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Female Scripture Biographies, Vol. I by Francis Augustus Cox

Part 6 out of 6

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conversing with Gehazi, who was informing him of Elisha's miracles, and in
particular of the miracle he had performed upon the deceased son of the
Shunammite. She was of course introduced under the most favourable
circumstances; and having ascertained the identity of the present
applicant, "the king appointed unto her a certain officer, saying, Restore
all that was hers, and all the fruits of the field, since the day that she
left the land even till now."

Thus is afforded a striking exemplification of the remark of Solomon, "The
king's heart is in hand of the Lord, as the rivers of water: he turneth it
withersoever he will."


Chapter XIV.

The Feasts of the King of Persia--his Queen Vashti sent for--her Refusal
to obey the Summons--her Divorce--Plan to fill up the Vacancy--Esther
chosen Queen--Mordecai detects a Conspiracy--declines paying Homage to
Haman--Resentment of the latter, who obtains a Decree against the
Jews--Mordecai's Grief, and repeated Applications to Esther--she goes in
to the King--is accepted--invites the King and Haman to a
Banquet--Mortification of the latter at Mordecai's continued
Neglect--Orders a Gallows to be built for the disrespectful Jew--the
Honour conferred by the King upon Mordecai for his past Zeal in his
Service--Haman's Indignation--is fetched to a second Banquet--Esther
tells her feelings, and accuses Haman--his Confusion and useless
Intreaties--he is hung on his own Gallows--Mordecai's
Advancement--Escape of the Jews by the Intercession of Esther--Feast
of Purim.

One of the most delightful employments of the heavenly state will probably
be, to investigate the past dispensations of Providence, and to make
perpetual discoveries of its mysteries. In that world of light, events
which are now covered with clouds and darkness impervious to the eye of
sense, will become obvious to the view of "just men made perfect" in all
their proportions, connexions, and combinations. The shadows of the
morning having disappeared, the brightness of eternal noon will irradiate
our existence.

We are by no means to imagine, however, that it is inconsistent with the
present arrangements of divine goodness to afford us information, even in
this world, respecting his plans and purposes; we do "know," though it be
but "in part." The book of providence is indeed the least intelligible to
us of all that the wisdom of God has written: but we can read _some_ of
its pages, and understand _some_ of its hieroglyphical characters. The
histories of Scripture constitute a volume of elementary instructions, of
which the narrative of ESTHER has always been regarded as singularly

[Sidenote: Years before Christ, about 460.]

In order to introduce this story, it will be requisite to take a cursory
view of some previous occurrences. The scene is laid in Persia, in the
days of Ahasuerus, another name, as learned men have generally agreed, for
Artaxerxes Longimanus. After struggling with those perplexing competitions
for empire which often obstruct the path to a crown, and agitate the first
years of power in arbitrary governments, he at length secured the dominion
of Persia with its hundred and twenty-seven provinces. To proclaim his
undisputed possession, and to display his glory, he appointed a feast,
which may perhaps be deemed unrivalled in the majesty of its circumstances
and the length of its continuance. At the expiration of a hundred and
fourscore days the king gave another entertainment of seven days, for "all
the people that were present in Shushan the palace, both unto great and
small." It was held in the court of the garden, for the purpose of
accommodation, and with great magnificence. Vashti also, his royal
consort, in conformity to the usages of the times, which, it must be
admitted, were admirably calculated to preserve the purity of morals,
prepared a separate entertainment for the women in another part of the
palace. "Vashti feasted the women in her own apartment: not openly in the
court of the garden, but in the _royal house_. Thus, while the king showed
the _honour of his majesty_, she and her ladies showed _the honoux of
their modesty_, which is truly the majesty of the fair sex." ... HENRY.

Alas! how little did Ahasuerus comprehend wherein true riches and dignity
consisted; and how little are these heathen "lovers of pleasure" to be
envied by us, who are invited as welcome guests to a nobler table and a
better banquet! "Wisdom hath builded her house, she hath hewn out her
seven pillars, she hath slain her oxen, she hath mingled her wine." Into
the highways and hedges, into every quarter of the world, and amongst
every class of mankind, the messengers of heaven are commissioned to go
and call the poor as well as the rich, the peasant as well as the prince,
to the "feast of fat things," which celestial mercy has provided in the
Gospel, where admission is not exclusive, where indulgence cannot be
construed into excess, where not a brutal appetite, but a mental and
spiritual taste, is amply supplied. The princes of Persia congratulated
themselves upon the favour of Ahasuerus; but how much greater reason have
Christians to rejoice in the friendship of Christ! Now they are admitted
to participate the blessings of his grace and the sacramental festival;
hereafter they have substantial reasons to anticipate a diviner
intercourse and a more exalted familiarity, when they shall drink new wine
with him in his Father's kingdom.

On the seventh day of the feast already mentioned, the king commanded the
seven chamberlains of his household to wait upon Vashti, and bring her
before him arrayed in the crown-royal. His heart is said to have been
"merry with wine," or he would not have thought of indulging his own
vanity, and insulting his queen's dignity, by such an exhibition. She
ventured to refuse a compliance with this royal order, in which she was
probably countenanced by the concurring opinion and feelings of the ladies
who were present at the entertainment. As a woman she felt for the honour
of her sex, and as a queen for her individual reputation and dignity. It
was unquestionably a foolish command, contrary to the Persian customs, and
dishonourable to the character of Ahasuerus as a sovereign and a husband.
It is not by indulging pomp that the glory of a prince is best displayed,
but by useful enactments, virtuous associations, and an upright uniformity
of conduct.

Unreasonable, however, as the demand of Ahasuerus was, Vashti ought not to
have been so peremptory. In such an age, and under such a government, a
moment's consideration must have excited in her an apprehension of danger.
Besides, it was not the time for remonstrance. She was no private
character; it was, therefore, an injudicious resistance of his authority.
Obedience would have involved no guilt; but disobedience, even though the
command were ridiculous, necessarily exposed her husband's authority to
contempt. It must be admitted in Christian communities, that the Gospel
requires submission on the part of a wife; nor is this requisition limited
solely to those commands which the woman herself may deem just and proper,
otherwise her own humour, caprice, or misconception, would perpetually
infringe upon a positive law, and in fact, render it nugatory. On the
other hand, if the husband would secure a cheerful obedience, and cherish,
instead of spoil, an amiable temper, or regulate a peevish one, let his
wishes be reasonable in themselves, and uttered without a look or a term
expressive of an insolent consciousness of superiority.

