Haydock Catholic Bible Commentary
THE BOOK OF ESTHER.
This Book takes its name from queen Esther; whose history is here recorded. The general opinion of almost all commentators on the Holy Scripture, make Mardochai the writer of it: which also may be collected below from chap. ix. 20. (Challoner) --- He and the queen were certainly authors of the letter, (Haydock) enjoining the celebration of the feast of Purim, or "lots," which is the ground-work (Calmet) of the present narration. (Du Hamel) --- The compiler has also had recourse to the archives of the kingdom of Persia: so that his work has all the authority that can be required of a profane historian; and being moreover inspired in all its parts, we cannot refuse to receive it with the utmost respect. Those additions which are not now in Hebrew, (Calmet) though they were perhaps formerly, (Worthington; Origen; Du Hamel) have been carefully preserved by St. Jerome, and were recognized by the ancient Vulgate, as they are at present by the Greek, without any distinction. Lysimachus, the Greek translator, was probably the author of them, chap. xi. 1. (Calmet) --- The objections of Capellus against this "Greek scribbler," as he is pleased to style him, despising the judgment of both Jews and Christians, are in general very unaccountably borrowed (Haydock) from the Latin version, and are easily refuted. (Houbigant) --- Those Jews, who have rejected this work entirely, with Melito, (Eusebius, Hist. iv. 26.; St. Gregory of Nazianzus, &c.) ought not to prevail against the consent of the majority, (Calmet) expressed in the Councils of Laodicea, Carthage, Trent, session 4, &c. To read this book according to the order of time, we should begin [with] chap. xi., ver. 2, &c., chap. i., ii., and xii., and iii., to ver. 14; then we find the distress of the Jews in the rest of that chapter, and in chap. xiii., to ver. 8, and their delivery in chap. iv. to ix., ver. 17, and chap. xiii. ver. 8, &c., and chap. xiv., xv., and xvi. The consequences of these events are recorded [in] chap. ix., ver. 17, &c., to chap. xi. 1., (Worthington) with which verse the book ends, in the Greek editions. (Haydock) --- They vary considerably, as did the copies of the ancient Vulgate, which called forth the complaints of St. Jerome, Preface. But the Church has distinguished what was spurious from the genuine word of God; so that the doubts of Lyran, Sixtus, (Bib. viii.) &c., respecting the fragments at the end of the book being not canonical, ought no longer to be indulged; much less can the boldness of many Lutherans, (Calmet) and particularly of Le Clerc, (Houbigant) be tolerated, who represent the whole work as a mere fiction. The Jews have a greater respect for it than for any of the prophets; whose works, they say, will perish at the coming of the Messias: whereas this will subsist with the books of Moses, and the feast of Purim will never be abolished, chap. ix. 28. (Maimonides) --- Ben. Gorion (ii. 2.) admits the additions. But Josephus is silent about them, as he probably did not find them in his copy. (Calmet) --- He recites, however, both the epistles of Assuerus. (Antiquities xi. 6.) (Du Hamel) --- It is not agreed whether these events happened before or after the captivity. But it is now most commonly supposed, that Esther was married to Darius Hystaspes, the year of the world 3489, about the time of the dedication of the temple, chap. xiv. 9. He had been on the throne six years, and reigned other thirty. See Herodotus vii. 4. (Calmet) --- Josephus thinks that Esther was the queen of Artaxerxes Longimanus, who was a great friend of the Jews. (Du Hamel) --- The Thalmud attributes this work to the great Synagogue, consisting of Esdras, Mardochai, Joachim, &c., and, as various persons might write the same history, the Greek, with the additions, seems to be taken from one copy, and the Hebrew from another rather more concise, (Huet; Du Hamel) but equally inspired. (Haydock)
