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Vindication of the Sabbath.
Mattaniah : for they were counted faith- 11 Heh, it was upon that they should not be opened till ful, and Itheir office was to distribute
after the sabbath : and some of my serunto their brethren.
vants set I at the gates, that there should (14) « Remember me, O my God, con- a ver. 22 no burden be brought in on the sabbath cerning this, and wipe not out my "good
day. (20) So the merchants and sellers deeds that I have done for the house of
of all kind of ware lodged without Jerumy God, and for the 3 offices thereof. 2 Heb., kindnesses. salem once or twice. (21) Then I testified (15) In those days saw I in Judah some
against them, and said unto them, Why treading wine presses on the sabbath, s or, observations. lodge ye about the wall? if ye do so and bringing in sheaves, and lading
again, I will lay hands on you. From asses; as also wine, grapes, and figs,
that time forth came they no more on and all manner of burdens, which they behin before the the sabbath. (22) And I commanded the brought into Jerusalem on the sabbath
Levites that they should cleanse themday: and I testified against them in the
selves, and that they should come and day wherein they sold victuals. (16) There 50r, multitude. keep the gates, to sanctify the sabbath dwelt men of Tyre also therein, which
day. brought fish, and all manner of ware,
Remember me, O my God, concerning and sold on the sabbath unto the chil
with this also, and spare me according to the dren of Judah, and in Jerusalem. (17) Then
5greatness of thy mercy. I contended with the nobles of Judah,
(23) In those days also saw I Jews that and said unto them, What evil thing is
6 had married wives of Ashdod, of Amthis that ye do, and profane the sabbath
mon, and of Moab : (24) and their childay? (18) Did not your fathers thus, and
dren spake half in the speech of Ashdod, did not our God bring all this evil upon
and could not speak in the Jews' lanus, and upon this city ? yet ye bring cerned not guage, but according to the language more wrath upon Israel by profaning the
8of each people. (25) And I contended sabbath.
with them, and cursed them, and smote (19) And it came to pass, that when : H¢d, of people certain of them, and plucked off their the gates of Jerusalem began to be dark
hair, and made them swear by God, saybefore the sabbath, I commanded that
ing, Ye shall not give your daughters the gates should be shut, and charged 0 Or, reviled them. unto their sons, nor take their daughters
6 Heb., had made
B.C. cir. 434.
7 Heb., they dis
bably the Zidkijah of chap. x. 1, and the secretary of (20) Once or twice.- For a time they lodged outNehemiah.
side; the unseemliness of this, and the evidence it gave (14) Remember me.-Once more the faithful ser- that they were only waiting to evade the law, made vant of God begs a mecriful remembrance of what he Nehemiah testify in word, and threaten forcible action. had done for the honour of God in the observances” This effectually removed the evil. of His Temple.
(22) Cleanse themselves.-As for a sacred duty,
not without reference to their past neglect, which re(15–22) Vindication of the Sabbath.
quired to be forgiven. This was a high tribute to the
Sabbath ordinance, and as such in harmony with all tho (15) Saw I in Judah.-- In the country Nehemiah
details of this episode. marked the most determined profanation of the Sab- Remember me.-In this prayer also Nehemiah bath; and this extended to Jerusalem, into which all commits his fidelity to the merciful estimate of God. kinds of burdens were on that day, as on others, carried. But something in connection with the Sabbath, or with
(16) Men of Tyre.-They brought timber for the his retrospect of his own conduct, gives the passing building of the Temple, and received food in payment prayer a peculiar pathos of humility. (Ezra iii. 7). Now they seem to have established them. selves as a colony, and supplied fish, especially to the (23—29) The mixed marriages again. inhabitants. But their offence was the doing this "on the sabbath unto the children of Judah, and in Jeru- (23) Saw I Jews. The punishment shows that these salem.” The verse closes emphatically.
were exceptional cases; but the transgression was of (17) That ye do.-The nobles, in the absence of the most flagrant kind (see verse 1). Nehemiah, had been responsible, and the sin is charged (24) Half in the speech of Ashdod.-A mixture
The appeal supposes their familiarity of Philistine and Aramaic. with the express prediction of Jeremiah and its literal (25) Cursed them.-Nehemiah simply echoed the fulfilment (Jer. xvii. 27).
covenant sanction on this very point (chap. x. 29, 30), (19) Some of my servants.
