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Bible Commentaries

John Trapp Complete Commentary
Esther 4

 

 

Verse 1

Esther 4:1 When Mordecai perceived all that was done, Mordecai rent his clothes, and put on sackcloth with ashes, and went out into the midst of the city, and cried with a loud and a bitter cry;

Ver. 1. When Mordecai perceived all that was done] Mαθων το γινομενον, saith Josephus, when he had learned or fully informed himself, so that he knew it to be so, as the Hebrew text hath it (Jadang.). Solicitous he was of the Church’s welfare, and sat listening, as Eli did once, what would become of the ark, 1 Samuel 3:13. Now therefore, as ill news is swift of foot, saith Sophocles, αι βλαβαι ποδωκεις, and comes like ill weather, before it be sent for, Mordecai taketh knowledge of that bloody decree, though Esther and those about her had not heard of it, Esther 4:4-5. Neither sitteth he still at home, as desponding and despairing, or seeketh by sinister practices to help himself and his people, but applieth himself, first, to God, by hearty humiliation and prayer; and then to the king, by the intercession of Esther. A carnal heart would have taken other shifting courses, like as a dog that hath lost his master will follow after any other for relief.

Mordecai rent his clothes] To show that his very heart was rent with sorrow for Sion. This custom of rending their clothes in time and in token of greatest grief, was in use not among the Jews only, but Persians also, and other nations, as is noted by Herodotus and Curtius.

And put on sackcloth] The coarsest clothing he could get; as holding any clothes too good for so vile a captive, and showing that but for shame he would have worn none. So the Nine vites sat in sackcloth and ashes, for more humiliation. See Exodus 33:4, &c.

And ashes] He put on ashes or dust, that is, a dusty garment sprinkled with ashes, saith Drusius, putting his mouth in the dust, as Lamentations 3:29, acknowledging himself to be of the earth earthy, and fit fuel for hell fire, Non e foco, sed e terra desumptum pulverem notat (Merlin).

And went out into the midst of the city] That he might be a pattern to others. Si vis me flere, &c.

And cried with a loud and a bitter cry] More barbarico, after the manner of that country; but there was more in it than so. It was not his own danger that so much affected him (how gladly could he have wished, with Ambrose, that God would please to turn all the adversaries from the Church upon himself, and let them satisfy their thirst with his blood? Oτι μηδεν αδικησον εθνος αναιρειται, Joseph.) as that so many innocent people should perish. This made him lift up his voice unto God on high.


Verse 2

Esther 4:2 And came even before the king’s gate: for none [might] enter into the king’s gate clothed with sackcloth.

Ver. 2. And came even before the king’s gate] Which should have been always open to poor petitioners (as the gate of the Roman Aedilis was), but was now shut against such mourners as Mordecai. A night cap was an ill sight at Court; jolly spirits cannot endure sadness; so great enemies they are to it, that they banish all seriousness; like as the Nicopolites so hated the braying of an ass, that for that cause they would not abide to hear the sound of a trumpet.

For none might enter into the king’s gate clothed with sackcloth] Behold, they that wear softs are in king’s houses, Matthew 11:8, and those that are altogether set upon the merry pin. Jannes and Jambres, those magicians, are gracious with Pharaoh when Moses and Aaron are frowned upon. Baal’s prophets are fed at Jezebel’s table when Elias is almost pined in the desert. The dancing damsel trippeth on the toe, Wρχησατο, Matthew 14:6, and triumpheth in Herod’s hall, when the rough coated Baptist lieth in cold irons; and Christ’s company there is neither cared for, nor called for, unless it be to show tricks, and do miracles for a pastime, Luke 23:8. The kings and courtiers of Persia must see no sad sight, lest their mirth should be marred, and themselves surprised with heaviness and horror. But if mourners might not be suffered to come to court, why did those proud princes so seclude up themselves, and not appear abroad for the relief of the poor oppressed? How much better the modern kings of Persia, whom I have seen, saith a certain traveller, to alight from their horses, to do justice to a poor body! How much better the Great Turk, who, whensoever he goeth forth by land, doth always ride on horseback, upon the Friday especially, which is their Sabbath, when he goeth to the temple. At which times they that go along by his stirrup have charge to take all petitions that are preferred to his Majesty, and many poor men, who dare not presume by reason of their ragged apparel to approach near, stand afar off with fire upon their heads, holding up their petitions in their hands; the which the Grand Signor seeing, who never despiseth, but rather encourageth the poor, sends immediately to take the petitions, and being returned home into his seraglio, harem and reads them all, and then gives order for redress as he thinks fit. By reason of which complaints, the king ofttimes taketh occasion suddenly to punish his greatest officers, either with death or loss of place, which maketh the bashaws and other great officers that they care not how seldom the Grand Signor stirs abroad in public, for fear lest in that manner their bribery and injustice should come to his ears. It is probable that Haman had got this also to be decreed, that none should enter into the king’s gate clothed in sackcloth; lest passion might be moved thereby in any of the courtiers, or that be a means to make a complaint to the king of his cruelty.


