esther (Hurray) to help.
Now lets look at the background to these passages more closely. The story opens up with the King of the Medo-Persian Empire Ahasuerus, who is king of the whole world of his day, from India to Ethiopia – 127 countries. The king wants to make a feast for all his princes and servants, to display all the riches of his empire. The feast was to last for 180 days ! Then when the feast was ended the King made another feast for all the people who lived at Shushan. There were white, green, blue curtains fastened by cords of fine linen and purple and silver rings. The place had pillars of marble and the beds were made of gold and silver. Every thing was on a pavement of coloured marble, red, blue, black. (Blue was very very rare in those days.) They drank from cups of gold (every single cup was different from another.) There was a huge quantity of wine available. People were free to drink as they wished. The Queen also made a feast for the women in the royal house. On the last day of the feast the king sent a message asking for the queen to join him. He wanted everyone to see how beautiful she was. But she refused to attend. So the king was in a difficult position – What if every woman in his kingdom copied her example? He called for all his wise men to ask for their advice. They advised him to banish her from his presence and to look for a queen better than her. So he sent a message into all of his empire saying that husbands should give honour to their wives. When the king had settled down from his anger he thought again about what had happened and what he had decided. And he decided that he wanted a new wife. So he started a beauty contest. This contest would bring together all the most beautiful women in the whole of his empire. In the palace of the King God had placed a Jew called Mordecai. (Hurray!!) He had been taken captive from Judah at the same time as Daniel and he had a young niece called Hadassah (or was we know her Esther – Hurray!) She was an orphan and she was very beautiful. Mordecai (Hurray) Looked after her as if she were his own daughter. She was brought under the supervision of Hegai. He preferred her to the other girls and he provided everything for her needs to be presented to the king. Esther (Hurray) had not revealed her national origins because Mordecai (Hurray) told her to keep it secret. Mordecai came every day to the place where Esther (Hurray) was to see how things were going with her. Esther had 6 months of anointing with oil of Myrrh and another 6 months with sweet perfumes. Esther (Hurray) behaved impeccably and so in time she was introduced to the King. When the King met Esther (Hurray) he fell in love with her more than all other girls, she was more beautiful than anyone he had ever met. He decided to put the royal crown on her head and he married her making her queen instead of Vashti. Then the king made a feast for Esther (Hurray) and he gave gifts to every country. So Esther is in place now the Lord will move another character onto the world stage. Mordecai was a judge of the people and Esther (Hurray) had not yet had an opportunity to bless her people. Mordecai heard of a plot by two of the kings men to assassinate the king. Mordecai told Esther and she told the King and the men were executed being hung on a tree. The next character to enter the stage is Haman (BOOO). The king promoted him making him head of the princes. All the kings servants bowed down to Haman (BOOO). However Mordecai refused to bow!! Nor did he give him reverence. Haman (BOOO) when he found out that he refused to bow to him was full of anger and wanted to kill Mordecai. Haman (BOOO) wanted to destroy Mordecai (Hurray) and all his people the Jews. Haman (BOOO) spoke to the King telling him that the Jews refused to bow down to the King and that there should be a purge to get rid of them. Ahasuerus gave his permission to the plan. And so secret orders were sent out to every land ordering the capture and execution of the Jews on the 13th day of the 12th month – Adar. All their goods could be kept but the executioners. The letters went out and in haste because it was the kings commandment. Haman (BOOO) sat down with the king but the people of Shushan were confused because they knew that this was wrong. When Mordecai (Hurray) heard of the evil plan he rent his clothes and put on sackcloth and ashes on his head and went out of the city and cried to the LORD bitterly. In every country there was great mourning because of the Kings Commandment. The Jews fasted and wept and wailed before the Lord. When Esther (Hurray) heard that Mordecai was clothed in sackcloth, she was very greatly moved in sadness and sent clothes to Mordecai but he refused to put them on. Then a message was brought to Esther explaining to her all the wicked plans. Then Mordecai told Esther that she could easily be in danger herself and that maybe the Lord has brought her to this place at this time for this emergency. So Esther (Hurray) told Mordecai to gather all the Jews and to fast day and night, (and she would fast too) And she said l will go in to see the king and if he destroys me for going in then l will die. Mordecai went away and did exactly as Esther had said. Tomorrow we will read where this cliff hanger has left us. Same time, same channel…