Ahasuerus instantly resented the refusal of Vashti. His passion became
outrageous, sensible that his dignity was insulted and his authority
questioned. He not only felt the uncomplying message of the queen as a
sufficient mortification to his personal vanity, but as a public attack
upon his influence and power as a king. It was not in a retired apartment,
or on a private occasion, but, in a sense, before the eyes of a _hundred
and twenty-seven provinces!_

Immediate recourse was had to his counsellors, who concurred in the
opinion of Memucan, that it was a public question of great importance to
the future welfare of the state, and affecting the domestic felicity, not
of the king only, but of every family in the Persian empire. The advice he
gave them, which Ahasuerus promptly followed, was to divorce Vashti, and
interdict her forever from reappearing in the royal presence. "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. 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." It is not surprising that such a
gratifying, but _unchristian_ proposal, should be adopted by an arbitrary
heathen monarch. Neither Memucan nor his royal master had drunk at the
purifying fountain of evangelical truth.

God was now making "the wrath of man to praise him." Human passions,
prejudices, and errors were promoting divine designs. The feast, and the
riot, and the vanity, and the rage of Ahasuerus, all concurred, though
unconsciously on his part, to fulfil the mighty arrangements of
Providence, and to introduce, a train of events which now march through
the page of sacred history in rapid and wonderful succession.

After the divorce of Vashti, the ministers of Ahasuerus advised him to
adopt speedy measures to fill up the vacancy in his affections and his
throne. Their plan exhibits the barbarity of the age and the sensuality of
the king. He was to have his choice of all the "fair young virgins,"
collected from the provinces of the empire: and it devolved upon Hadassah,
or Esther, an orphan educated under the inspection of Mordecai, her cousin
and guardian, one of the captive Jews at this period attached by some
employment to the royal establishment. That God, who had bestowed upon
this young Jewess unusual beauty, gave her favour in the eyes of the king,
and secretly accomplished his own gracious purposes respecting his people
by her advancement.

Little did any of the persons immediately concerned in this affair imagine
the predestined results. Ahasuerus was gratifying his passions; Esther and
Mordecai conforming to an irresistible influence; Hegai, the keeper of the
women, following the impulse of a secret admiration, and, perhaps, aiming
to ingratiate himself in the favour of one whom he might suppose likely to
become the future queen; while the Supreme Disposer was making use of all
this variety of feeling and design as the means of securing the ends in
his omniscient view.

Esther retained her humility of spirit after her elevation of
circumstances; for she "did the commandment of Mordecai like as when she
was brought up with him." She was one of the very few that resist the
allurements of splendour--that cherish kindness for their poorer
relatives--and remember with gratitude the guardians of their youth.

Mordecai, having detected a conspiracy against the king, mentioned it to
Esther, who named it to her royal consort; by which means the traitors
were soon brought to execution. This circumstance rendered the faithful
Jew known to his sovereign. It was attended, indeed, by no immediate
recompense; but he felt a satisfaction in having done his duty,
incomparably more grateful to an unambitious mind.

The danger to which the great king of Persia was exposed by the
machinations of his domestics, shows the counterbalancing disadvantages
which attach even to the most prosperous condition of human life; the
conduct of Mordecai, on this occasion, teaches the allegiance we all owe
both to our lawful king, and to the Sovereign of the universe; and the
circumstances of the whole transaction, though for the present otherwise
unnoticed, being "written in the book of the Chronicles before the king,"
reminds us of the "Lamb's book of life," that faithful register of the
pious services of his people, which, if not in this life, shall be fully
requitted in another.

Great princes often act capriciously, and advance to the highest stations
those whose personal insignificance or baseness must otherwise have
rendered them contemptible. Thus Ahasuerus promoted Haman, the Agagite, to
the place of his prime minister; who received that homage from the
multitude, which persons of rank and eminent station usually secure in all
countries, but which is peculiarly exacted under arbitrary governments.
The flattering incense of the king's servants was accepted by Haman as a
fragrant offering, while his vanity feasted itself most luxuriously upon
popular admiration.

But, in proportion to a man's eagerness after honour, will be his
sensibility to the slightest affront, and his readiness to interpret, in
the worst sense, even unintentional neglect. It will not appear
surprising to those who are acquainted with the heart of man, that this
new favourite should have felt even more pain from the disrespect of one
individual, than pleasure from the reverence of ten thousand others: and
this, not because of any extraordinary importance which the dissentient
had acquired, but simply on account of the extreme susceptibility to
applause which the dignity and the pride of Haman had superinduced.
Mordecai, in fact, refused to pay that homage to the prime minister which
the king commanded; and he persisted in his refusal, notwithstanding the
remonstrances of the king's servants, who "spake daily unto him." The
known loyalty of Mordecai renders it certain that this determination did
not proceed from any disesteem of the king; his character is an equal
pledge that it did not originate in envy, or any ridiculous pique: it must
have been a conscientious scruple, and the probability is, that the king
required for his favourite a _religious_ homage, similar to what the
Persian monarchs were accustomed to claim for themselves. The minister
was, besides, an Agagite, and therefore, probably, of the race of Amalek,
a people against which Jehovah had proclaimed a perpetual and
exterminating war. If these were his motives, he is rather to be extolled
for his heroism, than censured for his temerity. A man of God should
persevere in his duty at all hazards, unseduced by the flatteries, and
unawed by the threats of mankind. He must contend against spiritual
wickedness, oppose internal lust, and resist external temptation. He must
brave alike caresses and sneers; the importunity of the timid, and the
insistance of the powerful; so, however reproached by men, he will be
honoured by God.

The officers of the king, at length, resolved to inform his favourite of
this determined omission to pay him reverence. Haman became incensed, and
his rage burned with destructive violence. Having been told that Mordecai
was a Jew, he instantly vowed to revenge his mortification, not only by
punishing the individual, but by destroying the nation: and as the Persian
monarchy, at this period, included Judea, had not Providence signally
interposed, few if any could have escaped. How cruel is wrath, how
outrageous anger! Thousands are devoted to death for an individual's
conduct, who were utterly incapable of participating in it, and who had
never even heard the name of their offending countryman! Supposed guilt
and unquestioned innocence were doomed alike to perish in one
indiscriminate massacre! O let us daily pray for that "wisdom which is
from above, which is first pure, then _peaceable, gentle, and easy to be
entreated, full of mercy_, and good fruits!"

With a view of discovering the will of the gods, according to the common
practice of Pagan antiquity, Haman ordered the lot to be cast, which was
supposed to discriminate between lucky and unlucky days, little aware that
"the whole _disposing_ thereof is of the Lord."

