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ESTHER.

Canon Rawlinson, “the ruling eye”), and when Aha- so that the book must have been written in Persia. suerus is transliterated more strictly according to the This is further confirmed by traits that suggest that Hebrew spelling Akhashverosh, it will be seen that the the writer is speaking as an eye-witness (see, for

ssential elements of the word are almost exactly repro- example, chaps. i. 6, viii. 10, 14, 15, &c.). Possibly too, duced, the letter aleph being prefixed to facilitate the even if Mordecai were not the author, matter directly difficult pronunciation.

derived from him may be seen in chap. ii. 5, 10, &c. (2) The character of Ahasuerus as shown in this book Again, it must be noticed that the name of God in presents a striking parallel with that of Xerxes. Aha. every form is entirely absent from the book, that there suerus is an ordinary specimen of an Eastern despot, is no allusion whatever to the Jewish nation as one who knows no law save the gratification of his own exiled from the land of their fathers, to that land itself, passions, and of the passing caprice of the moment. He or to the newly rebuilt Temple, or, in fact, to any Jewish sends for his queen in defiance of decency and courtesy, institution whatsoever. Whether this reserve is to be to grace a revel, and deposes her for a refusal simply explained by the writer's long residence in Persia indicative of self-respect; he is willing to order the having blunted the edge of his national feelings, or destruction of a whole people throughout his empire, at whether he may have thought it safer to keep his the request of the favourite of the time; when the tide feelings and opinions in the background, it is impossible of favour turns, the favourite is not only disgraced, but to say : very possibly both causes may have acted. he and all his family are ruthlessly destroyed, and As regards the date, some of the foregoing conMordecai rises from a humble position to be the new siderations, if allowed, would weigh strongly in favour vizier. Thus, though God shapes all this for good, the of a comparatively early date, inasmuch as they would instrument is distinctly, evil. How similar is the make the writer more or less contemporaneous with the picture shown in the undying story of Herodotus, of the events he records—a view which the graphic style king who, reckless of the overthrow of his father's strongly supports. But it is obvious, from the way in armies at Marathon ten short years before, will make a which the book opens, that Ahasuerus or Xerxes was no fresh attempt to crush the nation on whose success the longer king. Combining these two considerations, we freedom of the world was to hinge; who comes with a should prefer to fix the composition of the book not host so vast that, in the poet's hyperbole, they drink the long after the death of Xerxes (464 B.C.), say 450 B.C., rivers dry (Juv. x. 177); who has a throne erected to a time when Athens was at the height of its power and view the slaughter of Leonidas and his three hundred ; fame, and Rome was merely a second-rate Italian who gazes from mount Ægaleos at the vast fleet in the commonwealth. bay of Salamis, soon to be routed and broken by The above view, or something like it, is held by most Themistocles ! The king, who a few weeks before has sober critics, a common form of the view being to asthe Hellespont scourged because it presumes to be sign the book to the reign of the successor of Xerxes, stormy and break his bridges, now flees away in panic, Artaxerxes Longimanus (4644425 B.c.), and it may be leaving his fleet to its fate. (See Herod. vii. 35; Æsch. noted that there can be little doubt that the Books of Pers. 467, seq.; Juv. x. 174–187.)

Ezra, Nehemiah, and Chronicles are to be assigned to (3) The extent of his empire. He rules " from India that reign, and that the style of those books closely even unto Ethiopia” (chap. i. 1). India was not in- resembles that of Esther. Some have advocated a cluded in the empire of the early Persian kings, and distinctly late date for Esther, assigning it to the therefore, though Cambyses, the son of Cyrus, is called period of the Greek régime, but the arguments brought Ahasuerus in Ezra iv. 6, he is excluded by the above forward seem to us of little weight. consideration.

If then, as we can hardly doubt, Ahasuerus and IV. Canonicity, and Place in Canon.-In the Xerxes are the same, we can at once fix the date of the Hebrew Bible, Esther stands as the last of the five events recorded in the Book of Esther. Ahasuerus Megilloth, or rolls, the others being Song of Songs, Ruth, makes the great feast in the third year of his reign Lamentations, and Ecclesiastes, and it is read through (chap. i. 3), Esther is taken into the royal palace in the in the synagogues at the Feast of Purim. Among the seventh year (chap. ii. 16), they cast lots before Haman Jews there can be no doubt that its canonicity was in the twelfth year (chap. iii. 7), and in the thirteenth universally acknowledged, for in the earliest statement year the plan of destruction is broached. Now the we have as to the contents of the Jewish Canon reign of Xerxes lasted from 485—464 B.C., therefore (Josephus, contr. Apion. i. 8), Esther is distinctly inthe events recorded in Esther range from 483—470 B.C. cluded by the mention of Artaxerxes. Here and there

