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Commentary On The Book Of Esther--Part 4 PDF Print E-mail
Written by John R. Respess   


Then the king said unto the wise men which knew the times, (for so was the king’s manner toward all that knew law and judgment, who saw the king’s face and sat first in the kingdom. What shall we do unto the Queen Vashti according to law, because she hath not performed the commandment of the King Ahasuerus; and Memucan answered before the king and the princes, Vashti the queen, hath not done wrong to the king only, but also to all the princes and to all the people that are in all the provinces of the king; for this deed of the queen shall come abroad unto all women, so that they shall despise their husbands in their eyes when it shall be reported, The King Ahasuerus commanded Vashti, the queen, to be brought in before him, but she came not.

The king was wroth, but it did not precipitate him into a violation of law in punishing Vashti; because that would have dishonored the law and brought the king himself under the penalty. Mercy cannot be extended the sinner in violation of law; mercy extended the sinner is according to justice and at Christ’s expense; he satisfied the law honoring it in his life and death. We may forgive a man a debt if we will and are able to do it, but the law that binds the debtor to pay us cannot do it, nor force us to do it; if it should, then justice would be outraged, and we be wronged as well as society at large. It would be a sin against the whole community. But we could not forgive a man who committed murder; because that it is a sin not simply against us, but a sin against society also, against all classes of society. The king could not forgive it without atonement being made for it; because he of all men should be the last to violate justice of which he is the fountain head. He would not be actuated by feelings of private resentment or personal hatred against the guilty murderer, but by a righteous vindication of law. When we say that we could not forgive the murderer, we do not mean that we could not have compassion for him, but his sin is one against others as well as us, and not as an offence against us alone. If a member of the church sins against the church, no single member can forgive it; he could forgive a sin against himself, but not one against others. The whole church can forgive him upon his making satisfaction; but the whole church could not forgive his sin unless it were a sin simply against the church; but if it was not only a sin against the church, but against society also, as murder or theft, the church could not forgive it—that is to say, by forgiving it, relieve him of the penalty due his crime by the laws of society or government. That he will have to suffer, not from the church, but from the government. Christ forgave the thief upon the cross, but did not relieve him of the penalty of the law for his crime. If a member of the church gets drunk, the church may forgive him upon proper penitence and confession; but if he gets involved in debt the church cannot relieve him of that debt, even though it takes his bed from under him, unless she pays the debt herself. There was once a man burned to death by a mob, and though he deserved death for his crime, the mob violated the law in taking his life. Because the law that prescribed the penalty- due his crime also required that he should be tried and executed by law, and not by a mob in violation of law. Men inflamed by passion do not know law and judgment, and it would soon be that not only the wicked were murdered by mobs, but they would soon murder the innocent. Law and order would soon be done away; and there is a growing tendency that way, brought about, no doubt, by laws with, a show of mercy at the expense of justice and right, conjoined with the thousand other evils of the times. Such things tend to the disintegration of society, to the destruction of the civilization of ages and the remission of the world to barbarism. But the other day we see men boldly in one of our large Western cities proclaiming anarchy. Indeed, many things in this day seem to require a contempt for and a violation of law. The enfranchisement of the colored people seem to many, to require, for the safety of society, the suppression of their votes; but the law requires that they should be counted; and it is right and best in the long run that they should be; and no Christian should be guilty of connivance in fraud at the ballot box any sooner than in the counting-house or court-room. He who would cheat a negro will cheat you if his necessity requires it; and he who would cheat one for you will cheat you if it should seem necessary.

There is also a strong tendency of labor against capital, .and capital against labor; the rich against the poor, and the poor against the rich. And this is also against law and order; not only of society, but of the church. If the poor are oppressed, and they are, no doubt, as an almost inevitable consequence of the concentration of the wealth of the country into the hands of a few, they are taught by the Lord not to take the law into their own hands to spoil the rich and divide their wealth, but to be patient unto the coming of the Lord, for it draweth nigh. Take the prophets who have spoken in the name of the Lord for an example of suffering affliction and patience. Hearken my beloved brethren, hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith and heirs of The kingdom which he hath promised to them That love him. “Behold, we count them happy which endure.”—Jas. v.

