This is Episode #150 and today we’ll read Esther chapters 1-5 together. An ancient beauty contest, a plot to kill the Jews, and incredible courage…by a woman.
Joy: You’re listening to Season 2 of the Lifting Her Voice podcast. This is Episode #150 and today we’ll read Esther chapters 1-5 together. An ancient beauty contest, a plot to kill the Jews, and incredible courage…by a woman.
Welcome to the Lifting Her Voice podcast, Season 2! I’m your host, Joy Miller, and I invite you to grab your Bible and join me – from the beginning – simply reading God’s word together. We built some spiritual muscles in 2020 with just the New Testament. But this year we’re going all out, cover-to-cover, Old Testament and New. So, whether with your first cup in the morning, your commute to work, or as the last thing on your mind before sleep, God’s Word will equip you for every good work. I’m really glad you’re here!
Intro to Esther
Welcome to one of my favorite books of the Bible! You know, I understand why our plan chose to read these ten chapters in two days – they’re fairly short. But I highly encourage you to read it again when you can savor it a little. There are some one-liners in this book that will – if you’re like me – stick with you. The most famous is offered by Mordecai – whom some think wrote this book – when he says, “Who knows, perhaps you have come to your royal position for such a time as this.” At those times in our lives when we need to muster our courage, step up to the plate and outside our comfort zone in service to God, these words can offer the strength and resolve we need.
The other memorable quote is like it. Offered by Esther, in response to this challenge by Mordecai, she says, “If I perish, I perish.” Let’s face it. That’s the worst that can happen. Once we accept that, we make room for boldness.
Some other things to know about this book:
· It’s one of only two books in the whole Bible named for a woman;
· No one really knows who wrote this book;
· King Ahasuerus’s Greek name is Xerxes;
· God is never mentioned in this book, but you can see His fingerprints all over it;
· Esther and Mordecai were among many Jews who chose not to return to Jerusalem, but to continue life in Susa, the capital city of Persia.
My friend, DavidMark Grabowski, uses the word God-cidences because, as Believers, we know there are no coincidences. God has ordained all our days. Heck, all our moments and our circumstances too. No book in the Bible drives that truth home like the book of Esther.
Esther Chapter 1
Vashti Angers the King
These events took place during the days of Ahasuerus, who ruled 127 provinces from India to Cush. In those days King Ahasuerus reigned from his royal throne in the fortress at Susa. He held a feast in the third year of his reign for all his officials and staff, the army of Persia and Media, the nobles, and the officials from the provinces. He displayed the glorious wealth of his kingdom and the magnificent splendor of his greatness for a total of 180 days.
At the end of this time, the king held a week-long banquet in the garden courtyard of the royal palace for all the people, from the greatest to the least, who were present in the fortress of Susa. White and blue linen hangings were fastened with fine white and purple linen cords to silver rods on marble columns. Gold and silver couches were arranged on a mosaic pavement of red feldspar, marble, mother-of-pearl, and precious stones.
Drinks were served in an array of gold goblets, each with a different design. Royal wine flowed freely, according to the king’s bounty. The drinking was according to royal decree: “There are no restrictions.” The king had ordered every wine steward in his household to serve whatever each person wanted. Queen Vashti also gave a feast for the women of King Ahasuerus’s palace.
Vashti Refused to Come
On the seventh day, when the king was feeling good from the wine, Ahasuerus commanded Mehuman, Biztha, Harbona, Bigtha, Abagtha, Zethar, and Carkas — the seven eunuchs who personally served him — to bring Queen Vashti before him with her royal crown. He wanted to show off her beauty to the people and the officials, because she was very beautiful. But Queen Vashti refused to come at the king’s command that was delivered by his eunuchs. The king became furious and his anger burned within him.
The King Sought Advice
The king consulted the wise men who understood the times, for it was his normal procedure to confer with experts in law and justice. The most trusted ones were Carshena, Shethar, Admatha, Tarshish, Meres, Marsena, and Memucan. They were the seven officials of Persia and Media who had personal access to the king and occupied the highest positions in the kingdom. The king asked, “According to the law, what should be done with Queen Vashti, since she refused to obey King Ahasuerus’s command that was delivered by the eunuchs?”