in early Christian lists of the books of the Old Testament III. Author, and Date of Composition.-A Canon in its Palestinian form, as opposed to the longer number of guesses, for they cannot be called anything Canon of the Alexandrian Jews, the Book of Esther is more, have been put forward as to the author of this not mentioned. This is the case, for example, in the list book, and of the best of these we can only say that it is given by Melito, Bishop of Sardis in the second century possible. Some, as Clement of Alexandria, and Ahen (Euseb. Hist. Eccl. iv. 26). Dr. Westcott (Smith's Ezra (Comm. in Esther, Int.), have assigned it to Mor. Bible Dict., art.“ Canon ”) suggests that this may be due decai; others, as Augustine (de Civ. Dei. 1. xviii. c. 36), to Esther having been viewed as a part of Ezra repre. with much less show of probability, refer it to Ezra ; senting a general collection of post-captivity records. the Talmud (Tal. Babl., Baba Bathra, f. 15a) gives the Whatever

may

be the true explanation, at any rate men of the great synagogue; ” and yet other theories Esther is an integral part of the pure Hebrew Canon, are current.

and as such is mentioned by the Talmud; it was inIn all this uncertainty we may as well at once confess cluded, though with considerable addition, to which we our inability to settle who the author was, though we refer below, in the Græco-Alexandrian Canon, and was may perhaps obtain a fair notion of the conditions under received, while the Greek accretions were rejected, by which he wrote. It may probably be fairly inferred Jerome into his Latin translation. from such passages as chaps. ix. 32, x. 2, &c., that the The position of Esther in the Hebrew Bible is an writer had access to the documents to which he refers, artificial one, clearly due to Liturgical reasons, the ESTHER.

Megilloth being read, each at one of the Feasts. In the (5) Edict of revocation, in chap. viii. (chap. xvi., LXX. and Vulgate, as well as in the English Bible, English Version). Esther comes at the end of the historical books. In the (6) An exposition of Mordecai's dream ; after which two former, Tobit and Judith intervene between Nehe- comes a statement, evidently intended to imply that the miah and Esther; in the latter, those two books are whole book was translated from the Hebrew (chaps. X. relegated to the Apocrypha.

4-13, xi. 1, English Version). V. Apocryphal Additions to Esther.-In the Thus in the LXX. the book with its additions text of Esther, as given by the LXX., we find large in. makes a continuous narrative. But when Jerome terpolations interspersed throughout the book. The set forth his new Latin Version based on the Hebrew, chief of them are :

he naturally rejected those portions not found in

the prelude to the whole book (chaps. xi. 2-xii. 6, English noting the cause of the rejection and the place of the Version)

insertion. (2) A copy of the king's letters to destroy the Jews, In the English Bible, however, while the position of inserted in chap. iii. (chap. xii. 1–7, English Version). the extracts is as it is in the Latin Vulgate, Jerome's

(3) Prayers of Mordecai and Esther, in chap. iv. notes are omitted, making the whole almost unin. (chap. xiii. 8-xiv. 19, English Version).

telligible. It is curious to note that chap. xi. 2 of the (4) Amplification of Esther's visit to the king, in English Version forms the first verse in the Greek of chap. v. (chap. xv., English Version).

| Esther, and chap. xi. 1 the last verse.

[blocks in formation]

B.O. cir. 521,

CHAPTER 1.-(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 1 Heb., found. 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 2 Or, violet.

him : (1) 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 2 blue, hangings, fastened with cords of fine linen and purple to silver rings and

B.C. cir. 519.