So, in the church every guilty one must be tried according to gospel law. If one brother injures another, it would not be according to law for the injured brother to report it to the church, or any one else without first having seen his offending brother alone, and sought of him satisfaction; and, failing in that, then to take others with him, and after failing in that step, then to report it to the church. No matter should be judged beforehand—that is, before this process had been taken—as it is often unfortunately done, when one says before trial, “I have got no fellowship for Brother C, and if the church does not exclude him, I will quit, the church,” &c. That is a violation of law itself, and should be so adjudged by the church. The law of the church is a law of love, and should be administered in love and faithfulness; but, unfortunately, it is sometimes so perverted under a fleshly zeal, that it becomes murder, though executed in the letter. This is generally the case when done in hot haste, trampling the admonition of “letting patience have her perfect work,” under angered feet. None should be cast out or condemned without a hearing, if a hearing is possible. The object is to save if possible, and to maintain the dignity and righteousness of the law as necessary to the peace and safety of the church, and never to gratify any personal revenge. The church should be governed by the law of Christ in all her dealings; she should, not be governed by any custom or tradition in violation of that law, or not in accordance with the law of Christ. To the church, and the church alone, is committed the keys of the kingdom, and for any other body to execute the laws of Christ in discipline, is to usurp power over the church and violate Christ’s laws. To retain the guilty in the church after due process of gospel law without reparation being made and satisfaction given, is for the whole church to partake of the guilt. As under the law, contact with a dead body defiled a Jew, so under the gospel, association in church, fellowship with the known unclean, defiles the church.

If the king had condoned Vashti’s guilt or left her unpunished, it would have been for him and his whole empire to have partaken of it, and hence there would have arisen contempt and wrath for him, the law and empire; society would have been destroyed. She must be punished; the honor of the king, the majesty of the law and the peace and safety of society required it. It was not simply a sin against the king but against all the provinces and all the people, high and low in the king’s provinces. If she had sinned against him simply as a wife he could possibly as a husband have forgiven it; but she sinned against him not only as a wife but as a queen also; she could not be forgiven as a queen, for as queen she represented others and sinned against them. As such she wronged the prince and the peasant, the captive Jew, and the Mede and Persian “native, and to the manor born.” Had a poor peasant woman disobeyed her husband it would indeed have been wrong, because it would have wronged her husband and children; but it would not have wronged a prince or noble, but only those beneath her in position and whom she represented in society; those who looked to her and were governed by her example. The effect of her disobedience in comparison with Vashti’s would have been but as the trickling of a little rivulet going dry, to the swelling of Jordan increasing in volume and overspreading the land. Vashti represented all classes of society, poor and rich, noble and ignoble, Jew and Persian. Her obligations and responsibilities were so great that a deflection in her from right conduct would have been woeful in its final results had it passed without punishment. So a Christian represents in a certain sense all classes of society, and hence bad conduct in one would be far more reprehensible than the same conduct, even in an upright and intelligent man making no profession of Christianity.




Bad conduct in an intelligent man of high social position would be worse than the same conduct in one of less intelligence and influence. We said once to a friend of our; who was running a little store, and dealing in whisky to colored people for sacks of corn, cotton, etc., that his intelligence and social position forbade his doing that kind of business; and that others would do it if he did not was no excuse for him; that others might do it and not sin against society as he would by doing it; and that the conduct of those in ignorance and low position in life had but little effect upon society; but when such conduct swayed those invested with great responsibilities to society, then, indeed, was society corrupted in its fountain head, and its thousand polluted streams would infest the land with its moral poison; as the human family was corrupted in Adam, its head and representative, and spread his polluted offspring over the face of the whole earth. If the fountain head be corrupt, then will the streams be corrupt; nor will they be pure until the source be made pure. The position of a Christian being the highest one in human society is therefore invested with the greatest and most solemn responsibilities and obligations to God and man. The church member has not only his obligations as a Christian, but those also of a citizen, parent, husband, wife and child; of the church is required, as was of Vashti, not only moral, but also spiritual responsibilities. Vashti, as queen, represented the captive Jews—the chosen people—and hence arose her spiritual responsibilities. She also represented the Mede and Persian, and hence arose her moral responsibilities. But in the obligations of a Christian to Christ are embraced his obligations to society as a citizen, husband, parent, wife, child, master, subject and ruler. That is to say, if he is faithful to Christ, he will be faithful in his moral, legal and natural obligations, as well as in his religious obligations. The church is the light of the world, and the salt of the earth. She does not borrow her light from the world, but reflects the light derived from Christ, her king, and her light therefore glorifies him. She may not borrow from the world, lest she become the servant of the world; but she may lend to the world, and thus the world becomes her servant. As a wife, Vashti was under obligation to honor her husband, but much more as a queen. As a true believer, even before he joined the church, was under obligation to live a proper life, so he would be under the greater obligation to do so after he joined. It would have been a sin against Christ for him to have gotten drunk before he joined the church, but to have gotten drunk after he joined the church would have been a sin not only against Christ, but against the church also. The woman whose unchastity whilst unmarried, which would have only disgraced herself, would, after she was married, not only disgrace her but her husband also; and if she had been a member of the church, would have also reproached the church.

