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Bible Commentaries

Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary
Esther 2

 

 


Verse 1

CRITICAL NOTES.]

Est . After these things] How long after the divorce of Vashti is uncertain. It may have been only a few months, or it may have been a year or more after. He remembered Vashti] And along with the remembrance came a desire to have her restored to favour again, and probably, also, a feeling that she had been too severely dealt with.

MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH. Est

REGRETS—NATURAL, USELESS, AND WHOLESOME

Vashti was banished, but she was still a queen, for she reigned in the halls of the monarch's sad memory. The jewelled turban may be placed on the head of another, but a royal soul cannot be stripped of queenly prerogatives by a monarch's power. The king bowed to her greatness, and practically confessed her royalty, though kingly pride and Persian law might prevent a revocation of the edict. He remembered Vashti in fond but sad regrets.

I. Regrets are natural. The sweet vision of Vashti's grace and beauty pleased the fancy of Ahasuerus while it troubled his soul. Her refusal to violate her modesty unconsciously called forth his admiration. And if he had any nobility in his nature, her marvellous daring must have commanded his esteem. How sad the reflection that in an evil and thoughtless moment of undue merriment and boasting he had been the cause of her fall and her banishment! Thus there would be a mixture of gloom and of light, of joy and of sorrow, of fond regrets and of painful upbraidings, as he remembered Vashti. It is natural for us to look back to the past, and indulge in grief over our losses and our follies. Man is a creature looking both before and behind. One sign of his greatness. He recalls the past, and he tries to picture the future. It was, then, natural for Ahasuerus, when his wrath was appeased, to remember Vashti, and what was decreed against her. Natural for all to regret their losses, and especially those that have been the result of their own folly.

II. Regrets and nothing more are useless. Tears will flow, but tears cannot save. They may excite pity, but cannot work out deliverance, nor undo the past. Regrets cannot suck up the water that has been spilt upon the ground. In this instance regrets cannot restore the deposed Vashti. If she knew of the monarch's remembrance it might afford her some gratification, but this was all the good it would do her. Regrets cannot bring to life the dead which the past has entombed. Let us then so strive to live, to control our passions, that the remembrance of the past may not haunt us with reproaching misdeeds.

III. Regrets and something more may be wholesome. Regrets that issue in repentance are wholesome. It is well to remember the past when by it we are brought to true repentance. It would have been pleasant if we had been permitted to read that Ahasuerus repented as he remembered his folly. Regrets that lead to honest effort are wholesome. Wise is the man who, as he regrets the past, seeks to put forth every effort to repair the wrongs of the past, and be himself a better man for the future. Surely Ahasuerus might have done something more to repair the wrong done to Vashti in spite of the rigour of Persian law. Regrets that prompt the desire for forgiveness are wholesome. If it were not seemly for Ahasuerus to seek forgiveness from Vashti, yet he ought to have sought forgiveness from God. Have we no wrongs that need to be righted? Have we no sins that require forgiveness? We regret our sins when they expose us to temporal evils. Let us regret our sins as committed against God. Let us pray God for Christ's sake to be merciful unto us. He is ready to forgive. Let us learn that self-pleasing is the highway to self-loathing. Our greatest sorrows are often the harvest of the seed our own hands have scattered. Remorse is a bitter cup to drink, and we prepare the repellent ingredients. Memory can be a great tormentor, and the sinner makes the lash with which memory inflicts its painful strokes. And those who injure the just will find that they injure themselves much more. The just may perish, but their memory is ever blessed. The fragrance of correct thinking, of truthful speaking, and of right doing comes from the tombs of the martyrs, and blesses the world. Oh, whatever may come of worldly honours, let men and women be true to principle, and so live that truth-loving men will pleasantly remember their names, and, in a not distant future, even persecutors will assist in decorating their tombs!

SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS ON Est

All that he could do was to indulge in vain regrets; mingled, perhaps, with self-upbraidings. It is the usual penalty of rashness, especially the rashness of temporarily inflamed passion. To bring down the things of court and fashion to every-day life, how many of our police reports, attended with fines and imprisonments, are to be attributed to the very same causes as led to the deposition of Vashti, and the subsequent regrets of the king. When passion is allowed to get the reins of reason, violence is almost sure to follow, and after-reflection to administer the lash of self-censure and remorse. The seat of those domestic feuds and dastard assaults on the weak and defenceless which are brought to light in our criminal courts, and excite our indignation and horror, is just the anger, malice, and reckless speech with which we may be ourselves chargeable. It is not that we should censure them the less who have been carried into these outward acts of personal injury and brutality, but that we should be incited the more to guard our own hearts. For whether the injustice and cruel wrong be done by kings surrounded by their councillors, and defended by their rank from civil penalties, or by the meanest subjects who are lodged in our jails, the Judge of all the earth deals equitably, and in his final allotments will show that he is no respecter of persons. He brings our feelings and motives and secret passions to the same tribunal as actions, and pronounces sentence accordingly. With the fear of God upon us, let us be jealous of unbridled passion, and stamp out wrath, and we shall be saved from many of those remembrances and regrets which rob life of much happiness. "Keep thy heart with all diligence, for out of it are the issues of life."

O memory! thou art a bitter avenger. Vashti might weep, but Artaxerxes had to repent. In the heat of passion, the one small offence, which had not been of her own making, had bulked so largely in his eyes as to shut out her many excellencies, kindnesses, and devotion; but when passion had subsided, these came prominently into view, and made that one offence seem as a very mote on a ground which was generally good and praiseworthy. But he could now do nothing to remedy the evil which had been done. In this view there is something terrible in the two words which Abraham is represented as addressing to the rich man in the New Testament historical parable, "Son, remember!" Recall the past! Think on the former unrequited, unacknowledged, and abused goodness of God! Think of how thou didst despise the poor, ulcerated, dog-licked beggar at thy gate! Ah! these bitter memories of earth will be ingredients in the future cup of the penal suffering of the lost! May God in his mercy deliver us from them all, and give us in their stead the blessed memory of an accepted Saviour, and "a life of faith on the Son of God, who loved us, and gave himself for us!"—McEwen.

I. Sin and punishment are inseparable companions. They go together with chains of adamant. Like individual twins, they are born together, live together, are attended the one by the other, as the body by the shadow.

II. When sin is in the saddle then punishment is on the crupper. Isidore, the monk, was one that vaunted he had felt in himself no motive to sin for forty years together. The Hebrews have but one and the same word for both; and blind nature prompted those mariners to demand of the obnoxious prophet Jonah, What evil hast thou done (Jon ), that the hand of thy God doth follow thee so close? and those barbarians to censure St. Paul for some murder, whom, though he had escaped the sea, yet vengeance suffered not to live (Act 28:4).—Trapp.

1. He thought upon the happy days he had spent in her society.

2. He remembered the proofs of affection she had formerly given.

3. He remembered her punishment. How sad and heavy! Now that his wrath is appeased, and his judgment again balanced, he can see his weakness. The wrong which he thinks he has experienced from her he now sees to be of a very doubtful kind. "He must even confess to himself that, though he had consulted his counsellors, he still had acted in a passionate manner, and given too free a rein to his wrath." This should have taught him to control his passions.

4. He remembered Vashti, but she was now lost to him. Lost for ever as his queen. Lost by his own act. The result of his own passion and wrath. And now the folly of his own act, like a serpent, stings him. Ahasuerus, amid all his wealth and splendour, now feels an oppressive want. He suffered a loss which could not be made good by any other possession, however precious. He may have more wives, and many of them, but they are not Vashti. David may have another son, but not a fair Absalom.

In speaking of the king's sorrow, it should be distinguished from repentance, or godly sorrow. From what we know of the character of Ahasuerus, we may safely conclude that the remorse he felt would be of a selfish character. He was no doubt troubled, but was it—

1. Because of the injustice he had done to a virtuous, yet helpless woman? or

2. Because he felt that he had sinned against the law of right? or

3. Because he had lost his beautiful queen? Doubtless the latter chiefly, if not entirely. It was, therefore, only selfish sorrow. The kind of repentance or sorrow which a thief has when he finds himself in prison, deprived of liberty. He grieves, not because he is a thief, and wrongs his fellows, but because he has lost the chance to steal. Had Ahasuerus not lost Vashti, he would probably have never felt a pang. This feeling is as different as possible from repentance. Real repentance begins in humiliation of heart, and ends in reformation of life; it consists in the heart being broken for sin, and by sin. If we ever enjoy that peace which comes from God, our repentance must be that which is not to be repented of.

The nature of true repentance is well set forth in the following outline, by a wise old writer:—

There seems to be an hysterosis in the words, "Repent thee of thy remissness, laziness, lukewarmness, and learn by that thou sufferest to be zealous of good works," "fervent in spirit, serving the Lord." Be zealous and repent; that is, be in earnest and thorough in thy repentance, and each part thereof, contrition, or humiliation, and conversion, or reformation.

1. Know that God will never leave pursuing thee until the traitor's head be thrown over the wall, till thou humble thyself, and walk with God. As one cloud follows another, until the sun consumes them, so one judgment after another, till godly sorrow dispels them. Let the glory be to him, taking the shame and blame of it ourselves, submitting to anything that he shall see good to inflict. Say, Here I am, let him do to me as seemeth him best. If God will have my life, here it is; if my goods, here they are; if my children or any other dear pledge of his former favour, I resign them freely into his hands. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; not your hands only, with Pilate, but your hearts also, with David (Psalms 51). Make use of all means, improve all occasions, turn all the streams into this one channel, for the driving of that mill may grind the heart.

2. Our sorrow must be unto a transmutation, or inward change. Our contrition must be joined with conversion, else all is lost; for this latter is the consummation of the former, and the seal of its sincerity. Here, then, you must set to work again, and be zealous in it. Let your crosses teach you to cast away all your transgressions, to turn from all your wickedness, repent of all your dead works, and put off all the fruits of the flesh. Spare no sin, but least of all thy beloved sin—thy familiar devil; pitch thy hatred chiefly upon that, fight neither against small nor great in comparison of that; say of it, as Haman of Mordecai, What avails me anything so long as that liveth? But that once dead, the rest will soon follow, as all the servants attend the master's funeral.—Trapp.

When the wrath of Ahasuerus was cooled, did he not, think you, envy persons of a less powerful position than himself?

Remorse now punished the king almost as severely as his imperious and unjust decree had punished the unhappy queen.

Man is not so wise that his decrees are perfect, and his enactments incapable of improvement.

He ought to have felt grief and shame, that, in his wine and rage, he had so severely punished, and in such an irrevocable manner rejected, so fair and desirable a woman.

Time assuageth the heat of anger, but time does not always fill up the gaps which human wrath makes.

Man has wants which no wealth can meet. There is a want which the best social arrangements cannot supply.

There is a craving in the human heart which no earthly power can satisfy.

Guilty man needs to be placed in a right relation towards God.

"Ahasuerus was as poor as the humblest slave in his dominions in this respect, and far poorer than the poorest of the children of Judah, dispersed through his empire as exiles, but knowing Jehovah." When the soul can rest on God, as the God of redemption, when it can claim Jesus Christ as its portion, then all outward inequalities of rank and fortune become subordinate; the Christian possessor of a large inheritance feels that his chief good is in Christ, the poor believer feels that he has a share of the same exhaustless fulness. There is nothing that a man is more ready to keep than his wrath. But Ahasuerus's against Vashti was after a time assuaged. He remembered Vashti not without some remorse, but without all true repentance. He forsook not his rash anger as a sin, but regretted it for a time, and laid it asleep, to be raked up again on as slight an occasion. In graceless persons vices may be barbed or benumbed, not mastered and mortified. A merchant may part with his goods, and yet not hate them. A man may part with his sins for self-respects, and yet retain his affection for them; he may remember his Vashti, his bosom sins, from which he seemeth divorced, and, by such a sinful remembering of them, recommit them.—Trapp.

ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 2

Discipline of the passions. The passions may be humoured until they become our master, as a horse may be pampered till he gets the better of his rider; but early discipline will prevent mutiny, and keep the helm in the hands of reason. Properly controlled, the passions may, like a horse with the bit in his mouth, or a ship with the helm in the hand of a skilful mariner, be managed and made useful.

A rich landlord once cruelly oppressed a poor widow. Her son, a little boy of eight years, saw it. He afterwards became a painter, and painted a life likeness of the dark scene. Years afterwards, he placed it where the man saw it. He turned pale, trembled in every joint, and offered any sum to purchase it, that he might put it out of sight. Thus there is an invisible painter drawing on the canvas of the soul a life likeness, reflecting correctly all the passions and actions of our spiritual history on earth. Now and again we should be compelled to look at them, and the folly of our acts will sting us, as it did the landlord, and also Ahasuerus.

Control of anger. Socrates, finding himself in emotion against a slave, said: "I would beat you if I were not angry." Having received a box on the ears, he contented himself by only saying, with a smile, "It is a pity we do not know when to put on the helmet." Socrates, meeting a gentleman of rank in the streets, saluted him; but the gentleman took no notice of it. His friends in company, observing what passed, told the philosopher "That they were so exasperated at the man's incivility, that they had a good mind to resent it." He very calmly replied, "If you met any person in the road in a worse habit of body than yourself, would you think you had reason to be enraged with him on that account? Pray, then, what greater reason can you have for being incensed at a man for a worse habit of mind than any of yourselves?" That was a brave, strong man.

Impressions of sin. The great stone book of nature reveals many records of the past. In the red sandstone there are found, in some places, marks which are clearly the impression of showers of rain, and these are so perfect that it can even be detected in which direction the shower inclined, and from what quarter it proceeded—and this ages ago. Even so sin leaves its track behind it, and God keeps a faithful record of all our sins.—Biblical Treasury.

"If you cut a gash in a man's head, you may heal it; but you can never rub out, nor wash out, nor cut out the scar. It may be a witness against you in his corpse; still it may be covered by the coffin, or hidden in the grave; but then it is not till decomposition shall take place, that it shall entirely disappear. But, if you smite your soul by sin, you make a scar that will remain; no coffin or grave shall hide it; no fire, not even the eternal flames, shall burn out sin's stains."

Counterfeit repentance. Beware that you make no mistake about the nature of true repentance. The devil knows too well the value of the precious grace not to dress up spurious imitations of it. Wherever there is good coin there will always be bad money.—Ryle.

Repentance before pardon. The first physic to recover our souls is not cordials, but corrosives; not an immediate stepping into heaven by a present assurance, but mourning, and lamentations, and a little bewailing of our former transgressions. With Mary Magdalene we must wash Christ's feet with our tears of sorrow, before we may anoint his head with "the oil of gladness."—Browning.

In all parts of the East, women are spoken of as being much inferior to men in wisdom; and nearly all their sages have proudly descanted on the ignorance of women. In the Hindoo book called the ‘Kurral,' it is declared, "All women are ignorant." In other works similar remarks are found: "Ignorance is a woman's jewel. The feminine qualities are four—ignorance, fear, shame, and impurity. To a woman disclose not a secret. Talk not to me in that way; it is all female wisdom."—Roberts.

Degradation of woman. The farmers of the upper Alps, though by no means wealthy, live like lords in their houses, while the heaviest portion of agricultural labour devolves on the wife. It is no uncommon thing to see a woman yoked to the plough along with an ass, while the husband guides it. A farmer of the upper Alps accounts it an act of politeness to lend his wife to a neighbour who is too much oppressed with work; and the neighbour, in his turn, lends his wife for a few day's work, whenever the favour is requested.—Percy.

Radical reform. A small bite from a serpent will affect the whole body. There is no way to calm the sea but by excommunicating Jonah from the ship. If the root be killed, the branches will soon be withered. If the spring be diminished, there is no doubt that the streams will soon fail. When the fuel of corruption is removed, then the fire of affliction is extinguished.—Secker.

Individual responsibility. Daniel Webster was once asked, "What is the most important thought you ever entertained?" He replied, after a moment's reflection, "the most important thought I ever had was my individual responsibility to God." There is no royal road, either to wealth or learning. Princes and kings, poor men, peasants, all alike must attend to the wants of their own bodies, and their own minds. No man can eat, drink, or sleep by proxy. No man can get the alphabet learned for him by another. All these are things which everybody must do for himself, or they will not be done at all. Just as it is with the mind and body, so it is with the soul. There are certain things absolutely needful to the soul's health and well-being. Each must repent for himself. Each must apply to Christ for himself. And for himself each must speak to God and pray.—Ryle.


Verses 2-4

CRITICAL NOTES.]

Est .] The youths, or male domestics, without regard to age, that served before the king, sought to avert the danger that threatened. They advised that maidens, virgins, be brought to the king, and that these should be beautiful to look upon.