Memucan said in the presence of the king and his officials, “Queen Vashti has wronged not only the king, but all the officials and the peoples who are in every one of King Ahasuerus’s provinces. For the queen’s action will become public knowledge to all the women and cause them to despise their husbands and say, ‘King Ahasuerus ordered Queen Vashti brought before him, but she did not come.’ Before this day is over, the noble women of Persia and Media who hear about the queen’s act will say the same thing to all the king’s officials, resulting in more contempt and fury.
The King’s Decree
“If it meets the king’s approval, he should personally issue a royal decree. Let it be recorded in the laws of the Persians and the Medes, so that it cannot be revoked: Vashti is not to enter King Ahasuerus’s presence, and her royal position is to be given to another woman who is more worthy than she. The decree the king issues will be heard throughout his vast kingdom, so all women will honor their husbands, from the greatest to the least.”
The king and his counselors approved the proposal, and he followed Memucan’s advice. He sent letters to all the royal provinces, to each province in its own script and to each ethnic group in its own language, that every man should be master of his own house and speak in the language of his own people.
Esther Chapter 2
The Search for a New Queen
Some time later, when King Ahasuerus’s rage had cooled down, he remembered Vashti, what she had done, and what was decided against her. The king’s personal attendants suggested, “Let a search be made for beautiful young virgins for the king. Let the king appoint commissioners in each province of his kingdom, so that they may gather all the beautiful young virgins to the harem at the fortress of Susa. Put them under the supervision of Hegai, the king’s eunuch, keeper of the women, and give them the required beauty treatments. Then the young woman who pleases the king will become queen instead of Vashti.” This suggestion pleased the king, and he did accordingly.
In the fortress of Susa, there was a Jewish man named Mordecai son of Jair, son of Shimei, son of Kish, a Benjaminite. Kish had been taken into exile from Jerusalem with the other captives when King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon took King Jeconiah of Judah into exile. Mordecai was the legal guardian of his cousin Hadassah (that is, Esther), because she had no father or mother. The young woman had a beautiful figure and was extremely good-looking. When her father and mother died, Mordecai had adopted her as his own daughter.
The Beauty Treatments
When the king’s command and edict became public knowledge and when many young women were gathered at the fortress of Susa under Hegai’s supervision, Esther was taken to the palace, into the supervision of Hegai, keeper of the women. The young woman pleased him and gained his favor so that he accelerated the process of the beauty treatments and the special diet that she received. He assigned seven hand-picked female servants to her from the palace and transferred her and her servants to the harem’s best quarters.
Esther did not reveal her ethnicity or her family background, because Mordecai had ordered her not to make them known. Every day Mordecai took a walk in front of the harem’s courtyard to learn how Esther was doing and to see what was happening to her.
During the year before each young woman’s turn to go to King Ahasuerus, the harem regulation required her to receive beauty treatments with oil of myrrh for six months and then with perfumes and cosmetics for another six months. When the young woman would go to the king, she was given whatever she requested to take with her from the harem to the palace. She would go in the evening, and in the morning she would return to a second harem under the supervision of the king’s eunuch Shaashgaz, keeper of the concubines. She never went to the king again, unless he desired her and summoned her by name.
Esther Becomes Queen
Esther was the daughter of Abihail, the uncle of Mordecai who had adopted her as his own daughter. When her turn came to go to the king, she did not ask for anything except what Hegai, the king’s eunuch, keeper of the women, suggested. Esther gained favor in the eyes of everyone who saw her.
She was taken to King Ahasuerus in the palace in the tenth month, the month Tebeth, in the seventh year of his reign. The king loved Esther more than all the other women. She won more favor and approval from him than did any of the other virgins. He placed the royal crown on her head and made her queen in place of Vashti. The king held a great banquet for all his officials and staff. It was Esther’s banquet. He freed his provinces from tax payments and gave gifts worthy of the king’s bounty.
