THE BOOK OF ESTHER
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PART FIRST
ORIGIN AND INCREASE OF DANGER TO THE JEWS
Chaps. 1–5
INTRODUCTION
The Occasion of the History. The Feast of Ahasuerus and Vashti’s Rejection
Chap. 1:1–22
I. Ahasuerus assembles the princes of his empire around him, and prepares a great feast, in which he endeavours to show his power and glory. Vers. 1–8
1Now [And] it came to pass [was] in the days of Ahasuerus [Achashverosh], (this is Ahasuerus which reigned [the one being king] from India [Hodu] even unto [and till] Ethiopia [Cush], over a hundred and seven and twenty provinces,) 2That in those days when [as] the king Ahasuerus sat on the throne of his kingdom, which was in Shushan the palace,1 3In the third year of his reign, he made a feast2 unto all his princes and his servants; the power3 of Persia [Paras] and Media [Madai], the 4nobles4 and [the] princes of the provinces, being before him. When he showed the riches of his glorious [the glory of his] kingdom, and the honour of his excellent [the excellence of his] majesty, many days, even a hundred and fourscore days. 5And when these days were [had] expired, the king made a feast2 unto all the people that were present [found] in Shushan the palace,1 both unto great and [to great and 6even to] small, seven days, in the court of the garden of the king’s palace; Where were white [linen], green [cotton], and blue [violet] hangings, fastened with cords of fine linen and purple to [on] silver rings and pillars of marble: the beds were of [there were beds of] gold and silver, upon a pavement of red [white] and blue [marble], and white [pearl], and black marble [colored stone]. 7And they gave them [there was a giving of] drink in vessels of gold, (the vessels being [and the vessels were] diverse one from another,) and royal wine in abundance, according to the state [hand] of the king. 8And the drinking was according to the law; none did compel: for so the king had appointed [ordained] to [upon] all the officers [every great one] of his house, that they should do [to do] according to every man’s pleasure.
II. Queen Vashti refuses to appear before the king, and he is very much incensed thereat. Verses 9–12
9Also Vashti the queen made a feast2 for [of] the women in the royal house which belonged to king Ahasuerus. 10On the seventh day, when [as] the heart of the king was merry [good] with [the] wine, he commanded [said to] Mehuman, Biztha, Harbona, Bigtha, and Abagtha, Zethar, and Carcas, the seven chamberlains [eunuchs] that served in the presence of Ahasuerus the king, 11To bring Vashti the queen before the king, with the crown royal [of royalty], to show the people [peoples] and 12the princes her beauty: for she was fair to look on [good of appearance]. But [And] the queen Vashti refused to come at the king’s commandment [word] [which was] by [the hand of] his [the] chamberlains [eunuchs] : therefore [and] was the king very wroth, and his anger burned [heat devoured] in him.
III. In accordance with the counsel of his wise men the queen is rejected by a public decree of the king. Verses 13–22
13Then [And] the king said to the wise men, which knew [knowers of ] the times, (for so was the king’s manner [word] toward [before] all that knew [knowers of] law and judgment: 14And the next unto him was Carshena, Shethar, Admatha, Tarshish, Meres, Marsena, and Memucan, the seven princes of Persia [Paras] and Media [Madai], which saw [seers of] the king’s face, and which sat [the sitters] the first in the kingdom); 15What shall we do [is there to do] unto [in the case of] the queen Vashti according to law, because [upon the fact that] she hath not performed [done] the commandment of the king Ahasuerus by [the hand of] the chamberlains [eunuchs]? 16And Memucan answered [said] before the king and the princes, Vashti the queen hath not done wrong to [upon] the king only, but [for] also to [upon] all the princes, and to [upon] all the people [peoples] that are in all the 17provinces of the king Ahasuerus. For this deed [word] of the queen shall come abroad [go forth] unto [upon] all [the] women, so that they shall [to cause them to] despise their husbands in their eyes, when it shall be reported [in their saying], The king Ahasuerus commanded [said] Vashti the queen to be brought [to bring] in 18before him, but [and] she came not. Likewise shall the ladies [princesses] of Persia [Paras] and Media [Madai] say this day unto all the king’s princes, which [who] have heard5 of the deed [word] of the queen. Thus [And] shall there arise 19too much [according to plenty] contempt and wrath. If it please [be good upon] the king, let there go [forth] a royal commandment [word] from [before] him, and let it be written among the laws of the Persians [Paras] and the Medes [Madai], that [and let] it be not altered [not pass], That Vashti come no more [not] before king Ahasuerus; and let the king give her royal estate [royalty] unto another [her neighbor] that is better than she. 20And when the king’s decree which he shall make shall be published [heard] throughout [in] all his empire [kingdom], (for it is great.) [and] all the wives [women] shall give to their husbands honour, both to great and small. 21And the saying [word] pleased [was good in the eyes of] the king and the princes; and the king did according to the word of Memucan : 22For [And] he sent letters into [unto] all the king’s provinces, into [unto] every province according to the writing6 thereof, and to [unto] every people after their language, that every man should bear rule [for every man to be prince] in his own house, and that it should be published [spoken] according to the language of every [his] people.
TEXTUAL AND GRAMMATICAL
1 [Ver. 2. בִּירָה, whence βάρις, denotes properly a fortress, hence the capital.Tr.]
2 [Ver. 3. מִשְׁתֶּה, a drinking, i.e., a banquet, in which the wine was the principal feature, as represented freely on the Assyrian monuments.—Tr.]
3 [Ver. 3. חַיִל, military force.—Tr.]
4 [Ver. 3. פַרְתְּמִים, a Persian word Hebraized. As it is here in the “absolute form,” it does not qualify “provinces” following, but stands as an official designation, probably of civil rank at court.—Tr.]
5 [Ver. 18. The English Version has unwarrantably transposed this clause (“which have heard,” etc.), which belongs to “ladies,” etc., above.—Tr.]
6 [Ver. 22. כְּתָב here evidently signifies the style of writing peculiar to each province. Thus the cuneiform differs according to the several districts of the Persian empire.—Tr.]
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
Vers. 1–8. The King’s Banquet.—The point of departure in this history is formed by a feast at which Ahasuerus was unexpectedly humbled and provoked to wrath, while purposing to show his great majesty.
