Esther 1:14
His closest advisors were Carshena, Shethar, Admatha, Tarshish, Meres, Marsena, and Memucan, the seven princes of Persia and Media who had personal access to the king and ranked highest in the kingdom.
Privileged PersonsF. Hastings Esther 1:14
CounsellorsW. Dinwiddle Esther 1:13, 14
Seven princes of Persia and Media, which saw the king's face, and sat first in the kingdom. It has always been the custom of kings to surround themselves with those who should be able to help or advise, or be the media of transmitting their desires or decrees to the people. These officers of state have been called "wise men," viziers, councillors, ministers. They form the executive. In Persia there was no electoral representation, the government was absolute. Hence the seven men whose names are mentioned were appointed by the king, and his whim could remove them. So long as they were in favour they were accounted privileged persons. Two things are told of them: -



I. It was the custom of the kings of Persia to seclude themselves as much as possible from their subjects. Only those who were appointed to come near might see his face. This reserve was assumed in order to foster reverence and awe of the great king among the people. When one who had been permitted to approach, and had gained the king's favour, lost it, the attendants immediately covered his face that he might not look on the king. "As the word went out of the king's mouth, they covered Haman's face" (Esther 7:8). The seven wise men here mentioned were permitted to see the king's face at any time. The rulers of Persia assumed the title of "king of kings." That which was assumed by them belongs only to God. Who can see his face? He dwells in light "unapproachable." When Jacob wrestled with the angel of the Lord, he carried a reminder thereof in the limp or lameness, the result of the touch of that supernatural Being. When Moses desired to see the Divine glory he was bidden in a cleft rock; when he communed with God his face glistened so that be had to hide it beneath a veil. When Manoah offered a sacrifice, and the angel whose name was "secret" did wondrously, he feared he would be slain because of the visit from another world. "No man hath seen God at any time." Man could not see the unutterable glory and live. But there is One, "the only begotten Son," who not only saw his face, but rested "in the bosom" of the Divine Father, and "hath declared him." He gives to us this privileged sight also. God was in Christ. The meaning- of the incarnation was this, that men looking at Christ looked on "God manifest in the flesh." Philip wanted a further view of the Father, and Christ told him, "He that hath seen me hath seen the Father." Intercourse was possible under the old dispensation; sight was made possible under the new. Faith in Christ sees God. "The pure in heart see God" not only hereafter, but here. This is a high privilege. The Queen of Sheba said to Solomon, "Happy are thy men, and happy are these thy servants which stand continually before thee and hear thy wisdom." The happiness of the true Christian is to stand ever in the presence of God. This privilege is the gift of God's grace. None could admit to the sight of his mercy and glory unless he had graciously permitted it. The sight is not for a few, but for all who will come unto him through Christ.

II. The PROMINENT POSITION occupied by the "wise men" of Persia may suggest the advance which comes through spiritual character. "To sit first" in the kingdom is not to be the one aim, but it will be given to those for whom it is prepared - those who are prepared for it. High spiritual qualities give pre-eminence. This pre-eminence is not to be sought for itself. There must be no ambition, or we are those unfitted for it. Spiritual character must be sought as its own reward, and because it pleases God. James and John made a great mistake when they asked, through their mother, Christ for a promise of prominent position. "The last will be first, and first last." Heaven is no place of pomp, but of discrimination of character. Mere questions of precedence, whether in court, ecclesiastical, or municipal affairs, are generally petty, because based on mere accident and opinion. In heaven character will decide precedence. Those nearest the throne will probably be those who felt themselves the most unworthy; men like Paul, who felt himself "less than the least of all saints." The great thing for us is not to seek pre-eminence, but inner spiritual power; by simple faith, humility, zeal, unselfishness, devoutness, living as in the presence of God, and having every thought and action in harmony with God's will. As the current of a river sets to the ocean, so the whole "set" of a life may be God-ward. The seven men who "sat first in the kingdom" were in their position that they might advise the king. When we are brought into God's kingdom it will be to drink in of his wisdom. These men also could be easily removed. Their position depended on the whim of the monarch, and therefore was insecure. When we are once brought into God's kingdom above we shall be safe for ever. No enemy shall dislodge, no storm trouble, no sin assail, but we shall be safe for ever. We read of Haman being "advanced," and of the king setting "his seat above all the princes that were with him" (Esther 3:1). This must have been gall and wormwood to the rest of the princes. No such jealousy will enter the hearts of those who are permitted to behold in heaven the King's face, and to sit in his kingdom. - H.

