Most people could read chapter 1 and spot tyranny immediately, but they are blind to all the forms of tyranny that prevail in the twentieth century. We tend to be influenced by our culture. I was talking with a friend in Canada about Canadian politics and, while I saw it as tyrannical, he saw it as compassionate. My brother was on my side for that argument, and he pointed out the horrible medical care that his wife almost died under, the abuse that my father was receiving with no recourse – almost being a prisoner in the system, with rationed care and no choice of doctors and government regulation of how much care a doctor can give. And he said, "That's compassionate?" The subject went on to the government having a total monopoly on other industries like car insurance. My friend argued that it prevented unscrupulous insurance companies from ripping off customers, and my brother pointed to the time that he had been given half the value of his car according to blue book when it was totalled. And examples continued. But my friend just could'nt see it. Canada is compassionate and Sweden and socialist states are even more compassionate according to his definition. And that's why it is so important for the Scripture to define these terms.
I think we recognize the tyranny in this passage, but this was no Xerxes. This was the enlightened Darius who was noted for his kind policies. In fact, he was nicknamed the Doer of Good, or some translate it, "he who holds firm to the good." He had a reputation of benevolence to his subjects.
Maybe I should back up a little bit, because not all of you were here last week. Last week we saw numerous reasons why the Ahausuerus of this book cannot be Xerxes as most modern commentators claim. There are nineteen biblical reasons why he has to be Darius Hystaspes, the father of Xerxes. And if any of you want those nineteen reasons written out, I have a few copies in my brief case. But we saw that Darius was the only one who ruled over 127 provinces (verse 1). Xerxes lost several provinces and never had this 127 according to secular sources. Darius was the only one to start tribute on the land and on the islands of the sea (chapter 10), and he was certainly the only one who still had the islands to take tribute from after his twelfth year, and chapter 10 is after the twelfth year of Ahasuerus. 1 Esdras, a second century BC historical document says that the Ahasuerus that reigned over 127 provinces from Ethiopia to India was Darius. Like fingerprints, Darius' ID fits nineteen criteria that are laid out in this book,. And I'm not going to rehash all the reasons we covered last week. But I think I built a water tight case for Darius.
But that means we need to rethink where this story fits into the Biblical history. Actually, since this was the view of older scholars like Ussher, Newton, Anstey and others, and since there are newer scholars like Faulstich and Jones who are reviving this view, they have done a lot of the work for us already. But let me give you a few historical markers that you can hang your thoughts on before we get into this text. It's sometimes nice to know where a passage fits.
Verse 3 says that this story starts in the third year of his reign. A lot had been going on in Israel in the last year. Actually, a lot had been going on in the empire in the two years. And God was beautifully orcheastrating it for His purposes.
We know from Ezra 4:24 that work on the temple had stopped in Israel until the previous year, the second year of Darius. Prior to that, the Israelites had been discouraged with the work on the temple and basically had totally abandoned the project. We know from Ezra 9:9 that at least a good start to a wall had been achieved by the time Ezra came. Haggai says that the temple was still in ruins in the second year of Darius. Instead, they focused their energies on renovating the city, starting to build the walls for security, and as Haggai words it, building these expensive paneled houses. He said, Is it a time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, and this temple to lie in ruins? He said that they didn't have kingdom priorities. And when you understand the incredible stresses that they were going through, we can easily be sympathetic. But God was not. They had their good excuses just like we have our good excuses as to why God's priorities are not our priorities. Money was one of them. And they complained that they weren't wealthy enough to work on the temple. And Haggai responds that the reason they weren't wealthy was that God was cursing their crops and all that they did because of their self-centeredness. He called them to serve God in the temple. They respond, "If we don't build the city and build walls, there won't be any need for the temple. And Zechariah says, "You've got it all backwards." Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added to you. Interestingly, Zechariah in effect says, "If you build walls now, they will be way too small. Your vision is not nearly big enough." He says, ‘Jerusalem shall be inhabited as towns without walls, because of the multitude of men and livestock in it. They think that security and comfort are higher priorities than worship. And both Haggai and Zechariah reason with Israel. Well, Israel has to learn the hard way, and God finally uses Darius in the previous year to do two remarkable things, to force Israel to stop working on their walls and city renovations, and secondly to motivate Israel to build the temple.