Est . The house of the women] The harem was always an essential part of an Oriental palace. In the Persian palaces it was very extensive, since the Persian monarchs maintained, besides their legitimate wives, as many as three hundred or four hundred concubines. Hege, strictly speaking, seems to have been "keeper of the virgins" only, since the concubines were under the care of Shaashgaz.—Rawlinson. Things of purification] Cleansing and anointing with precious oils.

MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH. Est

THE SERVILITY OF THE KING'S SERVANTS

It is to be expected that servants should obey, and should seek to study the desires and wishes of those whom they serve. But even servants should exercise discretion, and not sacrifice principle at the shrine of policy. It does not appear that these servants set themselves to consider the claims of principle. Policy was their rule. By policy were they governed, and by policy were they at last undone.

I. These servants studied the king's weakness. But this did not require much study. It was patent to the dullest observer. Those who are constantly about a man may understand the man better than he understands himself. These servants evidently understood the monarch's weakness. Ultimately safe is it for the man to be surrounded by those who can be, and will be, faithful. We may not like faithful men, but at the last we shall find them to serve our highest welfare.

II. These servants pandered to the king's weakness. Base pandering to the sinful weaknesses of men and women has been the bane of every age. It is at work in this enlightened age. While we rightly consider the corruption of a Persian court let us seek to have our eyes open to the corruptions of English society; and faithfully endeavour to stem the torrent of iniquity. Are we still to pursue the system of pandering to the worst passions of our fellows? Are there no faithful ones to be found in modern society?

III. These servants unscrupulously provided for the king's weakness. The barbarous nature of their proposition could not be so evident to them as it is to us who live in these more blessed days. But surely even to them a passing thought might come as to the cruel nature of their proposition. Did they never and for one moment think of the cruelty of the proceeding by which the fairest flowers were to be plucked with ruthless hand from the choicest home-gardens of the land? Did they not consider the woes and tears of mothers and fathers weeping for the loss of the fair young virgins taken to be imprisoned in the king's harem? But self-interest blinds our eyes to the interests of others, and to the claims of truth and of duty. It would be so then, as it is now on too large a scale. Men are still unscrupulous. We bow at the shrines of fashion, of custom, and of wealth. Oh, in these days Mammon is the great monarch, at whose behests fair young virgins are deflowered and strong young men are slaughtered. Mammon is exalted. Humanity is trampled beneath the feet. Mammon is the modern Ahasuerus, at whose commands homes must be decimated and true nobility thrown to the winds.

IV. These servants were for the present successful. Their proposition pleased the king, and measures were carried out for its accomplishment. Yet the success was not according to their wish. True, Vashti was banished and the measures were carried out to prevent her recall; yet those measures tended to the promotion of Esther, who was God's instrument for the salvation of her people, and the destruction of the Lord's enemies. The benefits, then, of a time-serving policy are not of the most lasting nature. If we would reap permanent good we must sow Divine seed. If we would build permanent structures of glory we must use Divine materials.

SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS ON Est

It is said the king's servants suggested this to him. But kings' servants know pretty well what to suggest. No doubt, however, the policy of having another queen-royal had the approbation of the wise men, else it could not have been carried out successfully.

And then began the preparation, the narrative of which needs no illustration of ours. It is perfectly plain: and it is not edifying. And yet it is. Rightly read—under due emotions and reflections, it is edifying (and especially to the female part of the world), in the highest degree. That ought to be edifying which shows much cause for gratitude. Now just look at that picture of Persian female life of the highest kind. Persia—the mistress of civilization at the time: the seat of wealth and splendour: the land of the brave and the wise. And this is how it treats its noblest women! Could female degradation be more complete? All the more complete that none wondered: none protested: none resisted—unless we may take Vashti's rebellion as a kind of moral insurrection against the whole treatment and state of woman. If it was so, it spent itself. For here they come from far and near—the young, the fair, the nobly-born—as well as those of humbler condition in their miserable darkness, thinking that an honour (without a thought of wrong about it), which would now be esteemed, in any Christian country, the deepest disgrace. To use the words of an English bishop on this chapter, "It is," he says, "of priceless worth, as showing the need under which the human race then lay, of that deliverance which has been wrought by the incarnation of the Son of God, the seed of the woman, who raised womanhood to a high and holy dignity, and by that spiritual espousal of a Church universal, by which he had sanctified marriage, and made it a great mystery. And it may remind the world of the inestimable benefits it owes to Christianity." Also, one ought to say, that the narrative of this chapter, although we pass it over lightly, is quite purely written. Now this matter ought to be faced, plainly. Sceptics and enemies of the faith are in the habit of alleging or insinuating that there are not a few passages in Holy Writ not fit to be read in families and congregations—hardly in closets. A considerable number of passages certainly are not suitable for public reading or exposition. Therefore they are not read; and they are not expounded, except for some special ends. But impure passages, indelicate corrupting passages? Not one. The breath of God has passed through this chapter, and it is clear and clean, so that no one of simple mind will get harm by reading it. Would any one say the same regarding some of our fashionable novels and tales?—many of them, softly be it spoken, and sorrowfully, and with shame, written by women!!—by women calling themselves Christians, who, at any rate, have received the benefit of the Christian civilization so far, who therefore have been elevated—away beyond heathen female life. And this is the way they behave themselves, and show their gratitude. They spend their energy and their genius, such as it is, in corrupting their fellow-creatures, filling the minds of the young with evil suggestions, which either distress them, or pollute and deprave them: working up disgusting situations, and horrible scenes; making light of the holiest ties of human life, and apologizing for some of its deepest evils and crimes.

I am not speaking at random, although I do not profess to be speaking from any extensive personal knowledge; but on reliable authority, by consensus of judgment of the most impartial description, I believe this matter needs the attention of good people far more urgently than some other things which secure that attention. At any rate, I feel quite sure that I am but doing my duty in thus testifying and warning. One thing we can all do, we can refuse to read. Happily there is enough good literature of every kind—not heavy, dull, solemn, but fresh, bright, humorous, pathetic, comic, tragic—all kinds of the really good, by writers both alive and dead. So that there is no excuse for going down into the slough. "Keep thyself pure."—Raleigh.

Est .—This was an extravagant course.

1. All the provinces of the kingdom must be searched for fair young virgins.

2. Officers were appointed to choose them.

3. A house was prepared for them, and a person appointed to have charge of them, to see that they were well provided for.

4. No less than twelve months was allowed them for their purification, some of them at least, who were brought out of the country, that they might be very clean and purified. Even those who were the masterpieces of nature must yet have all this help from art to recommend them to a vain and carnal mind.

5. After the king had once taken them to his bed, they were made recluses ever after, except the king pleased at any time to send for them; they were looked upon as secondary wives, were maintained by the king accordingly, and might not marry.—Matthew Henry.

A true representation of what we should be without the Gospel.

Without Divine revelation man sinks very low.

Learn how much we are indebted to the Bible for present as well as for future happiness.

We enjoy the inestimable advantage of knowing the Lord's will. We are unworthy of it if we follow the promptings and suggestions of our own hearts in order to please ourselves.

The first question with us should be, How are we to walk so as to please God?

Nothing is a surer sign of our depravity than to prefer the pleasing of our flesh to the pleasing of him who made us, of him by whom we must be judged at the last day.

If we make it our grand business to fulfil the desires of the flesh and of the mind, we walk according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air.—Dr. Lawson.

It is not possible that great princes should want soothing up in all their inclinations—in all their actions. Nothing could sound more pleasing to a carnal ear, than that all the fair young virgins, throughout all his dominions, should be gathered into his palace at Shushan for his assay and choice. The decree is soon published; the charge is committed to Hegai, the king's chamberlain, both of their purification and ornaments.—Bishop Hall.

The marriages of princes are commonly made by policy and interest, for the enlarging of their dominions and the strengthening of their alliances; but this must be made partly by the agreeableness of the person to the king's fancy, whether she be rich or poor, noble or ignoble.

What ado was made here to humour the king; as if his power and wealth were given him for no other end but that he might have all the delights of sense wound up to the height of pleasureableness and exquisitely refined, though at the best they are but dross and dregs in comparison with Divine and spiritual pleasure.

The higher men are advanced in authority, the lower they sink in slavery to their sensual appetites. How low is humanity sunk when such as these are the leading pursuits and highest happiness of men! when every consideration of decency, equity, and conscience, even health, life, and the immortal soul itself, are sacrificed; disappointment and vexation must ensue; and he most wisely consults his enjoyment, even in this present life, who most exactly obeys the precept of the Divine law.—Scott.

Est . They knew him to be a sensualist and effeminate; they therefore agree to feed his humour, to drown him again in pleasure, so to drive away his melancholy. Such miserable comforters are carnal physicians; so wretched is our nature, to endure no other physic; so justly doth God fit the physician to the patient, the helve to the hatchet; so do the wicked help each other forward to their deserved destruction. Ahasuerus' counsellors became brokers to his lust, neither is this anything unusual with such.—Trapp.

The whole passage affords us displays of human character, the contemplation of which is highly useful; but the chief thing which it is intended to exhibit to us is the wonderful working of God for the accomplishment of his purposes, especially in relation to his Church and his people. The divorce of Vashti was intended to prepare the way for the exaltation of Esther, and she was raised to the kingdom that, by her influence with the king, she might prevent a plot for the extermination of the Jewish race. And how wonderfully was this brought about. None of the agents dreamed of such a thing. It was brought about by means of heathens.—Dr. M‘Crie.

In this second chapter we are permitted to see the consequences which resulted from the banquet described in the first chapter. In the present lecture we shall state and enforce one or two general principles. "After these things," etc. (Est ).

I. We have here to notice the regret of the king for his rash and unwarrantable act. It is very obvious from the narrative, that when he came to himself, and had time to reflect on all that had taken place, 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 which even the most powerful despots cannot get gratified, and limits to their will which even they cannot pass over. It seemed to be by a simple exercise of supreme authority that Ahasuerus triumphed over the helpless, and had his desire carried into effect. But when he would have retraced his steps, he could not.

(2) The law of the Medes and Persians must stand. Yet the enactment which did wrong to the innocent queen, at the same time recoiled upon the head of the king himself.

II. But again we have to notice the expedient which his counsellors suggested to free him from his difficulty. Probably he would be moody and harsh toward them, when he saw to what issue their advice had brought him. Despotism, like spoilt children, must be soothed and flattered. He had degraded his queen; but another might be found to occupy the place from which she had been removed. The humour of the king fell in with the suggestion. He consented; it led to the promotion of Esther, a Jewess, to the high dignity of being Queen of Persia. These things are worthy of our attention in the way of practical application. They suggest several lessons.

1. In the first place we may draw from them the lesson, that 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. We think it is plain from the words, "the king remembered Vashti, what she had done, and what had been decreed against her," that when he was able to reflect calmly upon the decree which had been issued for the degradation of Vashti, he was conscious that she had been faithful to her place and character, while he himself had forgotten what was due to both. All the past he would gladly have cancelled, but it was beyond his power. His will could work evil, but it could not undo the evil which had been wrought.

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. It is with his own consent that he passes the boundary line between reason and folly; and although, in one aspect of the case, he may not be precisely answerable for all his acts when the power of self-government is gone, yet obviously he is to be called to account for reducing himself to that state. Let us take an illustration from the history of Saul. Furnished with the gifts of the Spirit, counselled by Samuel, he might have been a model to the sovereigns who were to come after him. 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, although the evil spirit prompted him, because he had laid his heart open for the reception of the evil spirit. Just so in all cases. When a man has perpetrated a criminal act, having wilfully deprived himself of the power that would have restrained him from it, he has no right to claim immunity from the consequences of his miserable self-will, or to complain that he is unrighteously dealt with when he is visited with punishment.

3. But there is another general application which may be legitimately made of this part of our subject, viz., that repentance may come too late. There is many a cry for mercy raised when the time for the exercise of mercy has passed away. By the law of the Medes and Persians the king found himself in a condition from which he would gladly have been extricated, but could not devise the means. By the unalterable law of heaven it is ordained that except we repent we must perish. And by the same law it is required that repentance be immediate. "Wherefore, my brethren, take heed lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God." But notice—

III. The whole case furnishes such evidence of the power of an overruling Providence, that I would take this opportunity of referring to the subject. The lesson which the text teaches is, in one sentence, this—that, amid all the workings of human passion and folly, there is a power exercised which brings order out of confusion, and good out of evil.

1. We present the case briefly as the text brings it before us. Revelry had produced disorder. It had led to most unjust measures towards the queen. The advisers of these measures, finding it necessary to soothe the feelings of their despotic sovereign, recommended to him a certain mode of procedure. The result of this was Esther's advancement. In all this we have a special Providence, overruling the sins of men for the promotion of the interests of the people of God.

2. We see a specimen of the absolute and unrestrained will of man put forth to accomplish ends which had no apparent connection whatever with the will of God, or with what would be pleasing to him. When the curtain which conceals the movements of Providence is withdrawn, we can manifestly trace the connection between the follies and passions of men and the production of important results which they could not have dreamt of. We can perceive the hand of the Lord working where we would not have looked for it, and understand how the very wrath of men is made to praise him. But observe, the sin of the monarch was not one whit diminished because it was overruled for good; but neither is the good to be regarded as evil because it was the undesigned fruit of man's unholy passions.—Dr. Davidson.

ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 2

Discipline of the passions. The passions may be humoured until they become our master, as a horse may be pampered till he gets the better of his rider; but early discipline will prevent mutiny, and keep the helm in the hands of reason. Properly controlled, the passions may, like a horse with the bit in his mouth, or a ship with the helm in the hand of a skilful mariner, be managed and made useful.

A rich landlord once cruelly oppressed a poor widow. Her son, a little boy of eight years, saw it. He afterwards became a painter, and painted a life likeness of the dark scene. Years afterwards, he placed it where the man saw it. He turned pale, trembled in every joint, and offered any sum to purchase it, that he might put it out of sight. Thus there is an invisible painter drawing on the canvas of the soul a life likeness, reflecting correctly all the passions and actions of our spiritual history on earth. Now and again we should be compelled to look at them, and the folly of our acts will sting us, as it did the landlord, and also Ahasuerus.

Control of anger. Socrates, finding himself in emotion against a slave, said: "I would beat you if I were not angry." Having received a box on the ears, he contented himself by only saying, with a smile, "It is a pity we do not know when to put on the helmet." Socrates, meeting a gentleman of rank in the streets, saluted him; but the gentleman took no notice of it. His friends in company, observing what passed, told the philosopher "That they were so exasperated at the man's incivility, that they had a good mind to resent it." He very calmly replied, "If you met any person in the road in a worse habit of body than yourself, would you think you had reason to be enraged with him on that account? Pray, then, what greater reason can you have for being incensed at a man for a worse habit of mind than any of yourselves?" That was a brave, strong man.

Impressions of sin. The great stone book of nature reveals many records of the past. In the red sandstone there are found, in some places, marks which are clearly the impression of showers of rain, and these are so perfect that it can even be detected in which direction the shower inclined, and from what quarter it proceeded—and this ages ago. Even so sin leaves its track behind it, and God keeps a faithful record of all our sins.—Biblical Treasury.

"If you cut a gash in a man's head, you may heal it; but you can never rub out, nor wash out, nor cut out the scar. It may be a witness against you in his corpse; still it may be covered by the coffin, or hidden in the grave; but then it is not till decomposition shall take place, that it shall entirely disappear. But, if you smite your soul by sin, you make a scar that will remain; no coffin or grave shall hide it; no fire, not even the eternal flames, shall burn out sin's stains."

Counterfeit repentance. Beware that you make no mistake about the nature of true repentance. The devil knows too well the value of the precious grace not to dress up spurious imitations of it. Wherever there is good coin there will always be bad money.—Ryle.

Repentance before pardon. The first physic to recover our souls is not cordials, but corrosives; not an immediate stepping into heaven by a present assurance, but mourning, and lamentations, and a little bewailing of our former transgressions. With Mary Magdalene we must wash Christ's feet with our tears of sorrow, before we may anoint his head with "the oil of gladness."—Browning.

In all parts of the East, women are spoken of as being much inferior to men in wisdom; and nearly all their sages have proudly descanted on the ignorance of women. In the Hindoo book called the ‘Kurral,' it is declared, "All women are ignorant." In other works similar remarks are found: "Ignorance is a woman's jewel. The feminine qualities are four—ignorance, fear, shame, and impurity. To a woman disclose not a secret. Talk not to me in that way; it is all female wisdom."—Roberts.

