4–17. Esther’s grief and the communications between her and Mordecai
4. came and told it her] Although unaware, according to the story, of the queen’s relationship to Mordecai, her attendants knew (see Est_2:11) the importance which he attached to her welfare, and therefore they presumed that his mourning garb would bespeak her interest.
she sent raiment to clothe Mordecai] so that he might come within the gate and tell her the cause of his distress.
but he received it not] by this refusal indicating the dire nature of the calamity of which it was the symbol.
Then called Esther for Hatach – This eunuch the king had appointed to wait upon her, partly, as is still the case in the East, to serve her, and partly, to observe her conduct; for no despot is ever exempt from a twofold torture, jealousy and suspicion.
the broad place] the open space in front of the entrance to the palace, where Mordecai still lingered.
The sum of money. Mordecai evidently considered that the money was an important item in the transaction, and had mainly influenced Ahasuerus. This would not have been the case if Ahasuerus had at once given it back (see the comment on Est_3:9).
And Mordecai told him of all that had happened unto him,…. How that, for refusing to reverence Haman, he was incensed against him, and against all the Jews for his sake; and had vowed revenge on them, and had formed a scheme for the ruin of them:
and of the sum of money that Haman had promised to pay to the king’s treasuries for the Jews, to destroy them the 10,000 talents of silver he proposed to pay into the king’s exchequer in lieu of the Jews’ tribute; which Mordecai observes, to show how bent he was upon the destruction of the Jews, and cared not what it cost him to gain his point; and perhaps Mordecai as yet might not know that the king had remitted it.
to make request before him, for her people] See Est_2:10. It was now necessary for Esther to declare her nationality. It was only by identifying herself with the imperilled nation that their deliverance could be hoped for.
Keil and Delitzsch
When Hatach brought this information to Esther, she sent word by him to Mordochai, that she might not go in unto the king unsummoned. אֶל מ תְּצַוֵּהוּ, she ordered or commissioned him to Mordochai, viz., to tell him what follows, Est_4:11 : “All the king’s servants and the people of the king’s provinces (i.e., all the officers and subjects of the king) know, that with respect to every man or woman that shall come in unto the king, into the inner court, that is not called – one (the same) law (is) for him: to put (him) to death, except him to whom the king shall hold out the golden sceptre, that he may live.” לואִשָּׁה כָּל־אִישׁ precede as nominativi absol.; these are followed by two relative clauses, which are succeeded by the anacoluthic predicate דָּתֹו אַחַת: one and the same law is for him (דָּתֹו, the law concerning him, the unsummoned appearer, the matter of which is briefly stated by לְהָמִית). In the inner court dwelt the king, seated on his throne (comp. Est_5:1). The law, that every one entering unbidden should be put to death, was subject to but one exception: וגו מֵאֲשֶׁר לְבַד, except him to whom the king stretches out, etc. הֹושִׁיט from יָשַׁט, appearing only in the present book (Est_5:2; Est_8:4), but frequently in Chaldee and Syriac, signifies to hold out, to extend, with לֹו, to or towards him. שַׁרְבִיט, the Aramaic form for שֶׁבֶט, sceptre. Access to the royal presence had been already rendered difficult by an edict issued by Dejokes the Mede, Herod. 1:9; and among the Persians, none, with the exception of a few individuals (Herod. iii. 118), were permitted to approach the king without being previously announced (Herod. iii. 140; Corn. Nepos, Conon, 3). Any one entering unannounced was punished with death, unless the king, according to this passage, gave it to be understood by stretching forth his sceptre that he was to remain unpunished. It is, however, self-evident, and the fact is confirmed by Herod. iii. 140, that any who desired audience were allowed to announce themselves. Esther might, it seems, have done this. Why, then, did she not make the attempt? The answer lies in her further message to Mordochai: “and I have not been called to come in unto the king these thirty days.” From these words it appears, that formerly she had been more frequently summoned before the king. Now, however, a whole month had passed without any invitation. Hence she concluded that the king did not much wish to see her, and for this reason dared not go unto him unbidden. Evidently, too, she was unwilling to be announced, because in that case she would have been obliged immediately to make known to the king the cause of her desiring this interview. And this she would not venture to do, fearing that, considering the great favour in which Haman stood with the king, she might, if she did not provoke his displeasure against herself through her intercession for her people, at least meet with a rejection of her petition. To set aside an irrevocable decree sealed with the king’s seal, must have appeared to Esther an impossible undertaking. To have asked such a thing of the king would have been indeed a bold venture.
