Esther 1:22
For he sent letters into all the king's provinces, into every province according to the writing thereof, and to every people after their language, that every man should bear rule in his own house, and that it should be published according to the language of every people.
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(22) He sent letters.—The Persian Empire was the first to possess a postal system (see esp. Herod. vii. 98). The Greek word for “compel,” in Matthew 5:41; Matthew 27:32, is simply a corruption of the Persian word for the impressment of men and horses for the royal service.

That every man should . . .—The following words are, literally, be ruling in his own house, and speaking according to the language of his own people. The former clause may probably be taken as a proof of the existence of an undue amount of female influence generally in Persia; the second clause is more doubtful. The English Version does distinct violence to the Hebrew, perhaps because the literal rendering yielded a somewhat peculiar sense. Taking the words exactly as they stand, they can only mean that in a house where two or more languages are used, from the presence of foreign wives, the husband is to take care that his own language is not supplanted by any of theirs. This is intelligible enough, but is perhaps rather irrelevant to what goes before.

Esther 1:22. That it should be published according to the language of every people — That all sorts of persons, not men only, but women also, might understand it, and therefore be inexcusable if they did not comply with it.

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.He sent letters - The Persian system of posts incidentally noticed in the present book Esther 3:12-15; Esther 8:9-14, is in entire harmony with the accounts of Herodotus and Xenophon.

Into every province according to the writing thereof - The practice of the Persians to address proclamations to the subject-nations in their own speech, and not merely in the language of the conqueror, is illustrated by the bilingual and trilingual inscriptions of the Achaemenian monarchs, from Cyrus to Artaxerxes Ochus, each inscription being of the nature of a proclamation.

The decree was not unnecessary. The undue influence of women in domestic, and even in public, matters is a feature of the ancient Persian monarchy. Atossa completely ruled Darius. Xerxes himself was, in his later years, shamefully subject to Amestris. The example of the court would naturally infect the people. The decree therefore would be a protest, even if ineffectual, against a real and growing evil.

And that it should be published ... - Render it: "and speak the language of his own people;" in the sense that the wife's language, if different from her husband's, should in no case be allowed to prevail in the household.

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. That all sorts of persons, not men only, (who by study or travel many times understand divers languages,) but the women also, might understand it, and therefore be inexcusable if they did not comply with it; for which end it was not only written in each language, for that writing might come but to few hands, but moreover it was published in the several cities and towns by such persons as used to publish the king’s edicts. Others, that he should speak in the language of his own people, i.e. that men should not, in compliance with their wives, who were oft of other nations and languages, inure themselves to it, and bring their wives’ language into the family; but that men should use their own proper language, and cause their wives and children to use it; this being one sign of dominion, and therefore frequent after this time among the Greeks and Romans, who, together with their victorious arms, brought in their language into other countries, and in a great measure imposed it upon them.

For he sent letters unto all the king's provinces,.... The one hundred and twenty seven provinces, Esther 1:1, which, according to the Targum, were written and sealed with his own seal; which is very probable:

into every province according to the writing thereof, and to every people after their language; that is, these letters were written in the language, and in the characters in which that language was written, used in each of the provinces to which these letters were sent, that they might be easily read and understood by all: the sum of which was:

that every man should bear rule in his own house; be prince, lord, and master there, and his commands obeyed, not only by his children and servants, but by his wife also:

and that it should be published according to the language of every people; but as this is expressed, or at least implied, in the first clause of this verse, it should rather be rendered, "and that he should speak according to the language of his people"; and so is the latter Targum; it seems as if a man, who had married a woman in another country, in complaisance to her had neglected his own native tongue, and used hers in the family, by which means he lost, or seemed to lose, his authority in it: now, to guard against this, this part of the law was made; and, according to Jarchi, the husband was to compel his wife to learn and speak his language, if she was a foreigner; to which agrees the first Targum, which paraphrases the whole thus,"that a man rule over his wife, and oblige her to speak according to the language of her husband, and the speech of his people;''and, in later times, Bahram Gaur forbid any other language, besides the Persian, to be used within his port, either in speaking or writing (b).

(b) Vid. Castel. Lexic. Persic. col. 266.

For he sent letters into all the king's provinces, into every province according to the writing thereof, and to every people after their language, that every man should {p} bear rule in his own house, and that it should be published according to the language of every people.

(p) That is, that the wife should be subject to the husband and at his commandment.

22. he sent letters into all the king’s provinces] There was an excellent system of posts in Persia, which, according to Herodotus, was in full working order in the time of Xerxes. See further on Esther 3:13.

to every people after their language] It would be interesting to know in detail the languages in which these letters may be supposed to have been written. We cannot, however, hope to attain completeness in our list, although there are a considerable number which we may confidently include, as spoken by the subjects of an Empire reaching ‘from India even unto Ethiopia’ (see Esther 1:1 with note). They may be classed as follows:

(1) Semitic. In Babylonia Assyrian or the cognate Babylonian was the language of the government, while probably Aramaic, which is closely akin to these, was commonly spoken. This last, it would appear, was used throughout a large portion of the Persian Empire, and Aramaic inscriptions—one of them bearing date in the fourth year of Xerxes[61]—have been found in a country as distant from the centre of Persian rule as Egypt. The great Semitic family of languages, of which Aramaic is a member, prevailed in more or less varying forms (in addition to the above-named Assyrian and Babylonian) in a large part of the Persian king’s dominions, viz. Phoenician, Arabic, Hebrew, and Western or Biblical Aramaic.

