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B.—THE JEWS DESTROY THEIR ENEMIES, AND AT MORDECAI’S REQUEST ESTABLISH THE FESTIVAL OF PURIM
I. The common defence of the Jews is very successful. Esther 9:1-15
1Now [And] in the twelfth [twelve] month, that is the month Adar, on the thirteenth [thirteen] day of the same [in it], when [that] the king’s commandment [word] and his decree [law] drew near to be put in the execution [done], in the day that the enemies of the Jews hoped to have power over [on] them, (though it [and (i.e., then) that] it was turned to the contrary that the Jews [themselves] had rule [should have power] over [on] them that hated them [their haters]), 2the Jews gathered [congregated] themselves together in their cities, throughout [in] all the provinces of the king Ahasuerus, to lay [send forth] hand on such as sought their hurt [on the seekers of their evil] ; and no man could withstand [stood in the face 3of] them; for the fear of them fell upon all people [the peoples]. And all the, rulers [princes] of the provinces, and the lieutenants [satraps], and the deputies [pashas], and [the] officers of the king [doers of the work which was to the king], 4helped [were lifting] the Jews; because the fear of Mordecai fell upon them. For Mordecai was great in the king’s house, and his fame [hearing] went [was going] out throughout [in] all the provinces; for this [the] man Mordecai waxed greater 5and greater [was going and great]. Thus [And] the Jews smote [on] all their enemies with the stroke [smiting] of the sword, and slaughter and destruction, and did what they would [according to their pleasure] unto those that hated them [on their haters]. 6And in Shushan the palace [citadel] the Jews slew and destroyed five hundred men. And 7Parshandatha, and Dalphon, and Aspatha, and 8Poratha, and Adalia, and Aridatha, 9and Parmashta, and Arisai, and Aridai, and Vajezatha, 10the ten sons of Haman, the son of Hammedatha [the Medatha], the enemy of the Jews, slew they; but [and] on the spoil laid [sent forth] they not their hand. 11On that day the number of those that were slain [the slain ones] in Shushan the palace 12[citadel] was brought [came] before the king. And the king said unto Esther the queen, The Jews have slain and destroyed five hundred men in Shushan the palace [citadel], and the ten sons of Haman; what have they done in the rest of the king’s provinces? Now [And] what is thy petition? and it shall be granted [given to] 13thee; or [and] what is thy request further [again]? and it shall be done. Then [And] said Esther, If it please [be good upon] the king, let it be granted [given] to the Jews which [who] are in Shushan to do to-morrow also according unto this day’s [to-day’s] decree [law], and let Haman’s ten sons be hanged [let them hang] upon the gallows [tree]. 14And the king commanded [said] it so to be done; and 15the decree [law] was given at Shushan; and they hanged Haman’s ten sons. For [And] the Jews that were in Shushan gathered [congregated] themselves together on the fourteenth day also of the month Adar, and slew [smote] three hundred men [males] at Shushan; but [and] on the prey [booty] they laid not their hand.
II. At the desire of Mordecai the Jews resolve to celebrate the 14th and 15th of the month Adar as Purim. Esther 9:16-28
16But [And] the other [remainder of the] Jews that were in the king’s provinces gathered [congregated] themselves together, and stood [there was a standing] for [upon] their lives [soul], and had rest from their enemies, and slew [there was a smiting] of [in] their foes seventy and five thousand (but they laid not their hands 17[hand] on the prey [booty]). On the thirteenth day of the month Adar: and on the fourteenth day of the same [in it] rested they [there was a resting], and made 18[there was a making] it a day of feasting [banquet] and gladness. But [And] the Jews that were at Shushan assembled [congregated] together on the thirteenth day thereof [in it], and on the fourteenth thereof [in it]; and on the fifteenth day of the same [in it] they rested [there was a resting], and made [a making] it a day of feasting [banquet] and gladness. 19Therefore the Jews of the villages [country places], that dwelt in the unwalled towns [cities of the country places], made [were making] the fourteenth day of the month Adar a day of gladness and feasting [banquet], and a good day, and of sending portions one [a man] to another [his neighbor]. 20And Mordecai wrote these things [words], and sent letters [books] unto all the Jews that were in all the provinces of the king Ahasuerus, both [the] nigh and [the] far, 21to stablish this among [upon] them, that they should keep [to be making] the fourteenth day of the month Adar, and the fifteenth day of the same [in it] yearly, [in every year and (i.e., by) year], 22as the days wherein the Jews rested from their enemies, and the month which was turned unto them from sorrow to joy [gladness], and from mourning into a good day; that they should make [to make] them days of feasting [banquet] and joy [gladness], and of sending portions one [a man] to another [his neighbor], and gifts to the poor. 23And the Jews undertook [each received] to do as they had begun [what they had begun to do], and as [what] Mordecai 24had written unto them; because Haman the son of Hammedatha [the Medatha] the Agagite, the enemy of all the Jews, had devised against the Jews to destroy them, and had cast Pur (that is, the lot) to consume [discomfit] them, and 25to destroy them: but [and] when Esther [it] came before the king, he commanded [said] by [with the] letters [books], that his wicked [evil] device, which he devised against the Jews, should return upon his own head, and that he [him] 26and his sons should be hanged [they should hang] on the gallows [tree]. Wherefore [Therefore] they called these days Purim, after [upon] the name of [upon] Pur: therefore for [upon] all the words of this letter, and of that which [and what] they had seen concerning this matter [upon thus], and which [what] had come unto them. 27The Jews ordained [established], and took [each received] upon them, and upon their seed, and upon all such as joined [the ones joining] themselves unto [upon] them, so as [and] it should not fail [pass], that they would keep [to be making] these two days according to their writing, and according to their appointed time, [in] every year [and (i.e., by) year]; 28and that these days should be [these days were] remembered and kept [made] throughout [in] every generation [and (i.e., by) generation], every family [family and (i.e., by) family], every province [province and (i.e., by) province], and every city [city and (i.e., by) city]; and that these days of Purim should not fail [pass] from among [the midst of] the Jews, nor the memorial [remembrance] of them perish [cease] from their seed.