His address to the king was artful and insinuating. Instead of stating the
real cause of his desire for the extermination of the Jews, he touches
only upon what the principles of policy might seem to dictate; and induces
Ahasuerus to accede to his sanguinary proposal, by lending him his ring to
use at his own discretion. Thus the weakness of favouritism combines with
the wickedness of pride, to destroy a people whose name was scarcely known
to their prince, and whose crime was not even attempted to be proved by
their malignant accuser.

The decree was at length issued, and letters were despatched into every
province of the empire, "to destroy, to kill, and to cause to perish, all
Jews both young and old, little children and women, in one day, even upon
the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, which is the month Adar, and to
take the spoil of them for a prey." After this inhuman proceeding, "the
king and Haman sat down to drink; but the city Shushan was perplexed."

It is an outrage upon public decency, which even modern times and
civilized nations have unhappily witnessed, to see princes dissipating
their days in festivity, and enfeebling their reason by excess, riot, and
intoxication, when the calamitous circumstances of their country have
demanded a serious investigation, a sympathizing regard, and a prompt
relief; but still more lamentable is it to observe such conspirators
against the lives of mankind as Haman and Ahasuerus, sitting down to
indulge in merriment, while Persia was bathed in tears, and innumerable of
her inhabitants written for execution. Was not one governor then to be
found, to return an answer similar to that which the king of France, in a
later age received, who had commanded the massacre of the Huguenots? "In
my district," said one of his virtuous lieutenants, "your majesty has many
brave soldiers, but no butchers!"--This was a people, however, ignorant as
the haughty favourite of Ahasuerus was of the fact, that no human power
could annihilate--a people under the immediate protection of the eternal
God--a people respecting whom important prophecies were yet
unaccomplished--a people of whom it is affirmed, Jehovah "kept him as the
apple of his eye."

Mordecai was no uninterested spectator of these transactions; but went
about the city, and approached even to the king's gate, attired in
sack-cloth, and uttering cries of grief and lamentation. Esther, who was
no less accessary to sorrow in the palace than in the cottage, being
informed of this circumstance, sent him a change of raiment, that she
might enjoy a conversation to which he could not be introduced in the
habiliments of mourning. Alas! though the _signs_ of affliction may be
interdicted, the unwelcome visitant herself will intrude even into the
most splendid residences and most elevated conditions! Mordecai refused
the dress, not out of disrespect to the queen, but to express his poignant
anguish, and to incite her to deeper sympathy. Esther immediately
despatched her attendant, one of the king's chamberlains, to inquire into
the cause of his distress; and this faithful messenger soon hastens back
to detail all the proceedings which had been adopted in reference to the
Jews, with a request from Mordecai, that "she should go in unto the king,
to make supplication unto him, and to make request before him for
her people."

This was a dangerous requisition. She, therefore, sent back her attendant
to Mordecai, to remind him that it was a matter of universal notoriety,
whoever, man or woman, should venture into the royal presence without
being called, must suffer death, unless the "golden sceptre" were held out
as an intimation of mercy; and that she questioned the probability of this
in case of her intrusion, since her not having been sent for during thirty
days past seemed to indicate some alienation.

It must be confessed, there is less of the heroine and the martyr in this
reply than we could wish to have witnessed; but, on the one hand, we may
observe that a similar blemish disfigured the early conduct of Moses: and
on the other, as some extenuation, that she does not _refuse_ to comply
with Mordecai's suggestion; but merely referred to the danger awaiting
such a proceeding, in order perhaps to induce him, if possible, to
contrive some safer and no less effectual expedient. The love of life is a
principle of human nature implanted by our Creator for the purpose of
self-preservation, a principle which, in ordinary cases, cannot be
violated without guilt; and, on no occasion, can be dispensed with but
from some imperious necessity. He who gave life, however, has a right to
reclaim it; and that sacrifice which it would be a vice to make to our own
passion, becomes a virtuous and pious offering when yielded to divine

Mordecai sent another message to Esther, at once spirited, pointed, and
effectual. It was a moment that demanded instantaneous action; and if the
timorous queen cherished apprehensions on her own account, he showed her
that she was even more likely to suffer by an ignominious retreat than a
bold advance. He reminded her of her Jewish extraction, and the consequent
danger to herself in the arrangement to exterminate all that hated race.
For though the prime minister probably would not have lifted his hand
against the queen; and though her connexion with his master, who married
her from affection as great as we can imagine a sensual and despotic
prince capable of cherishing, seemed to promise security; yet there could
be no absolute dependence, and the favourite of to-day might be discarded
to-morrow. He added to this other and weighty considerations--"If thou
altogether boldest thy peace at this time, then shall there enlargement
and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place; but thou and thy
father's house shall be destroyed; and who knoweth whether thou art come
to the kingdom for such a time as this?"--_q.d_. 'Thy timidity may prevent
thy becoming the means of rescuing the people of God; nevertheless, they
shall assuredly escape--his resources are inexhaustible--his chosen
nation shall not be annihilated--and he will not only perform the work
without thy instrumentality, but inflict an awful but merited chastisement
for thy misconduct. After all, I have better anticipations--perhaps thy
wonderful advancement to the crown was intended by him who sometimes
conceals his plans of mercy in clouds of mystery, for the very purpose of
accomplishing the deliverance of Israel at this critical emergency.'

Mordecai, in this appeal, shines as a "wise reprover;" and it was "upon an
obedient ear." He is, moreover, illustrious as a man of _faith_. The
confident tone he assumed did not arise merely from that solicitude he
felt upon the subject, and which will sometimes inspire a boldness not
commonly manifested; but from a knowledge of the prophecies, and a trust
in the faithfulness of God respecting their fulfilment. The lyres of
Isaiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel, celebrated in accordant strains the
restoration of the Jews from captivity, and the advent of Messiah; and he
was persuaded that infinite Wisdom could not be deceived, nor infinite
power frustrated. O that in every minute affair of our lives, as well as
with regard to every great event of time, we could cherish a similar faith
in the providence of the "God of salvation!"

Observe, in passing, that it is reasonable and just to expect services
from us proportioned to the situations which we occupy. Favours involve
obligations; and whatever influence, talent, or means of any kind we
possess, ought to be conscientiously appropriated to the great Bestower.
Every being in the universe has duties arising out of his condition by
doing which he glorifies, and by omitting which he displeases, his
Creator. Esther was, therefore, responsible for her actions as a queen, as
a Jewess, and as one furnished with extraordinary opportunities at a
crisis most singular and important, and the remonstrance of Mordecai
proved irresistible. With what exultation must he have received this
message from her--"Go, gather together all the Jews that are present in
Shushan, and fast ye for me, and neither eat nor drink three days, night
or day. I also, and my maidens, will fast likewise: and so will I go in
unto the king, which is not according to the law; and if I perish,
I perish!"

