Esther 1:8
And the drinking was according to the law; none did compel: for so the king had appointed to all the officers of his house, that they should do according to every man's pleasure.
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(8) Law.—Rather ordinance or decree, that is, specially put forth for this occasion. What this means is shown by what follows, namely, that the king had issued special orders to allow all to do as they pleased in the matter of drinking, instead of as usual compelling them to drink. This degrading habit is the more noticeable because the Persians were at first a nation of exceptionally temperate habits.

Esther 1:8. The drinking was according to the law — The Persians were at first, before they came to have such a great dominion, sober and temperate; but afterward they fell into the manner and luxury of the Medes and Lydians, and excited one another at their feasts to drinking. But upon this occasion the king ordered that there should be nothing of this sort, but every one should drink what he chose, without being challenged to go further, which was agreeable to some ancient law of the Persians, that none should compel another to drink more than he pleased. How does this heathen prince shame many that are called Christians, who think they do not make their friends welcome, unless they make them drunk; and, under pretence of sending the health round, send the sin round, and death with it!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.According to the law - An exception to the ordinary practice of compulsory drinking had been made on this occasion by the king's order. 7. they gave them drink in vessels of gold—There is reason to believe from this account, as well as from Es 5:6; 7:2, 7, 8, where the drinking of wine occupies by far the most prominent place in the description, that this was a banquet rather than a feast. According to the law, none did compel, i.e. according to this law which the king had now made, that none should compel another to drink more than he pleased; which the Persians and other loose and heathenish nations used to do, though that practice was condemned by the wise and sober heathens, and among others by this great prince. Or, no man did compel another to drink, according to the law, i.e. as by the laws or orders of the Persians prescribed and used in their feasts they might have done, if not restrained by this law. And the drinking was according to the law, none did compel,.... According to the law Ahasuerus gave to his officers next mentioned, which was not to oblige any man to drink more than he chose; the Targum is,`according to the custom of his body;'that is, as a man is able to bear it, so they drank: some (f) read it, "the drinking according to the law, let none exact"; or require it to be, according to the custom then in use in Persia; for they were degenerated from their former manners, and indulged to intemperance, as Xenophon (g) suggests: the law formerly was, not to carry large vessels into feasts; but now, says he, they drink so much, that they themselves must be carried out, because they cannot go upright: and so it became a law with the Greeks, at their festivals, that either a man must drink or go out (h); so the master of a feast, at which Empedocles was, ordered either that he should drink, or the wine be poured on his head (i); but such force or compulsion Ahasuerus forbad: and thus with the Chinese now, they force none to drink, but modestly invite them (k):

for so the king had appointed to all the officers of his house, that they should do according to every man's pleasure; to let them have what wine they would, but not force them to drink more than was agreeable to them.

(f) Vid. Drusium in loc. (g) Cyropaedia, l. 8. c. 51. (h) Cicero. Tusculan. Quaest. l. 5. (i) Laert. in Vit. ejus, l. 8. p. 608. (k) Semedo's History of China, par. 1. c. 13.

And the drinking was according to the law; none did {f} compel: for so the king had appointed to all the officers of his house, that they should do according to every man's pleasure.

(f) No one was forced to drink more than it pleased him.

8. according to the law] rather, according to the direction given by the king for the occasion. The words which follow suggest that ordinarily hard drinking was enforced. Drunkenness was common among the Persians.[59]

[59] See the description of a drunken company put by Xenophon (Cyropaedia, i. 3. 12) into the mouth of Cyrus, who describes the spectacle presented by Astyages himself and his friends on the occasion of the king’s birthday feast. See also Additional Note III, in the first extract from the Jewish commentary called Targum Shçnî.Verse 8. - The drinking was according to the law. Rather, "according to edict" - the edict being the express order given by the king to all the officers of his household. It is implied that the usual custom was different - that the foolish practice prevailed of compelling men to drink. That the Persians were hard drinkers, and frequently drank to excess, is stated by Herodotus (1:133) and Xenophon ('Cyrop.,' 8:8, § 11). The words: in those days, take up the chronological statement of Esther 1:1, and add thereto the new particular: when King Ahashverosh sat on the throne of his kingdom in the citadel of Susa. שׁבת does not involve the notion of quiet and peaceable possession after the termination of wars (Clericus, Rambach), but that of being seated on the throne with royal authority. Thus the Persian kings are always represented upon a raised seat or throne, even on journeys and in battle. According to Herod. vii. 102, Xerxes watched the battle of Thermopylae sitting upon his throne. And Plutarch (Themistocl. c. 13) says the same of the battle of Salamis. Further examples are given by Baumg. l.c. p. 85f. On the citadel of Susa, see Nehemiah 1:1, and remarks on Daniel 8:2.
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