Verse 3

Esther 4:3 And in every province, whithersoever the king’s commandment and his decree came, [there was] great mourning among the Jews, and fasting, and weeping, and wailing; and many lay in sackcloth and ashes.

Ver. 3. And in every province] Heb. In every province, and province, &c., not only in Shushan, which, say the Hebrews, was called Elam Hammedina, but throughout the king’s dominions.

Whithersoever the king’s commandment and his decree] The latter was irrevocable, and therefore more dreadful.

There was great mourning among the Jews] Not murmuring or mutinying, or meditating revenge against the king and Haman. Not casting away their confidence in God, or committing all to fate and blind fortune. Not crying out of religion, as unhappy, to the professors, ( ω τλημων αρετη, said he in the story. Oh miserable virtue! Oh practice of no profit! &c., Brutus apud Dion). Not taking up arms or betaking themselves to flight; (how should poor galley slaves at this day flee out of the middle of Turkey?) prayers and tears were the weapons of these condemned captives and prisoners. It troubled them exceedingly (as well it might), that through fearfulness and negligence they had not, before this, gone back to their own country, with Zerubbabel or some other, when they had good leave to have gone with their brethren; and God himself cried out unto them, "Ho, ho, come forth," &c., Zechariah 2:6. "Arise, depart; this is not your rest: because it is polluted, it shall destroy you, even with a sore destruction," Micah 2:10. This was now a bodkin at their hearts; like as it shall be one day to those in hell, to think, we might have been delivered.

And fasting] The word signifieth an abstinence from food and sustenance, either a toto, totally, as 2 Samuel 12:16, or at least a tanto eta tali, partially, as Daniel 10:2-3. Hence, it is called a day of restraint, Nηστεια, Joel 2:15. Hence, Zechariah 8:19, they separated themselves, viz. from work, food, and delights, for the furtherance of their repentance, and the enforcing of their prayers. Preces nobis ieiuniis alendum, et quasi saginandum, saith one, our prayers must be pampered and grain fed with fasting. A practice in use, not among Jews and Christians only, but among Egyptian priests, Persian magi, and Indian wizards of old, and Turks to this day when they are in any great fear of pressure.

And weeping, and wailing] This was the way to get in with God, though they might not come crying to the court. Oh the divine rhetoric and omnipotent efficacy of penitent tears! Psalms 6:8, Weeping hath a voice. Christ turned to the weeping women, when going to his cross, and comforted them. He showed great respects to Mary Magdalene, that weeping vine; she had the first sight of the revived Phoenix (though so bleared that she could scarce discern him), and held him fast by those feet which she had once washed with her tears, and wherewith he had lately trod upon the lion and adder, Psalms 91:13.

And many lay in sackcloth and ashes] As many as were more deeply affected with their sins, and the sad consequents thereof. David lay on the bare ground, χαμαικοιτης, 2 Samuel 12:16; these, and those Joel 1:13, lodged in sackcloth and ashes, that they might watch as well as fast. See how they go linked together, Mark 13:33. See Esther 4:16.


Verse 4

Esther 4:4 So Esther’s maids and her chamberlains came and told [it] her. Then was the queen exceedingly grieved; and she sent raiment to clothe Mordecai, and to take away his sackcloth from him: but he received [it] not.

Ver. 4. So Esther’s maids came and told it her] She herself (say interpreters) was kept in a closer place than they, not having the liberty of going abroad, as others had; because the Persians that were of highest quality used so to keep in their wives; and if they went forth at any time, they were carried in a close chariot, so as that none could see them.

Then was the queen exceedingly grieved] Dolens exhorruit. So Tremellius. The Hebrew is, She grieved herself, scil. for Mordecai’s heaviness; as our Saviour, when he heard of the death of his friend Lazarus, groaned in spirit, and troubled himself, John 11:33. And here we see that of Plautus disproved,

Mulier nulla cordicitus dolet ex animo,

that is, No woman can grieve heartily for anything. Holy Esther is here sick at heart of grief, as the word importeth; and yet (as one saith of the Lady Jane Grey) she made grief itself amiable; her night clothes becoming her as well as her day dressings, by reason of her gracious deportment.

And she sent raiment to clothe Mordecai] That he might be fit to come unto her, and make known the cause of his grief, for she yet knew nothing of the public calamity. And although she was so highly advanced above Mordecai, yet she condoleth with him, and honoureth him as much as ever. This was true friendship. Ego aliter amare non didici, said Basil, to one that disliked him for stooping so low to an old friend.

