Esther 1:1-2:20

The Invisible Providence of God


Tonight we are beginning a study in a very interesting yet unique book of the Bible.

                    The book of Esther –


Uniqueness of the book is this: The name of God is not mentioned in this book at all.

There are no prayers – no sacrifices – no offerings – no pictures of the cross or of Christ.


Despite all of that the hand of God is at work all the way through the book. He is writing throughout the book –

“I am God I am here. I am working things out.”


Matthew Henry puts it this way: “Though the name of God be not in it [Esther], the finger of God is directing many minute events for the bringing about of His people’s deliverance.”


The Story stands as a wonderful reminder of how God is often at work behind the scenes working in unseen ways in the events of our lives as well.

A) The first three chapters are sort of setting the background for the stage.


B) Revealing the ways by which God was moving behind the scenes years in advance to fulfill His purposes in times to come. 


C) And as God works in our lives, sometimes the things that God is doing today are not really for today:

1) They’re for five years, or twelve years down the road before we really see what God had in mind. 


And then we say; Now I get it! 

A) Remember what happened to us when..?  Wow!” 


B) And you see God's hand was there guiding, and God was overseeing the whole program. 

1) And it's exciting when the cycle comes around, and we can look back, and we can see the hand of God. 


C) Hard when you are going through it- Where is He?


Esther is one of those kinds of stories where God is laying out years in advance for His purposes to be fulfilled at a strategic moment of history.


The setting of the story is Persia: The events of the book take place between Chapters 6-7 of the book of Ezra


Esther 1:1-3

Now it came to pass in the days of Ahasuerus (this was the Ahasuerus who reigned over one hundred and twenty-seven provinces, from India to Ethiopia),


Ahasuerus is not his name it is his title – like Pharaoh or Caesar– The king mentioned here is Xerxes – He reigned in Persia 21 yrs from – 486- 465 BC

He is the grandson of Cyrus –

The son of Darius I

The Father of ArtXerxes – who will give Nehemiah permission to go back to Jerusalem to rebuild the wall.


So it has importance – if for no other reason than developing a sympathy for the people of Israel in the eyes of the Persian leaders.


There are five main Characters in the story:

Pagan King – Xerxes

Strong minded Queen – Vashti

A wicked officer named Haman – Instrument of Satan to try and exterminate the Jewish race.


A older Jewish man named Mordecai

A young Jewish orphan – named Hadassah i.e. Esther


Let’s begin the story


Now it came to pass in the days of Ahasuerus (this was the Ahasuerus who reigned over one hundred and twenty-seven provinces, from India to Ethiopia), 2 in those days when King Ahasuerus sat on the throne of his kingdom, which was in Shushan the citadel, now, Shushan was the winter palace for the Persian king.  It is in a desert area.  It gets much too hot to stay around there in the summer, and so it was the winter palace of the Persian monarchy]



3 that in the third year of his reign he made a feast for all his officials and servants — the powers of Persia and Media, the nobles, and the princes of the provinces being before him —  4 when he showed the riches of his glorious kingdom and the splendor of his excellent majesty for many days, one hundred and eighty days in all.


Talk about lifestyles of the rich and famous! This is an unbelievable display. It was a banquet to end all banquets

A) There were 127 provinces in his kingdom, and out of each of these he brought a delegation


B) So that he had present probably one or two thousand people for this banquet.

1) It cost millions of dollars.. It was a great event in the history of the world


The father of King Louis XV of France was talking to one of his advisors about this banquet -  he did not see how the king had the patience to have that kind of a banquet.


The Advisor, who was handling the finances for Louis XV, said that he did not see how he financed it.


Archaeologist excavating Shushan have found inscriptions in which this king refers to himself as the great king, The king of kings. The king of the lands occupied by many races. The king of this great earth.”


This was an over the top display of the greatness of Xerxes!


Purpose: To reveal the wealth luxury and power of the Persian empire.

Xerxes had his sights set on Greece: He wanted to launch a military campaign against the Grecian empire and he knew he would need the support of all 127 provinces to win.


That was his ulterior motive for this Shindig – Ultimate in how to make friends and influence pp.


The banquet was pagan from beginning to end.


It had all the ingredients of a pagan celebration:

           Loud music, lots of food, wild dancing,

                                Eating and drinking to excess


5 And when these days were completed, the king made a feast lasting seven days for all the people who were present in Shushan the citadel, from great to small, in the court of the garden of the king's palace.

A) Xerxes brought the banquet to a climax in the last seven days.


B) Apparently he brought in a tremendous population of people for the final seven days in the court of the garden.