Ver. 1. Now it came to pass,etc. The sentence begun here, in its chief fact really follows ver. 3. There it is stated that Ahasuerus made a feast in the third year of his reign. The ו at the beginning has not the conjunctive sense that it has in Ezra 1:1, but stands more indefinite. A Hebrew would understand this as a matter of which much had already been related, and of which the following is only a continuation. Thus he would proceed often with a ו without attaching any definite meaning to it. וַיְהִי has come to be a conventional formula for a beginning, comp. Jonah 1:4; Ez. 1:1; Isa. 53:2, et al.Ahasuerus (Achashverosh) written in cuneiform letters (comp. Lassen, Zeitschr. zur Kunde des M. L. VI., p. 123 sqq.; Benfey, Die pers. Keilin-schrift, p. 63 sqq) Khsy-arsha, whence Cyax-ares (comp. Dan. 9:1), or Khsay-arsha, whence Xerxes (comp. Ezra 4:6), early interpreted by Herodotus (6:98, etc), as meaning ἀρήϊοςaccording to Spiegel (Eranische Altherthumskunde, II. p. 377), a mighty man, here does not mean, as in Dan. 9:1, Cyaxares I, the father of Astyages, as Ferrand holds (Réflexions sur la religion Chrétienne, I., p. 159), and Des Vignoles (Chronol. II., p. 274), and Nickes (De Estheræ libro, I., p. 43–69) would have it, since they especially insist that, according to chap. 2:5 sq., Mordecai belonged to the first period of the exile, and that our book nowhere indicates that a new people had again arisen in Jerusalem. Nor is the monarch referred to the same as Astyages, as is asserted in the works referred to in § 5; and still less Artaxerxes, as Josephus assumes out of regard to the Septuagint version; but he is certainly Xerxes, as has been well proved by Scaliger (De emend, temp., ed Genev., p. 591 sqq.); also by Justi (in Eichhorn’s Repert. XV., p. 338), and still more emphatically by Baumgarten (De fide I. Esth., pp. 122–151, and in his treatises respecting Cyrus the Great, in the Stud. u. Krit., 1853, p. 624 sqq.). On the different views in reference to Ahasuerus, see especially Feuardent on our book, and Pfeiffer, Dubia vex, p. 481 sqq. Against the identification with either Cyaxares or Astyages, are the following facts: (1) Shushan was already the capital of the empire, which it became through Cyrus (comp. Strabo, XV.); (2) the Persians are now the chief people (comp. the frequent collection of פָּרַם וּמָדַיe. g., in ch. 1:3); (3) the number seven indicates that of princes at the court of the king (comp. chap. 1:14); (4) many other specifically Persian peculiarities. Further, the empire at the time in question extended from India to Æhiopia, and stretched also to the coasts and isles of the Mediterranean sea (comp. chap. 1:1 and 10:1), as was the case since the time of Darius Hystaspis. The Jews, moreover, are here represented as scattered over all parts of the empire (comp. 3:7, 8) and particularly numerous in the city of Shushan (comp. chap. 9:12, etc.). On the contrary Artaxerxes is called in the Bible (in Ezra and Neh.) Artachsharshta or Artachshasta. For Xerxes, on the other hand, we may claim the identity of names (comp. Ezra 9:6). In his favor is also the whimsical and tyrannical character manifested by the Ahasuerus of Esther (chap. 1 and elsewhere). Besides, there is the remarkable circumstance that Vashti was rejected in the third year of Ahasuerus, although Esther was not made queen till the seventh year of his reign, which in the case of Xerxes may be explained on the basis that between his third and seventh year he made war on Greece.* The clause beginning with הוּא (comp. Gen. 2:11) and referring us back—this is Ahasuerus which reigned from India even unto Ethiopia,etc.—is no doubt intended to designate Ahasuerus more distinctly, but at the same time to make known his greatness of dominion and power. Thus the danger that threatened the Jews, as well as the elevation of Esther and Mordecai, and of the Jews through these, is more powerfully brought out. הֹדּוּ stands for the original הֹנְדּוּ, as Hidku in the cuneiform inscriptions of the Persians stands for Hindhu (in Zend and Syrian Hendu), and is therefore India, in the Sanscrit Sindhu which is really the river Indus, then the inhabitants along the Indus, and at last the land of the Indus (comp. Lassen, Judische Altherthumskunde, I., p, 2); so also in the Vedas Sapta Sindhavas, or “the seven streams,” really stand for India (comp. Rödiger in Gesen. Thesaurus, Append. p. 83). The o sound in הֹדּוּ, and the tone falling on the first syllable are quite remarkable, but perhaps only a provincialism. Herodotus testifies to the great extension of the Persian empire under Xerxes, and in chap. 12:9 he rays that Mardonius reported to Xerxes that the Saccœ and Assyrians, as well as the Indians and Æthiopians, had been conquered. See also 7:97, 98, and 8:65, 69, where the Æthiopians and Indians are enumerated as being under tribute. According to Arrian, Cyrus extended his conquests up to India, and the people of the Açvaka were by him made to pay tribute. Darius added still greater parts of northwestern India to the Persian empire (comp. Duncker, Gesch. d. Altherthums, 3d ed., II., page 468). The auxiliary sentence: A hundred and seven and twenty provinces, is merely to be regarded as an additional sentence in loose apposition, to indicate what provinces were included in the region just mentioned. If this sentence depended upon הַמֹּלֵךְ, it should have עַל [or בְּ] before it. According to Herod. III. 89 sqq., Darius Hyst. on account of the raising of taxes divided the empire into twenty ἀρχαί which were termed σατραπΐηαι. A further division into lesser portions was not thereby excluded; with so many petty tribes and peoples this came as a matter of course. So there were contained in the fifth satrapy (comp. Herod. III. 91) a small Jewish people, a separate מְדִינָה which really means a judicial or official circuit (comp. Ezra 2:1). Our 127 provinces remind us of the 120 Satraps whom Darius the Mede placed over his empire (Dan. 6:2).
Ver. 2. In those days, when the king Ahasuerus sat,etc.—Sitting is a posture common to judges and kings, but more particularly characteristic of the kings of Persia. The Persian kings are always painted as sitting on a throne under a lofty canopy. This is true of them even in the time of war, and in their journeys. Xerxes, indeed, was present in the battles sitting; thus it was at Thermopylœ according to Herodotus (VII. 102), and at Salamis according to Plutarch (Themistocl. 13). See also Baumgarten, l. c., p. 85 sqq. Which was in Shushan the palace.—He had a royal establishment in several cities; but at the time here referred to it was in Shushan, which was his favorite winter and spring residence (comp. Neh. 1:1). Æschylus calls it the palace ornate with gold of the Cissians, and Strabo asserts that every Persian king built his own palace there. מַלְכוּת was in use in later language, and מַמְלָכָה in earlier times.
