Page images


of the conspiracy and the punishment

of the offenders, Mordecai had been a conspiracy, 8c.-plots against the life

forgotten. of sovereigns and princes are, and have

What shall be done, 8c.—now commences been of frequent occurrence in countries

the turn in Haman's prosperous forwhere absolute power is made the basis

tunes; he thought the king loved and of the government.

honoured no one so well as himself, but Esther made it known, &c.-having been

he was deceived. informed of it by Mordecai. Thus Mor

do even so to Mordecai -the ambitious decai observed the injunction of Jere

Haman had suggested the highest miah to “seek the peace of the city

honours an eastern mind could conceive; wluther" they had been carried away

but he thought he was prescribing honcaptives.” Les. 119.

ours for himself, and he therefore did it Inquisition was made-a strict search and

liberally. Investiture with the royal inquiry to discover the conspirators. chamberlains-these men were probably

robe and turban, and permission to ride

on the royal horse were honours rarely bribed to attempt the crime by more exalted and ambitious individuals.


Then took Haman, 80. he did not dare were hanged-hanging was not practised

dispute nor so much as seem to dislike by the Jews as a mode of capital punish

the king's order; and Mordecai was ment; nor was it even so general in east

elevated and extolled by him who hoped ern countries as it is in western Europe.

that day to have witnessed his ignominreverenced-treated with very profound

ious execution. respect.

CONTEMPORARY CHARACTERS. to destroy, &c.—he was probably aware of the divine decree against his own

ESTHER—a captive and an orphan, her nation, contained in one of the sacred Jewish name was Hadassah, and she books of the Jews, (Les. 21.) and in

was Mordecai's cousin. retaliation he sought to have the Jewish

YAMAN-an Amalekite, called an Agagpeople entirely cut off.

ite; he was probably a descendant of availeth me nothing, 8c.-envy, pride, and

the royal Agag. Les. 45. cruelty filled his heart. “The proud in

QUESTIONS. heart are an abomination to the Lord.” What service had Mordecai rendered to Let a gallows, 8c.—this was the advice of

the king? his wife and his friends; those who How did Mordecai offend Haman? should have restrained this wicked man In what way did Haman evince his anger? only flattered his pride and intlamed What was his intention in obtaining this his resentment.

decree? could not sleep-He, whose gift is sleep, Who informed Esther of Haman's designs?

withheld it from the king. God put it Why did Haman think he enjoyed the into his heart to call for these books,

queen's favour? and thus to bring Mordecai to his mind. How did he express his bad feelings against the chronicles, &c.-in the court of Persia

Mordecai! as well as in other eastern courts, notes What was his wife's advice? were taken of passing events; in Persia How came the king to be reminded of

the chronicles were written in verse. Mordecai's former services that night? The king inquired, 8c.-he knew not What question did he propose to Haman whether Mordecai had received any

the next morning? reward or preferment for the service he What was Haman's advice? had rendered; and it appeared that in Why did he give this advice to the king? the confusion incident on the discovery | How did the king show his approval of it?

PRECEPTIVE LESSONS. Many useful lessons are to be gathered from this narrative. 1. We see the value of a faithful servant, especially to a king 2. That it is difficult to keep a conspiracy secret, "a bird of the air shall carry the matter.” 3. That men devoid of principle sometimes occupy high stations, while men of equal merit and of moral worth are left unnoticed. 4. That deference is due to those in authority, but such reverence as is only to be paid to God should not be given to man. (In recent times the ambassadors from England refused to pay unreasonable homage to the emperor of China, hence the object of their mission was frustrated.) 5, That wounded pride can poison all the happiness of life though a man may be blessed with honour and wealth. 6. That though honourable and faithful service may not be at first rewarded it will be so ultimately 7. That “pride goeth before destruction,” and “ before honour is humility."

