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The Conflict of Opposites
A.—MORDECAI, GREATLY SORROWING WITH HIS PEOPLE, URGES ESTHER TO PLEAD FOR MERCY WITH THE KING
I. Communication between Mordecai and Esther. Esther 4:1-5
1When [And] Mordecai perceived [knew] all that was done, [and, i.e. then] Mordecai rent his clothes, and put on sackcloth with [and] ashes, and went out into the midst of the city, and cried1 with a loud [great] and a bitter cry; 2And came even before the king’s gate: for none might [there was none to] enter [go] into the king’s gate clothed with [in clothing of] sackcloth. 3And in every province,2 whithersoever [the place that] the king’s commandment [word] and his decree [law] came [was approaching], there was great mourning among [for] the Jews, and fasting, and weeping, and wailing [smiting the breast]: and many lay in sack-cloth 4and ashes [sack-cloth and ashes was strown for the many]. So [And] Esther’s maids and her chamberlains [eunuchs] came and told it her. Then [And] was the queen exceedingly grieved; and she sent raiment to clothe Mordecai, and to 5take away his sackcloth from [upon] him: but [and] he received it not. Then [And] called Esther for [to] Hatach, one of the king’s chamberlains [eunuchs], whom he had appointed to attend upon [stationed before] her, and gave him a commandment [enjoined him] to [upon, i.e. concerning] Mordecai, to know what it was, and why it was.
II. Mordecai commissions Esther to present his petition; but she raises a point of difficulty. Esther 4:6-11
6So [And] Hatach went forth to Mordecai unto the street of the city, which was before the king’s gate: 7and Mordecai told him of all that had happened unto him, and of the sum [designation] of the money [silver] that Haman had promised [said] to pay to [upon] the king’s treasuries for [in consideration of] the Jews, to 8destroy [cause them to perish]: Also [And] he gave him the copy of the writing of the decree [law] that was given at Shushan to destroy them, to show it unto Esther, and to declare [tell] it unto her, and to charge [enjoin upon] her that she should go [to go] in unto the king, to make supplication unto him, and to make request before him for [upon] her people. 9And Hatach came and told Esther the 10words of Mordecai; Again [And] Esther spake [said] unto Hatach, and gave him commandment [enjoined him] unto Mordecai; 11All the king’s servants, and the people of the king’s provinces, do know [are knowing], that whosoever, whether man [every man] or [and] woman, shall [who shall] come unto the king into the inner court, who is not [shall not be] called, there is one law of his to put him to death, except such to whom the king shall hold out the golden sceptre, that [and] he may live; but I3 have not been called to come in unto the king these [this] thirty days.
III. Mordecai presents his request still more urgently, and Esther promises to execute it. Esther 4:12-17
12And they told to Mordecai Esther’s words. 13Then [And] Mordecai commanded [said] to answer Esther, Think not with thyself [in thy spirit] that thou shalt 14escape in [to deliver] the king’s house more than all the Jews. For [But] if thou altogether holdest thy peace at this time, then shall there enlargement and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place; but [and] thou and thy father’s house shall be destroyed [utterly perish]; and who knoweth whether thou art come [hast 15approached] to the kingdom for such a time as this? Then [And] Esther bade them [said to] return Mordecai this answer; 16Go, gather together all the Jews that are present found] in Shusan, and fast ye for [upon] me, and neither eat [eat not] nor drink “and drink not] three days, night or [and] day: I also and my maidens will fast likewise; and so will I go in unto the king, which is not according to the law; 17and if [whereas] I perish [have perished], I perish [have perished]. So [And] Mordecai went his way [passed] and did according to all that Esther had commanded [enjoined upon] him.
TEXTUAL AND GRAMMATICAL
1 [Esther 4:1. זעק, a later or Aramæan form for זעק, seems to be intensive of קרא, including the simple call for help, שׁוע, and the shriek from pain or danger, אנק, and denotes an earnest and vociferous demonstration.—Tr.]
