Esther 6:1, On that night the king could not sleep.
This verse sounds very simple, on that night the king could not sleep. A coincidence, an accident that seemed to just happen. If only that night King Ahasuerus could sleep soundly, Esther’s story would have ended in chapter 5.
This book is the only book in the 66 books of the Bible that is considered the least spiritual because only in this book the name of God is never mentioned once. Esther herself is never quoted in the NT, New Testament, and is the only Old Testament book not found in the Dead Sea Scrolls. That’s why Esther is also called a secular book, a book many scholars have questioned how it could have been included in the canonization of the Old Testament. Maybe by coincidence too.
The coincidence situation in the book of Esther didn’t just happen once, there were at least 4 times. The coincidences occurred too frequently.
From the book of Esther, we can then understand why there is a holiday of Purim which is celebrated annually by modern-day Israelites on the 15th (starting 13 and 14) of the month Adar, or in 2021 it falls on February 26. Celebrations filled with costumes, parades in the street, and eating and drinking together. The grown men were even encouraged to drink wine on the day.
The celebration of Purim is a celebration of the victory of the Hebrews against their enemies who wanted to destroy them on the 13th day of the month of Adar. By God’s intervention through Esther and Mordecai, that day turned into a day of self-defense, a day of vengeance against all the enemies of the Hebrew nation. I encourage you to read this book of Esther to the end to see for yourself how miraculous the providence hand of God’s defended his people in their exile land, in the Persian empire.
But what is interesting to note here is about the coincidences that occur in this book. Well, doesn’t God work together in all things for good to those who love Him? Romans 8:28. Isn’t He God directing every step of those who please Him? Psalm 37:23.
The first coincidence, the drunken King!
Esther 1:1, Now in the days of Ahasuerus, verse 3, in the third year of his reign he gave a feast for all his officials and servants.
Verse 11-12, to bring Queen Vashti before the king with her royal crown, in order to show the peoples and the princes her beauty, for she was lovely to look at. But Queen Vashti refused…
King Ahasuerus was the fourth Persian king who reigned from 485–465 BC, of the Achaemenid dynasty of the Persian Empire. Known as Xerxes 1 or Khshayathiya Khshayathiyanam, King of kings. On those days, (verse 3) in the third year of his reign, King Ahasuerus held a great banquet, a feast that was (almost) never stop, for days, up to one hundred and eighty days, (verse 4). In verse 5, there are still 7 more feast days. And of course, at a party like this, alcoholic drinks are a must. It is not forced (verse 8) but served according to everyone’s wishes. The king himself at the end of the 7th day, so merry in his heart because of the wine, had drunk heavily, issued an edict which, if you think about it again, was very stupid!
He wanted to show off his very beautiful wife in front of all the people and the princes! The King should really live in the modern era like today, where almost everyone likes to show off anything to anyone through all kinds of social media such as FB and Instagram. Almost nothing else is private now. If King Ahasuerus lived in this era, then on that last day, verses 10 & 11 would sound like this. By the decree of the king, all videos about the beauty of Queen Vashti were played. And all FB and Instagram accounts of the King and Queen were to be shown off to the whole kingdom!
Maybe you would think, what’s wrong with that? Isn’t he a king, of course, he wants to show off all his kingdom and his greatness and achievements? Aren’t we like that too? We are not even kings. Well, don’t forget, the era of Ahasuerus, in the year 488 BC (Before Christ), was an era that had different values from today. There were no moral values that should be as we know them in our time. And they are a wicked nation, their so-called religious values were very different. Especially if they were a pagan nation, the people’s parties would be full of orgies, let alone their king’s party. Not to mention at that time, King Ahasuerus was very drunk!
Obviously, Queen Vashti refused! She was still sane against this foolish king’s actions, verse 12. But since it was the king who decreed, the queen fell into a very bad situation. She was then banished before the king, and the title Queen thereof was stripped of her, verse 19.
If only that day, the queen would have agreed to be “shown off”. At this age, many women who were not even queens, would actually still like to show off through social media. If they don’t receive enough “Likes”, they would fall into much stress! If only the queen would have also drunken with wine, she would not lose her queen title. Her position would have remained secure. After all, had she been drunk at that time too, wine would have been a good excuse to behave stupidly in front of everyone. Oh, she was just drunk! said many people.