III. At the request of Esther the Jews also resolve to commemorate the feast of Purim with fasting and mourning. Esther 9:29-32
29Then [And] Esther the queen, the daughter of Abihail, and Mordecai the Jew, wrote with all authority, to confirm [establish] this second letter of [the] Purim. 30And he sent the letters [books] unto all the Jews, to the hundred twenty and seven 31provinces of the kingdom of Ahasuerus, with words of peace and truth, to confirm [establish] these days of [the] Purim in their times appointed, according as Mordecai the Jew and Esther the queen had enjoined [established upon] them, and as they had decreed [established] for [upon] themselves [their soul], and for [upon] their seed, the matters [words] of the fastings and their cry. 32And the decree [saying] of Esther confirmed [established] these matters [words] of [the] Purim; and it was written in the book.
DISTINCTION AND POWER OF MORDECAI IN THE MIGHTY PERSIAN EMPIRE
1And the king Ahasuerus laid [put] a tribute upon the land, and upon the isles of 2the sea. And all the acts [work] of his power [authority] and of his might, and the declaration [spreading] of the greatness of Mordecai, whereunto the king advanced him [whom the king made great], are they not written in [upon] the book of the Chronicles [words of the days] of the kings of Media [Madai] and Persia [Paras]? 3For Mordecai the Jew was next [second] unto [the] king Ahasuerus, and great among [to] the Jews, and accepted of [to] the multitude of his brethren, seeking the wealth of [good to] his people, and speaking peace to all his seed.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
The author here gives us the last and most important part of the solution, the success which followed the measures of Mordecai for the deliverance of the Jews. Thus his history takes such a turn that the great Persian heathen empire, which at first rejoiced with feasting and hilarity, now suffers a great defeat. Moreover this occurs by the very Jewish nation which Haman and similar enemies hoped to destroy. The time of joyous feasting now came to the Jews and to those who had joined them. Mordecai’s measure for the removal of the danger was quite sufficient. This was true first (Esther 9:1-5) in the Persian empire in general.
Esther 9:1. Now in the twelfth month, that is, the month Adar, on the thirteenth day of the same, when—אֲשֶׁר may here be taken as the accus, of time, in which, or where, the king’s commandment and his decree drew near to be put into execution,i.e., in which the king’s word and law should be carried out, in the day that the enemies of the Jews hoped to have power over them (though it was turned to the contrary so that the Jews had rule over them that hated them). The infin. absol. וְנַהֲפוֹךְ הוּא may be made to depend, as a continuation of the preceding perfect upon אֲשֶׁר. Then הוּא will stand as a neuter for the thing which their enemies hoped to accomplish on the thirteenth. וְנַהֲפוֹךְ may also serve as a remark inserted as a casual intermediate expression, then הוּא will probably refer back to יוֹם, comp. Esther 9:22 : “As the day was turned unto them (so) that,” etc. As this remark does not anticipate, and in advance indicate the result afterward realized, but only speaks of change brought about by the issue of the second royal edict, שָׁלַט stands the second time for the “might” or “power” which now awaited the Jews according to right and law, but had not yet been realized. הֵמָּה added to the subject, serves to make a sharp contrast between the Jews and their enemies, so that it may be translated ipsi, (themselves) comp. Ewald, § 314 a. In Esther 9:2 follows the mention of a fixed time: The Jews gathered themselves together in their cities,i, e., those in which they were more numerous, but yet dwelt mixed up with the heathen inhabitants. They gathered themselves, to lay hand on such as sought their hurt,i.e., according to chap Esther 8:11, such as attacked them to destroy them. And no man could withstand them,—so עָמַד בִּפְנֵי (comp. Joshua 10:8; Joshua 21:42; Joshua 23:9), because fear of them, or their fear had fallen upon all the people (comp. Esther 8:17).1
Esther 9:3. All the princes, the satraps, and governors, and also other persons of rank whom it is unnecessary here to name (comp. Esther 3:9), assisted the Jews. מְנַשְּׂאִים, as in Eze 1:4.2
Esther 9:4. These were especially influenced by the fear of Mordecai, who now became more and more powerful and authoritative, (comp. 1 Chronicles 17:12, where we find instead of גָּדוֹל the intrans. partic. גָּדֵל).
Esther 9:5. Thus the Jews inflicted a great defeat upon all their enemies with the sword, slaughter and destruction: they carried out the right of retaliation which had been accorded them in Esther 8:11. הִכָּה with בְּ is to smite, to defeat some one (2Sa 23:10; 2 Samuel 24:17; Numbers 22:6). מַכַּת can only depend upon &הֶרֶג הִכָּה and אִבְדָּן both belong to מכת (comp. Esther 9:5, where מַכַּת־הֶרֶב corresponds to הִשׁמִיד).
Esther 9:6-15. The defence of the Jews succeeded especially well in Shushan. Esther 9:6. And in Shushan the palace the Jews slew and destroyed five hundred men The infin. abs. וְאַבֵּד as a supplement to the foregoing perfect expresses: “they slew and destroyed.”
Esther 9:7. The insertion of the names of the ten sons of Haman who were also destroyed, corresponds to the author’s method of exactness, and his disposition to mention names, as is seen in Esther 1:14. Jewish rabbis have found these names indicative of representative importance, and have taken the individual traits to mean something prophetic. This peculiar mode of writing, corresponding so well to the style of later mystical modes of interpretation of later Jewish theology, may have been inherent in its spirit, or it may have been because they find the “minuscule” letter ת in the first, שׁ in the seventh, and ז in the tenth name, and also the “majuscule” letter ו in the tenth name. According to statements made by Buxtorf (Synag. Jud., p. 588) the mode of writing should be a sign that the ten sons were suspended in a perpendicular line, one over the other, or an omen that after their fall they should never more rise to glory. The Jews did not take the booty of their enemies as was permitted them to do in the edict of Esther 8:11. This, however, was the order given to their enemies in the edict of Haman, Esther 3:13, and the author here gives it prominent mention, in order to show that there was no intention on the part of the Jews, to gratify a low avaricious disposition, but only to defend themselves.
