Matthew Poole's Commentary
Now it came to pass in the days of Ahasuerus, (this is Ahasuerus which reigned, from India even unto Ethiopia, over an hundred and seven and twenty provinces:)Ahasuerus and Vashti make a royal banquet, Est 1:1-9. He sends for Vashti, Est 1:10,1. She refuseth to come, Est 1:12. He consulteth his wise men about it, Est 1:13-15. Their judgment and advice to put her away, Est 1:16-20. He maketh the decree of men's sovereignty in their own houses, Est 1:21,22.
Quest. Who was this king?
Answ. It is confessed and manifest that this was one of the kings of Persia; but which of them it was is not yet agreed, nor is it of any necessity for us now to know. But it is sufficiently evident that this was either,
1. Darius Hystaspes, as divers both Jewish and Christian writers affirm; for his kingdom was thus vast, and he subdued India, as Herodotus reports; and one of his wives was called Atossa, which differs little from Hadassah, which is Esther's other name, Est 2:7. Or,
2. Xerxes, whose wife, as Herodotus notes, was called Amestris, which is not much differing from Esther; by whom all these things were transacted whilst he was potent and prosperous, before his unhappy expedition against the Grecians. Or,
3. Artaxerxes Longimanus, to whom the characters of Ahasuerus represented in this book do not disagree. And whereas it is objected, that by this account Mordecai must be a man of about a hundred and forty years, and consequently Esther, who is called his uncle's daughter, Est 2:7, must be too old to make a wife for the king; as for Mordecai, it may be granted, there being divers instances of persons of greater age than that in sacred and profane historians; and for Esther, it may be said that she was his uncle's granddaughter, nothing being more frequent than for the names of sons or daughters to be given to more remote posterity.
An hundred and seven and twenty provinces; so seven new provinces were added to those hundred and twenty mentioned Dan 6:1.
That in those days, when the king Ahasuerus sat on the throne of his kingdom, which was in Shushan the palace,Sat on the throne of his kingdom, i.e. either was lately advanced to it, or rather was settled in the peaceable possession of it.
The palace; or, the castle; or, the chief or royal city, as both, Jewish and Christian interpreters render it. Shushan might be the proper name of the palace, which thence was given to the whole city. Here the kings of Persia used to keep their courts chiefly in winter, as ordinarily they were in Ecbatana in summer.
In the third year of his reign, he made a feast unto all his princes and his servants; the power of Persia and Media, the nobles and princes of the provinces, being before him:The power of Persia, i.e. the mighty men; the chief officers of state, and commanders of all his forces; whom by this splendid entertainment he endeavoured to oblige and assure to himself.
When he shewed the riches of his glorious kingdom and the honour of his excellent majesty many days, even an hundred and fourscore days.Making every day a magnificent feast, either for all his princes, or for some of them, who might come to the feast successively, as the king ordered them to do. The Persian feasts are much celebrated in authors for their length and luxury.
And when these days were expired, the king made a feast unto all the people that were present in Shushan the palace, both unto great and small, seven days, in the court of the garden of the king's palace;All the people that were present; both such as constantly resided there, and such as were come thither upon their occasions, of whatsoever condition or quality.
In the court of the garden: the Persian gardens were exceeding large and pleasant.
Where were white, green, and blue, hangings, fastened with cords of fine linen and purple to silver rings and pillars of marble: the beds were of gold and silver, upon a pavement of red, and blue, and white, and black, marble.The beds; for in those eastern countries and ancient times they did not sit at tables, as we do, but rested or leaned upon beds; of which we have many testimonies, both in Scripture, as Esther 7:8 Amos 2:8 6:4 John 13:23, and in all other authors.
And they gave them drink in vessels of gold, (the vessels being diverse one from another,) and royal wine in abundance, according to the state of the king.No text from Poole on this verse.
And the drinking was according to the law; none did compel: for so the king had appointed to all the officers of his house, that they should do according to every man's pleasure.According to the law, none did compel, i.e. according to this law which the king had now made, that none should compel another to drink more than he pleased; which the Persians and other loose and heathenish nations used to do, though that practice was condemned by the wise and sober heathens, and among others by this great prince. Or, no man did compel another to drink, according to the law, i.e. as by the laws or orders of the Persians prescribed and used in their feasts they might have done, if not restrained by this law.
