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Bible Commentaries

John Trapp Complete Commentary
Esther 3

 

 

Verse 1

Esther 3:1 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.

Ver. 1. After these things did Ahasuerus promote Haman] Four years after his marriage with Esther, or near upon, did Ahasuerus magnify and exalt Haman, Hominem profanum et sceleratum, as one saith, a profane wicked person; merely for his mind sake, to show his sovereignty, and that he would, like some petty god upon earth, set up whom he would, and whom he would, put down, Daniel 4:19. Alexander the Great made Abdolominus, a poor gardener, king of Sidon. Whether it were also by flattery or sycophancy, or some new projects for establishing his tyranny, and increasing his tributes, that Haman had insinuated himself into this king’s favour, it is uncertain. Sure it is that Mordecai, a better man, lay yet unlooked upon; like good corn he lay in the bottom of the heap, when this vilest of men was exalted, Psalms 12:8. Thus oft empty vessels swim aloft, rotten posts are gilt with adulterate gold, the worst weeds spring up bravest; and when the twins strove in Rebekah’s womb, profane Esau comes forth first, and is the firstborn, Genesis 25:25. But while they seek the greatest dignities, they mostly meet with the greatest shame; like apes, while they be climbing, they the more show their deformities. They are lifted up also, ut lapsu graviore ruant, that they may come down again with the greater poise. It was, therefore, well and wisely spoken by Alvarez de Luna, when he told them who admired his fortune and favour with the king of Castile, You do wrong to commend the building before it be finished, and until you see how it will stand.

The son of Hammedatha the Ayagite] i.e. The Amalekite, of the stock royal; so that Haman was the natural enemy of the Jews, like as Hannibal was of the Romans. An old grudge there was, an inveterate hatred; Amalek was Esau’s grandchild, and the enmity between these two peoples was, as we say of runnet, the older the stronger.

And advanced him] Set him aloft upon the pinnacle of highest preferment; as Tiberius did Sejanus; as Louis XI of France did his barber; as our Henry VIII did Wolsey; and our recent kings, Buckingham. But princes’ favourites should consider with themselves that honour is but a blast, a magnum nihil, a glorious fancy, a rattle to still men’s ambition; and that as the passenger looketh no longer upon the dial than the sun shineth upon it, so it is here.

And set his seat above all the princes] This cup of honour his weak head could not bear; this blast so blew up the bubble that it burst again. Sejanus-like, he now began to sacrifice to himself, little thinking of that utter ruin to which he was hasting. Physicians used to say, that ultimus sanitatis gradus est morbo vicinus. Sure it is, that when the wicked are near unto misery, they have greatest preferment and prosperity. When Tiberius was desirous to rid his hands of Sejanus, he made him his colleague in the consulship, and set him above all his courtiers. Ahasuerus intended not any harm to Haman when he raised him to this pitch of preferment; but it puffed him up, and proved his bane. None are in so great danger as those that walk upon pinnacles; even height itself makes men’s brains to swim. Every man is not a Joseph, or a Daniel. They were set above all the princes, and could not only bear it, but improve it for the glory of God, and the good of his people. Sed o quam hoc non est omnium! High seats are not only uneasy, but dangerous, and how few are there that do not (as Isis’ ass) think themselves worshipful for the burden they bear! ( Hones onus) .


Verse 2

Esther 3:2 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.

Ver. 2. And all the kiny’s servants] His courtiers and others; not his menial servants only.

That were in the king’s gate] Where the courtiers used to walk, that they might be on call; and where others attended that had business at the court.

Bowed, and reverenced Haman] Not with so much readiness and diligence as impudence and baseness; for should men bow to a molten calf, because made up of golden earrings? Many of these cringing courtiers could not but hate Haman in their hearts, and were as ready to wish him hanged, and to tell the king shortly after where he might have a fit gallows for him. So Sejanus’s greatest friends, who had deified him before, when once he fell out of the emperor’s favour, showed themselves most passionate against him, saying, that if Caesar had clemency, he ought to reserve it for men, not use it toward monsters.

