Esther 1 – “The Royal Banquets”

beer_toast1Hebrew-English Text
I. Summary
King Ahasuerus and Queen Vashti entertain their citizens with a series of lavish banquets. When Vashti spurns her husband’s request to “display her beauty,” the minister Memucan convinces Ahasuerus that she is a threat to the country’s social order and must be sent away.

II. Photo
The king’s banquet is described in vv. 7-8: “Royal wine was served in abundance, as befits a king…  And the rule for the drinking was, ‘No restrictions!’ For the king had given orders to every palace steward to comply with each man’s wishes.”

III. Important Verses
vv. 7-8: Royal wine was served in abundance, as befits a king, in golden beakers, beakers of varied design. And the rule for the drinking was, “No restrictions!” For the king had given orders to every palace steward to comply with each man’s wishes.
vv. 10-12: On the seventh day, when the king was merry with wine, he ordered Mehuman, Bizzetha, Harbona, Bigtha, Abagtha, Zethar, and Carcas, the seven eunuchs in attendance on King Ahasuerus, to bring Queen Vashti before the king wearing a royal diadem, to display her beauty to the peoples and the officials; for she was a beautiful woman. But Queen Vashti refused to come at the king’s command conveyed by the eunuchs. The king was greatly incensed, and his fury burned within him.
vv. 16-17: Thereupon Memucan declared in the presence of the king and the ministers: “Queen Vashti has committed an offense not only against Your Majesty but also against all the officials and against all the peoples in all the provinces of King Ahasuerus. For the queen’s behavior will make all wives despise their husbands, as they reflect that King Ahasuerus himself ordered Queen Vashti to be brought before him, but she would not come.
vv. 21-22: The proposal was approved by the king and the ministers, and the king did as Memucan proposed. Dispatches were sent to all the provinces of the king, to every province in its own script and to every nation in its own language, that every man should wield authority in his home and speak the language of his own people.

IV. Outline
1-9. The banquets of King Ahasuerus and Queen Vashti
10-12. Vashti refuses her husband’s call
13-22. The minister Memucan convinces Ahasuerus to send Vashti away

V. Comment
Brief comment today. I hope to revisit this chapter at the end of the cycle. Stay tuned.

One question that scholars ask is, “What is the book of Esther’s literary genre?” Murphy writes (p. 159), “Dommerhausen characterizes this [chapter] as a ‘wisdom narrative’ on the basis of the following elements: Xerxes [= Ahasuerus] is a type of ‘foollish king’ (Eccl 9:18-10:1); the talion law (Vashti did not appear, now she is to disappear); the phrase ‘that every man be lord in his own house” (v. 22) recalls a wisdom ideal about the husband-wife relationship (Prov 32:10ff; Sir 9:2; etc.) While there may be wisdom motifs underlying the book of Esther… these characteristics in vv. 10-22 do not make it a specific wisdom narrative. More simply, it is a narrative, and it moves the story along in order to bring Esther on the scene.”

VI. Works Used
(see “Commentaries” page)
Murphy, Wisdom Literature (Forms of Old Testament Literature)
Photo taken from