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After these things, when the wrath of king Ahasuerus was appeased, he remembered Vashti.
Acting under the impulse of rage
The king had given full sway to his passion and wounded pride, and treated his wife with great severity. In his moments of cool reflection he probably repented of the harshness of his proceedings towards her. Excitement is a bad guide in human affairs. He who acts under the impulse of rage is sure to be driven astray, even as a vessel in a storm is driven to situations of embarrassment and peril. Man in wrath speaks freely and eloquently, but never wisely, and he works with decision and energy, but who is benefited by his operations? He doeth much, but uniformly to a bad purpose. (J. Hughes.)
O, memory! thou art a bitter avenger. (T. McEwan.)
Ah! these bitter memories of earth will be ingredients in the future cup of the penal suffering of the lost. (T. McEwan.)
Repentance may come too late. Ahasuerus could not retrace his steps. (A. B. Davidson, D. D.)
I. The regret of the king for his rash and unwarrantable act. He was sensible that he had committed injury and that he had not only wronged Vashti, but also made himself a sufferer.
1. He could not devise a remedy. There are wishes that even the most powerful despots cannot get gratified, and limits to their will that even they cannot pass over.
2. The law of the Medes and Persians must stand.
II. The expedient which his counsellors suggested to free him from his difficulty. Learn--
1. When men suffer themselves to be carried away by the impulse of any violent passions, they may commit acts which cannot afterwards be remedied, and which they themselves may have especially to lament.
2. It forms no excuse for sin committed, that the transgressor had reduced himself to a condition in which he ceased to retain his full consciousness of the distinction between right and wrong. Take an illustration from the history of Saul. He failed to improve his privileges; the Spirit of the Lord departed and the evil spirit took possession of him--slew prophets, etc. He was held responsible because he had laid his heart open for the reception of the evil spirit.
3. Repentance may come too late. (A. B. Davidson, D. D.)
And let the king appoint officers
The weak and lowly
Poor, helpless, feeble, may be the earthward aspect of true religion.
Beggars shall be taken from the dunghill, to set them among princes. God will be indebted to no outward help or influence. We see how God is pleased to overrule the very sins and passions of guilty men for the accomplishment of His own designs. The banishment of Vashti has left Ahasuerus solitary and self-reproaching. Some scheme must be adopted by those who counselled her overthrow, to supply her place. “Let the king appoint officers in all the provinces of his kingdom that they may gather together all the fair young virgins unto Shushan, the palace. And let the maiden that pleaseth the king be queen instead of Vashti. And the thing pleased the king, and he did so.” How perfectly natural was all this arrangement and plan! And yet it was but one part of God’s Divine arrangement to bring about His own plan, a plan of which they knew nothing. Thus He leaves men to act out their own purposes and accomplish their own ends, and yet overrules their whole scheme for the attainment of the results which He has already determined. This is His providence; this is the wise and perfect government of the Most High.
1. We see a youthful female, a poor girl. Her very sex betokens weakness and exposure. But yet woman is called “the weaker vessel,” and is so, as the crystal vase is a weaker vessel than the oaken cask, more easily overthrown, more surely injured, more irreparably destroyed, by the power of vicious habit or sinful temptation. To her, exposure to evil is far the heavier, and far more dangerous. Upon her, sorrows press with a far more grievous load. To her, misfortunes come with a far more sharpened power. The wrongs of women have filled every age and every history. But here, when the illustration of rising, conquering piety is brought before us, the subject is a woman; and a woman in her weakest and most forlorn position, a lonely girl. It is enough for us to see and know that God is there, the Father of the fatherless and the God of the widows in His holy habitation.
2. She is an orphan girl. “She has neither father nor mother.” What a privilege are parents spared to bless and cheer our maturity I What a joy and cause for thanksgiving is it to be permitted even to shelter and cheer their age in our own home! What solitude, separation, want of confidence, fear, distrust, yea, anguish, often fill up the orphan’s heart! Few can sympathise; and even to those few it is impossible to pour out the secret sorrows which are the burden and distress within. But imaginary as the causes may be, the sorrows which they produce are real and abiding. Yet, when we add poverty to the orphan’s lot, what increased bitterness do we throw into the cup! An orphan boy may struggle. The very poverty which oppresses him may excite his energies and call out his powers of endurance and of action. His self-dependence is aroused. But an orphan girl in poverty! what human case is habitually harder? Everything in her sex, and everything in her condition, is against her. Her exposure to the wickedness and the arts of the corrupt is the subject of constant observation and of constant dread.
(1) That God loves the lowly. Let every imagination which exalteth itself against God be cast down. Be content to allow Him to take you from the dust in all your sinfulness and unworthiness, and to wash and cleanse and save you by His own grace and power alone.
(2) Forget not that your honour and happiness will always be promoted by gaining the mind of God in this relation. This surely is the path of happiness for us. The world says, “Happy are the rich, the luxurious, the self-indulgent.” God says, “Happy are the poor in spirit, the meek.” The weak things of the world, if He choose them, and love them, will confound the things that are mighty. (S. H. Tyng, D. D.)
Esther the queen
In this chapter we find illustrated--
I. Providence. We must not judge the heathen court of Persia by our standard of morality. Rather let us see how God overrules all these arrangements for the accomplishment of His own purposes.
