Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
When Mordecai perceived all that was done, Mordecai rent his clothes, and put on sackcloth with ashes, and went out into the midst of the city, and cried with a loud and a bitter cry;IV.
(1) Mordecai rent his clothes.—This was a common sign of sorrow among Eastern nations generally. It will be noticed that the sorrow both of Mordecai and of the Jews generally (Esther 4:3) is described by external manifestations solely. There is rending of garments, putting on of sackcloth and ashes, fasting and weeping and wailing: there is nothing said of prayer and entreaty to the God of Israel, and strong crying to Him who is able to save. Daniel and Ezra and Nehemiah are all Jews, who, like Mordecai and Esther, have to submit to the rule of the alien, though, unlike them, they, when the danger threatened, besought, and not in vain, the help of their God. (See Daniel 6:10; Ezra 8:23; Nehemiah 1:4, &c.)
And came even before the king's gate: for none might enter into the king's gate clothed with sackcloth.(2) None might enter . . .—That nothing sad or ill-omened might meet the monarch’s gaze, as though by shutting his eyes, as it were, to the presence of sorrow, or sickness, or death, he might suppose that he was successfully evading them.
So Esther's maids and her chamberlains came and told it her. Then was the queen exceedingly grieved; and she sent raiment to clothe Mordecai, and to take away his sackcloth from him: but he received it not.(4) So Esther’s maids . . .—It is perhaps fair to infer from this, that Esther’s connection with Mordecai was known to those about her, though as yet not to the king.
So Hatach went forth to Mordecai unto the street of the city, which was before the king's gate.(6) Street.—The square or wide open place. Heb., r’hob.)
Again Esther spake unto Hatach, and gave him commandment unto Mordecai;(10) Again.—There is nothing for this in the original, and it would be better to put and, as the statement of Esther 4:10 is clearly continuous with Esther 4:9.
All the king's servants, and the people of the king's provinces, do know, that whosoever, whether man or woman, shall come unto the king into the inner court, who is not called, there is one law of his to put him to death, except such to whom the king shall hold out the golden sceptre, that he may live: but I have not been called to come in unto the king these thirty days.(11) There is one law of his . . .—Literally, one is his law, that is, there is one unvarying rule for such. No one who had not been summoned might enter the king’s presence under pain of death.
The golden sceptre—We are told that in the representations of Persian kings at Persepolis, in every case the monarch holds a long staff or sceptre in his right hand. How forcibly, after reading this verse, the contrast strikes us between the self-styled king of kings, to enter into whose presence even as a suppliant for help and protection was to risk death, and the King of Kings, who has Himself instructed man to say, “Let us go into His tabernacle and fall low on our knees before His footstool.”
For if thou altogether holdest thy peace at this time, then shall there enlargement and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place; but thou and thy father's house shall be destroyed: and who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?(14) Enlargement.—Literally, a breathing-space.
From another place.—Although he does not explain his meaning, and, indeed, seems to be speaking with studied reserve, still we may suppose that Mordecai here refers to Divine help, which he asserts will be vouchsafed in this extremity. It does not necessarily follow that we are to see in this declaration a proof of the earnestness of Mordecai’s faith; probably had his faith been like that of many of his countrymen he would not have been in Persia at all, but with the struggling band in Judæa.
Thou and thy father’s house shall be destroyed.—That is, by the hand of God, who having raised thee to this pitch of glory and power will require it from thee, if thou fail in that which it plainly devolves upon thee to do. It is clear there is a good deal of force in these last words of Mordecai. Esther’s rise had been so marvellous that one might well see in it the hand of God, and if so there was clearly a very special object in view, which it must be her anxious care to work for. In the whole tone of the conversation, however, there seems a lack of higher and more noble feelings, an absence of any suggestion of turning for aid to God; and thus in return, when God carries out His purpose, and grants deliverance, it seems done indirectly, without the conferring of any special blessing on the human instruments.