Lesser known characters :: Vashti


Even though the main characters in the book of Esther, are Hadassah (also known as Esther) and Mordecai, a lesser known character named Vashti plays a very significant and vital role. Vashti is the queen of king Ahasuerus who reigned from India to Ethiopia over 127 provinces. King Ahasuerus, threw a party (feast) for the nobles and princes of his provinces and the powers of Persia and Media, that lasted for 180 days during which time he showed off his glorious kingdom and the splendor of his majesty to the officials. At the end of 180 days, he threw another party for all the people in the palace, both great and small, which lasted for another seven days during which time, he ordered his stewards to serve wine in glasses of gold to all men without any restriction, as much as they desired. On the seventh day, when the king was intoxicated (merry with wine), he still felt like he wanted to show off more than what he had already, and orders to have his queen Vashti, be brought before him and the drunk men in his palace and be displayed, for she was very fair (beautiful). Vashti refuses the order of the king and is exiled from the king’s presence as a result of her refusal. Vashti refusal leads to the king searching for her replacement and this is how Esther is divinely presented to the king and becomes his queen.

What can we learn from Vashti?
The one thing that makes Vashti find a place in history and in a sense makes her immortal is that she said “No” where it mattered and refused a powerful king, not giving into his sinful desires. She was not only beautiful (fair to look at) on the outside, but she had far greater inner beauty (character) and respect for herself. The Bible says that beauty without discretion is akin to a jewel in a pig’s snout (Proverbs 11:22) and Vashti refused to be known as such. Despite the fact that her refusal could dispel her from the king’s court, divorce her from her husband or even bring her death for disobeying the kings commandment, Vashti chose honor over life. Though she was stripped of her royalty, Vashti goes down in history as a woman who said ‘No’, defying a powerful king, and will forever be remembered as one arrayed in purple.

Like Vashti, we must be willing to say ‘No’ when it comes to matters that will bring dishonor to God, even if it comes at the cost of being exiled from the luxuries and pleasures of this world. Can we be like Vashti?

Esther 1: 1-22 (KJV)
1 Now it came to pass in the days of Ahasuerus, (this is Ahasuerus which reigned, from India even unto Ethiopia, over an hundred and seven and twenty provinces:)
2 That in those days, when the king Ahasuerus sat on the throne of his kingdom, which was in Shushan the palace,
3 In the third year of his reign, he made a feast unto all his princes and his servants; the power of Persia and Media, the nobles and princes of the provinces, being before him:
4 When he shewed the riches of his glorious kingdom and the honour of his excellent majesty many days, even an hundred and fourscore days.
5 And when these days were expired, the king made a feast unto all the people that were present in Shushan the palace, both unto great and small, seven days, in the court of the garden of the king’s palace;
6 Where were white, green, and blue, hangings, fastened with cords of fine linen and purple to silver rings and pillars of marble: the beds were of gold and silver, upon a pavement of red, and blue, and white, and black, marble.
7 And they gave them drink in vessels of gold, (the vessels being diverse one from another,) and royal wine in abundance, according to the state of the king.
8 And the drinking was according to the law; none did compel: for so the king had appointed to all the officers of his house, that they should do according to every man’s pleasure.
9 Also Vashti the queen made a feast for the women in the royal house which belonged to king Ahasuerus.
10 On the seventh day, when the heart of the king was merry with wine, he commanded Mehuman, Biztha, Harbona, Bigtha, and Abagtha, Zethar, and Carcas, the seven chamberlains that served in the presence of Ahasuerus the king,
11 To bring Vashti the queen before the king with the crown royal, to shew the people and the princes her beauty: for she was fair to look on.
12 But the queen Vashti refused to come at the king’s commandment by his chamberlains: therefore was the king very wroth, and his anger burned in him.
13 Then the king said to the wise men, which knew the times, (for so was the king’s manner toward all that knew law and judgment:
14 And the next unto him was Carshena, Shethar, Admatha, Tarshish, Meres, Marsena, and Memucan, the seven princes of Persia and Media, which saw the king’s face, and which sat the first in the kingdom;)
15 What shall we do unto the queen Vashti according to law, because she hath not performed the commandment of the king Ahasuerus by the chamberlains?
16 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 Ahasuerus.
17 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.
18 Likewise shall the ladies of Persia and Media say this day unto all the king’s princes, which have heard of the deed of the queen. Thus shall there arise too much contempt and wrath.
19 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 the 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.
20 And when the king’s decree which he shall make shall be published throughout all his empire, (for it is great,) all the wives shall give to their husbands honour, both to great and small.
21 And the saying pleased the king and the princes; and the king did according to the word of Memucan:
22 For he sent letters into all the king’s provinces, into every province according to the writing thereof, and to every people after their language, that every man should bear rule in his own house, and that it should be published according to the language of every people.

