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like him, who was beloved of his God, and God made him king over all Israel : nevertheless even him did outlandish women
cause to sin ; and if he was seduced, how could they think to fire27 serve their integrity? Shall we then hearken unto you to do all
this great evil, to transgress against our God in marrying
strange wives ? shall we connive at this mischief, and thus in effect 28 justify you in your crimes? And (one) of the sons of Joiada, the
son of Eliashib the high priest, [was) son in law to Sanballat the
Horonite : therefore I chased him from me from the temple and 29 priesthood, and all the privileges of an Israelite.* Remember them,
O my God, and punish them according to their deserts, because they have defiled the priesthood, and the covenant of the priest. hood, and of the Levites, by which they were bound to observe the
laws of the priesthood, one of which was, that they were to marry 30 virgins of their own people. Thus cleansed I them from all
strangers, that is, áll strange wives, and appointed the wards of the priests and the Levites, every one in his business; And for the wood offering, at times appointed, and for the first fruits ; he appointed the priests and Levites to discharge their proper offices, and appointed provisions for them. Remember me, O my God, for good; concluding his history by recommending himself and all he had done to God's gracious acceptance.t
.W E see here the dangerous consequences of being unequally
VV yoked with unbelievers, or those who bave no real religion. How dishonourable was it to the servants of God! how uncomfortable to themselves ! how injurious to their children who were likely to learn the language of Ashdod, that is, profane and sinful discourse. No advantages in external circumstances will make such a choice or relation in life a wise one, where there are not the apparent marks of true religion.
2. Those who have the interest of religion at heart, will be concerned that God's ministers may have a comfortable maintenance, No wonder the house of God was forsaken, and its services poorly performed, when the provision of the priests was withheld ! It was time for the Levités to go to their farms, and pursue any secular employment, when they must starve at Jerusalem. It is the will of Christ that those who preach the gospel should live by the gospel. A scandalous maintenance will often make a scandalous minister ; and if ministers have any ingenuity and gratitude, the more cheerfully their salaries are paid, the better their work will be done.
• Josephus says that this man's name was Manasseh, that he went to Samaria, and his father in law, Sanballat, by his interest with the Persian prince, got leave to build a temple on mount Gerizim, like that at Jerusalem ; that he made his son in law high priest, and many that married strange wives went after him, and others also who had violated the Jewish law, and deServed punishment; so that it became a receptacle for apostate Jews; and this occasioned that eomity between the Jews and Samaritans which continued till Christ's time.
About the time that Nehemiah was making this reformation, Malachi prophesied; for he reproves the people, and particularly the priests, for the same crime which Nehemiah is here correcting and punishing.
. 3. The profanation of the sabbath is a great and growing evil, and it becomes every wise and good man to labour to redress it. No wonder Nehemiah's righteous soul was grieved, when he saw the sabbath profaned, and made a day of trade and merchandize ! It was no wonder that the people of Tyre should be bad; but this is not what the Israel of God, who were just come out of captivity, should have been. We are bound by this law; and those who fol. low their callings, or, as it is expressed in v. 17. sell victuals on the sabbath day, are, I apprehend, criminal, and offend both against the laws of God, and our country. The power of religion will always decline where sabbath sanctification is neglected.
4. Those who desire to promote reformation, should bè zealous and resolute, and not be discouraged though but few should join them, and they should meet with much opposition. Nehemiah had great difficulties to encounter ; not only the men of Tyre, whose gain would be lost, but the people of Israel, yea, priests and nobles ; and yet, having reason, and the law of God on his side, he set his face like a flint, and all opposition fell before him. His zeal should enkindle ours, and his success animate our hopes. Vice, if resolutely opposed, is weak ; and if we boldly appear on the Lord's side, he will prosper us ; at least we shall have the satisfaction of having done our duty, and our peace will return into our own bosoins.
5. Deeds done for the house of God, and the offices and ordinances thereof, are good deeds, and such as he will accept and reward. We should contribute cheerfully toward the building of suite able places of worship, to the support of God's ministers, which are designed to restrain vice, and encourage virtue and piety. We may reflect on these things with pleasure. God records them in the book of his remembrance ; and he is not unrighteous to forget any work or labour of love.
6. Whatever we do for God and religion, let us remember, that we are still unprofitable servants. Nehemiah's humility is as remarkable as his piety and zeal. He pleads no merit; he prays God to remember him, and to remember him for good ; to share him accord ing to the greatness of his mercy. Let us likewise keep up the remembrance of our sinful defects, and our need of God's abundant mercy. It is he that inclines us to do good, assists and succeeds us In it. To hin then let us give the glory; and humbly hope for our reward from the riches of his mercy ; always saying with the humble apostle, concerning any thing we do for the service of God, 10% 1, but the grace of God which was with me.
The Book of ESTHER,
THIS book contains the narrative of a pilot laid against the Jews
10 destroy them; and the very wonderful appearance of Provi. dence in defeating it. The book was probably written by Mordecai, who bore a principal part in the history which it contains. It is very extraordinary that there is no mention of the name of God in it ; con sidering how remarkably his providence appeared in behalf of the Jews, and how constantly other inspired writers take notice of the divine ing terposition. It certainly contains an illustrious instance of God's sin. gular care of his church in its greatest difficulties ; and how he dis. poses of all affairs and events, so as to promote his own glory, and the welfare of his church and people ; it also furnishes many very useful instructions,
In which we have an account of Ahasuerus' royal feast ; his displeasure
at the queen for refusing to appear at it ; and her punishment.