Wasti’s decision, according to most of us, especially the feminists, showed that she was not that kind of woman, she was a queen and a good woman who had dignity and self-respect and knew to say no to her husband’s stupidity, even though he was a king. Afterward, she did have to suffer from being banished before the king and her queen title stripped away, but at least she had shown she was a better woman.
The name of Vhasti itself means goodness. It also means the best of a woman, an excellent lady! But according to the Midrash of Israel, she was considered wicked and evil. The one that had an independent mind, did not want to submit to her husband, a feminist. Try to read the following one from this link.
Wasti, atau Vhasti, sendiri punya arti nama kebaikan. Juga berarti yang terbaik dari seorang wanita, seorang wanita excellent! Namun menurut Midrash orang Israel, ia dianggap fasik dan jahat. Seorang yang dianggap punya pikiran independen, tidak mau tunduk pada suaminya, seorang feminist. Coba baca terjemahan berikut dari link ini.
According to the Midrash, Vashti was the great-granddaughter of King Nebuchadnezzar II of Babylon, the granddaughter of King Amel-Marduk and the daughter of King Belshazzar. During Vashti's father's rule, mobs of Medes and Persians attacked. They murdered Belshazzar that night. Vashti, unknowing of her father's death, ran to her father's quarters. There she was kidnapped by King Darius of Persia. But Darius took pity on her and gave her to his son, Ahasuerus, to marry.
Based on Vashti's descent from a king who was responsible for the destruction of the temple as well as on her unhappy fate, the Midrash presents Vashti as wicked and vain. Since Vashti is ordered to appear before the king on the seventh day of the feast, the rabbis argued that Vashti enslaved Jewish women and forced them to work on the Sabbath. They attribute her unwillingness to appear before the king and his drinking partners not to modesty, but rather to an affliction with a disfiguring illness. One account relates that she suffered from leprosy, while another states that the angel Gabriel came and "fixed a tail on her." The latter possibility is often interpreted as "a euphemism for a miraculous transformation to male anatomy."
According to the Midrashic account, Vashti was a clever politician, and the ladies' banquet that she held in parallel to Ahasuerus' banquet represented an astute political maneuver. Since the noble women of the kingdom would be present at her banquet, she would have control of a valuable group of hostages in case a coup d'état occurred during the king's feast.
R. Abba b. Kahana says Vashti was no more modest than Ahasuerus. R. Papa quotes a popular proverb: "He between the old pumpkins, and she between the young ones"; i.e., a faithless husband makes a faithless wife. According to R. Jose b. Ḥanina, Vashti declined the invitation because she had become a leper (Meg. 12b; Yalḳ., l.c.). Ahasuerus was "very wroth, and his anger burned in him" (Esth. i. 12) as the result of the insulting message which Vashti sent him: "Thou art the son of my father's stableman. My grandfather [Belshazzar] could drink before the thousand [Dan. v. 1]; but that person [Ahasuerus] quickly becomes intoxicated" (Meg. l.c.). Vashti was justly punished for enslaving young Jewish women and compelling them to work nude on the Sabbath (ib.).
As a feminist icon
Vashti's refusal to obey the summons of her drunken husband has been admired as heroic in many feminist interpretations of the Book of Esther. Early feminists admired Vashti's principle and courage. Harriet Beecher Stowe called Vashti's disobedience the "first stand for woman's rights." Elizabeth Cady Stanton wrote that Vashti "added new glory to [her] day and generation…by her disobedience; for 'Resistance to tyrants is obedience to God.'"
Some more recent feminist interpreters of the Book of Esther compare Vashti's character and actions favorably to those of her successor, Esther, who is traditionally viewed as the heroine of the Purim story. Michele Landsberg, a Canadian Jewish feminist, writes: "Saving the Jewish people was important, but at the same time [Esther's] whole submissive, secretive way of being was the absolute archetype of 1950s womanhood. It repelled me. I thought, 'Hey, what's wrong with Vashti? She had dignity. She had self-respect. She said: 'I'm not going to dance for you and your pals.'"
This situation then opened the opportunity for Esther to become queen to replace Vashti. A foolish act of the wicked gave way to a good deed of the righteous.
The second coincidence, Esther was chosen!
When King Ahasuerus longed for Queen Vashti to return, Esther 2:1, then a kind of contest was created in this Kingdom to find a replacement for the Queen who had been banished. Chapter 2 tells us, a young woman had a beautiful figure and was lovely to look at, verse 7, and when her father and her mother died, Mordecai took her as his own daughter. Verse 8 says that Esther also was taken into the king’s palace.
