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Bible Commentaries

Expositor's Dictionary of Texts

Esther 3

Verses 1-15

The Solitariness of Principle

Esther 3:8

In this story of the Persian Empire it is related how Haman, the king's chief favourite, felt insulted because Mordecai the Jew neglected to give him sufficient honour. His wounded dignity demanded revenge, but could not be satisfied with merely inflicting punishment on the man who had offended him. Because Mordecai was a Jew he would have the indignity wiped out by the extermination of the whole tribe. So Haman, by a little judicious flattery of the king, by misrepresenting the character of the Jewish exiles who lived within the bounds of the great Persian Empire, got a decree against them. 'There is a certain people dispersed among the provinces of thy kingdom, and their laws are diverse from those of every people.' It was a false charge as Haman put it, implying a Jewish conspiracy against the Empire. But in another sense it was true. The Jews were a separate people even in the midst of the Persian Empire, with rites and ceremonies, and religious beliefs, and practices of their own. The same sort of charge was made against the Christian Faith in the Roman Empire, with the same falseness and evil purpose, and with the same inherent truth. Christians were persecuted and harried because of their singularity, because they were in Rome and yet did not do as the Romans did.

I. Progress is ever got by dissent. There must be points of departure, lines of cleavage, difference; or else there is stagnation and ultimate death. It is from singularity that the race has hope for the future. Great movements of thought have ever sprung from dissent. Our Christian religion lays greater stress than ever on the solitariness of principle, making it even an individual thing instead of a racial difference, as with the Jews. The Church is set in the world as a model for the world, a great object-lesson to induce it upward to a higher level of thought and action. And what is the Church but a certain people whose laws are diverse from those of all other peoples. But the Christian faith, with its doctrine of the special illumination of the Holy Spirit to the receptive soul, goes even further, and puts the emphasis on the individual, making the soul responsible to God alone. It enforces the imperative of principle, calling a man out, if need be, to stand alone, making him, it may be, diverse from all people for conscience sake. A great soul is alone. From the very nature of the case greatness in anything isolates. A great man is always, to begin with, in a minority. Commonplace men on the whole prefer the commonplace.

II. But this singularity must be the fruit of principle to be worth anything; it must be for conscience sake. The diverseness from all other people must be in obedience to laws, which make their irresistible appeal to conscience. If it is due to desire for notoriety, or through eccentricity, it is beneath contempt. But the cure for such is simple. This weak craving for notice will be curbed by the thought that all singularity carries with it a corresponding responsibility. It tunes the life to a high pitch; and failure is all the more pitiful. It demands stern adherence to principle. It fixes a more inflexible standard. The only excuse for laws diverse from all people is that they should be higher laws and be obeyed with wholehearted loyalty, and the very moral necessity laid upon a man's conscience to be singular. The unflinching advocacy of an unpopular cause for conscience sake gives to the character strength and solidity.

Hugh Black, University Sermons, p. 77.

References. III. 8. A. P. Stanley, Sermons on Special Occasions, p. 98. III. 12-15. A. D. Davidson, Lectures on Esther, p. 128. III. A. Raleigh, The Book of Esther, p. 69. IV. 1-9. A. D. Davidson, Lectures on Esther, p. 128.

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Bibliographical Information
Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Esther 3". Expositor's Dictionary of Text. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/edt/esther-3.html. 1910.