Mordecai Saves the King
When the virgins were gathered a second time, Mordecai was sitting at the King’s Gate. Esther still did not reveal her family background or her ethnicity, as Mordecai had directed. She obeyed Mordecai’s orders, as she always had while he raised her.
During those days while Mordecai was sitting at the King’s Gate, Bigthan and Teresh, two of the king’s eunuchs who guarded the entrance, became infuriated and planned to assassinate King Ahasuerus. When Mordecai learned of the plot, he reported it to Queen Esther, and she told the king on Mordecai’s behalf. When the report was investigated and verified, both men were hanged on the gallows. This event was recorded in the Historical Record in the king’s presence.
Esther Chapter 3
Haman’s Plan to Kill the Jews
After all this took place, King Ahasuerus honored Haman, son of Hammedatha the Agagite. He promoted him in rank and gave him a higher position than all the other officials. The entire royal staff at the King’s Gate bowed down and paid homage to Haman, because the king had commanded this to be done for him. But Mordecai would not bow down or pay homage. The members of the royal staff at the King’s Gate asked Mordecai, “Why are you disobeying the king’s command?” When they had warned him day after day and he still would not listen to them, they told Haman in order to see if Mordecai’s actions would be tolerated, since he had told them he was a Jew.
When Haman saw that Mordecai was not bowing down or paying him homage, he was filled with rage. And when he learned of Mordecai’s ethnic identity, it seemed repugnant to Haman to do away with Mordecai alone. He planned to destroy all of Mordecai’s people, the Jews, throughout Ahasuerus’s kingdom.
In the first month, the month of Nisan, in King Ahasuerus’s twelfth year, the pur — that is, the lot — was cast before Haman for each day in each month, and it fell on the twelfth month, the month Adar. Then Haman informed King Ahasuerus, “There is one ethnic group, scattered throughout the peoples in every province of your kingdom, keeping themselves separate. Their laws are different from everyone else’s and they do not obey the king’s laws. It is not in the king’s best interest to tolerate them. If the king approves, let an order be drawn up authorizing their destruction, and I will pay 375 tons of silver to the officials for deposit in the royal treasury.”
The Plan Becomes Law
The king removed his signet ring from his hand and gave it to Haman son of Hammedatha the Agagite, the enemy of the Jews. Then the king told Haman, “The money and people are given to you to do with as you see fit.”
The royal scribes were summoned on the thirteenth day of the first month, and the order was written exactly as Haman commanded. It was intended for the royal satraps, the governors of each of the provinces, and the officials of each ethnic group and written for each province in its own script and to each ethnic group in its own language. It was written in the name of King Ahasuerus and sealed with the royal signet ring. Letters were sent by couriers to each of the royal provinces telling the officials to destroy, kill, and annihilate all the Jewish people — young and old, women and children — and plunder their possessions on a single day, the thirteenth day of Adar, the twelfth month.
A copy of the text, issued as law throughout every province, was distributed to all the peoples so that they might get ready for that day. The couriers left, spurred on by royal command, and the law was issued in the fortress of Susa. The king and Haman sat down to drink, while the city of Susa was in confusion.
Esther Chapter 4
Mordecai Appeals to Esther
When Mordecai learned all that had occurred, he tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and ashes, went into the middle of the city, and cried loudly and bitterly. He went only as far as the King’s Gate, since the law prohibited anyone wearing sackcloth from entering the King’s Gate. There was great mourning among the Jewish people in every province where the king’s command and edict reached. They fasted, wept, and lamented, and many lay in sackcloth and ashes.
Esther’s female servants and her eunuchs came and reported the news to her, and the queen was overcome with fear. She sent clothes for Mordecai to wear so that he would take off his sackcloth, but he did not accept them. Esther summoned Hathach, one of the king’s eunuchs who attended her, and dispatched him to Mordecai to learn what he was doing and why. So Hathach went out to Mordecai in the city square in front of the King’s Gate. Mordecai told him everything that had happened as well as the exact amount of money Haman had promised to pay the royal treasury for the slaughter of the Jews.
