Scripture reading – Esther 1

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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 evidence of divine providence seen throughout its pages. Chronologically, the historical events recorded in the Book of Esther fall amid the writings of Ezra and Nehemiah.   

What is divine providence? 

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 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, “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 Hadassah (Esther), a young Jewish maiden, and the preservation of the chosen people living in Persia. 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.

A Royal Divorce, Persian Style

Esther 1 – A Royal Divorce, Persian Style

King 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. Ahasuerus was the fourth of five kings to rule the Empire of the Medes and the Persians. He was Cyrus the Great’s grandson and King Darius I’s son. In his day, Ahasuerus was the ruler of the most powerful nation in the world, and his kingdom extended from India to Africa (Esther 1:1).

Divided into 127 provinces, Persia embraced all of today’s Middle East (Esther 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 (Esther 1:3-4), and the second, though only seven days, was greater than the first and was a scene of sin and drunken debauchery (Esther 1:5-8). The third feast, apparently coinciding with the king’s drunken, weeklong banquet, was hosted by Queen Vashti for the city’s women (Esther 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 (Esther 1:10-11). Queen Vashti’s refusal to obey the king’s command (Esther 1:12) created a royal crisis for the drunken king (Esther 1:13-18). 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 (Esther 1:19-22).

Queen Vashti refused to obey the king’s command

Questions to ponder…

 1. It has been said, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” How is that saying evidenced in Esther 1?

  1. What moved King Ahasuerus to command Queen Vashti to come before his drunken guests?
  1. Why do you think Queen Vashti refused to obey the king’s command?
  1. What counsel did the king’s wise men give him?
  1. Do you think the king later regretted banishing his queen?

To be continued…

Copyright © 2024 – Travis D. Smith 

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