Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Dec 5 2019 - Esther 1 – Queen Vashti deposed

Let me refresh your memory on some of the history lying behind the book of Esther. The unfaithfulness of God's people and their fondness for idols had led to God allowing the Babylonian army to destroy Jerusalem and to take many of the Jews away into exile in Babylon. But, after 70 years of Exile, the Babylonian Empire was defeated by that of Persia. Darius, the Persian King (or more properly the commander of the Medes), then allowed many of the Jews to return to their own country, to repopulate Jerusalem and to begin rebuilding the temple (see Ezra 1:1-6). Many Jews, however, chose to remain living in the Persian Empire with its capital now in Susa. This is the background against which we need to read the book of Esther.

The book tells a dramatic non-fictional story. One of the remarkable features of this biblical book is that it never makes mention of the name of God. Nevertheless, like the story of Joseph and that of Ruth, it clearly displays God's sovereign control over the whole of history – and particularly the history of his people. It reminds us that God is also at work through the ordinary events of our daily lives whether at work or in the home or in our local community. We are not allowed to assign God to a "religious" compartment within our lives. So let's see how God is at work in this wonderfully dramatic story.

King Xerxes, also known as Ahasuerus (see NIV footnote), ruled over an empire that stretched from India to the upper reaches of the Nile (v. 1); he was an immensely powerful king and one who liked to make a display of his wealth and power. So, in the third year of his reign he threw a banquet for all the military leaders of Persia and Media:

For a full 180 days he displayed the vast wealth of his kingdom and the splendour and glory of his majesty. When these days were over, the king gave a banquet, lasting seven days, in the enclosed garden of the king’s palace, for all the people from the least to the greatest who were in the citadel of Susa. (vv. 4-5).

No expense was spared during this lavish banquet and the wine flowed abundantly. Queen Vashti (a name meaning beautiful), also gave a banquet for the women of the capital.

When the king was rather merry because of the wine he had consumed he commanded that Queen Vashti should be fetched so that her beauty could be displayed to the assembled men, but Vashti refused to come. In his fury the king deposed Vashti and declared that she should never again be allowed into his presence. He also sent out a decree into every corner of his empire "proclaiming that every man should be ruler over his own household" (v. 22).

Chapter one sets the context for the story of this remarkable book and shows us that God is at work even through the drunken anger of a pagan king and the behaviour of his spirited wife. God works out his purposes in the most unexpected ways and through the most unexpected agents.

We see this especially in the Lord Jesus Christ, a far more attractive king than Xerxes and a king over an empire far greater and more lasting than that of Persia. God worked out his purposes for the salvation of his people through a treacherous disciple, through the hatred of those who should have been leaders of his people and through the representative of the oppressive Roman Empire. All things were worked together by God for the good – the eternal good – of his people, and are so still (Romans 8:28). In what ways are you aware of God at work through the circumstances of your life today? Don't worry, even if you cannot see it, he is at work, and at work for your blessing.

Father God, we thank you that in all things you are at work for our good and our blessing and that this is demonstrated and underwritten by the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus. Help us to trust you in all things and to make it our aim, by the help and direction of your Spirit, to be at work for the blessing of those around us. 

Peter Misselbrook