Page images
PDF
EPUB

*

mises. . Accordingly the king called for him day that they came up from Babylon ; whick the next day, and gave him an epistle to be is taken from the tribe of Judah, which came carried to Adeus the governor of Syria, and first to these places, and thence both they and

Phænicia, and Samaria : wherein he sent to the country gained that appellation. him to pay due honor to Nehemiah, and to Now when the Ammonites, and Moabites, supply him with what he wanted for his build and Samaritans, and all that inhabited Colesying.

ria heard that the building went on apace, Now when he was come to Babylon, and they took it heinously; and proceeded to lay had taken with him many of his countrymen, snares for them, and to hinder their intentions. who voluntarily followed him, he came to Je- They also slew many of the Jews;

and sought rusalem in the twenty-fifth year of the reign how they might destroy Nehemiah himself, by of Xerxes. And when he had shewn the hiring some of the foreigners to kill him. They epistles to God, * he gave them to Adeus, and also put the Jews in fear, and disturbed them, to the other governors. He also called toge and spread abroad rumours, as if many nations ther all the people to Jerusalem, and stood in were ready to make an expedition against the midst of the temple, and made the follow them: by which means they were harassed, ing speech to them. Ye know, O Jews, and had almost left off the building. But that God hath kept our fathers, Abraham, none of these things could deter Nehemiah and Isaac, and Jacob, in mind continually; from being diligent about the work. He only and for the sake of their righteousness hath set a number of men about him, as a guard to not left off the care of you. Indeed he hath his body; and so unweariedly persevered there. assisted me in granting this authority of the in, and was insensible of any trouble, out of king to raise up our wall, and finish what is his desire to perfect this work. And thus did wanting of the temple. I desire you there- he attentively and with great precaution take fore, who well know the ill-will the neigh- care of his own safety : not that he feared bouring nations bear to us, and that when death ; but out of this persuasion, that if he they once are made sensible that we are in were dead, the walls for his citizens would earnest about building, they will come upon never be raised. He also gave orders that the us, and contrive many ways of obstructing builders should keep their ranks, and have our works, that you will, in the first place, their armour on while they were building. put your trust in God, as in him that will as- Accordingly the mason had his sword on, † as sist us against their hatred ; and to intermit well as he that brought the materials for buildbuilding neither night' nor day; but to use ing. He also appointed that their shields all diligence, and to basten on the work, now should lie very near them; and he placed we have this especial opportunity for it.” trumpets at every five hundred feet, and When he had said this, he gave order that charged them, that if their enemies appeared, the rulers should measure the wall, and part they should give notice of it to the people, the work of it among the people, according to that they might fight in their armour, and their villages and cities; as every one's abi their enemies might not fall upon them naked. lity should require. And when he had added He also went about the compass of the city this promise, that he himself, with his ser-by night, being never discouraged, neither vants, would assist them, he dissolved the about the work itself, por about bis own diet assembly. So the Jews prepared for the and sleep: for he made no use of those things work.

for his pleasure, but out of necessity. And This is the name they are called by from the this trouble he underwent | for two years and

consona. * This shewing king Xerxes's epistles to God, or lay and the present, as a token of gratitude, for mercies ing them open before God, in the temple, is very like already received: as Havercamp well observes on this the laying open the epistles of Sennacherib, before him

place. also by Hezekiah, 2 Kings xix. 14. Isaiah xxxvii, 14. + Nebemiah iv. 18. although this last was for a memorial, to put hini in mirid # It may not be improper to remark herè, with what of the enemies, in order to move the divine compassion; an unusual accuracy Josephus determines these years of VOL. I. (35.)

four

5 M

four months : for in so long a time was the cellent things, and things worthy of commenwall built : in the twenty-eighth year of the dation, in a glorious manner, he came to a reign of Xerxes, * in the ninth month. Now | great age, and then died. He was a man of when the walls were finished, Nehemiah and a good and righteous disposition, and very the multitude offered sacrifices to God for ambitious to make his

own people happy... And building of them; and they continued in feast he left the walls of Jerusalem as an eternal ing eight days. However, when the nations monument for himself. Now tbis was done in which dwelt in Syria heard that the building the days of Xerxes. of the wall was finished they had indignation at it. But when Nehemiah saw that the city

