Esther 4

CHAPTER IV

On hearing the king's decree to exterminate the Jews, Mordecai

mourns, and clothes himself in sackcloth, 1, 2.

The Jews are filled with consternation, 3.

Esther, perceived Mordecai in distress at the palace gate, sends

her servant Hatach to inquire the reason, 4-6.

Hatach returns with the information, and also the express desire

of Mordecai that she should go instantly to the king, and make

supplication in behalf of her people, 7-9.

Esther excuses herself on the ground that she had not been

called by the king for thirty days past; and that the law was

such that any one approaching his presence, without express

invitation, should be put to death, unless the king should, in

peculiar clemency, stretch out to such persons the golden

sceptre, 10-12.

Mordecai returns an answer, insisting on her compliance, 13, 14.

She then orders Mordecai to gather all the Jews of Shushan, and

fast for her success three days, night and day, and resolves to

make the attempt, though at the risk of her life, 15-17.

NOTES ON CHAP. IV

Verse 1. Mordecai rent his clothes] He gave every demonstration

of the most poignant and oppressive grief. Nor did he hide this

from the city; and the Greek says that he uttered these words

aloud: αιρεταιεθνοςμηδενηδικηκος, A people are going to be

destroyed, who have done no evil!

Verse 2. Before the king's gate] He could not enter into the

gate, of the place where the officers waited, because he was in

the habit of a mourner; for this would have been contrary to law.

Verse 3. Fasting, and weeping, and wailing] How astonishing,

that in all this there is not the slightest intimation given of

praying to God!

Verse 4. Sent raiment] She supposed that he must have been

spoiled of his raiment by some means; and therefore sent him

clothing.

Verse 5. Then called Esther for Hatach] This eunuch the king had

appointed to wait upon her, partly, as is still the case in the

East, to serve her, and partly, to observe her conduct; for no

despot is ever exempt from a twofold torture, jealousy and

suspicion.

Verse 8. That she should go in unto the king] The Greek adds,

"Remember the time of your low estate, and in what manner you have

been nourished, and carried in my arms; and that Haman, who is

next to the king, has got a decree for our destruction. Pray,

therefore, to the Lord, and plead with the king, that we may be

delivered from death." But there is not a word of this either in

the Hebrew, Syriac, or Vulgate.

Verse 11. Into the inner court] We have already seen that the

Persian sovereigns affected the highest degree of majesty, even to

the assuming of Divine honours. No man nor woman dared to appear

unveiled before them, without hazarding their lives; into the

inner chamber of the harem no person ever entered but the king,

and the woman he had chosen to call thither. None even of his

courtiers or ministers dared to appear there; nor the most beloved

of his concubines, except led thither by himself, or ordered to

come to him. Here was Esther's difficulty; and that difficulty was

now increased by the circumstance of her not having been sent for

to the king's bed for thirty days. In the last verse of the

preceding chapter we find that the king and Haman sat down to

drink. It is very likely that this wicked man had endeavoured to

draw the king's attention from the queen, that his affection might

be lessened, as he must have known something of the relationship

between her and Mordecai; and consequently viewed her as a person

who, in all probability, might stand much in the way of the

accomplishment of his designs. I cannot but think that he had been

the cause why Esther had not seen the king for thirty days.

Verse 13. Think not-that thou shalt escape] This confirms the

suspicion that Haman knew something of the relationship between

Mordecai and Esther; and therefore he gives her to understand

that, although in the king's palace, she should no more escape

than the Jews.

Verse 14. Then shall there enlargement and deliverance arise] He

had a confidence that deliverance would come by some means; and he

thought that Esther would be the most likely; and that, if she did

not use the influence which her providential station gave her, she

would be highly culpable.

And who knoweth whether thou art come] As if he had said, "Is it

likely that Divine providence would have so distinguished thee,

and raised thee from a state of abject obscurity, merely for thy

own sake? Must it not have been on some public account! Did not he

see what was coming? and has he not put thee in the place where

thou mayest counteract one of the most ruinous purposes ever

formed?" Is there a human being who has not some particular

station by an especial providence, at some particular time, in

which he can be of some essential service to his neighbour, in

averting evil or procuring good, if he be but faithful to the

grace and opportunity afforded by this station? Who dares give a

negative to these questions? We lose much, both in reference to

ourselves and others, by not adverting to our providental

situation and circumstances. While on this subject, I will give

the reader two important sayings, from two eminent men, both keen

observers of human nature, and deeply attentive in all such cases

to the operations of Divine providence:-

"To every thing there is a season; and a time to every purpose

under heaven. Therefore withhold not good from them to whom it is

due, when it is in the power of thy hand to do it.

SOLOMON.

There is a tide in the affairs of men,

Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;

Omitted, all the voyage of their life

Is bound in shallows, and in miseries.

SHAKESPEARE.

Has there not been a case, within time of memory, when evil was

designed against a whole people, through the Hamans who had

poisoned the ears of well-intentioned men; in which one poor man,

in consequence of a situation into which he was brought by an

astonishing providence, used the influence which his situation

gave him; and, by the mercy of his God, turned the whole evil

aside? By the association of ideas the following passage will

present itself to the reader's memory, who may have any

acquaintance with the circumstance:-

"There was a little city, and few men within it; and there came

a great king against it, and besieged it, and built great bulwarks

against it. Now there was found in it a poor wise man, and he by

his wisdom delivered the city; yet no man remembered that same

poor man!"

"Then said, I, Ah, Lord God! They say of me, DOTH HE NOT SPEAK

PARABLES?" Rem acu tetigi.

Verse 16. Fast ye for me, and neither eat nor drink three days]

What a strange thing, that still we hear nothing of prayer, nor of

God! What is the ground on which we can account for this total

silence? I know it not. She could not suppose there was any charm

in fasting, sackcloth garments, and lying on the ground. If these

were not done to turn away the displeasure of God, which seemed

now to have unchained their enemies against them, what were they

done for?

If I perish, I perish.] If I lose my life in this attempt to

save my people, I shall lose it cheerfully. I see it is my duty to

make the attempt; and, come what will, I am resolved to do it. She

must, however, have depended much on the efficacy of the

humiliations she prescribed.

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