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Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at

Esther Chapter 1

The Banquet of King Ahashverosh and the Divorce of Queen Vashti - Esther 1

Ahashverosh, king of Persia, gave, in the third year of his reign, a banquet to the grandees of his kingdom then assembled in Susa, for the purpose of showing them the greatness and glory of his kingdom; while the queen at the same time made a feast for the women in the royal palace (Est 1:1-9). On the seventh day of the feast, the king, "when his heart was merry with wine," sent a message by his chief courtiers to the queen, commanding her to appear before him, to show the people and the princes her beauty, and on her refusal to come, was greatly incensed against her (Est 1:10-12). Upon inquiring of his astrologers and princes what ought in justice to be done to the queen on account of this disobedience, they advised him to divorce Vashti by an irrevocable decree, and to give her dignity to another and better; also to publish this decree throughout the whole kingdom (Est 1:13-20). This advice pleasing the king, it was acted upon accordingly (Est 1:21 and Est 1:22).

Esther 1:1

est 1:1

The banquet. Est 1:1-3 mark a period. משׁתּה עשׂה, which belongs to ויהי, does not follow till Est 1:3, and even then the statement concerning the feast is again interrupted by a long parenthesis, and not taken up again and completed till Est 1:5. On the use of ויהי in historical narratives at the beginning of relations having, as in the present instance and Rut 1:1, no reference to a preceding narrative, see the remark on Jos 1:1. Even when no express reference to any preceding occurrence takes place, the historian still puts what he has to relate in connection with other historical occurrences by an "and it came to pass." Ahashverosh is, as has already been remarked on Ezra 4, Xerxes, the son of Darius Hystaspis. Not only does the name אחשׁורושׁ point to the Old-Persian name Ks'ayars'a (with א prosthetic), but the statements also concerning the extent of the kingdom (Est 1:1; Est 10:1), the manners and customs of the country and court, the capricious and tyrannical character of Ahashverosh, and the historical allusions are suitable only and completely to Xerxes, so that, after the discussions of Justi in Eichhorn's Repert. xv. pp. 3-38, and Baumgarten, de fide, etc., pp. 122-151, no further doubt on the subject can exist. As an historical background to the occurrences to be delineated, the wide extent of the kingdom ruled by the monarch just named is next described: "He is that Ahashverosh who reigned from India to Ethiopia over 127 provinces." מדינה ... שׁבע is not an accusative dependent on מלך, he ruled 127 provinces, for מלך, to reign, is construed with על or בּ, but is annexed in the form of a free apposition to the statement: "from India to Cush;" as also in Est 8:9. הדּוּ is in the Old-Persian cuneiform inscriptions, Hidhu; in Zend, Hendu; in Sanscrit, Sindhu, i.e., dwellers on the Indus, for Sindhu means in Sanscrit the river Indus; comp. Roediger in Gesenius, Thes. Append. p. 83, and Lassen, Indische Alterthumsk. i. p. 2. כּוּשׁ is Ethiopia. This was the extent of the Persian empire under Xerxes. Mardonius in Herod. 7:9 names not only the Sakers and Assyrians, but also the Indians and Ethiopians as nations subject to Xerxes. Comp. also Herod. 7:97, 98, and 8:65, 69, where the Ethiopians and Indians are reckoned among the races who paid tribute to the Persian king and fought in the army of Xerxes. The 127 מדינות, provinces, are governmental districts, presided over, according to Est 8:9, by satraps, pechahs, and rulers. This statement recalls that made in Dan 6:2, that Darius the Mede set over his kingdom 120 satraps. We have already shown in our remarks on Dan 6:2 that this form of administration is not in opposition to the statement of Herod. iii. 89f., that Darius Hystaspis divided the kingdom for the purpose of taxation into twenty ἀρχαί which were called σατραπηΐ́αι. The satrapies into which Darius divided the kingdom generally comprised several provinces. The first satrapy, e.g., included Mysia and Lydia, together with the southern part of Phrygia; the fourth, Syria and Phoenicia, with the island of Cyprus. The Jewish historians, on the other hand, designate a small portion of this fourth satrapy, viz., the region occupied by the Jewish community (Judah and Benjamin, with their chief city Jerusalem), as מדינה, Ezr 2:1; Neh 1:3; Neh 7:6; Neh 11:3. Consequently the satrapies of Darius mentioned in Herodotus differ from the medinoth of Dan 6:2, and Est 1:1; Est 8:9. The 127 medinoth are a division of the kingdom into geographical regions, according to the races inhabiting the different provinces; the list of satrapies in Herodotus, on the contrary, is a classification of the nations and provinces subject to the empire, determined by the tribute imposed on them.

