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The New Oxford Annotated Bible New Revised Standard Study Bible that provides essential scholarship and guidance for Bible readers.

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Commentary on Esther

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1.1–12 : Artaxerxes's banquet.

1 :

Ethiopia (Heb “Cush”), in the Bible this term refers to the territory of modern Sudan and modern Ethiopia.

3 :

Greek writers mention fabulous feasts given by Persian kings. Ahasuerus's banquet is the first of numerous banquets that occur at key points in the story ( 1.5,9; 2.18; 3.15; 5.7; 7.1; 9.17,19,22 ). Friends, a special class of courtiers.

5 :

Festivity, or marriage feast (see note c), which would clarify the behavior of the king and Vashti (see 1.11 ). Six days, 1.10 (and Heb 1.5,10 ) says the party lasted seven days.

6–7 :

The description is more extravagant than in the Heb version.

9 :

There are no ancient references to Vashti; Xerxes I's queen was Amestris (Herodotus 7.61 ). Although in 5.5 women and men of the Persian court banquet together, Queen Vashti gave a drinking party for the women emphasizes the separate worlds of king and queen, a factor in Esther's later bravery. It also sets the scene for a quasi‐comic contest of the sexes.

1.10–22 : The fall of Vashti and the king's first edict.

11 :

Proclaim her as queen, in contrast to the Heb, Vashti is summoned for her official coronation as well as for display.

12 :

An inversion of Vashti‐disobedience occurs when Esther, Vashti's replacement, dares to enter unbidden into his presence ( 4.11,16; 15 ).

13–14 :

Three governors rather than the seven sages named in the Heb.

16–18 :

The fear of a feminine insurrection against patriarchal order lies just below the surface of many ancient myths and legends. Contrary to Muchaeus's dire imaginings, the real threat to the king and Persia will come in the form of a conspiracy by two palace bodyguards ( 2.21 ).

19 :

There is no historical evidence that the laws of the Medes and Persians were unalterable (Esth 8.8; Dan 6.9,13 ). The phrase sets up a tension in the narrative between rigid legalism and the requirements of true justice.

20 :

By issuing an absurdly unenforceable decree, the king only succeeds in drawing attention to his own inability to rule his wife.

22 :

The first of several decrees in the book (see 2.8; 3.12; 13; 8.9–11; 9.20–22,29–32 ). Aramaic was the official language of Persian diplomacy, but the historical record attests to Persian imperial pronouncements issued in the languages of subject peoples (see Ezra 6.3–5 ).

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