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Hence, under the kings of this race, we find seven princes, who are several times mentioned in Scripture, thus distingnished, and by whose advice the principal affairs of the empire appear to have been transacted. The cut which we give, after a sculpture at Nakshi Roustam, near Persepolis, exhibits a king in apparent conference with seven men, one queenly-looking lady also being present. One might almost suspect that we saw Artaxerxes, Vashti (or else Esther), and the seven counsellors. But the sculpture certainly belongs to a considerably later period; and the cut can only therefore be offered as a pictorial analogy-curious, considering the source from which it is derived.
the son of Jair, the son of Shimei, the son
of Kish, a Benjamite; 1 Out of the choice of virgins a queen is to be
6 'Who had been carried away from Jechosen. 5 Mordecai the nursing father of Esther. 8 Esther is preferred by Hegai before the rusalem with the captivity which had been rest. 12 The manner of purification, and going carried away with Jeconiah king of Judah, in to the king. 15 Esther best pleasing the king whom Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon is made queen. 21 Mordecai discovering a trea had carried away. son is recorded in the chronicles
7. And he brought up Hadassah, that is, AFTER these things. when the wrath of king Esther, his uncle's daughter: for she had Ahasuerus was appeased, he remembered neither father nor mother, and the maid was Vashti, and what she had done, and what 'fair and beautiful; whom Mordecai, when was decreed against her.
her father and mother were dead, took for 2 Then said the king's servants that mi- his own daughter. nistered unto him, Let there be fair young 8 9 So it came to pass, when the king's virgins sought for the king :
commandment and his decree was heard, 3 And let the king appoint officers in all and when many maidens were gathered tothe provinces of his kingdom, that they may gether unto Shushan the palace, to the cusgather together all the fair young virgins tody of Hegai, that Esther was brought also unto Shushan the palace, to the house of unto the king's house, to the custody of the women, 'unto the custody of 'Hege the Hegai, keeper of the women. king's chamberlain, keeper of the women; 9° And the maiden pleased him, and she and let their things for purification be given obtained kindness of him; and he speedily them :
gave her her things for purification, with 4 And let the maiden which pleaseth the such things as belonged to her, and seven king be queen instead of Vashti. And the maidens, which were meet to be given her, thing pleased the king; and he did so. out of the king's house: and 'he preferred
59 Now in Shushan the palace there was her and her maids unto the best place of the a certain Jew, whose name was Mordecai, | house of the women.
Or, Hegai, verse 8. 32 Kings 24. 15. 2 Chron. 36. 10. Jer. 24. 1. • Heb, nourished. 5 Heb. fair of form and good of countenance.
7 Heb. he changed her.
1 Heb. unto the hand.
* Heb, her portions,
10 Esther had not shewed her people nor suerus into his house royal in the tenth her kindred: for Mordecai had charged her month, wnich is the month Tebeth, in the that she should not shew it.
seventh year of his reign. 11 And Mordecai walked every day be- 17 And the king loved Esther above all fore the court of the women's house, to the women, and she obtained grace and know how Esther did, and what should be-'favour l'in his sight more than all the vircome of her.
gins; so that he set the royal crown upon her 12 | Now when every maid's turn was head, and made her queen instead of Vashti. come to go in to king Ahasuerus, after that 18 Then the king made a great feast unto she had been twelve months, according to all his princes and his servants, even Esther's the manner of the women, (for so were the feast; and he made a "release to the prodays of their purifications accomplished, to vinces, and gave gifts, according to the state wit, six months with oil of myrrh, and six of the king. months with sweet odours, and with other 19 And when the virgins were gathered things for the purifying of the women ;) together the second time, then Mordecai sat
13 Then thus came every maiden unto in the kings gate. the king; whatsoever she desired was given 20 Esther had not yet shewed her kinher to go with her out of the house of the dred nor her people ; as Mordecai had women unto the king's house.
charged her: for Esther did the command14 In the evening she went, and on the ment of Mordecai, like as when she was morrow she returned into the second house brought up with him. of the women, to the custody of Shaashgaz, 21 q In those days, while Mordecai sat in the king's chamberlain, which kept the con- the king's gate, two of the king's chambercubines: she came in unto the king no more, lains, "Bigthan and Teresh, of those which except the king delighted in her, and that kept the door, were wroth, and sought to she were called by name.
lay hand on the king Ahasuerus. 15 | Now when the turn of Esther, the 22 And the thing
was known to Mordecat daughter of Abihail the uncle of Mordecai, who told it unto Esther the queen; and Eswho had taken her for his daughter, was ther certified the king thereof in Mordecai's come to go in unto the king, she required name. nothing but what Hegai the king's cham- 23 And when inquisition was made of the berlain, the keeper of the women, appointed. matter, it was found out; therefore they And Esther obtained favour in the sight of were both hanged on a tree: and it was all them that looked upon her.
written in the book of the chronicles before 16 So Esther was taken unto king Aha- | the king. Or, kindness. 10 Heb. beforc him.