Est 1:2

The words: in those days, take up the chronological statement of Est 1:1, and add thereto the new particular: when King Ahashverosh sat on the throne of his kingdom in the citadel of Susa. שׁבת does not involve the notion of quiet and peaceable possession after the termination of wars (Clericus, Rambach), but that of being seated on the throne with royal authority. Thus the Persian kings are always represented upon a raised seat or throne, even on journeys and in battle. According to Herod. vii. 102, Xerxes watched the battle of Thermopylae sitting upon his throne. And Plutarch (Themistocl. c. 13) says the same of the battle of Salamis. Further examples are given by Baumg. l.c. p. 85f. On the citadel of Susa, see Neh 1:1, and remarks on Dan 8:2.

Est 1:3

"In the third year of his reign he made a feast to all his princes and his servants, when the forces of Persia and Media, the nobles and princes of the provinces, were before him." משׁתּה עשׂה, to make, to prepare, i.e., to give, a feast; comp. Gen 21:8. The princes and the servants are, all who were assembled about him in Susa. These are specified in the words which follow as חיל פ. We might supply ל before חיל from the preceding words, (viz.) the forces, etc.; but this would not suit the לפניו at the end of the verse. For this word shows that an independent circumstantial clause begins with חיל, which is added to call attention to the great number of princes and servants assembled at Susa (Bertheau): the forces of Persia ... were before him: when they were before him. By חיל, the host, the forces, Bertheau thinks the body-guard of the king, which, according to Herod. vii. 40, consisted of 2000 selected horsemen, 2000 lancers, and 10,000 infantry, is intended. There is, however, no adequate reason for limiting חיל to the body-guard. It cannot, indeed, be supposed that the whole military power of Persia and Media was with the king at Susa; but חיל without כּל can only signify an lite of the army, perhaps the captains and leaders as representing it, just as "the people" is frequently used for "the representatives of the people." The Persians and Medes are always named together as the two kindred races of the ruling nation. See Dan 6:9, who, however, as writing in the reign of Darius the Mede, places the Medes first and the Persians second, while the contrary order is observed here when the supremacy had been transferred to the Persians by Cyrus. On the form פּרס, see rem. on Ezr 1:1. After the mention of the forces, the Partemim, i.e., nobles, magnates (see on Dan 1:3), and the princes of the provinces are named as the chief personages of the civil government.

Est 1:4-6

"When he showed the glorious riches of his kingdom and the excellent honour of his greatness many days, one hundred and eighty days." This verse has been understood by most expositors as stating that the king magnificently and splendidly entertained all the grandees mentioned in Est 1:3 for a full half-year, and gave them a banquet which lasted 180 days. Clericus supposes proceedings to have been so arranged, that the proceres omnium provinciarum were not entertained at one and the same time, but alii post alios, because all could not be absent together per sex menses a suis provinciis. Bertheau, however, thinks that the historian did not purpose to give an exact and graphic description of the proceeding, but only to excite astonishment, and that they who are astonished will not inquire as to the manner in which all took place. The text, however, does not say, that the feast lasted 180 days, and hence offers no occasion for such a view, which is founded on a mistaken comprehension of Est 1:4, which combines וגו בּהראתו with משׁתּה עשׂה of Est 1:3, while the whole of Est 1:4 is but a further amplification of the circumstantial clause: when the forces, etc., were before him; the description of the banquet not following till Est 1:5, where, however, it is joined to the concluding words of Est 1:4 : "when these (180) days were full, the king made a feast to all the people that were found in the citadel of Susa, from great to small, seven days, in the court of the garden of the king's house." This verse is thus explained by Bertheau: after the soldiers, nobles, and princes of the district had been entertained for six months, all the male inhabitants of Susa were also entertained in a precinct of the palace garden, the women being feasted by Vashti the queen in the palace (Est 1:9), It is, however, obvious, even from Est 1:11, which says that on the seventh day of this banquet the king commanded the queen to appear "to show the people and the princes her beauty," that such a view of the occurrence is inadmissible. For this command presupposes, that the people and princes were assembled at the king's banquet; while, according to the view of Bertheau and older expositors, who insist on two banquets, one lasting 180 days, the other seven, the latter was given to the male inhabitants of Susa only. The princes and people of the whole kingdom did not, however, dwell in Susa. These princes and people, to whom the queen was to show her beauty, are undoubtedly the princes and servants of the king, the forces of Persia and Media, and the nobles and princes of the provinces enumerated in Est 1:3. With this agrees also the description of the guests invited to the seven days feast. בּשׁוּשׁן הנּמצאים כּל־העם does not signify "all the inhabitants of Susa," but all then present, i.e., then assembled in the citadel of Susa. הנּמצאים used of persons means, those who for some purpose are found or present in any place, in distinction from its usual inhabitants; comp. Ch1 29:17; Ch2 34:32; Ezr 8:25; and העם does not here signify people in the sense of population, but people who are met in a certain place, and is used both here and Neh 12:38 of an assembly of nobles and princes. קטן ועד למגּדול, moreover, does not mean old and young, but high and low, the greater and lesser servants (עבדים) of the king, and informs us that of those assembled at Susa, both princes and servants participated without exception in the banquet.

