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Est 8:1 On that day did the king Ahasuerus give the house of Haman the Jews’ enemy unto Esther the queen. And Mordecai came before the king; for Esther had told what he [was] unto her.
Ver. 1. On that day ] This was a festival and a good day, as Esther 8:17 , albo lapillo notandus, for the many signal mercies that thereon came in together, viz. Esther’s petition granted, Haman hanged, Mordecai advanced, the proscribed Jews relieved, &c. As crosses seldom come single ( Catenata piorum crux ), but trooping together commonly, and treading upon the heels of one another, like Job’s messengers, James 1:2 ; so do blessings from God: there is oft a continued series, a concatenation; there comes a troop, as she said, when her son Gad came, Genesis 30:11 . God is rich in mercy, Romans 10:12 . Neither are we at any time constrained in him, but in our own heart.
Did the king Ahasuerus give ] For into the king’s hands was all Haman’s estate forfeited. The Turks have a proverb, He that is greatest in office is but a statue of glass. Few of their viziers die in their beds, but are cut off at a short warning, and all they have is confiscated.
The house of Haman ] i.e. His goods and chattels, all that glory of his riches, whereof he had so greatly boasted, Esther 5:11 , and which he had been so many years heaping and hoarding. Nem0 confidat nimium secundis.
The Jews’ enemy] It is ill being the Church’s enemy: she hath a champion that will stick to her, Isaiah 37:23 , so that her enemies shall all be found liars unto her, Deuteronomy 33:29 . Let them read their destiny in that cup of trembling, burdensome stone, hearth of fire, mentioned Zechariah 12:2-38.12.3 ; Zechariah 12:6 , and hear the Church’s motto, Nemo me impune lacessit; no one provokes me with impunity, there cannot be a greater folly than to be her enemy, for she conquereth even when conquered; as Christ overcame as well by patience as by power, Victa tamen vinces, eversaque Troia resurges.
Unto Esther the queen ] So making good that of Solomon, Proverbs 13:22 . The wealth of the sinner is laid up for the just. See Job 27:16-18.27.17 . Thus was that of the Canaanites for the Israelites, of Nabal for David, of the former tyrants and persecutors, for Constantine the Great, to whom the good God (saith Austin, De C. D. 1. v. c. 25) gave so much worldly wealth, quantas optare nullus auderet, as no man could ever have wished. That Haman was exceeding rich, appeareth by that large offer of his, Esther 3:9 ; who can tell but that he might have as much as Pope John XXII, in whose coffers were found by his heirs two hundred and fifty tons of gold, as Petrarch reporteth.
And Mordecai came before the king ] As his continual attendant and special favourite, his cousin and counsellor; perhaps one of the seven mentioned Esther 1:14 . He that hitherto sat as a servant before the king’s gate is now grown so great a man all upon the sudden. It is the Lord that thus raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth up the beggar from the dunghill, to set them among princes, and to make them inherit the throne of glory, 1 Samuel 2:8 . Promotion cometh neither from the east, west, nor south (where the warm sunshine is), but God is the judge, he putteth down one, and setteth up another, Psalms 75:6-19.75.7 . He advanced Jovinian and Valentinian, men of low birth, to the empire. In the year of grace 518 Justinus was first a swine herd, then a herdsman, then a carpenter, then a soldier, and lastly an emperor. Cromwell, a smith’s son of Putney or thereabouts (whose mother married after to a sheerman), what a great man grew he here to be in King Henry VIII’s time? Virtue exalteth the meanest, when villany tumbleth down the noblest.
For Esther had told what he was unto her ] viz. Her first cousin and foster father, her friend that was as her own soul, as Moses phraseth it, Deuteronomy 13:6 , and preferreth him before brother, son, daughter, wife. His relation to Esther was as a stirrup to help him into the saddle of highest preferment.
Est 8:2 And the king took off his ring, which he had taken from Haman, and gave it unto Mordecai. And Esther set Mordecai over the house of Haman.
Ver. 2. And the king took off his ring ] As a sign of intimate friendship, and a bond of strictest league of love. That this was usual among the Persians, is testified by Alexander. ab Alexandro, Lib. i. c. 26. Of Alexander the Great it is told, that when he died he left his ring to his dearest friend Perdiccas, but his dominions, τω κρατιστω , to the worthiest. This set up competitors, and bred much trouble. Ahasuerus knew that a worthier than Mordecai he could not easily find, and therefore besides that momentary honour he had newly done him, Esther 6:10 , he now not only by this ring admitteth him into nearest friendship, but, as some think, advanceth him to be keeper of the seal, and lord chancellor of all the empire.
Which he had taken from Haman ] And so degraded and exauthorated him before his execution: this is usual.
And gave it unto Mordecai ] Acknowledging thereby his error in promoting so unworthy a man before; whom having punished for his deserts, he here pitcheth upon a better. En Imperatorem valde terribilem nec minus clementem, Behold the very emperor terrible and very little mercy, as Frederick, the elector of Saxony, said of Charles V. Let Ahasuerus be what he wishes, Almighty God is in this text set forth as bountiful to his people, and terrible to his enemies. See Psalms 34:15-19.34.16 .
And Esther set Mordecai over the house of Haman ] As her chief steward, to see that everything went right, and were put to the best. Haman’s sons lived some months after this, but were outed of all. An inheritance may be gotten hastily at the beginning, but the end thereof shall not be blessed, Proverbs 20:21 . He that by usury and unjust gain increaseth his substance, he shall gather it for him that will pity the poor, Proverbs 23:8 . God will provide him both an executor and an overseer, as here he did Haman.
Est 8:3 And Esther spake yet again before the king, and fell down at his feet, and besought him with tears to put away the mischief of Haman the Agagite, and his device that he had devised against the Jews.
Ver. 3. And Esther spake yet again ] Having sped so well before, she is encouraged to speak yet again. Heb. She added to speak before the king, Nec his contenta Esther (Vulg.). She had a further request, and having had so free access, and so good success, she takes the boldness to commence it. We should do so when we come before God. Prayer should be multiplied like those arrows of deliverance, 2 Kings 13:18 , and our suits reinforced while we speak yet again; as Abraham did in his intercession for Sodom. See, for our encouragement, that fourfold comfortable, yet again uttered by the Lord, Zechariah 1:17 .