These devotional preparations for the experiment about to be hazarded,
were not only highly proper in themselves, but expressive of the piety of
Esther. Abstinence from food, an ancient practice of the church sanctioned
by divine authority, is an evidence of humiliation before God; and at the
same time, adapted to produce it, by inflicting a salutary mortification
upon the corporeal appetites. If carried to excess, it will indeed hinder
rather than promote piety; but when adopted on proper occasions, and
observed with judicious regulations, it is attended with consequences
manifestly beneficial. The queen did not impose a service on others which
she was indisposed to practise herself; but sympathizing with the
condition of her countrymen, she participated in their self-denying
duties. Let us never forget the promise of eternal mercy, which has
consoled the church of God in her deepest afflictions, and upon which
every pilgrim in Zion may depend with unhesitating confidence, "Call upon
me in the day of trouble; I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me."

When it is recollected, that the proceeding of Esther, in going in to the
king uncalled, was a deliberate violation of a law of the state, and that
Vashti had been discarded for an offence of far inferior consideration; we
cannot but notice the overruling providence of God, in giving the queen
acceptance in the eyes of Ahasuerus. On the third day she laid aside her
mourning dress, and putting on her royal apparel, presented herself in the
inner court of the palace, opposite the king's private apartment, where he
sat upon his throne. What a moment of suspense and of secret agony! If
previous devotion had not, in some measure, tranquillized the agitations
of her bosom, and inspired a holy courage, it is scarcely conceivable how
a woman could sustain the trial of such an hour. If the sharp conflict had
smitten her to the ground, and she had expired upon the spot, we should
not, religious considerations apart, have been greatly astonished; but
hope in God, and a composure gained, no doubt, at the mercy-seat, and
diffused over her spirit by recent intercourse with heaven, prepared her
to hear the mandate of death, or receive the outstretched token of
clemency. Her splendid attire--her attractive mien--her beautiful
countenance, in which grief, anxiety, and devotion blending their
influence, produced a new and interesting character, fixed the king's
attention, and reinspired his love; but neither the one nor the other of
these, nor all of them in the most happy combination, could have produced
the effect, had not the tears, the prayers, the fastings of Israel and of
Esther, brought down the blessings from above. How _important_ are means!
how _essential_ is religion!

Behold the golden sceptre! The queen trembles with rapture at the
anticipated sign--it is held out--she approaches--touches--triumphs--and
lives! "Let us come boldly unto the THRONE OF GRACE, that we may obtain
mercy, and find grace to help in time of need!"

Instead of rejection and death, Esther soon found herself treated with
perfect familiarity, and more than usual kindness. Imagining that some
important business had occasioned this visit, the king desired to know it,
and promised to gratify the queen "to the half of the kingdom." She
thought it prudent, however, at present, to waive the particular request
she had to present, simply inviting Ahasuerus and his favourite to a
banquet, by which mark of attention she hoped more effectually to confirm
his reviving fondness, and thus secure the accomplishment of her ultimate
purpose. Her invitation was accepted. He repaired with Haman to the
festival, where, being highly delighted with the entertainment, he renewed
his protestations in reference to whatever petition she might have to
present. The wary queen ventured only to request a renewal of the royal
visit on the morrow, at which time she assured him of a full explanation
of her wishes.

There is an appearance of undue timidity in this procrastination; and yet,
if we were better informed of her secret motives, we might perhaps award
her the praise of wisdom. The partiality of the king for Haman might
render her doubtful of success in the contest with that favourite; and she
might think it necessary to excite both the curiosity and the affection of
the king still more, in order that he might not, through being startled at
the magnitude of her demand, instantaneously refuse it. Extremes are
dangerous. It would be well for us always to avoid both dilatoriness and
precipitancy in our conduct; in order to which we should implore, with
habitual fervency, the "wisdom from above."

Whatever were the views of Esther, the designs of God were secretly
maturing. Haman retired to his own house, full of mortification at the
continued neglect of Mordecai, which disturbed him even when every
external good seemed to concur in promoting his enjoyment. He called his
friends together, expatiated upon all his possessions and glory, noticing
with peculiar emphasis the favour of Esther in admitting him as the sole
companion of his sovereign and queen at the day's festivity, to a
repetition of which he had the honour of being invited on the morrow;
"yet," he added, displaying at once the festering wound of his heart, "yet
all this availeth nothing, so long as I see Mordecai the Jew sitting at
the king's gate."

Never, surely, was a more complete exposure of the insufficiency of
worldly glory to constitute happiness, and never a more impressive
exhibition of the littleness of vanity. What an insignificant
disappointment is sufficient to mar the comfort of him who depends upon
creatures! The merest feather may be turned into a weapon of hostility,
and destroy his peace; and whatever he may possess or acquire, he must
necessarily he as remote from true felicity as at the first step of his
pursuit, since something will always he wanting to _complete_ his bliss,
and the phantom of _ideal_ good will continue to dance before his eyes.

Zeresh, the wife of Haman, advised him to have a gallows made of fifty
cubits in height, upon which he should instigate the king to hang
Mordecai. To this advice, in which all his friends concurred, he listened,
and gave immediate orders for the construction of this instrument
of death.

What is to be done--what can be _attempted_ by Esther or by Mordecai, in
this critical emergency? Neither of them were, indeed, aware of the
murderous determination. The queen had delayed her petition till the
succeeding day, at the intended banquet; but malevolence was hastening to
frustrate her designs, without her knowledge, and previously to her
intercession. Could she ever pardon herself for this delay, when Mordecai
is suspended? Could she recall the past hours of festivity, in which so
favourable an opportunity seemed to present itself for urging her
supplication to the king?--

