On that night could not the king sleep, and he commanded to bring the book of records of the chronicles; and they were read before the king.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(1) Could not the king sleep.—Literally, the king's sleep fled away. Here, in the most striking way in the whole book, the workings of God’s providence on behalf of His people are shown. “God Himself is here, though His name be absent.” The king’s sleepless night falls after the day when Haman has resolved to ask on the morrow for Mordecai’s execution, a foretaste of the richer vengeance he hopes to wreak on the whole nation of the Jews. It is by a mere chance, one would say, looking at the matter simply in its human aspect, that the king should call for the book of the royal chronicles, and not for music. It was by a mere chance too. it might seem, that the reader should happen to light upon the record of Mordecai’s services; and yet when all these apparent accidents are wrought up into the coincidence they make, how completely is the providence visible, the power that will use men as the instruments of its work, whether they know it, or know it not, whether they be willing or unwilling, whether the glory of God is to be manifested in and by and through them, or manifested on them only.
They were read before the king.—Canon Rawlinson remarks that there is reason to think that the Persian kings were in most cases unable to read.Esther 6:1. On that night could not the king sleep — How vain are all the contrivances of foolish man against the wise and omnipotent God, who hath the hearts and hands of kings and all men perfectly at his disposal, and can by such trivial accidents (as they are accounted) change their minds, and produce such terrible effects. He commanded to bring the book of records — His mind being troubled, he knew not how, nor why, he chooses this for a diversion, God putting this thought into him, for otherwise he might have diverted himself, as he used to do, with his wives or concubines, or voices and instruments of music, which were far more agreeable to his temper. “In these records of the Chronicles, which we now call journals, (wherein was set down what passed every day,) the manner of the Persians was to record the names of those who had done the king any signal services. Accordingly, Josephus informs us, that upon the secretary’s reading these journals, he took notice of such a person who had great honours and possessions given him as a reward for a glorious and remarkable action, and of such another who made his fortune by the bounties of his prince for his fidelity; but, that when he came to the particular story of the conspiracy of the two eunuchs against the person of the king, and of the discovery of this treason by Mordecai, the secretary read it over, and was passing forward to the next; when the king stopped him, and asked him if the person had had any reward given him for his service; which shows indeed a singular providence of God, that the secretary should read in that very part of the book wherein the service of Mordecai was recorded. Why Mordecai was not rewarded before, it is in vain to inquire. To account for the humour of princes, and their management of public affairs, is almost impossible. We see daily, even among us, that men are frequently unmindful of the highest services which are done them, and take no care to reward them, especially if the person be in himself obscure, and not supported by a proper recommendation; and therefore we are not to wonder, if a prince, who buried himself in indolence, and made it a part of his grandeur to live unacquainted and unconcerned with what passed in his dominions, (which was the custom of most of the eastern kings,) should overlook the service Mordecai had done him; or, if he ordered him a reward, that by the artifice of those at court, who were no well-wishers to the Jews, he should be disappointed of it. There seems, however, to have been a particular direction of Providence, in having his reward delayed till this time, when he and all his nation were appointed to destruction; when the remembrance of his services might be a means to recommend them to the king’s mercy, and the honours conferred on him a poignant mortification to his proud adversary.” — Dodd.Esther 2:23 note) or impale Mordecai; and the pale or cross was to be 75 feet high, to make the punishment more conspicuous.
Es 6:1-14. Ahasuerus Rewards Mordecai for Former Service.
1. the king … commanded to bring the book of records of the chronicles—In Eastern courts, there are scribes or officers whose duty it is to keep a journal of every occurrence worthy of notice. A book of this kind, abounding with anecdotes, is full of interest. It has been a custom with Eastern kings, in all ages, frequently to cause the annals of the kingdom to be read to them. It is resorted to, not merely as a pastime to while away the tedium of an hour, but as a source of instruction to the monarch, by reviewing the important incidents of his own life, as well as those of his ancestors. There was, therefore, nothing uncommon in this Persian monarch calling for the court journal. But, in his being unable to sleep at that particular juncture, in his ordering the book then to be read to him, and in his attention having been specially directed to the important and as yet unrewarded services of Mordecai, the immediate interposition of Providence is distinctly visible.Ahasuerus’s sleep being taken from him, he commands the chronicles to be read, Esther 6:1. And reading of Mordecai’s discovery of the plot against his life, asks what honour had been done to him, Esther 6:2,3. Haman coming to the king to have Mordecai hanged, unawares gives counsel to honour him, Esther 6:4-11. Haman telling his friends what had befallen him, is foretold of his final ruin, Esther 6:12,13. He is called to Esther’s banquet, Esther 6:14.
and he commanded to bring the book of records of the chronicles; the diaries or journal, in which memorable facts were recorded; this he did to divert himself, and pass away time; though here also the providence of God was specially concerned; for otherwise he might have sent for any of his wives and concubines, or singing men and women, to have diverted him:On that night could not the king sleep, and he commanded to bring the book of records of the chronicles; and they were read before the king.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)1. could not the king sleep] better literally, as marg., the king’s sleep fled from him. The LXX. paraphrases, ‘The Lord withheld sleep from the king’; and so the Targums. But in the present Heb. text the name of God never occurs; see Introd. p. xv.
Suetonius (cap. 50) says that the Roman emperor Caligula so suffered from sleeplessness that he used to rise and stand or roam about the palace. Procopius (Hist. Arcana, ed. Bonn, pp. 81 f.) relates the same of the emperor Justinian. The Turkish sultan, Selim I (died 1520), is said to have passed most nights in reading books; while sometimes he would have others read to him, or talk to him about State matters (Diez, Denkwürdigkeiten von Asien, i. 266).
the book of records of the chronicles] lit. the book of memorials, even the chronicles. Cp. Malachi 3:16, ‘book of remembrance.’ In Esther 2:23 (where see note) we have the shorter expression ‘the book of the chronicles.’
and they were read before the king] The original resembles in its sense a Greek imperfect, implying that the reading lasted for a considerable time. The object doubtless was that the continuous sound of another’s voice might induce slumber. There is no suggestion in the passage that the king could not himself read, although such may very well have been the case. See Rawlinson, Ancient Monarchies (2nd ed.), iv. 228 f.
Chap. Esther 6:1-11. Mordecai’s elevation
In this section we are shewn the strange concatenation of apparently trivial circumstances which collectively have the effect of bestowing the highest reward and most signal disgrace upon the humble and virtuous Israelite and the highly placed enemy of that people. It seems but a series of chances that the king was sleepless, that he adopted a particular method of alleviating his discomfort, that a certain section of the chronicles of the kingdom was read to him, that Haman was an early arrival at the palace on this occasion, and thus, through his haste to bring about Mordecai’s destruction, was himself of all persons the one chosen to do him honour. Nevertheless it was from the combination of all these occurrences that there arose the most mighty issues, and this fact plainly looms large in the mind of the narrator, though he does not in so many words attribute the ordering of the events to the hand of God. Here then we have the turning point of the narrative. Pride begins to approach its fall, and the humble to be exalted.Verse 1. - The book of records of the chronicles. Compare Esther 2:23, where the title is given more briefly, as "the book of the chronicles." See also Esther 10:2. The character of the book has been already explained (see comment on Esther 2:23). They were read. Either because the king could not read himself ('Ancient Monarchies,' vol. 4. p. 184), or because the sound of a man's voice might (it was thought) induce drowsiness.
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