corner graphic

Bible Commentaries

Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary

Esther 9

 

 

Verse 1

CRITICAL NOTES.] The Jews destroy their enemies, and at Mordecai's request establish the festival of Purim.

Est . In the twelfth month, on the thirteenth day of the same, the Jews gathered themselves together in their cities, &c.] Several parenthetical clauses succeed this definition of time, so that the statement of what then took place does not follow till Est 9:2.—Keil. These clauses state the meaning of the day just named, and give a general notice of the conflict between the Jews and their enemies. The word translated "when" may be here taken as the accusative of time, in which, or where, the king's commandment and his decree drew near to be put into execution, i.e. in which the king's word and law should be carried out. The day was changed from a day of misfortune to a day of prosperity for the Jews. "On the day that the enemies of the Jews hoped to have the mastery over them, and it was changed (i.e. the contrary occurred), that the Jews had the mastery over them that hated them."

MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH. Est

HOPE AND FOREBODING

WE often hear that it is darkest just before the dawn, darkest in the natural world, darkest in the moral world, darkest in the world of God's providential arrangements. Often has this been illustrated and proved in the history, both of individuals and of nations. The laws of nature are typical of the laws of God's kingdom; essentially they are the same, as coming from the same ruler. In the natural world the deeper darkness is the herald of coming day; so it often has been in all histories, whether individual or national. The darkness was now deepening about the Jews; the month Adar was now close at hand. The fatal day drew near when the king's commandment and his decree were to be put into execution; but the fatal day was turned into the festal day. The light afar off was sending forth its beautiful and cheering rays; but the Jews had not the power to catch the oncoming gladness, for their eyes were too dull to see: so it may be with us. Let us trust in God through the storm, and through the darkness. Let us pray—Open our eyes that we may see when all around appears dark and dismal. On the other hand, it must be remembered that there is a real darkness thickening around the sinner, while he fondly dreams of glorious light. It was so with these "enemies of the Jews." They vainly thought that the thirteenth day of the month Adar was to be the day of their victory. On that day the sun was to shine upon their pathway of triumph. Alas! on that day the sun was but to shine as a funeral taper on their gloomy pathway to the everlasting darkness. Let evil-doers beware; let them seek to be wise in time; let them strive to have understanding of the times; let them not dream of coming light, when all the signs indicate that the darkness is only growing more intense.

I. Hope blighted. "In the day that the enemies of the Jews hoped to have power over them." From a human point of view it was natural that these enemies of the Jews should entertain such a hope. The human reasonableness of this hope may be shown—(a) From their own numbers. The population was undoubtedly large as seen from the immense numbers slain by the Jews. It was natural then, as it is natural now, to rely upon numbers. We expect success on the side of that army that can bring the largest forces into the field, other things being equal. (b) From the insignificance of the Jews. A few people scattered up and down that vast country in a state of captivity, could have no chance against their numerous and powerful enemies. These Persians calculated as we calculate to-day, and they found, as we moderns too often find to our cost, that they reckoned without their host. There is a true, broad sense in which the battle is the Lord's, and He can save by few as well as by many. (c) From the known unchangeableness of Persian law. There did not seem the slightest chance for the Jews. The hope of these enemies of the Jews rested on as good ground as any hope could do. But after all it was blighted, for the hope was changed. In a short time there was a marvellous vicissitude. Their sun of expectation suddenly shot into darkness just as they were fancying that it was nearing the meridian of splendour. Thus, the hope of the unjust must perish sooner or later. There can be no escape. The goodly houses built upon the sand of human reasoning must be swept away, even though the sand may appear to possess the solidity of the rock.

II. Foreboding reproved. The same human reasoning which led these enemies of the Jews to entertain hope would induce the Jews to give way to dark and injurious forebodings. If the faithful and valorous Esther had her great fears, how much more is it to be supposed that the rest of the Jews would look forward to the month Adar in a spirit of agonizing dread. How often we look forward to a month Adar, and see it shrouded with ominous darkness. There is such a month in the lives of most. Yea, there are gloomy temperaments to whom every year has its month Adar, rising gloomily, and yet grand in its gloom, like some lofty mountain. But the month Adar may, after all, be the month of rejoicing. As the traveller rejoices when he reaches the mountain top, and feasts upon the grand panorama of nature, so these Jews might rejoice when they reached the thirteenth day of the month Adar. The very day we feared has been the day of Divine deliverance and of Divine blessing. It is a day of rejoicing, but it is a day of humiliation. God's grant of success may be God's reproof of our unbelief and our forebodings. However darkly the month Adar may loom in the distance, let us move on towards it, encouraging ourselves in the Lord our God. Give to the winds thy fears; hope, and be undismayed. Hope on, hope always. Above all things, do not indulge in forebodings. It is injurious to thy own nature. It saps thy vital energies. It undermines thy physical strength and thy mental power. It can mend nothing, and is the result, in part, of a Want of faith in God. It is sinful if there be no effort to overcome.

III. True hope rewarded. "It was turned to the contrary that the Jews had rule over them that hated them." Those amongst the Jews who looked above the vain state of men and things to the great supreme, and entertained hope in spite of all that seemed to make against hope, had their glorious reward in due season. The Jews had the mastery over their enemies. God's people must finally triumph over their real foes. Real foes, for there are foes in seeming which are true friends. But no real foes, that is, foes that militate against highest interests, will be allowed to reign in perpetual triumph. Every enemy must be destroyed; even the last enemy, death, must be put under the feet. The hope of the righteous cannot perish. What happened unto the Jews, happened to them for ensamples to the people of God in all ages. Our moral experiences will find their counterpart in what we may call the material experiences of the Jewish people. They triumphed in a more material point of view. Their successes were even in the present state. God's people now must look to triumph in a moral point of view. Their true success must be in the mighty future of God's eternity. The hope that is built upon God's word cannot fail. The hope that springs from faith in Jesus Christ must bloom into the flowers of paradise that never fade, and ripen into the fruits of the celestial Eden that never decay. Have faith in God, and in Jesus Christ his only Son.

SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS ON Est

He himself says once, with more justness than originality: Man is, properly speaking, based upon hope; he has no other possession than hope; this world of his is emphatically the place of hope. What then was our professor's possession? We see him, for the present, quite shut out from hope; not looking into the golden orient, but vaguely all round into a dim copper firmament, pregnant with earthquake and tornado.—Sartor Resartus.

In the day that the enemies of the Jews hoped, &c. But their hope ran aslope, as they say; their lucky day deceived them. Wicked men's hope, when they most need it, will be as the giving up of the ghost, and that is but cold comfort; and as the spider's web, who gets to the top of the window as high as she can, and then when she falls she falls to the bottom, for nothing stays her. From such high hopes fell our English Papists; first, when Queen Mary died. You hope and hope (said Dale the promoter to Julian Irving, whom he had apprehended), but your hope should end in a rope; for though the queen fail, she that you hope for should never come to it; for there is my Lord Cardinal's grace and many more between her and it. Secondly, at Queen Elizabeth's death, that long-looked for day, as they called it, triumphing before the victory, and selling the hide before they had taken the beast. This they had done before in 1588, when in assurance of victory they had styled their forces the Invincible Armada; and also afterwards at the powder-plot, when they had presumptuously disposed of the chief offices, holds, and revenues of the land; like as before the Pharsalian field was fought, the Pompeians were in such miserable security, that some of them contended for the priesthood, which was Cæsar's office; others disposed of the consulships and offices in Rome. So at the battle of Agincourt in France, where our Henry V. won the day, the French were so confident of a victory that they sent to king Henry to know what ransom he would give. A presumptuous confidence goes commonly bleeding home, when an humble fear returns in triumph.—Trapp.

Though it was turned to the contrary.—By a sweet and gracious providence of God, whose glory it is to help at a pinch, to alter the scene all on a sudden, to begin where we have given over, and to cause a strange turn of things, according to that of the Psalmist; God should send from heaven and save me (when it might seem to some that salvation itself could not save me), he should send forth his mercy and his truth, and then what should hinder the Church's happiness?—Trapp.

The day in which the enemies of the Jews expected to see the realization of their hopes, became instead for the Jews a day of victory, and for their enemies a day of reverse and defeat. This, under existing circumstances, seemed to be a change which could only be brought about, as it were, by a miracle. It was, indeed, one of those providences by means of which it has pleased God to reveal himself from time to time in an especially remarkable manner. At all events, the prophets had foretold such occurrences as a matter surely to be expected. When the captivity of Israel should have reached its culmination, when the people of God are on the point of expiring under the rod of their drivers, then, instead of really perishing, they should become captors of their captors and taskmasters of their drivers. What is here shown in a small prelude, according to such prophecy, should attain a much larger circumference and a much greater glory. Our book itself, according to its deeper significance, points in in a manner typical or prophetical to this great and glorious final history. As a matter of fact, this change of affairs was itself deeply grounded in the nature and circumstances of things. So certain as the God of Israel was the only true God, whose kingdom should not be destroyed, but through all apparent reverses should continually rise to new and greater victories, so likewise to his people,—so long as it is the sole bearer of his sway, the grave, which threatens to swallow it up, should ever be a place of revivification and resurrection. And today also his empire must continue; and that which thought to overcome its power must itself be overcome, and either be absorbed or consigned to destruction. All the days of persecution of God's kingdom are days indeed in which its enemies hope to overcome it, but it always turns out that such enemies are themselves conquered at last.—Lange.

We have above such an example in Haman, who was himself hung on the cross which he had prepared for Mordecai; so the Egyptians were themselves overwhelmed in the sea to which they had driven the Israelites in order to overwhelm them. So also Saul, who had driven David over to the Philistines, that they might destroy him, was himself destroyed by the Philistines.—Brenz.

We learn from this passage the comfortable truth, that God's people obtain the victory over their enemies. Whatever hardships and troubles God's people have to endure in the world, and however dark and lowering the cloud may be which sometimes hangs over them, yet, "at evening time it will be light to them," and death's temporary triumph over them will only lead to their eternal triumph over it and all their foes. Be not discouraged, ye that fear and serve the Lord. Greater is he that is for you than all that can be against you. Fight the good fight of faith, the crown of life is sure to all who are in Christ.—Davidson.

Foresight and foreboding are two very different things. It is not that the one is the exaggeration of the other, but the one is opposed to the other. The more a man looks forward in the exercise of foresight, the less he does so in the exercise of foreboding; and the more he is tortured by anxious thoughts about a possible future, the less clear vision has he of a likely future, and the less power to influence it.

What does your anxiety do? It does not empty to-morrow of its sorrows, but it empties to-day of its strength; it does not make you escape the evil, it makes you unfit to cope with it when it comes; it does not bless to-morrow, and it robs to-day. For every day has its own burden. Sufficient for each day is the evil which properly belongs to it. Do not add to-morrow's to to-day's. Do not drag the future into the present. The present has enough to do with its own proper concerns. We have always strength to bear the evil when it comes. We have not strength to bear the foreboding of it. As thy day, thy strength shall be. In strict proportion to the existing exigencies will be the God-given power; but if you cram and condense to-day's sorrows by experience, and tomorrow's sorrows by anticipation, into the narrow round of the one four and twenty hours, there is no promise that as that day thy strength shall be.

God gives us power to bear all the sorrows of his making; but he does not give us power to bear the sorrows of our own making, which the anticipation of sorrow most assuredly is.

Our hope should make us buoyant, and should keep us firm. It is an anchor of the soul. All men live by hope, even when it is fixed upon the changing and uncertain things of this world. But the hopes of men, who have not their hearts fixed upon God, try to grapple themselves on the cloud-rack that rolls along the flanks of the mountains, and our hopes pierce within that veil and lay hold of the Rock of Ages that towers above the flying vapours. Let us then be strong, for our future is not a dim peradventure, or a vague dream, nor a fancy of our own, nor a wish turning itself into a vision; but it is made and certified by him who is God of all past and of all the present. It is built upon his word, and the brightest hope of all its brightness is the enjoyment of more of his presence and the possession of more of his likeness. That hope is certain. Therefore let us live in it. "Reach forth unto the things that are before."—Maclaren.

ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTERS 9, 10

The Alpine Travellers. Three tourists were ascending the Alps. After they had gone a considerable distance, and were getting nearer to the eternal snows, and thus the danger increased, it was considered necessary to attach the company by ropes to one another and to the guides. But one of the tourists, an old traveller, was self-confident and self-reliant. He carried the doctrine of self-help too far, and refused to help his neighbours. He fell down the precipice and lost his life. We often best help ourselves by helping others.

Mutual help, need of. As an apple in the hand of a child makes other children run after and consort with him and share his sports, so does he convert affliction, and the need we have of each other's aid, into a girdle of love, with which to bind us all together; just as no one country produces all commodities, in order that the different nations, by mutual traffic and commerce, may cultivate concord and friendship. How foolish they are who imagine that all the world stands in need of them, but they of nobody; that they know and understand all things, but others nothing; and that the wit of all mankind should be apprenticed to their wisdom.—Gotthold.

Whitfield. An old woman relates, that when she was a little girl Whitfield stayed at her father's house. He was too much absorbed in his work to take much notice of, and pay much attention to, the little girl. She did not remember any of his eloquent utterances. She was, however, observant, and noticed the great preacher when he did not think that any one was observing his conduct. And the impression made upon her mind by his holy and cheerful demeanour, by his patience under trials and difficulties, and his evident consecration to his work, was of a most lasting and salutary character. Well were it if all great preachers would preach at home! We must be great in the palace of home, and then let our influence work outwards in all directions. Home religion is powerful.

The young Switzer. There was a young man among the Switzers that went about to usurp the government and alter their free state. Him they condemned to death, and appointed his father for executioner, as the cause of his evil education. But because Haman was hanged before, his sons (though dead) should now hang with him. If all fathers who had given an evil education to their sons were punished there would be a large increase of the criminal classes. At the present time the State is doing much in the way of educating; but the State cannot do that which is the proper duty of the parent. By precept, and even by the fear of penalty, should we enforce upon parents the duty of seeing faithfully to the true up-bringing of their children.

Faith of parents. An aged minister of Christ had several sons, all of whom became preachers of the Gospel but one. This one lived a life of dissipation for many years. But the good father's faith failed not. He trusted God that his wicked son, trained up in the way he should go, in old age should not depart from it. In this sublime faith the aged father passed away. Five years after, this son of many prayers sat at the feet of Jesus.

Influence of parents. The last thing forgotten in all the recklessness of dissolute profligacy is the prayer or hymn taught by a mother's lips, or uttered at a father's knee; and where there seems to have been any pains bestowed, even by one parent, to train up a child aright, there is in general more than ordinary ground for hope.—The experience of a Prison Chaplain.

Says the venerable Dr. Spring: "The first afflicting thought to me on the death of my parents was, that I had lost their prayers."

Great men Just as the traveller whom we see on yonder mountain height began his ascent from the plain, so the greatest man of whom the world can boast is but one of ourselves standing on higher ground, and in virtue of his wider intelligence, his nobler thoughts, his loftier character, his purer inspiration, or his more manly daring, claiming the empire as his right.—Hare.

True greatness. The truly great consider, first, how they may gain the approbation of God; and, secondly, that of their own consciences. Having done this they would willingly conciliate the good opinion of their fellow-men.—Cotton.

The greatest man is he who chooses the right with invincible resolution; who resists the sorest temptations from within and without; who bears the heaviest burdens cheerfully; who is the calmest in storms, and whose reliance on truth, on virtue, on God, is the most unfaltering.—Dr. Chening.

Distinguishing, great men. I think it is Warburton who draws a very just distinction between a man of true greatness and a mediocrist. "If," says he, "you want to recommend yourself to the former, take care that he quits your society with a good opinion of you; if your object is to please the latter, take care that he leaves you with a good opinion of himself."—Cotton.

Thus Mordecai was truly great, considering, first, how to gain the approbation of God; and, secondly, that of his own conscience. He rises above others by virtue of his wider intelligence, his nobler thoughts, his loftier character, and his more manly daring.

A good name. A name truly good is the aroma from character. It is a reputation of whatsoever things are honest, and lovely, and of good report. It is such a name as is not only remembered on earth, but written in heaven. Just as a box of spikenard is not only valuable to its possessor, but pre-eminently precious in its diffusion; so, when a name is really good, it is of unspeakable service to all who are capable of feeling its aspiration. Mordecai's fame went out throughout all the provinces.—Dr. J. Hamilton.

Eastern hospitality. Nehemiah charges the people thus: "Go your way, eat the fat, and drink the sweet, and send portions unto them for whom nothing is prepared." Also in Esther: "Therefore the Jews made the fourteenth day of the month Adar a day of gladness and feasting, and a good day, and of sending portions one to another." An Oriental prince sometimes honours a friend or a favourite servant, who cannot conveniently attend at his table, by sending a mess to his own home. When the Grand Emir found that it incommoded D'Arvieux to eat with him, he politely desired him to take his own time for eating, and sent him what he liked from his kitchen at the time he chose. So that the above statements must not be restricted to the poor.—Paxton's ‘Illustrations.'

The heaviest taxes. "The taxes are indeed heavy," said Dr. Franklin on one occasion, and if those laid on by the Government were the only ones we had to pay, we might more easily discharge them; but we have many others, and much more grievous to some of us. We are taxed twice as much by our idleness, three times as much by our pride, and four times as much by our folly; and from these taxes the commissioners cannot ease or deliver us by allowing any abatement.

Safeguard of nations. France tried to go on without a God in the time of her first revolution; but Napoleon, for reasons of State, restored the Catholic religion. M. Thiers gives this singular passage in his history: "Napoleon said, ‘For my part, I never hear the sound of the church bell in the neighbouring village without emotion.'" He knew that the hearts of the people were stirred by the same deep yearnings after God which filled his own, and so he proposed to restore the worship of God to infidel France. Later, and with deeper meaning, Perrier, successor to Lafayette as prime minister to Louis Philippe, said on his death-bed, "France must have religion" (C. D. Fors). So we may say, the nations, if they are to live, must have religion.

Punishment of nations. It was a sound reply of an English captain at the loss of Calais, when a proud Frenchman scornfully demanded, "When will you fetch Calais again?" "When your sins shall weigh down ours."—Brooks.

Nations. In one sense the providence of God is shown more clearly in nations than in individuals. Retribution can follow individuals into another state, but not so with nations; they have all their rewards and punishments in time.—D. Custine.

England's privileges.—It's the observation of a great politician, that England is a great animal which can never die unless it kill itself; answerable whereunto was the speech of Lord Rich, to the justices in the reign of king Edward VI: "Never foreign power," said he, "could yet hurt, or in any part prevail, in this realm but by disobedience and disorder among ourselves; that is the way wherewith the Lord will plague us if he mind to punish us." Polydor Virgil calls Regnum Angliæ, Regnum Dei, the kingdom of England, the kingdom of God, because God seems to take special care of it, as having walled it about with the ocean, and watered it with the upper and nether springs, like that land which Caleb gave his daughter. Hence it was called Albion, quasi Olbion, the happy country; "whose valleys," saith Speed, "are like Eden, whose hills are as Lebanon, whose springs are as Pisgah, whose rivers are as Jordan, whose wall is the ocean, and whose defence is the Lord Jehovah." Foreign writers have termed our country the Granary of the Western World, the Fortunate Island, the Paradise of Pleasure, and Garden of God.—Clarke's ‘Examples.'