2 [Esther 4:3. See Note 7 in preceding section.—Tr.]
3 [Esther 4:11. The pronoun, being expressed in the original, is emphatic.—Tr.]
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
The author manifestly desires to show in this chapter how very difficult it was for Mordecai to make even the one effort to save his people from destruction. But he was faithful and persistent; taking step after step until the object was attained. He here entered a conflict which was forced upon him, and which he was unable to avert. But thereby lie ran the greatest danger both for himself and for Esther, whom he required to assist. him. Three separate endeavors are recorded by our author as made on the part of Mordecai in order to involve Esther in this conflict. The first was preparatory, being designed simply to establish a connection with her; of the second the only result was the objections raised by Esther; and in the third she expressed her willingness and her resignation to a possible fate.
Esther 4:1-5. Here is described the first step. The first thing Mordecai did was to take a leading part in the general sorrow of the Jews. Thereby he attracted the attention of Esther, and induced her not only to send him other garments than those of mourning, but also to send a confidential messenger through whom he could communicate with her. Esther 4:1. “When Mordecai perceived all that was done.—As is told us in Esther 4:7. Mordecai was even informed as to the sum of money which Haman expected to obtain by destroying the Jews. Possibly some of Haman’s intimate friends heard of it and spoke of it in the king’s gate where Mordecai could hear it. Mordecai rent his clothes, and put on sackcloth with ashes, i. e., a garment of hair cloth, and with the same also put on ashes, by strewing ashes over his person and clothing (comp. Daniel 9:3; Job 2:12).4And went out into the midst of the city.—He did not conceal the fact that he was in deep distress, and cried with a loud and bitter cry; literally, occurs in Genesis 27:34 with reference to Esau.
Esther 4:2. And came even before the king’s gate, i. e., up to the free place that was before the entrance to the royal palace (comp. Esther 4:6),— further he could not come, no more could he come into the gate of the palace as before—for none (might) enter into the king’s gate clothed with sackcloth.—So אֵין לָכוֹא, comp. Ewald, § 321 c.
Esther 4:3. Many other Jews also mourned. The sorrow was general. Despite the elevation of Esther her people now had everywhere only distress and grief, instead of honor and joy. It seems as if the author would here describe how the Jews were treated contrary to what one would naturally expect after the elevation of Esther. He would here, doubtless, also give prominence to the remarkable mode which Mordecai adopted to secure the attention of Esther. Further in Esther 4:3 he would show us how pressing was the need of every possible endeavor for their preservation. And in every province, whithersoever the king’s commandment and his decree came, etc.—מְקוֹם is the Accusative of place found in stat. constr. before אֲשֶׁר, as in Esther 8:17; Ecclesiastes 11:3; comp. Leviticus 4:24בִּמְקוֹם אֲשֶּׁר. And many lay in sackcloth and ashes.—While all gave vent to their distress and tears, many manifested their sorrow by putting on sackcloth and sitting in ashes (comp. Isaiah 58:5).
Esther 4:4. The first object that Mordecai gained by his public grief was that he drew the attention of Esther’s women-servants and eunuchs, i. e., such as were assigned her for her exclusive service (comp. Esther 2:9), and they gave notice to the queen. Though they had not as yet discovered the nationality of Esther, still they became aware of Esther’s relation to Mordecai, who on his part was very diligent in his inquiries concerning her. Hence they delayed not to inform the queen of all that they know of him. Following the Kethib we should read וַתְּבוֹאֶינָה. As this prolonged form of the word does not usually occur after a Vav. cons., the Keri has the form וַתָּבוֹאנָה. The object of יָגִּידוּ is found in what follows: the present appearance of Mordecai in mourning garments was not the cause (comp. Esther 4:5); but this was enough to give her considerable anxiety. וַתִּתְהַלְחַל, a passive intensive from חוּל, they were seized as with pains of delivery. She sent clothes to her guardian, that he might put them on, doubtless, that thereby he might again stand in the gate of the king, and so relate to her the cause of his grief. But he refused them, not only because he would wear no other than garments of mourning, but because he desired a private opportunity to communicate with her.
