GOD'S PROVIDENCE RE TWO QUEENS
--NOVEMBER 5.--ESTHER 4:1-5:3.--
"The Lord preserveth all them that love Him."--Psalm 145:20.
TODAY'S STUDY has Queen Esther for its topic. She was a Jewess, noted for her beauty, and on this account she was chosen of Ahasuerus, King of Persia, to be his queen. It is presumed that she received the name Esther, which signifies a star, because of her beauty, Hishtar being the Chaldaic equivalent for Venus. She succeeded Vashti, the former queen, who had displeased the king and been divorced.
In the opposite course of these two queens we find a lesson bearing on the Suffragette question of today. The king had a banquet with the lords of his empire. It may be assumed that it was a revel, and that the king and his guests, at the height of the revel, were more or less under the influence of wine. Giving Queen Vashti the benefit of the doubt, this was probably her reason for ignoring the king's request.
Many will say that she did just right in asserting her womanhood, in "standing up for her rights," etc. We will not dispute that all women have rights, and that Queen Vashti had hers and that she exercised them. We merely offer the suggestion that in a question of "rights," along lines of force and compulsion, Queen Vashti won a victory which cost her dearly.
In Queen Esther's procedure, which is the subject of this lesson, we see the opposite course pursued--the queen won a great victory with happy results by a totally different procedure, and one which in our judgment recommends itself to the wisest and best of men and women.
Vashti could have taken a similar course but did not. However much she might have felt that the king's requirement of her presence would expose her to jest or rudeness, she should have relied upon her charm and tact and purity and upon her husband's love and care. While it was not hers to intrude into the banquet, once invited, her presence should have been a hallowed one, a sweet perfume, a rebuke to any immodesty. Like many another well-meaning woman, Queen Vashti was unwise; she abandoned the most potent defense of pure womanhood when she met command with refusal. But then we must remember that Vashti was neither a Christian nor a Jewess, and was therefore without any Divine instruction or guidance.
ESTHER STOOPED FOR VICTORY
Queen Esther was not a suffragette. When invited to become the queen she did not decline and see to it that she stood on the same ground as Vashti. She accepted her accession as of Divine providence. She clothed herself with humility and with the most becoming of her fine apparel. She made herself as agreeable to the king as possible. It is presumed that at this time she was in her fifteenth year. Haman, the king's favorite, took a dislike to the gate-keeper of the palace, Mordecai, a Jew, because the latter did not bow before him, as did others. Mordecai was so faithful that Haman could not hope to find a fault with him, and thus to cause his removal. His hatred extended to the entire Jewish race. He prevailed upon the king to issue a decree that all the Jews of his kingdom should be set upon and killed as enemies of the country. This, of course, would include Mordecai, his special enemy, whom he would then feel free to kill.
As the time for the enforcement of the decree drew nearer and nearer, Mordecai and all the Jews throughout the empire were in great distress and fear, yet not without hope that their God would work some deliverance. This matter is detailed in our lesson.
Queen Esther was cousin to Mordecai, although the
latter was old enough to be her father. She was, indeed,
his adopted daughter. He appealed to her to use the
influence of her position to have the king rescind the
order. She delayed because, strangely enough, at this
very time, the king had shown a coldness toward her, and
had not called for her for a month.
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LOVE AND BEAUTY CONQUERED
Mordecai pressed the matter more urgently, assuring her that she was about to lose a great privilege of service for her people; that God had evidently raised her to this position in the kingdom for this very hour and for this very purpose of bringing to the Jews relief and that, if she failed to note and to use the privilege, God doubtless would use some other agency and still bring deliverance in harmony with His promises. The appeal was sufficient. The queen merely delayed for three days more, requesting that Mordecai and all the Jews of the royal city join with her in a three-days' fast before God, which of course included petitions to God for the deliverance of His people, and for wisdom to guide Esther in her endeavor to use her talent and opportunity wisely.
Queen Esther risked her station, and even her life in going into the king's presence without a summons; but, attired in her royal apparel, she risked everything for her race. She charmed the king, who extended to her his royal scepter, which she touched. He perceived [R4901 : page 392] that she had a request to make, and urged her to speak. Wisely she refrained and asked the king and Haman, his prime minister, her enemy, to partake of a special dinner with her in the court garden. After the visit the king again urged her to say what wish of his attractive queen he could gratify. This was Queen Esther's opportunity, and she replied, asking why, if he loved her, he would issue an edict that she should be killed, and all of her race, the Jews.
Her case was immediately won. The king perceived that he had been inveigled by Haman into making an unjust decree. A bad law stipulated that no decree of a Persian king could be changed. This decree had been stamped with the king's seal, and the king, angry at Haman, made another decree, namely, that Haman should be hanged, and that the Jews everywhere should be notified that they had royal consent to use force against their enemies in defending their lives.