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INSTITUTION AND OBSERVANCE OF THE FEAST OF PURIM; CELEBRATING THE GREAT VICTORY OF ISRAEL ON THE THIRTEENTH OF ADAR;
THAT FATEFUL DAY ITSELF - THE THIRTEENTH OF ADAR
"Now in the twelfth month, which is the month Adar, on the thirteenth day of the same, when the king's commandment and his decree drew near to be put in execution, on the day that the enemies of the Jews hoped to have rule over them (whereas it was turned to the contrary, that the Jews had rule over them that hated them), the Jews gathered themselves together in their cities throughout all the provinces of the king Ahasuerus, to lay hands on such as sought their hurt: and no man could withstand them; for the fear of them was fallen upon all the peoples. And all the princes of the provinces, and the satraps, and the governors, and they that did the king's business, helped the Jews, because the fear of Mordecai was fallen upon them. For Mordecai was great in the king's house, and his fame went forth throughout all the provinces; for the man Mordecai waxed greater and greater. And the Jews smote all their enemies with the stroke of the sword, and with slaughter and destruction, and did what they would to them that hated them. And in Shushan the palace the Jews slew and destroyed five hundred men. And Parshandatha, and Dalphon, and Aspatha, and Poratha, and Adalia, and Andatha, and Parmashta, and Arisai, and Andai, and Vaizatha, the ten sons of Haman the son of Hammedatha, the Jews' enemy, slew they; but on the spoil they laid not their hand."
"The Jews gathered themselves together in their cities" (Esther 9:2). "This does not mean exclusively Jewish cities, but cities where the Jews constituted an element in the population." At this point in history, there were no exclusively Jewish cities outside of Judea.
"On such as sought their hurt" (Esther 9:2). "Retaliation was limited to those who actively sought to kill the Jews."
"All the princes ... helped the Jews" (Esther 9:3). Rawlinson believed that this did not include military help, but only moral support; but Dummelow wrote that, "The great massacre (Esther 9:16) was, in part, the work of Persian authorities and their military forces." The latter viewpoint seems more reasonable to this writer. F. C. Cook also agreed with this.
"The fear of Mordecai had fallen upon them" (Esther 9:3). "It was clear to all the Persian authorities that both the king and Mordecai favored the Jews, and those who attacked the Jews would surely have brought wrath upon themselves."
"And the Jews smote all their enemies" (Esther 9:5). "There were many Persian citizens who took full advantage of the first decree and attacked their hated Jewish neighbors; but, deprived of government support, and faced by a newly encouraged people, they were totally defeated."
"Parshandatha ... the ten sons of Haman" (Esther 9:7-10). "These names are Persian and traceable to old Persian roots." This fact alone makes it impossible to accept the unsupported allegation of critics that, "The Book of Esther is fiction." Such critics attempt to identify Esther as a fiction written in the times of the Maccabees; but who, on earth, three hundred years after the events related would have remembered, or could have invented, ten authentic Persian names for the sons of Haman?
"But on the spoil they laid not their hand" (Esther 9:10). This statement occurs no less than three times in this chapter, appearing also in Esther 9:15 and Esther 9:16. "The Jews had a right to take the spoil, but they waived it, because they were fighting for survival, not for material gain. They were not the aggressors in this conflict, but they were defending themselves from their enemies who sought to slay them."
SUMMARY OF CASUALTIES IN SHUSHAN AND THE PROVINCES
"On that day the number of those slain in Shushan the palace was brought before the king. And the king said unto Esther the queen, The Jews have slain and destroyed five hundred men in Shushan the palace, and the ten sons of Haman; what then have they done in the rest of the king's provinces! Now what is thy petition? and it shall be granted thee: or what is thy request further? and it shall be done. Then said Esther, If it please the king, let it be granted to the Jews that are in Shushan to do tomorrow also according to this day's decree, and let Haman's ten sons be hanged upon the gallows. And the king commanded it so to be done: and a decree was given out in Shushan; and they hanged Haman's ten sons. And the Jews that were in Shushan gathered themselves together on the fourteenth day also of the month Adar, and slew three hundred men in Shushan; but on the spoil they laid not their hand. And the other Jews that were in the kings provinces gathered themselves together, and stood for their lives, and had rest from their enemies, and slew of them that hated them seventy and five thousand; but on the spoil they laid not their hand."
"Let Haman's ten sons be hanged upon the gallows" (Esther 9:13). These had been slain on the previous day; "This is a request that their dead bodies be exposed, such exposure being a mark of infamy."
"And a decree was given out in Shushan" (Esther 9:14). This decree did not regard the exposure of the bodies of Haman's sons. "It granted permission to the Jews to fight against their enemies on the morrow also."
This continuation of the conflict for an extra day in Shushan resulted in two different days being celebrated by the Jews. "In the capital, they celebrated the 15th of Adar, and in the provinces they celebrated the 14th." It is not known exactly why there were two days of fighting in Shushan. Evidently, a strong band of Jewish enemies had not been defeated that first day; and therefore the king granted an extra day in which three hundred more Jewish enemies were destroyed.
EXPLANATION OF THE TWO DIFFERENT CELEBRATIONS
"This was done on the thirteenth day of the month Adar; and on the fourteenth day of the same they rested, and made it a day of feasting and gladness. But the Jews that were in Shushan assembled themselves together on the thirteenth day thereof, and on the fourteenth thereof; and on the fifteenth day of the same they rested, and made it a day of feasting and gladness. Therefore do the Jews of the villages and the unwalled towns, make the fourteenth day of the month Adar a day of gladness and feasting, and a good day, and of sending portions to one another."