To bring Vashti the queen before the king.
Whatever be the ruling passion of a man, whether it be pride, vanity, or anger, or lust, or impiety, or even benevolence, it will display itself when he is inflamed by strong drink. Vanity was the ruling passion in the breast of the Persian monarch. He had feasted his nobles for weeks to "show the riches of his glorious kingdom"; and now he would bring in the queen, to "show the people and the princes her beauty." He was vain of Vashti; and having displayed "the honour of his royal majesty," he would now exhibit the beauty of her royal majesty. We are hurt by the ebullition of pride — but ready to laugh at the display of vanity. It is true that it makes its subject ridiculous, but it is a vice as well as a weakness, and is often productive of great mischief. The female sex is commonly supposed to be most addicted to vanity; but men axe not free from it, and, if they have nothing to be vain of themselves, are sometimes fain to shine in borrowed feathers.

(T. McCrie.)

What the reason was that swayed her to this bold step we are not told. Her motives may have been mixed. Perhaps she was tired with her own exertions. Perhaps she felt that for the time she was not beautiful, and would not look queenly. Perhaps she thought the summons too peremptory, and the bearers of it not dignified enough to come to her with such a message. We cannot certainly tell. All human motives are more or less mixed, and so were hers — but one feels bound to say that by far the most probable cause of her refusal was a deep sense of injury done to her womanhood, and of course to her queenliness, in this sudden call to show herself in such a company, at such a time.

(A. Raleigh, D. D.)

Bad as the conduct of the king was in issuing the order, it does not follow that the queen was right in disobeying it. If the action had been in itself positively immoral, then it would have been her duty to have resisted, whatever the consequences might be. No authority can bind, and no danger should constrain, a woman to do anything which is vicious or essentially immodest. Had Vashti of her own accord gone into the company, had she sought the opportunity, or embraced it joyfully, she would have been convicted of immodesty; but had she complied merely out of respect to authority, and to prevent her husband from being dishonoured by her refusal, in the presence of his subjects, her conduct would have appeared in a very different light in the eyes of all reasonable persons. She was a subject, as well as a wife; and if her royal husband had, when heated with wine, issued an order which reflected on her honour, she, being perfectly sober, might have consulted his. But Vashti was as proud as Ahasuerus was vain, and determined that if he was imperious, she would be haughty and unyielding. She was piqued that such a message should be sent to her in the presence of her maids of honour and the great ladies of Persia, and resolved to show her spirit by setting at nought the request of the king her husband. Instead of making a modest excuse, or sending "a soft answer which turneth away wrath," she gave a flat and peremptory refusal.

(T. McCrie.)

Thus the question was publicly forced on all, Is this man, who rules from India to Ethiopia, really a great man, after all? For Vashti disobeyed him; and Vashti was right. There is a higher law than even the will of a king and a husband — the law that gives a woman right to guard her own modesty when those who should guard it for her do not. Vashti obeyed that higher law written by the Creator in the nature of men and women; and we can think nothing but good of her in the matter. Had force been used, her responsibility would have ceased, but she had no right to yield; and the crown royal was a cheap price to pay for her own self-respect.

Did he send a message to Vashti to ask if she would be willing? When was woman ever honoured out of Christ, who redeemed her out of her social estrangement and solitude, and set her forth invested with the queenliness of a God-given beauty and modesty. Hear the king: "Fetch Vashti now, and make a show of her beauty, for she is fair to look upon." All this is in natural order. Selfishness never considers the feelings of others. Selfishness will be gratified at all costs and hazards. When a man's heart is merry with wine all that is most sacred in humanity goes out of him. Who can withhold anything from a ravenous beast? Who should stay his power and say be quiet, be self-controlled, be contented? None. This is human nature when left to itself.

(J. Parker, D. D.)

If Ahasuerus is to be identified with Xerxes, it is probable that Vashti is the same as the Amestris who is spoken of by the Greeks as the wife of Xerxes, and whom he must have wedded before his accession to the throne.

(W. M. Taylor, D. D.)

But for my part I consider it worthy of all praise, and hold that she was entirely right in what she did. It is true that by the appointment of God the husband is the head of the wife, but the headship is not absolute and autocratic. Here, too, the government must be constitutional and within limits which have been fixed by the Lord Himself. No husband has a right to command a wife to do that which is wrong, and liberty of conscience ought to be as sacred in the home as in the State.

