King James Bible
with Catholic Commentary by George Leo Haydock

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Esther 4

The Jews lament their danger. (1-4) Esther undertakes to plead for the Jews. (5-17)

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The Jews lament their danger

1 When Mordecai perceived all that was done, Mordecai rent his clothes, and put on sackcloth with ashes, and went out into the midst of the city, and cried with a loud and a bitter cry;

2 And came even before the king’s gate: for none might enter into the king’s gate clothed with sackcloth.

3 And in every province, whithersoever the king’s commandment and his decree came, there was great mourning among the Jews, and fasting, and weeping, and wailing; and many lay in sackcloth and ashes.

4 So Esther’s maids and her chamberlains came and told it her. Then was the queen exceedingly grieved; and she sent raiment to clothe Mordecai, and to take away his sackcloth from him: but he received it not.

Esther undertakes to plead for the Jews

5 Then called Esther for Hatach, one of the king’s chamberlains, whom he had appointed to attend upon her, and gave him a commandment to Mordecai, to know what it was, and why it was.

6 So Hatach went forth to Mordecai unto the street of the city, which was before the king’s gate.

7 And Mordecai told him of all that had happened unto him, and of the sum of the money that Haman had promised to pay to the king’s treasuries for the Jews, to destroy them.

8 Also he gave him the copy of the writing of the decree that was given at Shushan to destroy them, to shew it unto Esther, and to declare it unto her, and to charge her that she should go in unto the king, to make supplication unto him, and to make request before him for her people.

9 And Hatach came and told Esther the words of Mordecai.

10 Again Esther spake unto Hatach, and gave him commandment unto Mordecai;

11 All the king’s servants, and the people of the king’s provinces, do know, that whosoever, whether man or women, shall come unto the king into the inner court, who is not called, there is one law of his to put him to death, except such to whom the king shall hold out the golden sceptre, that he may live: but I have not been called to come in unto the king these thirty days.

12 And they told to Mordecai Esther’s words.

13 Then Mordecai commanded to answer Esther, Think not with thyself that thou shalt escape in the king’s house, more than all the Jews.

14 For if thou altogether holdest thy peace at this time, then shall there enlargement and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place; but thou and thy father’s house shall be destroyed: and who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?

15 Then Esther bade them return Mordecai this answer,

16 Go, gather together all the Jews that are present in Shushan, and fast ye for me, and neither eat nor drink three days, night or day: I also and my maidens will fast likewise; and so will I go in unto the king, which is not according to the law: and if I perish, I perish.

17 So Mordecai went his way, and did according to all that Esther had commanded him.

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G Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Ver. 1. Shewing. Sept. old Vulg. and Josephus, “a nation which has done no wrong, is to be cut off.” The eastern nations were accustomed to such marks of sorrow. Jon. ii. 6. The citizens of Susa tore their garments, and cried aloud, for many days after the defeat of Xerxes. Herod. viii. 98. — The domestics of Darius and Alexander tore also their hair, &c. after their masters’ death. Curt. iii. and xi.

Ver. 2. Sackcloth. Gr. adds, “and ashes.” Such an appearance was deemed disrespectful. God forbids his priests to act thus. Lev. xxi. 1. See Gen. xli. 14. Yet the miserable ought not to be entirely excluded from the king’s presence, as he ought to be their protector.

Ver. 3. Edict. Lit. “dogma;: H. a word used in this sense, (Acts xv. 16.) and by Demosthenes, &c. T. — Mourning. The most effectual means of redress, is to do works of penance for past transgressions. 1 Cor. xi. 31. W.

Ver. 4. Her, concerning the unusual distress of one of the courtiers. They knew not, (M.) perhaps, that he was related to her. H.

Ver. 7. Money. Heb. “the sum of money.” Sept. “then thousand talents.”

Ver. 8. Entreat. Sept. “to put in a counter-petition, and entreat,” &c. — People. Sept. add, “and country, remembering the days of thy lowly state, how thou wast fed by my hand; for Aman, the second after the king, has spoken against us, to have us destroyed. Call then upon the Lord, and speak to the king for us, and rescue us from death.” H. — This servant must have been very trusty, as the secret was confided to him, respecting the nation to which the queen belonged. M.

Ver. 11. Inner court, with regard to many others around, though there was one still more retired, (T.) where the king alone could enter. This admitted the light only by the door, before which hung a curtain, so that the king could see (C.) who came into the hall of audience, (H.) without being seen. None durst come even to this antichamber, without being called. It was also death to appear with their hands out of their sleeves, (Cyrop. ii.) or to sit down, (Diod. xvii.) or look at any of the king’s wives in the face, &c. Plut. Artax. — This gloomy retirement was intended to keep up the idea of his majesty being something more than man. H. — Apud Persas persona regis, sub specie majestatis, occulitur. Justin. i. — The king’s secret cabinet (C.) resembled, in magnificence (C. xv. 9.) the description which Ovid has given us of the palace of the sun. T. — It was covered with gold and precious stones. Here he continued, almost inaccessible, and business was despatched slowly. C. — Agesilaus, king of Sparta, shewed how ridiculous these customs were, by acting quite the reverse, appearing frequently among his subjects, and granting their just requests without delay. Xenophon. — Thirty. She might apprehend that the king’s affection was beginning to cool. God was pleased thus to try her the more. H.

Ver. 13. Only. Aman would contrive to effect her ruin with the rest.

Ver. 14. Occasion. Wonderful confidence! Gr. “if thou wilt not hearken (C. to me; (H.) or, if thou obstinately despise) at this time, the Jews shall be assisted and protected by some,” &c. H. — As this. So Joseph was raised up in Egypt, (C.) that he might save all his family. H.

Ver. 16. Pray. Heb. “fast.” They might take some refreshment in the evening, (Lyran) of dried meats. Joseph. Grot. — Few constitutions could have done without any thing. Yet after two nights and one full day were elapsed, Esther ventured to go to the king. C. v. 1. We have here another instance of places for prayer. Judith vi. 21. The old Vulg. has, “publish a fast, and tell the ancients to fast. Let the infants be kept from the breast during the night, and let no food be given to the oxen and other animals, while I and my maids shall fast,” &c. Then at the end of this chapter, in the Sept. follow the prayers of Mardochai and of Esther, (C. xiii. 8. and C. xiv. H.) which is their proper place. C.