II. Adoption. In ten thousand things the strongest and wisest of us is but a lonely orphan, needing some strong hand to protect us, the pity of some loving heart for our comfort. How blest is he who has learned to say, “Our Father.”
III. Recompense. Think of the joy of Mordecai as he sees his adopted daughter thus uplifted. (Mark Guy Pearse.)
Esther at court
There is, unquestionably, a difficulty connected with this 8th verse.
1. If Mordecai, of his own accord, presented Esther as a candidate for the royal favour, then he acted in opposition to the law of Moses, which forbade that the daughters of Israel should be given to the heathen. It would be no apology for his conduct that he designed by what he did to advance the interests of his nation. What is forbidden by the law must not be done that good may come of it.
2. Many interpreters suppose that those who were commissioned to select the virgins for the king’s seraglio executed their office without respect to the feelings of the parties interested. Esther was taken, therefore, without there being any choice left, either to her or Mordecai, in the matter.
3. Others that, as the whole was so manifestly’ providential, Mordecai may have received special intimation from heaven to bring his orphan cousin under the notice of the king’s officers. There is nothing in the history to warrant this opinion; therefore we embrace the first supposition as the most probable account of the affair.
4. But whatever may have been the feelings of Mordecai and Esther, we see the special workings of providence in her behalf. She obtained favour of the chief of the eunuchs above all the other maidens who had been com mitted to his care, so that, without solicitation on her part, not only was there more than ordinary indulgence toward her, but she was even treated with a degree of respect that seemed, as it were, the prelude to yet higher advancement. The commencement of Esther’s life in the palace gave promise of a prosperous issue. (A. B. Davidson, D. D.)
The beginning of true prosperity
Our study is in the chamber of true religion. There we see a solitary girl, and she an orphan. She hath “neither father nor mother.” On the doctrine of earthly chances, everything is against her. But in the scheme of the Divine government, we shall see that she has an Almighty Friend. Her beginning is small indeed, and disastrous enough; her latter end shall greatly increase. But there are other discouraging circumstances also, which seem completely to forbid the latter end of advancement which is promised.
1. She is a stranger. We find her in a land not her own, though perhaps she was born upon its soil--among a people with whom she has no affinity and no bond of affection. A girl, an orphan, and a stranger. To wander among multitudes with whom we have no connection and no sympathy is often a depression to the brightest spirits. But this poor girl is not a stranger in voluntary journeying--she is a captive. She is a servant of the true God in a land of dark idolatry; a pure, praying girl amidst a people whose licentious profligacy made the most wasting crimes to be no dishonour. But if piety can be made triumphant under circumstances so completely opposed to it, and a child of God can glorify her Father’s name, and keep His commandments amidst temptations and difficulties so numerous and pressing, how great will be the responsibility of those who are exposed to no such contests!
2. This orphan stranger, this lonely girl, is also beautiful in person. “The maid was fair and beautiful.” This is a gift which all naturally, perhaps not unreasonably, prize. It is God who hath given to the youthful form and face their attractions and their loveliness. One of the marks of His benevolence is here seen. His goodness shines in all these aspects of His power. He has made everything beautiful in its time. Yet the beauty of our daughters is but too frequently a snare. Sin in the heart perverts and corrupts it. It is welcomed as a merchandise for gain. It is nourished as the food for vanity. It is perverted to awaken an earthly taste, and to encourage a carnal mind. It brings an attending exposure to peculiar temptations. Her parents delighted over her childish promise, and called her Hadassah, their myrtle, their joy. They looked forward to great parental delight in her coming bloom, when as a fragrant myrtle they should see her blossoming at their side. But this, alas, they were not to see. She was to bloom for the gaze of other eyes, but not for theirs. Could I lead you off from this outward beauty to think of the fair beauty of the Lord--how much more precious and desirable is that pure and obedient mind which we find united with Hadassah’s loveliness of person! Outward beauty we cannot all have, But this higher and more enduring beauty of the Spirit you may all possess.
3. The sole earthly protector of this beautiful orphan was poor and unable to defend her. “In Shushan, the palace, there was a certain Jew whose name was Mordecai. And he brought up Hadassah,” etc. When her father and her mother were obliged to forsake her, the Lord took her up, by providing her a faithful friend in her father’s nephew. He took her for his own daughter. But she was really one of God’s hidden ones, chosen in His love, to be protected and loved by Him. Never forget this highest security of His protection and His presence. There you are secure for ever. No one can be poor who is rich in faith toward God. No one can be deserted who has the Divine friendship and fellowship.
