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Asbury Bible Commentary – I. Esther Becomes Queen of Persia (Chs. 1–2)
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I. Esther Becomes Queen of Persia (Chs. 1–2)

This section covers a period of six months. Possibly the banquet was a planning session for an invasion of Greece.

The next banquet was held for all the people in the citadel. Archaeological research has supported the description of the ornateness of the palace.

The king's permissiveness hints that the celebration was an unrestrained orgy. Queen Vashti's banquet for the women occurred at the same time.

By the end of the week of banqueting, Xerxes was intoxicated and ordered seven male servants to bring the queen so he could present her. She refused to appear, making Xerxes furious.

Xerxes called a conference of his seven closest advisors. They were wise men who understood the times, an oblique way of saying that they were skilled in astrology. The seriousness of the crisis that faced the government is highlighted. To ignore the disobedience of the queen would send a signal to all wives that they need not unwillingly obey husbands. That would create disrespect and discord and thus destroy male authority. Vashti must be replaced by a better (a completely submissive) woman.

Interestingly, the divine name Yahweh appears in a reverse acrostic order at the end of v. 20. These are the Hebrew words in English symbols: ẖy' w̱kl hkunshym ykuttnw (literally, “all the wives will honor”). Working backwards, note that the underlined letters are yhwh, or Yahweh, which is translated “Lord” in English.

After Xerxes had recovered from his drunkenness and anger, he felt remorse about what he had done, which according to Persian law could not be undone (1:19). He needed a queen, but how should he go about choosing a replacement? His trusted personal attendants (astrologers) were summoned to a conference. They proposed a search for beautiful girls who would be brought to the palace and prepared for the king's evaluation. Whoever he chose would be Vashti's replacement.

Mordecai was a Jew of the tribe of Benjamin and thus a descendant of one of the captives (Kish) transported from Judah to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar's armies in 597 b.c. He had adopted a young cousin, whose parents had died.

The selection process netted a number of beautiful girls, among whom, providentially, was Hadassah, who would receive a new name, Esther, and special treatment from the servant in charge of the harem. Mordecai took the precaution to instruct his cousin not to reveal her ethnic identity, the first hint that there was prejudice in Susa against people of Jewish origin.

The king had his own method of evaluating the young women brought to the palace. He slept with each girl one night before offering his opinion. Esther's turn came, and though the procedure was extremely humiliating, she managed to keep her composure and won the approval of Xerxes. He thought he alone made the choice, but future events were to show that the Almighty was quietly carrying out his own will in the matter.

The fact that Mordecai customarily sat at the palace gate indicates that he already held an important position in the government, for that was the custom of the time. Gates were the places where many business and legal transactions took place daily. It was also a good place to overhear conversations between people.

Mordecai heard two officials plotting the death of the king. Mordecai quickly got word to Esther, and the officers were executed. The royal court dutifully recorded the details of the plot and the punishment.