12 Or, Bigthana, chap. 6. 2. Verse 3. “ Keeper of the women.”—This officer answers probably to the daroga, or chief eunuch, of the modern Persian harem. He is generally an aged and disagreeable person, whose office is one of high trust and responsibility, with commensurate authority over the women under his supervision. To them, he is (next to the king) the most important person in the world, as their comfort quite depends upon his favour, to win which is a high object of ambition
8 Heb. to know the
11 Heb. rest.
13 Heb the threshold.
17. “ Made her queer."--It seems throughout this book that the Persian kings had but one queen, properly so called. But it appears, from profane history and from intimations in this chapter, that there were a considerable nuinber of secondary wives (“concubines ” of our version) and other females who had not reached this distinction. The principle on which the female establishments of the Persian kings have been formed and conducted seem to have undergone little change from the most ancient times; and therefore the modern establishment may furnish satisfactory illustrations of the ancient, and consequently may explain some passages of the present book, in which there are continual allusions to the condition of such establishments.
The female establishment of the king occupies an extensive interior building, or collection of buildings, called the harem (or sacred place), which is as secluded as a nunnery from the observation of the world. These interior palaces sometimes display considerable magnificence, but generally want such large and splendid halls as those which the exterior and public buildings exhibit. The finest apartments of the harem are those inore especially appropriated to the king's use; for here, properly speaking, is his private residence, where he sleeps and spends much of his time. He is the
only male (except children) ever seen there, the other inmates being exclusively women and eunuchs. The harem is divided into several quarters, each having its governor, under the orders of the daroga, already mentioned. In this establishment exist the same officers, guards, and functionaries as in the public court; but they are all occupied and discharged by females. It is an Amazonian city in miniature. In the present chapter we find three classes of women: 1, the queen; 2, the secondary wives (“concubines” in our version), who, after having engaged the notice of the king, occupied a part of the harem
different from that in which they had previously lived ; 3; the women not thus distinguished, and therefore, for the time, of an inferior class. With some necessary differences, similar distinctions coutinue to prevail. The principal difference is, that the king has several legal wives, besides those of a secondary class. The accommodation and attendance of the women varies according to their rank-from the distinguished wife, with her separate apartment and many slaves, down, through various degrees, to the slaves who minister to the wants and
amusements of the superior ladies, and are subject to their control. The first business of the king in the morning, after he is risen, is, says Sir J. Malcolm,“ to sit, from one to two hours, in the hall of the harem, where his levees are conducted with the same ceremony as in his outer apartment. Female officers arrange the crowd of his wives and slates with the strictest attention to the order of precedency. After hearing the reports of those entrusted with the internal government of the harem, and consulting with his principal wives, who are generally seated, the monarch leaves the interior apartments” (* History,' vol. ii
. p. 548). He adds, in a note, that “When the king is seated on his throne in the public hall of his harem, no one but the highest born and most favoured of his legitimate wives are allowed to sit in his presence. It is said that two only of the present (late) king's wives enjoy that privilege." This passage will be useful presently in illustrating the beginning of the fifth chapter.
21. " Mordecai sat in the king's gate.”—From the frequent mention of his presence there, it seems that he had some official employment at court. Some fancy that he was a porter ; which is altogether an unnecessary supposition, when we recollect that it was and is the custom in the East for officers of the court and the state to wait about the gates and in the outer courts of their princes till their attendance is required. Xenophon mentions that it was determined, in an assembly of Persians and others, that the men of note and quality should always attend at the gates of Cyrus, and yield themselves to his service, in whatever he required, until he dismissed them. This, he thinks, was the origin of the custom which prevailed in his time, for those who were under the king to remain in attendance at his gates. Mordecai may therefore have been a person of consideration, notwithstanding his attendance at the royal gates.
