Esther 1:1–2 (MEV): Now in the days of Ahasuerus, also called Xerxes, who reigned from India to Ethiopia, over one hundred and twenty-seven provinces, in those days, the palace where King Ahasuerus sat on the royal throne of his kingdom was in Susa.
This sets the stage for the things written of in Esther. Chronologically, these events happen in the middle of what is written in Ezra. King Xerxes is introduced in Ezra. At the beginning of his reign there was a letter written to him that portrayed the Jewish people as insubordinate. Keeping that in mind will help to see how the king grew in wisdom despite the intrigue of the adversary to destroy a people.
Esther 1:3 (MEV): In the third year of his reign, he prepared a feast for all his officials and his servants. So the army commanders of Persia and Media, the nobles, and the officials of the provinces were before him.
We understand that what occurs here happens a few years after what is recorded about the king from the book of Ezra.
Esther 1:4 (MEV): He unveiled the riches of his glorious kingdom and the costly luxury of his greatness for many days, one hundred and eighty days.
This feast lasted for half-a-year. It was lavish, as the kingdom itself was wealthy. It also showed off the military prowess and conquests of the king. If one remembers the statue from Nebuchadnezzar’s dream in the book of Daniel, this kingdom is represented by silver. The Medo-Persian kingdom was not as grand as the Babylonian kingdom it seized. Yet Xerxes reign was exerted over a vast kingdom.
Esther 1:5–6 (MEV): When these days were completed, the king prepared a seven-day feast for all the people present, from the greatest to the least, in the citadel of Susa. This feast was in the courtyard garden of the king’s palace where white and blue linen hangings were fastened with cords of white and purple linen to silver rings and columns of marble. The gold- and silver-plated couches were on a mosaic pavement of porphyry, marble, mother-of-pearl, and other costly stones.
After that great feast a smaller one was prepared. It was much more intimate than the previous one, yet still displayed the splendor and wealth of the kingdom.
For all the opulence on display, some darker things are revealed.
Esther 1:7–8 (MEV): They provided drinks in golden vessels (the vessels being diverse one from another) and royal wine in abundance, by the expense of the king. In accordance with the law, the drinking was not mandatory, because the king had directed all the stewards of his house to serve according to every man’s pleasure.
Drunkenness was allowed by law. Of course, one may overlook the detail, but it is recorded for us that drinking was permitted as a matter of law. As was conscience. Yet the law permitted and sanctioned immorality.
Think of applying these ideas to your own household. Having a grand party to show of wealth may seem pretentious enough. Sanctioning drunkenness is another.
According to every man’s pleasure is how these were served by law. Of course, the law also allowed for conscience. It also permitted debauchery in the highest places.
Sometimes, a person’s conscience isn’t enough to keep them from succumbing to intoxicants. With no outside influence in the society to align with moral behavior, people are given license to indulge. This is decadence.