Esther 1
Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
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:)
Chap. Esther 1:1-9. The great feast given by Ahasuerus at Susa

1. Now it came to pass] Heb. And it came to pass. ‘And’ is a strange word with which to begin a book. In the case of similar openings to other historical Books (Joshua, Judges, etc.) it implies the continuation of a former narrative. Here, on the other hand, as probably at the commencement of Ezekiel and Jonah, it only denotes a connexion in the writer’s own mind with preceding history in general or with the period of Ahasuerus in particular. It may even have become established as an opening formula, irrespective of its strict applicability.

Ahasuerus] The Heb. Aḥashvçrôsh represents the Persian Khshayarsha (mighty eye, or, mighty man), whence was derived the Greek Xerxes, who is no doubt the monarch intended. The Ahasuerus of this Book has indeed been identified with (a) Cambyses (b.c. 529), father of Darius Hystaspes, on the strength of Daniel 9:1, a passage, however, which in reality lends no aid to this hypothesis (see Driver in Camb. Bible, ad loc.), or (b) Artaxerxes Longimanus, the son and successor of Xerxes (b.c. 465–425), with whom the LXX., followed by Josephus, identifies him, or (c) Cyaxares, a Median ruler, or (d) ‘Darius the Mede’ of Daniel 5:31 (where see note in Camb. Bible).

The last two identifications may be at once dismissed. Ahasuerus was evidently a king of Persia, as is shewn by the extent of his dominions as well as from other considerations, such as the whole atmosphere of the Book. Moreover (b) is precluded by the Hebrew, which uses the form Artaḥshashta for Artaxerxes (Ezra 4:7). Accordingly there can be little or no doubt that Xerxes (b.c. 485–465), conspicuous in history for the defeat of his gigantic armaments at Salamis (b.c. 480) and Plataea (479), is the king of whom we here read. Further, (i) the capricious and sensual character of Ahasuerus corresponds with the notices of Xerxes in Herodotus (ix. 108 ff.), (ii) the extent of his empire agrees with the account here, (iii) the gathering at Susa in the third year of his reign (Esther 1:3) harmonises with the statement of Herodotus (vii. 8) that after Xerxes’ subjugation of Egypt there was a great assembly of satraps at Susa to make arrangements for the attack on Greece about two years later, while the interval of four years between Vashti’s disgrace and Esther’s promotion (Esther 2:16) leaves time for the king’s return from that ill-fated expedition to comfort himself for its ignominious ending with sensual gratifications.

from India even unto Ethiopia] The word in the original for India (Hôddu) appears to represent the Persian Hidush. Both have lost the n which has been retained by the Greek (LXX. τῆς Ἰνδικῆς), and so (through the Latin) by ourselves. The name was originally confined to the land watered by the seven streams of the Indus, and was later extended eastward and southward. Ethiopia, here and elsewhere, is the Heb. Cush.

an hundred and seven and twenty provinces] The satrapies into which the Persian Empire was divided were, according to Herodotus (iii. 89), at first but twenty. The Heb. word here, however, (mědînâh) denotes a subdivision of the satrapy, so that the large number given in the text may be quite accurate. The later Aramaic paraphrase (Targum Shçnî, or second Targum; see Introd. p. xxxiii) fancifully connects the number of the provinces over which Ahasuerus was permitted by God to rule with the fact that he was destined to take for his queen a descendant of Sarah who lived a hundred and twenty-seven years (see Genesis 23:1).

That in those days, when the king Ahasuerus sat on the throne of his kingdom, which was in Shushan the palace,
2. Shushan the palace] i.e. Susa. Ecbatana, Babylon, Persepolis, and Susa were all places of sojourn for the Persian court for longer or shorter periods.

‘Shushan the palace,’ which is to be distinguished from ‘Shushan the city’ (Esther 9:13-15) was built by Darius, father of Xerxes, on the same plan as the palace at Persepolis. The city of Susa was cut in two by a wide river, anciently called the Choaspes, and now known under the name of Ab-Kharkha. The populous quarters on the right bank are now marked by hardly perceptible undulations of the plain; on the left, the royal city, the citadel, and the palace. “Three huge mounds, forming a rhomboidal mass, 4500 feet long from N. to S., and 3000 feet broad from E. to W., are a standing witness to the size and magnificence of the buildings which formed the ancient citadel or acropolis,” Driver in Camb. Bible on Daniel 8:27.

