1 The following events occurred in Persia during the reign of King Ahasuerus, the same man who ruled 127 provinces stretching from India to Ethiopia. 2 In those days King Ahasuerus’ throne was in the citadel of Susa. 3 During the 3rd year of his reign, Ahasuerus gathered together all of Persia’s ruling authorities—nobles and officials, leaders of Persia and Media, and nobles of his provinces[a]—for a grand, state banquet. 4 For 180 days, King Ahasuerus continuously paraded his glorious kingdom’s riches and the splendor of his own notoriety in front of his nobles. Day after day the party continued with Persia’s grandeur on display.
Kings in general, and Persian kings in particular, enjoy throwing lavish feasts and banquets for honored guests. It is their best opportunity to show off their wealth and power. Occasions like this are useful for impressing and intimidating foreign agents, making treaties and deals, maintaining the illusion of greatness, making the powerless feel especially helpless, and even bullying would-be troublemakers. It is during these occasions that much of the business of ruling is accomplished. But only men are allowed at this party.
5 After these days of feasting were over, the king held another banquet for all who lived in the citadel of Susa. For seven days, wealthy and poor men alike danced, drank, and made merry together in the lush enclosed gardens of King Ahasuerus’ palace. 6 His gardens were lavishly dressed with white and blue linen draperies, which hung from large marble pillars and were tied to silver rings with cord made out of fine purple linen. Gold and silver couches were arranged on a grand patio—a mosaic beautifully crafted of crystalline burgundy porphyry, marble, mother-of-pearl stone, and other beautiful[b] stones. 7 King Ahasuerus generously served his guests wine from the royal cellar in goblets made out of gold, each uniquely designed. 8 But no one was required to drink. The king merely ordered his servants to let his guests do as they wished. 9 Meanwhile, as the men enjoyed the goodwill of King Ahasuerus, Queen Vashti gathered all of the women together for a celebration in one of the banquet halls of the royal palace.
10 On the seventh and last day of the celebration, when the king was in a very good mood from the wine, he gave special orders to his eunuchs, who served as his personal assistants. (These seven men were Mehuman, Biztha, Harbona, Bigtha, Abagtha, Zethar, and Carkas.)
King Ahasuerus: 11 Bring Queen Vashti to my party! Tell her to put on her royal crown and to wear her finest clothes. I want to show off her beauty in front of my distinguished guests.
He did this because Queen Vashti was very beautiful. 12 But when she heard the king’s order from his eunuchs, she refused to join him and his guests. King Ahasuerus was infuriated when he heard the news from his assistants. In fact, the more he thought of it, the more King Ahasuerus burned with anger.
13 Immediately, King Ahasuerus called a meeting with his wise counsel, men who understood the laws and customs that had made the Persian Empire great. 14 These seven nobles—the king’s most elite confidants—came from Persia and Media and were named Carshena, Shethar, Admatha, Tarshish, Meres, Marsena, and Memucan.
King Ahasuerus: 15 Queen Vashti has blatantly defied me and refused the order I gave her through my assistants! Tell me, good men, what do the laws of this land suggest should be done to a queen who has disobeyed her king?
Memucan (before the king and nobles): 16 Your queen has wronged you, my king. She has also offended every noble of the land and all the people who reside in your provinces. Something must be done! 17 If we don’t act quickly, every woman in this kingdom will hear about Queen Vashti’s disrespect for you and they will follow her example in dishonoring their husbands. I can hear the women now, talking among each other: “Why should we listen to our husbands when Queen Vashti doesn’t come when King Ahasuerus calls for her?” 18 This day the noble women of Persia and Media who hear what the queen has done will respond in kind to your nobles, and there will be chaos all across the land.
19 But my king, don’t worry; I have an idea! With your permission, of course, I recommend that a decree be issued among the Persians and the Medes, a law which cannot be repealed, that forbids Vashti from ever being allowed in your presence again. In fact, I would further suggest that you give her position to another woman, someone who is more honorable than she is. 20 As your subjects hear about your decree in the far reaches of your kingdom, all the women will stop and give their husbands the honor they deserve, those of royal blood as well as the commoners. Oh, this is a great idea!
