Arlen L. Chitwood
The King and the Queen
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),
in those days when King Ahasuerus sat on the throne of his kingdom, which was in Shushan the citadel,
that in the third year of his reign he made a feast . . .
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.
And when these days were completed, the king made a feast lasting seven days . . .
On the seventh day . . . he commanded . .
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 1:1-3a, 4, 5a, 10a, 11)
There are two books in Scripture bearing the names of women who appear as principal characters in the books — the books of Ruth and Esther. These are the only books in Scripture named for women; and an element of mystery surrounds both, for no one knows the identity of the person who wrote either book.
The book of Ruth has to do with events occurring during the days of the judges (Ruth 1:1). Events during the days of the judges began following Joshua’s death and lasted until the time of Samuel the prophet, a period covering about three hundred years (which followed a period covering “about . . . four hundred fifty years,” going back to the birth of Isaac [Acts 13:17-20 Ruthh though cover a much smaller part of the time of the judges, occurring during the latter part of this period (Ruth 4:13-22), about the latter part of the twelfth century B.C.; and events in the book occurred both in a Gentile land (Moab) and in the land of Israel.
The book of Esther, on the other hand, has to do with events occurring about seven centuries later, in Persia (following not only the Babylonian captivity [about 605 B.C.] but also following that time when the Medes and the Persians conquered the kingdom of Babylon [about 538 B.C.]). Events in the book of Esther would appear to have occurred during the latter part of the fifth century B.C., about sixty years after the Medes and the Persians conquered Babylon (Esther 1:1; 2:5, 6).
The book of Ruth, in its type-antitype structure, has to do with the Church. And the book of Esther, in its type-antitype structure, has to do with Israel. Ruth presents a complete overview of the history of the Church, and Esther presents a complete overview of the history of Israel. But the emphasis in each book is not so much on the past and present as it is on the future.
In the book of Ruth, chapters one and two deal with the past and present; but chapters three and four deal almost entirely with future events, beginning with events surrounding the judgment seat at the end of the present dispensation. And these events, along with subsequent events seen in Ruth chapter four, immediately precede and lead into the Messianic Era.
In the book of Esther, chapter one deals with the past and present; but chapters two through ten deal entirely with future events. These last nine chapters deal with Israel mainly during seven unfulfilled years that remain in God’s dealings with this nation in order to complete Daniel’s Seventy-Week prophecy, ending with the restoration of Israel and the ushering in of the Messianic Kingdom.
In the preceding respect, the books of Ruth and Esther together provide a complete overview of God’s dealings with His people — both the Church and Israel — throughout the last 4,000 years of Man’s Day, leading into the Messianic Era. Certain things are opened up and revealed in these two books after a manner not seen in other Old Testament books. And these things form an integral part of God’s complete word pictures pertaining to both the Church and Israel in the Old Testament, providing different facets of information, apart from which these word pictures would be incomplete.
Then, insofar as the end of the matter is concerned — the realm where the emphasis is placed in both books — these two books together cover exactly the same period of time and deal with exactly the same information as seen in chapters one through twenty of the book of Revelation. Ruth covers matters relative to the Church during this period of time, and Esther covers matters relative to Israel during this same period. And, in this respect, if an individual would properly understand that which has been revealed in these chapters in the book of Revelation, he must go back to the books of Ruth and Esther, along with sections of numerous other Old Testament books that would have a direct bearing on the subject (e.g., Genesis, Exodus, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Daniel).
There is no other way to properly understand the book of Revelation (or, for that matter, any other part of the New Testament). All of that revealed in the New was previously set forth in the Old. Different Old Testament books deal with particular facets of the matter — “here a little and there a little” (Isaiah 28:10); and it has all been opened up and revealed in the New, though a person, in order to properly grasp and understand the New, must continually look back to and draw from the Old.
The whole of the matter is by divine design, and only through viewing the whole together — after running all of the checks and balances by comparing Scripture with Scripture — can a person see the complete picture (comprised of word pictures dealing with both the Church and Israel), exactly as God would have man see it.
Historical Setting for Esther
The events seen throughout the book of Esther occurred in the southern part of the country known today as Iran. “Iran” is a name of more recent origin. The country was known as “Persia” prior to 1935, reflecting on the racial identity and history of the people inhabiting the land — descendants of the ancient Persians.
