By J.G. Bellet
The book opens by presenting to us a sight of the Gentile now in power. It is, however, the Persian and not the Chaldean; "the breast of silver," not "the head of gold," in the great image which Nebuchadnezzar saw. We are here reading rather the 2nd than the 1st chapter in the history of the Gentile's supremacy in the earth. We see him in the progress rather than at the commencement of his career; but morally he is the same. Moab-like, his taste remains in him, his scent is not changed. All the haughtiness that declared itself in Nebuchadnezzar re-appears in Ahasuerus. No spirit or fruit of repentance--no learning of himself--or of what becomes him as a creature, is seen in this man of the earth. The lie of the serpent, which formed man at the beginning, is working as earnestly as ever. The old desire to be as God, utters itself in the Persian now, as it had before in the Chaldean. The one had built his royal city, and looked at it in pride, and said, "Is not this great Babylon that I have built for the house of the kingdom, by the might of my power, and for the honour of my majesty?" The other now makes a feast, and for one hundred and eighty days, shows to the princes and nobles the whole power of his realm, "the riches of his glorious kingdom, and the honour of his excellent majesty."
Nay more; for the Persian exceedeth. There is a bold affecting to be as God in Persia, which we did not see in Babylon. We notice this in three distinguished Persian ordinances.
1. No one was to appear in the royal presence unbidden. In such a case, had this ordinance of the realm been violated, life and death would hang on the pleasure of the king.
2. No one was to be sad before the king; his face or presence was to be accepted of all his people as the spring and power of joy and gladness.
3. No decree of his realm could be cancelled; it stood for ever.
These are assumptions indeed. This exceeds, in the way of man showing himself to be as God; and know we not, that this spirit will work till the Gentile has perfected his iniquity? But the hand of God begins to work its wonders now, in the midst of all the festivity and pride which opens the book. The joy of the royal banquet was interrupted: a stain defaces the fair form of all this magnificence. The Gentile queen refuses to serve the occasion, or be a tributary to this day of public rejoicing; and this leads to the manifesting of the Jew, and of ultimately making that people principal in the action, and eminent in the earth, beyond all thought or calculation.
It was a small beginning, poor and mean in its character and material. Vashti's temper, which goaded her to a course of conduct which jeoparded her life, was the "little fire" which kindled this "how great a matter." It is a miserable, despicable circumstance. What can be meaner? The temper, we may say, of an imperious woman! And yet, God, by it, works results, then known to Himself in counsel, but the accomplishment of which shall be seen in the coming day of Jewish glory.
Vashti is deposed. She is disclaimed as the wife of the Persian; and others more worthy are to be sought for, to take her place.
Now, the question may arise, How far can one of the Jews take advantage of such an occasion? Does holiness avail itself of corruption? Can the people of God forget their Nazaritism, their separation to Him? And yet Esther consents to go before the king at this time, as in company with all the daughters of his uncircumcised subjects!
This may amaze us, if we judge of things by any light less pure and intense than that in which God Himself dwells. The moral sense of mere man--the verdict of legal ordinances--the voice of Mount Sinai itself--will not do at times. We must walk in the light as God is in the light. We must know "the times," like Issachar of old, ere we can rightly say, "what Israel ought to do."
Did not some of Bethlehem-Judah take wives of the daughters of Moab, and that, too, without rebuke? Did not Joseph, in his marriage, deviate from the holiness of Abraham, and Moses from the ordinances of the law? Was not Rahab, though a daughter of the uncircumcised, adopted of Judah, and so conspicuous in the ancestry, after the flesh, of David's Lord? And did not Samson take to wife a woman of Timnath, that belonged to the Philistines?
The people of God were not in due order on the occasions of those strange events; and this is the moral vindication. The light of divine wisdom in divine dispensation becomes the judge, rather than ordinances. The Jews were now in the dispersion. Joseph, if we please so to express it, is in Egypt again, Moses in Midian, and the sons of Bethlehem-Judah in Moab; and Esther is as much unrebuked for going in unto the king of Persia, as Joseph for marrying Asenath, or Moses for marrying Zipporah, or Mahlon for marrying Ruth; and each and all of them stand without reproach or judgment before God in these things, just as David did when he ate the showbread. Nay, these things were of God, as Samson's marriage with a Philistine woman seems distinctly to be so recognized (Judges 14: 4).
Divine counsels shall be accomplished; the fruits of grace shall be gathered; and the ordinances of righteousness, and the arrangements which suit us, were we in integrity, and in well-ordered condition, shall not interfere.