M. Dieulafoy, a French architect and engineer, in 1884–6 carried out important excavations at Susa, and brought to light many interesting features, recovering the plan of the citadel, and extensive remains of the buildings of which it consisted. “Artaxerxes, in an inscription found on one of the columns, says: ‘My ancestor Darius built this Apadâna in ancient times. In the reign of Artaxerxes, my grandfather, it was consumed by fire. By the grace of Ahuramazda, Anaïtis, and Mithras, I have restored this Apadâna.’ An Apadâna was a large hall or throne-room. The Apadâna of Susa stood on the N. of the Acropolis: it formed a square of about 250 feet each way. The roof (which consisted of rafters and beams of cedar, brought from Lebanon) was supported by 36 columns in rows of six; the sides and back were composed of walls of brick, each pierced by four doors; the front of the hall was open. The columns were slender shafts of limestone, delicately fluted, and topped by magnificently carved capitals. In front of the hall, on each side, was a pylon or colonnade, with a frieze at the top 12 feet high, formed of beautifully enamelled bricks, the one decorated by a procession of lions, the other by a procession of ‘Immortals,’ the armed life-guards of the Persian kings. A garden surrounded the Apadâna, and in front of it on the south, was a large square for military manœuvres, etc. Adjoining it, on the east, was a large block of buildings forming the royal harem (the ‘house of the women’ of Esther 2:3, etc.): south of this was the royal palace, with a court in the centre (Esther 4:11; Esther 5:1). The entire acropolis covered an area of 300 acres.[55]”

[55] Driver, ibid. who also points out that in one of the galleries of the Louvre, Paris, several rooms are devoted to sculptures, etc., brought from Susa, and to a restoration of parts of the Apadâna. He refers, among other works, to Dieulafoy, L’Acropole de Suse, Mme Dieulafoy, A Suse, Journal des Fouilles, and La Perse, la Chaldée, et la Susiane, Chap. xxxix., all with illustrations and maps.

The word bîrâh translated ‘palace’ (marg. castle) probably includes the idea of a stronghold as well as a royal residence, and in fact seems to have a still wider application in Esther 9:6, where see note. The king’s place of residence is indicated by a different expression in Esther 1:5, Esther 2:8, Esther 4:13, Esther 7:7-8. Benjamin of Tudela, a Spanish-Hebrew traveller in the East in the 12th century (ed. Asher, London and Berlin, 1840, i. 117), mentions visiting the ruins of Xerxes’ palace, adding that even at that time 7000 Jews lived at Susa.

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:
3. in the third year of his reign] probably b.c. 483.

unto all his princes and his servants] The ruins at Persepolis and at Susa shew that there was abundant accommodation for the exercise of royal hospitality. Besides the palace built by Darius, Persepolis also contains one erected by Xerxes himself. Herodotus (i. 126) mentions the feasts given by the Persian kings. But the amplitude of the entertainments provided was doubtless much exaggerated in the statement of the Greek historian, Ctesias[56] (a contemporary of Herodotus, but an untrustworthy historian), to the effect that no less than fifteen thousand persons were ordinarily feasted at the table of Persian monarchs, and that 400 talents were spent upon a feast.

[56] Fragment xxxvii. ed. A. Lion, Göttingen, 1823. Ctesias was physician to Artaxerxes Mnemon, who reigned b.c. 405–359.

the power of Persia and Media] The Medes were governed by a number of independent chiefs (the ‘kings of the Medes’ referred to in Jeremiah 51:11; Jeremiah 51:28). They were united with the Persians under the sway of Cyrus, and he, as well as subsequent kings of Persia, treated them as the most favoured nation of those under their rule. This was especially the case in respect to the exercise of the Persian king’s patronage as to important governorships.

the nobles] lit. the first men. The Heb. is a modification of the old Persian word fratama.

princes of the provinces] i.e. satraps, each having (see above) a plurality of provinces under his rule, and being in the position of a tributary king.


(on chap. Esther 1:3 ff.)