Esther 9:11-15. After Ahasuerus had discovered the number of those who had perished in Shushan, he stated the same to Esther, adding: What have they done in the rest of the king’s provinces? i.e., how many must they not have destroyed there; this he said in order to prove to her that he had granted a great favor to the Jews, and hence that he was well-disposed toward them (comp. Esther 8:7-8). But to the same intent he also adds the promise following: Now what is thy petition? and it shall be granted thee.—Perhaps he recognized the fact that, if the Jews had to do with so many opponents, they could hardly have mastered them, and even now great danger threatened them on the part of those remaining, if they could not hunt down such in their hiding places (and there must have been many in so large a city) and destroy them utterly, וְיִנָּתֶו, masc. or rather neuter, with reference to מָה, while in Esther 7:2 we find the fem. וְתִנָּהֶן in relation to שְׁאֵלָתֵךְ. The necessity of extending the privilege granted the Jews to the following day, must be evident, since Esther (Esther 8:11) on her part, without consulting Mordecai, still further requested it. And let Haman’s ten sons be hanged upon the gallows,i.e., crucify the dead bodies in order to increase the disgrace of their execution, but more in order to augment the fear of the Jews. This was the Hebrew and Persian custom (see Ezra 6:11 [comp. Plutarch, Artax. 17]).
Esther 9:14. The king acceded to Esther’s request, and so another edict was issued. This contained principally or exclusively a renewed permission for the Jews. This must be publicly proclaimed. With respect to the sons of Haman a simple command was sufficient. The words, and they hanged Haman’s ten sons, by no means indicates the substance or consequence of the law; opposed to this are the accents and the perfect תָּלוּ. But since the publication of a law was the consequence of the king’s acquiescence, so it was also with the hanging of Haman’s sons.
Esther 9:16-28. The establishment of Purim.—In Esther 9:16-19 we find the historical introduction to the new edict of Mordecai, in Esther 9:20-23 an index of contents, and in Esther 9:24-28, still further, a supplement, confirmatory of what preceded, and which seems to have been taken from some other writing.
The statement in Esther 9:16 : But the other Jews—separate from those in Shushan, etc.— again connects with what preceded in Esther 9:1-2, in order first, to add the number of those whom they had slain, and next to give due mention to the day of their conflict as well as to the fact that the 14th was for them already a day of rest. The author adds after the phrase and stood for their lives (comp. Esther 8:11): and had rest from their enemies.—נוֹחַ is instead of the more usual נוּח, Infin. Absol. as in Numbers 11:25. And though he is interested to publish the result for which the Jews stood, namely, that they slew 75,000 of their enemies, yet he is more busied with the main thought that, these outside Jews, in distinction from those in Shushan, had peace soon after their first defence. The perfect in Esther 9:16-17, as also in Esther 9:18, is continued by subordinated infinitives (comp. Ewald, § 351 c). The statement that the outside Jews had rest already on the 14th of Adar, is here the main point. The other, in Esther 9:18, that the Jews in Shushan first had peace and joy on the fifteenth, is subordinate. This relation is best expressed by the word “while,” by which Esther 9:19, with its עַל־כֵּן, may be joined to Esther 9:16-17 : Therefore the Jews of the villages, that dwelt in the unwalled towns, made the fourteenth day of the month Adar a day of gladness and feasting,etc.—It does not matter much about the first season of joy, as stated in Esther 9:17, but it is important that this season had now become a custom of the people, and must have existed down to the time of our author. As evidence of this we have the partic. עשִׂים, and also the particles עַל־כֵּן, which latter is generally employed in an explanation as to how a custom originated. It seems, therefore, that for a long time there existed a difference of time as respects the day of the feast of Purim. It appears that the Jews in the smaller villages had one day, and those residing in the larger cities, i.e., also in Jerusalem (according to some MSS. of the Septuagint version αἱ κατοικοῦντες ἐν ταῖς μητροπόλεσιν) had another. The writing of Mordecai, mentioned in the following verses, which ordered a uniform celebration, viz., of two days (on the 14th and 15th of Adar) soon restored uniformity. But its acceptance had as a first consequence that, only those chief communities in the larger cities (Esther 9:23; Esther 9:27), obeyed the order, but the smaller bodies still retained the 14th Adar as the chief day of the feast. To assume a contradiction between Esther 9:23; Esther 9:27 (as does Bertheau) would be unwarranted even if the section beginning with Esther 9:20 be not an addition by our author, but by some later person. At the time of Josephus it seems that the season of celebration was uniform (comp. Antiq. VI. 13). According to the Mishna (Megilla,) this difference only exists that the book of Esther should be read on the 14th in the smaller towns, but on the 15th in the ancient walled cities of Palestine הַפְּרוֹזִים, with the Kethib, is the plural of פְּרוֹזִ, countryman. The Keri is the same as Deuteronomy 3:5, and 1 Samuel 6:18. There could have been another form from פָּרָז such as פָּרוֹז, as in קָטוֹן beside קָטָן מִשְׁלֹחַ. is the accus., dependent on עֹשִׂים: And of sending portions one to another.—According to Esther 9:22 (comp. Nehemiah 8:10) one made presents in these feasts, similar to the sacrificial feasts, to those less wealthy, but also to others to whom one desired to signify a joyous mind.
Esther 9:20-23. The writing which Mordecai sent to all the Jews, doubtless contained the substance of our book of Esther, חַדְּבָרִים הָאֵלֶּה; i.e., it recounted the danger which had threatened the Jews, and the way in which they were preserved from destruction; for this was needful to state here, in order to give cause and color to the feast ordered by Mordecai. But this did not, therefore, need to include the whole book of Esther.
