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ESTHER was a Jewess, and the book called by her name is a wonderful history of a scattered remnant of that people to which she belonged. The nation, after a long captivity, had been restored according to the promise of God, the walls of Jerusalem were rebuilt, the ways of Zion no longer mourned because none came to her solemn feasts ;“ for God had made them rejoice with great joy; the wives also and the children rejoiced, so that the joy of Jerusalem was heard even afar off.”
But there was still a remnant scattered among the heathen. They too served the God of their fathers, and refused to bow down to the idols of the nations. But forgetting that God loves the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob, they were content to serve him afar off. Enjoying in common with the heathen their cultivated fields and vineyards, they had probably ceased to sigh over the desolation of Jerusalem, or to count the number of the years of their captivity, and were perhaps saying, “the time is not come, the time that the Lord's house should be built.” They had lost that pious zeal which prompted their devout king to exclaim :-a day in thy courts is better than a
thousand. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than to dwell in the tents of wickedness.
This story, however, affords delightful proof that God never forgets his people, and is a beautiful illustration of his ever-watchful providence. The name of God is nowhere to be found in this book, and yet the hand of God is as distinctly revealed on every page as when it was seen tracing the mysterious characters on the wall of Ba. bylon's palace.
Who wrote the history we are not told; but from the twentieth verse of the ninth chapter it is supposed it was Mordecai, especially as he knew all the circumstances, and was capable of writing such a book. The scene of the story is Shushan, a city of Persia, where was the royal palace; and here, probably, Esther was born. Her father and mother dying when she was young, her cousin Mordecai took her for his own daughter.
As Esther grew up, Ahasuerus came into possession of his kingdom, which, under him, extended from India to Ethiopia, over a hundred and twentyseven provinces. In the third year of his reign, having enlarged his empire, and rejoicing in his success, he made a feast, to which he invited all the princes and nobles in his dominions, in order to exhibit the riches of his kingdom, and that they might admire the power and wisdom with which he had amassed such treasures. - Mine own hand hath gotten me this wealth," was undoubtedly the language of this heathen king. This feast lasted a hundred and eighty days; so that it is probable the guests were invited in companies, and not all at one time. When this was done, he made a feast for all the people living in Shushan, both rich and poor; and, perhaps, history does not furnish an account of a more magnificent entertainment. This feast lasted seven days, and, it is said, was held in the court of the garden of the king's palace. Houses in eastern countries were built square, enclosing a piece of ground in the centre, so that, by spreading a covering across the top of the house, they were protected on every side from the heat of the sun.