THE GREATNESS OF AHASUERUS, AND OF MORDECAI UNDER HIM
The Book of Esther might have been expected to terminate with the institution of the
Purim feast. All that has gone before is subordinate to this, and the reader would be
satisfied, and require no more, if the book stopped at the end of ch. 9. But the
writer, perhaps from personal attachment to Mordecai, perhaps from mere
patriotic pride in him, cannot bring himself to lay down the pen until he has
put on record the full greatness of his hero, and the strength and support
that he was to the Jews of his day. He has already told us that “this man
Mordecai waxed greater and greater” (ch. 9:4). He now expands
this statement. The essence of Mordecai’s greatness consisted in his being
“next unto king Ahasuerus” (v. 3), his chief minister and alter ego. Thus
the greatness of Ahasuerus is involved in his. So the chapter commences
with a few words of Ahasuerus’ greatness. It has already been noticed
more than once (ch. 1:1; 8:9) that
over an hundred and twenty-seven provinces.” It is now added that he “laid
a tribute upon the land, and upon the isles of the sea” (v 1). This mention
of “laying a tribute’ was the chief reason why in former days so many
writers, including Hooker, identified the Ahasuerus of this book with
Darius, the son of Hystaspes. But it is not necessary to suppose that the
first laying of a tribute on the provinces of
intended; and Xerxes, after the Grecian expedition, which seriously altered
the bounds of his dominions, may well have made a new assessment, in
which the islands of the
maritime tracts, were included. For the rest of Ahasuerus’ “power and his
might,” the writer is content to refer his readers to “the book of the
chronicles of the kings of Media and
an account of “the greatness of Mordecai, whereto the king advanced
him.” This greatness forms the sole subject of the concluding verse, which
declares Mordecai’s position:
· with respect to the Persians — “next to the king ;” and,
· with respect to the Jews — “great among them,” “accepted,” and their
protector and benefactor, “seeking their wealth,” or welfare, and “speaking
peace,” or insuring tranquility, to all the whole race or people.
1 “And the king Ahasuerus laid a tribute upon the land, and upon the
isles of the sea.” King Ahasuerus laid a tribute on the land. Darius, the son of
Hystaspes, was the first to do this (Herod., 3:89); but, as the tribute had to
be rearranged from time to time (ibid., 6:42), any subsequent Persian
monarch who made a fresh arrangement might be said to “lay a tribute on
the land.” Xerxes is not unlikely to have done so after his return from
the sea. The Hebrew expression translated by “islands of the sea” includes
maritime tracts. Xerxes by the Greek expedition lost the islands of the
AEgean, but still held certain tracts upon the coast of
occupied for a considerable time by Persian garrisons (Herod., 7:106, 107).
These would necessarily be included in any assessment that he may have
made, and it is even not unlikely that Xerxes would lay his assessment on
A King’s Tribute and Power (v. 1)
Ahasuerus is certainly not brought before us in this book as a model king.
He was careless of the lives of his subjects, indifferent to justice, callous to
suffering, capricious in his likings, and fond of his own pleasure and ease.
If Xerxes be the Ahasuerus of this book, it would be hard to light in history
upon a character less worthy of respect. Yet he was, if not a great king,
king of a great empire — an embodiment of the idea of sovereignty and
upon the land and upon the isles of the sea. He exercised power and
might over his subjects. He was responsible to no earthly authority.
but throughout the book, the vastness of the
might of the Persian scepter appear as a great fact in the world’s history.
ever does rule, and turned the heart of the subject king as He would. We
feel that the moving power in the great transaction was Divine. Man rules,
but God overrules.
AND EMPIRE OF GOD HIMSELF. Not only by similitude, but also by
contrast. This earthly king was defeated by the Greeks, despised by his
subjects, assassinated by his servants, and his kingdom passed away to be
no more seen. But “the Lord reigneth.” (Psalm 97:1) “His dominion is an
everlasting dominion.” (Daniel 7:14) “Of His glory there is no end.”
