A long, long time ago, in a country called Persia, there lived a powerful king named Ahasuerus (aHa-shoo-eerus). He ruled over a vast empire of one hundred and twenty seven provinces which spread all the way from India to Ethiopia. He ruled in his magnificent fortified palace along with his a beautiful, dazzling queen, Queen Vashti.
During his reign, King Ahasuerus wanted to show off to his entire kingdom, so he held the most spectacular, magnificent, awe inspiring feast. He showed the riches of his glorious kingdom and the splendour of his excellent majesty for many days, one hundred and eighty days in all . Wine and other exotic drinks flowed without measure to all who attended.
Food was delightful and plentiful. Entertainment of the highest professional quality was provided. No expense was spared at the king’s party. Yet, at the end of his extravagant feast, it seemed that the king’s need to display his power was not satisfied. He proclaimed another feast; this one was for every single person in the county, from great to small, in the court of the garden of the king’s palace .
Still, despite all the pompous parading and self-important showing off, he didn’t seem to be satisfied. King Ahasuerus had a bright idea, an idea that would certainly be the cherry on top of the cake, an idea that would prove to all whom he ruled, that he was indeed the most powerful, most awesome king ever! He called for his queen. She was a beautiful queen, well groomed and something of a delight to behold. She was his possession and his bright idea was to show her off too, so that all could marvel at how rich and blessed the king was. The king sent seven of his finest men, to show her beauty to the people and the officials, for she was beautiful to behold. But Queen Vashti refused to come at the king’s command brought by his eunuchs; therefore the king was furious, and his anger burned within him .
Anger coupled with confusion left the king baffled. He had not anticipated this. Was she even allowed to refuse him? Surely not! Unsure of what to do next, he asked his wise council; “What shall we do to Queen Vashti, according to law, because she did not obey the command of King Ahasuerus brought to her by the eunuchs?”
One of the King’s top men, Memucan, answered; “Queen Vashti has not only wronged the king, but also all the princes, and all the people who are in all the provinces of King Ahasuerus. For the queen’s behaviour will become known to all women, so that they will despise their husbands in their eyes, when they report, ‘King Ahasuerus commanded Queen Vashti to be brought in before him, but she did not come.’ This very day the noble ladies of Persia and Media will say to all the king’s officials that they have heard of the behaviour of the queen. Thus there will be excessive contempt and wrath.
If it pleases the king, let a royal decree go out from him, and let it be recorded in the laws of the Persians and the Medes, so that it will not be altered, that Vashti shall come no more before King Ahasuerus; and let the king give her royal position to another who is better than she.
When the king’s decree which he will make is proclaimed throughout all his empire (for it is great), all wives will honour their husbands, both great and small.”
And the reply pleased the king and the princes, and the king did according to the word of Memucan. The king, heavily under the influence of much wine and feasting, decreed that Vashti was out. Banished. A new queen was to be chosen. His ego was bruised and his pride downtrodden under the harsh rejection of his queen. He walked off to his chamber sulking, not like a king but as a naughty school boy would. What a blow that must have been, his bright idea failed and all the months of feasting were quickly forgotten.
Questions plagued his mind. How would his subjects view him now? Would this outrageous action undermine his authority for all time? Was it to be written in the history books that King Ahasuerus was the laughing stock of his entire kingdom on this disastrous day? It was final, the decree was set in stone, even if the king wanted to change his mind now; he couldn’t, the law in Persia was unchangeable. Once it had been written it could not be altered, even by the king himself.
Some time passed and the King’s anger died down. He became lonely, bored perhaps. His thoughts drifted towards better times, times that included a beautiful woman, Vashti. His mind filled with thoughts of her soft skin, her beautiful face and her hands that used to touch him and bring him delight. His heart ached, longing for intimacy with a woman. His face drooped and his countenance became dull. It wasn’t long before all who knew him could see plainly that something needed to be done for the king. His joy had left him and the days of feasting would be a distant memory for all if they did not cheer him up. The king’s servants who attended him said: “Let beautiful young virgins be sought for the king; and let the king appoint officers in all the provinces of his kingdom, that they may gather all the beautiful young virgins to the palace, into the women’s quarters, under the custody of Hegai the king’s eunuch, custodian of the women. And let beauty preparations be given to them. Then let the young woman who pleases the king be queen instead of Vashti.”
This thing pleased the king, and he did so. Many beautiful virgins were prepared for him. Persia was in turmoil, a terrifying and delightful time for families with a young virgin or two. The town centre was filled with young girls with heavy makeup, wearing their best dress and high heels, all dressed up and standing around in the hope of being picked as the next queen. Meanwhile other women were in hiding. At home with their loved ones they hoped never to be discovered. Many virgins were already in love and hoping to be betrothed to the man of their dreams. The thought of palace life frightened them. Other girls simply didn’t want to leave the comfort of their mother and father’s home, so they hid too.
The whole region was in turmoil as word got out that the king was taking virgins to his palace. At one humble home, soldiers began beating at the door. Each knock made Esther’s heart leap and each knock made Mordecai more fearful. Esther was a beautiful, gracious and kind woman despite her difficult start in life. Her parents died when she was young leaving her an orphan at an early age. Mordecai, her older cousin, took her in and raised her as his daughter. Together they lived as Jews in Persia.
The knocking continued and gradually grew into harsh bashing, at which point Mordecai knew that they would not pass by and would rather break the door down than leave him alone.
This is a chapter snippet from Esther or Delilah?