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Bible Commentaries

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible

Esther 1

Introduction

CHAP. I.

Ahasuerus makes a feast for all the principal persons of his kingdom: he sends for the queen to the banquet, who refuses to come: the king, being angry, puts her away, and makes a decree that all wives shall obey their husbands.

Before Christ 483.

Verse 1

Esther 1:1. In the days of Ahasuerus Archbishop Usher is of opinion, that Darius Hystaspes was the king Ahasuerus who married Esther, that Atossa was the Vashti, and Artystona the Esther, of the Holy Scriptures; but Herodotus positively tells us, that Artystona was the daughter of Cyrus, and therefore could not be Esther; and that Atossa had four sons by Darius, besides daughters, all born to him after he was king; and therefore she could not be that queen Vashti who was divorced from the king her husband in the third year of his reign, (Esther 1:3.) nor he the Ahasuerus who divorced her. Joseph Scaliger is of opinion, that Xerxes is the Ahasuerus, and Hamestris, his queen, the Esther of the Holy Scriptures; but, whatever seeming similitude there may be in the names, (and this is the whole foundation of his conjecture,) it is plain, from Herodotus, that Xerxes had a son by Hamestris, who was marriageable in the seventh year of his reign; and therefore it is impossible that he should have been Esther's son, because Esther was not married to Ahasuerus till the seventh year of his reign, chap. Esther 2:16. And, considering that the choice of virgins was made for him in the fourth of his reign, and a whole year employed in their purifications, the soonest that she could have a son by him must be in the sixth; and therefore we may conclude with Josephus, the Septuagint, and the apocryphal additions to the book of Esther, that the Ahasuerus of Scripture was Artaxerxes Longimanus, and Esther a Hebrew virgin, as she is all along represented. See Prideaux and Calmet.

Verse 2

Esther 1:2. When the king Ahasuerus sat on the throne That is, enjoying peace and tranquillity through his large dominions; for the history of his accession to the throne is this: Xexres, his father, was privately murdered by Artabanes, captain of his guard. He coming to him, who was then but the third son, made him believe that Darius, his eldest brother, had done it to make his way to the throne, and that he had a design likewise to cut him off to make himself secure in it. Ahasuerus, believing this, went immediately to his brother's apartment, and with the assistance of Artabanes and his guards slew him; thinking all the while that he acted but in his own defence. The drift of Artabanes was, to seize on the throne himself; but for the present he took Ahasuerus and placed him thereon, with a design to pull him down as soon as matters were ripe for his own ascent; but when Ahasuerus understood this from Megabysus, who had married one of his sisters, he took care to counter-plot Artabanes, and to cut off him and his whole party before his treason came to maturity; and for this, very probably, and some other successes against his brother Hystaspes, which settled him in an agreeable possession of the whole Persian empire, it was, that a festival season of above one hundred and fourscore days' continuance was appointed, which even to the present time, according to some travellers, is no uncommon thing in those parts of the world. This feast was held at Shushan, which, after the conquest of the Medes, was made by Cyrus and the rest of the Persian kings the royal seat, that they might not be too far from Babylon. It stood upon the river Ulai, and was a place of such renown, that Strabo calls it "a city most worthy to be praised," informing us, that the whole country about it was amazingly fruitful, producing a hundred, and sometimes two hundred fold. Darius Hystaspes enlarged and beautified it with a most magnificent palace; which Aristotle calls "a wonderful royal palace, shining with gold, amber, and ivory." It will not be altogether foreign to our purpose, just to remark from Dr. Lightfoot, that the outer gate of the eastern wall of the temple was called the gate of Shushan, and had the figure of that city carved on it, in honour of the decree which Darius granted at that palace for the rebuilding of Jerusalem.