Esther 9:21. Mordecai’s purpose was: To stablish this among them, that they should keep the,etc.—קִיֵם besides this place (Esther 9:20-32) occurs only in Ruth 4:7; 13:6; Psalms 119:28; Psalms 119:106; and used with עַל it signifies to establish something as binding upon some one, so that it shall become a duty obligatory on him. עָשָׂה with יוֹם here seems to mean (comp. Esther 9:27), to celebrate, a day. The phrase לִהְיוֹת עֹשִׂים, following upon the long intervening sentences of Esther 9:21, is again taken up in Esther 9:22 by לַעֲשׂות אוֹתָם יְמֵי מִשְׁתֶּה and still more enlarged. The result was (Esther 9:23) that what the Jews had begun to do (Esther 9:22) and what Mordecai wrote to them to do was by them established as a valid and permanent custom. קִבֵּל, to “accept” (Esther 9:4), here means, according to later linguistic usage, to recognize something as a valid tradition or law. The sing, form is explained by the fact that the verb precedes its subject, according to Gesen. § 114. [Rather it denotes a distribution or individual sense.—Tr.]
Esther 9:24-28. Now in order both to give the name of the feast just mentioned as well as its duration through two days, our author again briefly repeats the substance of the historical basis in Esther 9:24-25. He also makes brief mention of the facts decisive of the name, and then refers us in Esther 9:26 to Mordecai’s letter and the experiences of the Jews as forming its basis. In Esther 9:24 we find Haman’s intention to destroy the Jews (comp. Esther 3:1; Esther 3:6 sqq.), and he then points to the feast of Pur or casting of lots (Esther 3:7). לְהֻמָּם, “to destroy them,” from an older word, חָמַם, which generally describes confusion and anguish such as comes from God (Exodus 14:24; Deuteronomy 2:15), but which here may have been selected as a play upon the name of Haman. As regards the edict so friendly to the Jews in Esther 9:25, comp. chap, Esther 8:8 sqq.—But when (it) came before the king,etc. The suffix of the word בְּבֹאָהּ can have no reference to Esther; she is not mentioned in this connection (so opposed to the Targum, Syriac and most interpreters), but can only be taken as a neuter (as for example in Ezekiel 33:33), (so Bertheau and Keil); and this the more in keeping with the intention of Haman, which is placed in its proper light.—He commanded by letters that,etc.—אָמַר עִס־הַסֵּפֶר for: “to command by writing,” occurs only in this place. It is also peculiar in this section that the command: that his wicked device, which he devised against the Jews, should return upon his own head, is given in direct speech, while usually in the rest of the book the infin. with לְ is employed. Finally the author also mentions the execution of Haman and his sons, on which see Esther 7:10; Esther 9:6 sqq. In Esther 9:26 follows the declaration of the name of the day of the celebration, to which the author here designed to give prominence; but this is followed by the statement, after עַל־כֵּן, that this should last two days. What is simply indicated by the particles עַל־כֵּן is further enlarged upon by עֲל־כָּל־דִּבְרֵיTherefore for all the words of this letter (of Mordecai in accordance with Esther 9:20), and (of all that) which they had seen concerning the matter (עַל־כָּכָה, concerning the so and thus), and which had come unto them; hence also because their own experience fully corroborated the substance of Mordecai’s letter. In Esther 9:27 follows after עַל־כֵּן the concluding sentence: The Jews ordained, and took upon them, and upon their seed, and upon all such as joined themselves unto them (i.e. all proselytes), so as it should not fail (but be unalterably established, לֹא יַעֲבֹר, as in Esther 1:19), that they would keep these two days according to their writing, and according to their appointed time every year (year after year).—עָשָׁה following upon Esther 9:21 is easily comprehensible. Their writing and determination of time can only have come to them from Mordecai’s. In Esther 9:28 there follows the further injunction: And that these days should be remembered and kept throughout every generation,etc. The partic. נִזְכָּרִים, etc., depend upon לְהְיוֹת in the preceding verse. סוּף מִך == “to have an end,” to cease.
Esther 9:29-32. In order more firmly to establish the new law, and the confirmation of a new custom, which thus far had only been observed by Mordecai and Esther, that is, to connect a day of fasting and mourning with the days of the feast of Purim, a second letter was published. This time it was Queen Esther who composed the letter, hence the femin. וַתִּכְתֹּב. Mordecai is also mentioned; but possibly he was only added to give the letter authority and legality, as being the highest functionary in the realm, and to add the writings mentioned in Esther 9:30. It was especially Esther’s concern that the fasts and wailings which had their origin with herself at the time of the decisive step should serve as a reminder of the great distress so happily overcome. According to Esther 2:15 she was the daughter of Abihail, and on account of the solemnity of the occasion she is expressly designated as such. אֶת־כָּל־תֹּקָף, “with all strength” (power), תֹּקֶף occurs only here, in Esther 10:2 and Daniel 11:17, and would signify the great emphasis that Esther laid on the season of fasting and mourning no less than on the celebration of the joyous feast. The object of לְקַיֵּם, “to make valid as a law,” this second letter of Purim (the first was that of Mordecai in Esther 9:20), is also the object of the preceding וַתִּכְתֹּב By the word “this” the author designates the second letter, since he has in mind not to give its substance, but simply to indicate its existence.
Esther 9:30 explains somewhat why Mordecai is also mentioned in Esther 9:29 along with Esther: And he sent the letters unto all the Jews. The subject can here only be Mordecai himself. The סְפָרִים, however, which he sent were not copies of Esther’s letter (Keil), but writings accompanying it. These may have had the object of further confirming and explaining the facts on account of which fasts and seasons of mourning should be instituted, and of giving a historic sketch of the fast and mourning of the Jews living in Shushan. The words: And he sent the letters unto all the Jews to the hundred twenty and seven provinces, are in apposition to the kingdom of Ahasuerus.—The contents of the writing are briefly designated as words of peace, i.e. as words that meant well, which aimed at the welfare of Israel by thus recommending a good custom for general observance, and which were based on truth.
