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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible
Esther 2

 

 

Verse 1

ESTHER MADE QUEEN, Esther 2:1-18.

1. 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. It is no doubt to be dated before Xerxes’ departure for Greece, so that the gathering of the virgins to Shushan took place while he was absent from his capital. See note on Esther 2:16.

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.


Verse 2

2. Then said the king’s servants — The king probably made known his thoughts and feelings to his servants, and sought their counsel in the matter. These servants were his court officials, officers of the palace, and most of them probably eunuchs.

Fair young virgins sought — These officers were anxious to maintain the inviolability of the decree against Vashti, and to prevent the restoration of the deposed favourite, lest the lives of those princes who had advised her repudiation should be endangered.


Verse 3

3. In all the provinces… that they may gather — Had the king been wanting a legitimate wife, no Persian officer would have proposed a measure like this. The laws of Persia and Media required the king to select his wives from the seven noble families. (Herod., 3:84.) Hence this gathering of virgins from all the provinces, irrespective of country or race, shows that the search was for a favourite concubine, not a legitimate queen.

The house of the women — The harem, or apartment of the royal palace in which were kept the king’s wives and concubines, numbering often several hundred. See note on 1 Kings 11:3. The necessary degradation of woman under such usages is a matter of note, and the parents of beautiful maidens evidently had no power to withhold their daughters if demanded for the royal harem.

Hege… keeper of the women — He seems to have been chief eunuch, and principal overseer of the harem. Rawlinson thinks he may have been the keeper of the virgins only, since Shaashgaz was keeper of the concubines. Esther 2:14.

Things for purification — Such as are mentioned in Esther 2:12.


Verse 5

5. Mordecai — Some scholars connect this name with Merodach, the Babylonian idol, (Jeremiah 50:2,) but the etymology is uncertain. He may, perhaps, be identified with Natacas, or Matocas, whom Ctesias mentions as one of Xerxes’ most favourite and powerful eunuchs, and whom he sent after his return from Greece, to plunder and destroy a temple of Apollo. That Mordecai was a eunuch appears probable from the position he held in the Persian court, his access to the house of the women, and his adoption and care of the youthful Esther.

Jair… Shimei… Kish — These are obviously the immediate ancestors of Mordecai, since, according to the next verse, the great-grandfather, Kish, had been taken captive by Nebuchadnezzar. Hence there is no sufficient reason to identify this Shimei with the son of Gera, mentioned in 2 Samuel 16:5, or this Kish with the father of Saul. 1 Samuel 9:1. These four generations would naturally cover about the period of time that intervened between the eighth year of Nebuchadnezzar (2 Kings 24:8) and the middle of Xerxes’ reign.


Verse 6

6. Who had been carried away — The relative who, here, must refer to Kish, not to Mordecai; for it is scarcely possible that a captive of Nebuchadnezzar should have been an officer of the Persian court in the time of Xerxes. Daniel was taken captive by Nebuchadnezzar, and continued till the reign of Cyrus, (Daniel 1:1; Daniel 1:21,) and the fact is mentioned as worthy of special remark. Had Mordecai been his contemporary, and yet have lived on to the time of Xerxes, the fact would no doubt have received special notice. But the attempt of Tyrwhitt (Esther and Ahasuerus) to show that a great-grandson of a captive taken by Nebuchadnezzar could not have been contemporary with Xerxes, is every way futile. Kish may have been a mere child when taken captive, and Shimei and Jair may not have been the first born. Arguments based on parallel lines of descent are often misleading, for, of the great-grandchildren of two contemporaries, some may be mere infants when others are of mature age.

Jeconiah — Another form of the name Jehoiachin. Comp. 2 Kings 24:12, with Jeremiah 24:1.


Verse 7

7. 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, (Greek, αστηρ.) 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 Atossa, 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. (Herodotus, 3:88.)

His uncle’s daughter — This uncle’s name was Abihail. Esther 2:15. Mordecai and Esther were cousins, but Mordecai was evidently much the older.


