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Bible Commentaries

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable

Esther 9

Verses 4-19

III. ESTHER’S INTERVENTION 4:4-9:19

Haman’s plan to exterminate the Jews created a crisis, and now Esther’s intervention with Ahasuerus provided the solution.

Verses 1-19

C. The Jews’ Deliverance 8:1-9:19

Even though Haman was now dead, the Jews were not yet safe. This section of the text records what Esther and Mordecai did to ensure the preservation of the Jews who then lived throughout the vast Persian Empire. The death of Haman is not the major climax of the book.

Verses 1-19

5. The Jews’ self-defense 9:1-19

The king gave the Jews permission to defend themselves by killing their enemies. Evidently this meant that they not only met attack with resistance, but in some cases they initiated attack against those who they knew would destroy them. [Note: See Baldwin, pp. 100-2.] These would have been people such as Haman’s sons, who would have sought retaliation for their father’s death in typical ancient Near Eastern fashion. Anti-Semitism has a very ancient history. Apparently it was widespread at this time, but the Jews did not plunder their enemies (Esther 9:15-16).

"The deliberate decision not to enrich themselves at the expense of their enemies would not go unnoticed in a culture where victors were expected to take the spoil. The very novelty of such self-denial would be remarked upon and remembered, and taken as proof of the upright motives of the Jewish communities." [Note: Ibid., p. 105.]

The absence of explicit reference in the text to God helping His people does not deny His help. Instead, it reflects the attitude of the Jews who chose to ignore God’s commands, through Isaiah and Jeremiah, to return to the land (Isaiah 48:20; Jeremiah 29:10; Jeremiah 50:8; Jeremiah 51:6; cf. Deuteronomy 28). They had pushed God aside in their lives, as Mordecai and Esther apparently had done to some extent. Nevertheless, God remained faithful to His promises, in spite of His people’s unfaithfulness (cf. 2 Timothy 2:13).

Evidently Esther had learned of a plot in Susa to attack the Jews on Adar 14 (March 8; Esther 9:13). The purpose of hanging the bodies of Haman’s 10 executed sons on the gallows was to disgrace them and to discourage other enemies of the Jews from attacking them (cf. Deuteronomy 21:22-23; Numbers 16:27; Numbers 16:32-33; Numbers 25:4; Joshua 7:24-25; 1 Samuel 31:8-12; 2 Samuel 21:6). Almost twice as many people died in the royal precincts of Susa as in the rest of the city. The word "capital" in Esther 9:6 really refers to the acropolis, the royal section of the capital city of Susa.

Enemies killed by the Jews
NumberPlaceDateReferences
500 menin the acropolis of SusaAdar 13 (March 7)Esther 9:6; Esther 9:12
75,000 peoplein other parts of the empireAdar 13 (March 7)Esther 9:16
300 menin SusaAdar 14 (March 8)Esther 9:15

Verses 20-32

IV. THE JEWS’ REJOICING 9:20-32

The tables having been turned, the tables could now be spread. [Note: Wiersbe, p. 746.]

Evidently Mordecai issued the decree establishing the Feast of Purim some time after the slaying of the Jews’ enemies (Esther 9:20). His proclamation united the two days on which the Jews had defended themselves (Adar 13 and 14) into one holiday. During the inter-testamental period the Jews called Adar 14 "Mordecai Day" (2 Maccabees 15:36, RSV), but they discarded this special designation later. Modern Jews celebrate Purim on the evening of Adar 14 (in March). It is their most festive and popular holiday. Esther is the only Old Testament book not found among the texts used by the Essene community at Qumran, probably because this community did not observe Purim. [Note: Bush, p. 273.]

"Purim" is the plural form of the Persian word pur, meaning the "lot" (cf. Esther 3:7). The name "Purim" became a symbolic reminder to the Jews of how God used circumstances, specifically casting the lot (cf. Esther 3:7), to deliver them in 473 B.C.

Probably Esther sent her decree (Esther 9:29), confirming Mordecai’s previous declaration of the official Jewish holiday (Esther 9:20-21), to encourage its firm establishment. Her letter evidently began, "Words of peace and truth" (Esther 9:30). [Note: Gordis, pp. 57-58.] There was probably considerable resistance within the conservative Jewish community to adding another national festival to those prescribed in the Torah.

"The book" (Esther 9:32) must be the one in which Mordecai recorded all these events (Esther 9:20), that most scholars have concluded may have been a source the writer of Esther used. This document was probably not the Book of Esther itself, assuming the writer of Esther was someone other than Mordecai. [Note: E.g., Whitcomb, p. 124.]

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Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Esther 9". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcc/esther-9.html. 2012.