Keil and Delitzsch
When what Esther said was reported to Mordochai, he sent word back to her (הָשִׁיב): “Think not in thy soul (with thyself) to be saved in the house of the king above all the Jews; for if thou holdest thy peace at this time, recovery and deliverance will arise from another place, but thou and thy father’s house shall be destroyed. And who knows if thou hast attained to royalty for a time such as this?” By the words: “Think not that thou wilt be saved in the king’s house above all the Jew,” i.e., alone of all the Jews, Mordochai does not reproach Esther with being indifferent to the fate of her fellow-countrymen, but rather calls her attention to the fact that her own life is in danger. This is evident from the clause: if thou hold thy peace, will not intercede with the king for thy people, help will come from some other quarter. רֶוַח = רְוָחָה, Exo_8:11, ἀναψύξις, deliverance from oppressive restraint. יַעֲמֹוד, rise up, arise, used according to later custom for קוּם, as in 1Ch_20:4. The thought is: the Jewish nation cannot perish, its continuance is guaranteed by the divine promise. If thou wilt venture nothing for its safety, God will bring deliverance, but destruction will come upon thee and thy family. Though Mordochai neither speaks of God, nor alludes directly to His assistance, he still grounds his hopes of the preservation of his people upon the word and promise of God, and Brentius pertinently remarks: habes hic excellentem ac plane heroicam Mardochaei fidem, qua in praesentissimo ac periculosissimo discrimine videt futuram liberationem. The last clause of Est_4:14 is by most expositors understood as saying: and who knows whether thou hast not for a time like this attained to royalty? This agrees with the sense, but cannot be verbally justified, for אִם does not mean whether not. The sentence contains an aposiopesis. The clause depending on the conditional אִם is unspoken, but understood. Besides, הִגַּעַתְּ is not in the imperfect. Hence it can only be translated: Who knows, if thou hadst not attained to royalty at or for such a time? Then the clause omitted would be: what thou then wouldst have done. יֹודֵעַ מִי more frequently has the meaning of perhaps; and Mordochai says: perhaps thou hast attained to royalty (to the dignity of queen) for a time like this, sc. to use thy position for the deliverance of thy people. In the turn thus given to the sentence it contains the most urgent injunction to Esther to use her high position for the preservation of her fellow-countrymen.
all the Jews that are present in Shushan] We are to suppose them to be a considerable number, if they were subsequently able to dispose of three hundred of their foes (Est_9:15).
fast ye for me] in connexion with intercession on my behalf. Prayer and fasting went together in time of sorrow or anxiety or penitence. So David (2Sa_12:16), Ahab (1Ki_21:27), Daniel (Dan_9:3).
neither eat nor drink three days, night or day] This sounds a very explicit direction to abstain from all food for seventy-two hours. It is, however, possible that for the general body of the Jews here referred to it may not have really meant more than two nights and the intervening day, a part of the twenty-four hour day being for certain purposes reckoned as a whole one. Cp. Mat_12:40 with Mat_28:1. Nevertheless to fast for the longer period is not beyond the limits of Oriental abstemiousness.
I also and my maidens will fast in like manner] Esther herself cannot have carried out this abstinence in its most rigid form. The appearance which she must in that case have presented before the king would have militated strongly against her chances of success, slender as those chances were in any case.
if I perish, I perish] She accepts the risk, acknowledging the necessity. For form of expression cp. Jacob’s words in Gen_43:14.