And fell down at his feet ] This was a more humble posture than yet she had used; importing her lowly mind and most earnest desire, whereunto she added tears, these effectual orators ( - Nam lachrymae pondera vocis habent ) that prevail with the hardest hearts many times, and alter the strongest resolutions. Hereof we have an instance in our chronicles, which, because it somewhat suiteth with the case in this text, I will here relate: King Edward III, laying siege to Calais, they desired parley, and had this final sentence, that six of the chief burgesses should be sent to the king, bareheaded, barefooted, in their shirts, with halters about their necks, the keys of the town and castle in their hands, and submit themselves to the king’s will; for the residue he was content to take to mercy. Those came, and the king commands them presently to be carried to execution, and would not on any suit be diverted, in regard, as he said of his oath, till the queen, great with child, fell on her knees before him, and with tears obtained their pardon, and had them given unto her. Nescit Antipater? said Alexander the Great. Knoweth not Antipater that one tear of my mother Olympias can easily wash off all his accusations of her to me?
To put away the mischief of Haman the Agagite ] She doth not say to reverse the bloody decree of the king of Persia, for this might have irritated that waspish prince, and made him to have rejected her request as unreasonable, impossible. She therefore useth a great deal of commendable prudence ("I wisdom dwell with prudence, and find out knowledge of witty inventions," Pro 8:12 ), and picks out her best time, that she may set her words upon the wheels, as Solomon hath it, Proverbs 25:11 , and utter right words that may be forcible, Job 6:25 . Such another was Abigail, the woman of Tekoah, and the matron of Abel.
And his device that he had devised against the Jews ] All the blame is laid upon Haman, who was indeed a man of wicked devices, and had taken counsel, both crafty and cruel, against God’s people. Him, therefore, she maketh the only author and actor in this business, not once mentioning the king, who yet had ratified the decree, but, by his late dealing with Haman, had sufficiently testified his utter dislike of his own act therein, and cried, Had I wist! ουκ ωμην .
Est 8:4 Then the king held out the golden sceptre toward Esther. So Esther arose, and stood before the king,
Ver. 4. Then the king held out the golden sceptre ] It appeareth by this, that she once more put her life in her hand; hazarding it for her people’s safety (as Arsinoe interposed her own body between her children and the murderers sent to slay them), and so performing her promise made to Mordecai, Esther 4:16 . God’s children are all such as will not lie, Isaiah 63:8 ; if they swear to their hurt, yet they dare not change, Psalms 15:4 , dare not say and unsay, 2 Corinthians 1:18-47.1.19 . Of many promises it may be said, as Tertullian doth to the peacock, that they are all in changeable colours; as often changed as moved. Holy Esther was none such; no more was that blessed martyr of Jesus Christ, Mr Hawkes, when in the flames remembering his promise to certain friends (to give them a sign whether the rage of the pain were tolerable), be reached up his hands burning on a light fire, and clapped them over his head three times together, to the great astonishment of the beholders, but especially to them who understood the matter.
So Esther arose, and stood before the king ] Experience had bred confidence. They likewise that humble themselves under the mighty hand of God shall be exalted in due time, 1 Peter 5:6 . And as the lower the ebb the higher will be the tide; so the lower we descend in humiliation, the higher shall we ascend in exaltation.
Est 8:5 And said, If it please the king, and if I have found favour in his sight, and the thing [seem] right before the king, and I [be] pleasing in his eyes, let it be written to reverse the letters devised by Haman the son of Hammedatha the Agagite, which he wrote to destroy the Jews which [are] in all the king’s provinces:
Ver. 5. And said, If it please the king ] See Esther 5:8 . Thus, when we pray to God, we must take unto us words, and speak in a low language, as broken men. The poor speaketh supplications, Proverbs 19:28 .
And the thing seem right before the king ] She taketh not upon her to prescribe, but is willing to subscribe to the king’s good pleasure. Let us do so to the only wise God. John 2:8 , the mother of Christ doth not too earnestly in words press him to do that she desired, but only lays open the case, They have no wine, referring all to his discretion; so ought we in our prayers for temporal things. Socrates taught his scholars to ask no more of God but this, that he would do them good; but how, and how much, they should leave that to him, as best understanding what is best and fittest for us. Those in the Gospel that would needs be at a certainty, and bargain with the Master of the vineyard for a penny a day, when they had their penny, they went grumbling away, that it was but a penny, Matthew 20:10-40.20.12 .
And I be pleasing in his eyes ] If my beauty please him, which is the best letter of recommendation to a prince, as the queen mother of France was wont to say.
Let it be written to reverse the letter ] She did not request to rule the whole empire for three days, as Semiramis once did; nor to set Persepolis on fire, as Alexander the Great did, at the motion of his concubine; but that the king her husband would revoke and rescind the letters of Haman’s device, that he would by new letters correct and over-rule (as the Vulgate Latin hath it) those formerly devised by Haman, that he would antiquate and abolish the plots and projects of that wicked man. And albeit this request of hers might seem to some uncivil and overly bold; yet in a case of such great consequence, wherein the glory of God, the preservation of his people, and the honour, of the king were so much concerned, she doubteth not to present and prosecute it. Hinc igitur satis est conspicua Esterae sancta audacia, therefore this is enough holy boldness in the eyes of Esther, saith an interpreter; such as was also that of Cranmer in the parliament house, when the Six Articles were in agitation; and that of George, marquis of Brandenburg, who professed at the imperial diet at Ausburg, Malle se flexis ibi coram Caesare genibus, speculatori cervicem feriendam statim praebere, that he would rather lose his head presently there in the presence of the emperor, than to yield his assent to the Popish Interim (Scultet. Annal.).
Est 8:6 For how can I endure to see the evil that shall come unto my people? or how can I endure to see the destruction of my kindred?
