Which of the kings of Persia this Ahasuerus was the learned are not agreed. Mordecai is said to have been one of those that were carried captive from Jerusalem (Est. 2:5, 6), whence it should seem that this Ahasuerus was one of the first kings of that empire. Dr. Lightfoot thinks that he was that Artaxerxes who hindered the building of the temple, who is called also Ahasuerus (Ezra 4:6, 7), after his great-grandfather of the Medes, Dan. 9:1. We have here an account,
I. Of the vast extent of his dominion. In the time of Darius and Cyrus there were but 120 princes (Dan. 6:1); now there were 127, from India to Ethiopia, Est. 1:1. It had become an over-grown kingdom, which in time would sink with its own weight, and, as usual, would lose its provinces as fast as it got them. If such vast power be put into a bad hand, it is able to do so much the more mischief; but, if into a good hand, it is able to do so much the more good. Christ’s kingdom is, or shall be, far larger than this, when the kingdoms of the world shall all become his; and it shall be everlasting.
II. Of the great pomp and magnificence of his court. When he found himself fixed in his throne, the pride of his heart rising with the grandeur of his kingdom, he made a most extravagant feast, wherein he put himself to vast expense and trouble only to show the riches of his glorious kingdom and the honour of his excellent majesty, Est. 1:4. This was vain glory, an affection of pomp to no purpose at all; for none questioned the riches of his kingdom, nor offered to vie with him for honour. If he had shown the riches of his kingdom and the honour of his majesty, as some of his successors did, in contributing largely towards the building of the temple and the maintaining of the temple service (Ezra 6:8; 7:22), it would have turned to a much better account. Two feasts Ahasuerus made:—1. One for his nobles and princes, which lasted a hundred and eighty days, Est. 1:3, 4. Not that he feasted the same persons every day for all that time, but perhaps the nobles and princes of one province one day, of another province another day, while thus he and his constant attendants fared sumptuously every day. The Chaldee paraphrast (who is very bold in his additions to the story of this book) says that there had been a rebellion among his subjects and that this feast was kept for joy of the quashing of it. 2. Another was made for all the people, both great and small, which lasted seven days, some one day and some another; and, because no house would hold them, they were entertained in the court of the garden, Est. 1:5. The hangings with which the several apartments were divided or the tents which were there pitched for the company, were very fine and rich; so were the beds or benches on which they sat, and the pavement under their feet, Est. 1:6. Better is a dinner of herbs with quietness, and the enjoyment of one’s self and a friend, than this banquet of wine with all the noise and tumult that must needs attend it.
III. Of the good order which in some respects was kept there notwithstanding. We do not find this like Belshazzar’s feast, in which dunghill-gods were praised and the vessels of the sanctuary profaned, Dan. 5:3, 4. Yet the Chaldee paraphrase says that the vessels of the sanctuary were used in this feast, to the great grief of the pious Jews. It was not like Herod’s feast, which reserved a prophet’s head for the last dish. Two things which are laudable we may gather from the account here given of this feast:—1. That there was no forcing of healths, nor urging of them: The drinking was according to the law, probably some law lately made; none did compel, no, not by continual proposing of it (as Josephus explains it); they did not send the glass about, but every man drank as he pleased (Est. 1:8), so that if there were any that drank to excess it was their own fault, a fault which few would commit when the king’s order put an honour upon sobriety. This caution of a heathen prince, even when he would show his generosity, may shame many who are called Christians, who think they do not sufficiently show their good housekeeping, nor bid their friends welcome, unless they make them drunk, and, under pretence of sending the health round, send the sin round, and death with it. There is a woe to those that do so; let them read it and tremble, Hab. 2:15, 16. It is robbing men of their reason, their richest jewel, and making them fools, the greatest wrong that can be. 2. That there was no mixed dancing; for the gentlemen and ladies were entertained asunder, not as in the feast of Belshazzar, whose wives and concubines drank with him (Dan. 5:2), or that of Herod, whose daughter danced before him. Vashti feasted the women in her own apartment; not openly in the court of the garden, but in the royal house, Est. 1:9. Thus, while the king showed the honour of his majesty, she and her ladies showed the honour of their modesty, which is truly the majesty of the fair sex.