Esther 1:1
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:)
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(1) Ahasuerus.—Three persons are called by this name in the Old Testament—(1) the Ahasuerus of Daniel 9:1, the father of “Darius the Mede;” if, as is probable, this latter is the same with Astyages, Ahasuerus must be identified with Cyaxares: (2) the Ahasuerus of Ezra 4:6, who is doubtless the same with Cambyses, the son of Cyrus; and (3) the one now before us, whom we have shown in the Introduction to be almost certainly Xerxes. For the history and character of this sovereign reference must be especially made to the contemporaneous writers, Herodotus (vii., viii. 1-90), and Æschylus in his play of The Persians. The spirited lines of Juvenal should also be read (Sat. x. 173-187). We find that Xerxes succeeded his father, Darius Hystaspes, in the year 485 B.C. , five years after the momentous battle of Marathon. Undeterred by his father’s failure, he resolves upon a fresh attack on Greece, and sets out in 481 B.C. from Susa for the West. He winters at Sardis, leaving it in the spring of the following year. The summer sees the fight of the pass of Thermopylæ, which has covered the name of Leonidas and his three hundred, though vanquished and slain, with undying glory; in the autumn Themistocles, by his victory over the Persians at Salamis, changes the history of the world, and the beginning thus made is carried on by the victories at Platæa and Mycale in 479 B.C. From the rout at Salamis, Xerxes had fled to Sardis, which he did not leave till the spring of 478 B.C. All that we know of the further course of the reign of Xerxes is but one unbroken tale of debauchery and bloodshed, which came to an end in 464 B.C, when he was murdered by two of his officers, Mithridates and Artabanus, and Artaxerxes Longimanus, his son (see Ezra 7; Nehemiah 2), reigned in his stead.

This is Ahasuerus.—This is added to make clear which particular sovereign we are here dealing with. We have seen that three of the name are mentioned in the Old Testament.

Ethiopia.—Herodotus tells us that Ethiopia paid tribute to Xerxes (iii. 97).

An hundred and seven and twenty.—In Daniel 6:1. we find that Darius the Mede appointed a hundred and twenty satraps, but probably the similarity in numbers is quite accidental. There seem to have been a gradually increasing number of satrapies in the kingdom of Darius—20, 21, 23, 29 (Herod, iii. 89-94), and the nations in the empire of Xerxes are said to be sixty (ib. vii. 61-95). Thus the provinces here mentioned must include subdivisions of these.

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.

1:1-9 The pride of Ahasuerus's heart rising with the grandeur of his kingdom, he made an extravagant feast. This was vain glory. Better is a dinner of herbs with quietness, than this banquet of wine, with all the noise and tumult that must have attended it. But except grace prevails in the heart, self-exaltation and self-indulgence, in one form or another, will be the ruling principle. Yet none did compel; so that if any drank to excess, it was their own fault. This caution of a heathen prince, even when he would show his generosity, may shame many called Christians, who, under pretence of sending the health round, send sin round, and death with it. There is a woe to them that do so; let them read it, and tremble, Hab 2:15,16.Ahasuerus - . Xerxes, the son of Darius Hystaspis. His empire is rightly described as from India even unto Ethiopia. The satrapies of Darius Hystaspis reached 29 in number, and the nations under Xerxes were about 60. The 127 "provinces" include probably sub-satrapies and other smaller divisions of the great governments. THE BOOK OF ESTHER Commentary by Robert Jamieson


Es 1:1-22. Ahasuerus Makes Royal Feasts.

1. Ahasuerus—It is now generally agreed among learned men that the Ahasuerus mentioned in this episode is the Xerxes who figures in Grecian history.Ahasuerus and Vashti make a royal banquet, Est 1:1-9. He sends for Vashti, Est 1:10,1. She refuseth to come, Est 1:12. He consulteth his wise men about it, Est 1:13-15. Their judgment and advice to put her away, Est 1:16-20. He maketh the decree of men's sovereignty in their own houses, Est 1:21,22.