"Stand still and see the salvation of God!" He who "sitteth upon the
circle of the earth," is about to fulfil his own purposes, which no human
projects can frustrate, and no apprehension of contingencies need hasten.
"On that night could not the king sleep." But little did he know the true
cause of this unusual wakefulness, or suspect that God was about to render
it subservient to accomplish his divine intentions. "And he commanded to
bring the book of records of the chronicles; and they were read before the
king." But why did not a prince like this, addicted to pleasure, seek a
diversion of his restlessness, by calling in the aid of music, rather than
that of history? It seems more natural, that, he should wish for temporary
amusement, rather than sold instruction. What more soothing than the
"concord of sweet sounds?" True; but that Providence which kept him awake,
influenced him to the choice of this extraordinary expedient. "And it was
found written, that Mordecai had told of Bigthana and Teresh, two of the
king's chamberlains, the keepers of the door, who sought to lay hand on
the king Ahasuerus." But how came this particular circumstance in his
personal history, to be selected on this occasion? The Persian records
contained events of astonishing magnitude, and romantic interest. They
told of mighty exploits, and splendid conquests!--Again we discern that
divine superintendence, by which Ahasuerus was _led_ to a circumstance
of his own time, in which that very individual was named, whose life was
now in imminent danger, and upon whom depends so many of the incidents of
this story. The king inquired, whether the fidelity of Mordecai had been
properly rewarded! To which his servants replied, "There is nothing done
for him." The cares of empire are so multifarious and complicated, that we
ought to make considerable allowances for those omissions in princes,
which would be utterly inexcusable in others; yet it does appear
surprising, that so signal a service as that which Mordecai had rendered
in the discovery of a dangerous conspiracy against the throne, should have
been totally unrequited. Happily for Christians, they serve a Master who
cannot forget even "a cup of cold water, given in the name of a disciple"
to one of his "little ones!"

Early the ensuing morning, Haman hastened to the palace, for the purpose
of obtaining the royal consent to his malignant preparations. Now he was
about to rid himself at a stroke of the disdainful Jew that refused him
homage; and anticipated the hour when he should witness his enemy on the
gallows, so soon and so eagerly prepared! It was, indeed, a strange
coincidence. Ahasuerus is as anxious to see his minister, as Haman to be
introduced to the apartment of his king. Each has a great object in view,
for which the other's concurrence is desired--each too is solicitous
respecting the disposal of the same individual, and each ignorant of the
other's wishes and projects.

After the usual salutations, the king entreated, the opinion of his
favourite minister with regard to the best mode of expressing his
attachment to one whom he "delighted to honour." Haman concluded that his
royal master, of course, alluded to _him_, since he well knew no other
shared so largely in the royal confidence; and thinking to gratify the
vanity of his little soul, he proposed that the favourite alluded to
should be, for once, clothed in the royal apparel and crown, carried
through the city upon the horse which was appropriated to the king,
attended by one of the first princes of the empire, and have proclamation
made before him, "Thus shall it be done to the man whom the king
delighteth to honour." Approving of this mode of testifying the regard he
wished to express, extraordinary as it was, Ahasuerus instantly commanded
its punctual execution. "Make haste, and take the apparel and the horse,
as thou hast said, and do even so to"--whom? to my favourite
Haman?--No--insufferable mortification;--"to _Mordecai the Jew_!"

Behold Haman again in his house, "mourning and having his head covered,
and expatiating upon the misery of his situation." His wise men and his
wife agree, that if Mordecai be of the seed of the Jews, all his
contrivances to ruin him would prove ineffectual; so fully aware were even
the heathen of the peculiar interposition of Providence, in former times,
on behalf of that scattered people.

In the midst of their consultations, the king's chamberlain came to attend
Haman to the banquet prepared by Esther. He goes--but rather like a man
led to execution, than one invited to a festival. But he must conceal his
chagrin, and assume the smile of gayety.

Having partook of the feast, Ahasuerus requires of Esther the fulfilment
of her promise, in the explanation of her wishes. He assures her with
reiterated protestations, that her petition shall certainly be granted,
"even to the half of the kingdom." How was he astonished, when she
entreated for her own life, and that of her people! It had never entered
into the mind of the king, that such a request was necessary. Is it
possible that he hears aright? Ignorant that he had really prostituted,
his authority to sanction the destruction of the queen as a Jewess, he
looks at her and Haman with wild confusion, while she proceeds in a strain
of firm, dignified, and eloquent statement: "For we are sold, I and my
people, to be destroyed, to be slain, and to perish; but if we had been
sold for bondmen and bondwomen, I had held my tongue, although the enemy
could not countervail the king's damage."

Who can paint the terrors that gathered, at this moment in the countenance
of Haman, or the indignant frown of Ahasuerus, when he thundered
forth--"Who is he? and where is he that durst presume in his heart to do
so? The hour of detection was come. Detestable conspirator, thou shall not
escape! Truth shall, at length, come from her concealment, and wither at a
touch thy unmerited and unenviable distinctions!" Esther said, "_The
adversary and enemy is this wicked Haman_."--"The word was loath to come
forth, but it strikes home at last. Never till now did Haman hear his true
title. Before, some had styled him noble, others great; some magnificent,
and some perhaps virtuous; only Esther gave him his own, 'wicked Haman.'
Ill-deserving greatness doth in vain promise to itself a perpetuity of
applause." Bp. Hall.

Overwhelmed with astonishment and indignation, the king hastily withdrew
from the banquet into the palace-garden: while the offender, who was too
well acquainted with the countenance of his master not to perceive that
"there was evil determined against him," writhing in all the agonies of
despair, produced by a consciousness of guilt, and a dread of merited
punishment, implored the queen to intercede for his safety. He who was
profuse of the lives of others, with a consistency which is characteristic
of villany and despotism cannot endure the thought of forfeiting his own,
but betrays a cowardice proportioned to his recent insolence. The king
returning at the moment in a state of the utmost exasperation, imputed the
worst motives to his suppliant attitude, and allowed his servants to rush
forward and cover Haman's face, as a person under sentence of death. The
miserable criminal had, probably, many flatterers in the days of his
greatness, but his adversity shows that he had no friends. Every one is
eager to accelerate his destruction. Harbonah, especially, a chamberlain,
proposed his being executed on the gallows of fifty cubits in height,
which he had prepared for Mordecai; to which the king immediately
assented. In this manner did Providence take the cunning persecutor in his
own snare, and vindicate the cause of his oppressed people. Let the
enemies of religion tremble, while the children of God are joyful in their
King. The arrows which malignity shoots at the church of Christ shall
either be broken against her walls, and fall pointless to the earth; or
rebounding on the foe that ventures upon the attack, shall pierce his
own heart.

