Johan Smulders has a . B.A, B.ED and M.A in Education, Theology and Counselling. Works as an evangelist and counsellor.
People Just Like Us: No.3 - Two Queens: Vashti and Esther
One of the really amazing books in the Old Testament, the book of Esther, records an interesting bit of history from the Persian Nation. This took place during the post-captivity time of the Jewish Nation in about 460 BC. Many Jews had returned to Jerusalem under the leadership of Sheshbazzar and Zerubbabel, but many remained behind in what has become known as the Diaspora (or scattering) that continues into the present. Here people of Jewish descent remain in other countries where they often maintain their traditions and life styles.
The two Queens that make up the fascinating story of this book are Vashti and Esther. The account begins with a time of feasting in the royal palace where the ruling King of Persia, Xerxes, decided to display “the vast wealth of his kingdom and the glory of his majesty” (Esther 1:4 – NIV translation, used with permission). But as often happens, things go wrong in this world. When the King ordered his wife Vashti, who was hosting a banquet for women, to show off her beauty at the banquet for the men, she refused. Obviously the King and his drunken friends and subjects were astounded. The king “burned with anger” the text records. So a major crisis had made its appearance on the merry scene of much drinking and feasting. The King, after consulting with his advisers, made the decision that, after openly disobeying him in this way, Vashti would have to go. She could no longer be queen.
The King then decided that he needed to find a suitable replacement and this resulted in an ensuing beauty contest. This brought the beautiful Esther into the picture. Her uncle Mordecai had taken this young girl into his care when her parents had died. When Esther was one of the young virgins chosen to be presented to the King, Mordecai he told her not to reveal her nationality and family background (Esther 2:10). After extensive preparation in the palace Esther was duly chosen and appointed as the new Queen.
But, as so often happens, there was a twist to the tale; Mordecai foiled the evil plotting of two officials to assassinate the King. At the same time a power hungry man named Haman decided to engage in a plot to kill all the Jews. Again Mordecai stepped into the lime-light and persuaded Esther to intervene on behalf of her people. She was reluctant to do so because to enter into the King’s presence without an invitation was usually an end to a life. Mordecai then made the famous statement as recorded in Esther 4:14: “For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish.” So Esther went to the king and the Jewish Nation was saved. The feast of Purim is still celebrated by Jews today to commemorate these events.
The book ends after Haman was hung on the gallows he had prepared for Mordecai and Mordecai was elevated to a role as second in charge of the kingdom. He was in held in high esteem by all the people, “because he worked for the good of his people and spoke up for the welfare of all the Jews”.
The Book of Esther is a masterpiece of drama and suspense and needs to be read and enjoyed as the events unfold in the 10 chapters that were recorded by an unknown author. From the actions of the people much can be learned, even for today.
Vashti stands for everyone who is prepared to take a stand against the many abuses that take place in society. She chose to rather lose her position than kowtow to the horrible demand of her powerful husband. So many today choose rather to accept the abuse of power. They do not have the courage to stand for what is right.
Esther is a great example of someone who seized the opportunity that came her way. Yes, she lost her parents, but her natural beauty and courage took her through the difficult challenges and also opportunities that she had. So she will always be remember as a hero in her nation.
Mordecai stands out as someone who cared, not only for his niece, but also for his nation and the society in which he found himself.
The villain in the story, Haman, got what he deserved and proved that in the long run it is better to have good principles and stand by them. Greed and jealousy bring its own destruction to many a life.
References:. Scripture taken from the Holy Bible. NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984. Used with permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.
The Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Longmans.