(Isaiah 9:7) He demands the submission of our will and the tribute of
2 “And all the acts of his power and of his might, and the declaration
of the greatness of Mordecai, whereunto the king advanced him,
are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of
unknown to us. After the failure of the Grecian expedition Xerxes
attempted nothing further on that side of his empire, and the Greeks
consequently record nothing more concerning him. He may have made
expeditions in other directions. But the chief evidences that we have of his
activity point to his having sought to gratify his ambition and give vent to
his grand ideas by erecting magnificent buildings. The book of the
chronicles. See ch. 2:23; 6:1; 9:32. The kings of Media and
empires that one “book” contained the records of both. The fact of the
connection is fully established by profane history. Its exact nature is not
perhaps even yet fully understood. “Media” seems to be placed before
history preceded the Persian history, and was therefore recorded first in the
The Greatness of Mordecai (v. 2; ch. 9:4)
Before taking leave of this interesting and typical character, it may be well
to review the elements of the greatness which, in these two passages, is so
glowingly ascribed to him. Mordecai’s greatness was:
1. A contrast to his former humiliation at the door of the palace,
2. A contrast to the ignominious death for which at one time he seemed
3. A state for which his past sufferings and patience had probably, in a
measure, prepared him.
4. Directly occasioned by his act of loyalty and faithfulness,
5. Occasioned by the discovery of Haman his enemy’s malice,
6. Concerted with the royalty of his relative, Esther.
7. The direct bestowment of the king, Ahasuerus.
8. Manifest in the palace,
9. Extending to all the provinces of the vast empire, where his fame was
known and his power was felt.
10. Progressive, for he became greater and greater,
11. Exercised for the public good; in this respect a signal contrast to him he
12. Recorded in the chronicles of the Persian kingdom for the information
of future generations,
13. Recorded and sanctified in a book of canonical Scripture for the
instruction and encouragement of fidelity and piety throughout all time.
14. Permanently commemorated in the interesting Jewish festival of Purim.
3 “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.” Next unto king Ahasuerus. Compare Genesis 41:40;
Daniel 5:7; 6:3. Profane history neither confirms this nor contradicts it.
We know almost nothing of Xerxes from profane sources after his return
people. i.e. their welfare. Speaking peace to all his seed. It is generally
allowed that by “his seed”, we must understand those of the same stock
with himself — “the seed of
mean “promoting their peace and safety” — insuring them, so long as he
lived and ruled, a quiet and peaceful existence.
Wisdom at the Helm (vs. 1-3)
These concluding verses give a brief and comprehensive view of the results
of Mordecai’s advancement to power. The influence of the great Jew soon
made itself felt to the utmost boundaries of the wide empire.
isles of the sea” may seem very arbitrary, but it was probably in the manner
of a notable reform. It is to be attributed to Mordecai, and is given as a
special instance of his wisdom and power. Despots have many ways of
extracting money from those whom they govern, but the only proper way
of supporting government is through just and systematic taxation. If the
satraps or governors of provinces send in abundant supplies, shahs and
sultans are content; they pay no heed to the manner in which the supplies
have been secured. From this cause corruption and oppression still abound
in the East. Mordecai adopted a system of direct taxation which embraced
the whole empire, and for this he succeeded in getting the king’s sanction.
Let us remark:
Ø That tribute is necessary. Government cannot be efficiently
Maintained without adequate support; it is worth paying for.
Ø Tribute should only be raised for necessary purposes; not for selfish
indulgences or vainglorious conquests, but for the legitimate needs
of the state.
Ø Tribute should be equitable in its incidence. It should be borne by all,
but at the same time it should exhibit a just regard to the varying
conditions and abilities of citizens.
Ø Tribute should be levied openly, and only through legally-appointed
channels. Otherwise injustice and corruption are encouraged.
Ø Tribute is most satisfactory when estimated and determined by a people
themselves through appointed representatives. Self-government and
self-taxation are in all respects better than an irresponsible despotism.
Ø Tribute when just or necessary should always be cheerfully given. We
have a duty to our rulers. The protection, freedom, and peace secured to us
by a good government are cheaply purchased by a taxation that is equally
levied on all.