Verse 6

Esther 1:6. Where were white, green, and blue hangings See Exodus 24:10. Dr. Shaw, after having said that the floors in the Levant are laid with painted tiles or plaister of terras, informs us in a note, that a pavement like this is mentioned in Esther, a pavement of red, and blue, and white, and black marble. But this is not the happiest of the Doctor's illustrations, since floors of different-coloured marble are common now in the east. Dr. Russel tells us, that they pave their courts at Aleppo with marble, and often with a mixture of yellow and white, red and black, by way of ornament; this of Ahasuerus is generally supposed to have been of that kind; since there is a great difference in point of magnificence between a pavement of marble, and one of painted tiles; and consequently the palace of so mighty a monarch as Ahasuerus is rather to be supposed paved with marble; besides, the historian is giving an account of the pavement of a court-yard, not of a room. See 1 Kings 7:7. Dr. Shaw refers to this passage in the same page on another account. He says, the eastern chambers, in houses of better fashion, are covered and adorned from the middle of the wall downwards, "with velvet or damask hangings, of white, blue, red, green, or other colours, (Esther 1:6.) suspended upon hooks, or taken down at pleasure." Here again this ingenious author seems to have been less exact, and should rather, I imagine, have referred to the present passage, when he told us, that "the courts or quadrangles of their houses, when a large company is to be received into them, are commonly sheltered from the heat and inclemency of the weather, by a velum, umbrella, or veil, which, being expanded upon ropes from one side of the parapet-wall to the other, maybe folded or unfolded at pleasure." See Travels, p. 209. Though there are some things in this passage which cannot be determined without difficulty, yet it is extremely plain that the company were entertained in a court of the palace of Ahasuerus; which agrees with Dr. Shaw's account, that when much company is to be admitted to a feast the court is the place of their reception. Now, though their chambers are hung with velvet or damask hangings, it does not appear that on such occasions their courts are thus adorned; but there is a veil stretched out over-head to shelter them from the inclemency of the weather; and, indeed, to something of this sort it is commonly supposed these words refer, though no one has given a better illustration of this piece of ancient history than Dr. Shaw has undesignedly done in his account of their receiving company, when the number is large, in these courts, and covering them with veils expanded on ropes. See Observations, p. 102 and Scheuchzer, tom. 6: p. 12.

Verse 7

Esther 1:7. Royal wine in abundance See on Joel 1:5.

Verse 9

Esther 1:9. Vashti the queen made a feast, &c.— Dr. Shaw observes, that, as in former ages, so at present, it is the custom in the eastern countries, at all their festivals and entertainments, for the men to be treated in separate apartments from the women, not the least intercourse or communication being ever allowed between the sexes. See Travels, p. 232.

Verse 12

Esther 1:12. Therefore was the king very wroth His anger was the more immoderate because his blood was heated with wine, which made his passion too strong for his reason; otherwise he would not have thought it decent for the queen to have her beauty, which was very great, exposed in this unusual manner. See Bishop Patrick.

Verse 13

Esther 1:13. The wise men, which knew the times Some have inferred from hence, that, as the Persian kings did nothing without their magi or wise men, who were great pretenders to astrology, men of this sort were called to know whether it was a proper time to set about the thing which the king had in his mind; for, such was the superstition of the eastern people, that, as the satirist remarks.

——Quicquid Dixerit astrologus, credent a fonte relatum Ammonis. JUVENAL, Sat. 6:

Such credit to astrologers is given, What they foretel is deem'd a voice from heaven. DRYDEN.
The explication, however, which Vitringa gives of the original is far from being improbable; namely, that these were men well versed in ancient histories, and in the laws and customs of their country, and were therefore able to give the king counsel in all extraordinary and perplexed cases. Houbigant renders the passage thus: then the king, speaking to the wise men, who knew the law and judgment (for the royal decrees were then established, when they were laid before those who knew the law and judgment; Est 1:13 and for that reason he had by his side seven princes of Persia, Carshena, &c.) said, Esther 1:15. What shall we do, &c. See Le Clerc, and 1 Chronicles 12:32.

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Bibliographical Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Esther 1". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/tcc/esther-1.html. 1801-1803.