Esther 4:5. Mordecai accomplished his object, and Hatach the eunuch was sent to him to obtain particulars. הֶעֱמִיד לְפָנֶיהָ, the king had appointed Hatach to serve Esther; hence he belonged to her eunuchs (Esther 4:4). וַתְּצַוֵּהוּ עַל, she commissioned him with respect to orעַל, substantially similar to אֵל, “she sent him to,” (comp. Esther 4:10).
Esther 4:6-11. Here we have the second step. In the face of the greatness of the danger that threatened the Jews it was hardly to be expected but that Mordecai should make a request of Esther whose fulfilment would be very serious in its consequences.
Esther 4:6-7. When Hatach had proceeded to the open place before the palace, he found Mordecai, who in the hope that Esther would do something more, had remained there longer or more frequently resorted thither. Then Mordecai informed him of all that had occurred and that now threatened the Jews, and mentioned also the sum of money that Haman promised to place in the king’s treasury, in return for the extermination of the Jews. This he did, no doubt, to show what low and despicable motives were at play in the matter; and thus he very naturally hoped to excite the greater indignation and wrath in Esther. She must not be left to think that Haman had found the Jews guilty of real transgressions when he obtained the consent of the king. That the king had remitted the money to Haman, is not referred to here because not pertinent. פָּרָשָׁה derived from פָּרַשׁto cut off, separate, then to define correctly (comp. Leviticus 24:12), the exact statement of a thing, i.e., here, of the amount, sum of money to be given. For the Jews, to destroy them, means when the Jews would be surrendered to him with permission to destroy them. The Kethib form of יְהוּדִיִּים is less frequently used for יְהוּים, which is found in Esther 8:1; Esther 8:7; Esther 8:13; Esther 9:15; Esther 9:18.
Esther 4:8. Also he gave him the copy of the writing of the decree that was given at Shushan (comp. Esther 3:15), to destroy them, i. e., which ordered them to be destroyed. פַּתְשֶׁגֶן could here have the meaning of “copy;” but the rendering “contents” of the writing of the decree is preferable, (comp. Ezra 4:11). Possibly Mordecai had briefly noted down the substance of the decree. To shew (it) unto Esther, and to declare (it) unto her, and to charge her that she should go in unto the king to make supplication unto him.—וּלְהַגִּיּד, contrary to the accents, is by Bertheau and Keil connected with what follows, as if it were the same in sense with לְעַוּוֹת עָלֶיהָ. But it rather belongs to what precedes according to its import. Hatach was to show the writing to Esther and give her the substance of the information it conveyed. It is quite possible that Esther could read it herself; Mordecai sent the copy for the purpose of enabling Hatach to give the proper meaning of its contents. The infinitives with לְּ are here best translated by “in order that.” To declare (explain) it unto her, and to charge her to go in unto the king, to make supplication unto him … for her people.— בַּקֵשׁ with עַל here, as in Esther 7:7. means: to entreat, supplicate for something diligently (comp. Ezra 8:23). She should petition relief for her people.
