Gaebelein's Annotated Bible
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:)Analysis and Annotations
THE BANQUETS AND QUEEN VASHTI DISOWNED
1. The first feast of the king (Esther 1:1-4)
2. The king’s feast unto all the people (Esther 1:5-8)
3. The queen’s feast for the women (Esther 1:9)
4. The queen’s refusal to appear at the king’s feast (Esther 1:10-12)
5. The queen put away (Esther 1:13-22)
Esther 1:1-4. King Ahasuerus, one of the leading characters of this book, is known in history as Xerxes I. The name Ahasuerus is an appellative, which means the chief king, or the king of all kings. Xerxes, the son of Darius Hystaspes, bore this title, king of kings. This title is also given to him in the cuneiform inscriptions. One of these reads as follows: “I, the mighty king, king of kings, king of populous countries, king of this great and mighty earth, far and near.” His dominion extended from East to West, even from India unto Ethiopia. He had a universal kingdom. The capital of his empire was Shushan, which had a beautiful situation surrounded by high mountains, traversed by streams and abounding in a luxurious vegetation. Since the time of King Darius it became the residence of the Persian kings. The word “palace” is better translated by fortress or castle. And in the third year of his reign he made the great feast unto all his princes, and his servants, and all the nobles of Persia and Media were before him. He then showed the riches of his glorious kingdom and entertained the nobles and princes for six months.
Esther 1:5-8. This sumptuous feast was followed by a second banquet to which all the inhabitants of the capital were invited. It was held in the garden of the palace and lasted for seven days. The decorations were in white, green, blue, fastened with cords of fine linen and purple to rings of silver and pillars of marble. Upon a pavement of red, white, blue, and black marble (a mosaic floor) stood the couches of gold and silver. The royal wine was served out of vessels of gold not two of which were alike. The king displayed his enormous wealth and his abundant possessions. “And the wine of the kingdom was in abundance, according to the bounty of the king.” And there was perfect freedom; each could drink to his heart’s content. The king had instructed the officers “that they should do according to every man’s pleasure.”
Esther 1:9. Queen Vashti (Vashti means “beautiful woman”) is now introduced. She made a separate feast for the women in the royal house which belonged to her husband, the king. Such feasts were frequently given by royal women of the East. Nothing is said how long her feast lasted.
Esther 1:10-12. The king’s heart being merry with wine, he commanded his seven chamberlains to bring Vashti in her royal apparel to the feast, so that the peoples and the princes could admire her great beauty. The seven chamberlains were eunuchs who held important offices. Mehuman was the chief officer; Biztha, according to the meaning of his name, the treasurer; Harbona, the chief of the bodyguard; Bigath, who had charge over the female apartments; Abagtha, the chief baker; Zethar, the chief butler, and Carcas, the chief commander of the castle. These dignitaries were sent to accompany the queen to the feast of Ahasuerus. She refused to obey the king’s command. Her refusal has been differently interpreted. According to Persian custom the Persian king held all for slaves except the legitimate wife. Was it in defiance of the king’s order or out of self respect? She may have refused to show that she could not be dictated to by a drunken husband and that she was unwilling to show herself in the midst of revelry. Perhaps she did not care to come because she had a feast of her own. Then the king became extremely angry.
Esther 1:13-22. At once the wise men were called, the astrologers, the magi and sorcerers (Daniel 2:2). His privy council consisted of seven princes, the princes of Persia and Media, who were next to the king, sat with him and the wise men to take up this serious matter. The question is, “What shall we do unto the Queen Vashti according to law, because she had not done the bidding of the king Ahasuerus by the chamberlains?” The case is thus turned over by the king into the hands of the wise men and the seven princes. These decide that Vashti has wronged the king and furthermore by her refusal had set a dangerous example to all the subjects of the king. Much contempt and wrath would follow throughout the empire. They advise that Vashti is to lose her royal estate, that she be put away. The king sanctions it and issued at the same time a decree to be published throughout his great kingdom that all wives should honor their husbands. The Persian kings were great autocrats and ruled with an iron hand. Their laws were irrevocable. “It is certainly no fable which is told of Xerxes, viz., that when the inundation of the Hellespont had destroyed all bridges, he gave order that it should be beaten with rods for disobedience (Herodotus 7:35). But it was more easy for him to beat the sea than to obtain that which his edict demanded.”
The letters were dispatched by the excellent postal service, which according to the historian Herodotus, Persia possessed. Memucan had brought about the downfall of the queen; she disappears completely. Jewish tradition gives several reasons why Memucan was so hostile to Vashti. One is that his own wife had not been invited to Vashti’s feast and another, because he wanted his own daughter promoted and become the queen.
The Persian king claimed the title King of Kings, which belongs only to the Lord Himself. The great feast which he made reminds us of another feast which the Lord has spread. Ahasuerus’ feast was on the third year of his reign and appointed to show the riches of his kingdom and the honor of his excellent majesty. The gospel feast to which God invites, is prepared in His Son, who died and was raised on the third day, and this feast shows forth exceeding riches of His grace in kindness towards us. And those who accept become partakers of the heavenly calling, nobles and princes, who shall reign with Him in His coming kingdom. The invitation is, “Come for all things are now ready.” There is enough for all; enough to fill to overflowing. The wine is the symbol of joy; it cheereth God and man (Judges 9:13). As the king had his joy with his subjects in this earthly feast, so God rejoices in those who come to the table of His love, and those who accept His invitation rejoice in Him. The couches of gold and silver at the King’s feast were for rest. Gold and silver are symbolical of righteousness and redemption, and these are the couches, the resting places for the believer. And as Ahasuerus invited all to come to his feast, with no other conditions, but to come, so God wants all men to be saved and offers the riches of His grace without money and without price. While the Persian king displayed the glories of his great kingdom, God displays the glory of His grace.
In Vashti we see a type of the refusal of the invitation. She had been invited to come and grace the feast with her presence; she would not come. It reminds us of the parable of our Lord, in which He speaks of the great supper, a symbol of the gospel, and the bidden guests who made excuses for not coming. She had her own feast, which she probably would not leave. How many there are who refuse the gospel invitation because they love their own things best. And Vashti is banished. She is put away. And this is the sinner’s fate who refuses to obey the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Vashti too may be taken as a type of professing Christendom, those who have the form of godliness and deny the power thereof, whose god is their belly and who are the enemies of the cross, disobedient to God. Some day Christendom will be disowned by the Lord; He will spew Laodicea out of His mouth. Then the King of Kings will call another to take the place of apostate Christendom.