Degradation of woman. The farmers of the upper Alps, though by no means wealthy, live like lords in their houses, while the heaviest portion of agricultural labour devolves on the wife. It is no uncommon thing to see a woman yoked to the plough along with an ass, while the husband guides it. A farmer of the upper Alps accounts it an act of politeness to lend his wife to a neighbour who is too much oppressed with work; and the neighbour, in his turn, lends his wife for a few day's work, whenever the favour is requested.—Percy.

Radical reform. A small bite from a serpent will affect the whole body. There is no way to calm the sea but by excommunicating Jonah from the ship. If the root be killed, the branches will soon be withered. If the spring be diminished, there is no doubt that the streams will soon fail. When the fuel of corruption is removed, then the fire of affliction is extinguished.—Secker.

Individual responsibility. Daniel Webster was once asked, "What is the most important thought you ever entertained?" He replied, after a moment's reflection, "the most important thought I ever had was my individual responsibility to God." There is no royal road, either to wealth or learning. Princes and kings, poor men, peasants, all alike must attend to the wants of their own bodies, and their own minds. No man can eat, drink, or sleep by proxy. No man can get the alphabet learned for him by another. All these are things which everybody must do for himself, or they will not be done at all. Just as it is with the mind and body, so it is with the soul. There are certain things absolutely needful to the soul's health and well-being. Each must repent for himself. Each must apply to Christ for himself. And for himself each must speak to God and pray.—Ryle.


Verses 5-7

CRITICAL NOTES.]

Est .] Jair, Shimei, and Kish can hardly mean the father, grandfather, and great-grandfather of Mordecai. On the contrary, if Jair were perhaps his father, Shimei and Kish may have been the names of renowned ancestors. Shimei was probably the son of Gera, and Kish the father of Saul; for in genealogical series only a few noted names are generally given. Upon the ground of this explanation, Josephus makes Esther of royal descent, viz., the line of Saul, king of Israel; and the Targum regards Shimei as the Benjamite who cursed David. It is more in accordance with the Hebrew narrative style to refer the relative to the chief person of the sentence preceding it, viz., Mordecai, who also continues to be spoken of in Est 2:7. Hence we prefer this reference, without, however, attributing to Mordecai more than one hundred and twenty years of age. For the relative clause, who had been carried away, need not be so strictly understood as to assert that Mordecai himself was carried away; but the object being to give merely his origin and lineage, and not his history, it involves only the notion that he belonged to those Jews who were carried to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar with Jeconiah, so that he, though born in captivity, was carried to Babylon in the persons of his forefathers.—Keil.

Est . Hadassah, that is, Esther] Tyrwhitt regards Hadassah as the court name, by which she was known among the Persians, and Esther as her Jewish maiden name, by which she was known to her own people. But to this it may be fairly replied that she would be more likely to be known to her own people as well as to the Persians by her royal name; and most interpreters have naturally understood from the expression, he brought up Hadassah, which is Esther, that Hadassah was her early maiden name, and that she took the name of Esther when she became queen. Moreover, Hadassah is of Semitic origin, and signifies myrtle; while Esther is the Persian word for star. The fair and beautiful maiden was known as myrtle; the brilliant and fascinating queen was called star. The name Hadassah is, indeed, substantially identical with Atosse, mentioned by the Greek writers as the wife of Darius Hystaspes, and daughter of Cyrus, but the identity in name is insufficient to identify the Jewish virgin with one who is so clearly represented by Herodotus as both daughter of Cyrus and widow of Cambyses.—Whedon's Com. His uncle's daughter] This uncle's name was Abihail (Est 2:15). Mordecai and Esther were cousins, but Mordecai must have been the elder.

MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH. Est

A TRULY ROYAL CHARACTER

The leading part of this history is prophetic. While it records the past it depicts the future. It shows how two of the Jewish nation rose, through the providence of God, to occupy the foremost positions in the Persian kingdom. Mordecai the Jew and Esther his foster-child—two captives—became next in authority and in power to king Ahasuerus. They were great both among the Jews and among the Persians: for the one was queen, and the other was prime minister. The story of their humiliation and after-exaltation is only equalled by the charming narrative of Joseph. And both surpass in interest the inventions of skilful novelists. History and biography repeat themselves. The Hamans have persecuted and planned the destruction of the Mordecais; but the irrepressible genius of the Jewish nation has ever asserted its sovereignty. It is surprising how the Jew from time to time battles successfully against adversity, and makes it minister to prosperity. The Jews have accumulated wealth,—though every barrier has been raised against their success,—and their property has been again and again confiscated by greedy rulers. The Jews have risen to power in spite of restrictive enactments. Their influence is felt to-day to a large extent. The noblest part of our literature is based on Jewish records. They have given to the world its best system of morals. Surely this wondrous people have still a most important part to play in this world's great transactions; and the study of the most obscure among this people cannot be devoid of interest to every intelligent being.

I. Mordecai's royal ancestry. Great importance was attached to genealogical tables by ancient nations. They did not smile at the claims of long descent. Certainly intellectual and moral, as well as physical, qualities are capable of transmission. It is indeed true that some boast of their ancestry who have little else to boast. The Jews were especially particular in their records of genealogy for territorial, political, and religious reasons. Thus in the Targum of Esther we have Haman's pedigree traced through twenty-one generations to the "impious Esau;" and Mordecai's through forty-two generations to Abraham. In this canonical account Mordecai's pedigree is traced to the tribe of Benjamin. This was one of the smallest tribes, but three names make it prominent. From it sprang Saul, the first king of the Jewish nation; Mordecai, the noble deliverer of his people; and Paul, the great Apostle of the Gentiles. On the one hand Mordecai was connected with Saul, who was royal by virtue of his office; and on the other hand he was connected with Paul, who was royal by virtue of the nobility of his character. Mordecai himself was of royal ancestry, of royal character, exercising regal functions, "seeking the wealth of his people, and speaking peace to all his seed." He was a man to do honour to any tribe. It is no wonder that he stands high in Rabbinical estimation, and that mythical stories gather around his person. He is spoken of as being acquainted with seventy languages, and as having lived four hundred years. He is invested with splendid robes, adorned with costly jewels, and placed on the pinnacle of earthly greatness. The courtly heralds with their trumpets proclaim his glory. He was nobler than all. There dwelt within him a patriotic spirit that made him sublime. There was in him a heroic assertion of manhood, which lifted him high above the common people. There was also a wonderful tenderness, which made him the adored of his own nation. He was one of those men that only appear at intervals, that dignify the race, and seem to make sacred the soil on which they tread.

II. Mordecai's unattractive name. Proper names are words which serve for marks separating one individual from another. The name Mordecai brings before us the individual and separates him from the person named Haman. The name Mordecai, when viewed as to its meaning, does not raise in our mind the correct thought as to his character. We may consider Mordecai as a word of Chaldan or Persian origin, and as meaning the worshipper of Merodach, the war-god of Babylon. But he was no foolish idolater. If he had been there was no justification for his refusal to bow down before Haman. If he had been he would not have so resolutely adhered to the purpose of delivering the Jews, the worshippers of the true God. He was by moral lineage connected with Abraham, the father of the faithful, the friend of God. The name may be but the reputation, which may be true or false. Character is what the man is. To be noble is better than to be accounted noble. Let men rise superior to names. The word Mordecai has been made to mean the little man. He may have been little physically; and thus the two Benjamites stood in striking contrast. Saul was head and shoulders above his fellows; and Mordecai was perhaps below the average standard. Saul was, however, selfish and mean-spirited; while Mordecai was benevolent and noble-spirited. Saul was craven and cowed before a woman; but Mordecai was bold and daring before the great Haman. Saul abjectly prayed to be honoured before the elders of his people, and before Israel; but Mordecai cared not for his own honour so long as Israel was saved and glorified. If the man is not the mere flesh and bones that constitute the external framework, then Saul was the little man and Mordecai the great man. Manhood is not to be gauged by inches or by ounces; but by thoughts, feelings, and actions. Brutes may be measured and weighed by material appliances; but men should be measured and weighed by moral appliances. The balances of the infinite purities are the tests by which men should be tried. And then what a reversal of estimates. The little becomes great, and the so-called great dwindle down to their true proportions. The Sauls are rejected, as Saul was at last. The Mordecais are honoured, for the man Mordecai waxed greater and greater. In the Targum of Esther he is said to be called Mordecai, because he was like the pure myrrh. Its taste is bitter and acid, and its smell strong. The taste of this myrrh was bitter and acid to the enemies of God and of goodness; but its smell was sweet to the delivered Jews. As the myrrh is pressed to bring out its fragrance; so the essential sweetness of Mordecai's character was brought out more fully by the afflictions to which he was subjected. He was crushed not to death, but into a more perfect life and a Diviner fragrance. He was one of those world's great solitary heroes that conquered by his defeats. Ever thus is noble manhood developed. Rough is the school where genius is trained. Sharp is the stroke which touches the soul into Diviner aspects. Keen is the instrument which shapes the spirit into perfect forms of moral beauty. Rude and steep is the pathway along which the traveller struggles up to the heights where the celestial sunlight quivers, and where the soul finds a sphere adequate for its expansion.

III. Mordecai's attractive deed. Mordecai is greatest when he saw his little cousin left a poor orphan, and took her to his house and to his heart, and became to her a second father, so gentle and loving that she no longer mourned the loss of her first father. She delighted to render to Mordecai the allegiance of a true loving daughter. We too often lose sight of the fact that life's little things are really life's great things. We begin with the little and go up to the great. But we do not measure correctly. Our terms are untrue. The great deed was when Mordecai took and brought up Hadassah. The little deed was when he reaped the results of his goodness. For sowing is greater than reaping; but the sowing is done in tears, and the harvest is gathered amid a flourish of trumpets. Men are greatest in their little things. The chariot of Ahasuerus was not checked in its course, the attendant courtiers never condescended to notice, when Mordecai guided to his home the orphaned girl. But he was sowing seed which produced strange and yet glorious fruit. The deed was most attractive. He was true to the claims of relationship and to the dictates of humanity. Without thought of reward, without a knowledge of her future glory, he adopted the child. The orphan's tears touched his heart and evoked his sympathies. How sweetly pathetic the short account, "Whom Mordecai, when her father and mother were dead, took for his own daughter." Christianity is better than Judaism. Let it be ever seen that the Christian religion makes its adherents human, tender, considerate. Let us not say, A father to the fatherless is God in his holy habitation, and leave the fatherless to starvation and beggary. Christianity has done much in this direction. Orphan homes are the trophies of the humanizing tendencies. But adoption of the orphan is better than crowding a lot of poor orphans together to be drilled and marched out like young soldiers. Esthers grow best when the Mordecais become their fathers. Christianity has still much work to do.

SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS ON Est

It is singular that it should have ever been imagined, although it has been by some, that it was Mordecai who had been carried from Jerusalem to Babylon, at the time when Jeconiah, also called Jehoiachim, was dethroned, and led into captivity by Nebuchadnezzar. In that case, he must at this time have been considerably more than a hundred years old, which is altogether inconsistent with the part he is represented as performing in this book. It is evidently Kish, his great-grandfather, who lived in Jeconiah's time, and who was carried to Babylon, on which supposition Mordecai would be a man probably in the prime of life at the period referred to in the text. His cousin Esther, or Hadassah (which was her Jewish name), had been left an orphan. Whether Mordecai had any family of his own we are not informed; but, moved with compassion for her in her desolate and unprotected state, he took her to his house, and brought her up as his own daughter. The maiden was fair and beautiful, it is said—the expressions mean that she was of graceful form and beautiful countenance—and from what is brought out in the history, the endowments of her mind were in harmony with the graces of her person. Sad, however, might the destiny of the lovely orphan have been, but for the kind and tender-hearted Mordecai. If she had been cast upon the world without friends and without a home, the very beauty and accomplishments with which she was so highly gifted might have rendered her only a prey to some of those designing and selfish wretches whose chief object it is to seduce and ruin those who are fair and beautiful as she was. But the eye of the Lord was upon the helpless maiden, to protect and guide her; and Mordecai had her brought to his house as her home. No doubt he felt that he was sufficiently rewarded for his benevolence, in watching over a creature so interesting as Esther must have been—in marking her progress, and receiving the tokens of her confidence and affection. But there were other rewards in store for him, which he dreamt not of, to recompense his work of faith and labour of love. In taking her into his house, and charging himself with the expense of her education and maintenance, he may have been regarded by some of his covetous neighbours, especially if he had a family of his own, as laying himself under a burden which a prudent man would have rather endeavoured to avoid. But he thought not of this. He acted according to the spirit of the Divine law, and the impulses of his own generous heart; and that from which selfishness would have turned away as a burden, he found eventually to be in every respect a precious treasure. A blessing followed him because he had pity upon the orphan.

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. It cannot be denied indeed, that specimens of the same kind of benevolence are to be found among the heathen. The ties of kindred have been felt and acknowledged where the light of Divine truth was never enjoyed; and there are on record acts of generosity and self-denial performed by men ignorant of the Bible, which put to shame the selfishness of many who live under the teaching of the Word of God. But there is this difference; that Mordecai, in what he did for Esther, acted only in accordance with the maxims and spirit of the law which came from heaven—only did what the law positively enjoined, and what, as professing to be subject to it, it became him to do. One manifest purpose of the Mosaic dispensation was, while it separated the seed of Abraham from all other nations, to unite them closely among themselves as brethren. And this purpose it effected to a wonderful extent, notwithstanding the opposition which it had to encounter from the corrupt heart and grovelling propensities of the people among whom it was set up. It is peculiarly interesting to notice, that it was during the captivity, when the Jews were scattered hither and thither throughout the Persian dominions, and when every man might have been supposed to have enough to do in attending to his own interests, and providing for his own family, that Mordecai took charge of his uncle's orphan daughter, and gave her a refuge in his own house. Whatever care and difficulty he had to undergo in supporting himself in the land of exile, he remembered the injunction of the law,—"Ye shall not afflict any widow or fatherless child; if thou afflict them in any wise, and they cry unto me, I will surely hear their cry;" and the prophet's commentary upon it,—"Is not this the fast that I have chosen, that thou deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? When thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh?"

Now, while it is impossible for us to read what Mordecai did without feeling that his memory deserves to be had in respect, as a man who had imbibed the spirit of the law, and who, amid many temptations to set its injunctions aside, endeavoured to regulate his conduct by its requirements; while we see in him an exemplification of that principle of brotherly love, which the law so earnestly inculcates; let us not forget that the gospel of Christ is designed at once to deepen the feeling of brotherly affection, and to give it a far wider range of operation. If the poor exiled Jew had compassion on his orphan niece, and brought her up as his own daughter, how sacred should the claims of orphanage be in the view of those who profess to follow him who said, "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy;" and, "By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye love one another. A new commandment give I unto you, that ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love each other." The charities of the Jews were confined almost exclusively to those of their own nation. This was indeed a natural consequence of their being isolated from the rest of the world; a result of the particular light in which they were taught to regard the heathen, and in which the heathen in turn regarded them. But "in Christ Jesus there is neither Greek nor Jew, Barbarian nor Scythian, bond nor free; but all are one in him." Not that the ties of ordinary relationship are weakened by the gospel, and that we are to overlook the special claims of kindred in the enlarged field which it opens up for the exercise of our benevolent affections. By no means. But we are to act toward all men as if they were our neighbours, and toward all who are of the household of faith as brethren. This is the lesson which we learn from our Lord's teaching, and more emphatically still from his example. And it must be confessed, to the honour of Christianity, that one circumstance which distinguishes the countries which have been even only in name brought under its influence, is the provision that has been made in various forms for the distresses of suffering humanity. The institutions for the relief of the diseased, of the destitute, of the fatherless and the orphan, and of the erring who would fain return into the paths of rectitude, are to be regarded as so many evidences of what the gospel has effected for the removal of the temporal evils under which society groans. Different opinions there may well be as to the wisdom of the rules by which some of these institutions are governed, and of the means by which they seek the attainment of their objects; but there can be no dispute as to their benevolent design, or as to the point, that their origin is to be traced up to the diffusion of the knowledge of the Word of God. At the same time, my friends, I cannot help remarking, that there is something in the conduct of Mordecai, as recorded in the text, and of those who, like him, exercise their benevolence personally in assisting and protecting the helpless, and endeavouring to ameliorate their condition—something that raises it far above that of the people who contribute, however largely and willingly, toward the support of public institutions for the relief of the distressed. 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 themselves. 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. It may not be that we have opportunity to act literally as Mordecai did, and to give shelter to the orphan in our own homes; but we only act in the spirit of the gospel of Christ, when, according to our means, we make some of the helpless the objects of our special care, and regard them as a trust committed to us by our heavenly Father. The exercise of the kindly affections toward any such carries in it its own reward, and with these labours of love on the part of his people God is well pleased.—Davidson.

