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Bible Commentaries
Esther 1

Barnes' Notes on the Whole BibleBarnes' Notes

Verse 1

Ahasuerus - . Xerxes, the son of Darius Hystaspis. His empire is rightly described as from India even unto Ethiopia. The satrapies of Darius Hystaspis reached 29 in number, and the nations under Xerxes were about 60. The 127 “provinces” include probably sub-satrapies and other smaller divisions of the great governments.

Verse 3

In the third year - In this year, 483 B.C., Xerxes assembled the governors of provinces at Susa, in connection with his contemplated expedition against Greece.

The nobles - literally, “the first men.” The Hebrew word used is one adopted from the Persian.

Verse 5

Feasts on this extensive scale were not unusual in the East. Cyrus is said on one occasion to have feasted “all the Persians.” Even ordinarily, the later Persian monarchs entertained 15,000 persons at their table.

Verse 6

Rather, “where was an awning of fine white cotton and violet.” White and blue (or violet) were the royal colors in Persia. Such awnings as are here described were very suitable to the pillared halls and porches of a Persian summer-palace, and especially to the situation of that of Susa.

The beds - Rather, “couches” or “sofas,” on which the guests reclined at meals.

A pavement ... - See the margin. It is generally agreed that the four substances named are stones; but to identify the stones, or even their colors, is difficult.

Verse 8

According to the law - An exception to the ordinary practice of compulsory drinking had been made on this occasion by the king’s order.

Verse 9

Vashti - If Ahasuerus is Xerxes, Vashti would be Amestris, whom the Greeks regarded as the only legitimate wife of that monarch, and who was certainly married to him before he ascended the throne. The name may be explained either as a corruption of Amestris, or as a title, vahishta, (Sanskrit: vasishtha, the superlative of vasu, “sweet”); and it may be supposed that the disgrace recorded (Esther 1:19-21, see the note) was only temporary; Amestris in the later part of Xerxes’ reign recovering her former dignity.

Verse 11

To bring Vashti the queen - This command, though contrary to Persian customs, is not out of harmony with the character of Xerxes; and is evidently related as something strange and unusual. Otherwise, the queen would not have refused to come.

Verse 13

Wise men ... - Not “astrologers,” who were unknown in Persia; but rather men of practical wisdom, who knew the facts and customs of former times.

For so was the king’s manner - Some render it: “for so was the king’s business laid before all that knew law ...”

Verse 14

In Marsena we may perhaps recognize the famous Mardonius, and in Admatha, Xerxes’ uncle, Artabanus.

The seven princes - There were seven families of the first rank in Persia, from which alone the king could take his wives. Their chiefs were entitled to have free access to the monarch’s person. See the margin reference note.

Verse 18

Translate it: “Likewise shall the princesses of Persia and Media, which have heard of the deed of the queen, say this day unto all the king’s princes.”

Verse 19

That it be not altered - Compare the margin reference. This was the theory. Practically, the monarch, if he chose, could always dispense with the law. It was therefore quite within his power to restore Vashti to her queenly dignity notwithstanding the present decree, if he so pleased.

Verse 22

He sent letters - The Persian system of posts incidentally noticed in the present book Esther 3:12-15; Esther 8:9-14, is in entire harmony with the accounts of Herodotus and Xenophon.

Into every province according to the writing thereof - The practice of the Persians to address proclamations to the subject-nations in their own speech, and not merely in the language of the conqueror, is illustrated by the bilingual and trilingual inscriptions of the Achaemenian monarchs, from Cyrus to Artaxerxes Ochus, each inscription being of the nature of a proclamation.

The decree was not unnecessary. The undue influence of women in domestic, and even in public, matters is a feature of the ancient Persian monarchy. Atossa completely ruled Darius. Xerxes himself was, in his later years, shamefully subject to Amestris. The example of the court would naturally infect the people. The decree therefore would be a protest, even if ineffectual, against a real and growing evil.

And that it should be published ... - Render it: “and speak the language of his own people;” in the sense that the wife’s language, if different from her husband’s, should in no case be allowed to prevail in the household.

Bibliographical Information
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Esther 1". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bnb/esther-1.html. 1870.
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