Esther 2

CHAPTER II

The counsellors advise that a selection of virgins should be

made throughout the empire, out of whom the king should choose

one to be queen in place of Vashti, 1-4.

Account of Mordecai and his cousin Esther, 5-7.

She is chosen among the young women, and is placed under the

care of Hegai, the king's chamberlain, to go through a year's

purification, 8-11.

The manner in which these young women were introduced to the

king, and how those were disposed of who were not called again

to the king's bed, 12-14.

Esther pleases the king, and is set above all the women; and he

makes her queen in the place of Vashti, and does her great

honour, 15-20.

Mordecai, sitting at the king's gate, discovers a conspiracy

formed against the king's life by two of his chamberlains; he

informs the king, the matter is investigated, they are found

guilty and hanged, and the transaction is recorded, 21-23.

NOTES ON CHAP. II

Verse 2. Let there be fair young virgins sought for the king]

This was the usual way in which the harem or seraglio was

furnished: the finest women in the land, whether of high or low

birth, were sought out, and brought to the harem. They all became

the king's concubines: but one was raised, as chief wife or

sultana, to the throne; and her issue was specially entitled to

inherit.

Verse 3. Hege the king's chamberlain] Hege seris

hammelech, "Hege, the king's eunuch;" so the Septuagint, Vulgate,

Targum, and Syriac. In the Eastern countries the women are

intrusted to the care of the eunuchs only.

Let their things for purification be given them]

tamrukeyhen, their cosmetics. What these were we are told in

Es 2:12;

oil of myrrh, and sweet odours. The myrrh was employed for six

months, and the odours for six months more, after which the person

was brought to the king. This space was sufficient to show whether

the young woman had been chaste; whether she were with child or

not, that the king might not be imposed on, and be obliged to

father a spurious offspring, which might have been the case had

not this precaution been used.

Instead of the oil or myrrh, the Targum says it was the oil of

unripe olives which caused the hair to fall off, and rendered the

skin delicate.

Verse 5. Whose name was Mordecai] The Targum says, "He was the

son of Jair, the son of Shimea, the son of Gera, the son of Kish."

And "this was the same Shimea that cursed David; and whom David

forbade Joab to slay because he saw, in the spirit of prophecy,

that he was to be the predecessor of Esther and Mordecai; but when

he became old, and incapable of having children, David ordered

Solomon to put him to death."

Verse 7. He brought up Hadassah] hadassah signifies a

myrtle in Chaldee: this was probably her first or Babylonish

name. When she came to the Persian court, she was called Esther,

[Persian] aster, or [Persian] sitara, which signifies a star in

Persian: the name is undoubtedly Persian. Esther was the daughter

of Abihail, the uncle of Mordecai, and therefore must have been

Mordecai's cousin, though the Vulgate and Josephus make her

Mordecai's niece: but it is safest here to follow the Hebrew.

Verse 9. The maiden pleased him] He conceived a partiality for

her above the rest, probably because of the propriety of her

deportment, and her engaging though unassuming manners.

Seven maidens] These were to attend her to the bath, to anoint

and adorn her, and be her servants in general.

Verse 10. Esther had not showed her people] This might have

prejudiced her with the king; for it was certainly no credit at

the Persian court to be a Jew; and we shall find from the sequel

that those who were in the Persian dominions were far from being

reputable, or in a safe state. Besides, had her lineage been

known, envy might have prevented her from ever having access to

the king.

Verse 12. Six months with oil of myrrh] See on Es 2:3. The

reason of this purification seems not to be apprehended by any

writer I have seen. The most beautiful of all the young virgins of

all the provinces of Babylon were to be selected; and these were

taken out of all classes of the people, indiscriminately;

consequently there must have been many who were brought up in low

life. Now we know that those who feed on coarse strong food, which

is not easily digested, have generally a copious perspiration,

which is strongly odorous; and in many, though in every respect

amiable, and even beautiful, this odour is far from being

pleasant. Pure, wholesome, easily digested, and nourishing

aliment, with the frequent use of the hot bath, continued for

twelve months. the body frequently rubbed with olive oil, will in

almost every case remove all that is disagreeable of this kind.

