Now it came to pass in the days of Ahasuerus, (this is Ahasuerus which reigned, from India even unto Ethiopia, over an hundred and seven and twenty provinces:)Esther 1:1. In the days of Ahasuerus — Many suppose this king to have been Darius Hystaspes, for his kingdom was thus vast, and he subdued India, as Herodotus reports: and one of his wives was called Atossa, differing little from Hadassah, which is Esther’s other name, Esther 2:7. But the most likely opinion, and that which is approved by Josephus, the Septuagint, and the apocryphal additions to the book of Esther, is, that this Ahasuerus of the Scripture was Artaxerxes Longimanus, as he is called by the heathen writers. One thing is certain, that he was one of the Persian kings, and a successor of Cyrus the Great, for there was no such large empire in those parts, under one king, before Cyrus’s time.
That in those days, when the king Ahasuerus sat on the throne of his kingdom, which was in Shushan the palace,Esther 1:2. When Ahasuerus sat on the throne of his kingdom — Was settled in the quiet possession of it, enjoying peace and tranquillity throughout his large dominions; which was in Shushan the palace — “Which, after the conquest of the Medes, was made by Cyrus, and the rest of the Persian kings, the royal seat, that they might not be too far from Babylon. It stood upon the river Ulai, and was a place of such renown, that Strabo calls it, “a city most worthy to be praised,” informing us, that the whole country about it was amazingly fruitful, producing a hundred and sometimes two hundred fold. Darius Hystaspes enlarged and beautified it with a most magnificent palace, which Aristotle calls “a wonderful royal palace, shining with gold, amber, and ivory.” — Dodd. See Prideaux, and Calmet’s Dict. on the word Shushan.
In the third year of his reign, he made a feast unto all his princes and his servants; the power of Persia and Media, the nobles and princes of the provinces, being before him:Esther 1:3. Made a feast unto all his princes and his servants — By his servants are meant his subjects, who were called servants in the eastern countries. And it was the manner of the Roman emperors, sometimes to feast all the people of Rome, as well as the senate. The power of Persia and Media — The mighty men, the chief officers of state, and commanders of all his forces; whom, by this splendid entertainment, he endeavoured to oblige, and assure to himself. What the occasion of this feast was, is variously conjectured. Some think it was begun on his birth-day; but the next words seem to inform us, that it was to show his magnificent greatness to all his subjects; for in those countries they delighted much in making great feasts, as we read afterward that Alexander, when he was there, entertained four hundred captains, or great commanders, who all sat in silver chairs, &c.
When he shewed the riches of his glorious kingdom and the honour of his excellent majesty many days, even an hundred and fourscore days.Esther 1:4. Many days, even a hundred and fourscore days — Making every day a magnificent feast either for all his princes, or for some of them, who might come to the feast successively, as the king ordered them to do. The Persian feasts are much celebrated in authors for their length and luxury.
And when these days were expired, the king made a feast unto all the people that were present in Shushan the palace, both unto great and small, seven days, in the court of the garden of the king's palace;Esther 1:5. Made a feast unto all the people in Shushan — Not only to the inhabitants of Shushan, but to all that were then present in the city out of all parts of his dominions. In the court of the garden of the king’s palace — In the entrance of the royal palace. The Persian gardens were exceedingly large and pleasant.
Where were white, green, and blue, hangings, fastened with cords of fine linen and purple to silver rings and pillars of marble: the beds were of gold and silver, upon a pavement of red, and blue, and white, and black, marble.Esther 1:6. Where were white, green, and blue hangings — Set up like tents. The beds were of gold and silver — On which they sat, or rather lay, at their meat. The beds themselves, it is probable, were of the softest wool; but the bedsteads were of gold and silver, that is, studded with gold and silver, or overlaid with plates of them, as the fashion then was. Upon a pavement of red, and blue, and white, and black marble — The Hebrew words babat and shesh, and dar, and sochereth, signify several sorts of marble, as Bochart hath proved beyond contradiction.
And they gave them drink in vessels of gold, (the vessels being diverse one from another,) and royal wine in abundance, according to the state of the king.
And the drinking was according to the law; none did compel: for so the king had appointed to all the officers of his house, that they should do according to every man's pleasure.Esther 1:8. The drinking was according to the law — The Persians were at first, before they came to have such a great dominion, sober and temperate; but afterward they fell into the manner and luxury of the Medes and Lydians, and excited one another at their feasts to drinking. But upon this occasion the king ordered that there should be nothing of this sort, but every one should drink what he chose, without being challenged to go further, which was agreeable to some ancient law of the Persians, that none should compel another to drink more than he pleased. How does this heathen prince shame many that are called Christians, who think they do not make their friends welcome, unless they make them drunk; and, under pretence of sending the health round, send the sin round, and death with it!
