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Now in the twelfth month, that is, the month Adar.
Hope and foreboding
I. Hope blighted. In the day that the enemies of the Jews hoped to have power over them. The human reasonableness of this hope may be shown--
1. From their own numbers.
2. From the insignificance of the Jews.
3. From the known unchangeableness of Persian law.
II. Foreboding reproved. How often we look forward to a month Adar, and see it shrouded with ominous darkness. But the month Adar may, after all, be the month of rejoicing.
III. True hope rewarded. (W. Burrows, B. A.)
The method of providence
1. Although, then, as has been already said, the grand design of this whole Book of Esther is an illustration of a retributive providence in working out the deliverance of the chosen people, still it is better for us to note the proofs of such a providence, as they occur, in detail.
2. We see here, as well, indeed, as also in other portions of sacred history, and as the lessons of all history and of every-day life also demonstrate, that God, in the exercise of His sovereignty, uses men of very different characters as instruments for fulfilling His supreme purpose. Both Esther and Ahasuerus, both Mordecai and Haman, were Divine agents for bringing about the Hebrew deliverance.
3. These pictures show us that we are to construct men’s reputation for character out of their whole life and principles, and not from any one moment, nor from any word or act.
4. We are here taught to feel the deepest interest in the welfare of our fellow-men, especially of those who may be associated with us, or be bound to us by social ties, or by blood and nationality.
5. I am perfectly sure that in the lives of the men and women as illustrated in the sacred writings we are taught the mind of God Himself, as to the precepts and principles which are agreeable to Him; and that it is in the teachings of the Word of God, and in it alone, that we can find the true principles of all proper reforms. It is in the Bible, and in the Bible alone, we have the principles of happiness--the only true principles of reformation.
6. We see here how great a blessing we enjoy in having mild, equitable, salutary laws, and in having a written constitution, that provides for its amendment, and points out the way for the repeal or alteration of any laws that may be made in haste, or in ignorance, or through party zeal, that are found to be unconstitutional and not for the good of the people.
7. The difficulties of the Persian monarch, growing out of his rash decree, even after the author of it has been punished, are a warning to us to beware of the consequences of our words and actions.
8. This history teaches us to trust in God for the vindication of His own ways and the justification of His judgments against the wicked; as well as in His faithfulness to His people, in remembering to keep and fulfil, at the right time, all His promises to them.
9. The delay of judgment against evil-doers, instead, therefore, of encouraging them to boldness in sin, should melt them to penitential sorrow.
(1) For the delay of providence to punish the wicked does not change the nature of sin. It remains intrinsically the abominable thing that God hates. It is impossible, in the nature of things, that sin should ever meet with His approbation. The patience of God, therefore, produces no mitigation of the enormity of wrong.doing. It is no proof of Divine indifference to sin, or of its being a trifling offence in the sight of God, that He does not instantly express His abhorrence of it, and pour out His wrath upon the guilty. Men kindle immediately into a transport of passion when provoked. But God is not a man. He punishes sin not from passion, but from principle--not to revenge Himself for any injury He sustains from sin, but in order to maintain a righteous government for the happiness of His creatures. And the punishment of sin will only be the more severe because of the aggravations of abused mercy.
(2) But an evil work is itself a judgment. It was so with Haman. His whole history shows that pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall--that God can easily so direct human affairs as to thwart the best laid schemes of wicked men. (W. A. Scott, D. D.)
Providence-as seen in the Book of Esther
From the narrative of the preceding chapters we learn--
I. That God places His agents in fitting places for doing His work.
II. That the Lord not only arranges His servants, but He restrains His enemies.
III. That God in His providence tries His people.
IV. That the Lord’s wisdom is seen in arranging the smallest events so as to produce great results.
V. That the Lord in His providence calls His own servants to be active.
VI. That in the end the Lord achieves the total defeat of His foes and the safety of His people. Lessons--
1. It is clear that the Divine will is accomplished, and yet men are perfectly free agents.
2. What wonders can be wrought without miracles! In the miracles of Pharaoh we see the finger of God, but in the wonders of providence, without miracle, we see the hand of God.
3. How safe the Church of God is!
4. The wicked will surely come to an ill end.
5. Let each child of God rejoice that we have a Guardian so near the throne. Every Jew in Shushan must have felt hope when he remembered that the queen weal a Jewess. To-day, let us be glad that Jesus is exalted. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The Jews gathered themselves together in their cities.