Agagite, and advanced him, and set his seat i Haman, advanced by the king, and despised by above all the princes that were with him. Mordecai, seeketh revenge upon all the Jews. 7 2 And all the king's servants, that were He casteth lots. 8 He obtuineth by calumniation in the king's gate, bowed, and reverenced a decree of the king to put the Jews to death.
Haman: for the king had so commanded After these things did king Ahasuerus pro- concerning him. But Mordecai bowed not, mote Haman the son of Hammedatha the nor did him reverence.
3 Then the king's servants, which were in 10 And the king took his ring from his the king's gate, said unto Mordecai, Why hand, and gave it unto Haman the son of transgressest thou the king's commandment? Hammedatha the Agagite, the Jews' 'ene
4 Now it came to pass, when they spake my. daily unto him, and he hearkened not unto 11 And the king said unto Haman, The them, that they told Haman, to see whether silver is given to thee, the people also, to do Mordecai's matters would stand: for he had with them as it seemeth good to thee told them that he was a Jew.
12 Then were the king's 'scribes called 5 And when Haman saw that Mordecai on the thirteenth day of the first month, bowed not, nor did him reverence, then was and there was written according to all that Haman full of wrath.
Haman had commanded unto the king's 6 And he thought scorn to lay hands on lieutenants, and to the governors that were Mordecai alone; for they had shewed him over every province, and to the rulers of the people of Mordecai: wherefore Haman every people of every province according to sought to destroy all the Jews that were the writing thereof, and to every people throughout the whole kingdom of Ahasue- after their language; in the name of king rus, even the people of Mordecai.
Ahasuerus was it written, and sealed with 7 | In the first month, that is, the month the king's ring. Nisan, in the twelfth year of king Ahasuerus, 13 And the letters were sent by posts they cast Pur, that is, the lot, before Haman into all the king's provinces, to destroy, to from day to day, and from month to month, kill, and to cause to perish, all Jews, both to the twelfth month, that is, the month young and old, little children and women, Adar.
in one day, even upon the thirteenth day of 8 And Haman said unto king Ahasu- the twelfth month, which is the month erus, There is a certain people scattered Adar, and to take the spoil of them for a abroad and dispersed among the people in prey. all the provinces of thy kingdom; and their 14 The copy of the writing for a comlaws are diverse from all people ; neither mandment to be given in every province keep they the king's laws: therefore it is was published unto all people, that they not 'for the king's profit to suffer them. should be ready against that day.
9 If it please the king, let it be written 15 The posts went out, being hastened *that they may be destroyed : and I will pay by the king's commandment, and the decree ten thousand talents of silver to the hands was given in Shushan the palace. And the of those that have the charge of the business, king and Haman sat down to drink; but the to bring it into the king's treasuries. city Shushan was perplexed. 1 Heb. meet, or, equal. ? Heb. to destroy them. 8 Heb. weigh. * Or, oppressor
s Or, secretarias. Verse 1. " Haman...the Agagite.”—Agag was the common name of the kings of Amalek, whence the Targums and Joseç-hus understand that he was descended from the kings of those ancient and doomed enemies of the Jews. Probably the word means no more than Amalekite, in the general sense.
-"Set his seal above all the princes.”—This was probably when he invited them to supper. Xenophon, who however attributes the origin of too many Persian institutions to Cyrus, says that this prince intimated the estimation in which the persons invited were held by the station he assigned them at his table. The person he desired most to honour he set at his left hand, which is still the post of honour in many parts of the East, because, as Xenophon explains, that side being defenceless, greater confidence is expressed in the person stationed there. This privilege of place was not however perpetual ; a inan might rise to this distinction by honourable deeds, and another might lose his high seat by misconduct or neglect. It seems that this distinction was much envied, for the same writer describes Hystaspes (the father of Darius Hystaspes) as venturing to ask Cyrus why Chrysantas was preferred to it rather than himself. (Cyrop. viii. 5.)