Mordecai is a lowly descendant of a formerly distinguished, indeed royal, family. He belongs to the scattered foreigners fallen under contempt, who were carried away captives from Jerusalem. He is in a strange land. He has, it appears, neither father nor mother, neither wife nor child. Even his relatives, his uncle and his aunt, are dead. But the latter left an orphan; he is to her a father, she to him a daughter, indeed a precious treasure. Doubtless he is aware how great a trust was left to him in her and with her; how God is justly called the Father of orphans, and that He especially blesses those who pity and minister to them. He knows his duty toward her, and its fulfilment brings to him satisfaction, makes him happy. God has blessed her with beauty; but what is more, he has bestowed on her an obedient, humble, and unassuring spirit, as is afterwards fully shown by her conduct in the royal house of the women, and as had doubtless been often manifested before. She loves her people, and surely also its customs, laws, and religion. Thus she is to him indeed a Hadassah, a myrtle, in the true sense of the word, an unpromising and yet promising bud. Indeed, to him she was developed into a lovely flower of hope; and though it happen that she is taken into the royal house of the women, she will still be to him a lovely flower, whose presence he seeks, whose prosperity lies at his heart day by day, whose development will cause him to rejoice. Again, she will more and more become to him a brilliant star, an Esther, in whose light he views his own and his people's future. In this manner his life is not poor, though he appear insignificant and obscure, though it be filled with painful reminiscences and great perplexities, which he must combat daily in his heathen surroundings. On the contrary, he is rich in light and hope; and even if he had realized the latter in a less degree than he eventually did, still his existence would not have been in vain.—Lange.

Est . Mordecai was one of those characters which clearly reveal the hand of Providence.

The light we have of his early life is little better than darkness. But when he appears at Shushan it becomes lustrous as the noontide sun.

He possessed the qualification which fitted him for swaying a sceptre.

Mordecai's ancestors were dead and buried, but family greatness lived with him.

Some men's noble deeds and heroism exist only in name, are hung in picture-galleries, and recorded in the chronicles of their family.

A great name is often carried by a very little man. Greatness does not always pass on.

In the person of Richard Cromwell we have not an Oliver Cromwell.

Est . Carried away. Every child of God is where God has placed him for some purpose. You have been wishing for another position where you could do something for Jesus: do not wish anything of the kind, but serve him where you are. If you are sitting at the king's gate there is something for you to do there, and if you were on the queen's throne, there would be something for you to do there: do not ask either to be gatekeeper or queen, but whichever you are serve God therein. Mordecai did well because he acted as Mordecai should.—C. H. Spurgeon.

The best may have their share in a common calamity; but God will not fail even then to set his eyes upon them for good. The husbandman cutteth his corn and weed together, but for different purpose. One and the same common calamity proveth, melteth, purifieth the good, damneth, wasteth, destroyeth the evil.—Trapp.

It was a good thing for Esther when left an orphan, in a strange land, that Mordecai would become her foster-father.

It was a good thing for Mordecai that he took Esther home and brought her up.

Whilst giving he received. "There is that scattereth and yet increaseth." This Mordecai experienced.

Be careful whom you turn from your door; an angel, in rags, may come there some day.

The adopted child, or even the captive slave, may be God's ministering angel.

That passage, "The Lord blessed the Egyptian's house for Joseph's sake," is very suggestive.

The little maid in Naaman's house became an untold blessing to her master.

Mordecai took Esther, and was well rewarded.

1. By Esther's goodness when with him.

2. By her obedience to him after she had left him.

Mordecai brought up Hadassah, and Esther afterwards brought up Mordecai.

She was a poor orphan, but Christ left her not comfortless. He had provided and enabled Mordecai to feed her, to train her up in the fear of God, and to defend her chastity from the fear of lust; beside that, her head was by Him destined to a diadem. Esther the captive shall be Esther the queen; Esther the motherless and fatherless shall be a nursing mother to the Church, and, meanwhile, meet with a merciful guardian.—Mordecai. Why, then, should not we trust God with ourselves and our children?—Trapp.

Took for his own daughter. He hid not his eyes from his own flesh, as some unnatural ostrich or sea-monster; he made not, as many do, tuition a broker for private gain; he made not, instead of a daughter, a slave or sponge of his pupil; he devoured her not under pretence of devotion, but freely took her for his child, and bred her in the best manner.—Trapp.

There is a resemblance between Esther and Moses.

1. The one was raised up to emancipate Israel from cruel bondage, the other to preserve them from a plot which had for its object their extermination.

2. Moses was taken out of the river, and adopted by Pharaoh's daughter. Esther was raised to the bed of Ahasuerus and the crown royal.

3. After mentioning the barbarous edict for destroying all their children, Stephen says: "In which time Moses was born, and was exceeding fair"—"fair to God," as it is in the original, according to the Hebrew idiom. It was the beauty of the babe, shining through its tears, that excited the compassion of the Egyptian princess; and it was Esther's beauty which first won the Persian monarch.

4. But the Apostle, referring to the faith of Moses, lets us further into the mystery of Providence: "By faith Moses was hid three months of his parents, because they saw he was a proper child." Mordecai was to Esther father and mother; and what hinders us to think that he participated in the feelings of the parents of Moses, and that when he first looked on the beauty of the infant orphan, faith combined with natural affection and benevolence in inducing him to take her for his own daughter.—Dr. M‘Crie.

ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 2

Discipline of the passions. The passions may be humoured until they become our master, as a horse may be pampered till he gets the better of his rider; but early discipline will prevent mutiny, and keep the helm in the hands of reason. Properly controlled, the passions may, like a horse with the bit in his mouth, or a ship with the helm in the hand of a skilful mariner, be managed and made useful.

A rich landlord once cruelly oppressed a poor widow. Her son, a little boy of eight years, saw it. He afterwards became a painter, and painted a life likeness of the dark scene. Years afterwards, he placed it where the man saw it. He turned pale, trembled in every joint, and offered any sum to purchase it, that he might put it out of sight. Thus there is an invisible painter drawing on the canvas of the soul a life likeness, reflecting correctly all the passions and actions of our spiritual history on earth. Now and again we should be compelled to look at them, and the folly of our acts will sting us, as it did the landlord, and also Ahasuerus.

Control of anger. Socrates, finding himself in emotion against a slave, said: "I would beat you if I were not angry." Having received a box on the ears, he contented himself by only saying, with a smile, "It is a pity we do not know when to put on the helmet." Socrates, meeting a gentleman of rank in the streets, saluted him; but the gentleman took no notice of it. His friends in company, observing what passed, told the philosopher "That they were so exasperated at the man's incivility, that they had a good mind to resent it." He very calmly replied, "If you met any person in the road in a worse habit of body than yourself, would you think you had reason to be enraged with him on that account? Pray, then, what greater reason can you have for being incensed at a man for a worse habit of mind than any of yourselves?" That was a brave, strong man.

Impressions of sin. The great stone book of nature reveals many records of the past. In the red sandstone there are found, in some places, marks which are clearly the impression of showers of rain, and these are so perfect that it can even be detected in which direction the shower inclined, and from what quarter it proceeded—and this ages ago. Even so sin leaves its track behind it, and God keeps a faithful record of all our sins.—Biblical Treasury.

"If you cut a gash in a man's head, you may heal it; but you can never rub out, nor wash out, nor cut out the scar. It may be a witness against you in his corpse; still it may be covered by the coffin, or hidden in the grave; but then it is not till decomposition shall take place, that it shall entirely disappear. But, if you smite your soul by sin, you make a scar that will remain; no coffin or grave shall hide it; no fire, not even the eternal flames, shall burn out sin's stains."

Counterfeit repentance. Beware that you make no mistake about the nature of true repentance. The devil knows too well the value of the precious grace not to dress up spurious imitations of it. Wherever there is good coin there will always be bad money.—Ryle.

Repentance before pardon. The first physic to recover our souls is not cordials, but corrosives; not an immediate stepping into heaven by a present assurance, but mourning, and lamentations, and a little bewailing of our former transgressions. With Mary Magdalene we must wash Christ's feet with our tears of sorrow, before we may anoint his head with "the oil of gladness."—Browning.

In all parts of the East, women are spoken of as being much inferior to men in wisdom; and nearly all their sages have proudly descanted on the ignorance of women. In the Hindoo book called the ‘Kurral,' it is declared, "All women are ignorant." In other works similar remarks are found: "Ignorance is a woman's jewel. The feminine qualities are four—ignorance, fear, shame, and impurity. To a woman disclose not a secret. Talk not to me in that way; it is all female wisdom."—Roberts.

Degradation of woman. The farmers of the upper Alps, though by no means wealthy, live like lords in their houses, while the heaviest portion of agricultural labour devolves on the wife. It is no uncommon thing to see a woman yoked to the plough along with an ass, while the husband guides it. A farmer of the upper Alps accounts it an act of politeness to lend his wife to a neighbour who is too much oppressed with work; and the neighbour, in his turn, lends his wife for a few day's work, whenever the favour is requested.—Percy.

Radical reform. A small bite from a serpent will affect the whole body. There is no way to calm the sea but by excommunicating Jonah from the ship. If the root be killed, the branches will soon be withered. If the spring be diminished, there is no doubt that the streams will soon fail. When the fuel of corruption is removed, then the fire of affliction is extinguished.—Secker.

Individual responsibility. Daniel Webster was once asked, "What is the most important thought you ever entertained?" He replied, after a moment's reflection, "the most important thought I ever had was my individual responsibility to God." There is no royal road, either to wealth or learning. Princes and kings, poor men, peasants, all alike must attend to the wants of their own bodies, and their own minds. No man can eat, drink, or sleep by proxy. No man can get the alphabet learned for him by another. All these are things which everybody must do for himself, or they will not be done at all. Just as it is with the mind and body, so it is with the soul. There are certain things absolutely needful to the soul's health and well-being. Each must repent for himself. Each must apply to Christ for himself. And for himself each must speak to God and pray.—Ryle.


Verses 8-10

CRITICAL NOTES.]

Est . Seven maidens] Probably each of the virgins had the same number of maids to attend her; but Esther's maids were chosen with special care. It seems also that both Esther and her maids were favoured with the choicest apartments in the harem.

Est . Not showed her people] This was a piece of wise policy on the part of her foster-father. He knew well that the Jews were not too popular, and had she beforehand declared that she belonged to the captive nation, her cause would have been next to hopeless,

MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH. Est

ESTHER'S HOPEFUL BEGINNING

A good beginning often ensures a good ending. Often, but not always. Buds of promise in this world are sadly and frequently nipped by the untimely blast, or the searching frost. Purposes are broken. Glorious plans are thwarted. Well-conceived structures do not reach completion. However, Esther began well and ended well. She was one of those wondrous beings that make an impression upon all. She carried sunshine everywhere, and all were attracted by the sweet light of her presence.

I. Esther was brought to the king's house along with other maidens. This was not much to the other maidens. To some a gloomy prospect. But to Esther it was one of the steps to a future high position.

II. She impressed the keeper of the women. The maiden pleased him, and she obtained kindness of him. On her entrance into what we may call public life she made an impression. She moved along, exerting a charm upon all. Monarch and subject confessed her power, and yielded to her benign sway. All are not alike gifted with this power of pleasing, but all should strive to please others for their good to edification. The more unselfish we become, the more are we likely to please others and to receive kindness.

III. She was advanced to the best place. Hegai preferred her to the best place of the house of the women. Ahasuerus advanced her to the best place in the kingdom. She receives a good place in the pages of sacred history. Let not our strife be for the best of earthly places. That is the best place where the good Lord shows his glory. Let us dwell in the presence of Jesus Christ. Where he dwells is heaven.

The fact that Esther was of Jewish extraction might have militated against her elevation, therefore she preserved a wise reticence. Time is on the side of him who knows how to wait. Mordecai does not enforce either falsehood or deceitfulness, but simply patience for the period to arrive when truth may be revealed with advantage. An untruth must be scorned; but the man who tells the truth at unseasonable periods, or in a wrong spirit, may do more harm than good. "Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you." The prudent man foreseeth the evil and taketh all lawful methods for its prevention. Christianity teaches foresight. Prudence is commended both by nature and by revelation. But it must not degenerate into cunning. Mordecai was prudent in the management of his household. He trained Esther well, for she did the commandment of Mordecai like as when she was brought up with him. Good training, as a general rule, makes good children. "Train up a child in the way in which he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it." The well-trained child will not be likely to forget its duty even in the palace. Parents often blame their children for following evil courses; but if such parents closely examined they might find reason to blame themselves. In this age children forget the commandment of their parents long before the palace is reached.

SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS ON Est

Est . Esther was brought. Poor Esther, who had been so kindly cherished by Mordecai, was now led away from his house to be the slave or the beloved wife of the great king, as his caprice should determine.

1. Her consent was not asked.

2. The consent of Mordecai, her adopted father, was not asked.

3. They were both slaves to a despotic master, and had, therefore, no choice. Blame not Esther, therefore, but pity her, when ye hear that, like so many other maidens, she was led away to the house of the king's women. She was not an actor, but a sufferer. Had she been left to her choice it is probable she would have chosen the poorest Jew that was faithful to his religion for her husband, in preference to the great king.—Dr. Lawson.

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 committed 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.—Dr. Davidson.

Est . ESTHER'S PREFERMENT. Who would have thought (a) a Jew, (b) a captive, (c) an orphan, was born to be a queen, an empress! So it proved. Providence sometimes raiseth up the poor out of the dust to set them among princes.

ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 2

Discipline of the passions. The passions may be humoured until they become our master, as a horse may be pampered till he gets the better of his rider; but early discipline will prevent mutiny, and keep the helm in the hands of reason. Properly controlled, the passions may, like a horse with the bit in his mouth, or a ship with the helm in the hand of a skilful mariner, be managed and made useful.

A rich landlord once cruelly oppressed a poor widow. Her son, a little boy of eight years, saw it. He afterwards became a painter, and painted a life likeness of the dark scene. Years afterwards, he placed it where the man saw it. He turned pale, trembled in every joint, and offered any sum to purchase it, that he might put it out of sight. Thus there is an invisible painter drawing on the canvas of the soul a life likeness, reflecting correctly all the passions and actions of our spiritual history on earth. Now and again we should be compelled to look at them, and the folly of our acts will sting us, as it did the landlord, and also Ahasuerus.

Control of anger. Socrates, finding himself in emotion against a slave, said: "I would beat you if I were not angry." Having received a box on the ears, he contented himself by only saying, with a smile, "It is a pity we do not know when to put on the helmet." Socrates, meeting a gentleman of rank in the streets, saluted him; but the gentleman took no notice of it. His friends in company, observing what passed, told the philosopher "That they were so exasperated at the man's incivility, that they had a good mind to resent it." He very calmly replied, "If you met any person in the road in a worse habit of body than yourself, would you think you had reason to be enraged with him on that account? Pray, then, what greater reason can you have for being incensed at a man for a worse habit of mind than any of yourselves?" That was a brave, strong man.

Impressions of sin. The great stone book of nature reveals many records of the past. In the red sandstone there are found, in some places, marks which are clearly the impression of showers of rain, and these are so perfect that it can even be detected in which direction the shower inclined, and from what quarter it proceeded—and this ages ago. Even so sin leaves its track behind it, and God keeps a faithful record of all our sins.—Biblical Treasury.

"If you cut a gash in a man's head, you may heal it; but you can never rub out, nor wash out, nor cut out the scar. It may be a witness against you in his corpse; still it may be covered by the coffin, or hidden in the grave; but then it is not till decomposition shall take place, that it shall entirely disappear. But, if you smite your soul by sin, you make a scar that will remain; no coffin or grave shall hide it; no fire, not even the eternal flames, shall burn out sin's stains."

Counterfeit repentance. Beware that you make no mistake about the nature of true repentance. The devil knows too well the value of the precious grace not to dress up spurious imitations of it. Wherever there is good coin there will always be bad money.—Ryle.

Repentance before pardon. The first physic to recover our souls is not cordials, but corrosives; not an immediate stepping into heaven by a present assurance, but mourning, and lamentations, and a little bewailing of our former transgressions. With Mary Magdalene we must wash Christ's feet with our tears of sorrow, before we may anoint his head with "the oil of gladness."—Browning.

In all parts of the East, women are spoken of as being much inferior to men in wisdom; and nearly all their sages have proudly descanted on the ignorance of women. In the Hindoo book called the ‘Kurral,' it is declared, "All women are ignorant." In other works similar remarks are found: "Ignorance is a woman's jewel. The feminine qualities are four—ignorance, fear, shame, and impurity. To a woman disclose not a secret. Talk not to me in that way; it is all female wisdom."—Roberts.