(1) Ahasuerus.- Three persons are called by this larity in numbers is quite accidental. There seem name in the Old Testament—(1) the Ahasuerus of to have been a gradually increasing number of satrapies Dan. ix. 1, the father of “ Darius the Mede;" if, as in the kingdom of Darius—20, 21, 23, 29 (Herod. iii. is probable, this latter is the same with Astyages, 89—94), and the nations in the empire of Xerxes are Ahasuerus must be identified with Cyaxares: (2) the said to be sixty (ib. vii. 61–95). Thus the provinces Ahasuerus of Ezra iv. 6, who is doubtless the same here mentioned must include subdivisions of these. with Cambyses, the son of Cyrus; and (3) the one now (2) Shushan.-Susa. Mentioned also in Neh. i. 1. before us, whom we have shown in the Introduction It was the general abode of the Persian kings. (See to be almost certainly. Xerxes. For the history and Herod. vii. 6.) character of this sovereign reference must be especially (3) In the third year of his reign.-Assuming, made to the contemporaneous writers, Herodotus as we do, the identity of Ahasuerus and Xerxes, this (vii., viii. 1-90), and Æschylus in his play of will be 483 B.C., when Xerxes held a meeting at Susa The Persians. The spirited lines of Juvenal should of his princes to make arrangements for invading also be read (Sat. x. 173–187). We find that Xerxes Greece. At so important a gathering, the feasting was succeeded his father, Darius Hystaspes, in the year a very obvious adjunct; and besides the coming cam485 B.C., five years after the momentous battle of paign, a successful war had just been concluded in Marathon. Undeterred by his father's failure, he Egypt, and rejoicings for the past might have mingled resolves upon a fresh attack on Greece, and sets out with high hopes for the future, when the whole in 481 B.C. from Susa for the West. He winters at strength of the empire should be put forth to crush Sardis, leaving it in the spring of the following year. the presumptuous foe who had dared to measure swords The summer sees the fight of the pass of Thermopylæ, with the “ king of kings.” which has covered the name of Leonidas and his three Nobles. The word in the Hebrew, partemim, ochundred, though vanquished and slain, with undying curring here, in chap. vi. 9, and Dan. i. 3, is a Persian glory; in the autumn Themistocles, by his victory over word, literally meaning "first." The Greek protos the Persians at Salamis, changes the history of the and Latin primus are evidently akin to it. world, and the beginning thus made is carried on by the (4) An hundred and fourscore days. — As a victories at Platæa and Mycale in 479 B.C. From the period of mere feasting, this long time (half a year) is rout at Salamis, Xerxes had fled to Sardis, which he simply incredible, but we must understand it as a time did not leave till the spring of 478 B.C. All that we

during which troops were collected, and the plan of know of the further course of the reign of Xerxes is invasion settled. but one unbroken tale of debauchery and bloodshed, (5) All the people.-So we find Cyrus feasting which came to an end in 464 B.C., when he was mur- “ all the Persians” (Herod. i. 126). dered by two of his officers, Mithridates and Artabamus, (6) Where were white

This should be and Artaxerxes Longimanus, his son (see Ezra vii.; [hangings of] “white cotton and blue.” The word Neh. ii.), reigned in his stead.

translated “cotton” (Heb., carpas) occurs only here. This is Ahasuerus.—This is added to make clear Canon Rawlinson remarks that white and blue (or which particular sovereign we are here dealing with. violet) were the royal colours of Persia." We have seen that three of the name are mentioned Linen.-White linen; so the word is used, e.g., in in the Old Testament.

2 Chron. v. 12. Ethiopia.--Herodotus tells us that Ethiopia paid Marble.-White marble, as in the last clause of the tribute to Xerxes (iii. 97).

An hundred and seven and twenty.-In Dan. Beds. That is, the couches. The gold is not to be vi. 1. we find that Darius the Mede appointed a referred simply to the gold-embroidered coverings, but hundred and twenty satraps, but probably the simi- to the framework of the couch.

verse.

Vashti's Refusal to

ESTHER, I.

attend at the King's Feast.

alabaster,
stone of
colour.

5

kingdom.

king.

pillars of marble: the beds were of gold 10 porphyreal (11) to bring Vashti the queen before the and silver, upon a pavement of red, and Carme king with the crown royal, to show the blue, and white, and black, marble.

people and the princes her beauty : for (7) And they gave them drink in vessels

she was
fair to look on.

(12) But the of gold, (the vessels being diverse one 2 Heb. wine of the queen Vashti refused to come at the from another,) and 'royal wine in abun

king's commandment 6 by his chamberdance, 8 according to the state of the king.

lains: therefore was the king very wroth, (3) And the drinking was according to the heart or direkte and his anger burned in him. law; none did compel: for so the king

(13) Then the king said to the wise men, had appointed to all the officers of his

which knew the times, (for so was the house, that they should do according to Or, eunuchs. king's manner toward all that knew law every man's pleasure. (9) Also Vashti

and judgment: (14) and the next unto the queen made a feast for the women in 5 Hebe, good of him was Carshena, Shethar, Admatha, the royal house which belonged to king

Tarshish, Meres, Marsena, and Memucan, Ahasuerus.

the a seven princes of Persia and Media, (10) On the seventh day, when the heart to Port this whicho mas which saw the king's face, and which sat of the king was merry with wine, he

the first in the kingdom ;) (15) 7 What commanded Mehuman, Biztha, Harbona,

shall we do unto the queen Vashti acBigtha, and Abagtha, Zethar, and Carcas, a Ezra 7. 14.

cording to law, because she hath not perthe seven *chamberlains that served in

formed the commandment of the king the presence of Ahasuerus the king, 7 web., What to do.| Ahasuerus by the chamberlains ?

countonuince.