Verse 2-3

CRITICAL NOTES.]

Est . For the fear of them fell upon all the people] A general terror spread from a feeling that the Jews were the special favourites of the most high God; and while this feeling disheartened and unnerved their enemies, it gave inspiration and power to the Jews. We may naturally suppose that Jewish antipathy and anger would, at least in some cases, lead them to assault their foes, and that the Jews would not remain wholly on the defensive.

Est .] All the princes, the satraps, and governors, and also other persons of rank whom it is unnecessary here to name (comp. chap. Est 3:9), assisted the Jews. Rawlinson says this is very important. It has been stated that, according to the narrative of Esther, the Jews were allowed to kill 75,000 Persians, and this (supposed) feature of the narrative has been pronounced incredible. The present verse shows that the real Persians, who formed the standing army which kept the empire in subjection, and were at the disposal of the various governors of the provinces, took the Jews' side. Their enemies were almost entirely to be found among the idolatrous people of the subject nations, for whose lives neither the Persians generally nor their monarchs cared greatly.

MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH. Est

SELF-HELP BEINGS HELP

I. Divine help. In this narrative we see all along that the Jews were helped by God. We find clear traces of a superior power delivering this people from the power of their enemies. Mere human reasons cannot account for the fact that these Jews—captive and dispersed—so marvellously triumphed over the many and skilful foes arrayed against them. We are now brought to the point where the Divine power is most manifestly revealed. All need Divine help, and all must have it more or less in the journey of life if it is to be successful in the highest point of view.

II. Divine help fosters and succeeds self-help. Some speak loudly in the praise of self-help. It must not be undervalued. But to speak to bruised and maimed humanity of self-help apart from any other help is a solemn mockery, is a withering irony. Should we tell the drowning man to try self-help, and not throw out to him the rope of help? Should we tell the bankrupt and ruined man to try self-help, and give him no capital? Should we advise the poor outcast to try self-help, and yet leave him without a character? Our ruined selves must be repaired from above before we can effectually help ourselves. Divine help must first work, and then there can be successful self-help. Jesus did not say to the man with the withered arm, Trust to self-help. Power was conveyed in the word, Stretch forth thy hand; and then the man was able to help himself. This, too, be observed—put forth all thy power, and God will not fail. Help thyself first by heartily seeking help from heaven, and then by doing thy very utmost. These Jews helped themselves by (a) co-operation. "The Jews gathered themselves together in their cities throughout all the provinces of the king Ahasuerus." In these days of vast co-operative societies—of the teachings of political economy—it may not be needful to urge the advantages of co-operation. However, the Church still needs to learn the important lesson that its members should be gathered together, not as so many mere material bodies, but as being animated by one spirit. The members of the spiritual Israel must be gathered together so as to make one compact body. The day has not yet come when Christians are of one mind. Many men, many minds; many Christians, many minds. Members of the same branch of the Christian community do not co-operate. Let us gather ourselves together around the Cross of Jesus Christ, and taste the outflowing and uniting power of the Saviour's love. (b) By active agency. "To lay hand on such as sought their hurt." Never mind the difficult questions suggested by the course of proceedings described in this chapter; be practical. Learn the lesson that they co-operated for work. They did not co-operate merely by assembling together at public meetings in order to be told, in eloquent language, how the thing was to be done, and then dispersing without any well-timed effort to do the thing. There was no Exeter Hall in Shushan; there was no need of priestly eloquence. Patriotism stirred their hearts; a common danger impelled to united efforts at defence. Patriotism should stir the hearts of Englishmen to-day. The common danger that threatens our holy religion should impel all lovers of Jesus to united and mighty efforts. Let us lay the hand of love on such as seek the hurt of all that is true, and noble, and virtuous. There is a call, loud and long, to-day to every one, whether clergy or laity, to active agency in order to repress evil, and to promote the best interests—that is, the Christian interests—of our humanity. (c) By a name of power. The fear of the Jews fell upon all the people, from the lowest to the highest, for the leaders of the people felt this fear. Is there not a true sense in which the fear of the Christian should fall upon the wicked? Does not the sinner quake in the presence of the pure and the holy? However, the Christian's name should be one of power, not only to inspire fear, but to attract. (d) By aggressive measures. "No man could withstand them." There was a time when it seemed to come near the truth to say that no man could withstand the influence of Christianity. It went forth an all-subduing force; it went forth conquering and to conquer. Wonderful the successes and the triumphs of the primitive Church! But alas! what shall we say of these times? Shall we take up our lament and say, How is the mighty fallen? Shall we not be accused of pessimism if we declare that Christianity is now being conquered by the world, instead of the world being conquered by Christianity? The world says that Christianity is effete. Does Christianity, by its modern successes, disprove the accusations of the children of this world? Certainly much, very much more requires to be done. Oh, arm of the Lord, awake!

III. Self-help secures the help of others. That is, the self help that is successful secures the help of others, for in this sense it often is that nothing succeeds like success. At all events, all the rulers of the provinces, and the lieutenants, and the deputies, and officers of the king helped the Jews—to what extent is not stated. They probably facilitated the Jews in their preparations to defend themselves. These governors saw that the Jews were on the high road to victory, and therefore they went in for the winning side. They were most likely politic men, and the fear of losing their places would induce them to help the Jews. How many helpers in this world are ready to help those who do not require help? Alas! how few are found to give help to the really helpless and forlorn. The poor and thirsty still seek the water of help and of deliverance, but find none; while the rich and prosperous have much abundance poured into the lap. This world's helpers go to the rich and the great; Christ, the great helper of humanity, went to the publicans and harlots. He gave help to the helpless, strength to the weak, water to the thirsty, bread to the hungry, healing to the poor sick, and life to the dead.

SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS ON Est

The Jews were the conquerors. "The day in which their enemies hoped to have power over them was turned to the contrary, so that the Jews had rule over those that hated them." This was the doing of the Lord, and ought to be wondrous in our eyes. But though the victory was of God, means were employed in winning it; and the first was, the valour and good conduct of the Jews themselves. They "stood for their lives," and "remembering the Lord, who is great and terrible," "fought for their brethren, their sons and their daughters, their wives and their houses." And their prudence equalled their courage. Had each endeavoured to protect himself and his family, they would have become an easy prey to their foes; but they "gathered themselves together in their cities in all the provinces," and in this way encouraged one another, and presented a formidable front to their adversaries. Secondly, their enemies were struck with terror. Disappointed of the hopes which they had cherished, perceiving the boldness and wise conduct of the Jews, and convinced in their own breasts that they were embarked in an unjust and criminal design, they lost courage and yielded up the day. Thirdly, the rulers in the different provinces encouraged the Jews by their countenance, being induced to this by the awe in which they stood of Mordecai, who not only retained his high place, but rose daily in the royal favour, and in his reputation as an able and virtuous statesman.—M‘Crie.

The Jews gathered themselves together in their cities throughout all the provinces of the king Ahasuerus, to lay hand on such as sought their hurt: and no man could withstand them; for the fear of them fell upon all people. "Thou shalt not kill." This commandment, in some cases, binds us to kill. It requires us to use all lawful endeavours to preserve our own life; and in preserving our own lives, we may be reduced to the unpleasant necessity of taking away the lives of other men. The Jews were compelled on the thirteenth day of the month Adar to take arms into their hands to destroy all that might rise up against them; and they acted wisely in uniting themselves in large bodies to resist the power of their enemies. Had they stood single in arms, they might all have been destroyed with ease. But their combination in the various cities of the king's dominions made them terrible and irresistible. Let us learn from their example to stand fast in one spirit, and with one mind, to strive against the enemies of our souls, who endeavour to rob us of our faith, more precious than our lives. The Church is terrible, like an army with banners, when her rulers and members are closely united, under the captain of salvation, to oppose her enemies.

No man could now withstand the Jews, for the fear of them fell upon all people. They had the king, the queen, the prime minister, upon their side, and, what was still more, they had the providence of God upon their side. "He caused judgment to be heard from heaven," as audibly as if an angel had proclaimed his favour to the Jews, and his indignation against their enemies. The wonderful works of Providence have oft struck terror into the hardiest enemies of Zion.

And all the rulers of the provinces, and the lieutenants, and the deputies, and officers of the king, helped the Jews; because the fear of Mordecai fell upon them. There were two decrees in equal force which might have given them a fair pretence for taking the part of the Jews, or of their enemies, as they pleased; but it was plain that the king's favour was towards the Jews, and that if they expected any favour from him, it was necessary to secure the good will of Mordecai. They chose that side in the contest which their own interest prescribed. What a pity is it that all princes do not favour the cause of religion! If they did, iniquity would be compelled to stop her mouth, and those men who do not value religion would treat it at least with respect.—Lawson.

They acted in unison. "They gathered themselves together, and stood for their lives." Union is power: concentration of strength is mighty for good and for evil. How awful the extent of the mischief perpetrated by the evil spirits, because they act in concert—unitedly: whereas disunion would cause even their kingdom to fall. By virtue of this perfect combination they succeed in deceiving the nations, and leading myriads captive at their will. Satan thus maintains such a sway over mankind as to entitle him to the name of "God of this world." "If Satan cast out Satan, he is divided against himself; how then can his kingdom stand?" Union and co-operation are likewise powerful for the production of good. Hence copies of the Divine writings are flying to all parts of the world; and missionaries to unfold their precious contents to those who are perishing for lack of knowledge. What would individual efforts do in cases like these? Hence arise hospitals for the bodies of men, and places of instruction for their souls. Amid the favourable signs of our day, this is among the most cheering—the frequent formation of associations for the amelioration of the state of man. May new plans of usefulness be still devised, and may the blessed Spirit of God stir up the people to support them, so that at home and abroad truth and holiness may flourish and abound.

They laid hands on all such as sought their hurt, and no man could withstand them. They were acting legally; for the royal law permitted them to defend themselves: and when we act legally, we may act boldly and courageously.

Trust in God, in his power and faithfulness, is the only source of true magnanimity. It is this alone that makes man undaunted on rational grounds. St. Paul tells us of the ancient believers, that "out of weakness they were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, and turned to flight the armies of the aliens." And this, he tells us, was the effect of relying on God.

God filled the Persians with fear and trembling, so that, when the battle took place, they were so intimidated, that they made but the feeblest resistance, and fell an easy prey into the hands of their enemies. "No man could withstand them" (the Jews), "for the fear of them fell upon all people." This was one way by which the Lord promised of old victory to the Israelites over their enemies. If they would regard his laws, he engaged to deprive their adversaries of their courage and fortitude. "I will send my fear before thee, and will destroy all the people to whom thou shalt come, and I will make all thine enemies turn their backs unto thee."

Brethren, none can injure whom God is resolved to protect. He has all hearts in his hand. Though earth and hell combine against his people, they shall not prosper. He is a munition of rocks—a strong tower, into which the righteous flee, and are in safety. What was David compared with Goliath? Yet, inasmuch as he went forth in the name of the God of the armies of Israel, the vaunting Philistine soon fell before him. God is a man of war, and makes his people more than conquerors over the opponents of their salvation. "None shall pluck them out of my Father's hands." Trust in him, ye infirm and feeble, and ye shall tread down your enemies—one of you shall chase a thousand, and two put ten thousand to flight. Brethren, we have more formidable enemies than these Jews had,—more crafty and more inveterate,—even the principalities and powers of hell; and the consequences of being vanquished are infinitely more woeful. None can defeat and destroy these enemies but he who defeated the counsel and prevented the evil designs of wicked Haman. Apply to this great Being—this Omnipotent Being—in the all-prevailing name of Christ, and you shall triumph over every foe: you shall have a day of feasting and gladness—a good day—a day of pure and holy and everlasting joy. Trust in him, and heaven shall be your dwelling-place for ever. "The Lord will give strength to his people: the Lord will bless his people with peace."—Hughes.

And no man could withstand them. A good cause, a good conscience, and a good courage; what cannot these three do when they meet? How should any stand before those who are strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might? Pilate's wife could warn him of meddling with such; and Haman's wife could tell him that a Jew might fall before a Persian and get up again and prevail. But if a Persian, or whosoever of the Gentiles, begin to fall before a Jew, he can neither stand nor rise. There is an invisible hand of omnipotency that striketh in for his own, and confounds their opposites.

For the fear of them fell upon all the people. This was the work, not of some Pan Deus Arcadi, but of God, the sole giver of victory, who, when he pleaseth, affrighteth the Church's enemies, as he promiseth to do in many places. And as accordingly he did it on the Egyptians, Midianites, Philistines, Syrians, &c. And the like he did for Baldwin, king of Jerusalem, against the great Caliph; for the Hussites against all the force of Germany; for the Angrognians against the Pope's army that came against them.

Because the fear of Mordecai fell upon them. But much more, because God himself over-awed them, and dispirited them. How else should he appear to be the God of the spirits of all flesh, and that in the thing wherein people deal proudly he was above them? How should they come to know themselves to be but men, and not God; and their horses flesh, and not spirit; if he did not other whiles make their hearts heartless, their hands feeble, their eyes fail, and their knees knock together, as Belshazzar's did. How else would they ever be brought to bring presents unto him that ought to be feared? If Mordecai be feared, it is because God hath put a majesty upon him, and made him dreadful, as Abraham was likewise to Abimelech, David to Saul, the Baptist to Herod, our Saviour to the Pharisees, Paul and Silas to their persecutors. And this the Lord still doth, that he may dwell upon earth, in his faithful worshippers, which wicked men would not suffer, if not thus reined in and restrained. And, secondly, that praise may wait for him in Zion, and unto him may the vow be performed.—Trapp.

ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTERS 9, 10

The Alpine Travellers. Three tourists were ascending the Alps. After they had gone a considerable distance, and were getting nearer to the eternal snows, and thus the danger increased, it was considered necessary to attach the company by ropes to one another and to the guides. But one of the tourists, an old traveller, was self-confident and self-reliant. He carried the doctrine of self-help too far, and refused to help his neighbours. He fell down the precipice and lost his life. We often best help ourselves by helping others.

Mutual help, need of. As an apple in the hand of a child makes other children run after and consort with him and share his sports, so does he convert affliction, and the need we have of each other's aid, into a girdle of love, with which to bind us all together; just as no one country produces all commodities, in order that the different nations, by mutual traffic and commerce, may cultivate concord and friendship. How foolish they are who imagine that all the world stands in need of them, but they of nobody; that they know and understand all things, but others nothing; and that the wit of all mankind should be apprenticed to their wisdom.—Gotthold.

Whitfield. An old woman relates, that when she was a little girl Whitfield stayed at her father's house. He was too much absorbed in his work to take much notice of, and pay much attention to, the little girl. She did not remember any of his eloquent utterances. She was, however, observant, and noticed the great preacher when he did not think that any one was observing his conduct. And the impression made upon her mind by his holy and cheerful demeanour, by his patience under trials and difficulties, and his evident consecration to his work, was of a most lasting and salutary character. Well were it if all great preachers would preach at home! We must be great in the palace of home, and then let our influence work outwards in all directions. Home religion is powerful.

The young Switzer. There was a young man among the Switzers that went about to usurp the government and alter their free state. Him they condemned to death, and appointed his father for executioner, as the cause of his evil education. But because Haman was hanged before, his sons (though dead) should now hang with him. If all fathers who had given an evil education to their sons were punished there would be a large increase of the criminal classes. At the present time the State is doing much in the way of educating; but the State cannot do that which is the proper duty of the parent. By precept, and even by the fear of penalty, should we enforce upon parents the duty of seeing faithfully to the true up-bringing of their children.

Faith of parents. An aged minister of Christ had several sons, all of whom became preachers of the Gospel but one. This one lived a life of dissipation for many years. But the good father's faith failed not. He trusted God that his wicked son, trained up in the way he should go, in old age should not depart from it. In this sublime faith the aged father passed away. Five years after, this son of many prayers sat at the feet of Jesus.

Influence of parents. The last thing forgotten in all the recklessness of dissolute profligacy is the prayer or hymn taught by a mother's lips, or uttered at a father's knee; and where there seems to have been any pains bestowed, even by one parent, to train up a child aright, there is in general more than ordinary ground for hope.—The experience of a Prison Chaplain.

Says the venerable Dr. Spring: "The first afflicting thought to me on the death of my parents was, that I had lost their prayers."

Great men Just as the traveller whom we see on yonder mountain height began his ascent from the plain, so the greatest man of whom the world can boast is but one of ourselves standing on higher ground, and in virtue of his wider intelligence, his nobler thoughts, his loftier character, his purer inspiration, or his more manly daring, claiming the empire as his right.—Hare.

True greatness. The truly great consider, first, how they may gain the approbation of God; and, secondly, that of their own consciences. Having done this they would willingly conciliate the good opinion of their fellow-men.—Cotton.

The greatest man is he who chooses the right with invincible resolution; who resists the sorest temptations from within and without; who bears the heaviest burdens cheerfully; who is the calmest in storms, and whose reliance on truth, on virtue, on God, is the most unfaltering.—Dr. Chening.

Distinguishing, great men. I think it is Warburton who draws a very just distinction between a man of true greatness and a mediocrist. "If," says he, "you want to recommend yourself to the former, take care that he quits your society with a good opinion of you; if your object is to please the latter, take care that he leaves you with a good opinion of himself."—Cotton.

Thus Mordecai was truly great, considering, first, how to gain the approbation of God; and, secondly, that of his own conscience. He rises above others by virtue of his wider intelligence, his nobler thoughts, his loftier character, and his more manly daring.

A good name. A name truly good is the aroma from character. It is a reputation of whatsoever things are honest, and lovely, and of good report. It is such a name as is not only remembered on earth, but written in heaven. Just as a box of spikenard is not only valuable to its possessor, but pre-eminently precious in its diffusion; so, when a name is really good, it is of unspeakable service to all who are capable of feeling its aspiration. Mordecai's fame went out throughout all the provinces.—Dr. J. Hamilton.

Eastern hospitality. Nehemiah charges the people thus: "Go your way, eat the fat, and drink the sweet, and send portions unto them for whom nothing is prepared." Also in Esther: "Therefore the Jews made the fourteenth day of the month Adar a day of gladness and feasting, and a good day, and of sending portions one to another." An Oriental prince sometimes honours a friend or a favourite servant, who cannot conveniently attend at his table, by sending a mess to his own home. When the Grand Emir found that it incommoded D'Arvieux to eat with him, he politely desired him to take his own time for eating, and sent him what he liked from his kitchen at the time he chose. So that the above statements must not be restricted to the poor.—Paxton's ‘Illustrations.'

The heaviest taxes. "The taxes are indeed heavy," said Dr. Franklin on one occasion, and if those laid on by the Government were the only ones we had to pay, we might more easily discharge them; but we have many others, and much more grievous to some of us. We are taxed twice as much by our idleness, three times as much by our pride, and four times as much by our folly; and from these taxes the commissioners cannot ease or deliver us by allowing any abatement.

Safeguard of nations. France tried to go on without a God in the time of her first revolution; but Napoleon, for reasons of State, restored the Catholic religion. M. Thiers gives this singular passage in his history: "Napoleon said, ‘For my part, I never hear the sound of the church bell in the neighbouring village without emotion.'" He knew that the hearts of the people were stirred by the same deep yearnings after God which filled his own, and so he proposed to restore the worship of God to infidel France. Later, and with deeper meaning, Perrier, successor to Lafayette as prime minister to Louis Philippe, said on his death-bed, "France must have religion" (C. D. Fors). So we may say, the nations, if they are to live, must have religion.