For the king had so commanded concerning him] And if the king had commanded these servile souls to worship a dog or a cat, as the Egyptians did, a golden image, as Nebuchadnezzar’s subjects did, to turn the glory of the incorruptible God into the similitude of a corruptible man, of four-footed boasts or creeping things, as Romans 1:23, they would have done it. Most people are of King Henry’s religion, as the proverb is, resolving to do as the most do, though thereby they be undone for ever. This is to be worse than some heathens. {See Trapp on "Acts 4:19"} But why should Ahasuerus be so hasty to heap such honours upon so worthless and wicked a person, but that he had a mind to proclaim his own folly to all his kingdom?

But Mordecai bowed not, nor did him reverence] He did not, he durst not, though pressed and urged to it with greatest importunity. And why? not because Haman wore a picture openly in his bosom, as the Chaldee paraphrast and Aben Ezra give the reason; not merely (if at all, which some doubt of) because he was a cursed Amalekite; but because the Persian kings required, that themselves and their chief favourites (such as proud Haman was) should be reverenced with a kind of divine honour, more than was due to any man. This the Jews were flatly forbidden by their law to do. The Lacedemonians also were resolute against it, as Herodotus in his seventh book relateth. Pelopidas the Theban would not be drawn to worship the Persian monarch in this sort. No more would Conon the Athenian general. And when Timagoras did, the Athenians condemned him to die for it. It was not therefore pride or self-willedness that made Mordecai so stiff in the legs that he would not bend to Haman, but fear of sin, and conscience of duty. He knew that he had better offend all the world than God and his own conscience: Nihil praeter peccatum timeo I fear nothing before sin. (Basil).


Verse 3

Esther 3:3 Then the king’s servants, which [were] in the king’s gate, said unto Mordecai, Why transgressest thou the king’s commandment?

Ver. 3. Then the king’s servants, &c.] See Esther 3:2.

Said unto Mordecai] Tempting his piety and constancy not once, but often, alleging the king’s commandment, together with his aloneness in refusing to obey it, Haman’s power, displeasure, &c. Thus they presented to Mordecai both irritamenta and terriculamenta, i.e. allurements and frightenments, according to that of the apostle, Hebrews 11:37, they were tempted on both hands, but all in vain. Sapientis virtus, per ea quibus petitur, illustratur. The virtue of wisdom is shown by means of desiring these things. This constancy wicked men call obstinacy, but they speak evil of what they know not, viz. the power of the Spirit, and the privy armour of proof, that the saints have about their hearts.

Why transgressest thou the king’s commandment?] Right or wrong, it matters not with many, if the king or state have commanded a thing, done it must be. But what said that martyr to the Popish bishop, pressing him with this argument, and affirming that the king’s laws must be obeyed, whether they agree with the word of God or not, yea, though the king were an infidel? If Shadrach, Mesheeh, and Abednego had been of your mind, my lord (said Roger Coo, martyr), Nebuchadnezzar had not confessed the living God. True it is that we must give unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s. But in addition, we must see to it that we give unto God the things that are God’s, Matthew 22:21, where the three articles used in the original are very emphatical, τα του Yρου τω Yεω. And it is a saying of Chrysostom, If Caesar will take to himself God’s part, by commanding that which is sinful, to pay him such a tribute is not tributum Caesaris, but servitium diaboli, an observing of Caesar, but a serving of the devil.


Verse 4

Esther 3:4 Now it came to pass, when they spake daily unto him, and he hearkened 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. Now it came to pass, when they spake daily unto him] This, if they did of good-will (as at first perhaps they did), it was a friendly office, and may shame many of us who are so backward to Christian admonition (see my common-places), that spiritual alms, that we are bound freely to distribute, 1:22-23. But it; as is likely, at length at least they did it to ingratiate with Haman, and out of envy to Mordecai, because he did not comply and comport with them, what did they else but act the devil’s part, and the rather, because they were importunate and impudent as not to take an answer?

And he hearkened not unto them] They did but surdo fabulam (as they say), beat upon cold iron; this matter was not malleable, this man not to be prevailed with, to do aught against his conscience. The heavens shall sooner fall than I will alter mine opinion, said that martyr. This the persecutors called obstinacy; seal pro hac obstinatione fidei morimur, saith Tertullian, but for this obstinacy of faith we gladly die; and the stronger any are in faith the more resolute in warrantable purposes. The strength of Israel repenteth not, 1 Samuel 15:29. Inconstancy comes from weakness.