Ver. 3. In the third year of his reign he made a feast,etc.—All his princes and servants, for whom this feast was made, are specified as follows : The power of Persia and Media, the nobles and princes of the provinces (being) before him.—These words form an explanatory sentence, and assert distinctly that all the princes and servants were really gathered around Xerxes. We are to understand by the “power,” the representatives of the same, who probably consisted of the body-guard of the king, which formed the flower of the entire army-power. According to Herod. VII. 40 sqq., this was in itself sufficiently large, and consisted of two thousand picked horsemen, two thousand lancers, and ten thousand common foot-soldiers. The פַּרְתְּמִים who are mentioned also in chap.6:9, and Dan. 1:3, were the principes, chief men (in Sanscrit we find it parthama = “first;” in the Behistun Inscription fratama, in Pehlevi pardom), i.e., the magnates. [“It is a superlative from a root fra, equivalent to the Greek πρό, “before.”—Rawlinson]. The princes of the provinces are the Pashas or governors of those one hundred and twenty-seven provinces. That פָּרַם is more correct than פָּרָם has been mentioned in the note on Ezra 1:1.
Ver. 4. When he shewed the riches of his glorious kingdom,etc.—Keil connects these words with the inserted explanatory sentence, “the power—before him,” and thus he gets the sense, not that the feast itself, at which Xerxes showed his riches, lasted one hundred and eighty days, but that he prepared a feast for the army lasting seven days, after they had viewed his riches for one hundred and eighty days (ver. 5). But the connection of our verse with the main assertion in ver. 3: “He made a feast” is much closer; as may be seen in the fact that nearly all exegetes have declared themselves for this rendering. Something again different seems to be meant in the seven days’ feast of ver. 5, which Xerxes had caused to be made, not for the army, but for all the people in Shushan the palace. The feast during a hundred and eighty days may have been only for the purpose of consultation, and the real feast may have followed in the seven days succeeding. Keil’s objection, that then the mention of the preceding feast of a hundred and eighty days was purposeless, does not hold, since the fact that Xerxes could entertain his princes and servants so long, is a proof also to the reader of his great riches. That such magnificent, long and great feasts were very popular at the Persian court, is elsewhere stated (comp. Duncker, as above, p. 609 sqq.). Herod. vii. 8 informs us that after the re-subjection of Egypt, Xerxes called the magnates of his empire to Shushan, in order to consult with them in reference to the campaign against Greece; and in 7:2, he further states that the preparations for this undertaking lasted four years. Hence the assumption is not unfounded that in these long assemblages it was specially designed in the third year to counsel together regarding the war with Greece. This is the more evident since in the inserted clause of ver. 3 the power of the Medes and Persians is prominently stated. If Xerxes ascended the throne in the year B. C. 486 then there were still three or four years until this happened. There were three years until the battle of Salamis (480) beginning with his first year of empire. Clericus asserts that these princes of the provinces could not possibly have remained away so long a time as a hundred and eighty days from their provinces and governmental activity. Hence he would have them entertained one after the other; a view which is without foundation. They doubtless had subordinate officers, who ranked high enough to take their places for one half year.*
Ver. 5. And when these days were expired, the king made a feast to all the people.—This does not, as Keil would have it, take up the third verse again, but forms the transition from the counseling to the purely festive entertainment to which the king invited (in addition to those already assembled to the army and great rulers, comp. ver. 11) all the people at Shushan the palace. מְלוֹאת is not an abstract form with an infinitive signification, which would properly have to be punctuated thus מְלוֹאֶת, as are יְבשֶׁת ,שְׁכֹבֶת (comp. Ewald, § 239 a), but the ו stands in the wrong place in the originally defectively written מְלֹאת (comp. Lev. 12:6), in order that it might be known as having been added later (comp. Joh. 20:22).—To all these people who were invited, belonged also the lower classes of servants, and probably the common inhabitants likewise, as is evinced by the phrase both unto great and small—from the highest to the lowest. But these were only the male population, as is shown in ver. 9. In reference to הַנִּמְצְאִים comp. the note on Ezra 8:25. לְמִגָּדוֹל, with לְ, as in 2 Chron. 15:13; without it 1 Sam.30:19.—In the court of the garden of the king’s palace.בִּיתָו for בַּיתִoccurs often in our book, but is found connected with גִּנַּת as also in chap. 7:7. The kingly palace or series of houses was situated, in Oriental manner, as is customary also to-day, in a large park (Xenoph. Cyrop. I. 3, 12, 14).
Ver. 6. The language describing the court of the garden where this entertainment took place, i.e., the tent-like, enclosed, and covered space of the park, specially prepared for this festive occasion, and likewise the entertainment itself in vers. 7, 8, must be understood as explained by the exclamations of wonder, white, green, and blue (hangings),etc., these latter being employed as coverings. חוּר designates the white cloths as to color, not as to a certain quality of cloth; from חָיַר, to be white.כַּרְשפָּם, occurring in the Sanscrit, Pers., Armen., and Arab., corresponds to the Greek κάρπασος; designating cotton cloth; and, because of the two preceding and corresponding words, a splendid parti-colored fabric. תְּכֵלֶת is the glistening blue-black hyacinth color, and here means any kind of cloth which had this particular hue. White and blue were, according to Curtius VI. 6, 4, the regal colors of Persia (comp. also Duncker, as above, pp. 891 and 951). These cloths were held fast (אָחוּז) with cords to rings, and by these to the pillars.* The last words: The beds (divans) were of gold and silver (lying) upon a pavement of red and blue, and white and black marble,etc., describe the seats for the guests. Gold and silver here mean the cloths, which were woven with gold and silver threads. Hence they were brocades with which these divans were covered. But they lay upon רִצְפָּח, Sept. ἐπὶ λιθοστρώτου, a tessellated (mosaic) flooring, which was formed of various kinds of stones. בַּהַט, in Arab., a false stone, accords to the Sept., σμαραγδίτης, a stone of a green color, similar to the emerald (smaragth), is perhaps malachite or serpentine. שֵׁשׁ is white marble; דַּר, in Arab. darun and darratun, pearl, is, according to the Sept., πίννινος λίθος, a stone similar to pearl, perhaps mother of pearl. סֹחֶרֶת (from שָׁחַר=סָחַר, dark), is very likely black marble, with scutiform pots.*
Ver. 7. And they gave (them) drink in vessels of gold.—This actually occurred, or was seen transpiring. הַשְׁקוֹת, Infin. Hiph., is a substantive here. The vessels being diverse one from another, i.e., very different drinking-vessels were in service. According to Xenoph. Cyrop. VIII. 8, 18, these constituted an essential part of Persian luxury. And royal wine, i.e., such as was drunk from the royal vaults, as especially costly, perhaps coming from Chalybon, which it was usual for Persian kings to drink (comp. Ez. 27:18). In abundance, according to the state of the king.—כְּיַד, according to the hand=power of the king, means that the great quantity did honor to the power of the king, or that it corresponded to the ability and riches of the king (comp. chap. 2:18; 1 Kings 10:13; also Neh. 2:8).
