AND THE NEW MISS PERSIA IS...
*Good morning. I apologize for not posting on Friday. Today, we take a look at one of the most interesting books of the entire Bible. The Book of Esther. Why is it one of the more interesting books? Some may even say that they didn't even know it existed. Well, it's one of the most interesting books because, for one thing; it's acceptance into the Bible. What was the purpose of the Book? And, then there is the fact that this book is the one book that does not mention...at all. ever...God. That's correct! God is never mentioned in this book. So, let's take a quick look into 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;...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. ;ast8ing seven days." (Esther 1:1-5)
Can you say PARTY!!!!!! Yes, this is quite a shindig (as we would say in the Missouri Ozarks.) But, we then discover that while Xerxes was having his banquet, the queen, Vashti, "also gave a banquet for the women." (Esther 1:9) Now, there is no other way to describe what is happening other than to say, "they are all having a good time."
"On the seventh day, when King Xerxes was in high spirits from wine, he commanded the seven eunuchs who served him...to bring before him Queen Vashti, wearing her royal crown, in order to display her beauty to the people and to the nobles, for she was lovely to look at." (Esther 1:10-11)
Oh that wine...you know the stuff that many argue wasn't really wine in the Bible. (sarcasm) The king has been very liberal in his giving, and drinking of the wine. Now, please don't think that if it's in the Bible it is "G" rated. I think we have already discovered that the Bible deals with life the way it really is. Please know that when Queen Vashti is told to parade herself before these men wearing her royal crown, the royal crown is most likely all that she is to wear. Before you say "now preacher!" remember, these dudes are drunk. Or, as Barney Fife would say about Otis, "Andy, he's tanked!" The king wants to show off his queen. So, he sends for Queen Vashti. But, there's a problem.
"But when the attendants delivered the king's command Queen Vashti refused to come. Then the king became furious and burned with anger." (Esther 1:12)
The queen said, "No!" O.K., there is some background information that I need to give you. One thing you need to know is that the setting takes place during the Persian period. During this time period more Jews lived outside of Israel than lived in Israel. The king and queen are clearly foreigners. This story is somewhat different in that it is not dealing with the Jews acceptance of foreigners, but foreigners dealings with Jews. Now, don't forget what we have recently read. Remember Ezra's decree that Jewish men must divorce their foreign wives? OK., with that all in mind we now move on.
The king has a problem! He has been told "No!" What does he do? He consults the experts who tell him that he can not allow her to get by with what she has done. (paraphrased) I can just hear some of them now; "No woman of mine would get by with that. No, sir! Do you know what I'd do to my little woman if she did that to me?" Guess what their response was..."the queen's conduct will become known to all the women, and so they will despise their husbands."(Esther 1:17) Yes, they all become afraid of a women's revolution. "If we let one get by with it, they'll all try it!" is their fear. So, guess what they tell the king to do? The king sends out a proclamation to all the people "that every man should be the ruler over his own household." (Esther 1:22b)
Now, how do the men come across in this story so far? Yep, they appear to be wimps. O.K. The queen said no to the king and she is deposed. The king needs a queen. Now, as I have said, God is not mentioned in this story. However, that does not mean that God is not involved in this story. In fact, once we get done with the entire book we will discover that God was the director of the story from start to finish. It also, helps one see that God is not confined to one particular place. So, how is a new queen found?
"Then the king's personal attendants proposed, 'Let a search be made for beautiful young virgins for the king. Let the king appoint commissioners in every province of his realm to bring in all these beautiful girls into the harem at the citadel of Susa. Let them be placed under the care of Hegai, the king's eunuch, who is in charge of the women; and let beauty treatments be given to them. Then let the girl who pleases the king be queen instead of Vashti." (Esther 2:1-4)
Yes, they embark on a very long Miss Persia Contest. O.K., there is a lot to be said here. By the way, Vashti means "best in person." Yes, I've watched horse shows and dog shows and they declare a particular entry to be 'best in show." I wonder how Vashti was discovered?
Girls are to be brought in for a "try out" with the king. How were these girls chosen? All we know is they had to be beautiful and they had to be virgins. This raises the question: was this human trafficking of its day? The girls are brought to a harem, which means "the house of the women." It still amazes me that one of Elvis Presley's movies was actually titled "Harem Scarem." I kid you not. It was also one of the worst movies ever made. (The man really needed a better manager. But this post is not about Elvis. back to where I was) What is happening here? The girl who becomes queen must please the king. Was this sexual? The Bible is vague on this, but we can not rule it out.
This is a good place to stop for today. Tomorrow, we will discover what takes place next and just how we are introduced to the book's namesake. See you tomorrow. -Pastor Rick