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determined on his mad expedition against Greece. Three whole years were devoted to making preparations for this war. In the strong prophetic language of Daniel, uttered fifty-six years before, in the reign of “Darius the Mede,” this Xerxes was to be “richer” than all the preceding Persian kings, “and by his strength through his riches, should stir up all against the realm of Grecia.” Daniel xi, 2. It was in the third year of Xerxes, and the first of his preparations for his expedition into Greece, (Esther, i, 3,) that he summoned all his princes and nobles, and dignitaries of his empire, to assemble at Shushan (Susa) the palace, in order to deliberate upon the approaching war, and made for them a magnificent feast. It was on this occasion that this vain, voluptuous monarch made a display of “the riches of his glorious kingdom and the honour of his excellent majesty many days; even a hundred and fourscore days. And when these days were expired, the king made a feast unto all the people that were present in Shushan [Susa] the palace, both unto great and small, seven days, in the court of the garden of the king's palace; 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. And they gave them drink in vessels of gold, and royal wine in abundance, according to 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. Also Washti the queen made a feast for the women in the royal house which belonged to king Ahasuerus.” Esther i, 4–9. By this description it is easily perceived that the feast was intended for universal and unrestrained revelry and debauch. It was perfectly characteristic of Xerxes, and well coincided with the general policy of his military movements. On the “seventh day,” the last day of the feast, “when the heart of the king was merry with wine,” he ordered his chamberlains to bring in Washti the queen, in her royal robes, with the crown on her head, to make an exhibition of her beauty before the court, and the innumerable throng of the people. This was the highest indignity that could be offered to an Eastern female, and especially a person of rank. It was an unprecedented breach both of the etiquette of Oriental life, and also of the virtuous sentiments and customs of society. The queen very properly and decidedly refused compliance with the command. An extraordinary case, affecting both the sovereign authority of the king and the domestic order of families, now presented itself. The king and the queen had fairly taken issue upon a matter involving personal and conjugal rights. The king summoned his wise men for counsel, and by their answer we learn that the honourable act of noble, virtuous, womanly independence manifested by Queen Washti, threatened, in their judgment, if not promptly rebuked, to subvert the authority of husbands, and revolutionize that family order which, in Asia, had existed from time immemorial; a domestic arrangement, we may add, that has been the degradation of woman, a curse to society, and, more than anything else, has imparted a barbarous character to the civilisation of the East. The king followed the counsel of his wise men, and divorced Queen Washti, and re-established by edict the lordly dominion of all husbands over their wives and daughters. These circumstances would not be worthy of mention in this connexion, but for the extraordinary event which followed, and for which these had mysteriously prepared the way. The capricious monarch passed the fumes of his wine, and his wrath abated. His military operations now urged him on to action. He invaded Greece with about three millions of men, and after several engagements, by sea and land, met with a total defeat, and returned in disgrace to his capital. Thenceforward he relinquished all ambitious designs and devoted himself entirely to pleasure. He now relented his former rashness, and his heart turned toward the beautiful but dishonoured Washti. It was too late, however, to recall his decree, and he therefore sought, throughout his kingdom, a suitable person to fill her place upon the throne. There were still many thousand Jews throughout the different provinces of the empire, and among the beautiful maids who were presented to the king's harem, as candidates for the royal favour, was one Esther, an adopted daughter of Mordecai, a Jew, of the tribe of Benjamin, who lived at the capital. Esther had been educated with care by Mordecai, who was a person of great learning and powers of mind; and as the education of the Hebrews was much more solid and rational than that of the Babylonians, it gave her a marked superiority, both in respect to manners and worth of character. Mordecai had not only bestowed care upon the culture of her mind, but also instructed her in the religion of her people. This, with the exquisite form and beauty of her person, the simplicity of her manners, the artlessness of her character, and the modesty of her mien, all which were evidenced in her subsequent history, made her introduction to the harem in no small degree auspicious. We need not dwell upon the preliminary circumstances of her public history. The fact of her being a Jewess was kept a profound secret, and after the lapse of a year, in the seventh