Ver. 8. And the drinking wasi.e., went on—according to the law (custom); none did compel, etc.כַּדָּת hardly means a law enacted for this special occasion; for this purpose the expression would be too general;—but as custom, especially Persian royal etiquette required. This means, not moderately (as Clericus,—moralizing was not here intended), but on the contrary that the guests in a courageous and vigorous carousing should show their appreciation of the liberal hospitality of the king, and at the same time evince their ability to do something in their drinking worthy of the royal table. The Greeks knew how to do justice to hospitality (see Baumgarten, p. 12 sq.). While דָּת was held to be a special law made for this occasion, it was thought that its substance was contained in אָנַם ,אֵין אֹנֵם being taken in the sense of urging. The meaning is that the drinking was not to occur, as was usually the case, in compliance with the wishes or encouragements of the court officers. In contrast with the customary excessive drinking, because of too frequent urging, this should remain free to all to remain sober. While the Septuagint, in a free rendering, has joined אֵין אֹנֵם with כַּדָּת (οὐ κατὰ προκείμενον νόμον), the Vulgate has it thus: “Nec erat, qui nolentes cogere ad bibendum.” But the true interpretation of the phrase evidently is as already indicated; every one having entire liberty to drink of the wine, without urging. The whole tone of the passage expresses abundance and luxuriance: yet we need not make “urging” out of אָנַם, but rather “creating a real necessity, preparing difficulty, standing in the way in a preventive manner.” In Dan. 4:6, at least, it has this signification. It may possibly be an additional form for אָנַשׁ (Hitzig on Ez. 24:17). At any rate it frequently stands in the Targums for the Heb. עָשַׁק ,גָּזַל, and רָצַץ. That no one should hinder another in drinking must have been self-evident and understood at a decently-conducted feast. But here it is stated : For so the king had appointed to all the officers of his house; here not our own, but Persian customs, give the key. Besides there is a negative hindrance in drinking, which obtains even among us, and which would seem to have been necessary in a company where high and low mingled together, namely that of not so frequently filling the cups. יִסַּד means, as it does in 1 Chron. 9:22, arranging (ordering). With עַל it is, first of all, giving orders in reference to or for some one. רַב־הַבַּיִת = the chief of the house, i.e., court-officer.
Vers. 9–12. The Queen’s Banquet, and her Refusal to appear in the Royal Presence.—The festival of the king went hand in hand with that of the queen, which doubtless was intended to bring into view at the same time the royal majesty and magnificence. Usually the queen ate with her husband (see Herod. IX. 110), and even in greater feasts she was not under all circumstances excluded, as is proved by the reference to Lucian by Brissonius, De regio Pers. princ. I., c. 103. At this time she was compelled to remain away, since she also gave entertainment to the ladies. To permit the participation of women in all the feasts of the men would certainly not have been very desirable, since it was a mixed company.
Ver. 9. The name Vashti, וַשְׁתִּי, has probably a connection with the Old-Persian vahista (“the best”), or with the related behisht (“paradisiacus”); comp. Pott, Ueber alt-pers. Eigennamen, in the Zeitschrift, d. D. M. G., 1859, p. 388. In modern Persian Vashti signifies a beautiful woman. Vashti gave the feast to the ladies in the king’s palace, i.e., either in her own apartments, which also were in the royal residence, or in some other dwellings there which were placed at her disposal for this festive occasion.*
Ver. 10. On the seventh day, as the last of the feast, in which perhaps there was the greatest joviality. When the heart of the king was merry with wine,i.e., well disposed, happy (כְּטוֹב, as in 2 Sam. 13:18; Judg. 16:25; טוֹב is the infin. constr. Kal, with an intransitive signification), would grant a still greater favor to his guests, and one too which he would not have been willing to grant in a more sober mood. He turned to the seven eunuchs that served before him, אֶת־פְּנֵי, together with שֵּׁרֵת, as in 1 Sam. 2:18. Their names signify nothing for the present purpose; and there are no certain data for their interpretation.* But our author names them because they were transmitted to him, and in order that the historical character of his narrative may be strengthened thereby. Certain it is, they were the medium between the king and the ladies. They were to transmit the commands of the former to the latter. Their number, seven, has close connection with that of the Amshaspands. This number was peculiarly sacred to the Persians, see ver. 14.
Ver. 11. They were to bring the queen in the regal crown, כֶּתֵר, κἰδαρις or κίταρις, i.e., in a high, pointed turban, and consequently bring her in her entire royal apparel, in order to show her beauty to the prince, as well as to the entire people, of whom at least there were representatives present. Xerxes was desirous of glory, not only because of his riches, but also because of his beautiful wife.
Ver. 12. But the queen Vashti refused to come.בִּדְבַר הַמֶּלֶךְ here has reference to the word of the king, as in chap. 3:15; 8:14; 1 Ki. 13:1,8. By (his) chamberlains,i.e., which was brought to her in a formal manner, and which therefore ought to have been obeyed all the more (comp. ver. 15). Persian etiquette gave to ladies, and especially to the queen, a certain reserve, and this under all circumstances. It was regarded as something unheard of if the queen appeared in public unveiled. But here, where there was no doubt of the fact that she should become the gazing-stock of a drunken company, that, so to speak, she should make a show of herself to the lascivious eyes of so many—according to the extremely literal view of the Targums, she was to appear naked—she had a right, indeed she was compelled to guard and keep in mind her dignity. There is no doubt that as the queen she was safe from such shameless proceedings as Herodotus (ver. 18) relates of Persian foreign ministers. But instead of being rejoiced at the modesty of his queen the king felt deeply humbled in the eyes of those to whom he would have shown himself in his highest glory. It is possible, and even probable, that a well-known self-assertion of Vashti had something to do in the matter. But this we need not necessarily assume in connection with his peculiar character in order to explain his wrath. Pride and self-exaltation perhaps so blinded him that he did not dream of such a rebuff. Perhaps, too, she might have found some way, had she been wise, in which without compromising herself she might have rendered obedience. But however bad the fact, the unfavorable light does not fall on her, but upon the king. He appears so thoughtless that one is quite prepared to expect still other rash and inconsiderate acts from him.