Though the people inhabiting this land during modern times are of Persian descent, which carries all the way back to the kingdom of the Medes and the Persians during Ahasuerus and Esther’s day, the name change in 1935 reflected another racial characteristic of the Persian people — that of Aryan descent. The name Iran is derived from “Aryan,” a reference back to the Aryan tribes in that part of the world (as distinguished from the Middle East Semitic tribes); and the Aryan tribes would include the descendants of the ancient Medes and Persians, among other tribes in that region.
Iran today though only covers a small part of the kingdom as it existed during Ahasuerus and Esther’s day in the book of Esther. The kingdom during that day extended all the way from India west to Ethiopia (Esther 1:1). It was the world kingdom of that day, represented by the breast and arms of silver on Daniel’s image in Daniel chapter two (vv. 32, 39).
This kingdom, represented by the breast and arms of silver, was a dual kingdom — the Medo-Persian kingdom — throughout the time of its existence as the center of world power (from about 538 B.C. to about 330 B.C.). This was the kingdom that conquered Babylon (the kingdom that conquered the world power represented by the head of gold on Daniel’s image); and the Medo-Persian Empire formed the kingdom that, in turn, was conquered slightly over two hundred years later, in Babylon, by Alexander the Great and his armies (which then brought into existence the third part of Daniel’s image, that represented by the belly and thighs of brass [cf. Daniel 2:32, 39; 8:3-8
The Medes were the dominant power the dominant powerr
(Following the Medo-Persian kingdom being depicted by the second part of the image in Daniel chapter two, this dual kingdom was later depicted in the book through a bear raising itself up on one side [7:5], which is subsequently explained by the horns on a ram in the next chapter. The ram had two high horns [representing “the kings of Media and Persia” (cf. 8:3, 20)], “but one was higher than the other, and the higher [the king of Persia] came up last” [v. 3].)
The Persian kingdom had become the dominant power long before the time of Ahasuerus’ reign, as seen at the beginning of the book of Esther. Note that this world power is referred to as that of “Persia and Media” at this time (i.e., Persia mentioned first, in accord with the power-structure of the kingdom [1:3; cf. 1:18, 19]). And the time of his reign — several generations following the captivity under Nebuchadnezzar (2:5, 6) — would be in complete accord with the probable identity of Ahasuerus (a title or family name, similar to “Herod” in the gospel accounts). Ahasuerus in Esther was probably Xerxes (the son of Darius in Daniel 5:31), who ruled the Medo-Persian Empire during the years 486-465 B.C.
(There is one exception to Persia being mentioned before Media in the book of Esther, and that occurs in chapter ten where mention is made of “the book of the chronicles of the kings of Media and Persia” (v. 2). However, it would only naturally follow that Media should be mentioned first when this book was referenced, for this book contained records dating back to the time when Media rather than Persia was the dominant power. In this respect, attention was called to the original title or way in which the book was known, not to the present status of power among the two nations forming the kingdom.)
Thus, the book of Esther has to do with the most powerful of all the kings on earth ruling over the world empire of that day. In conjunction with his reign, his queen is brought to the forefront different places throughout the book. And the queen is brought to the forefront in this manner for a revealed reason, set forth and established in an unchangeable fashion in chapter one of the book.
This is the setting for the book of Esther, a book fraught with types and meaning.
Typical Structure of Esther
Events in the book of Esther occurred almost a millennium after Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt (a type of the world); and these events occurred during a time when the Israelites were once again under Gentile subjection, awaiting that time when the One greater than Moses would return to lead the people out from a worldwide dispersion (i.e., awaiting that time when Christ will return at a yet future date to lead the Israelites out from that typified by the Exodus from Egypt under Moses).
Thus, events in the book of Esther occurred at a mid-point between the actions of Moses in the type and the actions of Christ in the antitype. And, at this juncture in the history of Israel and the nations, God, through bringing circumstances and events to pass among Israel and the nations over a period of centuries and millennia, could take the current events of that day and use these events to reveal great spiritual truths concerning both history and prophecy surrounding the same nations carrying out these events.
God’s sovereign control over all things throughout Man’s Day has allowed Him to take Old Testament history and, through divine design, structure this history in a manner that is highly typical in nature. Only an omniscient and omnipotent God, who possessed perfect knowledge of all things — the beginning, the end, and all that lay between — could, within His sovereign control over all these things, reveal His plans and purposes in this manner.
And, accordingly, only through studying God’s revelation after the manner in which God has structured this revelation can man come into a proper understanding of the revealed Word.
1) Chapters One and Two
The whole of the story as it pertains to Israel — typified by the queen (Vashti, then Esther) — is set forth in the opening two chapters of the book. The remaining chapters (chapters 3-10) simply provide commentary for that previously revealed in the opening two chapters.
