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rose early in the morning, and having begun the day in worship, Return from returned to their dwelling in peace and safety; filled with gratitude Shiloh. to their great Preserver, and devoutly intent upon the course of his providence. “The Lord,” it is emphatically stated in the Scripture narration, “remembered her.”
At the appointed period, Hannah rejoiced over a son, in answer Samuel to her prayer, and she promptly named him Samuel, that is, born, “ asked of God.” Such a name was not only appropriate, but was a lasting memorial to herself and husband of the extraordinary mercy she had received ; and with what exultation we may well believe would she continually trace his growing faculties of body and mind, while with eager assiduity she performed her maternal duties.
At the season for weaning the child, she accompanied her husband to the anniversary festival at Shiloh, omitting to do so on the previous occasion, on account of the attention which her valued offspring required at home. In this arrangement Elkanah concurred. When she went to fulfil her vow, she took “three bullocks, and one His mothers ephah of flour, and a bottle of wine, and brought him unto the vow
vow fulfilled. house of the Lord in Shiloh.” There she presented the little 1 Sam. i. 24. stranger to Eli, reminding him of the time when she pledged herself to consecrate the child she had prayed for to the service of the sanctuary, and explaining to him the vow she had made. There was an observance of extreme delicacy and good taste in her reference; for she does not make the slightest allusion to his past precipitancy of judgment, and her vindication. She only tells her story in a way that should enable him to recognize her identity, and lay a sure basis for success in her application. The good priest receives him, and the mother bursts forth in the highest strains of poetic rapture and devotional celebration, in one of the most beautiful odes recorded in Scripture, terminating in a striking prophetic reference to the coming Saviour. “The Lord shall judge the ends 1 Sam. ii. 18 of the earth; and he shall give strength unto his king, and exalt the horn of his anointed.”
The story is now merged in that of her distinguished son; but one touch of nature and of maternal character closes the beautiful biography. “Samuel ministered before the Lord, being a child, girded with a linen ephod. Moreover his mother made him a little coat, and brought it to him from year to year, when she came up with her husband to offer the yearly sacrifice. And Eli blessed Elkanah and his wife, and said, The Lord give thee seed of this woman for the loan which is lent to the Lord. And they went unto their own home. And the Lord visited Hannah, so that she conceived, and bare three sons and two daughters. And the child Samuel grew before the Lord.”
ESTHER. : A.M. 2540. The history of this remarkable individual commences in the third B.C. 464. year of Artaxerxes Longimanus, (called also Ahasuerus,) the son
and successor of the celebrated Persian king, Xerxes. After struggling with perplexing competitions for the empire, he was at last firmly seated in the dominion of a hundred and twenty-seven provinces, instituted public feasts and rejoicings on this account in the city of Shushan, or Susa, for a hundred and eighty days; at the expiration of which, the king gave another great entertainment of seven days, for the princes and people in the palace. Vashti, the queen, appointed at the same time a feast for the women, in her own apartment.
On the seventh day, the monarch ordered the seven chainberlains to wait upon Vashti, to bring her before him with the crown-royal on her head, that he might exhibit her to his courtiers in all the pomp of dress and beauty. She, however, ventured to refuse compliance; for, in fact, it was quite contrary to Persian etiquette, as well as to female propriety. The passionate and—we fear it must be added-intoxicated husband, was much enraged, and immediately had recourse to the advice of his seven counsellors, who suggested
her instant divorce and degradation, and the issuing of an edict by degradation, which all wives throughout the empire should be required to pay
implicit obedience to their husbands, so that every man might have absolute authority in his own house. This was accordingly done. The supreme Ruler of nations was then, as we shall see, making “the wrath of man to praise Him.”