And to take away his sackcloth, &c.] To change his saccum in sericum, sackcloth into satin, &c. See Esther 4:2.

But he received it not] Such was the greatness of his grief which he could not dissemble; such was his care of community, that he could not mind his own private concerns while it went ill with the public. Such also was his patient continuance in well doing, Romans 2:7, that he would not give over asking of God till he had received, seeking till he had found, knocking till the gate of grace was open. His clothes were good enough, unless his condition were more comfortable.


Verse 5

Esther 4:5 Then called Esther for Hatach, [one] of the king’s chamberlains, whom he had appointed to attend upon her, and gave him a commandment to Mordecai, to know what it [was], and why it [was].

Ver. 5. Then called Esther for Hatach] She snuffeth not at Mordecai’s refusal of her courtesy. She saith not, Let him choose, the next offer shall be worse, Rerum suarum satagat, si velit, et valeat, &c. Solomon reckoneth among those four things that the earth cannot bear, a handmaid advanced to the state and place of a mistress, Proverbs 30:23. But Esther was none such. In her you might have seen magnitudinem cum mansuetudine, as Seneca hath it, singular humility in height of honours. She calleth here for Hatach, a faithful servant, and perhaps a Jew, a Jew inwardly. Honesty flows from piety.

One of the king’s chamberlains] Heb. Eunuchs, or gelded men, such as used to keep their women in king’s courts. The Chaldees call them rabrebanim, that is, nobles. The Persians call them spadones, saith Stephanus. The Greeks, eunuchs; either because they were princes’ chamberlains, and had the custody of their beds: or because they were egregie cordati homines, well-minded men ( Pαρα το ευνην εχειν παρα το ευ νουν εχειν): for they generally proved (as likewise now they do among the Turks) subjects, though not of great courage, yet of the greatest judgment and fidelity, their minds being set on business rather than on pleasure.

Whom he had appointed to attend upon her] Heb. Whom he had set before her, in obsequium et servitium, to be at her beck and obedience: probably he was happy in such a service, for goodness is communicative, and of a spreading nature. Plutarch saith of the neighbour villages of Rome in Numa’s time, that sucking in the air of that city, they breathed δικαιοσυνη, righteousness and devotion; so it might very well be here. It was so with Abraham’s servants, and Solomon’s, and Cornelius’s, Acts 10:7. Nero complained (and no wonder) that he could never find a faithful servant. What could they learn from him but villany and cruelty?

And gave him a commandment to Mordecai] i.e. She commanded him to deliver her mind to Mordecai. A servant is not to be inquisitive, {John 15:15, he knoweth not what his Lord doth} but executive, ready to do what is required of him. He is the master’s instrument, and wholly his, Oλως εκεινου, saith Aristotle. The hands must take counsel of the head, and bestir them.

To know what it was, and why it was] Some great matter she well knew it must needs be that put him to those loud laments. Wise men cry not till they are sorely hurt. Job’s stroke was heavier than his groaning, Job 23:2. He was not of those that are ever whining: like some men’s flesh, if their skin be but razed with a pin, it presently rankleth and festereth; or like rotten boughs, if a light weight be but hung on them, they presently creak and break. Mordecai she knew was none such. She therefore sendeth to see what was the matter, that she might help him, if possible. The tears and moans of men in misery are not to be slighted, as if they were nothing to us. Who is afflicted, and I burn not? saith Paul, 2 Corinthians 11:29. Weep with those that weep, else you add to their grief, Romans 12:15, as the priest and Levite did, by passing by the wounded man. Is it nothing to you, O ye that pass by the way? Lamentations 1:12. Are not ye also in the body, Hebrews 13:3, that is, in the body of flesh and frailty, subject to like afflictions? And may not your sins procure their sufferings, as a vein is opened in the arm to ease the pain of the head?


Verse 6

Esther 4:6 So Hatach went forth to Mordecai unto the street of the city, which [was] before the king’s gate.

Ver. 6. So Hatach went forth to Mordecai] He was obedient to his queen mistress, pleasing her in all things, not answering again, Titus 2:10, unless it were, I will, or the like. Servus sit monosyllabum Domino. Let the servant be the word of his master. Apelles painted a servant with hinds’ feet, to run on his master’s errands; with ass’s ears, and with his mouth made fast with two locks, to signify that he should be swift to hear, slow to speak.

Unto the street of the city] The broad street, as the word signifieth; Rechob, πλατεια: there Mordecai kept him, and might not come nearer the court, because a mourner. See Esther 4:2. Tiberius the emperor, counterfeiting grief at the funeral of Drusus, there was a veil laid between the dead and him, because being high priest forsooth, he might not see any mournful object. The statues of the gods were transported or covered (for like cause) in those places where any punishment was inflicted. But what saith the wise man? "The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning" (whereby we must understand any place or object which occasioneth mourning), "but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth," Ecclesiastes 7:4.