Verse 9

9. Such things as belonged to her — Hebrew, her portions, that is, proper allowances of food.

Seven maidens… meet to be given her — Each of the virgins probably had seven maids appointed to attend her, but Esther’s seven were selected with special care, (meet, ראיות, looked up, searched out, from ראה, to see, to look after,) and Hegai’s further partiality for her was shown in his preferring, or changing, her and her maids to the choice apartments of the harem.


Verse 10

10. Not showed her people — She was directed to this course by her cousin and foster-father as a matter of politic prudence, lest her attachment to her race and religion should prejudice her interests with the officers of the harem.


Verse 11

11. Mordecai… before the court of the women’s house — He was one of the royal porters, (comp. Esther 2:19,) and from his ready access to the court of the harem, it is very naturally supposed that he was a eunuch.


Verse 12

12. According to the manner of the women — Rather, the law of the women; that is, the order or requirement indicated in Esther 2:2 and explained in the sequel of this verse, according to which these women were to go through a twelvemonths’ purification.

Myrrh… sweet odours — The design was to cleanse, soften, and beautify to the utmost possible degree.


Verse 13

13. 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.”


Verse 14

14. The second house of the women — An apartment or division of the harem of secondary importance or rank — the place of the concubines. But the word second may be taken in the sense of again, and the passage rendered, she returned to the house of the women again, or, a second time. So Bertheau and Keil. When, however, these women returned again to the harem, they were assigned to a different department from that of the virgins. This is evident from their being placed in custody of Shaashgaz, the keeper of the concubines, not of Hegai, who had charge of the virgins.


Verse 15

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


Verse 16

16. The tenth month… Tebeth — Corresponding nearly with our January.

The seventh year of his reign — Vashti was divorced in the third year of his reign, so that four years or more elapsed before another queen was crowned in her stead. Xerxes’ preparations for his Grecian war, and his absence from his capital during that campaign, well accounts for this long interval. Herodotus says (vii, 20) that he was four full years preparing for his Grecian war, but this may easily be a mistake, for the Greek historian’s figures are not always to be depended upon. It may have been a year or more after Vashti’s divorce before the king’s love for her returned, and then the order was given for collecting the fair young virgins at Shushan, but before it could be executed Xerxes was off for Greece. Meanwhile the order for assembling the virgins was carried out by the eunuchs, so that when the king returned again to Shushan he found his harem supplied with many virgins and soon after chose Esther as his queen.


Verse 17

17. Set the royal crown upon her head — To show his delight in honouring her, and to distinguish her as his favourite mistress. Compare Esther 1:9; Esther 1:11, notes.


Verse 18

18. Esther’s feast — A banquet to her honour; to celebrate her election to Vashti’s place.

Made a release to the provinces — Usually understood as a release from tribute. Septuagint has αφεσιν; Vulgate, requiem. The Hebrew word הנחה, which occurs nowhere else, comes from a root which means to rest, and may, therefore, properly denote a respite from taxation. The Persian kings were wont to remit the arrears of tribute due at the time of their accession, (Herod., 3:67; 6:59,) and Xerxes may have thought it wise to grant such a release just after the disastrous Grecian war.

According to the state of the king — The feast, the release, and the gifts, were all in keeping with true kingly munificence.


Verse 19

MORDECAI EXPOSES A COURT CONSPIRACY, Esther 2:19-23.

19. When the virgins… the second time — Rather, at the gathering together of virgins a second time. Hence it appears there was a second collection of virgins at Shushan, made some years after the previous one, and with the design, no doubt, of enriching the royal harem with new beauties. After his unsuccessful war with Greece, the king abandoned all plans of conquest, and gave himself over to the pleasures of his harem. Accordingly, such a second gathering of virgins would be readily devised to gratify both his vanity and lust.

Mordecai sat in the king’s gate — He was one of the royal porters who guarded the doors of the great palace at Shushan.


Verse 20

20. Esther had not… showed — 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 of virgins sprang from no prejudice against Esther as a Jewess.


Verse 21

21. Bigthan — Probably the same as Bigtha, Esther 1:10. Called Bigthana in Esther 6:2.

Which kept the door — Literally, 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.

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Verse 23

23. 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 Ezra 4:15, 2 Samuel 8:17, and Introduction to Kings, on the sources.

 


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Bibliography Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Esther 2:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/esther-2.html. 1874-1909.

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