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a guest, it is manifest would be a personal distinction, not to be meanly esteemed, and a personal privilege not to be lightly forfeited, to whomsoever it might be offered. It is a distinction, however, and a privilege, which, under the circumstances of the case, could be offered by none but the king—the principal personage in the celebrity itself—nor conferred upon any but his own subjects, as the subordinate parties in the same; and therefore as offered by him, and as conferred upon them, the distinction would be enhanced, and the privilege would be rendered proportionably the more valuable, by coming from one so much their superior ; and by communicating even to the subjects a personal interest in an occasion of joy and festivity, properly confined to the family of their king.
time, in as many dáłapoi : the åvdpùy or guest-chamber being ékatovtákłuvos. Plutarch, Alexander, 70. tells us the number of guests was nine thousand. Cf. Zonaras, Ann. iv. 14. 195. B.
Nuptial solemnities among the Jews were celebrated for seven days : see Judges xiv. 12. Cf. Tobit xi. 19. So had they been in the East from time immemorial. Genesis xxix. 27.
It does not distinctly appear that the series of entertainments which the book of Esther, i. 1-10, describes king Ahasuerus to have given, first to his nobles and princes, for 180 days, or half a Persian year, and afterwards for seven days, to all the people, were nuptial festivities ; yet it is not improbable, considering the part which Vashti his queen is said to have taken in the same. To the duration of such festivities, and probably to the magnificence with which they were celebrated, Roman history would perhaps have supplied a parallel instance, had the particulars been transmitted to us of those shows and entertainments, which it appears from Dio, apud Xiphilinum, lxviii, 15. Trajan celebrated at Rome, for 123 days successively, in the interval between U. C. 862 and U. C. 864. Vide my Supplementary Diss. 222.
The conception of the design of every entertainment is naturally prior to its consummation; and the interval between them, whether greater or less in itself, is naturally devoted to making such preparations as necessarily arise from the design, and are necessarily preliminary to the execution. The interposition of an interval so devoted, appears in the parable between what must be supposed the first formation of the design, and what is actually seen to be the first step towards its execution ; for after relating in general terms, that a certain king made a wedding-feast for his son, which involves the conception of the design, and leaves to implication the fact of the preparations—it passes at once to the point of time when all things were ready, and the guests were expected to attend. There are two periods consequently in the entire duration of the history—one bearing date with the conception of the design of the feast, the other with the first overt step towards its execution; between which some interval must have elapsed, and as referred to either of which the resulting duration of the whole, may be materially different.
The conception of the design of an entertainment beforehand, supposes the invitation of the guests beforehand also ; and the history recognises the truth of this supposition by shewing that, as there was a proper person, with whom the idea of the solemnity originated, so there were others, designed to partake of it, even before the time of its celebra- · tion was conne; whom it calls τους κεκλημένους, Or “ them that had been bidden.”
The guests thus invited, it is reasonable on
various accounts to presume, must have been the fittest persons to whom such a privilege as this could have been offered beforehand; not indeed as the equals of the principal party in the celebrity, which as his subjects they could not possibly be, but among his subjects in general, (all standing in the same relation to himself of inferiors and dependents,) as that class in particular, who, for reasons peculiar to themselves, were most deserving to be made the associates even of their monarch, for the time being, and to be admitted as guests to his table; that class who were most likely to feel, and most proper to be permitted to evince, a personal interest in such an event as the marriage of their king's son. The fitness in question, however, and the reasons on which the presumption of it was founded, must be understood of the supposed deserts of the persons invited on those accounts, beforehand, and as producing the supposed distinction in their favour, above the rest of the subjects of the same king, against the time of the solemnity itself. With this restriction, it is not impossible that an antecedent presumption of their personal worthiness, might be consistent with the discovery of their personal unworthiness at last; and the conduct which they might pursue, with respect to availing themselves ultimately of the distinction intended for them, or not, might be not more at variance with what was expected from them by the king, than with what was due to themselves.
The fact of the invitation of these guests is clearly implied; but the mode in which it was conveyed to them is not specified; yet, though made before the time appointed for the celebration of the feast, its being repeated again when all things were ready, takes it for granted, that as it had been made beforehand, so it had been accepted beforehand, and by its acceptance had laid the parties invited, under a previous obligation to attend, on receiving due notice of the time, which could not be subsequently disregarded, without not only a personal affront to the author of the invitation, but also a deliberate violation of a promise or covenant, which they themselves were bound to perform. On these two accounts, both as invited beforehand, for reasons peculiar to themselves, and as laid by the previous acceptance of the invitation under a previous obligation to attend, the guests of this description may obviously be called, guests of the first order, in opposition to any others, whom the course of events may shew to be subsequently concerned in the possession or enjoyment of any such privilege, as that which was originally intended for them..
Recognising the fact of the conception of the future entertainment, and clearly presupposing the intermediate consummation of all the necessary preparations; the details of the narrative begin with the promulgation of the summons to the guests to attend, and are brought to a close, when the celebration of the feast was at hand. The economy of the parable, therefore, is strictly comprehended between these extremes, the time of the first promulgation of the invitation to the feast, and the time of its actual celebration; that is, between the first overt step and the last, towards the execution of the design originally proposed the commemoration of the mar
riage of the son of the king by an appropriate wedding festivity—which could not begin at an earlier period than the one, nor be delayed to a later period than the other. It follows, consequently, that the character and relation of all the subordinate parties concerned in it as guests, is the character and relation, from first to last, of guests invited, but not of guests admitted, to partake of the festivity in question. It is a character and relation therefore, which under the circumstances of the case, admitted of being lost in some instances, as well as retained in others, before the arrival of the point of time when only the privilege of the guest invited could be consummated in that of the guest adınitted.
Now though an invitation to such a solemnity as this in the parable, might have been given and received for any length of time beforehand—and though it is but consistent with the nature of the occasion to suppose that it must have been both given and accepted by the proper parties some time beforehand; yet the usage of antiquity, and so far a regard to historical decorum, rendered it necessary that it should be described to be repeated, at the time appointed for the actual celebration of the festivity, even to the persons who had been invited already b. In the East the proper time for the celebration of a wedding feast, (as indeed, under all circumstances, for the celebration of their principal repast in the course of the same day,) is the evening. At this point of time, then, or against this point of time, on the appointed day, the repetition of their invitation is supposed to be made to those
b Vide supra, vol. iii. 407, 408.