Ver. 6. For how can I endure to see the evil, &c. ] She had her life already given her at her petition; but unless she might have her people at her request, who were sold as well as herself, to be destroyed, to be slain, and to perish, Esther 7:3-17.7.4 , her life would be unto her a joyless, that is, a lifeless life, Mortis enim habet vices quae trahitur vita gemitibus. It is rather a death than a life that is spent in heaviness and horror. And this would be Esther’s case if her people should be massacred, as was designed and decreed; such was her holy sympathy and endeared affection to her countrymen and fellow citizens of heaven, that she could not live to behold such a sad and bloody spectacle:
Absit ut excisa possim super vivere Troia,
said Anchises to his son Æneas, that would have saved his life in that common destruction of his country: Far be it from me to outlive Troy. Curtius telleth us, that Alexander the Great, when he was extremely thirsty, and had water offered to him, he would not receive it, but put it by with this brave speech, Nec solus bibere sustineo, nec tam exiguum dividere omnibus possum, There is not enough for all my soldiers to share with me, and to drink it alone I cannot find in my heart, I will never do it. Compare herewith this speech of Esther, and you will find it far the better, as being full of those precious graces (whereunto Alexander was a perfect stranger), humility, prudence, faith, zeal toward God, and ardent love toward his people. Oh how great is the number of those today (saith Lavater here), qui ne micam Spiritus Estherae habent, who have not the least parcel of Esther’s spirit, but are all for themselves, and for their own interests!
Or how can I endure to see ] Heb. Quomodo potero et videbo? How can I? and shall I see? how should I do otherwise than sink at the sight (as she did in the Roman History, when her son was butchered; and as the Virgin Mary felt a sword at her heart when she beheld Christ crucified, Luk 2:35 ). Melancthon said, that good Oecolampadius died of grief for the Church’s calamities. Nehemiah was heart sick for the breaches of Joseph, Nehemiah 2:3 Amos 6:6 . Moses wished himself expunged, and Paul accursed, rather than it should go ill with God’s people.
Est 8:7 Then the king Ahasuerus said unto Esther the queen and to Mordecai the Jew, Behold, I have given Esther the house of Haman, and him they have hanged upon the gallows, because he laid his hand upon the Jews.
Ver. 7. Then the king Ahasuerus said unto Esther, &c. ] Here Haman’s letters of Mark are reversed by Ahasuerus, whose answer to Esther is full of gentleness and sweetness; but yet such as discovereth a mind perplexed, and cast into straits, as princes eftsoons are by the subtilties and malice of wicked counsellors, Daniel 6:15 , so that they cannot do as they would, unless they will bring all into a combustion; though usually where the word of a king is there is power, Ecclesiastes 7:4 ; and the old lord treasurer, Burleigh, was wont to say, that he knew not what an act of parliament could not do in England; and King James, in his speech in the Star chamber, A.D. 1616, said as much.
Behold, I have given Esther the house of Haman ] i.e. I have done somewhat toward the performance of my promise made to Esther, Esther 7:2 , and more I am willing to do, only I must observe good order, and do things with discretion. Behold, I give you potestatem plenariam et omnimodam, all the power I have, that therewith you may help yourselves, only my former decree I cannot reverse, but I shall stir up great garboils in the kingdom. Josephus indeed telleth us, that Ahasuerus did retract the edict procured by Haman, and further, gave power to the Jews, that if any withstood the king’s will herein they should kill them, &c. But we are not bound to believe him in all things; as neither Herodotus, Livy, nor any of the historians (the sacred always excepted), for Vopiscus, who was one of them, confesseth, neminem historicorum non aliquid esse mentiturn, that there is none of them that hath not taken liberty to lie more or less (in Vita Aureliani), and it is manifest that Josephus’s manner is to recite what he thinks likely to have been done, and what is fit to be written of such a business. Baronius annales facit non scribit, saith one: think the same of Josephus, he rather maketh a history, sometimes, than writeth it. And therefore that is but a sorry excuse that the Papists make for their sacrilegious forbidding the people to read the Scriptures, when they refer them to Josephus, as having the history of the Bible more largely and plainly described.
Because he laid his hand upon the Jews ] He did it because he designed it. Like as Balak also arose and fought with Israel, Joshua 24:9 , and yet the story saith nothing so. But that is in Scripture said to be done that is intended or attempted. And this the heathen also saw by the dim light of nature. Hence that of Seneca, Fecit quisque quantum voluit. He made anyone as great as he wished. And another saith,
Quae quia non licuit, non facit, illa facit.
Polybius attributeth the death of Antiochus to his sacrilege only in his purpose and will. This Josephus thinks could not be, sc. that a man having a purpose only to sin should be punished by God for it. Hence he derideth Polybius for the forecited censure; but he had no cause so to do, for the heathens herein exceeded the Pharisees, who held thought free, and Josephus was soured with their leaven.
Est 8:8 Write ye also for the Jews, as it liketh you, in the king’s name, and seal [it] with the king’s ring: for the writing which is written in the king’s name, and sealed with the king’s ring, may no man reverse.
Ver. 8. Write ye also for the Jews ] Here was one syngram, or authoritative writing, crossing another. What could the people think of this, but that crowns have their cares, and it were a wonder if great persons, in the multitude of their distractions, should not let fall some incongruities. We must not think, saith Lavater here, if princes or states command things different from one another, that it proceedeth from lightness of mind; but that they make laws and set forth edicts according to the state and necessity of the times, and as the public good requireth. In the beginning of Queen Elizabeth’s reign here (when men’s minds differed concerning religion, and reformation could not safely be wrought at once) it was by one and the same proclamation commanded, that no man should speak irreverently of the sacrament of the altar, and both kinds were permitted in the administration. Religion was changed without commotion by degrees; after that the Romish superstition had stood a whole month and more, after the death of Queen Mary, as afore. The sacrifice of the mass was not abolished till half a year later; nor images cast out of churches till two months after that. Here, then, let St James’s counsel take place. "Be swift to hear, slow to speak"; to speak evil of governors when they answer not our expectations, but seem to command contradictories. There are certain Arcana imperil, secrets of state, that most men understand not; and must therefore dedicate them to victory, as the Romans did that lake the depth whereof they could not fathom nor find out. Besides, we must know that there will be faults so long as there be men, and faults will slip between the best men’s fingers; as Bishop Jewel was wont to say. And as we endure with patience a barren year if it happen, and unseasonable weather; so must we tolerate the imperfections of rulers, and quietly expect either reformation or alteration.
