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Ahasuerus, either infatuated with his attachment to Haman, or so sunk in luxury as to be weary of the charge of affairs in his own kingdom, took his ring from his hand, and gave it to Haman. Every edict that went forth from the king was sealed with this ring, and his giving it to Haman was, in fact, giving him liberty to do what he pleased in his empire. And the king said to Haman, the silver is given to thee and the people also, to do with them as it seemeth good to thee. Haman immediately called to. gether the king's scribes, and had letters prepared to the king's lieutenants, to the governors over every province, and to the rulers of every people in the several provinces. These letters

were written in the various languages spoken in the king's dominions,—for Persia, as we have seen, had lately extended her empire over the neighboring nations,—and were sent by posts into every part of the kingdom, commanding to destroy, to kill, and to cause to perish, all Jews, both young and old, little children and women, in one day, and to take all their possessions. Having sent forth this cruel edict, the king and Haman sat down to drink. But the city Shushan was perplexed. No doubt many of its inhabitants, though not Jews, would sympathise deeply with them in such barbarous cruelty toward an inoffensive people.

When Mordecai perceived all that was done, he rent his clothes, and put on sackcloth with ashes, and went out into the midst of the city and cried with a loud and bitter cry. These were the ordinary expressions of grief among the Jews. He came even before the king's gate, hoping by his loud lamentations to gain the ear of Esther, to whose presence he was seldom, if ever, admitted, as Persian women are secluded almost entirely from the society of men. He could not now take his accustomed seat, for no one was allowed to enter the king's gate clothed with sackcloth ; and though by laying it aside, he might have been nearer the queen, yet his object could have been effectually prevented, for no expression of sorrow was permitted there. His affliction, however, soon reached the ear of Esther through her maids : she was exceedingly grieved, and, ignorant of the cause, sent raiment to clothe him and to take away his sackcloth, that he might return to his place; but he would not receive it. Then Esther called for Hatach, one of the king's chamberlains, whom he had appointed to attend upon her; and sent him to Mordecai, to know what his affliction was, and why it was. Hatach found him in the street, before the king's gate, and Mordecai gave him a full account of all that had been done, with a copy of the decree that was written against the Jews, that he might show it to Esther, with a charge

to her that she should go in to the king, and make supplication for her people. Hatach delivered Mordecai's message, and no doubt Esther's heart was overwhelmed within her; for she sent him back to say to Mordecai, all the king's servants and the people of the king's provinces do know, that whosoever, whether man or woman, shall come unto the king, into the inner court, who is not called, there is one law of his to put him to death, except such to whom the king shall hold out the golden sceptre ; but I, she adds, have not been called to come in unto the king these thirty days. She began probably to suspect, that the king's affections were alienated from her, and this made it doubly dan

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