Esther 1:20
In connection with the penalty imposed on Vashti the following remarks may be made: -

I. PENALTIES ARE INTENDED TO ENFORCE LAWS, or, in other words, to deter men from crime. With many law would have little power apart from the penalties attached to the transgression of it. Those who are not governed by virtue, or the love of God and truth, may be commanded by fear.

II. PENALTIES OUGHT TO BE EQUITABLE. As the servants of justice, they should have some real proportion to the trespass committed. Even supposing Vashti to have failed in temper or in wisdom, her punishment was out of all proportion to her fault - most cruel and unjust. Excessive penalties are themselves an injustice, and, as all experience testifies, rather encourage than repress crime.

III. PENALTIES, while being adequate to the offence, SHOULD CONTEMPLATE THE IMPROVEMENT OF THE OFFENDER. The king's decree against Vashti gave no room for explanation, repentance, or amendment, When penalties do nothing more than inflict pain and privation, they are likely to harden transgressors in evil, and thus to prepare new and weightier scourges for the society which they are designed to protect.

IV. PENALTIES SHOULD NEVER BE THE INSTRUMENTS OF VENGEANCE OR WRATH. They should be the award of impartial and unimpassioned justice. Of the punishment of Vashti a burning anger was the spring.

V. PENALTIES SHOULD NEVER BE INFLICTED EXCEPT WHEN GUILT HAS BEEN CLEARLY PROVED. In the action of our law courts the maxim is recognised that it is better to let the guilty escape than to allow punishment to fall on the innocent. The benefit of any doubt is given to the accused.

VI. PENALTIES FURNISH A MOTIVE FOR THE AVOIDANCE OF CRIME ONLY TO THE EVIL-DISPOSED. The good honour and love the principles on which just laws are founded, and freely live by them. If all men were governed by a pure conscience and the love of God there would be no need for penal codes.

VII. PENALTIES ARE ATTACHED TO DIVINE AS WELL AS TO HUMAN LEGISLATION. No law of God can be broken with impunity. In the cross of Jesus Christ mercy and justice meet, and through that sacrifice an infinite mercy is justly offered to all men. As to the future punishment of the impenitent we can say little, because little is revealed; that we must leave trustfully with him whose judgments are truth and whose ways are righteous. It should be the prayerful aim of all Christians so to enter into the love of God in Christ as to be raised above the fear of the law. "Fear hath torment;" "but perfect love casteth out fear" (1 John 4:18). - D.







All the wives shall give to their husbands honour, both to great and small.
All the wives too are included, for they are all "to give honour to their husbands, both to the great and small." Well, the great, the really great, will get the honour easily, and could do very well probably without the helpful edict. Where there is real greatness, which, in Christian speech, we may translate into real goodness, it is the wife's joy to render what it is the husband's pride to wear. But the honour is to be given "both to the great and small!" "Ay, there's the rub." If this insurrectionary torch should go through the land, what will become of the small ones? — the selfish, the spiteful, the meddlesome, the rude, the mean, the silly, the helpless, the good-for-nothing? They are all to have honour! As if a decree could really get it, or keep it from them. Wouldn't the better plan be, in that case, and in many a case besides, that the small shall try to grow larger? Let them be ashamed of their littleness, and rise out of it into something like nobleness. Let them love and help their wives, and care for their children, and honour will come as harvest follows sowing. But unless they do something like that, one fears that all the edicts that can be devised and promulgated will leave them as it finds them — "small."

(A. Raleigh, D. D.)

1. And does not this history teach us that the great law of domestic happiness is love? No Persian decrees are required to execute the mandates of love, nor can any royal commandment make a household happy without it. The true way for all queens to rule is to "stoop to conquer." Let their husbands call themselves as much as they please "the lords of creation," and let them seem to hold the reins, but it is theirs to tell them how to drive. This is the more excellent way. The dispute about the sphere of the sexes is as unphilosophical as it is unscriptural. It is God's will that man should be the head and woman the heart of society. If he is its strength, she is its solace. If he is its wisdom, she is its grace and consolation. Domestic strife is always a great evil, but it becomes doubly so when it occurs before company, as happened with the king of Persia, and when professed friends come in and make bad worse. It is then the wound becomes incurable.

2. Let us learn to guard against all excesses, not only in feasting and in the loss of time, but of feeling and passion. How inconsiderate, how rash, how sinful was Herod's oath and terrible decree against John the Baptist! And scarcely less wicked were the king's unjust and cruel proceedings against his wife. It was a maxim with General Jackson to take much time to deliberate — to think out the right resolution — but when once the resolution was taken, then to think only of executing it.