This treatment will give a healthy action to all the subcutaneous

vessels, and in every respect promote health and comfort.

Verse 13. Whatsoever she desired] When any of the young women

were called to go to the king, it appears that it was an ordinance

that whatever kind of dress stuff, colour, jewels, &c., they

thought best to set off their persons, and render them more

engaging, should be given them.

Verse 14. She returned into the second house] This was the place

where the king's concubines were kept. They went out no more, and

were never given in marriage to any man, and saw the king's face

no more unless specially called.

Custody of Shaashgaz] This is probably another Persian name;

[Persian] sheshkhunj, beardless, a proper epithet of a eunuch; or

[Persian] sestgunj, weak loins, for the same reason. Names of this

kind at once show the reason of their imposition, by describing

the state of the person.

Verse 15. She required nothing] She left this entirely to her

friend Hege, who seems to have been intent on her success. She

therefore left her decorations to his judgment alone, and went in

that dress and in those ornaments which he deemed most suitable.

Verse 16. The tenth month-Tebeth] Answering to part of our

December and January.

Verse 17. Set the royal crown upon her head] Made her what is

now called in the East the SULTANA, the queen. She was the

mistress of all the rest of the wives, all of whom were obliged to

pay her the most profound respect.

Verse 18. Made a release to the provinces] Remitted some kind of

tribute or impost, in honour of Esther, at her coronation, as our

kings generally do when they are crowned, ordering a discharge

from prison of many who are confined for minor offenses. As it was

the custom of the Persian kings to give their queens something

like what is called with us the aurum reginae, "queen gold," which

was a tenth of all fines, &c., above what was given to the king;

(for they gave them such a city to buy them clothes, another for

their hair, a third for their necklaces, a fourth for their

pearls, &c.;) it is probable that, on this occasion, Esther so

wishing, he relieved those cities and provinces which had before

paid this queen gold from all these expenses; and this would tend

greatly to make the queen popular.

Verse 21. Mordecai sat in the kings gate] Mordecai might have

been one of the officers of the king, as the gate was the place

where such usually attended to await the king's call. It is not

likely that he was the porter; had he been only such, Haman could

have removed him at once.

Two of the king's chamberlains] Eunuchs. Why they conspired

against the life of the king, we are not informed. The Targum says

that they found out that Esther had intended to use her influence

with the king to get them removed from their office, and Mordecai

put in their place; therefore they determined to poison Esther,

and slay the king in his bedchamber. It is very likely that they

were creatures of Haman, who probably affected the kingdom, and

perhaps were employed by him to remove the king, and so make his

way open to the throne.

Verse 22. Was known to Mordecai] Josephus says that a Jew, named

Barnabasus, overheard the plot, told it to Mordecai, Mordecai to

Esther, and Esther to the king, in Mordecai's name; and he was

registered as the discoverer.

Verse 23. It was found out] It was proved against them, in

consequence of which they were hanged. Perhaps the words

vaiyittalu al ets, they were hung upon wood or a tree, may

refer to their being impaled. A pointed stake is set upright in

the ground, and the culprit is taken, placed on the sharp point,

and then pulled down by his legs till the stake that went in at

the fundament passes up through the body and comes out by the side

of the neck. A most dreadful species of punishment, in which

revenge and cruelty may glut the utmost of their malice. The

culprit lives a considerable time in excruciating agonies.

It has been observed that the name of God does not once occur in

this book. This is true of the Hebrew text, and all translations

from it; but in the Septuagint we find the following words, in

Es 2:20, after,

Esther had not showed her kindred: ουτωςγαρενετειλατοαυτη

μαρδοχαιοςφοβεισθαιτονθεονκαιποιεινταπροσταγματααυτου

καθωςηνμεταυτου; "For so Mordecai had charged her to fear GOD,

and to keep his commandments, as she did when with him." This, as

far as the Septuagint is concerned, takes away the strange

reproach from this book. It must be owned that it was not because

there were not many fair opportunities that the sacred name has

not been introduced.

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