[61] See the Palaeographical Society’s Oriental Series, plate lxiii.

(2) Turanian. In parts of Assyria and Babylonia there may also have been surviving dialects which belong to a wholly different group of languages, and formed the speech of the old Accadian and Sumerian population. These were branches of the Turanian or Agglutinative family of which Turkish is one of the representatives at the present day. To this class also belonged Georgian, the most important of the languages spoken on the southern side of the principal Caucasus range.

(3) Aryan. This great family, to which can be traced most of the languages of modern Europe, would include Sanscrit and Prakrit, the latter of which is the mother of a large number of the Indian dialects, Zend, the old language of Bactria, and, lastly, the language of Greece, which doubtless at the time of Xerxes was making its way steadily eastward from the country of its birth.

and should publish it according to the language of his people] The literal rendering of the Hebrew is that every man should be ruling in his own house and speaking according to the language of his own people. This has been explained to refer to cases where men had taken wives from other nations. The wife then must conform to her husband as regards the matter in question, and the language used in the family must be the mother tongue of the latter (so the Targum). The clause will thus be a particular application of the general ordinance that ‘every man should bear rule in his own house.’ Nehemiah (Nehemiah 13:23 f.) points out as one of the evils of marriages between Jews and non-Jews confusion of language on the part of the children of such unions.

It is, however, doubtful if the text is sound, and a conjecture has been widely adopted, which involves the change of not more than one Heb. consonant.[62] The meaning then will be, and shall speak whatsoever seems good to him, i.e. shall give whatever orders he chooses. In favour of this emendation it is pointed out that the new verb introduced by it into the Heb. text is one which, though not very frequent elsewhere, occurs in three other passages in this Book (Esther 3:8, Esther 5:13, Esther 7:4). On the other hand it is dubious whether the construction which it involves is permissible Hebrew. The LXX. omits the words, and translates the preceding clause, so that they might have fear in their houses, meaning apparently, so that the husbands might be respected at home.[63]

[62] כָּל־שֹׁוֶה עִמּוֹ instead of כִּלְשׁוֹן עַמּוֹ.

[63] ὥστε εἶναι φόβον αὐτοῖς ἐν ταῖς οἰκίαις αὐτῶν.

Verse 22. - For he sent. Rather, "and he sent." Besides publishing the decree, Ahasuerus sent letters prescribing certain things, viz.: -

1. That every man should bear rule in his own house; and,

2. That every man should speak his own language in his family, and not that of his wife, if it were different.

This is the plain meaning of the existing text, which cannot bear either of the senses suggested in the Authorised Version.

Esther 1:22The saying pleased the king and the princes, and the king carried it into execution. He sent letters into all his provinces to make known his commands, and to let all husbands know, that they were to bear rule in their own houses. "In every province according to its writing, and to every people according to their speech" (comp. Esther 8:9), that his will might be clearly understood by all the subjects of his wide domain, who spoke different languages and used different alphabetical characters. The contents of these letters follow in וגו להיות, that every man should be master in his own house. These words state only the chief matter and object of the edict; but they presuppose that the fact which gave rise to the decree, viz., the refusal of Vashti, and her consequent deposition, were also mentioned. The last words: "and that he shall speak according to the language of his people," are obscure. Older expositors understand them to mean, that every man was to speak only his native language in his house, so that in case he had a foreign wife, or several who spoke other languages, they might be obliged to learn his language, and to use that alone. Bertheau, on the other hand, objects that such a sense is but imported into the words, and in no wise harmonizes with the context. Both these assertions are, however, unfounded. In the words, the man shall speak according to the language of his people, i.e., he shall speak his native tongue in his house, it is implied that no other language was to be used in the house, and the application of this law to foreign wives is obvious from the context. The rule of the husband in the house was to be shown by the fact, that only the native tongue of the head of the house was to be used in the family. Thus in a Jewish family the Ashdodite or any other language of the wife's native land could not have been used, as we find to have been the case in Judaea (Nehemiah 13:23). All other explanations are untenable, as has been already shown by Baumgarten, p. 20; and the conjecture set up after Hitzig by Bertheau, that instead of עמּו כּלשׁון we should read עמּו כּל־שׁוה, every one shall speak what becomes him, gives not only a trivial, and not at all an appropriate thought, but is refuted even by the fact that not עם שׁוה, but only ל שׁוה (comp. Esther 3:8) could bear the meaning: to be becoming to any one. Such a command may, indeed, appear strange to us; but the additional particular, that every man was to speak his native tongue, and to have it alone spoken, in his own house, is not so strange as the fact itself that an edict should be issued commanding that the husband should be master in the house, especially in the East, where the wife is so accustomed to regard the husband as lord and master. Xerxes was, however, the author of many strange facts besides this.
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