Esther 4:9-11. Mordecai elicited only the answer: All the king’s servants, and the people of the king’s provinces, do know, that whosoever, whether man or woman shall come unto the king, etc.— כָּל־אִשׁ וְאִישָׁה is prefixed as a Nom. absol. The predicate with אַחַת דָּתוֹ follows as an anacoluthon: “one is his law,” (i.e., one law extends to all. דָּתוֹ is the law having reference in his case. Its substance reads briefly: לְהָמִיתto kill, i. e., him. One was not even allowed to enter the inner court-yard, much less the king’s palace. That the king resided in the inner court before the royal house (Bertheau and Keil), would not follow from Esther 5:1. Every one was to be killed, except him toward whom the king extended the golden sceptre. לְבַד מִן, except, as for example, Exodus 12:23; Joshua 17:5. הוֹשִׁיט, from ישׁט, found only in this book (in Esther 5:2; Esther 8:4), in the Aramaic tongue signifies “to reach out towards, to extend,” and is connected with &שׁוט שׁט. In the time of Deioces the Mede, approach to the king was already very difficult (Herod. I. 9); and among the Persians, with very few exceptions (Herod. III. 118), no one was permitted to approach the king without a notice (comp. Esther 1:14; and Herod. III. 140; also C. Nep. Conon, c. 3). According to our verse the sense of the law is not that no one should approach unannounced, but that no one should approach unless called. But the sense of both is the same. If one must give due notice of approach, one must first be also accepted; but to be accepted is to be called. As regards that law any one was free to give notice of his approach (comp. Herodot. III. 140), and hence arises the question, why Esther kept this privilege out of sight. Josephus says (Antiq. XI. 6, 3) that the husband of Esther (according to him Artaxerxes) forbade his people, by a special law, to approach him while he sat upon the throne. But he would manifestly give greater weight to our explanation. If we desire to find the correct answer we must not overlook the remark of Esther, that she had not been called to the king for now thirty days.5 Possibly she apprehended that the king had become somewhat indifferent to her, and that, if she were to announce herself without being called by him, she would be refused admittance to his presence. This would have made the venture still more dangerous. According to Esther 3:7, nearly five years had passed since their marriage. Hence she had possibly been somewhat forgotten. It could hardly appear otherwise in her eyes than that it was best to approach the king unannounced and place reliance on the fact that her appearance should kindle his love anew.6
Esther 4:12-17. The third step. In order to move Esther to a compliance with his request, despite her hesitation, Mordecai had it reported to her (Esther 4:13): Think not with thyself that thou shalt escape in the king’s house, more than all the Jews.-—To be saved does not here mean, if I only am saved, the others do not concern me, as if Mordecai would warn her of a selfish and indifferent feeling toward her people. But the sense is: “Do not think that thou shalt escape, or that thou art better off.” This is clear from Esther 4:14 : For if thou altogether holdest thy peace, not making intercession with the king, at this time, (then) shall there enlargement and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place; but thou and thy father’s house shall be destroyed, i. e., be not better off, but worse. That the entire Jewish people cannot be thus destroyed is a matter self-evident to Mordecai. This is an incontestable truth, under all circumstances, which in his mind is made sure by the divine promises. And although neither God nor God’s assurances are here mentioned, still, as is justly remarked by Brenz: “We have this noble and clearly heroic faith of Mordecai, which sees the future deliverance, even amidst the most immediate and imminent danger.” Those Jews only can and must be destroyed, in his opinion, who, when it concerns the preservation of the people, do not perform their duty. It is very improbable that he should think that Haman has not power sufficient to cause the destruction of the Jewish nation as a whole, but merely of that detested Mordecai and his family, hence also Esther, must die (Bertheau,—otherwise he would not have said: “thou and thy father’s house,” but “thy father’s house and thou, ye shall perish.” He here makes reference rather to a divine punishment that shall come upon Esther first, but on her account also upon her father’s house. רְוָחה רֶוַח (Exodus 8:11) means relief from pressure because of want of air. עַמַד in later language may have been given the meaning of קּוּם, so that it should mean to arise, to go forth, to be (1 Chronicles 20:4). But it may also signify: deliverance will be established (Bertheau), or stand ready. The “other place” is not God as immediate for help, but another agent of God, in contrast with Esther. Mordecai means: God will find other instruments whom He will employ, if thou wilt not serve Him The last sentence of Esther 4:14 is, by most interpreters, declared to mean: “And who knows but that thou hast been elevated to be queen for just such an emergency as this, where there is danger, which thou shouldst assist in averting, so that thou canst easily help. But if thou wilt not help, thou wilt not escape an especially severe sentence.” But to take אִם in the sense of הֲלא, is to say the least, venturesome, and cannot be justified by the fact that מִי יֹדֵעַ is sometimes, (but without אִם) used in the sense of perhaps (2 Samuel 12:22; Joel 2:14; Jonah 3:9). Again it does not correspond to the sense of “if,” “whether;” and we may say with Bertheau: “Who knows, when thou hast approached the royal throne (beseechingly), what then shall happen, whether the king will not receive you graciously;” or again, as Keil says: “Who knows but that thou hast attained to royalty for just such a time as this (as was no doubt true), what shall then be done by thee?” Mordecai would perhaps say, by way of adding to the before-expressed threat, “Thou shalt be destroyed, if thou art silent: and who knows whether thou shalt really be courageous enough to speak for us, and thereby manifest to us that, for just such a time as this thou wast elevated to royal dignity?” A doubt such as this would evidently be the most powerful incentive to her to do what was requested of her.
