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Bible Commentaries
Esther 2

Ellicott's Commentary for English ReadersEllicott's Commentary

Verse 1


(1) After these things.—We have seen that the great feast at Susa was in the year 483 B.C. , and that in the spring of 481 B.C. Xerxes set out for Greece. At some unspecified time, then, between these limits the proposal now started is to be placed. The marriage of Esther, however (Esther 2:16), did not come about till after the return from Greece, the king’s long absence explaining the otherwise curious delay, and moreover, even in this interval, he was entangled in more than one illicit connection.

Verse 3

(3) The house of the women.—The harem, then as now, a prominent feature in the establishment of an Eastern king.

Hege.—Called Hegai in Esther 2:8; a eunuch whose special charge seems to have been the virgins, while another, named Shaashgaz (Esther 2:14), had the custody of the concubines. The whole verse shows, as conclusively as anything could do, in how degrading an aspect Eastern women were, as a whole, viewed. It was reserved for Christianity to indicate the true position of woman, not man’s plaything, but the help meet for him, able to aid him in his spiritual and intellectual progress, yielding him intelligent obedience, not slavery.

Verse 5

(5) Mordecai.—Canon Rawlinson is disposed to identify Mordecai with Matacas, who was the most powerful of the eunuchs in the reign of Xerxes. It may be assumed that Mordecai was a eunuch, by the way in which he was allowed access to the royal harem (Esther 2:11; Esther 2:22). The name Mordecai occurs in Ezra 2:2; Nehemiah 7:7, as one of those who returned to Judæa with Zerubbabel.

The son of Jair.—It is probable that the names here given are those of the actual father, grandfather, and great-grandfather of Mordecai; though some have thought that they are merely some of the more famous ancestors, Shimei being assumed to be the assailant of David, and Kish the father of Saul. The character of Mordecai strikes us at the outset as that of an ambitious, worldly man; who, though numbers of his tribe had returned to the land of their fathers, preferred to remain behind on the alien soil. The heroic lament of the exiles by Babel’s streams, who would not sing the Lord’s song in a strange land, who looked with horror at the thought that Jerusalem should be forgotten—such were not Mordecai’s thoughts, far from it: why endure hardships, when there is a chance of his adopted daughter’s beauty catching the eye of the sensual king, when through her he may vanquish his rival, and become that king’s chief minister?

Verse 6

(6) Who had been . . .—The antecedent is obviously Kish, though as far as the mere grammar goes it might have been Mordecai.

Jeconiah.—That is, Jehoiachin. (See 2 Kings 24:12-16.)

Nebuchadnezzar . . . had carried away.—This was in 598 B.C., 117 years before this time, so that the four generations are readily accounted for.

Verse 7

(7) Hadassah.—This is evidently formed from the Hebrew hadas, the myrtle: Esther is generally assumed to be a Persian name, meaning a star. Unless we assume that this latter name was given afterwards, and is here used by anticipation, we have here an early case of the common Jewish practice of using two names, a Hebrew and a Gentile one—e.g., Saul, Paul; John, Mark; Joses, Justus, &c.

Uncle.—Abihail (see Esther 2:15).

Verse 9

(9) Obtained kindness of him.—This is the same phrase as that which is rendered “obtained favour in his sight” in Esther 2:17.

Verse 10

(10) Esther had not shewed . . .—From the hope on Mordecai’s part that she might pass for a native Persian, and that her Jewish birth should be no hindrance to her advancement. The king does not learn his wife’s nation till some time afterwards (Esther 7:4).

Verse 11

(11) Mordecai walked . . .—Apparently he was one of the royal doorkeepers. (See Esther 2:21; Esther 5:13.)

Verse 12

(12) Manner.—Translate, law or ordinance, as in Esther 1:8; Esther 1:15.

Verse 16

(16) The month Tebeth.—This extended from the new moon in January to that in February; the name occurs only here. The fifth Egyptian month, lasting from December 20 to January 20, was called Tybi. The time referred to in the verse will be the January or February of the year 478 B.C., and must have been very shortly after Xerxes’ return to Susa from the West. The long delay in replacing Vashti is simply to be explained by the long absence of Xerxes in Greece.

Verse 18

(18) Release.—Literally, rest. The word only occurs here: it may refer either to a release from tribute or from military service, probably the former. Either, however, would have been consistent with Persian usage. (See Herod, iii. 67, 6:59.)

Verse 19

(19) And when the virgins . . .—Here begins a fresh incident in the history, whose date we cannot fix precisely, save that it falls between the marriage of Esther and the twelfth year of Ahasuerus (Esther 3:7). The king “loved Esther above all the women,” but how the word “love “is degraded in this connection is seen by the fact that after she had been his wife certainly less (possibly much less) than five years, there takes place a second gathering of virgins (there is no article in the Hebrew), like the one previously mentioned (Esther 2:2). We should treat Esther 2:20 as parenthetical, and join Esther 2:21 closely to Esther 2:19.

Then Mordecai sat.—Translate, and Mordecai was sitting.

Verse 20

(20) Esther had not yet . . .—Perhaps this verse is added to meet the supposition that the king wished to replace Esther through finding out her nation.

Verse 21

(21) In those days.—Here the thread of Esther 2:19 is taken up, then I say, in those days—“

Bigthan.—Called Bigtha in Esther 1:10; Bigthana in Esther 6:2.

Sought to lay hand on the king.—It is noticeable that Xerxes was ultimately murdered by Artabanus, captain of the guard, and Mithridates, a chamberlain.

Verse 22

(22) And Esther certified the king thereof.—Doubtless by this means an increased influence was gained over the capricious mind of the king, an influence which before long served Esther in good stead.

Verse 23

(23) Hanged on a tree.—Were crucified; a common punishment among the Persians, especially on rebels (Herod. iii. 120, 125, 159, &c). The dead body of Leonidas was crucified by Xerxes’ orders after the desperate stand at Thermopylæ.

Book of the chronicles.—A sleepless night of Xerxes accidentally brought this matter, after it had been forgotten, before the king’s mind. Herodotus often refers to these Persian Chronicles (vii. 100; viii. 85, 90).

Bibliographical Information
Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Esther 2". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ebc/esther-2.html. 1905.
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