CHAP. VI. was thin of people, he exhorted the priests and the Levites, that they would leave the country,

CONCERNING ESTHER, MORDECAI, AND HAMAN; AND THE and remove themselves to the city, and there continue; and he built them houses at his own

of the
A

of † people which were employed in cultivating the land to bring the tithes of their fruits to Cyrus, whom the Greeks call. Artaxerxes I Jerusalem ; that the priests and Levites hav When this man had obtained the government ing whereof they might live perpetually, might over the Persians, the whole nation of the not leave the divine worship. Accordingly Jews, Ş with their wives and children, were they hearkened to the constitutions of Nehe in danger of perishing : the occasion whereof miah: by which means the city of Jerusalem we shall declare in a little time. For, it is came to be fuller of people than it was before. proper in the first place to explain somewhat So when Nehemiah had done many other ex relating to this king, and how he came to

EMINENT DANGER TO WHICH THE WHOLE NATI

OF THE JEWS WAS EXPOSED IN THE REGN OF ARTAXERXES.

Xerxes, in which the walls of Jerusalem were built; viz. that Nehemiah came with his commission in the 25th of Xerxes; that the walls were two years and four months in building; and that they were finished on the 28th of

It may also be remarked farther, that Josephus hardly ever mentions more than one infallible astrono. mical character, I mean an eclipse of the moon: and this a little before the death of Herod the Great, XVII. 6. Now on these two chronological characters, in great measure depend some of the most important points belonging to Christianity ; viz. The explication of Daniel's seventy weeks, the duration of our Saviour's ministry and the time of his death, in correspondence to those seventy weeks. Though Josephus's own chronology was so different from ours, as exhibited in Ptolemy's Ca. non, that it was impossible he should have regard to any such correspondence. * An. 459.

+ About An. 457. This prince, to distinguish him from others of that name, was called Maxpoxuíp, or Longimanus, upon the supposed length of his hands, with which it is said that he could have louched his knees, even when he stood upright; but this notwithstanding, it is reported of him, that he was both the handsomest person of the age in which he lived, and a prince likewise of a very mild and generous disposition. Prideaux's Con. anno 465. B.

§ Since some sceptical persons are willing to discard this book of Esther, as no true history: and even our learned and judicious Dr. Wall, in his late posthumous critical notes upon all the other Hebrew books of the Old Testament, gives us none upon the Canticles, or upon Esther; and seems ihereby to give up this book, as well

as the Canticles, as indefensible: I shall venture to say, that almost all the objections against this book of Esther are obviated at once, if, as we ought certainly to do, and as dean Prideaux bas justly done, we place this history uncler Artaxerxes Longimanus : as do both the Septuagint interpreters, and Josephus. I mean in this case we also take our true copies from the septuagint, and from Josephus; rather than from our Masorete Hebrew, I shall here add farther, on its behalf, the words of the learned Dr. Lee in his posthumous Dissertation on the second book of Esdras, page 25, that “ The truth of this history, is demonstrated by the 'feast of Purim, kept from that time to this very day. See 2 Maccabees xi. 36. And this surprising Providential revolution in favour of a captiver people, thereby constantly commemorated, standeth even upon a firmer basis than that there ever was such a man as Alexander the Great in the World; of whose reign there is no such abiding monument at this day, to be found any where. Nor will they; I dare say, who quarrel at this, or any other of the sacred histories, find it a very easy natter to reconcile the different accounts which are given by historians of the affairs of this king: or lo, confirm any one fact of his whatever with the same evidence which is here given for the principal fact in this sacred book : or even so much as to prove the existence of such a person, of whom so great things are related, but upon granting this book of Esther, or sixth of Esdras : (as it is placed in some of the most ancient copies of the Vulgate :) to be a most true and certain history.”

