21. And the word seemed good in the eyes of the King and the officers and the King did according to the word of Memuchan.
The Malbim writes that, by following this advice, Achashverosh would truly have absolute power. He would have power that even history’s strongest dictators did not have – power over the home. True, Mussolini had the trains running on time in Italy, but he could not effectively govern the domestic goings-on of his citizenry.
The Midrash (Esther Rabba 1:13) asks how Achashverosh can be said to have kingship if “kingship is H-Shem’s” (Tehillim 22:29), and only He is the real king? The Midrash answers that since Israel lost – through its sins – ruler-ship over themselves, H-Shem gave dominion over them to the nations of the world. In Mayan Beis HaShoeivah (pg. 470-1), Rav Shimon Schwab (zt”l) asks how this answers the question of the Midrash. What does the dominion of the other nations over Israel have to do with H-Shem’s control of the world? He answers that H-Shem rules the world in a unique way; Being the King of kings, He controls the rulers of the world like a chess master moving the pieces. Like the verse in Mishlei (21:1) says, “lev hamelech b’yad H-Shem” (“the heart of a king is in the hand of H-Shem.”) In His direct supervision of the Jewish people, H-Shem influences the decisions of powerful people more-so than other people’s decisions. Rav Schwab uses this idea to explain a puzzling statement of the Sages. The Talmud (Megillah 15b), in interpreting Chapter 22 in Tehillim as a prophetic vision of the Purim story, says that Esther momentarily lost the sense of the Shechinah (the Divine Presence) as a result of calling Achashverosh a dog (cf. Tehillim 22:21). Why would there be such a punishment if Achashverosh was not someone worthy of defending, as we shall see in the coming days? In light of the idea that kingship is given and controlled by H-Shem, it begins to be clear. H-Shem is concerned about the honor due a king – even one as evil as Achashverosh – because kingship is a gift He bestowed upon someone He felt was deserving. (Rav Schwab writes similarly regarding H-Shem’s commanding Moshe to treat Pharoah with respect (Shemos 6:13).) One of the more famous teachings of the Midrash (Esther Rabba 3:10) regarding Megillas Esther is that every mention of “King Achashverosh,” as in our current verse, means just Achashverosh. Any generic mention of just a “king” mean both Achashverosh and H-Shem. Practically speaking, how would this work? If, theoretically, a verse in Esther would say, “The King agreed,” who actually agreed: Achashverosh or H-Shem? Actually, a verse like this would mean that both Achashverosh and H-Shem agreed. In effect, H-Shem’s agreeing is the reason Achashverosh agrees, too – because H-Shem is controlling him.
One possible answer is, again, to emphasize the speed of his ascention to power. Even as we read through the verses, Achashverosh goes from nobody to king in a moment. We even see in recent American presidential history how a relative unknown can be catapulted to a position of tremendous power within weeks.