As a queen, then, Vashti not only sinned against the king, but against the princes, nobles, and all the people of the king’s provinces, and therefore the honor of the king and the safety of the empire required her punishment. For her to escape would be to license all; for her to be punished would be for all to fear. If the queen is not spared, who will escape! Thus the law is magnified and its holiness vindicated.

And the law of Christ in the church must be sustained, even if the bishop, pastor or minister is cut off for his sin; and indeed he should be the last one to escape. The bishop or pastor being highest in position, and greatest in responsibilities, represents all beneath him, and when, therefore, he sins, he not only wrongs the deacons, aged members and young members, but society at large. It would be a much greater reproach to the church to see a preacher drunk than it would be to see a young member, or even a deacon or an aged member drunk. A little folly in one having reputation for wisdom is like dead flies in the apothecary’s ointment, causing that which was designed to send forth a grateful odor, to emit a nauseating stench. The stench of a hog-pen would not be nearly so bad, because we expect it there, but we do not expect it in the apothecary’s ointment; nor do we expect it in preachers, deacons, aged members, nor in fact in any member of the church; but least of all, in the bishop or pastor of the church. “The preacher does it” is an excuse for much wrong doing. The influence of the example of the minister over his flock is almost incalculable. If the light be darkness in him, how great is that darkness! It is not to be understood that theft or fraud in the bishop is a worse sin in the sight of God than theft or fraud in a young member of the church, or even in one making no profession of Christianity; as adultery in a woman before she married would be no greater sin, in God’s sight, than it would be after she was married, but in the latter case it would be a sin not only against God, but against her husband also, because her obligations are increased by marriage. The obligations of a bishop to the church and society are greater than those of a deacon; and those of a deacon greater than of the aged members, and of the aged members greater than of the younger members, and of the younger members greater than before they joined the church, and of a true believer, not a member of the church, greater than of one who has no faith. To whom much is given much is required, both naturally and spiritually. There is in this day much contempt for religion, because those professing it do not honor Christ in their profession and conduct; and it is because they do not love him, though joined to him in word or the letter, but not in spirit. The wife who loves her husband desires his honor; and the Christian who knows Christ in the spirit, is bound to honor him in faith as well as conduct; he honors him if he sins, in confessing his sins, thus taking his sins upon himself and ascribing holiness to Christ.



Was: If it please the king let there go a royal commandment from him, and let it be written among the laws of the Persians and Medes, that it be not altered, that Vashti come no more before King Ahasuerus, and let the king give her royal estate unto another that is better than she.


Thus for her own sin she was covered with disgrace and shame, and her last state was indeed worse than her first; it would have been better for her never to have been exalted to her high estate than to fall from it after being exalted. Her fall was irretrievable, her condition hopeless. The law that doomed her to everlasting shame and contempt was irreversible; it could not be altered. Behold the goodness and severity of God! The integrity of the king and empire required it, there was no remedy. The effect of the punishment would be when the decree was published that all wives would give their husbands honor, both small and great. It was published throughout the empire that every man should bear rule in his own house. Is it a good thing naturally that every man should bear rule in his house? It certainly is, because he is the head of the house, and the head should rule. Laws giving wives separate estates from the husband have bad effect upon society; in fact any law reversing God’s law injures society. Any law in the church reversing God’s law injures the church. The husband and wife are one, and should be one, and no law should be made having a tendency to divide their interest or emasculate the man and put him under the government of the wife. It would be a pitiful spectacle to see the husband subject to the wife; and much more should the husband of the church, the Lord Jesus, bear rule in his own house. lint the religious tendency of the age is to a separate, estate for the church from Christ; that the church is to keep her own riches or righteousness that was vested in her before she married Christ, or joined the church. Sarah honored Abraham, calling him lord, that is ruler, so the church shall honor Christ, calling him Lord and be subject to him, knowing none other beside him. The commandments of men; or institutions of men, are dishonoring to Christ, as if a wife should do the commandments of some other man besides her husband; and doubly so when her husband had charged her not to do it. In vain, says Christ, ye worship me teaching for doctrines the commandments of men; because it is thus we become the servants of men, by obeying them. The church should be swallowed up in Christ, should go as he goes, as the Israelites marched in the wilderness should rejoice in him and be subject to him in all things. His wisdom should be hers, and sufficient for her; his righteousness hers, she needs no other; no other sanctification or redemption. Outside of him she has nothing; in him all things.