After the dismissal of Vashti, the ministers of Ashauerus advised the speedy adoption of measures to fill the vacancy, and their plan savoured abundantly of a barbarous and sensual age. The « fair young virgins" were to be collected at the palace from all the imperial provinces. At this period, a Jew, named Mordecai, a descendant of those who had been carried captive to Babylon with Jeconiah, king of Judah, lived in Shushan, and apparently was one of the porters at the gate of the palace. Having no children, he brought up Hadassah, or Esther, his uncle's daughter. She was chosen from among the virgins, and committed to the care of the king's chamberlain, Hage, who showed her very great favour, chiefly, perhaps, from the prospect of her becoming the future queen. At the proper time, (that is, after a year's purification, according to the custom of the sovereigns,) she was introduced to the monarch, whose affections she soon gained, which led to her extraordinary elevation. On the tenth day of the tenth month, the royal crown was placed upon her head, and she was declared to be queen instead of Vashti, a solemn festival was proclaimed, and a
release from taxes to the provinces given in honour of the occasion. Mordecai. Mordecai, having detected and divulged a conspiracy against the
king's life, mentioned it to Esther, who of course revealed it; the traitors were executed, and the faithful Jew became known to the government, though no recompense is recorded for his services. He had a satisfaction, however, more really valuable, that of having done his duty.
Haman now figures in that splendid court. He was an Amalekite, Haman. of the posterity of Agag, the king of Amalek, in the time of Saul, and being advanced to the rank of prime minister, exacted universal homage from all the king's servants. But Mordecai did not choose to bow with sycophantish reverence as he went in and out of the palace; a circumstance which greatly marred his delightful selfgratulations amidst the royal favour and the popular applause. The servants of the king remonstrated with Mordecai, but in vain; and then represented the matter to Haman, who was excessively incensed. Mordecai's known character and loyalty renders it probable, if not certain, that his conduct arose from a conscientious scruple, and that it was the religious homage required by the highest authority of the state that he courageously refused to the minister. As an Agagite especially, he would not reverence him.
The vengeance of Haman sought to gratify itself, not only by Determined determining on the ruin of Mordecai, but on the destruction of the 10 destroy entire people of the Jews; and as the Persian monarchy then included Judæa, had not providence signally interposed, few if any could have escaped. He called together the diviners to ascertain by the lot which was to be the lucky day for the execution of his purpose, which was fixed on as the thirteenth of the twelfth month following, called Adar. Upon this he went in to the king, and by an artful address, keeping out of view the particular cause of his proceeding, represented the Jews in general to be a disaffected and dangerous people, and that political expediency required their extermination. Having obtained consent to his proposal, and receiving the king's ring to be used at his discretion, the decree was issued, and letters despatched into every province to destroy all the Jews, young and old, on the specified day. Mordecai, as may be supposed, suffered the severest anguish of Mordecai's
grief and mind, and went about the city, approaching even to the king's gate, clothed in sackcloth, and venting bitter lamentations. Esther desired the queen. an immediate conference with him, and sent a change of raiment, which, to express his grief, he refused. Whereupon the queen despatched one of the chamberlains in attendance to make particular inquiries into the cause of this distress. All was then unfolded, and Mordecai charged him with a request to Esther to go to the king and “make supplication unto him, and make request before him for her people.” This was a dangerous proposal, because, as she sent back the messenger to represent to Mordecai, the law enacted that whoever, man or woman, ventured into the royal presence without being called, should suffer death, unless he held out the “golden
sceptre” as a token of mercy and pardon : and the probability of this exercise of forbearance in her own case she questioned, because she had not been sent for during the last thirty days, which seemed to imply some alienation. Mordecai returned a message full of point and power. It was the moment for action; the decree he said extended to all her nation; she had no reason to expect to be exempted in case of its execution; she was probably advanced to her exalted position by providence, for this very service; and if she refused the hazard, deliverance would come some other way, while she and her family would perish. Here was earnest pleading com
bined with eminent faith in God; and it succeeded. Esther resolved She resolves to expose her life, and sent to Mordecai, to say, “Go, gather together to go to the all the Jews that are present in Shushan and fast ye for me, and king.
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!”.
