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The Story of Vashti & Esther

Just Standing e1539012764245It sounds like Ezra and Nehemiah are gone now. 

So what is going to happen to the Israelites?

“Now it came to pass in the days of 1 Ahasuerus, (this is Ahasuerus which reigned, from India even unto Ethiopia, over an hundred and seven and twenty provinces:)

2. Shushan
Shushan, also known as Susa (i.e. various Bible translations render the city name as either Shushan or Susa) was a capital of Elam, in what is today western Iran, about 150 miles north of the Persian Gulf.

The city of Shushan/Susa, or more specifically, the royal palace there, is known to Bible History (see also Bible Places) as the location where Nehemiah, Esther and Daniel were all situated.

That in those days, when the king Ahasuerus sat on the throne of his kingdom, which was in Shushan the palace,

In the third year of his reign, he made a feast unto all his princes and his servants; the power of Persia and Media, the nobles and princes of the provinces, being before him:

When he shewed the riches of his glorious kingdom and the honour of his excellent majesty many days, even an hundred and fourscore days.

And when these days were expired, the king made a feast unto all the people that were present in Shushan the palace, both unto great and small, seven days, in the court of the garden of the king’s palace;

Where were white, green, and blue, hangings, fastened with cords of fine linen and purple to silver rings and pillars of marble: the beds were of gold and silver, upon a pavement of red, and blue, and white, and black, marble.

And they gave them drink in vessels of gold, (the vessels being diverse one from another,) and royal wine in abundance, according to the state of the king.

And the drinking was according to the law; none did compel: for so the king had appointed to all the officers of his house, that they should do according to every man’s pleasure.

Also Vashti the queen made a feast for the women in the royal house which belonged to king Ahasuerus.

1. Ahasuerus and Haman at the Feast of Esther
Ahasuerus and Haman at Esther’s Feast, by Rembrandt.
Ahasuerus is the Hebrew name used in the Bible.

The Greek name, known by historians and archaeologists, is Xerxes.

Xerxes was a Persian king who reigned from 486-464 B.C.

He was the son of Darius the Great and grandson of Cyrus the Great.

He defeated Marathon in 490 B.C., but ten years later was greatly defeated at the Bay of Salamis battle, and soon lost interest in attempting to defeat the Greeks.

On the seventh day, when the heart of the king was merry with wine, he commanded Mehuman, Biztha, Harbona, Bigtha, and Abagtha, Zethar, and Carcas, the seven chamberlains that served in the presence of Ahasuerus the king,

To bring Vashti the queen before the king with the crown royal, to shew the people and the princes her beauty: for she was fair to look on.

But the queen Vashti refused to come at the king’s comm

andment by his chamberlains: therefore was the king very wroth, and his anger burned in him.

Then the king said to the wise men, which knew the times, (for so was the king’s manner toward all that knew law and judgment:

And the next unto him was Carshena, Shethar, Admatha, Tarshish, Meres, Marsena, and Memucan, the seven princes of Persia and Media, which saw the king’s face, and which sat the first in the kingdom;)

What shall we do unto the queen Vashti according to law, because she hath not performed the commandment of the king Ahasuerus by the chamberlains?

3. Purim in the streets of Jerusalem.
Purim in the streets of Jerusalem.
Purim is a Jewish holiday that commemorates the deliverance of the Jewish people in the ancient Persian Empire where a plot had been formed to destroy them.

The story is recorded in the Biblical Book of Esther.

According to the Book of Esther, Haman, royal vizier to King Ahasuerus (presumed to be Xerxes I of Persia planned to kill all the Jews in the empire, but his plans were foiled by Mordecai and his cousin and adopted daughter Esther who had risen to become Queen of Persia.

The day of deliverance became a day of feasting and rejoicing.

And Memucan answered before the king and the princes, Vashti the queen hath not done wrong to the king only, but also to all the princes, and to all the people that are in all the provinces of the king Ahasuerus.

For this deed of the queen shall come abroad unto all women, so that they shall despise their husbands in their eyes, when it shall be reported, The king Ahasuerus commanded Vashti the queen to be brought in before him, but she came not.

Likewise shall the ladies of Persia and Media say this day unto all the king’s princes, which have heard of the deed of the queen. Thus shall there arise too much contempt and wrath.

If it please the king, let there go a royal commandment from him, and let it be written among the laws of the Persians and the Medes, that it be not altered, That Vashti come no more before king Ahasuerus; and let the king give her royal estate unto another that is better than she.

And when the king’s decree which he shall make shall be published throughout all his empire, (for it is great,) all the wives shall give to their husbands honour, both to great and small.

And the saying pleased the king and the princes; and the king did according to the word of Memucan:

For he sent letters into all the king’s provinces, into every province according to the writing thereof, and to every people after their language, that every man should bear rule in his own house, and that it should be published according to the language of every people” (Est 1:1-22).

1 His Greek name is Xerxes.

4. Esther The Woman Who Saved a Nation
Esther: The Woman Who Saved a Nation
Esther was a beautiful young woman who was chosen by King Ahasuerus to be queen. King Ahasuerus didn’t know Esther was Jewish. The Jews had been driven out of Israel 70 years earlier and exiled in Persia.

Esther’s stepfather, Mordecai, refused to bow down to Haman, an advisor and high official of the king. Because of this Haman plotted to destroy all the Jews.

When Esther found out that this was to happen she wanted intercede, but feared doing so because anyone who entered the king’s throne room without permission could be put to death.

She prayed and fasted for three days and found the courage to approach her husband, the king. She told him of her Jewish ancestry and pleaded for her people. Ahasuerus was persuaded by his love for Esther and ordered Haman to be hanged on the very gallows he had prepared for Mordecai.

Esther

Esther (or Ester) was the daughter of Abihail, of the tribe of Benjamin.  She was the cousin, and the adopted daughter, of Mordecai.  On the orders of the Persian King Ahasuerus, Esther replaced

Vashti as queen.  And at Mordecai’s request, Esther concealed her Jewish birth.

After Haman, the king’s chief minister, found out that his foe, Mordecai, was Jewish, he devised a plan to have all Jews killed.  Haman secured the king’s permission to have a massacre of all Jews in the Empire by the end of that year, on the14th day of the month of Adar.  Haman built a gallows to hang Mordecai.

Esther acted to foil the plot.  She revealed to the king that she was Jewish, and that the Jews were destined to be massacred by orders from Haman.  Haman’s last-minute appeal to the queen’s mercy was misinterpreted by the king as an attempt at seduction, and the king ordered that Haman be hung on his own gallows.  Esther reminded the king that the decree of extermination was still in effect.

Ahasuerus informed her that a royal edict could not be revoked, and instead issued a counter-edict, permitting the Jews to arm and defend themselves.  When the day arrived, the Jews were so successful in defending themselves that they observed a new feast.  In commemoration of these events, Esther and Mordecai instituted the annual festival of “Purim,” which means “throwing dice,” taken from the Persian word “Pur.”  Esther and Mordecai were awarded Haman’s estate.

Details about the life and times of Esther are contained in the book of Esther.

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