4. This lonely orphan girl was grateful and obedient: “Esther did the commandment of Mordecai like as when she was brought up with him.” Happy indeed is such a manifestation of grace as this! You may build with confidence any hope of usefulness and any desired attainment of human excellence upon a character so true. A spirit thus pure, subdued, affectionate and sincere, what may it not do that is lovely, honest, and of good report? It spreads happiness for others around its path. It converts the cares and trials of life into pleasures and delights. It crowns the whole personal walk with loveliness and attractions. But Esther’s gratitude to her earthly benefactor was founded on her still deeper gratitude to God. This poor and lonely, but faithful and beautiful girl, God means to raise up to be an eminent blessing and restorer to His people. Her latter end is to be in great prosperity. This is our great lesson now. We are witnessing the purpose and the work of God. He is exalting a child of His own, and showing what He can do with His own, and by His own power. No condition is beneath His notice. No child of grace is below His care. None who love Him can be forsaken or destroyed. We see here a low beginning; none could be more so; but it is a very lovely one. And as we study the course through which God is pleased to lead this child of grace, we shall see Him to be justified in His whole course, and to come forth completely victorious in the work which He hath undertaken. How great is the advantage of having God upon your side, and of being under His special protection and care! (S. H. Tyng, D. D.)
The mysterious beginning
This is a most important truth for us to study. Man proposes, but God disposes. The eyes of the Lord are in every place. The government of the world is on His shoulder.
1. We may consider the object of this exaltation. This poor Jewish orphan is to be made the Queen of Persia. The change of position is as wide and wonderful as earth can illustrate. Why did God thus select and elevate her? He designed to give to all His people a great illustration of His power and goodness. He would have them see, He would have all to see, how certain and adequate is His protection to those who love and trust Him. But He had further designs in this work. He not only intended to show His goodness to Esther in protecting and rewarding a child whom He loved, He also purposed to make her an eminent blessing to others. She was to be a restorer to her people, a great blessing to her own captive nation. No one is exalted in this world for himself alone. Whatever gifts, or gains, or influence we have, they are for the benefit of others. No man liveth for himself. But how clearly and with what peculiar power does God teach us this truth in the whole plan of Divine redemption. Why has the Lord Jesus lived and died? And why is He still living as a mediator at the right hand of God? “For us,” is the only answer to the question. He is exalted on high that He may bestow gifts upon men. This important truth God equally teaches us in our own enjoyment of the blessings which redemption brings to us. He enriches us with all our gifts that we may be made the instruments of enriching others. We should look around and ask, “Whom can I bless? Whom can I serve? To whom can I give even a cup of cold water in my Master’s name?” We can never tell how wide may be the appointed influences of such a spirit. We see the end of the Lord, that He is faithful and very gracious, and we may learn from it to understand and to confide in the loving-kindness of the Lord. When the gracious purpose of God comes out in the result of His dispensation, we have no longer any doubt or darkness resting upon His Word.
2. We may consider the circumstances of Esther’s exaltation. They were painful and repulsive to her in an extreme degree. Such was the subject of violent compulsion. Such is the true meaning of the term “brought,” literally, “brought by force.” In this exaltation of the captive orphan, God remarkably overruled and employed the wicked passions of men. The king consulted only his own corrupt desires. His officers combined to minister to his wicked tempers and gratifications. No happiness of others, no peace of violated households, no wretchedness of ruined and discarded youth, was to be considered as an obstacle in the path. The king’s commandment and decree must be obeyed. This does not lessen the wickedness of men. However God may restrain and employ them, their purpose is only to sin. And whatsoever results God may bring out of their wickedness, they must bear the guilt of their sin in the same condemnation. God’s mercy may compel them to bless His people, and to glorify Himself, while His justice punishes their transgression, and overthrows their own plans of personal gain and glory. Henry VIII. was a monster of crime. His motives appeared to be his own wicked passions alone. He murdered and he married at his pleasure. Yet God overruled the whole result for the establishment of His truth. This glorious Reformation has been often reproached for Henry’s crimes. It would be just as reasonable to reproach the deliverance of the Israelites and their subsequent prosperity with the crimes of Pharaoh. God can make even our own pardoned sins and follies to become a blessing to us, and to bring honour to Him. (S. H. Tyng, D. D.)
The important friendship-
What principle of Divine providence can be more important than this? To have the friendship of God is to have all that men can ask. If He is on our side, it is of little consequence who may be against us. But He is always on the side of those whose ways please Him. Esther’s history shows us this. In all its aspects her exaltation was most remarkable.
1. Mark the simple cause of this exaltation. It was the Divine tribute to her character. Because her ways pleased the Lord, He made her enemies to be at peace with her. Do you ask for success, for happiness, for final triumph? Do you desire a result of blessedness for this life and for the life to come? Embrace the hope which the gospel gives. Go to the fountain which the gospel opens. Enter into the Saviour’s ranks and belong to Him. He will carry you safely through every trial and every contest.
2. Mark the way in which this exaltation was accomplished. God gave her favour in the sight of others. An unseen influence and power preceded her in the path through which she was led and prepared her way before her. And now we see the beginning of the turning tide. “When a man’s ways please the Lord, He maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him.” The maiden pleased Hegai, the keeper of the women, and she obtained kindness of him. Everything now is to be in her favour. “The best place in the house of the women” is assigned to her. “Seven maidens meet to be given to her out of the king’s house” are appointed her attendants. So easily can your gracious heavenly Father change and order the minds of others concerning you. He can make all your enemies at peace with you. Thus He prepared Pharaoh’s daughter to be the defender and the royal nurse for the infant Moses. Thus also He dealt with Daniel and his companions. He gives a pleasant and attractive aspect to religious character, adorns it by His Spirit with traits of meekness and spiritual beauty, makes its influence agreeable and pleasant to those who become connected with it, and in this way makes His servants acceptable to others and a real blessing to many. This system of His gracious government lays out the line of personal duty for you. It is your duty to be a blessing to all persons and at all times.