That they told Haman] Purposely to pick a thank and curry favour. Go not about as a tale bearer, Leviticus 19:16. The word signifieth as a pedlar, that first filleth his pack with tales and slanders, and then venteth them to the hurt of others. Such are fitly joined with flatterers, Proverbs 20:19, and with murderers, Ezekiel 22:9. Such a wretched pedlar was Doeg, and such were these evil instruments in the text, whose tongues were as sharp as the quills of a porcupine, the poison of asps was under their lips. And although it was truth they told Haman, yet because they did it not for any love to the truth, nor for respect to justice, nor for the bettering of either party, but only to undo the one, and to incense the other, they were no better than slanderers.

To see whether Mordecai’s matters would stand] Whether he would stick to his principles, and not start aside for any terror, Philippians 1:28.

For he had told them that he was a Jew] That is, by interpretation, a confesssor; yea, more, he was a stout professor of the truth; and though he had hitherto concealed himself, yet now (since they will needs have it so) he plainly tells them his country, and his conscience, the true cause of his peremptoriness, which they held and called pride and stubbornness.


Verse 5

Esther 3:5 And when Haman saw that Mordecai bowed not, nor did him reverence, then was Haman full of wrath.

Ver. 5. And when Haman saw] Stirred up by these pestilent flatterer, qui crabronem furiosum magis irritaverant, as one saith, he took special notice of Mordecai’s irreverence, which with more discretion he might have dissembled. When an inconsiderate fellow had stricken Cato in the bath, and afterwards cried him mercy, he replied, I remember not that thou didst strike me. It is a sign of weakness to be too soft and sensible of an indignity; "I was as a deaf man that heard not, and as one dumb, in whose mouth is no reproof," Psalms 38:13-14. The best apology to words and carriages of scorn and petulance is that of Isaac to Ishmael, viz. patience and silence.

That Mordecai bowed not, &c.] A great business to enrage him so much, but that he was set on by that old man slayer.

Sic leve, sic parvum est, animum quod laudis avarum

Subruit, aut reficit -

So trivial, so small is it, the spirit because greedy of praise, will be undermined or restored. A small wind raiseth a bubble, ambition rideth without reins, and hath inhabitatorem Dracohere Apostatam, the devil at inn with it.

Then was Haman full of wrath] He swelled like a toad, glowed like a devil; being transformed as it were into a breathing devil, he seeks the utter extirpation of that people, of whom, concerning the flesh, Christ was to come, Romans 9:5, wishing the same to them which Caligula in a rage did to the people of Rome, I would ye had all but one neck, that I might cut you all off at one blow, Eιθ ενα αυχενα ειχετε. Josephus tells us, that he brake out into this blustering speech, Liberi Persae me adorant. Hic autem, servus cum sit, tamen hoc facere dedignatur: The Persians, though free men, reverence me, and yet this slave thinks himself too good to do it. This he uttered no doubt with a very harsh and hateful intention of the voice, such as was that of the two brethren in evil, whose anger was fierce and their wrath cruel, when, Genesis 34:31, they answered their aggrieved father, Should he deal with our sister as a harlot? Genesis 49:5; Genesis 49:7; where the word Zonah (harlot) hath a great letter, to note their vehemency, rage, and rudeness.


Verse 6

Esther 3:6 And he thought scorn to lay hands on Mordecai alone; for they had shewed 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.

