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Bible Commentaries

Ironside's Notes on Selected Books
Esther 9

 

 


Verses 1-19

Chapter 9-1-19

The Deliverance

It was faith in the written word of the king that gave the Jews joy and gladness, even though the formerly dreaded thirteenth of Adar had not yet come. So does faith in the written word of God give boldness and confidence though the day of doom once feared has not yet arrived. The revelation of His grace and “perfect love” as revealed in the cross “casteth out all fear,” for “faith is the substance” (or confidence) “of things hoped for, the evidence” (or conviction) “of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). “We walk by faith, not by sight,” for “what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for? But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it” (Romans 8:24, 25). It was not an inward emotion or a passing feeling that gave to the people of Esther and Mordecai the assurance that they would not be destroyed, as originally intended by Haman. They had something far better than that. Their tears were dried, their sorrow-assuaged in resting upon the word alone. This cannot be insisted on too strongly. There are many to-day seeking peace in an utterly wrong way. Some hope, because of a restful feeling within, that they have at last been accepted of God, and are now on the way to heaven. Others trust in the fact that they pray and attend to various religious duties; while many more are without any confidence at all, but hope at last to have an inward sense of pardon ere they die. To all of these classes we would say, Do not rest in anything short of the revealed word of God. That Word believed, joy and peace must follow; but it is faith first, peace afterwards.

To go direct to Scripture is the only safe way for every soul. For instance: I am a sinner; my awakened conscience troubles me about many things I had formerly treated as matters of indifference; an awful sense of condemnation and wrath hangs over me; I long for deliverance. I pray, and groan, and weep. Still there is no peace. I try to change my ways; break loose from old habits; forsake evil companions,-I am miserable even then. I perhaps go to church; submit to baptism; partake of the Lord’s Supper; give of my means to assist the cause of Christ. But alas, alas, all is in vain! I am only more and more aware of my true state since so great changes seem to be necessary to fit me for God’s presence. I have no as- surance that my sins are forgiven: and it is this I must know if I would be at peace. At last, wearied and almost hopeless, I come to the Word itself. Perhaps such a passage as Acts 13:38, 39 meets my eye: “Be it known unto you.” Ah yes, that is it! I want to know. This awful uncertainty is what is harassing me and taking from me all rest, and plunging me into deepest anxiety. What is it that can be “known” in this verse? “Be it known unto you that through this Man”-that is, through Jesus-not through my prayers, my devotions, my benevolences, or my changed manner of life! Nor yet through the church, her services, her ministers, or her ordinances. No! blessed be God, I am turned from all these things-good as they may be in their place; I am turned to “this Man,” to Jesus-the Man of Calvary-the Man who is now in the glory. “Through this Man is preached unto you,”-how intensely personal it is: “known unto you;” “preached unto you;”-surely, then I cannot be mistaken in appropriating it to myself. “Preached unto you the forgiveness of sins!” Ah! That is what I want so earnestly. This is what I can never be happy without. How, then, is this preached forgiveness to be really mine,-known and enjoyed as mine? Here is the answer: “By Him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses.” Here, then, is the peace-giving testimony of God’s infallible Word. I can rest on that. I believe in the Lord Jesus. He died for me. I trust in Him alone. God declares all who so believe are “justified from all things.” I can trust His declaration. I have sure and perfect peace. “Being justified by faith, we have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ: by whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God” (Romans 5:1, 2).

Resting on the word of the king, the Jews found peace. Now we are to learn how the word of the king is actually fulfilled. “Now in the twelfth month, that is, the month Adar, on the thirteenth day of the same, when the king’s commandment and his decree drew near to be put into execution, in the day that the enemies of the Jews hoped to have powder over them, (though 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 hand on such as sought their hurt: and no man could withstand them; for the fear of them fell upon all people” (vers. 1, 2). The day that had been so dreaded, ere the posts brought the message of grace, is now awaited with eager anticipation. It is to be a day of triumph and rejoicing to the Jews, and a day of overthrowing the power of their enemies. The government is for, not against, them. This is the reason of their gladness. “And all the rulers of the provinces, and the lieutenants, and the deputies, and officers of the king, helped the Jews; because the fear of Mordecai fell upon them. For Mordecai was great in the king’s house, and his fame went out throughout all the provinces: for this man Mordecai waxed greater and greater” (vers. 3, 4).

