The Book of Esther  PDF  MSWord

Esther Chapter 1  PDF  MSWord

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Go to Bible: Esther 1
 
Est 1:1(top)
Est 1:2

“palace-fortress.” The word we translate as palace fortress is biyrah (#01002 בִּירָה), which is not originally a Hebrew word but is a loan word from the Persians that means palace, castle, citadel, fortress. Scholars and archaeologists agree that in Esther it means the fortified part of the city that contained the residence of the king, and thus was a citadel, acropolis, or kind of palace-fortress. Just before the time of Christ, Herod the Great built a huge and very well fortified palace complex in West Jerusalem. The towers were so huge and grand that when the Romans conquered Jerusalem in 70 AD, they left them intact so visitors could see the tremendous feat the Romans accomplished in conquering the city. The word occurs ten times in Esther (Est. 1:2, 5; 2:3, 5, 8; 3:15; 8:14; 9:6, 11, 12).

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Est 1:3(top)
Est 1:4

“180 days.” Some historians doubt whether it would be possible to have a single feast that lasted half a year. For example, could the officials of the kingdom really be away from their posts for that long? They suggest that the feast lasted half a year but the dignitaries came at different times during that period. While that may be likely, it is also possible that the feast really did last half a year. We just do not know for sure.

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Est 1:5

“palace-fortress.” See commentary on Esther 1:2.

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Est 1:6

“There were hangings.” One only has to read this verse in several different versions to discover that what it is saying or how to translate it is not clear. It uses many technical words and words that only occur once and whose meaning is uncertain. Some scholars have proposed that this was done on purpose to elevate the exotic nature of the scene.

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Est 1:7(top)
Est 1:8

“this command.” According to some ancient historians, the normal rule in Persia was that when the king drank, everyone else had to drink. The king made an exception for this feast.

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Est 1:9

“made a feast.” According to the ancient sources, it does not seem customary in Persia that women were excluded from eating with men. Queen Esther will later have a banquet for the king and Haman that she herself attended. It is possible that the guest list was so long that a separate feast for the women was thought appropriate, or there may have been other, unstated reasons.

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Est 1:10

“merry.” The Hebrew word is tov (#02896 טוֹב), and it basically means “good,” but it has a very large semantic range of things that are “good.” In this context of a drinking feast, for example, tov could include everything from happy to really drunk. The context shows us that Ahasuerus the king was at least somewhat drunk.

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Est 1:11

“with the royal crown.” It has long been debated if Ahasuerus demanded Vashti to come show off her beauty naked except for her crown. That seems to have been suggested in part because it would seem to more logically justify her refusal to come. But given the way wives were protected from the eyes of people outside the royal household, she may have refused to come simply on the basis of modesty. We will likely never know for sure. It is also possible that a factor in her decision was that she knew the king was drunk, thought he might regret what he had done, and along with her own modesty thought to protect public opinion towards the king.

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Est 1:12(top)
Est 1:13

“the times.” It was considered very important in ancient cultures to know when to do things. Later in Esther, Haman wants to destroy the Jews, but tries to determine the proper time to do so (Esth. 3:7). The ancient cultures had many different ways of determining what to do and what was a good time to do it. For example, Ezekiel mentions the king of Babylon using divination to find out what to do. He looks at the liver, shakes arrows, and consults with teraphim, which were personal gods of the household (Ezek. 21:21). The wise men who knew or could discern the times, and then who could give advice about what to do, were valuable and usually powerful men.

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Est 1:14

“sat first.” It was customary for rulers to sit while others stood, so the phrase “sat first” would be equivalent to top rulers. For sitting being equivalent to ruling, see commentary on Isaiah 14:13.

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Est 1:15(top)
Est 1:16

“Memucan said.” Memucan was quite the politician. For one thing, he takes the king’s anger from being a personal offense because Vashti has disobeyed him, to a kind of righteous indignation because Vashti’s action will cause discord throughout the entire kingdom, so the king is acting very kingly and in the best interest of his people in dealing very harshly with her. If Herodotus is correct, Memucan is also working in his best interest because the king was supposed to take a wife from the seven families that helped him come to the throne (cp. Est. 1:14), so Memucan likely thought that if Vashti was deposed the kings next wife might come from his own family, increasing his influence in the kingdom.

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Est 1:17(top)
Est 1:18

“contempt and wrath.” Given the culture, in which women were subject to the violence of the men, it is likely that Memucan was referring to the contempt that would be shown by the women and the wrath of the men that would follow.

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Est 1:19

“Vashti.” She is referred to as “queen” when she is mentioned before this (Esther 1:9, 11, 12, 15, 16, 17). This is the first time Vashti is not referred to as “Queen,” (something Memucan would have done on purpose), and she is never referred to as “queen” after this.

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Est 1:20(top)
Est 1:21(top)
Est 1:22

“speak the language of his own people.” This reflects upon the custom of the rich and powerful marrying many wives including wives from foreign countries who did not speak the language of the husband. Thus the king’s edict emphasized the fact that a man who married a foreign wife had no obligation to learn her language; she was to learn his.

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