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Bible Commentaries

Ironside's Notes on Selected Books
Esther 3

 

 

Verses 1-15

Chapter 3

The Wrath Of The Amalekite, And The Decree Of Doom

Haman is now brought upon the scene, who occupies a large place in the book, and who is execrated by all Hebrews to this day: “Haman, the son of Hammedatha the Agagite, the Jews’ enemy,” is his significant title. When his name is mentioned even now, orthodox Jews spit and curse him, so hateful is his memory.

“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” (ver. 1). Agag was the name given to the kings of Amalek, the people “against whom the Lord, hath indignation forever.” Haman, then, is a royal Amalekite-the last of his proud house to occupy a position of influence and power; for with his death, and that of his ten sons, the name of Amalek, according to Jehovah’s word, is blotted out from under heaven.

In order to understand the reason for Morde- cai’s unyielding attitude in regard to Haman, it will be necessary to look into the history of this warlike and impious people.

In Genesis 36:12 we find the origin of Amalek, the progenitor of the tribe afterwards bearing his name. “And Timna was concubine to Eliphaz, Esau’s son; and she bare to Eliphaz Amalek.” See also 1 Chronicles 1:36.

Amalek, then, sprang from Esau, which is Edom. Esau is ever a type of the flesh. Even ere the birth of the twins Esau and Jacob, they struggled together-picture of the flesh lusting against the Spirit and the Spirit against the flesh. Esau is the first-born, and then Jacob; for “that is not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual” (1 Corinthians 15:46).

This is again and again set forth in Scripture, the first-born being set aside to make room for one who might stand for or set forth the Second Man. Cain is set aside, and Abel, revived in Seth, is given the pre-eminent place. Ishmael must be cast out that Isaac be honored. Manasseh, too, gives way to Ephraim, as Joseph had been given the place of the first-born in preference to Reuben.

The author of the notes in the Numerical Bible has pointed out the close similarity in sound and meaning between Adam and Edom. Edom is but old Adam revived, and from him Amalek springs.

What, then, comes from the flesh? Only ungodly lusts and passions. Of these Amalek is the type. “Among whom we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others” (Ephesians 2:3).

In Genesis 14:7 we find the Amalekites, who had developed into a considerable tribe and inhabiting the valleys of southern Palestine, involved in the great conflicts of the Elamite ascendancy. But it is when next mentioned that we see their true character. In the seventeenth of Exodus they appear as the first of Israel’s foes, and they proved a most persistent enemy ever after. God had but recently delivered His people from the cruel Egyptian oppressor. Sheltered by blood, they had eaten the passover with holy confidence while the Lord judged the gods of Egypt and smote the first-born of those who despised His word. Redeemed by power, they had been led in triumph through the Red Sea, and on the eastern shore they sang their song of gladness as they beheld the power of the enemy broken, and knew that they were Jehovah’s purchased people. He took them under His own care, and made Himself responsible for all their needs. The waters of Marah He sweetened, and refreshed them beneath Elim’s shade. He gave them bread from heaven, and quails when they asked for flesh.

But they failed to realize who it was with whom they had to do. When they pitched in Rephidim, “there was no water for the people to drink.” They murmured against Moses, and charged him with having brought them out to slay them with thirst. But God, ever acting in pure grace, until, in their self-confidence, they put themselves under law, said unto Moses, “Go on before the people, and take with thee of the elders of Israel; and thy rod, wherewith thou smotest the river, take in thy hand, and go. Behold, I will stand before thee there upon the rock in Horeb; and thou shalt smite the rock, and there shall come water out of it, that the people may drink. And Moses did so in the sight of the elders of Israel” (Exodus 17:5, 6).

A lovely picture, surely, and easily understood in the light of two New Testament Scriptures. “That Rock was Christ” (1 Corinthians 10:4). “Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto Me and drink…But this spake He of the Spirit, which they that believe on Him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified” (John 7:37, 39). The cross had to come in ere He could be glorified as man. That blessed Rock had to be smitten with the rod of judgment before the Holy Spirit could come to satisfy and fill all who would drink. Of this it is that mystic scene at Horeb speaks. Israel in type are drinking of the living waters. Surely their troubles are over now forever! Ah, it should have been; but, alas, it was not so. It is at this moment we read, “Then came Amalek and fought with Israel in Rephidim.” And so the lusts of the flesh would ever hinder the believer’s enjoyment of the refreshing influences of the Holy Spirit. The Christian is beset by a tireless and hateful foe who makes it his business to defraud him, if possible, of the blessing that is rightfully his.