Esther 9:31. The aim of both Esther and Mordecai’s letters was: to confirm these days of Purim in their times appointed.—This does not mean that it had reference only to certain periods or divisions of the days of Purim in which fasts and mourning should take place, and for which arrangements should be made (Bertheau and also Keil); for that would have been expressed otherwise and more definitely; but it gives the proper validity to the selected days of the feast of Purim, the 14th and 15th Adar. The main thing, however, is contained in the following: According as Mordecai the Jew and Esther the queen had enjoined them, and as they had decreed for themselves and for their seed, the matters of the fastings and their cry.—Hence they would also establish the feast of Purim for themselves, so that they might join fasting and lamentation to the feast as Mordecai and Esther had previously done. The suffix of עֲלֵיהֶם may also refer to the above-mentioned days of Purim (not as to their definite time, Bertheau and Keil; for this is only mentioned incidentally); but since קִיֵּם with עַל always means to make a thing obligatory, it is naturally referred to Esther and Mordecai. It is true there follows the phrase עַל־נַפְּשָׁם; but we may understand this in the sense of עֲלֵיהֶם when preceding וֲעל־זרְעָם. There cannot well be any other subject intended by קִוְּמיּ than (against Keil) the above-mentioned Mordecai and Esther. עַל־זַרְעָם is a zeugmatic mode of expression. It has practical reference to Mordecai’s posterity since Esther, as regards her descendants, could not well hope to see them perpetuate Jewish customs.
Esther 9:32 strengthens the foregoing greatly.— And the decree of Esther confirmed these matters of Purim, those, namely, that had reference to the fasts and mourning.—And it was written in the book, of course not in Esther’s letter, nor in Mordecai’s writing accompanying the decree, which would be designated by the plural סְפָרִים; but it was written in the book indicated in Esther 9:20, in which Mordecai wrote concerning these events, and which is not identical with our Esther-book, but may have served as one of its sources.6 The day of fasting and mourning is not definitely fixed nor stated here; but it was probably the 13th of Adar, which Haman had set apart for the destruction of the Jews, and which the Jews celebrate as תַּעֲנִית אֶסֶתֵּר, Esther’s fast, although in the period of the Talmud there is mention made of a three days’ fast, which was observed after that of Purim.
Chap. 10. Our book aims not only to present the deliverance, but also the elevation of Judaism in the time and midst of the great and powerful heathenism of the period of Ahasuerus. It would represent the latter in the person of Haman, the enemy to Judaism, and the former in the person of Mordecai. Hence at its close it speaks once more of Mordecai’s greatness and honor.—And the king Ahasuerus laid a tribute upon the land, and upon the isles of the sea.—The Kethib אחשרש is an orthographical mistake for &מַם אתַשְׁוֵרשׁ, “a levy,” tribute (a tribute-service), here means a tax levied, and this for the reason that tribute-service belonged to products or moneys which were rendered to the king. It may be asked why this remark occurs in our book, which, according to all that has gone before, does not belong to the history of Ahasuerus, but has to do with quite another matter. Keil thinks the author wished briefly to indicate at the close whence Ahasuerus derived the means to support such magnificent state as was described at the beginning of our book. But this inference would be superfluous, and would come somewhat late here. The only safe answer is given us by the manner in which the author, in Esther 9:2, connects the power of Ahasuerus with the greatness of Mordecai. The greater the power of Ahasuerus and his wealth, the more powerful the dignity of Ahasuerus. It is as if the author would tell us: Ahasuerus had power extending over the whole earth, and he caused its wealth to flow into his treasury, and hence made himself felt as the head and lord of the entire power of the earth. It is worth while in this connection to observe the comprehensive statement עַל־הָאָרֶץ וְאִיֵּי הַיָם But this concentration of universal sway in himself did not avail for the suppression of an externally despicable Judaism; it rather served for the recognition and elevation of the latter, since, according to the Providence recognized in our book, Mordecai, the Jew, became the second ruler after Ahasuerus. Although it seemed as if the people of God had been stricken out of the list of people of the earth, still, in Mordecai, because of his relation to Ahasuerus, it became possessed of the wealth of the peoples of the earth.8
Esther 10:2. The author does not designate either the wealth or the power of Ahasuerus or of Mordecai more minutely, but rather refers, for particulars on both to the archives of the empire of the Medes and Persians.9 It is enough for him to be able to refer to these, and it is especially honorable for Mordecai’s cause, that even the archives of heathen kings must remember him. For פָּרָשׁה, “clear statement,” summary, comp. Esther 9:7.
Esther 10:3. Here the author must once more give prominence to the fact that Mordecai, the Jew, who for him stands as the representative of Judaism, stood next to king Ahasuerus, since therefrom it follows that the greatness of the one was also that of the other.
מִשְׁנֶה, “the second,” here means the first minister (comp. 2 Chronicles 28:7), and hence indicates that Mordecai was great among the Jews, and favored among the multitude of his brethren; i.e., that he really occupied a representative position among them.10 On רָצוּי comp. Deuteronomy 33:24. The expression רוֹב אֶחָיו is not to be taken in a limited sense, as if he would say less than: “all his brethren;” but may be explained, as Bertheau justly remarks, from the poetic elevation to which his speech rises at its close. The additional sentence also: Seeking the wealth of his people, and speaking peace to all his seed, is quite in place here, in so far as it indicates that what came to Mordecai also redounded to the good of his entire people. זַרְעוֹ, in parallelism with עַמּוֹ, is the family to which he belongs, as in 2 Kings 11:1; Isaiah 61:9, and not his posterity.
DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL
On Esther 9:1. The day in which the enemies of the Jews expected to see the realization of their hopes, became instead for the Jews a day of victory, and for their enemies a day of reverse and defeat. This, under existing circumstances, seemed to be a change which could only be brought about, as it were, by a miracle. It was indeed one of those Providences by means of which it has pleased God to reveal Himself from time to time in an especially remarkable manner. At all events, the prophets had foretold such occurrences as a matter surely to be expected. When the captivity of Israel shall have reached its culmination, when the people of God are on the point of expiring under the rod of their drivers, then, instead of really perishing, they should become captors for their captors and taskmasters for their drivers (Isaiah 14:2). What is here shown in a small prelude, according to such prophecy, should attain a much larger circumference and a much greater glory. Our book itself, according to its deeper significance, points in a manner typical or prophetical to this great and glorious final history. As a matter of fact, this change of affairs was itself deeply grounded in the nature and circumstances of things. So certain as the God of Israel was the only true God, whose kingdom shall not be destroyed, but through all apparent reverses shall continually rise to new and greater victories, so likewise to His people—so long as it is the sole bearer of His sway, the grave, which threatens to swallow it up, shall ever be a place of revivification and resurrection. And to-day also His empire must continue; and that which thought to overcome its power must itself be overcome, and either be absorbed or consigned to destruction. All the days of persecution for God’s kingdom are days indeed in which its enemies hope to overcome it, but it always turns out that such enemies are themselves conquered at last.
Brenz: “We have above such an example in Haman, who was himself hung on the cross which he had prepared for Mordecai. So the Egyptians were themselves overwhelmed in the sea to which they had driven the Israelites in order to overwhelm them. So also Saul, who had driven David over to the Philistines, that they might destroy him, was himself destroyed by the Philistines.”
On Esther 9:2-4. At the time of the deliverance from Egypt and the entrance into Canaan, the Lord showed abundantly that He was able to make His people a great nation despite the most powerful of their enemies. Now in its exile He again showed them that, as for Himself, He now no longer had need of them as a people, at least as a politically independent one. The great deeds that were then done were edifying and elevating in tendency; what He now did was momentous and instructive. It was plainly evident that He could accomplish His purpose aside from external means or political circumstances. It is still more manifest than it then was that it has pleased Him to be powerful in those who are weak, and great in those who have little influence. In those days he prepared as His instruments the chief persons and princes of His own people, who were in an especial manner filled with the Spirit. Now, however, he employs instead the satraps and governors of Persia, little as they were willing or fit for such work. Together with and among kings, such as Cyrus and Ahasuerus, they must also further God’s purposes. There was a time when the Lord had caused fear and terror to fall upon the peoples before Israel, especially those who stood opposed in war, so that they fled from before them (comp. Deuteronomy 2:25). Now, however, the princes and governors, who had great fear, were obliged to protect the rights of the subjects of the king, and thus they protected Israel. This corresponded entirely to His greatness. Therein is shown His claim as the God of all men. This is itself further evinced by the fact that, if His people will only become more spiritual, as is His wish, and partake of His nature, He will by no means leave them fatherless. But the more spiritual His kingdom, i.e., His people, will become, the more will He assist them to arrive at truth, justice, and security through the world while in it.
On Esther 9:5-11. Esther 9:1. We now know a different and better mode of conquering enemies than by the sword and through bloodshed. We know that love only will gain the victory over hate. The people of God is strongest where it is given over to sacrifice and suffering. But we know further that this spiritual mode of combat and victory has become possible only since the time when we received spiritual strength and weapons. In the Old Testament time one could only speak of an external victory over opponents, but not of an internal one. Hence we find it explicable why Israel was compelled to fight such sanguinary battles and merciless wars of destruction. What is most striking in our history is the fact that the Jews, although living in circumstances in which they did not need to wield the sword, nevertheless seized the sword. Though they were no more a people in a political sense, and hence could not procure help for themselves, still they acted as a separate political community. The cause that made them wield the sword of destruction with much the greater pleasure and satisfaction was the fact that Esther stood at their head, and instead of bespeaking a shortening of the work of blood, she promoted it. It is observable also that after the destruction of so many enemies, instead of expressing pain that it needed so severe a conflict, she manifested only joy over their success. But we may nevertheless ask whether condemnation of the then Jews, whom one judges so severely often, as well as criticism of the author, who must have thought and felt as they did, does not proceed from a too rigid doctrinal stand-point, which is inclined to measure every thing by an arbitrary standard, without sufficient regard for circumstances. We would doubtless excuse the then expressions of vindictiveness, were it not for the principle that seems to be involved. For in a real war, in which the patriotic feeling has supreme control, and the weakening of an enemy is a duty of self-preservation, we find such feelings as are exhibited in Judaism and Esther very natural, to say the least. We also perceive the same sentiments often displayed by Israel in its earlier conflicts, without taking so serious an account of them. But the main objection really fails. For the carnage was not of their free will, but a matter of stern necessity. It resulted from the peculiar situation of the case; in fact it was so ordered by the government that the Jews should seize the sword. They were not only entitled, but actually necessitated in this case to return to their political independence. Hence the older interpreters very properly lay great stress upon the fact that the Jews did not venture this of themselves, but at the instance of higher authority. Starke also says: “It is one thing to take revenge of one’s self, another to do so on the order of authority; not the latter, but the former, is forbidden. The simple command of a government will justify such an act only in so far as it is a guaranty against pure thirst for revenge. Every thing here depends upon the disposition of mind. But we would certainly misjudge the temper of the then Jews were we to assume that because the people were but a religious community, we are at liberty to apply a Christian standard to them. It would be unjust to deny them the privilege, which they as an independent people formerly enjoyed, of rejoicing in a victory over their enemies; and it would be little to the purpose, if instead of aiming at their conversion, we acquiesced in their destruction. Instead of justifying the complaint that, we do not pay sufficient regard to those Old Testament national conditions, we must also remember that Old Testament saints could not well avoid often taking a stand-point opposed to their enemies, just as we are still allowed to assume a position at variance with those in enmity against God. Besides, we are not to forget that, for those who will not join themselves to the kingdom or people of God, whatever its form or degree of development, this very hostility is a ground of condemnation. All things that cannot be employed for a good end will finally issue in destruction and extinction. This is still true, and will be true until the end of time. In the same manner even the angels in heaven could not have acted differently from Esther with regard to those enemies in the city of Shushan. We would be more just to Esther, to the Jews spoken of in our book, and to the book itself, if, in what was done in Shushan as well as in all Persia, we would see an anticipation of the judgments connected and parallel with the progress of the kingdom of God on earth, and especially of the final judgment. If the animus of the O. T. with respect to the destruction of enemies seems to us terribly vindictive, rather than mild, yet this may not only be excusable, but may even be a prophetic intimation The fact, so prominently and emphatically expressed, in the present instance, that the Jews did not stretch out their hands after the goods (spoil) of their enemies, proves to us that they meant to conduct this contest as a measure of self-protection, or better as a holy war, the sole purpose of which was the removal of their enemies.
