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“To offer to domineer over the conscience is to assault the citadel of heaven.”

November 13, 2007


quoted from The Vashti-Esther Story


God placed before Esther the duty of ruling Ahasuerus for the good of his realm and for the saving of the Jews from annihilation. Her conscience bade her to obey God alone, which she did it at the risk of her life. Esther found her first step in obedience to God was a transgression of two laws of the kingdom in which her husband ruled. The most recent law required the resigning of her conscience to his will, which Esther did not do. The other law bore a death penalty for disobedience unless the king offered his golden scepter for a pledge of good faith. She passed successfully through both ordeals.

The next step was to interfere between the king and his dearest friend, Haman. The tie was broken and Haman was hanged shortly after by the king’s order. The king would have stopped here with the death of Haman, but Esther did not allow it. The king must undo a law of the Medes and Persians, “which is unchangeable” (8: 8), and the law to slaughter the Jews was of that order (3:10,12).

The sixth chapter of Daniel tells us how King Darius became entrapped in his own law of the Medes and Persians, “which altereth not,” and was obliged to allow Daniel to be cast into the den lion’s den. He labored all day to save Daniel, spent a sleepless night while Daniel was in the den, and “very early” in the morning with weeping and lamentation. By a miracle of God, King Darius found Daniel unharmed after a night with the lions. Esther had to break through this kind of law to deliver her people from annihilation. Her tears, pleading and pressure (Esther 8:3-6) on the king found a way. Another law was proclaimed as extensively as the law of destruction. The Jews were to be armed in order to defend themselves. Government officials in all places were instructed to assist the Jews to be ready for the attack on the appointed day for their slaughter, and they gave much help. (Esther 9:3)

Ahasuerus had the reputation with historians of being self-indulgent; indolent and careless. Certainly he showed these qualities in allowing Haman to proclaim such a law in the king’s name. Esther rendered great service to her king besides saving her people in getting this ill-considered law reversed.

His realm was formed out of all kinds of petty nations tribes and clans—many of them fierce and lawless, living by depredations upon others. Alexander the Great, who conquered Medo-Persia in B.C. 333, neglected the country and allowed it to fall to pieces because he did not prize it.

To be sure, the despots of those early times did not exercise any scruples when occasionally killing off a tribe of a few hundred. Doubtless, Ahasuerus got this troublesome idea from Haman.

Because the Jews existed in vast numbers throughout the realm, the king was amazed and thrown into a passion. He saw that his whole country would be thrown into confusion. With the legalization of killing of prey, quickly no life would be safe, Jew or Gentile after the slaughtering got under way. But he seems to have thought all was stopped when the mischief-maker Haman was hanged.

Esther’s second risk to go unto the king unbidden secured an antidote law against Haman’s, and yet 800 men in Shushan alone, knowing well the proclamation that the Jews were armed; fell upon the Jews presented swords and spears, hoping to overthrow them for the sake of booty. Because they were after Jewish prey, 75,000 men throughout the provinces perished for their folly in attacking the Jews. Thus, the country was ridded of ten thousands of brigands, who fell through their own rashness.

The law of defense provided for the Jews to take the prey of those they killed, but it is recorded three times that the Jews “laid not their hands to the prey.” They merely defended themselves.

It does not require a very lively imagination to understand that a situation not unlike civil war had been brought about by Haman’s foolhardy meddling with government, when nearly 76,000 were left dead on the battlefield, not to number the wounded; and the conflict extended all over the realm. This was not an affair confine to the Jews. It was non-Jews who suffered death—but the lawless and not the better elements of the population.

All had passed through the real peril of violence from the bandit mob, which was brought into activity by Haman’s law and refused to be assuaged by the antidote law. Therefore, all rejoiced when order was restored and not the Jews alone but certainly the most. Their nation has been rescued, and the Feast of Purim was established as a memorial for all time.

But what about that decree that was the result of Vashti’s disobedience, instructing all wives to give honor to their lords, both great and small, lest Vashti’s conduct should, by example, encourage women to despise their lords (“husbands”), and there would arise “too much contempt and wrath?” (1:18)

It was forgotten when it became known throughout the provinces that their king had such a wonderful, as well as most beautiful, queen. The king was so devoted to her. Esther had great influence over him for the good of their country. She influenced him to find a way to combat a vicious law that had been proclaimed to kill and plunder all the Jews. This mischievous law would have run into indiscriminate plundering.

The women forgot to copy Vashti, alas, even in her modesty and also in her disobedience. They didn’t heed her case as a warning. However, we believe they copied everything they could learn about Esther, her style of dress and all that. Sometimes they said to their husbands, “It’s a wise plan to sometimes listen to and act upon a wife’s opinions as the king does.” Probably, husbands said, “I do wish women wasted less time in gossip and on their hair and fingernails, and took an interest in the welfare of the nation, like the queen.”

Many people of the land became Jews, “for the fear of the Jews fell upon them.” (8:17). We suppose they said, “Our queen looks well to the interests of her people, and she has great influence over the king. One might almost think he is a Jew, too. It won’t do to mistreat a Jew. I think I will join the Jews and keep myself in their favor—that is the safe side.”

The whole atmosphere of women’s life in Persia must have altered considerably after Jehovah inaugurated His attack through Esther upon that law which placed Jehovah in a position secondary to her husband. The first part of the Ten Commandments should be first in every wife’s life, “Thou shalt have no other gods before Me.” Vashti and Esther both put conscience, God, first.

When God sent Moses to Pharoah, He armed him with the demand: “Let My people go, that they may serve Me.” The teaching is “they cannot serve me when service is regulated by any other master than Myself.” No more can a wife render service to a husband lawfully except as god, not the husband, regulates the service. Otherwise, she serves man and not God and is an idolater to that extent.

Let us repeat: The second and only other appearance of God as the “I AM” after His revelation of that name to Moses when He came as an Emancipator (Exodus 3:14), is here in Esther 7:5 in the sentence, “Who is he, and where is he”—and it is Jehovah who interrupts, as it were, to give answer, “It is the Emancipator, the I Am: I am here.”

The story of Vashti and Esther does not end with the Jews’ deliverance from death, though that was soon experienced. It did not begin with, nor does it end, with Esther. It began with Vashti, and it ends with a broader purpose than Esther’s nation, which it includes—a purpose that includes Gentiles like Vashti.

“Jehovah” was first revealed to Moses (Exodus 6:3), Covenant-Keeper, the One who made the covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He included in the Great Covenant Eve whose Seed should bruise the Serpent’s head. (Genesis 3:15). Although that covenant was spoken to the Serpent, Jehovah has “come down” this time to interrupt the king’s question to say, “I am here to deliver all the seed of the ‘mother of all living,’ out from the bondage and slavery of Satan into ‘the glorious liberty of the children of God.’”

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