Ø Tribute is due to the heavenly King as well as to earthly monarchs and
states. Whilst rendering to Caesar what is Caesar’s, we should be careful
to render to God what is God’s (Matthew 22:21).
noted, not described They were many and illustrious. But though our
narrative passes by these acts with a simple allusion to them, it refers us for
detailed and complete information to a good authority — “are they not
written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Media and
doubt the writer thought that archives of the great empire would outlive his
little story.. But where now are they? Where is the empire itself? Where
are other empires, greater and more brilliant, that succeeded it as the
dominant world-power? All vanished, and their records with them! The
only chronicle preserved of Mordecai’s doings is that given in the Book of
Esther, and its preservation is owing to its having been bound up with the
word of God to men. Let us learn:
Ø The transient character of all worldly things.
Ø The indestructibility of God’s truth and kingdom (Matthew
5:18; I Peter 1:24-25).
HONORABLE GREATNESS. Mordecai was powerful not only with the
king and his heathen subjects, but with “the multitude of his own brethren”
throughout the empire. His power, however, was not forced, or grudgingly
acknowledged. He was “great among the Jews” because he was “accepted
of,” or acceptable to them. All power that relies on force and exacts an
unwilling submission is bad and precarious; that power only is legitimate
and secure which is based on the confidence and affection of a willing
acceptableness with his brethren of
Ø He sought their wealth. In other words, he studied their prosperity. All
the laws of the empire were so framed as to secure their freedom of
industry and commercial intercourse.
Ø He spoke peace to them. His acts had the effect of delivering them from
the fear of their enemies. He held over them the shield of the king’s
protection, and enabled them to live and work in quiet contentedness. We
have here an emblematic picture of Christ’s kingdom. Prosperity and peace
are the two great blessings promised to the people of
122:6-7). “Quietness and assurance for ever” is “the effect of
righteousness” (Isaiah 32:17-18). Christ is the “King of glory” and the
“Prince of peace.” “The good Shepherd” watches, defends, guides, and
feeds His sheep; He makes them “lie down in green pastures,” and leads
them “beside the still waters” (Psalm 23:2).
The Beneficent Statesman (v. 3)
It is reserved for the very last sentences of this book to give to one of the
chiefest of its characters, perhaps the chiefest, the place and testimony he
had well earned. For a time these seemed withheld, and both the name of
Mordecai and himself also seemed kept somewhat unduly in the
background. But when we come to the end, it looks rather as though all
the book had been in deep reality about him, and as though all had hinged
on him. We are left at the close of the book with our last impressions as of
him, and he is placed before us under a very strong light. There is no doubt
much of the patriot in the portrait we have of Mordecai. But the
honorable summary of this verse reminds us that he had passed the mere
politician and patriot. He has won for himself the name of the great and the
good statesman. He is “next to Ahasuerus;” and what he did and what he
was affected not the Jews only, but the whole empire — all of the various
and wide dominion of the king. He is stamped on the sacred page as the
type of A BENEFICENT STATESMAN. There have been not a few who
have extorted from their own day and generation the title of great
statesmen, but the claim has not survived them long.. The number of the
really beneficent statesmen is much smaller, but their renown is for ever. In
the amazing wealth and variety of Scripture lesson for every need of human
life, and of Scripture model for every office of authority and influence in
human society, this of the honest and beneficent statesman is not
overlooked. Neither must we overlook it, nor omit to notice, as afresh
suggested by it, how intrinsic an argument is herein given us for the Divine
inspiration of the Bible. Whence but from such an original could have come
to us so many, so perfect models? It is doubly important that we should
remark how ample a share of these the Book of Esther contains —
evidences of inspiration of the highest kind and value. The brief summary
of this verse is the more impressive as coming at the very end of the book.
But passing by all other suggestions, it speaks of a certain greatness, and a
greatness evidently of very comprehensive character. It is the greatness of
an emphatically good statesman. Let us take the opportunity suggested by
a leading instance of considering:
Ø It is the expression of government. If man were only gregarious, he
would need, and undoubtedly be subjected to government. ALL living
things are subject to government, need it, and are rapidly being brought
under the rule of man, according to the charter originally given to man.
Ø It is the expression of order. Man is emphatically not merely gregarious;
he is social. The variety of his sympathies and antipathies is very large,
and their range amazing. So much so, that the saying, “The chiefest
study of mankind is man,” might, if reversed, express to perfection a
great truth for some, and read, “The chiefest study of man is mankind.”
