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IN the days of Assuerus, who reigned from India to Ethiopia over a hundred and twenty-seven provinces:

THE BOOK OF ESTHER.

 

INTRODUCTION.

 

This Book takes its name from queen Esther; whose history is here recorded.  The general opinion of almost all commentators on the Holy Scripture, make Mardochai the writer of it: which also may be collected below from C. ix. 20.  Ch.

 

--- He and the queen were certainly authors of the letter, (H.) enjoining the celebration of the feast of Purim, or "lots," which is the ground-work (C.) of the present narration.  D.

 

--- The compiler has also had recourse to the archives of the kingdom of Persia: so that his work has all the authority that can be required of a profane historian; and being moreover inspired in all its parts, we cannot refuse to receive it with the utmost respect.  Those additions which are not now in Hebrew, (C.) though they were perhaps formerly, (W.  Origen.  D.) have been carefully preserved by S. Jerom, and were recognized by the ancient Vulg. as they are at present by the Greek, without any distinction.  Lysimachus, the Greek translator, was probably the author of them.  C. xi. 1.  C.

 

--- The objections of Capellus against this "Greek scribbler," as he is pleased to style him, despising the judgment of both Jews and Christians, are in general very unaccountably borrowed (H.) from the Latin version, and are easily refuted.  Houbigant.

 

--- Those Jews, who have rejected this work entirely, with Melito, (Eus. Hist. iv. 26.  S. Greg. Naz. &c.) ought not to prevail against the consent of the majority, (C.) expressed in the Councils of Laodicea, Carthage, Trent, sess. 4, &c.  To read this book according to the order of time, we should begin C. xi. v. 2, &c.  C. i. ii. and xii. and iii. to v. 14; then we find the distress of the Jews in the rest of that chapter, and in C. xiii. to v. 8, and their delivery in C. iv. to ix. v. 17, and C. xiii. v. 8, &c. and C. xiv. xv. and xvi.  The consequences of these events are recorded C. ix. v. 17, &c. to C. xi. 1. (W.) with which verse the book ends, in the Greek editions.  H.

 

--- They vary considerably, as did the copies of the ancient Vulgate, which called forth the complaints of S. Jerom, Pref.  But the Church has distinguished what was spurious from the genuine word of God; so that the doubts of Lyran, Sixtus, (Bib. viii.) &c. respecting the fragments at the end of the book being not canonical, ought no longer to be indulged; much less can the boldness of many Lutherans, (C.) and particularly of Le Clerc, (Houbigant) be tolerated, who represent the whole work as a mere fiction.  The Jews have a greater respect for it than for any of the prophets; whose works, they say, will perish at the coming of the Messias: whereas this will subsist with the books of Moses, and the feast of Purim will never be abolished.  C. ix. 28.  Maimon.

 

--- Ben. Gorion (ii. 2.) admits the additions.  But Josephus is silent about them, as he probably did not find them in his copy.  C.

 

--- He recites, however, both the epistles of Assuerus.  Ant. xi. 6.  D.

 

--- It is not agreed whether these events happened before or after the captivity.  But it is now most commonly supposed, that Esther was married to Darius Hystaspes, A. 3489, about the time of the dedication of the temple.  C. xiv. 9.  He had been on the throne six years, and reigned other thirty.  See Herod. vii. 4.  C.

 

--- Josephus thinks that Esther was the queen of Artaxerxes Longimanus, who was a great friend of the Jews.  D.

 

--- The Thalmud attributes this work to the great Synagogue, consisting of Esdras, Mardochai, Joachim, &c. and, as various persons might write the same history, the Greek, with the additions, seems to be taken from one copy, and the Hebrew from another rather more concise, (Huet.  D.) but equally inspired.  H.


Ver. 1.  In.  Heb. "and in."  In this manner the books of Scripture are usually connected.  Sept. place first the dream of Mardochai.  C. xi. 2.  C.

 

--- Assuerus.  Sept. Artaxerxes; as  C. xvi. 1.  The former is the title of Median, the latter of the Persian, monarchs.  This king reigned over both nations, and was most probably Darius Hystaspes, the third king of the Persians, (T.) who subdued India, &c.  Herod.  C.  T.

 

--- Some understand Cambyses, (1 Esd. iv.  Genebrard) or Xerxes (Scalig.) or Artaxerxes Longimanus, (Bellarm.  Salien) or Memnon, (Euseb.) or Ochus.  Serarius.