131. Haman Accused and Hanged. Of Nehemiah.

Esther vi-x; Nehemiah i, ii. After Haman had shown honour to Mordecai according to the king's command, 'he went to his house mourning, and told his friends what had befallen him. Then said his wise men and Zeresh his wife unto him, “ If Mordecai be of the seed of the Jews, before whom thou hast begun to fall, thou shalt not prevail against him, but shalt surely fall before him." And while they were yet talking with him, came the king's chamberlains, and hasted to bring Haman unto the banquet that Esther had prepared. There Esther accused him of having contrived the death of herself and her people, and ·Haman was hanged on the gallows which he had prepared for Mordecai. The king then issued another decree by which the Jews were allowed to defend themselves; for the first decree could not be altered; and the Jews slew many of their enemies in Shushan129 in the province of Persia.125 Mordecai was promoted to great honour; he was next to the king, and great among the Jews, accepted of the multitude of his brethren, seeking the wealth of his people, and speaking peace to all his seed. The feast of 'Purim was instituted by the Jews as a mentorial of their deliverance from Haman, their adversary.

Nehemiah was 'cup-bearer to the king of Persia. He learned from Hanani that the brethren in Jerusalem32 were in great affliction, and that the walls of the city were broken down and the gates burned with fire. He ‘mourned, and wept, and fasted43 certain days, and prayed to God for his people. When he offered wine to the king, he asked Nehemiah 'why he was so sad; and Nehemiah said, “ •Why should not my countenance be sad, when the city, the place of my fathers' sepulchres, lieth waste.” Then the king said unto him, “For what dost thou make request?” So Nehemiah 'prayed to the God of heaven. And he said unto the king, “ If it please the king, and if thy servant have found favour in thy sight, that thou wouldest send me unto Judah,73 unto the city of my fathers' sepulchres, that I may build it.” And the king said unto him, “ For how long shall thy journey be ? and when wilt thou return ?” So Nehemiah stated the time, and it pleased the king to send him. Moreover Nehemiah said unto the king, “ If it please the king, let letters be given me to the governors beyond the river, that they may 'convey me over till I come into Judah ; and a letter unto Asaph the keeper of the king's forest, that he may give me timber to make beams for the gates of the palace which appertained to the house, and for the wall of the city, and for the house that I shall enter into.” And the king granted all his request. Then Nehemiah came to the governors beyond the river, and gave them the king's letters. Sanballat and the Samaritans were vexed when they heard of Nehemiah's arrival. Nehemiah went by night to view the walls, he told the elders of the king's words, but Sanballat and his friends laughed him to scorn, and despised the Jews. Nehemiah answered them, “The God of heaven, he will prosper us, therefore we his servants will arise and build; but ye have no portion, nor right, nor memorial, in Jerusalem."


Christians; nor is their desire to visit it

like that of Nehemiah's. he went .. mourning the triumphing prayed, &c.—mentally; probably for grace of the wicked is short." Haman's pride

to answer aright, and for a favourablo was wounded, his hope had suddenly

answer. perished. Many an oppressive eastern courtier has been painfully taught that beyond the river—the Euphrates. his teet stood in slippery places. convey, fe.--sustain and protect him in

his long and perilous journey: thou shalt not prevailthey had been taught this lesson from the history of wall of the city-though the Jews hải

been permitted by Cyrus 92 years before the people to whom Mordecai belonged, whose cause always prospered when

this to return to Jerusalem, this is the

first permission granted by a Persian they sought the Lord with their whole


monarch for the rebuilding of the walls.

CONTEMPORARY CHARACTERS. Human was hanged-thus was his career

of pride and tyranny suddenly brought NEHEMIAH—this good man is considerto a close. His mischief returned ed by the Jews as one of the greatest

men of their nation. He left his life of upon his own head, and his violent dealing came down upon his own pate.

ease in Persia for one of toil in Jerusanother decree-the Persian kings assum

alem, where his efforts were crowned ed more than common humanity. Their

with success. The latest events in pretensions to a divine original would scripture history are recorded in the have sunk in public opinion, had they

book of Nehemialı. admitted that the royal word was liable

HANANI—the brother of Nehemiah, who to mistake or error.

brought to him the sad intelligence of accepted ... of his brethren--considered

the desolate state of Jerusalem. worly of their confidence. Mordecai

SANBALLAT- the governor of the had now risen to the summit of power

Samaritans under the Persian monarchy, to which Haman vainly aspired.

and the great opponent of Nehemiah's Purin-er • lots'; lots having been cast

labours for the prosperity of the Jews. by Haman for determining the day on

QUESTIONS. which the Jews should be destroyed. Why did Haman go to his house mourning Thougil this feast was not of divine after he had shown honour to Mordecai? appointment, it has ever since been What discouragement did he receiver 20 observed with feasting, and sometimes

his wife and his wise men ? with undue attention to drinking. How were their opinions presently concup-hcare an important and honourable

firmed! ottice; lie had the principal management In what way was the decree against the of the royal household.

