1Now it came to pass in the days of Ahasuerus (this was the Ahasuerus who reigned over one hundred and twenty-seven provinces, from India to Ethiopia),2in those days when King Ahasuerus sat on the throne of his kingdom, which was in Shushan the palace,3that in the third year of his reign he made a feast for all his officials and servants; the powers of Persia and Media, the nobles, and the rulers of the provinces being before him;4when he showed the riches of his glorious kingdom and the splendor of his excellent greatness for many days, even one hundred and eighty days.5And when these days were completed, the king made a feast lasting seven days for all the people who were found in Shushan the palace, from great to small, in the court of the garden of the king's palace.6There were white and violet linen curtains fastened with cords of fine linen and purple on silver rods and marble pillars; and the couches were of gold and silver on a mosaic pavement of red, turquoise, and pearl and black marble.7And they served drinks in golden vessels, each vessel being different from the other, with royal wine in abundance, according to the hand of the king.8In accordance with the law, the drinking was not compulsory; for so the king had ordered all the officers of his household, that they should do according to each man's pleasure.9Queen Vashti also made a feast for the women in the royal house which belonged to King Ahasuerus.10On the seventh day, when the heart of the king was merry with wine, he commanded Mehuman, Biztha, Harbona, Bigtha, Abagtha, Zethar, and Carcas, seven officials who served in the presence of King Ahasuerus,11to bring Queen Vashti before the king, wearing her royal crown, in order to show her beauty to the people and the officials; for she was beautiful in appearance.12But Queen Vashti refused to come at the king's command brought by his officials; therefore the king was furious, and his rage burned within him.13Then the king said to the wise men who understood the times (for this was the king's manner toward all who knew law and judgment,14those closest to him being Carshena, Shethar, Admatha, Tarshish, Meres, Marsena, and Memucan, the seven rulers of Persia and Media, who had access to the king's presence, and who sat first in the kingdom):15What shall we do to Queen Vashti, according to law, because she has not observed the command of King Ahasuerus brought to her by the officials?16And Memucan answered before the king and the rulers: Queen Vashti has not only wronged the king, but also all the rulers, and all the people who are in all the provinces of King Ahasuerus.17For the queen's behavior 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.18And this day the noble ladies of Persia and Media will say the same to all the king's officials, when they have heard of the behavior of the queen. Thus there will be more than enough contempt and wrath.19If it please the king, let a royal decree go out from him, and let it be recorded in the laws of Persia and Media, so that it shall not become obsolete, that Vashti shall come no more before King Ahasuerus; and let the king give her royal power to another woman who is better than she.20And when the king's decree which he will make is proclaimed throughout all his empire (for it is great), all wives will honor their husbands, both great and small.21And the words pleased the king and the rulers, and the king did according to the word of Memucan.22Then he sent letters to all the king's provinces, to each province in its own writing, and to every people in their own language: That each man should rule in his own house; and that it should be spoken in the language of each nation.
Jamieson Fausset Brown Bible Commentary 1
AHASUERUS MAKES ROYAL FEASTS. (Est. 1:1-22)
Ahasuerus--It is now generally agreed among learned men that the Ahasuerus mentioned in this episode is the Xerxes who figures in Grecian history. 3
made a feast unto all his princes and his servants--Banquets on so grand a scale, and extending over so great a period, have been frequently provided by the luxurious monarchs of Eastern countries, both in ancient and modern times. The early portion of this festive season, however, seems to have been dedicated to amusement, particularly an exhibition of the magnificence and treasures of the court, and it was closed by a special feast of seven days' continuance, given within the gardens of the royal palace. The ancient palace of Susa has been recently disinterred from an incumbent mass of earth and ruins; and in that palace, which is, beyond all doubt, the actual edifice referred to in this passage, there is a great hall of marble pillars. "The position of the great colonnade corresponds with the account here given. It stands on an elevation in the center of the mound, the remainder of which we may well imagine to have been occupied, after the Persian fashion, with a garden and fountains. Thus the colonnade would represent the 'court of the garden of the king's palace' with its 'pillars of marble.' I am even inclined to believe the expression, 'Shushan the palace,' applies especially to this portion of the existing ruins, in contradistinction to the citadel and the city of Shushan" [LOFTUS, Chaldaea and Susiana]. 6
Where were white, green, and blue hangings, &c.--The fashion, in the houses of the great, on festive occasions, was to decorate the chambers from the middle of the wall downward with damask or velvet hangings of variegated colors suspended on hooks, or taken down at pleasure.
the beds were of gold and silver--that is, the couches on which, according to Oriental fashion, the guests reclined, and which were either formed entirely of gold and silver or inlaid with ornaments of those costly metals, stood on an elevated floor of parti-colored marble. 7
they gave them drink in vessels of gold--There is reason to believe from this account, as well as from Esth 5:6
; Esth 7:2
, Esth 7:7
, where the drinking of wine occupies by far the most prominent place in the description, that this was a banquet rather than a feast. 9
Also Vashti the queen made a feast for the women--The celebration was double; for, as according to the Oriental fashion, the sexes do not intermingle in society, the court ladies were entertained in a separate apartment by the queen. 10
On the seventh day, when the heart of the king was merry with wine--As the feast days advanced, the drinking was more freely indulged in, so that the close was usually marked by great excesses of revelry.
he commanded . . . the seven chamberlains--These were the eunuchs who had charge of the royal harem. The refusal of Vashti to obey an order which required her to make an indecent exposure of herself before a company of drunken revellers, was becoming both the modesty of her sex and her rank as queen; for, according to Persian customs, the queen, even more than the wives of other men, was secluded from the public gaze. Had not the king's blood been heated with wine, or his reason overpowered by force of offended pride, he would have perceived that his own honor, as well as hers, was consulted by her dignified conduct. 13
Then the king said to the wise men--These were probably the magi, without whose advice as to the proper time of doing a thing the Persian kings never did take any step whatever; and the persons named in Esth 1:14
were the "seven counsellors" (compare Ezra 7:14
) who formed the state ministry. The combined wisdom of all, it seems, was enlisted to consult with the king what course should be taken after so unprecedented an occurrence as Vashti's disobedience of the royal summons. It is scarcely possible for us to imagine the astonishment produced by such a refusal in a country and a court where the will of the sovereign was absolute. The assembled grandees were petrified with horror at the daring affront. Alarm for the consequences that might ensue to each of them in his own household next seized on their minds; and the sounds of bacchanalian revelry were hushed into deep and anxious consultation what punishment to inflict on the refractory queen. But a purpose was to be served by the flattery of the king and the enslavement of all women. The counsellors were too intoxicated or obsequious to oppose the courtly advice of Memucan was unanimously resolved, with a wise regard to the public interests of the nation, that the punishment of Vashti could be nothing short of degradation from her royal dignity. The doom was accordingly pronounced and made known in all parts of the empire.