Here's how that comes about without Darius having the foggiest notion that he is being used by God. We saw last week that the first two years of his reign, Darius is basically reconquering the empire. Revolts were springing up everywhere, and he is having to put them down left and right, and he is working hard to consolidate his power. And so you know that Darius is not going to be too happy when the local officials in Palestine complain in a letter to Darius in these words:
Ezra 4:12 Let it be known to the king that the Jews who came up from you have come to us at Jerusalem, and are building the rebellious and evil city, and are finishing its walls and repairing the foundations. [So they are accused of renovating the city and rebuilding the walls. They go on] Ezra 4:13 Let it now be known to the king that, if this city is built and the walls completed, they will not pay tax, tribute, or custom, and the king's treasury will be diminished. Ezra 4:14 Now because we receive support from the palace, it was not proper for us to see the king's dishonor; therefore we have sent and informed the king, Ezra 4:15 that search may be made in the book of the records of your fathers. And you will find in the book of the records and know that this city is a rebellious city, harmful to kings and provinces, and that they have incited sedition within the city in former times, for which cause this city was destroyed. Ezra 4:16 We inform the king that if this city is rebuilt and its walls are completed, the result will be that you will have no dominion beyond the River.
Talk about bad timing. Or was it? No, it was God's perfect timing to force Israel to stop their priorities and to embrace His priorities. And it worked. This is a time when Darius is going to be hypersensitive to the slightest report of rebellion. And his response is predictable. Here's part of his letter of response. Darius says, I gave command, and a search has been made, and it was found that this city in former times has revolted against kings, and rebellion and sedition have been fostered in it. There have also been mighty kings over Jerusalem, who have ruled over all the region beyond the River; and tax, tribute, and custom were paid to them. Now give the command to make these men cease, that this city may not be built until the command is given by me. Take heed now that you do not fail to do this. Why should damage increase to the hurt of the kings? And it says that they used the force of an army to make them stop what they were doing. The least inconvenience made them leave off building the temple, but it took arms to make them stop working on their own priorities. Isn't that so frequently true of us Christians? It's a lot easier on us when we immediately submit to God's ways. But God orcheastrates things so that become very motivated.
The second thing that happened is that after Haggai and Zechariah get the people to start working on the temple, they receive more opposition, and the prophets said, "Don't worry. We already said this was going to happen, but don't worry. You will overcome." But I want you to look at Ezra's account. Why don't you turn to Ezra 5. The Israelite leaders are once again asked by what authority they do so. They say by the decree of Cyrus. And they send another letter to Darius inquiring if this is so. Now Darius has been keen on helping support various temple projects around the world for various religions, so this isn't something he is opposed to. But he does a search and finds a strongly worded letter by Cyrus authorizing the building of the temple. That letter is recorded in part in verse 3-5 of chapter 6. But let's pick up at verse 6. I don't think they could have gotten any stronger hints that God is control of these kings. Ezra 6:6
Ezra 6:6 ¶ Now therefore, Tattenai, governor of the region beyond the River, and Shethar-boznai, and your companions the Persians who are beyond the River, keep yourselves far from there. Ezra 6:7 Let the work of this house of God alone; let the governor of the Jews and the elders of the Jews build this house of God on its site. Ezra 6:8 Moreover I issue a decree as to what you shall do for the elders of these Jews, for the building of this house of God: Let the cost be paid at the king's expense from taxes on the region beyond the River; this is to be given immediately to these men, so that they are not hindered. Ezra 6:9 And whatever they need — young bulls, rams, and lambs for the burnt offerings of the God of heaven, wheat, salt, wine, and oil, according to the request of the priests who are in Jerusalem — let it be given them day by day without fail, Ezra 6:10 that they may offer sacrifices of sweet aroma to the God of heaven, and pray for the life of the king and his sons. Ezra 6:11 Also I issue a decree that whoever alters this edict, let a timber be pulled from his house and erected, and let him be hanged on it; and let his house be made a refuse heap because of this. Ezra 6:12 And may the God who causes His name to dwell there destroy any king or people who put their hand to alter it, or to destroy this house of God which is in Jerusalem. I Darius issue a decree; let it be done diligently. Ezra 6:13 ¶ Then Tattenai, governor of the region beyond the River, Shethar-boznai, and their companions diligently did according to what King Darius had sent. Ezra 6:14 So the elders of the Jews built, and they prospered through the prophesying of Haggai the prophet and Zechariah the son of Iddo. And they built and finished it, according to the commandment of the God of Israel, and according to the command of Cyrus, Darius, and Artaxerxes king of Persia. Ezra 6:15 Now the temple was finished on the third day of the month of Adar, which was in the sixth year of the reign of King Darius.