In. Hebrew, "and in." In this manner the books of Scripture are usually connected. Septuagint place first the dream of Mardochai, chap. xi. 2. (Calmet) --- Assuerus. Septuagint Artaxerxes; as [in] chap xvi. 1. The former is the title of Median, the latter of the Persian, monarchs. This king reigned over both nations, and was most probably Darius Hystaspes, the third king of the Persians, (Tirinus) who subdued India, &c. (Herodotus) (Calmet) (Tirinus) --- Some understand Cambyses, (1 Esdras iv.; Genebrard) or Xerxes (Scaliger) or Artaxerxes Longimanus, (Bellarmine; Salien) or Memnon, (Eusebius) or Ochus. (Serarius) --- But (Calmet) the author of 3 Esdras iii. 1., and iv. 43., seems clearly declared for Hystaspes. (Tirinus) --- Though that work be not canonical, (Du Hamel) it may claim some authority, as an ancient history. (Haydock) --- This king gave orders for the building of the temple, 1 Esdras vi. 1, 14. --- India. Part had been (Calmet) subject to Xerxes. (Herodotus iv. 44.) --- Ethiopia, beyond Egypt, paid an acknowledgment. Cambyses had taken possession of this country. (Calmet) --- Some understand a part of Arabia to be meant. (Du Hamel) --- Seven: 120 had been regulated by Darius, the Mede, Daniel vi. 1. (Haydock) --- The number might vary as the monarch chose. (Du Hamel) --- Herodotus (iii. 89.) only specifies "twenty." But he speaks of large departments, to which he intimates that several others were subordinate. (Calmet) --- Provinces. Hebrew medina, "seat of judges." (Haydock) --- Prefecture. (Menochius)
Captial. Hebrew, "palace, (Protestants; Haydock) or castle," (Calmet) may also signify "a capital." (Montanus, &c.) --- Hystaspes founded this ancient royal city of Persia, (Pliny, [Natural History?] vi. 27.) or he greatly embellished it. (Calmet) (Ælian, Anim. xiii. 18.) (Tirinus) --- He seems to have resided here almost constantly. The preceding kings (Calmet) spent the winter in this warm climate, and perhaps the spring. See 2 Esdras i. 1. They spent other parts of the year at Ecbatana and at Babylon. (Calmet)
Reign. When he was solemnly crowned, again, (Tirinus) or removed his court, (Calmet) and dedicated this new capital, with feasting, &c. (Haydock)
Days, or a full half year, according to their reckoning. Nabuchodonosor, after his victory over Arphaxad, (Judith i.) feasted 120 days; Dionysius of Syrachuse, 90; (Aristotle) Solomon seven; (3 Kings viii. 63.) and David three; when he was recognized by all Israel, 1 Paralipomenon xii. 39. The Gaul, Ariamnes, gave a fest to all his countrymen for a whole year. (Atheneus iv. 13.) --- The Roman emperors sometimes treated all the citizens of Rome, and Alexander did the like to 9000 of his chief officers for one day. But the magnificence of Assuerus surpasses all the rest. The Persians were famous on this account. --- Persicos odi, puer, apparatus. (Horace i. Ode 38.) (Calmet)
Expired, (Feuardent) or in the last week. (Menochius) (Calmet) --- King. The Persian monarchs delighted in agriculture. Cyrus the younger, planted trees at Sardis, and never ate till he had taken some exercise of this or of a military nature. (Xenophon Memor.; Cicero Senect.)
Were. Protestants, "where were," white, green, and blue hangings. --- Ivory. Hebrew, "silver." (Haydock) --- Beds, to lie down on at table; though sitting was formerly the fashion, Genesis xliii. 33. The other custom prevailed among the more luxurious nations, and was observed in our Saviour's time, each person reclining upon his left arm, and having his feet behind the next. (Tirinus) --- These beds were made very low, in Persia; so that Alexander had one put under his feet, when he sat on the throne of Darius, as he was not so tall. (Curtius v. 7.) --- Their magnificence was surprising. (Herodotus ix. 81.) (Calmet) --- Variety, in Mosaic work. (Tirinus) --- They lay upon sheep skins. (Chaldean) Septuagint, "and the beds (or coverlets) were transparent, with various flowers, and full-blown roses, all round." (Haydock)
Vessels. When Lysanias had taken the camp of Mardonius, and beheld the rich vessels, he could not help expressing a surprise that people possessing such advantages, should come to molest the Lacedemonians, who lived so poorly. (Herodotus ix. 79.)
Neither. Hebrew, "and the drinking was according to the law." Greek, "was not according to the pre-established law;" (Haydock) as the usual custom was altered, on this occasion; and thus both may be accurate. The Persians had commonly a king of the feast, whose orders all were obliged to obey in drinking. (Horace i. Ode 4.) (Ecclesiasticus xxxii. 1.) --- This was an occasion of quarrels, (St. Jerome) and of intoxication. Agesilaus followed the example of Assuerus. Darius, and Cyrus the younger, gloried in being able to drink much wine without being deranged. (Calmet)-----Reges dicuntur urgere culullis,
Et torquere mero, quem perspexisse laborant,
An sit amicitia dignus.----- (Horace ad Pison.)
Among friends, these "absurd laws" wer laid aside.