In the third year of Ahasuerus’s reign he made a feast for all his great men and ministers who were set over the peoples of Persia and Media, the governors and great men, who were in charge of districts, arrayed in woollen robes, clothed in purple, eating and drinking and making merry before him.

The Scripture does not say that he displayed his riches, but it says, ‘when he shewed the riches of his glorious kingdom’ (Esther 1:2), and that means that what he displayed to them was taken from the Holy House; for mortals [lit. flesh and blood] have no riches. All riches come from the Holy One, blessed be He, according as it is written, ‘The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, saith the Lord of hosts’ (Haggai 2:8). Six treasuries did he shew them daily for one hundred and eighty days, as it is written, ‘the riches of the glory of his kingdom and the honour of the excellence of his majesty’ (Esther 1:4): here we have six descriptive words. But when Israel saw there the vessels of the Holy House, they refused to take their seats at the feast [lit. in his presence]. And it was told the king that the Jews refused to take their seats, because they saw the vessels of the Holy House. And the king said, Then prepare another place for them to sit by themselves. And when these days were ended the king said, Now I will make a feast for the people of my city, and I will bring them to the court of the garden, which is planted with trees bearing fruit and spices. How did he prepare for them? He bent one tree towards another and made arches, and broke away spice-trees and made them into seats, and they strewed in front of them goodly stones and pearls, and placed shady trees. And they drank of vessels of gold and cups of gold, and when one had drunk of a cup, he did not drink of the same a second time, but they took the cup away from him and brought another; and there were wine-coolers there, and the cups did not match one another, since it is written, ‘the vessels being diverse one from another’ (Esther 1:7). But when they brought out the vessels of the Holy House, and the heathen poured wine into them, their lustre was changed, and therefore it is thus written, ‘the vessels being diverse one from another.’ ‘And royal wine old’ (Esther 1:7), i.e. older than the person who drank it.[90] And why (do we say) than the person who drank it? Because, suppose the man was asked, How old art thou? and answered, I am forty years old, then he was given wine to drink forty years old. And in like manner they did for every one. And for this reason it is written, ‘royal wine old’ according to the bounty of the king. ‘And the drinking was according to the law’; no one was injured by it. And why did it injure no one? Because a drinking custom prevailed among the Persians that when they brought them a large cup which held four or five Hemins[91]—the measure was called a Pithka[92]—every one was made to drink it at one draught, and they did not leave him alone till he had drunk it at one draught. And the butler [lit. mixer] who mixed wine for the Persians used to acquire great wealth. And how used he to acquire it? He used to mix wine for the guest, and when he could not drink it, he used to beckon to the butler, saying, Take it away, and thou shalt have some money; because he was not able to drink it. But king Ahasuerus said, These cups shall not be brought for drinking; according as each man desires, he shall drink. Accordingly it is written, ‘And the drinking was according to the law’ (Esther 1:8).

[90] This interpretation is deduced by the Targum from the double sense of the Heb. word רָב which means either great in quantity, abundant (its real sense here), or great in age, old.

[91] ἡμίνα, liquid measure.

[92] Probably the Persian βατιακή, a kind of cup, mentioned by Diphilus, a comic poet, who flourished in the latter part of the 4th cent. b.c. See Meinecke’s Comic Fragments, iv. 414.

Vashti the queen prepared a feast apart for the women, and mixed for them dark-coloured wine, and she seated them in the palace in order to shew them the king’s riches. And they asked her, Where does the king sleep? And she explained to all the women who requested her to do so, that they might know all particulars; and she told them the king’s arrangements, that he ate here and drank there and slept there; and because of this it is written, ‘in the royal house’ (Esther 1:9).

When he shewed the riches of his glorious kingdom and the honour of his excellent majesty many days, even an hundred and fourscore days.
4. the riches etc.] Herod. (vii. 27) tells of the golden plane tree and the golden vine given by Pythius, a rich man of Celaenae, to Darius. Aeschylus (Persae, 161) mentions the walls hung with gold.[57] The text may refer among other things to the ingots of gold which Darius had stored in the treasury (Herod. iii. 96).

[57] χρυσεοστόλμους δόμους.

an hundred and fourscore days] This may mean a series of entertainments to successive relays of guests. The ‘princes’ could scarcely be all spared from their satrapies at once.

