In March 2011 a German freighter owned by a French company and flying a Liberian flag was intercept- ed by Israeli commandos. The crew of the ship Victoria had no clue they were carrying concealed cargo. Beneath the bags of cotton and lentils lay nearly 50 tons of Iranian weapons bound for Gaza. The secret Israel Defense Forces (IDF) operation prevented Iran and its president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, from supplying (in violation of a UN Security Council resolution prevent- ing illicit trafficking) the terrorist group Hamas with weapons. And it also prevented the murder of many Jewish people. There was reason for Jewish people to celebrate. It was somewhat ironic that a few days later, Israel celebrated another secret operation that saved even more Jewish lives. That story is recorded in the book of Esther, and the celebra- tion is the feast of Purim. Though sep- arated by 2,500 years, both events were instigated by haters of the Jewish people: the wicked Haman and Ahmadinejad, both from Persia, which today is Iran. Although God’s name is not men- tioned in the book of Esther, His presence is unmistakable; and His control and care for His people is evident even in a distant land. Their destiny was in His hands then, as it is today. The Jewish people were brought o the area during the Babylonian Captivity in the sixth century B.C. Even after Cyrus the Great came to power in Persia, which overthrew Babylon, many Jewish people remained despite his decree allowing them to return to their homeland. Amazingly, only 49,897 Jewish people chose to return, led by Zerubbabel (Ezra 2:64–65). God had removed them from their Promised Land because of disobedi- ence to Him (Jer. 29: 10). But to many, life in exile seemed a better option than the uncertainty of life back in Israel, even though it meant facing danger, anti-Semitism, and possibly death. Before the Ayatollah Khomeini deposed the shah of Iran in 1979, 100,000 Jewish people still lived in
Iran/Persia, a figure that fluctuated
moderately through the years.
However, when Khomeini Islamicized
the country, a massive Jewish exodus
The Careless King
Ahasuerus (Xerxes) ruled Persia
from 485 to 464 B.C. His kingdom, all 127
provinces, stretched from India to
Ethiopia (Est. 1:1) and through Asia
Minor, Egypt, and parts of coastal
Africa. To demonstrate “the riches
of his glorious kingdom and the
splendor of his excellent majesty,”
Ahasuerus threw a six-month-long
party to end all parties (v. 4). The
wine flowed freely. Imbibing was not
compulsory, as it sometimes was; but
guests could drink “according to each
man’s pleasure” (v. 8).
Evidently, many became intoxicated, including the careless king. “Merry
with wine” (v. 10), he lost control of
his tongue, bragging boisterously
about his wife Vashti’s attractiveness
and demanding that she appear and
“show her beauty” (v. 11).
Vashti, hosting her own party for
the women (v. 9), refused. (Some com-
mentators believe the request was for
her to come naked.) Ahasuerus’s advi-
sors became concerned. If the king’s
wife refused to listen to him, why
should their wives listen to them (vv.
16–17)? Ahasuerus, now furious,
agreed. On the advice of his wise men,
he offered the “royal position to another
who is better than she” (v. 19). Queen
Vashti was to be replaced.
Haman: An Ancient
Before Esther’s time, God had
commanded King Saul of Israel, also
a Benjamite, to kill the Amalakite
King Agag, all his people, and all
their livestock. Instead, Saul spared
Agag “and the best of the sheep, the
oxen, the fatlings, the lambs, and all
that was good, and [was] unwilling
to utterly destroy them” (1 Sam. 15: 9).
This displeased the Lord, and the
prophet Samuel told Saul, “I will not
return with you, for you have rejected the word of the LORD, and the
LORD has rejected you from being
king over Israel” (v. 26).
Some scholars believe Haman was a
descendant of Agag, whom King Saul
failed to kill and whom Samuel the
prophet then “hacked . . . in pieces
before the LORD in Gilgal” (v. 33).
However, Bible scholar John A.
Because Haman was an Agagite,
some have supposed that he was
15 ISRAEL MY GLORY