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Bible Commentaries

Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible

Esther 1

 

 

Verses 1-22

Esther 1. The Royal Feast. Vashti's Disobedience and Degradation.—The opening words in MT ("and it came to pass") are in good Heb style, which shows that an able scribe wrote here. But they prove that something once stood before them. Even Paton translates, "And afterward"! After what? He says strangely, "This expression is used in continuation of a historical narrative," and adds, lamely and incorrectly, "It is an imitation of the beginnings of the older histories." The tale has clearly been truncated here, doubtless because the original spoke of Yahweh. A version of the original still exists in LXX: it is a sort of preface, saying that a Jew lived in Shushan (Daniel 8:2*), who had a Perso-Babylonian name Mordecai, i.e. "related to Marduk, Lord of Fate"—which the scribes would dislike—and he was descended from the house of king Saul, also disliked by scribes. He was a court servant of king Artaxerxes, and he was a "saint," one who waited for the Consolation of Israel. He had a vision like Isaiah's, amid an earthquake, where a Voice predicted cruelties from the Gentiles to Yahweh's people. But a little fountain arose and soon grew into a stream, and quenched the evil fires of cruelty so that "the lowly were exalted." This LXX picture is full of God's name, and love, and saints. Pondering on the vision, Mordecai hears whisperings: two miscreants are plotting regicide. He reports this, and the fellows are executed; but another officer, Haman, is jealous of Mordecai, of his discovery, and his possible rewards.

Now begins the MT with a shortened story, telling first of "the drinkings" arranged by the king, who is called Ahasuerus by the Heb. writer. This is a name slightly altered, no doubt, from the Persian Kshyarsha, i.e. the Xerxes of 486-465. The character of that prince is fairly well reproduced in the features attributed to the prince in our tale. He rules like Alexander from India ("Hoddu") to Africa. The LXX calls the "drinking" a wedding feast, and thinks perhaps of the royal nuptials with Queen Vashti, who becomes notable very soon in the story. By the way, the term "drinking-feast" used in Heb. is found in Est. as many times as in all the rest of the OT taken together, and the writer probably meant to suggest that drinking was a Gentile vice, as in Alexander's case. Wine flowed lavishly at the tables in our scenes, and there was no check laid on any man's appetite. This sumptuous affair with all its splendours was for princes only, and it lasted for six months. A second followed, a week long, for Shushan's citizens. At this the king grew merry, bethought him of his queen, and sent her his commands to appear and show his guests her charms. So far as we can tell, this proposal was not at all improper for those times, but Queen Vashti refused to obey. Possibly Ahasuerus was vinous and excited: but Vashti herself had held a "drinking," and may have forgotten herself. All the king's councillors supported his Majesty, declaring that Vashti's example would ruin the peace of all husbands and all homes. She is dethroned.

 


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Bibliography Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on Esther 1:4". "Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/pfc/esther-1.html. 1919.

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