Jews counteracteur ! mourne:1, 87.-80 ardent was his affection What feast was instituted to commemofor the city of his fathers, and for his own

rate the deliverance of the Jews ? highly favoured nation. Why did Nehemiah mourn and fust? why he was so sad his fasting, mourning What request did he make of the king of anıl praying had made a visible altera

Persia? tion in his countenance, which expres- Did the king accede to his wishes?

I his mental suffering. What other request did he make that the Why should not, Sc.-it is a strong evi

king granted ? dence of the decline of the Jews in Who were vexed when Nehein alarrived religious patriotism that they feel far

at Jeruerler! less interested in the prosperity of the What was their conduct, and how di lind of their ancestors than many

Nehemiah rebuke then? PRECEPTIVE LESSONS. Here is a lesson to all who seek earthily honours by the sacrifice of principle, who gain their ends as “men pleasers,” and who fwn upon the great to obtain their fazor. * Favour is deceitful,” it soon changes, and court favouries when trowned upon fell suddenly and utterly, and that, as fast as they rose. Hamani's personal history tencies 119 "That the wicked is snel in the work of his own hands.” 7'n we have illustration of how God can confound the plans of those who would asiror los perill, thongh they may seem to proper to the very day of their intendcu

el ini after this weve an emploflove frihe interes's of ion which sluit in us to “profor Jerusalem abre our chief joy." We also see that God beo'stlife clous of inail ol!'s desin, and moulil the circumstances of the age, wie in set time to tour Zion has come,

132. Completion of the Walls of Jerusalem.

Neh. iii-x. & xiii. Malachi.

Sanballat, the governor of Samaria,78 and Tobiah, an Ammonite of much wealth and importance, derided the Jews in their labours, yet 'they were angry as the work proceeded. Nehemiah set 'men to guard those who builded, and some of them worked with one hand and held 'a weapon in the other; the builders had every one his sword girded by his side, for their enemies practised craft, by rumours and false prophets, to terrify the Jews. When the wall was finished, their enemies were much cast down, it was dedicated with gladness and thanksgiving. About this time the poor Jews 'cried out against the bondage and oppression of the rich. Nehemiah reproved the rich, and they promised to leave off 'usury, and 'restore to their brethren their lands, and vineyards, and olive-yards, and houses.

Nehemiah was recalled to Persia,125 and he placed his brother Hanani, and Hananiah, the ruler of the palace, in charge over Jerusalem.32 'Ezra instructed the people in the law, and the people rejoiced to hear the words of the law read to them. They also kept the 'feast of Tabernacles seven days. On the twenty-fourth day of the same month they fasted in sackcloth,84 and separated themselves from strangers, and made confession of their own and their fathers' sins. They then made a solemn covenants to observe the commandments22 of the Lord, and 'not to forsake the house of their God. Nehemiah again came to Jerusalem, and testified98 against those who were unfaithful, particularly against the sabbath-breakers. He saw in those days in Judah73 some treading winepresses on the sabbath, and bringing in sheaves, and lading asses; also wine, grapes, and figs, and all manner of burdens, which they brought into Jerusalem on the sabbath day; and he testified against them in the day wherein they sold victuals. Then he contended with the nobles of Judah, and said unto them, “What evil thing is this that ye do, and profane the sabbath day ? did not your fathers thus, and did not our God bring all this evil upon us, and upon this city ? yet ye bring more wrath upon Israel by 'profaning the sabbath.” He also testified against those who had ‘married wives of Ashdod,42 of Ammon,58 and of Moab;28 and their children spake half in the speech of Ashdod, and could not speak in the Jews' language, but according to the language of each people. And he contended with them, saying, “ Ye shall not give your daughters unto their sons, nor take their daughters unto your sons, or for yourselves.”

