We have prepared this home Bible study for you to do by yourself or in the fellowship of other women. We would like to hear your comments and questions. If we find that this is popular, we will continue it in the next issue.
Read the first chapter of the Book of Esther and answer these questions.
From the King’s perspective
The King waits until the 7th day of the final feast to bring forth his most prized possession—his queen. He sends 7 men to escort her in grand style to his party. The Queen refuses to come. King Ahasuerus’ humiliation is complete. All the wealth, power, beauty, and renown that he had spent 187 days and great expense showing the princes of his kingdom now mean nothing. He was like a common man who could not even get his wife to do a simple thing for him.
It needs to be understood that these 187 days of showing off to all the leaders of his kingdom was very important militarily. King Ahasuerus had only been king for 3 years. He was establishing himself as a strong leader. It is understood that as a man he was humiliated by his wife, but his personal feeling of outrage was not the most important issue. He knew that his family structure was the pattern for the rest of his vast kingdom. If he set a bad example, it would spread discord through the whole world. Rather than act independently, he turned to the men who knew the law and judgment and asked them, "What shall we do according to the law?"
The Princes’ Judgment
From Queen Vashti’s Perspective
Vashti’s part in the book of Esther is one of contrast—first lady failed, second lady succeeded, same old man for both, with the second lady having the handicap of him already being angry at women.
There are two factors at work here, as Ahasuerus was both husband and King. It was a woman’s personal contempt, and her contempt for authority. Queen Vashti’s refusal was unexpected, for the king never would have made an announcement to all the princes of his kingdom that he was going to send for her had he had any reason to suspect she might refuse. Something unexpected altered Vashti’s thinking. The Bible gives us a clue as to the source of her new perspective. She was engaged in her own social event with the wives of the men who sat before the king. She deemed her own agenda to be of more importance than the king’s. We don’t know, but there may have been cause for her to feel uncomfortable with the request, but to make such a public refusal would require a great deal of boldness and confidence.
In every gathering of women, there are those who are ready to assert their opinions about dominating men. Due to the responses of the princes, this appears to be the case here. These women-libbers became Vashti’s enablers. It was probably the collective contempt of the women that gave Vashti the resolve to believe that she had the right to refuse. It was the proliferation of this contempt that the men resolved to stop. This is an age-old story of an unchanging truth. Enablers often cause their best friends to grow contemptuous towards their husbands. The men respond in wrath and divorce will soon follow. Don’t be an enabler, and don’t listen to one.
The Scripture records why her deed was so evil (verse 18) “…thus shall there arise too much contempt and wrath.” Whether the King’s command was rude and insensitive is not of any consequence; only Vashti’s feelings were at stake. The Bible clearly teaches Vashti’s response was a serious error. From India to Ethiopia her response would be the trigger that would provoke women to view men with contempt, and thus bring much wrath (anger) to the land. Consequences would have been extensive.
Verses 20 and 22 give the moral of the story: “…all the wives shall give to their husbands honour, both great and small. That every man should bear rule in his own house, and that it should be published according to the language of every people.” This was God’s will thousands of years ago, and it is still God’s will today regardless of the cantankerousness of the man to whom you are married.
This story of Vashti does reflect how all the men were threatened by her show of dishonor, which demonstrates that women and men can view the same event from a totally different perspective. The fact that God places this story in His word—one woman dishonoring and the other honoring, with radically different consequences, provides us with a clear example of how things should be. The Bible clearly teaches that a woman’s dishonor will reflect negatively on others. It should cause us women to question those who have provided our examples. How are they directing us? To be like Vashti, or Esther? A woman’s contempt for her husband reflects most immediately in the lives of her daughters. Which way does your example point your daughter?
These few verses at the beginning of the book of Esther lay the foundation for the story to follow and make us aware of the difficult situation into which Esther was placed. The King would have gone into this new marriage angry and suspicious. It is important to note how he honored the law, because it will be his own law that Esther will have to face.
In later chapters we will see that the King was angry, lacked confidence, and was easily puffed up. We will see how these faults make him susceptible to others using flattery to control and manipulate him to evil. Now Esther, a young, beautiful girl who loves and worships God, is forced into intimate wifehood to this older, divorced, immature, powerful man. Her very life and those of all the Jews in his kingdom are in his hands. But we know the rest of the story. God grants Esther the humility and courage to win the heart of her husband and defeat the enemy. Verse 19 states it so well, “…let the king give her royal estate unto another that is better than she.”
In studying the first chapter of Esther did you notice the number 7 (complete and total) and a multiple of 7 are all related to the king in this incident with Vashti?
Read chapter 2 of Esther. Mark in your Bible all the numbers as you read.
How many times does Chapter 1 & 2 say that the king acted "according to the law?" Why is this significant? See Daniel 5:8, 12, 15 where it tells us of the strictness in which the Persians honored their law. What does this tell us about the king’s personal conduct at the feast and his invitation for Vashti to attend?
Verse 1 - What mixed emotions do you think the king might have had after he had time to cool off and think back to his wife, Vashti?
What do you think the ex-queen/wife’s feelings were when she thought about her present state that resulted from refusing to do as she was commanded?
How does Proverbs 14:1 apply to this true story? Can you see in your own life where you have been both the wise woman (buildeth her house) and the foolish woman (plucketh it down)?