21 Memucan’s advice was well received by the king and his advisors.
King Ahasuerus: That is a brilliant idea! I say we make Memucan’s counsel into law!
22 The king drafted letters and sent them to all of his provinces. His emissaries spread the news quickly at the king’s directive that each province receive the decree in their own script and language: “In Persia every man will be master of his own home and speak in the language of his own people—regardless of the language his wife speaks.”
2 A little while later, when King Ahasuerus was no longer angry, he began thinking about Vashti, her actions that night at the party, and his decision to dismiss her from his presence. 2 Seeing the king’s mood, his servants had a suggestion.
Servants: King Ahasuerus, someone should find beautiful young women who are old enough to be married for you. 3 We suggest you appoint officers in every province of Persia to round up every eligible woman and add her to your harem in the citadel of Susa. Hegai, the king’s eunuch who is in charge of the harem, will see to it that all of the women are properly prepared and receive all the needed cosmetics. 4 Then whichever young woman delights you the most will reign as queen in Vashti’s place.
King Ahasuerus liked the advice of his servants and gave them permission to execute the plan.
5 Meanwhile in the citadel of Susa, there was a Jewish man from the tribe of Benjamin named Mordecai. He was the son of Jair who was a descendent of Shimei and Kish. 6 It was at the hand of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon that Jeconiah (king of Judah) and Mordecai’s ancestors had been forced out of the city of Jerusalem to live as exiles in Babylon. 7 Mordecai had a cousin who was a young and beautiful girl named Hadassah, and she was also called Esther. After her mother and father died, Mordecai adopted her into his family as his daughter.
8 As the result of the king’s decree, Esther, along with many other young women, was brought to the royal palace in the citadel of Susa, and she was put in the care of Hegai (who was in charge of the harem). 9 Esther soon impressed Hegai and was favored. He arranged that she be given the most lustrous beauty treatments and fed the finest fruits and vegetables from the king’s garden. He assigned to her seven servants and moved her and her servants to the harem’s finest rooms. 10 Mordecai had instructed Esther to keep her Jewish heritage a secret, and so she told no one. Still her cousin worried about her. 11 Every day Mordecai paced back and forth near the courtyard of the harem to see if he could find out some news, any news, about Esther.
12 Before going in to the king, each young woman went through 12 months of beauty treatments, as the harem’s rules prescribed. For the first 6 months the women were treated with the palace’s finest myrrh oil, and that was followed by 6 months in perfume and other women’s cosmetics. 13 This is how a young woman would go in to the king: each woman was allowed to take whatever she wanted or needed from the harem into the king’s rooms. 14 In the evening the woman would go in to King Ahasuerus’ chambers and then, the next morning, she would return to the harem again, but now she would be watched over by Shaashgaz, the king’s eunuch in charge of his concubines. No woman returned to the king’s rooms unless he was pleased by her and called for her by name.
15 Esther was the daughter of Abihail who in turn was the uncle of Mordecai. When it was time for Esther, whom Mordecai had adopted, to go in to the king, she didn’t ask for anything special. She took only what Hegai suggested. Since he was the king’s eunuch in charge of the women, he would know what was best. Now Esther had some special qualities, and all who met her favored her. 16 In the 10th month (the month of Tebeth) during the 7th year of his reign, four years after King Ahasuerus dethroned Queen Vashti, Esther was taken to King Ahasuerus in the king’s rooms. 17 The king found her to be more desirable than all of the other women. Unlike the other young women brought before him, she alone won his heart and his favor. So he made her his queen instead of Vashti and placed the royal crown on her head. 18 King Ahasuerus invited all of the nobles and officials to a state banquet in honor of Esther, his new queen. He declared that day as a holiday throughout his entire kingdom and distributed extravagant gifts.