But first, the type, as it is set forth in each of these opening two chapters:
a) The Type — Chapter One
Chapter one begins with the king making a great feast. Mention is made of his power and the riches of his kingdom, with those in positions of power in the kingdom being invited to the feast. The feast was proclaimed “in the third year of his reign”; and, during this time, “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 [six months]” (vv. 3, 4).
Then the king made a feast to all who were present — to all the people “from great and small” — for “seven days.” And, “on the seventh day,” the command was given “to bring Queen Vashti before the king, wearing her royal crown.” And this was to be done in order “to show her beauty to the people and the officials, for she was beautiful to behold” (vv. 5, 10, 11).
But, “Queen Vashti refused to come at the king's command.” And, because the queen refused to come, after the king had commanded her to come, “the king was furious, and his anger burned within him” (v. 12).
Then the remainder of the events in chapter one surround that which was to be done concerning Vashti because she had refused to come at the king’s command. The king consulted his advisors. And because the actions of the queen had wronged not only the king but everyone in the kingdom as well, a decree, in keeping with her actions, was issued.
This decree was “a royal decree,” which had been “recorded in the laws of the Persians and the Medes.” And the decree, because it was recorded among national law, could not be altered. The decree stated the matter simply and clearly:
. . . that Vashti shall come no more before King Ahasuerus; and let the king give her royal position to another who is better than she. (v. 19b; cf. vv. 15-19a)
This decree, in turn, was to be published throughout all of King Ahasuerus’ empire, in the various languages of all those throughout the empire. This was done because other women in the empire might be inclined to follow Vashti’s lead.
Then, something additional was written in the decree concerning Vashti’s actions. Because that which Vashti had done reflected negatively on the king’s authority and brought dishonor to the king, it was decreed “that each man should be master in his own house.” This would turn matters around and result in wives honoring, not dishonoring, their husbands (vv. 17, 20-22).
b) The Type — Chapter Two
Chapter two begins with the king’s wrath being appeased and his remembering Vashti, “what she had done, and what had been decreed against her.” Then the king’s servants suggested that a search be conducted for one to replace Vashti — a “young woman who pleases the king,” who would “be queen instead of Vashti” (vv. 1-4).
The search was begun; and Mordecai, whose great grandfather had been carried away in the captivity (under Nebuchadnezzar, which began about 605 B.C.), had a cousin named Hadassah, whose Persian name was Esther. And Esther was among those “taken to the king’s palace” to later appear before the king (vv. 5-8).
Proper preparations would be made for meeting the king over one year’s time, divided into two equal periods of six months, with different things regarding preparation being accomplished during each period. It was only at the end of this time — after complete and proper preparation had been made — that a young women would be taken in before the king (vv. 9-14).
When Esther’s turn finally came, she was taken in before the king “in the tenth month . . . in the seventh year of his reign.”
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. (v. 17)
The king then “made a great feast,” which was proclaimed to be the “Feast of Esther.” And he “proclaimed a holiday in the provinces and gave gifts according to the generosity of a king.” (v. 18)
At the same time, “Mordecai sat within the king’s gate.” And, while in this position, he became aware of a plot against the king. Mordecai then made the matter known to Esther, who told the king. An inquisition was conducted. And, as a result, the two men involved in the plot were “hanged [impaled] on a gallows” (vv. 19-23).
c) Antitype of Chapters One and Two
In different parts of chapters one and two, reference is made to various time-periods in connection with festivities, showing the honor of the king’s majesty, showing the riches of the kingdom, and bringing the queen before the king. In chapter one, reference is made to “the third year,” “one hundred and eighty days [six months],” “seven days,” and “the seventh day” (vv. 3-5, 10). And in chapter two, reference is made to “the tenth month” and “the seventh year” (v. 16).
The whole of the matter has to do with different ways of viewing part or all of a single time-period in the antitype, set forth and established in an unchangeable manner in the foundational framework at the very beginning of Scripture, in Genesis 1:1-2:3. And that which is revealed in the book of Esther has to do with commentary on these opening verses in Genesis (as does all other Scripture subsequent to these opening verses), providing additional sinews and flesh necessary to clothe the skeletal, foundational framework established at the beginning (cf. Ezekiel 37:1ff).
(i.e., the opening verses of Genesis establish the pattern for the whole of subsequent Scripture — God taking six days to restore a ruined creation [the earth], followed by a day of rest. And this points to God taking six more days [6,000 years] to restore a subsequent ruined creation [man], to be followed by a day [1,000 years] of rest [ref. the editor’s book, The Study of Scripture, chapter 2, “The Septenary Arrangement of Scripture”].)
