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Haman, king advanced by the king, and despised by Mordecai, meditates the destruction of all the Jews.
Before Christ 474.
Esther 3:1. Haman—the Agagite— This man was descended in a direct line from Agag, whom Samuel hewed in pieces in Gilgal. Calmet.
Esther 3:2. Mordecai bowed not, nor did him reverence— Josephus tells us, that Haman, taking notice of this singularity in Mordecai, asked him what countryman he was; and, finding him to be a Jew, broke out into a violent exclamation at his insolence; and in his rage formed the desperate resolution, not only to be revenged of Mordecai, but to destroy the whole race of the Jews; well remembering, that his ancestors the Amalekites had been formerly driven out of their country, and almost exterminated, by the Jews. That Mordecai should refuse to pay such obeisance as all others paid to Haman at this time, will appear the less strange, if we consider that, Haman being of that nation against which God pronounced a curse, Exodus 17:14. Mordecai might think himself on this account not obliged to pay him the reverence which he expected; and if the rest of the Jews had the like notion of him, this might be a reason sufficient for his extending his resentment against the whole nation. But there seems to be, in the reverence which the people were commanded to pay him, something more than what proceeds from mere civil respect: the king of Persia, we know, required a kind of divine adoration from all who approached his presence; and, as the kings of Persia arrogated this to themselves, so they sometimes imparted it to their chief friends and favourites, which seems to have been the case with Haman at this time; for we can hardly conceive why the king should give a particular command that all his servants should reverence him, if by this reverence no more was intended than that they should show him a respect suitable to his station: but if we suppose that the homage expected from them was such as came near to idolatry, we need not wonder that a righteous Jew should deny that honour, or the outward expressions of it, to any man; since the wise and sober Grecians positively refused to give it to their very kings themselves; the people of Athens once passing sentence of death upon a citizen of theirs for prostrating himself before Darius, though he was then one of the greater monarchs upon earth. The author of the apocryphal additions to the book of Esther seems to intimate that this was the case with Mordecai, whom he introduces praying thus, chap. 13:12, &c. "Thou knowest, O Lord, that it is not in contempt or pride, nor for any desire of glory, that I did not bow down to proud Haman; for I would willingly kiss his feet for the salvation of Israel; but I did this, that I might not prefer the glory of man to the glory of God, nor adore any one but thee my Lord alone." See Valer. Max. lib. 6: cap. 3 and Poole.
Esther 3:7. They cast Pur, that is, the lot— Haman, being determined to destroy Mordecai and the Jews, called together his diviners, to find out what day would be most lucky for his putting this design in execution. The way of divination then in use among the eastern people was, by casting lots; and therefore, having tried in this manner, first each month, and then each day in every month, they came to a determination at last, that the 13th day of the 12th month would be most fortunate for the bloody execution. It was in the first month of the year when Haman began to cast lots, and the time for the execution of the Jews was by these lots delayed till the last month in the year; which plainly shews, that, though the lot be cast into the lap, yet the whole disposing thereof is from the Lord; Pro 16:33 for hereby almost a whole year intervened between the design and its execution, which gave time for Mordecai to acquaint queen Esther with it, and for her to intercede with the king for the revoking or suspending of the decree, and thereby preventing the conspiracy. The reader will find this decree in Joseph. Antiq. lib. 11: cap. 6. Houbigant renders this verse, The lot, which is called Pur, was drawn before Haman from day to day, from month to month, for the twelfth month.
Esther 3:9. And I will pay ten thousand talents of silver— The sum which Haman here offers the king in lieu of the damage that his revenues might sustain by the destruction of so many of his subjects, is prodigious for any private man, and shows how outrageously he was bent against the Jews. We read, however, of several private persons in history, who in ancient times were possessors of much greater sums. Pithius the Lydian, for instance, when Xerxes passed into Greece, was possessed of two thousand talents of silver, and four millions of daricks in gold, which together amounted to near five millions and a half of our sterling money. Though this may seem strange to us at present, our wonder will cease, if we consider, that from the time of David and Solomon, and for one thousand five hundred years afterwards, the riches of this kind were in much greater plenty than they are now. The prodigious quantities of gold and silver that Alexander found in the treasuries of Darius; the vast loads of them which were often carried before the Roman generals when they returned from conquered provinces; and the excessive sums which certain of their emperors expended in donatives, feasts, shows, and other instances of luxury and prodigality, are sufficient instances of this. But at length the mines of the ancient Ophir, which furnished all this plenty, being exhausted, and by the burning of cities and devastation of countries upon the irruption of barbarous nations both of the west and east, a great part of the gold and silver wherewith the world then abounded, being wasted and destroyed, the great scarcity of both which afterwards ensued was thus occasioned; nor have the mines of Mexico and Peru been as yet able fully to repair it.