Verse 7

Esther 4:7 And Mordecai told him of all that had happened unto him, and of the sum of the money that Haman had promised to pay to the king’s treasuries for the Jews, to destroy them.

Ver. 7. And Mordecai told him all that had happened unto him] Not by fate or blind fortune, κατα συγκυριαν (and yet time and chance happeneth to all, Ecclesiastes 9:11, and it was by chance to the wounded man, that the priest and the Levite came down that way, Luke 10:31), but by the providence of God, which hath a hand in ordering the most casual and fortuitous events, to the execution of his righteous counsels; neither is there ever a providence but we shall once see a wonder or a mercy wrapt up in it.

And of the sum of money] See Esther 3:9. Money is the monarch of this present world. Money is to many dearer than their heart blood, yet, to gratify their lusts, they lavish silver out of the bag, and care not to purchase revenge or sensual delights with misery, beggary, discredit, damnation.


Verse 8

Esther 4:8 Also he gave him the copy of the writing of the decree that was given at Shushan to destroy them, to shew [it] unto Esther, and to declare [it] unto her, and to charge her that she should go in unto the king, to make supplication unto him, and to make request before him for her people.

Ver. 8. Also he gave him the copy of the writing] That she might see it, and rest assured that it was even so, and no otherwise; and that therefore now or never she must bestir herself for the labouring Church.

That was given at Shushan] Which if ever it were full of judgment, and white as a lily (according to the name), is now stained with blood of innocents; if ever righteousness did lodge in it, yet now murderers, as Isaiah 1:21.

To show it unto Esther] That her eye might affect her heart, Lamentations 3:51, and her heart set all awork for her people; that is, herself, according to that, "Physician, heal thyself"; that is, thine own countrymen, Luke 4:23.

And to declare it unto her] In the cause, viz. his refusing to bow to Haman against his conscience (whereof it no whit repented him); and in the several circumstances laid forth in the liveliest colours, for her thorough information.

And to charge her that she should go in unto the king] Hoc perquam durum est, sed ita lex scripta est, This was extremely hard, but so the law was written, saith the civilian. This Mordecai knew would hardly be done; he, therefore, makes use of his ancient authority, and sets it on with greatest earnestness. So St Paul, "I charge you by the Lord," 1 Thessalonians 5:27. And, again, "I charge thee before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ," &c., 2 Timothy 4:1. So St Austin to his hearers, Per tremendum Dei iudicium vos adiuro, I require and charge you by that dreadful day of judgment, when that doom’s day book shall be opened, &c. It is a weakness to be hot in a cold matter, but it is a wickedness to be cold in a hot matter. He that is earnest in good, though he may carry some things indiscreetly, yet is he far better than a time server, and a cold friend to the truth; like as in falling forward is nothing so much danger as in falling backward. Eli was to blame with his - Do no more so, my sons. And so was Jehoshaphat with his - Let not the king say so. And the people in Ahab’s time, who, when they were pressed to express whom they were for, God or Baal? they answered not a word, 1 Kings 18:21. And yet how many such cold friends hath the truth today! lukewarm Laodiceans, neuter passive Christians! &c. When Callidus once declared against Gallus with a faint and languishing voice, Oh, saith Cicero, Tu nisi fingeres, sic ageres? Wouldest thou plead on that manner if thou wert in good earnest? Men’s faint appearing for God’s cause shows they do but feign; their coldness probably concludeth they do but counterfeit. Mordecai plays the man, and chargeth Esther to improve her interest in the king, her husband, for the Church’s deliverance. See here how he turneth every stone, tradeth every talent, leaveth no means unused, no course unattempted for the saints’ safety. And this the Spirit of God hath purposely recorded, that all may learn to lay out themselves to the utmost for the public; to be most zealous for the conservation and defence of the Church when it is afflicted and opposed by persecutors; seeing they cannot be saved unless she be in safety; neither can they have God for their Father unless they love and observe this their dear mother. Utinam, iterum autem utinam diligentius a cunctis ordinibus haec hodie considerarentur, saith one. Oh that these things were duly considered by all sorts today!

To make supplication unto him] Heb. To deprecate displeasure and mischief, as 1 Kings 8:28, Zechariah 12:10.

And to make request before him] Ad quaerendum a facie eius; so Pagnine from the Hebrew, to seek for good from his face, an effectul smile, a gracious aspect, that they may live in his sight. For, "in the light of the king’s countenance is life; and his favour is as a cloud of the latter rain," Proverbs 16:15. The ancient Persian kings were most fond of their wives, doing them all the honour possible in court, as partakers of all their fortunes, and carried them and their children into their farthest wars; by the presence of so dear pledges, the more to encourage their minds in time of battle. Now, therefore, Esther (whom Herodotus also witnesseth to have been Xerxes’ best beloved) is to try what she can do with him for her people, who were haply grown too secure upon Esther’s preferment; as the French Churches also were upon the queen of Navarre’s greatness, and the promise of peace by that match. God, therefore, shortly after shook them up, not by shaking his rod only at them, as here at these Jews, but by permitting that bloody massacre.