What is unique is that the “search for a new Queen” was attended by young women, beautiful virgins from all over this vast Persian empire, Esther 1:1, 2:2-3. And each of them received such treatment for at least 12 months, verse 12, before being allowed to enter to meet the King for only one night. If the King was pleased and like the girl, then she would be called again. Otherwise, she would not see the King anymore, verse 14. When Esther’s turned comes in verse 15, according to history she only entered to meet the King in the 10th month, Tebet in the 7th year of King Ahasuerus’ reign, in 479 BC. Yes, there were 4 years that passed after the event of Vashti. But for some reason, even though the King had met so many girls and women before, he had decided to choose Esther as Queen to replace Vashti.
The search for a new Queen here was not like the popular talent show today. Neither like a beauty pageant show nor a contest to find the new Miss Universe. This was clearly to look for any woman who was willing to do anything for the King, to become a concubine, to satisfy the King’s lust. And if anyone could also win the King’s heart, she could be the elected Queen of the Kingdom. Miraculously in verse 17, the king loved Esther more than all the women, and she won grace and favor in his sight more than all the virgins.
Proverbs 21:1, The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; He turns it wherever He will.
The third coincidence, Mordecai happened to uncover the plot to kill the King!
Verse 21, In those days, as Mordecai was sitting at the king’s gate, Bigthan and Teresh, two of the king’s eunuchs, who guarded the threshold, became angry and sought to lay hands on King Ahasuerus. And this came to the knowledge of Mordecai, and he told it to Queen Esther, and Esther told the king in the name of Mordecai, verse 22.
Mordecai was not a spy, nor was he pursuing any political career. He was only Esther’s uncle at that time and according to his habits, he just happened to be sitting at the gate of the king’s palace, verse 21. Not only here, but also in verse 19 and verse 11, he was mentioned to sit at the gate of the king’s palace. When Esther was brought to the palace the first time, verse 8, verse 11 shows that Mordecai began to wonder in front of the court of the women’s hall just to find out how Esther was doing and what would happen to her. After Esther was chosen in verse 17, verse 19 shows Mordecai found a seat at the gate of the king’s palace to check on Esther’s, yes as in verse 11. So it was just his habit of being a father, to keep an eye on her child and what would happen to Esther inside the King’s palace.
But this habit actually made Modekhai come to unfold an evil plan of 2 King’s eunuchs, Bigtan and Teresh. The King’s eunuchs were servants of the King who were devoted in taking care of the King’s wives and concubines. Usually, they would have been castrated beforehand to prevent them from sleeping with the King’s women, that is why they were called eunuchs. So for some unknown reason, these two eunuchs were upset and bitter by the King and they plotted to kill King Ahasuerus, verse 21. Because Mordecai happened to always sit at the gate, he came to know about this and told Esther and Esther presented it to the king on behalf of Mordecai. When the affair was investigated and found to be so, the men were both hanged on the gallows. And it was recorded in the book of the chronicles in the presence of the king. Verses 22 & 23.
So again, Mordecai didn’t mean to eavesdrop on people’s conversations. Or spying on them. And probably, because Bigtan and Teresh knew Mordecai was only as of the parent of one of the King’s women, they did not try to conceal their plot in front of him. So indeed, Mordecai’s presence at that moment was really just an accident, he happened to be there.
Moreover, because the King was saved, this event is recorded in the Persian chronicles, verse 23. Written in the name of Mordecai, verse 22. Yes, period. That’s it. This could be another “coincidence” here because Mordecai should have been given directly the honor and reward he deserved for saving the King. But somehow, nothing was done to him other than this event got recorded in Persian history. Perhaps Mordecai’s report was considered as nothing by everyone at the time. Didn’t he just happen to be sitting at the gate? No big deal, everyone might think like that, it was just a coincidence.
Mordecai’s habit of always being at the gates of the King’s palace did not stop after that. In chapter 3 verses 2-3 again it is stated that he was there again. But this time, there was an incident where everyone who was at the gate of the palace had to bow down and pay homage to Haman son of Hamedata, the Agagite when he passed by. Mordecai neither kneeled nor bowed down to him. This time Mordecai fell into trouble, Haman now hated him and all the Jews because of this.
The Bible mentions that Haman son of Hamedata was an Agagite. Or the descendant of king Agag, the king of the Amalekites whom King Saul should have had completely destroyed. In 1 Samuel 15, God sent Samuel to Saul to attack and defeat the Amalekites, destroy all that was on and with him, and had no mercy on him at all. Do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey, verse 3.