The advancement of Mordecai was the natural result of Haman's ruin. Esther
having fully informed Ahasuerus of her relationship to the much-injured
Jew and his nation, she was empowered to bestow upon him the house of the
fallen minister. The Jews, however, were not yet exempted from the decree
which the wickedness of Haman had inveigled the king to issue against
them! so that Esther, not merely solicitous for her personal security or
that of her friend and relative, ventured again before the king, "and fell
down at his feet, and besought him with tears to put away the mischief of
Haman the Agagite, and his device that he had devised against the Jews."
The king renewed the testimony of his kindness, by stretching forth the
golden sceptre; and the queen addressed him in these words, "If it please
the king, and if I have found favour in his sight, and the thing seem
right before the king, and I be pleasing in his eyes, let it be written to
reverse the letters devised by Haman the son of Hammedatha the Agagite,
which he wrote to destroy the Jews which are in all the kings' provinces:
for how can I endure to see the evil that shall come unto my people? or
how can I endure to see the destruction of my kindred?"

The king was ready to concede every thing it was in his power to grant:
but as the laws of Persia were irreversible, and he could not rescind an
edict already issued in his several provinces, he adopted the plan of
putting his ring into the hands of Mordecai and Esther, to seal whatever
decree they might think it right to frame in the present emergency.
Accordingly, they gave unlimited permission to the Jews to defend
themselves, which it was likely would so plainly evince the royal wishes
to nullify his former edict, that few if any would indulge their malice
against this people, or endanger their own lives by availing themselves of
the first order. Many, however, did so; and even in the royal city five
hundred men attacked them, probably some of the partisans of the late
minister; but their temerity hurried them on to their own destruction. The
ten sons of Haman, were also slain, and at the request of the queen, hung
on the gallows.

An annual festival, called _Purim_, [53] was established in commemoration
of the deliverances we have recorded, which the Jews continue to observe
at this day. It seems to have been appointed by Mordecai and Esther, as a
civil, rather than a religious feast; unless it be supposed, that they
received some special revelation to authorize such a measure. It is
observed in the month _Adar_, which corresponds with our _February_
and _March_.

The interesting history we have been reviewing, is calculated not only to
impress those general sentiments of Providence, to which we cannot too
often recur, but to awaken in the minds of Christians a pleasing
conviction of that minute inspection of their affairs, and that unremitted
care for their welfare individually, which God exercises towards them. Is
it possible to imagine a doctrine more elevating than this, or more
calculated to produce sensations of reverence, gratitude, and joy? It is
not presumptuous, even in a mortal "worm," to believe that his interests
engage the attention of the INFINITE BEING; and that to promote them, the
immense machinery of moral and natural means is put in motion--the animate
and inanimate creation--mortal agents and spiritual beings--events great
and small, past and present. _Worm_ as thou art, still the central point
in the vast circle of Providence! _Worm_ as thou art, God has "graven thee
upon the palms of his bands, and thou shalt never perish." _Worm_ as
thou art, but for thee "the brightness of the Father's glory" had not left
his radiant sphere to become incarnate, to endure reproach and execration,
and finally to be "brought as a lamb to the slaughter!" To hear _thy_
supplications the King of heaven has erected a _throne of grace_--to
vindicate _thy_ character, to condemn _thy_ foes, to perfect _thy_
felicity, he is preparing, and will soon come to sit upon _a throne of

Review past dispensations, and gather encouragement for present
confidence! "If God be for us, who can be against us?" Did he not choose
_Abraham_, and call him his "friend?" Did he not release _Joseph_ from
the pit, and raise him to princely glory? Did he not rescue _Moses_ from
the destructive waters, and constitute him the leader of his people
Israel? Did he not deliver _David_ from the lion and the bear, from the
giant of Philistia, and the royal madman of Israel! Did he not feed
_Elijah_--advance _Esther_--promote _Mordecai_--support _Job_--save
_Jonah_--rescue _Peter_, and honour _Paul_? Has he not, in all ages,
supplied the necessities of his saints--alleviated their
sorrows--sweetened their bitter cup--turned death itself into life? Can he
not extricate them from all difficulties--preserve them amidst ail
temptations--render them invulnerable to all attacks--make them more than
conquerors over external misery, internal pollution, and satanic
malice?--Can he not eventually elevate them above the reach of all evil,
the fear of death, and the possibility of falling? Can he not array them
in the robe of light--adorn them with a crown of glory--make them "drink
of the rivers of his pleasures"--associate them with holy angels, in a
state of immaculate purity--stamp immortality on their blessedness, and
"wipe away all tears from their eyes?"--HE CAN--HE WILL--"Our Father which
art in heaven ...thine is the POWER and the GLORY, forever. Amen!"

End of Volume I.


[1]: Bates.

[2]: Young's Centaur not fabulous, p. 61.

[3]: Sir William Temple's Gardens of Epicurus. Horne's Discourses, vol. I.

[4]: This subject is more fully illustrated in the Essay prefixed to the
second volume of this work.

[5]: Dr. Johnson.

[6]: Paley's Moral Philosophy, vol. i. p. 316, 8vo.

[7]: SAURIN, Discours historiques, critiques, theologiques, et moraux, sur
les Evenemens le plus memorables du Vieux et du Nouveau Testament. Tom. I.
p. 41-43. 8vo.

[8]: The following quotation is illustrative of this circumstance: "At ten
minutes after ten in the morning, we had in view (says Dr. Chandler)
several fine bays, and a plain full of booths, with the Turcomans sitting
by the doors, under sheds resembling porticos; or by shady trees,
surrounded with flocks of goats." Harmer's Observations, vol. i. p. 132.

[9]: Fleury's Manners of the ancient Israelites.

[10]: Newton's Diss. on the Prophecies, vol. i. p. 34--36.

[11]: The ancient authors, Tacitus, Pliny, Diodorus Siculus, and others,
furnish abundant testimony in undesigned confirmation of the scriptural
account. The following quotation is from Strabo: "There are many
indications that fire has been over this country; for, about Massada, they
show rough and scorched rocks and caverns, in many places eaten in; and
the earth reduced to ashes, and drops of pitch distilling from the rocks
and hot streams, offensive afar off, and habitations overthrown; which
render credible some reports among the inhabitants, that there were
formerly thirteen cities on that spot, the principal of which was Sodom,
so extensive, as to be sixty furlongs in circumference, but that by
earthquakes, and by an eruption of fire, and by hot and bituminous waters,
it became a lake as it now is, the rocks were consumed, some of the cities
were swallowed up, and others abandoned by those of the inhabitants who
were able to escape." _Lib xii_

Tacitus states, that the traces of fire were visible in his time "At no
great distance are those fields which, as it is said, were formerly
fruitful, and covered with great cities, till they were consumed by
lightning, the vestiges of which remain in the parched appearance of the
country, which has lost its fertility." _Hist lib v_