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;
5. in the court of the garden] See notes on Esther 1:2.

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.
6. there were hangings of white cloth, of green, and of blue] marg. fine cloth, white (or cotton) and blue. The word translated ‘green’ in the text is best rendered cotton, and is of Persian origin.[58] The cords, which by means of silver rings attached the hangings to the pillars, furnished a contrast of colour, viz. fine, white linen, mixed with a reddish purple.

[58] Karpas borrowed by the Greek in the form κάρπασος (Lat. carbasus).

pillars of marble] The remains of the pillars found at Susa are of a dark blue limestone, which the Heb. word may very well denote.

the couches were of gold and silver] i.e. with coverlets of gold and silver work, or possibly with a framework of these materials (so the Targum explains), like those which Herod. (ix. 82) tells us that Xerxes brought with him on his expedition against Greece.

of red, and white, and yellow, and black marble] marg. or, of porphyry, and white marble, and alabaster, and stone of blue colour. For the ‘white and yellow’ of R.V. A.V. had ‘blue and white.’ A mosaic pavement of various costly materials is apparently meant, but the precise meaning of the terms used is uncertain. Perhaps we may take it that each is the name of a material, not a colour, and render porphyry (or alabaster), marble, pearl-stone, and dark paving-stone. We should observe, however, that the second of these is the same word as that used in the description of the pillars (see note), and that the last may mean marble with dark spots or streaks. The LXX. adds that there were crystal couches scattered over with roses.

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.
7. vessels of gold] Many such were captured by the Greeks in the Persian camp near Plataea.

the vessels being diverse one from another] This seems to be noted as an unusual circumstance. In the representation of Sargon’s banquet depicted upon the walls of his palace at Ḳhorsabad, the goblets held by the banqueters are uniform in shape (see Rawlinson, Ancient Monarchies, 2nd ed. i. 580).

bounty] Heb. hand, i.e. as was to be expected in the case of so great a sovereign, in a right royal fashion.

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.
8. according to the law] rather, according to the direction given by the king for the occasion. The words which follow suggest that ordinarily hard drinking was enforced. Drunkenness was common among the Persians.[59]

[59] See the description of a drunken company put by Xenophon (Cyropaedia, i. 3. 12) into the mouth of Cyrus, who describes the spectacle presented by Astyages himself and his friends on the occasion of the king’s birthday feast. See also Additional Note III, in the first extract from the Jewish commentary called Targum Shçnî.

Also Vashti the queen made a feast for the women in the royal house which belonged to king Ahasuerus.
9. Vashti the queen] If we identify Ahasuerus with Xerxes, the queen here mentioned must have been Amestris, his only wife known to secular history. She was daughter of Otanes (Herod. vii. 61), one of the seven who conspired against Pseudo-Smerdis (b.c. 522). The name Vashti has been explained as another form of Amestris, the letters m and v readily interchanging as labials. It may, however, be a modification of the Old Persian vahista, excellent.

made a feast for the women] The sexes were separated in the case of all public meals, although the Persian custom seems to have been that the queen was as a rule admitted to the king’s table.[60]

[60] See Herod. ix. 110, who tells us that at the annual banquet in celebration of the king’s birthday Amestris the queen ‘made request of Xerxes that he would please to give her as her present the wife of Masistes’ (the king’s brother) as it was her cruel desire to torture her.

in the royal house] The harem was probably on the south side of the above-mentioned hall of pillars.

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,
10–22. Vashti’s disgrace

10. he commanded Mehuman etc.] The names of the seven chamberlains, or rather, eunuchs, who were sent to fetch Vashti, vary much in their form in the LXX. and other versions. Their derivation is, like their nationality, quite uncertain, inasmuch as the Persian market was largely supplied with men of other races for this purpose.

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.
11. with the crown royal] a species of peaked turban, perhaps set off with jewels.

the peoples] A.V. the people. The R.V., by using the plural, brings out more clearly the sense of the original that the company included persons of different races.

to shew … her beauty] Similar stories are told of other Eastern kings, but none involving so public an exposure.

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.
12. refused to come] as being aware of the insults likely to be put upon her in a scene of drunken revelry, and by a king so capricious and uncontrolled in temper.

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:
13. the wise men, which knew the times] The expression includes two classes of functionaries, (a) the astronomers and astrologers, who based their advice upon observation of the heavens, and (b) students of the laws and customs which had come into existence in the past, and so formed a guide for the direction of present conduct.

for so was the king’s manner etc.] This does not indicate a custom of Ahasuerus in particular, but is a general remark to the effect that the kings of Persia were in the habit of taking counsel in this way before coming to any important resolution, and nothing that in any way concerned the king’s dignity could be considered insignificant. By conforming to this national use Ahasuerus shewed that even on such an occasion, and while moved by passionate indignation, he was able to put some restraint upon himself. Another example of this usage in the Persian monarchy is that given by Herodotus (iii. 31), where Cambyses asks the opinion of the learned men who were about him before taking his sister in marriage.

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;)
14. The names of the seven princes have evidently suffered much in transmission. According to Herodotus (vii. 5–17) Mardonius (Xerxes’ cousin) and Artabanus (his uncle) were the king’s chief advisers in the early part of his reign. These names may be represented in the text by ‘Marsena’ and ‘Admatha.’ The LXX. gives but three names. This may be owing to a scribe (or the original translators) having a partially illegible manuscript to work upon.

the seven princes of Persia and Media] who took rank as members of the king’s council above the other great men of the kingdom. So in Ezra (Ezra 7:14) we find that Artaxerxes had seven special advisers. There were, according to Herodotus (iii. 84), seven great families in Persia, the heads of which had peculiar rights. One of these rights was that of access to the king at all times, unless when he was in the women’s apartments.

which saw the king’s face] i.e. who had the right of access to his presence. Some connect this privilege with the story of the assassination of the Pseudo-Smerdis (b.c. 522) by Darius and six other conspirators. The latter, we are told, made a bargain with their colleague, whose claims to the throne they were championing, to the effect that they should at all times have the right of approach just mentioned (Herod. iii. 84).

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?
15. What shall we do unto the queen Vashti according to law] Heb. According to law what is there to do unto the queen Vashti? thus giving the question a slightly more judicial air, as though the king were considering the matter quite dispassionately, and simply in the interests of his kingdom.

done the bidding] a little less heavy form of expression than A.V. ‘performed the commandment.’

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.
16. And Memucan answered] From the terms of his answer it is evident that there was no existing law in Persia which would meet the case. Therefore, if it was to be dealt with, one must be enacted. In favour of passing such a law Memucan adduces two considerations; (a) that Vashti’s perversity constituted an offence against the whole of the king’s dominions, and (b) that it was inexpedient that such an offence should go unpunished, inasmuch as the natural consequence would be that this domestic insubordination would be widely imitated. Memucan thus shews the worst side of an Oriental courtier by the servility with which he overlooks the fact that it was the outrageous conduct of the king which brought about the difficulty, as well as by the somewhat Macchiavellian attempt to cloak the jealousy which he and his companions felt at the queen’s influence under the pretext of regard for social welfare throughout the Empire.

peoples] See note on Esther 1:11.

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.
17. to make their husbands contemptible in their eyes] As compared with A.V. (‘so that they shall despise their husbands in their eyes’) R.V. both improves the English, and furnishes a closer rendering of the Hebrew.

when it shall be reported] rather, while they say. The Vulgate accordingly has ut contemnant et dicant.

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.
18. Memucan points out that, inasmuch as the disobedience was public and notorious—for the princesses who were feasting with Vashti heard her answer—they will ‘say the like,’ i.e. will meet their husbands’ commands with equally insolent replies; or, better, as marg. of R.V., will ‘tell it,’ viz. spread the story far and wide.

much] lit., as in marg., enough, meaning, of course, more than enough; an example of the figure of speech called Litotes.

contempt and wrath] on the part of wives and husbands respectively.

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.
19. If it please the king] a standing formula in proposing royal decrees. So often in this book: cp. Nehemiah 2:5.

a royal commandment] lit. a commandment of the kingdom, i.e. an edict which, though directed against an individual, should be registered as a public ordinance, in order that it might come under the class of laws which could not be altered. Memucan had reason to insist upon this course, as he and those sympathising with him in the advice tendered to the king, would have good cause to dread the vengeance of Vashti, if she should regain her position as queen. Another case of making into an unalterable edict what from its nature was but a temporary measure is to be seen in Daniel 6:8 f. As regards the whole question, how far the king was bound by any laws, there existed evidently a certain elasticity. Cambyses, desiring to marry his sister (see on Esther 1:13), was told by his advisers that, although there was no law permitting such an act, yet there was one to the effect that the king might do as he pleased.

