The opening montage of The Great Gatsby movie from 1974 includes the following images: newspaper clippings from the society column, the façade of a stately mansion, silk monogrammed bedding, and a gold-plated vanity set, lying next to an opulent pocket watch and ring. Each camera shot was carefully chosen to communicate the great fortune of the story’s main character, the millionaire Jay Gatsby.
The book of Esther begins with a similar flourish, with a grand description of King Xerxes’ wealth and entertaining style. Xerxes reigned over the Persian-Median empire in 486–465 BC. At the time, Persia was in conflict with Greece—largely because Xerxes’ father and predecessor, Darius I, had attempted to take Athens by force and had been defeated.
The lavish, six-month display of Xerxes’ glory, described in verses 1–8, was also likely the Great War Council of 483 BC. Xerxes was flexing his military muscles and garnering support for his own campaign against Greece. Ironically, four years later, Xerxes would return from Greece, having been defeated. His royal wealth was depleted. His power was thwarted. And he was humiliated.
When Esther was written, the author (and original audience) would have been aware of this stunning reversal of fortune. However, the author (unknown to us) still chose to begin with this elaborate depiction of the king’s wealth. Xerxes is introduced to the reader at his most glorious.
This choice highlights one of the main points of the book. No matter how grand we believe our kingdom to be—no matter how splendid our fortune or powerful our position—only God reigns truly sovereign.
>>As we begin our study of Esther, it’s a good time to invite God to do a new work in your life. Consider your relationship with money and wealth. Are your priorities aligned with God’s? This month, let God use this study in Esther to reveal Himself to you in fresh and significant ways.