This view of Est 1:3-5 is confirmed by the consideration, that if the seven days banquet were a different one from that mentioned in Est 1:3, there could be no reason for naming the latter, which would then be not only entirely unconnected with the narrative, but for which no object at all would be stated; for בּהראתו cannot be translated, as in the Vulgate, by ut ostenderet, because, as Bertheau justly remarks, ב cannot indicate a purpose. From all these reasons it is obvious, that the feast of which further particulars are given in Est 1:5-8 is the same משׁתּה which the king, according to Est 1:3, gave to his שׂרים and עבדים, and that the text, rightly understood, says nothing of two consecutive banquets. The sense of Est 1:3-5 is accordingly as follows: King Ahasuerus gave to his nobles and princes, when he had assembled them before him, and showed them the glorious riches of his kingdom and the magnificence of his greatness for 180 days, after these 180 days, to all assembled before him in the fortress of Susa, a banquet which lasted seven days. The connection of the more particular description of this banquet, by means of the words: when these (the previously named 180) days were over, following upon the accessory clause, Est 1:4, is anacoluthistic, and the anacoluthon has given rise to the misconception, by which Est 1:5 is understood to speak of a second banquet differing from the משׁתּה of Est 1:3. The purpose for which the king assembled the grandees of his kingdom around him in Susa fore a whole half-year is not stated, because this has no connection with the special design of the present book. If, however, we compare the statement of Herod. vii. 8, that Xerxes, after the re-subjection of Egypt, summoned the chief men of his kingdom to Susa to take counsel with them concerning the campaign against Greece, it is obvious, that the assembly for 180 days in Susa, of the princes and nobles mentioned in the book of Esther, took place for the purpose of such consultation. When, too, we compare the statement of Herod. vii. 20, that Xerxes was four years preparing for this war, we receive also a corroboration of the particular mentioned in Est 1:3, that he assembled his princes and nobles in the third year of his reign. In this view "the riches of his kingdom," etc., mentioned in Est 1:4, must not be understood of the splendour and magnificence displayed in the entertainment of his guests, but referred to the greatness and resources of the realm, which Xerxes descanted on to his assembled magnates for the purpose of showing them the possibility of carrying into execution his contemplated campaign against Greece. The banquet given them after the 180 days of consultation, was held in the court of the garden of the royal palace. בּיתן is a later form of בּית, which occurs only here and Est 7:7-8. חצר, court, is the space in the park of the royal castle which was prepared for the banquet. The fittings and furniture of this place are described in Est 1:6. "White stuff, variegated and purple hangings, fastened with cords of byssus and purple to silver rings and marble pillars; couches of gold and silver upon a pavement of malachite and marble, mother-of-pearl and tortoise-shell." The description consists of mere allusions to, or exclamations at, the splendour of the preparations. In the first half of the verse the hangings of the room, in the second, the couches for the guests, are noticed. חוּר from חור means a white tissue of either linen or cotton. Bertheau supposes that the somewhat larger form of ch is intended to denote, even by the size of letter employed, the commencement of the description. כּרפּס, occurring in Sanscrit, Persian, Armenian, and Arabic, in Greek κάρπασος, means originally cotton, in Greek, according to later authorities, a kind of fine flax, here undoubtedly a cotton texture of various colours. תּכלת, deep blue, purple. The hangings of the space set apart were of these materials. Blue and white were, according to Curtius Est 6:6, Est 6:4, the royal colours of the Persians; comp. M. Duncker, Gesch. des Alterthums, ii. pp. 891 and 951 of the third edition, in which is described also the royal table, p. 952. The hangings were fastened (אחוּז) with cords of white byssus and purple to rings and pillars of white marble. מטּות, couches (divans) of gold and silver, i.e., covered with cloth woven of gold and silver thread, were prepared for the guests at the feast. These couches were placed upon a tesselated, mosaic-like floor; the tesselation being composed of stones of various colours. בּהט, in Arabic a mock stone, in lxx σμαραγδίτης, a spurious emerald, i.e., a green-coloured stone resembling the emerald, probably malachite or serpentine. שׁשׁ is white marble; דּר, Arabic darrun, darratun, pearl, lxx πίννινος λίθος, a pearl-like stone, perhaps mother-of-pearl. סחרת, a kind of dark-coloured stone (from סחר = שׁחר, to be dark), black, black marble with shield-like spots (all three words occur only here).