It is to this the word in Galatians 5:16, 17 refers: “This I say, then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other; so that ye might not (literal rendering) do the things that ye would.”

How will the saint thus beset find deliverance and victory? Only by mortifying his members that are upon the earth. But this he cannot do in his own power. And so Moses says to Joshua, “Choose us out men, and go out, and fight with Amalek: to-morrow I will stand on the top of the hill, with the rod of God in my hand.” Beautiful picture, surely, of our great Intercessor above, “who ever liveth to make intercession for us.” Aaron and Hur had to hold up the hands of Moses, but our blessed Lord needs none to thus assist Him. His advocacy is ever going on. His intercessions for His saints are unfailing, and He is thus able to save evermore all who come unto God by Him. “This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith” (1 John 5:4).

It was on this first occasion of Amalek’s hatred and attack against His people that “the Lord said unto Moses, Write this for a memorial in a book, and rehearse it in the ears of Joshua: for I will utterly put out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven. And Moses built an altar, and called the name of it Jehovah-nissi: for he said, Because of the hand upon the throne of Jah, Jehovah will have war with Amalek from generation to generation” (Exodus 17:14-16-marginal reading). This was Amalek’s awful sin. He would, if possible, tear Jehovah from His throne, and usurp His authority. So would the fleshly lusts, which war against the soul, dethrone the Holy One and reign in His stead.

In Numbers 14:44, 45 Israel disobeyed the word of the Lord, and presumed to go up unto the hill-top in their own strength to meet their foes. “Then the Amalekites came down … and discomfited them, even unto Hormah.” The moment a saint gets out of God’s order he exposes himself to the power of the flesh. There is no safety save in obedience to the Word.

Balaam foretells the doom of this haughty foe in Numbers 24:20. “When he looked on Amalek, he took up his parable, and said, Amalek was the first of the nations; but his latter end shall be that he perish forever.” Moses too, in his last charge to the people, says, “Remember what Amalek did unto thee by the way, when ye were come forth out of Egypt; how he met the hindmost of thee, even all that were feeble behind thee” (it is ever such who are a prey to the lusts of the flesh), “when thou wast weary; and he feared not God. Therefore it shall be … that thou shalt blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven; thou shalt not forget it” (Deuteronomy 25:17-19).

We will not refer at any length to the woes brought upon Israel by Amalek in the days of the Judges, only bidding the reader notice that whenever the people rose up in the energy of faith and the lowliness of self-judgment, all Amalek’s power was broken. It will be a profitable exercise to read at leisure and carefully study Judges 5, 6 and 10 on this subject.

In connection with the commission given to king Saul at the mouth of Samuel, in 1 Sam. 15, we get the inspired account of God’s command and Saul’s failure to carry it out. It is most instructive, as well as of special interest, in connection with our study of the book of Esther. Saul was commanded to “go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not.”

But, alas, though the young king gained a wonderful victory, and “utterly destroyed all the people with the edge of the sword,” he spared Agag; and Haman is witness that he likewise failed to exterminate the rest of the royal family. Had Saul been true to God, and yielded implicit obedience to His Word, Haman could never have appeared on the scene. Saul’s unfaithfulness made the plot of “the Jews’ enemy” possible, and exposed the chosen nation to destruction. What a triumph for Satan it would have been if, in place of Amalek’s “utter destruction,” Israel had been rooted out from among the nations!

