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CRITICAL NOTES.] And the king Ahasuerus laid a tribute upon the land, and upon the isles of the sea] Tribute—a levy, tribute-service—means a tax levied, and for this reason that tribute-service belonged to products or moneys which were rendered to the king. Keil thinks the author wished briefly to indicate at the close whence Ahasuerus derived the means to support such magnificent state as was described at the beginning of our book. But the only safe answer is given us by the manner in which the author, in Esther 10:2, connects the power of Ahasuerus with the greatness of Mordecai: the greater the power of Ahasuerus, the more powerful the dignity of Mordecai. The land and the isles of the sea shows the extent of the monarch’s sway.
Esther 10:2.] The author does not designate either the wealth or the power of Ahasuerus or of Mordecai more minutely, but rather refers for particulars on both to the archives of the empire of the Medes and Persians. It is enough for him to be able to refer to these, and it is especially honourable for Mordecai’s cause, that even the archives of heathen kings must remember him.
Esther 10:3.] Here the author must once more give prominence to the fact that Mordecai, the Jew, who for him stands as the representative of Judaism, stood next to King Ahasuerus, since therefrom it follows that the greatness of the one was also that of the other. “The second” here means the first minister, and hence indicates that Mordecai was great among the Jews, and favoured among the multitude of his brethren, i.e. that he really occupied a representative position among them. The additional sentence also, seeking the wealth of his people, and speaking peace to all his seed, is quite in place here, in so far as it indicates that what came to Mordecai also redounded to the good of his entire people.—Lange.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH. Esther 10:1; Esther 10:3
A GOOD GOVERNMENT
Happy the people that live under the government of Queen Victoria, for it is, upon the whole, the best government that the world has ever seen. There is the due balance of powers. There may be evils, but there are fewer evils than can be found in any other government, past or present. It is not contended that it is perfect, for perfection is not to be expected in this sinful, selfish, and imperfect world. How good our government is may be seen by instituting a contrast between it and some ancient forms. The Persian government was far from perfect. No one would desire to see it repeated. It is not here to be placed before us as a model. But it is possible for these verses to gather together some of the characteristics of a good government. Let each subject strive to mend himself, and seek the wealth of his people, and thus he will subserve the best interests of the state at large.
I. A good government has a wise system of taxation. This is needful for the purposes of government. Ahasuerus laid a tribute upon the land, and upon the isles of the sea. He could not have managed without such a tribute. It may have been oppressive. A larger tribute may have been exacted than was actually needful, for he was luxurious, and had to support many retainers. A certain outward state seems essential to royalty in order to maintain a proper position. The incidence of taxation should fall equally and justly upon all classes, and upon all parts of the empire. The rich can bear a proportionately larger tax than the poor. The absolute necessaries of life should be free from taxation, as they are in Great Britain. Taxes ought to be freely paid, for this is the command of the New Testament. “Render therefore unto Cæsar the things that are Cæsar’s,” &c. “Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour.”
II. A good government makes its power felt. Weak and changeable as was Ahasuerus, still it is found that he was capable of acts of power and of might. Every good government is powerful, both at home and abroad. It must be, and will be, a terror to evil-doers; for to this end are all governments instituted. We can easily conceive that governments would not be required if there were no evildoers. How wonderful it is that this small island should be so powerful amongst the nations of the earth. It may be taken as a sign of God’s favour to our nation. It becomes us to appreciate our blessings, and be careful not to abuse our privileges. We must endeavour to use our power for the glory of God and for the highest welfare of the nations of the earth. May God in his mercy still preserve our nation, and forgive our national wrong-doings, and make it a still greater power for good.
III. A good government places good men in office. At last Ahasuerus has a good man for prime minister. Ahasuerus advanced Mordecai to greatness. This Jew became next unto the king. Mordecai was not a good man without capacity; his piety was not a cloak for imbecility. A mere outward profession of goodness ought not to be the passport to high places, either in Church or in State. A pious fool may be as injurious to the state as a wicked philosopher. A man, in order to be prime minister, ought to be both intellectually and morally strong. From all that we read in this record, Mordecai appears to be the right man in the right place when he was placed next unto King Ahasuerus. Oh for truly good and great men sitting at the helm of affairs, both civil and ecclesiastical! Men of commanding intellects, of noble hearts and true; men that dare to be and to do the right; men that shrink with abhorrence from all meanness and wrong-doing.