Punishment of nations. It was a sound reply of an English captain at the loss of Calais, when a proud Frenchman scornfully demanded, "When will you fetch Calais again?" "When your sins shall weigh down ours."—Brooks.

Nations. In one sense the providence of God is shown more clearly in nations than in individuals. Retribution can follow individuals into another state, but not so with nations; they have all their rewards and punishments in time.—D. Custine.

England's privileges.—It's the observation of a great politician, that England is a great animal which can never die unless it kill itself; answerable whereunto was the speech of Lord Rich, to the justices in the reign of king Edward VI: "Never foreign power," said he, "could yet hurt, or in any part prevail, in this realm but by disobedience and disorder among ourselves; that is the way wherewith the Lord will plague us if he mind to punish us." Polydor Virgil calls Regnum Angliæ, Regnum Dei, the kingdom of England, the kingdom of God, because God seems to take special care of it, as having walled it about with the ocean, and watered it with the upper and nether springs, like that land which Caleb gave his daughter. Hence it was called Albion, quasi Olbion, the happy country; "whose valleys," saith Speed, "are like Eden, whose hills are as Lebanon, whose springs are as Pisgah, whose rivers are as Jordan, whose wall is the ocean, and whose defence is the Lord Jehovah." Foreign writers have termed our country the Granary of the Western World, the Fortunate Island, the Paradise of Pleasure, and Garden of God.—Clarke's ‘Examples.'


Verse 4

CRITICAL NOTES.]

Est . For the fear of them fell upon all the people] A general terror spread from a feeling that the Jews were the special favourites of the most high God; and while this feeling disheartened and unnerved their enemies, it gave inspiration and power to the Jews. We may naturally suppose that Jewish antipathy and anger would, at least in some cases, lead them to assault their foes, and that the Jews would not remain wholly on the defensive.

Est .] All the princes, the satraps, and governors, and also other persons of rank whom it is unnecessary here to name (comp. chap. Est 3:9), assisted the Jews. Rawlinson says this is very important. It has been stated that, according to the narrative of Esther, the Jews were allowed to kill 75,000 Persians, and this (supposed) feature of the narrative has been pronounced incredible. The present verse shows that the real Persians, who formed the standing army which kept the empire in subjection, and were at the disposal of the various governors of the provinces, took the Jews' side. Their enemies were almost entirely to be found among the idolatrous people of the subject nations, for whose lives neither the Persians generally nor their monarchs cared greatly.

MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH. Est

THE GREATNESS OF GOODNESS

This verse is given as a reason why the fear of Mordecai fell upon all the people. "For Mordecai was great in the king's house, and his fame went out throughout all the provinces: for this man Mordecai waxed greater and greater." It is given unto but few to attain unto that social and political greatness that was the possession of Mordecai: but many may become possessors of that goodness which was the foundation of Mordecai's greatness, and therefore we must speak of his goodness in order to inspire if possible a reasonable ambition. Let us strive to be good and noble, for this is true and lasting greatness. Let this mind be in you, which was in Christ Jesus.

I. Goodness is greatness. This is a truth which many may profess but which very few practise. The goodness of earth's great ones is admired; but goodness in earth's little ones is too often left unnoticed. However, goodness, wherever found—in cot or in palace—is not unnoticed by the good God. Mordecai was great because he was good. On this very account he rose to the highest position in the Persian empire. He was great in the king's house, not through political intrigue, not through the carrying out of any wily schemes, not on account of his gifts as an orator, but on account of his goodness. His faithfulness in a lowly sphere when he discovered and exposed a wicked conspiracy, his benevolent attachment to Esther, and his patriotic interest in his countrymen, were the reasons of his promotion. He did not follow the rules of goodness as being the way to earthly greatness. He did not act on the principle that gain is godliness. Let us aspire after the greatness of goodness. In lowly walks of life, without any sinister objects in view, without any thought that a virtuous course of conduct is the most prudent and the most profitable, let us move on in the pathway of goodness. Let a deep love of the Saviour be the all-compelling motive power. Let us have a supreme respect unto the recompense of the heavenly reward.

II. The greatness of goodness extends. Mordecai's fame went out throughout all the provinces. He was not little at home and great abroad, but he was great abroad because he was great at home. No man is a hero to his valet. But the good man is a hero everywhere. Your earthly great ones are only great on large occasions and in public. The spiritually great are great in public, but their brightest glories shine out for the benefit of those who know them best. The common people heard the Saviour gladly; but that disciple whom Jesus loved saw the most of his Divine greatness and glory. Mordecai's light shone in the palace, but it could not be hid, and its clear rays shone out to the remotest provinces. "Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven." Oh for the light of that goodness which illumines and gladdens the home, and then extends itself in ever-widening and ever-increasing circles!

III. The greatness of goodness developes. This man Mordecai waxed greater and greater. Mordecai was a growing man. We see his noble manliness developing day by day, and week by week. Goodness is the one quality which may be ever increasing and developing. Physical power can only be increased up to a certain point and for a certain period. Samson at last reaches the climax of mere physical prowess. Intellectual greatness has its limits. Even Solomon could only compass a certain amount of knowledge. Mordecai socially and politically could only wax greater and greater for a short period. But Mordecai morally and spiritually could wax greater and greater in indefinite spheres and through eternity. The path of the just is as the shining light that shineth more and more unto the perfect day. We follow the just to the perfect day of the upper Paradise, but even there we see them waxing greater and greater. There is, we believe, growth in heaven—growth in knowledge and growth in holiness. However that may be, let all seek to grow on earth. Grow in grace is the Divine command. We must either, morally considered, go backward or forward. Not to grow is to decay. To decay is to die. Excelsior should be the Christian's watch-word. Onward and upward to the heights of holiness, of a more perfect mastery over self and the world, and a more complete likeness to the blessed Saviour.

SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS ON Est

"He was great." Ah, how that word "greatness" is often misused and debased! A man bears a certain name, and therefore he is great; or he wears a certain robe, and therefore he is great; or he succeeds in slaughtering an immense number of his fellow-creatures, and there he is great; or by much cunning, and audacity, and cleverness withal, he keeps himself in conspicuous places and before the eyes of his fellow-countrymen, and therefore he is great! Not such greatness as any of these was that of Mordecai. It was a greatness won, no doubt, by his splendid faculty of management, by his statesmanship, but with real substance in it of truth and goodness. He was great, not only as at the practical head of the government of this great empire of Persia, but he was so esteemed among "his own people," who were despised and persecuted as they so often have been, and who numbered not more than one in thirty of the population. He "sought the wealth of his people." Jewish-like, no doubt, is this; but observe, it was his people's wealth, not his own, he sought. And the last word concerning him on record is this, that "he spake peace to all his seed." He was accessible, he was gentle, he was generous and patriotic, promoting the well-being of his seed, but not at the expense of the country in which he was born. Would that all who are in great place in our own country, and in this our own day, would follow very literally Mordecai's example and speak "peace."—Raleigh.

Mordecai was great in the king's house. He was known to be a Jew, and deeply interested in the protection of his own people. He had shown his wisdom as well as his power in the decree which had been issued by him, and during the intervening months his greatness had been steadily on the increase. Whatever may have been the means taken by him to exhibit this ever-augmenting greatness to the people, they were deeply impressed with it, not in Shushan only, but also "throughout all the provinces." No doubt his management of public business would be of a very different kind from that of his predecessor. There would be no self-seeking, no vacillation, no favouritism toward offenders, but justice and equity, influenced and dispensed with high religious principle. Nothing else but this will, in the long run, stand the scrutiny and verdict of public opinion. By degrees there is gathered around it a moral weight which cannot fail to be respected by good, and feared by wicked, men. It is a greatness which is at once the offspring and reward of virtue. The fame of Mordecai made the enemies of the Jews afraid, and fear would weaken energy. On the other side, the Jews had faith in him who had raised up and given to Mordecai this power and greatness in their emergency and peril; and this faith in God was the harbinger of victory, even as the fear of those who were hostile to them was the sure precursor of defeat. Faith would give calmness and courage, just as fear would occasion haste and hesitation. In this we have the secret how that, with lesser numbers, the Jews yet commanded greater power, and had, from the commencement of the conflict, the promise of success. "The fear of them fell upon all people."—McEwen.

The promotion of Mordecai must have soon produced a most important change in favour of the Jews. Mordecai was universally beloved and respected, as well by the Persians as by his own countrymen. On that memorable day when he went forth from the king's presence, and appeared for the first time in public, arrayed in the robes and golden tiara which belonged to his office, as chief minister of the Persian empire, we are told, that "the city of Shushan rejoiced and was glad:"—rejoiced, not only at its deliverance from the terror of the detested Haman, but because his successor was known to be a wise, and good, and unselfish man; a magistrate, from whom all might expect justice; a ruler, from whom all honest and well-disposed persons would receive favour and protection. The advancement of such a man to supreme power, added to the surprising discovery that the queen herself was a Jewess, and the nearest relative of the new minister, must have operated everywhere to the advantage of the Jews.

That a wish to please and conciliate the favour of any one in Mordecai's station, would lead the provincial authorities to espouse the cause of the Jews, and to help them, both in preparing for their defence, and afterwards in resisting their enemies, is only what might have been expected. Mordecai had, in effect, the absolute government of nearly the whole civilized world in his hands. And as his virtue, his moderation, and his disinterested love of truth and goodness, became known and understood, his moral influence increased every hour. "Mordecai was great in the king's house, and his fame went out throughout all the provinces: for this man Mordecai waxed greater and greater." Like Joseph and Daniel, his illustrious countrymen, his power was used for the good of others. His authority was exerted in behalf of truth and justice. And as the subordinate officers of government would necessarily take their tone from him, the whole weight and influence of his office and station would be sure to operate in favour of the Jews, and raise up for them powerful friends and protectors. And so we are informed, that they all "helped the Jews."

But besides; all reflecting persons must have felt, that the Jews were protected by a higher power. A revolution so sudden, so unlooked for, so unparalleled in history; a manifestation of Providence, more wonderful than any interposition, not absolutely miraculous, which this mysterious people had ever before experienced, coming, as it did, immediately after the public fastings and prayers with which they had cast themselves and their families upon the Divine mercy,—such a strange and singular combination of events must have produced a great and widely-extended conviction, that Heaven itself had interfered to save them. And this persuasion must likewise have disposed many of the better and more thoughtful sort, to consider more attentively than heretofore, the claims of the religion of the Jews to be a revelation from the supreme God. Accordingly, we are informed by the sacred historian, that "many of the people of the land became Jews; for the fear of the Jews fell upon them."—Crosthwaite.

At the time of the deliverance from Egypt and the entrance into Canaan, the Lord showed abundantly that he was able to make his people a great nation, despite the most powerful of their enemies. Now in its exile he again showed them, as for himself, he now no longer had need of them as a people, at least as a politically independent one. The great deeds that were then done were edifying and elevating in tendency; what he now did was momentous and instructive. It was plainly evident that he could accomplish his purpose aside from external means or political circumstances. It is still more manifest than it then was that it has pleased him to be powerful in those that are weak, and great in those who have little influence. In those days he prepared as his instruments the chief persons and princes of his own people, who were in a special manner filled with the Spirit. Now, however, he employs instead, the satraps and governors of Persia, little as they were willing or fit for such work. Together with and among kings, such as Cyrus and Ahasuerus, they must also further God's purpose. There was a time when the Lord had caused fear and terror to fall upon the peoples before Israel, especially those who stood opposed in war, so that they fled from before them. Now, however, the princes and governors, who had great fear, were obliged to protect the rights of the subjects of the king, and thus they protected Israel. This corresponded entirely to his greatness. Therein is shown his claim as the God of all men. This is itself further evinced by the fact that if his people will only become more spiritual, as is his wish, and partake of his nature, he will by no means leave them fatherless. But the more spiritual his kingdom, i.e. his people, will become, the more will he assist them to arrive at truth, justice, and security throughout the world while in it.—Lange.

ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTERS 9, 10

The Alpine Travellers. Three tourists were ascending the Alps. After they had gone a considerable distance, and were getting nearer to the eternal snows, and thus the danger increased, it was considered necessary to attach the company by ropes to one another and to the guides. But one of the tourists, an old traveller, was self-confident and self-reliant. He carried the doctrine of self-help too far, and refused to help his neighbours. He fell down the precipice and lost his life. We often best help ourselves by helping others.

Mutual help, need of. As an apple in the hand of a child makes other children run after and consort with him and share his sports, so does he convert affliction, and the need we have of each other's aid, into a girdle of love, with which to bind us all together; just as no one country produces all commodities, in order that the different nations, by mutual traffic and commerce, may cultivate concord and friendship. How foolish they are who imagine that all the world stands in need of them, but they of nobody; that they know and understand all things, but others nothing; and that the wit of all mankind should be apprenticed to their wisdom.—Gotthold.

Whitfield. An old woman relates, that when she was a little girl Whitfield stayed at her father's house. He was too much absorbed in his work to take much notice of, and pay much attention to, the little girl. She did not remember any of his eloquent utterances. She was, however, observant, and noticed the great preacher when he did not think that any one was observing his conduct. And the impression made upon her mind by his holy and cheerful demeanour, by his patience under trials and difficulties, and his evident consecration to his work, was of a most lasting and salutary character. Well were it if all great preachers would preach at home! We must be great in the palace of home, and then let our influence work outwards in all directions. Home religion is powerful.

The young Switzer. There was a young man among the Switzers that went about to usurp the government and alter their free state. Him they condemned to death, and appointed his father for executioner, as the cause of his evil education. But because Haman was hanged before, his sons (though dead) should now hang with him. If all fathers who had given an evil education to their sons were punished there would be a large increase of the criminal classes. At the present time the State is doing much in the way of educating; but the State cannot do that which is the proper duty of the parent. By precept, and even by the fear of penalty, should we enforce upon parents the duty of seeing faithfully to the true up-bringing of their children.

Faith of parents. An aged minister of Christ had several sons, all of whom became preachers of the Gospel but one. This one lived a life of dissipation for many years. But the good father's faith failed not. He trusted God that his wicked son, trained up in the way he should go, in old age should not depart from it. In this sublime faith the aged father passed away. Five years after, this son of many prayers sat at the feet of Jesus.

Influence of parents. The last thing forgotten in all the recklessness of dissolute profligacy is the prayer or hymn taught by a mother's lips, or uttered at a father's knee; and where there seems to have been any pains bestowed, even by one parent, to train up a child aright, there is in general more than ordinary ground for hope.—The experience of a Prison Chaplain.

Says the venerable Dr. Spring: "The first afflicting thought to me on the death of my parents was, that I had lost their prayers."

Great men Just as the traveller whom we see on yonder mountain height began his ascent from the plain, so the greatest man of whom the world can boast is but one of ourselves standing on higher ground, and in virtue of his wider intelligence, his nobler thoughts, his loftier character, his purer inspiration, or his more manly daring, claiming the empire as his right.—Hare.

True greatness. The truly great consider, first, how they may gain the approbation of God; and, secondly, that of their own consciences. Having done this they would willingly conciliate the good opinion of their fellow-men.—Cotton.

The greatest man is he who chooses the right with invincible resolution; who resists the sorest temptations from within and without; who bears the heaviest burdens cheerfully; who is the calmest in storms, and whose reliance on truth, on virtue, on God, is the most unfaltering.—Dr. Chening.

Distinguishing, great men. I think it is Warburton who draws a very just distinction between a man of true greatness and a mediocrist. "If," says he, "you want to recommend yourself to the former, take care that he quits your society with a good opinion of you; if your object is to please the latter, take care that he leaves you with a good opinion of himself."—Cotton.

Thus Mordecai was truly great, considering, first, how to gain the approbation of God; and, secondly, that of his own conscience. He rises above others by virtue of his wider intelligence, his nobler thoughts, his loftier character, and his more manly daring.

A good name. A name truly good is the aroma from character. It is a reputation of whatsoever things are honest, and lovely, and of good report. It is such a name as is not only remembered on earth, but written in heaven. Just as a box of spikenard is not only valuable to its possessor, but pre-eminently precious in its diffusion; so, when a name is really good, it is of unspeakable service to all who are capable of feeling its aspiration. Mordecai's fame went out throughout all the provinces.—Dr. J. Hamilton.

Eastern hospitality. Nehemiah charges the people thus: "Go your way, eat the fat, and drink the sweet, and send portions unto them for whom nothing is prepared." Also in Esther: "Therefore the Jews made the fourteenth day of the month Adar a day of gladness and feasting, and a good day, and of sending portions one to another." An Oriental prince sometimes honours a friend or a favourite servant, who cannot conveniently attend at his table, by sending a mess to his own home. When the Grand Emir found that it incommoded D'Arvieux to eat with him, he politely desired him to take his own time for eating, and sent him what he liked from his kitchen at the time he chose. So that the above statements must not be restricted to the poor.—Paxton's ‘Illustrations.'

The heaviest taxes. "The taxes are indeed heavy," said Dr. Franklin on one occasion, and if those laid on by the Government were the only ones we had to pay, we might more easily discharge them; but we have many others, and much more grievous to some of us. We are taxed twice as much by our idleness, three times as much by our pride, and four times as much by our folly; and from these taxes the commissioners cannot ease or deliver us by allowing any abatement.

Safeguard of nations. France tried to go on without a God in the time of her first revolution; but Napoleon, for reasons of State, restored the Catholic religion. M. Thiers gives this singular passage in his history: "Napoleon said, ‘For my part, I never hear the sound of the church bell in the neighbouring village without emotion.'" He knew that the hearts of the people were stirred by the same deep yearnings after God which filled his own, and so he proposed to restore the worship of God to infidel France. Later, and with deeper meaning, Perrier, successor to Lafayette as prime minister to Louis Philippe, said on his death-bed, "France must have religion" (C. D. Fors). So we may say, the nations, if they are to live, must have religion.

Punishment of nations. It was a sound reply of an English captain at the loss of Calais, when a proud Frenchman scornfully demanded, "When will you fetch Calais again?" "When your sins shall weigh down ours."—Brooks.

Nations. In one sense the providence of God is shown more clearly in nations than in individuals. Retribution can follow individuals into another state, but not so with nations; they have all their rewards and punishments in time.—D. Custine.

England's privileges.—It's the observation of a great politician, that England is a great animal which can never die unless it kill itself; answerable whereunto was the speech of Lord Rich, to the justices in the reign of king Edward VI: "Never foreign power," said he, "could yet hurt, or in any part prevail, in this realm but by disobedience and disorder among ourselves; that is the way wherewith the Lord will plague us if he mind to punish us." Polydor Virgil calls Regnum Angliæ, Regnum Dei, the kingdom of England, the kingdom of God, because God seems to take special care of it, as having walled it about with the ocean, and watered it with the upper and nether springs, like that land which Caleb gave his daughter. Hence it was called Albion, quasi Olbion, the happy country; "whose valleys," saith Speed, "are like Eden, whose hills are as Lebanon, whose springs are as Pisgah, whose rivers are as Jordan, whose wall is the ocean, and whose defence is the Lord Jehovah." Foreign writers have termed our country the Granary of the Western World, the Fortunate Island, the Paradise of Pleasure, and Garden of God.—Clarke's ‘Examples.'