 

--- But (C.) the author of 3 Esd. iii. 1. and iv. 43. seems clearly declared for Hystaspes.  T.

 

--- Though that work be not canonical, (D.) it may claim some authority, as an ancient history.  H.

 

--- This king gave orders for the building of the temple.  1 Esd. vi. 1. 14.

 

--- India.  Part had been (C.) subject to Xerxes.  Herod. iv. 44.

 

--- Ethiopia, beyond Egypt, paid an acknowledgment.  Cambyses had taken possession of this country.  C.

 

--- Some understand a part of Arabia to be meant.  D.

 

--- Seven: 120 had been regulated by Darius, the Mede.  Dan. vi. 1.  H.

 

--- The number might vary as the monarch chose.  D.

 

--- Herodotus (iii. 89.) only specifies "twenty."  But he speaks of large departments, to which he intimates that several others were subordinate.  C.

 

--- Provinces.  Heb. medina, "seat of judges."  H.

 

--- Prefecture.  M.




2 When he sat on the throne of his kingdom, the city Susan was the capital of his kingdom.

Ver. 2.  Captial.  Heb. "palace, (Prot.  H.) or castle," (C.) may also signify "a capital."  Mont. &c.

 

--- Hystaspes founded this ancient royal city of Persia, (Pliny vi. 27.) or he greatly embellished it.  C.  Ælian, Anim. xiii. 18.  T.

 

--- He seems to have resided here almost constantly.  The preceding kings (C.) spent the winter in this warm climate, and perhaps the spring.  See 2 Esd. i. 1.  They spent other parts of the year at Ecbatana and at Babylon.  C.


3 Now in the third year of his reign he made a great feast for all the princes, and for his servants, for the most mighty of the Persians, and the nobles of the Medes, and the governors of the provinces in his sight,

Ver. 3.  Reign.  When he was solemnly crowned, again, (T.) or removed his court, (C.) and dedicated this new capital, with feasting, &c.  H.


4 That he might shew the riches of the glory of his kingdom, and the greatness, and boasting of his power, for a long time, to wit, for a hundred and fourscore days.

Ver. 4.  Days, or a full half year, according to their reckoning.  Nabuchodonosor, after his victory over Arphaxad, (Judith i.) feasted 120 days; Dionysius of Syrachuse, 90; (Aristot.) Solomon seven; (3 K. viii. 63.) and David three; when he was recognized by all Israel.  1 Par. xii. 39.  The Gaul, Ariamnes, gave a fest to all his countrymen for a whole year.  Athen. iv. 13.

 

--- The Roman emperors sometimes treated all the citizens of Rome, and Alexander did the like to 9000 of his chief officers for one day.  But the magnificence of Assuerus surpasses all the rest.  The Persians were famous on this account.

 

--- Persicos odi, puer, apparatus.  Hor. i. Ode 38.  C.


5 And when the days of the feast were expired, he invited all the people that were found in Susan, from the greatest to the least: and commanded a feast to be made seven days in the court of the garden, and of the wood, which was planted by the care and the hand of the king.

Ver. 5.  Expired, (Feuardent) or in the last week.  M.  C.

 

--- King.  The Persian monarchs delighted in agriculture.  Cyrus the younger, planted trees at Sardis, and never ate till he had taken some exercise of this or of a military nature.  Xenoph. Memor.  Cicero Senect.


6 And there were hung up on every side sky coloured, and green, and violet hangings, fastened with cords of silk, and of purple, which were put into rings of ivory, and were held up with marble pillars. The beds also were of gold and silver, placed in order upon a floor paved with porphyry and white marble: which was embellished with painting of wonderful variety.

Ver. 6.  Were.  Prot. "where were," white, green, and blue hangings.

 

--- Ivory.  Heb. "silver."  H.

 

--- Beds, to lie down on at table; though sitting was formerly the fashion.  Gen. xliii. 33.  The other custom prevailed among the more luxurious nations, and was observed in our Saviour's time, each person reclining upon his left arm, and having his feet behind the next.  T.

 

--- These beds were made very low, in Persia; so that Alexander had one put under his feet, when he sat on the throne of Darius, as he was not so tall.  Curt. v. 7.

 

--- Their magnificence was surprising.  Herod. ix. 81.  C.