Verse 9

Esther 4:9 And Hatach came and told Esther the words of Mordecai.

Ver. 9. And Hatach came and told Esther] He acted the part of a faithful messenger: so must ministers, those servants of the Churches, declare unto the people all the mind of God, Acts 20:27, and not steal God’s word every one from his neighbour, Jeremiah 23:30, not deal deceitfully with it, but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God, let them speak in Christ; and let them speak out, not fearing any colours. He that hath my word let him speak my word faithfully, saith God, Jeremiah 23:28. Aaron’s bells were all of gold; the trumpets of the sanctuary were of pure silver; they did not (as those inverse trumpets of Furius Fulvius) sound a retreat, when they should have sounded an alarm; no more must God’s messengers. Whatsoever the Lord saith unto me, that will I speak, saith Micaiah. Paul, as he received what he delivered, so he delivered whatsoever he received, 1 Corinthians 11:23. Moses was faithful in all God’s house, &c., Hebrews 3:5.


Verse 10

Esther 4:10 Again Esther spake unto Hatach, and gave him commandment unto Mordecai;

Ver. 10. Again Esther spake unto Hatack] Having before found him a fit and faithful messenger, she further employeth him; so those that minister well do purchase to themselves a good degree, and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus, 1 Timothy 3:13, when others shall be laid by as broken vessels, whereof there is not left a sheard to take fire from the hearth, or to take water with it from the pit, as the prophet hath it, Isaiah 30:14.


Verse 11

Esther 4:11 All the king’s servants, and the people of the king’s provinces, do know, that whosoever, whether man or woman, shall come unto the king into the inner court, who is not called, [there is] one law of his to put [him] to death, except such to whom the king shall hold out the golden sceptre, that he may live: but I have not been called to come in unto the king these thirty days.

Ver. 11. All the king’s servants] His courtiers and counsellors, who haply were as very slaves to him, as now the greatest lords of the court are to the Great Turk; no man having any power over himself, much less is be master of the house wherein he dwelleth, or of the land which he tilleth, but is in danger of being whipped upon the least displeasure of the tyrant, especially if he be not a natural Turk born.

And the people of the king’s provinces, do know] i.e. All, both far and near: this shows that the law here mentioned was no new law procured by Haman, to prevent Jewish suppliants, as Lyra would have it, but long since made, and known to all the king’s subjects.

That whosoever, whether man or woman] Yea, though she be his dearest consort, who should cohabit with him, and not be sundered for a season but by consent, 1 Corinthians 7:5.

Shall come unto the king] The Persians usually hid their king, tanquam aliquod sacrum mysterium, as some precious business, and that for two reasons. First, for state and authority, lest familiarity with their subjects should breed contempt, and make them too cheap. Philip II, King of Spain, was of the same mind and practice. For, after that he had gotten into his hands the kingdom of Portugal, and therewith the wealth of the Indies, inclusit se in Curiali, he shut up and immured himself in his court, and was seldom seen of any, though never so great a man, but upon long suit, and as a singular favour. This made him to be adored as a demi-god. Secondly, for security and safety, lest, if all should be suffered to come that would, the king should be assassinated and made away, as Eglon was by Ehud; Ishbosheth, by Baanah and Rechab; Gedaliah, by Ishmael; and many kings of Israel and emperors of Rome were by their own servants. The Turks at this day allow no stranger to come into the presence of their emperor, but first they search him that he have no weapon; and so, clasping him by the arms, under colour of doing him honour, dissemblingly they bereave him of the use of his hands, lest he should offer him any violence; yet hath he alway, as he sitteth in his throne, lying at hand ready by him, a target, a scimitar, an iron mace, with bow and arrows.

- Sors ista tyrannis

Muniti ut gladiis vivant, cinctique venenis.

How much better Agesilaus, king of Spartans, who walked daily among his subjects, doing justice, and is, therefore, by Xenophon worthily preferred before this stately king of Persia! How much better Queen Elizabeth, who often showed herself to her people, and cheerfully received bouquets, flowers, rosemary, from lowly persons. She got the heart of her subjects (which Philip of Spain, her stately contemporary, never could do), by coupling mildness with majesty, and stooping, yet in a stately manner, to those of low condition. So reserved she was, that all about her stood in a reverent awe of her very presence and aspect, but much more of her least frown or check; wherewith some of them, who thought they might presume of her favour, have been so suddenly daunted and planet-stricken, {to strike as a malignant influence, to blast} that they could not lay down the grief thereof but in their graves (Speed, 1235).