Malachi was the last of the prophets whose writings are in the Old Testament. He testified against many social abuses in the religion and conduct of the Jews, and especially against polygamy and divorces. He foretold the 'conversion of the Gentiles; he spoke of Christ as the Sun of righteousness; and of the coming of John the Baptist, in the 'spirit of Elijah, to prepare for the coming of Christ.

[ocr errors]


married wives of, &c.-intermarriages

with surrounding nations were strictly they were angry-for the privilege of

prohibited by the law of Moses. Such rebuilding the walls of conquered cities

marriages often proved the source of was not generally conceded. The con

much evil. Les. 71. ciliatory measure of the Persian monarch towards the Jews excited the envy and conversion, $c.—from idolatry and sen

jealousy of the Samaritans. suality to the worship of God and the men to guard, &c.—though the Samaritans cultivation of purity of heart and life.

had received instructions not to oppose Nehemiah, they took advantage of their Sun, &c.—whose light should illuminate distance from the seat of government to and warm into life everything good in violate the imperial command.

the moral world. a weapon in the other—the attacks were of a désultory nature and required the spirit of Elijahthat of a reformer ; boldly workmen to be always prepared.

rebuking sin in all classes, and testifying

to the value of true religion. cried out against, &c.—this was one of the sins against which Jeremiah denounced

CONTEMPORARY CIARACTER. God's anger just before the destruction of Jerusalem. Les. 120. Deut. xxiv.

14, 15. MALACHI—the last of the prophets who

flourished before the gospel dispensausury-interest, or money charged for the

tion; in his time tine temple was reloan of money or anything else. The

built; he was probably contemporary law of Moses forbade the Israelites

with Nehemiah. taking any interest of each other, but they were at liberty to exact it of

QUESTIONS. foreigners. Exod. xxii .25. Deut.xxiii. 20. restore ... their lands, &c.—they had been How did Nehemiah guard the workmen mortgaged or given up to the creditors

against the Samaritans? till the debts should be cleared off. By what means did their enemies annoy Ezra instructed-he restored the obser

the Jews? vances of the Jewish law according to What were the feelings of both parties ancient usages. He also copied the

when the wall was finished ? sacred books of the Old Testament, and

What evils existed at this time among hence we have the copies now extant.

the Jews themselves ! feast of Tabernacles—this feast was also

How did Nehemiah reform these abuses?

Whom did Nehemiah leave in charge over called the feast of ingathering', because it occurred at the conclusion of the

Jerusalem when he was recalled into vintage. Its original design was to

Persia? celebrate the dwelling of the Israelites

Who instructed the people in the law ? in tents during their journey through

What observances were kept? the wilderness.

Into what covenant did they enter?

For what did Nehemiah reprove them not to forsake, &c.—this covenant the

when he again came to Jerusalem ? Jews literally fulfilled; they never after How did he remind them of their fathers' fell into the sins of gross idolatry com

iniquities? mitted by their ancestors before the What social evil had the Jews committed!

Babylonian captivity. How did Nehemiah speak of this transprofaning the sabbath-sabbath profana

gression? tion is severely denounced in the sacred Who was the last of the prophets? scriptures. See Ezek. xx. 12-26; Deut. What practices did he reprove?

v. 12-14. What were his two principal prophecies?

PRECEPTIVE LESSONS. The malice of persecutors should displease us more because it is offensive to God than because it is injurious to us. The hindrance of good works is what Satan and his servants aim at, but in spite of all their opposition that which has God's favour and blessing shall prosper. We may perceive that reforms and improvements are prevented by selfishness-that instruction in the law is the only safeguard from error-that fasts are scriptural—that repentance necessarily includes the renunciation of bad habits and selfish indulgences, and the performance of God's ordinances,-and that in the Gospel the glory of God is revealed in the face of Jesus Christ.

« PreviousContinue »