Let's begin by getting acquainted with the king. His Persian name was Khshayarshan, which in Hebrew becomes Ahasuerus and in the Greek language, Xerxes. His father was Darius I, and his grandfather Cyrus the Great. Ahasuerus ruled over the Persian empire from 486 to 465 B.C.. Like most monarchs of that day, Ahasuerus was a proud man; in the first chapter of Esther, we see three evidences of his pride.
Eastern rulers enjoyed hosting lavish banquets because each occasion gave them opportunity to impress their guests with their royal power and wealth. In Esther chapter 1, the king hosted a six-month display of his majesty for the nobles and officials of the empire, followed by a seven-day feast for all in the capital city of Shushan (Susa). The Greek historian Herodotus (485-425 B.C.) states that Ahasuerus was conferring with his nobles and military leaders about a possible invasion of Greece. It was important that Ahasuerus impress them with his wealth and power. When they saw the marble pillars, the gorgeous drapes hung from silver rings, the gold and silver couches on beautiful marble mosaic pavements, and the golden table service, what else could they do but submit to the king?
His Drunkenness and Anger
Scripture ignores these military matters because the writer's purpose was to explain how Esther became queen. It was at the conclusion of the seven-day banquet that Ahasuerus, "merry with wine" (1:10), ordered Vashti, his queen, to display her beauty to the assembled guests—but she refused to obey. As a result, the king's "anger burned in him" (1:12).
As you study the book of Esther, you will discover that this mighty monarch could control everything but himself. His advisers easily influenced him, he made impetuous decisions that he later regretted, and when he didn't get his own way he became angry. As for the anger that King Ahasuerus expressed toward his lovely queen, it was ignorant, childish, and completely uncalled for. Had the king been sober, he would never have asked his wife to display her beauties before his drunken leaders.
When the ego is pricked, it releases a powerful poison that makes people do all sorts of things they would never do if they were humble and submitted to the Lord. The Persian king had seven counselors who advised him in matters of state and had the right to approach his throne. They also knew well how to flatter the king to secure their positions and get from him what they wanted. They advised the king to dethrone Vashti and replace her with another queen. They promised that such an act would put fear in the hearts of all the women in the empire and generate more respect for their husbands. But would it? Are hearts changed because kings issue decrees or congresses and parliaments pass laws? Are love and respect qualities that can be generated in hearts by decrees and demands?
How could seven supposedly wise men be so calloused in their treatment of Vashti and so foolish in their evaluation of the women of the empire? They were encouraging every husband to act like King Ahasuerus and manage the home on the basis of executive orders. What a contrast to Paul's counsel to husbands and wives in Ephesians 5:18-33! Motivated by anger and revenge, and seeking to heal his wounded pride, the king agreed to their advice and had Vashti deposed. The stage was now set for the entrance of the two key persons in the drama: Haman, the man who hated the Jews, and Esther, the woman who delivered her people.
—Condensed from Be Committed by Warren W. Wiersbe. Copyright 2005 by Cook Communication Ministries.