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Esther 1

The royal feast of Ahasuerus. (1-9) Vashti’s refusal to appear, The king’s decree. (10-22)

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The royal feast of Ahasuerus

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.

Vashti’s refusal to appear, The king’s decree

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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G Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.”

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.