 

--- Variety, in Mosaic work.  T.

 

--- They lay upon sheep skins.  Chal.  Sept. "and the beds (or coverlets) were transparent, with various flowers, and full-blown roses, all round."  H.


7 And they that were invited, drank in golden cups, and the meats were brought in divers vessels one after another. Wine also in abundance and of the best was presented, as was worthy of a king's magnificence.

Ver. 7.  Vessels.  When Lysanias had taken the camp of Mardonius, and beheld the rich vessels, he could not help expressing a surprise that people possessing such advantages, should come to molest the Lacedemonians, who lived so poorly.  Herod. ix. 79.


8 Neither was there any one to compel them to drink that were not willing, but as the king had appointed, who set over every table one of his nobles, that every man might take what he would.

Ver. 8.  Neither.  Heb. "and the drinking was according to the law."  Gr. "was not according to the pre-established law;" (H.) as the usual custom was altered, on this occasion; and thus both may be accurate.  The Persians had commonly a king of the feast, whose orders all were obliged to obey in drinking.  Hor. i. Ode 4.  Eccli. xxxii. 1.

 

--- This was an occasion of quarrels, (S. Jer.) and of intoxication.  Agesilaus followed the example of Assuerus.  Darius, and Cyrus the younger, gloried in being able to drink much wine without being deranged.  C.

                        Reges dicuntur urgere culullis,

                        Et torquere mero, quem perspexisse laborant,

                        An sit amicitia dignus.  Hor. ad Pison.

Among friends, these "absurd laws" wer laid aside.

                        Siccat inequales calices conviva, solutus

                        Legibus insanis.  Hor. ii. Sat. 6.  C.

This may suggest to Christians, that they ought not to urge any to get drunk, (S. Aug. ser. 231. de Temp.) lest they should be condemned by the very heathens.  W.

 

--- Would, and thus prevent disorders as much as possible.  Athen. x. 6.


9 Also Vasthi the queen made a feast for the women in the palace, where king Assuerus was used to dwell.

Ver. 9.  Vasthi.  Sept. Astin.  H.

 

--- Serarius suspects she was the king's sister, or daughter, as such marriages were common in Persia.  T.

 

--- The name is not very different from that of Atossa, the daughter of Cyrus, who was married to Cambyses, Smerdis, and Darius; to the latter of whom she bore four children.  Herod. iii. 68. and vii. 3.

 

--- This prince had other wives, particularly Artistona, (C. our Hadossa, (H.) or Esther) whom he espoused a virgin, and love the most.  Herodotus seems to confound her with Atossa.

 

--- Dwell.  Some Greek copies have "in her own palaces."  Usher.

 

--- It was proper for women to be more retired.  M.

 

--- The men feasted in the open air.  H.


10 Now on the seventh day, when the king was merry, and after very much drinking was well warmed with wine, he commanded Mauman, and Bazatha, and Harbona, and Bagatha, and Abgatha, and Zethar, and Charcas, the seven eunuchs that served in his presence,

Ver. 10.  Wine.  From the king's excess, and the haughtiness of Vasthi, God took occasion to advance Esther, and to deliver his people.  C.

 

--- Mauman.  Sept. "Aman."  T.

 

--- But the names vary.  The Persians seem to have had a predilection for the number seven, v. 14.  C.  Gr. "the seven eunuchs, ministers (deacons) of Artaxerxes."


11 To bring in queen Vasthi before the king, with the crown set upon her head, to shew her beauty to all the people and the princes: for she was exceeding beautiful.

Ver. 11.  Head.  But without any other covering.  Chal.  Sulpitius entertained perhaps the same idea.  Stulto rege consultior, pudens, virorum oculis spectaculum corporis præbere jussa, abnuit.  H.

 

--- Some Greek copies assert, very improbably, (C.) that she was sent for "to be crowned queen."

 

--- Beautiful.  "The Persian ladies were noted for beauty," (Ammian) insomuch that Alexander called them eye-sores, oculorum dolores.  Curt.

 

--- Only prostitutes appeared publicly at feasts.  Macrob. vii. 1.  S. Amb. de Elia. i. 15.

 

--- In effect, Vasthi's refusal conformable to the laws of the country.  Josephus.  Plut. in Themist.

 

--- Her offence consisted, therefore, rather in her haughty carriage or words.  H.

