Now, O king, establish the decree, and sign the writing, that it be not changed, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which alters not.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Sign the writing.—Literally, record the decree, so that there might be no possibility of its being recalled. (Comp. Esther 8:8.)
And sign the writing - An act necessary to make it the law of the realm.
That it be not changed - That, having the sign-manual of the sovereign, it might be so confirmed that it could not be changed. With that sign it became so established, it seems, that even the sovereign himself could not change it.
According to the law of the Medes and Persians, which altereth not - Margin, Passeth. Which does not pass away; which is not abrogated. A similar fact in regard to a law of the Medes and Persians is mentioned in Esther 8. in which the king was unable to recall an order which had been given for the massacre of the Jews, and in which he attempted only to counteract it as far as possible by putting the Jews on their guard, and allowing them to defend themselves. Diodorus Siculus (lib. iv.) refers to this custom where he says that Darius, the last king of Persia, would have pardoned Charidemus after he was condemned to death, but could not reverse what the law had passed against him. - Lowth. "When the king of Persia," says Montesquieu (Spirit of Laws, as quoted by Rosenmuller, Morgenland, in loc.), "has condemned any one to death, no one dares speak to him to make intercession for him. Were he even drunk when the crime was committed, or were he insane, the command must nevertheless be executed, for the law cannot be countermanded, and the laws cannot contradict themselves. This sentiment prevails throughout Persia." It may seem singular that such a custom prevailed, and that the king, who was the fountain of law, and whose will was law, could not change a statute at his pleasure.
But this custom grew out of the opinions which prevailed in the East in regard to the monarch. His will was absolute, and it was a part of the system which prevailed then to exalt the monarch, and leave the impression on the mind of the people that he was more than a man - that he was infallible, and could not err. Nothing was better adapted to keep up that impression than an established principle of this kind - that a law once ordained could not be repealed or changed. To do this would be a practical acknowledgment that there was a defect in the law; that there was a want of wisdom in ordaining it; that all the circumstances were not foreseen; and that the king was liable to be deceived and to err. With all the disadvantages attending such a custom, it was judged better to maintain it than to allow that the monarch could err, and hence, when a law was ordained it became fixed and unchanging.
Even the king himself could not alter it, and, whatever might be the consequences, it was to be executed. It is evident, however, that such a custom might have some advantages. It would serve to prevent hasty legislation, and to give stability to the government by its being known what the laws were, thus avoiding the evils which result when they are frequently changed. It is often preferable to have permanent laws, though not the best that could be framed, than those which would be better, if there were no stability. There is only one Being, however, whose laws can be safely unchanging - and that is God, for his laws are formed with a full knowledge of all the relations of things, and of their bearing on all future circumstances and times. It serves to confirm the statement here made respecting the ancient custom in Media and Persia, that the same idea of the inviolability of the royal word has remained, in a mitigated form, to modern times.
A remarkable example of this is related by Sir John Malcolm, of Aga Mohammed Khan, the last but one of the Persian kings. After alluding to the present case, and that in Esther, he observes, "The character of the power of the king of Persia has undergone no change. The late king, Aga Mohammed Khan, when encamped near Shiraz, said that he would not move until the snow was off the mountains in the vicinity of his camp. The season proved severe, and the snow remained longer than was expected; the army began to suffer distress and sickness, but the king said while the snow remained upon the mountain, he would not move; and his word was as law, and could not be broken. A multitude of laborers were collected and sent to remove the snow; their efforts, and a few fine days, cleared the mountains, and Aga Mohammed Khan marched." - History of Persia, i. 268, quoted in the Pict. Bible, in loc.
that it be not changed—(Es 1:19; 8:8). This immutability of the king's commands was peculiar to the Medes and Persians: it was due to their regarding him infallible as the representative of Ormuzd; it was not so among the Babylonians.
Medes and Persians—The order of the names is an undesigned mark of genuineness. Cyrus the Persian reigned subordinate to Darius the Mede as to dignity, though exercising more real power. After Darius' death, the order is "the Persians and Medes" (Es 1:14, 19, &c.).
that it be not changed, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which altereth not; when once signed by the king: mention being made of both the Medes and Persians, shows that these two nations were now united in one government; that Darius and Cyrus were partners in the empire; and it is easy to account for it why the Medes are mentioned first; because Darius was the Mede, and Cyrus the Persian; the one the uncle, the other the nephew; but afterwards, when a Persian only was on the throne, then the Persian is mentioned first, Esther 1:19.Now, O king, establish the decree, and sign the writing, that it be not changed, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which altereth not.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)8. decree] interdict.
altereth not] lit. passeth not away. On the unalterableness of the edicts of a Persian king, cf. Esther 1:19 (‘let it be written among the laws of the Persians and Medes, that it pass not away’), Daniel 8:8 (a royal edict, properly signed and sealed, ‘may no man reverse’).Daniel 2:5, is changed into מלּתא in Daniel 2:8 and Daniel 2:11, and in biblical Chaldee, in final syllables הis often found instead of .א fo
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