Notes & Commentary:
Ver. 1. From India to Ethiopia. That is, who reigneth from India to Ethiopia. (Challoner) — St. Jerome writes, “The copy of the letter of king Artaxerxes, which he wrote in favour of the Jews, to all the provinces of his kingdom, which also is not in the Hebrew volume.” It should properly occur, chap viii. 13, as it does in Greek. The edict is well written in that language, which has induced a belief that it is not a translation. (Calmet) — But that is no very strong argument. (Haydock)
Ver. 2. Princes. Greek, “Beneficent,” Luke xxii. 25. (Calmet) — Greek, “Many of those who have been the most honoured by the kindness of the beneficent, have increased in folly, and not only endeavour to injure our subjects, but, unable to hear the weight of favours, devise schemes against their benefactors.”
Ver. 4. Neither. Greek, “And they not only take away gratitude from among men, but elated with good fortune, which they had not before experienced, they flatter themselves that they will escape the sentence of an all-seeing God, levelled against the wicked.” (Haydock) — Artaxerxes insists with reason on the ingratitude of Aman, as it was a crime punishable by their laws; (Cyrop. i.; Brisson ii. p. 250.) and the Persian kings were particularly careful to reward those who had done them good. (Calmet)
Ver. 5. And. Greek, “For oftentimes fair speeches, or (Haydock) revenge, (paramuthia. Isaias i. 24. Calmet) has made several of those who have been in authority, and entrusted with the affairs of their friends, partakers in the spilling of innocent blood, and involved them in irremediable calamities, by the wicked craft of those who purposely lead astray the unsuspecting benevolence of governors.” (Haydock) — Josephus ([Antiquities?] xi. 3.) gives nearly the same sense: (Calmet) “For some of these, being placed in power by their friends, and bearing a private hatred towards some, have deluded their princes by false reasons, and by accusations have persuaded them to stir up the wrath of those who have done no wrong; on which account, they have been in danger of perishing.” This author was not, therefore, unacquainted with the fragment, or part of the history, before us. (Haydock)
Ver. 7. Proved. Greek, “may be seen, not so much from ancient histories, as we have observed, but more so, if ye examine what wicked things have been done recently, by the fault (or cruelty) of those who have been unworthily in command: and if ye attend, in future, that we may without trouble settle our kingdom in peace for all men. For though we make some changes, yet we make a discernment of what falls under our inspection, and order things with more equity.” He intimates that the former decree of Aman had been subreptitious.
Ver. 10. Now. Greek, “For as Aman, of Amadathos, a Macedonian, a stranger to the real blood of the Persians, and of a very different character from our goodness, and who, though a stranger to us, partook of that philanthropy which we have for every nation, insomuch as to be styled,” &c. (Haydock) — At this time the Macedonians were hardly known. (Capellus) — But this may be questioned, as their kingdom was of ancient date. (Houbigant) — Some think that the Asiatic Macedonians may be designated. (Hardouin.) (Pliny, [Natural History?] v. 30, 31.) — These, however, may have been so called only after the conquests of Alexander. This king fought against the Greeks, of whom the Macedonians formed a part. (Tirinus) — The name may here be placed only for a stranger. (Calmet) — Staining. The faults of ministers often redound to the disgrace of those who employ them. (Menochius)
Ver. 12. Life. This he might only suspect; (Calmet) or his machinations with the two porters, might be declared after his disgrace. (Haydock) — Capellus thinks it improbable that Aman intended to murder the queen, as he was so much elated at being invited by her to a feast, &c. But his schemes were various: (Houbigant) and who can pretend to say what would have satisfied his cruelty and ambition? (Haydock)
Ver. 14. Without. Greek, “abandoned.” (Haydock) — Macedonians; or to himself, who was of that nation. It was not necessary to call over forces, as Capellus would suppose.
Ver. 16. God. Cyrus had styled him, “the God of heaven.” (Houbigant) (1 Esdras i.) (Haydock) — But Darius embraced the true religion, and adored God. (Tirinus) — Fathers. “Hystaspes was not a descendant of Cyrus, but he was of the same royal stock.” (Just. i.) (Herodotus iii. 85.) — And is. Greek, “by the best disposition. You will therefore do well not to make use of the letter, sent by Aman.” The edict could not be repealed; (Capellus; Houbigant) though this seems doubtful, when it was manifestly subreptitious, (Menochius) unjust, and not sealed by the nobles. (Calmet)
Ver. 18. Gibbets. Aman was thus treated, several months before his ten sons, chap. vii. 10., and ix. 6. Yet all the family might still be seen hanging, when this edict was dispatched. Houbigant suspects that this and the following verses properly belong to the letter written by Esther and Mardochai. The arguments are not very cogent. (Haydock)
Ver. 19. Laws. This was privilege often desired. (Josephus, [Antiquities?] xiii.4.)
