Esther 1 begins with a description of King Xerxes. This great and powerful ruler reigned over 127 provinces that stretched from India to Ethiopia. This statement alone illustrates the vastness of his leadership. His authority stretched across both land and sea. Thousands upon thousands of people stood under his rule.
King Xerxes was also a man of exceedingly great wealth… and a man who was proud of that wealth. So proud, in fact, that he took it upon himself to throw a celebration in honor of his own glory. Scripture states that he displayed the vast wealth of his kingdom and the glory of his majesty for 180 days. That’s six months and at least two seasons. Imagine someone showing off their possessions from the beginning of winter until the end of spring—that is essentially what this king did.
And yet, that display of his glory wasn’t quite enough. Directly after the 6-month display of his riches, King Xerxes threw another 7-day spectacle in honor of his glory. This time all citizens in the kingdom of Susa were invited… and what a party it was! The Bible tells us that the banquet was held in the garden of the king’s palace.
There was white and blue linen hanging from marble pillars along with purple fabric and silver embellishments. There were gold and silver couches. There was an all-you-can-drink open bar with royal wine poured into golden cups. The extravagance was top notch, and I am sure everyone there marveled at the affluence of King Xerxes.
On the last day of the banquet, an unexpected thing happened. King Xerxes had already shown everyone the beauty of everything he had with one exception—his lovely wife, Queen Vashti. And so, he ordered his wife to come out before his guests adorned in her royal crown so that she may display her beauty to everyone.
But Queen Vashti refused … and King Xerxes became irate.
Scripture goes on to tell us that the king consulted his counsel, and they advised the replacement of the queen. They predicted that wives all over the kingdom would begin to disobey their husbands if word spread about the queen’s disobedience to the king. They feared it would destroy the natural order of things within the homes and ultimately destroy the entire kingdom.
So, Esther 1 concludes with orders going out into the kingdom ordering every man to be ruler over his own household. Now, what can we learn from this introductory chapter? I think it is obvious that King Xerxes was full of pride—a man who wanted his own glory magnified. Of course, we should not be this way.
I also agree that there should be order within households as emphasized in Ephesians 5:21-33. Wives are to be submissive to their husbands and husbands are to love their wives as Christ loved the church. Queen Vashti did not submit to her husband—and what’s worse is that she didn’t submit to him in front of the entire province. King Xerxes put on such a grand show only to have his wife embarrass him in front of their company.
So, Queen Vashti wasn’t a great representation of a good wife … but was King Xerxes a good husband? Was he a good king? His counsel advised him to do away with his wife. They advised that a royal decree be written that Queen Vashti never again enter into the presence of the king and to give her royal position to someone else.
Afterall, she did disrespect and disregard the king—the same king with 127 provinces, the same king who ruled over thousands upon thousands of individuals, and the same king with massive status and wealth. She refused the king… the king! She refused the king … and that is something that should not be tolerated.
And yet, there is another King. A King of kings who receives rejection all the time. This King receives rejection from both those in His Kingdom and outside of His kingdom. For whenever believers or nonbelievers refuse to obey what is written in His word, they have rejected him.
But this King, Jesus Christ, does not command the writing of a royal decree to ban those who reject him from his presence. Instead, our Savior keeps calling out to those who have refused him. 2 Peter 3:9 states, “The Lord is patient with us, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”
Though King Jesus owns all the provinces in the world and though all power in heaven and earth resides in his hands, he does not reject us when we reject him. This King pursues us after we have said ‘no’. This King loves us when we choose not to love him. This King shows mercy where others—like King Xerxes—chose to show no mercy.
So, was King Xerxes a good king? I suppose that is a matter of opinion. No king has to show mercy when they are disrespected. Kings do not have to be kind to those who disregard them. Banishment from their presence and their kingdom only seems right if someone disobeys them—which should make us appreciate the mercy of King Jesus that much more.
Let’s be grateful that Jesus chooses mercy in light of our repeat rejection of him. Thank God that we have an all-encompassing, all-powerful King … and that this King chooses to be kind and forgiving. Praise God that, although we are not deserving, we have a great and merciful King.
Quin Arrington is a wife, mother of two children, and author of three books. Her literary collection includes both fictional and nonfictional works. Books can be purchased at the link listed below. Thank you for time and attention. God bless!