These are several Certain of them.-Some were selected for special times mentioned as employed in public duty. Here punishment and humiliation. Ezra, on a like occasion, they are used provisionally, to keep out traffickers until humbled himself by plucking off the hair of his own the formal appointment of the Levitical guard (verse head (Ezra ix. 3). Then they were obliged to repeat 22), after which they would be relieved.
the oath of the covenant.
The final Prayer.
al Kings 11. 1, &c.
unto your sons, or for yourselves. (26) Did not Solomon king of Israel sin by these things ? yet among many nations was there no king like him, who was beloved of his God, and God made him king over all Israel: "nevertheless even him did outlandish women cause to sin. (27) Shall we then hearken unto you to do all this great evil, to transgress against our God in marrying strange wives? (28) And one of the sons of Joiada, the son of Eliashib the high priest, was
son in law to Sanballat the Horonite : therefore I chased him from me. (29) Remember them, O my God, because they have defiled the priesthood, and the covenant of the priesthood, and of the Levites.
(30) Thus cleansed I them from all strangers, and appointed the wards of the priests and the Levites, every one in his business ; (31) and for the wood offering, at times appointed, and for the firstfruits.
Remember me, O my God, for good.
1 Heb., for the de
(26) Did not Solomon ...-Here it is implied (30, 31) Conclusion. that the language of Scripture concerning Solomon was (30) This is a brief recapitulation of the special work familiar both to Nehemiah and to these transgressors. of Nehemiah after his return. It is a remarkable instance of the faithful application Thus cleansed I them,-After the acts of disci. of their own chronicles.
pline described above, there was doubtless some formal (28) I chased him from me.-Eliashib himself service of expiation. was allied by marriage to Tobiah, and one of his (31) Remember me, O my God, for good.grandsons was now brought into prominence as married With these words Nehemiah leaves the scene, commit. to Sanballat. Him Nehemiah drove into exile.
ing himself and his discharge of duty to the Righteous (29) Remember them.-This priestly violation of Judge. His conscientious fidelity had brought him into law is committed to God alone for punishment.
collision not only with external enemies but with many And of the Levites.-God chose the tribe of Levi of his own brethren. His rigorous reformation has for Himself, specially the house of Aaron, and every been assailed by many moralists and commentators in priest was to be “holy to the Lord” (Lev. xxi. 6, 8). every age. But in these words he commits all to God, This was “the covenant of the priesthood ;” though as it were by anticipation.-It may be added that there may be an undertone of reference to the great with these words end the annals of Old Testament covenant in chap. x.
THE BOOK OF ESTHER.
I. Contents.-The Book of Esther opens with the on the morrow the king's leave should be got to hang account of the feast given by King Ahasuerus at the Mordecai-far too unimportant a matter to be worth end of the 180 days during which he had entertained gainsaying. That very night God's providence interthe lords and princes of the kingdom at his palace in the poses to save His people in an unlooked-for way. The city of Shushan. On the seventh day of the feast, the king, unable to sleep, commands the book of the king, excited with wine, sends for his queen Vashti “ to Chronicles of the kingdom to be read to him, and thus show the people and the princes her beauty ; ” with hears of the unrewarded service which Mordecai had which unseemly request Vashti naturally refuses to done him, by the discovery of the plot. Thus in the comply. The enraged king takes counsel with his “ wise morning he suddenly greets his minister with the men,” and by a decree deposes Vashti from her place question, "What shall be done unto the man whom the both as queen and wife, ordering that “all wives should king delighteth to honour?” The favourite, unable to give to their husbands honour,” and that “
every see the possibility of any one being intended save himshould bear rule in his own house."