6 There were white and blue linen curtains fastened with cords of fine linen and purple on silver rods and marble pillars; and the couches were of gold and silver on a mosaic pavement of alabaster, turquoise, and white and black marble. 7 And they served drinks in golden vessels, each vessel being different from the other, with royal wine in abundance, according to the generosity of the king. 8 In accordance with the law, the drinking was not compulsory; This verse tells us that it was not forced – drink all you want or as little as you want it is totally up to you for so the king had ordered all the officers of his household, that they should do according to each man's pleasure.


9 Queen Vashti also made a feast for the women in the royal palace which belonged to King Ahasuerus.


In those days the women were kept in separate quarters


The banquet for the men was serious business, and apparently they did not mix sex and business.


 Xerxes was selling a war; so Vashti entertained the wives and women at another banquet.


10 On the seventh day, when the heart of the king was merry with wine, he commanded Mehuman, Biztha, Harbona, Bigtha, Abagtha, Zethar, and Carcas, seven eunuchs who served in the presence of King Ahasuerus, 11 to bring Queen Vashti before the king, wearing her royal crown, in order to show her beauty to the people and the officials, for she was beautiful to behold.

So the king gets drunk. He overstepped himself.

A) Under the influence of alcohol, doing something that he would never have done if he had been sober.


Side note:

It is sad when people drink and lose their sense of judgment. 

Oftentimes a person will do things under the influence of alcohol that they would not normally do. 


The tragic thing is that it robs a person of natural inhibitions and of good judgment. 


 So The King commanded that Vashti be brought to the banquet.

A) There is a debate concerning the phrase she was to be brought wearing her crown


B) Some think  the king was asking Vashti to come in wearing her crown face uncovered – which in that culture would have been scandalous


C) Others think he was asking her to come wearing only her crown which would have been really scandalous

1) Absolutely degrading


Pt was they had seen all the beauty of his Kingdom and now He wanted everyone to see Vashti, his treasure, his crowning jewel, as it were.



12 But Queen Vashti refused to come at the king's command brought by his eunuchs; therefore the king was furious, and his anger burned within him.


Good for her – Queen Vashti – shows she is not going to be degraded in this way!   Eye candy


Alexander Whyte, the nineteenth century Scottish

pastor wrote,

The sacred writer makes us respect Queen Vashti amid all her disgusting surroundings . .

“The brave queen refused to obey it. Her beauty was her own and her husband’s; it was not for open show among hundreds of half drunk men. And in the long run, the result of that night’s evil work was that Vashti was dismissed into disgrace and banishment.”


I cannot help but admire her, can you?

A) She sacrificed all the glamour and all the wealth and all the stuff, for the sake of personal dignity.


B) She would not be a sexual pawn, to be shown off as a piece of property, to be leered at by drunken men.


C) She was willing to sacrifice her crown, for the sake of her character.


D) How many women in America tonight are in a bar somewhere – Sacrificing that very thing!



What is your reputation worth? How far are you willing to go in order to win praise and attention?

A) Are you sacrificing your character on the altar of acceptance?


B) When was the last time you did the right thing and paid the price for it?


C) Do you remember what it cost you? A relationship? A job? A sales contract? A passing grade?

1) Take heart from this story – it cost Queen Vashti everything.


Now, however, the king has a problem.

A) Imagine this scene:

The king said to his guests, “I have a real surprise for you. I want you to see my queen.


She is going to stand before you with the crown royal upon her head. She is very beautiful.”


In a few minutes one of the chamberlains whispered in the king’s ear, “She won’t come.”


Imagine having to get up and say, “I’m very sorry, gentlemen, but we will have to change the program of the evening. Our main attraction did not arrive. The queen will not be here this evening.”



How can He command an army – if he can’t command his woman!

V. 13,14  calls an Emergency meeting: Top Advisers who understood the law and the times  The King asked the question:


15 "What shall we do to Queen Vashti, according to law, because she did not obey the command of King Ahasuerus brought to her by the eunuchs?"


16 And Memucan answered before the king and the princes: "Queen Vashti has not only wronged the king, but also all the princes, and all the people who are in all the provinces of King Ahasuerus. 17 For the queen's behavior will become known to all women, so that they will despise their husbands in their eyes, when they report, 'King Ahasuerus commanded Queen Vashti to be brought in before him, but she did not come.' 18 This very day the noble ladies of Persia and Media will say to all the king's officials that they have heard of the behavior of the queen. Thus there will be excessive contempt and wrath.


Now there are some commentators who suggest this guy Memucan was having his own problems at home – which is why he was so eager for this to happen.


There is a story about the man who told the people in his office that his wife said that he was a model husband. He told this to a hard-boiled secretary and she did not commend him. Instead she said, “Why don’t you look up the word model in the dictionary, and you won’t be so proud of it.” He took her advice. A “model,” he found out, was a small imitation of the real thing.