Ver. 6. And he thought scorn to lay hands on Mordecai alone] He thought it a small matter, saith Josephus, μικρον ηγησατο, a thing below him, too little for his revenge, which, like fire, burneth all it can lay hold upon, especially when as here it ariseth from ambition, which, like choler adust, if constructed and stopped in its course, is a dangerous passion, and endeth in burning fevers and madness. Haman thought scorn, contempsit in oculis suis, contempt in his eyes, so the Hebrew, to foul his fingers with Mordecai alone, the whole nation must perish, and all the children of God that were scattered abroad, as he once said, John 11:50; John 11:52. In like manner, nostri temporis Hamanus, saith Merlin upon this text, the Haman of our time (meaning the duke of Guise, as I suppose), when as by the king’s favour he was promoted, and promised himself the crown, there being but one family only that stood in his way, he desired together with it to overturn all the Reformed religion and to root out all the remembrance of the Churches in France. Hence the Parisian Massacre, wherein Merlin had his part, being household chaplain to the admiral, and by a miracle of God’s mercy escaping those hellish cut throats. The first occasion of that bloody massacre, I have somewhere read, was this (Other things I know were pretended, as if the Protestants had plotted and practised against the king, queen mother, and the princes of the blood, and coin stamped with this inscription, Virtus in rebelles, &c. Courage in rebellion). The pope sent to the cardinal of Lorraine, brother to the duke of Guise, a table, wherein was painted our lady with a little child in her arms, by the most excellent painter in Christendom, and consecrated with his own hands, and enclosed it in a case of silk, and a letter with it, giving him high commendation and thanks for his zeal against the Huguenots. The messenger that carried the present fell sick by the way, and finding one going into France, entreated him to deliver the present to the cardinal. The cardinal read the letter, and laid the table on his bed, for he would not open it, till he might do it with greater solemnity. For this purpose he invited the duke of Guise to dinner with many other great personages. In the meanwhile one that liked not the cardinal, found means to change the table, &c. At dinner the letter was read, and the table taken out of the case in the sight of the cardinal and all his guests, wherein was painted in place of our lady and her child, the cardinal of Lorraine stark naked, the queen mother, the young Queen of Scots, and the old duchess of Guise naked also, hanging about the cardinal’s neck, and their legs wrapped between his legs. I cannot say much for the man that did this prank; but that the cardinal and his complices should thereupon design all the French Protestants to destruction, should butcher thirty thousand of them in a month, one hundred thousand of them in one year, some say three hundred thousand; that upon the news of it the pope should proclaim a jubilee for joy, and the cardinal of Lorraine give the messenger a thousand crowns, &c. This was matchless atrocious savagery, this was Haman-like hatred, this was cruelty beyond that of Simeon and Levi, which made good Jacob, in a deep detestation of that dreadfulness, cry out, "O my soul, come not thou into their secret," &c, Genesis 49:6.

For they had showed him the people of Mordecai] viz. That he was a Jew. Josephus’s note upon this text is: Haman naturally hated the Jews, as those that had anciently destroyed the Amalekites’ countrymen, he might easily call to mind what Saul had done to them, and David, and, lastly, the tribe of Simeon. God had sentenced them long since to utter destruction; and yet deferred the first execution for about four hundred years’ time; and now again, after more than five hundred years, Haman, the Agagite, is thus exalted, but for a mischief, as the eagle carrieth the tortoise on high in her talons, that she may break it in the fall, and feed upon it.

Patientia laesa fit furor.

Wherefore Haman sought to destroy all the Jews] Ut sanguineam

famem expleret; as a wolf, breaking into the fold, kills all the

flock; as fowlers take away the young and the dams together, putting

both into the bag (which God forbade, Deuteronomy 22:6); as Esau, that

rough man, came with four hundred cut-throats at his heels, to

destroy the mother with the children, Genesis 32:11; as Uladus,

prince ef Wallachia, was wont, together with the offender, to execute

the whole family, yea, sometimes the whole kindred; as Selilnus, the

Great Turk, in revenge of the loss he received at the battle of

Lepanto, resolved to put to death all the Christians in his

dominions, in number infinite; as Philip of Spain sailed out of the

Low Countries homewards, vowing to root out all the Lutherans there,

and protesting that he had rather have no subjects than such (Hist.

of Count. of Trent, 417); as cruel Dr Story, a great persecutor in

Queen Mary’s reign, and hanged for a traitor in Queen Elizabeth’s,

whose death he had conspired, cursing her daily in his grace at

meals, and greatly repenting that he and others had laboured only

about the young sprigs and twigs, as he phrased it, while they should

have stricken at the root, and clean rooted it out (A.D. 1571, Camd.

Eliz.); lastly, as the gunpowder Papists, who had prepared by

proclamations to further that horrid plot (if it had taken effect)

upon the Puritans, and under that name to have murdered all those

that had but looked toward religion.

That were throughout the whole kingdom] Herein he showed himself

a right Amalekite, Mali corvi malum ovum, dirt kneaded with blood

( Pηλος αιματι πεφυραμενος), as one said of Tiberius, He presumed

he might have what he pleased of the king, and, therefore, made

account to make but a breakfast of his enemies, the Jews, to whom he

said in his heart, as once Caligula did to the Roman consuls,

Rideo, quod uno nutu meo iugulare vos omnes possim, I cannot but

laugh to think that I can nod you all to death.