(W. M. Taylor, D. D.)

Vashti had good reason to beg to be excused from appearing in a company where too many were merry with wine, and it is probable that if she had sent her humble request to the king to spare her modesty he might have recalled his orders.

(G. Lawson.)

She was in no danger of being insulted by indecent words or wanton glances in the presence of her royal husband, whose frown was death to his subjects. She thought she was supporting the honour of her sex. But did not she see that she was affronting her husband and her king not only before his chamberlains but before all his people? It he suffered his own family to trample upon his authority his respectability amongst his other subjects must have been greatly lessened. The queen is the first subject in the kingdom; she ought, therefore, to go before all the other subjects in showing a becoming deference to the king's pleasure. If men expect due obedience from their wives, let them be always reasonable in their commands, otherwise half the guilt of the disobedience of their wives will remain with themselves. Never impose a burden upon your wife which either female delicacy or her particular temper, which you ought to know, will render too heavy for her to bear. Ahasuerus hoped to show to all his princes and people in Shushan how happy he was, and only showed them his misery.

(G. Lawson.)

Was Ahasuerus contented with what he had so richly enjoyed? We stand in this chamber of the world to witness a remarkable scene of its madness and folly.

1. Behold the thorough dissatisfaction which attends its joys. See the conscious wretchedness which limits all its pleasures. Man finds an inherent and inseparable element of dissatisfaction in all the scenes of his earthly joys. They do not, they cannot meet his wants. He awakes always to find that his soul is empty, and sad in the consciousness of the fact. Ahasuerus is just as unsatisfied with all his magnificent display and with his six months' pompous festival as the poorest subject of his realm is with his own hard lot. unlimited opportunity of indulgence is nothing, while there is a limited capacity to enjoy and an unlimited craving for enjoyment. Such was Ahasuerus. His heart was empty of joy though filled with madness. He imagines a new spectacle which will awaken a new admiration. He commands his seven chamberlains "to bring Vashti the queen before the king, with the crown royal, to show the people and the princes her beauty, for she was fair to look on." But he is not alone. Where is the feast or where the provision of the world for human gratification in which there is nothing left for the heart to desire? Ahasuerus is but a specimen. His folly has been multiplied in myriads of instances, and in every variety in the scale of imitation. It only shows what emptiness there is in the whole of this scheme of sensual gratification.

2. Behold the bitter disappointment. "Queen Vashti refused to come at the king's commandment by his chamberlains." Refused to come! — what a disappointment to morbid, vulgar curiosity! What a fall to intoxicated pride! But it was a noble specimen of woman's dignity, modesty, and virtue. All his indulgence is forgotten — the happiness of his palace has passed away. The worldly heart is empty and vexed with itself. His dream of glory has vanished. Its beauty and splendour have withered completely for him. One "dead fly" has destroyed the fragrance of the whole provision. But is this a peculiar case in the disappointment which it describes? Was Ahasuerus the only victim of such conscious mistake in the midst of indulgence? You see the madness, the disappointment in the sensual heart which worldly indulgence everywhere produces. Go where you will, as far as you will, still desire anal imagination press further on. Something is yet demanded to complete your attainment. This is the inevitable law of the result in human pleasure. The brightest portion leaves something still to ask. The highest attainment is as unsatisfying as the lowest.

3. Behold the degradation to which this disappointment has brought its victim. The king is wretched in the presence of them all Ahasuerus is degraded, but he has degraded himself. The man who has sacrificed his virtue, his integrity, his self-respect, may be sure that, sooner or later, his sin will find him out. But this is another lesson in the chamber of worldly indulgence. This is the habitual end of a life of mere sensual gratification. Personal degradation is its habitual result — in some shape or other its final, inevitable result. Moral, outward degradation frequently! Intellectual, conscious degradation, social degradation! what can be more degrading than such a subjection? What can be more degrading than such a slavery to brute appetite and sensual display? It is the defiling and destroying of a mind that might be elevated to God and educated for glory.

(S. H. Tyng, D. D.)