That is what Memucan; he was Mr. Milquetoast. He said loud and clear, “Something must be done to protect our homes in this matter.”


Notice Memucan’s proposal.

19 If it pleases the king, let a royal decree go out from him, and let it be recorded in the laws of the Persians and the Medes, so that it will not be altered, that Vashti shall come no more before King Ahasuerus; and let the king give her royal position to another who is better than she. [who is more worthy than she ]20 When the king's decree which he will make is proclaimed throughout all his empire (for it is great), all wives will honor their husbands, both great and small."


21 And the reply pleased the king and the princes, and the king did according to the word of Memucan. 22 Then he sent letters to all the king's provinces, to each province in its own script, and to every people in their own language, that each man should be master in his own house, and speak in the language of his own people.


Ch. 2 After these things – what things   After what things? Well, the things that had taken place in the first chapter, and the campaign to Greece where Xerxes was soundly defeated.


The feast in Ch. 1 takes place during the 3rd year of his reign – V. 16 of Ch. 2 tells us these events took place in the 7th year of his reign.

           So there is at least a 3 year gap between Ch. 1-2

We must turn to secular history for the campaign of Xerxes against the Greeks, since the Bible gives us no record of this campaign.


He led a great army against the Greeks. But he was soundly beaten.  Several battles


It was an unfortunate defeat for Xerxes, but God was overruling.

The power was about to pass from Persia to Greece.  Daniel had prophesied – yrs before!


After his defeat he returned in deep dejection to his palace. Added to his misery was the absence of his queen and the fact that the law of the Medes and Persians could not be altered—even by the king himself.


Vashti could never again be his queen.

A) Not a Sex thing: Concubines – he had a Harem – this was a relationship thing – He missed his wife. – Missed that relationship.


B) Men and Sex – Porn – addicted

1) They will Ultimately miss their wives!


So the Servants are watching the king – They  know his state of mind,. They know that something must be done.


After these things, when the wrath of King Ahasuerus subsided, he remembered Vashti, what she had done, and what had been decreed against her.

2 Then the king's servants who attended him said: "Let beautiful young virgins be sought for the king; 3 and let the king appoint officers in all the provinces of his kingdom, that they may gather all the beautiful young virgins to Shushan the citadel, into the women's quarters, under the custody of Hegai the king's eunuch, custodian of the women. And let beauty preparations be given them.  4 Then let the young woman who pleases the king be queen instead of Vashti."


Idea the first ever MRS. Persia Pageant – The king is the soul Judge


This thing pleased the king, and he did so.


The story in the Book of Esther to this point has just been the window dressing—the stage props.

A) Prideful Heathen King – Drunken party – a Banished queen


B) Up to this point there has been nothing spiritual in the palace


C) We will begin to see the hand of God moving in the palace.


D) We are going to see His providence. He is arranging the events so that at the proper time He will have someone to intervene in behalf of His people, the Jews.


5 In Shushan the citadel there was a certain Jew whose name was Mordecai the son of Jair, the son of Shimei, the son of Kish, a Benjamite. 6 Kish had been carried away from Jerusalem with the captives who had been captured with Jeconiah king of Judah, whom Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon had carried away.

A) Both Mordecai and Esther come on the pages of Scripture in a poor light


B) Mordecai was taken captive, probably at a young age, in the second deportation of captives that left Jerusalem. That was during the reign of Jeconiah (better known as Jehoiachin).


C) The first deportation that left Jerusalem was made up of the princes, the nobility, the upper class—Daniel was with that group.


The second captivity took out those, shall we say, of the upper-middle class Mordecai’s family

 Now, Mordecai was probably himself not personally carried away captive, because that would mean that he would be about a hundred and twenty years old at this point, which is not very practical,


but the Benjamites were carried away, and he was of the tribe of Benjamin, of the family of Kish; and so, of the family of Kish carried away in the captivity, his family was. And so, he is of this tribe.


After the third deportation, when Jerusalem was finally destroyed, only the poorest class was left in the land.


Mordecai had a young cousin whose parents may have been slain when Nebuchadnezzar took the city, for multitudes were slain.


Now God had permitted His people to return to their own land - as He had prophesied through Isaiah. Cyrus had given a decree to permit them to return,


Some did – But most didn’t – Comfortable in Persia – shop keepers – Mordecai – should have went but he was in the group that stayed!


He has a job in Shushan citadel – in the Palace

A) Joseph had a job in the Palace – God’s design


B) Daniel –too


C) But Mordecai is not in the direct will of God.

when a child of God gets out of God’s will, He permits many things to happen of which He does not approve.


And He will overrule through these events. God’s overruling power is one of the important lessons in this little Book of Esther.