Verses 5-11

CRITICAL NOTES.]

Est . In Shushan the palace the Jews slew … five hundred] Shushan the palace is here evidently to be taken in the sense of the place or city of the palace, equivalent to in or at Shushan, as in Est 9:15. It is not to be supposed that the work of slaughter was carried on within the palace itself.—Whedon's Com.

Est .] These names of Haman's ten sons are written in Hebrew MSS. in perpendicular columns, and it is said that the reader in the synagogue is required to pronounce them all at one breath. The Targum says they were all suspended, one above another, upon one cross, fifty cubits high, which Mordecai had prepared for the purpose. Most of these names are of Persian origin, a fact which has great weight in showing the genuineness of the Book of Esther.—Whedon's Com. Jewish rabbis have found these names indicative of a representative importance, and have taken the individual traits to mean something prophetic.

Est . On the spoil laid they not their hand] To show that they only sought the safety of their own lives, and had no desire to enrich themselves by the goods of their fallen foes.

MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH. Est

THE FATE OF EVIL-DOERS

JUSTICE ought to be tempered by mercy. But there may be a danger of degenerating into what we may call sentimentalism. We seem to see the working of this feeling in the present day. We would not deal harshly, but we must deal justly, with the criminal classes. We must have respect to the welfare of society as a great whole. In reading some of the Old Testament accounts of slaughters and battles, we must not follow our own modern feelings; and we must make all due and proper allowance for the difference of times and of dispensations. After all proper allowances have been made, there will still be about those accounts that which is to us inexplicable on modern and even New Testament principles. Here are great slaughters that may well appear to us very strange. However, the narrative does not warrant the assumption that there was anything vindictive on the part of Esther or Mordecai. The Jews slew in self-defence. They killed only the men; they did not kill for personal enrichment, for on the spoil laid they not their hand. Let us seek to gather instruction from the whole narrative.

I. The destruction of evil-doers. The enemies of the Lord and of the Lord's Church must meet with retribution sooner or later. The haters of the Jews were visited with slaughter and destruction. Even in the gospel dispensation it is written, "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God." It is a fearful thing for the hardened and the finally impenitent thus to fall. He that being often reproved, and hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy. But Jesus Christ came to provide a way of escape from final destruction. The Son of man is come to seek and to save that which is lost. Thus, through Christ Jesus, the stroke of retribution may be averted. By his stripes penitent and believing sinners may be healed and saved. If, then, we would escape the ministers of vengeance, we must lay hold on the hope set before us in the gospel. Let us at once lay hold on the blessed hope. Let us penitently bow at the foot of the cross. Let us believingly apply to the one Mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus.

II. The infamy of evil-doers. The ten sons of Haman receive an unenviable notoriety. Their names are recorded and handed down to all the ages, and thus branded, as it were, with undying infamy. Far better to go down to the grave unknown than to occupy that place in history which is occupied by these ten men. Better still to go down to the grave along the pathway of righteous endeavour to keep God's commandments. Blessed are the dead that die in the Lord. These ten men were damaged by parental influence, but we do not read that they made any effort to rise superior to the evil influence of their circumstances. It is sometimes very convenient to blame parents, and to blame our circumstances. The question will arise, Have we done the best we could in spite of our circumstances? Have we shown the noble sight of men bravely battling with and against adversity? Faithful endeavour cannot be altogether lost. Men will be judged according to their light, their opportunities, their circumstances, and their talents. Be wise in time.

III. The report of the fate of evil-doers. On that day the number of those that were slain in Shushan the palace, was brought before the king. An account was kept. The report has a solemn voice. If strict accounts are kept on earth, strict accounts are kept in heaven. The dead, both small and great, must stand before God, and the books will be opened. Oh, who shall be able to stand when the books are opened? How very many would shrink from the exposure of the outward acts and the inward thoughts and feelings of one year of their sinful lives? What a dark scroll! Let me not brave the opening of the books in that great day. Let me, O my Saviour, find in that day that thy precious blood has been sprinkled upon the pages of the great book, and all the black record of my misdoings has been wiped clean away, and nothing is to be seen but clear pages. May I be found at last washed in the blood of the Lamb.

SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS ON Est

It is one thing to take revenge of one's self, another to do so on the order of authority; not the latter, but the former, is forbidden. The simple command of a government will justify such an act only in so far as it is a guaranty against pure thirst for revenge. Everything here depends upon the disposition of mind. But we would certainly misjudge the temper of the then Jews, were we to assume that because the people were but a religious community, we are at liberty to apply a Christian standard to them. It would be unjust to deny them the privilege, which they as an independent people formerly enjoyed, of rejoicing in a victory over their enemies; and it would be little to the purpose, if instead of aiming at their conversion, we acquiesced in their destruction. Instead of justifying the complaint that we do not pay sufficient regard to Old Testament national conditions, we must also remember that Old Testament saints could not well avoid often taking a stand-point opposed to their enemies, just as we are still allowed to assume a position at variance with those in enmity against God. Besides, we are not to forget that, for those who will not join themselves to the kingdom or people of God, whatever its form or degree of development, this very hostility is a ground of condemnation. All things that cannot be employed for a good end will finally issue in destruction and extinction. This is still true, and will be true to the end of time. In the same manner even the angels in heaven could not have acted differently from Esther with regard to those enemies in the city of Shushan. We would be more just to Esther, to the Jews spoken of in our book, and to the book itself, if, in what was done in Shushan as well as in all Persia, we would see an anticipation of the judgments connected and paralleled with the progress of the kingdom of God on earth, and especially of the final judgment. If the animus of the Old Testament with respect to the destruction of enemies seems to us terribly vindictive, rather than mild, yet this may not only be excusable, but may even be a prophetic intimation. The fact, so prominently and emphatically expressed, in the present instance, that the Jews did not stretch out their hands after the goods (spoils) of their enemies, proves to us that they meant to conduct this contest as a measure of self-protection, or better, as a holy war, the sole purpose of which was the removal of their enemies.—Lange.

"This example, however, is set before us not that we should take it upon ourselves to avenge injuries, according to our own judgment, but that we may recognize the severity of the Divine wrath against the impious persecutor of the people of God, and that in persecution we might most confidently expect deliverance through faith, and be obedient to the calls of God."—Brenz.

"This is written in admonition of parents, in order that they may be incited to cultivate piety, lest along with themselves they may also drag their children down into destruction. Such severity of God is stated in the Decalogue: ‘Visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generation of those that hate me.'"—Brenz.

We may learn from this part of the history how dangerous it is to enter on a wicked course, especially in concert with others. Persons go on from evil to worse; they encourage one another in mischief. This is especially true as to those practices which originate in malice, as to which the devil, who was a murderer from the beginning, exerts a peculiar influence, in urging his children to the most violent extremes. "This is the message that ye heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. Not as Cain, who was of that wicked one, and slew his brother. And wherefore slew he him? Because his own works were evil, and his brother's righteous." But in addition to the considerations mentioned, we should stand in awe of the righteous judgment of God, who gives up wicked men to the uncontrolled corruption of their own hearts, and to the suggestions of the evil one, so that they often rush with their eyes open upon ruin. "Whom God means to destroy, he first infatuates."

This was remarkably exemplified in the case before us. In spite of all the discouragements thrown in their way, and though heaven and earth both frowned upon them, the enemies of the Jews persisted in their hostile intentions, and assumed an offensive posture on the long looked-for day.—M‘Crie.

It may appear strange that the Jews now found any enemies bold enough to contend with them in battle. The king was their friend, God was their friend, what could those expect who sought their lives, but destruction to themselves? It is indeed wonderful, but not uncommon, for men to value the gratification of their malignant passions above their best interests, and above their safety. At the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans, it is well known that the Jews themselves did more mischief to one another, than all the harm they suffered from the fury of their conquerors. The different parties, when they found respite from the Romans, destroyed their provisions, and then brought upon themselves a famine, which destroyed them by thousands. But we need not look seventeen hundred years back to see the tyrannizing power of malice and hatred over the minds of men. Are there not many who subject themselves to bitter remorse, to ruinous fines, or to an ignominious death? Are there not many more who subject themselves to the curse of God, merely to gratify their accursed spite against their fellow-men?

Many of the enemies of the Jews, doubtless, were overawed by the power of Mordecai, and either sat quiet in their dwellings, or joined with the Jews. Many chose rather to be quiet than to venture their lives in battle with enemies that were sure to be victorious. But there were others, not in small numbers, who chose to venture, or rather to sell their lives, and the lives of all that were dear to them, rather than lose the opportunity given them by law, of attempting to destroy a race of men whom, though innocent, they hated with a deadly hatred. These men combined in the different cities to fight against the Jews. But their confederacy was against the God of heaven, who spoiled them of their courage, and gave them into the hands of the Jews, to do to them as they would. They were so far from gaining their malicious purposes at the expense of their lives, that victory, and triumph to their hated enemies, were the fruit of their cruel attempt. Vain it is to fight against God, or against those whom he loves and protects. If God be against us, who can be for us? If we harden ourselves against the Almighty we cannot prosper. It were better for us to dash our heads against the craggy rock, than to rush upon the thick bosses of the buckler of the Almighty.

Why should men fight against God? And yet there are too many who fear not to carry the weapons of an unrighteous warfare against their Maker and their Judge. "Whatever ye have done, or not done, to one of the least of my brethren," says Christ, "ye have done, or not done, to me." Enmity against God himself; and surely "all that are incensed against him shall be ashamed."

Even in Shushan the royal city, under the eye of the king, there were more than five hundred men that combined, in defiance of the king's known sentiments, to attack the Jews. But they meddled to their own hurt. When we consider the audacity of that behaviour, to which their malice prompted them, we see that Mordecai had too much reason to tell Esther that she would not be safe in the king's palace, if she did not intercede with the king. The men that could take the pretence of a law to attack the Jews to their certain destruction, might have been prompted by the same outrageous malice to attack Esther in the palace, when they could plead the king's authority for the enterprise.

These five hundred men in Shushan, who sold their lives in this desperate cause, were doubtless some of Haman's creatures, who had learned from him to hate the Jews with a bloody hatred. Haman's ten sons were at the head of them, and shared in their fate. They were doubtless trained up by their father in the hatred of that nation, and his miserable end, instead of opening their eyes, irritated their resentment to their own destruction.

It was natural, some will say, for Haman's sons to account that people their enemies, by the means of whom their father suffered an ignominious death. It was natural, it must be confessed; but it does not follow that it was right. Children are to honour their parents while they live, and venerate their memory when they are dead, but not to follow their example in anything that is evil. The children of wicked parents ought to remember, that their Maker must have the precedency to all other duties; and that to rebel against God, because their parents rebelled against him, is not more excusable than for a man to be a thief, or a traitor, or an adulterer, because his father was so before him. God commanded his people, when they were carried away captives for their transgression, to confess their own iniquity, and the iniquity of their fathers. The holy son of the wicked Ahaz made a full confession of the sins committed by his father, and by the people under his influence, and deserved high praise for reversing all his wicked institutions. Jeroboam had only one son in his house who discovered a dislike of his father's conduct, and was the only member of the family who died in peace. "Fill ye up the measure of your fathers," said Jesus to the Jews; warning them that their fathers' example would be so far from justifying their wicked conduct, that the vengeance of Heaven was brought the nearer them, that their sins were but a continuation of the sins of their progenitors.

Parents, pity your children, if you will not pity yourselves. You know what force the example and influence of parents have. If you profess bad principles, you of course train up your children in the profession of the same. If you openly practise wickedness, you teach your children to practise it likewise. Thus you pull down vengeance, not only upon yourselves, but upon your houses. You see that Haman was the enemy of the Jews, and of the God of the Jews, and the punishment of his wickedness fell heavy, not only on himself, but upon all his family, which was probably rooted out of the earth. His sons might have been suffered to live in obscurity, if they had been willing to live peaceably. But they had drunk deep of their father's spirit, and followed his example, and ten (probably all of them) perished on that fatal day, on which their father, a few months before, had hoped to feast his eyes with the blood of those whom he chose to account his enemies.—Lawson.

But on the spoil laid they not their hand.—Lest the king should be damnified, or themselves justly taxed of covetousness and cruelty. "Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the Church of God." This is oft-repeated in this chapter, to their great commendation; that, although by the king's grant they might have taken the spoil, yet they did it not.

1. To show that they were God's executioners, not thieves and robbers.

2. To gratify the king for his courtesy towards them by leaving the spoil wholly to his treasury.

3. It is not unlikely, saith an interpreter, that Mordecai and Esther had admonished them how ill Saul had sped with the spoil of the Amalekites, and Achan with his wedge of gold, which served but to cleave his body and soul asunder, and his Babylonish garment, which proved to be his winding-sheet.—Trapp.

Notwithstanding, the worst passions of some had been roused, and neither the king's wish nor the awe of Mordecai availed to restrain them. In the capital, five hundred men, led by Haman's ten sons, threw away their lives in the attempt to injure the Jews. It is not easy to pity them. If they had ceased from hating their neighbours and resisting God they would have been safe; but when they would not, there was nothing left but to kill them. In the rest of the provinces seventy-five thousand persons perished in the same way. An accurate report must have been gathered by the prime minister, now Mordecai, of the result in each city. The victory was uniform and complete from India to Ethiopia. The lesson of God's care over his people was thus taught over the known world in one day, and with greatly more effect than if an equal number of enemies had fallen under the walls of Jerusalem. And another lesson was taught by the unlooked-for self-restraint of the peculiar people. "But on the spoil laid they not their hands." You can imagine the widows and weak ones who were left in the houses of the foolhardy, after cowering in terror of massacre, or worse, all through the thirteenth of Adar, and perhaps the next day also, at length beginning to breathe freely. "How strange these Jews are! They care not for spoil, they insult us not, they rob us not, they have no revenge; they can fight,—that is proved,—but they fight only for liberty to live and worship their God." Yes; the whole transaction was ordained to vindicate the right of God's people to live as such on his earth; and this was all the more effectively done when the humane and unworldly character of their religion was so strikingly manifested.—Symington.

ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTERS 9, 10

The Alpine Travellers. Three tourists were ascending the Alps. After they had gone a considerable distance, and were getting nearer to the eternal snows, and thus the danger increased, it was considered necessary to attach the company by ropes to one another and to the guides. But one of the tourists, an old traveller, was self-confident and self-reliant. He carried the doctrine of self-help too far, and refused to help his neighbours. He fell down the precipice and lost his life. We often best help ourselves by helping others.

Mutual help, need of. As an apple in the hand of a child makes other children run after and consort with him and share his sports, so does he convert affliction, and the need we have of each other's aid, into a girdle of love, with which to bind us all together; just as no one country produces all commodities, in order that the different nations, by mutual traffic and commerce, may cultivate concord and friendship. How foolish they are who imagine that all the world stands in need of them, but they of nobody; that they know and understand all things, but others nothing; and that the wit of all mankind should be apprenticed to their wisdom.—Gotthold.

Whitfield. An old woman relates, that when she was a little girl Whitfield stayed at her father's house. He was too much absorbed in his work to take much notice of, and pay much attention to, the little girl. She did not remember any of his eloquent utterances. She was, however, observant, and noticed the great preacher when he did not think that any one was observing his conduct. And the impression made upon her mind by his holy and cheerful demeanour, by his patience under trials and difficulties, and his evident consecration to his work, was of a most lasting and salutary character. Well were it if all great preachers would preach at home! We must be great in the palace of home, and then let our influence work outwards in all directions. Home religion is powerful.

The young Switzer. There was a young man among the Switzers that went about to usurp the government and alter their free state. Him they condemned to death, and appointed his father for executioner, as the cause of his evil education. But because Haman was hanged before, his sons (though dead) should now hang with him. If all fathers who had given an evil education to their sons were punished there would be a large increase of the criminal classes. At the present time the State is doing much in the way of educating; but the State cannot do that which is the proper duty of the parent. By precept, and even by the fear of penalty, should we enforce upon parents the duty of seeing faithfully to the true up-bringing of their children.

Faith of parents. An aged minister of Christ had several sons, all of whom became preachers of the Gospel but one. This one lived a life of dissipation for many years. But the good father's faith failed not. He trusted God that his wicked son, trained up in the way he should go, in old age should not depart from it. In this sublime faith the aged father passed away. Five years after, this son of many prayers sat at the feet of Jesus.

Influence of parents. The last thing forgotten in all the recklessness of dissolute profligacy is the prayer or hymn taught by a mother's lips, or uttered at a father's knee; and where there seems to have been any pains bestowed, even by one parent, to train up a child aright, there is in general more than ordinary ground for hope.—The experience of a Prison Chaplain.

Says the venerable Dr. Spring: "The first afflicting thought to me on the death of my parents was, that I had lost their prayers."

Great men Just as the traveller whom we see on yonder mountain height began his ascent from the plain, so the greatest man of whom the world can boast is but one of ourselves standing on higher ground, and in virtue of his wider intelligence, his nobler thoughts, his loftier character, his purer inspiration, or his more manly daring, claiming the empire as his right.—Hare.

True greatness. The truly great consider, first, how they may gain the approbation of God; and, secondly, that of their own consciences. Having done this they would willingly conciliate the good opinion of their fellow-men.—Cotton.

The greatest man is he who chooses the right with invincible resolution; who resists the sorest temptations from within and without; who bears the heaviest burdens cheerfully; who is the calmest in storms, and whose reliance on truth, on virtue, on God, is the most unfaltering.—Dr. Chening.

Distinguishing, great men. I think it is Warburton who draws a very just distinction between a man of true greatness and a mediocrist. "If," says he, "you want to recommend yourself to the former, take care that he quits your society with a good opinion of you; if your object is to please the latter, take care that he leaves you with a good opinion of himself."—Cotton.

Thus Mordecai was truly great, considering, first, how to gain the approbation of God; and, secondly, that of his own conscience. He rises above others by virtue of his wider intelligence, his nobler thoughts, his loftier character, and his more manly daring.

A good name. A name truly good is the aroma from character. It is a reputation of whatsoever things are honest, and lovely, and of good report. It is such a name as is not only remembered on earth, but written in heaven. Just as a box of spikenard is not only valuable to its possessor, but pre-eminently precious in its diffusion; so, when a name is really good, it is of unspeakable service to all who are capable of feeling its aspiration. Mordecai's fame went out throughout all the provinces.—Dr. J. Hamilton.

Eastern hospitality. Nehemiah charges the people thus: "Go your way, eat the fat, and drink the sweet, and send portions unto them for whom nothing is prepared." Also in Esther: "Therefore the Jews made the fourteenth day of the month Adar a day of gladness and feasting, and a good day, and of sending portions one to another." An Oriental prince sometimes honours a friend or a favourite servant, who cannot conveniently attend at his table, by sending a mess to his own home. When the Grand Emir found that it incommoded D'Arvieux to eat with him, he politely desired him to take his own time for eating, and sent him what he liked from his kitchen at the time he chose. So that the above statements must not be restricted to the poor.—Paxton's ‘Illustrations.'

The heaviest taxes. "The taxes are indeed heavy," said Dr. Franklin on one occasion, and if those laid on by the Government were the only ones we had to pay, we might more easily discharge them; but we have many others, and much more grievous to some of us. We are taxed twice as much by our idleness, three times as much by our pride, and four times as much by our folly; and from these taxes the commissioners cannot ease or deliver us by allowing any abatement.