Quest. Who was this king?

Answ. It is confessed and manifest that this was one of the kings of Persia; but which of them it was is not yet agreed, nor is it of any necessity for us now to know. But it is sufficiently evident that this was either,

1. Darius Hystaspes, as divers both Jewish and Christian writers affirm; for his kingdom was thus vast, and he subdued India, as Herodotus reports; and one of his wives was called Atossa, which differs little from Hadassah, which is Esther's other name, Est 2:7. Or,

2. Xerxes, whose wife, as Herodotus notes, was called Amestris, which is not much differing from Esther; by whom all these things were transacted whilst he was potent and prosperous, before his unhappy expedition against the Grecians. Or,

3. Artaxerxes Longimanus, to whom the characters of Ahasuerus represented in this book do not disagree. And whereas it is objected, that by this account Mordecai must be a man of about a hundred and forty years, and consequently Esther, who is called his uncle's daughter, Est 2:7, must be too old to make a wife for the king; as for Mordecai, it may be granted, there being divers instances of persons of greater age than that in sacred and profane historians; and for Esther, it may be said that she was his uncle's granddaughter, nothing being more frequent than for the names of sons or daughters to be given to more remote posterity.

An hundred and seven and twenty provinces; so seven new provinces were added to those hundred and twenty mentioned Dan 6:1.

Now it came to pass in the days of Ahasuerus,.... Who he was is not easy to say; almost all the kings of Persia are so named by one or another writer. He cannot be the Ahasuerus in Daniel 9:1, he was Astyages, the father of Cyaxares or Darius the Mede; but this must be one who had his royal palace in Shushan, which was never the royal city of the Medes, but of the Persians only; nor does he seem to be the Ahasuerus in Ezra 4:6, who is thought to be Cambyses, the son and successor of Cyrus; since, according to the canon of Ptolemy, he reigned but eight years, whereas this Ahasuerus at least reigned twelve, Esther 3:7, though indeed some account for it by his reigning in his father's lifetime; besides, Cambyses was always an enemy to the Jews, as this was not; and yet this way go many of the Jewish writers (n) and so a very learned man, Nicolaus Abram (o); according to Bishop Usher (p), this was Darius Hystaspis, who certainly was a friend to the Jewish nation; but he is rather the Artaxerxes of Ezra and Nehemiah; and so says the Midrash (q). Dr. Prideaux (r) thinks Ahasuerus was Artaxerxes Longimanus, which is the sense of Josephus (s), and who is thought by many to be the Artaxerxes in the foresaid books. Capellus (t) is of opinion, that Darius Ochus is meant, to which Bishop Patrick inclines; but I rather think, with Vitringa (u) and others (w), that Xerxes is the Ahasuerus that was the husband of Esther here spoken of; so the Arabic writers (x); and as he was the son and successor of Darius Hystaspis, if he is meant by Artaxerxes in the preceding books, the history of which is carried to the thirty second year of his reign, Nehemiah 13:6 and who reigned but four years more; this book of Esther stands in right order of time to carry on the history of the Jewish affairs in the Persian monarchy; and Mr. Broughton (y) owns, that the name of Xerxes, in Greek, agrees with Achasuerus in Hebrew; and in Esther 10:1 his name is Achashresh, which, with the Greeks, is Axeres or Xerxes (z):

this is Ahasuerus, which reigned from India even unto Ethiopia; properly so called; the Ethiopians had been subdued by Cambyses the son and successor of Cyrus (a), and the Indians by Darius Hystaspis the father of Xerxes (b); and both, with other great nations, were retained in subjection to him (c); and many of both, as well as of other nations, were with him in his expedition into Greece (d):

over an hundred and twenty and seven provinces; there were now seven provinces more under his jurisdiction than were in the times of Darius the Mede, Daniel 6:1.