Vers. 13–15. The King’s Inquiry.When the king said to the wise men, which knew the times.—To know the times means to judge the times as did the astrologers and magicians, according to the heavenly phenomena, and to give counsel corresponding thereto, (comp. Dan. 2:27; 5:15; Isa. 44:25; 47:13; Jer. 50:35). But it also means in a general sense to be learned; for according to the expressions following, these wise men were likewise those skilled in the law. For so, adds the author, (was) the king’s manner toward all that knew law and judgment.—דְּבַד הַמֶּלֶךְ does not here mean the word of the king, for then we might expect, instead of לִפְנֵי, a preposition expressive of direction; but it is a matter of the king, i.e., all that relates to the king, or what he undertakes.
Ver. 14. And the next to him or standing nearest to him,—thus the explanation becomes clear, were Carshena, Shethar,etc.—There is no doubt that all seven should be named as standing before the king, and not the first only.* The sing. הַקָּרֹכ אֵלָיו has application to the second and third no less than to the first, and is, therefore, equal to a neuter plural. The sense, however, is clear. By these words, the wise were meant, the chief persons, who during and after consultation were to have a word before the king in this matter. The clause which saw the king’s face, expresses their intimate relation to the king, and their great and high preference in an especially significant manner, since the approach to the king was very difficult. The seven princes that had conspired against the Pseudo-Smerdis had a perfect understanding that it should be permitted them to enter at any time into the presence of the king, who had been elected from their midst, and that, too, without previous announcement (see Herod, iii. 84). But that these princes themselves formed the court either before or after the event spoken of here, although mentioned “as the seven princes of the Medes and Persians,” is not to be assumed. Those seven before mentioned did not, as did these, belong to the learned class, to the selected counsellors of the king, although they had intercourse with the king. These were the seven supreme counsellors (comp. Ezra 7:14), who formed a complement to the seven Amshaspands. The number seven, which is retained by the Persians in ver. 5, and again in chap. 2:9, was originally instituted because of the seven planets, or the weekly cycle, or finally with regard to the seven Amshaspands. Perhaps its being composed of the numbers three and four gave it significance. הַיּשְׁכִים רִאשֹׁנָה, first =presiding, is, first of all, to preside, constituting the highest authority. The feminine רִאשֹׁנָה is a substitute for the adverb (comp. Gen. 33:2; Num. 2:9).
Ver. 15. First, here, the discourse of the king follows. They are asked: What shall we do unto the queen Vashti according to law?כְּדָת is expressly prefixed here, and that without the article; hence, legally.Because she hath not performed the commandment of the king Ahasuerus.—Thus the king expresses himself, instead of simply saying: my word; since this was just the matter that came into consideration, that it was the king’s word. For the rest comp. ver. 12 and notes.
Vers. 16–20. The Courtier’s Reply.—Memucan, although last mentioned among the seven, is spokesman, doubtless after the wise men had had a consultation. For מומכן is here the same as ממוכן in ver. 14, as is shown by the Keri. The assumption is natural that the Scriptio defectiva was really employed, and that the ו was added later by the Masoretes. This is evident, further, in ver. 5, where the full form is distinguished as having been added by them at the wrong place. Feuardent thinks that, according to a more general custom, the last of the seven responded first “lest he might seem to say aught in view of the favor and protection of the chiefs and elders, but on the contrary out of mere liberty, and the full determination of his own will and judgment.” But Memucan seems to have spoken first not only here, but also above; hence he seems to have been chairman (spokesman). He judges the offense of the queen very strictly in order to justify a severe verdict. But he also correctly premises that the offenses of persons high in office, on account of the influence which their examples will have, are punishable in a very high degree. Vashti the queen hath not done wrong to the king only,etc.עָותַ with עַל occurs only here.*
Ver. 17. For (this) deed of the queen shall come abroad to all women.—יָצָא with עַל,usually with אֶל־. They shall despise, properly, make them to despise, their husbands in their eyes.—Those that despise are of course the wives, as is clear from the connection with בְּאָמְרָם. The masc. form of the suffix is substituted for the fem. form.
Ver. 18. (Likewise) shall the ladies of Persia and Media say this day unto all the king’s princes.הַיּוֹם הַזֶה is used in its direct meaning. What the speaker means to say is, as regards the rest of the lower women, who were referred to in ver. 17. It may take a long time before the new law of the court shall have come to the knowledge of all, because some will hear of it later. But the princesses who live at the court and who have immediate news of Vashti’s conduct, will relate what has been indicated in ver. 17. After תֹּאמַרְנָה the same sentence is to be understood as follows: כְּאָמְרָם in ver. 17; for the last words of the verse : Thus (shall there arise) too much contempt and wrath, cannot be construed into the definition of an object in view, as Bertheau would have it, as if the Heb. stood before כְּדַי only as an attachment to the long phrase, but these form a separate sentence. The predicate; thus there shall arise, must be supplied. כְּדַי, really for a sufficiency, is by litotes, e.g., “more than enough.”
Ver. 19. This contains the verdict.—If it please the king, let there go a royal commandment from him. טוֹב על occurs often in our book as also in Neh. 2:5. דְּבַר מַלְכוּת, a word of the kingdom or a king’s word (comp. ver. 8), hence first of all a royal order.And let it be written among the laws of the Persians and the Medes, that it be not altered,i.e., let it have express legal authority, so that it must remain unaltered (comp. Dan. 6:9).*That Vashti come no more before king Ahasuerus; and let the king give her royal estate unto another that is better than she.—מַמְלָכָה = מַלְכוּת(comp. ver. 2), royal state, royal government, here means royal highness, dignity, רְעוּתָהּ = her female companions.טוֹב, as to its connections, is especially referable to obedience. It may be that Vashti was hated as being a proud, assuming person. But the severity of the sentence against her is explainable also in this, that there remained no alternative to the judges either to declare her innocent, which, as respects Ahasuerus, they could not do, or to make her for ever harmless. Even if she had again obtained an influence with the king, they would have had to expect her wrath.
Ver. 20. We here notice the consequence of the decree of the king.—And when the king’s decree, which he shall make, shall be published —all the wives shall give to their husbands honour,etc. The predicate נִשְׁמַע is chosen, since it makes a presupposition for the יִתְּנו which is expressed. It is first of all neuter: when it shall be published (heard). פִּתְגָּם, as in Ezra 4:17. אֲשֶׁר יַעֲשֶׁה may mean: which he shall execute, inasmuch as this decree would be sanctioned by the example of the king himself; otherwise: which he shall decree. Memucan reminds him of the greatness of the empire, since the success of the punishment and its importance is connected with it. לְמִגָּדוֹל, as in ver. 5.
