Esther 1:2
That in those days, when the king Ahasuerus sat on the throne of his kingdom, which was in Shushan the palace,
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(2) Shushan.—Susa. Mentioned also in Nehemiah 1:1. It was the general abode of the Persian kings. (See Herod. vii. 6.)

Esther 1:2. When Ahasuerus sat on the throne of his kingdom — Was settled in the quiet possession of it, enjoying peace and tranquillity throughout his large dominions; which was in Shushan the palace — “Which, after the conquest of the Medes, was made by Cyrus, and the rest of the Persian kings, the royal seat, that they might not be too far from Babylon. It stood upon the river Ulai, and was a place of such renown, that Strabo calls it, “a city most worthy to be praised,” informing us, that the whole country about it was amazingly fruitful, producing a hundred and sometimes two hundred fold. Darius Hystaspes enlarged and beautified it with a most magnificent palace, which Aristotle calls “a wonderful royal palace, shining with gold, amber, and ivory.” — Dodd. See Prideaux, and Calmet’s Dict. on the word Shushan.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.

Sat on the throne of his kingdom, i.e. either was lately advanced to it, or rather was settled in the peaceable possession of it.

The palace; or, the castle; or, the chief or royal city, as both, Jewish and Christian interpreters render it. Shushan might be the proper name of the palace, which thence was given to the whole city. Here the kings of Persia used to keep their courts chiefly in winter, as ordinarily they were in Ecbatana in summer. That in those days, when the King Ahasuerus sat on the throne of his kingdom,.... Not only was placed upon it, but settled in it; after Xerxes had subdued Egypt, in the second year of his reign (e), and enjoyed great peace and tranquillity:

which was in Shushan the palace; that is, the throne of his kingdom was in Shushan, the royal city of the kings of Persia; of which see Gill on Nehemiah 1:1, Daniel 8:2.

(e) Herodot. ib. (Thalia, sive, l. 3.) c. 7.

That in those days, when the king Ahasuerus {c} sat on the throne of his kingdom, which was in Shushan the palace,

(c) That is, had rest and quietness.

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.Verse 2. - The throne of his kingdom, which was in Shushan. Though the Persian court resided a part of the year at Ecbatana, and occasionally visited Persepolis and Babylon (Xen., 'Cyrop.,' 8:6, § 2; 'Anab.,' 3:5, § 15), yet Susa was decidedly the ordinary seat of government, and ranked as the capital of the empire (see Herod., 3:49; AEschyl., 'Pers.,' 11. 122, 123; Ctes., 'Exe. Pers.,' pessim, etc.). "Shushan the palace" is distinguished from Shushan the city (Esther 9:12-15), the one occupying a lofty but artificial eminence towards the west, while the other lay at the base of this mound, stretching out a considerable distance towards the east. With these people also Nehemiah contended (אריב like Nehemiah 13:11 and Nehemiah 13:17), cursed them, smote certain of their men, and plucked off their hair (מרט, see rem. on Ezra 9:3), and made them swear by God: Ye shall not give your daughters, etc.; comp. Nehemiah 10:31. On the recurrence of such marriages after the separations effected by Ezra of those existing at his arrival at Jerusalem. Nehemiah did not insist on the immediate dissolution of these marriages, but caused the men to swear that they would desist from such connections, setting before them, in Nehemiah 13:26, how grievous a sin they were committing. "Did not Solomon, king of Israel, sin on account of these?" (אלּה על, on account of strange wives). And among many nations there was no king like him (comp. 1 Kings 3:12., 2 Chronicles 1:12); and he was beloved of his God (alluding to 2 Samuel 12:24), and God made him king over all Israel (1 Kings 4:1); and even him did foreign women cause to sin (comp. 1 Kings 11:1-3). "And of you is it heard to do (that ye do) all this great evil, to transgress against our God, and to marry strange wives?" Bertheau thus rightly understands the sentence: "If the powerful King Solomon was powerless to resist the influence of foreign wives, and if he, the beloved God, found in his relation to God no defence against the sin to which they seduced him, is it not unheard of for you to commit so great an evil?" He also rightly explains הנשׁמע according to Deuteronomy 9:23; while Gesenius in his Thes. still takes it, like Rambach, as the first person imperf.: nobisne morem geramus faciendo; or: Should we obey you to do so great an evil? (de Wette); which meaning - apart from the consideration that no obedience, but only toleration of the illegal act, is here in question - greatly weakens, if it does not quite destroy, the contrast between Solomon and לכם.
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