Esther iv.

Notes & Commentary:

Ver. 1. Shewing. Septuagint, old Vulgate, and Josephus, “a nation which has done no wrong, is to be cut off.” The eastern nations were accustomed to such marks of sorrow, Jonas ii. 6. The citizens of Susa tore their garments, and cried aloud, for many days after the defeat of Xerxes. (Herodotus viii. 98.) — The domestics of Darius and Alexander tore also their hair, &c., after their masters’ death. (Curtius iii., and xi.)

Ver. 2. Sackcloth. Greek adds, “and ashes.” Such an appearance was deemed disrespectful. God forbids his priests to act thus, Leviticus xxi.. 1. See Genesis xli. 14. Yet the miserable ought not to be entirely excluded from the king’s presence, as he ought to be their protector.

Ver. 3. Edict. Literally, “dogma;” (Haydock) a word used in this sense, (Acts xv. 16.) and by Demosthenes, &c. (Tirinus) — Mourning. The most effectual means of redress, is to do works of penance for past transgressions, 1 Corinthians xi. 31. (Worthington)

Ver. 4. Her, concerning the unusual distress of one of the courtiers. They knew not, (Menochius) perhaps, that he was related to her. (Haydock)

Ver. 7. Money. Hebrew, “the sum of money.” Septuagint, “ten thousand talents.”

Ver. 8. Entreat. Septuagint, “to put in a counter-petition, and entreat,” &c. — People. Septuagint add, “and country, remembering the days of thy lowly state, how thou wast fed by my hand; for Aman, the second after the king, has spoken against us, to have us destroyed. Call then upon the Lord, and speak to the king for us, and rescue us from death.” (Haydock) — This servant must have been very trusty, as the secret was confided to him, respecting the nation to which the queen belonged. (Menochius)

Ver. 11. Inner court, with regard to many others around, though there was one still more retired, (Tirinus) where the king alone could enter. This admitted the light only by the door, before which hung a curtain, so that the king could see (Calmet) who came into the hall of audience, (Haydock) without being seen. None durst come even to this antichamber, without being called. It was also death to appear with their hands out of their sleeves, (Cyrop. ii.) or to sit down, (Diod. xvii.) or look at any of the king’s wives in the face, &c. (Plut. Artax.) — This gloomy retirement was intended to keep up the idea of his majesty being something more than man. (Haydock) — Apud Persas persona regis, sub specie majestatis, occulitur. (Justin. i.) — The king’s secret cabinet (Calmet) resembled, in magnificence, (chap. xv. 9.) the description which Ovid has given us of the palace of the sun. (Tirinus) — It was covered with gold and precious stones. Here he continued, almost inaccessible, and business was despatched slowly. (Calmet) — Agesilaus, king of Sparta, shewed how ridiculous these customs were, by acting quite the reverse, appearing frequently among his subjects, and granting their just requests without delay. (Xenophon) — Thirty. She might apprehend that the king’s affection was beginning to cool. God was pleased thus to try her the more. (Haydock)

Ver. 13. Only. Aman would contrive to effect her ruin with the rest.

Ver. 14. Occasion. Wonderful confidence! Greek, “if thou wilt not hearken (Calmet; to me; (Haydock) or, if thou obstinately despise) at this time, the Jews shall be assisted and protected by some,” &c. (Haydock) — As this. So Joseph was raised, in Egypt, (Calmet) that he might save all his family. (Haydock)

Ver. 16. Pray. Hebrew, “fast.” They might take some refreshment in the evening, (Lyranus) of dried meats. (Josephus) (Grotius) — Few constitutions could have done without any thing. Yet after two nights and one full day were elapsed, Esther ventured to go to the king, chap. v. 1. We have here another instance of places for prayer, Judith vi. 21. The old Vulgate has, “publish a fast, and tell the ancients to fast. Let the infants be kept from the breast during the night, and let no food be given to the oxen and other animals, while I and my maids shall fast,” &c. Then at the end of this chapter, in the Septuagint, follow the prayers of Mardochai and of Esther, (chap. xiii. 8., and chap. xiv.; Haydock) which is their proper place. (Calmet)

Bible Text & Cross-references:

Mardochai desireth Esther to petition the king for the Jews. They join in fasting and prayer.

1 Now when Mardochai had heard these things, he rent his garments, and put on sackcloth, strewing ashes on his head: and he cried with a loud voice in the street, in the midst of the city, shewing the anguish of his mind.

2 And he came, lamenting in this manner, even to the gate of the palace: for no one clothed with sackcloth might enter the king’s court.

3 And in all provinces, towns, and places, to which the king’s cruel edict was come, there was great mourning among the Jews, with fasting, wailing, and weeping, many using sackcloth and ashes for their bed.

4 Then Esther’s maids, and her eunuchs, went in, and told her. And when she heard it, she was in a consternation: and she sent a garment, to clothe him, and to take away the sackcloth; but he would not receive it.

5 And she called for Athach, the eunuch, whom the king had appointed to attend upon her, and she commanded him to go to Mardochai, and to learn of him, why he did this.

6 And Athach going out, went to Mardochai, who was standing in the street of the city, before the palace gate:

7 And Mardochai told him all that had happened, how Aman had promised to pay money into the king’s treasures to have the Jews destroyed.

8 He gave him, also, a copy of the edict which was hanging up in Susan, that he should shew it to the queen, and admonish her to go in to the king, and to entreat him for her people.

9 And Athach went back and told Esther all that Mardochai had said.

10 She answered him, and bade him say to Mardochai:

11 All the king’s servants, and all the provinces that are under his dominion, know that whosoever, whether man or woman, cometh into the king’s inner court, who is not called for, is immediately to be put to death without any delay: except the king shall hold out the golden sceptre to him, in token of clemency, that so he may live. How then can I go in to the king, who, for these thirty days now, have not been called unto him?

12 And when Mardochai had heard this,

13 He sent word to Esther again, saying: Think not that thou mayst save thy life only, because thou art in the king’s house, more than all the Jews:

14 For if thou wilt now hold thy peace, the Jews shall be delivered by some other occasion: and thou, and thy father’s house shall perish. And who knoweth whether thou art not, therefore, come to the kingdom, that thou mightest be ready in such a time as this?

15 And again Esther sent to Mardochai in these words:

16 Go, and gather together all the Jews whom thou shalt find in Susan, and pray ye for me. Neither eat, nor drink, for three days and three nights: and I, with my handmaids, will fast in like manner, and then I will go in to the king, against the law, not being called, and expose myself to death and to danger.

17 So Mardochai went, and did all that Esther had commanded him.