On the third day Esther put on her royal apparel, and presented herself in the inner court of the palace, opposite to the king's private apartment, where he sat upon his throne. What a crisis! Is she
to live or to die? Are her people to be rescued or destroyed? The The golden golden sceptre is held out; she approaches, touches it, and lives!
The king asked what she wished, and promised to gratify her “ to the half of the kingdom.” Her remarkable prudence is then displayed. She waives for the present her great object, and simply invites Ahasuerus and his favourite to a banquet. This request was accepted, but evidently understood by the king as only introductory to some greater request: for at the festival he refers to any desire she might express, which he protests again should be granted to the half of the kingdom. She warily deferred her purpose, and only solicited the renewal of this visit from him and Haman on the ensuing day, when she assured him of a full explanation of her wishes.
Haman was exceedingly vain of this honour, and left the banqueting room with a most joyous heart; but oh, the mortification that awaited him! Mordecai did not bow his head to the mighty minister. No! Not even yet overawed by his greatness and his power! He could not endure it. He hastens home; sends to request the attendance of his friends, and before them and his wife Zeresh, expatiates upon all his glory and pre-eminence above the rest of the royal household, and the singular honour of being invited to the queen’s especial banquet with the king; but adds, with a mind full of pride, rancour, and malignant passions—“Yet all this availeth me nothing, so long as I see Mordecai the Jew sitting at the king's gate.” The universal voice suggested to him to erect a gallows fifty cubits high, and to solicit the king on the morrow morning, to give orders to hang Mordecai upon it. He was soothed, and no doubt slept very comfortably on the proposal.
is sleepless, and reads
Not so the king. He was wakeful and restless, and called for The king the book of records of the chronicles to be read to him, wherein it i was written that Mordecai had given information of the conspiracy the records. of the two chamberlains, Bigthana and Teresh. He inquired whether the fidelity of Mordecai had been suitably rewarded, and found that nothing had been done for him.
Early the next morning, Haman hastened to the palace to obtain consent to his sanguinary purpose of ridding himself at a stroke, of the disdainful Jew. His master was equally anxious to see him, though for a different reason. The king consulted his minister on Haman's the best method of expressing his attachment to one whom he wished "h pre-eminently to honour. Haman of course concluded that himself only could be the favourite intended, and with secret exultation proposed that the individual thought of should for once be clothed in the royal apparel and crown, carried through the city upon the horse appropriated to the king, be attended by one of the first princes of the empire, and have a proclamation made before him, “ Thus it shall be done to the man whom the king delighteth to honour.” Ahasuerus instantly commanded the execution of this proposal — “Make haste ” said he, “and take the apparel and the horse as thou hast said, and do even so to”—whom? to my favourite, my Haman? my companion at the queen's banquet?-0 horror !—“to Mordecai the Jew.”
The poor mortified courtier goes home “mourning, and having Goes to the his head covered,” and even his wife and friends agree that if Mor- banquet, decai be of Jewish extraction all the contrivances to ruin him would be ineffectual, so powerful was the tradition even among the heathen of the interpositions of providence for that extraordinary people.
The king's chamberlain now appears to attend Haman to the queen's banquet. He is forced to behave with assumed gaiety. The king repeats his desire to know the queen's wishes as she had promised, assuring her with reiterated protestations that they should be complied with “even to the half of the kingdom.” To his unutterable astonishment she entreats for her own life and that of her people, declaring they were all sold “to be destroyed, to be slain and to perish.” He was inflamed with rage, not thinking that he had been induced so to prostitute his authority, and inquired with a voice of thunder “who is he? And where is he that durst presume in his heart to do so ?” Foul conspirator, thy hour is come! The queen answered “ The adversary and enemy is this wicked is detected, Haman.” Instantly with a bursting indignation the king rushed from the apartment into the palace garden, while the quailing favourite saw plainly enough that “evil was determined against him," and earnestly implored the queen to intercede for his life. He fell obsequiously upon the royal bed, and the king returning at the moment, in his exasperation imputed the basest motives to him, allowing his attendants to cover the delinquent's face, as a person