Esther 3:13. Letters were sent by posts— The first institution of posts is generally ascribed to the Persians; for the kings of Persia, as Diodorus Siculus observes, lib. 19: in order that they might have intelligence of what passed in all the provinces of their vast dominions, placed centinels on eminences, at convenient distances, where towers were built; and these centinels gave notice of public occurrences to each other, with a very loud and shrill voice; by which method news was transmitted from one extremity of the kingdom to the other with great expedition. But, as this could be practised only in the case of general news, which might be communicated to the whole nation, Cyrus, as Xenophon relates, Cyropaed. lib. 8: set up couriers, places for post-horses on all high roads, and officers where they might deliver their pacquets to each other. The like is said by Herodotus, lib. 8:; and he acquaints us further, that Xerxes, in his famous expedition against Greece, planted posts from the AEgean sea to Shushan, at certain distances as far as a horse could ride with speed; that thereby he might send notice to his capital city of whatever should happen in his army. The Greeks borrowed the use of posts from the Persians: and, in imitation of them, called them αγγαροι . Among the Romans, Augustus was the person that set up public posts, who at first were running footmen, but were afterwards changed for post-chariots and horses. For the greater expedition, Adrian improved upon this; and, having reduced the posts to great regularity, discharged the people from the obligation they were under before of furnishing horses and chariots. With the empire the use of posts declined. About the year 807, Charlemagne endeavoured to restore them, but his design was not prosecuted by his successors. In France, Lewis XI. set up posts at two leagues distance through the kingdom. In Germany, Count Taxis set them up, and had for his recompence, in 1616, a grant of the office of postmaster-general to himself and his heirs for ever. About eight hundred years ago couriers were set up in the Ottoman empire; and at this time there are some among the Chinese; but their appointment is only to carry orders from the king and the governors of provinces, and, in a word, for public affairs, and those of the greatest consequence.
Esther 3:15. But the city Shushan was perplexed— Not only the Jews, but a great many others in Shushan, might be concerned at this horrid decree, either because they were engaged with them in worldly concerns, or perhaps out of mere humanity and compassion to such a number of innocent people, now appointed as sheep to the slaughter. They might apprehend likewise, that, upon the execution of the decree, some sedition or tumult might ensue; that in so great a slaughter it was hard to tell who would escape being killed or plundered, became those who were employed in this bloody work would be more mindful to enrich themselves than to observe their orders. See Patrick and Le Clerc.
REFLECTIONS.—The people of God must not long expect the sunshine of prosperity. Though they had a queen on the throne, and a friend at court, a storm arises which threatens to swallow them up with universal destruction.
1. Haman the Agagite, an hereditary enemy of the Jews, is advanced to the first post of honour, becomes the king's favourite, and receives, at his command, such adoration and reverence as approached idolatry.
2. The rising sun is universally worshipped by the fawning courtiers; and, as preferment could be hoped for only through the favourite's interest, all men bowed down before him. Mordecai alone could not conform to the extravagant honours paid him; not envious of his advancement, nor proudly disrespectful, but conscientiously withheld from such impious adoration. In vain his fellow-servants advise compliance, or remonstrate on the danger of refusal: he chooses rather to lose his office, or life itself, than wound his conscience. Note; No consideration must sway or influence us to comply with what is evil. Better incur the wrath of princes, than offend the King of kings; better hazard life, than lose body and soul in hell.
3. Haman was soon informed of this obstinate disrespect, and that this Jew pleaded religion as the reason for refusing this adoration to a mortal man. His pride fired at the intelligence, and he resolved to wreak his vengeance, not only on him, but on all his nation. Note; (1.) The resentment of favourites has been often fatal to the worthiest subjects; but, in the end, they are generally made to drink of the cup which they had mixed for others. (2.) Insolent pride begets unrelenting cruelty.
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Esther 3". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://studylight.org/
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