There is a solemn lesson here. Sin unjudged, evil propensities unmortified, will result in grave trouble later. Is the reader conscious of indulging some fleshly desire-something, perhaps, that it seems hard to put to death, so dear is it to him, and, withal, so insignificant? Rest as- sured, it will be the cause of serious disaster if unjudged. It may go on unnoticed for years, but the day will come when it, like Haman, will rise in its power; and well it shall be then if it be not the cause of moral and spiritual shipwreck. Is it a young believer who sees these lines? Remember the word of the Holy Spirit to Timothy, “Flee also youthful lusts.” Any unholy desire tolerated in the soul must work eventually to the undoing of your discipleship, to the breaking-down of your testimony.

Samuel showed Agag no mercy; but some of his children-perhaps only one, and that one, mayhap, a weak and puny infant-escaped him; and behold, nearly six hundred years later, a royal Amalekite and a descendant of the house of Kish, the father of king Saul, confront each other!

Haman is advanced before all the princes, for well the flesh knows how to work its way to the front. All fall down before him and own his authority, save one unyielding old man, insignificant in stature and unknown among the great. “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” (ver. 2).

Never was Mordecai’s moral elevation higher than at this moment. He is no longer the crafty, politic man of chapter two. He shines forth as a man who takes his stand upon the word of the Eternal, let the consequences be what they may. There is no longer a tendency to hide his people and his kindred. He lets all know he is a Jew. As such he cannot bow to the blatant enemy of Jehovah. The Lord hath indignation against Amalek. So also, in substance, says Mordecai. He sides with God. From now on he is a character delightful to contemplate.

“Then the king’s servants, which were in the king’s gate, said unto Mordecai, Why transgressest thou the king’s commandment?” (ver. 3). To them it seems the essence of foolhardiness and stubbornness. We read not of any other, even of his own nation, so unyielding as he. Why not, at least, incline his head? Why not go with the crowd? Why make himself so unpleasantly conspicuous by his peculiar obstinacy? Better men than he, perhaps, bowed to Haman, the king’s prime minister. Why should he be too narrow-minded to do so? To all this Mordecai might have replied, God has spoken. He declares He will have indignation against Amalek forever. I side with Him. It matters not what others do, I have to go by what I find written in the book.

“Now it came to pass, when they spake daily unto him, and he harkened not unto them, that they told Haman, to see whether Mordecai’s matters would stand; for he had told them that he was a Jew” (ver. 4). There is no evasion now: all is out at last. The judge in the king’s gate is one of the despised captives, and he will risk the loss of name and station, yea, of life itself, rather than be unfaithful to the truth of God.

The king’s servants desire to see if Mordecai’s matters will stand. Of course they will stand, for does not he stand with and for God, who “is able to make him stand?” None ever falls who acts for God. His power is over all. He may permit testing and trial, but “whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world.” He is in the right who sides with God.

When Haman hears of the slight thus put upon him, he is “full of wrath.” He must have his revenge on the impudent Jew who thus refuses to acknowledge his prestige: but “he thought scorn to lay hands on Mordecai alone; for they had showed him the people of Mordecai: wherefore Haman sought to destroy all the Jews that were throughout the whole kingdom of Ahasuerus, even the people of Mordecai” (vers. 5, 6). What a mess had the obstinate little Jew made of it all now! If he must have such strong convictions, why could he not keep them to himself, and, by getting out of Haman’s way, refrain from making himself and all his people obnoxious to him? Could not he conform to the customs of the times? Did he not know that things were different now from what they were in the days of Moses, of the judges, and of Samuel? Is not this the way men reason today? And, doubtless, many so reasoned in the times of Mordecai: but to all he could have given the triumphant answer, It is my place to obey God, and to honor His Word. I leave all consequences with Him.

This is what characterizes ever the man of God in all dispensations. It was this spirit that sustained Noah in testimony against a corrupt, sin-loving world as he built his great ship on dry land. In this energy of faith Moses forsook Egypt; Caleb cried, “We are well able to overcome;” Gideon went forth to war with lamps and pitchers; David fought an armored giant with a shepherd’s sling and stones; Jehoshaphat set singers in the van of his army where others would have set mounted troops; Daniel opened his windows to pray to the God of heaven; and Paul lived his life of devotion to the crucified, exalted Lord, and refused to conform to the demands of the men of his day and age. In this spirit, too, of subjection to revealed truth, Athanasius suffered banishment rather than bow to the Arianism of the times;. Savonarola defied the licentious, gold-hoarding officials of church and state; Luther uttered his mighty “No!” in the presence of the emperor, the bishops and grandees of the empire; Farel tossed venerated images into the river in the midst of furious priests and populace; Knox caused a queen to tremble; and the Covenanters chose rather to be hunted as the beasts of the field than own the spiritual authority of degenerate kings and bishops; and a mighty host, “of whom the world was not worthy,” refused to bow the knee or bend the neck to unscriptural, superstitious, and human legislation, making of none effect the word of God.