IV. A good government promotes the welfare of the people. Mordecai, as prime minister, sought and promoted the wealth or the welfare of his people, and through them the welfare of the people at large. This word “wealth” indicates a degenerating tendency. A man is now wealthy who possesses houses, lands, and money. Certainly outward prosperity will be the outcome of a good government. A country morally degenerate will not long remain prosperous. When vice increases, then the country declines; so that a government must seek the suppression of vice and the development of virtue if it is successfully to promote the wealth of the people. Godliness is after all great gain, both to the individual and to the community. A good government cannot be atheistic. Infidel rulers cannot increase the wealth of the people in any respect. National safety must consist in national acknowledgment of the Divine supremacy. Fear God; honour the king.
V. A good government strives to preserve peace. Mordecai, the prime minister, spoke peace to all his seed. We may be assured that the stern, repressive measures related in this narrative were intended for the promotion of peace and of the greater interests of the whole nation; for Mordecai was not the man to speak peace while war was in his heart. It may be sometimes necessary while speaking peace to carry out those measures that appear contrary to pacific professions. “Blessed are the peacemakers.” “If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.” There are then limitations; there are impossible men. Still, better to suffer a little than to destroy peace. But never let a so-called love of peace induce to the sacrifice of principle. The apostles were lovers of peace, but they produced hatred and commotion. The gospel is a pacificator, and yet it is a great divider.
VI. A good government is acceptable to a virtuous and enlightened people. Mordecai, the chief power in this Persian kingdom, was great among the Jews, and accepted of the multitude of his brethren. A government is firm as it is founded upon the respect and affection of the well-conducted portion of the subjects. We say well-conducted, for licentiousness spurns all government. Wickedness desires lawlessness; rebellion is for the most part wickedness. Blessed is the fact that our throne is buttressed by so many faithful and attached subjects. God’s government, rightly understood, will be acceptable to all people. It is a righteous government. In serving God we serve the best and most glorious King. Christ Jesus our King is wise, judicious, and loving. Happy are those who serve him on earth, and who shall be called to serve him when he shall have put down all opposing forces, and shall sway the glorious and beneficent sceptre of universal empire.
SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS ON Esther 10:1-2
Mordecai was good, very good, for he did good. This goodness made him truly great, and then his greatness gave him an opportunity of doing so much the more good. When the king advanced him—
1. He did not disown his people, the Jews, nor was he ashamed of his relation to them, though they were strangers and captives, dispersed and despised. Still he wrote himself Mordecai the Jew, and therefore no doubt adhered to the Jew’s religion, by the observances of which he distinguished himself, and yet it was no hindrance to his preferment, nor looked upon as a blemish to him.
2. He did not seek his own wealth, or the raising of an estate for himself and his family, which is the chief most aim at when they get into great places at court; but he consulted the welfare of his people, and made it his business to advance that. His power, his wealth, and all his interests in the king and queen he improved for the public good.
3. He not only did good, but he did it in a humble, condescending way; was so easy of access, courteous and affable in his behaviour, and spoke peace to all that made their application to him. Doing good works is the best and chief thing expected from those who have wealth and power; but giving good words is also commendable, and makes the good deed more acceptable.
4. He did not side with any one party of his people against another, nor make some his favourites, while the rest were neglected and crushed; but, whatever differences there were among them, he was a common father to them all, recommended himself to the multitude of his brethren, not despising the crowd, and spoke peace to all their seed, without distinction. Thus making himself acceptable by humility and beneficence, he was universally accepted, and gained the good word of all his brethren. Thanks be to God, such a government as this we are blessed with, which seeks the welfare of our people, speaking peace to all their seed. God continue it long, very long, and grant us, under the happy protection and influence of it, to live quiet and peaceable lives, in godliness, honesty, and charity!—Matthew Henry.
Whereunto the king advanced him. Whereunto the king greatened him; wherein he showed himself a wise and politic prince; as did likewise Pharaoh in advancing Joseph; Darius, Daniel; Constantius Chlorus, Christian officers; our Henry VIII., the Lord Cromwell, whom he made his vicar-general. Jovianus, the emperor, was wont to wish that he might govern wise men, and that wise men might govern him. Justin Martyr praiseth this sentence of divine Plato: Commonwealths will then be happy when either philosophers reign or kings study philosophy. Jethro’s justiciary must be a wise man, fearing God, &c. And that famous maxim of Constantius Chlorus, recorded by Eusebius, is very memorable: He cannot be faithful that is unfaithful to God, religion being the foundation of all true fidelity and loyalty to king and country.—Trapp.