And that brings us up to the year that Esther is taken to the palace, one year before she becomes queen. So amazingly, while Darius is unalterably opposed to their building any walls around Jerusalem, he is quite open to their building the temple. God was forcing the Jews to put first things first. It would't be until Mordecai comes into power that Darius' reverses his decision and allows Nehemiah to rebuild the walls. But just by way of quick application, don't make God force you to seek first His kingdom and His righteous. Enthusiastically seek His priorities right from the beginning and God will prosper all that you do – He will add to you all the things that you need for His glory. It's a whole lot easier to willingly have His priorities.
One other detail that Haggai and Zechariah portray in the second year of Darius is the presence of spiritual warfare throughout the empire which finally calms down toward the end of the second year. For example, Zechariah prophecies a month before the end of year two, which would be somewhere between one and six months before this feast. Zechariah sees a vision of an army of horses and horse men going to and fro in the earth, and the angel told him, These are the ones whom the LORD has sent to walk to and fro throughout the earth. So they answered the Angel of the LORD, who stood among the myrtle trees, and said, "We have walked to and fro throughout the earth, and behold all the earth is resting quietly. That was big news because this was the first peace the earth had seen. For two years the empire had been in turmoil - most of Darius' first two years. Wars and rumors of war, have finally been replaced with rest. But the Angel of the Lord tells them not to get excited about two things. First, don't get excited about the peace because I am exceedingly angry with the nations at ease. Secondly, don't get too excited that the government has given aid to help build the temple. He says, they have helped – but with evil intent. And the evil intent is written all over this passage.
Scripture does not see government financial assistance as a blessing, but as a snare. I am not at all excited about President Bush's financial aid being chanelled through churches and other religious groups. It's a precursor to more and more strings. Darius was incredibly generous with other people's money. We have secular texts telling of all the temples that he helped build for other religions around the world. In fact, you can still see the seal of Darius on the bricks of the temple he helped build in Egypt to their gods. Rather than seeing it as generosity and compassion, I see it as the imprint of the government's total monopoly. Biblical government is limited government. And that is the opposite of what we see in Esther chapter 1. So in our remaining time, let me quickly outline some of the ways in which Darius was playing God and going beyond the limited role that God had given. Or to use the language of Zechariah, how the government was helping, but with evil intent. And then we will quickly show how God humbles Darius and shows him that he really isn't God. We haven't preached on government issues in a long time, and so I think it is time that we evaluate all world governments and see to what degree they are Biblical or to what degree they resemble Ahasuerus.
Darius Urge to Play God in (vv. 1-11)
Monopoly of Power ("Ahasuerus")
The first temptation of civil government is to have a monopoly of power. And you can see hints of that throughout the book of Esther, even dictating what men and women do in their homes in verses 20 and 22. Is that really the government's responsibility? - to make sure that wives honor their husbands? Remember that not all sin is a crime. Gluttony is a sin, but according to the Bible it is not the responsibility of civil government to deal with gluttony. That is the responsibility of self-government. But already in verse 1 we see indications of this lust for a monopoly power. You can see it in the name Ahasuerus which is a claim to sovereignty (there is no one over him), but also in his constant desire to conquer more of the earth. He had by far the largest territory of any of the Archemenid kings. Verse 1 – Now it came to pass in the days of Ahasuerus (this was the Ahasuerus who reigned over one hundred and twenty-seven provinces, from India to Ethiopia. Now contrast that incredible expansionism with God's instruction for Israel not to meddle with or war with nations outside their bounds. Darius desired to have universal jurisdiction as far as his sovereignty would reach – he wanted every nation under his control (which is still the goal of many in the United Nations). But he also wanted universal jurisdiction within – jurisdiction over every form of government within his empire. This chapter shows his desire to monopolize all power. Has God set up the family and the church as separate jurisdictions? Yes he has. They are separate governments, not one over the other, but side by side. Separate jurisdictions with limited powers. And God judged kings like Uzziah who overstepped their bounds and sought to do what was the jurisdiction of the family or of the church. And its not enough to say that they were sincere kings. I'm sure the administrations that established OSHA, the Department of Education and the Department of Agriculture and other unconstitutional agencies in this nation were very sincere. We hate to see people hurt on the job, getting forced off of farms, not having a good education, etc. But sincerity is not enough. We need to ask if the government has legitimate jurisdiction in such areas. If we don't think that's even a legitimate question to ask, then we are treating the civil government as an Ahasuerus – something that has no restrictions to what it can do. Sovereignty is an attribute of God, not man. Limited jurisdiction and limited powers is an attribute of a creature. Even churches can fall into the trap of acting like an Ahasuerus who has a monopoly on power. That's why we keep reminding ourselves of that in our philosophy statements that the family retains to itself all powers and ministries that are not explicitly given by Scripture to either the church or the state.