Ø It is the expression of concentrated purpose, of intelligent, united
advance. The highest and most beneficent results of SOCIETY would
without it be unattainable by the human species. Development of
society is always tending toward higher developments of government.
And the beneficial reaction is sometimes abundantly evident. Again,
the higher developed form of government is always tending to render
possible higher social results.
Ø It is in some degree the expression of morality and religion. (Of
this fact, the Founding Fathers of the
One of the two things done under the Articles of Confederation was
the Land Ordinance of 1787. That document contained these words:
Religion, morality, and knowledge being necessary to good
government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means
of education shall forever be encouraged. The ignorance of this by
such pushy organizations as the American Civil Liberties Union, to the
point we no longer practice these foundational truths in our society is
why the country is so divided along moral lines and the house is falling
down! – CY – 2014) Where the religious sense is lowest, then it is
lowest, and vice versa It has been well said that “the organization of
every human community indicates some sense of a Divine presence,
some consciousness of a higher law, some pressure of a solemn necessity.”
Government (and therefore the chief personage of government) is the
outcome of the most elementary necessities of humanity in some of the
very highest aspects of that same humanity. From the very first this was
testified; and through exceedingly various forms, lower and higher in
type, the principle has ever held its ground, and still excites attention
and interest second to not one of the profoundest problems.
Ø A certain passion for humanity as considered in large masses.
Ø A natural gift for discerning the genius of a people.
Ø Natural qualifications for exercising rule.
o Sympathy strong.
o Justice clear and inviolable.
o Authority, often indefinable in its elements, but evidencing its
own existence conclusively.
o Temper and moderation.
Ø Carefully-trained ability to calculate the effects of certain legislative
treatment on Whole communities of people, and on their mutual
Favourableness of position, as marked out by
REQUISITES OF IT.
Ø The “greatness” which it inevitably marks will be, as far as possible, free
from the taint of personal ambition. Surely there was a minimum of this in
Mordecai, as there was a loathsome maximum of it in Haman. The very
way in which high position is attained will be a happy omen, or the reverse.
Ø Its “greatness” will partake largely of the moral element.
o It will have ready for the hour of special need of it an inflexible
moral courage. What an illustration of this Mordecai gave
before he attained high office, and when he would not bow to
wrong, and, when wrong became more wrong, still refused to
“move,” though dread punishment overhung.
o The natural temper and gift of authority will more and more
become transmuted into moral authority, and become
superseded by moral influence. Express mention is made
of this in the career of Mordecai. “The fear of him,” of
the moral power that was behind him, spread over enemy
and grew comfortingly in friend.
o Its greatness will lay itself out in practical devotion to
the interests of the crowded multitude. Mordecai “sought the
wealth of his people,” and it made him “accepted of the
multitude of his brethren.” Its greatness will speak the things
of peace. Special emphasis is laid on the fact that Mordecai
“spoke peace to all his seed.” The statesman is not to seek to
give the impression of caste. He is not to flourish upon war
or strife. He is not to propagate the methods and the ideas
of the high-handed, but all the contrary. Like the spiritual
teacher, he also must not “cry, Peace, peace, when there is
no peace” (Jeremiah 6:14); but he is to make peace as far as
may be possible by breathing peace upon all.
with every obscurest fellow-man who is faithful:
Ø in the satisfaction of fulfilling duty,
Ø in peace of conscience, and
Ø in a persuasion of Divine approval, he may reckon upon :
o The joy of seeing a prospered community, due in some part
to his work.
o The gratitude of a discerning people growing round his
o An honorable, enduring place on the best of the pages
The Wealth and Peace of a People the Patriot’s Aim (v. 3)
It is a fine description of the aim of Mordecai’s public life with which this
book closes. What more could be said of the patriotic statesman in any
kingdom than this: that he was ever found “seeking the wealth of his
people, and speaking peace to all his seed”?
sense: prosperity, security, progress, happiness — all that can truly enrich
and bless a nation. Patriotism, observe, has regard to the people. It is no
special class or interest that the true patriot seeks to benefit, but ALL
HIS COUNTRYMEN! Now, whilst this virtue does not take so wide
a range as philanthropy, it is, like philanthropy, opposed to self-seeking.