(n) Targum & Jarchi in loc. Seder Olam Rabba, c. 29. Zuta, p. 108. (o) Pharus Vet. Test. l. 11. c. 12. p. 305. (p) Annal. Vet. Test. p. 160. so Broughton, Works, p. 38, 259, 581. (q) Midrash Esther, fol. 86. 2.((r) Connection, &c. par. 1. B. 4. p. 252, &c. (s) Antiqu. l. 11. c. 6. sect. 1. and so Suidas in voce (t) Chronolog. Sacr. p. 294. (u) Hypotypos. Hist. Sacr. p. 110. (w) Schichart. de Festo Purim. Rainold. Praelect. 144. p. 231. Alsted. Chronolog. p. 126, 181. (x) In Abulpharag. Hist. Dynast. p. 87. (y) Ut supra. (Broughton, Works, p. 38, 259, 581.) (z) Vid. Hiller. Arcan. Keri & Ketib, p. 87. & Onomastic. Sacr. p. 639. (a) Herodot. Thalia, sive, l. 3. c. 97. (b) lb. Melpomene, sive, l. 4. c. 44. (c) lb. Polymnia, sive, l. 7. c. 9. (d) lb. c. 65, 69, 70.

Now it came to pass in the days of {a} Ahasuerus, (this is Ahasuerus which reigned, from India even unto Ethiopia, over an {b} hundred and seven and twenty provinces:)

The Argument - Because of the variety of names, by which they used to call their kings, and the number of years in which the Hebrews and the Greeks vary, various authors write concerning that Ahasuerus but is seems in Da 6:1,9:1 that he was Darius king of the Medes and son of Astyages also called Ahasuerus which was a name of honour and signified great and chief as chief head. In this is declared the great mercies of God toward his church: who never fails them in their greatest dangers, but when all hope of worldly help fades, he stirs up some, by whom he sends comfort and deliverance. In this also is described the ambition, pride and cruelty of the wicked when they come to honour and their sudden fall when they are at their highest and how God preserves and prefers them who are zealous of his glory and have a care and love for their brethren.

(a) Also called Darius, who was now the favourite monarch and had the government of the Medes, Persians and Chaldeans. Some think he was Darius Hystaspis also called Artaxerxes.

(b) Da 6:1 makes mention of only 120 leaving out the number that are imperfect as the scripture uses in various places.

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).

Verse 1. - In the days of Ahasuerus. Ahasuerus, in the original Akhashverosh, corresponds to Khshayarsha (the Persian name from which the Greeks formed their Xerxes) almost as closely as possible. The prosthelic a was a necessity of Hebrew articulation. The only unnecessary change was the substitution of v for y (vau for yod) in the penultimate syllable. But this interchange is very common in Hebrew. This is Ahasuerus which reigned, etc. The writer is evidently acquainted with more than a single Ahasuerus. Ezra had mentioned one (Ezra 4:6), and Daniel another (Daniel 9:1). If he knew their works, he would necessarily know of these two. Or he may have known of them independently. The Ahasuerus of his narrative being different from either, he proceeds to distinguish him

(1) from the Ahasuerus of Daniel, as a "king," and

(2) from the Ahasuerus of Ezra by the extent of his dominion.

