“This is what happened during the time of Xerxes, the Xerxes who ruled over 127 provinces stretching from India to Cush: at that time King Xerxes reigned from his royal throne in the citadel of Susa, and in the third year of his reign he gave a banquet for all his nobles and officials. The military leaders of Persia and Media, the princes, and the nobles of the provinces were present.For a full 180 days he displayed the vast wealth of his kingdom and the splendour and glory of his majesty. When these days were over, the king gave a banquet, lasting seven days, in the enclosed garden of the king’s palace, for all the people from the least to the greatest who were in the citadel of Susa. The garden had hangings of white and blue linen, fastened with cords of white linen and purple material to silver rings on marble pillars. There were couches of gold and silver on a mosaic pavement of porphyry, marble, mother-of-pearl and other costly stones. Wine was served in goblets of gold, each one different from the other, and the royal wine was abundant, in keeping with the king’s liberality. By the king’s command each guest was allowed to drink without restriction, for the king instructed all the wine stewards to serve each man what he wished.” NIV

Before I make a few comments about the great banquet, here are a couple of scene-setting quotes from Tom Hale’s ‘Applied Old Testament Commentary’:

‘The book of Esther is unusual in two ways: first, it is one of only two books in the Bible named after a woman (the other is Ruth); and second, it is the only book in the Bible that never mentions God…Though God’s name is not mentioned, God Himself is not missing! He is working everywhere ‘’behind the scenes,’’ making things happen that would not otherwise have happened’ (p.768).

‘The events in the book of Esther begin in the third year of the reign of Xerxes king of Persia. His empire stretched from India to Cush (present-day Sudan), and included virtually all the nations of the Middle East. One of his capital cities was Susa, located in what is now southern Iran, and as the book opens we find Xerxes in the citadel of Susa, his fortress and palace in the centre of the city. There he is about to give a banquet for all his nobles and officials, including the military leaders of Media (northern Iran), an important part of the Persian Empire…For six months before the banquet, Xerxes had been displaying the vast wealth of his kingdom to all his nobles, officials, and military leaders; probably he had gathered them in Susa to discuss some important affairs of the kingdom. Then he gave a lavish seven-day banquet, which the writer describes in detail in verses 5-8’ (p.770).

Just one or two observations:

  • B.Meyer thinks that it was this Persian king who conquered Greece, and this may represent the great gathering of leaders to prepare for that military campaign;
  • Nehemiah was later to be cupbearer to Xerxes’ son, Artaxerxes at this same citadel of Susa (Nehemiah 1:1, 11);
  • In recent years God has been moving powerfully in this very part of the world – in Iran. There have been signs, wonders, dreams, and many Iranians have been converted to Christ. It is estimated that there could now be close to a million Iranian Christians. God was at work there in Esther’s day, and He is working there now. As Tom Hale said, ‘God is not missing!’

PRAYER: Lord God, whether your Name is spoken or not; whether you are seen or not, you are the God who is always there. Help me to never doubt it.