There is one law of his] A wretched law it was, written not with black, but with blood, and condemned by very heathens for barbarous and pernicious to the public. For if the king may not be come at, but upon pain of death, what shall become of the poor oppressed? and how shall he ever hear of the rapines and other miscarriages of his favourites and junior officers, by whom he shall be even bought and sold, and himself never the wiser, as Aurelian, the emperor, complained. Orpheus, that oldest of poets, feigneth, that Litae (or petitions) are Jove’s daughters, and ever conversant about his throne. David heard the woman of Tekoa; Solomon the two harlots; and King Joram the affamished woman that called to him for justice with, Help, O king; Philip, of Macedon, righted the old wife that checked him for his neglect of her; and Trajan, the widow that would not be put off till another time (Plutarch). This was king-like; his office is to judge the people with righteousness, and the poor with judgment. He shall judge the poor of the people … and break in pieces the oppressor, Psalms 72:2; Psalms 72:4.

To put him to death] Yανατος η ζημια (Athenaeus). No such danger in approaching God’s presence: he soliciteth suitors, and seeketh such as may come before him, John 4:23. This was anciently figured by the door of the tabernacle, not made of any hard or debarring matter, but of a veil easily penetrable; which also now is rent, to show our easy access to him, who heareth prayers, and willeth that all flesh come unto him, lifting up in all places pure hands, without wrath, and without doubting, Psalms 65:2, 1 Timothy 2:8.

Except such to whom the king shall hold out the golden sceptre] In token that he called for them. Thus whom he would he slew, and whom he would he kept alive, as Daniel 5:19. But Esther should (as afterwards she did) have trusted God with her life; and with a Roman resolution have said, Necesse est ut eam, non ut vivam: It is necessary that I venture, not that I live. That she was fearful when her life lay upon it, we may impute to the weakness of her sex, or rather of her faith; against which sense fights sore when it is upon its own dunghill; I mean, in a sensible danger. Nature’s retraction of itself, from a visible fear, may cause the pulse of a Christian, that beats truly and strongly in the main point (the state of the soul), to intermit and falter at such a time. Abraham showed some trepidation, and Peter much more.

But I have not been called to come in to the king these thirty days] There was hot love the while; his concubines, perhaps, had engrossed him. Doves are said to draw the chariot of Venus; and those neither change their mates nor forsake their company. Haman was all the doer now about the king, as our King Richard II’s favourites, knights of Venus rather than Bellona, saith the chronicler, conversing with the king, not without suspicion of foul familiarity, as Walsingham writeth. Sodomitica labe infecti fere omnes, saith another (Speed. 746).


Verse 12

Esther 4:12 And they told to Mordecai Esther’s words.

Ver. 12. And they told to Mordecai Esther’s words] {See Trapp on "Esther 4:9"} She would have been her own messenger, but might not. The greatest are not always the happiest. The Lady Elizabeth once wished herself a merry milk maid.


Verse 13

Esther 4:13 Then Mordecai commanded to answer Esther, Think not with thyself that thou shalt escape in the king’s house, more than all the Jews.

Ver. 13. Then Mordecai commanded to answer Esther] He would not take her excuse, but seems to say unto her, as one once did to a philosopher (Aul. Gell.), that in a great tempest at sea asked many trifling questions: Are we perishing, and doest thou trifle? Hμεις απολλυμεθα, και συ παιζεις. So, dost thou cast off the care of community, and provide for no more than thine own safety?

Think not with thyself, that thou shalt escape in the king’s house] Any more than Serena, that Christian empress, wife to Dioclesian, did, or Elizabeth, queen of Denmark, glad to flee for her life, because a Lutheran; or Queen Catharine Parr, who hardly escaped the fire by the favour of her husband, Henry VIII. Sure it is, that the fear of man bringeth a snare (as fearful birds and beasts fall into the hunter’s toil), "but he that trusteth in the Lord" (as good Mordecai did, and as he would have Esther to do), "shall be safe," Proverbs 29:25, or shall be set on high, out of harm’s way; his place of defence shall be munitions of rocks, Isaiah 33:16. Like as the coney, that weak but wise creature, Proverbs 30:24; Proverbs 30:26, flees to the holes in the rocks, and doth easily avoid the dogs that pursue her; when the hare, that trusteth to the swiftness of her legs, is at length overtaken, and torn in pieces.

More than all the Jews] The law was general and irreversible. Darius sought to deliver Daniel, and could not. And Haman’s (as once Medina’s here in 1588) sword knew no difference, nor would make any in that general massacre; like as in that at Paris, they poisoned the queen of Navarre, murdered the most part of the peerless nobility in France, their wives and children, with a great sort of the common people.


