“When it was evening,
With the twelve.”
Καὶ ὀψίας γενομένης ἔρχεται μετὰ τῶν δώδεκα.
This is similar to Matthew, chapter 26:20, and Luke, chapter 22:14. Mark said that when it was evening or when evening arrived (Καὶ ὀψίας γενομένης), Jesus came (ἔρχεται) with the 12 apostles (μετὰ τῶν δώδεκα). Jesus and his 12 apostles were ready to celebrate the Passover in this large upper room in the city of Jerusalem.
“On the day after
The murder of Governor Gedaliah,
Before anyone knew of it,
Eighty men arrived
Their beards were shaved.
Their clothes were torn.
Their bodies were gashed.
They were bringing
At the temple of Yahweh.”
The day after the death of Judean governor, 80 pilgrims from the northern areas of Shechem, Shiloh, and Samaria came by. As Mizpah was near Jerusalem, they would want to stop there. Obviously, they knew nothing about the death of Governor Gedaliah the day before, but they might have heard about the good times at Mizpah. These pilgrims had shaved beards, torn clothes, and gashes on their bodies, typical signs of mourning. They may have been on their way to mourn the passing of the Temple in Jerusalem with their grain offerings and incense. However, they might also be on the way to celebrate the feast of Tents.
“One generation shall laud your works to another.
One generation shall declare your mighty acts.
I will meditate
On the glorious splendor of your majesty.
I will meditate.
On your wondrous works.
The might of your awesome deeds
Shall be proclaimed.
I will declare your greatness.
They celebrate the fame
Of your abundant goodness.
They shall sing aloud
Of your righteousness.”
Each generation will declare the mighty acts and works of Yahweh. David will meditate on the splendor of the majesty of Yahweh and his wonderful works. His awesome deeds should be proclaimed because he is great. They should celebrate the abundant goodness of Yahweh. They should sing about his righteousness. The next 4 letters of the Hebrew alphabet are found here in italic.
“In the reign of King Demetrius,
In the one hundred and sixty-ninth year,
We Jews wrote to you.
In the critical distress that came upon us,
In those years
After Jason and his company
Revolted from the holy land and the kingdom.
He burned the gate and shed innocent blood.
We prayed to the Lord.
We were heard.
We offered sacrifice and cereal offering.
We lighted the lamps.
We set out the loaves.
Now see that you keep the festival of booths
In the month of Chislev,
In the one hundred and eighty-eighth year.”
Here is the reason for the letter. They want the Jews in Egypt to celebrate the festival of Booths in 124 BCE in the month of Chislev, the 188th year. Apparently this is not the first letter since there is a reference to an earlier letter around 143 BCE, the 169th year mentioned here, when King Demetrius II was the Seleucid leader. All these calendar dates are from the beginning of this Seleucid Empire in 312 BCE. The distress was the capture and murder of Jonathan Apphus, the son of Mattathias in 143 BCE. Jason was the brother of the high priest Onias, who turned on the Maccabees. The destruction and shedding of innocent blood can be found in 1 Maccabees, chapter 1. However, under Simon, they were able to recover and rebuild the Temple. Thus they were asking the Jews in Egypt to celebrate with them the feast of Booths in Chislev. However, the normal time of festival of Tents or Booths, according to Leviticus, chapter 23, was in the 7th month, 1 week after the Day of Atonement. Clearly this work must have been written after 124 BCE.
“The men who were in the citadel at Jerusalem were prevented from going in and out to the country to buy and sell things. So they were very hungry. Many of them perished from famine. Then they cried to Simon to make peace with them. So he did. He expelled them from there. He cleansed the citadel from its pollutions. On the twenty-third day of the second month, in the one hundred seventy-first year, the Jews entered it with praise and palm branches. They had harps, cymbals, and stringed instruments. They sang hymns and songs because a great enemy had been crushed and removed from Israel. Simon decreed that every year they should celebrate this day with rejoicing. He strengthened the fortifications of the temple hill alongside the citadel. He and his men lived there. Simon saw that his son John had reached manhood, so he made him commander of all the forces. He lived at Gazara.”
The Syrian men who were in the Jerusalem citadel could not go in or out to buy or sell anything. Thus they became hungry like a famine. Finally, they wanted to make peace with Simon. He decided to expel them from the citadel. There was a big celebration with praise and palm branches as the Jews entered the citadel in 141 BCE, about a year after their independence. Before they went in with harps, cymbals, and stringed instruments singing hymns and songs, they had the citadel cleansed from the foreign pollutions. They were going to celebrate this every year on the 23rd day of the 2nd month, that is sometime in May. Simon and his men decided to live in the citadel. He sent his son John to be the commander of the armed forces and live in Gaza. This apparently was his son John Hyrcanus who was the high priest from 134-104 BCE.
“All the festivals, Sabbaths, new moons, appointed days,
The three days before a festival
And the three after a festival
All these days will be days of immunity and release
For all the Jews who are in my kingdom.
No one shall have authority to exact anything from them
Or annoy any of them about any matter.”
All the Jewish people could celebrate their festivals, Sabbath days, new moons or other appointed days with full immunity. In fact, they could have 3 days before and 3 days after the festival to be released from work. This applied to all the Jews in the kingdom, not just those in Judea. No one would have any authority over these festivals. No one should annoy them about these feast days. This was total religious freedom, as had been common in the empire prior to King Antiochus IV.
“When the turn came for Esther daughter of Abihail, the uncle of Mordecai who had adopted her as his own daughter, to go in to the king, she asked for nothing except what Hegai the king’s eunuch who had charge of the women, advised. Now Esther was admired by all as she found favor in the eyes of all who saw her. When Esther was taken to King Artaxerxes into his royal palace in the twelfth month, which is Adar, in the seventh year of his reign, the king loved Esther more than all the other women. She won his favor and grace over all the virgins. He set the royal diadem crown on her head as she became queen. Then the king gave a great banquet to all his friends and officials lasting seven days to celebrate his marriage to Esther. He also granted a holiday remission of taxes to all the provinces under his rule. He gave gifts with royal liberality.”
Esther finally got her turn to audition with the king. She simply followed the advice of the eunuch Hegai. This was now the 7th year of the king’s rule, around 458 BCE. The original feast where the argument took place about Queen Vashti was in the 3rd year of his rule. Now after 4 years, Vashti was gone, without any mention of what happened to her. Now King Artaxerxes was smitten with Esther as he said that she was the one, since he loved her more than all the others. He immediately gave her the crown as she became Queen Esther. He gave a big wedding banquet in Esther’s honor. He also gave a tax holiday. Now that is a real holiday. He also gave gifts, which seems the opposite of most weddings where the bride and groom get the gifts. There is no specific mention of a wedding ceremony, but it might be presumed if they had a wedding banquet. There seems to be no problem about a Jewish woman marrying a non-Jewish person as there was in Ezra, chapters 9-10, and Nehemiah, chapter 10, which would have been about the same time frame. That prohibition was more about Jewish men marrying non-Jewish women.