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Bible Commentaries
Esther 3

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - UnabridgedCommentary Critical Unabridged

Verse 1

After these things did king Ahasuerus promote Haman the son of Hammedatha the Agagite, and advanced him, and set his seat above all the princes that were with him.

After these things did king Ahasuerus promote Haman ... and set his seat above all the princes - i:e., raised him to the rank of vizier, or prime confidential minister, whose pro-eminence in office and power appeared in the elevated state-chair appropriated to that supreme functionary. Such a distinction in seats was counted of vast importance in the formal court of Persia.

Verse 2

And all the king's servants, that were in the king's gate, bowed, and reverenced Haman: for the king had so commanded concerning him. But Mordecai bowed not, nor did him reverence.

All the king's servants, that were in the king's gate, bowed, and reverenced Haman. Large mansions in the East are entered by a spacious vestibule or gateway, along the sides of which visitors sit, and are received by the master of the house; because none, except the nearest relatives or special friends, are admitted further. There the officers of the ancient king of Persia waited until they were called, and did obeisance to the all-powerful minister of the day.

But Mordecai bowed not, nor did him reverence. [The Septuagint has: ou prosekunei autoo, did not prostrate before him (cf. Josephus, 'Antiquites,' b. 11:, ch. 6:, sec. 5)]. The obsequious homage of prostration, not entirely foreign to the manners of the East, had not been claimed by former viziers; but this minion required that all subordinate officers of the court should bow before him with their faces to the earth. But to Mordecai it seemed that such an attitude of profound reverence was due only to God. Haman's being an Amalekite, one of a doomed and accursed race, was, doubtless, another element in the refusal; and on learning that the recusant was a Jew, whose non-conformity was grounded on religious scruples, the magnitude of the affront appeared so much the greater, as the example of Mordecai would be imitated by all his compatriots. Had the homage been a simple token of civil respect, Mordecai would not have refused it; but the Persian kings demanded a sort of adoration, which, it is well known, even the Greeks reckoned it degradation to express; and as Xerxes, in the height of his favouritism, had commanded the same honours to be given to the minister as to himself, this was the ground of Mordecai's refusal.

Verses 3-6

Then the king's servants, which were in the king's gate, said unto Mordecai, Why transgressest thou the king's commandment?

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 7

In the first month, that is, the month Nisan, in the twelfth year of king Ahasuerus, they cast Pur, that is, the lot, before Haman from day to day, and from month to month, to the twelfth month, that is, the month Adar.

In the first month ... they cast Pur - that is, the lot [ puwr (H6332) (Persian), explained in the Hebrew text by hagowraal (H1486), a calculus or pebble, here, the lot]. In resorting to this method of ascertaining the most auspicious day for putting his atrocious scheme into execution, Haman acted as the kings and nobles of Persia have always done, never engaging in any enterprise without consulting the astrologers, and being satisfied as to the lucky hour. Vowing revenge, but scorning to lay hands on a single victim, he meditated the extirpation of the whole Jewish race, who, he knew, were sworn enemies of his countrymen; and by artfully representing them as a people who were aliens in manners and habits, and enemies to the rest of his subjects, procured the king's sanction of the intended massacre. One motive which be used in urging his point was addressed to the king's cupidity. Fearing lest his master might object that the extermination of a numerous body of his subjects would seriously depress the public revenue, Haman premised to make up the loss.

Verse 8

And Haman said unto king Ahasuerus, There is a certain people scattered abroad and dispersed among the people in all the provinces of thy kingdom; and their laws are diverse from all people; neither keep they the king's laws: therefore it is not for the king's profit to suffer them.

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 9

If it please the king, let it be written that they may be destroyed: and I will pay ten thousand talents of silver to the hands of those that have the charge of the business, to bring it into the king's treasuries.

I will pay ten thousand talents of silver ... into the king's treasuries. This sum, reckoning by the Babylonian talent, will be about 2,119,000 British pounds sterling; but estimated according to the Jewish talent, it will considerably exceed 3,000,000 British pounds sterling-an immense contribution to be made out of a private fortune. But classic history makes mention of several persons whose resources seem almost incredible; especially of a Lydian who, in the days of Xerxes, possessed upwards of 4,000,000 British pounds sterling, besides ample estates and slaves. In modern times, similarly large fortunes have been possessed by individuals in the East. The prime minister of a late emperor of China was said to have accumulated more than 25,000,000 British pounds sterling in money, jewels, furniture, and other valuables. Besides, it is probable that Haman expected to meet his large obligations to the king out of the property of the slaughtered Jews.

I will pay ... to the hands of those that have the charge of the business - i:e. the revenue-officers.

Verse 10

And the king took his ring from his hand, and gave it unto Haman the son of Hammedatha the Agagite, the Jews' enemy.

The king took his ring from his hand, and gave it unto Haman. There was a seal or signet in the ring. Notwithstanding Pliny's denial ('Hist. Nat.' b. 33:6), the fact is undoubted, that in the East the ring was frequently at the same time a seal (cf. Jeremiah 22:24). The bestowment of the ring, with the king's name and that of his kingdom engraven on it, was given with much ceremony, and it was equivalent to putting the sign manual to a royal edict.

Verse 11

And the king said unto Haman, The silver is given to thee, the people also, to do with them as it And the king said unto Haman, The silver is given to thee, the people also, to do with them as it seemeth good to thee.

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verses 12-15

Then were the king's scribes called on the thirteenth day of the first month, and there was written according to all that Haman had commanded unto the king's lieutenants, and to the governors that were over every province, and to the rulers of every people of every province according to the writing thereof, and to every people after their language; in the name of king Ahasuerus was it written, and sealed with the king's ring.

Then were the king's scribes called ... and there was written. The government secretaries were employed in making out the proclamation authorizing a universal massacre of the Jews on one day. It was translated into the dialects of all the people throughout the vast empire, and swift messengers sent to carry it into all the provinces, and, on the day appointed, all Jews were to be put to death, and their property confiscated-doubtless the means by which Haman hoped to pay his stipulated tribute into the exchequer.

Haman had commanded, unto the king's lieutenants, [ 'ªchashdarpneey (H323) hamelek (H4428), satraps] - 'the governors or viceroys of the large provinces among the ancient Persians, possessing both civil and military power, and being in the provinces the representative of the sovereign, whose state and splendour they also rivaled. Single parts or subdivisions of these provinces were under procurators or prefects [called pachowt (H6346)]; the satraps governed only whole provinces' (Gesenius). The edict is given at full length in the apocryphal additions to this book. To us it appears unaccountable how any sane monarch could have given his consent to the extirpation of a numerous class of his subjects. But such acts of frenzied barbarity have, alas, been not rarely authorized by careless and voluptuous despots, who have allowed their ears to be engrossed and their policy directed by haughty and selfish minions, who had their own passions to gratify, their own ends to serve.

Verse 15. The king and Haman sat down to drink; but the city Shushan was perplexed. The completeness of the word-painting in this verse is exquisite. The historian by a simple stroke, has drawn a graphic picture of an Oriental despot wallowing with his favourite in sensual enjoyments, while his tyrannical cruelties were rending the hearts and homes of thousands of his subjects.

Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Esther 3". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jfu/esther-3.html. 1871-8.
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