Ver. 20. Kill. Greek, “take revenge on those who in the day of distress shall fall upon them, on the 13th.”
Ver. 21. Sadness. Greek, “destruction of his chosen race, into,” &c. (Haydock)
Ver. 22. Days. A festival was kept in memory of the destruction of the magi, in which this king was a principal actor. (Herodotus iii. 79.) — The Persians were ordered to keep the 13th of Adar, on account of the preservation of the royal family, and the ruin of a great enemy. (Calmet)
Ver. 23. All. Greek, “Salvation is to us, and to all well-affected Persians: but a memorial of destruction to all who are traitors to us.”
Ver. 24. And. Greek, “But every country or city throughout the kingdom, which shall not comply, shall be consumed with the spear and fire in wrath.” — Beasts. Greek adds hyperbolically, “and birds, and also be accounted most abominable for ever.” (Haydock) — Similar expressions occur in the prophets, to denote an entire destruction, Jeremias ix. 10., &c. Mardochai and Esther have left us in this work the most perfect example of virtue. The latter is given as a pattern of Christian sovereigns, and a figure of the Church. (St. Jerome ad Paulin. (Calmet) and prol. in Sophonias) — Like Judith, she proved the salvation of her people, and the ruin of their adversaries. Nothing could be more striking, (Worthington) or visible, than the hand of God in these transactions. (Haydock) — Esther was also a type of the blessed Virgin [Mary], by whose intercession the head of the serpent is crushed, and letters of grace succeed to the hand-writing that stood against us. (St. Thomas Aquinas, prol. in ep. Cath.) (Worthington)
Bible Text & Cross-references:
A copy of the king’s letter in favour of the Jews.
1 The great king Artaxerxes, *from India to Ethiopia, to the governors and princes of a hundred and twenty-seven provinces, which obey our command, sendeth greeting.
2 Many *have abused unto pride the goodness of princes, and the honour that hath been bestowed upon them:
3 And not only endeavour to oppress the king’s subjects, but not bearing the glory that is given them, take in hand to practise also against them that gave it.
4 Neither are they content not to return thanks for benefits received, and to violate in themselves the laws of humanity, but they think they can also escape the justice of God, who seeth all things.
5 And they break out into so great madness, as to endeavour to undermine by lies such as observe diligently the offices committed to them, and do all things in such manner as to be worthy of all men’s praise.
6 While with crafty fraud they deceive the ears of princes that are well-meaning, and judge of others by their own nature.
7 Now this is proved both from ancient histories, and by the things which are done daily, how the good designs of kings are depraved by the evil suggestions of certain men.
8 Wherefore we must provide for the peace of all provinces.
9 Neither must you think, if we command different things, that it cometh of the levity of our mind, but that we give sentence according to the quality and necessity of times, as the profit of the commonwealth requireth.
10 Now that you may more plainly understand what we say, *Aman, the son of Amadathi, a Macedonian, both in mind and country, and having nothing of the Persian blood, but with his cruelty staining our goodness, was received, being a stranger, by us:
11 And found our humanity so great toward him, that he was called our father, and was worshipped by all, as the next man after the king:
12 But he was so far puffed up with arrogancy, as to go about to deprive us of our kingdom and life.
13 For with certain new and unheard of device,s he hath sought the destruction of Mardochai, by whose fidelity, and good services, our life was saved; and of Esther, the partner of our kingdom, with all their nation:
14 Thinking that after they were slain, he might work treason against us, left alone, without friends, and might transfer the kingdom of the Persians to the Macedonians.
15 But we have found that the Jews, who were, by that most wicked man, appointed to be slain, are in no fault at all, but, contrariwise, use just laws,
16 And are the children of the highest, and the greatest, and the ever-living God; by whose benefit the kingdom was given, both to our fathers and to us, and is kept unto this day.
17 Wherefore know ye that those letters which he sent in our name, are void, and of no effect.
18 For which crime both he himself that devised it, and all his kindred, hang on gibbets, before the gates of this city, Susan: not we, but God, repaying him as he deserved.
19 But this edict, which we now send, shall be published in all cities, that the Jews may freely follow their own laws.
20 And you shall aid them, that they may kill those who had prepared themselves to kill them, on the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, which is called Adar.
21 For the Almighty God hath turned this day of sadness and mourning into joy to them.
22 Wherefore, you shall also count this day among other festival days, and celebrate it with all joy, that it may be known also in times to come,
23 That all they who faithfully obey the Persians, receive a worthy reward for their fidelity: but they that are traitors to their kingdom, are destroyed for their wickedness.
24 And let every province and city, that will not be partaker of this solemnity, perish by the sword, and by fire, and be destroyed in such manner as to be made unpassable, both to men and beasts, for an example of contempt, and disobedience.
1: Esther xi. 2.
2: Esther iii. 10.
10: Esther iii. 1.