the First Week of Lent
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Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments Benson's Commentary
by Joseph Benson
THE BOOK OF ESTHER.
IT is uncertain (says Dr. Dodd) who was the author of this book. Some ascribe it to Ezra, others to Mordecai, (see Esther 9:20; Esther 9:23,) and others to the joint labours of the great synagogue; who, from the time of Ezra to Simon the Just, superintended the edition and canon of Scripture. That the book is genuine, whoever was the author, appears from the institution and continued observation of the annual festival of Purim, (see chap. 9.,) since it is not to be conceived that a wise nation should at first appoint, and afterward continue the celebration of, this solemn time of feasting and rejoicing every year, merely because a certain man among them had once the good fortune to write an agreeable romance; much less can we conceive, from what motive a whole assembly of learned doctors should receive a writing of no better character into the canon of their Scriptures; or, to make it of more universal use, should honour it with a Greek translation. The book contains the narrative of a plot to cut off all the Jews; disappointed by a wonderful concurrence of providences: or, more particularly, it is the history of Esther, a Jewish captive, who, for her remarkable beauty, was espoused to Ahasuerus and raised to the throne of Persia, and, by her extraordinary interest with the king, rescued the Jewish nation from a general massacre, to which they were appointed by Haman, one of the king’s favourites, in memory of which the feast of Purim was appointed. This sacred record, therefore, shows us the peculiar care of God over those Israelites who were still scattered abroad among the heathen; and, indeed, also manifests that the eye of a watchful providence is constantly superintending all nations, by which the aspirings of the greatest men are often curbed and broken, wicked designs blasted, piety and virtue protected, and God declared to be the Almighty Defender of good men, and of the true religion, in all ages and generations. It is remarkable that the name of God is not found in this book; but the finger of God is, directing so many minute events for the deliverance of his people; the particulars of which are calculated to give them very great encouragement in the most difficult and dangerous times. Here we are told how Esther came to be queen, and Mordecai to be great at court, chap. 1., 2.; how Haman obtained an order for the destruction of the Jews, chap. 3.; the distress of the Jews thereupon, chap. 4.; the defeat of Haman’s plot against Mordecai, chap. 5.-7.; the defeating of his plot against the Jews, chap. 8.; the care taken to perpetuate the memory of this, chap. 9., 10. That this history fell out after the captivity of Babylon was ended, and after the time of Darius the Mede, is very evident: for Shushan was not the royal city of the Medes, but of the Persians. Nor had the Medes so large a dominion as from India to Ethiopia. But in what reign of the Persian kings these things were done is hard to determine.