God’s command was clear, destroy everything that was of him, and had no mercy at all. Slaughter them all! Not only men and women, but also children and even infant, oxen and sheep, camels and donkeys. It sounds so cruel and inhumane, but God’s reason is in the 2nd verse, I have noted what Amalek did to Israel in opposing them on the way when they came up out of Egypt
Here it is in Exodus 17:8-13, which tells us about how the nation of Israel long before King Saul got this command, had warred against these Amalekites. Under the command of Joshua, Israel faced Amalek. And this Amalekites was not a nation to be easily defeated. Moses himself had to intervene by being present on the battlefield on the other side and praying with his hands raised to the sky. Because if he lowered his hand, verse 11, then Amalekites become stronger. So, Aaron and Hur, each stood by Moses’ side and helped to support his hand raised up to the sky, verse 12. Only then could Joshua and Israelites won the battle against Amalek, verse 13.
In Deuteronomy 25:17-19, “Remember what Amalek did to you on the way as you came out of Egypt, how he attacked you on the way when you were faint and weary, and cut off your tail, those who were lagging behind you, and he did not fear God. Therefore when the LORD your God has given you rest from all your enemies around you, in the land that the LORD your God is giving you for an inheritance to possess, you shall blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven; you shall not forget!”
But King Saul did not do the Lord’s command as it should, 1 Samuel 15:7-9, And Saul defeated the Amalekites from Havilah as far as Shur, which is east of Egypt. And he took Agag the king of the Amalekites alive and devoted to destruction all the people with the edge of the sword. But Saul and the people spared Agag... And according to Israel’s own tradition, it was not only King Agag which Saul did not kill, but the family of this king and the household of his palace. Some even managed to escape, and Haman was one of descendants of this king! Haman son of Hamedata, the Agagite.
1 Samuel 15:22, “Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice,and to listen than the fat of rams.
Proverbs 21:2-3, Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the LORD weighs the heart. To do righteousness and justice is more acceptable to the LORD than sacrifice.
If King Saul had obeyed the Lord’s command exactly as Samuel mentioned it, devoted all the Amalekites for destruction, Haman would never have existed either. And if Haman would had not been there, there probably would have no evil plot to destroy the Jews while they were in their exile in Persia at that time in the book of Esther.
Perhaps the Purim festival also would have never existed, had Haman not been. Even the book of Esther wouldn’t probably exist. But because of Saul’s error, God then began to plan, arrange everything, to save the Jews in Esther’s time. Nothing escapes His eyes and from the very beginning, He has set the steps of all of us, His chosen people.
This is what Haman son of Hamedata the Agagite did. Esther 3:10-15, So the king took his signet ring from his hand and gave it to Haman the Agagite, the son of Hammedatha, the enemy of the Jews. And the king said to Haman, “The money is given to you, the people also, to do with them as it seems good to you.” Then the king’s scribes were summoned on the thirteenth day of the first month, and an edict, according to all that Haman commanded, was written to the king’s satraps and to the governors over all the provinces and to the officials of all the peoples, to every province in its own script and every people in its own language. It was written in the name of King Ahasuerus and sealed with the king’s signet ring. Letters were sent by couriers to all the king’s provinces with instruction to destroy, to kill, and to annihilate all Jews, young and old, women and children, in one day, the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, which is the month of Adar, and to plunder their goods. A copy of the document was to be issued as a decree in every province by proclamation to all the peoples to be ready for that day. The couriers went out hurriedly by order of the king, and the decree was issued in Susa the citadel. And the king and Haman sat down to drink, but the city of Susa was thrown into confusion.
When we understand who Haman was, we could know how evil he really was just as his ancestors from the time of Saul even back to the time of Moses and Joshua.
It didn’t even stop there, for Mordecai in particular, this was what Haman and his wife, Zeresh, were planning. Esther 5:14, Then his wife Zeresh and all his friends said to him, “Let a gallows fifty cubits high be made, and in the morning tell the king to have Mordecai hanged upon it. Then go joyfully with the king to the feast.” This idea pleased Haman, and he had the gallows made.
The fourth coincidence, on that night the king could not sleep!
It just happened in the very night after the gallows stood at Haman’s house, King Ahasuerus could not sleep!
Esther 6:1, On that night the king could not sleep.
Sounds plain, just as simple as that, the king could not sleep.