1. In the first place I want you to look upon Vashti the queen. A blue ribbon rayed with white, drawn around her forehead, indicated her queenly position. It was no small honour to be queen in such a realm as that. Hark to the rustle of her robes! See the blaze of her jewels! And yet it is not necessary to have palace and regal robe in order to be queenly. When I see a woman with stout faith in God, putting her foot upon all meanness and selfishness and godless display, going right forward to serve Christ and the race by a grand and glorious service, I say, That woman is a queen, and whether she comes up from the shanty on the common or the mansion of the fashionable square I greet her with the shout, "All hail, Queen Vashti!" When Scarron, the wit and ecclesiastic, as poor as he was brilliant, was about to marry Madame de Maintenon he was asked by the notary what he proposed to settle .upon Mademoiselle. The reply was, "Immortality; the names of the wives of kings die with them; the name of the wife of Scarron will live always." In a higher and better sense upon all women who do their duty God will settle immortality! Not the immortality of earthly fame, but the immortality celestial. And they shall reign for ever and ever! Oh, the opportunity which every woman has of being a queen! The longer I live the more I admire good womanhood. If a man have a depressed idea of womanly character he is a bad man, and there is no exception to the rule. The writings of Goethe can never have any such attractions for me as Shakespeare, because nearly all the womanly characters of the great German have some kind of turpitude.

2. Again, I want you to consider Vashti the veiled. Had she appeared before Ahasuerus and his court on that day with her face uncovered she would have shocked all the delicacies of Oriental society, and the very men who in their intoxication demanded that she come, in their sober moments would have despised her. As some flowers seem to thrive best in the dark lane and in the shadow, and where the sun does not seem to reach them, so God appoints to most womanly natures a retiring and unobtrusive spirit. God once in a while does call an Isabella to a throne, or a Miriam to strike the timbrel at the front of a host, or a Marie Antoinette to quell a French mob, or a Deborah to stand at the front of an armed battalion crying out, "Up! Up! This is the day in which the Lord will deliver Sisera into thy hands." And when women are called to such outdoor work and to such heroic positions God prepares them for it. When I see a woman going about her daily duty — with cheerful dignity presiding at the table; with kind and gentle but firm discipline presiding in the nursery; going out into the world without any blast of trumpets, following in the footsteps of Him who went about doing good — I say, "This is Vashti with a veil on." But when I see a woman of unblushing boldness, loud-voiced, with a tongue of infinite clitter-clatter, with arrogant look, passing through the streets with a masculine swing, gaily arrayed in a very hurricane of millinery, I cry out, "Vashti has lost her veil."

3. Again, I want you to consider Vashti the sacrifice. Who is this that I see coming out of that palace gate of Shushan? She comes homeless, houseless, friendless, trudging along with a broken heart. Who is she? It is Vashti the sacrifice. Oh, what a change it was from regal position to a wayfarer's crust! Ah! you and I have seen it many a time. Here is a home empalaced with beauty. All that refinement and books and wealth can do for that home has been done; but Ahasuerus, the husband and the father, is taking hold on paths of sin. He is gradually going down. Soon the bright apparel of the children will turn to rags; soon the household song will become the sobbing of a broken heart. The old story over again. The house full of outrage and cruelty and abomination, while trudging forth from the palace gate are Vashti and her children. Oh, Ahasuerus, that you should stand in a home by a dissipated life destroying the peace and comfort of that home!

4. Once more, I want you to look at Vashti the silent. You do not hear any outcry from this woman as she goes forth from the palace gate. From the very dignity of her nature you know there will be no vociferation, Sometimes in life it is necessary to make a retort; sometimes in life it is necessary to resist; but there are crises when the most triumphant thing to do is to keep silence. Affliction, enduring without any complaint the sharpness of the pang, and the violence of the storm, and the fetter of the chain, and the darkness of the night — waiting until a Divine hand shall be put forth to soothe the pang and hush the storm and release the captive. An Arctic explorer found a ship floating helplessly about among the icebergs, and going on board he found that the captain was frozen at his log-book, and the helmsman was frozen at the wheel, and the men on the look-out were frozen in their places. That was awful, but magnificent. All the Arctic blasts and all the icebergs could not drive them from their duty. Their silence was louder than thunder. And this old ship of the world has many at their posts in the awful chill of neglect, and frozen of the world's scorn, and their silence shall be the eulogy of the skies, and be rewarded long after this weather-beaten craft of a planet shall have made its last voyage. I thank God that the mightiest influences are the most silent. The fires in a furnace of a factory or of a steamship roar though they only move a few shuttles or a few thousand tons, but the sun that warms the world rises and sets without a crackle or faintest sound. Travellers visiting Mount Etna, having heard of the glories of sunrise on that peak went up to spend the night there and see the sun rise next morning, but when it came up it was so far behind their anticipations that they actually hissed it. The mightiest influences of to-day are like the planetary system — completely silent. Don't hiss the sun!

