James Gray - Concise Bible Commentary
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:)Esther 1:1-7:10
THE JEWS IMPERILLED
The events of this book belong chronologically after Zerubbabel’s company have gone to Jerusalem, and before the commissions of Ezra and Nehemiah. The scene is laid in Persia. Cyrus and Darius 1 have passed away, and Ahasuerus, son of the last named, and identified by some with Xerxes, and by others with Darius Hystaspes, is on the throne. He is a sensual, fickle, cruel despot. It was his great fleet that was defeated by the much smaller one of Greece at Salamis, about 480 B.c. He is mentioned in Ezra 4:6. He was succeeded by his son Artaxerxes, who figures in the later chapters of Ezra and Nehemiah.
The story of the book is well known, and may be divided as follows: Queen Vashti’s Fall (Esther 1:1-22) Esther’s Exaltation (Esther 2:1-23) Haman’s Conspiracy (Esther 3:1-15) Esther’s Intervention (Esther 4:1 to Esther 7:10) Haman’s Judgment (Esther 8:1 to Esther 9:19) The Commemorative Feast (Esther 9:20-32) The Epilog (Esther 10:1-3)
QUEEN VASHTI’S FALL (Esther 1:1-22)
Some think this feast (Esther 1:3) was the occasion when the great campaign against Greece was determined upon. If a half-year seems long (Esther 1:4), perhaps the time was extended to allow the different nobles and princes to “make their appearance at the court successively.” The climax was the “garden party” of a week (Esther 1:5-7), although it should be understood that only men were present (Esther 1:9). Verse eight seems to mean that in contrast with the customary excessive drinking, any were free to remain sober if they would. “Knew the times” (Esther 1:13) is equivalent to “skilled in the law.”
ESTHER EXALTED (Esther 2:1-23)
When sober, the king rued his action (Esther 2:1), but had he changed his mind and restored Vashti, the consequences would have been serious to his advisers, hence their present counsel (Esther 2:2-4). “Things for purification” (Esther 2:3) mean the oils for cleansing and anointing (Esther 2:12). “She required nothing,” etc. (Esther 2:15), points to a desire of the virgins on similar occasions to bedeck themselves with ornaments, but Esther acted differently on the chamberlains advice, and with good results (Esther 2:17). Note the expiration of four years between Esther 1:3 and Esther 2:7, which some think was occupied by the expedition against Greece, and for which secular history gives some justification. The incident of Esther 2:21-23, is recorded here to explain that which follows later.
HAMAN’S CONSPIRACY (Esther 3:1-15)
The casting of the lot (Hebrew, put, Esther 3:7), was for selecting the most propitious day for the murderous undertaking Haman had in mind. While in western nations such an idea as in verses six and nine would never occur to a revengeful man, it was different in the East. Massacres of a race, or a class, have at all times been among the incidents of history there. A great massacre of the Magi occurred only about fifty years before this, and a massacre of the Scythians fifty years before that again. The ten thousand talents (Esther 3:9), or as some calculate it $12,500,000 of our money, was to be obtained by the confiscation of the Jews’ property.
ESTHER’S INTERVENTION (Esther 4:1 to Esther 7:10)
It would appear by a comparison of Esther 3:12-13 of the preceding chapter, that the Jews were for a whole year harassed because of their impending fate. This explains the opening verses of the present chapter (Esther 4:1-3). Observe Mordecai’s reliance on the promises of God concerning Israel (Esther 4:14). They cannot all be destroyed. God would not permit it, for it would defeat His purpose concerning the Messiah, the Redeemer of the world, and all else that was included in that purpose. Esther’s request to fast is a call to repentance and a request for prayer (compare 1 Kings 21:27-29; Joel 1:14; and Jonah 3:5). Her boldness is seen in the following: She proposed to go to the king without being called; to make request for the change of a law which, according to Persian custom, could not be done; to reveal herself as a Jew; and to place herself in opposition to the all-powerful favorite, Haman.
The usual situation of the throne in the throne-room of an oriental palace is one from which the monarch can see into the court through the doorway opposite to him (Esther 5:1). Esther’s tactful delay in making known her request (Esther 5:7-8), was doubtless to further impress the king, or possibly to evolve her plan, which may not yet have been clear in her own mind.
God’s hand is seen clearly in Esther 6:1 (compare with Esther 2:23). The dramatic incidents of the chapter tell their own story as they swiftly pass before us. In Esther 7:3, Esther’s words are to be understood as offering her own life in the place of the people. The loss of the people would be a great damage to the king (Esther 6:4). In the East at banquets they recline on couches (Esther 6:8).
1. What chronological place is occupied by this book?
2. Give some historical data of the king.
3. What great historical event may have intervened between the fall of the one queen and the exaltation of the other?
4. What does pur mean?
5. Name some great massacres of this general period.
6. What shows Mordecai’s faith?
7. What shows Esther’s courage?
8. Give an illustration of the special providence of God in this lesson.