Safeguard of nations. France tried to go on without a God in the time of her first revolution; but Napoleon, for reasons of State, restored the Catholic religion. M. Thiers gives this singular passage in his history: "Napoleon said, ‘For my part, I never hear the sound of the church bell in the neighbouring village without emotion.'" He knew that the hearts of the people were stirred by the same deep yearnings after God which filled his own, and so he proposed to restore the worship of God to infidel France. Later, and with deeper meaning, Perrier, successor to Lafayette as prime minister to Louis Philippe, said on his death-bed, "France must have religion" (C. D. Fors). So we may say, the nations, if they are to live, must have religion.

Punishment of nations. It was a sound reply of an English captain at the loss of Calais, when a proud Frenchman scornfully demanded, "When will you fetch Calais again?" "When your sins shall weigh down ours."—Brooks.

Nations. In one sense the providence of God is shown more clearly in nations than in individuals. Retribution can follow individuals into another state, but not so with nations; they have all their rewards and punishments in time.—D. Custine.

England's privileges.—It's the observation of a great politician, that England is a great animal which can never die unless it kill itself; answerable whereunto was the speech of Lord Rich, to the justices in the reign of king Edward VI: "Never foreign power," said he, "could yet hurt, or in any part prevail, in this realm but by disobedience and disorder among ourselves; that is the way wherewith the Lord will plague us if he mind to punish us." Polydor Virgil calls Regnum Angliæ, Regnum Dei, the kingdom of England, the kingdom of God, because God seems to take special care of it, as having walled it about with the ocean, and watered it with the upper and nether springs, like that land which Caleb gave his daughter. Hence it was called Albion, quasi Olbion, the happy country; "whose valleys," saith Speed, "are like Eden, whose hills are as Lebanon, whose springs are as Pisgah, whose rivers are as Jordan, whose wall is the ocean, and whose defence is the Lord Jehovah." Foreign writers have termed our country the Granary of the Western World, the Fortunate Island, the Paradise of Pleasure, and Garden of God.—Clarke's ‘Examples.'


Verses 12-16

CRITICAL NOTES.]

Est .] If the Jews had killed five hundred men in Susa, how many may they not have slain in other parts of the kingdom? The king recognizes the fact that, if the Jews had to do with so many opponents, they could hardly have mastered them, and even now great danger threatened them on the part of those remaining, if they could not hunt down such in their hiding-places, and destroy them utterly.

Est . To do to-morrow also according unto this day's decree] This request of Esther has been pronounced the offspring of a blood-thirsty vengeance, and desire to have another day for the butchery of enemies. But what was "this day's decree" which the queen desired to be continued another day? Merely "to stand for their life" against all that would assault them. Hence we infer that the queen believed, or had reason to suspect, that the enemies of the Jews in Shushan would renew the attack upon the following day. So fearfully enraged were these enemies that they were likely to retaliate for their losses by an unauthorized continuance of the fight, and it was to secure her people against such an event Esther wisely made this request. This extension of the decree was to have effect only in Shushan, not in the provinces.—Whedon's Com. Let Haman's ten sons be hanged upon the gallows] i.e. crucify the dead bodies in order to increase the disgrace of their execution, but more in order to augment the fear of the Jews. This was the Hebrew and Persian custom.—Lange.

Est . And had rest from their enemies] The position of these words in the middle of the verse is noticeably strange. There may be here some disarrangement of the text, or it may be, as Keil suggests, "that the narrator desired at once to point out how the matter ended." Such apparent disorder of the text is not always to be regarded as evidence of corruption by transcribers. The Hebrew writers are not always the best models of accuracy and perfection of literary style. Seventy and five thousand] "The slaughter of these seventy-five thousand shows," says Wordsworth, "that a very large number of their heathen enemies, who had been exasperated against the Jews, had prepared themselves for an attack upon them; and that, presuming upon their own numbers and forces as compared with the Jews, they assaulted them in order to destroy and despoil them, and to enrich themselves with their property; and that the Jews made a vigorous resistance, and by the help of God, routed their assailants with a great discomfiture. The slaughter was not the consequence of a vindictive spirit in the Jews, but of the bitter animosity of their enemies; and it proves that the Jews would have been extinguished (as Haman's decree intended that they should be) if God had not interfered to rescue them from destruction."

MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH. Est

THE RIGOUR OF JUSTICE

Justice is stern, and in the course of justice none of us should see salvation. This is one of the glories of the new dispensation, that we may live under the reign of mercy, and not under the reign of justice. However, mercy must not be permitted to induce the spirit of presumption. If mercy harden, justice will be allowed to do its severe work. The prospect of mercy must lead to penitence, to faith, to renewed consecration, in order that the stroke of justice may be averted. In this paragraph let us see Esther as the personification of justice, and thus notice—

I. Justice works by striking terror. The proceedings of the Jews on this occasion were calculated to strike terror into the hearts of their enemies. Five hundred men slain in Shushan the palace, Haman's ten sons destroyed, the leaders of the movement against the Jews were all slaughtered. Thus a panic was spread amongst all those who had shown themselves the Jews' enemies. Justice works by terror. It is so under human rule. It is so under Divine rule. Society seeks to restrain the criminal by fear. But this can never be a permanently renovating power. It is by the indwelling force of Divine love that the evil must be extirpated. God's method of law and of justice in the old dispensation must give place to the brighter and surer method of love and mercy in the new dispensation. It is highly fitting that the dispensation which was to be permanent, which is for all races, should be one of mercy, and of love, through Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour.

II. Justice pursues to the bitter end. Haman's ten sons are slain, and then they are hanged upon the gallows. The Jews stood for their lives, and slew seventy and five thousand. Justice demands the uttermost farthing. It says, "Pay me what thou owest." It takes the penniless debtor and casts him into prison, there to lie until all the debt be paid. Justice is an exact accountant. Escape there cannot be from the stern grasp of justice except by the interposition of a higher power. Justice and mercy are harmonized in the cross of the blessed Saviour.

III. Justice makes a distinction. These Jews slew only their foes. They did not proceed on the method of indiscriminate slaughter. They do not appear to have touched inoffensive women and helpless children. They did not even confiscate to themselves the property of their foes. Divine justice will be exact in its distinctions. It will judge between the good and the bad, and also between bad and bad. One servant will receive many stripes, and another the few.

IV. The administrators of justice have rest when the appointed work is accomplished. The Jews had rest from their enemies. The open enemies were destroyed. The concealed enemies were afraid. There was security, if not absolute safety, to the Jewish nation. How blessed that word rest to these once persecuted, fighting, and now triumphant Jews. Rest, after all their fears and forebodings! Rest, after all their awful but necessary work of bloodshed! The warriors find rest. The statement implies that these Jews did not find supreme delight in the butchery and blood-shedding of man. They were not warriors by trade and by desire, but by the stern necessity which has no law. Sweet and welcome to them the rest after long and bitter months of fear and anxiety. To all those who fight against the enemies of the Lord there is the sure prospect of rest. Every Christian has such enemies. "We wrestle not against flesh and blood," &c. But rest will come ere long. Sweet rest in heaven; Divine repose in the Father's house. The soul of the believer pants for rest in this world of strife and turmoil. Rest from moral enemies. Rest from the strife of tongues. Rest from foes without, and fears within. Lord God, give us to taste the pure rest of heaven.

SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS ON Est

If she had been put upon her defence for this act, she might have urged that love for her countrymen and love for her religion, prompted her to deal thus toward the fierce enemies of both. And we shall not question the fact, that it was by these feelings she was chiefly animated, and not by the desire of revenge alone. But it must be remembered, that although this furnishes a sufficiently satisfactory explanation of her conduct it does not justify it. It has ever been under the pretext of zeal for truth, that the fires of religious persecution have been kindled. Under this plea, for example, Popery has shed the blood of the righteous like water, and even in Protestant countries pains and penalties have been inflicted upon those who refused to adopt the form of religion patronized by the state. Intolerance has always had its arguments in self-defence; but these do not serve for its vindication. And so in the case before us, we believe most assuredly that Esther acted in all good conscience, as also did Mordecai, by whom very probably she was instructed what to do on the occasion. Yet this hinders not our regretting that she was hurried away by the spirit of revenge, rather than moved by what would have become her better—the mild and sweet influence of a forgiving heart. In defence of her religion and her people she suffered herself to act with unbecoming zeal. I would take occasion to observe here, that the great principle of toleration in religion is still imperfectly understood, and in many parts of what is called Christendom, as imperfectly practised. The principle is utterly to be repudiated, that man is not responsible to God for unbelief. He is responsible, as Christ's words imply, when he says that men "love darkness rather than light, because their deeds are evil." But on the other hand, this other principle is ever to be maintained and urged, that man is not responsible to his fellow-man, either for his belief or unbelief, and that pains and penalties to enforce religious conformity are altogether indefensible. That there is a limit to be affixed to the publication of opinions which are blasphemous, revoltingly immoral, or licentious, and subversive of all order and government, is a proposition which very few will call in question. The well-being of society demands that care be taken lest its very foundations be undermined by men whose heart is set in them to do evil. But to punish any one for holding particular views of Divine truth, or for refusing to conform to the belief and practice of the majority, is manifestly wrong. If no other arguments could be advanced for the assumption and exertion of a power to compel uniformity, these two would be sufficient: that the application of external force in matters of religion implies that those who have recourse to it must deem themselves infallible, which no man, or class of men, can rightly do; and that it evidently supposes that the claims and evidences of true religion are not so powerful of themselves as to be able without external or temporal aid to secure the approval of those to whom they are addressed. Let us hope that the world and the Church also will come to understand better than either has done hitherto, the reverence which is due to the inalienable rights of conscience, when these are pled for.—Davidson.

On the other side of the account this—that with emphasis it is stated that in Shushan the palace, in a great city, they slew 500 men. Twice it is said they slew only men. They were allowed to slay women and children. But as this was not necessary to their own preservation, they took the course dictated by humanity and mercy. And this stands well to their credit.

It might seem perhaps to some that Esther herself was lacking in this humanity, when, using her great influence over her uxorious husband, and in reply to his desire to know what now she wished further done, assuring her that her wish should immediately be royal command—she asked not only that Haman's sons should be hanged—but that there might be another day of slaughter added to the first. One very vigorous objector speaks of it as "another day of butchery in the palace." But that is mere excess and exaggeration. The whole meaning of Esther's prayer is that the Jews might be allowed to continue the defence for another day, since the assault had not yet ceased.

The request was wholly reasonable, and it was at once granted. It was only in the palace, i.e. in the capital city, that this was necessary; throughout the provinces of the empire the fighting began and ended on the same day.—Raleigh.

We would give prominence to this circumstance, because some have been disposed to charge the Jews with a vindictive and merciless spirit in the conduct of this war—especially for the purpose of lowering the estimate which we have formed, and endeavoured to present, of the character of Esther, in not being satisfied with one day's slaughter, but asking the king, when the opportunity was given her, that it should be continued on the following day, and that the dead bodies of Haman's ten sons should be suspended on the gallows. If there is the appearance of severity in this, it is difficult to see that it was not warranted and necessary for the future peace of the Jews in Persia. The Jews were simply acting on their own defence. They were not the aggressors. If their enemies had wished to be let alone, they had nothing to do but to let them alone; and having risen to exterminate them, they could hardly complain if they should be themselves exterminated. To have the war prolonged over another day, on which the dead bodies of Haman's ten sons should be seen hanging on the gallows, must not be viewed in the light of pleasure in bloodshed and cruelty, but rather what was needful to protect the Jews against future trouble and single-handed resistance of assault, and, as has been suggested, "to deter other councillors, at any time, from abusing the king with false representations." Many of the ringleaders may have escaped on the first day. They may have secreted themselves in houses, or fled to the suburbs, knowing that the decrees only extended over one day. They would be enraged more than ever against the Jews, and might concert measures for private revenge. Unprotected households would not be free from invasion and spoliation. The work was not completed. But let there be a second day, accompanied with the terrible spectacle of the scaffold with its ten victims, and there would be less likelihood of any future uprising against the Jews. Moreover, we must look at the retribution on the Divine as well as the human side. If these enemies of the Jews were chiefly Amalekites, they lay under the righteous sentence of the Almighty, whose word could not fail of accomplishment. They were bitterly opposed, not only to the people of God, but to God himself, and would have rooted out his name from the earth along with those who feared and worshipped him. Mordecai and Esther were only instruments in his hand; and in the execution of the Divine purpose, and the fulfilment of prophecy, we do not find anything in their conduct which can fairly be ascribed to personal vindictiveness and vengeance, but only necessary, though severe, expedients for the protection and honour of an unjustly persecuted and reproached people. Far be it from us to ascribe the results of all war, even of defence, to the judgment of God; but when it is distinctly pointed out, in the Word of God, and though the causes should be veiled in mystery, we can only bow before his throne, saying: "Thou art righteous, O Lord, which art, and wast, and shalt be, because thou hast judged thus."

But whilst much may be urged on the side of the Jews, Mordecai, and Esther, to clear them from the charge of vindictiveness and cruelty, we have a thrice-recorded declaration with regard to their clemency. They had a right to take the property of their enemies for a spoil, The clause in Haman's edict to this effect had been incorporated in Mordecai's; but both with reference to the five hundred who were slain at Shushan on the thirteenth of the month, and the three hundred who were slain on the following day, as well as the seventy-five thousand who were slain in the provinces, we have this declaration—a declaration all the more praiseworthy and remarkable when we consider the proverbial love of gain ascribed to the Jews,—that "they laid not their hands on the prey." Just suppose that the enemies of the Jews had been victorious, and had carried out the letter of Haman's decree on all those whom they destroyed, what a sad record should we have had! Not the men only who were actually engaged in the conflict were to have been slain, but women and children also, and their whole goods were to be taken. If Haman's ten sons had got their own way, we may be sure that they would not in any particular have restricted their father's will. They would have been deaf to the pleadings of mothers and the frightened cries of little children, and would not have spared the property. In contrast with this the conduct of the Jews, Mordecai, and Esther, was merciful and humane. They only slew those who had taken arms against themselves; and, as regards the property, though they had authority to take it, yet did they not appropriate anything. The wives and children of such as were slain would have need of it. They would show that it was not a war of self-aggrandisement, malice, or covetousness, but a conflict forced upon them for their own preservation. If it had been vengeance which they sought in the second day's conflict and the hanging of Haman's sons, they had an opportunity of taking it in a far more effectual and grievous manner; but what they wanted was simply present safety, and some guarantee for the future. They stopped there, and by their conduct set a notable example to contending nations. All war is to be deplored; but more deplorable still, the reckless waste of the property of the vanquished. In certain cases it may be necessary in order to obtain terms of peace, but when it is wanton and revengeful it must receive the just censure of every generous heart. By letting alone the spoil, which must have been great, and which they might easily have seized and legally claimed, the Jews must have commended themselves to the peaceable and right-minded of the population of Persia,—"but they laid not their hands on the prey."—McEwen.

Let it be granted to the Jews, &c. The enemies at Shushan could not be all caught the first day; lest those that lurked should hereafter prove troublesome to the Church by hatching new plots, she begs that they also may receive condign punishment. And Haman's sons are hanged up for example. This she requested not out of any private and personal spleen to any, but for the glory of God and the Church's peace. Had her aims been otherwise than good, her good actions could not have showed her a good woman. For, though a good aim doth not make a bad action good, as we see in Uzzah; yet a bad aim maketh a good action bad, as we see in Jehu. Lavater's note may not here be let slip: the diligence that Esther used in rooting out her temporal enemies should quicken us to do the like to our spiritual, viz. those evil affections, motions, and passions, that war against the soul. These be our Medes and Persians, with whom we must make no truce, but maintain a constant deadly feud, till we have mastered and mortified them all, for till that be done effectually we must never look to have true peace, either within ourselves or with others.—Trapp.

ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTERS 9, 10

The Alpine Travellers. Three tourists were ascending the Alps. After they had gone a considerable distance, and were getting nearer to the eternal snows, and thus the danger increased, it was considered necessary to attach the company by ropes to one another and to the guides. But one of the tourists, an old traveller, was self-confident and self-reliant. He carried the doctrine of self-help too far, and refused to help his neighbours. He fell down the precipice and lost his life. We often best help ourselves by helping others.

Mutual help, need of. As an apple in the hand of a child makes other children run after and consort with him and share his sports, so does he convert affliction, and the need we have of each other's aid, into a girdle of love, with which to bind us all together; just as no one country produces all commodities, in order that the different nations, by mutual traffic and commerce, may cultivate concord and friendship. How foolish they are who imagine that all the world stands in need of them, but they of nobody; that they know and understand all things, but others nothing; and that the wit of all mankind should be apprenticed to their wisdom.—Gotthold.

Whitfield. An old woman relates, that when she was a little girl Whitfield stayed at her father's house. He was too much absorbed in his work to take much notice of, and pay much attention to, the little girl. She did not remember any of his eloquent utterances. She was, however, observant, and noticed the great preacher when he did not think that any one was observing his conduct. And the impression made upon her mind by his holy and cheerful demeanour, by his patience under trials and difficulties, and his evident consecration to his work, was of a most lasting and salutary character. Well were it if all great preachers would preach at home! We must be great in the palace of home, and then let our influence work outwards in all directions. Home religion is powerful.

The young Switzer. There was a young man among the Switzers that went about to usurp the government and alter their free state. Him they condemned to death, and appointed his father for executioner, as the cause of his evil education. But because Haman was hanged before, his sons (though dead) should now hang with him. If all fathers who had given an evil education to their sons were punished there would be a large increase of the criminal classes. At the present time the State is doing much in the way of educating; but the State cannot do that which is the proper duty of the parent. By precept, and even by the fear of penalty, should we enforce upon parents the duty of seeing faithfully to the true up-bringing of their children.

Faith of parents. An aged minister of Christ had several sons, all of whom became preachers of the Gospel but one. This one lived a life of dissipation for many years. But the good father's faith failed not. He trusted God that his wicked son, trained up in the way he should go, in old age should not depart from it. In this sublime faith the aged father passed away. Five years after, this son of many prayers sat at the feet of Jesus.

Influence of parents. The last thing forgotten in all the recklessness of dissolute profligacy is the prayer or hymn taught by a mother's lips, or uttered at a father's knee; and where there seems to have been any pains bestowed, even by one parent, to train up a child aright, there is in general more than ordinary ground for hope.—The experience of a Prison Chaplain.

Says the venerable Dr. Spring: "The first afflicting thought to me on the death of my parents was, that I had lost their prayers."

Great men Just as the traveller whom we see on yonder mountain height began his ascent from the plain, so the greatest man of whom the world can boast is but one of ourselves standing on higher ground, and in virtue of his wider intelligence, his nobler thoughts, his loftier character, his purer inspiration, or his more manly daring, claiming the empire as his right.—Hare.

True greatness. The truly great consider, first, how they may gain the approbation of God; and, secondly, that of their own consciences. Having done this they would willingly conciliate the good opinion of their fellow-men.—Cotton.

The greatest man is he who chooses the right with invincible resolution; who resists the sorest temptations from within and without; who bears the heaviest burdens cheerfully; who is the calmest in storms, and whose reliance on truth, on virtue, on God, is the most unfaltering.—Dr. Chening.

