Esther 4:1
When Mordecai perceived all that was done, Mordecai rent his clothes, and put on sackcloth with ashes, and went out into the midst of the city, and cried with a loud and a bitter cry;
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(1) Mordecai rent his clothes.—This was a common sign of sorrow among Eastern nations generally. It will be noticed that the sorrow both of Mordecai and of the Jews generally (Esther 4:3) is described by external manifestations solely. There is rending of garments, putting on of sackcloth and ashes, fasting and weeping and wailing: there is nothing said of prayer and entreaty to the God of Israel, and strong crying to Him who is able to save. Daniel and Ezra and Nehemiah are all Jews, who, like Mordecai and Esther, have to submit to the rule of the alien, though, unlike them, they, when the danger threatened, besought, and not in vain, the help of their God. (See Daniel 6:10; Ezra 8:23; Nehemiah 1:4, &c.)

Esther 4:1. And put on sackcloth with ashes — That is, he put on a garment of sackcloth or hair, and sprinkled ashes upon his head. And cried with a loud and bitter cry — To express his deep sense of the mischief coming upon his people. It was bravely done thus publicly to espouse what he knew to be a righteous cause, and the cause of God, even then when it seemed to be a sinking and desperate cause. The latter Targum upon the book of Esther gives us the following account of Mordecai’s behaviour upon this sad occasion: “He made his complaints in the midst of the streets, saying, ‘What a heavy decree is this, which the king and Haman have passed, not against a part of us, but against us all, to root us out of the earth!’ Whereupon all the Jews flocked about him, and, having caused the book of the law to be brought to the gate of Shushan, he, being covered with sackcloth, read the words of Deuteronomy 4:30-31, and then exhorted them to fasting, humiliation, and repentance, after the example of the Ninevites.”

4:1-4 Mordecai avowed his relation to the Jews. Public calamities, that oppress the church of God, should affect our hearts more than any private affliction, and it is peculiarly distressing to occasion sufferings to others. God will keep those that are exposed to evil by the tenderness of their consciences.Shushan was perplexed - Susa was now the capital of Persia, and the main residence of the Persians of high rank. These, being attached to the religion of Zoroaster, would naturally sympathize with the Jews, and be disturbed at their threatened destruction. Even apart from this bond of union, the decree was sufficiently strange and ominous to "perplex" thoughtful citizens. CHAPTER 4

Es 4:1-14. Mordecai and the Jews Mourn.

1, 2. When Mordecai perceived all that was done—Relying on the irrevocable nature of a Persian monarch's decree (Da 6:15), Hamman made it known as soon as the royal sanction had been obtained; and Mordecai was, doubtless, among the first to hear of it. On his own account, as well as on that of his countrymen, this astounding decree must have been indescribably distressing. The acts described in this passage are, according to the Oriental fashion, expressive of the most poignant sorrow; and his approach to the gate of the palace, under the impulse of irrepressible emotions, was to make an earnest though vain appeal to the royal mercy. Access, however, to the king's presence was, to a person in his disfigured state, impossible: "for none might enter into the king's gate clothed with sackcloth." But he found means of conveying intelligence of the horrid plot to Queen Esther.The great mourning of Mordecai and the Jews, Esther 4:1-3. He showeth Esther the cause of it, and adviseth her to petition the king for her people, Esther 4:4-9. She, excusing herself, is threatened by Mordecai, Esther 4:10-14. She appoints a general fast, and resolves to go in to the king, Esther 4:15-17.

Partly, to express his deep sense of the mischief coming upon his people; partly, to move the pity of others to do what they could to prevent it; and partly, that by this means it might come to the queen’s ear.

When Mordecai perceived all that was done,.... By the king, at the instigation of Haman, against the Jews; which he came to the knowledge of, either by some of the conflicts or by common fame, or on the sight of the edicts which were published in Shushan; though the Jews think it was made known to him in a supernatural way, either by Elijah, as the former Targum (x), or by the Holy Ghost, as the latter:

Mordecai rent his clothes: both behind and before, according to the same Targum; and this was a custom used in mourning, not only with the Jews, but with the Persians also, as Herodotus (y) relates:

and put on sackcloth with ashes; upon his head, as the former Targum; which was usual in mourning, even both; Job 2:12

and went out into the midst of the city; not Elam the province, as Aben Ezra, but the city Shushan:

and cried with a loud and bitter cry; that all the Jews in the city might be alarmed by it, and inquire the reason of it, and be affected with it; and a clamorous mournful noise was used among the Persians, as well as others, on sad occasions (z).

(x) So Midrash Esther, fol. 94. 1.((y) Thalia, sive, l. 3. c. ----. Urania, sive, l. 8. c. 99. (z) Calliope, sive, l. 9. c. 24.

When Mordecai perceived all that was done, Mordecai rent his clothes, and put on sackcloth with ashes, and went out into the midst of the city, and cried with a loud and a bitter cry;
1. rent his clothes] So e.g. Reuben, when his brother Joseph was sold to the Midianites (Genesis 37:29), and Jacob, when he thought that his son had perished (Genesis 37:34). Cp. 2 Kings 18:37; Matthew 26:65.

put on sackcloth with ashes] the two things together constituting an expression of the deepest grief. So Daniel (Daniel 9:3) and the king of Nineveh (Jonah 3:6).

went out into the midst of the city] Utterances and other signs of mourning not being permitted within the royal precincts, he went where it was possible to exhibit his grief more unrestrainedly.

Chap. Esther 4:1-3. Dismay of Mordecai and the Jews

Mordecai not only shares with the other dwellers in Susa the knowledge of the impending calamity, but also has obtained (Esther 4:7) information as to the nature of the transactions between the king and Haman. He exhibits the usual Oriental tokens of grief and horror.

Verse 1. - Mordecai rent his clothes. Compare Ezra 9:3, 5 with the comment. The meaning of the act was well understood by the Persians. Put on sackcloth with ashes. So Daniel (Daniel 9:3), and the king of Nineveh (Jonah 3:6). Either act by itself was a sign of deep grief; both combined betokened the deepest grief possible. And went out into the midst of the city. The palace was not to be saddened by private griefs (see the next verse). Mordecai, therefore, having assumed the outward signs of extreme sorrow, quitted the palace, and entered the streets of the town. There, overcome by his feelings, he vented them, as Asiatics are wont to do, in loud and piercing cries (comp. Nehemiah 5:1). Esther 4:1Mordochai learnt all that was done, - not only what had been openly proclaimed, but, as is shown by Esther 4:7, also the transaction between the king and Haman. Then he rent his garments, put on sackcloth and ashes, and went out into the midst of the city, making loud and bitter lamentation. Comp. on the last words, Genesis 27:34. The combination of אפר with שׂק ילבּשׁ is an abbreviation for: put on a hairy garment and spread ashes upon his head, in sign of deep grief; comp. Daniel 9:3; Job 2:12, and elsewhere.
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