Brenz: “This example, however, is set before us not that we should take it upon ourselves to avenge injuries, according to our own judgment, but that we may recognize the severity of the divine wrath against the impious persecutor of the people of God, and that in persecution we might most confidently expect deliverance through faith, and be obedient to the calls of God.”
2. That the sons of Haman should also suffer was agreeable to Persian law, according to which, in many cases, the whole circle of relationship of a criminal must suffer death with him (comp. Amm. Marcell. xxiii. 6). Nor was this mode of proceeding contrary to the Mosaic code. The law that the children should not die for their fathers (more correctly: at the same time), Deuteronomy 24:16, was only applicable to those cases in which the children had no part in the crime of their parents (comp. 2 Kings 14:6; 2 Chronicles 25:4). Doubtless the sons of Haman belonged to those who were inimical to the Jews and attacked them; indeed they may have been their bitterest enemies. It is fair to suppose them in the same state of mind with their father, so that Isaiah 14:21 came true in their case. Esther requested that, after they were executed, they should also be hung. That the Jews really executed this climax of punishment, may indicate the especially severe judgment that will overtake those who are the principal agents of Antichrist on earth; and this illustrates the truth that opposition against whatever is antagonistic to goodness and piety, must rise till it reaches its overwhelming acme. This is a principle valid even for Christians, that they must be in a hostile attitude to evil to the last degree.
Brenz: “This is written in admonition of parents, in order that they may be incited to cultivate piety, lest along with themselves they may also drag their children down into destruction. Such severity of God is stated in the Decalogue: ‘Visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generation of those that hate me’ (comp. John 18:17 sq.).”
On Esther 9:11-32. Esther 9:1. In the first pages of our book Ahasuerus, together with the representatives of his empire, indeed heathendom itself, celebrated a great feast. Here, at the end, however, it is for the Jewish people to celebrate a feast. The way of the world begins with pleasure and mirth, but does not end so. The way of God’s people leads through sorrow, but at its end is the great feast which is described by Zech. in chap. 14., as a feast of tabernacles; since it will be celebrated in the tabernacles of undisturbed peace. This, according to Isaiah 25:6 sqq., may also be the celebrating feast of salvation and consolation, in which God will wipe away all tears from all eyes. We here have to do with the celebration of a feast in time. This obviously differs greatly from the heathen festival. When in later centuries Purim was celebrated with heathenish abandon and luxury, when it seemed to the Jews that they regarded it as a duty to so intoxicate themselves so that they could not distinguish between the names of Mordecai and Haman, this became a striking proof to how low a level, even to heathenism, Judaism had sunk.
The festivals that the people of the Lord as such celebrate, have quite a different purpose from those of heathendom. Ahasuerus aimed to show the riches of his glorious kingdom. God’s people desire first of all to praise God’s grace. They would give thanks for the gifts bestowed upon them. They would secure and keep what they already have by rendering thanks and praise to God as its author. Their’s are feasts of gratitude. Hence these also have a different character from the others. The pious cannot manifest their spirit of gratitude to God for all His benefits without also proving this by benefaction to their brethren in the faith. The love of God has kindled love to their fellows in their hearts; this would prove itself in deeds of kindness and benevolence. They would confess their allegiance to God as to one mild and kindly; they would else deny Him were they not to give sway, on their part, to mildness and kindliness. Their festivals, therefore, are seasons of refreshing, but especially so to the poorer brethren among them (comp. Esther 9:19; Esther 9:22). At the same time there is joined to their spirit of rejoicing one of great seriousness. They cannot enjoy their deliverance without also looking back upon the sorrow that preceded it. They can only appreciate the former by taking a full view of the latter. They do not forget that though salvation is theirs, still there are even yet abundant causes for sorrow and grief. The chief cause of this is the remains of sin in them. As the Mazzoth (unleavened) days are followed by the serious Paschal sacrifice, and as the joy of the feast of tabernacles is preceded by the repentance of the fast of the day of atonement, so also here the joyous feast of Purim is connected with a preparation of fasting and mourning (comp. Esther 9:31). In eternity also will this transition hold true.
Starke: “It is the privilege of God’s children to rejoice in the Lord (Deuteronomy 12:15; Philippians 4:4). When God presents us with days of joy and blessing, we should also remember the poor, (Sir 14:4; Psalms 22:27 sqq.).”
2. In Deuteronomy 13:1, it is commanded neither to add to nor to take from the law. If then the Jewish people nevertheless added another feast to those already existing then, doubtless they took into account the principle that what one is encouraged to do in view of a certain law is not so much an addition as an outflow of the same. At any rate the Jewish church already began in this manner to assume a freer position with respect to the Law. And this, if the interior impulse be true, not so much to the letter as rather to the spirit, would be still loyal; nor could it very easily transform the “writing,” spoken of in Esther 9:21; Esther 9:27, into an objectionable system of statute law.
