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the Week of Proper 2 / Ordinary 7
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Bible Commentaries
Esther 2

Peake's Commentary on the BiblePeake's Commentary

Verses 1-20

Esther 2:1-20 . Esther Chosen Queen.— Ere long Ahasuerus longs for his lost queen’ s comradeship. He is moved to issue a summons throughout all his territories, commanding all fair maidens to appear as candidates for the queenship. This command removes the fancy that a Jewess had no right to come. She had to come. Among the assembled fair ones was the cousin and ward of Mordecai, called Hadassah, i.e. Myrtle. Let us notice that this name is the same as that of the place Adasah in Judah where, on Adar 13th, 161 B.C., the Maccabees defeated Nicanor, the general of the armies of Syria (p. 607). That final victory set Judah free from foreign rule, so that the throne of David was established again after its destruction about 600 B.C. (see 1Ma_7:39 ff.). The maiden seems intended by our writer as a symbol of that victory. She surpasses all her rivals, and is chosen by Ahasuerus as his queen; and now she receives the name “ Esther,” which is a form of “ Ishtar,” or “ Star,” the name of the Perso-Babylonian Venus, goddess of wedded love. We may count all these things as utterances of the rising apocalyptic faith of Jesus’ s times, that the Jews were to rule all things on behalf of Yahweh. Quite unimportant are the theories of Jensen, who finds in these names features of Babylonian mythological folk-lore, appropriated by the writer. Such folk-lore could influence only very slightly a writer who seems to have lived in Egypt. More remarkable and thoroughly correct is Haupt’ s suggestion that the picture of Esther is modelled on the story of the Persian lady Phæ dymia, who saved her people from the cruel rule of the Magi. Herodotus (iii. 69– 79) tells the story of Phæ dymia, and our writer could well know Herodotus. Moreover, the Persian festival of Magophonia celebrating the slaughter of the Magi (Herodotus, iii. 79) is much like the Purim festival that celebrates Haman’ s defeat, and which our book was written to exalt. Esther is a Greek Herodotean story adapted to Jewish affairs, written, doubtless, by a Greek in Egypt.

After purifyings and perfumings, dressings and adornings. Esther is summoned in her turn before the king by the notes of a trumpet. Ere she goes, Mordecai warns her to conceal her Jewish parentage: our writer is not consistent over this matter, but lets her be known as Mordecai’ s relative. Yet the note of fear in the matter shows the writer’ s sense of the terrors under which the Jews lived about 200 B.C. and onwards. In Esther 2:19-23 onward, there are several doublets of statements, evidently the work of the Heb. editors who sought thus to smooth over the defects caused by their truncation of the original. Esther 2:19 is clearly a mistake: no maiden would appear again at court after the king had made his choice. It is absent from LXX.

Verses 21-23

Esther 2:21-23 . Mordecai Detects a Plot to Murder the King.— A story of the conspiracy of regicides is set here in both Heb. and LXX, because the earlier mention of it had been cut out. But this insertion is badly made; for Mordecai would surely not send his report of the conspiracy to the king through Esther, and so violate his own advice to her to conceal her relationship. Probably it was Haman that was trusted by Mordecai to carry the message; hence followed Haman’ s jealousy and hence also, doubtless, resulted Mordecai’ s contempt for Haman, and the refusal to honour him. Mordecai has often been condemned for this stiff refusal: it is called Jewish narrowness. But why condemn the man for his stern honesty and for his obedience to the Decalogue?

Bibliographical Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on Esther 2". "Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/pfc/esther-2.html. 1919.
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