Degradation of woman. The farmers of the upper Alps, though by no means wealthy, live like lords in their houses, while the heaviest portion of agricultural labour devolves on the wife. It is no uncommon thing to see a woman yoked to the plough along with an ass, while the husband guides it. A farmer of the upper Alps accounts it an act of politeness to lend his wife to a neighbour who is too much oppressed with work; and the neighbour, in his turn, lends his wife for a few day's work, whenever the favour is requested.—Percy.

Radical reform. A small bite from a serpent will affect the whole body. There is no way to calm the sea but by excommunicating Jonah from the ship. If the root be killed, the branches will soon be withered. If the spring be diminished, there is no doubt that the streams will soon fail. When the fuel of corruption is removed, then the fire of affliction is extinguished.—Secker.

Individual responsibility. Daniel Webster was once asked, "What is the most important thought you ever entertained?" He replied, after a moment's reflection, "the most important thought I ever had was my individual responsibility to God." There is no royal road, either to wealth or learning. Princes and kings, poor men, peasants, all alike must attend to the wants of their own bodies, and their own minds. No man can eat, drink, or sleep by proxy. No man can get the alphabet learned for him by another. All these are things which everybody must do for himself, or they will not be done at all. Just as it is with the mind and body, so it is with the soul. There are certain things absolutely needful to the soul's health and well-being. Each must repent for himself. Each must apply to Christ for himself. And for himself each must speak to God and pray.—Ryle.


Verse 11

CRITICAL NOTES.]

Est . Mordecai … before the court of the women's house] This leads us to suppose that he was an eunuch. It is not probable that be would, otherwise, have such access to the house of the women as it appears he had. It is the opinion of many that he was a royal porter having charge of one of the principal gates.

MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH. Est

MORDECAI'S LOVING SOLICITUDE

THE histories of Mordecai and Esther are very closely interblended. They run side by side, like the two differently-coloured rivers—the Arve and the Rhone. But the course of 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 from threatened destruction, but she owed very much to the teaching, the influence, and the wise directions of Mordecai. To Esther belonged the glory of pleading with King Ahasuerus, and securing the rights of the oppressed; but to Mordecai belonged the glory of directing her movements. She was the seen, and he the unseen worker. And these latter often do the most important work, though they are sometimes left to pine away in obscurity. The skilful workman invents and gains little advantage; while the cunning capitalist uses the invention and flourishes. The poor wise man saves the city, but his services are not requited. The thinker creates in secret, and receives small rewards; while the talker uses the thinker's materials, and reaps a harvest of applause and material benefits. However, Mordecai was not unrewarded, for Esther was neither ungrateful nor unmindful of her obligations. These two work and reap together. They sow in tears, in fasting, and in prayers; but they reap in victory, in light, in gladness, and in honour. Let us believe this for our consolation, that work done for God cannot die. Workers in the dark and workers in the light will meet together in the rewarding presence of infinite mercy.

I. Mordecai's loving solicitude. The title by which Mordecai was designated was "the Just." This is a better title than that of earl or noble, of king or prince. What a blessing to a nation when men that are just in the broadest sense of that word direct its affairs, or even dwell near its palace gates! Just men are required to save nations from decline and from final overthrow. Mordecai, however, was no stern embodiment of justice. In him it was tempered by mercy. Kindness was also his characteristic. There was in him a wonderful tenderness which made him adored of his own people. He was true to the claims of relationship, and he adopted Esther as his own child. The orphan's helpless state appealed to his manhood, and he practically said, I will be thy protector. In protecting her he benefited both himself and his whole nation. There is beautiful humanness in the record—"He brought up Hadassah." Mordecai loved the child, and his affection grew as he watched her developing loveliness. And when she was parted from him he followed her with loving solicitude. Space separated, but love united. Mordecai showed the loving anxiety of a true father for an absent child.

II. This loving solicitude was of Divine origin. It is true indeed that all our good is Divine. "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights." But we may here note a special endowment. God intervenes in human affairs. He makes use of human passions for the promotion of his merciful purposes. And this was part of the Divine plan that Mordecai and Esther should be closely knitted together; for both had important work to do, and for both a great destiny was assigned. Human reasons may be given to account for Mordecai's love for Esther, but there were also Divine reasons. The Divine is ever working in and by the human. One man is attracted to another by an unknown force. That attraction is heaven-implanted: God's agents are not as solitary as they seem. The reformer is the outcome of the thoughts and feelings of his time, working it may be in secret. Mordecai is essential to Esther. His loving solicitude was a vital force in her wondrous career.

III. This loving solicitude quickened Mordecai's discernment. True love is not blind, as sometimes it is represented. It is a quickener of the discerning faculty. It is sharp to apprehend danger. The mother's ear is quick and her eye is keen to detect the approach of evil to her offspring. Mordecai at once perceived the danger to which Esther was exposed by the new position to which she had been taken. We have good reason for anxiety when our children are lifted to the heights of prosperity. Many sons and daughters have been ruined in palaces who, humanly speaking, would have remained virtuous in cottages.

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. The heart and the head must be clarified by love's indwelling, as well as enlightened by knowledge, if there is to be the possession of sound doctrine. Mordecai might believe in predestination. He might feel assured that his niece or cousin was God's "chosen vessel." But love taught him better than to let the mysteries of Divine decrees interfere with the practical duties of life. "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. Thus Mordecai's love made him watchful. How Mordecai came to possess the privilege of walking every day before the court of the women's house—whether he was one of the king's eunuchs, or whether he secured the privilege by purchase—we cannot tell. But there he was, watching with intense interest the maiden's career. The sentinel at his post. The sailor at the helm. So Mordecai walked every day before the court of the women's house. His love grew by the withdrawal of its object. His anxiety increased as the danger enlarged. We should be watchful for the welfare of others. Mordecai symbolizes the love of the eternal Father. God watches to know how his people do. Esther could not see Mordecai in his daily walks, but he was watching. We cannot see God, but he too is watching. We cannot feel God, but he is protecting. Our vision is not as the Divine vision. Ours cannot pierce the clouds and the darkness which shroud and conceal the infinite. But the Divine vision knows no obstruction. God knows all, and ever watches. Trust ever in the abiding love and continued watchfulness of an unchanging God.

VI. Mordecai's love rendered him self-forgetful. He did not stop to think that his conduct might appear unseemly as he walked every day before the court of the women's house. Love is unconscious of self. It goes out in supreme regard towards the object of attachment. We fancy Mordecai faithful at his post in spite of the frowns of stately courtiers or the ridicule of fawning menials. This speaks of the nobler self-forgetfulness of a mightier love. Even Jesus pleased not himself. He walked every day before the courts of men's and women's hearts, though they rejected his love and despised his beneficent ministry. He still walks. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. At the door of many hearts he is knocking now.

VII. Mordecai's love concerned itself about Esther's highest welfare. It is a suggestive expression—To know the peace of Esther. True peace is not possible where the soul is not in a right condition. There is no peace to the wicked. That love is poor which does not seek the welfare of the whole nature. How many fathers would feel that their children were all right if they saw them only in the outer courts of a palace! But oh, there was danger in the palace of Ahasuerus. And there is danger in the palace even of our gracious queen. Right parental love asks how the child is doing both temporally and spiritually, and what is to become of him or her both in time and in eternity. How are you doing? Are you on the way to the palace of heaven?

SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS ON Est

1. Mordecai was so deeply interested in the fate of Esther, that day after day he was found watching any opportunity that might occur to learn from some eunuchs passing in or out how Esther fared, and what her prospects were. Perhaps there may have been others in similar circumstances with himself, solicitous about their daughters or friends; and if so, his conduct would attract the less notice. But what we have principally to remark is the paternal interest which all along he took in the orphan whom he had reared. She was evidently his chief earthly care; and now, when she was, as it were, taken out of his hand, and no longer dependent upon his bounty and his kindness, he was as much concerned about her as when in her childhood she had sat upon his knee and returned his affectionate embrace. And so parental love is always exhibited. Although the grown-up youth is treated differently from the mere child, and there may be fewer of the words and outward tokens of endearment than there were, the heart of the parent has not become colder; but there are now deep anxieties connected with the progress of the youth, with his settlement in life, and his whole future career, which were not felt before; and though it may not outwardly appear, the most solicitous and intense affection is experienced by the parent at the time when the objects of it are beginning to feel that they can do something for themselves in the world.—Davidson.

2. Parents and guardians might take an example from Mordecai. There was danger in the palace of a heathen king, but there is danger also in a great city. Let there be solicitude for those who are exposed to its temptations—the solicitude which leads to watchfulness, and finds its expression in prayer. If there is the oppression of conscious weakness and separation, the more reason for laying the case before him who can keep "the feet from falling, the eyes from tears, and the soul from death."—McEwan.

3. Mordecai had taken Esther for his child, and was curious of her welfare, though she was now grown up, and preferred at court. The court, he knew, was an ill air for godliness to breathe in. His care was, therefore, that she might have Gaius's prosperity, even mentem sanam in corpore sans, a sound mind in a sound body. The Turks wonder to see a man walk to and fro, and use to ask such an one what he meaneth? and whether he be out of his way, or out of his wits?—Trapp.

Mordecai was so much older than Esther as to make it natural for him to assume toward her the position of a father. What he was in the matter of occupation we can only guess, when we see him take easily to the place of a porter at the palace gate, and when we find him turn as easily to the business of a scribe. But there is no guess-work as to what Mordecai was in the matter of character. He showed "piety at home." When his uncle died, leaving on the world a fair girl, who, it would seem, had never known a mother's care, he took his cousin for his own daughter, and brought her up. How wisely and piously he did so Esther's conduct will prove. We shall presently see how he proved himself a faithful, sharp-eyed servant, and fearless in the right; and the issue of the story will reveal his heroic public spirit. This Mordecai is altogether an admirable man; of good natural powers, enlarged and applied by religion; wise, sterling, a man who can afford to wait; worth a thousand Ahasueruses.—A. M. Symington, B.A.

ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 2

Discipline of the passions. The passions may be humoured until they become our master, as a horse may be pampered till he gets the better of his rider; but early discipline will prevent mutiny, and keep the helm in the hands of reason. Properly controlled, the passions may, like a horse with the bit in his mouth, or a ship with the helm in the hand of a skilful mariner, be managed and made useful.

A rich landlord once cruelly oppressed a poor widow. Her son, a little boy of eight years, saw it. He afterwards became a painter, and painted a life likeness of the dark scene. Years afterwards, he placed it where the man saw it. He turned pale, trembled in every joint, and offered any sum to purchase it, that he might put it out of sight. Thus there is an invisible painter drawing on the canvas of the soul a life likeness, reflecting correctly all the passions and actions of our spiritual history on earth. Now and again we should be compelled to look at them, and the folly of our acts will sting us, as it did the landlord, and also Ahasuerus.

Control of anger. Socrates, finding himself in emotion against a slave, said: "I would beat you if I were not angry." Having received a box on the ears, he contented himself by only saying, with a smile, "It is a pity we do not know when to put on the helmet." Socrates, meeting a gentleman of rank in the streets, saluted him; but the gentleman took no notice of it. His friends in company, observing what passed, told the philosopher "That they were so exasperated at the man's incivility, that they had a good mind to resent it." He very calmly replied, "If you met any person in the road in a worse habit of body than yourself, would you think you had reason to be enraged with him on that account? Pray, then, what greater reason can you have for being incensed at a man for a worse habit of mind than any of yourselves?" That was a brave, strong man.

Impressions of sin. The great stone book of nature reveals many records of the past. In the red sandstone there are found, in some places, marks which are clearly the impression of showers of rain, and these are so perfect that it can even be detected in which direction the shower inclined, and from what quarter it proceeded—and this ages ago. Even so sin leaves its track behind it, and God keeps a faithful record of all our sins.—Biblical Treasury.

"If you cut a gash in a man's head, you may heal it; but you can never rub out, nor wash out, nor cut out the scar. It may be a witness against you in his corpse; still it may be covered by the coffin, or hidden in the grave; but then it is not till decomposition shall take place, that it shall entirely disappear. But, if you smite your soul by sin, you make a scar that will remain; no coffin or grave shall hide it; no fire, not even the eternal flames, shall burn out sin's stains."

Counterfeit repentance. Beware that you make no mistake about the nature of true repentance. The devil knows too well the value of the precious grace not to dress up spurious imitations of it. Wherever there is good coin there will always be bad money.—Ryle.

Repentance before pardon. The first physic to recover our souls is not cordials, but corrosives; not an immediate stepping into heaven by a present assurance, but mourning, and lamentations, and a little bewailing of our former transgressions. With Mary Magdalene we must wash Christ's feet with our tears of sorrow, before we may anoint his head with "the oil of gladness."—Browning.

In all parts of the East, women are spoken of as being much inferior to men in wisdom; and nearly all their sages have proudly descanted on the ignorance of women. In the Hindoo book called the ‘Kurral,' it is declared, "All women are ignorant." In other works similar remarks are found: "Ignorance is a woman's jewel. The feminine qualities are four—ignorance, fear, shame, and impurity. To a woman disclose not a secret. Talk not to me in that way; it is all female wisdom."—Roberts.

Degradation of woman. The farmers of the upper Alps, though by no means wealthy, live like lords in their houses, while the heaviest portion of agricultural labour devolves on the wife. It is no uncommon thing to see a woman yoked to the plough along with an ass, while the husband guides it. A farmer of the upper Alps accounts it an act of politeness to lend his wife to a neighbour who is too much oppressed with work; and the neighbour, in his turn, lends his wife for a few day's work, whenever the favour is requested.—Percy.

Radical reform. A small bite from a serpent will affect the whole body. There is no way to calm the sea but by excommunicating Jonah from the ship. If the root be killed, the branches will soon be withered. If the spring be diminished, there is no doubt that the streams will soon fail. When the fuel of corruption is removed, then the fire of affliction is extinguished.—Secker.

Individual responsibility. Daniel Webster was once asked, "What is the most important thought you ever entertained?" He replied, after a moment's reflection, "the most important thought I ever had was my individual responsibility to God." There is no royal road, either to wealth or learning. Princes and kings, poor men, peasants, all alike must attend to the wants of their own bodies, and their own minds. No man can eat, drink, or sleep by proxy. No man can get the alphabet learned for him by another. All these are things which everybody must do for himself, or they will not be done at all. Just as it is with the mind and body, so it is with the soul. There are certain things absolutely needful to the soul's health and well-being. Each must repent for himself. Each must apply to Christ for himself. And for himself each must speak to God and pray.—Ryle.


Verses 12-14

CRITICAL NOTES.]

Est . Whatsoever she desired] In the way of jewels, ornaments, or dress. "No doubt," says Rawlinson, "the virgins generally took the opportunity—one that would occur but once in their lives—to load themselves with precious ornaments of various kinds—necklaces, bracelets, earrings, anklets, and the like."

MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH. Est

THE VANITY OF EARTHLY HOPES

Here is a vivid description of the means taken to minister to and to gratify the carnal pleasures of a depot. Sensuality is permitted without stint. Manhood is lowered. The animal is made supreme. Ahasuerus the king is turned into Ahasuerus the slave—the slave of degrading lusts. Men have not the same opportunities of self-degradation as were provided for this Eastern monarch. But still men may give way to the sensual. Let them avoid the earthly and the sensual, for their climax is the devilish. Now consider the unhappy case of these poor virgins.

I. The great preparation. For twelve months these unhappy victims were being prepared for the great occasion that would most likely occur only once in their lives. Oil of myrrh and sweet odours were at their disposal in abundance. The choicest garments and rarest jewels were in readiness. Female vanity could for once gratify its propensity for outward adornments. Through all time men and women will make great preparation to render the external attractive, while the internal is neglected. Even now women will dress and trick themselves up for a state reception of a few moments' duration. Very few make earnest preparation to dress the soul, and to be ready for heavenly reception.

II. The flattering hopes. Each virgin would doubtless entertain the hope of becoming queen in place of the deposed Vashti. What a delightful prospect! How flattering the hopes that would flutter in each virgin's mind! We please ourselves thus with fond delusive hopes. Well is it for us that hope is so buoyant in this dark world. After all, these flattering hopes are of great service to us in our chequered career.