3. Mark the state of mind which true piety will display under the most trying circumstances. This was beautifully exhibited in Esther as she passed through the trying ordeal which was to lead to her exaltation. Esther showed great self-respect. What is so dignified and refining as true piety? It habitually clothes the character with grace and purity, and the manners with delicacy and elegance. We see the poorest daughters of earth exalted by the transforming power of true religion to a hold on the reverence of all, and often to the admiration and delight of many. True piety is patient, quiet and unassuming. Esther showed a quiet submission to the will of God. She asked for nothing. She desired nothing of all that she saw around her. All the state and magnificence of her new condition were nothing to her. Her mind could find repose only in God. How beautiful is such an example! Remember that Divine promise (Isaiah 26:3): “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee, because he trusteth in Thee. Trust ye in the Lord for ever, for in the Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength.” Esther showed entire indifference to worldly display. But “when the turn of Esther was come to go in unto the king, she required nothing but what Hegai, the king’s chamberlain, appointed.” She was contented to leave her whole influence and prospects in her Father’s hands, and therefore “she required nothing.” This was true modesty, as well as a simple and pious trust in God. Her mind and thoughts were directed to Him, not to herself. What an example was this to youth in the midst of the snares and artificial glare of the world! True adorning is “not the outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on apparel, but it is in the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.” What attractive beauty there is in a heavenly temper, a lowly spiritual mind! This is a jewel of the Lord’s preparation and appointment, and eminently becomes and adorns the children of God. Esther showed a simple and entire trust in God. In the bitterness of her heart’s sorrow she had no other protector. (S. H. Tyng, D. D.)
The myrtle that became a star
I. Hadassah, the orphan. Mordecai took the little tree, growing without shelter from the storm, and planted it by his own hearth.
II. Look next at Hadassah, the captive.
III. Then at Hadassah, the beautiful maiden. Nobody should despise beauty of face; but bad character spoils beauty, whilst beauty of soul may supply the lack of physical beauty.
IV. Last of all, at Esther, the queen.
V. Let us conclude with a twofold wish.
1. May you grow like a myrtle, and resemble it in two qualities: in that it is an evergreen, and always fragrant. Be thou lovely in the dark days as well as the bright; and do thou always cheer thy dwelling with the fragrance of godliness.
2. May you glow like a star, which God has clothed with light and placed so high in the heavens. Do thou walk in light--Christ’s light--the light of truth, and love, and holiness; and, finally, shine as a star in heaven, your home for evermore. (J. Edmons, D. D.)
Esther, in addition to her outward comeliness, was modest, engaging, contented, and possessed all those amiable qualities which adorn the individual, while they make him useful to society. Beauty is one of the gifts of nature; but if it consist only in symmetry of form and fineness of colouring, it is no more than a beautiful statue; it can only gratify the eye. That which reflects as a mirror the good qualities of the mind can alone form an object of rational attraction. (T. McCrie.)
Whose name was Mordecai.
Providence opens avenues through which merit may attain elevation.
I. Mordecai was kind to his orphan cousin. He brought her up, adopting her as his own daughter. He was intensely solicitous for her welfare. He was her counsellor, guardian, friend. He seems to have possessed respect for womanhood--what Charles Lamb in one of his Essays of Ella designates, “reverence for the sex.” Are we not justified in affirming that this is indicative of nobility? Love of woman, as woman, produces beneficent results, which few can afford to dispense with. It aids in developing perfection of character.
II. He possessed good judgment. He advised Esther not to reveal her kindred. He did not enjoin her to deny her nationality, much less to become alienated from her suffering countrymen; but he exhorted her to maintain silence in reference to her descent. He will await deliverance from Israel’s God, carefully watching the indications of providence, and endeavouring, meanwhile, to induce Esther to strengthen her influence with the king. “The prudent man looketh well to his going.”
III. He was humble. He sat as porter at the royal gate of the palace and was contented.
IV. He was loyal to justice. When two of the chamberlains sought to lay hands on the king he disclosed the plot to the queen, who, by reporting it to the monarch, delivered the culprits over to the vengeance of law, and “they were both hanged on a tree.”
V. He was conscientious, and to a right-minded person the approval of conscience is the richest reward, one which depends upon himself and of which no other can rob him. Mordecai refused to bow before Haman. “If the monkey reigns, dance before him,” is a proverb which evidently had little force with Mordecai. If Haman does not deserve respect, he shall not receive reverence from him. Kind, prudent, humble, just and conscientious, need we marvel that Mordecai rose from lowly station to become chief minister of State? Though he has saved the life of the king, he is not promoted. He returns to his humble duties. By the simple fact that a record is made of the services of a porter, preparation is made for the stirring events of the future. (J. S. Van Dyke, D. D.)