How truly had the word been fulfilled which says, “Them that honor Me, I will honor; and they that despise Me shall be lightly esteemed”! It will be remembered that in the beginning, when Mordecai sided with God, and refused to bow to the haughty enemy of Jehovah, that the king’s servants wondered “whether Mordecai’s matters would stand.” How has the Lord vindicated His servant now! Not only have his matters stood, but the despised man who acted for God-although that meant at the time to be misunderstood by almost every one else-is now-waxing greater and greater. And so will it ever be that he who sides with God will be triumphant at last. It is not to be expected that natural men, or carnal Christians, will understand a man who takes this ground. “He that is spiritual discerneth all things; yet he himself is discerned of no man” (1 Corinthians 2:15-literal rendering). Such an one must ever be an enigma to men who reason from a human standpoint, and who have not the mind of Christ. But God will vindicate His servant in His own way and time, if all is humbly left in His hands. Of the greatest of all servants it is written that “when He was reviled, He reviled not again; when He suffered, He threatened not; but committed Himself to Him that judgeth righteously” (1 Peter 2:23). And how gloriously has He been vindicated and exalted! Blessed Lord, may we Thy servants walk in Thy path until we see Thy face!

“Thus 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. And in Shush an the palace the Jews slew and destroyed five hundred men” (vers. 5, 6). It was the overthrowing of the enemies-not of the Jews only, but of the Lord. They impiously lifted their hands against the separated nation; and, however unfaithful they may have been, He made their troubles His own, and delivered their foes into their hands.

The Lord remembers, too, His word as to Amalek spoken in the wilderness so long ago: “I will utterly put out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven.” Hence we read of the destruction of the last of the nation mentioned in Scripture. “And Parshandatha, and Dalphon, and Aspatha, and Poratha, and Adalia, and Aridatha, and Parmashta, and Arisai, and Aridai, and Yajezatha, the ten sons of Haman the son of Hammedatha, the enemy of the Jews, slew they; but on the spoil laid they not their hand” (vers. 7-10). The last of this ungodly race have perished. God’s word, whether telling of grace or judgment, will be fulfilled to the letter.

As typifying the lusts of the flesh, what comfort there is for the Christian in the utter destruction of Amalek! The day is not far distant when the old nature that dwells in every believer, and is the cause of so much of our failure, and sins, and sorrow, will be completely removed; and with it all lust and pride: yea, everything that hinders spiritual enjoyment will be gone forever. This never occurs -while we are in the body. The dream of the eradication of inbred sin, and of perfection in the flesh while in this life, is not founded on the word of God. As long as we are in this scene we have to “mortify” our members which are upon the earth; but at “the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and our gathering together unto Him,” we shall be fully delivered from our hated foe: “for our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ; who shall change our vile body” (or, transform the body of our humiliation), “that it may be fashioned like unto the body of His glory” (literal rendering); “according to the working whereby He is able to subdue all things unto Himself” (Philippians 3:20, 21). Then will the remembrance of the fleshly lusts that war against the soul, and now trouble us, be blotted out from under heaven.

A striking evidence of subjection to God is brought before us at the end of the verses noted above; “upon the spoil they laid not their hand.” The king had granted “the spoil of them for a prey.” But long before, God had said, when sending Saul to smite the Amalekites, that he should “utterly destroy all that they had.” They were to take no spoil in that day. Saul disobeyed the word and brought down Divine judgment upon himself and his house (1 Sam. 15, throughout). The scattered Jews of Esther’s time manifest greater faithfulness. They abhor the spoil and refrain from touching it. As it was an Amalekite that .had stirred up the enmity of the people against them, they class all morally in the same category. It is an example of disinterested obedience beautiful to notice. They overcome the world but do not seek to profit through it nor derive benefit by indifference to that which they see to be evil.

The news of the slaughter in the city of Shushan is reported to the king at the close of the day. “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 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” (ver. 12).

It would seem from Esther’s reply that the day had closed in the midst of conflict. There were still a large number of persons who were evil disposed towards the Jews. “Then said Esther, If it please the king, let it be granted to the Jews which are in Shushan to do to-morrow also according unto this day’s decree, and let Haman’s ten sons be hanged upon the gallows” (ver. 13). It must be borne in mind that the decree simply granted the Jews the privilege of self-defense. It is no indiscriminate massacre that Esther desires, but another day of opportunity in which to meet their foes if they sought to rise against them. She also desires the ten sons of Haman to be hung up before the people as accursed according to Deuteronomy 21:22, 23. “And the king commanded it so to be done: and the decree was given at Shushan; and they hanged Haman’s ten sons” (ver. 14).

On the fourteenth day of the month therefore the Jews again met any who had the hardihood to oppose them and “slew three hundred men at Shushan,” over half the number of the previous day. Again we are told that “on the prey they laid not their hands” (ver. 15). They would not be enriched at the expense of the enemies of the Lord.

Throughout the rest of the empire they had been equally victorious. We read not of the death of even so much as one; but they “slew of their foes seventy and five thousand, but they laid not their hands on the prey” (ver. 16). Truly their sorrow had been turned into rejoicing. “Weeping may endure for a night but joy cometh in the morning.”