It is an expansive, liberal, generous, and withal practical attitude of mind.
And this end is sought by personal effort, by the exercise of wisdom in
the choice of means, and by diligence in their use.
from a sense of justice and security of government; social peace, such as
prevails where neighbors dwell in amity; political peace, or freedom from
civil broils and tumults; general peace, or concord between different races
and nations; universal peace, such as is destined, according to prophetic
declarations, TO PERVADE THE WHOLE EARTH! All these will be
dear to the patriot’s heart, and he will use every endeavor to bring about
these high and noble ends. Causes of disaffection and disunion and discord
he will seek to remove, and he will do all that lies within his power to bring
on the reign of righteousness, of liberty, of happiness, of concord. And in his
endeavors the Christian patriot will be animated by the love and grace of
the Divine Son of man, whose mission it was to bring PEACE AND
GOOD WILL TO MEN!
A Life Summed Up (v. 3)
“For Mordecai the Jew was next unto king Ahasuerus, and great.” Gather
from Mordecai’s history something to stimulate our spirits in the battle of
a Jew, he was a little revengeful towards aliens; but he filled well a lowly
position, and so was prepared better for a higher. Shall we desire rather
to reap rewards than to sow the seed which will produce them?
HIS INTEGRITY. In this he felt that he was already rewarded. And shall
we not learn to be patient? Our impatience is our great hindrance. We do
not wait, trusting in God, as Mordecai. Yet “He knoweth the way that
we take,” (Job 23:10); and in His own time will bring us forth when
AND PRAYER. By his words to Esther we are sure he looked to God
for deliverance. When the deliverance came it involved his prosperity as
well as that of his people, just as a stranded vessel, when again floating,
carries forward not only the captain, but any passengers on board.
Mordecai firmly believed that, even though Esther held her peace,
“enlargement and deliverance would arise to the Jews from some
other place.” We can pray to be made faithful, holy, earnest, and in due time
the reward will come. It will then be in a sense the result of prayer.
LOWEST EBB. See on what a trifle they turned. And thus it is constantly
seen in life. Be prepared to seize the trifles, and remember that the darkest
night oft ushers in the brightest morning.
We are told he was “accepted of the multitude of his brethren.” There was
little envy at his rise, because there was much humility in the man. So there
are men in whose prosperity we may delight, because, instead of being
puffed up, or becoming purse-proud, they maintain their former humility,
and practice greater liberality.
THE BEST PURPOSES. He sought the welfare of his people, and spoke
“peace to all his seed.” Not only so, but there is a tradition that many of the
Persians, and even the king, believed in God through him. Let us then go
through life seeking opportunities to do good, and using those we find.
Let us make the motto of Cromwell ours, not only to strike while the iron
is hot, “but to make it hot by striking.” As Christians, let us seek the welfare
and eternal peace of others. We rust, we freeze when we live only for
ourselves. We should be like the stream spoken of in a fable, “too active
to freeze.” “The mill-stream went dashing along, so that the frost could not
seize and bind it. The traveler over the
striving to save his brother, overcome by cold, that he was himself kept
alive by the attempt.” Remember that, after all, Mordecai’s elevation was
but a type of the heavenly honor and glory which awaits all those faithful
in spiritual things. The “declaration of his glory” was written side by side
with that of the king. He died full of years and of honor. That God who
had been his guide in life WAS HIS REFUGE IN DEATH! When
ushered into heaven, he doubtless felt that he had been, at best, an
unprofitable servant. Still, God gave him, doubtless, in that world a
position far more elevated, far more lasting, far more satisfactory
than that which he, the former neglected deliverer, occupied as the
prime minister of the Persian king.
Moral Work (v. 3)
Integrity must prosper sooner or later. Were it not so, we should lose faith
in eternal righteousness. Appearances may be unfavorable for a time,
wrong, sorrow, suffering may precede, but either here or hereafter a
distinction will most assuredly be made between the true and the false.