Mordecai also gave him a copy of the written decree issued in Susa ordering their destruction, so that Hathach might show it to Esther, explain it to her, and command her to approach the king, implore his favor, and plead with him personally for her people. Hathach came and repeated Mordecai’s response to Esther.
Esther spoke to Hathach and commanded him to tell Mordecai, “All the royal officials and the people of the royal provinces know that one law applies to every man or woman who approaches the king in the inner courtyard and who has not been summoned — the death penalty — unless the king extends the gold scepter, allowing that person to live. I have not been summoned to appear before the king for the last thirty days.” Esther’s response was reported to Mordecai.
Mordecai told the messenger to reply to Esther, “Don’t think that you will escape the fate of all the Jews because you are in the king’s palace. If you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will come to the Jewish people from another place, but you and your father’s family will be destroyed. Who knows, perhaps you have come to your royal position for such a time as this.”
Esther sent this reply to Mordecai: “Go and assemble all the Jews who can be found in Susa and fast for me. Don’t eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my female servants will also fast in the same way. After that, I will go to the king even if it is against the law. If I perish, I perish.” So Mordecai went and did everything Esther had commanded him.
Esther Chapter 5
Esther Approaches the King
On the third day, Esther dressed in her royal clothing and stood in the inner courtyard of the palace facing it. The king was sitting on his royal throne in the royal courtroom, facing its entrance. As soon as the king saw Queen Esther standing in the courtyard, she gained favor with him. The king extended the gold scepter in his hand toward Esther, and she approached and touched the tip of the scepter.
“What is it, Queen Esther?” the king asked her. “Whatever you want, even to half the kingdom, will be given to you.”
“If it pleases the king,” Esther replied, “may the king and Haman come today to the banquet I have prepared for them.”
The king said, “Hurry, and get Haman so we can do as Esther has requested.” So the king and Haman went to the banquet Esther had prepared.
While drinking the wine, the king asked Esther, “Whatever you ask will be given to you. Whatever you want, even to half the kingdom, will be done.”
Esther answered, “This is my petition and my request: If I have found favor in the eyes of the king, and if it pleases the king to grant my petition and perform my request, may the king and Haman come to the banquet I will prepare for them. Tomorrow I will do what the king has asked.”
Haman is Still not Satisfied
That day Haman left full of joy and in good spirits. But when Haman saw Mordecai at the King’s Gate, and Mordecai didn’t rise or tremble in fear at his presence, Haman was filled with rage toward Mordecai. Yet Haman controlled himself and went home. He sent for his friends and his wife Zeresh to join him. Then Haman described for them his glorious wealth and his many sons. He told them all how the king had honored him and promoted him in rank over the other officials and the royal staff. “What’s more,” Haman added, “Queen Esther invited no one but me to join the king at the banquet she had prepared. I am invited again tomorrow to join her with the king. Still, none of this satisfies me since I see Mordecai the Jew sitting at the King’s Gate all the time.”
His wife Zeresh and all his friends told him, “Have them build a gallows seventy-five feet tall. Ask the king in the morning to hang Mordecai on it. Then go to the banquet with the king and enjoy yourself.” The advice pleased Haman, so he had the gallows constructed.
Wow! We covered a lot of ground today. I really do hope you read Esther again, a chapter or two at a time, so you can meditate on what the book teaches. I also encourage you to do a little research on what happened to Ahasuerus after the events in Esther. Doing so will give you new insights into the book of Ezra as Artaxerxes halted the rebuilding of the Temple and Darius was supportive of resuming it. Let’s just say that mothers have influence over their sons. Let me know what you find out at Lifting Her Voice.com, Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.
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Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Christian Standard Bible(r), Copyright (c) 2017 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Christian Standard Bible(r) and CSB(r) are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers.
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