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Esther 1:3-8

Context
1:3 in the third 1  year of his reign he provided a banquet for all his officials and his servants. The army 2  of Persia and Media 3  was present, 4  as well as the nobles and the officials of the provinces.

1:4 He displayed the riches of his royal glory and the splendor of his majestic greatness for a lengthy period of time 5  – a hundred and eighty days, to be exact! 6  1:5 When those days 7  were completed, the king then provided a seven-day 8  banquet for all the people who were present 9  in Susa the citadel, for those of highest standing to the most lowly. 10  It was held in the court located in the garden of the royal palace. 1:6 The furnishings included linen and purple curtains hung by cords of the finest linen 11  and purple wool on silver rings, alabaster columns, gold and silver couches 12  displayed on a floor made of valuable stones of alabaster, mother-of-pearl, and mineral stone. 1:7 Drinks 13  were served in golden containers, all of which differed from one another. Royal wine was available in abundance at the king’s expense. 1:8 There were no restrictions on the drinking, 14  for the king had instructed all of his supervisors 15  that they should do as everyone so desired. 16 

1 sn The third year of Xerxes’ reign would be ca. 483 b.c.

2 tc Due to the large numbers of people implied, some scholars suggest that the original text may have read “leaders of the army” (cf. NAB “Persian and Median aristocracy”; NASB “the army officers”; NIV “the military leaders”). However, there is no textual evidence for this emendation, and the large numbers are not necessarily improbable.

3 sn Unlike the Book of Daniel, the usual order for this expression in Esther is “Persia and Media” (cf. vv. 14, 18, 19). In Daniel the order is “Media and Persia,” indicating a time in their history when Media was in the ascendancy.

4 sn The size of the banquet described here, the number of its invited guests, and the length of its duration, although certainly immense by any standard, are not without precedent in the ancient world. C. A. Moore documents a Persian banquet for 15,000 people and an Assyrian celebration with 69,574 guests (Esther [AB], 6).

5 tn Heb “many days” (so KJV, ASV); NASB, NRSV “for many days.”

6 tn The words “to be exact!” are not in the Hebrew text but have been supplied in the translation to bring out the clarifying nuance of the time period mentioned. Cf. KJV “even an hundred and fourscore days.”

7 tc The Hebrew text of Esther does not indicate why this elaborate show of wealth and power was undertaken. According to the LXX these were “the days of the wedding” (αἱ ἡμέραι τοῦ γάμου, Jai Jhmerai tou gamou), presumably the king’s wedding. However, a number of scholars have called attention to the fact that this celebration takes place just shortly before Xerxes’ invasion of Greece. It is possible that the banquet was a rallying for the up-coming military effort. See Herodotus, Histories 7.8. There is no reason to adopt the longer reading of the LXX here.

8 tc The LXX has ἕξ ({ex, “six”) instead of “seven.” Virtually all English versions follow the reading of the MT here, “seven.”

9 tn Heb “were found.”

10 tn Heb “from the great and unto the small.”

11 sn The finest linen was byssus, a fine, costly, white fabric made in Egypt, Palestine, and Edom, and imported into Persia (BDB 101 s.v. בּוּץ; HALOT 115-16 s.v. בּוּץ).

12 tn The Hebrew noun מִטָּה (mittah) refers to a reclining couch (cf. KJV “beds”) spread with covers, cloth and pillow for feasting and carousing (Ezek 23:41; Amos 3:12; 6:4; Esth 1:6; 7:8). See BDB 641-42 s.v.; HALOT 573 s.v.

13 tn Heb “to cause to drink” (Hiphil infinitive construct of שָׁקָה, shaqah). As the etymology of the Hebrew word for “banquet” (מִשְׁתֶּה, mishteh, from שָׁתָה, shatah, “to drink”) hints, drinking was a prominent feature of ancient Near Eastern banquets.

14 tn Heb “the drinking was according to law; there was no one compelling.”

15 tn Heb “every chief of his house”; KJV “all the officers of his house”; NLT “his staff.”

16 tn Heb “according to the desire of man and man.”



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