Here we have the fact demonstrated in a striking illustration that no man can serve God for nought. He will never be a debtor to any of His creatures. The path of truth and goodness, of love to God and love to men, will always advance in light and purity to a perfect day. This is the illustration we have in the character and history of Mordecai. Ahasuerus, Esther, Haman, and Mordecai, in their relations make a perfect dramatic exhibition. Their paths cross each other, and their interests mingle. Their conditions and responsibilities are in constant close connection, and are continually intermingled. Each character is a separate living principle. And in each the operation and result of this peculiar principle is distinctly and very beautifully displayed.
1. In this fidelity in duty we first see this path of duty beginning in the very lowest circumstances of life. Enrich and exalt the indulgence of the world by every imagination of its wealth and pleasure, and yet He shows its end to be vanity and vexation of spirit. He will show the reward of fidelity in duty. He will display the history of its certain triumph, and perfect security and success. Begin as low as you will in human condition; make the sphere as limited as you can; multiply difficulties around its strait and narrow path as you choose, and He will show you how easily and how certainly He can exalt and honour it, and that by the very instruments which have been collected to oppose it. Thus Mordecai begins a poor captive Jew, perhaps a beggar, certainly a menial at the king’s gate. Men often think it of little consequence what one does who is so concealed and so little known. But, ah, never forget that there is no such distinction before God between duties great and little, or sins venial or mortal. Whatever God requires or forbids is great. Every station which His providence has assigned and ordered is necessary and important. Virtue must always be tried by little things. The beginnings of all temptations are small, and the question of resistance or compliance with them is always settled in very narrow contingencies of trial. It is far easier to perform higher duties, and to resist greater temptations. The real trial of human principles is in unknown and secret dangers. When everybody is watching, it is easy to walk uprightly. The soldier on parade will be sure to keep time and step. But when our walk is unobserved, our conduct unnoticed, our position in life of no consequence in human sight, then are our difficulties and our temptations always the greater and the more dangerous. “No one will know; no one sees; example is nothing; it is of no consequence what I do; it is impossible for me to do much good in any way.” All, not thus did. Mordecai argue, though in these very circumstances of narrow influence Mordecai begins.
2. We see this poor and faithful man perfectly contented with his low estate. He is unmurmuring though poor. If you would have larger and higher responsibility, gain it and be prepared for it, by earnestly and contentedly fulfilling the obligations which are laid upon you now.
3. We see him affectionate and liberal in his social relations. Though poor, yet making others rich. Though poor himself, he cheerfully adopts his orphan cousin, and divides his comforts, whatever they might be, with her. “He brought up Hadassah, his uncle’s daughter.” The largest generosity is often among the most straitened in earthly condition. But it is an indispensable characteristic of true virtue. Obedience to God is imitation of God, who giveth liberally and upbraideth not. A covetous, harsh, narrow, selfish temper can never have tasted that God is gracious, or have known anything of the Saviour’s transforming love. He was delicate and refined in his liberality. There is much in the way in which kindness is bestowed to make it either acceptable or a burden. The little orphan Mordecai “took and brought up for his own daughter.” There is nothing in the religion of the New Testament to encourage bluntness, coarseness, or assumption of superiority. But Mordecai’s tenderness was watchful as well as delicate. “To know how Esther did, and what should become of her,” was the dearest interest he had on earth. And for this “he walked every day before the court of the women’s house.”
4. We see him faithful in every claim as a subject. In his solitude he overheard the counsel of two conspirators against the life of the king. He sought the opportunity, therefore, to preserve the life of the king, and he succeeded. This also is an eminent example. The virtuous, religious man is always an orderly and peaceful man.
5. We see in Mordecai especial fidelity to God. (S. H. Tyng, D. D.)
For she had neither father nor mother.
Religion promotes benevolence
Now there are some remarks very obviously suggested by this part of the narrative. I should say that here we have a fine example of the practical power of true religion, in leading to a benevolent regard for the comfort and well-being of the unprotected. (A. B. Davidson, D. D.)
It is an easy matter for the wealthy to be charitable when their gifts, administered by others, involve no sacrifice of time or labour, and no care and anxiety to them selves. But the noblest exercise of charity is exhibited when we take an interest personally in the well-being of the unprotected, and when they can look to us as their friends and counsellors, to whom they can have recourse in their sorrows and troubles and difficulties. (A. B. Davidson, D. D.)
