Esther 1:14
And the next to him was Carshena, Shethar, Admatha, Tarshish, Meres, Marsena, and Memucan, the seven princes of Persia and Media, which saw the king's face, and which sat the first in the kingdom;)
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(14) Marsena.—It has been suggested that we may possibly recognise here Mardonius, the commander at Marathon; and in Admatha, Artabanus, the uncle of Xerxes.

The seven princes.—There were seven leading families in Persia, the heads of which were the king’s chief advisers, the “seven counsellors” of Ezra 7:14. Herodotus (iii. 84) speaks of the seven nobles who rose against the Pseudo-Smerdis as chief in the nation.

Esther 1:14. Which saw the king’s face — Who had constant freedom of access to the king, and opportunities of familiar converse with him; which is thus expressed, because the Persian kings were very seldom seen by their subjects. Who sat the first in the kingdom — Who were his chief counsellors and officers.1:10-22 Ahasuerus's feast ended in heaviness, by his own folly. Seasons of peculiar festivity often end in vexation. Superiors should be careful not to command what may reasonably be disobeyed. But when wine is in, men's reason departs from them. He that had rule over 127 provinces, had no rule over his own spirit. But whether the passion or the policy of the king was served by this decree, God's providence made way for Esther to the crown, and defeated Haman's wicked project, even before it had entered into his heart, and he arrived at his power. Let us rejoice that the Lord reigns, and will overrule the madness or folly of mankind to promote his own glory, and the safety and happiness of his people.In Marsena we may perhaps recognize the famous Mardonius, and in Admatha, Xerxes' uncle, Artabanus.

The seven princes - There were seven families of the first rank in Persia, from which alone the king could take his wives. Their chiefs were entitled to have free access to the monarch's person. See the margin reference note.

13-19. Then the king said to the wise men—These were probably the magi, without whose advice as to the proper time of doing a thing the Persian kings never did take any step whatever; and the persons named in Es 1:14 were the "seven counsellors" (compare Ezr 7:14) who formed the state ministry. The combined wisdom of all, it seems, was enlisted to consult with the king what course should be taken after so unprecedented an occurrence as Vashti's disobedience of the royal summons. It is scarcely possible for us to imagine the astonishment produced by such a refusal in a country and a court where the will of the sovereign was absolute. The assembled grandees were petrified with horror at the daring affront. Alarm for the consequences that might ensue to each of them in his own household next seized on their minds; and the sounds of bacchanalian revelry were hushed into deep and anxious consultation what punishment to inflict on the refractory queen. But a purpose was to be served by the flattery of the king and the enslavement of all women. The counsellors were too intoxicated or obsequious to oppose the courtly advice of Memucan was unanimously resolved, with a wise regard to the public interests of the nation, that the punishment of Vashti could be nothing short of degradation from her royal dignity. The doom was accordingly pronounced and made known in all parts of the empire. Which saw the king’s face; which had constant freedom of access to the king, and familiar converse with him; which is thus expressed, because the Persian kings were very seldom seen by their subjects.

Which sat the first in the kingdom; which were his chief counsellors and officers, and had the precedency from all others. And the next unto him,.... That sat next to the king, and was the chief in dignity and authority under him:

was Carshena; and so everyone in their rank and order, as next mentioned:

Shethar, Admatha, Tarshish, Meres, Marsena, and Memucan; who, according to the latter Targum, were of different countries; the first of Africa, the second of India, the third of Idumea, the fourth of Egypt, the fifth of Resen, Genesis 10:12 which is framed out of Marsena, who is dropped, and the last of Jerusalem, said to be Daniel; though the former Targum makes him to be Haman:

the seven powers of Persia and Media; which custom of having seven counsellors with the kings of Persia arose from the seven princes that slew Smerdis the pretender, and made Darius Hystaspis king, the father of Xerxes:

which saw the king's face; were intimate and familiar with him, often in his presence; yea, might go into it when they pleased, without the ceremony of being introduced; which privilege the above persons reserved to themselves, when they placed Darius on the throne, as Herodotus relates (u):

and which sat the first in the kingdom; next to the king, and were assisting to him in the administration of government, see Ezra 7:14.

(u) lb. (Thalia, sive, l. 3.) c. 84, 118.