Distinguishing, great men. I think it is Warburton who draws a very just distinction between a man of true greatness and a mediocrist. "If," says he, "you want to recommend yourself to the former, take care that he quits your society with a good opinion of you; if your object is to please the latter, take care that he leaves you with a good opinion of himself."—Cotton.

Thus Mordecai was truly great, considering, first, how to gain the approbation of God; and, secondly, that of his own conscience. He rises above others by virtue of his wider intelligence, his nobler thoughts, his loftier character, and his more manly daring.

A good name. A name truly good is the aroma from character. It is a reputation of whatsoever things are honest, and lovely, and of good report. It is such a name as is not only remembered on earth, but written in heaven. Just as a box of spikenard is not only valuable to its possessor, but pre-eminently precious in its diffusion; so, when a name is really good, it is of unspeakable service to all who are capable of feeling its aspiration. Mordecai's fame went out throughout all the provinces.—Dr. J. Hamilton.

Eastern hospitality. Nehemiah charges the people thus: "Go your way, eat the fat, and drink the sweet, and send portions unto them for whom nothing is prepared." Also in Esther: "Therefore the Jews made the fourteenth day of the month Adar a day of gladness and feasting, and a good day, and of sending portions one to another." An Oriental prince sometimes honours a friend or a favourite servant, who cannot conveniently attend at his table, by sending a mess to his own home. When the Grand Emir found that it incommoded D'Arvieux to eat with him, he politely desired him to take his own time for eating, and sent him what he liked from his kitchen at the time he chose. So that the above statements must not be restricted to the poor.—Paxton's ‘Illustrations.'

The heaviest taxes. "The taxes are indeed heavy," said Dr. Franklin on one occasion, and if those laid on by the Government were the only ones we had to pay, we might more easily discharge them; but we have many others, and much more grievous to some of us. We are taxed twice as much by our idleness, three times as much by our pride, and four times as much by our folly; and from these taxes the commissioners cannot ease or deliver us by allowing any abatement.

Safeguard of nations. France tried to go on without a God in the time of her first revolution; but Napoleon, for reasons of State, restored the Catholic religion. M. Thiers gives this singular passage in his history: "Napoleon said, ‘For my part, I never hear the sound of the church bell in the neighbouring village without emotion.'" He knew that the hearts of the people were stirred by the same deep yearnings after God which filled his own, and so he proposed to restore the worship of God to infidel France. Later, and with deeper meaning, Perrier, successor to Lafayette as prime minister to Louis Philippe, said on his death-bed, "France must have religion" (C. D. Fors). So we may say, the nations, if they are to live, must have religion.

Punishment of nations. It was a sound reply of an English captain at the loss of Calais, when a proud Frenchman scornfully demanded, "When will you fetch Calais again?" "When your sins shall weigh down ours."—Brooks.

Nations. In one sense the providence of God is shown more clearly in nations than in individuals. Retribution can follow individuals into another state, but not so with nations; they have all their rewards and punishments in time.—D. Custine.

England's privileges.—It's the observation of a great politician, that England is a great animal which can never die unless it kill itself; answerable whereunto was the speech of Lord Rich, to the justices in the reign of king Edward VI: "Never foreign power," said he, "could yet hurt, or in any part prevail, in this realm but by disobedience and disorder among ourselves; that is the way wherewith the Lord will plague us if he mind to punish us." Polydor Virgil calls Regnum Angliæ, Regnum Dei, the kingdom of England, the kingdom of God, because God seems to take special care of it, as having walled it about with the ocean, and watered it with the upper and nether springs, like that land which Caleb gave his daughter. Hence it was called Albion, quasi Olbion, the happy country; "whose valleys," saith Speed, "are like Eden, whose hills are as Lebanon, whose springs are as Pisgah, whose rivers are as Jordan, whose wall is the ocean, and whose defence is the Lord Jehovah." Foreign writers have termed our country the Granary of the Western World, the Fortunate Island, the Paradise of Pleasure, and Garden of God.—Clarke's ‘Examples.'


Verses 17-28

CRITICAL NOTES.]

Est . Therefore … the fourteenth day] Because the Jews outside of Shushan did all their fighting on the thirteenth, and rested on the fourteenth, as stated in Est 9:17, Therefore] they made the latter day their day of feasting and joy; but the Jews in Shushan, having fought both on the thirteenth and fourteenth, made the fifteenth their feast day (Est 9:18). Jews of the villages] Rather of the country places, that is, as distinguished from those that dwell in cities and the country (not unwalled towns, as our version has it, for some of these country towns may have had walls). The writer of this was evidently a citizen of Shushan, and seems to have regarded the whole Persian empire outside of this capital city as country.—Whedon's Com. And of sending portions one to another] According to Est 9:22, one made presents in these feasts, similar to the sacrificial feasts, to those less wealthy, but also to others to whom one desired to signify a joyous mind.—Lange.

Est . Mordecai wrote these things] Namely, the things or occurrences that transpired throughout the Persian empire on the thirteenth, fourteenth, and fifteenth of Adar. He wrote a report of the matter as of something worthy to be chronicled for everlasting remembrance, and with this record he also sent letters unto all the Jews throughout the empire of Ahasuerus, proposing to them what is stated in the next two verses. Mordecai's official position in the Persian court enabled him to establish this festival as no other Jew could have done. He could issue orders with royal authority, and use the posts and agents of the empire to facilitate his plans. The statement here made, that Mordecai chronicled these events and wrote letters to all the Jews, will not warrant the conclusion that he was the author of this Book of Esther, but is sufficient to show that such a conclusion is not therefore improbable.—Whedon's Com.

Est .] To establish a matter, to authorize it.

Est . The Jews undertook to do as they had begun, and as Mordecai had written to them] They had begun, as Est 9:22 tells us, by keeping both days, and Mordecai wrote to them that they should make this an annual custom. This they agreed to do, in consequence of Mordecai's letters. The reason for their so doing is given in Est 9:24-25, and the name of this festival is explained in Est 9:26, by a brief recapitulation of the events which gave rise to it.—Keil.

Est . When Esther came before the king] As the word Esther is not in the Hebrew text, and is not mentioned in the context, it is better to translate "when it came before the king," that is, when Haman's wicked device came before the king.—Whedon's Com.

Est .] They evidently chose the name Purim in ironical reference to the fact that Haman's lucky day (designated by lot) was so fortunate for his enemies, and so unlucky for himself.

Est .] The Jews established and took upon themselves, their descendants, and all who should join themselves unto them (proselytes), so that it should not fail (i.e. inviolably), to keep (to celebrate) these two days according to the writing concerning them and the time appointed thereby year by year—Keil.

Est . And that these days should be remembered and kept throughout every generation, every family, every province, and every city; and these days of Purim are not to pass away among the Jews, nor their remembrance to cease among their seed] The continued observance of Purim to this day is a monumental proof of the truth of this history.

MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH. Est

A NATIONAL MEMORIAL

There are some who appear to frown upon all national memorials, as savouring of the Old Testament dispensation, and as belonging to the childhood of the race. But all childishness has not been yet eliminated from humanity. And we do not know that it would be well for us to put away all that belongs to the child-nature. Our Saviour teaches that we must become as little children. If the custom of observing national memorials belongs to primitive and less enlightened ages it is certainly one that does not easily pass away. We see no reason why it should. The family has its memorials, the nation has its memorials. All religions, the simplest as well as the most elaborate, have their memorials. They are founded upon the instincts of our humanity. They serve most useful purposes. They tend to keep alive the memory of great public events in a way that could not be so successfully accomplished by any other method. This national memorial of the Purim has not been without its beneficial influences.

I. This national memorial was established by supreme authority. Mordecai was now the prime minister, and he wrote these things and sent letters to stablish this among them that they should keep the fourteenth day of the month Adar, and the fifteenth day of the same, yearly. This was done on the concurrence of Esther the queen and Ahasuerus the king. Those that are in high places in the kingdom should set themselves to establish wise customs and salutary memorials. Such a custom and such a memorial was that of the feast of Purim. Even modern rulers are not always wise in this respect. They ought to be cautious in all their proceedings. Let them not establish any memorial, nor sanction any custom, that does not tend to the welfare of the people. Let them remember how the influence of those in high places percolates through all classes of society, and acts either injuriously or beneficially. How awfully responsible is the position of those who are placed on high either in Church or in State! Well may we earnestly pray for God's guidance and blessing to and upon all the great ones of earth.

II. This national memorial was approved by a grateful people. The Jews undertook to do as they had begun, and as Mordecai had written unto them. We can easily understand and picture to ourselves the gratitude of these people on account of their great deliverance, and how readily they would concur in the establishment of this feast of Purim. Happy is it when rulers find a ready response to a wise decision in the feelings of their subjects. Decrees and customs in order to be permanently beneficial must be heartily received by an enlightened and virtuous people. And if the people do not at first readily receive, and do not see the propriety of any measure, they must be taught and educated up to the proper standard. It may be correct that some few of the Jewish elders objected to this memorial. But this is only what often occurs. Where was the good custom and good doctrine yet that did not meet with opponents? However, we must hold on our way till all enemies are overcome. If the thing be good and true it must finally stand and be victorious. Be sure you are right, and then stand to the right in the face of all enemies, and triumph must ultimately arrive.

III. This national memorial was sanctioned by the marvellous nature of the events celebrated. These were the days when the Jews rested from their enemies, and this was the month which was turned unto them from sorrow to joy, and from mourning into a good day. Here was fitting reason for celebration. Well might they feel grateful for the great benefits conferred. These events were marvellous. The deliverance could only have been effected by Divine interposition. They would not merely celebrate the fact that a month of expected sorrow was turned into a month of joy, but also the marvellous manner by which it was brought about. We too may celebrate the month which has been turned for us from sorrow to joy, and from mourning to a good day, and the marvellous manner by which it was accomplished. We have our Christmas memorial which rings its joy bells through time, and tells the advent of our great Deliverer. We have our Good Friday memorial which rings its mournful and yet hopeful sounds. We have our Easter memorial which tells of the once crucified but now risen and triumphant Redeemer. Let us penitently and believingly celebrate these great events of Gospel history.

IV. This national memorial was hallowed by the manner of its celebration. They were to be days of feasting and joy, but not we presume of gluttony and of drunkenness. This is too often the modern notion of feasting, and modern fashion of observing festal occasions. Very, very sad it is to see that our most sacred, religious festivals are desecrated by extravagant and sinful licentiousness. Religious people must check this not by ascetic austerity but by joy. It was a month of joy. Let us show that moderation and religious sobriety are helpful to a joy that is lasting and that spreads itself through all life's trials and difficulties. But the most attractive part of this celebration is found in the fact that it was a time of sending portions one to another, and gifts to the poor. What a wide diffusion of happiness! What a season for the expansion of the spirit of benevolence! What a time for the holy enlargement of the nature! Here is a blessed communism that cannot be productive of evil results! It is to all a celestial feast. The rich taste the luxury of doing good. The poor taste the rich wine of benevolence. The rich sent both to the rich and the poor, and thus the poor are not pauperized. They do not lose a sense of their proper manhood.

V. This national memorial was preserved by a wise method. The Jews took methods to have this feast of Purim made known and observed to and by every family, every province, every city, and every generation. Here we have on this subject home-missionary work. Let us teach our own people. The Jews may be considered as too exclusive. However, while we look to the nations beyond we must not neglect our own nation. In these days we may reasonably feel that our own beloved nation is not growing more religious. How vast the heathenism of our large towns and cities! Yea, how much of ignorance in our rural districts! Here we have our duty towards the children enforced. The seed are to be instructed. The institution is to be made known from generation to generation. It is by the wise and prayerful training of children that we must hope to improve the nation, and leave behind a better and more glorious England than that which we found. Let us gird ourselves afresh to the holy and benevolent enterprise.

VI. This national memorial is perpetuated with a good result. These days of Purim had not failed from among the Jews, nor has the memorial of them perished from their seed. However much the Jews may be degenerated in the manner in which they celebrate this memorial, yet the fact that it is celebrated speaks to us of the antiquity and authenticity of these wonderful records. The public observance of certain customs is a more convincing argument and a more powerful and more easily understood demonstration than the ablest books on the evidences. A memorial does not require much studying. A book requires much studying, and sometimes in certain classes of minds raises more doubts than it settles. We do not under-rate good books. Both books and memorials have their place. Let us wisely perpetuate good institutions. Let each one raise the irresistible memorial of a holy life. This can never be refuted. Ye are our epistles. Oh that the Lord would write more and more of these glorious epistles.

SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS ON Est

And of sending portions one to another. To the rich they sent in courtesy, to the poor in charity, and both these to testify their thankfulness to God for their lives, liberties, and estates, so lately and graciously restored unto them.—Trapp.

We can well receive or retain good church ceremonies, if only they are not opposed to the Word of God, in view of our Christian freedom. Even the holidays ordered by the authorities of one's country should be celebrated in a becoming manner.—Starke.

The festivals that the people of the Lord as such celebrate, have quite a different purpose from those of heathendom. Ahasuerus aimed to show the riches of his glorious kingdom. God's people desire first of all to praise God's grace. They would give thanks for the gifts bestowed upon them. They would secure and keep what they already had by rendering thanks and praise to God as its author. Theirs are feasts of gratitude. Hence these also have a different character from the others. The pious cannot manifest their spirit of gratitude to God for all his benefits without also proving this by benefaction to their brethren in the faith. The love of God has kindled love to their fellows in their hearts; this would prove itself in deeds of kindness and benevolence. They would confess their allegiance to God as to one mild and kindly; they would else deny him were they not to give way, on their part, to mildness and kindliness. Their festivals, therefore, are seasons of refreshing, but especially so to the poorer brethren among them. At the same time there is joined to their spirit of rejoicing one of great seriousness. They cannot enjoy their deliverance without also looking back upon the sorrows that preceded it. They can only appreciate the former by taking a full view of the latter. They do not forget that though salvation is theirs, still there are even yet abundant cause for sorrow and grief. The chief cause of this is the remains of sin in them. As the Mazzoth (unleavened) days are followed by the serious Paschal sacrifice, and as the joy of the feast of tabernacles is preceded by the repentance of the fast of the day of atonement, so also here the joyous feast of Purim is connected in a preparation of fasting and mourning. In eternity also will this transition hold true.—Lange.

Now the feast of Purim was to be observed. And of this let us see—

I. What was here enjoined, which was very good, that they should make it—

1. A day of cheerfulness, a day of feasting and joy; and a feast was made for laughter. When God gives us cause to rejoice, why should we not express our joy?

2. A day of generosity, sending portions one to another, in token of their pleasantness and mutual respect, and their being knit by this and other public common dangers and deliverances so much the closer to each other in love. Friends have their goods in common.

3. A day of charity, sending gifts to the poor. It is not to our kinsmen and rich neighbours only that we are to send tokens, but to the poor and the maimed. Those that have received mercy must, in token of their gratitude, show mercy; and there never wants occasion, for the poor we have always with us. Thanksgiving and almsgiving should go together, that, when we are rejoicing and blessing God, the heart of the poor may rejoice with us, and their loins may bless us.

II. What was added to this, which was much better. They always, at the feast, read the whole story over in the synagogue each day, and put up three prayers to God: in the first of which they praise God for counting them worthy to attend this Divine service; in the second they thank him for the miraculous preservation of their ancestors; in the third they praise him that they have lived to observe another festival in memory of it. So Bishop Patrick.

III. What it has since degenerated to, which is much worse. Their own writers acknowledge that this feast is commonly celebrated among them in gluttony, and drunkenness, and excess of riot. Their Talmud says expressly, that in the feast of Purim a man should drink till he knows not the difference between Cursed be Haman and Blessed be Mordecai. See what the corrupt and wicked nature of man often brings that to which was at first well-intended: here is a religious feast turned into a carnival, a perfect revel, as wakes are among us. Nothing more purifies the heart and adorns religion than holy joy; nothing more pollutes the heart and reproaches religion than carnal mirth and sensual pleasure. What is best becomes, when corrupted, the worst.—Matthew Henry.

The celebration of the victory necessarily took place on different days in the city of Shushan and in the provinces. As there were two days of slaughter in Shushan, the triumph was not celebrated till the fifteenth day; but as in the lesser cities and villages of the empire, the permission granted by the king of a second day was not known, it was celebrated on the fourteenth day of Adar. They rested from labour. Some must have been in mourning; for, though no mention is made of the losses of the Jews in the fierce warfare, it is too much to suppose that they could all have escaped. But even those who had suffered the loss of relatives and friends would find compensation for it in the great and general deliverance which had been wrought, and would hardly refrain from joining with their kinsfolk and neighbours in their joy. They feasted one with another, and gave expression to the gladness which filled their hearts in thanksgiving and praise. The day was observed as "a good day," not in the sense of mere worldly mirth and jollity; but, along with "feasting and gladness," there would be the remembrance of the Lord, who had so marvellously and mightily interposed for their own preservation and the destruction of their enemies. The Jews were always ready to give God the praise of their success in war, and as, in this instance, they had sought the Lord in their perplexity and sorrow, so would they now yield to him the glory of their triumph. In proof of their gratitude to him they extended their generosity to the poor, and such as were not in circumstances to make a feast for themselves. They sent "portions one to another"—meat from their tables to such as were in need,—that no one might be wanting in the means of enjoyment. Even to the present day, the Jews have a rule, that a collection of money should be made, at this time of the year, for the benefit of the poor, that they may provide for themselves the things necessary to make a feast. Verily, that is "a good day" on which the hearts of the people of God are warmed with gratitude and praise to him who is the dispenser of all good, and feel themselves so bound together as to be interested in the supply of each other's wants and comforts. After a different fashion from this the world celebrates its victories. It may expend large sums of money in the roar of cannon and magnificent display, whilst the poor are left struggling in penury and want. But the Church of God, through all her members, should feel knit one to another by the ties of a common kindred and fraternal affection, prompting kindness to the poor and the suffering, and an honest benevolence for their relief. In our feasting and gladness, because of some signal victory in providence, we should remember those who, on account of their need, cannot rejoice with us in our joy. So are we now presented with a scene which is widely separated from the world—men regarding themselves as members of the same family, concerned for each other's happiness, ministering to each other's wants, and as though surrounding a common table:—"A day of gladness and feasting, and a good day, and of sending portions one to another."

Now, it does appear strange that the people of God should be represented here and elsewhere in Scripture—notably after the destruction of Pharaoh and his hosts in the Red Sea—rejoicing over the slaughter and destruction of thousands of their fellow-creatures. One might have supposed that the scene would rather have been contemplated with subdued silence and regret. If the rejoicing was occasioned simply by the satisfaction afforded by national and personal revenge, it would only have merited reproof; but when we reflect that these same feelings of jubilation and gladness are shared in and loudly expressed by the redeemed in heaven, at the overthrow of God's enemies, we touch upon a very solemn and awful aspect of the subject. The will of man becomes so thoroughly harmonized and identified with the will of God, as actually to rejoice in the darkest providences and heaviest judgments. We cannot now, indeed, venture to interpret all events, which are beneficial to ourselves and disastrous to others, as the judgment of God upon them for our sakes. It was different in the days of the prophets, when a Divine intimation was given to this effect. But the redeemed will have such a clearness of apprehension in this respect as shall prevent the possibility of mistake. Accordingly, in the terrible events of the latter days, and in the final judgment itself, they are depicted in the Book of Revelation as bursting forth into song and rejoicing in the God of judgment. Most thoroughly do they identify their own cause with God's glory, and are constrained to rejoice over all which promotes the exhibition of it. As the judgments of God upon his enemies, as well as his goodness toward his people, are for the manifestation of his glory, they are moved thereby to adoring song. The tempest moves our adoration of God as well as the calm; the thunder, roaring among the mountains, as well as zephyr breezes gently shaking the leaves of the forest; the whirlwind, with its terror, as well as the dew with its refreshing. And when we pass from the physical to the moral, it is only our present sympathy with sin which leads us to rejoice more in God, in those dealings which are smooth and pleasant, than in those which are crushing and retributive.