Mordecai’s tenderness in adopting Esther
We Christians have not always been ready to give the Jew credit for such tenderness, such ready pity, such gentle helpfulness. Let us ask ourselves if we are willing to come up to the standard of this Jew? What is the good of any religion unless it do make us pitiful, loving, eager to help the poor world about us? I heard a very beautiful story some time since. A friend was telling me that one Sunday he was preaching at some little country chapel, and went to dinner at the house of a labourer, where he found eight children. He was struck with the fact that they seemed to run in pairs, as if they were all twins. After dinner the good woman said, “I saw you looking at the children, sir, as if you could not quite make them out.” “Well, yes,” said he, “I could not help wondering if they were all twins!” The good wife laughed. “No,” said she, “they are not twins. You see they are all ours, so to speak, and yet four of them are not. When we came into this house the man and woman who lived here before us had just died and left four little children just the age of our four. They had to go to the workhouse, and the van was at the door to take them just as we came in. Three of them were in the van; but the fourth little fellow would not go. He had got hold of the door, and was screaming with all his might. The man was trying not to hurt him, and yet of course he wanted to make him let go. I felt very, very sorry for them all, and said, ‘You can’t take him screaming like that. People will think that you are murdering him. Put the three back again and come again to-morrow. We will look after them for the night.’ The man was very glad to do it, so they all came in again. Well, then you see our children began to play with them, and we all sat down together at supper, and managed to get them off to bed. Well, that night I could not sleep for thinking about them. I could not get it out of my mind what I should like anybody to do for mine if they were left like that. As I lay tossing, John said to me, ‘I can’t help thinking about those children.’ ‘Well, John,’ I said, ‘what do you think about them.’ ‘Well, Mary, do you think if we pinched a bit that we could manage to keep them?’ ‘I am sure we could,’ I said, and then we went to sleep. The guardians gave us six shillings a week towards their keep, and it went on all right until John began to think that we ought to have a Sunday-school for the children about here. ‘We have eight to start with,’ said John. So the school was started. But there was a gentleman that set himself against the school, and tried to put it down. However, John would not have that; so this gentleman went to the guardians and got them to stop the six shillings a week. We could not let the children go, for to us it was just as if they were our own. But it was hard work, for John fell ill and was in bed for six weeks. And when he got about again he had to try and find a new place, for his had been filled up. At last he got a job at hedging and ditching, and that meant a stout pair of boots and a pair of leggings and a bill-hook. I had saved a few shillings for the children’s shoes, but now I had to give all that to John, and away he went to buy what he wanted. But as soon as he came back I said, ‘You must go again to get the children’s shoes, John,’ and I put two sovereigns in his hand. He looked at me wondering. I told him how that the gentleman’s daughter had called to say how sorry she was for us, and she gave us this to keep the children. And since then we have managed to get on right well, sir.” (Mark Guy Pearse.)
Providence and grace have two separate dominions. The providence of God rules over outward things for the welfare of His children. The grace of God redeems, renews, governs and preserves their own inward heart and character. Both are the subjects of covenant and earnest promises to them. One part of this gracious work we have seen in Esther’s ease. God protected and preserved the captive orphan by His own power. And all the elements of her own character are the evidences of the grace and power of her Lord. There is something extremely beautiful and even grand in this exhibition of youthful piety. Few will be carried through the extremes of Esther’s trial. Now we are to look upon Esther, the queen of Persia, and see how God fulfils all His promises, and protects and maintains in usefulness and happiness the souls of His servants.
I. In this view we see true piety in worldly exaltation This exaltation has been brought about by a remarkable train of circumstances in the good providence of God. Every probability was against it, and nothing could be more unlikely than the result which was thus produced. “The king loved Esther above all the women,” etc. Remarkable as this result was in itself, the reason given for it is yet more worthy of our attention. “She obtained grace and favour in his sight.” Her exaltation is ascribed to a far higher power than any that outwardly appeared. God was ruling and ordering it in His own way, You may carry out this principle in all your expectations and plans of life. Your youthful hearts desire earthly success. God may surely give it to you. But He would have you realise that it is His gift. The wise and the only sure way to make the earth a blessing to you is to seek His favour with it. But it will also, which is far more, make the earthly substance which you do gain a real and permanent blessing to you. But surely there is a higher exultation than any which is wholly confined to earth. There is a throne above all earthly thrones for those who conquer in the Saviour’s host. This God reserveth for those who love Him. Seek this throne and kingdom, the kingdom of God and His righteousness. This is the more excellent way. Make your possession of it sure. The king of Persia made a royal feast at Esther’s exultation. It was a feast of far different character from that which preceded the downfall of Vashti. “The king made a great feast unto all his princes and his servants, even Esther’s feast; and he made a release to the provinces, and gave gifts according to the state of the king.” The former feast was distinguished by abounding selfish, sensual indulgence. This was marked by releases, gifts and acts of favour to the destitute and the suffering. The people of God are always made a blessing to men in the influence which they exercise, and in their final exaltation among men, when the kingdoms of the earth shall be given to the saints of the Most High, the most abounding gifts and mercies shall be showered upon the world around. If God shall give you the high places of the earth, so improve and employ your influence here that others may have reason to bless God in your behalf.
II. We see here the emptiness of earthly contrasts. No earthly contrast could be greater than between a poor Jewish captive orphan, amidst the oppressions of a heathen land, and the queen of all the provinces of the kingdom of Persia. Yet all this is nothing when viewed in relation to the power and greatness of God. Man looks upon the outward appearance. God looketh upon the heart. Let us seek to gain His mind, and learn to value others, and to think of ourselves according to the reality of character, and not according to the mere appendages and aspects of the outward condition. The vain mind of youth delights in worldly elevation and grandeur. But Esther’s trials of character will be far greater in her new condition than in her former one. Few can bear great earthly prosperity with advantage. It is here that the principle of our text comes in, “He preserveth the souls of His saints.” He delivers them from the destructive influence which surrounds them. He carries them safely through the hour of trial. Prosperity brings in the claims of worldly fashion, the examples of the exalted wicked, the hostility of a world which at the same time tempts to transgression and scoffs at fidelity. It introduces a multitude of new thoughts and new relations which corrupt the character and entangle the soul. The life of piety declines. The spirit of prayer grows dull. The modesty of dress and personal appearance is laid aside. The purity of the outward walk is disregarded.