In the outside districts and distant provinces the fourteenth day was devoted to feasting and gladness, while in the palace-city the day following was so observed. It was a season of thanksgiving, and of congratulations one to another: gifts and portions being exchanged. From our record of it though, as described in vers. 17-19, it would be impossible to prove that they remembered the Lord in it at all, and gave the glory to Him. This, however, is but in keeping with the character of the book. There can be no question as to their hearts going out in gratitude to the God of their fathers who had so mercifully interfered on their behalf; but in describing their joy, as in making known their former sorrow, His name is unmentioned in the record, because they are not where He can publicly own them. How loudly does this very silence speak to every opened ear! God could do all Ave have been noting in our study of this book for His people who refused to gather to the place where He had set His name, (and where a few “afflicted and poor” ones were trying amidst many discouragements to rebuild His ruined temple and to order their ways according as “they found it written”), but though He so graciously watches over them in His providence, and loves them unto the end, He nevertheless takes care that the inspired record of it all shall not so much as mention His name.


Verses 20-32

Chapter 9-20-32

The Institution Of Purim

From this time, until he disappears from sacred history, Mordecai takes the place of a judge or a deliverer among his brethren. He has proven himself a faithful man in the main, whatever failures he may also have had. In a certain sense his position is very similar to that occupied by Joseph in Egypt. In position being next to the king, he has been the preserver of his people and is afterwards their protector.

He would have them never forget the great deliverance they had known, nor the means whereby it had been accomplished. From the twentieth verse, it has generally been concluded that he himself was the author of this book, and surely no person would be more likely to have been chosen for this service. He also, in conjunction with Esther the queen, established the feast of Purim, or “the lot” as a perpetual commemoration of the overthrowing of Haman’s device.

“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 establish this among 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 rested from their enemies and the month which was turned unto them from sorrow to joy, and from mourning into a good day: that they should make them days of feasting and joy, and of sending portions one to another, and gifts to the poor” (vers. 20-22). There is no reason to believe that this was a divinely instituted festival, like the seven feasts of Jehovah in Lev. 23. It was simply the grateful remembrance of a rejoicing people for signal mercy vouchsafed at a time of deepest distress. Naturally the Jews in the land did not as readily observe it as those scattered among the heathen. History tells us that it was some years ere it became a universal season of festivity among the Hebrews, and many more elapsed before a distinctively religious character was given to it.

But, as commanded by Mordecai and Esther, all was in perfect keeping with the times. In full accord with their Lo-ammi condition-God’s name is in no wise connected with it. It has kept, however, the record of their providential deliverance, clearly before their minds. The exact reason for the name of the feast is given in the verses that follow: “And the Jews under- took 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 devised against the Jews to destroy them, and had cast Pur, that is, the lot, to consume them; but when Esther came before the king, he commanded by letters, that his wicked device, which he devised against the Jews, should return upon his own head, and that he and his sons should be hanged upon the gallows. Wherefore they called these days Purim, after the name of Pur. Therefore for all the words of this letter, and of that which they had seen concerning this matter, and 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 as it should not fail, that they would keep these two days according to their writing, and according to their appointed time 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 memorial of them perish from their seed” (vers. 23-28).

How truly had they been made to know that “the lot is cast into the lap; but the whole disposing thereof is of the Lord” (Proverbs 16:33). No device of the wicked against the people of the Lord can ever be carried out unless He see fit to permit it. Hence the Christian can exultingly cry, “If God be for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31.) But, though His care is over all His saints, it will always be observed that there is not that same direct, manifest interference on their behalf when not walking according to His revealed will, as when they take the place of absolute dependence on Himself in subjection to His Word. Thus also in Christendom generally, it is more this distant Providential oversight that is known.

In an indefinite way saints learn to look for divine interposition; for evidence of the Lord’s concern. But it is only as one walks with God and trembles at His word, manifesting real heart for Himself, that the special supervision and intimate Fatherly care of which Scripture speaks is entered into and enjoyed. This may be seen by turning for a little to that exceedingly striking passage in 2 Corinthians 6:14-18. Believers are here counseled to avoid putting their necks into an unequal yoke with those who believe not. This would refer to every concern of life; whether it be in regard to business, marriage, or ecclesiastical associations. No child of God can be linked up with an unconverted man in a business partnership without viola- ting this Scripture. Neither could one enter into an engagement or marriage with an unsaved person and enjoy the approbation of the Lord. An old Puritan once wrote, “If you marry a child of the devil you can expect to have trouble with your father-in-law.” Alas, that so many, despising the Word of truth and the bitter experiences of thousands before them, should, with open eyes, yet venture on such a course, because through their affections they have been ensnared! How many Samsons have been thus shorn of their strength! And how many Solomons have thus had their hearts turned away!