Esther 4:15. In fact this resolve was reached by her. She made request that Mordecai, together with the Jews in Shushan, should fast three days and nights in her behalf. Doubtless she thus expected to secure the help and protection of God for that eventful hour and step, and therefore she declared, with great resignation, that she would venture to fulfil their request. This fast could only mean that great misery impended over their heads, that with a contrite spirit God’s hand was seen in this event, and that prayer was made to God for help (comp. 1 Kings 21:27-29; Joel 1:14; Jonah 3:5). That Esther still does not make mention of God, no more than did Mordecai before this, when he asserted his faith in the indestructibility of the Jewish nation, may easily be explained, as has been observed in the Introduction, § 3, by remarking that it pertains to the style of the author. To the expression: fast ye for me, Esther adds: and neither eat nor drink three days, night nor day, in order to mark the severity of the fast. A strict fast of three days would indeed have been a severe task, and Esther would thereby have done injury to her appearance (J. D. Michaelis). But these three days seem, as in Jonah 2:1, not to be clearly understood; hence the sense would be, from this day until the third day. For the fast must have begun on the same day that Esther’s answer came to Mordecai. The “third day” mentioned in Esther 5:1 must mean the third day from that in which the decision of Esther was made. This decision was the main fact from which time was reckoned. Of course we cannot expect that Mordecai should that very day have induced all the Jews in Shushan to fast. Still it matters not so much that not all, if only many, fasted.—And so will I go in unto the king, which is not, etc.—[בְּכֵן, i.e., under such circumstances, or under such conditions. אֲשֶׁר לֹא כַּדָת may simply mean: “which is not legally allowed,” although not, etc. אֲשֶׁר may be taken in a neuter sense, although אֲשֶׁר לֹא reminds us of the Aramaic דִּי לָא, and hence it can easily be taken in the sense of “without” (comp. Ewald, § 322 c). The last words: And if I perish, I perish, are an expression of willing submission to the fate that may threaten her in the performance of her duty (comp. Genesis 43:14). Esther had great cause to prepare for her own destruction. She not only proposed to go to the king without being called, but also to request something of him, which, according to Persian custom, it was impossible to grant. She would by her petition recall the edict and thereby seem to disregard the royal majesty. She would and indeed must reveal herself as a daughter of this detested Jewish people thus given over to destruction. Last of all, she must thereby place herself in open opposition to that all-powerful favorite, Haman.
Esther 4:17. Mordecai went forth to fulfil the wish of Esther. The verb עָבַר has induced the Targums and older interpreters, as J. D. Michaelis, to advance the opinion that he had violated, “passed over,” namely, the law, which ordered the Paschal feast to be celebrated in a joyous manner (from Esther 3:12 it might follow that we are still in the time of the Passover); but the word has the meaning of: going away, going further. It has its explanation as contrasting with what Mordecai had done before, since, so long as Esther’s answer was not satisfactory, he remained standing there.
DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL
Esther 4:1 sqq. 1. Mordecai rends his clothing, and puts on sack-cloth and ashes. He enters the city thus, and raises a great and bitter lamentation. So also the Church of God, in its development as regards the history of humanity, should again and ever anew put on the habiliments of mourning. “The world shall rejoice: and ye shall be sorrowful.” The then existing nation of Jews could not manifest its loyalty to the law without coming into conflict with heathendom. Nor can the Church bring to development its inherent spiritual powers without challenging all the Hamans and their opposition in the world. Even this present period is an instance in proof. Following upon the great progress of the things of the kingdom of God since the time of wars for freedom, we must naturally expect reactions, such as have been manifest in the sphere of science and other relations. Indeed, we must constantly look for increasing opposition on the part of the world. But when the Church shall have most fully developed the gifts of grace granted to it, then conflict and sorrow will have reached its highest point at the end of days. The real cause of sorrow on the part of the true members of God’s Church will not be, as was the case with Mordecai, their own distress, but that of the world. It will consist in the fact that the world is still devoid of the blessed society of the true God; that the kingdom of God is still rejected and even persecuted. What joy it would give, if, instead of enmity, recognition and submission, and, instead of disdain, a participation in the gifts and grace of our Lord were to become the universal experience!
2. The more difficult the position of the Church as in contrast with the World, the more favorable is her position for bringing to view her glory. Her glory is that of her Head. If even in the Old Testament times, and in the “dispersion” itself, there existed a Mordecai, who for love of the people manifested his firmness and strength in the hour of tribulation; and if there was found an Esther, who, when called upon, willingly came forward to bring about the salvation of her countrymen; how much more in New Testament times and in the modern Church will there arise individuals, who, in following the Lord, especially in evil days, will manifest a watch-care for others and a self-sacrificing spirit for them; who will show forth patience and meekness, as well as energy, fidelity and tenacity, a spirit of giving and an ability to make sacrifices; and withal will carry in their hearts joy and peace as the seal of their kinship with God. All these graces may be so many illuminating rays of the glorious life of their Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, who more and more attains in them a full stature. May all Seize the special opportunity, recognize the particular duty, and know when to perform it, which the times of distress of the Church place in their hand, of showing forth the power that dwells in them by their life and work!
3. Mordecai took an especially great part in the universal grief that overcame the Jews when the edict of their annihilation was issued and promulgated. It was not his personal danger that alarmed him, but, as may be expected of such a faithful follower of Judaism, it was the calamity threatening the whole Jewish people. While, however, thought and feeling were centred upon the event, he was free from despair. With him it was a settled conviction that the people of God, as a whole, could not be destroyed, and that deliverance must come from some source. Instead of giving way to despondency, he turned his distress into a power that urged him to still greater endeavors. There was no more a fear of appearing as a Jew, nor did he hesitate because his loud lamentation would attract general attention, and thereby expose him to the derision and disdain of many. However reluctant he might have been to expose his beloved Esther, whose welfare had ever been a matter of great concern to him, to extreme danger, still he persisted with the greatest determination that she should run the whole risk, and only rested when she gave her assent. It is barely possible that he attributed some blame to himself because of his firmness against Haman, or thought that on that account he more than any other was under obligation to remove the threatened danger. The sole moving impulse was doubtless his love for his people. But this should not be less in any true member of the Church. It should rather, in proportion as there are more members in the body of Christ, be the stronger than it was in him. Would that no one among us were behind him as regards energy, self-denial and a willingness to make sacrifices! There are doubtless many who are able to endure all this in their own person. But—if no lighter consideration—the thought that their relatives, yea, even wife and children, may suffer on account of their confession, bows them down. Would, if necessary, that we too may stand equal to Mordecai in willingness to surrender our dearest kin!
