Esther 1:1 MEANING

Esther 1:1
(1) Ahasuerus.--Three persons are called by this name in the Old Testament--(1) the Ahasuerus of Daniel 9:1, the father of "Darius the Mede;" if, as is probable, this latter is the same with Astyages, Ahasuerus must be identified with Cyaxares: (2) the Ahasuerus of Ezra 4:6, who is doubtless the same with Cambyses, the son of Cyrus; and (3) the one now before us, whom we have shown in the Introduction to be almost certainly Xerxes. For the history and character of this sovereign reference must be especially made to the contemporaneous writers, Herodotus (vii., viii. 1-90), and 'schylus in his play of The Persians. The spirited lines of Juvenal should also be read (Sat. x. 173-187). We find that Xerxes succeeded his father, Darius Hystaspes, in the year 485 B.C. , five years after the momentous battle of Marathon. Undeterred by his father's failure, he resolves upon a fresh attack on Greece, and sets out in 481 B.C. from Susa for the West. He winters at Sardis, leaving it in the spring of the following year. The summer sees the fight of the pass of Thermopylae, which has covered the name of Leonidas and his three hundred, though vanquished and slain, with undying glory; in the autumn Themistocles, by his victory over the Persians at Salamis, changes the history of the world, and the beginning thus made is carried on by the victories at Plataea and Mycale in 479 B.C. From the rout at Salamis, Xerxes had fled to Sardis, which he did not leave till the spring of 478 B.C. All that we know of the further course of the reign of Xerxes is but one unbroken tale of debauchery and bloodshed, which came to an end in 464 B.C, when he was murdered by two of his officers, Mithridates and Artabanus, and Artaxerxes Longimanus, his son (see Ezra 7; Nehemiah 2), reigned in his stead.

This is Ahasuerus.--This is added to make clear which particular sovereign we are here dealing with. We have seen that three of the name are mentioned in the Old Testament.

Ethiopia.--Herodotus tells us that Ethiopia paid tribute to Xerxes (iii. 97).

An hundred and seven and twenty.--In Daniel 6:1. we find that Darius the Mede appointed a hundred and twenty satraps, but probably the similarity in numbers is quite accidental. There seem to have been a gradually increasing number of satrapies in the kingdom of Darius--20, 21, 23, 29 (Herod, iii. 89-94), and the nations in the empire of Xerxes are said to be sixty (ib. vii. 61-95). Thus the provinces here mentioned must include subdivisions of these.

Verse 1. - In the days of Ahasuerus. Ahasuerus, in the original Akhashverosh, corresponds to Khshayarsha (the Persian name from which the Greeks formed their Xerxes) almost as closely as possible. The prosthelic a was a necessity of Hebrew articulation. The only unnecessary change was the substitution of v for y (vau for yod) in the penultimate syllable. But this interchange is very common in Hebrew. This is Ahasuerus which reigned, etc. The writer is evidently acquainted with more than a single Ahasuerus. Ezra had mentioned one (Ezra 4:6), and Daniel another (Daniel 9:1). If he knew their works, he would necessarily know of these two. Or he may have known of them independently. The Ahasuerus of his narrative being different from either, he proceeds to distinguish him

(1) from the Ahasuerus of Daniel, as a "king," and

(2) from the Ahasuerus of Ezra by the extent of his dominion.

Cambyses (see comment on Ezra 4:6) had not ruled over India. India is expressed by Hoddu, which seems formed from the Persian Hidush ('Nakhsh-i-Rus-tam Inser.,' par. 3, 1. 25), by the omission of the nominatival ending, and a slight modification of the vocalisation. The Sanscrit and the Zend, like the Greek, retained the n, which is really an essential part of the native word. Ethiopia is expressed, as usual, by Cush. The two countries are well chosen as the extreme terminal of the Persian empire. An hundred and twenty-seven provinces. The Hebrew medinah, "province," does not correspond to the Persian satrapy, but is applied to every tract which had its own governor. There were originally no more than twenty satrapies (Herod., 3:89-94), but there was certainly a very much larger number of governments. Judaea was a medinah (Ezra 2:1; Nehemiah 11:3), though only a small part of the satrapy of Syria.