Verse 14

Esther 4:14 For if thou altogether holdest thy peace at this time, [then] shall there enlargement and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place; but thou and thy father’s house shall be destroyed: and who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for [such] a time as this?

Ver. 14. But if thou altogether boldest thy peace] And so make thyself guilty of a sinful silence, nay, of the death of so many innocents; for not to do good when it is in the power of a man’s hand is to do evil, and not to save is to destroy, as our Saviour showeth, Mark 3:14. Qui non cum potest, servat; occidit. Passive wickedness is deeply taxed in some of those seven Churches, Rev. ii., iii. In a storm at sea it is a shame to sit still, or to be asleep, with Jonah, in the sides of the ship, when it is in danger of drowning. Every man cannot sit at the stern; but then he may handle the ropes, or manage the oars, &c. The self-seeker, the private spirited man, may he be but warm in is own feathers, regards not the danger of the house; he is totus in se, entirely in himself, like the snail, still within doors and at home; like the squirrel, he ever digs his hole towards the sunrising; his care is to keep on the warm side of the hedge, to sleep in a whole skin, to save one, whatever become of the many. From doing thus, Mordecai deterreth Esther by a heap of holy arguments; discovering a heroical faith and a well-knit resolution.

At this time] There is indeed a time to keep silence, and a time to speak, Ecclesiastes 3:7. But if ever a man will speak, let him do it when the enemies are ready to devour the Church: as Croesus’s dumb son burst out into, Kill not King Croesus. "For Zion’s sake will I not hold my peace, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest," &c., Isaiah 62:1. "If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning. If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth," &c., Psalms 137:5-6. That noble Terentius (general to Valens the emperor) being bidden to ask what he would, asked nothing, but that the Church might be freed from Arians; and when the emperor, upon a defeat by the Goths, upbraided him with cowardice and sloth as the causes of the overthrow, he boldly replied, Yourself have lost the day, by your warring against God, and persecuting his people (Niceph.).

Then shall their enlargement] Heb. Respiration, a day of refreshing should come from the presence of the Lord. Confer Job 9:18. At present they could hardly breathe, for bitterness of spirit.

And deliverance arise] Heb. stand up, as on its basis or bottom, so as none shall be able to withstand. This, Mordecai speaketh, not by a spirit of prophecy, but by the force of his faith, grounded upon the promises of God’s defending his Church, hearing the cries of his afflicted, arising to their relief and succour, &c. Mira profecto ac omnibus linguis, saeculis, locisque commendabilis fides, saith one. A notable faith indeed, and worthy of highest commendation. Through the perspective of the promises (those pabulum fidei, food of faith) a believer may see deliverance at a great distance ( Aσπασαμενοι); see it and embrace it, as those did, Hebrews 11:13. What though Sense saith, it will not be; Reason, it cannot be; yet Faith gets above, and says, it shall be, I spy land.

Italiam, Italiam laeto clamore salutat (Virg.).

But thou and thy father’s house shall be destroyed] Here he thundereth and threateneth her, if to save herself she shall desert the Church. Mordecai’s message, like David’s ditty, is composed of discords. Sour and sweet make the best sauce; promises and menaces mixed will soonest work, Psalms 101:1. God told Abraham, that for the love he bare him, he would bless those that blessed him, and curse such as cursed him, Genesis 12:3. Their sin should find them out, and they should rue it in their posterity. As one fire, so one fear, should drive out another.

And who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom] There is often a wheel within a wheel, Ezekiel 1:16. God may have an end and an aim in businesses that we wot not of nor can see into, till event hath explained it. Let us lay forth ourselves for him, and labour to be public spirited, standing on tiptoes, {Aποκαραδοκια, Philippians 1:20} as St Paul did, to see which way we may most glorify God, and gratify our brethren.


Verse 15

Esther 4:15 Then Esther bade [them] return Mordecai [this answer],

Ver. 15. Then Esther bade them return Mordecai this answer] A sweet answer, and such as fully satisfied him. No man’s labour can be in vain in the Lord. Good therefore and worthy of all acceptation is the wise man’s counsel: "In the morning sow thy seed, and in the evening withhold not thy hand; for thou knowest not whether shall prosper, either this or that, or whether they both shall be alike good," Ecclesiastes 11:6. Mordecai had filled his mouth with arguments, and now God filled his heart with comfort. Esther yielded, and resolves to obey him, whatever come of it; only she will go the wisest way to work, first seeking God, and then casting herself upon the king, Ora et labora. Words and works. God hath all hearts in his hand, and will grant good success to his suppliants.


Verse 16

Esther 4:16 Go, gather together all the Jews that are present in Shushan, and fast ye for me, and neither eat nor drink three days, night or day: I also and my maidens will fast likewise; and so will I go in unto the king, which [is] not according to the law: and if I perish, I perish.