III. Great preparations wasted. These virgins derived little earthly profit from all their planning and arranging. What a picture this of the wasted preparations in the lives of most! Much money is spent on the boy's education, and just as he reaches manhood death comes and seizes the prey. The lovely maiden droops and dies ere the flower of her beauty is fully blown. The prince is killed by the weapons of savages before he has had time to achieve a name and to lay claim to imperial dignity. The pen falls from the writer's hand just as he is beginning to give permanence to the laboured and matured thoughts of his mind. The world is full of ruins. Wasted preparations strew the ground.

IV. Flattering hopes destroyed. These virgins were sent back into the chambers of the concubines—"the prison of sad and withered hearts." There are many prisons that we do not see. Imprisoned souls endure the saddest punishment. Withered hearts! who shall count them? Flattering hopes destroyed! who shall tell their appalling number? Every life has its own long, dreary list of blasted hopes.

Learn—(a) that preparation for heavenly service is never wasted. Perhaps life is not so full of waste as we have supposed. The Divine Builder can turn our very ruins to useful purposes. The preparation that was wasted in one man's life may be of service to another. However, the true way to avoid possible waste is to make this earthly life a preparation for the heavenly. We prepare to enter the court of earthly kings, and are never summoned to the royal presence; but those who prepare in the right spirit and according to the gospel method to enter the court of the King eternal will most assuredly be summoned to stand in that Presence where there is fulness of joy. (b) That the hopes suggested by the gospel cannot be destroyed. The hopes of the worldling are too often delusive. The hopes of the hypocrite shall perish. But the hope of the righteous is gladness. To the man who builds by faith on the gospel of God's dear Son there is gladness in anticipation and gladness in fruition. Those who, justified by faith in Christ, and sanctified by the Divine Spirit, entertain the hope of being for ever in heaven, will never be sent back to the prison of sad and withered hearts. (c) If the children of this world make such great preparations for positions they may never be called to occupy, what preparations should the children of light make to occupy aright the high position to which they will be most certainly called. "Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure."

SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS ON Est

What strife, what emulation was now amongst all the Persian damsels that either were or thought themselves fair! Every one hopes to be a queen, and sees no reason why any other should be thought more excellent. How happy were we if we could be so ambitious of our espousals to the King of heaven! Every virgin must be six months purified with the oil of myrrh, and six other months perfumed with sweet odours, besides those special receipts that were allowed to each upon their own election. O God, what care, what cost is requisite to that soul which should be addressed a fit bride for thine holy and glorious majesty? When we have scoured ourselves with the most cleansing oil of our repentance, and have perfumed ourselves with thy best graces, and our perfectest obedience, it is the only praise of thy mercy that we may be accepted.—Bishop Hall.

No doubt the virgins generally took the opportunity—one that would occur but once in their lives—to load themselves with precious ornaments of various kinds—necklaces, bracelets, earrings, anklets, and the like.—Rawlinson.

What care and cost is required for the decoration of the soul when it would prepare as an acceptable bride for Jesus.—Starke.

Because God desires more and more to have delight in us, and to draw nigh to us, and therefore he more and more goes on to purge us. For though he loves us at first, when full of corruptions, yet he cannot so much delight in us as he would, nor have that communion with us, no more than a husband can with a wife who hath an unsavoury breath or a loathsome disease. They must therefore be purified for his bed, as Esther was for Ahasuerus. "Draw nigh to God," says James, "and he will draw nigh to you;" but then you must "cleanse your hands, and purify your hearts," as it follows there; God else hath no delight to draw nigh to you.—Goodwin.

ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 2

Discipline of the passions. The passions may be humoured until they become our master, as a horse may be pampered till he gets the better of his rider; but early discipline will prevent mutiny, and keep the helm in the hands of reason. Properly controlled, the passions may, like a horse with the bit in his mouth, or a ship with the helm in the hand of a skilful mariner, be managed and made useful.

A rich landlord once cruelly oppressed a poor widow. Her son, a little boy of eight years, saw it. He afterwards became a painter, and painted a life likeness of the dark scene. Years afterwards, he placed it where the man saw it. He turned pale, trembled in every joint, and offered any sum to purchase it, that he might put it out of sight. Thus there is an invisible painter drawing on the canvas of the soul a life likeness, reflecting correctly all the passions and actions of our spiritual history on earth. Now and again we should be compelled to look at them, and the folly of our acts will sting us, as it did the landlord, and also Ahasuerus.

Control of anger. Socrates, finding himself in emotion against a slave, said: "I would beat you if I were not angry." Having received a box on the ears, he contented himself by only saying, with a smile, "It is a pity we do not know when to put on the helmet." Socrates, meeting a gentleman of rank in the streets, saluted him; but the gentleman took no notice of it. His friends in company, observing what passed, told the philosopher "That they were so exasperated at the man's incivility, that they had a good mind to resent it." He very calmly replied, "If you met any person in the road in a worse habit of body than yourself, would you think you had reason to be enraged with him on that account? Pray, then, what greater reason can you have for being incensed at a man for a worse habit of mind than any of yourselves?" That was a brave, strong man.

Impressions of sin. The great stone book of nature reveals many records of the past. In the red sandstone there are found, in some places, marks which are clearly the impression of showers of rain, and these are so perfect that it can even be detected in which direction the shower inclined, and from what quarter it proceeded—and this ages ago. Even so sin leaves its track behind it, and God keeps a faithful record of all our sins.—Biblical Treasury.

"If you cut a gash in a man's head, you may heal it; but you can never rub out, nor wash out, nor cut out the scar. It may be a witness against you in his corpse; still it may be covered by the coffin, or hidden in the grave; but then it is not till decomposition shall take place, that it shall entirely disappear. But, if you smite your soul by sin, you make a scar that will remain; no coffin or grave shall hide it; no fire, not even the eternal flames, shall burn out sin's stains."

Counterfeit repentance. Beware that you make no mistake about the nature of true repentance. The devil knows too well the value of the precious grace not to dress up spurious imitations of it. Wherever there is good coin there will always be bad money.—Ryle.

Repentance before pardon. The first physic to recover our souls is not cordials, but corrosives; not an immediate stepping into heaven by a present assurance, but mourning, and lamentations, and a little bewailing of our former transgressions. With Mary Magdalene we must wash Christ's feet with our tears of sorrow, before we may anoint his head with "the oil of gladness."—Browning.

In all parts of the East, women are spoken of as being much inferior to men in wisdom; and nearly all their sages have proudly descanted on the ignorance of women. In the Hindoo book called the ‘Kurral,' it is declared, "All women are ignorant." In other works similar remarks are found: "Ignorance is a woman's jewel. The feminine qualities are four—ignorance, fear, shame, and impurity. To a woman disclose not a secret. Talk not to me in that way; it is all female wisdom."—Roberts.

Degradation of woman. The farmers of the upper Alps, though by no means wealthy, live like lords in their houses, while the heaviest portion of agricultural labour devolves on the wife. It is no uncommon thing to see a woman yoked to the plough along with an ass, while the husband guides it. A farmer of the upper Alps accounts it an act of politeness to lend his wife to a neighbour who is too much oppressed with work; and the neighbour, in his turn, lends his wife for a few day's work, whenever the favour is requested.—Percy.

Radical reform. A small bite from a serpent will affect the whole body. There is no way to calm the sea but by excommunicating Jonah from the ship. If the root be killed, the branches will soon be withered. If the spring be diminished, there is no doubt that the streams will soon fail. When the fuel of corruption is removed, then the fire of affliction is extinguished.—Secker.

Individual responsibility. Daniel Webster was once asked, "What is the most important thought you ever entertained?" He replied, after a moment's reflection, "the most important thought I ever had was my individual responsibility to God." There is no royal road, either to wealth or learning. Princes and kings, poor men, peasants, all alike must attend to the wants of their own bodies, and their own minds. No man can eat, drink, or sleep by proxy. No man can get the alphabet learned for him by another. All these are things which everybody must do for himself, or they will not be done at all. Just as it is with the mind and body, so it is with the soul. There are certain things absolutely needful to the soul's health and well-being. Each must repent for himself. Each must apply to Christ for himself. And for himself each must speak to God and pray.—Ryle.


Verses 15-20

CRITICAL NOTES.]

Est . She required nothing] She made no effort to adorn her person with jewellery or dress to please her own fancy, but left the matter entirely to Hegai, who would be likely to know best what would please the king.

Est . Tebeth (answering to part of our December and January), in the seventh year of his reign] Vashti was cast off in the third year of his reign (Est 2:3); so that four years passed before another queen, or at least before Esther, was crowned in her stead.

Est . Made a release to the provinces] Usually understood as a release from tribute. The Persian kings were wont to remit the arrears of tribute due at the time of their accession; and Xerxes may have thought it wise to make such a release just after the disastrous Grecian wars. The feast, release, and gifts were, doubtless, in keeping with kingliness.

Est . When the virgins, &c.] Rather, "When virgins." These words should begin a new paragraph. They stand in contrast with those of Est 2:8, and serve in the mind of the writer to date the new event here narrated, viz., the discovery, by Mordecai, of the plot against the life of the king.—Speaker's Com. It appears that there was a second collection of virgins at Shushan, probably made some years after the first. After his unsuccessful wars Xerxes wholly abandoned himself to the pleasures of the court. We may thus understand his second gathering of virgins.

Est . Esther had not yet showed, &c.] This verse should be regarded as a parenthesis, and is designed as a circumstantial clause, to show that Esther was obedient to Mordecai as much after she became queen as before. It also shows that this second collection sprang from no prejudice against Esther as a Jewess.

MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH. Est ; Est 2:20

ESTHER'S ELEVATION

God in the mysterious nature of his operations puts down the mighty from their seats, and exalts them of low degree. In all the changes of life, in the rise and fall both of nations and of individuals, we shall only be able to walk with calmness as we see the ruling purpose of the Supreme moving on to its accomplishment. Let the history of God's movements in the past be the interpreter of the present, and impart settled faith in the unerring wisdom of the Infinite. The Vashtis may fall, but their fall is the Divine stepping-stone by which the orphaned Esthers rise to greatness in order to be of service to humanity. Written history reveals the working of God; and when the history of the present is written it will declare that God is still working. Let us now read the history of Esther's elevation so as to teach in the present.

I. God's servants patiently wait his time. That Esther was the servant of God is plain from the whole of this history. She was his chosen vessel. Here she waits the Lord's time. She is in no hurry; she manifests the calm of conscious greatness. True greatness has nothing to lose by patience. It may be objected that she was compelled to wait her turn. It may, however, be replied that many are unwise enough to try and fight against the force of Providence, and seek to hurry on Divine movements. Esther did not take this course because she had been taught Divine lessons. She could wait. Blessed are they who know how to wait when waiting is the Divine appointment. Blessed are they also that know how to move when the turn has come to go in unto the king. Ready to serve both by waiting and by moving is the characteristic of God's servants.

II. God's servants have sustaining confidence. Esther required nothing but what the king's chamberlain appointed. As a wise woman, she would take what was seemly and necessary for her adornment, but, as one conscious of being sent on a Divine mission, she was not bent upon decking herself with gaudy jewels. She let her beauty tell its own thrilling story, and work in its own magical way. The goodness of her soul shone right through her physical form, and rendered her more attractive than if she had worn the most costly garments. She had a sustaining confidence which made her not over-anxious and exacting in her requirements. A sincere effort to serve God will deliver from the evils of over-anxiety. Nature requires little, and grace less. She required nothing but what was appointed. Oh for grace to lessen the number of our requirements, to learn the difficult lesson, in whatsoever state we are therewith to be content.

III. God's servants find favour in unexpected quarters. From a human point of view it was a surprising thing that the king should so suddenly find his love drawn out towards this captive and orphaned Jewess. But more surprising still is the fact that Esther obtained favour in the sight of all them that looked upon her. Was green-eyed Jealousy on that occasion conquered? Did none of the on-looking virgins attempt to depreciate her beauty? Did none object to the shape of her nose, the colour of her hair, or the tone of her complexion? Was no whisper heard against this lovely maiden? Women are sharp to find out each other's defects, and yet Esther escaped because she was Divinely fashioned and Divinely guided. She was admired by all because she was God's servant. Hatred is sometimes the penalty of faithfulness in God's service; but if persecuted for Christ's sake we shall receive the favour of heaven, which is better than the favour of earth. However, we may find this, that God raises up for his servants friends in unexpected quarters. Joseph found friends and helpers in the prison. Daniel had lions for his friends and a king for his comforter. Bunyan was trusted by his jailor.

IV. God's servants are royal. The king set the royal crown upon Esther's head, and made her queen instead of Vashti. But Esther needed no earthly insignia to set forth her royalty. She was God's servant, and all his servants are royal. A kingly seed, a royal race are the children of God. She was a queen by virtue of a Divine creation. She was royal by reason of the queenly magnificence of her character. Her virtues were her crown. They shone with brilliancy far surpassing the virtue of pearls or rubies. The crown which Ahasuerus placed on her head will crumble to dust, but the crown of her virtues will never suffer any tarnishing of its lustre. What ambition there is to receive royal crowns from earthly kings! What commotion in the seraglio when the whisper went forth, Esther has received the crown royal! How soldiers will fight, and what hardships officers will endure in order to receive the decorating ribbon or medal from an earthly sovereign! But this is as nothing to the position of those who are to receive the heavenly crown from the hand of the King eternal. Happy day when Jesus shall set the royal crown of his approval upon the heads of his favourites.

V. God's servants are instruments of good. We are not now about to refer to Esther's great life-work in the deliverance of her people from a great danger, but to the facts here stated. In order to celebrate Esther's elevation to the crown, the king made a great feast, called Esther's feast, to all his princes and servants, and granted release to the provinces. This release may be understood either of a remission of labour or a remission of taxes. It is highly probable that it refers to the appointment of a holiday, on which there would be a resting from labour. Finally, the king gave gifts with royal munificence.—Keil. When the righteous are exalted the nation has reason to rejoice. Even material benefits result from their elevation. The country owes more to the presence in it of the righteous than it either understands or is prepared to admit. The king's former feast ended disastrously, but we do not read of any evil resulting from the joyful festivities on this occasion. May we suppose that Esther's presence exerted a salutary and restraining influence? The righteous should be saving forces.

VI. God's servants are fitted for the positions to which they are raised. Esther was gifted with the power of silence, and this is a rare gift. She did not show her kindred nor her people, for the set time had not yet arrived for the announcement. Intoxicated with her success, she might have made an untimely boast of the lowness of her origin. But she did not, for she was Divinely fitted. She knew both when to speak and when to keep silence. God fashions and educates his servants for the particular spheres they are designed to fill, and for the special duties they are intended to discharge.

VII. God's servants in highest positions do not overlook the minor moralities. It would, we may suppose, have been called a minor immorality had Esther neglected the commandment of Mordecai. She was now a queen, and was she to be in subjection to her uncle? There may be minor and major in moralities, but unfaithfulness in the least leads to unfaithfulness in the greatest. Esther was convinced of Mordecai's wisdom and impressed with a sense of his kindness, and therefore felt that his commandment was binding. We cannot afford, even in highest positions, to be deaf to the voice of wisdom. The commandments of wise old men have in them a Divine force. Those Esthers are Divinely wise who pay respectful attention to the weighty words of the aged Mordecais.

Observe that all Christians are the servants of God, whether the earthly position be high or low. They are royal, whether dwelling in a cottage or reigning in a palace. They should not be over-anxious about the good or great things of this life. Esther required nothing. They should move with quiet faith and restful confidence in their God. They should seek, above all, to fit themselves to be instruments of good to their kind.

SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS ON Est

Now when the turn of Esther, &c.—Then, and not till then. So when Joseph was sufficiently humbled, the king sent and loosed him; the ruler of the people let him go free. When David was become weaned from the world, when his heart was not haughty, nor his eyes lofty, then was he advanced to the kingdom. He that believeth maketh not haste. God's time is best; and as he seldom cometh at our time, so he never faileth at his own.—Trapp.

She required nothing.—As other maids had done to set out their beauty, but contenting herself with her native comeliness, and that wisdom that made her face to shine, she humbly taketh what Hegai directed her to, and wholly resteth upon the Divine providence.—Trapp.

Undazzled by splendour and royalty, the tender virgin rejected all these things. With noble simplicity she took the ornaments, neither selecting nor demanding anything, which the chief chamberlain brought to her. Even after she became queen above all the wives of the king, her heart still clung, not only with gratitude, but with childlike obedience, to her pious uncle and foster-father, as in the time when he trained her as a little girl.—Stolberg.