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Lesser known characters :: Uriah


2 Samuel 11 and 12 records the story of king David’s adultery with Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah, the Hittite and many a times, we hear of this account from king David’s perspective. Often told as the Sin of David that displeased the Lord (1 Samuel 11:27), seldom do we see this account from the perspective of Uriah, Bathsheba’s husband. Uriah was a soldier in king David’s army, fighting against the Ammonites along with Joab, when he had his wife stolen from him by the very king for whom he fought. And when king David learns that Bathsheba was with child, in an attempt to cover his sin, he summons Uriah from the battlelines and attempts to have Uriah lie with Bathsheba. When Uriah refuses to do so by stating that he could not go to his own family to rest and relax with pleasure (eat, drink and lie), when God’s ark, his people (Israel and Judah) are in tents and the servants of the Lord (soldiers in the army) are in open fields. To this, David invites Uriah for drinks and food and gets him drunk hoping that Uriah would go to his wife, but even under the influence, Uriah remained focused and did not go to his house, but instead slept at the door of the king’s house, with the servants of the Lord. Realizing that his plans were failing, David plots to have Uriah murdered and commands Joab to have Uriah placed in the battle, where the fighting is fiercest, where only valiant men (2 Samuel 11:16) are placed and to pull back from him, when the battle is in full swing. Joab obliges and Uriah, the Hittite, the husband of Bathsheba is murdered.

What can we learn from Uriah?
Uriah, the Hittite, was a principled man, with his priorities set right as we can learn from his response. He put God first (referring to the ark of the Lord in tents). Then he put God’s people (Israel and Judah in tents) next, following which he thought about the soldiers in king David’s army, whom he refers to as servants of the Lord. Interesting to note, that to be a soldier in the army of God is to be a servant of the Lord. In other words, our responsibilities to God, the Lord and Master (John 13:13-14), is to adorn the armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-18) and fight for Him. Only after God, God’s people, God’s servants, does Uriah even think about himself and his family. Even under the influence, Uriah had a clear mind regarding his principles and priorities. To the point of death, Uriah remained faithful and died amongst valiant men. Uriah means “God is my Light” and in light there is no darkness. It is recorded that what David did, displeased the Lord, and I wish that it had been recorded, that what Uriah did, pleased the Lord.

Can we be like Uriah, a faithful and valiant man/woman of principles and priorities, in whom God and his people and his work (as servants and soldiers) comes first, before our personal needs?

2 Samuel 11:1-27 (KJV)
1
And it came to pass, after the year was expired, at the time when kings go forth to battle, that David sent Joab, and his servants with him, and all Israel; and they destroyed the children of Ammon, and besieged Rabbah. But David tarried still at Jerusalem.
2 And it came to pass in an eveningtide, that David arose from off his bed, and walked upon the roof of the king’s house: and from the roof he saw a woman washing herself; and the woman was very beautiful to look upon.
3 And David sent and enquired after the woman. And one said, Is not this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?
4 And David sent messengers, and took her; and she came in unto him, and he lay with her; for she was purified from her uncleanness: and she returned unto her house.
5 And the woman conceived, and sent and told David, and said, I am with child.
6 And David sent to Joab, saying, Send me Uriah the Hittite. And Joab sent Uriah to David.
7 And when Uriah was come unto him, David demanded of him how Joab did, and how the people did, and how the war prospered.
8 And David said to Uriah, Go down to thy house, and wash thy feet. And Uriah departed out of the king’s house, and there followed him a mess of meat from the king.
9 But Uriah slept at the door of the king’s house with all the servants of his lord, and went not down to his house.
10 And when they had told David, saying, Uriah went not down unto his house, David said unto Uriah, Camest thou not from thy journey? why then didst thou not go down unto thine house?
11 And Uriah said unto David, The ark, and Israel, and Judah, abide in tents; and my lord Joab, and the servants of my lord, are encamped in the open fields; shall I then go into mine house, to eat and to drink, and to lie with my wife? as thou livest, and as thy soul liveth, I will not do this thing.
12 And David said to Uriah, Tarry here to day also, and to morrow I will let thee depart. So Uriah abode in Jerusalem that day, and the morrow.
13 And when David had called him, he did eat and drink before him; and he made him drunk: and at even he went out to lie on his bed with the servants of his lord, but went not down to his house.
14 And it came to pass in the morning, that David wrote a letter to Joab, and sent it by the hand of Uriah.
15 And he wrote in the letter, saying, Set ye Uriah in the forefront of the hottest battle, and retire ye from him, that he may be smitten, and die.
16 And it came to pass, when Joab observed the city, that he assigned Uriah unto a place where he knew that valiant men were.
17 And the men of the city went out, and fought with Joab: and there fell some of the people of the servants of David; and Uriah the Hittite died also.
18
Then Joab sent and told David all the things concerning the war;