Rushdoony says, "God grants dominion to man under His law, but He does not grant His sovereignty. God alone is absolute Lord and Sovereign. To deny God's sovereignty is to transfer sovereignty from God to man, or to man's state. Thus, Thomas Paine, in the Rights of Man, affirmed as a fundamental principle the sovereignty of the nation-state, declaring, [and I want you to get this. This is terrible theology, yet it is a theology that has captured the hearts of not only liberals, but of many conservatives in government today. Thomas Paine said] ‘The nation is essentially the source of all sovereignty; nor can any individual, or any body of men, be entitled to any authority which is not expressly derived from it.'" That's saying that the government has a monopoly of power.
R. J. Rushdoony said, "The goal of the state is the old pagan and Platonic dream of a monopoly of power. By its claim to sovereignty and to universal jurisdiction over everything within its domain, the modern state seeks indeed to be a god walking on earth." Now obviously, today very few rulers would say it in such a crass way. And I don't even think Darius would. He was a monotheistic Zoroastrian. He would say that there really is only one god. But by his actions, he said otherwise.
So that's the first hint of his playing god; of his seeking to have a monopoly of power.
Politicking for control (v. 4-7)
Well, that is immediately going to manifest itself in various ways. Manipulation and politicking is one. Verse 3 says, that in the third year of his reign he made a feast for all his officials and servants – the powers of Persia and Media, the nobles, and the princes of the provinces being before him. Why did he do this? Herodotus said these kings often made these fantastic feasts. I think there were three reasons: 1) to visually demonstrate that they were beholden to him. 2) Second, to demonstrate that he had the wealth to be able to make good on his promises of rewards to those who were loyal to him. 3) And then thirdly, to appeal to their own self-importance and selfishness. And its not just his federal officials that he needs to keep happy and loyal. He wants to make sure that the citizens in Susa are happy as well. So tax money generously flows for 180 days. It's easy to be generous with other people's money. But it's not only easy, it is dangerous. I think there are many parallels to modern American lavishness not only with pork barrel projects to districts back home where Congressmen live (their own Susa), but also promises of advancements to Congressmen who cooperate, or lavish perks to friends. The Greek historian Herodotus was not fooled by these banquets. He said that they were seeking to influence. Jews who read this book would not see this as a wonderful thing, but as a pagan flaunting of power and manipulation. 1 Samuel 8 would describe it as tyranny and government theft. But if that was tyranny and theft, what would be the evaluation of our own government welfare programs. It is a forced taking of money from one person's pocket to put it into another man's pocket. It is theft. And it is theft because the government is taking something that God has not authorized them to take. He has authorized taxes for certain things, but not for largess.