Starke: “We can well receive or retain good church ceremonies, if only they are not opposed to the Word of God, in view of our Christian freedom. Even the holidays ordered by the authorities of one’s country should be celebrated in a becoming manner (Zechariah 7:2-5).”
On Esther 10:0. That next to the great power of Ahasuerus, having such extensive dominions, all subject to taxation, the greatness of the Jew Mordecai should have been handed down to the memory of all times in the books of record of remarkable events of the Medes and Persians, was a great honor to the Jews. To this day they rejoice over his elevation. But they may well look to it to see whether they may now claim him as their own. That which God especially honored and protected in Mordecai and the then Judaism, was their fidelity to Him and His law. And only where these are found will we find a church that may receive the book of Esther as a prophecy of its victory and continuance in spite of all oppressions on the part of the world.
Brenz: “The Jews, because they rejected Christ, the true seed of Abraham, are now no longer the people of God, no more His Church, but belong to Ishmael and Esau, who always have persecuted the true seed of Abraham. And since they persecute the true Israel, i.e., Christians with the same enmity with which Haman once persecuted them, it is clear that they are themselves the kindred and allies of Haman the Amalekite.”
Only where we suffer like Mordecai may one take comfort, as is so convincingly expressed in our book in the thought that the crown is at the end of the cross.
Feuardent: “Mordecai, in order to vindicate the glory of God and his countrymen from the Hamanites, endured the hatred of many. He afflicted himself with fastings, prayers, sackcloth, cryings and lamentations; he constantly spurned that impious man; and was at last adjudged to suffer on the ignominious cross. Now, however, by the singular favor of God he is crowned beyond all men (Ahasuerus alone excepted) with glory and honor even in this world.”
[“The Jews apparently did not remain wholly on the defensive. Their enemies were no doubt well known to them, and were prepared for the struggle which it was seen must come. Sometimes the one side, sometimes the other, would commence the attack.” Rawlinson.—Tr.]
[“This is very important. It has been stated that according to the narrative of Esther the Jews were allowed to kill ‘75,000 Persians;’ and this (supposed) feature of the narrative has been pronounced ‘incredible.’ The present verse shows that the real Persians, who formed the standing army which kept the empire in subjection, and were at the disposal of the various governors of the province, took the Jews’ side. Their enemies were almost entirely to be found among the idolatrous people of the subject nations, for whose lives neither the Persians generally, nor their monarchs, cared greatly.” Rawlinson.—Tr.]
[“By ‘Shushan the palace’ or ‘the fort,’ we are probably to understand the whole of the upper town, which occupied an area of above a hundred acres, and contained, no doubt, many residences besides the actual palace. It is not likely that the Jews would have ventured to shed blood within the palace precincts.” Rawlinson.—Tr.]
[“Excepting Adalia, all these names are readily traceable to Old Persian roots. Parshandatha is ‘given to Persia,’ or ‘to the Persians;’ Dalphon, which in Persian must have been Darphon or Darpon, is probably the Persian representative of the Sansc. darpin, ‘arrogant;’ Aspatha is from aspa, ‘horse,’ and would probably mean ‘horseman;’ Poratha is apparently from paru, ‘much, great,’ and ratha, ‘a chariot,’ and would mean ‘having many chariots;’ Aridatha is from the roots ari ‘very,’ and da, ‘to give,’ and would mean ‘liberal’ (comp. Phradates). Parmashta is a little doubtful, but may be from fra, an intensive particle, and mathista, ‘greatest’ (comp. Lat. prœmagnus). Arisai has the intensive ari prefixed to a root saya, which is perhaps ‘to conquer’ or ‘to go;’ and Aridai has the same intensive prefixed to the root da, ‘to give.’ Finally, Vajezatha comprises two elements, vaya, ‘the wind.’ and zatha, (comp. Zend. zyat), ‘powerful;’ and would mean ‘strong as the wind’ (comp. Chitratachma, ‘strong as the leopard;’ Tritantæchmes, ‘strong as Tritan, i.e., Feridem).” Rawlinson.—Tr.]
[Shushan here is “probably the lower town, which lay east of the upper one and was of about the same size.” Rawlinson.—Tr.]
[“As book elsewhere in Esther (סֵפֶר, in the sing.) always means a particular book—“the book of the chronicles of the kings of Media and Persia (Esther 2:23; Esther 6:1; q. 2), it seems best to give it the same sense here.” Rawlinson.—Tr.]
[“Some fresh arrangement of the tribute is likely to have followed on the return of Xerxes from Greece. His exchequer would be exhausted, and steps would have to be taken to replenish it. The expression in the original does not necessarily imply the first imposition of a tribute.” Rawlinson.—Tr.]
[Upon the expression isles of the sea, in this connection, Rawlinson remarks: “Cyprus, Aradus, the island of Tyre, Platea, etc., remained in the hands of the Persians after the victories of the Greeks, and may be the ‘isles’ here intended. Or Xerxes may have ignored the loss of the Ægean Islands, and have ‘laid’ his tribute upon them, though he might not be able to exact it.”—Tr.]
[“In the latter years of Xerxes his ‘power and might’ were chiefly shown in the erection of magnificent buildings, more especially at Persepolis. He abstained from military expeditions.” “Media takes precedence of Persia (contrary to Esther 1:3; Esther 1:14; Esther 1:18. etc. because the kingdom of Media had preceded that of Persia, and in the ‘Book of the Chronicles’ its history came first.” Rawlinson.—Tr.]
[“It has been objected that Artabanus, the captain of the guard, and not Mordecai, was Xerxes’ chief favorite in his twelfth and thirteenth years. But this view rests upon the false chronology of Ctesias, who gives Xerxes 13 years only, instead of the 21 of Ptolemy, Manetho, and the generality of the Greek writers. Artabanus was favorite towards the close of Xerxes’ reign, i.e., in his 20th and 21st years.” Rawlinson.—Tr.]
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Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Esther 9". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 21 / Ordinary 26