III. We see in Esther’s case that under the Divine guidance and grace true piety may pass uninjured through every state. Esther’s sudden exaltation had no effect on her fidelity to God, or on her attachment to His people. We see the same guarded self-respect, and the same love for Mordecai afterwards as before. The proportioned usefulness of individual piety in different stations in human life it would be very difficult to decide. God often selects the feeblest instruments as the most important agencies to promote His glory. We may, therefore, dismiss all anxiety about the influence of our appointed station. He will give the blessing according to His own will. But what can show more beautifully the reality of the work of God in the heart than the constant exercise and display of the same kindness, tenderness, and simplicity in a high estate as in a previous low condition? One of the most striking facts in Esther’s character is this repeated assertion of her faithful remembrance of Mordecai and of her permanent regard to his instructions. Ah, what a blessing do we confer when we succeed, under the sovereign power of the Holy Spirit, in laying up in the youthful mind the principles of true religion and real love for God! This is something real; a gift that will abide.
IV. We see Esther’s exaltation marked by sincere gratitude and affectionate care for the appointed instrument of it. A low and upstart mind hates to acknowledge obligations; nay, often feels a new hostility towards those from whom benefits have been received. But a truly great and exalted mind forgets no benefits that have been conferred, and esteems it a high privilege to be able to pay them directly back to the person who has bestowed them. Esther acknowledges her twofold obligation, while she gives the information which saves the life of the king, and gives it in the name of Mordecai, that it might in some way be the instrument of promoting his advantage, and of rescuing him from the poverty of his condition. This gratitude for kindness from our fellow-men is always characteristic of true piety. A religious heart is ashamed of no obligations. Shun that sinful pride which hates the feeling and the acknowledgment of dependence. A joyful and pleasant thing it is to be thankful. (S. H. Tyng, D. D.)
And Mordecai walked every day before the court of the women’s house.--
Mordecai’s loving solicitude
The histories of Mordecai and Esther run side by side, like the two differently-coloured rivers--the Arve and the Rhone. But the course of the one is from time to time being crossed and coloured by the course of the other. Esther played a leading part in the deliverance of the Jewish nation, but she owed much to the teaching, influence, and directions of Mordecai. She was the seen and he the unseen worker. These latter often do the most important work.
I. Mordecai’s lovng solicitude.
II. This loving solicitude was of divine origin. God makes use of human passions for the promotion of His merciful purposes. Human reasons may be given to account for Mordecai’s love for Esther, but there were also Divine reasons.
III. This loving solicitude quickened mordecai’s discernment.
IV. This loving solicitude taught mordecai a true creed. Love is light. He that dwelleth in love dwelleth in a clear apprehension of Divine truth and of Divine methods. “Although he trusted God with his niece, yet he knew that an honest care of her might well stand with faith in God’s providence. God must be trusted, but not tempted by the neglect of careful means” (Trapp)
V. Mordecai’s love made him watchful.
VI. Mordecai’s love made him self-forgetful.
VII. Mordecai’s love concerned itself about esther’s highest welfare. (W. Burrows, B. A.)
She required nothing.--
It seems to be implied in the text that while the other maidens endeavoured by dress and ornament to make an impression upon the heart of the king, Esther had recourse to no such artifice. If she was to gain the royal favour, which no doubt she desired to do, she trusted to her native graces and accomplishments as the means of obtaining it rather than to the splendour of her attire. And such will always be the procedure of true beauty and modesty. Excessive attention to the decoration of the person, and the lavish use of gaudy ornament, indicate the consciousness of some personal defect, and are inconsistent alike with good taste, with female delicacy, and with the law of Scripture. (A. B. Davidson, D. D.)
Reality versus superficiality
She had grace in her heart, humility in her deportment, and the high attractions of gentleness, meekness, and pity. These would speak to the heart in look and gesture, and obtain favour for her “in the sight of all them that looked upon her.” There was realness in contrast with superficiality, true-heartedness in opposition to mere pretension, and the heroic love of the right and the noble over against all that is hollow, hypocritical, and base. Even in a heathen court spiritual excellences such as these, rarely to be found there, were sure to command respect and win the affections. (T. McEwan.)
So that he set the royal crown upon her head.
The elevation of woman
Gloss it as you may, this is not pleasant reading, and yet not unprofitable, having much to say to us, and especially to women, of what we owe to Christianity for the elevation of woman. Telling of a despot and sensualist, and how he claimed his country’s fairest beauty for his insatiate pleasure. But it is purely told us. It can be read without dulling the conscience or staining the imagination. What nation of antiquity looked not upon woman as a decorated toy or an abject drudge? There was one exception. Among the Jews her position was relatively high as compared with that assigned to her in adjacent nations. She had larger liberty than even now is allowed her in Oriental countries, with greater variety and importance of employments. She headed, like Miriam, the bands of women who celebrated, with triumphant song, the overthrow of enemies. She led armies, like Deborah, and was, like her, a prophetess and a judge. In the free grace of an unconfined maidenhood she went out to meet her father with timbrels and dances. Her hymns were included in sacred records, as was the song of Samuel’s mother. She was consulted, like Huldah, by high-priest and king. And while the effect of polygamy was disastrous, so far as that obtained before the captivity, and while it was obvious that the husband, not the wife, was the acknowledged head of the household, in independence of whom the wife could enter on no engagements, the dowry was given for the wife, not with her. The modern harem was unknown, the matron walked abroad unveiled, her husband’s house was esteemed her “rest,” she had a large authority in the family, and the grace and force of her character and mind were honoured, cultured, and allowed opportunity. (R. S. Storrs.)
from low estate to share the throne of Persia reminds us of what God does for His people in raising them from the miry clay to sit with Christ upon His throne. (A. B. Davidson, D. D.)