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.
20. decree] Heb. pithgam, a loan-word from Old Persian patigâma (patigam, to come to, arrive). It occurs in its Aramaic form (pithgâmâ) in Ezra 4:17; Ezra 5:7; Ezra 5:11.

kingdom] The usual translation of the Heb. word. By rendering ‘empire’ (here only in O.T.) the A.V. introduces a distinction which does not exist in the original.

for it is great] In point of fact the Persian rule at this time extended over more than half of the known world. The LXX., however, do not appear to have found the words in their text.

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.
22. he sent letters into all the king’s provinces] There was an excellent system of posts in Persia, which, according to Herodotus, was in full working order in the time of Xerxes. See further on Esther 3:13.

to every people after their language] It would be interesting to know in detail the languages in which these letters may be supposed to have been written. We cannot, however, hope to attain completeness in our list, although there are a considerable number which we may confidently include, as spoken by the subjects of an Empire reaching ‘from India even unto Ethiopia’ (see Esther 1:1 with note). They may be classed as follows:

(1) Semitic. In Babylonia Assyrian or the cognate Babylonian was the language of the government, while probably Aramaic, which is closely akin to these, was commonly spoken. This last, it would appear, was used throughout a large portion of the Persian Empire, and Aramaic inscriptions—one of them bearing date in the fourth year of Xerxes[61]—have been found in a country as distant from the centre of Persian rule as Egypt. The great Semitic family of languages, of which Aramaic is a member, prevailed in more or less varying forms (in addition to the above-named Assyrian and Babylonian) in a large part of the Persian king’s dominions, viz. Phoenician, Arabic, Hebrew, and Western or Biblical Aramaic.

[61] See the Palaeographical Society’s Oriental Series, plate lxiii.

(2) Turanian. In parts of Assyria and Babylonia there may also have been surviving dialects which belong to a wholly different group of languages, and formed the speech of the old Accadian and Sumerian population. These were branches of the Turanian or Agglutinative family of which Turkish is one of the representatives at the present day. To this class also belonged Georgian, the most important of the languages spoken on the southern side of the principal Caucasus range.

(3) Aryan. This great family, to which can be traced most of the languages of modern Europe, would include Sanscrit and Prakrit, the latter of which is the mother of a large number of the Indian dialects, Zend, the old language of Bactria, and, lastly, the language of Greece, which doubtless at the time of Xerxes was making its way steadily eastward from the country of its birth.

and should publish it according to the language of his people] The literal rendering of the Hebrew is that every man should be ruling in his own house and speaking according to the language of his own people. This has been explained to refer to cases where men had taken wives from other nations. The wife then must conform to her husband as regards the matter in question, and the language used in the family must be the mother tongue of the latter (so the Targum). The clause will thus be a particular application of the general ordinance that ‘every man should bear rule in his own house.’ Nehemiah (Nehemiah 13:23 f.) points out as one of the evils of marriages between Jews and non-Jews confusion of language on the part of the children of such unions.

It is, however, doubtful if the text is sound, and a conjecture has been widely adopted, which involves the change of not more than one Heb. consonant.[62] The meaning then will be, and shall speak whatsoever seems good to him, i.e. shall give whatever orders he chooses. In favour of this emendation it is pointed out that the new verb introduced by it into the Heb. text is one which, though not very frequent elsewhere, occurs in three other passages in this Book (Esther 3:8, Esther 5:13, Esther 7:4). On the other hand it is dubious whether the construction which it involves is permissible Hebrew. The LXX. omits the words, and translates the preceding clause, so that they might have fear in their houses, meaning apparently, so that the husbands might be respected at home.[63]

[62] כָּל־שֹׁוֶה עִמּוֹ instead of כִּלְשׁוֹן עַמּוֹ.

[63] ὥστε εἶναι φόβον αὐτοῖς ἐν ταῖς οἰκίαις αὐτῶν.

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Nehemiah 13
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