Est 1:7-8

The entertainment: "And drinks poured into vessels of gold! and vessels differing from vessels, and royal wine in abundance, according to the hand of a king. (Est 1:8) And the drinking was according to law; nine did compel: for so the king had appointed to all the officers of his house to do according to every one's pleasure." השׁקות, inf. Hiph., to give to drink, to hand drinks, is used substantively. The golden drinking vessels were of various kinds, and each differing in form from another. Great variety in drinking vessels pertained to the luxury of Persians; comp. Xenoph. Cyrop. viii. 8, 18. מלכוּת יין is wine from the royal cellar, therefore costly wine. Many interpreters understand it of the Chalybonian wine, which the Persian kings used to drink. See rem. on Eze 27:18. המּלך כּיד, according to the hand of the king, i.e., according to royal bounty; comp. Kg1 10:13. The words: "the drinking was according to law, none did compel," are generally understood to say, that the king abolished for this banquet, the prevailing custom of pledging his guests. According to Grecian information (see Baumgarten, p. 12f.), an exceedingly large quantity of wine was drunk at Persian banquets. This sense of the words is not, however, quite certain. The argument of Baumgarten, Si hic mos vulgaris fuisset in epulis regiis, sine dubio haec omnia non commemorata essent, no more holds good than his further remark: formulam illam אנס אין כּדּת non puto adhibitam fuisse, nisi jam altera contraria אנס כּדּת solemnis esset facta. The historian can have noticed this only because it was different from the Jewish custom. Bertheau also justly remarks: "We are not told in the present passage, that the king, on this occasion, exceptionally permitted moderation, especially to such of his guests as were, according to their ancestral customs, addicted to moderation, and who would else have been compelled to drink immoderately. For the words with which this verse concludes, which they imply also a permission to each to drink as little as he chose, are specially intended to allow every one to take much. על יסּד, to appoint concerning, i.e., to enjoin, comp. Ch1 9:22. בּית רב, those over the house, i.e., the court officials.

Esther 1:9

est 1:9

Vashti the queen also gave a banquet to the women in the royal house (palace) which belonged to King Ahashverosh, probably in the royal apartments of the palace, which were placed at her disposal for this great feast to be given to the women. The name Vashti may be compared with the Old-Persian vahista, i.e., optimus. In Persian šty, means a beautiful woman. This statement serves as an introduction to the scene which follows. Est 1:10 and Est 1:11. On the seventh, i.e., the last day of the banquet, when the king's heart was merry with wine, he commanded his seven chamberlains to bring Vashti the queen before him, with the royal crown, to show here beauty to the people and princes. וגו לב כּטוב, when the heart of the king was merry through wine, i.e., when the wine had made him merry, comp. Sa2 13:28; Jdg 16:25. It was the office of the seven eunuchs who served before the king (את־פּני משׁרת like Sa1 2:18) to be the means of communication between him and the women, and to deliver to them messages on the part of the monarch. Their number, seven, was connected with that of the Amshaspands; see rem. on Est 1:14. The attempts made to explain their several names are without adequate foundation; nor would much be gained thereby, the names being of no significance with respect to the matter in question. In the lxx the names vary to some extent. The queen was to appear with the crown on her head (כּתר, κίδαρις or κίταρις, a high turban terminating in a point), and, as is self-evident, otherwise royally apparelled. The queen was accustomed on ordinary occasions to take her meals at the king's table; comp. Herod. ix. 110. There is, however, an absence of historical proof, that she was present at great banquets. The notice quoted from Lucian in Brissonius, de regio Pers. princ. i. c. 103, is not sufficient for the purpose.

