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Esther 2:3 . Gather together all the fair young virgins unto Shushan the palace. The polygamy we have hitherto seen is small in comparison of the indulgences of the Babylonian and Persian court. This practice, so contrary to the laws of nature, as appears from the number of males being twenty five to twenty four females, had its origin in the concupiscence of the flesh. Lamech, the seventh in Cain’s line, broke the mounds of modesty, and the waters of corruption overflowed the earth; and hence great men would have more than one wife. After the flood, when the seventy two tribes were dispersed abroad; and when they ultimately, to avoid surprise and massacre from their hostile neighbours, retired to walled towns, each town having still its own king, the continuance of petty wars often so reduced the number of men, that polygamy founded plausible pleas for sensual indulgence on the deficiency of males. But surely a temporal calamity could be no just plea for a permanent violation of the law of nature. And what scenes of misery can be conceived more great than the harems of the east, filled with a thousand jealous and disappointed women? They were little else than mere state prisoners, most of them doomed never more to see the king’s face with joy: and how vain, how totally perverted, must that mortal be who thinks he has a power to reduce his subjects to that state of dignified misery. He is ignorant that the first duty of a king is to be the father of all his people. Need we wonder then that the pursuing hand of vengeance should follow the houses of Gideon, of Ahab, and of Solomon. Yet it is intimated that Solomon’s greatest defects in this way were not till old age, when a state of dotage gave the heathen women an entire ascendency over him. How grateful then should we be that Jesus has taught us better, and that Paul also has required a man to be the husband but of one living wife.
Esther 2:5 . Mordecai, that is, bitter or sorrowful, agreeing with his captivity, seventy years before the edict of Cyrus. He was a very old man, for all these occurrences fell out while the second temple was building, and Zechariah was prophesying. Mordecai is also said to have been a son of Shimei. The Targums admit that this was the Shimei, notwithstanding the lapse of time, who cursed David.
Esther 2:7 . Esther his uncle’s daughter. This reminds us of Catharine, empress of the Russias, and niece of a Lutheran clergyman. Grace often attends those who become fathers to orphans.
Esther 2:12 . Twelve months. The candidates purified daily, to promote health. The time among the Jews, for captives taken in war, was one month; here a whole year is allowed, that the purity of the virgins, with regard to chastity or disease, might be fully ascertained. Sarah was thus some time in the house of Pharaoh, and of Abimelech.
Esther 2:16 . So Esther was taken to king Ahasuérus. According to Esther 2:8, she was brought to the king’s house. It does not appear that Mordecai had any active concern in this affair. The Jews say he concealed her, when he first heard of the decree.
Esther 2:18 . Esther’s feast. Her coronation was very splendid; and the partial remission of taxes would swell the joy.
Having glanced at the royal feast, the contumacy of Vashti, and the advice of Memucan, we are next led to contemplate the hand of providence, in taking advantage of all those occurrences to elevate Esther and Mordecai, for the protection of the Jews who still remained in the east. We may also here remark, that after Cyrus gave them liberty to return, it was dangerous for them not to obey the voice of God. To linger in a heathen land, and far from the altar, might expose them to corruption and punishment in common with the heathen. So let sinners be instructed and obey the first proclamations of liberty, lest something awful should follow.
We learn likewise, that if the fairest virgins of the east, those rival candidates for the crown, washed and purified so long before they approached a man, who urged the secondary claims of a god; and if they did all that art could do to render their persons agreeable; what then must be the purity required of sinners in their approach to the Lord of glory. Must not the conscience be purged from every stain, the body purified from all defilement, and the soul made complete in simplicity, holiness, and love?
The elevation of Esther was purely by the hand of God. The officers had heard of her beauty; and when she appeared before the king, modest by education and habit, she desired no ornaments to encumber and degrade the charms of simple nature: hence the king’s heart was touched more by her virtue than her beauty. And it may be remarked, that not only Esther, but almost every other person of the Hebrew nation raised up for their protection, was aided by the peculiar support of providence. They did not run: they made no haste. The hand of God alone raised them from an abject or a humble state, to glory and distinction. How encouraging is this consideration to the church. God has never ceased to watch and care for his Zion: why then should we be so much intimidated by afflictions? Good men should never go out of the way of providence for worldly honours; but when they fall to their lot, let them act a faithful part for God and their king.
Mordecai, as well as Esther, was promoted, and by a loyalty which prompted him to inform of the two conspirators. When God is pleased to raise a man to honour, he can easily connect the means with the designations of his love. Hence we see on the one hand, that loyalty to the king and obedience to the laws are the duty of all good men; and on the other, that those who nurse an orphan shall not go without a reward. God, who is the father, and the everliving father of every orphan, accounts this willing service as done to himself; and he is not only able to repay, but his rewards soon or late shall be above all that we could ask or think.
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Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Esther 2". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/
the Fourth Week after Epiphany