Scripture reading – Esther 1; Esther 2
The Book of Esther is one of only two books in the Bible that never mentions God by name (the other is the Song of Solomon). That fact, however, cannot dismiss the indisputable evidences of divine providence seen throughout the pages of this book. Chronologically, the historical events recorded in the Book of Esther fall in the midst of the writings of Ezra and Nehemiah.
What is divine providence?
Simply defined, providence means “to foresee” or “to see before.” In his book, “The Hand of God in History,” Hollis Read, a 19th century historian writes, “History, when rightly written, is but a record of providence; and he who would read history rightly, must read it with his eye constantly fixed on the hand of God.”
Many great minds have attempted to define providence. T. Dewitt Talmage, a 19th century clergyman observed: “Despots may plan and armies may march, and the congresses of nations may seem to think they are adjusting all the affairs of the world, but the mighty men of the earth are only the dust of the chariot wheels of God’s providence.”
Author and theologian J.I. Packer said of divine providence, “[God] knows, and foreknows, all things, and His foreknowledge is foreordination; He, therefore, will have the last word, both in world history and in the destiny of every man.”
Benjamin Franklin, one of the founding fathers of the United States, stated, “The longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth, that God governs in the affairs of man.”
I add to the chorus of others who have defined Divine Providence my own definition:
“Providence is God’s sustaining oversight of His creation, and His direction of all things to His appointed end and purpose which is His glory and my good (Romans 8:28-29). The providence of God is practical, personal, and cannot be divorced from His divine purpose.”
The apostle Paul suggested the same, writing: “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).
The Book of Esther is a testimony of divine providence in the life of Esther, a young Jewish maiden, and the preservation of the Jews, God’s chosen people. The LORD sovereignly guided the affairs of a secular empire to fulfill His divine purpose and end. The focus of today’s devotional commentary is Esther 1 and Esther 2.
Esther 1 – A Royal Divorce, Persian Style
Ahasuerus (also known in history as King Xerxes I) was king of Persia (the region of modern Iran), and reigned from 486 BC to 465 BC. He was the fourth of five kings to rule the Empire of the Medes and the Persians. He was the grandson of Cyrus the Great, and the son of King Darius I. In his day, Ahasuerus was ruler of the most powerful nation in the world, and his kingdom extended from India to Africa (1:1). Divided into 127 provinces, Persia embraced all of today’s Middle East (1:4). Yet, the Persian empire was already past its zenith. According to Greek historian Herodotus, the events recorded in Esther 1 would have occurred before Ahasuerus attacked Greece and suffered the loss of the Persian navy.
Three lavish feasts were recorded in Esther 1. The first lasted 180 days (1:3-4), and the second, though lasting only seven days, was greater than the first and was a scene of sin and drunken debauchery (1:5-8). The third feast, apparently coinciding with the king’s drunken, weeklong banquet, was hosted by Queen Vashti for the women of the city (1:9).
Drunk with wine, and apparently at a loss of his senses, King Ahasuerus commanded his beautiful queen to parade herself before his guests (1:10-11). Queen Vashti, however, refused to obey the king’s command (1:12), and her refusal created a royal crisis (1:13-18) for the drunken king. Too proud to humble himself and accept his queen was the wiser, Ahasuerus issued a decree and forever banished Vashti from her throne and his palace (1:19-22).
A Defeated King and A Virgin Who Became Queen (Esther 2:1-7)
Having suffered his first defeat and the loss of his navy, Ahasuerus returned to his throne and “remembered Vashti, and what she had done, and what was decreed against her” (2:1). The king’s rash banishment of Queen Vashti (1:19-22), set in motion a series of events that propelled a Jewish maiden named Hadassah (her Babylonian name was Esther, 2:7), from the anonymity of a maiden, to the throne of Persia.
Some 50,000 people of the tribes of Benjamin and Judah had returned to Israel (Ezra 1); however, many Jews had chosen to remain in Babylon, and among them was a Jewish man named Mordecai (2:5-7). Mordecai, had taken Hadassah into his household after the deaths of her parents and brought her up as his daughter (2:7). Though tragic, the premature deaths of Esther’s parents, and her adoption by Mordecai, were part of God’s sovereign, providential plan for her life.
A Royal Marriage (2:8-17)
Esther’s life is a lasting testimony of God’s grace, and her beauty and humble demeanor gained her favor with “Hegai, keeper of” the king’s harem (2:8). “Out of the king’s house: [Hegai] preferred her and her maids unto the best place of the house of the women” (2:9). As discreet as she was beautiful, Esther obeyed Mordecai and did not reveal to any she was Jewish (2:10, 20).
Every maiden completed her season of purification, and was summoned by the king to his chamber (2:14), but the king found no delight in any of the women (2:15). Esther, who had “obtained favor in the sight of all them that looked upon her” (2:15), was called before Ahasuerus. “The king loved Esther above all the women, and she obtained grace and favour in his sight more than all the virgins; so that he set the royal crown upon her head, and made her queen instead of Vashti” (2:17).
Closing thoughts (2:18-23) – In God’s providence, Mordecai learned of a plot to assassinate the king. Giving the names of the insurgents to Esther, she endeared Mordecai to the king (2:22), and his loyalty was recorded “in the book of the chronicles before the king” (2:23).
Think about it: Because she had experienced the deaths of her father and mother, Esther’s life might have been defined by bitterness. Instead, she chose to accept the LORD’s will with grace and submission, and was honored to serve the LORD as queen of Persia.
Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith
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