As it liketh you ] Having been so lately deceived in Haman, and by him miscarried to the ratifying of that bloody edict, he will no more trust his own judgment, but refers the managing of the Jews’ deliverance (which now he greatly desired) to their prudence, discretion, and faithfulness. Few kings would have yielded to have retracted, lest they should thereby seem light and inconstant, and confess themselves to have been in an error. Hence, right or wrong, their laws must stand; and if any demand a reason, Sic volo, sic iubeo, So I wish, so I order, must stop his mouth; and Quod ego volo pro Canone sit, Let my will be your reason and rule, as Constantius said to the orthodox bishops, refusing to communicate with the Arians. But God, who tameth the fiercest creatures, had, for his poor people’s sake, brought Ahasuerus to a better bent; so that rather than contract the stain and sting of such barbarous cruelty, he will run the hazard of being accounted inconstant; and not care though a Retraxit Retraction be entered against him; as is usually against the plaintiff when he cometh into the court where his plea is, and saith he will not proceed.
In the king’s name, and seal it with the king’s ring] He was well persuaded of their fidelity, piety, and prudence. Otherwise it had been too great a weakness in this prince (who had been so lately abused by Haman) to have trusted his whole power in the hands of strangers. But natural conscience cannot but stoop to the image of God, wheresoever it meeteth therewith, and have high thoughts of such, as Pharaoh had of Joseph, Nebuchadnezzar of those three worthies, Darius of Daniel, &c. Surely, when men see in the saints that which is above ordinary, or beyond their expectations, they are afraid of the name of God which is called upon by them, Deuteronomy 28:10 , and will intrust them more than any other whatsoever. It is a problem in Aristotle, why man is credited more than other creatures? The answer is, οτι θεους νομιζει μονον , because he alone reverenceth God, therefore you may trust him: honesty floweth from piety.
For the writing which is written in the king’s name, &c.] Therefore you must not take it amiss that I reverse not Haman’s letters; for I also am under a law (whatever my predecessor Cambyses held to the contrary), neither need you doubt but that what you write in my name and sign with my seal will be authentic, and pass for a current countermand, fear it not.
Est 8:9 Then were the king’s scribes called at that time in the third month, that [is], the month Sivan, on the three and twentieth [day] thereof; and it was written according to all that Mordecai commanded unto the Jews, and to the lieutenants, and the deputies and rulers of the provinces which [are] from India unto Ethiopia, an hundred twenty and seven provinces, unto every province according to the writing thereof, and unto every people after their language, and to the Jews according to their writing, and according to their language.
Ver. 9. Then were the king’s scribes called] This verse is noted to be the longest in all the Bible. It was Robert Stevens, the printer (I think), that first distinguished the chapters by verses; and this he hath done not so well in some places as were to be wished. These scribes were as ready at Mordecai’s call as before they had been at Haman’s, Esther 3:12 , neither cared they much what they wrote, so that they might be sure it was the king’s pleasure they should do it. As for their religion, it may seem to be the same with that of Gallio, the proconsul, Acts 18:17 , a mere irreligion, their motto, Mihi placet quicquid Regi placet, Whatsoever pleaseth the king shall please me; and if their hearts could be ripped up, there would be found written therein, The god of this present world.
At that time ] As soon as the word was out of the king’s mouth; delay might have bred danger. Habent aulae suum cito, cito. Courtiers are quick of despatch, as they carefully observe their mollissima fandi tempera, so when once they have got a grant they lose no time, they know that opportunities are headlong, and once lost irrecoverable. Hannibal, when he could have taken Rome, would not; when he would, could not. Vincere scis Hannibal victoria uti nescis, said one to him (Plutarch). Mordecai made use of the present, the nick of time. Esther could tell him, by experience, that a well chosen season is the greatest advantage of an action, which, as it is seldom found in haste, so it is too often lost in delay. It is not for Mordecai to drive off any longer, the whole Church was in heaviness, and needed comfort; and some might be slain ere notice came to the contrary. Ad opera brevis hora ferendam est (Ovid. Metam. 1. 4).
In the third month ] Two months and more the poor Jews lay under the sentence of death, in a forlorn condition. God loves to help such as are forsaken from their hopes, to help at a dead lift, to comfort the abject, 2 Corinthians 7:6 . Though Jacob be a worm, yet God will not crush him, but cherish him. And "I will re store health unto thee, and I will heal thee of thy wounds, saith the Lord; because they called thee an outcast, saying, This is Zion whom no man seeketh after," Jeremiah 30:17 . The seasonableness of God’s mercies doth much commend them. These poor wretches cried, and the Lord heard them, and saved them out of all their troubles, Psalms 34:6 .
This is the month Sivan ] That is, May, when all things are in their prime and pride, and the earth checkered and entrailed with variety, of flowers, and God is seen to be Magnus in minimis, great in the smallest creatures. Then did the Sun of righteousness arise to these afflicted exiles, with healing in his wings, Mal 4:2 like as the sunbeams did to the dry and cold earth, calling out the herbs and flowers, and healing those deformities that winter had brought upon it.
On the three and twentieth day thereof ] The precise time is thus noted, not only to set forth the certainty and truth of the history, but also to let us see what was the present state of the Church, and what is God’s usual dispensation and dealing with his people. For two months and more they were in a very low, and as it might seem, a lost condition. Now they have eight months’ opertunity to breath and prepare themselves to their just and lawful defence yet they are not without various difficulties and discouragements, until God had given them a full and final victory over their enemies. The saints’ prosperity here, like checker-work, is interwoven with fears and crosses. They must not look for a perpetual serenity till they come to heaven. I shall die in my nest, said Job; I shall never be moved, saith David. How apt are the holiest to be proud and secure, to settle upon their lees, unless God pour them from vessel to vessel! This the wise God well knoweth, and therefore exerciseth them with interchanges. See the circle that he goeth in with his Davids, Psalms 30:5-19.30.10 , and reckon upon this, that if our sorrows be long, they are light, if sharper, the shorter; as thunder, the more violent, the less permanent.
Flebile principium melior fortuna sequetur.
Tears first followed by better fortune.