Vers. 21, 22. The Decree Issued. The king accepts the proffered counsel and rejects Vashti; indeed he does even more. In order that her punishment may become as well-known as her offense, he sends letters into all the provinces;* and in order that these may be intelligible, he writes according to the language of every province, and to every people in their own language.That every man should bear rule in his own house, and that it should be published according to the language of every people.לִהְיוֹת does not really indicate the substance of what was written —this consists of the rejection of Vashti and the reasons therefor —but only its aim. Yet this object, strange as it may have sounded, has nevertheless received sufficient prominence. Feuardent thinks that the edict may be explained on the ground that there was too much petticoat government in Persia. But there exists no proof of such an assertion. It is true, in chap. 5:10, that Haman drew his wife into the council of consultation, but his friends first. It may be asked, what is the sense and connection of the phrase, and (it) should be published according to the language of every people. Older commentators and also Keil find therein only a command, that a man in his own house should speak his own native language. Hence if he was possessed of one or more foreign wives, who spoke a different language, they should be compelled to learn his language and speak only in it. Thereby the man was to show his authority as master of his own house. But if we apprehend this decree in such a general manner, it would not only have been a very peculiar, but also a separate edict, and it would apply in fact to the rejection of queen Vashti, neither in its object, nor yet in its communication. It might much better have read thus, “that the wives speak the language of their husbands’ people.” Hence Bertheau, according to Hitzig’s advice, changed כִּלְשׁוֹן עַמּוֹ to כָּל־שֹׁוֶה עִמּוֹ: (and every one) shall speak what to him is appropriate; but this would introduce a thought foreign to the subject, and besides שוה according to chap. 3:8, should have לְ before it. Perhaps the meaning is this: that he speak, etc., in short, that he have the right to use his people’s language in his own house, even though he have a foreign wife; moreover that it is obligatory upon his wife to so far learn the language of her husband that she may understand the orders he may give in it. This phrase receives further light from the consequence which would follow upon the usurpation of the wife, since she would then compel her husband to learn her own language.
DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL
On vers. 1–12. 1. Ever and anon the question arises, whether there is not upon earth somewhere, a condition of true satisfaction and unclouded happiness. One very much desires such a state of things, and one is tempted to believe it, especially when regard is had to the most beautiful dreams of the past, which had the appearance of bright promises. But this is not all. In spite of all assurances and experiences to the contrary, one is ever inclined to think that the world, and especially its lords, could give an affirmative answer to our question.
At the very beginning of our book there is unfolded to our eyes a picture full of riches and affluence, full of splendor and glory. Whatever is beautiful to look upon, whatever is enjoyable to the taste, whatever could rejoice the heart and elevate the soul, is here combined. A ruler, whose height of power leaves hardly anything to be desired, who has united under his sceptre the most powerful, the richest, and most celebrated nations, from India to Æthiopia, has called together the chief men of the various countries, and they are gathered around him in the beautifully situated and magnificently built city of the lilies, the most beautiful of all Persian residences (comp. Neh. 1:1), there to revel in luxury and enjoyment. He, it seems, is happy to be their ruler, and they are happy as his subjects. At the same time the women are also called to this festive enjoyment. The higher in station mingle on equal terms with those lower, and all celebrate and enjoy the occasion together. It seems as if every one must feel happy in his place. Yet the old adage asserts itself that the world, the rich, the high, the proud world possesses least of that which we here seek. It may be said, indeed, of this world alone, that it passes away with all its pleasures, and that its apparent wealth at last becomes sheer poverty. Ahasuerus, who is admired because of his greatness and lauded as happy by so many, is deeply humiliated; a woman dares to defy his command, and his joy is changed to anger and chagrin. Again, all the efforts that he makes to remove the object of his disappointment serve but to complete his misfortune. However widely and effectually his power may be felt, he is still only a man, and as such he has human needs. The empire cannot displace his house. All the wealth of earth cannot give him the joy that one person does, who submits herself entirely to him. Her he cannot gain by his measures, but rather she becomes for ever lost to him by those very measures. Vashti, however, this second person at the highest point of worldly glory, now sees the crown of her exalted station and her happiness torn to pieces. For her the day of highest joy becomes the day of her misfortune. The subjects; who had to bear the cost of these feastings, must have groaned and sighed the most in advance, instead of rejoicing. Feuardent: “David once called water blood, because it had been drawn at the manifest risk of life on the part of his chieftains, and he therefore held it wrong to drink of it. But. … from another’s hide, as the proverb goes, since shoe-strings are cut by chiefs.”
1. There is but One, who—Himself ever blessed—can make all kings and nations truly happy with the great wealth of His treasury. He also will bring to pass that if those whose beauty ought to be His honor and joy—mankind, whose love would have given Him more pleasure than a man would find in the love of his wife— if these will not come to Him, will not honor nor rejoice Him, indeed if all but one family desire each to go their own way; yet has this its ground in His highest, in His most liberal greatness, by which He has found means from the very beginning to unfold more and more the wealth of His glorious kingdom, in contrast with such stubbornness, and especially to reveal to us the riches of His grace.
2. Ahasuerus, or Xerxes, who had received this great and powerful kingdom from Darius his father, and who now governed it in its fullest extent, possessed the greatest glory among the people of his own time and those succeeding, as being the greatest and most powerful king. And in the feast, which in our chapter he instituted, he made it his special business to maintain this distinction to its fullest extent. But it is this very feast that while it reveals his greatness, also reminds us of his weakness. Perhaps even then many of his friends felt that he did not quite de-serve all the distinction that he claimed for himself. By reason of his thoughtlessness and folly— and this may not have been the first time when these were manifested, though he now revealed them in a more public manner before the eyes of his princes—he demanded of the queen what was against all custom and good breeding. This lapse in moral strength of which he was guilty—in that he lived more for sensual gratification than for the duties of his government—especially reveals the fact that, though never so mighty a king and ruler, yet in fact in himself he was nothing more than a poor slave.
3. While Ahasuerus was intent to show how far the limits of his empire extended, by calling to his court the governors of the most distant provinces, he found in close proximity, yea, in his very house, insubordination to his will. Though he knew how to punish it, yet he could not conquer it, nor turn it into obedience to his wishes.