year of his reign, (Esther ii, 16,) when the maids were introduced to the king, Esther became the successful competitor for the queenly honours. “And the king loved Esther above all the women, and she obtained grace and favour in his sight more than all the virgins; so that he set the royal crown upon her head, and made her queen instead of Washti. Then the king made a great feast unto all his princes and his servants, even Esther's feast; and he made a release to the provinces, and gave gifts, according to the state of the king.” Esther ii, 17, 18. Psalm xlv has been commonly supposed to refer to Solomon, on occasion of his marriage to his Egyptian wife. 1 Kings iii, 1; vii, 8, ; ix, 24. Hengstenberg insists that the Psalm “is a eulogistic song upon a king, on the occasion of his marriage.” Augusti supposes the Psalm to have been written by Mordecai; and De Wette, in his Introduction to the Psalms, says the opinion of Augusti “is very probable, for the ode may be very appositely referred to a Persian king; less so to Solomon, in accordance with the common opinion.” He also says, “I hold this Psalm to be a poem in honour of a king beside his consort.” The references to warlike qualities, verses 3–5, suits well to Xerxes. Solomon was never a warrior. The luxury of the court, the circumstances of the bride, all coincide with the occasion of the nuptials of Esther. The Jews had been now for a long time without any decided influence at the Persian court. Since the death of Daniel, that is, for nearly fifty years, they had had no powerful representative and patron of their cause among the king's counsellors. They had suffered much and long, and their ultimate triumph over their enemies, and the restoration of their city and polity, had, much of the time, been despaired of by the body of the people. Mordecai had piously devoted himself to the cause of his country, and had watched, in his position of office “at the king's gate,” and waited the openings of Providence. Now a new star of hope arises, and the holy bard, in celebrating the occasion, rises to the sphere of sublime prophecy. The moral character of Xerxes must be left out of the account. The song is, indeed, eulogistic of the greatness, wealth, and luxury of the king, and the splendour and magnificence of his kingdom. But neither Xerxes nor Solomon could answer as the prototype here. The Psalm is highly and sublimely prophetic, and to its spiritual meaning the eye is to be mainly directed. The pious author saw, through the emblems of temporal power and greatness, the glory and triumph of Messiah's kingdom. The occasion was magnificent, the ultimate meaning of the Psalm transcendently more sublime. Read Esther i and ii.
ON OCCASION OF ESTHER'S MARRIAGE AND ADVANCEMENT TO BE QUEEN OF PERSIA.
The Psalmist celebrates the praise of a glorious king, 1, on account of the beauty and grace of his person, 2; his heroic might, 3–5; speaks of the eternity and righteousness of God's kingdom, 6, 7; the king is praised for the beauty and costliness of his wedding garments, 8; and for the honourable band of virgins attending him, 9; the queen is erhorted to forget her father's house and cleave to her husband, 10, 11; honourable ladies shall seek her favour, 12; her joyful presentation to her husband, 13–15; the king shall be honoured, 16, 17.
T To the chief Musician, upon Shoshannim, [i. e., upon the lily-shaped instruments.] For the sons of Korah, Maschil, [i. e., for instruction.] A Song of Loves, [or, A Song of the Beloved Ones.]
! My heart 'is inditing a good matter: I speak of the things which I have made touching the king: My tongue is the pen of a ready writer.
1 Heb. boileth, or, bubbleth up,
* Thou art fairer than the children of men: Grace "is poured into thy lips: Therefore God hath blessed thee forever. * Gird thy "sword upon thy thigh, “O most mighty! With thy glory and thy majesty. *And "in thy majesty' ride prosperously Because of truth and meekness and righteousness; And thy right hand shall teach thee terrible things. 5 Thine arrows are sharp in the heart of the king's enemies; Whereby the people fall under thee. 5 Thy “throne, O God! is forever and ever: The sceptre of thy kingdom is a right sceptre. 7 Thou "lovest righteousness, and hatest wickedness: Therefore 'God, thy God, shath anointed thee With the oil "of gladness above thy fellows. * All othy garments smell of myrrh, and aloes, and cassia, Out of the ivory palaces, whereby they have made thee glad. 9 Kings’ “daughters were among thy honourable women: Upon 'thy right hand did stand the queen in gold of Ophir. 10 Hearken, O daughter, and consider, and incline thine ear; Forget" also thine own people, and thy father's house; * So shall the king greatly desire thy beauty: For "he is thy LoRD; and worship thou him. *And the daughter of Tyre shall be there with a gift; Even "the rich among the people shall entreat 'thy
favour. a Luke 4. 22. e Psa. 93. 2. Heb. 1. 8. I See 1 Kings 2.9. b Isa. 49. 2. Heb. 4. 12. f Psa. 33. 5. m See Deut. 21. 13. Rev. 1. 16. * Or, O God / Isa. 61.1. n Psa. 95. 6. e Isa. 9. 6. g 1 Kings 1. 89, 40. Isa. 54.5. d Rev. 6. 2. h Psa. 21. 6. o Psa. 22.99. * Heb. prosper thou, ride i Cant. 1. 3. Isa. 49. 23. thou. k Cant. 6.8. * Heb, thy face.