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WHILE Ezra was engaged at Jerusalem in the important work of collecting the Holy Scriptures, a deep-laid design for the destruction of all the Jews throughout the Persian empire, had nearly been successful. The particulars are related in the book of Esther. Although that book does not make a direct mention of the name of Jehovah, nor fully express the feelings of his people; yet it is one of the plainest records in existence to show the manner in which Divine Providence turns the hearts of men, causing the contrivers



of evil to be entangled and destroyed by their own devices. It shows how the rage and malice of persecutors is limited by Him, who says to the wind and the waves," Peace; be still." Or, as in Jeremiah v. 22:

Fear ye not me? saith the Lord:

Will ye not tremble at my presence,

Which have placed the sand for the bound of the sea
By a perpetual decree, that it cannot pass it:

And though the waves thereof toss themselves, yet can they not prevail;

Though they roar, yet can they not pass over it?

This book conveys a striking lesson of the instability of all human greatness; nay, of its certain downfal, unless secured by God's blessing.

After Esther had been raised to the rank of queen, her uncle Mordecai, who previously possessed some office or appointment in the palace, discovered a plot against the life of Artaxerxes, formed by two of the royal chamberlains. He made it known to Esther, who informed the king; the guilt of the conspirators was proved, they were executed, and a record was made of Mordecai's service, but no reward was given to him at the time.

Not long afterwards, Haman, an Amalekite, was advanced at court. The reason for his elevation is not stated, but all were commanded to reverence the new favourite. Mordecai, mindful of the former enmity of the Amalekites against the children of Israel, was unwilling to honour one of that accursed nation; the honour required seems, also, to have been a Divine honour or worship, which the Jewish religion forbade him from rendering to a mortal man. Haman was enraged at this, the more when he found that Mordecai was a Jew. Influenced by bitter hatred of that nation, he resolved to destroy not only Mordecai, but the whole people of the Jews. With this view, he made a false statement to Artaxerxes, representing the Jews to be

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a people hurtful to the king, offering to pay ten thousand talents, (almost two millions of pounds of our money,) from their spoils, if their destruction was


ordered. This shows that they had become wealthy colonists, and were not mere slaves. The king consented without inquiry; a royal decree to that effect was issued; the Jews throughout the empire were all to be destroyed on one day, and their property to be seized. The particular day for this slaughter Haman selected by a superstitious casting of the lot, a process still very frequent in the East, especially in Persia, when the lucky day and hour for any undertaking, whether public or domestic, is sought with much anxiety. The decree was passed on the thirteenth of



the first month of the twelfth year of Artaxerxes; but the day selected for the destruction was not till the thirteenth of the twelfth month. This long space was providentially permitted, to give sufficient interval for disappointing the wicked design.

The city of Susa was troubled when the edict was sent forth. The Jews mourned and fasted, and put on sackcloth; but Haman engaged the king in a course of drunken revelry, to estrange him from Esther, and prevent his reflecting on what he had decreed.

The queen knew not of the decree, but was told of the unusual garb assumed by Mordecai, who could not enter the palace while thus arrayed. He stood in the space before the gate. Then, as now, a person may walk for a hundred days near the apartments of the royal females of a Persian monarch, yet have no means of seeing an inmate, or of communicating with any one within the walls. But Mordecai attracted the notice of the attendants. Esther was told of his mourning garb, she sent him other raiment; on his refusing to receive it, she sent a chamberlain to inquire the reason. Mordecai then caused her to be informed of all the particulars, and required her to go to the king and intercede with him for her people. Esther hesitated; to enter the royal presence unsent for, would expose her to be immediately put to death. Mordecai then warned her not to think that she would escape if her people suffered, and urged that most probably she had been raised to her exalted rank to meet the present emergency. Esther then resolved to comply, but prepared herself by fasting and prayer, requiring that all the Jews in Susa should do the


On the third day she presented herself before Ahasuerus. It was not a light matter to appear unbidden before a Persian king; even in later days, those monarchs have studiously secluded themselves from the public eye. But God gave Esther favour in the

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in mercy, a promise was given to grant any request she might make. The business was too solemn and important to be entered upon abruptly, nor is it customary to do so in the East, and Esther only requested that the king and Haman would come to a banquet she had prepared. They came, the promise was again made; her request was, that the king and Haman would attend her banquet on the morrow, when she would present her petition.

Haman returned home "joyful, and with a glad heart," at this new honour; but he was vexed at seeing Mordecai still refuse to pay him homage. He was full of indignation. Esth. v. 10-14:

Nevertheless Haman refrained himself: and when he came home, he sent and called for his friends, and Zeresh his wife. And Haman told them of the glory of his riches, and the multitude of his children, and all the things wherein the king had promoted him, and how he had advanced him above the princes and servants of the king. Haman said moreover, Yea, Esther the queen did let no

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