And it was written according to all that Moredecai commanded ] Had he not been a man of singular parts he had not been fit for such a service. It could not otherwise be, but that many eyes were upon him, and some evil eyes, that would more curiously pry into his proceedings than Laban once did into Jacob’s stuff. It behoved him, therefore, to look to his behaviour, and to weigh well his words in dictating such a ticklish edict as this to the king’s secretaries. But God, who had called him to this high employment, did likewise gift him for it. He was with his mouth (as once with Moses, Exo 4:11 ), and taught him what he should say. There is no mouth into which God cannot put fit words: and how oft doth he choose the weak and unwise to confound the learned and mighty, as he did Balaam’s ass to convince his master!
Unto the Jews ] To them first, because they were in their deepest dumps, and stood in need of comfort. Go, tell my disciples and Peter; let him know with the first that I am risen, for he is in greatest heaviness.
And to the lieutenants, and the deputies, &c. ] That they might know that the king’s mind was altered, and that the Jews were now to be favoured and furthered in their just and necessary defence. The equity of this edict, so opposite to the former, they were not to dispute but to despatch. To argue or debate the business were presumption, proud curiosity; to search the reason thereof, to detract or disobey, high offence, equal to rebellion.
Unto every province according to the writing thereof ] In their several characters, and manner of writing. The China and Japan writing is from the right hand to the left, but with the lines down the leaf, not crossing, &c.
And unto every people after their language ] The whole earth was once of one language, lip, and speech, Genesis 11:1 . This was the Hebrew tongue, called the Jews’ language here, and more plainly, Isaiah 36:11 (though some fond men have given the seniority to other languages, many ages younger than the Hebrew). Ever since the building of Babel languages were confounded, and thereby a great labour laid upon the sons of men. The Hebrew doctors say, that thenceforth for one tongue there were seventy-two languages. Others think there were as many tongues as several kindreds and families; and these have multiplied also since that time exceedingly. It was Mordecai’s care here, that all nations under the Persian dominion might have the king’s edict in their various dialects, that so none might plead ignorance. It should be the magistrate’s care that their people have the law of God, the Holy Scriptures, in a known language, since the ignorance thereof is destructive to the soul. This the pope denieth to those misled and muzzled souls, that are fast locked up in his dark dungeon; and giveth this bald reason, Ne sacra verba vilescerent, lest those holy words should be undervalued, and become too cheap. This is good Turkism; the Mahometans read their Koran (which is their Bible) in the Arabic (which is their learned) tongue, lest, if translated, it should be profaned by the vulgar.
Est 8:10 And he wrote in the king Ahasuerus’ name, and sealed [it] with the king’s ring, and sent letters by posts on horseback, [and] riders on mules, camels, [and] young dromedaries:
Ver. 10. And he wrote in the king Ahasuerus’s name] For he knew that "where the word of a king is, there is power: and who may say unto him, What doest thou?" Ecclesiastes 8:4 ; see Daniel 5:19 . Mordecai, as he was careful not to abuse his authority, so he spareth not to improve it to the utmost for the Church’s good. We may also lawfully and comfortably improve the benefits and privileges granted us by princes and other benefactors. Constantine’s donation and Peter’s patrimony is much boasted of by that antichrist of Rome. A mere fiction, as various learned men of their own side have proved (Cusanus, Ficinus, Volater, Otho Frising). But if it were never so true, what power had Constantine to give away and alienate such a considerable part of the empire (might he not well have been therefore called Pupillus, as he was in scorn by some heathen historians for his bounty to poor Christians)? or with what conscience could the bishop of Rome have accepted of such a gift, and left it to his successors. But it was neither so nor so. Not Constantine, but Pepin, enlarged the pope’s territories; as not Peter, but Phocas, is the right craggy rock upon which is founded the pope’s supremacy.
And sealed it with the king’s ring] See Esther 3:12 , and observe what a strange turn of things here was all on the sudden. Merlin from this clause gathereth, that the king perused and approved whatsoever the scribes wrote by the appointment of Mordecai, he saw it, and signed it.
And sent letters by posts ] See Esther 3:15 . That was a witty speech of him, who said of secretaries that pretend much to Scripture: they were like posts, that bring truth in their letters and lies in their mouths. And of another, that they do angariare, make posts of the Holy Scriptures; compelling them to go two miles, which of themselves would go but one.
And riders on mules ] Which are counted swifter than horses, and yet a horse is so swift a creature, that the Argives consecrated a horse to the sun, as the swiftest beast to the swiftest planet, Equitantes in equis angariis riding on the public couriers horse (Tremel.), O ταχιστος τω ταχυτατω .
Camels ] These were large strong beasts, that could endure long and hard travel. It is said of them, that they do drink, in praesens et in posterum, for the present and the future, and can hold out travelling three days together without food.
And young dromedaries ] These were also swift beasts, Jeremiah 2:23 , and therefore it is by antiphrasis that among us a slow person is called a dromedary, Ut lucus a non lucendo, bellum quasi minime bellum.
Est 8:11 Wherein the king granted the Jews which [were] in every city to gather themselves together, and to stand for their life, to destroy, to slay, and to cause to perish, all the power of the people and province that would assault them, [both] little ones and women, and [to take] the spoil of them for a prey,
Ver. 11. Wherein the king granted the Jews ] The slaughter, therefore, that they made of their enemies was not unlawful; because, 1. They were armed with authority. 2. In their own necessary defence.
To gather themselves together ] Which till now they might not do, lest it should seem a riot or rebellion. Conquerors use to disarm and disperse those whom they have vanquished, ut sit
Una salus victis, nullam spirare salutem,
that they may not make headway and shake off the yoke.
And to stand for their life ] Life is a precious mercy, such as all creatures make much of, from the highest angel to the lowest worm. See the sweetness of it, 1Ki 20:32 Jeremiah 39:18 ; Jeremiah 45:5 ; Ecc 9:4; Job 2:4 . Quis vitam non vult? Who does not wish life? saith Austin. Joseph is yet alive, saith Jacob, Genesis 45:26 . This was more joy to him than all his honour. A man is bound to sacrifice all he hath to the service of his life, and to die in the defence of it; to kill another rather than to be killed by another. If it be the defence of a man’s own life which the king himself attempteth, violently and iniuriously, to take away, in such a case ordinarily it shall be lawful for a subject to defend himself, although the death of the prince follow thereupon, saith Suarez. In the defence of himself and his friends, it may be lawful for a private person to lay hands upon his lawful prince that setteth upon him without cause, saith another casuist. Only such an act as this must not proceed out of hatred or desire of revenge, but out of right self-love and pure necessity; adhibita magna inculpatae tutelae moderatione, as the lawyers call it, using great moderation of harmless defence.