19 When the young women were gathered together for a second time, Mordecai was sitting at the palace gate where the men gathered for business and legal decisions. 20 Since Mordecai had required Esther to keep her Jewish heritage a secret, she had told no one. She continued to obey him as she did when he took care of her. 21 One day while Mordecai was at the gate, Bigthan and Teresh, two of the king’s eunuchs who guarded the door, were plotting to kill King Ahasuerus. They were angry over some matter. 22 But Mordecai learned of their plan and reported it to Queen Esther who told the king about the plot, giving credit to her cousin. 23 After a thorough investigation, the report was proven true. So the two officers were killed and displayed on a pole. All of this information was chronicled in the presence of the king, in the public record.
The Persians execute their criminals by impaling them on a sharpened pole.
3 A little while later, according to King Ahasuerus’ wishes, Haman (son of Hammedatha, an Agagite) was promoted to a rank above all his fellow nobles in the kingdom. 2 The officials at the king’s gate all bowed down before Haman and paid him homage because the king commanded this. But Mordecai, the Jew, refused to kneel and refused to honor him.
The bad blood between the families of Benjamin and Agag goes back a long way to the time when Saul, a Benjaminite, destroyed the Amalekites and took their king, Agag, as his captive (1 Samuel 15:7–9). Now the tables are turned, and Agag’s descendant exercises nearly supreme power over Mordecai and the other subjects of Persian power. But, true to his Jewish teaching, Mordecai bows to no man nor pays him homage. That honor is reserved for God and Him alone.
3 Mordecai’s actions came to the attention of the king’s officials standing at the gate.
Officials (looking at Mordecai): Why are you disobeying the king’s command?
4 The officers questioned him daily about his disobedience to the king, but Mordecai refused to listen and bow down. The officers reported this to Haman to learn whether or not Mordecai’s excuse would be tolerated, for Mordecai had told them he was a Jew. 5 Haman was furious when he saw that Mordecai refused to bow and pay him the respect he was due. 6 But Haman wasn’t to be satisfied with killing only Mordecai, so he began to think of ways to destroy all of Mordecai’s people, the Jews, throughout the kingdom of Ahasuerus.
7 During the 1st month (the month of Nisan) of Ahasuerus’ 12th year as king, they cast lots (also known as “purim”) in the presence of Haman in order to select a day and month. [The lot fell on the 13th day of][c] the 12th month (the month of Adar), a day nearly one year in the future.
Haman (to the king): 8 All the provinces in your kingdom are overrun with one insignificant group of foreigners, people who haven’t adopted our customs. Their laws differ from all other peoples’, and they do not keep your laws. Therefore it’s not a good idea for you to tolerate them or their actions any longer. 9 If it is your wish, sign an order that these people be destroyed, and I will bear all the costs. I’ll pay 375 tons of silver directly to those who carry out the king’s business in order to relieve the royal treasury of the expense.
10 Not knowing which group of foreigners was being targeted, the king took his signet ring, the symbol of his power and authority, from his finger and passed it to Haman (son of Hammedatha, the Agagite), who hated the Jews.
King Ahasuerus (to Haman): 11 The money is yours and the people are yours also to do with as you wish.
12 On the 13th day of the 1st month, the royal secretaries were summoned. The king’s order was written down exactly the way Haman dictated it to all of the king’s rulers of the regions, governors of the provinces, and nobles of the ethnic groups. The orders were written in every script and every language spoken in the provinces in the name of the king, and they were sealed into law with his ring. 13 Messengers were sent out to all the royal provinces with the official law giving the order to destroy, kill, and annihilate all of the Jews. They were to kill everyone, including women and children, young and old, on the 13th day of the 12th month (the month of Adar), and they were free to take everything the Jews owned. 14 An official copy of the king’s order was to be issued to every province and read publicly, so that the people could get ready for that day. 15 The messengers were quickly dispatched by order of the king. Then the decree was publicly proclaimed in the citadel of Susa. As the king and Haman relaxed and drank wine, the city of Susa was thrown into chaos.