“Mordecai, in order to vindicate the glory of God and his countrymen from the Hamanites, endured the hatred of many. He afflicted himself with fastings, prayers, sackcloth, cryings, and lamentations; he constantly spurned that impious man; and was at last adjudged to suffer on the ignominious cross. Now, however, by the singular favour of God, he is crowned beyond all men (Ahasuerus alone excepted) with glory and honour even in this world.”—Feuardent.
The concluding chapter of the Book of Esther refers to the greatness of Ahasuerus and his prime minister Mordecai. The king laid a tax upon every part of his dominions over which his power extended, both on the continent and on the islands under his dominion, which were all in the Ægean Sea. He did great things; but as it was not the design of the author of this history to record “the acts of his power and of his might,” reference is made by him to “the book of the chronicles of the kings of Media and Persia.” Where is this written record now? It has long since perished from the earth. Vast as was the empire of Persia itself, and apparently invincible, it fell, in fulfilment of the prophecy of Daniel, before the power of Greece. Is it not strange that these chronicles should have perished, and that this mighty empire should have been overthrown, and yet that the records of the kingdom of God among men should have been preserved; and that kingdom itself should not only have stood amidst the revolutions of empires, but should now be spreading over the whole earth? Have we not another proof in this that God specially guarded his own word from passing away from the earth? How otherwise should the Book of Esther not have shared the fate of the chronicles of Media and Persia? Have we not evidence also that his kingdom is an everlasting kingdom? How otherwise should it have withstood the assaults of its enemies, and not have suffered the fate of other empires? Books have perished by hundreds and thousands, but the oldest book is indestructible. The Babylonian, Persian, Grecian, and Roman empires have all had their day, and then been broken to pieces, but the most ancient kingdom of God among men is mightier than ever. As over that book we can read the words of its Divine Author, written, as though clasping it all, “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my Word shall not pass away;” so, in the contemplation of his Church, we can sing in the language of an old prediction—
“Its walls, defended by his grace,
No power shall e’er o’erthrow;
Salvation is its bulwark sure
Against th’ assailing foe.”
There is next a high eulogy passed upon Mordecai the Jew, especially in relation to his own kindred and people. He was “great amongst them.” Not the greatness merely of rank, station, and wealth, but highly esteemed also for those elements of character which constitute true nobility. He was “accepted of the multitude of his brethren.” He did not despise them. He did not disown his own relationship to them. He set them an excellent example of integrity and virtue. And because of his goodness and humility, as well as his greatness and power, they honoured and loved him. He sought “the wealth of his people;” did not, like his predecessor in office, enrich himself at the public expense, but in all his acts consulted their welfare. He did not look upon his own things only, but also on the things of others. He identified himself and his own interests with them and theirs, and generously helped forward, and rejoiced in, their prosperity and happiness. He “spake peace to all his seed.” He was accessible to all; kind and courteous; not favouring one party above another, but endeavouring to unite all parties in the bonds of a common faith and hope; regarding with equal solicitude and concern the rich and the poor, and extending his sympathies to all sections of the community. We have surveyed him in different situations and circumstances—seated at the king’s gate, and conscientiously resisting the king’s commandment to pay religious homage to a man; rushing through the streets of Shushan with sackcloth and ashes, as though half frantic with vexation and fear, after Haman’s iniquitous decree had been published; bravely counselling his cousin, and at her request spending three days in fasting and prayer; conducted through Shushan on the king’s horse, led by his enemy, arrayed in the king’s robe, and having the crown-royal upon his head; and afterwards formally installed in the office of Haman, and possessed of the king’s signet-ring; but throughout all these changes in his outward circumstances he seems to have maintained the same character. It was not so much to find him humble, kind, and dutiful, when his position was less honourable and his life imperilled. The danger lay in his exaltation. There are not many who could preserve themselves from becoming vain, worldly, and inflated, when suddenly elevated from a comparatively humble position, to a place in a great empire, next to the king himself. But in his elevation those admirable qualities, which had formerly had but a limited sphere for their exercise, were made to shine forth conspicuously. Not only were they matured and strengthened, but took in the wide range of all his people, making him honoured and loved whilst he lived, for his humility, goodness, fear of God, and wise counsel; and, through Divine grace, fashioning for himself a name worthy of veneration by all subsequent generations. “Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright: for the end of that man is peace.”—McEwen.