The wise conduct of the Jews
The Jews acted--
1. Wisely. They acted in unison. “They gathered themselves together, and stood for their lives.” Union is power: concentration of strength is mighty for good and for evil. How awful the extent of the mischief perpetrated by the evil spirits, because they act it, concert--unitedly: whereas disunion would cause even their kingdom to fall. Union and co-operation are likewise powerful for the production of good. Hence copies of the Divine writings are flying to all parts of the world, and missionaries to unfold their precious contents to those who are perishing for lack of knowledge. What would individual efforts do in eases like these?
2. Manfully. “They laid hands on all such as sought their hurt, and no man could withstand them.” They were acting legally: for the royal law permitted them to defend themselves. Trust in God, in His power and faithfulness, is the only source of true magnanimity. It is this alone that makes man undaunted on rational grounds. St. Paul tells us of the ancient believers, that “out of weakness they were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, and turned to flight the armies of the aliens.” And this, he tells us, was the effect of relying on God.
3. Moreover, they acted forbearingly, or self-denyingly. They merely defended themselves, and Seized not upon the spoils of their enemies: “On the spoil they lay not their hand.” They wanted only their lives and their own possessions, and not the riches of their neighbours. We find that great believer, Abraham, acting thus self-denyingly in Genesis 14:1-24. The victory which the Jews obtained on this occasion was a very signal one. “The Jews smote all their enemies with the stroke of the sword, and slaughter and destruction, and did what they would unto those that hated them.” “In Shushan, the palace, the Jews slew and destroyed five hundred men.” At the request of the queen, three hundred more were slain in the royal city. And in the different provinces of the empire they slew of their foes seventy and five thousand. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth! Behold the fruits of the wickedness of one individual! (J. Hughes.)
Self-help brings help
I. Divine help. In this narrative we see all along that the Jews were helped of God.
II. Divine help fosters and succeeds self-help. Divine help must first work, and then there can be successful self-help. These Jews helped themselves--
1. By cooperation.
2. By active agency.
3. By a name of power.
4. By aggressive measures.
III. Self-help secures the help of others. (W. Burrows, B. A.)
But on the spoil laid they not their hand.
Leaving the spoilt
It is not always good to seize all the money to which one has a legal right. There are many cases in which a regard to one’s own credit, and there are others in which a sense of duty, should bind up our hands from receiving what we might otherwise take without injustice. The king’s edict gave the Jews the right to take the spoil of their enemies. If they had done so, the tongue of slanderers might have alleged that they had slain innocent persons to enrich themselves. (G. Lawson.)
On the thirteenth day of the month Adar.
A national memorial
This national memorial--
I. Was established by supreme authority.
II. Was approved by a grateful people.
III. Was sanctioned by the marvellous nature of the events celebrated.
IV. Was hallowed by the manner of its celebration.
V. Was preserved by a wise method.
VI. Is perpetuated with good result. (W. Burrows, B. A.)
1. Keep in remembrance an interposition of the Almighty, without which the Jewish nation and religion had been in a great measure, if not wholly, extinct in the world.
2. Mark a striking fulfilment of prophecy in the destruction of the Amalekites, who were the hereditary enemies of the Jews.
3. Stimulate confidence in God in the most critical circumstances, and refusal to pay such homage to the creature as is due to God only.
4. Foster that recognition of God in history and providence which men are ever liable to overlook and forget. In these respects it was an institution which should prove as advantageous to after-generations, and even more so, than to the people of God who were then living. “The Lord God omnipotent reigneth.” (T. McEwan.)
Memorial days, their obligation and manner of observance
I. Take a view of the reasons here assigned for the establishing the observation of the days mentioned in the text.
1. They were delivered from the entire extirpation of themselves and their religion out of the dominions of the Persian king.
2. The destruction with which they were threatened was in all human appearance inevitable.
3. The Jews might plainly discern a special hand of God in the deliverance which was granted them.
4. As this was a signal instance of God’s special favour towards them, so it was but one instance among many others which they continually had from one generation to another.
II. Consider the manner in which the Jews are here commanded to observe their festival. It includes three parts.
1. The natural. Feasting, rejoicing, etc.
2. The religious. Thanksgiving and praise.
3. The charitable. Sending portions one to another.
If our gratitude to God on memorial days be sincere, we shall go on to express our sense of great deliverances.