N. B. The oldest and most authentic record we now have of Alexander the Great, is contained in the first seven verses of the first book of Maccabees.

marry

marry a Jewish wife; who was also of the Vashti, ļ the queen, gather her guests together, royal family, and who is related to have and made them a feast in the palace. Now saved our nation. For when Artaxerxes had the king was desirous to shew her, who exceedtaken the kingdom, and had set governors over ed all other women in beauty, to those that the hundred and twenty-seven provinces, from feasted with him; and sent some to command India even unto Ethiopia, in the third year of her to come to his feast. his reign, * be made a costly feast for his gard to the laws of the Persians, which forbid friends, 7 and for the nations of Persia, and for the wives to be seen by strangers, did not go their governors : such an one as was proper to the king. And though he repeatedly sent the for a king to make, when he had a mind to eunuchs to her, she did nevertheless refuse make a public demonstration of his riches; to come: till the king was so much irritated, and this for a hundred and eighty days. After that he broke up the entertainment, and rose which he made a feast for other nations, and up, and called for those seven, who had the for their ambassadors, at Shusban, for seven interpretation of the laws committed to them, days. Now this feast was ordered after the and accused his wife, and said, that he had following manner. He caused a tent to be

He caused a tent to be been affronted by her; because when she was pitched, which was supported by pillars of frequently called by him to his feast, she did gold and silver, with curtains of linen and not obey him. He therefore gave order, that purple spread over them; that it might afford they should inform him what could be done by room for many thoasands to sit down. The the law against her. So one of them, whose cups which the waiters ministered were of name was Memucan, said, that this affront gold, and adorned with precious stones. He was offered not to him alone, but to all the also

gave order to the servants, that they should Persians; who were in danger of leading not force the guests to drink, by bringing their lives very ill with their wives if they must them wine continually, as is the practice of the be despised by them. For that none of their Persians; but to permit every one to follow his wives would have any reverence for their husown inclination. Moreover, he sent messen- bands, if they had such an example of arrogers through the country, and gave order that gance in the queen towards him who ruled they should have a remission of their labors, over all. Accordingly he exhorted him to puand should keep a festival many days, on ac nish her who had been guilty of so great an count of his kingdom. In like manner did affront to him, after a severe manner; and

[ocr errors]

* An. 454.

of the whole Persian empire, very probably it was, that + The occasion of this great festival is, very likely, in a festival-season of above a hundred and fourscore days' timated to us in the phrase, When the king Ahasuerus sat continuance was appointed, which, even to this day, acon the throne of his kingdom, chap. i. 2. i. e. enjoying cording to some travellers, is no uncommon thing in those peace and tranquillity through his large dominions; for parts of the world. Prideaux's Connec. anno 465, and iḥe history of his accession to the throne is this:-Xerxes, Patrick's Com. on Esther, Chap. i. B. his father, was privately murdered by Artabanus, captain of his guard. He coming to him, (who was then but It has been a great inquiry among the learned, who the third son,) made him believe, thai Darius, his elder this Vashti was. Those who make the Ahasuerus in Scripbrother, had done it, to make his way to the throne, and ture to be Darius the son of Hystaspes, suppose that she had a design likewise to cut him off, to secure hiroself in was Atossa the daughter of Cyrus, who was first married it. This Ahasuerus believing, went immediately to his 10 Cambyses, her own brother, then to the Magian, who brother's

's apartment, and by the assistance of the wicked would have passed for Smerdis, and last of all to Darius, Artabanus and his guards, slew him, thinking that all the Others suppose, that she was Ahasuerus's own sister bewhile that he acted but in his own defence. Artabanus's cause the Persians, in those days made no scruple in drift was to seize on the throne bimself; but for the

pre. these kind of marriages; though there is much more reasent he took Ahasuerus, and placed him thereon, with a son to think, that before her marriage, there had been design to pull him down as soon as matters were ripe for such a collection of virgins made for the use of the king, his own ascent; but when Ahasuerus understod this from as was before Esther's, (this is implied in chap. ii. 19.) Magabyzus, who had married one of his sisters, he took and that having the good fortune then of obtaining the

care to counterplot Artabanus, and to cut him and his preference in the king's esteem, she was created queen ; .whole party off before his treason was come to maturity; but being perhaps a woman of no high descent, her famiand for this, and some other successes against his brother ly extraction, for that reason, might be concealed. CalHystaspes, which settled him in a peaceable possession met's Dict, under the name. B.