Even the people of Mordecai] Who were more renowned by him than

Co was by Hippocrates, Thebes by Epaininondas, Stagira by Aristotle,

Hippo by Augustine, &c.


Verse 7

Esther 3:7 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.

Ver. 7. In the first month] The time is thus noted, ad maiorem historiae fidem et lucern, to give more credit to the history, and to lend some light to it.

That is, the month Nisan] The Chaldees call it Abib, from the new fruits or ears of grain then first appearing. It was the first month unto Israel, in respect of sacred, not civil, affairs, because of their coming out of Egypt therein. It answereth to part of March with us, and part of April.

In the twelfth year of king Ahasuerus] When Esther had now been queen for over four years, and, being greatly beloved, was in a capacity to do her people good. This was a sweet providence, the remedy was ready before the disease broke out. No country hath more venomous creatures than Egypt, none more antidotes. So godliness hath many troubles, and as many helps against trouble.

They cast Pur, that is, the lot] The old interpreter addeth in urnam, into the pitcher. And the new annotations tell us that, about casting lots, there was a pitcher into which papers, with names of the several months written on them, and rolled up, were cast; yea, also papers with the names of every day and of every month were cast in; then one, blindfolded, put in his hand and pulled out a paper, and according to the marks which they had set down, such a month proved lucky, and such a day in the month; and, by God’s providence, it so fell out that their supposed lucky day was on the twelfth month, whereby it came to pass that their plot was defeated before the time of accomplishing thereof, Esther 9:1-11.

From day to day, &c.] This is not to be taken as if they had continued twelve months about in casting of these lots; but as in the note next above.

That is, the month Adar] In all which time that wicked Haman might have bethought himself (as one noteth), and returned to a better mind toward God’s people. But he, after the hardness of his heart, that could not repent, treasured up unto himself wrath against the day of wrath, &c., Romans 2:5.


Verse 8

Esther 3:8 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.

Ver. 8. And Haman said unto king Ahasuerus] After that, by sortilegy (or sorcery, for it is no better, as the very name showeth, and Varro affirmeth), he had light upon a lucky day, wherein to speak to the king, and a black day, wherein to do execution, he taketh the boldness to move the king in it. Now Mr Perkins affirmeth, that, as men do put confidence in lot sorcery, or the like diabolical divinations, or else they cannot attain to any foreknowledge by them; so therein, explicitly or implicitly, they have confederacy with the devil. Oh that this were well considered!

There is a certain people] Not worth the naming.

Scattered abroad] But was that their fault? was it not their misery rather, that God had threatened them, Deuteronomy 3:2, and were they not, therefore, to be pitied, and not preyed upon? It is said of Queen Elizabeth, that she hated, no less than did Mithridates, such as maliciously persecuted virtue forsaken of fortune (Camd. Eliz. 531).

And dispersed among the people] And, therefore, the more dangerous, since every sect strives to spread their opinions, and these, being antimagistratical, may do much harm, and draw many from their obedience, prove seedsmen of sedition. It may very well be that the sect of the Essenes were now beginning among the Jews, who taught that God alone, and no mortal man, was to be acknowledged for Lord and Prince (Joseph. l. 18, c. 2). Hence they were called Esseni, or Hashoni, that is, rebels, and for their sakes the whole nation might be the worse thought of (as if they were all such), like as the Protestants were in France, for the Anabaptists’ sake, in the reign of King Francis (Scultet. An. 454).

In all the provinces of thy kingdom] Quarum proventu gaudet, alitur, insolescit. Where they do no good, but devour grain, as vermin, as excrements in human society, and deserve to be knocked on the head, which may easily be done, because they are dejected, and not able to make headway against an adversary.

And their laws are diverse from all people] So they were, and better, their enemies themselves being judges, Deuteronomy 4:6-8. Prosper’s conceit was, that they were called Iudaei , because they received Ius Dei, their laws from God, who might say to them, as once Joseph did to his brethren, Genesis 45:12, Behold, your eyes see, that it is my mouth that speaketh unto you. And, therefore, if Demosthenes could say of laws in general, that they were the invention of Almighty God ( ευρημα του θεου); and if Cicero could say of the laws of the twelve tables in Rome, that they far exceeded and excelled all the libraries of all the philosophers, how much more true was all this of the laws of the Jews, given by God, and ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator, Moses! Seneca, though he jeered the Jews for their weekly Sabbath as those that lost the seventh part of their time, yet he could not but say that, being the basest people, they had the best laws, and gave laws unto all the world. Those holy Levites, Nehemiah 9:13, acknowledge, with all thankfulness, that God had given them right judgments, true laws, good statutes and commandments, whereby he severed them from all other people, as his own peculiar, and this was their glory wherever they came, though the sycophant in the text turneth their glory into shame, as one that loved vanity, and sought after leasing, Psalms 4:2.

