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Thursday, February 21, 2013
The Ten Banquets in the Book of Esther
The Book of Esther is all about a man who hates the Jewish people and schemes to kill them. He achieves a high position in the government of Persia and uses that position to enact a decree to kill all the Jews. When the queen, herself a Jew, finds out about the decree, she approaches the king, exposes the man who wants to kill her and all her people, and gets a new decree signed allowing the Jews to fight back. On the fateful day, the Jews triumph overwhelmingly over their foes.
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One of the themes of this book is that things that are hidden will be revealed. Mordecai reveals a plot to kill the king; Esther reveals Haman’s hidden agenda; Esther and Mordecai’s hidden identity is revealed. This pattern points to the revelation of another hidden character in the account. God’s working behind the scenes is hidden. His name is not mentioned at all in the Book of Esther, yet His hand is evident throughout as events “just happen” to occur leading to the exposure of Haman and the redemption of the Jewish people.
One of the hidden patterns of the Book of Esther is the appearance of duals. A detail will be mentioned twice, an event will happen twice, or an event will occur that is parallel to another event. Some examples of these duals are two lists of the king’s servants, two reports that Esther concealed her identity, two houses for the women, and two references to the death of Haman’s sons. Through these duals, the number two is hidden or embedded into the account. What is the significance of the number two? Two is the number of the Son, the second person of the Godhead. It is also the number of differentiation. God separated darkness from the light on the second day of creation. Yeshua, the Son, comes twice. In Yeshua’s first coming, He dies and is resurrected ensuring life for those who believe in Him. He separates life from death. When He returns, He comes with the two-edged sword to judge the nations.
Re 1:16 He had in His right hand seven stars, out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword, and His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength. (NKJV)
Heb 4:12 For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. (NKJV)
Yeshua, the Living Word, differentiates between those who are His and those who are destined for death. So, throughout the Book of Esther, there is the hidden theme of a ruler coming who will rule in righteousness and justice. Where do we see this theme in the Book of Esther and what does it tell us about the coming of Yeshua?
One of the patterns of duals is in the pairing of the ten banquets in the book. Ten is the number of perfection of divine order. It signifies a complete cycle or the whole of something. In this case, we will see that it represents the completion of the cycle of the exaltation of man above God which began when Adam and Eve chose to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and “become like God.” It continued through Nimrod who led the building of the Tower of Babel to “reach the heavens.”
The ten banquets are:
1) The king’s banquet to begin the 180 day display of his wealth and power.
2) The king’s seven day banquet at the end of the 180 day display of wealth and power.
3) Queen Vashti’s banquet for the women.
4) The banquet given in honor of Esther being made queen.
5) The private banquet between Haman and the king at the signing of the decree to kill all the Jews.
6) The first banquet Esther gave for the king and Haman.
7) The second banquet Esther gave for the king and Haman during which she denounces Haman.
8) The public banquet given to elevate Mordecai to the rank of second only to the king.
9) The banquet celebrating Jewish victory in the provinces.
10) The banquet celebrating Jewish victory in Shushan.
The first two banquets serve to exhalt the king.
Esther 1:3-4 NKJV 3 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- 4 when he showed the riches of his glorious kingdom and the splendor of his excellent majesty for many days, one hundred and eighty days in all.
When we add the length of the seven day feast that followed this 180 day display, the entire period of 187 days is two days longer than the interval between Passover, the first Feast of the LORD, to the end of the seven day Feast of Tabernacles, the last Feast of the LORD. Passover demonstrates the humble character of God who through His son Yeshua, died on the cross to bring salvation to mankind. Paul writes that Yeshua:
Philippians 2:6-9 NKJV 6 …who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, 7 but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. 9 Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name,
The final feast celebrates Yeshua’s return when God will finally and forever dwell with man. It is the wedding feast of the Lamb where the bride and groom feast and celebrate together. One of the things we notice about the King of Persia’s final seven day feast is that the queen is not there! She is busy holding her own separate feast. In this scenario, the wife of the king remains rebellious against the king, reminding us of mankind’s rebellion against God.
Esther 1:10-11 NKJV 10 On the seventh day, when the heart of the king was merry with wine, he commanded Mehuman, Biztha, Harbona, Bigtha, Abagtha, Zethar, and Carcas, seven eunuchs who served in the presence of King Ahasuerus, 11 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.
Esther 1:13-14 NKJV 13 Then the king said to the wise men who understood the times (for this was the king's manner toward all who knew law and justice, 14 those closest to him being Carshena, Shethar, Admatha, Tarshish, Meres, Marsena, and Memucan, the seven princes of Persia and Media, who had access to the king's presence, and who ranked highest in the kingdom):
The king called for Vashti on the seventh day of the feast. For those of you who are familiar with the Feast of Tabernacles, you know that the seventh day is called “Hashanah Rabba” or the great seventh. This last day of the Feast is celebrated with more joy, enthusiasm, and extended ceremonies than the previous six days. Also, notice the preponderance of the number seven. Seven is the number of spiritual completion. It points to the ultimate Sabbath or seventh day rest when Yeshua will rule and reign from Jerusalem with perfect justice and righteousness. So, hidden behind the king’s feasts exalting mankind, is the promise of the coming of the King who rules under the authority of God and exalts God.
Notice that King Ahaseurus is advised by seven princes who supposedly understand the times and are wise in matters of the law and justice. When Yeshua reigns, the seven spirits of the LORD are before Him.