Israel was called into existence to occupy a particular position before the King — before God Himself — at a time designated by the number three, following a time designated by the number six, and during a time designated by the number seven. All of these are seen in the first chapter of Esther. Then, in chapter two, the number ten is brought into the picture in connection with another reference to the number seven.
Time, through the use of numbers in the preceding respect, is dealt with different ways in Scripture. But, as previously stated, the whole of the matter must be in line with the foundational framework established at the beginning, i.e., in line with six days of restorative work, followed by a seventh day (a Sabbath) of rest. And in the opening two chapters of Esther, one finds various ways in which Scripture deals with time in this respect.
“In the third year” (1:3) points to the seventh day in the respect that Israel had been called into existence two days (2,000 years) before the nation was destined to be raised up to live in God’s sight on the third day, which, using the full reckoning of time, would be the seventh day (cf. Hosea 5:13-6:2).
Israel was called into existence after two days (after 2,000 years) of human history; and, according to Daniel’s Seventy-Week prophecy, the Messianic Era would be ushered in at the end of the Jewish dispensation, 2,000 years following Abraham’s birth, 4,000 years following Adam’s creation.
But the present dispensation (during which time God deals with the one new man “in Christ” another two days, another 2,000 years, with Israel set aside) must fit into the equation. The present dispensation is not seen within either Daniel’s Seventy-Week prophecy or Hosea’s reckoning of time, though it would relate to the fifth and sixth days (covering the complete six days, the complete 6,000 years) in the opening verses of Genesis. And that which occurred during and following the complete six days in the opening verses of Genesis is that which is in view through events occurring during and at the end of the six months in Esther 1:4, 5.
Then the “seven days,” with the crowned queen being called into the king’s presence on “the seventh day” (1:5, 10, 11), is self-explanatory. This, in the antitype, has to do with the entire seven days in Genesis 1:1-2:3, with Israel being called into existence during the six days in order to realize a particular position on the seventh day — the Sabbath day, pointing to the seventh millennium.
And “the tenth month” and “the seventh year” in chapter two (v. 16), in connection with the crown being placed on Esther’s head (v. 17), point to exactly the same thing. “Ten” is the number of ordinal completion, and all things will be brought to completion when that seen in these verses is brought to pass on the seventh day.
Then, Mordecai seated in the king’s gate completes the type — the Jews one day possessing the gate of the enemy (Genesis 22:17).
Israel in the Old Testament was called into existence to occupy a particular position at a particular time. Israel refused, and the nation was set aside. That’s what Esther chapter one is about.
However, the day is coming when God will once again turn to Israel and complete His dealings with this nation, establishing Israel in the position to which the nation was called, during a time that God has established. That’s what Esther chapter two is about.
Thus, in the preceding respect, the opening two chapters of Esther cover the complete history of Israel — from the time of the nation’s inception to the time when the nation realizes her calling, in the Messianic Kingdom.
2) Chapters Three through Ten
These eight remaining chapters in the book of Esther provide commentary, filling in details, for the complete story that has already been told in chapters one and two. This commentary, when seen in the antitype, fits into the latter part of the time covered by chapter one and ends at the same place where chapter two ends.
The arrangement of God’s revealed Word after this fashion — a complete sequence of events, followed by commentary — is something seen quite often in Scripture. Actually, as previously seen, viewing Genesis 1:1-2:3 in connection with subsequent Scripture, the whole of Scripture has been structured in this manner (cf. Matthew 17:1-5; 2 Peter 1:15-18; 3:1-8).
Revelation chapter twelve would be one of the more classic examples of a section of Scripture structured after this fashion. The complete sequence of events is given in verses one through six. Then verses seven through seventeen provide commentary for that which has already been stated in the opening six verses.
And this is the manner in which the book of Esther is structured — the complete story is given first, and commentary then follows. And the latter (commentary on chapters 1, 2) is exactly what the last eight chapters deal with.
a) The Type — Chapters Three through Ten
Chapter three begins with the king promoting Haman to a high position of power. From information provided in the book, his position of power appeared to be second only to the king himself. And Haman (a Gentile), rather than Esther or Mordecai (both Jews), held this position of power.
Haman was placed over “all the princes that were with him.” And “all the king’s servants who were within the king’s gate” were commanded by the king to honor Haman in the position to which he had been appointed, bowing before him (vv. 1, 2a).