To destroy, and to slay, and to cause to perish ] Mordecai maketh use of the selfsame terms that Haman had done, Esther 3:13 , that all men might know that his commission was altogether as large as the
others, and that they would vim vi repellere, force to repell force, stand upon their guard, slay all such as should seek their lives, and fight stoutly, pro aris et soris. for the altars and their limbs. This, saith Cicero, is:
Lex non scripta sed nata; ad quam non docti, sed facti; non iustituti, sed imbuti sumus, &c., Law is not written but born, at someone, not taught, but done, not established but absorbed, that which uncorrupted nature teacheth every man (Cic. pro Milone).
Both little ones and women ] This seemeth spoken in terrorem, in fear that the enemy might forbear to meddle, if not for their own sakes, yet for their wives and children, whom many hold more dear to
themselves than their own lives. But the text may be better read thus: To destroy, to slay, and to cause to perish all the power of the people and province that would assault them, their little ones and women.
And to take the spoil of them for a prey ] This also would work much with those that had estates to lose: for money is the monarch of this present world; and many had as leave part with their blood as
Est 8:12 Upon one day in all the provinces of king Ahasuerus, [namely], upon the thirteenth [day] of the twelfth month, which [is] the month Adar.
Ver. 12. Upon one day in all the provinces, &c. ] That once fatal day, but henceforth (the brunt once past) festival. That long-looked-for day, wherein the enemy hoped to revel in the Church’s ruins; to frame comedies out of her tragedies; to wash their feet in her blood, yea, to ride their horses up to the saddle skirts therein, as Farnesius, the pope’s champion, threatened to do in Germany, and Minerius in France, and the Papists here in England, at the death of Queen Elizabeth, and again upon the good success of the gunpowder plot, that great crack and black day, as they called it. For the speeding and furthering whereof, they had a devilish ditty, consisting of a seven-fold psalmody, which secretly they passed from hand to hand with tunes set to be sung for the cheering up of their wicked hearts with an expectation (as they called it) of their day of Jubilee. This is one passage therein, Confirm your hearts with hope, for the day of your redemption is not far off. The year of visitation draweth to an end, and jubilation is at hand, &c. (Spec. Bell. Sacr. xx. 2). The psalter is hard to be had, for they are taken up by the Papists, as other books be that discover their shame. But do what they can, shame shall be the promotion of fools (as it was of Haman), but the wise (as Mordecai) shall inherit glory, Proverbs 3:35 .
Est 8:13 The copy of the writing for a commandment to be given in every province [was] published unto all people, and that the Jews should be ready against that day to avenge themselves on their enemies.
Ver. 13. The copy of the writing ] Transcripts of the original were everywhere published and proclaimed, as the contrary edict had been before, Esther 3:14 . This must needs amuse and amaze the people, but who durst say to their monarch, What doest thou? Is it safe to take a lion by the beard, or a bear by the tooth?
That the Jews should be ready against that day ] God sometimes taketh notice (in his vindictive justice), as of the offending member, Jdg 1:6-7 Luke 16:24 , so of the place where, 1 Kings 21:19 (Henry III of France was stabbed to death in that very chamber where he had contrived the Massacre of Paris), and of the time when, mischief should have been acted, to prevent and punish it, as Exodus 15:9-2.15.10 . Ladislaus, king of Bohemia and Hungary, having conspired with other Popish princes to root out the true Christians in Bohemia, on such a day, on his marriage day, was immediately before, in the midst of his great, preparations, visited with a pestilent sore in his groin, whereof within thirty-six hours he died (Mr Clark’s Examples). Henry II, king of France, the selfsame day that he had purposed to persecute the Church, and burn certain of his guard whom he had in prison for religion (at whose execution be had promised to have been himself in person), in the midst of his triumph, at a tourney, was wounded so sore in the head with a spear, by one of his own subjects, that ere long he died (Acts & Mon. 1784). The duke of Guise threatened to destroy utterly the town of Orleans, but was himself slain that very evening. The constable of France made a vow, that as soon as he had taken St Quintons he would set upon Geneva; but sped as ill as Julian the apostate did, when going against the Persians, he swore that upon his return he would offer the blood of Christians. But the Galilean (as he called Christ in scorn) took an order with him ere that day came; the carpenter’s son had made ready his coffin; as was foretold him by a Christian, in answer to that bitter jeer.
To avenge themselves on their enemies ] This was no private revenge, but licensed by the chief magistrates, intrusted by God with the administration of his kingdom upon earth, by the exercise of vindictive and remunerative justice, Romans 13:4 . And here, Bonis nocet qui malis parcit. He wrongeth the good that punisheth not the bad. True it is, that private revenge is utterly unlawful unless it be in a man’s own necessary defence, where the case is so sudden that a man cannot call in the help of the magistrate, but must either kill or be killed. Otherwise that of Lactantius holdeth true, Non minus mali est iniuriam referre quam inferre. It is no lesser evil to pay back a wrong than to inflict it. And that of Seneca, immune verbum est ultio, revenge is a cruel word, manhood some call it, but it is rather doghood. The manlier any man is the milder and more merciful, as David, 2 Samuel 1:12 , and Julius Caesar, who when he had Pompey’s head presented to him, wept and said, Non mihi placet vindicta sed victoria, I seek not revenge, but victory. The Jews here sought not revenge, but safety. If they had been sold for bondmen, they had borne it in silence and sufferance, the language of the lamb, dumb before the shearer, Esther 7:4 .
Esther 8:14 [So] the posts that rode upon mules [and] camels went out, being hastened and pressed on by the king’s commandment. And the decree was given at Shushan the palace.
Ver. 14. So the posts that rode upon mules and camels went out ] Thus God provided that his poor afflicted should be speedily comforted, and assured that their prayers were accepted; when this good news came flying toward them, as on the wings of the wind, over the mountains of Bether, all lets and impediments. Thy words were heard, and I am come for thy words, saith the angel to Daniel, Daniel 10:12 ; yea, as these posts were hastened and pressed on by the king’s commandment, so was the angel Gabriel caused to fly swiftly, Daniel 9:21 , or as the Hebrew hath it, with weariness of flight, to bring the prophet an answer to his prayers. Who would not then pray to such a God as maketh his angels spirits, his ministers a flame of fire, to convey seasonable relief to his poor suppliants?
being hastened ] Heb. Frighted and head-longed, by a solicitous celerity, hasting and hurrying for life, as we say; being driven on to a despatch with utmost expedition, they threw themselves onward their way, as the second word here used importeth.