There is, therefore, a power higher than that of man, were he even the mightiest ruler of earth. Though the latter may prescribe laws and issue commands, the former has long ago set in order His ordinances, indeed stamped them on the very face of nature so deeply, so ineffaceably and unchangeably, that in contrast with human commands, they appear holy and irrefragable, and in case of a conflict bear away the palm of victory. To obey human laws may be a sacred duty; but to follow dutifully the eternally divine ordinances, is a holy and most glorious privilege, which no one must permit to be abrogated. To disobey human commands may be dangerous, may bring temporal disadvantage, but to despise God’s laws is degrading, and will bring eternal ruin. If an earthly ruler with his laws come into conflict with divine ordinances, he will begin a war in which he will finally be destroyed. Feuardent: “Not even the heathens were unaware, under the instruction of Plutarch, that a man ought to govern his wife as the soul does the body, not as a master does a beast.”
Starke: “Great pleasure is often followed by equally great displeasure. Occasions of joyous feasting commonly end in sorrow (1 Macc. 9:41). Wine disperses sorrow and rejoices the heart of man (Sir. 31:32 sq.). In a drinking-company all kinds of useless counsels are generally brought forth (Wis. 2:10). Men with men, women with women, thus it was among the heathen, and so should it also be among us Christians. How much that is unchaste would thereby be avoided, which is usually found in such gatherings (Sir. 19:2). Although beauty is a gift of God, still one should not make a boast of it nor yet be proud (Prov. 31:30). Pride occasions much sorrow, and often plunges others into destruction (Sir. 3:30; Prov. 29:23; 1 Pet. 5:5).”
On vers. 13–22. 1. The wise men, on whom Ahasuerus depends to give a decision as to how Vashti should be treated, are both judges and masters of ceremonies. They are to execute law and justice, but they are also to see to it that court-etiquette be maintained. Instead of at once following out the suggestions of his wrath, and doing what he thinks best to be done, Ahasuerus subjects himself to an objective willpower, namely that of law and custom. This in itself is great and beautiful. This is the victory of culture over crudeness and passion. But in the manner in which this is done here, it amounts to nothing after all. We seem to feel in advance that nothing good will come of it. It sounds to us as if the advice of Memucan came from a court of judgment: where what was held to be light is changed into darkness, and what was deemed to be sweet is changed into bitterness. The queen’s act, which was at the most but a trivial mistake, is now stamped as a dark crime, and this sentence is supported by them with learned reasons and wise references. There is guardianship of justice and of morals which is nothing more than hypocrisy, by means of which injustice and violence are made a cloak for the performance of abominable deeds. Hence we must seek to know, not what pleases man, but what pleases God. What is good and beautiful in itself is to be sought after. Feuardent: “All might have been explained in a milder sense, and a reasonable excuse might have been offered. She was forbidden to enter that promiscuous assembly by the very modesty which is a woman’s chief ornament.”
2. However wisely the counsellors of Ahasuerus counsel together, yet all their wisdom in truth is nothing but folly; to such a degree as to cause us to smile, but yet pity. They would forestall the assumptions of the women, and would protect the respect due to men. They suppose that they firmly ground the honor of man, if they suppress the rights of woman. They do not perceive that if they compel woman to be subject to them, even to the sacrifice of her modesty, they will divest her of all humanity, and thereby make her truly and offensively bold and arrogant. Ahasuerus appears equally foolish. By not rendering a decision himself, but deferring to his court for judgment, he would protect himself from the reproach of cruelty and blind passion. But the real responsibility nevertheless falls upon him. Nor does he by any means guard himself against the great loss of a wife, of whom he has been so proud, and whose merits he will so soon be compelled to recognise. Now the question remains, Were other heathen princes or judges really any wiser? We know that it has ever pleased God to bring to shame the wisdom of the world; and we would not hazard much, were we to say that the folly of Ahasuerus and his counsellors would be found repeated more or less in all human measures and arrangements which have not proceeded from a fear of God, but have reference solely to human desire, inclination, and advantage. The divine law only is truly wise, and those who are led thereby are surely protected from loss. Though that law pronounces sentence of banishment against those who are rebellious, still it is just; and even those so banished, if they but come to themselves and look within, must recognise its justice. It only rejects these, to make room for all those who do turn within and strive to give place to grace.
Starke: “Vers. 13–15. ‘For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God’ (Jas. 1:20). Vers. 16–18. Thus it is ever in the world: as long as one is able to stand, others run to aid, knowing that their help is not needed. When, however, signs of falling are seen, all help to push him down. Ver. 19. True counsellors must set aside all respect for private interests, they must keep their eyes fixed upon public dangers. They must exert themselves to avert general misfortune, though thereby they even endanger their own welfare. Oh that all great lords would have respect to the laws of the great God, as they desire to have their laws respected! God’s law is truly of such a nature and obligatory character upon us that it neither can nor should be changed. Vers. 20, 21. This is the manner of all great lords; when their honor is insulted, they are very severe, and promptly bring their laws into execution. But when God’s honor is insulted, then they are easily quieted, and can readily and quickly change their purposes.”

 

 

 

1 [Ver. 2. בִּירָה, whence βάρις, denotes properly a fortress, hence the capital.Tr.]
2 [Ver. 3. מִשְׁתֶּה, a drinking, i.e., a banquet, in which the wine was the principal feature, as represented freely on the Assyrian monuments.—Tr.]
3 [Ver. 3. חַיִל, military force.—Tr.]
4 [Ver. 3. פַרְתְּמִים, a Persian word Hebraized. As it is here in the “absolute form,” it does not qualify “provinces” following, but stands as an official designation, probably of civil rank at court.—Tr.]
5 [Ver. 18. The English Version has unwarrantably transposed this clause (“which have heard,” etc.), which belongs to “ladies,” etc., above.—Tr.]
6 [Ver. 22. כְּתָב here evidently signifies the style of writing peculiar to each province. Thus the cuneiform differs according to the several districts of the Persian empire.—Tr.]