Now what the book of Esther is going to do is show how God can manipulate the manipulators, can humble the proud, can advance his kingdom through people who are working against kingdom principles. He can use the very people who are fighting the Jews to help the Jews. This book will demonstrate that God is in control, not Darius! Amen. It will demonstrate that God is God, not Darius. But He is simply setting the framework in this chapter. I'm going to skip over some of the evidences of Darius' attempts to play God and look at verse 11:
Pride (v. 4,12)
Generosity to officials out of the taxes (vv. 4-7)
Generosity to citizens out of the taxes (v. 5)
Wasteful luxury (vv. 6-7)
Treats wife like property (v. 11)
Verse 11 says, to bring Queen Vashti before the king, wearing her royal crown, in order to show her beauty to the people and the officials, for she was beautiful to behold. Some have suggested that all he wanted her to wear was her crown. It doesn't say that. I guess that's a possibility since he was perhaps drunk. The text says that he was merry with wine. How far that goes, I'm not sure. But whether he was drunk or wasn't drunk, the likelihood is that he wanted her to make a regal appearance so that they could see that he had the best wife just like he had the best of everything else. But either way it is that he was displaying her as his prized possession, an object to show off and someone who was useful to be used. It's not just politics that plays this control game, is it? I think that wanting to control situations, people, opportunities is native to the human heart. Some are just better at it than others. Jesus warned everyone that unless we forsake all to follow Him, we cannot be His disciple. The desire to possess and control is native to the human heart. We are all born little Ahasueruses. We want to be the center of the world. And Christ tells us that we must relate to everything as He commands, not as we desire. But you know what? There are perks. He promises in Mark 10 Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one (no exceptions here. "There is no one") who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My sake and the gospels, who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time (and then he lists the same things that we have given to God, that God gives back to us as a stewardship trust. And we enjoy it 100 times more. "Who shall not receive a hundredfold, now in this time") – houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions – and in the age to come, eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first. Putting ourselves first, possessing, refusing to deal with things and people as a steward should implies that we are gods. And in one sense Darius' attitudes toward his wife and things was no different than the Jewish attitudes in Israel that kept putting God on the back burner and wanting to build their own homes and follow their own agendas first. Now we are going to look at Vashti more on another day, so I don't want to spend too much time here, but its important to realize that when we point the finger at Darius, we may very well be pointing three fingers back at ourselves. How we treat our family, friends, houses and cars may reflect whether we are the sovereign over them or whether Jesus calls the shots. We dare not be little Ahasueruses. We rightly point out that pornographers are just using women as objects, and that drug dealers don't care how many lives that they wreck; that they are using people. We rightly object at spouse abusers and controllers and Cain who saw Abel as an object that needed to be destroyed. But those are just logically more consistent forms of refusing to be stewards. If you are an Ahasuerus, there is no limit to what you might try to do.
Ultimate centralization of government in one individual (vv. 3,4,16)
We have to hurry on. Verse 4 speaks of the riches of his glorious kingdom and the splendor of his excellent majesty. It's all his. The whole kingdom is his, and everything they see is his. In fact, he saw the people as his. This is the ultimate in centralization of government. The whole nation belonged to him. So consistently, what is a crime against the king is a crime against the whole kingdom and what is a crime against the kingdom or any one of its citizens is a crime against him. Isn't that what is implied in verse 16: And Memucan answered before the king and the princes: ‘Queen Vashti has not only wronged the king, but also all the princes, and all the people who are in all the provinces of King Ahasuerus. They are universalizing this little situation. But when the king's whims become state laws, you see the ultimate in tyranny and centralization of power as well. The Holman Bible Dictionary says, "Unlike Cyrus, Darius organized a tightly knit centralized state and vested himself with absolute power." And I think everyone would agree with that assessment. Though there is much that I do not agree with American politics, I praise the Lord that absolute power is impossible in America. There are still lots of checks and balances. And that is a blessing we should not take for granted.
Saving face more important than justice (vv. 17-18)
Multiplying laws for every new perceived danger (v. 19-20)
Another danger that we see in this chapter is multiplying laws every time a new perceived danger comes up. Verses 19-20: If it pleases the king, let a royal decree go out from him, and let it be rcorded in the laws of the Persians and the Medes, so that it will not be altered (here they treat the king's laws as if they are God's laws – eternal and unchangelable. Well, that's a claim to divinity and infallibility, isn't it? But he goes on) that Vashti shall come no more before King Ahasuerus; and let the king give her royal position to another who is better than she. When the king's decree which he will make (Memucan is stepping on thin ice, isn't he? "the king's decree which he will make") is proclaimed throughout all his empire (for it is great), all wives will honor their husbands, both great and small." And then he makes a decree in verse 22. As if making a law is going to make women respect their husbands more. But this is humanism's way. Rather than admitting to his sin and the problems with omnipresent government, they opt for more of the same. People lose all of their money in the stock market, and to protect that from happening again (a perceived danger) they make a law that you can't make a venture capital investment unless you are worth so many million and have so many hundred thousand in the bank – which locks middle class people out of the best investments. Millionaries love these kinds of laws. Or there is accounting abuses in the stock market and so the government makes more laws, and more laws until the free market is no longer a free market. But it all stems from viewing state as savior. And we must recognize that there is only one savior and there is only one Messiah. But we are living in a time when even conservatives view every problem as something that Messiah state can solve.
