Monday, October 10, 2016

For such a time as this . . .

A drunken king and his tipsy advisors.
A trophy wife.
A new queen.
Palace intrigue.
Sounds more like a soap opera, doesn't it? Or a Shakespearean play?

Nope, it's the book of Esther. No, I'm not kidding! There's going to be a lot for us to learn from this lady of the Bible!
First, let's lay the foundation; let's look at the background, in chapter one of the book of Esther:
This is what happened during the time of Xerxes, the Xerxes who ruled over 127 provinces stretching from India to Cush: At that time King Xerxes reigned from his royal throne in the citadel of Susa, and in the third year of his reign he gave a banquet for all his nobles and officials. The military leaders of Persia and Media, the princes, and the nobles of the provinces were present.For a full 180 days he displayed the vast wealth of his kingdom and the splendor and glory of his majesty. When these days were over, the king gave a banquet, lasting seven days, in the enclosed garden of the king’s palace, for all the people from the least to the greatest who were in the citadel of Susa. The garden had hangings of white and blue linen, fastened with cords of white linen and purple material to silver rings on marble pillars. There were couches of gold and silver on a mosaic pavement of porphyry, marble, mother-of-pearl and other costly stones.Wine was served in goblets of gold, each one different from the other, and the royal wine was abundant, in keeping with the king’s liberality.By the king’s command each guest was allowed to drink with no restrictions, for the king instructed all the wine stewards to serve each man what he wished.Queen Vashti also gave a banquet for the women in the royal palace of King Xerxes.10 On the seventh day, when King Xerxes was in high spirits from wine,he commanded the seven eunuchs who served him—Mehuman, Biztha, Harbona, Bigtha, Abagtha, Zethar and Karkas— 11 to bring before him Queen Vashti, wearing her royal crown, in order to display her beauty to the people and nobles, for she was lovely to look at. 12 But when the attendants delivered the king’s command, Queen Vashti refused to come. Then the king became furious and burned with anger.
13 Since it was customary for the king to consult experts in matters of law and justice, he spoke with the wise men who understood the times14 and were closest to the king—Karshena, Shethar, Admatha, Tarshish, Meres, Marsena and Memukan, the seven nobles of Persia and Media who had special access to the king and were highest in the kingdom.15 “According to law, what must be done to Queen Vashti?” he asked. “She has not obeyed the command of King Xerxes that the eunuchs have taken to her.”16 Then Memukan replied in the presence of the king and the nobles, “Queen Vashti has done wrong, not only against the king but also against all the nobles and the peoples of all the provinces of King Xerxes. 17 For the queen’s conduct will become known to all the women, and so they will despise their husbands and say, ‘King Xerxes commanded Queen Vashti to be brought before him, but she would not come.’ 18 This very day the Persian and Median women of the nobility who have heard about the queen’s conduct will respond to all the king’s nobles in the same way. There will be no end of disrespect and discord.
19 “Therefore, if it pleases the king, let him issue a royal decree and let it be written in the laws of Persia and Media, which cannot be repealed,that Vashti is never again to enter the presence of King Xerxes. Also let the king give her royal position to someone else who is better than she.20 Then when the king’s edict is proclaimed throughout all his vast realm, all the women will respect their husbands, from the least to the greatest.”21 The king and his nobles were pleased with this advice, so the king did as Memukan proposed. 22 He sent dispatches to all parts of the kingdom, to each province in its own script and to each people in their own language, proclaiming that every man should be ruler over his own household, using his native tongue.
Oy. Do you think that these men would have decreed these things if they hadn't been sozzled?
I wonder. Sure, women's place was definitely different from today, but to depose a queen? And make a new law? Just because they think they have been "dissed" in today's vernacular?

Let's dive in!
We're introduced here to an opulent palace where a lavish celebration is taking place. Whether it was a different part of the palace, or a separate building, the ladies were partying with Queen Vashti, and the men were lifting glasses with King Xerxes at his party. This is the culmination of a six month exhibition of all the wealth and power of the kingdom of Persia.
The wine is flowing freely -- too freely, perhaps. Maybe the men had a separate party because they had dancing girls, and more. I don't know for sure. But at some point, the king decided he wanted to show off his pretty wife. He sent his servants (eunuchs) to tell her to put on her best duds and her biggest crown and parade around for all these men to look at. Well, Queen Vashti didn't want a bunch of drunks ogling her, so she sent a message back to Xerxes: "No!"

To put it bluntly, he was steamed. Livid. Furious. And to make it all worse, embarrassed, since everyone had heard him give the command, and then they heard the eunuchs report when they returned. His pride was hurt.

His nobles were worried. What if their wives heard that the queen had refused the king his request? Would they disrespect their husbands, too?

So, still angry, and still inebriated, the king confers with his nobles and asks, "What should I do? This woman has embarrassed me!" And his tipsy nobles offered him some pretty drastic advice! Kind of like the queen in Alice in Wonderland, who keeps shouting "Off with his/her head!" as a solution to everything. (Grin)  Their advice? Throw her out! Find another one! And make a new law so that our wives don't try it, too!

Ahhh, me. So he says, "Make it so." Or something similar.
And that is how the story of Esther begins.
Join us next time when we continue our study!


Cathy said...

Something I’d never thought of, until reading it here. The women had a party of their own going on. I wonder if the wine was flowing freely there, too. Maybe they were as “sozzled” as the men.

ckrut said...

Oh I can't wait for the next installment. You make this so interesting. I read my Bible and every time I do I get something different from it. Just as God wants us to I'm sure.