Revelation 1:4 NKJV 4 John, to the seven churches which are in Asia: Grace to you and peace from Him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven Spirits who are before His throne,
Zechariah 4:2 NKJV 2 And he said to me, "What do you see?" So I said, "I am looking, and there is a lampstand of solid gold with a bowl on top of it, and on the stand seven lamps with seven pipes to the seven lamps.
Zechariah goes on to explain that the seven lamps are the seven spirits of God. Isaiah also writes about the seven sprits of God.
Isaiah 11:1-4 NKJV 1 There shall come forth a Rod from the stem of Jesse, And a Branch shall grow out of his roots. 2 The Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon Him, The Spirit of wisdom and understanding, The Spirit of counsel and might, The Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD. 3 His delight is in the fear of the LORD, And He shall not judge by the sight of His eyes, Nor decide by the hearing of His ears; 4 But with righteousness He shall judge the poor, And decide with equity for the meek of the earth; He shall strike the earth with the rod of His mouth, And with the breath of His lips He shall slay the wicked.
Yeshua is advised by the Spirit of the LORD who is truly understands the times and is wise in matters of law and justice.
Vashti attending her own feast reminds us of Yeshua’s parable of the ruler whose guests he invited for his son’s wedding can’t be bothered to show up for the wedding.
Matthew 22:8-9 NKJV 8 "Then he said to his servants, 'The wedding is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy. 9 'Therefore go into the highways, and as many as you find, invite to the wedding.'
Vashti, as the bride, is not ready or willing. Esther is a type of bride who has made herself ready. The banquet Vashti holds has its dual in the banquet the king holds for Esther.
Esther 2:16-18 NKJV 16 So Esther was taken to King Ahasuerus, into his royal palace, in the tenth month, which is the month of Tebeth, in the seventh year of his reign. 17 The king loved Esther more than all the other women, and she obtained grace and favor in his sight more than all the virgins; so he set the royal crown upon her head and made her queen instead of Vashti. 18 Then the king made a great feast, the Feast of Esther, for all his officials and servants; and he proclaimed a holiday in the provinces and gave gifts according to the generosity of a king.
The next banquet is a private banquet with just Haman and the king as they celebrate the signing of the decree to kill the Jews.
Esther 3:15 NKJV 15 The couriers went out, hastened by the king's command; and the decree was proclaimed in Shushan the citadel. So the king and Haman sat down to drink, but the city of Shushan was perplexed.
The villain’s identity, Haman, is hidden from public view. The public is confused and bewildered about this decree.
The dual for this banquet is a public banquet elevating Mordecai to a position of authority. The feasts that Queen Esther gave for the king and Haman fall between these two feasts. During the course of these two banquets, Haman falls from his favored position and is executed. Mordecai goes from obscurity to second in command. During this time, the king discovers that Mordecai had exposed a plot to kill him but had not been rewarded for that act. To begin Haman’s humiliation and Mordecai’s exaltation, Haman is the one who must clothe Mordecai in the king’s robe, place him on the king’s horse and parade through the streets of Shushan proclaiming that the king delights in Mordecai
Esther 6:11 NKJV 11 So Haman took the robe and the horse, arrayed Mordecai and led him on horseback through the city square, and proclaimed before him, "Thus shall it be done to the man whom the king delights to honor!"
After Haman is executed, Mordecai is appointed in his place and rises to an even higher honor, that of second only to the king. He is clothed in the garments of royalty and given a gold crown. His identity is open and revealed for all to see and a feast is held in his honor.
Esther 8:15-17 NKJV 15 So Mordecai went out from the presence of the king in royal apparel of blue and white, with a great crown of gold and a garment of fine linen and purple; and the city of Shushan rejoiced and was glad. 16 The Jews had light and gladness, joy and honor. 17 And in every province and city, wherever the king's command and decree came, the Jews had joy and gladness, a feast and a holiday. Then many of the people of the land became Jews, because fear of the Jews fell upon them.
The last two feasts of the book are together duals of the first two feasts. In these last two feasts, the Jewish people celebrate the victory over their enemies. Instead of exalting in their power, they refuse to take plunder from their enemies and, instead, give gifts to the poor.
Esther 9:16-22 NKJV 16 The remainder of the Jews in the king's provinces gathered together and protected their lives, had rest from their enemies, and killed seventy-five thousand of their enemies; but they did not lay a hand on the plunder. 17 This was on the thirteenth day of the month of Adar. And on the fourteenth day of the month they rested and made it a day of feasting and gladness. 18 But the Jews who were at Shushan assembled together on the thirteenth day, as well as on the fourteenth; and on the fifteenth of the month they rested, and made it a day of feasting and gladness. 19 Therefore the Jews of the villages who dwelt in the unwalled towns celebrated the fourteenth day of the month of Adar with gladness and feasting, as a holiday, and for sending presents to one another. 20 And Mordecai wrote these things and sent letters to all the Jews, near and far, who were in all the provinces of King Ahasuerus, 21 to establish among them that they should celebrate yearly the fourteenth and fifteenth days of the month of Adar, 22 as the days on which the Jews had rest from their enemies, as the month which was turned from sorrow to joy for them, and from mourning to a holiday; that they should make them days of feasting and joy, of sending presents to one another and gifts to the poor.
The feast days were held as days of rest, joy, gladness and generosity. Their sorrows were turned to joy. When Yeshua reigns and we enter into His rest, all our sorrow will turn to gladness.
Isa 35:10 And the ransomed of the LORD shall return, And come to Zion with singing, With everlasting joy on their heads. They shall obtain joy and gladness, And sorrow and sighing shall flee away.
Revelation 21:4 NKJV 4 "And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away."
Shalom and be blessedDan & Brenda Cathcart
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