Sir John Malcolm tells us that the sepulchre of Esther and Mordecai stands near the centre of the city of Hamadan. It is a square building, terminated by a dome, with an inscription in Hebrew upon it, translated and sent to him by Sir Gore Ouseley, late ambassador to the court of Persia. It is as follows:—Thursday, fifteenth of the month Adar, in the year 4474 from the creation of the world, was finished the building of this temple over the graves of Esther and Mordecai, by the hands of the good-hearted brothers Eleas and Samuel, the sons of the deceased Ishmael of Kashon. The key of the tomb is always in the possession of the head of the Jews resident at Hamadan, and, doubtless, has been so preserved from the interment of the holy pair, when the grateful sons of the captivity, whose lives they had rescued from a universal massacre, first erected a monument over the remains of their benefactors, and obeyed the ordinance of gratitude, in making the anniversary of their preservation a lasting memorial of Heaven’s mercy, and the just faith of Esther and Mordecai.—Bible Cyclopædia.
ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTERS 9, 10
The Alpine Travellers. Three tourists were ascending the Alps. After they had gone a considerable distance, and were getting nearer to the eternal snows, and thus the danger increased, it was considered necessary to attach the company by ropes to one another and to the guides. But one of the tourists, an old traveller, was self-confident and self-reliant. He carried the doctrine of self-help too far, and refused to help his neighbours. He fell down the precipice and lost his life. We often best help ourselves by helping others.
Mutual help, need of. As an apple in the hand of a child makes other children run after and consort with him and share his sports, so does he convert affliction, and the need we have of each other’s aid, into a girdle of love, with which to bind us all together; just as no one country produces all commodities, in order that the different nations, by mutual traffic and commerce, may cultivate concord and friendship. How foolish they are who imagine that all the world stands in need of them, but they of nobody; that they know and understand all things, but others nothing; and that the wit of all mankind should be apprenticed to their wisdom.—Gotthold.
Whitfield. An old woman relates, that when she was a little girl Whitfield stayed at her father’s house. He was too much absorbed in his work to take much notice of, and pay much attention to, the little girl. She did not remember any of his eloquent utterances. She was, however, observant, and noticed the great preacher when he did not think that any one was observing his conduct. And the impression made upon her mind by his holy and cheerful demeanour, by his patience under trials and difficulties, and his evident consecration to his work, was of a most lasting and salutary character. Well were it if all great preachers would preach at home! We must be great in the palace of home, and then let our influence work outwards in all directions. Home religion is powerful.
The young Switzer. There was a young man among the Switzers that went about to usurp the government and alter their free state. Him they condemned to death, and appointed his father for executioner, as the cause of his evil education. But because Haman was hanged before, his sons (though dead) should now hang with him. If all fathers who had given an evil education to their sons were punished there would be a large increase of the criminal classes. At the present time the State is doing much in the way of educating; but the State cannot do that which is the proper duty of the parent. By precept, and even by the fear of penalty, should we enforce upon parents the duty of seeing faithfully to the true up-bringing of their children.
Faith of parents. An aged minister of Christ had several sons, all of whom became preachers of the Gospel but one. This one lived a life of dissipation for many years. But the good father’s faith failed not. He trusted God that his wicked son, trained up in the way he should go, in old age should not depart from it. In this sublime faith the aged father passed away. Five years after, this son of many prayers sat at the feet of Jesus.
Influence of parents. The last thing forgotten in all the recklessness of dissolute profligacy is the prayer or hymn taught by a mother’s lips, or uttered at a father’s knee; and where there seems to have been any pains bestowed, even by one parent, to train up a child aright, there is in general more than ordinary ground for hope.—The experience of a Prison Chaplain.
Says the venerable Dr. Spring: “The first afflicting thought to me on the death of my parents was, that I had lost their prayers.”
Great men Just as the traveller whom we see on yonder mountain height began his ascent from the plain, so the greatest man of whom the world can boast is but one of ourselves standing on higher ground, and in virtue of his wider intelligence, his nobler thoughts, his loftier character, his purer inspiration, or his more manly daring, claiming the empire as his right.—Hare.
True greatness. The truly great consider, first, how they may gain the approbation of God; and, secondly, that of their own consciences. Having done this they would willingly conciliate the good opinion of their fellow-men.—Cotton.
