Esther 1:14
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;)
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(14) Marsena.—It has been suggested that we may possibly recognise here Mardonius, the commander at Marathon; and in Admatha, Artabanus, the uncle of Xerxes.

The seven princes.—There were seven leading families in Persia, the heads of which were the king’s chief advisers, the “seven counsellors” of Ezra 7:14. Herodotus (iii. 84) speaks of the seven nobles who rose against the Pseudo-Smerdis as chief in the nation.

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.

1:10-22 Ahasuerus's feast ended in heaviness, by his own folly. Seasons of peculiar festivity often end in vexation. Superiors should be careful not to command what may reasonably be disobeyed. But when wine is in, men's reason departs from them. He that had rule over 127 provinces, had no rule over his own spirit. But whether the passion or the policy of the king was served by this decree, God's providence made way for Esther to the crown, and defeated Haman's wicked project, even before it had entered into his heart, and he arrived at his power. Let us rejoice that the Lord reigns, and will overrule the madness or folly of mankind to promote his own glory, and the safety and happiness of his people.In Marsena we may perhaps recognize the famous Mardonius, and in Admatha, Xerxes' uncle, Artabanus.

The seven princes - There were seven families of the first rank in Persia, from which alone the king could take his wives. Their chiefs were entitled to have free access to the monarch's person. See the margin reference note.

13-19. Then the king said to the wise men—These were probably the magi, without whose advice as to the proper time of doing a thing the Persian kings never did take any step whatever; and the persons named in Es 1:14 were the "seven counsellors" (compare Ezr 7:14) who formed the state ministry. The combined wisdom of all, it seems, was enlisted to consult with the king what course should be taken after so unprecedented an occurrence as Vashti's disobedience of the royal summons. It is scarcely possible for us to imagine the astonishment produced by such a refusal in a country and a court where the will of the sovereign was absolute. The assembled grandees were petrified with horror at the daring affront. Alarm for the consequences that might ensue to each of them in his own household next seized on their minds; and the sounds of bacchanalian revelry were hushed into deep and anxious consultation what punishment to inflict on the refractory queen. But a purpose was to be served by the flattery of the king and the enslavement of all women. The counsellors were too intoxicated or obsequious to oppose the courtly advice of Memucan was unanimously resolved, with a wise regard to the public interests of the nation, that the punishment of Vashti could be nothing short of degradation from her royal dignity. The doom was accordingly pronounced and made known in all parts of the empire. Which saw the king’s face; which had constant freedom of access to the king, and familiar converse with him; which is thus expressed, because the Persian kings were very seldom seen by their subjects.

Which sat the first in the kingdom; which were his chief counsellors and officers, and had the precedency from all others.

And the next unto him,.... That sat next to the king, and was the chief in dignity and authority under him:

was Carshena; and so everyone in their rank and order, as next mentioned:

Shethar, Admatha, Tarshish, Meres, Marsena, and Memucan; who, according to the latter Targum, were of different countries; the first of Africa, the second of India, the third of Idumea, the fourth of Egypt, the fifth of Resen, Genesis 10:12 which is framed out of Marsena, who is dropped, and the last of Jerusalem, said to be Daniel; though the former Targum makes him to be Haman:

the seven powers of Persia and Media; which custom of having seven counsellors with the kings of Persia arose from the seven princes that slew Smerdis the pretender, and made Darius Hystaspis king, the father of Xerxes:

which saw the king's face; were intimate and familiar with him, often in his presence; yea, might go into it when they pleased, without the ceremony of being introduced; which privilege the above persons reserved to themselves, when they placed Darius on the throne, as Herodotus relates (u):

and which sat the first in the kingdom; next to the king, and were assisting to him in the administration of government, see Ezra 7:14.

(u) lb. (Thalia, sive, l. 3.) c. 84, 118.

And the next unto him was Carshena, Shethar, Admatha, Tarshish, Meres, Marsena, and Memucan, the seven princes of Persia and Media, which saw the {i} king's face, and which sat the first in the kingdom;)

(i) Who were his chief counsellors that always had access to him.

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).

Verse 14. - And the next unto him was Carshena, Shethar, etc. The chief native advisers of Xerxes in the early part of his reign appear to have been Mardonius (Pera Marduniya) and Artabanus (Pers, Artapana), who was his uncle (Herod., 7:5-17). It is possible that Mardonius may be here represented by Marsena, and Artabanus by Admatha; but the names could only have taken these shapes by a large amount of corruption. The other form have a general Persian air, but do not admit of even conjectural identification. The seven princes of Persia and Media. Ezra assigns to the Persian monarch seven special counsellors (Esther 7:14), and Herodotus says that there were seven leading families in Persia whose heads were specially privileged (3:84). The title, however, "princes of Persia and Media," is not found anywhere but here. Which saw the king's face. Among the privileges said by Herodotus to have been reserved to the heads of the great families, one of the most valued was that of free access to the monarch at all times, unless he were in the seraglio. Esther 1:14The king, greatly incensed at this disobedience to his behest, inquired of his wise men what was to be done to Queen Vashti according to law. These wise men are Esther 1:13 designated as those "who knew the times," i.e., astrologers and magi, who give counsel according to celestial phenomena; comp. the wise men of Babylon, Daniel 2:27; Daniel 5:15; Isaiah 44:25; Isaiah 47:13; Jeremiah 50:35. Of these he inquires, "for thus was the business of the king conducted before all that knew law and judgment." דּבר here does not signify word or speech, but matter, business; and the meaning of this parenthetical sentence is, that in every matter, the king, before deciding, applied to those who were skilled in law and judgment to hear their opinions concerning it. With this is joined a second explanatory parenthetical sentence, Esther 1:14 : "And those next him were Carshena, etc., the seven princes of the Persians and Medes, who behold the king's countenance, who hold the first seat in his kingdom." אליו הקּרב is indefinite, and may be understood as expressing the plural. It is perhaps questionable how this clause should be combined with what precedes, whether with ודין דּת כּל־ידעי, before all that knew law and judgment and those next him, or with לחכמים, Esther 1:13 : he spoke to the wise men ... and those next him. In any case the sense is, that the seven princes of the Persians and Medes were also numbered either among the wise men who knew the times, or those who were skilled in the law. These seven princes are the seven king's counsellors of Ezra 7:14, and by their number of seven form a counterpart to the seven Amshaspands. They who see the face of the king, i.e., are allowed direct intercourse with him. Herod. iii. 84 relates of the seven princes who conspired the overthrow of the pretended Smerdis, that they resolved, that it should be permitted them to present themselves unannounced before the future king. Hence many expositors identify these seven princes with the authorities called the seven counsellors, but without sufficient grounds. The number seven frequently recurs, - comp. the seven eunuchs, Esther 1:5, the seven maidens who waited on Esther 2:9, - and refers in the present case to the seven Amshaspands, in others to the days of the week, or the seven planets. ראשׁנה היּשׁבים, who sit first, i.e., in the highest place, i.e., constitute the highest authority in the realm. What the king said (Esther 1:13) does not follow till Esther 1:15 : "According to law, what is to be done to Queen Vashti, because she has not done the word of the king," i.e., not obeyed his command by the eunuchs? כּדת, according to law, legally, is placed first because it is intended emphatically to assert that the proceeding is to be in conformity with the law. עשׂה with בּ, to inflict something on any one.
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