But Mordecai, also at the gate, “would not bow or pay [Haman] homage.” And this infuriated Haman to the extent that he, knowing Mordecai was a Jew, sought to not only slay Mordecai but all the Jews throughout the entire kingdom (vv. 2b-6).
And this sets the stage for that which occurs throughout the remainder of the book.
Haman, seeking to bring about the destruction of the Jews, instead, ultimately brought about his own destruction, along with that of his house as well. Haman had built a gallows upon which he planned to have Mordecai hanged (impaled). But, through God’s providential control of all things, the tables were turned, with Haman himself subsequently being hanged (impaled) on the gallows. And not only was Haman hanged (impaled) on the very gallows that he had built for Mordecai, but his ten sons were subsequently slain and hanged (impaled) on this same gallows as well (3:8-9:14).
(Relative to the preceding, the English text in most versions refers to being hanged on a gallows, as the two men were hanged on a tree at the end of chapter two. The thought though, in all instances throughout the book, has to do with being hanged in the sense of being impaled, whether on a tree or on a gallows.)
Then, following Haman’s overthrow, instead of a Gentile continuing in power, a Jew was promoted to the position that Haman had held. The house of Haman was given to Esther the queen; and Esther, in turn, placed Mordecai — who had been promoted to a position of power directly under the king — over the house (8:1-7; 10:3).
b) The Antitype of Chapters Three through Ten
The account of Haman, his love for both recognition and power, his hatred for the Jewish people, his ignominious end, and the ultimate triumph and exaltation of a Jew to the position of power previously held by a Gentile have to do with that future time when God turns back to and completes His dealings with the Jewish people. These dealings will complete the full time seen in Daniel’s Seventy-Week prophecy, bringing “the times of the Gentiles” to a close (Luke 21:20-24). And the long-awaited Messianic Era will then follow.
“Haman” typifies the man of sin (Antichrist), who, in the middle of the coming Tribulation (Daniel’s Seventieth Week), will find himself occupying the same position in Satan’s kingdom that Haman occupied in Ahasuerus’ kingdom. Satan (ruling the present world kingdom under God, though a rebel ruler) will give to this man the same thing that He offered to Christ in the temptation account (Luke 4:5, 6). Satan will give to this man “his power, his throne, and great authority” (Revelation 13:2).
Though giving his throne to Antichrist, Satan will still hold the same regal position to which he was appointed in the beginning. God alone can appoint or remove rulers, and Satan will be removed from his present position only after Christ returns (cf. Daniel 4:17, 25; Revelation 19:17-20:3). But, regardless, the man of sin will still exercise power emanating from God’s throne through Satan’s throne in the same manner in which Haman exercised power emanating from Ahasuerus’ throne.
Scripture deals with matters surrounding the emergence of this man at the end of Man’s Day in a manner far more extensive than many realize. Numerous types and prophecies have to do with the day when this man will be upon the earth; and most also continue into the end of the matter, into the Messianic Era.
The book of Esther forms a good illustration of the preceding. Note that the larger part of this book has been given over to the emergence of this man, that which he will do, and that which will resultantly occur. Then matters end with conditions that foreshadow the coming Messianic Era.
This man was on the scene in type at the time of the inception of the nation in the book of Exodus. There was an Assyrian Pharaoh ruling Egypt in that day (the Assyrians had conquered Egypt, and an Assyrian Pharaoh ruled Egypt). And this Assyrian Pharaoh foreshadowed the future Assyrian (the man of sin, who will arise from within the territorial boundaries of the old Assyrian kingdom, which covered parts of present day Iraq, Iran, and Turkey [cf. Isaiah 10:5; 14:25; 30:31; 31:8; 52:4; Daniel 8:22-25; Hosea 11:5]).
And this man will be on the scene when God completes His dealings with the Jewish people at the end of Man’s Day (Revelation 13:1ff). The type in Exodus, having to do with not only this man’s activities but his destruction in the Red Sea as well, foreshadows that which will occur when this man emerges in the antitype. And that which occurred relative to the Jewish people — beginning with the appropriation of the blood of the slain paschal lambs in chapter twelve and continuing with their departure from Egypt — foreshadows that which will occur in the antitype as well.
Almost the entire book of Exodus deals with prophecy in this respect. That which is about to happen has all been foretold in this manner in various Old Testament books. And each part of the Old Testament where these matters are dealt with provides another, slightly different, part to the complete word picture.
And the book of Esther is one of these books, providing part of the complete word picture. This book centers on the Jewish people and the great enemy of the Jewish people in the end times. And this book relates the matter from God’s standpoint, revealing those things that God chose to reveal, after the manner that He chose to use.