Also Vashti the queen made a feast for the women in the royal house which belonged to king Ahasuerus.Esther 1:9. Also Vashti the queen made a feast for the women — While the king entertained the men. For this was the common custom of the Persians, that men and women did not feast together. In the royal house — Not in the open air, as the men were, but more privately, as was fit for women.
On the seventh day, when the heart of the king was merry with wine, he commanded Mehuman, Biztha, Harbona, Bigtha, and Abagtha, Zethar, and Carcas, the seven chamberlains that served in the presence of Ahasuerus the king,
To bring Vashti the queen before the king with the crown royal, to shew the people and the princes her beauty: for she was fair to look on.
But the queen Vashti refused to come at the king's commandment by his chamberlains: therefore was the king very wroth, and his anger burned in him.Esther 1:12. The queen Vashti refused to come — Being favoured in this refusal by the law of Persia, which was, to keep men’s wives, and especially queens, from the view of other men. His anger burned in him — It was the more immoderate, because his blood was heated with wine, which made his passion too strong for his reason. Otherwise he would not have thought it decent for the queen, nor safe for himself, to have her beauty, which was very great, exposed in this unusual manner, and would have thought she had acted prudently in refusing.
Then the king said to the wise men, which knew the times, (for so was the king's manner toward all that knew law and judgment:Esther 1:13. Which knew the times — The histories of former times, what princes had done in such cases as this was, and were well skilled in the laws and customs of their country, and were therefore able to give the king counsel in all extraordinary and perplexed cases. Inasmuch, however, as the Persian kings did nothing without their magi, or wise men, who were great pretenders to astrology, some have supposed that men of this sort were now called in, to know whether it was a proper time to do what the king had in his mind.
And the next unto him was Carshena, Shethar, Admatha, Tarshish, Meres, Marsena, and Memucan, the seven princes of Persia and Media, which saw the king's face, and which sat the first in the kingdom;)Esther 1:14. Which saw the king’s face — Who had constant freedom of access to the king, and opportunities of familiar converse with him; which is thus expressed, because the Persian kings were very seldom seen by their subjects. Who sat the first in the kingdom — Who were his chief counsellors and officers.
What shall we do unto the queen Vashti according to law, because she hath not performed the commandment of the king Ahasuerus by the chamberlains?
And Memucan answered before the king and the princes, Vashti the queen hath not done wrong to the king only, but also to all the princes, and to all the people that are in all the provinces of the king Ahasuerus.Esther 1:16. Vashti the queen hath done wrong to all the princes, &c. — By giving their wives an example and encouragement to contemn and disobey their husbands. It is a crime of a high nature, and therefore deserves an exemplary punishment.
For this deed of the queen shall come abroad unto all women, so that they shall despise their husbands in their eyes, when it shall be reported, The king Ahasuerus commanded Vashti the queen to be brought in before him, but she came not.
Likewise shall the ladies of Persia and Media say this day unto all the king's princes, which have heard of the deed of the queen. Thus shall there arise too much contempt and wrath.Esther 1:18. Thus shall there arise too much contempt and wrath — Contempt in the wives, and thereupon wrath in the husbands, and consequently strife in families, which may produce great and general mischiefs.
If it please the king, let there go a royal commandment from him, and let it be written among the laws of the Persians and the Medes, that it be not altered, That Vashti come no more before king Ahasuerus; and let the king give her royal estate unto another that is better than she.Esther 1:19. If it please the king — Which this cunning politician knew it would do. That it be not altered — Which caution was necessary for his own security, lest the king’s anger should cool, and the queen should recover her former state, and the king’s favour, in which case this lord would, most likely, have fallen under his displeasure: but the order being once registered as a law of the kingdom, the king could not alter his decree without disgracing himself.
And when the king's decree which he shall make shall be published throughout all his empire, (for it is great,) all the wives shall give to their husbands honour, both to great and small.Esther 1:20-21. All the wives shall give to their husbands honour, &c. — None will dare to disobey, when they hear that the greatness of the queen could not preserve her from such a heavy punishment. The saying pleased the king and the princes — Partly because their own authority and interest were concerned in it; and especially by the singular providence of God, who designed to bring about his own great work by this small occasion.
And the saying pleased the king and the princes; and the king did according to the word of Memucan:
For he sent letters into all the king's provinces, into every province according to the writing thereof, and to every people after their language, that every man should bear rule in his own house, and that it should be published according to the language of every people.Esther 1:22. That it should be published according to the language of every people — That all sorts of persons, not men only, but women also, might understand it, and therefore be inexcusable if they did not comply with it.