Ver. 16. Go, gather together all the Jews] Great is the power of joint prayer, it stirs heaven, and works wonders. Oh, when a Church full of good people shall set sides and shoulders to work, when they shall rouse up themselves and wrestle with God, when their pillars of incense shall come up into his presence, and their voices be heard as the voices of many waters, and as the voice of a great thunder, Revelation 14:2, what may not such thundering legions have at God’s hands? Have it? they will have it: Caelum tundimus, preces fundimus, misericordiam extorquemus, said those primitive prayer-makers. Revelation 9:13, the prayers of the saints from the four corners of the earth sound, and do great things in the world, they make it ring. It was the speech of a learned man, if there be but one sigh come from a gracious heart (how much more, then, a volley of sighs from many good hearts together!) it filleth the ears of God, so that God heareth nothing else.

And fast ye for me] Who am now upon my life, and, for aught I know, am shortly to appear before the Lord (who requireth to be sanctified in all them that draw near unto him), and wherein I may not look to have leave to err twice, Non licet in belle bis errare. Point, therefore, your prayers for me with holy fastings, that they may pierce heaven and prevail. Abstinence meriteth not, saith a grave divine (Dr Hall), for religion consisteth not in the belly, either full or empty; (What are meats or drinks to the kingdom of God, which is, like himself, spiritual?) but it prepareth best for good duties. Full bellies are fitter for rest. Not the body so much as the soul is more active with emptiness; hence solemn prayer taketh ever fasting to attend it; and so much the rather speedeth in heaven, when it is so accompanied. It is good so to diet the body, that the soul may be fattened.

And neither eat nor drink three days, &c.] That is, saith Drusius, two whole nights, one whole day, and part of two other days. See the like expression, Matthew 12:40. Others say, that in those hot countries they might fast three days as well as we two in these cold climates. Tully in one of his epistles telleth us, that he fasted two days together, without so much as tasting a little water. For the Romans, also, and Grecians had their fasts private and public, whether it were by a secret instinct of nature, or by an imitation of the Hebrews, Faciunt et vespae favos. The Turks likewise at this day precisely observe their fasts, and will not so much as taste a cup of water, or wash their mouths with water, all the day long, before the stars appear in the sky, be the days never so long and hot. The Hollanders and French fast, but had need, saith one, to send for those mourning women, Jeremiah 9:17, by their cunning to teach them to mourn. The English are not sick soon enough, saith another, and they are well too soon: this is true of their minds as well as of their bodies. Currat ergo poenitentia, ne praecurrat sententia; and let our fasts be either from morning till evening, 20:26, 2 Samuel 3:35, or from evening till evening, Leviticus 23:32, or longer, as here, and Acts 9:9, as the hand and wrath of God doth more or less threaten us, or lie upon us. There is an old Canon that defineth their continuance, till stars appear in the sky, Usque dum stellae in caelo appareant.

I also and my maids will fast] She herself would be in the head of them, as Queen Elizabeth also told her soldiers at Tilbury camp for their comfort; and as Caesar used to say to his soldiers, Go we, and not Go ye, Non ite, sed eamus; and as Joshua said, I and my house will serve Jehovah, Joshua 24:15. Esther’s maids must fast and pray, or they are no maids for her.

And so will I go unto the king] It is said of Achilles, that he was Styge armatus; but he that fasteth, prayeth, believeth, Est caelo, Christo, Deo armatus, armed with an undaunted resolution to obey God whatever come of it.

Which is not according to the law] She slights not the law, but waves it, to obey God’s law, and save her people.

And if I perish, I perish] This she speaketh not rashly or desperately, as prodigal of her life, but as sacrificing the same to God and his cause, through the obedience of faith, and saying, as that martyr, Can I die but once for Christ? See the like phrase, Genesis 43:14, {See Trapp on "Genesis 43:14"} Better do worthily, and perish for a kingdom, than unworthily, and perish with a kingdom.


Verse 17

Esther 4:17 So Mordecai went his way, and did according to all that Esther had commanded him.

Ver. 17. So Mordecai went his way, and did according, &c.] As he had put her upon a dangerous, but, as the cause stood, necessary, exploit (nature will venture its own particular good for the general, as heavy things will ascend to keep our vacuity, and preserve the universe); so he is ruled by her (though a woman, and once his pupil) when he perceived her counsel was good. Abraham must hear Sarah, and David Abigail, and Apollos Priscilla, when they speak reason. It is foretold of a man in Christ, that a little child shall lead him, Isaiah 11:6.

 


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Bibliography Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Esther 4:4". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/esther-4.html. 1865-1868.

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, June 3rd, 2020
the Week of Proper 4 / Ordinary 9
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