Esther 1:12

est 1:12

The queen refused to appear at the king's command as delivered by the eunuchs, because she did not choose to stake her dignity as a queen and a wife before his inebriated guests. The audacity of Persians in such a condition is evident from the history related Herod. Est 1:18.

Esther 1:13

est 1:13

The king, greatly incensed at this disobedience to his behest, inquired of his wise men what was to be done to Queen Vashti according to law. These wise men are Est 1:13 designated as those "who knew the times," i.e., astrologers and magi, who give counsel according to celestial phenomena; comp. the wise men of Babylon, Dan 2:27; Dan 5:15; Isa 44:25; Isa 47:13; Jer 50:35. Of these he inquires, "for thus was the business of the king conducted before all that knew law and judgment." דּבר here does not signify word or speech, but matter, business; and the meaning of this parenthetical sentence is, that in every matter, the king, before deciding, applied to those who were skilled in law and judgment to hear their opinions concerning it. With this is joined a second explanatory parenthetical sentence, Est 1:14 : "And those next him were Carshena, etc., the seven princes of the Persians and Medes, who behold the king's countenance, who hold the first seat in his kingdom." אליו הקּרב is indefinite, and may be understood as expressing the plural. It is perhaps questionable how this clause should be combined with what precedes, whether with ודין דּת כּל־ידעי, before all that knew law and judgment and those next him, or with לחכמים, Est 1:13 : he spoke to the wise men ... and those next him. In any case the sense is, that the seven princes of the Persians and Medes were also numbered either among the wise men who knew the times, or those who were skilled in the law. These seven princes are the seven king's counsellors of Ezr 7:14, and by their number of seven form a counterpart to the seven Amshaspands. They who see the face of the king, i.e., are allowed direct intercourse with him. Herod. iii. 84 relates of the seven princes who conspired the overthrow of the pretended Smerdis, that they resolved, that it should be permitted them to present themselves unannounced before the future king. Hence many expositors identify these seven princes with the authorities called the seven counsellors, but without sufficient grounds. The number seven frequently recurs, - comp. the seven eunuchs, Est 1:5, the seven maidens who waited on Est 2:9, - and refers in the present case to the seven Amshaspands, in others to the days of the week, or the seven planets. ראשׁנה היּשׁבים, who sit first, i.e., in the highest place, i.e., constitute the highest authority in the realm. What the king said (Est 1:13) does not follow till Est 1:15 : "According to law, what is to be done to Queen Vashti, because she has not done the word of the king," i.e., not obeyed his command by the eunuchs? כּדת, according to law, legally, is placed first because it is intended emphatically to assert that the proceeding is to be in conformity with the law. עשׂה with בּ, to inflict something on any one.

Esther 1:16

est 1:16

The counsel of the wise men. Est 1:16. Memucan, who was the last mentioned in Est 1:14, comes forward as spokesman for the rest, and declares before the king and the princes, i.e., in a solemn assembly, and evidently as the result of a previous joint consultation: Vashti the queen has not done wrong to the king alone, but also to all the princes and all the people, because the example of the queen will lead all the Median and Persian wives to despise their husbands. Therefore an irrevocable edict is to be published decreeing the divorce of Queen Vashti, and this law published throughout the whole realm, that all wives may show honour to their husbands. Vashti has not transgressed against the king alone (Est 1:16), but against all the princes and people in all the provinces of King Ahashverosh (Est 1:16). In what respect, then, is the latter assertion true? We are told Est 1:17 and Est 1:18. "For the deed of the queen will come abroad to (על for אל) all women, to bring their husbands into contempt in their eyes (the infin. להבזות stating the result), while they will say," etc. (the suffix of בּאמרם relates to the women, who will appeal to the disobedience of the queen). Est 1:18. "And this day (i.e., already) the princesses of the Persians and Medians, who hear of the act of the queen (דּבר, not the word, but the thing, i.e., her rejection of her husband's command), will tell it to all the princes of the king, and (there will be) enough contempt and provocation. קצף is an outburst of anger; here, therefore, a provocation to wrath. Bertheau makes the words זק בז וּכדי the object of תּאמרנה, which, after the long parenthesis, is united to the copula by w, and for, "to speak contempt and wrath," reads: to speak contemptuously in wrath. But this change cannot be substantiated. The expression, to speak wrath, is indeed unexampled, but that is no reason for making קצף stand for בּקצף, the very adoption of such an ellipsis showing, that this explanation is inadmissible. The words must be taken alone, as an independent clause, which may be readily completed by יהיה: and contempt and wrath will be according to abundance. כּדי is a litotes for: more than enough. The object of תּאמרנה must be supplied from the context: it - that is, what the queen said to her husband. In the former verse Memucan was speaking of all women; here (Est 1:18) he speaks only of the princesses of the Persians and Medes, because these are staying in the neighbourhood of the court, and will immediately hear of the matter, and "after the manner of the court ladies and associates of a queen will quickly follow, and appeal to her example" (Berth.).