Let then both men and women learn by this case so to direct all their aims and desires as to please God alone by the ornament of a good conscience, and by the forms of minds well adjusted; but to despise the adventitious bodily ornaments of this world as vain in his sight, and by this piety gain the surer rewards of heaven. For this alone is the true beauty, which is precious in God's view, and which causes us to be approved by the King of kings, and joined to him in spiritual matrimony.… Surprising that even the heathen saw and taught this, for Crates says: That is ornament which adorns, but that adorns which makes a woman more adjusted and more modest. For this end neither gold, nor gems, nor purple avails, but whatever has the import of gravity, modesty, and chastity.—Fenardent.

That mind is truly great and noble that is not changed with the highest prosperity. Queen Esther cannot forget her cousin Mordecai; no pomp can make her slight the charge of so dear a kinsman; in all her royalty she casts her eye upon him amongst the throng of beholders; but she must not know him; her obedience keeps her in awe, and will not suffer her to draw him up with her to the participation of her honour. It troubles her not a little to forbear this duty, but she must; it is enough that Mordecai hath commanded her not to be known who or whose she was.—Hall.

Nor was Esther behind with her grateful returns. Too many when suddenly exalted forget their former friends, or, what is as bad, forget themselves, become vain and arrogant, and so impatient of admonition and good advice. Children, when they grow up, are apt to think that they are released from all obligation even to their natural parents; they become wise in their own conceits, and spurn advice as if it were an undue assumption of authority. But "Esther did the commandment of Mordecai, like as when she was brought up with him." The least signification of his will was a law to her; for she knew that he would require nothing of her inconsistent with her duty to God and her husband. He had enjoined her not to make known her kindred or her people; and this she religiously abstained from, not only when she was under the conduct of Hegai, but after she was seated in the affections of Ahasuerus, and had come to the kingdom. "Esther had not yet showed her kindred nor her people; as Mordecai had charged her." She, no doubt, felt a strong desire to make the avowal, and to use her interest with the king for the advancement of her kind benefactor. But even this generous feeling she repressed, because it would have led to a transgression of his command. To testify her gratitude she would not disobey him, nor run the risk of displeasing him. And she acted thus, though it does not appear that he acquainted her with his reasons for concealment. We may be sure, however, that Mordecai did not impose this silence arbitrarily; and his caution confirms the remark already made, that he looked forward to something more important that was to be accomplished by the elevation of his daughter, and waited for the opportune occasion when the disclosure of her people and relationship to him would be the means of advancing it. "Known unto God are all his works from the beginning," and "the secret of Jehovah is with them that fear him."—McCrie.

There is everything about Esther to engage our interest and sympathy. It is sad enough to find ourselves, even in adult years, suddenly in the front rank through the falling of those who stood in nature before us; but "she had neither father nor mother" while still a child, needing all care. And there were serious aggravations of her orphanhood—her sex, her belonging to the race of exiles, her beauty. But the Lover of little children, the Father of the fatherless, who had said to these captives, "Leave thy fatherless children, I will preserve them alive," had provided for Esther one who proved to her both father and mother. And there are early indications that the orphan girl was a daughter of the Lord Almighty; she obeyed Mordecai, even when beyond his control; and she was modestly free from love of display, a feature scarcely to be expected in a favoured beauty unless she had also grace. At length she became queen consort, and Mordecai's faith had its reward, For we are disposed to think it must have been in faith that he had committed her to the various perils of these twelve months. The parallel between Esther and the child Moses is striking (as McCrie shows in his lectures): each exceeding fair; each raised from lowly station to a place beside the throne; each a deliverer of Israel; each cast upon the waters for a time, although the waters on which Esther was cast were far more perilous than the Nile, and the royal home than the ark of bulrushes; so that we may credit Mordecai with faith like that of Amram and Jochebed. At least it is certain that Esther's advancement, while it came through the beauty which gave her her name, did not come through that alone or chiefly. God gave "her favour in the sight of all them that looked on her;" her Father sent her to her husband, a poor orphan indeed, but with that "discretion" without which her comeliness would have been in his judgment "as a jewel of gold in a swine's snout."—A. M. Symington, B.A.

ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 2

Discipline of the passions. The passions may be humoured until they become our master, as a horse may be pampered till he gets the better of his rider; but early discipline will prevent mutiny, and keep the helm in the hands of reason. Properly controlled, the passions may, like a horse with the bit in his mouth, or a ship with the helm in the hand of a skilful mariner, be managed and made useful.

A rich landlord once cruelly oppressed a poor widow. Her son, a little boy of eight years, saw it. He afterwards became a painter, and painted a life likeness of the dark scene. Years afterwards, he placed it where the man saw it. He turned pale, trembled in every joint, and offered any sum to purchase it, that he might put it out of sight. Thus there is an invisible painter drawing on the canvas of the soul a life likeness, reflecting correctly all the passions and actions of our spiritual history on earth. Now and again we should be compelled to look at them, and the folly of our acts will sting us, as it did the landlord, and also Ahasuerus.

Control of anger. Socrates, finding himself in emotion against a slave, said: "I would beat you if I were not angry." Having received a box on the ears, he contented himself by only saying, with a smile, "It is a pity we do not know when to put on the helmet." Socrates, meeting a gentleman of rank in the streets, saluted him; but the gentleman took no notice of it. His friends in company, observing what passed, told the philosopher "That they were so exasperated at the man's incivility, that they had a good mind to resent it." He very calmly replied, "If you met any person in the road in a worse habit of body than yourself, would you think you had reason to be enraged with him on that account? Pray, then, what greater reason can you have for being incensed at a man for a worse habit of mind than any of yourselves?" That was a brave, strong man.

Impressions of sin. The great stone book of nature reveals many records of the past. In the red sandstone there are found, in some places, marks which are clearly the impression of showers of rain, and these are so perfect that it can even be detected in which direction the shower inclined, and from what quarter it proceeded—and this ages ago. Even so sin leaves its track behind it, and God keeps a faithful record of all our sins.—Biblical Treasury.

"If you cut a gash in a man's head, you may heal it; but you can never rub out, nor wash out, nor cut out the scar. It may be a witness against you in his corpse; still it may be covered by the coffin, or hidden in the grave; but then it is not till decomposition shall take place, that it shall entirely disappear. But, if you smite your soul by sin, you make a scar that will remain; no coffin or grave shall hide it; no fire, not even the eternal flames, shall burn out sin's stains."

Counterfeit repentance. Beware that you make no mistake about the nature of true repentance. The devil knows too well the value of the precious grace not to dress up spurious imitations of it. Wherever there is good coin there will always be bad money.—Ryle.

Repentance before pardon. The first physic to recover our souls is not cordials, but corrosives; not an immediate stepping into heaven by a present assurance, but mourning, and lamentations, and a little bewailing of our former transgressions. With Mary Magdalene we must wash Christ's feet with our tears of sorrow, before we may anoint his head with "the oil of gladness."—Browning.

In all parts of the East, women are spoken of as being much inferior to men in wisdom; and nearly all their sages have proudly descanted on the ignorance of women. In the Hindoo book called the ‘Kurral,' it is declared, "All women are ignorant." In other works similar remarks are found: "Ignorance is a woman's jewel. The feminine qualities are four—ignorance, fear, shame, and impurity. To a woman disclose not a secret. Talk not to me in that way; it is all female wisdom."—Roberts.

Degradation of woman. The farmers of the upper Alps, though by no means wealthy, live like lords in their houses, while the heaviest portion of agricultural labour devolves on the wife. It is no uncommon thing to see a woman yoked to the plough along with an ass, while the husband guides it. A farmer of the upper Alps accounts it an act of politeness to lend his wife to a neighbour who is too much oppressed with work; and the neighbour, in his turn, lends his wife for a few day's work, whenever the favour is requested.—Percy.

Radical reform. A small bite from a serpent will affect the whole body. There is no way to calm the sea but by excommunicating Jonah from the ship. If the root be killed, the branches will soon be withered. If the spring be diminished, there is no doubt that the streams will soon fail. When the fuel of corruption is removed, then the fire of affliction is extinguished.—Secker.

Individual responsibility. Daniel Webster was once asked, "What is the most important thought you ever entertained?" He replied, after a moment's reflection, "the most important thought I ever had was my individual responsibility to God." There is no royal road, either to wealth or learning. Princes and kings, poor men, peasants, all alike must attend to the wants of their own bodies, and their own minds. No man can eat, drink, or sleep by proxy. No man can get the alphabet learned for him by another. All these are things which everybody must do for himself, or they will not be done at all. Just as it is with the mind and body, so it is with the soul. There are certain things absolutely needful to the soul's health and well-being. Each must repent for himself. Each must apply to Christ for himself. And for himself each must speak to God and pray.—Ryle.


Verses 21-23

CRITICAL NOTES.]

Est . Bigthan] Probably the same as Bigtha (Est 1:10). Called Bigthana in Est 6:2. Which kept the door] Lit., guards of the threshold. Being doorkeepers, like Mordecai, the latter was able the more readily to learn of their conspiracy. Such conspiracies among the officers of the court were common in the East, and many a monarch (and subsequently even Xerxes himself) fell by the hand of assassins.

Est . Hanged on a tree] This punishment was performed by the Persians by crucifying or impaling. Grecian writings and the Behistun inscription frequently mention this kind of execution. The criminal was sometimes first slain, but generally impaled alive. The book of the chronicles] Official records, made and kept by the royal scribes, and constituting a body of state papers or annals. See note on Ezr 4:15; 2Sa 8:17; and Introduction to Kings, on the sources.—Whedon's Com.

MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH. Est ; Est 2:23

THE PLOTTERS AND THE COUNTERPLOTTER

In this passage we have a striking illustration, even in a temporal point of view, of James's statement, "Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin; and sin when it is finished, bringeth forth death." Here in these two plotters—Bigthan and Teresh—are depraved affections and desires bringing forth sinfulness of purpose; it was not their fault that the sinful purpose did not culminate in the sinful deed, and they were guilty. The sinful purpose unchecked on our part renders us criminal in the sight of God, though not always in the sight of man. This sinful purpose brought upon them temporal death. "They were both hanged on a tree." Temporal death is not always the result of sinful purposes. If it were, what a valley of death this world would be. But oh, if we do not repent of sinful purposes, and fly to Jesus Christ, the sinner's refuge, spiritual death will be the inevitable result. The plotters are Bigthan and Teresh. Their design was dark and dastardly, and not to be condoned, because such plots were too common in those days. The counterplotter was Mordecai, who sat at the king's gate.

I. Notice, Their discontentment and his contentment. Profane history throws no light on their circumstances. We cannot tell whether or not they had a true cause for anger. We must simply abide by the statement—two of the king's chamberlains were wroth. Anger may arise from either real or ideal causes. Certainly discontentment is a fruitful source of anger. The discontented man soon finds out reasons why he should be angry. A fancied grievance is quite enough to stir up the nature and rouse the angry passions. If the truth were known, these men had very likely more reason to be pleased with the monarch for their advantages than to be angry on account of some grievance. Mordecai had not much outward reason for satisfaction. He might have reasonably expected more in consequence of Esther's elevation. But he sat with contented heart at the king's gate. He did not complain because he had not been raised to some high position at the court. He sat not as a cringing captive, not with the frown of discontent on his brows; but rejoicing, we may believe, in the elevation of her he loved, sweetly dreaming of her glory, and trying to picture to himself the salutary effect of her moral influence in that heathenish palace.

II. Their discontentment culminates in a murderous purpose. They sought to lay hands on the King Ahasuerus. He that hateth his brother is a murderer. Anger is a murderer, though the victim escapes with his life. Society cannot punish for unenacted murder. Human governments can only take cognizance in this respect of deeds. The Divine government exercises control in the immaterial world of thought. Thoughts are powers. Unexpressed anger is sinful if encouraged. God will try our thoughts. Who then shall stand?

III. This contentment expressed itself in a faithful discharge of duty. Mordecai did not say, Why should I meddle? what matters it to me what becomes of this heathen despot? But he practically said, Here is a great wrong being planned; it is my duty to make known the conspiracy and bring the plotters to judgment. It is required not only of those in high positions, but of those in low positions, that they be found faithful. The men sitting at the king's gate can often do more service to the nation than those sitting in the king's presence. Usefulness is required of all, wherever found. And oh, the men at the gate of heaven's King should be faithful. Let us cultivate contented and grateful hearts with and for the dispensations of Divine providence, and thus we shall the more likely be faithful servants.

IV. Their folly and his wisdom. Wickedness is always a folly, and goodness is always wisdom. But this must especially strike the observant mind, that the wicked very often bring themselves to punishment by some egregious act of folly on their own part. The murderer in aiming at concealment pursues the very course which makes his detection easy. And these men plotted; but lo, by their folly the plot is discovered. And the thing was known to Mordecai. He took a wise course for the successful defeating of their murderous design. If they plotted cunningly, he counterplotted more skilfully. He did not demand an audience of Ahasuerus. That might have aroused the suspicions of these murderous chamberlains. But he could trust Esther. So he told it unto her, and she certified it unto the king in Mordecai's name. In dealing with the wicked we must be careful. In passing through this world we must be wise as serpents.

V. Their doom and his reward. The matter was investigated by the king, and found out as Mordecai had testified. The two criminals were hanged on a tree, i.e. impaled on a stake, a sort of crucifixion.—Keil. A speedy end was put to their plotting. Those who plot against earthly kings are sometimes apparently successful; but those who plot against the King of kings shall not always triumph. Their overthrow will be accomplished, and their punishment is ultimately certain. The circumstance was entered in the book of the chronicles, before the king, immediately after sentence had been passed by a court over which the monarch presided. And that was all faithful Mordecai appeared likely to get. No money was given him from the royal purse. No medal was struck in commemoration of his faithfulness. He was not advanced to some post of trust and of influence. His present reward was found in the consciousness of having done his duty. But other rewards followed through the guidance of him who is not unrighteous to forget. God never forgets: Words spoken to help the weak, to cheer the disconsolate, and to guide the perplexed will be remembered. The very tears shed over human woe and sin will have their place in the final adjustment. When the mighty transactions of kings and of warriors have passed into obscurity, when the researches of philosophers and of scientific men have lost their attraction, when the poet's flights have ceased to exert their wizardry, and the musician's strains to thrill, and the painter's canvas is perished like the shrivelled parchment scroll, then will shine forth in heavenly colours, stamped with Divine approval, those works of faith and those words and deeds of love which may now escape the notice of the children of this world.

Learn—(a) That no position of life is free from danger. The one event of death must come sooner or later, both to king and to subject. (b) That faithful subjects are a monarch's true protection. Let monarchs rely not on decrees, not on severity, not on soldiers, but on that love which they have kindled in the breasts of their subjects. (c) That faithful subjects are God-fearing subjects. (d) That kings should seek to surround themselves with God-fearing ministers, and should as certainly and as speedily reward those who do well as they punish the evil-doers. (e) But that well-doing is required in all, whether the world forgets or the world remembers and rewards.

SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS ON Est ; Est 2:23

If the necessity or convenience of his occasions called him to serve, his piety and religion called him to faithfulness in his service. Two of the king's chamberlains, Bigthan and Teresh, conspire against the life of their sovereign. No greatness can secure from treachery or violence; he that ruled over millions of men, through a hundred and seven and twenty provinces, cannot assure himself from the hand of a villain; he that had the power of other men's lives is in danger of his own. Happy is that man that is once possessed of a crown incorruptible, unfadeable, reserved for him in heaven; no force, no treason can reach thither; there can be no peril of either violence or forfeiture there. The likeliest defence of the person of any prince is the fidelity of his attendants.

Worthy dispositions labour only to deserve well, leaving the care of their remuneration to them whom it concerns; it is fit that God's leisure should be attended in all his designments.—Bishop Hall.

Nothing justifies us in assuming that Mordecai reported those conspirators because of selfish reasons, or in order to gain distinction and merit, or because Ahasuerus as the husband of Esther was nearly related to himself. Besides being an indication, it may be an expression of shrewdness, of his sense of duty. Although the Jew as such did not have a very warm feeling of attachment to the Persian king, still, in so far as he lived according to the Divine word, he sought to perform his obligations also toward the heathen governmental authority. Thereby he also becomes a practical illustration of the fact that the piety which is nurtured by God's word is also of benefit to the heathen state and to heathen rulers. The governments of modern times, which treat religion not only with toleration, but also with indifference, should remember that godly fear, as it is useful for all things, is also the most substantial bulwark for the continuance of the state.—Lange.

