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For Mordecai the Jew was next unto king Ahasuerus and great among the Jews, and accepted of the multitude of his brethren, seeking the wealth of his people, and speaking peace to all his seed.
ANNOTATIONS AND REFLECTIONS.
The contest between the Jews and the Persians was a very extraordinary one, each party being authorised by a royal decree; had the latter been peaceable no mischief would have ensued.
The sons of Haman were eager for revenge; and they had a strong party on their side; they attacked the Jews, who were obliged to kill them in their own defence. It seems as if their enemies were struck with that fear which is usually stiled in scripture the terror. of the LORD; on the other hand, the Jews were strengthened, so that nothing could withstand them.
Esther was of too gentle a disposition to desire another day's slaughter from sanguinary motives; but, without doubt, she was apprised by Mordecai, that it was necessary for the utter destruction of those who: would have continually molested the Jews, and disturbed the peace of the state. It is supposed that the greater number of those who were slain were Amalé, kites: Haman's sons certainly were so, which is a sufficent reason for Esther's desiring to have their dead bodies hung up, as a terror to others.
It is observable, that though the king's decree authorised the Jews to take the spoil of their enemies for a prey, and they had a fair opportunity for enriching themselves; yet they forbore to do so, in order to shew that they acted upon religious principles, and had nothing in view but to save their lives, not to make their fortunes. They slew none but those who took arms against them.
It was in order to perpetuate the remembrance of the signal mercies the Jews had received for the honour of GOD, that Mordecai wrote letters, and instituted an annual festival; which is still observed among the Jews, but usually in a very riotous manner. The way in which Mordecai recommended it to be kept, is deserving of particular attention, namely, in feasting and joy, of which the poor were to be made partakers through the bounty of the rich. Thanksgiving and almsgiving
ought always to go together.
From this Section we learn, that Mordecai continued good after he became great; and that, instead of seeking his own wealth, he had a constant regard to the welfare of his brethren, for whose sake the LORD gra- · ciously exalted him in the Persian court.
The book of Esther shews us how kindly GoD watched over these Jews, who did not return out of the land' of their captivity with the rest. As they had not zeal enough for the Holy City and Temple, to encounter the difficulties of a removal thither, one would have supposed, that they would have been excluded from the especial providence of GOD; but we find, that even those who were scattered among the provinces of the heathen were taken care of, as well as those who were gathered together in the land of Judea, and were wonderfully preserved, when doomed to destruction, like sheep appointed to be slain. Let us now return to the people in Judea.
THE COMMISSION OF ARTAXERXES TO EZRA.
From Ezra, Chap. iv.
Now after these things Ezra the son of Seraiah, the son of Azariah the son of Hilkiah,
The son of Shallum, the son of Zadok, the son of Ahitub, the son of Amariah, the son of Azariah, the son of Meraioth, the son of Zeraihah, the son of Uzzi, the son of Bukki,
The son of Abishua, the son of Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the chief priest:
This Ezra went up from Babylon; and he was a ready scribe in the law of Moses, which the LORD GOD of Israel had given; and the king granted him all his réquest, according to the hand of the LORD his GOD upon him.
And there went up some of the children of Israel, and of the priests, and the Levites, and the singers, and the porters, and the Nethinims, unto Jerusalem, in the seventh year of Artaxerxes the king.
And he came to Jerusalem in the fifth month, which was in the seventh year of the king.
For upon the first day of the month began he to go up from Babylon, and on the first day of the fifth month came he to Jerusalem, according to the good hand of his Gon upon him.
For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the law of the LORD, and to do it, and to teach in Israel statutes and judgments.
Now this is the copy of the letter that the king Artaxerxes gave unto Ezra the priest, the scribe, even a scribe of the words of the commandments of the LORD, and of his statutes to Israel.
Artaxerxes, king of kings, unto Ezra the priest, a scribe of the law of the GoD of heaven, perfect peace, and at such a time,
I make a decree, that all they of the people of Israel, and of his priests and Levites, in my realm, which are minded of their own free-will to go up to Jerusalem, go with thee.
Forasmuch as thou art sent of the king, and of his seven counsellors, to enquire concerning Judah and Jerusalem, according to the law of thy God which is in thine hand;
And to carry the silver and gold, which the king and his counsellors have freely offered unto the God of Israel, whose habitation is in Jerusalem;
And all the silver and gold that thou canst find in all the province of Babylon, with the free-will-offering of the people, and of the priests, offering willingly for the house of their GOD which is in Jerusalem;
That thou mayest buy speedily with this money, bullocks, rams, lambs, with their meat-offerings, and their drink-offerings, and offer them upon the altar o the house of your GoD which is in Jerusalem.
And whatsoever shall seem good to thee, and to thy brethren, to do with the rest of the silver and the gold,. that do after the will of your God.
The vessels also that are given thee for the service of the house of thy God, those deliver thou before the God of Jerusalem.
And whatsoever more shall be needful for the house of GOD, which thou shalt have occasion to bestow, bestow it out of the king's treasure-house.
And I, even I, Artaxerxes the king, do make a decree to all the treasurers which are beyond the river, that whatsoever Ezra the priest, the scribe of the law of the God of heaven shall require of you, it be done speedily;
Unto an hundred talents of silver, and to an hundred measures of wheat, and to an hundred baths of wine, and to an hundred baths of oil, and salt without prescribing how much.
Whatsoever is commanded by the GoD of heaven, let it be diligently done for the house of the God of
heaven for why should there be wrath against the realm of the king and his sons?
Also we certify you, that touching any of the priests and Levites, singers, porters, Nethinims, or ministers of this house of God, it shall not be lawful to impose toll, tribute, or custom upon them.
And thou Ezra, after the wisdom of thy God that is in thine hand, set magistrates and judges, which may judge all the people that are beyond the river, all such as know the laws of thy Gon; and teach ye them that know them not.
And whosoever will not do the law of thy God, and the law of the king, let judgment be executed speedily upon him, whether it be unto death, or to banishment, or to confiscation of goods, or imprisonment.
And when Ezra had obtained this letter, he said, Blessed be the LORD GOD of our fathers, which hath put such a thing as this in the king's heart, to beautify the house of the LORD which is in Jerusalem ;
And hath extended mercy unto me before the king and his counsellors, and before all the king's mighty princes; and I was strengthened, as the hand of the LORD my GOD was upon me; and I gathered together, out of Israel chief men to go up with me.
ANNOTATIONS AND REFLECTIONS.
It may be inferred from this Section that Ezra took advantage of the favourable disposition which Artaxerxes (or Ahasuerus) through the mediation of Esther and Mordecai, entertained for the Jews, and requested that those, who remained in subjection to him, might join their brethren in Judea, who had formerly gone by the permission of Cyrus.