7 " They cast Pur, that is, the lot.”—The Septuagint preserves a clause of this verse which assists to explain its meaning. It thus reads, “They cast Pur, that is, the lot, before Haman, from day to day, and from month to month (that he might destroy in one day the race of Mordecai, and the lot fell for the fourteenth) of the twelfth month, that is, the month Adar." ' From this it appears that the lots were cast in order to determine the month and the day of the month which might be most propitious for this barbarous undertaking, or most calamitous for the Jews. The practice of inquiring the propitious time for particular measures, whether of great or small importance, is still in full vigour in the East, and particularly so among the Persians. The lucky day, hour, or moment is sought on all occasions, and by all classes of persons. No one commences a journey, or even puts on a new dress, without consulting the astrologer or the almanac for a fortunate moment. The king himself keeps an astrologer of great reputation for the purpose; and those who cannot afford to get special directions from an astrologer, consult the almanac, in which the lucky and unlucky days are distinguished, with particular directions concerning the days proper for particular measures-such, in short, as we see in our old almanacs, or indeed in almanacs of recent date. In the East or West, the superstition of unlucky and lucky days has been in principle the same: in both, the almanacs have been made subservient to it after the same fashion - telling people on certain days to-take no journey, begin nothing, put on new apparel, begin calculations and writings, write letters, buy weapons, repair to kings, put children to school, abstain from medicine, hire a servant, take a wife, give gifts to kings, begin a journey, let ambassadors and messengers proceed, take heed of princeswith other such directions, fixing suitable or unsuitable days for all the contingencies of public or private life. Almanacs of this kind are very old, and the ideas which they develope still older. The Egyptians had something of the sort. To determine the contingency by lot, was, however, a simpler idea than to apply to the stars for information.
9. “I will pay ten thousand talents of silver.”—This was above two millions of our money, which Haman offered to pay into the treasury to indemnify the king for the loss of revenue which he would sustain by the destruction of the Jews. That a foreigner, and probably a captive, was enabled at the Persian court to acquire such wealth as the offer of so enormous a sum implies, makes it the less wonderful that Nehemiah was in a condition to sustain the charges of his government from his own resources. It will be recollected that Haman appears to have been the chief minister of the king, and that functionary enjoys peculiar opportunities for the acquisition of wealth. On New Year's day, the king receives the offerings of his princes and nobles: on one such occasion, when Mr. Morier was present, the offering of the person holding this office surpassed every other in value, amounting to about 30,0001. in gold coin. Other statements are extant concerning the extraordinary wealth possessed by some of the subjects of the ancient Persian empire. In the reign of Xerxes, the father of this Ahasuerus, a noble Lydian named Pythius entertained the whole Persian army-the largest ever assembled--on its march towards Greece; and then freely offered to contribute all his property in gold and silver to the support of the war. It amounted altogether to 2000 talents of silver and four millions (wanting 7000) of gold Darics—more than four millions of our money ; besides which he had, as he said, estates and slaves which would still afford him a suitable maintenance. This noble offer was declined by the king, as that of Haman was by Ahasuerus (Herodotus, lib. vii., ch. 27-30).
12. “ Sealed wilh the king's ring."-We shall not here add any thing to what we have already said concerning sealrings and other seals in the notes to Gen. xli. 42, and 1 Kings xxi. 8. But we are happy to introduce an instructive supplementary cut, representing some of the most ancient seals of the ring class now existing, from originals in the British Museum. They are all Egyptian. Some of them are finger-seal rings; but the larger are scarabæus or beetle seals, which we particularly mentioned in the last of the notes referred to. These are all mounted in handles, or rings of metal, in which they revolve on pivots. This was doubtless to render them more portable, while it enabled the face to be turned outward, so as to increase their effect as ornaments, and to enable them to be worn with more convenienceattached, as they probably were, to some part of the person. The central figure exhibits the back of the seal, to show its beetle form. One of the number has also the beetle carved on its face. In connection with our previous statements, and with the cuts under 1 Kings xxi., the figures now given are conceived to furnish a very valuable illustration of the general subject.
cloth with ashes, and went out into the midst
of the city, and cried with a loud and a bit1 The great mourning of Mordecai and the Jews.
4 Esther, understanding it, sendeth to Mordecai, ter cry; who sheveth the cuuse, and adviseth her to un- 2 Ånd came even before the king's gate: dertake the suit. 10 She excusing herself is for none might enter into the kirg's gate threatened by Mordecai. 15 She appointing a clothed with sackcloth. fast undertaketh the suit.
3 And in every province, whithersoever WHEN Mordecai perceived all that was done, the king's commandment and his decree Mordecai rent his clothes, and put on sack-came, there was great mourning among the