At the time that inquisition was made, Bigthan and Teresh might think themselves quite secure. So far as they knew, the dark plot was confined to their own breasts, and as they were both implicated, it was not likely that either of them would divulge their secret. They would continue their duties, and assume an air of indifference. One little circumstance, and another inadvertent speech, and a weapon thrust away into a corner to be ready for use, and a number of small things may have been brought to the surface, and from these a web is woven around the designing conspirators out of which it was impossible to disentangle themselves. "It was found out"—words which remind us of the final disclosure of human hearts. How much has escaped detection by men! How much have they been misled by the mere outward appearances! Thoughts and feelings, intentions and deeds have been shut in to some chamber of the heart into which the light has never been allowed to shine. The subjects of them have never reflected upon them themselves, and have guarded them from the view of others. They may even have passed through life with an unchallenged and apparently saintly character. It is only for a little while. The inquisition of men may be faulty and fail, but the inquisition of God is perfect and unqualified. When he makes inquisition for sin there shall be nothing either conceived or executed that will not he "found out." In prospect of that future revealing of the secrets of our hearts—that unveiling of ourselves to ourselves, and before all men—it is our best policy, as well as essential for our highest peace, that we should now deal honestly, candidly, almost severely, with ourselves, walking humbly and without dissimulation before all men, and earnestly pleading for God's mercy in Christ to cover the multitude of our sins. "There is nothing covered that shall not be revealed; and hid, that shall not be known."

What reward was given to Mordecai by the king for his prevention of the evil which menaced him! Some commentators have drawn a lesson against ingratitude, from the circumstance that nothing is reported as having been done for Mordecai. If nothing was done, however, it can hardly be said that nothing was intended. The whole affair was "written in the book of the chronicles before the king"—accurately set down by the scribes who were continually with the king to record all remarkable things which happened in the court, and kept by him for future reference. By and by we shall find that this register was produced, and the events now narrated were recalled to the memory of Ahasuerus, and led to the elevation of Mordecai. The reward tarried, but still it came. Men may be unmindful, but God never. And the manner in which this pious Jew was ultimately rewarded ought rather to incite us to look away from the human to the Divine, and put greater trust in the leading and recompense of God.—McEwan.

The narrative before us teaches, 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, exercising compassion and benevolence, trained up the orphan girl who became queen of Persia, and through whose instrumentality vast benefits were conferred on the Jews. Mordecai, who sat in the king's gate, saved the life of the king. And many incidents there are, recorded both in ancient and modern history, which illustrate the truth that in human society the several classes are so dependent on one another, that the highest may be made debtor to the lowest, and that the humblest may render services to those above them which cannot be adequately repaid. Such fidelity as Mordecai exhibited has often been exemplified.—Davidson.

For Esther did the commandment of Mordecai.—Her honours had not altered her manners; she was as observant of Mordecai still as ever. So was Joseph, David, Solomon, Epaminondas, and others of their old and poorer parents. Pope Benedict, a Lombard, a shepherd's son, would not acknowledge his poor mother when she came to him lady-like, but caused her to put on her shepherdess apparel, and then did her all the honour that might be. Sir Thomas More would in Westminster Hall beg his father's blessing on his knees. Mordecai was Esther's foster-father, and had given her, though not her being, yet her well-being; and hence she so respects him, and is so ruled by him. She had gotten from him that nurture and admonition in the Lord that was better to her than the crown of the kingdom; for what is unsanctified greatness but eminent dishonour? If any parents find disobedient children, let them consider whether, Eli-like, they have not honoured (I mean cockered) their sons too much, which is the reason they honour them so little now.

In those days.—While this voluptuous prince was in the glut of carnal delights his life is sought for; so slippery places are great ones set in; so doth the Lord sauce their greatest prosperity with sudden and unexpected dangers. Thus Attilas, king of the Huns, was hanged up in gibbets, as it were, by God's own hands in the midst of his nuptials.

Some great princes have wished never to have meddled with government; as Augustus, Adrian, Pertinax, who used to say that he never in all his life committed the like fault as when he accepted the empire; and many times he motioned to leave the same, and to return unto his house. Dioclesian and Maximian did so; for they found that quot servi, tot hostes; quot custodes, tot carnifices; they could not be safe from their own servants; but, Damocles-like, they sat at meat with a drawn sword hanging by a twined thread over their necks. Hence Dionysius durst not trust his own daughter to barb him. And Massinissa, king of Numidia, committed his safe-keeping to a guard of dogs; for men he durst not trust.

And the thing was known to Mordecai.—How he came to know it is uncertain. Josephus saith that it was revealed to him by one Barnabazus, a Jew, who was servant to one of the conspirators. R. Solomon saith that the eunuchs talked of the plot before Mordecai in the language of Tarsus, supposing that he had not understood them, and so it came forth. Others conceive that they solicited him, being one of the keepers of the king's door, also to join with them. Howsoever it was that he got inkling and intelligence of their bloody purpose, God was in it, and good men are of his privy council. "The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him."—Trapp.

Besides flatterers, despots are apt to have traitors and assassins about them, such as Bigthan and Teresh. Mordecai detected their villany, 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. Therefore he would not be disappointed when weeks and months went by without the selfish king taking notice of the important service he had rendered him. He probably did not know that it "was written in the book of the chronicles before the king," for it was Esther who saw to that. There was another book of remembrance, "by seraphs writ," before One who may "hide himself," but who never forgets. "The Lord hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon his name. And they shall be mine, saith the Lord of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels; and I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him." Soon, following this story, we shall "return, and discern between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serveth God and him that serveth him not."—A. M. Symington, B.A.

ILLUSTRATIONS

Est . God's kindness. No doubt, said the Rev. John Brown of Haddington, I have met with trials as well as others, yet so kind has God been to me, that I think, if he were to give me as many years as I have already lived in the world, I should not desire one single circumstance in my lot changed, except that I wish I had less sin. As Mordecai watched over Esther, so God watches to know how his people do. The meaning of all God's dispensations, the extent of his kindness, and the unwearied nature of his watching we shall not know till we stand in the revealing light of eternity. Oh, to believe that God's ways are best—that the storm as well as the calm, the rough as well as the smooth, the painful as well as the pleasant are indications of God's kindness.

Est . A mother's glory. A boy, hearing a visitor of his father make use of the familiar saying that "an honest man is the noblest work of God," made this innocent annotation upon it: "No, sir, my mamma is the noblest work of God." Let parents be as lovingly anxious for the welfare of their children as Mordecai was for Esther's; let them by judicious treatment, by wise and loving example, and by constant prayer lead them up into the beauty of holiness, and thus their memories will be blessed, and their names held in affectionate esteem. Some parents complain of a want of obedience and of reverence on the part of their children, who might with more reason complain of their own folly in not insisting upon obedience from the very first, and in not conducting themselves so as to command reverence and affection.

Est . Virtues the true adorning. Plutarch speaks of a Spartan woman, that when her neighbours were showing their apparel and jewels, she brought out her children, virtuous and well taught, saying, These are my ornaments and accoutrements. Esther did the like with her virtues, which drew all hearts unto her; like as fair flowers in the spring do the passenger's eyes. She had decked herself with the white of simplicity, with the red of modesty, with the silk of piety, with the satin of sanctity, and with the purple of chastity; and being thus adorned and beautified, women shall have God himself to be their suitor, and all godly men their admirers.—Trapp.

Est . Dress. A woman's dress should always be modest, never arrest attention, or suggest the unchaste. "Madam," says old John Newton, "so dress and so conduct yourself that persons who have been in your company shall not recollect what you had on." A fashionably-dressed lady once asked a clergyman if there was any harm in wearing feathers and ornaments. He answered, "If you have the ridiculous vanity in your heart to wish to be thought pretty and fine, you may as well hang out the sign." Dress should be not only modest, but becoming—becoming to the stature, gait, complexion, and station of the wearer.—The Practical Philosopher.

Est . Silken garments fresh. Troya relates that Francesca and her paramour Paolo were buried together after their slaughter by Francesca's enraged husband; and that three centuries after the bodies were found at Rimini, whither they had been removed from Pesaro, with the silken garments yet fresh. But even such garments as those shall decay. They cannot resist the withering hand of old Time. All that is material must perish. But the silken garment of virtue shall be ever fresh. It will last not merely for three centuries, but for the cycles of eternity. Fresh and beautiful for ever is this glorious garment.

Est . Clay made fragrant by the rose. A traveller in passing through the country in Persia chanced to take into his hand a piece of clay which lay by the wayside, and to his surprise he found it to exhale a most delightful fragrance. Thou art but a poor piece of clay, said he; an unsightly, unattractive, poor piece of clay! How fragrant thou art! I admire thee, I love thee; thou shalt be my companion; I will carry thee in my bosom. But whence hast thou this fragrance? The clay replied, I have been dwelling with the rose. Esther was not an unsightly, unattractive piece of clay; but her fragrance came not from her physical beauty, but from the fact that in her dwelt the rose of goodness. The clay of a well-shaped physical form has a certain attractiveness, but it is only rendered perfect as it enshrines and is beautified by the sweet flower of virtue. The fragrance of a holy life is far-reaching, ever attractive, and ever enduring.

Est . Silence a virtue. Taciturnity is sometimes a virtue, and Tacitus the best historian. Queen Elizabeth's motto was, Video, taceo—I see, and say nothing. Sophocles saith, nothing better becometh a woman than silence. Euripides also saith that silence, and modesty, and keeping at home are the greatest commendation to a woman that can be. Curtius tells us that the Persians never trust one whom they find to be talkative. Some know when to speak and when to keep silent, but do not act up to their knowledge. Esther had the knowledge and the grace to conduct herself according to the requirements of her condition.

"Give every man thine ear, but few thy voice;

Take each man's censure, but reserve thy judgment."—Polonius.

Est . Duty its own reward. On the coast of Wales a vessel was being wrecked, and the life-boat men pushed out to the rescue. Again and again they braved the storm, and drove on through the surging billows, in order to save human life. When the work was completed, and the last man brought on shore, they were asked what reward could be given. And their noble reply was, that they wanted no payment, their reward was that they had succeeded in saving the shipwrecked from a watery grave. Mordecai found his reward in the consciousness of having done his duty. An approving conscience is better than the wealth of monarchs. Earthly books of chronicles may bury while they record our good deeds, but the noble worker looks above and beyond the plaudits of time.

Est . Earth's heroes unknown. Before men went out to the last American war, the orators told them that they would all be remembered by their country, and their names be commemorated in poetry and in song; but go to the graveyard in Richmond, and you will find there six thousand graves, over each one of which is the inscription "Unknown." The world does not remember its heroes; but there will be no unrecognized Christian worker in heaven. Each one known by all, grandly known, known by acclamation; all the past story of work for God gleaming in cheek, and brow, and foot, and palm. They shall shine as distinct stars for ever and ever.—Talmage.

Est . True greatness. Augustine says "that God is great in great things, but greatest in little things." And if we would form a true estimate of men, we must measure them not by their great things, but by their little things. Mordecai was greatest not when he was great in the king's house, but when he adopted his little cousin, and was faithful when sitting at the king's gate. A new arithmetic is required in social computations. Life's littles are really and often life's greats. Men are greatest in their little things. We do not need martyr stakes, nor battle-fields, nor any public scenery to show us the good and true man. His little acts, his daily conduct will furnish tests. One flash reveals the diamond.

Est . Latimer and Bonner. Bishop Latimer, when examined before Bonner, at first answered without much thought and care. But presently a startling sound falls on his ear. It is only the scratching of a pen on paper behind the curtain. Why should the bishop stop? Why should his face grow pale and his frame tremble? By means of that pen his words were being taken down to be used against him. "Suppose you knew that a register was kept by some invisible scribe of all that you think, or Speak, or act; what manner of persons would you endeavour to be in the exercise of every virtue? Know, then, that none of your actions ever can be forgotten, that even your most secret thoughts are written in durable registers. The Lord hearkens and hears all that is spoken by us. He observes all that we think or do, and a book of remembrance is written before him, which will one day be opened, to the praise of them that do well, and to the confusion of the wicked. Mordecai was not presently rewarded by the king for the eminent service which he had done him. No matter; it was marked down in the king's register. If he had never been rewarded by the king, the testimony of his conscience and the assurance of Divine approbation were more to him than all that the king could bestow."—Lawson.

ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 2

Discipline of the passions. The passions may be humoured until they become our master, as a horse may be pampered till he gets the better of his rider; but early discipline will prevent mutiny, and keep the helm in the hands of reason. Properly controlled, the passions may, like a horse with the bit in his mouth, or a ship with the helm in the hand of a skilful mariner, be managed and made useful.

A rich landlord once cruelly oppressed a poor widow. Her son, a little boy of eight years, saw it. He afterwards became a painter, and painted a life likeness of the dark scene. Years afterwards, he placed it where the man saw it. He turned pale, trembled in every joint, and offered any sum to purchase it, that he might put it out of sight. Thus there is an invisible painter drawing on the canvas of the soul a life likeness, reflecting correctly all the passions and actions of our spiritual history on earth. Now and again we should be compelled to look at them, and the folly of our acts will sting us, as it did the landlord, and also Ahasuerus.

Control of anger. Socrates, finding himself in emotion against a slave, said: "I would beat you if I were not angry." Having received a box on the ears, he contented himself by only saying, with a smile, "It is a pity we do not know when to put on the helmet." Socrates, meeting a gentleman of rank in the streets, saluted him; but the gentleman took no notice of it. His friends in company, observing what passed, told the philosopher "That they were so exasperated at the man's incivility, that they had a good mind to resent it." He very calmly replied, "If you met any person in the road in a worse habit of body than yourself, would you think you had reason to be enraged with him on that account? Pray, then, what greater reason can you have for being incensed at a man for a worse habit of mind than any of yourselves?" That was a brave, strong man.

Impressions of sin. The great stone book of nature reveals many records of the past. In the red sandstone there are found, in some places, marks which are clearly the impression of showers of rain, and these are so perfect that it can even be detected in which direction the shower inclined, and from what quarter it proceeded—and this ages ago. Even so sin leaves its track behind it, and God keeps a faithful record of all our sins.—Biblical Treasury.

"If you cut a gash in a man's head, you may heal it; but you can never rub out, nor wash out, nor cut out the scar. It may be a witness against you in his corpse; still it may be covered by the coffin, or hidden in the grave; but then it is not till decomposition shall take place, that it shall entirely disappear. But, if you smite your soul by sin, you make a scar that will remain; no coffin or grave shall hide it; no fire, not even the eternal flames, shall burn out sin's stains."

Counterfeit repentance. Beware that you make no mistake about the nature of true repentance. The devil knows too well the value of the precious grace not to dress up spurious imitations of it. Wherever there is good coin there will always be bad money.—Ryle.

Repentance before pardon. The first physic to recover our souls is not cordials, but corrosives; not an immediate stepping into heaven by a present assurance, but mourning, and lamentations, and a little bewailing of our former transgressions. With Mary Magdalene we must wash Christ's feet with our tears of sorrow, before we may anoint his head with "the oil of gladness."—Browning.

In all parts of the East, women are spoken of as being much inferior to men in wisdom; and nearly all their sages have proudly descanted on the ignorance of women. In the Hindoo book called the ‘Kurral,' it is declared, "All women are ignorant." In other works similar remarks are found: "Ignorance is a woman's jewel. The feminine qualities are four—ignorance, fear, shame, and impurity. To a woman disclose not a secret. Talk not to me in that way; it is all female wisdom."—Roberts.

Degradation of woman. The farmers of the upper Alps, though by no means wealthy, live like lords in their houses, while the heaviest portion of agricultural labour devolves on the wife. It is no uncommon thing to see a woman yoked to the plough along with an ass, while the husband guides it. A farmer of the upper Alps accounts it an act of politeness to lend his wife to a neighbour who is too much oppressed with work; and the neighbour, in his turn, lends his wife for a few day's work, whenever the favour is requested.—Percy.

Radical reform. A small bite from a serpent will affect the whole body. There is no way to calm the sea but by excommunicating Jonah from the ship. If the root be killed, the branches will soon be withered. If the spring be diminished, there is no doubt that the streams will soon fail. When the fuel of corruption is removed, then the fire of affliction is extinguished.—Secker.

Individual responsibility. Daniel Webster was once asked, "What is the most important thought you ever entertained?" He replied, after a moment's reflection, "the most important thought I ever had was my individual responsibility to God." There is no royal road, either to wealth or learning. Princes and kings, poor men, peasants, all alike must attend to the wants of their own bodies, and their own minds. No man can eat, drink, or sleep by proxy. No man can get the alphabet learned for him by another. All these are things which everybody must do for himself, or they will not be done at all. Just as it is with the mind and body, so it is with the soul. There are certain things absolutely needful to the soul's health and well-being. Each must repent for himself. Each must apply to Christ for himself. And for himself each must speak to God and pray.—Ryle.

 


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Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Esther 2:4". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/phc/esther-2.html. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.

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Tuesday, September 29th, 2020
the Week of Proper 21 / Ordinary 26
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