The writer appears to be an eyewitness to the massive party that the king threw for seven straight days after his first party. Some suggest that it could have been Mordecai who wrote this book, but there is discussion around that. Whoever wrote this, however, was well aware of all the details. Esther 1:5-9 tells us of the feasts that the king through and the queen threw her own feast that would most likely be similar in its extravagance. It says, “And when these days were completed, the king gave for all the people present in Susa the citadel, both great and small, a feast lasting for seven days in the court of the garden of the king’s palace. There were white cotton curtains and violet hangings fastened with cords of fine linen and purple to silver rods and marble pillars, and also couches of gold and silver on a mosaic pavement of porphyry, marble, mother-of-pearl, and precious stones. Drinks were served in golden vessels, vessels of different kinds, and the royal wine was lavished according to the bounty of the king. And the drinking was according to this edict: ‘There is no compulsion.’ For the king had given orders to all the staff of his palace to do as each man desired. Queen Vashti also gave a feast for the women in the palace that belonged to King Ahasuerus.”

It surely reminds me of the current lifestyle of the rich and famous of our days. The ornate decorations, the luxurious seating, and the elaborate drinking utensils are all described in some detail. I find it odd that the dishes that were served were not described as well. I guess Roop is right, “The account seems to focus less on food at these affairs and more on drink. According to the Jewish historian Josephus, protocol may have dictated that everyone drinks along with the king (Antiquities, 11.188). Here, however, the king puts no restraint on the consumption of alcohol.”[1] I suppose the freedom to drink as much (or as little) as one desire might be compared to an “Open Bar” today. You can have whatever you want and it’s all on the house! The focus on open drinking at this feast brings devastating results to both the queen and the king.

Not surprisingly this liberality of alcohol always does that. In College one of my favorite poets was A. E. Houseman. He wrote a poem about drinking that has never left me. In 19th Century England, malt was the most prevalent form of alcohol and he addresses it accordingly. He explains how it makes one think he knows all the answers but these answers are all wrong. He writes, “And malt does more than Milton can
To justify God’s ways to man. Ale, man, ale’s the stuff to drink For fellows whom it hurts to think: Look into the pewter pot To see the world as the world’s not.” Then he shares his personal experience with it, “Oh I have been to Ludlow fair And left my necktie God knows where, And carried halfway home, or near, Pints and quarts of Ludlow beer: Then the world seemed none so bad, And I myself a sterling lad; And down in lovely muck I’ve lain, Happy till I woke again. Then I saw the morning sky: Heigho, the tale was all a lie; The world, it was the old world yet, I was I, my things were wet, and nothing now remained to do. But begin the game anew.” The king is about to do something that he will regret for the rest of his life inspired by the alcohol in his system. I wonder if anyone in that culture gave him the same advice that Burrows gives in his commentary. “A certain king asked a philosopher how he was to behave himself, and the philosopher replied, ‘Remember always that you are a king.’ This the inebriate cannot do, for alcohol, though it may quicken the imagination, enfeebles both the will, the memory, and the judgment. The drunkard is a slave, and not a king, though he sits on a Persian throne. No drunkard can inherit the kingdom of heaven. The rich wines of earth spoil the taste so that the spirit cannot appreciate the richer wines of heaven.”[2]

[1] Roop, Eugene F. 2002. Ruth, Jonah, Esther. Believers Church Bible Commentary. Scottdale, PA: Herald Press.

[2] Burrows, W. 1892. Esther. The Preacher’s Complete Homiletic Commentary. New York; London; Toronto: Funk & Wagnalls Company.