Esther 1:19

est 1:19

That Vashti come no more before king Ahasuerus; and let the king give her royal estate unto another that is better than she. After this argument on the queen's conduct, follows the proposal: "If it please the king (על טּוב like Neh 2:5), let there go from him a word of the kingdom (i.e., a royal edict), and let it be written (entered) in the laws of the Persians and the Medes, and not pass away, that Vashti come no more before King Ahashverosh; and let the king give her queenship (her royal rank) to another who is better than she." An edict issued by the king, entered among the laws of the Persians and Medes, and sealed with the royal signet (Est 8:8), does not pass away, i.e., remains in force, is irrevocable (comp. Dan 6:9). The counsellors press for the issue of such an edict, for the purpose of making it impossible to the king to take Vashti again into favour, lest they should experience her vengeance on the restoration of her influence. רעוּתהּ, her companion, is any other woman, Vashti being here regarded merely as a woman. הטּובה includes both beauty and good behaviour (Berth.). By this means, add the counsellors in Est 1:20, all the ill effects of Vashti's contumacy will be obviated. "And when the king's decree, which he shall make, is heard in his whole kingdom, for it is great, all wives shall give honour to their husbands, from great to small." פּתגּן is according to the Keri to be pointed as the constructive state, פּתגּם. The expression עשׂה פּתגּן is explained by the circumstance, that פתגם signifies not only edict, decree, but also thing (see on Dan 3:16): to do a thing. In the present verse also it might be so understood: when the thing is heard which the king will do in his whole kingdom. The parenthetical clause, for it is great, is intended to flatter the king's vanity, and induce an inclination to agree to the proposal. "From great to small" signifies high and low, old and young.

Esther 1:21

est 1:21

The saying pleased the king and the princes, and the king carried it into execution. He sent letters into all his provinces to make known his commands, and to let all husbands know, that they were to bear rule in their own houses. "In every province according to its writing, and to every people according to their speech" (comp. Est 8:9), that his will might be clearly understood by all the subjects of his wide domain, who spoke different languages and used different alphabetical characters. The contents of these letters follow in וגו להיות, that every man should be master in his own house. These words state only the chief matter and object of the edict; but they presuppose that the fact which gave rise to the decree, viz., the refusal of Vashti, and her consequent deposition, were also mentioned. The last words: "and that he shall speak according to the language of his people," are obscure. Older expositors understand them to mean, that every man was to speak only his native language in his house, so that in case he had a foreign wife, or several who spoke other languages, they might be obliged to learn his language, and to use that alone. Bertheau, on the other hand, objects that such a sense is but imported into the words, and in no wise harmonizes with the context. Both these assertions are, however, unfounded. In the words, the man shall speak according to the language of his people, i.e., he shall speak his native tongue in his house, it is implied that no other language was to be used in the house, and the application of this law to foreign wives is obvious from the context. The rule of the husband in the house was to be shown by the fact, that only the native tongue of the head of the house was to be used in the family. Thus in a Jewish family the Ashdodite or any other language of the wife's native land could not have been used, as we find to have been the case in Judaea (Neh 13:23). All other explanations are untenable, as has been already shown by Baumgarten, p. 20; and the conjecture set up after Hitzig by Bertheau, that instead of עמּו כּלשׁון we should read עמּו כּל־שׁוה, every one shall speak what becomes him, gives not only a trivial, and not at all an appropriate thought, but is refuted even by the fact that not עם שׁוה, but only ל שׁוה (comp. Est 3:8) could bear the meaning: to be becoming to any one. Such a command may, indeed, appear strange to us; but the additional particular, that every man was to speak his native tongue, and to have it alone spoken, in his own house, is not so strange as the fact itself that an edict should be issued commanding that the husband should be master in the house, especially in the East, where the wife is so accustomed to regard the husband as lord and master. Xerxes was, however, the author of many strange facts besides this.

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