1 Corinthians 11:17-34
17 On this next matter, I wish I could applaud you; but I can’t because your gatherings have become counterproductive, making things worse for the community rather than better. 18 Let me start with this: I hear that your gatherings are polarizing the community; and to be honest, this doesn’t surprise me. 19 I’ve accepted the fact that factions are sometimes useful and even necessary so that those who are authentic and those who are counterfeit may be recognized. 20 This distinction is obvious when you come together because it is not the Lord’s Supper you are eating at all. 21 When it’s time to eat, some hastily dig right in; but look—some have more than others: over there someone is hungry, and over here someone is drunk! 22 What is going on? If a self-centered meal is what you want, can’t you eat and drink at home? Do you have so little respect for God’s people and this community that you shame the poor at the Lord’s table? I don’t even know what to say to you! Are you looking for my approval? You won’t find it.
23 I passed on to you the tradition the Lord gave to me: On the same night the Lord Jesus was betrayed, He took the bread in His hands; 24 and after giving thanks to God, He broke it and said, “This is My body, broken for you. Keep doing this so that you and all who come after will have a vivid reminder of Me.” 25 After they had finished dinner, He took the cup and in the same way said, “This cup is the new covenant, executed in My blood. Keep doing this; and whenever you drink it, you and all who come after will have a vivid reminder of Me.” 26 Every time you taste this bread and every time you place the cup to your mouths and drink, you are declaring the Lord’s death, which is the ultimate expression of His faithfulness and love, until He comes again.
God doesn’t demand perfection to partake at the Lord’s table, rather brokenness. Their pride is causing division during the meal; instead they need to fellowship in a shared, broken spirit.
27 So if someone takes of this bread and drinks from the Lord’s cup improperly—as you are doing—he is guilty of violating the body and blood of our Lord. 28 Examine yourselves first. Then you can properly approach the table to eat the bread and drink from the cup; 29 because otherwise, if you eat and drink without properly discerning the significance of the Lord’s body, then you eat and drink a mouthful of judgment upon yourself. 30 Because of this violation, many in your community are now sick and weak; some have even died. 31 But if we took care to judge ourselves, then we wouldn’t have to worry about being judged by another. 32 In fact, the Lord’s hand of judgment is correcting us so that we don’t suffer the same fate as the rest of the rebellious world: condemnation.
33 From now on, brothers and sisters, this is what I want you to do: when you come together to eat at the Lord’s table, wait for each other. 34 If someone is hungry and can’t wait, he should go home and eat. In that way, your gatherings won’t result in God’s judgment. The rest of the instructions I have for you will have to wait until I come.
17 Lord, how long will You do nothing but watch?
Save me from their evil assaults, plots, and plunder;
rescue my life from these hungry beasts, these ruthless lions!
18 Then I will praise You and thank You at the great gathering,
in the company of the entire congregation.
19 Do not allow my enemies to boast at my expense,
for they despise me without any cause—[a]
yet they wink at me—malicious, taunting winks.
20 Their words have no ring of peace.
They plan evil rumors and incriminations
against those who live peacefully in the land.
21 They speak lying accusations against me;
they say, “Aha! Aha! We know what you’ve been up to.
We’ve seen it with our own eyes!”
22 You have seen what’s happening, Eternal One; don’t remain silent!
Lord, do not stay far away from me!
23 Wake up; come to my defense!
Fight for me, my Lord and my God!
24 Pass Your judgment, Eternal One, my True God;
do it by the standards of Your righteousness.
Do not allow my enemies to boast over me.
25 Do not allow them to gloat over me,
“Aha, we have won! We got what we wanted!”
Do not allow them to brag,
“We chewed him up and spit him out.”
26 Shame and confuse those who celebrate my suffering;
may those who exalt themselves above me be covered with shame—
wrapped in a cloak of dishonor!
27 As for those who desire my vindication,
may they be joyful and glad.
May they forever say,
“The Eternal is indeed great!
He takes pleasure when good things happen to His servant!”
28 That’s why I will speak of Your righteousness
and sing praises to You all day long.
19 You would be better off living in the middle of the desert
than with an angry and argumentative wife.
20 The wise have a generous supply of fine food and oil in their homes,
but fools are wasteful, consuming every last drop.