* [We condense the following summary of the argument on the identity of the Ahasuerus of the book of Esther, from McClintock & Strong’s Cyclop. s. v. Ahasuerus. “From the extent assigned to the Persian empire (Esth. 1:1), ‘from India even unto Ethiopia,’ it is proved that Darius Hystaspis is the earliest possible king to whom this history can apply, and it is hardly worth while to consider the claims of any after Artaxerxes Longimanus. But Ahasuerus cannot be identical with Darius, whose wives were the daughters of Cyrus and Otanes, and who in name and character equally differs from that foolish tyrant. Josephus (Ant. XI. 6,1)makes him to be Artaxerxes Longimanus; but as his twelfth year (Esth. 3:7) would fall in B. C. 454, or 144 years after the deportation by Nebuchadnezzar, in B. C. 598 (Jer. 52:28), Mordecai, who was among those captives (Esth. 2:6), could not possibly have survived to this time. Besides, in Ezra 7:1–7, 11–26, Artaxerxes, in the seventh year of his reign, issues a decree very favorable to the Jews, and it is unlikely, therefore, that in the twelfth (Esth. 3:7) Haman could speak to him of them as if he knew nothing about them, and persuade him to sentence them to an indiscriminate massacre. Nor is the disposition of Artaxerxes Longimanus, as given by Plutarch and Diodorus (XI. 71), at all like that of this weak Ahasuerus. It therefore seems necessary to identify him with Xerxes, whose regal state and affairs tally with all that is here said of Ahasuerus (the names being, as we have seen, identical); and this conclusion is fortified by the resemblance of character, and by certain chronological indications (see Rawlinson’s Hist. Evidences, p. 150 sq.). As Xerxes scourged the sea, and put to death the engineers of his bridge because their work was injured by a storm, so Ahasuerus repudiated his queen, Vashti, because she would not violate the decorum of her sex, and ordered the massacre of the whole Jewish people to gratify the malice of Haman. In the third year of the reign of Xerxes was held an assembly to arrange the Grecian war (Herod. VII. 7 sq.); in the third year of Ahasuerus was held a great feast and assembly in Shushan the palace (Esth. 1:3). In the seventh year of his reign Xerxes returned defeated from Greece, and consoled himself by the pleasures of the harem (Herod. IX. 108); in the seventh year of his reign ‘fair young virgins were sought’ for Ahasuerus, and he replaced Vashti by marrying Esther. The tribute he ‘laid upon the land and upon the isles of the sea’ (Esth. 10:1) may well have been the result of the expenditure and ruin of the Grecian expedition.”—Tr.]
[The principal purpose of this clause is to distinguish the Achashverosh in question from all other Persian monarchs bearing that general or regal title, by adding the extent of his dominion. It thus becomes, as was evidently intended, an important chronological datum.—Tr.]
* [“We are not obliged to suppose that all or any of the governors were present during the whole period of festivity. Rather we may conclude that the time was extended in order to allow of the different persons making their appearance at the court successively.” Rawlinson.—Tr.]
* [“Nothing could be more appropriate than this method at Susa and Persepolis, the spring residences of the Persian monarchs.… A massive roof, covering the whole expanse of columns, would be too cold and dismal; whereas curtains around the central group would serve to admit both light and warmth.” Loftus. —TR]
* [Herodotus mentions (IX. 80–82) the immense quantities of gold and silver vessels of various kinds—which we know from the monuments were of the most elegant style and costly ornamentation—together with couches and tables of the precious metals, besides various colored awnings (παραπετάματα), which Xerxes carried with him on his expedition to Greece.—Tr.]
* [“If the Ahasuerus of Esther is rightly identified with Xerxes, Vashti should be Amestris, whom the Greeks regard as the only legitimate wife of that monarch, and who was certainly married to him before he ascended the throne. In that case the name may be explained either by corruption of Amestris, or as a title; and it may be supposed that the disgrace recorded was only temporary; Amestris in the latter part of Xerxes’ reign recovering her former dignity.” Rawlinson.—Tr.]
* [“ These names, being those of eunuchs, are not unlikely to be of foreign origin. They have generally but little resemblance to known Persian names.” Rawlinson.—Tr.]
“It has been said that this is invariable, and indicates an ignorance of Persian customs on the part of the author. But even De Wette allows that such an act is not out of harmony with the character of Xerxes (Einleitung, § 198, a, note 6); and it is evidently related as something strange and unusual. Otherwise the queen would not have refused to come.” Rawlinson.—Tr.]
* [“These names have a general Persian cast, though they are difficult of identification. They have probably suffered to some extent for corruption (i.e., transcription into Hebrew); and perhaps they were not even at first very close to the Persian originals. In Marsena we may perhaps recognize the famous Mardonius, and in Admatha Xerxes’ uncle, Artabanus.Rawlinson.—Tr.]
[“According to Herodotus (ΙΙΙ. 84), there were seven families of the first rank in Persia, from which alone the king would take his wives. Their chiefs were entitled to have free access to the king’s person. The Be-histun Inscription, which gives Darius six coadjutors in his conspiracy, confirms the Greek writer.” RawlinsonTr.]
* [“It is not surprising that the judgment delivered by Memucan was one of condemnation, for it was rarely indeed that any Persian subject ventured to offer opposition to the mildest caprice or to the most extravagant whim of the monarch. (See Herodotus ΙΙΙ. 31, 35).” Rawlinson.—Tr.]
* [“The theoretical inviolability of the laws of the Persians is often touched on by the Greek writers. Practically the monarch, if he chose, could always dispense with the law. It was therefore quite within his power to restore Vashti to her queenly dignity, notwithstanding the present decree, if he so pleased.” Rawlinson—Tr.]
* [“The Persian system of posts is described with some minuteness both by Herodot. (VIII. 98) and Xenophon (Cyrop. VIII. 6). The incidental notices in this Book (see chaps. 3:12–15; 8:9–14) are in entire harmony with the accounts of the classical writers. Herodotus describes the system as in full operation under Xerxes.” Rawlinson.—Tr.]
[The practice of the Persians, to address proclamations to the subject-nations in their own speech, and not merely in the language of the conqueror, is illustrated by the bilingual and trilingual inscriptions of the Achæmonian monarchs, from Cyrus to Artaxerxes Ochus, each inscription being of the nature of a proclamation.” Rawlinson—Tr.]
[“This decree has been called ‘absurd’ and ‘quite unnecessary in Persia’ (Davidson). If the criticism were allowed, it would be sufficient to observe that many absurd things were done by Xerxes (see Herod. VII. 35; IX. 108–111). But it may be questioned whether the decree was unnecessary. The undue influence of women in domestic, and even in public affairs, is a feature of the ancient Persian monarchy. Herodotus tells us that Alesia ‘completely ruled’ Darius (VII., 3). Xerxes himself was. in his later years, shamefully subject to Amestris (ib. IX., 111). The example of the court would naturally infect the people. The decree, therefore, would seem to have been not so much an idle and superfluous act as an ineffectual protest against a real and growing evil.” Rawlinson.—Tr.]