19 And charged the messenger, saying, When thou hast made an end of telling the matters of the war unto the king,
20 And if so be that the king’s wrath arise, and he say unto thee, Wherefore approached ye so nigh unto the city when ye did fight? knew ye not that they would shoot from the wall?
21 Who smote Abimelech the son of Jerubbesheth? did not a woman cast a piece of a millstone upon him from the wall, that he died in Thebez? why went ye nigh the wall? then say thou, Thy servant Uriah the Hittite is dead also.
22 So the messenger went, and came and shewed David all that Joab had sent him for.
23 And the messenger said unto David, Surely the men prevailed against us, and came out unto us into the field, and we were upon them even unto the entering of the gate.
24 And the shooters shot from off the wall upon thy servants; and some of the king’s servants be dead, and thy servant Uriah the Hittite is dead also.
25 Then David said unto the messenger, Thus shalt thou say unto Joab, Let not this thing displease thee, for the sword devoureth one as well as another: make thy battle more strong against the city, and overthrow it: and encourage thou him.
26 And when the wife of Uriah heard that Uriah her husband was dead, she mourned for her husband.
27 And when the mourning was past, David sent and fetched her to his house, and she became his wife, and bare him a son. But the thing that David had done displeased the LORD.

Lesser known characters :: Shiphra and Puah


When the king of Egypt gave the edict to kill the male child of the Hebrews, to the Hebrews midwives, they feared God instead and did not follow the edict. One of the midwife’s name was Shiphrah and the other was Puah (Exodus 1:15). For their faithfulness in fearing God, God dealt well with the midwives.

What can we learn from Shiphra and Puah?
When earthly rulers give us commands to obey that contradict the requirements of God, like Shiphra and Puah and the other unnamed midwives, we must fear God and follow him, instead of heeding to the commands of man. God, being faithful, would deal well with those who deal well with others, as he did with the midwives.

Exodus 1:15-22 (KJV)
15 And the king of Egypt spake to the Hebrew midwives, of which the name of the one was Shiphrah, and the name of the other Puah:
16
And he said, When ye do the office of a midwife to the Hebrew women, and see them upon the stools; if it be a son, then ye shall kill him: but if it be a daughter, then she shall live.
17
But the midwives feared God, and did not as the king of Egypt commanded them, but saved the men children alive.
18
And the king of Egypt called for the midwives, and said unto them, Why have ye done this thing, and have saved the men children alive?
19
And the midwives said unto Pharaoh, Because the Hebrew women are not as the Egyptian women; for they are lively, and are delivered ere the midwives come in unto them.
20 Therefore God dealt well with the midwives: and the people multiplied, and waxed very mighty.
21 And it came to pass, because the midwives feared God, that he made them houses.
22 And Pharaoh charged all his people, saying, Every son that is born ye shall cast into the river, and every daughter ye shall save alive.

Lesser known characters :: Sergius Paulus


When Barnabas and Saul (who also is called Paul) come to the island of Paphos, there are confronted by a sorcerer and false prophet whose name was Barjesus, also known as Elymas. This false prophet was with Sergius Paulus, the deputy of that country, but the Bible says that Sergius Paulus was a prudent man and he called for Barnabas and Saul, from whom he could hear the word of God. Elymas the sorcerer however withstood them and sought to turn away the deputy from faith that comes by hearing the word of God (Romans 10:17). Paul tells Elymas that for his opposition to righteousness and his perversion of God’s right ways, he will be blind for a season and Elymas turns blind. Upon seeing this Sergius Paulus, is astonished and believes.