Verse 2 - The king’s servants must have cared about their king since it was their idea to find the best possible wife. Why do you think it was important to choose only virgins?
Verse 3 - Does this sound like a beauty contest? What was Shushan? Until this century it was common to turn some males into eunuchs, which means they had no sexual drive. Such was doubtless the case with Hegai the king’s chamberlain, keeper of the women.
Why was it necessary for a year of purification?
During the first 6 months, the girls were to use the herb Myrrh. All down through the ages Myrrh has been used for oral hygiene, making the breath fresh and preventing tooth decay. It is also beneficial as an astringent, drawing out skin impurities. Myrrh has been used internally to treat colds, asthma, indigestion, gonorrhea, and sore throats. Too much Myrrh causes extreme diarrhea, which would help cleanse a person of parasites.
During the last 6 months, the girls preparing for the king were to use sweet odors and other things for purifying. Her skin would become soft as silk and saturated with the smell of pure sweet oils. This 12 months of cleansing could have been a part of a religious ceremony as well as a physical cleansing.
Leprosy, tuberculosis, and sexual diseases were common and usually meant death. In the early stages many diseases are not evident. One year was long enough to bring out fits, bad moods, selfishness, and uncontrolled tempers, bringing to light those unfit to be a queen. Even headaches or other such chronic weaknesses could cancel out a potential queen. Lice, fleas, scabies and other skin problems common in that time would be taken care of. The oils and the herbs would cleanse the girls of parasites (which would have also been a problem in old days).
Because drugs for healing were not available, prevention was critically important. During the year of purification, girls with any signs of physical, mental, or emotional problems would be eliminated. The new queen had to be perfect. After all, this girl would become the wife/queen of the King Ahasuerus, who was the king of the largest kingdom on earth.
Verse 4 - How did the king respond to his servants’ proposal about how to find another queen?
Verses 5-7 - Verse 5 introduces a new character into the plot. How was Mordecai related to Esther? Look up Daniel 2:48-49, Genesis 19:1, and Deuteronomy 21:19-20 to help you understand what Mordecai was doing in the palace.
Verses 8 & 9 History tells us that many virgins were gathered for the beauty contest. Each girl was given 7 maidens to help her prepare (one year of purification) for the night she would spend with the king.
Verses 7-15 gives us many clues to Esther’s own conduct and how she positively influenced her 7 maidens assigned to her by the king. Hegai, the keeper of the women, liked Esther more than any of the other girls, and he showered her with blessings.
She was: an orphan (7), beautiful and fair (7), influenced her maids to polite, kind behavior (9), very discreet in what she said or did not say (10), honoring of the chamberlains and other servants (11), in control of her mind and emotions to be able to do a difficult task (11), not greedy or selfish of things (15), poised and confident (15), had dignity and honor (15b), totally obedient and trusting to her adopted father (20). What other traits do you see?
After each girl finished her year of cleansing, she would wait until the evening that she was called to the king’s chamber. The next morning she, along with all the girls before her, was sent to the second house of women to remain concubines for the rest of their lives, never to be called to the king again unless he happend to remember her name and call her back to spend the night with him again. Since there were many in this group of concubines, it is doubtful many were ever called again. The fate of most concubines would be to remain childless and loveless, and with little freedom or purpose in life. Esther was indeed put in a bad situation. There must have been fierce competition and bitterness among the girls, with each one trying to find the finest clothes, make-up, and jewelry. Yet, one of the defining things in Esther’s character was that she did not require extra or special things such as “name brand” clothes to make her feel queenly. Winning the king’s heart not only meant becoming queen; it also meant not ending up as a perpetual concubine.
Verse 17 tells us the king loved Esther above all others. Surely the king was influenced by Hegai’s high opinion of Esther. He would have noticed how all his servants honored her. It is likely that Vashti, the dethroned, divorced queen, had ignored Hegai and the other servants or even treated them with contempt. The king had already had one beautiful queen. He knew from experience that beauty was only skin deep. He was looking for a woman with a pure, kindhearted, respectful, obedient spirit. He saw Esther’s heart reflected in the faces of those who had served her for the last year. A beautiful face is admired, but it takes being loveable to be loved. Don’t make Vashti’s mistake and think it is your just due for your husband to love you just because you are the now reigning queen. Become lovable. King Ahasuerus showed his joy over his new bride by having a feast and giving gifts to the provinces.
Esther had an important secret. Her Uncle Mordecai had instructed her to keep her secret. Even though she was now the wife of the king, she still obeyed her Uncle in this matter. Why was it so important to hold back this information?
Verse 21 a new plot develops. Retell this short story and describe Esther’s part in saving her husband’s life. At a later date God will use the story of this murderous plot to work his will.
How strange are the workings of God to save the nation of Israel! Did God allow Esther to become an orphan so that she might be raised more carefully by her Uncle Mordecai? Did God give Esther unusual poise, beauty, grace and dignity so that she would win a beauty contest and become the wife of a divorced man? Could it be that if we read the last chapter of the book of Esther we will see that God’s intent is much bigger than a girl named Esther? Is this true in our own lives? Esther’s character was such that she played her part in a noble manner regardless of what was asked of her and without understanding the full scope of her part. Could the same be said of you?
The king placed Haman above all the other princes.
Although it was not true that they did not keep the king's laws in normal areas, nonetheless, they did not blend in and were not intended to by God.
- Debi Pearl and Friends