self, suggests the bestowal of the most extravagant After this a number of maidens were selected, that honours. How the answer he received must have from them Ahasuerus might choose the one who pleased seemed the precursor of the end, when he hears that it him best. His choice fell upon Esther, a Jewish is for Mordecai that he has planned this triumph, and is orphan girl, who had been brought up by her cousin bidden, as himself the chief noble in the realm, to see Mordecai, at whose command she did not at first disclose that the whole is carried into execution! The pageant her nationality to the king. About this time Mordecai is soon over; Mordecai returns to his station by the was the means of frustrating an attempt made on the king's gate, and Haman to his home, to find how truly life of Ahasuerus; the plotters were hanged, but the the dismal comments of his wife and friends echoed his discoverer of the plot was for the time forgotten. own sad forebodings. The morrow comes and the
A certain Haman now occupied the chief place in the second banquet; and Esther now feels that the need for king's favour, and Mordecai incurred his bitter enmity temporising has passed, and prays for the life of herself by his refusal to pay him the reverence yielded by and her people, and directly charges Haman with his others. Not content with the personal hatred, he sought nefarious scheme. Ahasuerus orders at once Haman's the downfall of the whole Jewish race, and obtained execution, which is done without delay, his property from the king a decree, by virtue of which all the Jews being given to the queen, and by her to Mordecai. But throughout the empire were to be massacred. The though the author of the decree had fallen, the decree terror such an edict would produce among the Jews itself still held good. It had been written in the king's can well be imagined, and the news at length reaches name, and sealed with the king's seal, and no man Esther in the palace, and she is bidden by her kins- might reverse it. In this dilemma, largely due to his man to use her influence with the king to obtain a own folly, the king issues another mandate empowering reversal of the decree. To her objection that to ven- the Jews to stand on their defence, sparing no pains ture uncalled into the king's presence is punishable to spread this throughout the whole empire, thereby with death, it is answered that, if her race are to perish, showing clearly how completely a change had taken she must not think to purchase safety by a cowardly place in the royal favour. The day of slaughter came, silence; " but,” adds Mordecai, unwilling that his and not only did the Jews show themselves able to de. adopted child should lose so great an opportunity, “who fend themselves, but they took a terrible vengeance on knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such their enemies; five hundred men were slain by them in a time as this?” The queen at last determines to make Shushan alone, including the ten sons of Haman. At the effort, bidding her countrymen to join her in ob- Esther's further request, the king extended the time of serving a three days' fast. The fast over, Esther, clad massacre in that city over the next day also; and in the in her royal robes, but standing in the court as a sup- provinces 75,000 of the Jews' enemies perished. The pliant, appeared before the king, who held out to her the two days following the great day of slaughter were golden sceptre in token that she had “ obtained favour made feast days for ever after, under the name of Purim. in his sight.” She is bidden to proffer her request, but, The book ends with “ the declaration of the greatness of evidently temporising. she merely asks that the king and Mordecai,” who has now risen to be “next into the Haman should come that day to the banquet which she king, and great among the Jews.” had prepared. The repetition of the king's promise only leads to a fresh invitation to a second banquet on II. Date of the Events recorded.—This simply the following day, while Haman returns home proud at resolves itself into the question, who is Ahasuerus ? and the honour done him, but with fresh exasperation against there can be little doubt that we must identify him with Mordecai, who remained sitting as he passed.
the king known to the Greeks as Xerxes, and that for At home Haman discloses his grievance to his wife the following reasons :—, and his friends, and by their advice it is decided that a (1) The name Xerxes is a Greek reproduction of the gallows of exceptional height should be made, and that Persian name Khshayarsha (meaning, according to