After these things, when the wrath of king Ahasuerus was appeased, he remembered Vashti, and what she had done, and what was decreed against her.
These events must belong to the time between the great assembly held at Susa in Xerxes' third year (483 B.C.), and the departure of the monarch on his expedition against Greece in his fifth year, 481 B.C.
Then said the king's servants that ministered unto him, Let there be fair young virgins sought for the king:
And let the king appoint officers in all the provinces of his kingdom, that they may gather together all the fair young virgins unto Shushan the palace, to the house of the women, unto the custody of Hege the king's chamberlain, keeper of the women; and let their things for purification be given them:
The house of the women - i. e. the "gynaeceon," or "haram" - always an essential part of an Oriental palace (Compare 1 Kings 7:8). In the Persian palaces it was very extensive, since the monarchs maintained, besides their legitimate wives, as many as 300 or 400 concubines (compare Esther 2:14).
And let the maiden which pleaseth the king be queen instead of Vashti. And the thing pleased the king; and he did so.
Now in Shushan the palace there was a certain Jew, whose name was Mordecai, the son of Jair, the son of Shimei, the son of Kish, a Benjamite;
Mordecai, the eunuch Esther 2:7, Esther 2:11, has been conjectured to be the same as Matacas, who, according to Ctesias, was the most powerful of the eunuchs during the latter portion of the reign of Xerxes. Mordecai's line of descent is traced from a certain Kish, carried off by Nebuchadnezzar in 598 B.C. - the year of Jeconiah's captivity - who was his great-grandfather. The four generations, Kish, Shimei, Jair, Mordecai, correspond to the known generations in other cases, for example:
High priests kings of Persia Royal stock of Judah Seraiah Cambyses Jeconiah Jozadak Cyrus Salathiel Jeshua Darius Zerubbabel Joiakim Xerxes Hananiah
The age of Mordecai at the accession of Xerxes may probably have been about 30 or 40; that of Esther, his first cousin, about 20.
Who had been carried away from Jerusalem with the captivity which had been carried away with Jeconiah king of Judah, whom Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon had carried away.
And he brought up Hadassah, that is, Esther, his uncle's daughter: for she had neither father nor mother, and the maid was fair and beautiful; whom Mordecai, when her father and mother were dead, took for his own daughter.
Hadassah, הדסה hădassâh from הדס hădas ("myrtle") would seem to have been the Hebrew, and Esther the Persian, name of the damsel. Esther is thought to be connected through the Zend with ἀστήρ astēr, "star." But there is not at present any positive evidence of the existence in Old Persian of a kindred word.
So it came to pass, when the king's commandment and his decree was heard, and when many maidens were gathered together unto Shushan the palace, to the custody of Hegai, that Esther was brought also unto the king's house, to the custody of Hegai, keeper of the women.
And the maiden pleased him, and she obtained kindness of him; and he speedily gave her her things for purification, with such things as belonged to her, and seven maidens, which were meet to be given her, out of the king's house: and he preferred her and her maids unto the best place of the house of the women.
Esther had not shewed her people nor her kindred: for Mordecai had charged her that she should not shew it.
The Persians had no special contempt for the Jews; but, of course, they despised more or less all the subject races. Esther, with her Aryan name, may have passed for a native Persian.
And Mordecai walked every day before the court of the women's house, to know how Esther did, and what should become of her.
Mordecai occupied, apparently, a humble place in the royal household. He was probably one of the porters or doorkeepers at the main entrance to the palace Esther 2:21.
Now when every maid's turn was come to go in to king Ahasuerus, after that she had been twelve months, according to the manner of the women, (for so were the days of their purifications accomplished, to wit, six months with oil of myrrh, and six months with sweet odours, and with other things for the purifying of the women;)
Then thus came every maiden unto the king; whatsoever she desired was given her to go with her out of the house of the women unto the king's house.
In the evening she went, and on the morrow she returned into the second house of the women, to the custody of Shaashgaz, the king's chamberlain, which kept the concubines: she came in unto the king no more, except the king delighted in her, and that she were called by name.
The second house of the women - i. e. Esther returned to the "house of the women," but not to the same part of it. She became an inmate of the "second house," or "house of the concubines," under the superintendence of a distinct officer, Shaashgaz.
Now when the turn of Esther, the daughter of Abihail the uncle of Mordecai, who had taken her for his daughter, was come to go in unto the king, she required nothing but what Hegai the king's chamberlain, the keeper of the women, appointed. And Esther obtained favour in the sight of all them that looked upon her.
She required nothing - The other virgins perhaps loaded themselves with precious ornaments of various kinds, necklaces, bracelets, earrings, anklets, and the like. Esther let Hegai dress her as he would.
So Esther was taken unto king Ahasuerus into his house royal in the tenth month, which is the month Tebeth, in the seventh year of his reign.
Tebeth (compare the corresponding Egyptian month, "Tobi" or "Tubi"), corresponded nearly to our January.
In the seventh year of his reign - In December, 479 B.C., or January, 478 B.C. Xerxes quitted Sardis for Susa in, or soon after, September, 479 B.C. It has been regarded as a "difficulty" that Vashti's place, declared vacant in 483 B.C., was not supplied until the end of 479 B.C., four years afterward. But since two years out of the four had been occupied by the Grecian expedition, the objection cannot be considered very weighty.
And the king loved Esther above all the women, and she obtained grace and favour in his sight more than all the virgins; so that he set the royal crown upon her head, and made her queen instead of Vashti.
Then the king made a great feast unto all his princes and his servants, even Esther's feast; and he made a release to the provinces, and gave gifts, according to the state of the king.
A release - Either remission of taxation, or of military service, or of both.
And when the virgins were gathered together the second time, then Mordecai sat in the king's gate.
When the virgins ... - Rather, "when virgins" etc. The words begin a new paragraph. There was a second collection of virgins (after that of Esther 2:8), and it was at the time of this second collection that Mordecai had the good fortune to save the king's life.
Esther had not yet shewed her kindred nor her people; as Mordecai had charged her: for Esther did the commandment of Mordecai, like as when she was brought up with him.
In those days, while Mordecai sat in the king's gate, two of the king's chamberlains, Bigthan and Teresh, of those which kept the door, were wroth, and sought to lay hand on the king Ahasuerus.
Conspiracies inside the palace were ordinary occurrences in Persia. Xerxes was ultimately murdered by Artabanus, the captain of the guard, and Aspamitras, a chamberlain and eunuch.
And the thing was known to Mordecai, who told it unto Esther the queen; and Esther certified the king thereof in Mordecai's name.
And when inquisition was made of the matter, it was found out; therefore they were both hanged on a tree: and it was written in the book of the chronicles before the king.
Both hanged on a tree - i. e. "crucified" or "impaled" the ordinary punishment of rebels and traitors in Persia.
The book of the chronicles - Ctesias drew his Persian history from them, and they are often glanced at by Herodotus.