There is nothing which so fills the believing soul with adoration as the cross of Christ. There do we see the flood-gates of Divine wrath opened wide, that the penalty of sin may be exhausted on our Divine Surety and Redeemer. And because that stupendous interposition was for the fullest display of the Divine perfections and glory, we surround that cross with our praises.

What we now see, however, only as through a glass, darkly, the redeemed see clearly in the light of immortality; so that, when those who are at deadly war with God upon the earth, who have spurned at offered mercy, and turned a deaf ear to all the entreaties of redeeming love, and who would deny the name of God, and bid defiance to his government, are met by the Lord of Hosts on their own terms, and utterly discomfited, it cannot be wondered at that the redeemed, who had pleaded for this very thing upon the earth, and waited for it in hope in heaven, should join their hearts and voices in the praise of God. There must have been something resplendent and mighty in the angels who fell, and were cast out of heaven; but yet, on the putting down of this rebellion in their ranks, there must have been joy and gladness in the breasts of those who stood firm in their allegiance to God and holiness. And when the wicked are at last destroyed, and consigned to their own place, the regrets of the redeemed at the absence of some whom they had known upon the earth shall be silenced, and more than counterbalanced, in the maintenance of God's throne, and the uneclipsed splendour of his glory. We have our war-songs, recording our victories in battle, and delight in singing them; and shall it not be that the followers of the Lamb shall find delight in singing those songs which shall record the Redeemer's triumph over sin and Satan, and all his and our enemies?

Ah! the thought of that day does involve contingencies and consequences which we cannot help now contemplating with fear and trembling. It shall be the celebration of the grandest victory which perhaps the universe shall ever have witnessed. But on which side shall we individually stand? In every Amalekite's and enemy's home through the Persian empire there would be lamentation and mourning during those days when the Jews were jubilant; and whilst the redeemed are rejoicing in the victory of their Lord, and their own triumph through faith in his name, in the ranks of the wicked and finally lost there shall only be weeping and wailing, remorse and despair. It is now left for us to determine whether or no we are on the Lord's side. The opportunity is given to us, and according to the improvement which we make of it shall be our place and portion on that great and terrible day of the Lord. To be numbered among the redeemed, and have a part in the celebration of their victory, should be enough to fire our ambition, quicken our zeal, and call into action all our energies. Then shall that day, with all its terrors and partings, be to us "a day of joy and gladness, and a good day."—McEwen.

As the days wherein the Jews rested from their enemies, and the month which was turned unto them from sorrow to joy, and from mourning into a good day: that they should make them days of feasting and joy, and of sending portions one to another, and gifts to the poor. All things work together for good to the people of God, by promoting their happiness, as well as their holiness. Their toils sweeten the rest which succeeds them. The sleep of the labouring man is sweet, although he should sup sparingly before he retires to rest. The tears which the Christian must often shed are remembered with joy, when they are wiped away by returning prosperity. Mordecai wished the Jews to be ever mindful of their sorrows, that their joy might be full.

The days of Purim were intended to be days of feasting and gladness. In the season of their distress they would scarcely be able to eat that bread which was necessary to the preservation of their life; when they thought of their deliverance, and of the mercy of God in their deliverance, they would eat their bread with gladness, and drink their wine with a merry heart.

These days were to be "days of sending portions one to another." Their common danger and their common deliverance would endear them one to another, and open their hearts to mutual kindness. How much more ought our common salvation by Christ from our general misery bind the hearts of Christians to one another! We were all involved in guilt and ruin by sin, and the same sin was the source of misery to us all. We are all redeemed by the same precious blood; we are all saved by the same Almighty arm. Let our common joy in Christ's salvation overflow in mutual love. If we are penetrated with the love of Christ, will we not love all those who are the objects of the same exceeding riches of grace?

"Sending of gifts to the poor," was to be another of the duties of this happy day. There might be many poor Jews who were not able to afford an entertainment for this day of joy. But Mordecai would have the poor rejoice as well as the rich. Although we find our circumstances unprosperous, we must not, on that account, reckon that we have no right, or that we are not bound, to rejoice in public mercies. That the poor may not be tempted to repine when others rejoice, as if they were cut off from the public happiness, we should be ready to communicate to them a share of our blessings, especially when our hearts overflow with joy in God's goodness to ourselves. Why should the rich eat their morsel alone, whilst others are pining with hunger? If you desire the continuance of your own happiness from Divine mercy, endeavour to diffuse it by wise liberality. Every expression of Divine goodness to ourselves is a new obligation laid upon us to do good, to those especially who have most need of our bounty. Above all, the redemption by Christ binds us to be merciful.*

And the Jews undertook to do as they had begun, and as Mordecai had written unto them. They cheerfully promised to comply with Mordecai's wishes, both from a regard to his authority, and from a lively sense of the mercy bestowed upon them. It is a happy thing when superiors require nothing from their inferiors but what themselves see to be just and reasonable.

Mordecai's letters could not but have a mighty influence upon a nation who were indebted to him for their lives. He could not be blamed for bringing them into the dangers which they had escaped, because it was his steadfast adherence to his duty which provoked Haman's wrath. But he deserved no less praise than Esther herself for their preservation. Gratitude will induce us to do many things for those who have been the instruments of preserving our lives. What shall we render to the Author of our lives, and to him who hath redeemed our lives from destruction?

Because Haman, the son of Hammedatha, the Agagite, the enemy of all the Jews, had devised against the Jews to destroy them, and had cast Pur, that is, the lot, to consume them, and to destroy them. The remembrance of Haman's fearful plot against all the Jews powerfully instigated them to observe those days of joy that were appointed by Mordecai. When they considered how formidable the enemy was, and how bent upon their destruction, they could not think of their deliverance without surprise, and joy, and thankfulness.

It would be useful to us for increasing our joy in the Lord, to think upon those enemies of the Church that have often brought her into extreme dangers, that we may see the glory of that grace and power to which she is indebted for existence. If we think upon the Pharaohs, the Hamans, the Sennacheribs, the Antiochuses, the Diocletians, the beast with seven heads and ten horns, that have opened their mouths like dragons to swallow up the people of God, will we not see good reason still to sing that song of ancient times? "Many a time have they afflicted me from my youth, may Israel now say; many a time have they afflicted me from my youth, yet they have not prevailed against me."

Haman was the cause of much terror to the Jews, but this terror ended in triumphs and joyful feasts. Unhappy are the enemies of the people of God. They labour for the profit of those whom they hate. Amongst those things that are made subservient to the advantage of the people of God, are to be ranked all the devices of their most malicious enemies, Satan himself, their greatest enemy, not excepted. Sennacherib was a tremendous enemy of Judah, and struck terror into the minds of the most valiant of the inhabitants of Jerusalem. But what was the event of his formidable invasion? Disgrace and ruin to himself, gladness and joyful feasts to the Jews; as Isaiah foretold, when he was marching along in all the pride of his heart at the head of his innumerable army, collected from his extended dominions: "They had a song, as in the night, when an holy assembly is kept; and gladness of heart, as when one goeth with a pipe to come into the mountain of the Lord, to the mighty One of Israel."

But when Esther came before the king, he commanded by letters that his wicked device, which he devised against the Jews, should return upon his own head, and that he and his sons should be hanged on the gallows. In Mordecai's letters he puts the Jews in mind, not only of Haman's plot against them, but of the means also by which it was disconcerted. Let us observe and call to mind the procedure of the providence of God in the works which he accomplishes for his Church, or for ourselves in particular. Every step of his going of majesty deserves to be remarked and admired. They are all beautified with wisdom and grace.

Who could have expected that Esther, whom the king had not desired to see for thirty days, should obtain such favour in his eyes as to turn his wrath against his favourite Haman, whose face he saw every day with smiles? Yet, when Esther came before the king, the mischief of Haman was turned upon himself, and he and his sons were hanged on the gallows. Let us do our duty, and leave the consequence to God. Without the protection of his providence Esther might have fallen under the sentence of that cruel law, which made the king inaccessible to his subjects. But her life was preserved by that God to whom she had poured out her soul in fasting. She did great things and prevailed; and her name shall live to the latest posterity in the records of those heroes and heroines who "wrought righteousness, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, and turned to flight the armies of the aliens."

"Wherever this gospel is preached," said Jesus, "there shall also this that this woman (who poured precious ointment on his head) hath done be told for a memorial of her." Mordecai hoped that what Esther had done would be told in every succeeding generation, to her honour, and for the encouragement of women, as well as men, to do every thing in their power to promote the interests of the Church. Women are too ready to say, What can we do to serve the public interest? our mode of life confines us to our own families. But Esther is not the only woman that has gained just praises by her public spirit. Lemuel's mother taught her son to be a blessing to his people, and has left lessons behind her, by which women, to the end of the world, will be taught to excel in virtue. To Priscilla, as well as to Aquila, all the Churches of the Gentiles gave thanks for what she did for Paul; and many of them had reason to thank her for what she did to Apollos likewise. Males and females are one in Christ Jesus. They are equally saved by his grace; they are equally obliged to promote his interests in the exercise of virtue, and the practice of duties suited to their respective situations: and women, as well as men, have sometimes found singular opportunities of service to their generation, which they could not safely neglect to improve.

Wherefore they called these days Purim, after the name of Pur. The very name of these days afforded an useful lesson to the people of God, and might have afforded an useful lesson to their enemies. It appeared from the event of the lots, which gave name to this day, that although time and chance happen to all men, yet nothing is contingent to God. Chance is under his management, and those things which to us appear most accidental, are managed by his providence to accomplish his designs of mercy to them that love him, and of vengeance to his enemies. Why, then, should the friends of God give themselves any anxious trouble about the most uncertain events? The whole disposal of the lot is of him. Haman's lots directed his measure to his own destruction, and the salvation of Judah.—Lawson.

ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTERS 9, 10

The Alpine Travellers. Three tourists were ascending the Alps. After they had gone a considerable distance, and were getting nearer to the eternal snows, and thus the danger increased, it was considered necessary to attach the company by ropes to one another and to the guides. But one of the tourists, an old traveller, was self-confident and self-reliant. He carried the doctrine of self-help too far, and refused to help his neighbours. He fell down the precipice and lost his life. We often best help ourselves by helping others.

Mutual help, need of. As an apple in the hand of a child makes other children run after and consort with him and share his sports, so does he convert affliction, and the need we have of each other's aid, into a girdle of love, with which to bind us all together; just as no one country produces all commodities, in order that the different nations, by mutual traffic and commerce, may cultivate concord and friendship. How foolish they are who imagine that all the world stands in need of them, but they of nobody; that they know and understand all things, but others nothing; and that the wit of all mankind should be apprenticed to their wisdom.—Gotthold.

Whitfield. An old woman relates, that when she was a little girl Whitfield stayed at her father's house. He was too much absorbed in his work to take much notice of, and pay much attention to, the little girl. She did not remember any of his eloquent utterances. She was, however, observant, and noticed the great preacher when he did not think that any one was observing his conduct. And the impression made upon her mind by his holy and cheerful demeanour, by his patience under trials and difficulties, and his evident consecration to his work, was of a most lasting and salutary character. Well were it if all great preachers would preach at home! We must be great in the palace of home, and then let our influence work outwards in all directions. Home religion is powerful.

The young Switzer. There was a young man among the Switzers that went about to usurp the government and alter their free state. Him they condemned to death, and appointed his father for executioner, as the cause of his evil education. But because Haman was hanged before, his sons (though dead) should now hang with him. If all fathers who had given an evil education to their sons were punished there would be a large increase of the criminal classes. At the present time the State is doing much in the way of educating; but the State cannot do that which is the proper duty of the parent. By precept, and even by the fear of penalty, should we enforce upon parents the duty of seeing faithfully to the true up-bringing of their children.

Faith of parents. An aged minister of Christ had several sons, all of whom became preachers of the Gospel but one. This one lived a life of dissipation for many years. But the good father's faith failed not. He trusted God that his wicked son, trained up in the way he should go, in old age should not depart from it. In this sublime faith the aged father passed away. Five years after, this son of many prayers sat at the feet of Jesus.

Influence of parents. The last thing forgotten in all the recklessness of dissolute profligacy is the prayer or hymn taught by a mother's lips, or uttered at a father's knee; and where there seems to have been any pains bestowed, even by one parent, to train up a child aright, there is in general more than ordinary ground for hope.—The experience of a Prison Chaplain.

Says the venerable Dr. Spring: "The first afflicting thought to me on the death of my parents was, that I had lost their prayers."

Great men Just as the traveller whom we see on yonder mountain height began his ascent from the plain, so the greatest man of whom the world can boast is but one of ourselves standing on higher ground, and in virtue of his wider intelligence, his nobler thoughts, his loftier character, his purer inspiration, or his more manly daring, claiming the empire as his right.—Hare.

True greatness. The truly great consider, first, how they may gain the approbation of God; and, secondly, that of their own consciences. Having done this they would willingly conciliate the good opinion of their fellow-men.—Cotton.

The greatest man is he who chooses the right with invincible resolution; who resists the sorest temptations from within and without; who bears the heaviest burdens cheerfully; who is the calmest in storms, and whose reliance on truth, on virtue, on God, is the most unfaltering.—Dr. Chening.

Distinguishing, great men. I think it is Warburton who draws a very just distinction between a man of true greatness and a mediocrist. "If," says he, "you want to recommend yourself to the former, take care that he quits your society with a good opinion of you; if your object is to please the latter, take care that he leaves you with a good opinion of himself."—Cotton.

Thus Mordecai was truly great, considering, first, how to gain the approbation of God; and, secondly, that of his own conscience. He rises above others by virtue of his wider intelligence, his nobler thoughts, his loftier character, and his more manly daring.

A good name. A name truly good is the aroma from character. It is a reputation of whatsoever things are honest, and lovely, and of good report. It is such a name as is not only remembered on earth, but written in heaven. Just as a box of spikenard is not only valuable to its possessor, but pre-eminently precious in its diffusion; so, when a name is really good, it is of unspeakable service to all who are capable of feeling its aspiration. Mordecai's fame went out throughout all the provinces.—Dr. J. Hamilton.

Eastern hospitality. Nehemiah charges the people thus: "Go your way, eat the fat, and drink the sweet, and send portions unto them for whom nothing is prepared." Also in Esther: "Therefore the Jews made the fourteenth day of the month Adar a day of gladness and feasting, and a good day, and of sending portions one to another." An Oriental prince sometimes honours a friend or a favourite servant, who cannot conveniently attend at his table, by sending a mess to his own home. When the Grand Emir found that it incommoded D'Arvieux to eat with him, he politely desired him to take his own time for eating, and sent him what he liked from his kitchen at the time he chose. So that the above statements must not be restricted to the poor.—Paxton's ‘Illustrations.'

The heaviest taxes. "The taxes are indeed heavy," said Dr. Franklin on one occasion, and if those laid on by the Government were the only ones we had to pay, we might more easily discharge them; but we have many others, and much more grievous to some of us. We are taxed twice as much by our idleness, three times as much by our pride, and four times as much by our folly; and from these taxes the commissioners cannot ease or deliver us by allowing any abatement.

Safeguard of nations. France tried to go on without a God in the time of her first revolution; but Napoleon, for reasons of State, restored the Catholic religion. M. Thiers gives this singular passage in his history: "Napoleon said, ‘For my part, I never hear the sound of the church bell in the neighbouring village without emotion.'" He knew that the hearts of the people were stirred by the same deep yearnings after God which filled his own, and so he proposed to restore the worship of God to infidel France. Later, and with deeper meaning, Perrier, successor to Lafayette as prime minister to Louis Philippe, said on his death-bed, "France must have religion" (C. D. Fors). So we may say, the nations, if they are to live, must have religion.

Punishment of nations. It was a sound reply of an English captain at the loss of Calais, when a proud Frenchman scornfully demanded, "When will you fetch Calais again?" "When your sins shall weigh down ours."—Brooks.

Nations. In one sense the providence of God is shown more clearly in nations than in individuals. Retribution can follow individuals into another state, but not so with nations; they have all their rewards and punishments in time.—D. Custine.

England's privileges.—It's the observation of a great politician, that England is a great animal which can never die unless it kill itself; answerable whereunto was the speech of Lord Rich, to the justices in the reign of king Edward VI: "Never foreign power," said he, "could yet hurt, or in any part prevail, in this realm but by disobedience and disorder among ourselves; that is the way wherewith the Lord will plague us if he mind to punish us." Polydor Virgil calls Regnum Angliæ, Regnum Dei, the kingdom of England, the kingdom of God, because God seems to take special care of it, as having walled it about with the ocean, and watered it with the upper and nether springs, like that land which Caleb gave his daughter. Hence it was called Albion, quasi Olbion, the happy country; "whose valleys," saith Speed, "are like Eden, whose hills are as Lebanon, whose springs are as Pisgah, whose rivers are as Jordan, whose wall is the ocean, and whose defence is the Lord Jehovah." Foreign writers have termed our country the Granary of the Western World, the Fortunate Island, the Paradise of Pleasure, and Garden of God.—Clarke's ‘Examples.'


Verses 29-32

CRITICAL NOTES.]

Est .] A second letter from queen Esther and Mordecai to appoint fasting and lamentation on the days of Purim.

Est .] The feast of Purim instituted by letters from Mordecai and Esther.

Est .] And Esther the queen and Mordecai the Jew wrote with all strength, that is, very forcibly, to appoint this second letter concerning Purim, i.e. to give to the contents of this second letter the force of laws.—Keil.