Siccat inequales calices conviva, solutus
Legibus insanis.----- (Horace ii. Sat. 6.) (Calmet)
This may suggest to Christians, that they ought not to urge any to get drunk, (St. Augustine, ser. 231. de Temp.) lest they should be condemned by the very heathens. (Worthington) --- Would, and thus prevent disorders as much as possible. (Atheneus x. 6.)
Vasthi. Septuagint Astin. (Haydock) --- Serarius suspects she was the king's sister, or daughter, as such marriages were common in Persia. (Tirinus) --- The name is not very different from that of Atossa, the daughter of Cyrus, who was married to Cambyses, Smerdis, and Darius; to the latter of whom she bore four children. (Herodotus iii. 68., and vii. 3. --- This prince had other wives, particularly Artistona, (Calmet; our Hadossa, (Haydock) or Esther) whom he espoused a virgin, and love the most. Herodotus seems to confound her with Atossa. --- Dwell. Some Greek copies have "in her own palaces." (Usher) --- It was proper for women to be more retired. (Menochius) --- The men feasted in the open air. (Haydock)
Wine. From the king's excess, and the haughtiness of Vasthi, God took occasion to advance Esther, and to deliver his people. (Calmet) --- Mauman. Septuagint, "Aman." (Tirinus) --- But the names vary. The Persians seem to have had a predilection for the number seven, ver. 14. (Calmet) Greek, "the seven eunuchs, ministers (deacons) of Artaxerxes."
Head. But without any other covering. (Chaldean) Sulpitius entertained perhaps the same idea. Stulto rege consultior, pudens, virorum oculis spectaculum corporis præbere jussa, abnuit. (Haydock) --- Some Greek copies assert, very improbably, (Calmet) that she was sent for "to be crowned queen." --- Beautiful. "The Persian ladies were noted for beauty," (Ammian) insomuch that Alexander called them eye-sores, oculorum dolores. (Curtius) --- Only prostitutes appeared publicly at feasts. (Macrobius vii. 1.) (St. Ambrose, de Elia. i. 15.) --- In effect, Vasthi's refusal conformable to the laws of the country. (Josephus) (Plutarch in Themist.) --- Her offence consisted, therefore, rather in her haughty carriage or words. (Haydock) --- For the proposal was neither decent nor safe for the king, (Grotius) as the history of Candaules shews. (Herodotus i.) (Not. Var. in Sulpitius)
Fury. This is the usual consequences of excess. (Worthington)
According. Hebrew, "knew the times, (for so was the king's custom with those who knew law and judgment.) And the next," &c. (Haydock) --- These were the magi, more particularly versed in the constitutions of the country. The Persians commonly held their consultations over wine. (Herodotus i. 133.) --- Septuagint, "and the king said to his friends, Thus has Astin spoken; do therefore, in this affair, law and judgment. Then came forth to him Arkesaios and Saresthaios, and Malesear, the princes of the Persians and Medes, men near the king, and who sat first after the king. (Haydock) --- The old Vulgate places Mardochæus first. These seven counsellors were perhaps styled the king's relations," (Brisson i. p. 171.) and administered justice; as even the kings referred their causes to them. (Plut. Artax., &c.)
Mamuchan. Old Vulgate, "Mardochæus." Yet the Jews say this was the infamous Aman; and one Greek copy has Bilgaios, (Calmet) and Arabo, "Mouchaios," chap. iii. 1., and xii. 6. He was the youngest, but spoke first, as was sometimes the case.
Wives. Greek turannides, "princesses, or female tyrants." --- Slight. Septuagint, "dare to slight their husbands. Wherefore if," &c. (Haydock) --- Just. Hebrew, "enough of contempt and indignation." This may be referred either to the king or to the women's husbands. The example will prove a source of continual quarrels. (Calmet) --- Brentius approves the decision of this parasite; though St. Ambrose, &c., think that the queen was justified by the laws, which the king had no right to infringe, to gratify his drunken humour, ver. 10. Luther would also wrest this text in favour of adultery, p.ii. Devort. p. 177. (Worthington)
Altered. This regarded the more solemn acts, signed by the counsellors, Daniel vi. 17. (Grotius) --- Some decrees were neglected or changed, chap. viii. 9., and 1 Esdras iv. 5, 21., and vi. 1. (Calmet)
Counsel. It was very inconclusive; (Menochius) and even supposing the queen were guilty of some indiscretion, the punishment was too severe. (Menochius) (Grotius, v. 11) (Haydock)