when

when he had so done, to publish to the nations So she was committed to one of the eapuchs, what had been decreed about the queen. So to take the care of her, and she was provided the resolution was to put Vashti away, and to with odours, and with costly ointments, such as give her dignity to another woman.

her body required to be anointed withal. f. And But the king having been fond of her, did this was used for six months by the virgins ; who not well bear a separation : and yet by the were in number four bundred. And when the law he could not admit of a reconciliation. So eanuch thought the virgins had been sufficienthe was under trouble at not having it in bis i ly purified, in the aforementioned time, and power to do what he desired. But when his

were now fit to go to the king's bed, he sent friends saw him so uneasy, they advised him one to be with the king every day. So when to cast the memory of his wife, and his love be had accompanied with her, he sent her for her, out of his mind; and to send abroad back to the eunuch. And when Esther bad over all tbe habitable earth, and to search out come to him, he was pleased with her, and for comely virgins, and to take her whom he fell in love with the damsel, and married her; should best like, for his wife, because his pas and made her his lawful wife, I and kept a sion for his former wife would be quenched by wedding feast for her on the twelfth month the introduction of another; and the kindness of the seventh year of his reign ; which was he had for Vashti wonld be withdrawn from called Adar. He also sent Angari, as they her, and be placed on her that was with him. are called, or messengers into every nation; Accordingly he was persuaded to follow this and gave orders that they should keep a feast advice: and gave order to certain persons to for his marriage: while he himself treated the choose out of the virgins that were in his king- Persians, and the Medes, and the principal dom, those that were esteemed the most come men of the nations, for a whole month. Acly. So when a great number of these virgins cordingly Esther came to his royal palace, were gathered together, there was found a and he set a diadem on her head and thus was damsel in Babylon, whose parents were dead, she married ; $ without making known to the and she was brought with ber uncle Mordecai; king what nation she was derived from. Her who was of the tribe of Benjamin, and one of uncle also removed from Babylon to Shushạn, the principal persons among the Jews. Now and dwelt there : being every day about the it proved that this damsel, whose name was palace, and inquiring how the damsel did : for Esther, was the most beautiful of all the rest; he loved her as though she had been his own and that the grace of her countenance drew daughter. the eyes of the spectators principally upon her. Now the king had made a law, that none

[ocr errors]

* Esther i. 3, 4.

The reason is assigned in the following verse, for their being kept so long in this course, viz. that for six months they might be anointed with the oil of myrrh, which, besides the fragrancy of its smell, was good to make the skin soft and smooth, and clear it from all manner of scurf; and for six more with sweet odours, which, in these hot countries, were necessary to take away all ill scents, and as some think, to make the body more vigor

But besides this, there might be something of state in making those vassals, for such they were accounted, wait, before they were admitted to the honor of the king's bed; and something of precaution 100, in keeping them recluse for so long a time, that the king might be satisfied, that he was not imposed upon by a child begotten by any other man. Patrick's Comment, and Pool's Anuotations on Esther ii. 12. B.

Esther ii. 17. § According to this account of things, this Persian monarcb seems to have had but one wife, at least but one in chief favor and esteem with him, though it is certain, he could not fail of having an infinite number of secondary

wives or concubines. This was the name of every one that was taken from among the virgins, who had a separate house for themselves and conducted to the king's bed; where having passed a night, she returned no more to the virgin's apartments, but was, the next morning, received into the house of the concubines, and there treated in thie state and port of one of the king's wives : for such they were accounted. No man was permitted to marry them, as long as the king lived; and upon his demise, they generally fell to his successor. of these Darius Nothus is reckoned to have had no less than three hundred and sixty: Pool's Annot. The manner of the Persian king was, to give his queens, at their marriage, such a city to buy them clothes; another for their hair; another for their necklaces; and so on for the rest of their expences. And as it was customary for him, according to the testimony of Herodotus, upon his accession to the throne, to remit the tribute that was due to him from all the cities ; so he might, upon this occasion, out of his abundant joy, make a release to the provinces, and forgive them some of the duties and imposts that they were bound to pay him. Patrick's Com. B.

of

[graphic][subsumed][merged small][subsumed][merged small][merged small][merged small]
« PreviousContinue »