The greatest man is he who chooses the right with invincible resolution; who resists the sorest temptations from within and without; who bears the heaviest burdens cheerfully; who is the calmest in storms, and whose reliance on truth, on virtue, on God, is the most unfaltering.—Dr. Chening.
Distinguishing, great men. I think it is Warburton who draws a very just distinction between a man of true greatness and a mediocrist. “If,” says he, “you want to recommend yourself to the former, take care that he quits your society with a good opinion of you; if your object is to please the latter, take care that he leaves you with a good opinion of himself.”—Cotton.
Thus Mordecai was truly great, considering, first, how to gain the approbation of God; and, secondly, that of his own conscience. He rises above others by virtue of his wider intelligence, his nobler thoughts, his loftier character, and his more manly daring.
A good name. A name truly good is the aroma from character. It is a reputation of whatsoever things are honest, and lovely, and of good report. It is such a name as is not only remembered on earth, but written in heaven. Just as a box of spikenard is not only valuable to its possessor, but pre-eminently precious in its diffusion; so, when a name is really good, it is of unspeakable service to all who are capable of feeling its aspiration. Mordecai’s fame went out throughout all the provinces.—Dr. J. Hamilton.
Eastern hospitality. Nehemiah charges the people thus: “Go your way, eat the fat, and drink the sweet, and send portions unto them for whom nothing is prepared.” Also in Esther: “Therefore the Jews made the fourteenth day of the month Adar a day of gladness and feasting, and a good day, and of sending portions one to another.” An Oriental prince sometimes honours a friend or a favourite servant, who cannot conveniently attend at his table, by sending a mess to his own home. When the Grand Emir found that it incommoded D’Arvieux to eat with him, he politely desired him to take his own time for eating, and sent him what he liked from his kitchen at the time he chose. So that the above statements must not be restricted to the poor.—Paxton’s ‘Illustrations.’
The heaviest taxes. “The taxes are indeed heavy,” said Dr. Franklin on one occasion, and if those laid on by the Government were the only ones we had to pay, we might more easily discharge them; but we have many others, and much more grievous to some of us. We are taxed twice as much by our idleness, three times as much by our pride, and four times as much by our folly; and from these taxes the commissioners cannot ease or deliver us by allowing any abatement.
Safeguard of nations. France tried to go on without a God in the time of her first revolution; but Napoleon, for reasons of State, restored the Catholic religion. M. Thiers gives this singular passage in his history: “Napoleon said, ‘For my part, I never hear the sound of the church bell in the neighbouring village without emotion.’ ” He knew that the hearts of the people were stirred by the same deep yearnings after God which filled his own, and so he proposed to restore the worship of God to infidel France. Later, and with deeper meaning, Perrier, successor to Lafayette as prime minister to Louis Philippe, said on his death-bed, “France must have religion” (C. D. Fors). So we may say, the nations, if they are to live, must have religion.
Punishment of nations. It was a sound reply of an English captain at the loss of Calais, when a proud Frenchman scornfully demanded, “When will you fetch Calais again?” “When your sins shall weigh down ours.”—Brooks.
Nations. In one sense the providence of God is shown more clearly in nations than in individuals. Retribution can follow individuals into another state, but not so with nations; they have all their rewards and punishments in time.—D. Custine.
England’s privileges.—It’s the observation of a great politician, that England is a great animal which can never die unless it kill itself; answerable whereunto was the speech of Lord Rich, to the justices in the reign of king Edward VI: “Never foreign power,” said he, “could yet hurt, or in any part prevail, in this realm but by disobedience and disorder among ourselves; that is the way wherewith the Lord will plague us if he mind to punish us.” Polydor Virgil calls Regnum Angliæ, Regnum Dei, the kingdom of England, the kingdom of God, because God seems to take special care of it, as having walled it about with the ocean, and watered it with the upper and nether springs, like that land which Caleb gave his daughter. Hence it was called Albion, quasi Olbion, the happy country; “whose valleys,” saith Speed, “are like Eden, whose hills are as Lebanon, whose springs are as Pisgah, whose rivers are as Jordan, whose wall is the ocean, and whose defence is the Lord Jehovah.” Foreign writers have termed our country the Granary of the Western World, the Fortunate Island, the Paradise of Pleasure, and Garden of God.—Clarke’s ‘Examples.’
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Esther 10". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 22 / Ordinary 27