This 12-part series takes a new look at an old story and finds fresh words of courage, faith, and challenge for today’s Church. It is based on Carol Bechtel’s commentary on Esther in the Interpretation series (Westminster John Knox, 2002).
Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous?
Read: Esther 1
[King Ahasuerus] displayed the great wealth of his kingdom and the splendor and pomp of his majesty for many days, one hundred eighty days in all. (v. 4 NRSV)
The first chapter of Esther introduces us to the Persian emperor, Ahasuerus. His name literally means “high and mighty” and he is out to impress his subjects. Not content with the 180-day bash he throws for the entire Persian army, he tops it off with a lavish, 7-day drinking party at the palace. As the grand finale, he orders Queen Vashti to parade her beauty before his well-oiled guests. Is it any wonder she refuses?
As we read the Bible’s account of this ancient ego-fest, we would do well to ask ourselves, “What are we reading here?” If we assume that this is an ancient episode of “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous,” we may well be impressed. But what if the biblical author wants us to form another impression, namely, of a flawed ruler who thinks more highly of himself than he ought to think (Romans 12:3)?
Either way, thinks don’t work out so well for Ahasuerus. He may control an empire that stretches from India to Ethiopia, but at the end of the day, he can’t control his own wife.
Prayer: Defender of the poor and guardian of the weak, help me to order my life according to the values of your kingdom