We all sometimes can’t sleep at night, right? The cause could be anything, problem from a lack of money, a very exciting plan for the next day, trouble and fear, or just anything. Including hot air in the night so the air conditioning may not work properly! Did you know that in the case when King Ahasuerus couldn’t sleep, this was deliberately caused by God to promote Mordecai and humiliate Haman at the same time?
The king could not sleep that very night!
Esther 6:1-3, On that night the king could not sleep. And he gave orders to bring the book of memorable deeds, the chronicles, and they were read before the king. And it was found written how Mordecai had told about Bigthana and Teresh, two of the king’s eunuchs, who guarded the threshold, and who had sought to lay hands on King Ahasuerus. And the king said, “What honor or distinction has been bestowed on Mordecai for this?” The king’s young men who attended him said, “Nothing has been done for him.”
Apparently, this reading went on throughout the night and the King discovered that Mordechai had not been rewarded anything for saving his life. Coincidentally at the same time, Haman came to the King. He came with the intention to speak to the king about having Mordecai hanged on the gallows that he had prepared for him. Esther 6:4.
But before he could say a word, the King first asked him. What should be done to the man whom the king delights to honor? Verse 6. To our surprise, Haman immediately thought that this must be for him. Whom would the king delight to honor more than me?
He immediately answered everything that he wanted the King done to him, verse 7-9, And Haman said to the king, “For the man whom the king delights to honor, let royal robes be brought, which the king has worn, and the horse that the king has ridden, and on whose head a royal crown is set. And let the robes and the horse be handed over to one of the king’s most noble officials. Let them dress the man whom the king delights to honor, and let them lead him on the horse through the square of the city, proclaiming before him: ‘Thus shall it be done to the man whom the king delights to honor.’”!”
But unexpectedly, the King gave him an order like this. Verse 10, “Hurry; take the robes and the horse, as you have said, and do so to Mordecai the Jew, who sits at the king’s gate. Leave out nothing that you have mentioned.“
It was inconceivable how frown and mutter Haman was! He had to do everything he wishes done to himself, to the person he hated so much. The person whom he wanted to hang in the courtyard of his house, now he himself had to cheer him on in the courtyard of the Persian Empire.
Esther 6:12-14, Then Mordecai returned to the king’s gate. But Haman hurried to his house, mourning and with his head covered. And Haman told his wife Zeresh and all his friends everything that had happened to him. Then his wise men and his wife Zeresh said to him, “If Mordecai, before whom you have begun to fall, is of the Jewish people, you will not overcome him but will surely fall before him.” While they were yet talking with him, the king’s eunuchs arrived and hurried to bring Haman to the feast that Esther had prepared.
What Haman had planned the day before, by the intervention of God through a simple matter: the very same night the king could not sleep. Everything changed the next day. Instead of being hanged high in the court, Mordecai was exalted high in the city square. By Haman himself who meant evil to him.
Next is very ironic for Haman, Esther 7 tells how Haman’s evil plan against the entire Jewish people was exposed before the king by Esther herself. Haman was caught on spot without being able to defend himself anymore. The king then ordered his guard to hang Haman on his own gallows, verse 10. Then the king gave all of Haman’s possessions to Esther, Esther 8:1. Haman’s seal ring which ruled over the whole Persian kingdom was removed from him and handed over to Mordecai. Esther also appointed Mordecai to be the ruler over all of Haman’s property, verse 2. From here then we can see how God could reverse everything which was evil that was planned by Haman before.
Thus we can now see how the Israelites celebrate Purim each year, on the 15th day of the month Adar (around March). Purim, which means the cast or lot which was cast away to determine the day on which the Jewish people would be destroyed, was turned by God into a day of victory for the Jewish people against all their enemies.
The God who is not mentioned in the book of Esther at all still holds the main role more than Esther and Mordecai themselves. He knows how to create situations that allow His people, like Esther herself to be slipped into a crucial position, very close to the King defeating the plans of the Evil who succeeded in putting his man, Haman, as a number 2 in the Persian Empire. And He did all this very quietly and naturally without Haman would realizing what had have happened. His perfect Hand of Providence continues to work through what we might call a too-coincidental coincidence. He didn’t stand still, He continued to work in Esther’s book, even though His name is not written. Yes, He doesn’t also stand still nowadays, He is and will continue to work even though His name is not shouted nor His presence is visible to us.
This writing is dedicated to Dr. Marvin Wilson which through his teaching I have and continue to learn so much about the Old Testament, Jesus’ Bible.