For Esther did the commandment of Mordecai, like as when she was brought up with him.
Repaying parental kindness
Then I would say that there is a lesson here for the young. How can they repay in any measure--for fully they can never repay--the tenderness of their godly parents to them in their youth, and the anxiety which has been felt on their account as they advanced toward maturity? In one way only--by endeavouring to pursue the path which leads to present respectability and usefulness, and which Christ in His Word has marked out as that which His disciples must tread. (A. B. Davidson, D. D.)
Two of the king’s chamberlains, Bigthan and Teresh . . . sought to lay hand on the king Ahasuerus.
Besides flatterers, despots are apt to have traitors and assassins about them, such as Bigthan and Teresh. Mordecai detected their villainy, and no doubt ran considerable risk in exposing it. But he was not one of those who are honest only when honesty appears to them to be the best policy; he did the right because it was the right, faithfully and fearlessly. (A. M. Symington.)
There are crafty spiritual foes who wait for the opportunity to kill the soul (T. McEwan.)
Danger of great men
I. The danger of great men.
II. The fidelity of the godly man.
III. The certainty that sin will find us out. (J. Hughes.)
Danger and service
History is full of examples of plots and assassinations in the palaces of Eastern princes. Favouritism, founded usually upon mere caprice, is one of the characteristics of a despotic government. Then envy and hatred are naturally excited in consequence of this, among such as think themselves as well entitled to preferment as those on whom it has been bestowed. We have no means of knowing what led the two chamberlains to conspire against the king. An angry word, or some apparent slight or insult, may have provoked them to revenge, or they may have been bribed by other parties whom the king had injured. The narrative in the text is given so briefly that we are not told how Mordecai came to discover the plot. He may have been requested to become an accomplice, in order that by his assistance the actual perpetrators of the bloody deed might the more easily effect their escape. But whether in this way, or by overhearing the conspirators as they were speaking together of the time and manner of carrying out their purpose, he became aware of it--he immediately took measures to counteract the dark design. There are three topics suggested by them, to which we may briefly advert.
1. In the first place, we cannot read this narrative without drawing from it a lesson as to the uncertainty of life. The destroying sword may be hanging as by a single hair over the head of the ruler of a vast empire, making his life as contingent as that of the mariner when the storm suddenly bursts forth upon him, or of the soldier when he is under the thick fire of the enemy. Humanly speaking, those who occupy the middle class of society, whose wants are supplied without any danger or painful toil, and who have nothing to dread from the envy and enmity of others, live in greatest security, and have least occasion to fear what is usually called accident, as affecting their life. And the practical use which we should make of the uncertainty of the present life is to have a sure interest in Christ, which will render the life to come all certainty and blessedness to us.
2. In the second place, the narrative before us teaches us that whatever station in providence men are called to fill, they may be instrumental in conferring important benefits on others. Mordecai, a man of humble rank, saved the life of the king. But the remark which we have just made may be transposed to services more important than those which have reference to the present life and its concerns. What an immense power, for instance, is possessed by the nurse to whose care the children of a family are committed, and who, by the faithful execution of her trust, may implant the seeds of truth in the youthful heart so deeply that no worldly influence will afterwards efface them. There is something higher here than the mere saving of life. Every follower of Christ, in whatever sphere he moves, may do incalculable good to those around him, even to those who are placed high above him. If you cannot do so much as you would, a consistent and faithful life, spent in all the unobtrusiveness of true humility, will be a lesson to some that may be productive of vast benefit.
3. In the third place, from the narrative under review we are led to think of a record of unrequited deeds. Mordecai’s information saved the life of the king, and was duly noticed in the annals of the kingdom; but it lay there for a considerable time, apparently as a dead letter. There is evidently a twofold application that may be made of this particular. The acts of wicked men are all recorded, and will be brought into judgment. The hand of justice does not always follow the perpetration of the evil act. Yet the retribution, if it be slow, is certain. But it is not so much this aspect of the question that is presented to us in the text as the more pleasing one, that the services of God’s people are recorded, and are not suffered to pass unrewarded in the end. The reward, indeed, may not come in the present life. The faithful disciples of Christ have often been left to contend with the world’s opposition, and to fall victims to the world’s enmity, just on account of their steadfast attachment to the truth. But they are all recorded, and the record will be produced hereafter. The Scripture teaches us this very plainly. “God is not unrighteous,” says the apostle, writing to the Hebrews, “to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have showed toward His name, in that ye have ministered to the saints and do minister.” (A. B. Davidson, D. D.)
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Esther 2". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany