Verse 3. "Was next unto king Ahasuerus" - He was his prime minister; and, under him, was the governor of the whole empire.
"The Targum is extravagant in its encomiums upon Mordecai: "All the kings of the earth feared and trembled before him: he was as resplendent as the evening star among the stars; and was as bright as Aurora beaming forth in the morning; and he was chief of the kings." Seeking the wealth of his people" - Studying to promote the Jewish interest to the utmost of his power.
"Speaking peace to all his seed." - endeavouring to settle their prosperity upon such a basis, that it might be for ever permanent. Here the Hebrew text ends; but in the ancient Vulgate, and in the Greek, ten verses are added to this chapter, and six whole chapters besides, so that the number of chapters in Esther amounts to sixteen. A translation of these may be found in the Apocrypha, bound up with the sacred text, in most of our larger English Bibles. On any part of this work it is not my province to add any comment.
THIS is the last of the historical books of the Old Testament, for from this time to the birth of Christ they had no inspired writers; and the interval of their history must be sought among the apocryphal writers and other historians who have written on Jewish affairs. The most complete supplement to this history will be found in that most excellent work of Dean Prideaux, entitled The Old and New Testaments connected, in the History of the Jews and Neighbouring Nations, from the Declension of the Kingdoms of Israel and Judah to the time of CHRIST, 4 vols. 8vo. 1725.
The editions prior to this date are not so complete.
We have already seen what the Feast of PURIM means, and why it was instituted; if the reader is desirous of farther information on this subject, he may find it in the works of Buxtorf, Leusden, Stehlin, and Calmet's Dictionary, article Pur.
MASORETIC NOTES ON THE BOOK OF ESTHER
Number of verses, 167. Middle verse, chap. v. 7. Sections, 5.
The following excellent remarks on the history of the Jews from the Babylonish captivity, I borrow from Dr. John Taylor's Scheme of Scripture Divinity, and make no doubt I shall have the thanks of every reader whose thanks are worth having.
"After the Babylonish captivity, the Jews no more lapsed into idolatry, but remained steady in the acknowledgment and worship of the one living and true God. Even then they fell into new ways of perverting religion, and the wise and holy intentions of the Divine law:
1. By laying all the stress on the external and less momentous parts of it, while they neglected the weighty and substantial, true holiness of heart and life. Mankind are too easily drawn into this error; while they retain a sense of religion, they are too apt to listen to any methods by which it may be reduced to a consistency with the gratification of their passions, pride, and avarice.
Thus, by placing religion in mere profession, or in the zealous observance of rites and ceremonies, instead of real piety, truth, purity, and goodness, they learn to be religious without virtue. 2. By speculating and commenting upon the Divine commands and institutions till their force is quite enervated, and they are refined into a sense that will commodiously allow a slight regard instead of sincere obedience. 3. By confirming and establishing the two former methods of corrupting religion by tradition, and the authority of learned rabbins, pretending that there was a system of religious rules delivered by word of mouth from Moses explanatory of the written law, known only to those rabbins, to whose judgment and decision, therefore, all the people were to submit.
"This in time (the space of two hundred and nineteen years) became the general state of religion among the Jews, after they had discarded idolatry: and this spirit prevailed among them for some ages (two hundred and ninety years) before the coming of Messiah; but, however, it did not interfere with the main system of Providence, or the introducing the knowledge of God among the nations, as they still continued steadfast in the worship of the true God, without danger of deviating from it.
"Thus the Jews were prepared by the preceding dispensation for the reception of the Messiah, and the just notions of religion which he was sent to inculcate; insomuch that their guilt must be highly aggravated if they rejected him and his instructions. It could not be for want of capacity, but of integrity, and must be assigned to wilful blindness and obduracy.
Out of regard to temporal power, grandeur, and enjoyments, they loved darkness rather than light.
"For many ages the Jews had been well known in the Eastern empire, among the Assyrians, Chaldeans, Medes, and Persians; but till the time of Alexander the Great they had no communication with the Grecians.
"About the year before Christ 332 Alexander built Alexandria in Egypt; and to people his new city, removed thither many of the Jews, allowing them the use of their own laws and religion, and the same liberties with the Macedonians themselves. The Macedonians, who spake the Greek language, and other Greeks, were the principal inhabitants of Alexandria; from them the Jews learnt to speak Greek, which was the common language of the city, and which soon became the native language of the Jews that lived there, who on that account were called Hellenists, or Greek Jews, mentioned Acts vi. 1, 9; xi. 20. These Greek Jews had synagogues in Alexandria, and for their benefit the Five Books of Moses, which alone at first were publicly read, were translated into Greek, (by whom is uncertain,) and were read in their synagogues every Sabbath day; and in the time of Antiochus Epiphanes, about 168 years before Christ, the prophets were also translated into Greek for the use of the Alexandrian Jews.
"This translation contributed much to the spreading the knowledge of true religion among the nations in the western parts of the world.
"For the Jews, their synagogues and worship there, after Alexander's death, dispersed almost everywhere among the nations. Ptolemy, one of Alexander's successors, having reduced Jerusalem and all Judea about 320 years before Christ, carried one hundred thousand Jews into Egypt, and there raised considerable numbers of them to places of trust and power, and several of them he placed in Cyrene and Libya. Seleucus, another of Alexander's successors, about 300 years before Christ, built Antioch in Cilicia, and many other cities, in all thirty-five, and some of the capital cities in the Greater and Lesser Asia, in all which he planted the Jews, giving them equal privileges and immunities with the Greeks and Macedonians, especially at Antioch in Syria, where they settled in great numbers, and became almost as considerable a part of that city as they were at Alexandria. On that memorable day of Pentecost (Acts ii. 5, 9, 11, 12) were assembled in Jerusalem, Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven, namely, Parthians, Medes, and Persians, of the province of Elymais, inhabitants of Mesopotamia, Judea, Cappadocia, Pontus, Asia, Phrygia, Pamphylia, Egypt, Cyrene in Libya, and Rome, Cretes, and Arabs, who were all either Jews natural, or devout men, i.e., proselytes to the Jewish religion. And in every city of the Roman empire where Paul preached, he found a body of his countrymen the Jews, except in Athens, which was at that time, I suppose, a town of no considerable trade, which shows that the Jews and their synagogues, at the time of our Lord's appearance, were providentially scattered over all the Roman empire, and had in every place introduced more or less, among the nations the knowledge and worship of God; and so had prepared great numbers for the reception of the Gospel.
"About the time that Alexander built Alexandria in Egypt, the use of the papyrus for writing was found out in that country. This invention was so favourable to literature, that Ptolemy Soter was thereby enabled to erect a museum or library, which, by his son and successor, Philadelphus, who died two hundred and forty-seven years before Christ, was augmented to seven hundred thousand volumes. Part of this library happened to be burnt when Julius Caesar laid siege to Alexandria; but after that loss it was again much augmented, and soon grew up to be larger, and of more eminent note, than the former; till at length it was burnt and finally destroyed by the Saracens, in the year of our Lord 642. This plainly proves how much the invention of turning the papyrus into paper contributed to the increase of books, and the advancement of learning, for some ages before the coming of our Lord. Add to all this, that the world, after many changes and revolutions, was, by God's all-ruling wisdom, thrown into that form of civil affairs which best suited with the great intended alteration. The many petty states and tyrannies, whose passions and bigotry might have run counter to the schemes of Providence, were all swallowed up in one great power, the ROMAN, to which all appeals lay; the seat of which, Rome, lay at a great distance from Jerusalem, the spring from which the Gospel was to rise and flow to all nations; and therefore as no material obstruction to the Gospel could come but from one quarter, none could suddenly arise from thence, but only in process of time, when the Gospel was sufficiently opened and established, as it did not in the least interfere with the Roman polity and government.
"The Gospel was first published in a time of general peace and tranquillity throughout the whole world, which gave the preachers of it an opportunity of passing freely from one country to another, and the minds of men the advantage of attending calmly to it.
"Many savage nations were civilized by the Romans, and became acquainted with the arts and virtues of their conquerors. Thus the darkest countries had their thoughts awakened, and were growing to a capacity of receiving, at the stated time, the knowledge of true religion; so that all things and circumstances conspired now with the views of heaven, and made this apparently the fullness of time, (Gal. iv. 4,) or the fittest juncture for God to reveal himself to the Gentiles, and to put an end to idolatry throughout the earth. Now the minds of men were generally ripe for a purer and brighter dispensation; and the circumstances of the world were such as favoured the progress of it." -P. 368.
Hated and despised as the Jews were among the proud Romans, and the still more proud and supercilious Greeks, their sojourning among them, and their Greek version of the Scriptures, commonly called the Septuagint, were the means of furnishing them with truer notions, and a more distinct knowledge of vice and virtue, than they ever had before. And on examination we shall find that, from the time of Alexander's conquest of Judea, a little more than three hundred years before our Lord, both Greeks and Romans became more correct in their theological opinions; and the sect of eclectic philosophers, whose aim was to select from all preceding sects what was most consistent with reason and truth, were not a little indebted to the progress which the light of God, dispensed by means of the Septuagint, had made in the heathen world. And let it be remembered, that for Jews, who were settled in Grecian countries, this version was made, and by those Jews it was carried through all the places of their dispersion.
To this version Christianity, under God, owes much. To this version we are indebted for such a knowledge of the Hebrew originals of the Old Testament, as we could never have had without it, the pure Hebrew having ceased to be vernacular after the Babylonish captivity; and Jesus Christ and his apostles have stamped an infinite value upon it by the general use they have made of it in the New Testament; perhaps never once quoting, directly, the Hebrew text, or using any other version than some copy of the Septuagint. By this version, though prophecy had ceased from the times of Ezra, Daniel, and Malachi, yet the law and the prophets were continued down to the time of Christ; and this was the grand medium by which this conveyance was made. And why is this version neglected? I hesitate not to assert that no man can ever gain a thorough knowledge of the phraseology of the New Testament writers, who is unacquainted with this version, or has not profited by such writers as derived their knowledge from it. A. CLARKE. Millbrook, February 3, 1820.
Finished the correction of this volume, Oct. 16, 1828. - A. CLARKE.