Esther 4:6 sqq. Mordecai manifests a remarkable tenacity as opposed to Esther. He keeps his position at the gate of the king until she sends him not only her maids with garments, but also Hatach to transmit his message. He departs not thence until she has resolved to stand before Ahasuerus as a Jew pleading for the Jews. Under other circumstances he might have been thought to be tiresome by his persistency and demands; but his relation to her now justified it. When he had been accustomed to inquire concerning her health and well-being, to give her counsel, to care for her, he had shown no less persistency; and his demand that now she should reveal her Jewish descent, and as such should venture all, was equally in keeping with his character. So long as no danger threatened he counseled her to keep silence respecting her Jewish parentage; but now he had himself taken the lead in an open confession of the fact. Although it had before been difficult for him to approach Esther as the queen, or request any favor at her hand, now he hesitated no longer to implore her help, not so much for himself, as for the whole people. There was no motive for him to be selfish, or to conduct himself in a heartless or severe manner towards her. Hence there was no question but that his undertaking would succeed, that Esther would be willing to comply with his request. It is eminently desirable that those who, like him, must move and induce others to make sacrifices of self and possessions in the service of the kingdom of God, should stand on a level with him in this respect.
Brenz: “At first the lazy (i. e. Jews) do not snore. For the Holy Spirit exhorts us in all adversities to confide in the Lord; He does not exhort us to be indolent, indifferent and sleepy. For our confidence in the Lord is a powerful and efficacious means of stimulating in His service all strength and limbs.… Further, the Jews, though in the greatest peril, do not utter virulent words against the king, nor do they fly to arms.… Mordecai and the other Jews rend their garments, put on sack-cloth, strew ashes upon their heads, wail, weep and fast. These manifestations signify not that the Jews in Persia were turbulent, but that they take refuge in God; since help could not be discovered upon earth, they seek it from heaven.… ‘The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.’.… By this example we too are taught that when afflictions are sent upon us, we should reflect that God then sets before us the fat oxen and calves which we may offer to Him. In this way we offer to God in our prayers the afflictions which we sustain, and call upon the name of the Lord that He may help us.… Behold, however, the reverse of this order of things. The palaces of princes are divinely instituted to be the places of refuge for the miserable. On the contrary in the palaces of Persia nothing is regarded as more odious and abominable than men with the signs of affliction.… Heaven is ever open to the cries of mourners, and God is never unapproachable to those calling on His name by faith.”
Starke: “Temporal fortunes and successes are never so great as not to be subject to sorrow, terror and fear (Sir 40:3). God permits His Church to be plunged into sorrow at times; He leads her even into hell; but He also takes her out again (1 Samuel 2:16). Though the Lord elevate us to high honors, we should never be ashamed of our poor relatives (Genesis 47:2), but rather relieve their needs (1 Samuel 22:3). We should never reject proper and suitable means to escape a danger, but promptly use them (2 Corinthians 11:32-33).”
Esther 4:13 sqq. Mordecai manifests a precious sense of trust, saying: “For if thou altogether holdest thy peace at this time, then shall there enlargement and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place.” But he who would save his soul will lose it. The risk which Mordecai called upon Esther to assume, that she should come to the king uninvited, and manifest herself as a daughter of the people thus devoted to destruction, was indeed great and important. Moreover, the hope that Xerxes would recall his edict, thus, according to Persian ideas, endangering the respect due his royal majesty, and likewise abandoning his favorite minister, was very uncertain of fulfilment. But Esther had been elevated to a high position. Mordecai, who in a doubting manner sends her word: “Who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” doubtless did it from a conviction that she must now prove herself worthy of such distinction, if she would retain it. He also conveys the idea that the higher her position the greater her responsibility, and consequently, in case of failure because of carelessness or fearfulness, the more intense her guilt. In these convictions of Mordecai are contained the most earnest exhortations even for us. This is especially true since we are all called to be joint heirs of Jesus Christ to the throne of the heavenly kingdom. In the deportment of Esther a no less reminder to duty is contained. It appears quite natural that Esther should order a fast not only to be observed by Mordecai and the rest of the Jews, but she also imposed on herself this fast of three days’ duration. Had she had a little more of the common discretion of her sex, she would have feared the effects of the fast upon her appearance. Hence she would have adopted quite a different plan or preparation previous to her entrance into the king’s presence. Here also she reveals the same attractive feature of mind and manner as when she was first presented to the king. Instead of placing reliance upon what she should externally put on or adorn herself with, we find her trust placed upon something higher. She well knows that she will only succeed if the great and exalted Lord be for her, who, notwithstanding His glorious majesty, yet dwells among the most lowly of men. It is in just such times as these, when we are raised to the greatest endeavors and self-sacrifices, that we must not expect to accomplish these things by our own power, but only through Him who in our weakness is our strength. Otherwise, despite our best intentions and most successful beginnings, we shall soon grow discouraged and fail. Our own weakness is but too often made manifest to our eyes. It is only when we consider and remember that the hand of the Lord is in it all that we will be saved from a lack of courage.