Est . The matters of the fastings and their cry] Here it incidentally comes out that fasting and lamentation were also to be connected with the observance of Purim. The modern Jews observe the thirteenth of Adar, the anniversary of the day of slaughter, as a day of fasting, and call it the fast of Esther. This day of fasting and supplication is preliminary to the two days' feast that follows. It is not improbable that Esther herself may have proposed this fast, as a memorial of the grief that preceded their joy, and that the people approved and sanctioned it, and called it Esther's fast

Est . The decree of Esther] This is to be understood as the same with the letter of authority respecting Purim which is mentioned in Est 9:29, and was issued by both Esther and Mordecai. It was written in the book] The decree of Esther was recorded, and doubtless with it, also, an account of the institution of the feast of Purim. The book referred to here is somewhat uncertain. Some have thought the Book of Esther is intended; but the author of that book would hardly have designated his own work in this way. Bertheau and Keil think it was a book or treatise on the feast of Purim, which our author used in preparing his work, but which has not come down to us. This, however, is purely conjectural. It seems most natural, since we have in several other passages of this history a mention of the book of the chronicles of Media and Persia (chap. Est 2:23; Est 6:1; Est 10:2), to understand the book of this verse as that same book of State annals. The documents issued by Esther and Mordecai, establishing the feast of Purim, and perhaps, also, describing its origin and mode of observance, may well have been registered among the national chronicles. The following account of the manner in which the feast of Purim is observed by the Jews of the present day is substantially from Smith's ‘Dictionary of the Bible':—The observance commences with the fast of Esther (see note above on Est 9:31) on the thirteenth of Adar. If the thirteenth falls upon a sabbath, the fast is placed upon the Thursday preceding. As soon as the evening preceding the fourteenth of the month arrives, candles are lighted in token of rejoicing, and the people assemble at the synagogue. The Book of Esther, written on a roll called the Megillah, is produced, and, after a short prayer, the reader proceeds to read it in a histrionic manner, aiming to suit his tones and gestures to the sense. When he pronounces the name of Haman the congregation exclaim, "May his name be blotted out," or, "Let the name of the ungodly perish," and at the same time the children present make a great noise with their hands, or with pieces of wood and stone. The names of Haman's ten sons are read with one breath, to signify that they were all hung at once. (Comp. note on chap. Est 9:7-9.) When the roll is read through the whole congregation exclaim, "Cursed be Haman; blessed be Mordecai; cursed be Zeresh, the wife of Haman; blessed be Esther; cursed be all idolaters; blessed be all Israelites, and blessed be Harbonah, who hanged Haman." When this evening service is over all go home and partake of a simple repast. On the morning of the fourteenth all resort to the synagogue again; prayer is offered, and the passage of the law (Exo 17:8-16) relating the destruction of the Amalekites is read, for the Jews regard Haman as a descendant of Agag the Amalekite. (See note on chap. Est 3:1.) The roll of Esther is again read, as on the preceding evening. When the synagogue service is ended, all give themselves over to feasting and joy. Presents are sent to and fro among friends and relations, and liberal gifts are bestowed upon the poor. Games, dramatical entertainments, dancing, and music are resorted to, and every effort is made to promote general merriment and joy. Such festivities and joy are continued through the fifteenth also, but any Jews who desire may carry on their usual business during the days of this festival. Josephus attests the observance of Purim in his day: "Even now all the Jews in the world celebrate these days with feasting ( ἐορτάζουσι), sending portions to one another.… They celebrate the fore-mentioned days, calling them Phrouraim ( φρουραὶους)."—Ant. xi. 6, 13. A number of Jewish proverbs also attest the high esteem in which this feast was held: "The temple may fail, but Purim never." "The Prophets may fail, but not the Megillah." It was even said that no books would survive in the Messiah's kingdom but the Law and the Megillah.—Whedon's Com.

MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH. Est

IMPORTANT LETTERS

This is the day of writing many letters, but it is not the day for writing those elaborate and important letters which were written in the days of our forefathers. Those letters live as masterpieces of composition. It would be difficult to collect letters now-a-days that would be worth printing. Here in these verses we have the record of important letters written by Esther the queen and Mordecai the Jew.

I. The importance of letters may be measured by the earnestness of the writers. Esther and Mordecai wrote with all authority, or with all strength, viz. of spirit and of speech, of affection and expression. We have so many letters to write now that we cannot put all our strength into every letter; but when letters are important, then we should seek to put forth all strength. Earnestness will show itself in writing as well as in speaking. If we desire people to read what we have written we must write with earnestness. This will give power to our compositions and distinctness to our utterances.

II. The importance of letters may be measured by the spirit of the writing. Esther and Mordecai wrote with words of peace and truth. Follow peace with all men. Speak the words of peace and of truth in letters. Good may be done by letter-writing. Sometimes we have neither power nor opportunity to speak to a brother about his spiritual state. A letter affords a good vehicle for the word of warning and of instruction. A letter may reach and bless him that could not be reached by word of mouth. A letter written with earnestness and with prayer will often carry conviction to the soul. Much good has been thus accomplished, and still is this method of usefulness available. Words of peace and truth. Let such be the nature of our communications. Sincere utterances, truthful words. Our age wants such words. In this gabbling age words are too cheap. We ought to be as careful not to circulate false words as we are not to circulate bad coin. When will the great importance of words be rightly understood and estimated?

III. The importance of letters may be measured by the subject-matter of the communication. These letters of Esther and of Mordecai confirmed the days and the matters of Purim. They were on subjects of highest importance to the Jewish nation. They decreed for their souls and for their seed the matters of the fastings and their cry. The conflicts of the soul are subjects of the highest importance; but they are too often overlooked. In all ages materialism gains too much the ascendancy. Soul concerns are put in the background; the matters of the fastings and their cry are not deemed matters worthy of supreme attention. Still those letters that touch the essence of things are the most influential. The letters of the apostles hold a supreme position on this very account. Their subject matter testifies to their divinity. They thus commend themselves as inspired to the unprejudiced mind. Let us read these New Testament epistles, for they are the most important of all letters.

IV. The essence of important letters will not be lost. These letters sent unto all the Jews, to the hundred twenty and seven provinces of the kingdom of Ahasuerus, have not been handed down, but we may be assured that all which is essential in those letters is preserved. The decree of Esther confirmed these matters of Purim; and it was written in the book. What book it is impossible to say. Certainly it does not seem satisfactory to declare in the Book of Esther, as forming part of the canonical books. If this be so, then this thirty-second verse and the tenth chapter do not properly belong to the inspired books. The verses are then a mere postscript, written by what hand and with what authority we cannot determine. To make the expression, "it was written in the book," an argument for the canonicity of Esther, is far-fetched. We may concur with Keil when he says, "The book in which this decree was written cannot mean the writing of Esther, mentioned in Est , but some written document concerning Purim which has not come down to us, though used as an authority by the author of the present book;" or we may refer it to the book of the Chronicles of Media and Persia, since it is mentioned in other passages. Though the written document is lost, yet the essence of the document remains. We may then believe that all which is worth preserving will be preserved and handed down from generation to generation. Let us not weep over burnt libraries and destroyed manuscripts. God watches over the truth. His Word cannot be destroyed. If all that had been destroyed could be gathered up again, if there could be a resurrection of dead books, and diligent inquiry made, we are persuaded that there would be no substantial addition to the treasury of the truth. The fire burns, but the gold and the silver of everlasting truth must outlast every conflagration.

SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS ON Est

And the decree of Esther confirmed, &c. Dux fœmina facti. Money was coined in the year 1588 in honour of Queen Elizabeth, with that posy inscribed. The like may be here said of Queen Esther; yea, we may add that in the Gospel, spoken concerning another: Whenever this history should be read in all the world, this that she hath done should be spoken to her eternal commendation.

And it was written in the book. Tremellius rendereth it thus: "When, therefore, the edict of Esther had confirmed these things, it was written in this book." Lyra and others thus: "She requested the wise men of that age, that they would reckon this history for Holy Writ." If it be meant of any other public record which the Jews then had, it is lost, as are likewise some other pieces which never were any part of the Holy Scriptures; for God, by his providence, ever took care and course that no one hair of the sacred head should fall to the ground. The unsound conceit of Pelican here is by no means to be admitted, viz. that this latter part of the chapter, from Est to the end, came from the pen of some other man, not guided by the Spirit of God, and that because here is no mention made of praising God at this feast, or stirring up one another to trust in him. For we know that all Scripture is of Divine inspiration, and it is to be presumed that those things were done at such solemnities, though it be not recorded in each particular.—Trapp.

And he sent the letters unto all the Jews, to the hundred twenty and seven provinces of the kingdom of Ahasuerus, with words of peace and truth. When we are exalted above our brethren, we are too ready to forget them and ourselves, as if the change of our condition had raised us to a higher rank of creatures. Mordecai and his adoptive daughter were not negligent in the exercise of their authority for purposes that appeared to them good and salutary to the nation; but they still retained their humbleness of mind, and their kind affections to their kindred. They sent these letters to all the hundred and twenty-seven provinces "with words of truth and peace;" with expressions of the warmest benevolence. Nor were these expressions, like many of our mutual compliments, merely dictated by a politeness which too often conceals a perfect indifference to our neighbour's welfare under good words and fair speeches. Their words were words of truth as well as of peace, when they expressed their desires and prayers, that the Lord might bless his people with peace.

Let men maintain that authority which God hath given them, that they may attain the ends for which it is given them, but let it be always tempered with charity and gentleness. Paul, in his epistles, asserts his authority as an apostle of Jesus Christ; but he writes with words of peace and truth when he prays for grace and peace to the churches from God the Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.

To confirm these days of Purim in their times appointed, according as Mordecai the Jew and Esther the queen had enjoined them, and as they had decreed for themselves and for their seed, the matters of the fastings and their cry. At the motion of Mordecai, the Jews were unanimously determined to observe the festival, and to enjoin the observance of it to their posterity. The Jews were confirmed in their resolution by the second letter of Mordecai, in conjunction with Esther. And one consideration which would dispose them to observe the commemoration of this deliverance with joy and exultation, was, that they had fasted and cried for it under the pressure of the danger. They could not eat their ordinary food. They cried out with exceeding loud and bitter cries. They fasted and cried unto the Lord, and he heard the voice of their supplications.

Spring is the pleasantest season of the year, because it follows the dreary desolations and the piercing cold of winter. These days of health are especially delightful which follow days of extreme sickness, when we had the sentence of death in ourselves. Remember the dismal thoughts that engrossed your minds, the terrifying apprehensions that embittered your troubles, and the exquisite felicity which you promised to yourselves, if it should please God, beyond your expectations, to send you relief. Thus will the troubles you have endured spread happiness in the retrospect, over the remaining part of your life. You still must meet with trials; but you will be thankful that they are so light and easy to be borne, when they are compared with those which you have formerly endured.

Have you fasted, and cried unto the Lord, and has he graciously inclined his ear to your complaints? With what joy and peace ought you to recollect the mercy which has preserved you from going down to the chambers of the grave, perhaps to the regions of destruction! David will teach you what improvement to make of your fasting and cries, when the Lord has been pleased to grant you the deliverance which you supplicated. "I love the Lord, because he heard my voice and supplications. Because he hath inclined his ear unto me, therefore will I call upon him so long as I live. The sorrows of death compassed me, and the pains of hell gat hold upon me; I found trouble and sorrow. Then called I upon the name of the Lord: O Lord, I beseech thee, deliver my soul. Gracious is the Lord, and righteous; yea, our God is merciful. The Lord preserveth the simple: I was brought low, and he helped me: I will walk before the Lord in the land of the living."

And the decree of Esther confirmed these matters of Purim; and it was written in the book. The high and beloved name of Esther was sufficient to establish the decree of Purim. She had been the saviour of the Jews. At the risk of her life she had preserved theirs. What do we not owe to him who, not only by endangering his life, but by giving up himself to an accursed death, hath delivered us from the wrath to come?

"And it was written in the book" of the Jewish institutions, or in the register of their transactions. Books are necessary for recording those things that are intended for the use of posterity. Were it not for books we would all be children in understanding. Let us carefully improve those things that were written aforetimes for our learning, especially those things which Divine wisdom hath directed the holy men of God to record for our benefit.

The feast of Purim is still observed, though not in a manner agreeable to Esther's intention. The observance of this and other festivals of the Jews, from the most ancient times, is attended with this great advantage, that it affords a convincing argument of the truth of those facts which they were designed to commemorate, when we take this into the account, that these fasts were recorded in books at the time when they were instituted, which are still extant. The observance of the ancient Jewish feasts is a public declaration of their firm belief of the Old Testament Scriptures. This is one of the most powerfully rational arguments of the truth of our holy religion. If the Old Testament Scriptures are true, the Messiah expected by the Jews is come long ago into the world; and none but Jesus of Nazareth can be that Messiah. Thus the most determined enemies of Jesus give a decided, though indirect, testimony that he is the Son of God, by attesting the truth and Divine authority of those ancient Scriptures that testify of him.—Lawson.

ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTERS 9, 10

The Alpine Travellers. Three tourists were ascending the Alps. After they had gone a considerable distance, and were getting nearer to the eternal snows, and thus the danger increased, it was considered necessary to attach the company by ropes to one another and to the guides. But one of the tourists, an old traveller, was self-confident and self-reliant. He carried the doctrine of self-help too far, and refused to help his neighbours. He fell down the precipice and lost his life. We often best help ourselves by helping others.

Mutual help, need of. As an apple in the hand of a child makes other children run after and consort with him and share his sports, so does he convert affliction, and the need we have of each other's aid, into a girdle of love, with which to bind us all together; just as no one country produces all commodities, in order that the different nations, by mutual traffic and commerce, may cultivate concord and friendship. How foolish they are who imagine that all the world stands in need of them, but they of nobody; that they know and understand all things, but others nothing; and that the wit of all mankind should be apprenticed to their wisdom.—Gotthold.

Whitfield. An old woman relates, that when she was a little girl Whitfield stayed at her father's house. He was too much absorbed in his work to take much notice of, and pay much attention to, the little girl. She did not remember any of his eloquent utterances. She was, however, observant, and noticed the great preacher when he did not think that any one was observing his conduct. And the impression made upon her mind by his holy and cheerful demeanour, by his patience under trials and difficulties, and his evident consecration to his work, was of a most lasting and salutary character. Well were it if all great preachers would preach at home! We must be great in the palace of home, and then let our influence work outwards in all directions. Home religion is powerful.

The young Switzer. There was a young man among the Switzers that went about to usurp the government and alter their free state. Him they condemned to death, and appointed his father for executioner, as the cause of his evil education. But because Haman was hanged before, his sons (though dead) should now hang with him. If all fathers who had given an evil education to their sons were punished there would be a large increase of the criminal classes. At the present time the State is doing much in the way of educating; but the State cannot do that which is the proper duty of the parent. By precept, and even by the fear of penalty, should we enforce upon parents the duty of seeing faithfully to the true up-bringing of their children.

Faith of parents. An aged minister of Christ had several sons, all of whom became preachers of the Gospel but one. This one lived a life of dissipation for many years. But the good father's faith failed not. He trusted God that his wicked son, trained up in the way he should go, in old age should not depart from it. In this sublime faith the aged father passed away. Five years after, this son of many prayers sat at the feet of Jesus.

Influence of parents. The last thing forgotten in all the recklessness of dissolute profligacy is the prayer or hymn taught by a mother's lips, or uttered at a father's knee; and where there seems to have been any pains bestowed, even by one parent, to train up a child aright, there is in general more than ordinary ground for hope.—The experience of a Prison Chaplain.

Says the venerable Dr. Spring: "The first afflicting thought to me on the death of my parents was, that I had lost their prayers."

Great men Just as the traveller whom we see on yonder mountain height began his ascent from the plain, so the greatest man of whom the world can boast is but one of ourselves standing on higher ground, and in virtue of his wider intelligence, his nobler thoughts, his loftier character, his purer inspiration, or his more manly daring, claiming the empire as his right.—Hare.

True greatness. The truly great consider, first, how they may gain the approbation of God; and, secondly, that of their own consciences. Having done this they would willingly conciliate the good opinion of their fellow-men.—Cotton.

The greatest man is he who chooses the right with invincible resolution; who resists the sorest temptations from within and without; who bears the heaviest burdens cheerfully; who is the calmest in storms, and whose reliance on truth, on virtue, on God, is the most unfaltering.—Dr. Chening.

Distinguishing, great men. I think it is Warburton who draws a very just distinction between a man of true greatness and a mediocrist. "If," says he, "you want to recommend yourself to the former, take care that he quits your society with a good opinion of you; if your object is to please the latter, take care that he leaves you with a good opinion of himself."—Cotton.

Thus Mordecai was truly great, considering, first, how to gain the approbation of God; and, secondly, that of his own conscience. He rises above others by virtue of his wider intelligence, his nobler thoughts, his loftier character, and his more manly daring.

A good name. A name truly good is the aroma from character. It is a reputation of whatsoever things are honest, and lovely, and of good report. It is such a name as is not only remembered on earth, but written in heaven. Just as a box of spikenard is not only valuable to its possessor, but pre-eminently precious in its diffusion; so, when a name is really good, it is of unspeakable service to all who are capable of feeling its aspiration. Mordecai's fame went out throughout all the provinces.—Dr. J. Hamilton.

Eastern hospitality. Nehemiah charges the people thus: "Go your way, eat the fat, and drink the sweet, and send portions unto them for whom nothing is prepared." Also in Esther: "Therefore the Jews made the fourteenth day of the month Adar a day of gladness and feasting, and a good day, and of sending portions one to another." An Oriental prince sometimes honours a friend or a favourite servant, who cannot conveniently attend at his table, by sending a mess to his own home. When the Grand Emir found that it incommoded D'Arvieux to eat with him, he politely desired him to take his own time for eating, and sent him what he liked from his kitchen at the time he chose. So that the above statements must not be restricted to the poor.—Paxton's ‘Illustrations.'

The heaviest taxes. "The taxes are indeed heavy," said Dr. Franklin on one occasion, and if those laid on by the Government were the only ones we had to pay, we might more easily discharge them; but we have many others, and much more grievous to some of us. We are taxed twice as much by our idleness, three times as much by our pride, and four times as much by our folly; and from these taxes the commissioners cannot ease or deliver us by allowing any abatement.

Safeguard of nations. France tried to go on without a God in the time of her first revolution; but Napoleon, for reasons of State, restored the Catholic religion. M. Thiers gives this singular passage in his history: "Napoleon said, ‘For my part, I never hear the sound of the church bell in the neighbouring village without emotion.'" He knew that the hearts of the people were stirred by the same deep yearnings after God which filled his own, and so he proposed to restore the worship of God to infidel France. Later, and with deeper meaning, Perrier, successor to Lafayette as prime minister to Louis Philippe, said on his death-bed, "France must have religion" (C. D. Fors). So we may say, the nations, if they are to live, must have religion.

Punishment of nations. It was a sound reply of an English captain at the loss of Calais, when a proud Frenchman scornfully demanded, "When will you fetch Calais again?" "When your sins shall weigh down ours."—Brooks.

Nations. In one sense the providence of God is shown more clearly in nations than in individuals. Retribution can follow individuals into another state, but not so with nations; they have all their rewards and punishments in time.—D. Custine.

England's privileges.—It's the observation of a great politician, that England is a great animal which can never die unless it kill itself; answerable whereunto was the speech of Lord Rich, to the justices in the reign of king Edward VI: "Never foreign power," said he, "could yet hurt, or in any part prevail, in this realm but by disobedience and disorder among ourselves; that is the way wherewith the Lord will plague us if he mind to punish us." Polydor Virgil calls Regnum Angliæ, Regnum Dei, the kingdom of England, the kingdom of God, because God seems to take special care of it, as having walled it about with the ocean, and watered it with the upper and nether springs, like that land which Caleb gave his daughter. Hence it was called Albion, quasi Olbion, the happy country; "whose valleys," saith Speed, "are like Eden, whose hills are as Lebanon, whose springs are as Pisgah, whose rivers are as Jordan, whose wall is the ocean, and whose defence is the Lord Jehovah." Foreign writers have termed our country the Granary of the Western World, the Fortunate Island, the Paradise of Pleasure, and Garden of God.—Clarke's ‘Examples.'

 


Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Esther 9:4". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/phc/esther-9.html. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.

Commentary Navigator
Search This Commentary
Enter query in the box below
To report dead links, typos, or html errors or suggestions about making these resources more useful use our convenient contact form
Powered by Lightspeed Technology