7 tn Heb “a holy offspring [is] its sacred pillar.” The text is difficult, leaving its meaning and its application unclear. If מַצֶּבֶת (matsevet) is taken as “stump,” one can see in this statement a brief glimpse of hope. The tree (the nation) is chopped down, but the stump (a righteous remnant) remains from which God can restore the nation. However, if מַצֶּבֶת is taken as “sacred pillar” (מַצֶּבָה, matsevah; see the previous note), it is much more difficult to take the final statement in a positive sense. In this case “holy offspring” alludes to God’s ideal for his covenant people, the offspring of the patriarchs. Ironically that “holy” nation is more like a “sacred pillar” and it will be thrown down like a sacred pillar from a high place and its land destroyed like the sacred trees located at such shrines. Understood in this way, the ironic statement is entirely negative in tone, just like the rest of the preceding announcement of judgment. It also reminds the people of their failure; they did not oppose pagan religion, instead they embraced it. Now they will be destroyed in the same way they should have destroyed paganism. Another approach (see J. D. W. Watts, Isaiah 1-33, [WBC], 101, 109) is to take v. 12 and the beginning of 13 as the prophet asking a question, essentially “will it be destroyed?” Then the Lord answers beginning with the analogy, “Like one of the large sacred trees.” If מַצֶּבָה is to be taken as a memorial, then the holy seed would serve as a reminder of their failure. But the question and answer would address a relevant question anticipated for the audience.
5 sn A number of additions to the Book of Esther appear in the apocryphal (or deuterocanonical) writings. These additions supply further information about various scenes described in the canonical book and are interesting in their own right. However, they were never a part of the Hebrew Bible. The placement of this additional material in certain Greek manuscripts of the Book of Esther may be described as follows. At the beginning of Esther there is an account (= chapter 11) of a dream in which Mordecai is warned by God of a coming danger for the Jews. In this account two great dragons, representing Mordecai and Haman, prepare for conflict. But God responds to the prayers of his people, and the crisis is resolved. This account is followed by another one (= chapter 12) in which Mordecai is rewarded for disclosing a plot against the king’s life. After Esth 3:13 there is a copy of a letter from King Artaxerxes authorizing annihilation of the Jews (= chapter 13). After Esth 4:17 the account continues with a prayer of Mordecai (= part of chapter 13), followed by a prayer of Esther (= chapter 14), and an account which provides details about Esther’s appeal to the king in behalf of her people (= chapter 15). After Esth 8:12 there is a copy of a letter from King Artaxerxes in which he denounces Haman and his plot and authorizes his subjects to assist the Jews (= chapter 16). At the end of the book, following Esth 10:3, there is an addition which provides an interpretation to Mordecai’s dream, followed by a brief ascription of genuineness to the entire book (= chapter 11).
1 sn The chronological problems of Ezra 4:6-24 are well known and have been the subject of extensive discussion since ancient times. Both v. 5 and v. 24 describe the reign of Darius I Hystaspes, who ruled Persia ca. 522-486 b.c. and in whose time the rebuilt temple was finished. The material in between is from later times (v. 16 describes the rebuilding of the walls, not the temple), and so appear to be a digression. Even recognizing this, there are still questions, such as why Cambyses (530-522 b.c.) is not mentioned at all, and why events from the time of Xerxes (486-465 b.c.) and Artaxerxes (464-423 b.c.) are included here if the author was discussing opposition to the building of the temple, which was finished in 516 b.c. Theories to explain these difficulties are too numerous to mention here, but have existed since ancient times: Josephus, the first century Jewish historian, rearranged the account to put Cambyses before Xerxes and replacing Artaxerxes with Xerxes (for further discussion of Josephus’ rearrangement see L. L. Grabbe, “Josephus and the Reconstruction of the Judean Restoration” JBL 106 : 231-46). In brief, it seems best to view the author’s primary concern here as thematic (the theme of opposition to the Jewish resettlement in Jerusalem, including the rebuilding of the temple and restoration of Jerusalem’s walls) rather than purely chronological. In the previous verses the author had shown how the Jews had rejected an offer of assistance from surrounding peoples and how these people in turn harassed them. The inserted account shows how, in light of the unremitting opposition the Jews experienced (even extending down to more recent times), this refusal of help had been fully justified. Some of the documents the author employed show how this opposition continued even after the temple was rebuilt. (The failure to mention Cambyses may simply mean the author had no documents available from that period.) For detailed discussion of the difficulties presented by the passage and the various theories advanced to explain them, see H. G. M. Williamson, Ezra, Nehemiah (WBC), 56-60.