What can we learn from Sergius Paulus?
Even though Sergius Paulus had Elymas the sorcerer with him, he was wise to call for Barnabas and Saul and when he saw the sovereignty of God in blinding the sorcerer that wanted to blind Sergius Paulus from the faith,  Sergius Paulus believed. Like Sergius Paulus, we must be prudent as well and seek to hear the word of God.

Acts 13: 6-12 (KJV)
6
And when they had gone through the isle unto Paphos, they found a certain sorcerer, a false prophet, a Jew, whose name was Barjesus:
7
Which was with the deputy of the country, Sergius Paulus, a prudent man; who called for Barnabas and Saul, and desired to hear the word of God.

8 But Elymas the sorcerer (for so is his name by interpretation) withstood them, seeking to turn away the deputy from the faith.
9 Then Saul, (who also is called Paul,) filled with the Holy Ghost, set his eyes on him.
10 And said, O full of all subtilty and all mischief, thou child of the devil, thou enemy of all righteousness, wilt thou not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord?
11 And now, behold, the hand of the Lord is upon thee, and thou shalt be blind, not seeing the sun for a season. And immediately there fell on him a mist and a darkness; and he went about seeking some to lead him by the hand.
12
Then the deputy, when he saw what was done, believed, being astonished at the doctrine of the Lord.

Lesser known characters :: Rhoda


Peter was imprisoned by Herod but miraculously an angel of the Lord came to him and rescued him from prison. Upon his rescue, Peter comes to the house of Mary, the mother of John Mark, where many had gathered to pray. As Peter knocked at the door, the one who answered him was a girl named Rhoda and when she heard Peter’s voice, she recognized that it was him and with gladness, she ran and told how Peter was standing outside. In her gladness, she did not open the door. Those praying inside said unto her that she was mad, but she insisted that it was Peter. Peter continued to knock and when they opened the door, they were astonished to see that what Rhoda was telling them was indeed true.

What can we learn from Rhoda?
Rhoda heard Peter’s voice and recognized him. She did not have to see that it was Peter but believed without seeing that their prayers was miraculously answered. Jesus said, blessed are they that believe without seeing (John 20:29) and behold I stand at the door and knock, if any man hear my voice, let him open the door and I will come in and dine with him and he with me (Revelation 3:20). Let us also be like Rhoda, believing without seeing for in doing so, we are counted as blessed, and if we hear Jesus knock at the door of our heart, let us harden not our hearts but let us open it, so that he can come in and commune with us.

Acts 12:12-16 (KJV)
12
And when he had considered the thing, he came to the house of Mary the mother of John, whose surname was Mark; where many were gathered together praying.
13
And as Peter knocked at the door of the gate, a damsel came to hearken, named Rhoda.
14
And when she knew Peter’s voice, she opened not the gate for gladness, but ran in, and told how Peter stood before the gate.
15
And they said unto her, Thou art mad. But she constantly affirmed that it was even so. Then said they, It is his angel.
16
But Peter continued knocking: and when they had opened the door, and saw him, they were astonished.

Lesser known characters :: Phebe


When Apostle Paul concludes his letter to the Romans, he starts out by referring to Phebe as a sister and commends her as a servant of the church. Phebe supposedly is one of the first female deacons in the Church that was at Cenchrea. Apostle Paul then requests that the Romans receive her as they do saints, and assist her in whatever means, because she was a succourer of many, including Paul himself. To be succourer is to help someone in times of distress and need (Romans 16:1-2).

What can we learn from Phebe?

Phebe was a sister, a servant (of the Church), a saint, and a succourer.
Like Phebe, can we treat others as our own (brothers and sisters), treat ourselves as servants of the Church of God, be sanctified by believing in Jesus Christ to be his saints and an aide by sharing our faith with those who are in distress under the bondage of the devil and in need of a Savior.

Romans 16:1-2 (KJV)
1
I commend unto you Phebe our sister, which is a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea:

2 That ye receive her in the Lord, as becometh saints, and that ye assist her in whatsoever business she hath need of you: for she hath been a succourer of many, and of myself also.