Also Vashti the queen made a feast for the women in the royal house which belonged to king Ahasuerus.Whilst the king entertained the men; for this was the common custom of the Persians, that men and women did not feast together, but in several places.
On the seventh day, when the heart of the king was merry with wine, he commanded Mehuman, Biztha, Harbona, Bigtha, and Abagtha, Zethar, and Carcas, the seven chamberlains that served in the presence of Ahasuerus the king,Chamberlains, or eunuchs; which were much in use and in favour in the eastern courts, and particularly with the Persian emperors, as ancient histories inform us.
To bring Vashti the queen before the king with the crown royal, to shew the people and the princes her beauty: for she was fair to look on.No text from Poole on this verse.
But the queen Vashti refused to come at the king's commandment by his chamberlains: therefore was the king very wroth, and his anger burned in him.Vashti refused to come; being favoured in this refusal by the laws and customs of Persia, which was to keep men’s wives, and especially queens, as much as might be from the view of other men.
Then the king said to the wise men, which knew the times, (for so was the king's manner toward all that knew law and judgment:Which knew the times; either,
1. The histories of former times, what princes have done in such cases as this was. Or,
2. Things done or to be done in time; what was just and fit to be done, or what was the law and judgment in these cases, as the following words explain it, and how and when things were to be done. See Poole "1 Chronicles 12:32". Times are oft put in Scripture and other authors for the things done in them, by a common figure called a metonymy of the adjunct.
So was the king’s manner, to wit, to consult with them in all matters of moment.
And the next unto 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;)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.
What shall we do unto the queen Vashti according to law, because she hath not performed the commandment of the king Ahasuerus by the chamberlains?No text from Poole on this verse.
And Memucan answered before the king and the princes, Vashti the queen hath not done wrong to the king only, but also to all the princes, and to all the people that are in all the provinces of the king Ahasuerus.Memucan, though last named, spake first, either because the king first asked him; or because he was the chief of them all, either in dignity or in reputation; or because it then was, as now it is in many places, the custom for the youngest counsellors or judges to deliver their opinion first.
To all the people; by giving them an example and encouragement to contemn and disobey their husbands. It is a crime of a high nature, and therefore deserves an exemplary punishment.
For this deed of the queen shall come abroad unto all women, so that they shall despise their husbands in their eyes, when it shall be reported, The king Ahasuerus commanded Vashti the queen to be brought in before him, but she came not.No text from Poole on this verse.
Likewise shall the ladies of Persia and Media say this day unto all the king's princes, which have heard of the deed of the queen. Thus shall there arise too much contempt and wrath.Contempt in the wives, and thereupon wrath in the husbands; and consequently strife in families; which may produce great and general mischiefs.
If it please the king, let there go a royal commandment from him, and let it be written among the laws of the Persians and the Medes, that it be not altered, That Vashti come no more before king Ahasuerus; and let the king give her royal estate unto another that is better than she.If it please the king, which this cunning politician knew it would do.
That it be not altered; which caution was necessary for his own security; for if the queen should recover her state and the king’s favour, he was most likely to fall into his displeasure.
And when the king's decree which he shall make shall be published throughout all his empire, (for it is great,) all the wives shall give to their husbands honour, both to great and small.No text from Poole on this verse.
And the saying pleased the king and the princes; and the king did according to the word of Memucan:The saying pleased the king and the princes; partly because their own authority and interest was concerned in it; and especially by the singular providence of God, who designed to bring about his own great work by this small occasion.
For he sent letters into all the king's provinces, into every province according to the writing thereof, and to every people after their language, that every man should bear rule in his own house, and that it should be published according to the language of every people.That all sorts of persons, not men only, (who by study or travel many times understand divers languages,) but the women also, might understand it, and therefore be inexcusable if they did not comply with it; for which end it was not only written in each language, for that writing might come but to few hands, but moreover it was published in the several cities and towns by such persons as used to publish the king’s edicts. Others, that he should speak in the language of his own people, i.e. that men should not, in compliance with their wives, who were oft of other nations and languages, inure themselves to it, and bring their wives’ language into the family; but that men should use their own proper language, and cause their wives and children to use it; this being one sign of dominion, and therefore frequent after this time among the Greeks and Romans, who, together with their victorious arms, brought in their language into other countries, and in a great measure imposed it upon them.