1 Esdras 3Common English Bible (CEB)
Contest of the bodyguards
3 Now King Darius gave a great banquet for all his subjects, everyone born in his house, all the officials of Media and Persia, 2 and all the chief administrators, generals, and district governors who were under him in the one hundred twenty-seven administrative districts from India to Ethiopia. 3 They ate and drank, and they left after they had enough. King Darius retired to his bedroom and went to sleep, but he eventually woke up again.
4 Then the three young men, the bodyguards who protected the king, said to each other: 5 “Let’s each offer one word that we think is the most superior thing in the world. To the one whose statement seems wisest, King Darius will give expensive gifts and great prizes as a reward. 6 He should be clothed in purple, drink from gold cups, and sleep on a gold bed. He should have a chariot with gold-studded bridles, a turban of fine linen, and a gold necklace around his neck. 7 He will sit next to Darius on account of his wisdom and will be called Darius’ confidant.” 8 Then each bodyguard composed his own statement and sealed it. They placed them under the pillow of King Darius. They said, 9 “When the king wakes up, his servants will give him the written statements; and whoever’s statement the king and the three officials of Persia judge to be wisest will be given the victory according to Persian law.”
10 The first wrote, “Wine is superior.”
11 The second wrote, “The king is superior.”
12 The third wrote, “Women are superior, but truth conquers all.”
13 When the king woke up, they gave the written statements to him, and he read them.
14 Then he sent for all the officials of Persia and Media and the administrators, generals, district governors, and civil authorities. He sat in the council room, and the written statements were read before them all. 15 He said, “Call in the young men to explain their statements.”
So they were called together. 16 He said to them, “Give us an explanation for what you wrote.”
Superiority of wine
17 So the first young man, who had spoken of the strength of wine, started: 18 “Gentlemen, how is it that wine is so superior? It misleads the minds of all who drink it. 19 It makes the mind of the king the same as that of the orphan, likewise of the slave and the free, of the poor and the rich. 20 It changes every thought to feasting and cheerfulness, and forgets all grief and every obligation. 21 It fattens all hearts, makes one remember neither kings nor administrators, and makes everyone talk in outrageous sums. 22 When drinking, people forget to be civil even with their friends and relatives, and after a while they draw their swords. 23 When they recover from the wine, they don’t even remember what they did. 24 Gentlemen, isn’t wine superior, since it forces people to behave like this?” With that, he stopped speaking.