Eunuchs.

Red and blue These words are not names of most unjust to identify her with one whose character colours, but of actual stones, although the meaning of is presented to us in most unlovely guise. Bishop most is doubtful enough. The first (bahat) is rendered Wordsworth suggests that Amestris was a wife who by the LXX. as a stone of emerald colour, and may had great influence with Xerxes between the fall of perhaps be malachite. The second (shesh) is white Vashti and the rise of Esther. If, however, Amestris marble, the third (dar) is pearly, and the last (sokhereth) was really the chief wife before Xerxes came to the black.

throne, this could hardly be, and the time allowed (7) In vessels of gold.- This shows the immense seems much too scanty, seeing that in it falls the treasures in the hand of the Persian king, when the invasion of Greece. Or, lastly, we may with Canon whole population of Susa could be thus accommodated. Rawlinson say that Vashti is Amestris (the two names

Royal wine.-Perhaps wine of Helbon (Ezek. xxvii. being different reproductions of the Persian, or Vashti 18); the original seems to imply more than merely being a sort of title) and that the deposition was a wine from the royal cellars : as the king was feasting temporary one. his people, it could hardly have been otherwise.

The women. There should be no article. State.-Literally, hand.

(10) Was merry with wine.-The habit of the (8) Law. Rather ordinance or decree, that is, Persians to indulge in wine to excess may be inferred specially put forth for this occasion. What this means from verse 8. is shown by what follows, namely, that the king had Chamberlains.—Literally, eunuchs. The names issued special orders to allow all to do as they pleased of the men, whatever they may be, are apparently not in the matter of drinking, instead of as usual com

Persian. The enumeration of all the seven names is pelling them to drink. This degrading habit is the suggestive of personal knowledge on the part of the more noticeable because the Persians were at first a writer. nation of exceptionally temperate habits.

(11) To bring Vashti.-It is evident from the way (9) Vashti.- According to Gesenius, the name Vashti in which the incident is introduced that had Ahasuerus means beautiful. Among the Persians it was cus- been sober he would not have asked such a thing. tomary that one wife of the sovereign should be Vashti naturally sends a refusal. supreme over the rest, and her we sometimes find Crown royal.-If this were like that worn by a exercising an authority which contrasts strangely with king, it would be a tall cap decked with gems, and the degraded position of women generally. Such a with a linen fillet of blue and white; this last was the one was Atossa, the mother of Xerxes. Vashti, too, diadem. (See Trench, New Testament Synonyms, $ 23.) before her deposition, was evidently the queen par excel. (13) Which knew the times. That is, who were lence. We find, however, that the name given by the skilled in precedents, and could advise accordingly, Greek writers to the queen of Xerxes was Amestris,

For so

- Translate, for so was the king's busiof whose cruelty and dissolute life numerous details ness laid before . are given us by Herodotus and others. There seem (14) Marsena.- It has been suggested that we may good grounds for believing that she was the wife of possibly recognise here Mardonius, the commander at Xerxes before he became king, which if established Marathon; and in Admatha, Artabanus, the uncle of would of itself be sufficient to disprove the theory of Xerxes. some who would identify Esther and Amestris. More- The seven princes.- There were seven leading over, Herodotus tells us (vii. 61, 82) that Amestris families in Persia, the heads of which were the king's was the cousin of Xerxes, the daughter of his father's chief advisers, the “ seven counsellors ” of Ezra vii. 14. brother; and although we cannot view Esther as of a Herodotus (iii. 84) speaks of the seven nobles who specially high type of womanhood, still it would be rose against the Pseudo-Smerdis as chief in the nation. The King Publishes the Decree

ESTHER, II.

of Men's Sovereignty.

with the king.

not awuy.