Let's see – I already dealt with point K, treating man's law as equal to God's law.
Treating man's laws as equal to God's (v. 19)
Intruding even into the privacy of the home (vv. 20,22)
Finally, the government steps into the home and tries to run the home in verse 22: Then he sent letters to all the king's provinces, to each province in its own script, and to every people in their own language, [unlike the Greeks, the Persians were pluralists, and the Persians and the Romans parallel the humanism in America much better than the Greeks. But anyway, here is his new law] that each man should be master in his own house, and speak in the language of his own people. I won't deal with the rationale for this strange law, but suffice it to say that big government always gets bigger because it doesn't see it's creaturely limits.
Darius lessons that he was not God (vv.
Shown by the Queen's Refusal (v. 12) (While he commands others to master their households, he cannot master his own wife)
And God in this chapter humiliates Darius and demonstrartes that he is not God. God is God, and God is not only going to use this messup of the king's to advance Esther and Mordecai to seek the welfare of Israel, but he is going to teach all who read this book that trying to play God is a game that never works. Even if Darius didn't learn the lesson, the Jews who have been looking to the state in awe get the point.
First, the irony is not lost on the readers that he commands other men to be masters of their households when he can't master his own wife. Sort of like Congress passing laws that everyone else but Congress has to keep. If Vashti proved one thing, it was that Darius could not master her will He could kill her, but he could not control her will. And we need to learn that lesson too. We may be able to control certain outward behavior in our children, but only God can change a heart. And we must be prayerful in our endeavors to raise our children and not self-confident. Only God can reach the heart. That means that we must be on our knees for our governments and on our knees for our families. I think the book, The Power of a Praying Wife is a book that applies to all of our relations, not just women. We need not get frustrated and angry when people at work or elsewhere don't get it. Our job is not to change their minds or change their hearts, but to be faithful servants who lovingly bring the Word, pray, use the means of grace, but recognize that God alone changes them. And you will be far less frustrated if you stop trying to play God by changing people's hearts and moulding them into your own image. Wives trying to change husbands and vise versa leads to frustration. But if both seek to please God in their relationship to each other, it is bound to woo rather than force. But anyway, that is getting off the beaten track. The point was that God showed Darius that there really were limits to his power with Vashti.
Shown by his need for help (vv. 13-15)
Secondly, God showed the readers that Darius really didn't know what to do. He needed help in verses 13-15. Verse 15 says, What shall we do?
Shown by his anger (v. 12b)
The third way that God shows the lack of control of Darius is in verse 12. Therefore the king was furious, and his anger burned within him. His goals were being obstructed and there was nothing he could do about it. If he could have controlled that situation, there wouldn't have been any need for anger. His pride had been slapped in the face. He was not able to control the situation so he moves into attack mode – if I can't control her I will destroy her.
Shown by the counselor's manipulations (vv. 16-19)
The fourth evidence that he is not God is that he succumbs to the counselor's manipulations, perhaps without realizing that he was manipulated. Some have suggested that Memucan had ulterior motives – perhaps wanting his own daughter to be queen, or perhaps being frustrated with his wife, but whatever the case on that end, Darius is not thinking straight. Ironically by accepting Memucan's advice the king ends up publicizing his embarrassment to the whole empire that he can't do what he is decreeing others should do. This will make him the laughing stock of the empire. But rage doesn't always see clearly. Secondly, it seems that Memucan doesn't want to risk Vashti coming back into favor, so he wants to invoke the policy of the Persians and the Medes and make sure that his neck doesn't role down the line. But I find it interesting that even Memucan's manipulations work against him. This is the last that his name appears in the book. He is later replaced by Haman.
Shown by his being ensnared by his own decisions (vv. 19-20) Bureaucracy tends to flounder in its own web of rules. (see his regret in 2:1-2)
Another irony that the Lord produces is that Darius is ensnared in his own laws. It is implied in chapter 2:1-2 that he later regrets his decision to get rid of Vashti. In the Babyonian records, all trace of her existence has been expunged from the records, and modern scholars believe that this had to be deliberate. Maybe he killed her, and removed her name. But in any case, he seems to miss her. And the search is on for a new wife.