After these things when the wrath of King Ahasuerus was appeased, he remembered Vashti and what she had done and what was decreed against her; then said the king’s servants that ministered unto him, let there be fair young virgins sought for the king: and let the king appoint officers in all the provinces of his kingdom, that they may gather together all the fair young virgins unto Shushan the palace, to the house of the women, unto the custody of the king’s chamberlain; and let their things for purification be given them; and let the maiden which pleaseth the king be queen instead of Vashti. And the thing pleased the king and he did so.


Vashti’s punishment appeased the king’s wrath, as the punishment of a criminal appeases the wrath of the State. The king did not delight, in a personal sense, in her afflation any more than the judge who represents the majesty of the law delights in the pain inflicted by him or the law upon a criminal; but his delight is in the maintenance of law and order, or in other words, in the safety of society or government by the execution of law upon the guilty. The judge dare not yield to his love or fleshly sympathies in behalf of the guilty, else he would cease to be a judge and fall himself under its penalty. But he must enforce the law, even if it should be against his only begotten son. So the Father enforced the law against his only begotten Son; he spared him not, but, delivered him up to wrath; and by his stripes were his people healed. Sin was found upon him, as the representative and head of his people, and he says himself that it was just and that he ought to have suffered. And so are his regenerated people made to feel and say that their condemnation is just, and thus are brought into unity with him in death and life. No other woman in all the empire could have suffered in Vashti’s stead; not the noblest woman or the grandest princess, or a thousand of them, or all of them in the empire, could have suffered in her stead; or if they had it would have availed nothing, and sin would still have attached to the throne. It would have been an honor to the princess to have suffered for the queen, and would have exalted her; but the queen only would it humble. Only Moses, of all the Israelites, could have led Israel out of Egypt; to him it was a humiliation to be their leader; to any other Jew it would have been an exaltation. He had to come down from the throne of Egypt to be the head of servants, and thus, though their head, was the least of all. When David was moved to take the census of Israel—to do it in a wrong spirit—and the wrath of God was upon Israel, none other but David could by sacrifices appease the wrath of God. Araunah, as a king, offered David oxen for burnt offerings as a gift, but David dare not accept them, saying, “Nay; but I will buy it of thee at a price; neither will I offer burnt offerings unto the Lord my God of that which cost me nothing.” If David had accepted Araunah’s gift it would have been Araunah’s sacrifice and not David’s; it would have been an honor to Araunah and no humility to David; but it must be offered by him whom it would humble, and David only, of all Israel, could it humble; for he was their head and he only could sacrifice for them. So it was with Christ; he was set up as the head of his chosen people from everlasting, and he only could offer for them. And he was humbled to the death of the cross; and all whom he represented were humbled or saved in him, and are, have been and will be brought to experience to some extent his humility, and be meek and lowly in heart.

Without law there can be no society or government, neither civil or spiritual; or if there is, it will be of little worth. The ignorant, lazy and thriftless Indians on our frontiers are without law and society, as were to some extent the Canaanites, the aborigines of the promised land. In those nations in which the current of public opinion is to set wholesome laws aside, society is more or less demoralized and threatened with destruction. In a church in which the laws of Christ are not enforced there can be no good order, peace or prosperity. The design is to save and not destroy; not to injure, but to benefit the church. As with the natural body the right arm must be cut off to save the body, so in the church, the most prominent member must be cut off when necessary, to save the balance. The empire would have been destroyed had the king retained Vashti in her position with the guilt of her disobedience upon her, and therefore for the safety of others she must suffer; not, however, in her case, for the sins of others, but for her own.


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