Neither keep they the king’s laws] Mordecai indeed would not do him reverence, because it went against his conscience; no move would others of them keep the king’s laws in like case, but obey God rather than man, where they could not do both. Otherwise they were charged, Jeremiah 29:7, to seek the peace of the cities where they abode, and to submit to their civil and municipal laws; and so they did, doubtless, for the generality of them. But this impudent liar represents them to the king as refractories and rebels, &c. The devil began his kingdom by a lie, and by lies he upholdeth it. He was a liar and a murderer from the beginning; but first a liar, and thereby a murderer. He cannot handsomely murder, except he slander first, Song of Solomon 5:6; the credit of the Church must first be taken away, and then she is wounded; traduced she must be, and thence persecuted. Thus David is believed to seek Saul’s life; Elijah is the troubler of Israel; Jeremiah, the trumpet of rebellion; the Baptist, a stirrer up of sedition; Christ, an enemy to Caesar; Paul, a pestilent incendiary; the primitive Christians, a public mischief; the Reformed Churches, antimagistratical; this colour of right, yea, of piety, was laid upon the French Massacre, and by edicts a fair cloak sought to cover that impious fraud, as if there had been some horrid treason hatched by the Huguenots (Camd. Eliz.). The primitive persecutors used to put Christians into bears’ and dogs’ skins, or other ugly creatures, and then bait them; so wicked men put religion and its professors into ugly conceits and reports, and then speak and act against them.

Therefore it is not for the king’s profit] Heb. It is not meet, equal, or profitable to the king to suffer them, ut insolescat per licentiam, so the Vulgate Latin rendereth it, but without warrant from the Orig. See how this sycophant fills his mouth with arguments, the better to achieve his desire. An elaborate set speech he maketh, neither is there a word in it but what might seem to have weight. He pretends the king’s profit and the public good, concealing and dissembling his ambition, avarice, envy, malignity, that set him awork. Politicians, when they soar highest, are like the eagle, which, while aloft, hath her eye still upon the prey, which by this means she spies sooner, and seizes upon better. In parabola ovis capras suas quaerunt, as the proverb hath it. Haman holds it not fit there should be more religions than one in a kingdom, for preventing of troubles. Nebuchadnezzar was of the same mind when he commanded all men to worship his golden image. But must all, therefore, die that will not do it? and is it for the king’s profit that the righteous be rooted out? Is not semen sanctum statumen terrae? the holy seed the stay of the State? Isaiah 6:13, the beauty and bulwark of the nation? See Jeremiah 5:1, Ezekiel 2:2-10, Absque stationibus non staret mundus.


Verse 9

Esther 3:9 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.

Ver. 9. If it please the king] Here he showeth himself a smooth courtier, and speaketh silken words, the sooner to insinuate. But if Solomon had been by he would have said, "When he speaketh fair, believe him not: for there are seven abominations in his heart," Proverbs 26:25.

Let it be written that they may be destroyed] As Mithridates, king of Pontus, by writing one bloody letter only, destroyed eighty thousand citizens of Rome, dispersed up and down Asia for traffic’s sake (Val. Max.). That was bad, but this was worse that Haman motioned, and well near effected. And surely never did the old red dragon, saith Rupertus, lift up his head so fiercely and furiously against the woman, that is, against the Church of God, as in this place. Therefore is Haman to be reckoned among those cruel enemies, who said, Come, and let us destroy them from being a nation, that the name of Israel may be no more remembered, Psalms 83:4. But let them rage and kill up the saints as much as they can, the sheep will still be more in number than the wolves, the doves than the hawks. Plures efficimur quoties metimur, saith Tertullian, the more you crop us the faster we grow.