And the next unto him was Carshena, Shethar, Admatha, Tarshish, Meres, Marsena, and Memucan, the seven princes of Persia and Media, which saw the {i} king's face, and which sat the first in the kingdom;)

(i) Who were his chief counsellors that always had access to him.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
14. The names of the seven princes have evidently suffered much in transmission. According to Herodotus (vii. 5–17) Mardonius (Xerxes’ cousin) and Artabanus (his uncle) were the king’s chief advisers in the early part of his reign. These names may be represented in the text by ‘Marsena’ and ‘Admatha.’ The LXX. gives but three names. This may be owing to a scribe (or the original translators) having a partially illegible manuscript to work upon.

the seven princes of Persia and Media] who took rank as members of the king’s council above the other great men of the kingdom. So in Ezra (Ezra 7:14) we find that Artaxerxes had seven special advisers. There were, according to Herodotus (iii. 84), seven great families in Persia, the heads of which had peculiar rights. One of these rights was that of access to the king at all times, unless when he was in the women’s apartments.

which saw the king’s face] i.e. who had the right of access to his presence. Some connect this privilege with the story of the assassination of the Pseudo-Smerdis (b.c. 522) by Darius and six other conspirators. The latter, we are told, made a bargain with their colleague, whose claims to the throne they were championing, to the effect that they should at all times have the right of approach just mentioned (Herod. iii. 84).Verse 14. - And the next unto him was Carshena, Shethar, etc. The chief native advisers of Xerxes in the early part of his reign appear to have been Mardonius (Pera Marduniya) and Artabanus (Pers, Artapana), who was his uncle (Herod., 7:5-17). It is possible that Mardonius may be here represented by Marsena, and Artabanus by Admatha; but the names could only have taken these shapes by a large amount of corruption. The other form have a general Persian air, but do not admit of even conjectural identification. The seven princes of Persia and Media. Ezra assigns to the Persian monarch seven special counsellors (Esther 7:14), and Herodotus says that there were seven leading families in Persia whose heads were specially privileged (3:84). The title, however, "princes of Persia and Media," is not found anywhere but here. Which saw the king's face. Among the privileges said by Herodotus to have been reserved to the heads of the great families, one of the most valued was that of free access to the monarch at all times, unless he were in the seraglio. The entertainment: "And drinks poured into vessels of gold! and vessels differing from vessels, and royal wine in abundance, according to the hand of a king. (Esther 1:8) And the drinking was according to law; nine did compel: for so the king had appointed to all the officers of his house to do according to every one's pleasure." השׁקות, inf. Hiph., to give to drink, to hand drinks, is used substantively. The golden drinking vessels were of various kinds, and each differing in form from another. Great variety in drinking vessels pertained to the luxury of Persians; comp. Xenoph. Cyrop. viii. 8, 18. מלכוּת יין is wine from the royal cellar, therefore costly wine. Many interpreters understand it of the Chalybonian wine, which the Persian kings used to drink. See rem. on Ezekiel 27:18. המּלך כּיד, according to the hand of the king, i.e., according to royal bounty; comp. 1 Kings 10:13. The words: "the drinking was according to law, none did compel," are generally understood to say, that the king abolished for this banquet, the prevailing custom of pledging his guests. According to Grecian information (see Baumgarten, p. 12f.), an exceedingly large quantity of wine was drunk at Persian banquets. This sense of the words is not, however, quite certain. The argument of Baumgarten, Si hic mos vulgaris fuisset in epulis regiis, sine dubio haec omnia non commemorata essent, no more holds good than his further remark: formulam illam אנס אין כּדּת non puto adhibitam fuisse, nisi jam altera contraria אנס כּדּת solemnis esset facta. The historian can have noticed this only because it was different from the Jewish custom. Bertheau also justly remarks: "We are not told in the present passage, that the king, on this occasion, exceptionally permitted moderation, especially to such of his guests as were, according to their ancestral customs, addicted to moderation, and who would else have been compelled to drink immoderately. For the words with which this verse concludes, which they imply also a permission to each to drink as little as he chose, are specially intended to allow every one to take much. על יסּד, to appoint concerning, i.e., to enjoin, comp. 1 Chronicles 9:22. בּית רב, those over the house, i.e., the court officials.
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