But there are many who see the nature of the business yoke and the family yoke, who seem quite unconcerned as to ecclesiastical association with the world. “What agreement hath the temple of God with idols? For ye are the temple of the living God.” Believers, and believers alone, comprise this spiritual house. “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?” (1 Corinthians 3:16). Of no unregenerate soul could this be said. Of those only who are born again and sealed with the Holy Spirit can it be true. It is therefore of the greatest importance that Christians refuse all association with worldlings in spiritual things. This is beautifully set forth in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah, where the faithful remnant, having come up from Babylon and Persia, are found not only separate from the nations, but, when gathered at the place where Jehovah’s name had been set of old, they indignantly refuse the help of the uncircumcised in building the house of God or the walls of the city. For them, despite the fact that the Lo-Ammi sentence remained unrepealed, God could act in a more open and manifest way than when He interfered for the scattered ones of the provinces who separated not from the nations when they had the opportunity presented to them in the imperial decree. For this remnant, He raised up suited ministry. Haggai and Zechariah were able to give with no uncertainty “the Lord’s message.” When failure came in, they w-ere in the place where all could be dealt with according to the Book; while teachers of the law, like Ezra and the Levites, were given to them to instruct them in what was there written.

And so, in the passage we have under consideration, God says to those who “come out from among them,” and who “touch not the unclean thing,” that He will receive them; and He adds, “I will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be My sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.” This is unspeakably precious. God is the Father of all who are born again. All such have life eternal-divine life, and can say by the Spirit, “Abba Father;” but though He is the Father of all, He is not able always to act as a Father unto all.

It is the obedient who know His gracious and special care spoken of in this sense. Leaving all else for Him, they find Him to be more than all else to them, even in regard to temporal matters.

“He knows, and loves, and cares;

Nothing this truth can dim:

He gives the very best to those

Who leave the choice to Him.”

Separated to Himself, dependent alone upon His omnipotent power, they are given to see His hand and to discern His actings in grace as others cannot who “follow afar off,” and fear to leave all that is contrary to His mind, as revealed in His Word.

How blessed is it, on the other hand, that even where there is not this devotion to Himself that should characterize those redeemed at such cost, yet He never forgets His own, nor does He ever neglect them. But it is more in the manner of His actings in the days of Esther that He watches over and cares for them-often unseen and unacknowledged. “His mercy endureth forever,” and He who walked with His unbelieving people for forty years in the wilder- ness never ceases to care for His children now, however little they may realize it. “Having loved His own which were in the world, He loved them unto the end” (John 13:1).

The feast of Purim, then, witnesses the nation’s gratitude, however feebly it may set forth their recognition that it was God Himself who had so wondrously made their affliction the occasion for His acting in grace.

“Then Esther the queen, the daughter of Abihail” (Father of strength), “and Mordecai the Jew, wrote with all authority to confirm this second letter of Purim. And he sent the letters unto all the Jews, to the hundred twenty and seven provinces of the kingdom of Ahasuerus, with words of peace and truth, to confirm these days of Purim in their times appointed, according as Mordecai the Jew and Esther the queen had enjoined them, and as they had decreed for themselves and for their seed the matters of the fastings and their cry” (vers. 29-31). It is not likely that the name of God was left unmentioned in the publications they thus put forth, for “words of peace and truth” clearly connected the humiliation of the people and their fasting, with the deliverance God gave them at the end. “Their cry” is also mentioned. To whom could it be but to God? Were this narration of it then written by mere man, how natural would it have been to have added the words “to God” or “to the Lord.” But the pen of inspiration never errs. The One whose ways are perfect, is the real author of the book, whether Mordecai or some unknown one was the writer.

“And the decree of Esther confirmed these matters of Purim; and it was written in the book” (ver. 32). To the present day, and for ages past, it has been the custom of the Hebrews to read this book at the annual observance of the feast; and whenever the name of Haman is uttered, the orthodox Jews hiss, and stamp, and curse his memory.

In the days when our Lord was upon earth, the canon of Old Testament Scripture, as we now know it, had been long since completed, and was composed of “the law, the prophets, and the Psalms.” Esther was always included in the latter division, called in the Greek version “the Hagiographa.” Jesus spoke of all as Scripture. Therefore we cannot question the full inspiration of this book, as He has set His seal upon it. And yet we shall look in vain to find any quotation from or reference to it in the New Testament. It is the unique evidence of God’s unfailing care to a faithless people.

The feast of Purim is never referred to in the Gospels either. It did not properly belong to the people as in the land. While the yearly reminder of unchanging grace, it was also the evidence of their lack of heart for the One who had so acted towards them. At the present time it has degenerated into a season of godless merrymaking, and is more patriotic than devotional in character.

 

 

 

 


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Bibliography Information
Ironside, H. A. "Commentary on Esther 9:4". Ironside's Notes on Selected Books. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/isn/esther-9.html. 1914.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, September 29th, 2020
the Week of Proper 21 / Ordinary 26
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