Ruth and Esther...part 4
by, Mar 29th 2010 at 12:01 AM (394 Views)
"Esther: the Pre-show Show"
If we look at the history or Jewish representation in places of power and influence in the Bible, Daniel and Esther stick out. Moses gave his up to be with his people. But, Daniel and Esther represented the Jewish people to the foriegn powers that controlled their destiny, or so the powers thought. What we are seeing, between the two, is a hint at the all around work of God among His people.
Xerxes, if we have him identified right, was the son of Darius; this Darius is the one possible mentioned in Daniel. If that is right, Daniel would have been quite old when he was tossed in the lions den. So, it seems that father and son had a first hand acquaintance with the Jews and with God, though perhaps Darius more so than Xerxes. The main point is that Daniel and Esther share some common bonds, though different approachs. This point should never be lost on the Christian, our God can work in any way He chooses.
This Xerxes inhereited a 'beef' with the Greeks that started with his father, Darius. The Greeks on the Ionian coast had revolted, and recieved help from their brothers on Greek mainland. Darius put the rvolt down, and then took our bloody reprisals. He vowed revenge on the Greeks. But, for the first year or so he had to put down uprisings in Babylon and Egypt. In addition, it is rumored that he had to defeat and execute a possible family claimant to the throne. So, his first couple of years were spent in securing his throne.
He then had to prepare his army for a punitive expedition against the Greek mainland. It is at this point that the book of Esther picks up the story. He was giving honor to his supporters, displaying his power and wealth, and drawing moral support for his expedition against the Greeks. The Jews, since they held to distinctive and exclusive religious practices, would only serve to make themselves a moving target.
They could not, or would not, partake in the festivals and feast, some of which had religious overtones. This would serve at cross purposes with Xerxes bid to unify the whole Empire for what he was preparing to do. In addition, the Jewish homeland, with its exclusive worship, would serve as an irritant for their neighbors who bordered them.
Be that as it may, the scene is set befor us sometime during the third year of Xerxes reign. He gave one at Susa for the whole Empire, with all the commanding people in attendance. He was solidifying his position, and was readinying for a move. Then, he gave a separate one for the capital ciy of Susa. Here, he might have been securing favor for his absence. He did not want any usurpers to rise up while he was gone.
The Old Testament has a famous banquet scene in Daniel five. Belshazzar, who was ruler while his father was away, was having a drunken feast. After they got a little crocked, Belshazzar remembered the vessels, golden and silver ones, Nebuchadnezzar had taken from the temple when he had conquered it years ago. He really, really wanted to drink from them as part of his great, drunken feast. This, of course, brought a great dishonor and defilement to the instruments that had formerly been used in temple worship. So, God pronounced judgment on Babylon by using a finger to write on the wall.
That really sobered up Belshazzar, and frightened him. His wise men, counselors and fellow revelers could not decipher the meaning they had seen the disembodied hand writing on the wall. No pink elephants of Belshazzar, he had brought judgment on his kingdom. So, the queen, not his wife but possibly his mother of the leading wife of the king regnant, came forward:
9Then King Belshazzar was greatly alarmed, his face grew even paler, and his nobles were perplexed.
10The queen entered the banquet hall because of the words of the king and his nobles; the queen spoke and said, "(O)O king, live forever! Do not let your thoughts alarm you or your face be pale.
11"There is a man in your kingdom in whom is a spirit of the holy gods; and in the days of your father, illumination, insight and wisdom like the wisdom of the gods were found in him And King Nebuchadnezzar, your father, your father the king, appointed him chief of the magicians, conjurers, Chaldeans and diviners.
12"This was because an extraordinary spirit, knowledge and insight, interpretation of dreams, explanation of enigmas and solving of difficult problems were found in this Daniel, whom the king named Belteshazzar. Let Daniel now be summoned and he will declare the interpretation."
There was a true prophet who could answer the king’s burning question. And he did, and the downfall of the kingdom came about that very night. Here, there is only a banquet, but it will, in it’s own way pass judgment, but on an individual and his schemes. In Esther chapter one, the banquet is for more ‘innocent’ political purposes but it will grow.
I draw tha parallel, because as the night wears on, and the drinks flow, the king gets the big head. He has one ‘prized possession’ he wants to show off:
10On the seventh day, when the heart of the king was merry with wine, he commanded Mehuman, Biztha, Harbona, Bigtha, Abagtha, Zethar and Carkas, the seven eunuchs who served in the presence of King Ahasuerus,
11to bring Queen Vashti before the king with her royal crown in order to display her beauty to the people and the princes, for she was beautiful.
So the King got ‘royally’ plastered and wanted to trot out the queen for his closest friencds. It seems to me that in this one instance, three proverbs were broken, namely:
Prov. 20: 1 Wine produces mockers; alcohol leads to brawls.
Those led astray by drink cannot be wise.
2 The king’s fury is like a lion’s roar;
to rouse his anger is to risk your life.
3 Avoiding a fight is a mark of honor;
only fools insist on quarreling.
So, the king got drunk and made a foolish decision, he got made, picked a fight with the queen, and made a final foolish decision. See how accurate the scripture is? The queen would not appear as commanded before the drunken and rowdy mob celebrating at the king’s table. So, what was a man to do? Ask the advice of his equally intoxicated advisors.
This is all beginning to sound like a bad idea looking for a place to wreck. Now, under Persian law, the king could order this and just about anything else he might want. However, in more sober settings, he would have exercised greater caution. Later he will regret his actions, but for now:
Memucan said, "Queen Vashti has wronged not only the king but also all the princes and all the peoples who are in all the provinces of King Ahasuerus.
17"For the queen's conduct will become known to all the women causing them to look with contempt on their husbands by saying, 'King Ahasuerus commanded Queen Vashti to be brought in to his presence, but she did not come.'
18"This day the ladies of Persia and Media who have heard of the queen's conduct will speak in the same way to all the king's princes, and there will be plenty of contempt and anger.
We can’t have this, it will spread like a disease, and soon the ladies will be standing up to the men. Memucan sounds like someone who had an unhappy marriage, probably trying to lord it over his wife and children, and generally was terribly insecure.
This attitude, in some ways, was mirrored in the later Greek and Roman worlds. Paul told fathers and husbands how they should act. Believe me, Memucan does not echo Paul’s teaching at all. Memucan offered this advice:
19"If it pleases the king, let a royal edict be issued by him and let it be written in the laws of Persia and Media so that it cannot be repealed, that Vashti may no longer come into the presence of King Ahasuerus, and let the king give her royal position to another who is more worthy than she.
20"When the king's edict which he will make is heard throughout all his kingdom, great as it is, then all women will give honor to their husbands, great and small."
21This word pleased the king and the princes, and the king did as Memucan proposed.
So, the deed was done, and I am willing to bet they had a few rounds to celebrate the proposal. So, while trying to cement his loyal subjects to his rule, he has lost a queen he had cared for enough to give a very honored position.
It is true that God will use this ‘empty spot’ in Xerxes’ life, but you have to wonder at the way in which he acted; God uses the foolishness of man, but man still can suffer the consequences of his own actions. Later, Xerxes will want to find another ‘most favored’ queen, someone to wear the tiara. For now, we are left with the dying echoes of a drunken banquet, and the growing sounds of a pending punitive war with the Greeks, which he will love. It seems poor Xerxes just can’t win for trying!