3. How emphatic a lesson is here of human vanity! The great monarch of such a vast empire is not able to govern himself. And all the grandeur of half a year's feasting is spoiled by the disobedience of his queen. This was the dead fly in his pot of ointment.

4. Alas! that so lovely a place as a garden should have been the scene of such revelry and sinning. A garden is associated with some of our holiest and saddest thoughts. Sin fastened on our race in a garden. It was in a garden the curse was pronounced, and there too the great promise of a Redeemer was given. And it was in a garden the Messiah entered the lists of mortal combat to bruise the old serpent's head. Instead, then, of making our gardens the scenes of sinful mirth and dissipation, as did the Persian king, let us make them oratories for pious breathings to heaven — let them give us thoughts of God and of the love and sufferings of His Son Jesus Christ. It is to Him we owe all our pleasures in the creatures and gifts of providence, as well as the hope of eternal life. And so also let the garden be a preacher to us of our frailty.

(W. A. Scott, D. D.)

This is truly a Divine appointment, but it is not made in an arbitrary manner, like, for instance, a positive institution of the Jews, which might be this way or that way with equal propriety — the thing deriving its sacred character chiefly from the fact of the appointment. Even a Divine appointment could not make the wife supreme, human nature continuing what it is. For one thing, woman is weaker than man physically, and supremacy goes with strength. All kinds of force have their ultimate source in God, and when He makes man permanently stronger than woman, no doubt He means some corresponding authority to rest where the permanent strength does. No doubt strength may be abused, is most shamefully abused in some instances, by the husband. But the way to prevent the abuse of strength is not, surely, to attempt to transfer its proper responsibilities to weakness? Weakness may be abused as much as strength, and in some ways even more. Again, there are many things of less or more importance which come to require a single ultimate decision. One must say how this thing is to be. Practical action must be taken one way or other. Who shall decide? Is the husband to submit to the wife? He decides with whom God has lodged the responsibility. But the truth is that in a properly regulated, or rather a properly inspired home, the question of authority in its bald form never arises. The husband's rule and the wife's obedience are alike unconscious, and alike easy. The sweet laws of nature, the good laws of God, make them one. This leads us to say, on the other hand, with equal emphasis, that the authority of the husband is clearly a limited authority. Common sense ought to teach a man that there is a large sphere of the practical family life where he ought to leave the wife and mother practically supreme. His interference at all (whatever may be the abstract right) will not help the industry, the order, the peace of the household. But, rising higher, look at the grand fact that the authority of the husband over the wife has, and must have, clear and strong, and altogether impassable limits.

(A. Raleigh, D. D.)

Bear rule in his own house
"In his own house" — who has a house of his own? The house is a prison until somebody else shares it. The house belongs to all the people that are in it — part to the husband, part to the wife, part to the children, part to the servants, right through all the household line. Develop the notion of partnery, co-responsibility; let every one feel a living interest in the place: then the house shall be built of living stones, pillared with righteousness, roofed with love. It is here that Christianity shines out with unique lustre. Obedience is right for all parties, but the obedience has to be in the Lord; it is to be the obedience of righteousness, a concession to wisdom, a toll paid to honour, which is to be returned in love and gratitude. Christianity has made our houses homes. We owe everything that is socially beneficent to Christianity.

(J. Parker,D. D.)

A man living at a hotel is like a grape-vine in a flower-pot — movable, carried around from place to place, docked at the root and short at the top. Nowhere can a man get real root-room, and spread out his branches till they touch the morning and the evening, but in his own house.

The important thing, in order to our understanding the story, is that we should keep these first links in our hand, and should mark the working of "another King." Into the administration of our Lord Jesus Christ no mistake can creep, and so perfect is His grasp that mosaic pavements, golden couches, throngs of noblemen, fawning courtiers, excess of wine, swelling vanity, and a woman's firmness, are all, without the slightest knowledge on the part of any actor in the drama, made to bring about a purpose of His, the execution of which is more than four years distant. Had Ahasuerus not been the proud voluptuary he was; had he not made his great feast; had he not in the last day of it let slip or thrown away the reins of sound reason and run his head against a first law of nature; had his vanity taken any other direction than that of wishing to parade the queen's beauty; had Vashti been less of a true woman; had the courtiers been honester than they were — then there would have been no vacant place for Esther to fill, and the plot of Haman might have thriven. But we have this song, "Surely the wrath of man shall praise Thee: the remainder of wrath shalt Thou restrain."

(A. M. Symington, B. A.).

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