Cambyses (see comment on Ezra 4:6) had not ruled over India. India is expressed by Hoddu, which seems formed from the Persian Hidush ('Nakhsh-i-Rus-tam Inser.,' par. 3, 1. 25), by the omission of the nominatival ending, and a slight modification of the vocalisation. The Sanscrit and the Zend, like the Greek, retained the n, which is really an essential part of the native word. Ethiopia is expressed, as usual, by Cush. The two countries are well chosen as the extreme terminal of the Persian empire. An hundred and twenty-seven provinces. The Hebrew medinah, "province," does not correspond to the Persian satrapy, but is applied to every tract which had its own governor. There were originally no more than twenty satrapies (Herod., 3:89-94), but there was certainly a very much larger number of governments. Judaea was a medinah (Ezra 2:1; Nehemiah 11:3), though only a small part of the satrapy of Syria. Esther 1:1The banquet. Esther 1:1-3 mark a period. משׁתּה עשׂה, which belongs to ויהי, does not follow till Esther 1:3, and even then the statement concerning the feast is again interrupted by a long parenthesis, and not taken up again and completed till Esther 1:5. On the use of ויהי in historical narratives at the beginning of relations having, as in the present instance and Ruth 1:1, no reference to a preceding narrative, see the remark on Joshua 1:1. Even when no express reference to any preceding occurrence takes place, the historian still puts what he has to relate in connection with other historical occurrences by an "and it came to pass." Ahashverosh is, as has already been remarked on Ezra 4, Xerxes, the son of Darius Hystaspis. Not only does the name אחשׁורושׁ point to the Old-Persian name Ks'ayars'a (with א prosthetic), but the statements also concerning the extent of the kingdom (Esther 1:1; Esther 10:1), the manners and customs of the country and court, the capricious and tyrannical character of Ahashverosh, and the historical allusions are suitable only and completely to Xerxes, so that, after the discussions of Justi in Eichhorn's Repert. xv. pp. 3-38, and Baumgarten, de fide, etc., pp. 122-151, no further doubt on the subject can exist. As an historical background to the occurrences to be delineated, the wide extent of the kingdom ruled by the monarch just named is next described: "He is that Ahashverosh who reigned from India to Ethiopia over 127 provinces." מדינה ... שׁבע is not an accusative dependent on מלך, he ruled 127 provinces, for מלך, to reign, is construed with על or בּ, but is annexed in the form of a free apposition to the statement: "from India to Cush;" as also in Esther 8:9. הדּוּ is in the Old-Persian cuneiform inscriptions, Hidhu; in Zend, Hendu; in Sanscrit, Sindhu, i.e., dwellers on the Indus, for Sindhu means in Sanscrit the river Indus; comp. Roediger in Gesenius, Thes. Append. p. 83, and Lassen, Indische Alterthumsk. i. p. 2. כּוּשׁ is Ethiopia. This was the extent of the Persian empire under Xerxes. Mardonius in Herod. 7:9 names not only the Sakers and Assyrians, but also the Indians and Ethiopians as nations subject to Xerxes. Comp. also Herod. 7:97, 98, and 8:65, 69, where the Ethiopians and Indians are reckoned among the races who paid tribute to the Persian king and fought in the army of Xerxes. The 127 מדינות, provinces, are governmental districts, presided over, according to Esther 8:9, by satraps, pechahs, and rulers. This statement recalls that made in Daniel 6:2, that Darius the Mede set over his kingdom 120 satraps. We have already shown in our remarks on Daniel 6:2 that this form of administration is not in opposition to the statement of Herod. iii. 89f., that Darius Hystaspis divided the kingdom for the purpose of taxation into twenty ἀρχαί which were called σατραπηΐ́αι. The satrapies into which Darius divided the kingdom generally comprised several provinces. The first satrapy, e.g., included Mysia and Lydia, together with the southern part of Phrygia; the fourth, Syria and Phoenicia, with the island of Cyprus. The Jewish historians, on the other hand, designate a small portion of this fourth satrapy, viz., the region occupied by the Jewish community (Judah and Benjamin, with their chief city Jerusalem), as מדינה, Ezra 2:1; Nehemiah 1:3; Nehemiah 7:6; Nehemiah 11:3. Consequently the satrapies of Darius mentioned in Herodotus differ from the medinoth of Daniel 6:2, and Esther 1:1; Esther 8:9. The 127 medinoth are a division of the kingdom into geographical regions, according to the races inhabiting the different provinces; the list of satrapies in Herodotus, on the contrary, is a classification of the nations and provinces subject to the empire, determined by the tribute imposed on them.
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