Joseph, though consigned to prison, was subsequently raised to power;
Daniel, though cast into the lions’ den, eventually sat with princes;
Mordecai, though threatened with death, finally became “next unto king
Ahasuerns.” It is said that Mordecai was “great.” What does greatness
1. Physical endowments. Strength, skill, courage are among these. The
athlete, the warrior, the hunter were heroes in ancient times. The deeds of
Hercules, Samson, Goliath were celebrated in song.
2. Mental powers. Genius is everywhere admired. Its mighty works are the
most precious inheritances of our race. In literature, in science, in art, in
the numberless inventions of civilized life, it continues to bless the world.
3. Exalted position. This may be due to mere accident. Kings, princes,
noblemen are as a rule born to their high rank. When such is the case they
deserve no credit for it. High places are sometimes snatched by the
unscrupulous — by men who have no better recommendation than their
audacity in the universal scramble for power which goes on round about
us. There is no meanness that some will not stoop to, for the sake of the
glittering honors of office, or even those petty distinctions which noble
minds hold in utter contempt. But distinguished stations are also the
rewards of physical endowments and mental powers honorably employed.
Then are they to be coveted, to be held in high esteem. The case of
Mordecai is a noted example. The text leads us to notice THE TESTS OF
MORAL WORTH. Speaking generally, these are ‘numerous; but we shall
confine ourselves to those suggested here — popularity, unselfishness,
peaceableness. Whom shall we consider morally great?
THE COMMUNITY. “And accepted of the multitude of his brethren.”
Popularity as such has no intrinsic value, and to seek it for its own sake is
degrading to the soul. Let any thoughtful man, while contemplating the
quality of the exhibition that attracts the largest crowd, ask himself whether
the admiration of such a crowd is really worth obtaining, and his inmost
soul will answer, No. Crowds have been so often on the wrong side in
great controversies that they have actually lost all claim to respect. They
have generally applauded unjust wars; they have persecuted the pioneers of
knowledge, both secular and religious; they acquiesced in the death of the
Saviour. And yet, though the crowds of one age murder the prophets, the
crowds of future ages will always build their sepulchers. (Luke 11:47)
History ever does justice to the memory of the martyr, and even he becomes
popular when too late. But the Jews in captivity, the “brethren” of Mordecai,
were a select community. They possessed a knowledge of things Divine which
placed them on an incomparably higher level than the heathen among
whom they lived. To be accepted of them, therefore, was a mark of worth.
“The multitude of his brethren.” A man may be the favorite of a party
simply for party considerations. But when the upright among all parties
agree to honor him, it must be on account of sterling qualities.
GOOD OF OTHERS. “Seeking the wealth of his people.” Self-sacrifice
was the Divinest quality in the Divinest Man. “The Son of man came not to
be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many.”
(Mark 10:45) Into the kingdom which He came to establish no man can enter
without denying himself, taking up his cross, and following him. Fallen man is
essentially selfish. Look around you for a single moment, and the proofs of
this will crowd upon your view. Most of the evils with which man afflicts
his kind are traceable to this source. But look at the grand lives of history
— lives which light up the gloom of sin and woe in which the world is
enveloped — and what constitutes their glory? They are grand only in so
far as they approach the sublime ideal which was fully realized ONLY
BY ONE! Take the Apostle Paul. His memorable utterance to the
Corinthians was the key-note of his entire life: “I will very gladly spend
and be spent for you; though the more abundantly I love you, the less
I be loved.” (II Corinthians 12:15)
OF PEACE. “And speaking peace to all his seed.” The primary reference in
these words is probably to the kindness of Mordecai’s disposition, but they
are capable of a somewhat wider application, so as to include the desire of
maintaining harmony, order, peace. It has been said of mankind, with too
much reason, that their “state of nature is a state of war.” SIN DIVIDES
MEN! In private life, in public affairs, in international relations, this is
seen daily. Envy, rivalry, strife are found everywhere. Such is the state of
things even in this enlightened age, that no nation feels itself safe except it
be prepared for the most deadly struggle with its neighbor. The advocate of
peace is consequently a benefactor of his kind. The
“PEACE!” The birth of its Founder was heralded by angels who sang of
“peace on earth.” The most precious legacy which Christ left His people
was His “peace.” And among the grand utterances of the grandest sermon
is found this: “Blessed are the peace-makers, for they shall be called the
children of God.” (Matthew 5:9)
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