Brenz: “As it is the most pleasing worship to God to support the Church with all our strength, so He execrates no one more than him who withholds from the Church when in danger that help which he is able to render.… If the cry of a single poor man is so availing that although unheard by man, it finds an avenging ear in God, what must be the influence of the cry of the whole Church in her affliction imploring assistance from Him who it hopes is able to help?… This teaches us that God confers power upon princes, riches upon the rich, wisdom upon the wise, and other gifts upon others, not that they may abuse them for their own pleasure, but that they may assist the Church of God, and protect it in whatever way they can. For the Church on earth is so great in the eyes of God, that He requires of all men whatever may serve her. ‘The people,’ He says, ‘and the king that will not serve thee shall perish, and the nations shall dwell in a solitary place.’ ”
Starke: “Our flesh is always timid when it has to encounter a hazard (Exodus 4:13). My Christ in His divine majesty stands at the entrance into the faith, and sounds the free invitation to each and all, ‘ever frequent, ever dear, ever happy’ (Sir 25:20-21). One should succor his neighbor in peril and need (Proverbs 24:11; Psalms 82:3), and especially the brethren in the faith (Galatians 6:10), even at the peril of one’s own life (1 John 3:16). We are born for good not to ourselves, but to others, and thus God oftentimes shows us that through us He aids our own, our country and the community (Genesis 45:5). Faith is the victory that overcomes the world (1 John 5:8). We may use ordinary prayer for important blessings (James 5:14; Genesis 24:7; Genesis 43:14). Life can never be spent better than when it is the aim to lose it (Matthew 16:25; Acts 20:24; Acts 21:13).”
[Esther 4:1. זעק, a later or Aramæan form for זעק, seems to be intensive of קרא, including the simple call for help, שׁוע, and the shriek from pain or danger, אנק, and denotes an earnest and vociferous demonstration.—Tr.]
[Esther 4:3. See Note 7 in preceding section.—Tr.]
[Esther 4:11. The pronoun, being expressed in the original, is emphatic.—Tr.]
[“To rend one’s clothes in grief was as much a Persian as a Jewish practice (see Herod. viii. 99; Æschylus, Pers. 540–1, 1039, etc.).” Rawlinson.—Tr.]
[“According to Herodotus (iii. 69), the wives of a Persian king, whether primary or secondary, shared his bed in rotation. As their number sometimes exceeded three hundred, the turn of a particular wife might not come for nearly a year.” Rawlinson.—Tr.]
[As to the golden sceptre Rawlinson observes. “A modern critic asks: ‘Is it likely that a Persian king would always have a golden sceptre by him to stretch out towards intruders on his privacy? It seems enough to reply that in all the numerous representations of Persian kings at Persepolis, there is not one in which the monarch does not hold a long tapering staff (which is probably the ‘sceptre’ of Esther) in his right hand.”—Tr.]
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Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Esther 4". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 22 / Ordinary 27