And I shall pay ten thousand talents of silver] A vast sum, three thousand seven hundred fifty thousand pounds sterling. At so great charge would this butcher be, to satisfy his lust, and to have his pennyworths upon God’s poor people. So, in the gunpowder treason (besides their pains, digging like moles in their vault of villany), Digby offered to bring in fifteen hundred pounds, Tresham two thousand, Piercy four thousand, out of the earl of Northumberland’s rents; besides ten swift horses to steed them when the blow was past. But where should Haman have all this money, may some say? I answer, First, if he were of the seed royal of Amalek, as it is thought, he might have much left him by his ancestors. Secondly, being so great a favourite to the king of Persia, he had, doubtless, many profitable offices, and so might lay up gold as dust, and silver as the stones of the brooks, Job 22:24. Did not Wolsey so here in Henry VIII’s time? Thirdly, he had already devoured in his hopes the goods and spoils of all the slain Jews, which he doubted not but the king would bestow upon him for his good service. Like as Henry II of France gave his mistress, Diana Valentina, all the confiscations of goods made in the kingdom for cause of heresy. Hereupon many good men were burned for religion, as it was said, but, indeed, it was to satiate her covetousness (Hist. of Counc. of Trent, 387).

To the hands of those, &c.] Vulg. Arcariis gazae tuae.

To bring it into the king’s treasuries] That he might not be damnified in the tributes formerly paid by the Jews for their liberty of conscience. Kings use to take care that their incomes and revenues be not impaired or diminished. It is said of Soliman, the Great Turk, that, seeing a company of many thousands of his Christian subjects fall down before him, and hold up the forefinger, as their manner of conversion to the Turkish religion is, he asked what moved them to turn? they replied, it was to be eased of their heavy taxations. He, not willing to lose in tribute for an unsound accession in religion, rejected their conversion, and doubled their taxations.


Verse 10

Esther 3:10 And the king took his ring from his hand, and gave it unto Haman the son of Hammedatha the Agagite, the Jews’ enemy.

Ver. 10. And the king took his ring from his hand] And thereby gave him power to do what he pleased, Genesis 41:42, 1 Kings 21:8, En regis huius inertiam et impcritiam. How weak (weak as water, Genesis 49:4) was the heart of this brutish barbarian, skilful to destroy! Ezekiel 21:31, seeing he did all these things, the work of an imperious whorish woman, Ezekiel 16:30, rather than of an able man, such as every magistrate should be, Exodus 18:21, just, and ruling in the fear of God, 2 Samuel 23:3. In the case of Vashti he could refer the matter to the consideration of a council. In the case of the two eunuchs that had conspired against his life he made inquisition of the matter, and did all things deliberately. In the case of Haman after this, though deeply displeased, yet he did nothing rashly, till he had gone into the palace garden, and considered with himself what was best to be done. But here upon the very first motion (without hearing them speak for themselves, or admonishing them to do their duty better, &c.) he gives order for the slaying of so many thousand innocents, never considering that every drop of their blood had a voice in it to cry for vengeance against him and his, Genesis 4:10, Matthew 22:7. And when the king heard it; for blood cries aloud to God; 2 Kings 9:26, "Surely I have seen yesterday the blood of Naboth." Murder ever bleeds fresh in the eye of Almighty God. To him many years, yea, that eternity that is past, is but yesterday. He will give such blood again to drink, for they are worthy, Revelation 16:6. Dealt he not so by Herod, Julian, Attilas, Felix of Wurtemburg, Farnesius, Minerius, Charles IX, king of France, who died by exceeding bleeding at sundry parts of his body, soon after the Parisian Massacre, whereof he was the author, giving as large and as bloody a commission to the duke of Guise to destroy, to kill, and to cause to perish all the French Protestants, as Ahasuerus did here to Haman? Neither was he slack to execute it with greatest inhumanity, crying out to those of his party (after that he had slain the admiral), Courage, my fellows, fall on, the king commands it, it is his express pleasure, he commands it (The Hist. of French Mass., by Mr Clark). But what followed shortly after?

Quem sitiit vivens scelerata mente cruorem,

Perfidus hunc moriens Carolus ore vomit.

Ergo Dei tandem verbo subscribite, Reges;

Ne rapiant Stygiae vos Acherontis aquae.