(T. De Witt Talmage.)

Therefore was the king very wroth
"Therefore was the king very wroth, and his anger burned in him." Literally, he frothed at the mouth and became as a wild boar. The strength of manhood is in self-control. The Oriental king could not brook that his will should be resisted. It is the very highest attainment of Christian education that a man shall accept the resistance of his will as an element in his culture. No man will seek to force his will; he will reason about it, he will be mighty in argument, tender and gentle in persuasion, and if he cannot win the first day or the second day, he may be successful on the third day. But mere force never won a true victory. Conquer by love and you will reign by consent. Let men feel that your wisdom is greater than theirs, and they will say, "God save the king!" The time is coming when every man will have to prove his kingliness not because of the insignia he keeps in the tower, but because of a wise head, a noble heart, and a hand that never refused its offices to an honest cause.

(J. Parker, D. D.)

I.THE DEFORMITY OF ANGER. What an ugly thing is anger.



(J. Trapp.)

Scientific Illustrations, etc.
Regular ill-temper is altogether a different thing from passion. The one corrodes incessantly like an acid or metal, the other discharges desperate shocks like the electric shocks of the gymnotus, and spends itself. Do not get in the way of passionate men until their batteries are discharged. The exhaustion of these batteries is only a matter of time and opportunity. And you may watch the process calmly, and be instructed by Humboldt's description of the way in which the gymnotes use their batteries, and see if you discover therein any resemblance to and lesson for passionate persons. He tells us that the gymnotes abound in the vicinity of Calaboza in South America, and the Indians, well aware of the danger of encountering them when their powers are in vigour, collect from twenty to thirty horses, drive them into the pools, and when the gymnotes have exhausted their electric batteries on the poor horses they can be taken without risk. Time and repose are needed before the batteries are ready to act again. The first assault of the gymnotes, says Humboldt, was chiefly to be dreaded. In fact, after a time the eels resembled discharged batteries. Their muscular motion continued active, but they had lost the power of giving energetic shocks. When the combat had endured for a quarter of an hour the horses seemed to be less in fear. They were no longer seen to fall backwards, and the gymnotes, swimming with their bodies half out of the water, were now flying from the horses and making for the shore. The Indians then began to use their harpoons, and by means of long cords attached to them drew the fish out of the water. When the batteries of his passion have been discharged many a passionate man has also afforded a similarly easy conquest to those who have just watched and waited.

(Scientific Illustrations, etc.)

Scientific Illustrations, etc.
The panther rarely attacks man without being provoked; but it is irritated at the merest trifle, and its anger is manifested by the lightning rapidity of its onset, which invariably results in the speedy death of the imprudent being who has aroused its fury. Avoid passionate people, for they are like the panther.

(Scientific Illustrations, etc.)

Surely a palace will be a sanctuary. The palace of this man was worse than a stable. Surely in the presence of beauty men must grow beautiful! This man looked on beauty but did not see it, and perpetrated the irony of living amongst beautiful things until he became ghastly and hideous. Never did Pleasure hold such carnival; never were such Saturnalia known in all the earth. Yet the men did not retire from it heroes and chief of virtue and beneficence; they staggered away half beast and half devil.

(J. Parker, D. D.)

Sometimes we say, looking upon the abodes of poverty, "What can we expect here of decency, moral education, and progress? See how the poor are huddled and crowded together! What can be looked for here but a "hotbed bringing forth a most evil harvest?" All that is right. But if there is any argument in it at all it is an argument that covers a large space. Here is a man who has room enough, he has everything at his command; if he wants gold or silver or precious stones he can have them by a nod of his head, what can we expect here but piety, contentment, thankfulness, moral progress? Family life under such a canopy must be a daily doxology, a sweet, hallowed thing more of heaven than of earth. We must beware of the sophism in both sides of this popular argument. Character is not in circumstances. The poorest people have, in no solitary instances easily numbered, most vividly illustrated the purest and noblest character. There are kings who are paupers, there are paupers who are kings. We owe everything to moral education — we owe nothing to kingly splendour.

(J. Parker, D. D.)

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