A modern traveller, who was recently an eyewitness of the scene, is
particularly entitled to be heard on this interesting subject, even at the
risk of extending this note to a disproportionate length: "The Dead Sea
below, upon our left, appealed so near to us, that we thought we could
have rode thither in a very short space of time. Still nearer stood a
mountain upon its western shore, resembling in its form the cone of
Vesuvius, and having also a crater upon its top which was plainly

"The distance, however, is much greater than it appears to be; the
magnitude of the objects beheld in this fine prospect, causing them to
appear less remote than they really are. The atmosphere was remarkably
clear and serene; but we saw none of those clouds of smoke which, by some
writers, are said to exhale from the surface of the Lake Asphaltites, nor
from any neighbouring mountain. Every thing about it was, in the highest
degree, grand and awful. Its desolate, although majestic features, are
well suited to the tales related concerning it by the inhabitants of the
country, who all speak of it with terror, seeming to shrink from the
narrative of its deceitful allurements and deadly influence. 'Beautiful
fruit,' say they, 'grows upon its shores, which is no sooner touched, than
it becomes dust and bitter ashes.' In addition to its physical horrors,
the region around is said to be more perilous, owing to the ferocious
tribes wandering upon the shores of the lake, than any other part of the
Holy Land." _Clarke's Travels_, part ii. sect. i. p. 614.

[12]: The design of this work being rather practical than critical, the
author conceives it generally proper to avoid subjects of doubtful
disputation; and rather, in particular cases, to give the _result_ of
his inquiries, than to detail the process by which it had been obtained.
On this account, he has forborne to introduce the different notions that
have prevailed among the learned respecting the real nature of the
punishment inflicted upon the wife of Lot, but has simply stated what is
the most common, and, upon the whole, the most satisfactory opinion. It
seems conformable to the words of the historian to suppose a _real
conversion into a pillar of salt_, and not that Lot's wife was merely
_smitten dead upon the spot_. If further information be wished, the
reader is particularly referred to a French work of well-merited
celebrity, and which contains on this and many subjects of Biblical
criticism, much valuable and curious information--Saurin, Discours
historiques, critiques, theologiques, et moraux, sur les Evenemens les
plus memorables du Vieux et du Nouveau Testament. Tom, i.

[13]: This appears to have been the ancient mode of concluding an
agreement, or solemn covenant. Josephus says, that if two persons bound
themselves mutually by an oath, they put their hand upon each other's
thigh. Grotius states, that anciently they wore the sword upon the thigh,
so that to swear by putting the hand upon the thigh, was intimating, "I am
willing to be pierced through by this sword if I break my promise."

[14]: "Sir J. Chardin observed this difference in the East between wells of
living water, and reservoirs of rain water; that these last have
frequently, especially in the Indies, a flight of steps down into the
water, that as the water diminishes, people may still take it up with
their hands, whereas he hardly ever observed a well furnished with those
steps through all the East. He concludes from this circumstance, that the
place from whence Rebekah took up water was a reservoir of rain water.
This is the account that he gives us in his sixth MS. volume, and it
explains very clearly what is meant by Rebekah's _going down_ to the
well, Gen. xxiv. 16." HARMER'S Observations, vol. ii. p. 184, 185,

[15]: HENRY in loc.

[16]: "We do not find that their (the Israelites') marriages were attended
with any religious ceremony, except the prayers of the father of the
family and the standers by, to entreat the blessing of God: we have
examples of it in the marriage of Rebekah with Isaac, of Ruth with Boaz,
and of Sara with Tobias. We do not see that there were any sacrifices
offered upon the occasion, or that they went to the temple, or sent for
the priests; all was transacted betwixt the relations and friends, so that
it was no move than a civil contract." _Fleury's Manners of the ancient
Israelite_, Part ii. chap. 10.

[17]: Most commentators attribute a higher principle to the partiality of
Rebekah; they imagine that it was founded upon the prophecies, choosing
him whom the Lord had chosen: but I can perceive no good reason for this

[18]: "For I brought thee up out of the land of Egypt, and redeemed thee
out of the house of servants; and I sent before thee Moses, Aaron, and
_Miriam_." Mic. vi. 4.

[19]: Hieron, in Trad. Heb. ad 1 Kings 3. Calmet's Preface to Ruth, and Ch.
iv. 22.

[20]: Gray's Key to the Old Testament.

[21]: Comp. HARMER'S Observations, vol. i. p. 78, 79.

[22]: There is something inimitably beautiful in this ancient practice, and
in language of their mutual address, which is preserved in the inspired
narrative, "And behold, Boaz came from Bethlehem, and said unto the
reapers, The Lord be with you. And they answered him, The Lord bless
thee." Ch. ii. 4.

[23]: Clarke's Travels, Part II, Sect, ii. p, 302.

[24]: Comp. Harmer's Observations, p. 232-237.

[25]: It has been thought probable, that from the expression "Is not the
Lord gone out before thee?" some angelic messenger or visible appearance,
similar to that of the Shekinah, prompted the words and animated the zeal
of Deborah. The Targum favours this sentiment: "Is not the angel of the
Lord gone out before thee to prosper thee?"

[26]: Lectures on the Sacred Poetry of the Hebrews.

[27]: The historical reference appears to be to the narrative in the
twentieth chapter of Numbers, in which the refusal of Edom to allow the
children of Israel to go through their borders is recorded. Some
extraordinary circumstances seem referred to, not mentioned in the sacred
page, but possibly transmitted by tradition to the times of Deborah. Sen
is a mountain of Idumea. The language is highly figurative, and denotes
earthquakes and storms. "The mountains melted," that is, part of their
surface was carried down, by the force of excessive torrents of rain.

[28]: The ass derives its name from a Hebrew word signifying _redness_,
the usual colour of this animal, but some are white. The word translated
white is _zechorot_, and may, perhaps refer to the _zebra_, which the
Ethiopians call _zechora_, and which is generally considered as one of the
most beautiful of living creatures. It is sometimes called the wild ass.

[29]: "Dr. Shaw mentions a beautiful rill in Barbary, which is received
into a large basin, called _shrub we krub,_ (drink and away,) there
being great danger of meeting there with rogues and assassins. If such
places are proper for the lurking of murderers in times of peace, they
must be proper for the lying in ambush in times of war; a circumstance
that Deborah takes notice of in her song, Judges v. 11." Harmer.