MORDECAI RECOMMENDED THE ANNUAL CELEBRATION OF THE FOURTEENTH AND FIFTEENTH DAYS OF ADAR
"And Mordecai wrote these things, and sent letters unto all the Jews that were in all the provinces of the king Ahasuerus, both nigh and far, to enjoin them that they should keep the fourteenth day of the month Adar, and the fifteenth day of the same, yearly, as the days wherein the Jews had rest from their enemies, and the month which was turned unto them from sorrow to gladness, and from mourning into a good day; that they should make them days of feasting and gladness, and of sending portions one to another, and girls to the poor. And the Jews undertook to do as they had begun, and as Mordecai had written unto them; because Haman the son of Hammedatha, the Agagite, the enemy of all the Jews, had plotted against the Jews to destroy them, and had cast Pur, that is, the lot, to consume them, and to destroy them; But when the matter came before the king, he commanded by letters that his wicked device, which he had devised against the Jews, should return upon his own head, and that he and his sons should be hanged on the gallows."
This letter marked the beginning of the Jewish feast of Purim. "Here he wrote to the provincial Jews suggesting that they observe two days, namely, the 14th and 15th days of Adar, annually, with an explanation of why he thought that should be done, but without issuing any order to that effect." Later, when Mordecai's suggestion was favorably received, he issued an order enjoining its observance.
"The month which was turned unto them from sorrow to joy" (Esther 9:23). This is the theme of Purim. "Sorrow turned into joy, mourning into dancing, utter destruction into glorious triumph - this is the dominant idea of Purim, to which all else was secondary and subordinate."
THE ORIGIN OF THE NAME FOR THE FEAST OF PURIM
"Wherefore they called these days Purim, after the name of Pur. Therefore because of all the words of this letter, and of that which they had seen concerning this matter, and that which had come unto them, the Jews ordained, and took upon them, and upon their seed, and upon all such as joined themselves unto them, so that it should not fail, that they would keep these two days according to the writing thereof, and according to the appointed time thereof, every year; and that these days should be remembered and kept throughout every generation, every family, every province, and every city; and that these days of Purim should not fail from among the Jews, nor the remembrance of them perish from their seed."
The feast of Purim is today observed by the Jews; and it has been continually observed throughout history, from the times of Xerxes (who was assassinated in the year 465 B.C.) until the present day, for almost twenty-five centuries; and, to this writer, it appears as an absolute impossiblity that such a sequence of observances could have been initiated, or kicked off, by some unknown writer's fictitious yarn. It takes twenty times as much faith to believe that allegation as it takes to believe the Bible.
"They called these days Purim, after the name of Pur" (Esther 9:26). The word Pur is the Persian word for "lot." which is a reference to Haman's casting lots to decide the day when the Jews would be destroyed. "The Jews took the Persian word Pur, and gave it a Hebrew plural Purim, either because the Persian method of casting involved several lots, or because Haman cast Pur several times (Esther 3:7)."
THE SECOND LETTER ESTABLISHED THE FEAST OF PURIM
"Then Esther the queen, the daughter of Abihail, and Mordecai the Jew, wrote with all authority to confirm this second letter of Purim. And he sent letters unto all the Jews, to the hundred and twenty and seven provinces of the kingdom of Ahasuerus, with words of peace and truth, to confirm these days of Purim in their apppointed times, according as Mordecai the Jew and Esther the queen had enjoined them, and as they had ordained for themselves and for their seed, in the matter of their fastings and their cry. And the commandment of Esther confirmed these matters of Purim; and it was written in the book."
"The queen ... and Mordecai ... wrote with all authority" (Esther 9:29). The teaching here is that the feast of Purim was established in Israel, not by religious authority, but by authority; and there is no way that such a thing could have been allowed in Israel, except as a consequence of such events as are related in Esther and at a time closely associated with those events.
"This second letter of Purim" (Esther 9:29). "This was a new letter, not the one mentioned in Esther 9:20; and this one included a period of fasting (Esther 9:31)." "That first letter was merely a recommendation; but its favorable reception prompted Esther and Mordecai to make the feast official." Evidently the incorporation of a day of fasting into the feast of Purim was due to suggestions from the provinces upon their reception of that first letter.
Quite appropriately, the day of fasting was called the Fast of Esther, stressing the anxiety and danger that existed when, after three days of fasting, she went unbidden into the presence of Ahasuerus. That fast is observed on Adar 13th, and the two days of feasting on the succeeding two days. "The Jews still keep this day as Esther's fast, prior to the Purim celebrations proper, marked by the reading of the roll of Esther in its original chant, accompanied by blessings and hymns."
"And it was written in the book" (Esther 9:32). Keil understood this as a reference to, "Some book which has not come down to us"; and despite our reluctance to disagree with Keil, we cannot accept this. Only one book is mentioned in Esther and that is the "Book of the Chronicles of the kings of the Medes and Persians" (Esther 2:23; 10:2). In fact, the implication throughout Esther is that practically all of it is documented in that book. Certainly, "The author of Esther drew on written sources."
Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Esther 9". "Coffman Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 25 / Ordinary 30