Men of this stamp are certain to be dubbed by the time-serving trucklers to the present age as schismatics, separatists, and what not. But let such be content to know that God is pleased, and they fear not the frown, and court not the approval, of flesh and blood.

Haman’s colossal scheme for the annihilation of the Jewish race is worthy of its great instigator, that old serpent, which is the devil and Satan. The proud Agagite was but a mere puppet in his hands. Haman desired to obtain revenge for the slight put upon his dignity: the devil sought to make void the promises of God. The awful foe of God and man knew well that Jehovah had declared that from David’s house should arise the One who was to bruise his head-One who is to “destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver those who, through fear of death, were all their lifetime subject to bondage.” That nation destroyed-the promised Deliverer could not appear, and the word of God would be rendered null and void. Again and again had he sought to accomplish this. When the hand of Saul threw the javelin at the youthful David, it was Satan who inspired it, but God who protected the minstrel from the blow, that he might live to be the conservator of the promise. When the wicked queen Athalia sought to destroy all the seed royal, it was the devil who put the awful thought in her mind, but God who nourished the infant Joash in the temple courts.

And so it was the same foul spirit now who would sacrifice a nation to prevent the Redeemer’s advent; as in the day when that long-predicted event had actually occurred, he sought, through Herod, to destroy Him in His infancy by slaying the babes of Bethlehem, only to be outwitted once more; for God directed His Son to a distant land.

Some idea of Haman’s wealth and influence can be gained from the intimacy manifested be- twixt him and the king in verses 8 to 11, as also the immense amount of silver he offered for the accomplishment of his cherished plans: ten thousand talents in that age having about the value of twenty millions of dollars now.

His superstition too is evidenced in verse 7. Like many a tyrant before, and since, he was a great believer in lucky and unlucky days; so he had the wise men-the traffickers in the credulity of ambitious courtiers-to cast lots, called in Hebrew Pur, to determine a suited day when all signs would be propitious for the carrying out of his colossal massacre. Armed with what he considered to be the favor of the gods (for it is unlikely that he, like the Persians, was a monotheist), he entered the king’s presence, and, affecting concern for the interests of the state, he says, “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.” And, as though in a burst of magnanimity, he offers to pay ten thousand talents of silver to rid the king of subjects so objectionable. Carelessly, without so much as inquiring the name of the race referred to, Ahasuerus, with that disregard of human life so common in Xerxes, “took his ring from his hand, and gave it unto Haman the son of Hammedatha the Agagite, the Jews’ enemy,” saying, as he did so, “The silver is given to thee, the people also, to do with them as it seemeth good to thee” (vers. 8-11).

Acting on this, Haman loses no time, but immediately summons the king’s scribes, and issues a proclamation, sealed with the king’s ring, to be “sent by posts into all the king’s provinces, to destroy, to kill, and to cause to perish, all Jews, both young and old, little children and women, in one day, even upon the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, which is the month Adar” (the date determined by the lot), “and to take the spoil of the people for a prey” (ver. 13). Thus had the entire nation been devoted to destruction, and under the unalterable laws of the Medes and Persians-the same laws that left Yashti still a lonely widow, and which would brook of no reversal.

To every people the news went forth, urging them to be ready against that day. “And the king and Haman,” as though the massacre of millions had not just been planned and sealed, “sat down to drink; but the city Shushan was perplexed” (ver. 15).

 

 

 

 


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Bibliography Information
Ironside, H. A. "Commentary on Esther 3:4". Ironside's Notes on Selected Books. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/isn/esther-3.html. 1914.

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Friday, May 29th, 2020
the Seventh Week after Easter
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