And the decree was given at Shushan the palace ] So had the former decree against the Jews been, Esther 3:15 ; the post also hastened, as now. There is no doubt but many disaffected persons would jeer at this last decree, as extorted from the king by the queen’s importunity; and would persuade themselves and others that the king was of the same mind as before, to have the Jews rooted out; only to give his wife content he had set forth this counter edict, which they would not take notice of. Thus those that are ripe for ruin harden their own hearts, and hasten their own destruction.
Est 8:15 And Mordecai went out from the presence of the king in royal apparel of blue and white, and with a great crown of gold, and with a garment of fine linen and purple: and the city of Shushan rejoiced and was glad.
Ver. 15. And Mordecai went out from the presence of the king ] Whither he went is not set down. It is probable he either went to Haman’s house, the oversight whereof was committed to him by Esther, or that he went to some other parts of the city, upon the public employment, whereof now he had his hands full; and, therefore, all his faculties were in motion, and every motion seemed a well guided action, as one saith well of Queen Elizabeth, when she first came to the crown.
In royal apparel ] Suitable to his new condition. This he might lawfully do, no doubt, as did Joseph, Daniel, Solomon. Generally those that are in king’s houses are clothed in softs, and go gorgeously. There is indeed a blame worthy excess herein, Zep 1:8 Isaiah 3:18 . Alcisthenes’s costly cloak, prized at one hundred and twenty talents; Demetrius, king of Macedonia’s, robe of state, which none of his successors would wear, propter invidiosam impendii magnificentiam on account of their hatred of its expensive magnificance. (Athenaeus); Herod’s cloth of silver, which, by refraction of the sunbeams upon it, gave such a splendour, that the foolish people for that, and for his speech, cried him up for a god. Good Mordecai thought never a whit the better of himself for his gay clothing; neither did his heart rise with his clothes, as the boat doth with the water that carrieth it. He affecteth not this change, but rather accepteth it; he endureth it rather than desireth it. Sheep’s russet A coarse homespun woollen cloth of a reddish-brown, grey or neutral colour, formerly used for the dress of peasants and country-folk would please him every whit as well as cloth of tissue, but that the king will have it so; and being now the second man in the kingdom, he must go accordingly, lest he should be slighted, as Agesilaus, king of Sparta, was by the Persians for his overly plain habit. Vestis virum facit, a man is esteemed as he is arrayed: cultusque concessus atque magnificus, comely and costly attire addeth authority, as Quintilian long since observed.
And with a great crown of gold ] We read not that Haman had any such. It may be the king had bestowed it upon Mordecai as a special favour, for having saved his life, Esther 2:19-17.2.21 . Sure it is that he gave it to him for a better cause than Alexander the Great did his crown of one hundred and eighty pounds, provided by him at a great supper, and promised to him that should drink most. Mordecai had his temporal crown upon far better terms, and yet looked for a more weighty one in heaven, 2 Corinthians 4:17 , even such a weight of glory, as that if the body were not by the power of God upheld, it were impossible it should bear it.
And with a garment of fine linen ] Or of silk, which was anciently sold for its weight in gold, as Pliny testifieth. This rich glutton is taxed for the too frequent use of it, Luke 16:19 . It was his every day’s wear, as the Greek word importeth ( ενεδιδυσκετο . Verb, frequentativum ).
And purple ] This was also much worn by great ones of old. Dives was daily clothed with it, and was so far from cloking his pride, that he proclaimed it in his cloak. This purple colour was made, saith Lavater here, of the juice or blood of a certain shell-fish. Now, they say, there is no right purple. Perhaps, when the four monarchies ceased, purple ceased with them.
And the city of Shushan rejoiced and was glad ] At one time they were in perplexity, Esther 3:5 , now in jollity. "Then said they among the heathen, The Lord hath done great things for them." The joyful Jews there by way of antiphony answer, "The Lord hath indeed done great things for us; whereof we are glad," Psalms 126:2-19.126.3 . Tremellius, after Eben Ezra, rendereth it, And the city of Shushan shone ( lucebat ); the lily was now most lovely and lightsome. The word signifieth properly hinnivit, neighed as a horse; which he doeth not but when he is well pleased. The whole city was well apaid, but the poor Jews were overjoyed; so that their mouth was filled with laughter and their tongue with singing; this is the import of the metaphor here used.
Est 8:16 The Jews had light, and gladness, and joy, and honour.
Ver. 16. The Jews had light and gladness ] "Truly the light is sweet, and a pleasant thing it is for the eyes to behold the sun," Ecclesiastes 11:7 . Such as have been long shut up in a dark dungeon, as Joseph, will surely say so. These Jews had for two months and more lain buried alive, as it were, in heaviness and horror, they walked in the very vale of the shadow of death, the darkest side of death; death, in its most hideous and horrid representations, stared them in the face.
Luctus ubique pavor, et plurima mortis imago (Virg.).
Their motto at the best was that of the city of Geneva out of Job, Post tenebras spero lucem, after darkness we have some faint hopes of life. But now it was otherwise with them. Light was risen to these righteous, and joy to these upright in heart. Iudaeis fuit lux et laetitia (or, as Tremellius rendereth it, illustris laetitia, famous gladness), gaudium et gloria, unspeakable joy and full of glory, as St Peter phraseth it, an exuberancy of spiritual joy and inward comfort, fitter to be believed than possible to be discoursed. For we may not think, that the joy and gladness here mentioned was no more than that of profane and carnal people, upon the receipt of some special mercy, or signal deliverance. They rejoice (harlot-like) in the gift, but not in the giver; they nibble upon the shell, but taste not of the kernel. The joy that these Jews had was the fruit of fasting and prayer, according to that of our Saviour, Ask, that your joy may he full; pray, that ye may joy. The fountain of it was the light of God’s loving countenance; it was φεγγος σωτηριον , as Josephus hath it here, a salvifical light. The matter of it was the happy change of their late lamentable condition; and this as a pledge of that light of life eternal, see Psalms 23:5-19.23.6 , the end of it was a testification of their hearty thankfulness to God for his inconceivable loving kindness, a breaking forth into those or the like words of the psalmist, "Blessed be the Lord, who daily loadeth us with benefits, even the God of our salvation. Selah. He that is our God is the God of salvation; and unto God the Lord belong the issues from death," Psalms 68:19-19.68.20 .