B.C.518,

(16) And Memucan answered before the 11 Heb. Il it be good (21) And the saying pleased the king king and the princes, Vashti the

queen

and the princes; and the king did achath not done wrong to the king only,

cording to the word of Memucan: (22) for but also to all the princes, and to all the

he sent letters into all the king's propeople that are in all the provinces of

Pich, from before vinces, into every province according to the king Ahasuerus. (17) For this deed

the writing thereof, and to every people of the queen shall come abroad unto all

after their language, that every man women, so that they shall despise their 3 Heb., that it pass should bear rule in his own house, and husbands in their eyes, when it shall be

6 that it should be published according to reported, The king Ahasuerus com

the language of every people. manded Vashti the queen to be brought in before him, but she came not. (18) Like

CHAPTER II.-(1) After these things, wise shall the ladies of Persia and Media

when the wrath of king Ahasuerus was say this day unto all the king's princes,

appeased, he remembered Vashti, and which have heard of the deed of the companionto her what she had done, and what was decreed queen. Thus shall there arise too much

against her. (2) Then said the king's sercontempt and wrath. (19) 1 If it please

vants that ministered unto him, Let there the king, let there go a royal command-seb., was good in be fair young virgins sought for the king: ment 2 from him, and let it be written thing ones of the (3) and let the king appoint officers in all among the laws of the Persians and the

the provinces of his kingdom, that they Medes, 3 that it be not altered, That

may gather together all the fair young Vashti come no more before king Aha- 6 Heb., that one virgins unto Shushan the palace, to the suerus; and let the king give her royal according to the house of the women, 7unto the custody estate 4unto another that is better than

of Hege the king's chamberlain, keeper she. (20) And when the king's decree

of the women; and let their things for which he shall make shall be published

purification be given them : (4) and let throughout all his empire, (for it is werden unto the the maiden which pleaseth the king be great,) all the wives shall give to their

queen instead of Vashti. And the thing husbands honour, both to great and

pleased the king; and he did so. small.

(5) Now in Shushan the palace there

language of his people.

8 Or, Hegai, ver. 8.

(16) Answered before the king.–Memucan, like two or more languages are used, from the presence of a true courtier, gives palatable advice to his master, by foreign wives, the husband is to take care that his own counsel which is the true echo of the king's angry language is not supplanted by any of theirs. This is question.

intelligible enough, but is perhaps rather irrelevant to Done wrong.-Literally, dealt unfairly.

what goes before. (18) Translate, and this day shall the princesses of

II. Persia and Media, which heard the affair of the (1) After these things.-We have seen that the queen, say

great feast at Susa was in the year 483 B.C., and that Contempt and wrath.-Presumably, contemptuous in the spring of 481 B.c. Xerxes set out for Greece. defiance on the part of the wives, and anger on the At some unspecified time, then, between these limits the part of the husbands.

proposal now started is to be placed. The marriage of (19) That it be not altered.-Literally, that it Esther, however (verse 16), did not come about till pass not away. The order having been committed to after the return from Greece, the king's long absence writing was, in theory at any rate, immutable. The explaining the otherwise curious delay, and moreover, best illustration is the well-known case of Daniel ; see even in this interval, he was entangled in more than also below (chap. viii. 8). Probably a strong-willed one illicit connection. monarch would interpret this inviolability rather freely. (3) The house of the women.- The harem, then

(22) He sent letters.- The Persian Empire was as now, a prominent feature in the establishment of an the first to possess a postal system (see esp. Herod. vii. Eastern king 98). The Greek word for "compel,” in Matt. v. 41, Hege.-Called Hegai in verse 8; a eunuch whose xxvii

. 32, is simply a corruption of the Persian word for special charge seems to have been the virgins, while the impressment of men and horses for the royal service. another, named Shaashgaz (verse 14), had the custody

That every man should ., : .-The following of the concubines. The whole verse shows, as concluwords are, literally, be ruling in his own house, and sively as anything could do, in how degrading an aspect speaking according to the language of his own people. Eastern women were, as a whole, viewed. It was reThe former clause may probably be taken as a proof of served for Christianity to indicate the true position of the existence of an undue amount of female influence woman, not man's plaything, but the help meet for generally in Persia; the second clause is more doubt. him, able to aid him in his spiritual and intellectual Hebrew, perhaps because the literal rendering yielded a (5) Mordecai.-Canon Rawlinson is disposed to somewhat peculiar sense. Taking the words exactly as identify Mordecai with Matacas, who was the most they stand, they can only mean that in a house where powerful of the eunuchs in the reign of Xerxes. It

ful. The English Version does distinct violence to the progress, yielding him intelligent obedience, not slavery.

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