 

--- For the proposal was neither decent nor safe for the king, (Grot.) as the history of Candaules shews.  Herod. i.  Not. Var. in Sulp.



Queen Vasthi Refusing Command Of Assuerus

Queen Vasthi Refusing Command Of Assuerus

To bring in queen Vasthi before the king, with the crown set upon her head, to shew her beauty to all the people and the princes: for she was exceeding beautiful.

12 But she refused, and would not come at the king's commandment, which he had signified to her by the eunuchs. Whereupon the king, being angry, and inflamed with a very great fury,

Ver. 12.  Fury.  This is the usual consequences of excess.  W.


13 Baked the wise men, who according to the custom of the kings, were always near his person, and all he did was by their counsel, who knew the laws, and judgments of their forefathers:

Ver. 13.  According.  Heb. "knew the times, (for so was the king's custom with those who knew law and judgment.)  And the next," &c.  H.

 

--- These were the magi, more particularly versed in the constitutions of the country.  The Persians commonly held their consultations over wine.  Herod. i. 133.

 

--- Sept. "and the king said to his friends, Thus has Astin spoken; do therefore, in this affair, law and judgment.  Then came forth to him Arkesaios and Saresthaios, and Malesear, the princes of the Persians and Medes, men near the king, and who sat first after the king.  H.

 

--- The old Vulg. places Mardochæus first.  These seven counsellors were perhaps styled the king's relations," (Brisson i. p. 171.) and administered justice; as even the kings referred their causes to them.  Plut. Artax. &c.


14 (Now the chief and nearest him were, Charsena, and Sethar, and Admatha, and Tharsis, and Mares, and Marsana, and Mamuchan, seven princes of the Persians, and of the Medes, who saw the face of the king, and were used to sit first after him:)


15 What sentence ought to pass upon Vasthi the queen, who had refused to obey the commandment of king Assuerus, which he had sent to her by the eunuchs? 16 And Mamuchan answered, in the hearing of the king and the princes: Queen Vasthi hath not only injured the king, but also all the people and princes that are in all the provinces of king Assuerus.

Ver. 16.  Mamuchan.  Old Vulg. "Mardochæus."  Yet the Jews say this was the infamous Aman; and one Greek copy has Bilgaios, (C.) and Arabo, "Mouchaios."  C. iii. 1. and xii. 6.  He was the youngest, but spoke first, as was sometimes the case.


17 For this deed of the queen will go abroad to all women, so that they will despise their husbands, and will say: King Assuerus commanded that queen Vasthi should come in to him, and she would not. 18 And by this example all the wives of the princes of the Persians and the Medes will slight the commandments of their husbands: wherefore the king's indignation is just.

Ver. 18.  Wives.  Gr. turannideV, "princesses, or female tyrants."

 

--- Slight.  Sept. "dare to slight their husbands.  Wherefore if," &c.  H.

 

--- Just.  Heb. "enough of contempt and indignation."  This may be referred either to the king or to the women's husbands.  The example will prove a source of continual quarrels.  C.

 

--- Brentius approves the decision of this parasite; though S. Amb. &c. think that the queen was justified by the laws, which the king had no right to infringe, to gratify his drunken humour, v. 10.  Luther would also wrest this text in favour of adultery, p.ii. Devort. p. 177.  W.


19 If it please thee, let an edict go out from thy presence, and let it be written according to the law of the Persians and of the Medes, which must not be altered, that Vasthi come in no more to the king, but another, that is better than her, be made queen in her place.

Ver. 19.  Altered.  This regarded the more solemn acts, signed by the counsellors.  Dan. vi. 17.  Grotius.

 

--- Some decrees were neglected or changed.  C. viii. 9.  1 Esd. iv. 5. 21. and vi. 1.  C.



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20 And let this be published through all the provinces of thy empire, (which is very wide,) and let all wives, as well of the greater as of the lesser, give honour to their husbands. 21 His counsel pleased the king, and the princes: and the king did according to the counsel of Mamuchan.

Ver. 21.  Counsel.  It was very inconclusive; (M.) and even supposing the queen were guilty of some indiscretion, the punishment was too severe.  M.  Grotius, v. 11.  H.


22 And he sent letters to all the provinces of his kingdom, as every nation could hear and read, in divers languages and characters, that the husbands should be rulers and masters in their houses: and that this should be published to every people.
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