And gladness ] Habitual joy, solid and substantial. Crede mihi, res severa est, gaudium verum. Believe me, saith Seneca, true joy is a severe and solid business, that few men are acquainted with. It is indeed the just man’s jewel, such as the stranger may not meddle with, Proverbs 14:13 , he is flatly forbidden it, Hosea 9:1 . The wicked man’s joy is of another alloy than that of the righteous. The light of a candle is fed with stinking tallow, but the light of the sun hath influence from heaven to feed it, and therefore is not so soon blown out. Like as together with manna there fell a dew, so together with temporal mercies and deliverances there is a secret influence of God to a spiritual heart, as there was to these good Jews, and thence their so well-rooted gladness. It was such as did not only wet the mouth, but warm the heart, smooth the brow, but fill the breast; it was more inward, as the windows of Solomon’s temple were wider within than without. Whereas, on the contrary, the wicked’s joy is but in the face only, and not in the heart, 2 Corinthians 5:12 , it is but the hypocrisy of mirth, like a counterfeit complexion. It is but a cold armful, φυχρον παραγκυλισμα , as Lycophron said of an ill wife; or, as Lamech’s second wife’s name was Zillah, that is, the shadow of a wife, so is this the shadow of gladness, the substance is wanting.
And honour ] Heb. weight, account, esteem. The poor Jews, formerly slighted, were now highly honoured; chari et rari, as Isaiah 43:4 , bright and glorious, as the word signifieth, Job 31:26 , precious and ponderous, so that their name was much set by, as 1 Samuel 18:30 . This was the Lord’s own work, for it is he that gives credit, and fashioneth men’s opinions; he, besides wisdom, gave Solomon honour.
Est 8:17 And in every province, and in every city, whithersoever the king’s commandment and his decree came, the Jews had joy and gladness, a feast and a good day. And many of the people of the land became Jews; for the fear of the Jews fell upon them.
Ver. 17. And in every province, and in every city ] Not at Shushan only, where it began, but throughout the whole empire there was a general joy among the Jews. For albeit the worst was not yet past with them, but the thirteenth of Adar is meant still by Haman’s abettors to be a bloody day (and this the Jews knew well enough, and therefore prepared for the encounter, so that they could not be without their fears and anxieties), yet the joy of the Lord was their strength. "Their hopes and prayers were like those of David," Psalms 138:8 , "The Lord will perfect that which concerneth us: thy mercy, O Lord, endureth for ever: forsake not the work of thine own hands."
The Jews had joy and gladness ] Gaudium in re, gaudinm in spe; gaudium de possessione gaudium de promissione; gaudium de praesenti exhibitione, gaudium de futura expectatione joy in matter, joy in hope, joy about the possession, joy about promise, joy in outworking of the present, joy about the future providence. (Bern.). The Persians might revel, but the Jews only rejoiced; See Trapp on " Est 8:16 "
A feast and a good day ] Convivium et hilaria, a compotation and a merry meeting, such as the saints have here, in their foretastes of eternal life, those sweetmeats of the feast of a good conscience (so Mr Latimer called the assurance of heaven), which they have here, before they come to that full feast above. This feast and good day here mentioned was but a preparation unto that in the following chapter, when the warfare was accomplished, and all fears removed, and God said, Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, &c.
And many of the people of the land became Jews ] That is, they were proselyted, professing the Jewish religion, and siding with them; some in sincerity, doubtless, and some out of sinisterity, and for self-respect, because they saw the king favoured them, the queen and Mordecai were altogether of them and for them, &c.
Mobile sic sequitur fortunae lumina vulgus (Ovid. Trist. 1. 1).
So the common people quickly follow the light of fortune. So that mixed multitude, Exodus 12:38 , moved with miracles, removed out of Egypt with the Israelites, took hold of the skirts of these Jews, and said, "We will go with you," Zechariah 8:23 . So in David’s days, while he dealt prudently and prospered, so that he became the head of the heathen, a people whom he had not known offered him their service, and strangers feignedly submitted themselves unto him, Psalms 18:43-19.18.44 . The like they did in Solomon’s days, as Josephus relateth; as also, that the people then were very careful how they received such Prosperity Proselytes. So, many strangers followed the captives returning out of Babylon, under the conduct of Zorobabel; and many heathens joined themselves to the Christian congregations, under Constantine, the first Christian emperor. The Huns, well beaten by the Christians, concluded that their God was the true God, and received the gospel. Thus, whether it be "in pretence or in truth" (as St Paul hath it), that people come in, God is glorified and his Church amplified, and the saints therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice, Philippians 1:18 .
For the fear of the Jews fell upon them ] So that either for love or fear they conformed to the Jewish way of worship, or at least they forbare to attempt against them, whom now they looked upon as heaven’s darlings. Whether Ahasuerus himself were drawn by the faith and piety of Esther and Mordecai to embrace the true religion, is not expressed. It is hard for princes drowned in delights to deny themselves, and to yield the obedience of faith. The poor receive the gospel, Matthew 11:5 , the smaller fishes bite soonest; the lamb and the dove were offered up in sacrifce, not the lion and the eagle; "Not many mighty, not many noble, are called," 1 Corinthians 1:26 . That this king was not converted we know not. However, we have ground to beleive that Xerxes his son was not, when as, after this, we read that in his expedition into Greece, he was angry with mountains, winds, rivers, elements, no otherwise than as if they had been men, causing the sea to be beaten with three hundred stripes for battering his bridge of boats, and casting a pair of fetters into it, to make it know to whom it was subject. Let him be what he will, God made use of him for the good of his people, and so overawed the malignant Persians, that they had (very many of them) no mind to meddle.
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Trapp, John. "Commentary on Esther 8". Trapp's Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week of Advent