[30]: _Gates_ were anciently the places where they held their courts
of judicature. In the towers there were very spacious and handsome

[31]: The Vulgate reads, _in the country of Merom,_ alluding to the
place where Joshua fought a former king of Canaan. The waters of Merom are
supposed to be the same as Kishon. Comp. Josh. xi. 5 Ps. lxxxiii 9.

[32]: There is a remarkable alliteration here in the original Hebrew,
[Hebrew: _middaharoth daharoth_.] Some have supposed it a poetical
imitation of the sound of the trampling of horses, and compare this
passage with the celebrated line of Virgil--"Quadrupedante putrem sonitu
quatit ungula campum." VIRG. Æn. viii. v. 595.

[33]: Comp. HARMER'S Observations, volume i. pp. 216 and 445.

[34]: It has often been inquired, on what principle this action of Jael,
which is so apparently repugnant to the laws of honourable warfare, and
even of common humanity, could be so eulogized by Deborah. The Kenites and
the Canaanites were in alliance, and besides, the rights of hospitality
have always been most scrupulously regarded, especially in the early ages
of the world. To these considerations the ingenious Saurin replies, that
in order to judge of this affair, it would be necessary to know the nature
of the treaty between Heber and the Canaanites; because, according to
Puffendorf, if two agreements cannot be performed, of which the one was
made _with_ and the other _without_ an oath, the latter ought to
yield to the former; and we cannot tell but this latter might be the
nature of the agreement between the Kenites and the Canaanites. He
conceives also, that a justification of Jael's conduct might be found in
the character of Sisera, pleading that we are not required to keep good
faith, or to show lenity to those execrable persons who only avail
themselves of our regard to these virtues, to violate them in their
conduct to others, to falsify their promises, and carry blood and carnage
wherever they go. Under this impression, he prays that Providence may
never raise up among us Jabins or Siseras; but if the justice of God
should see fit to employ such scourges for our correction, that his mercy
would send Jaels to effect our deliverance. Comp. SAURIN Discours
Historiques, tom iii. _La defaite de Jabin et de Sizera_, p. 318-322.
I confess this reasoning is not quite satisfactory; nor indeed will any
reasoning upon this remarkable transaction be so, till we allow that there
were circumstances which the Spirit of God has not seen fit to disclose,
and that Jael most probably acted under the influence of some divine
intimation. Long was it the revealed will of God that the Canaanites
should be exterminated, and Israel had been criminally negligent of his
commands. It must, doubtless, be admitted, that the general authority
which they had received, independent even of any acts of oppression, was
paramount to every other consideration, and sufficient to justify the most
implacable hostility.

[35]: Illustrations may be found in Saurin, "Discours Historiques,
Critiques, Theologiques, et Moreaux, sur les Evenemens les plus memorables
du Vieux et du Nouveau Testament." Tom. iv. p. 14-20, 8vo.

[36]: The Septuagint rendering of David's message to Nabal explains the
rapaciousness of the Arabs, and the forbearance of David. "Behold, I have
heard that thy shepherds are now shearing for thee; they were with us in
the wilderness, and we have not _hindered_ them, ουχ απεχωλυσαμεν, nor
have we _commanded_ them ουχ ενετειλαμεθα all the days of their being in
Carmel." "This," says Harmer, "is translating like people perfectly well
acquainted with the management of the Arab emirs, whose manners David,
though he lived in the wilderness as they did, had not adopted. One of
them at the head of six hundred men, would have _commanded,_ from time to
time, some provisions, or other present from Nabal's servants, for
permitting them to feed in quiet; and would have driven them away from
the watering-place upon any dislike. He had not done either."
_Observations_, vol. i. p. 173.

[37]: Young's Centaur, p. 119.

[38]: JOSEPHUS, Book viii. ch. 5,

[39]: Voyage up the Red Sea, and Route through the Desarts of Thebais.

[40]: Harmer's Observations, vol. iv. p. 192, 193.

[41]: From the _Arabian Anthologia_, quoted by SCHULTENS.

[42]: Shaw's Travels, p. 214-317, quoted in Harmer's Observations, vol. i.
p. 251.

[43]: Comp. Harmer's Observations, vol. ii. p. 503.

[44]: Plutarch's Life of Pyrrhus.

[45]: Epitaph in Bunhill Fields burying-ground on a child that died at the
age of nine months. The writer of these pages knows not the author, or
whether these lines have ever appeared in any other place than on the
stone whence he has transcribed them.

[46]: HARMER'S Observations, vol. i. p 4.

[47]: The first day of the month was kept with burnt-offerings and
peace-offerings. Vide Numb. x. 10. and xxviii. 11. In imitation of the
Jews, the calends, or first days of the month, and the fourth and seventh
of the week, were sacred to Deity.

[48]: PASCAL'S Thoughts, pp. 229, 244.

[49]: See The Life of Philip Melancthon, by the author of this work, p.
225, second edition.

[50]: "The salutations of the East often take up a long time. The manner of
salutation as now practised by the people of Egypt, is not less ancient.
The ordinary way of saluting people, when at a distance, is bringing the
hand down to the knees, and then carrying it to the stomach; marking their
devotedness to a person, by holding down the hand; as they do their
affection, by their after raising it up to the heart. When they come close
together afterward, they take each other by the hand, in token of
friendship. What is very pleasant, is to see the country-people
reciprocally clapping each other's hands very smartly, twenty or thirty
times together, in meeting, without saying any thing more than _Salamant
aiche halcom?_ that is to say, _How do you do? I wish you good
health_. If this form of complimenting must be acknowledged to be
simple, it must be admitted to be very affectionate. Perhaps it marks out
a better disposition of heart than all the studied phrases which are in
use among us, and which politeness almost always makes use of at the
expense of sincerity. After this first compliment, many other friendly
questions are asked about the health of the family, mentioning each of the
children distinctly, whose names they know," &c. MAILLET, Descript. de

"If the forms of salutation among the ancient Jewish peasants took up as
much time as those of the modern Egyptians that belong to that rank of
life, it is no wonder the prophet commanded his servant to abstain from
saluting those he might meet with, when sent to recover the child of the
Shunammitess to life. They that have attributed this order to haste, have
done right; but they ought to have shown the tediousness of Eastern
compliments." HARMER'S Observations, vol. ii. pp. 331, 332.


[52]: Ps. I. 15. The thirteenth and fourteenth chapters of the apocryphal
book of Esther contain appropriate prayers for this occasion, attributed
to Mordecai and Esther, well worthy of perusal.

[53]: In the Persian language _Pur_ signifies a _lot_; and the
reference is to Haman's casting lots to ascertain the lucky month for the
execution of his iniquitous project against the Jews.

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