1. By living as becomes those who have received such great favours from the hands of God.
2. We shall be zealous to maintain and secure the inestimable blessings hitherto continued to us. (Samuel Bradford.)
A national memorial
The feast instituted by Mordecai was designed to be--
I. A memorial of rest.
II. A memorial of joy.
III. A memorial of triumph. (J. S. Van Dyke, D. D.)
The Feast of Purim
Looking at the establishment of Purim, we are struck--
I. With the historical value of a feast of this sort.
II. There is also an educational value in such a feast. All the education of a child is not comprised in what he receives at school. He learns much in the home. He is greatly affected by what he sees on the streets. Dr. Andrew Reid tells us how profoundly he was moved by the sight of the statue of John Howard in St. Paul’s Cathedral, and traces to that the benevolent purpose of his life, which ended in the establishment of so many asylums for orphans and imbeciles. So we ought to be careful what sort of men those are whom we allow to be honoured in that way. For every one who looks upon a statue is moved to ask, “Whose is it? what was his character? what was his history? and why has he been honoured thus?” And the answers will be a part of the education of those who put the questions, stirring their ambition or firing their enthusiasm. It is the same with national holidays. The Passover, etc. (W. M. Taylor, D. D.)
Different means of commemorating great events
Different means have been employed by different nations and in different ages to perpetuate the memory of great events. We are told (Genesis 31:45): “Jacob took a stone and set it up for a pillar.” Again (Genesis 35:14). Achan and his family. The king of Ai. Absalom. Alexander the Great caused a tumulus to be erected over the grave of his friend Hephaestion, costing million and a half of dollars. Virgil makes mention of memorial stones, as does also Homer. Standing-stones, or “menhirs,” were also erected in memorial of particular events; and stone circles, constructed with the same design most probably, were so numerous that they may be found even yet in almost every country--in the Orkneys, in Russia, in Hindustan, in Africa, in Greenland, in America, in all parts of Europe. The most remarkable are Stonehenge and Abury, in England. As a means of transmitting events to succeeding generations, a simple ceremony committed to those who sympathise with the cause in which the observance originated is far more effective than even the most imposing monumental structure which art has devised, strength erected, or wealth adorned. The latter is dumb; the former has loving hearts and living tongues to perpetuate the memory of deeds that once stirred human souls and distilled blessings upon the world. The celebration of the 4th of July is likely to prove more satisfactory, as a memorial of a national birthday, than any other monument which the energy and liberality of the American people could have reared. In the rites connected with the Feast of Purim, Mordecai and Esther have a more enduring monument than the Egyptian monarch who erected the pyramid of Gizeh, or the Pharaoh who constructed the marvellous labyrinth. In confirmation of the theory that ceremony is more effective as a memorial than dolmens, cromlechs, etc., I have only to remind you that the touching incidents connected with the life and death of Christ have been conveyed to the human family in a most remarkable way by the Eucharist. (J. S. Van Dyke, D. D.)
And that these days should be remembered.
Days to be remembered
I. Our birthdays.
II. Days of awakening and conversion.
III. Days of darkness.
1. Days of bereavement.
2. Days of mental depression.
3. Days of perplexity.
IV. Days of deliverance.
V. Times of refreshing and seasons of communion with God.
VI. The day of death and the day of judgment. (J. Bolton, B. A.)
A memorial day
In these words we have an account of the founding of the Jewish national memorial day. It was not so much a religious as a national memorial day. It celebrated a day of victory and triumph; and they made it memorable by annual observance.
I. Let us think of it as a memory day. There are those who think it unkind to recall the memory of the dead, or even to speak to the bereaved of their losses. There are some who think that the only way to console is by diverting the thoughts from all memory of that which occasioned pain. There is no more mistaken treatment for the human heart than to prescribe oblivion for its cure. The very memory of the loved one blesses us and makes us more gentle and tender toward the living. It is neither manly nor womanly nor human to be either hard-hearted or forgetful. Then, do you think that the heart of our nation is softened, and that sympathy, sensibility, and true greatness are promoted by our observance of a national memorial day?
II. That our memorial day is a day with very important lessons.
1. It teaches Christian patriotism. Love of country is not only a natural sentiment in every true heart, but it is right in the sight of God. No man can ignore his relation to his country and not sin against God.
2. Again, our memorial day teaches the value of peace. Memorial day is a constant reminder of the terrible price paid.
3. The day also brings lessons of gratitude and hope. Memory is the mother of gratitude. So when we recall our national blessings how much cause we have for gratitude to God! “The Lord hath done great things for us whereof we are glad.” (Southern Pulpit.)
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Esther 9". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/
the Fifth Week after Easter