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.Now it came to pass in the days of Ahasuerus,.... Who he was is not easy to say; almost all the kings of Persia are so named by one or another writer. He cannot be the Ahasuerus in Daniel 9:1, he was Astyages, the father of Cyaxares or Darius the Mede; but this must be one who had his royal palace in Shushan, which was never the royal city of the Medes, but of the Persians only; nor does he seem to be the Ahasuerus in Ezra 4:6, who is thought to be Cambyses, the son and successor of Cyrus; since, according to the canon of Ptolemy, he reigned but eight years, whereas this Ahasuerus at least reigned twelve, Esther 3:7, though indeed some account for it by his reigning in his father's lifetime; besides, Cambyses was always an enemy to the Jews, as this was not; and yet this way go many of the Jewish writers (n) and so a very learned man, Nicolaus Abram (o); according to Bishop Usher (p), this was Darius Hystaspis, who certainly was a friend to the Jewish nation; but he is rather the Artaxerxes of Ezra and Nehemiah; and so says the Midrash (q). Dr. Prideaux (r) thinks Ahasuerus was Artaxerxes Longimanus, which is the sense of Josephus (s), and who is thought by many to be the Artaxerxes in the foresaid books. Capellus (t) is of opinion, that Darius Ochus is meant, to which Bishop Patrick inclines; but I rather think, with Vitringa (u) and others (w), that Xerxes is the Ahasuerus that was the husband of Esther here spoken of; so the Arabic writers (x); and as he was the son and successor of Darius Hystaspis, if he is meant by Artaxerxes in the preceding books, the history of which is carried to the thirty second year of his reign, Nehemiah 13:6 and who reigned but four years more; this book of Esther stands in right order of time to carry on the history of the Jewish affairs in the Persian monarchy; and Mr. Broughton (y) owns, that the name of Xerxes, in Greek, agrees with Achasuerus in Hebrew; and in Esther 10:1 his name is Achashresh, which, with the Greeks, is Axeres or Xerxes (z):

this is Ahasuerus, which reigned from India even unto Ethiopia; properly so called; the Ethiopians had been subdued by Cambyses the son and successor of Cyrus (a), and the Indians by Darius Hystaspis the father of Xerxes (b); and both, with other great nations, were retained in subjection to him (c); and many of both, as well as of other nations, were with him in his expedition into Greece (d):

over an hundred and twenty and seven provinces; there were now seven provinces more under his jurisdiction than were in the times of Darius the Mede, Daniel 6:1.

(n) Targum & Jarchi in loc. Seder Olam Rabba, c. 29. Zuta, p. 108. (o) Pharus Vet. Test. l. 11. c. 12. p. 305. (p) Annal. Vet. Test. p. 160. so Broughton, Works, p. 38, 259, 581. (q) Midrash Esther, fol. 86. 2.((r) Connection, &c. par. 1. B. 4. p. 252, &c. (s) Antiqu. l. 11. c. 6. sect. 1. and so Suidas in voce (t) Chronolog. Sacr. p. 294. (u) Hypotypos. Hist. Sacr. p. 110. (w) Schichart. de Festo Purim. Rainold. Praelect. 144. p. 231. Alsted. Chronolog. p. 126, 181. (x) In Abulpharag. Hist. Dynast. p. 87. (y) Ut supra. (Broughton, Works, p. 38, 259, 581.) (z) Vid. Hiller. Arcan. Keri & Ketib, p. 87. & Onomastic. Sacr. p. 639. (a) Herodot. Thalia, sive, l. 3. c. 97. (b) lb. Melpomene, sive, l. 4. c. 44. (c) lb. Polymnia, sive, l. 7. c. 9. (d) lb. c. 65, 69, 70.

Courtesy of Open Bible