Shown by his focus on outward behavior (vv. 18,22)
God is God, and I am not. Amen? Let's close by making three applications:
First, don't see the government as the solution to our problems.
The Angel of the Lord said about these nations that had started sending money to support the temple in the previous year, I am exceedingly angry with the Gentiles at ease; for I was a little angry, and they helped – but with evil intent. He said initially that He was a just bit angry, but now that they had helped the temple He was exceedingly angry. Why was God angry? Darius is doing good and forcing the other nations to support a good cause! That's nothing to be angry about, is it? But in God's eyes, big government, no matter how generous it is to Christianity is a rival to God. And God saw the evil intent. God saw that Darius was claiming sovereignty over the temple, which was His Throne. No wonder He was exceedingly angry. And as part of his points of light policy, Darius gave charity to every religion. Well it wasn't charity, since it was not his money. It was other people's money. Ancient non-Biblical documents tell us not only of Darius' help in Jerusalem, but also of his help to build many other religious temples. One in Egypt even has the seal of Darius on the bricks used to build it. And with this government help came strings attached. The angel of the Lord said that they helped, but with evil intent. It will be interesting to see what kinds of government controls will come upon churches who use federal money. Congress is certainly trying to put strings with the money.
Secondly, don't imitate the king in the way you relate to people.
The best leaders according to Christ are those who serve the most. The kind of leadership that was shown by these men was self-centered, insecure and did not look out for the interests of their wives or their children.
Thirdly, trust God's providential control of all things.
Ephesians 1:11 speaks of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will. God had to control this prideful, drunken party. He had to control the revolts in the empire working at just the right time, and them stopping at just the right time. He had to control Darius distrusting Israel enough to stop their working on the walls and their city renovations and building projects, but to want to please them enough to permit them to build the temple. He had to control Darius's anger, and Vashti's bad hair day. He had to make sure that Darius' manipulations weren't able to outdo Memucan's manipulations. He had to make sure that Memucan thought to ask for this treatment of Vashti be non-reversable, because God knew that Darius would regret it. That's no doubt why Memucan got booted of the team and Hamaan got on. But that is an important pice of the puzzle as well. Despite the bad intentions that the King had, God used him to promote His cause. He used Darius first to shut down Israel's self-absorbed building of their own houses and their own sections of the wall while neglecting the temple. And God's control of even the evil of this crowd by overruling and making way for Esther is remarkable in the highest degree. God never tempts anyone to sin, nor does He sin, but somehow God can still use the sins of others like Darius' drunkenness and pride to promote His own causes. And that ought to not only give us confidence that god is in control of the tiniest details of America's politics, but that He is working all things together for our good and His glory. If he hadn't invited so many people he have maybe saved face. Throughout this story, no detail is too small to need controlling. Only God can be God. Even when others attempt to be so, they fail. And for that we can be thankful. Amen.
J. M. Cook, The Persian Empire (New York: Schocken, 1983; p. 45) defines Darius (Persian Dareyavesh) as "he who holds firm the good.". Others give something like "he who enjoys good things" (Richard Frye, The Heritage of Persia; New York: World, 1963; p. 92). ↩
Jordan, Biblical Chronology Newsletter, #8/07, p 3 says, "Darius's fleet took the islands of Samos, Chios, and Lesbos, and the rest of the islands in 496 B.C. (Herodotus, Book 6). In 3:89-97, Herodotus states that these islands paid tribute to Darius. Herodotus adds, ‘Later on in his reign the sum was increased by the tribute from the Islands and of the nations of Europe as far as Thessaly (3:96). Thucydides (Book 1) and Plato (Menexenus) say that Darius subdued all the islands in the Aegean Sea, and Diodorus Siculus (Book 12) says that these were all lost again by his son Xerxes before the 12th year of his reign, which eliminates the possibility that Xerxes is the Ahasuerus of Esther." ↩
The majority of modern commentators believe that Ahasuerus was Xerxes. However, see the handout at the end of "Esther Part 1" which gives eighteen Biblical reasons why this identification is not plausible and why Darius the Great (Darius Hystaspes/ Darius I) was the Ahasuerus of Esther. Historians would generally agree with the statement that "Darius Hytaspes was the greatest of the Persian rulers." (John D. Freeman in The New International Dictionary of theBibl) ↩