INTOW it came to pass in the days of Ahasuerus, (this (is)
IV Ahasuerus which reigned, from India even unto Ethiopia, 2 [over) an hundred and seven and twenty provinces :*) (That]
in those days, when the king Ahasuerus sat on the throne of his kingdom, which (was in Shushan the palace, that is, when the
peace of the kingdom was restored, and he was settled upon the 3 throne, 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 pobles and princes of the provinces, [being] before him : his courtiers and officers of state, and the prowers of Persia and
Media, or the princes of those countries which were under his mili. 4 tary command, were present : When he showed the riches of his
glorious kingdom and the honour of his excellent majesty maný 5 days, (even) an hundred and four score days.t And when these
days were expired, the king made a feast unto all the people
• Learned men are divided in their opinions who this prince was ; but it appears plain to me, that he was the same person who is called Artaxerxes in the book of Ezra, and who was such a friend and patron to the Jews.
+ This was designed as a display of his majesty and wealth, for six months together, the governors and officers taking it in their turns to feast with the king. It was done in Shushag che palace of the beauty of which ozany ancient histories speak very highly
that were present in Shushan the palace, both unto great and small, not only to the inhabitants of Shushan, but to many one of other provinces, who were collected on this occasion, seven days, in the court of the garden of the king's palace ; according to the
custom of eastern princes, under magnificent pavilions, erected for 6 this purpose ; (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, that is, and couches on which they reclined, were studded with gold or sil
ver, or overlaid with plates of this metal, and stood upon a pave7 ment of red, and blue, and white, and black, marble. And they
gave (them) drink in vessels of gold, (the vessels being diverse
one from another,) and royal wine in abundance, according to 8 the state of the king. 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 ; none were compelled tp drink, every one was left
to his own liberty ; and if any onc drank to exce88, it was his own 9 fault. Also Vashti the queen made a feast for the women (in) 10 the royal house which [belonged) to king Ahasuerus.* On the
seventh day, at the conclusion of the feast, when the heart of the king was merry with wine, he commanded Mehuman, Biztba, Harbona, Bigtha, and Abagtha, Zethar, apd Carcas, the seven
chamberlains that served in the presence of Ahasuerus the kings 11 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 ; having drank 100 much, the king forgot his own state and that of the queen's ; it was extravagant and foolish for:
him to insist upon her appearance before all this company, especially 12 as it was contrary to the custom of the country. But the queen • Vashti refused to come at the king's commandment by (his)
chamberlains :f therefore was the king very wroth, and his an. ger burned in him, he that had rule over a hundred and twenty seven provinces, could not rule his own spirit ; but he had so much
reason left as to call a council. 13 Then the king said to the wise men, which knew the times,
who knew what was done in former times, and what was fit to be
done on all occasions, (for so (was) the king's manner toward all 14 that knew law and judgment : 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, were admitied to his presence on all occasions, [and] 15 which sat the first in the kingdom ;) 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?
Agreeable to the custom of the eastern nations, the wives of the princes and great men feasted by themselves. Thus while the king stowed the honour of his inajesty, the ladies showed the honour of their modesty, wrich is the majesty of the sex,
+ The queen refused to come probably out of modesty, or imagining that it was only a drunken frolic ; but she was undoubtedly to blame. It would bave been no reflection on but modesty, as it was donc only in obcdience to his combanda.
is there any precedent, that we may proceed according to the usage 16 or law of the kingdom ? 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 Care) in all the provinces of the king 'Ahasuerus ; he represents the queen's conduct not only as an high affront to the king, but to the
princes, and all the people. It was a bad example, especially if 17 the ladies ahottt her encouraged her refusal. For [this] deed of
the queen shall come abroad unto all women, it is impossible it should be concealed, 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; they would take encouragement from this great exama 18 ple, lo despise their husbande. (Likewise) shall the ladies of Per
şia 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, wrath in
the husbands, and great and unhappy contentions in families ; 19 therefore 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. This was artful advice, for
had she recovered the king's favour, his freedom might have cost 20 him his life. 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, and not dare to disobey, when they saw that the queen herself 21 was divorced for it.t And the saying pleased the king and the
princes; and the king did according to the word of Memucan: 22 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, in the language of the people inhabiting the country, that both men and women might understand it, that every man should bear rule in his own house, and that [it] should be published according to the language of every people. Thus the king made this law in a heat, and put it out of his power to revoke it, which is anpears from the next chapter he would gladly have done.
1. CEE how much of the vanity of the world appears amidst all
D its glory. When Ahasuerus was making this great feast, with all his splendor and magnificence, and every heart admiring his grandeur and bounty, the disobedience of his queen tarnished it all : and those who were astonished at his power, majesty, and
• Memucan is mentioned last ; he was probably the youngest privy counsellor, and therefore speaks first; as the custom of our judges, that they may not be influenced by the opinion of their seniors.
+ It is not unlikely but this privy counsellor bad more authority in the royal cabinet than he had at home, and made a state affair of a private difference, in order to procure a royal <dice to restore his own lost authority.