Lesser known characters :: Phinehas (son of Eleazar)


Numbers 25 in the Bible records the story of Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the high Priest who was the son of Aaron, Moses’ brother. Phinehas is known to be a man who was zealous for the Lord. When the Israelites dwelt in the land of Shittim, they start to indulge in sexual immoralities with the Moabite women, who lured and deceived the Israelites to draw away from God and turn to the worship of Baal. For this, a plague broke out among the Israelites as the Lord asked Moses to have all the men who were adulterous in following Baal, to be put to death. Amidst the grief for the loss, in the presence of the congregation of Israel, one of the Israelites, Zimri, the son of Salu, who was a leader (prince) of the chief house of Simeon, openly and blatantly brought into his tent, Cozbi a Midianite women. Phinehas, could take this atrocity no longer and he took a javelin in his hand, entered the tent of Zimri and killed both Zimri and Cozbi, by impaling them. The plague of death of the Israelites was stopped. The number of people who died that day was twenty four thousand. Because of Phinehas’ act, the Lord told Moses, that the zealous act of Phinehas turned away the jealousy of God and stopped his wrath on the Israelites (Numbers 25:11). The Lord also promises a covenant of peace and everlasting priesthood, stating that there will be always someone from the house of Phinehas, to serve him, because Phinehas was zealous for his God and made an atonement for the children of Israel (Numbers 25:13). The Psalmist reiterates the act of Phinehas in Psalm 106:28-31 and states that the act of Phinehas was credited to him as righteousness.

What can we learn from Phinehas?

Holiness and wickedness cannot commune and when sin is openly tolerated and indulged with, we must be zealous like Phinehas and act. Our actions to stand up for God can turn his wrath away from his people. Phinehas impaled those who were sinful and made atonement, but our sin had Jesus impaled on the Cross, who made the atonement for all sin. The covenant of peace and everlasting priesthood was promised to Phinehas by God and God made that possible though his Son Jesus Christ, who like Phinehas was zealous to do the will of God the Father, and turn God’s jealously and wrath, away from us sinners. Phinehas emulated the atoning work of Jesus to stay God’s wrath from his people. Can we be like Phinehas?

Numbers 25:1-18 (KJV)
1 And Israel abode in Shittim, and the people began to commit whoredom with the daughters of Moab.
2 And they called the people unto the sacrifices of their gods: and the people did eat, and bowed down to their gods.
3 And Israel joined himself unto Baalpeor: and the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel.
4 And the LORD said unto Moses, Take all the heads of the people, and hang them up before the LORD against the sun, that the fierce anger of the LORD may be turned away from Israel.
5 And Moses said unto the judges of Israel, Slay ye every one his men that were joined unto Baalpeor.
6 And, behold, one of the children of Israel came and brought unto his brethren a Midianitish woman in the sight of Moses, and in the sight of all the congregation of the children of Israel, who were weeping before the door of the tabernacle of the congregation.
7 And when Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, saw it, he rose up from among the congregation, and took a javelin in his hand;
8 And he went after the man of Israel into the tent, and thrust both of them through, the man of Israel, and the woman through her belly. So the plague was stayed from the children of Israel.
9 And those that died in the plague were twenty and four thousand.
10 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
11 Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, hath turned my wrath away from the children of Israel, while he was zealous for my sake among them, that I consumed not the children of Israel in my jealousy.
12 Wherefore say, Behold, I give unto him my covenant of peace:
13 And he shall have it, and his seed after him, even the covenant of an everlasting priesthood; because he was zealous for his God, and made an atonement for the children of Israel.
14 Now the name of the Israelite that was slain, even that was slain with the Midianitish woman, was Zimri, the son of Salu, a prince of a chief house among the Simeonites.
15 And the name of the Midianitish woman that was slain was Cozbi, the daughter of Zur; he was head over a people, and of a chief house in Midian.
16 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
17 Vex the Midianites, and smite them:
18 For they vex you with their wiles, wherewith they have beguiled you in the matter of Peor, and in the matter of Cozbi, the daughter of a prince of Midian, their sister, which was slain in the day of the plague for Peor’s sake.

Psalm 106:28-31 (KJV)
28 They joined themselves also unto Baalpeor, and ate the sacrifices of the dead.
29 Thus they provoked him to anger with their inventions: and the plague brake in upon them.
30 Then stood up Phinehas, and executed judgment: and so the plague was stayed.
31 And that was counted unto him for righteousness unto all generations for evermore.