The Open House and Ending Banquet
The story of Esther opens in the third year of King Ahasuerus (Greek name Xerxes), in the capital city of Susa. The king has amassed a huge empire, with 127 provinces, from India to Ethiopia (v. 1).
The king wants to celebrate his kingdom, so he hosts a six-month open house to show off all the riches and splendor of his reign. All the rulers of the provinces, plus the heads of the army are invited to come see the king’s riches. The king likely hosted a different province each day, plus gathering days for the various army officers, etc., accounting for the six month long celebration.
At the end of this open house, the king throws a week-long party for all who are in king’s palace (v. 5), from the nobles and inner council advisers, down to the lowest servants. This party was likely both a wind-down celebration as well as a “thank you” to all who had worked so hard for a solid six months to host all the dignitaries coming and and going, keeping the palace and grounds spotless, dealing with matters of state when the dignitaries and army officers were in town, etc. The king held his gathering in the courtyard of the garden, an outdoor venue within the confines of the palace.
This party was a respectful event, as evidenced by the king honoring the law of the land at that time, not forcing anyone to drink when a toast was given. There was an open bar, but no one was forced to partake. Each head of household decided what was best for them (v. 8).
In Persian tradition, the king hosted the gathering of men, and his wife, Queen Vashti, hosted a separate gathering for the women in another part of the palace (v. 9). Theirs was likely in an indoor banquet room, away from the courtyard where the men were gathered.
While this was a week-long party, it was still a respectful event, unlike King Belshazzar’s party (Daniel chapter 5), where the king was in mixed company and had a wild party with his wives and concubines, who profaned Israel’s God and praised the foreign gods of the day, using holy articles taken from the Jewish tabernacle.
King Ahasuerus had hosted a six month celebration, all about him and what he had achieved. While all was well at the moment, storm clouds are gathering on the horizon, as we shall see tomorrow…