And gave it unto Haman] Who now being his favourite, might have anything of him, like as it is said of Sejanus, that in all his designs he found in Tiberius the emperor so great facility and affection to his desire, that he needed only to ask and give thanks. He never denied him anything, and ofttimes anticipated his request, and avowed that he deserved much more. It was not, therefore, without cause that the primitive Christians prayed so hard for the emperor, that God would send him good counsellors, and deliver him from flatterers and slanderers, those pests of the court (Tertull. Apol.).

The Jews’ enemy] That was his style, or rather his brand and mark of ignominy, worse than that of Cain, Genesis 4:15, that of Dathan, Numbers 26:9, of Ahaz, 2 Chronicles 28:22. It may be he affected this title, and gloried in it; as we read of John Oneal, father to the earl of Tyrone, that rebel 1598, that he inscribed himself in all places, I, great John Oneal, cousin to Christ, friend to the queen of England, and foe to all the world besides (Camden).


Verse 11

Esther 3:11 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.

Ver. 11. And the king said unto Haman] Whom he looked upon as an honest, prudent, public spirited man, and therefore so easily empowered him to do what he would.

O vanas hominum mentes! O pectora caeca!

The silver is given unto thee] i.e. The ten thousand talents that thou hast proffered, and which Haman likely purposed to raise out of the spoil of the Jews; all this is remitted, and returned to Haman as a gift again. Sic ex alieno corie gigantes isti latissimas corrigias secant, saith an interpreter here, Such large thongs cut these giants out of other men’s hides. But what meant they thus to sell the hide before they had taken the beast? He that sat in heaven (and had otherwise determined it) laughed at them, the Lord had them in derision, Psalms 2:4. "With him" (alone) "is strength and wisdom: the deceived and the deceiver are his. He leadeth counsellors away spoiled, and maketh the judges fools. He leadeth princes away spoiled, and overthroweth the mighty," Job 12:16-17; Job 12:19.

The people also, to do with them] Here Haman was made, here he had more than heart could wish, as Psalms 73:7, and holdeth himself, therefore, no doubt, the happiest man under heaven. But nihil sane infelicius est felicitate peccantium, saith Jerome, There cannot befall a man a greater misery than to prosper in sin: for such a one is ripening for ruin, as fatting cattle are fitting for the butcher. They prosper and live at ease, saith God, yet I am extremely displeased with them, Zechariah 1:15. As they say of the metal they make glass of, it is nearest melting when it shineth brightest; so are the wicked nearest destruction when at greatest lustre. Meanwhile see here what, many times, is the condition of God’s dearest children, viz. to fall into the power and paws of lions, leopards, boars, bears, tigers; of men more savage than any of these, whose tender mercies are mere cruelties. Poor blind men they are that offer violence to the saints, as Samson laid bands upon the pillars, to pluck the house upon their own heads.

To do with them as it seemeth good to thee] Oh bloody sentence! Such words as these Leniter volant, sed non leniter violant. So Dioclesian gave leave to people to kill up Christians, without more ado, wherever they met them; the like was done by authority in the French Massacre; but though tyrants restrain not their agents, yet God will, Psalms 76:10. And though they bandy together and bend all their forces to root out true religion; yet are they bounded by him, and shall not do what themselves please, but what he hath appointed. My times are in thine hand, saith David; and Pilate had no more power to crucify Christ than what was given him from above, John 19:11.


Verse 12

Esther 3:12 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.

Ver. 12. Then were the king’s scribes called] Then, presently upon it, so soon as the word was out of the king’s mouth, licet quod libet, the scribes were called, and all things despatched with all possible haste, art, and industry. So Judas, what he did, did quickly; he was up and at it, when Peter and the rest of the apostles were found asleep. The children of this world are wiser in their generation than the children of light; for why? they have the devil to help them, and to prick them on; and hence their restlessness.

On the thirteenth day of the first month] Soon after they had begun to cast lots, Esther 3:7.

And there was written according to all that Haman had commanded] Right or wrong, that was never once questioned by these overly officious officers. If the king commanded it, and Haman will have it so, the secretaries and rulers (those servile souls) are ready to say, as Tiberius once did to Justinus, Si tu volueris, ego sum; si tu non vis, ego non sum. If you are willing, so am I, if you are not willing, so am I. Or as he in Lucan did to Caesar,

Iussa sequi, tam velle mihi, quam posse, necesse.

We are wholly at your devotion and dispose. We are only your clay and wax, &c. It is not for us to take upon us as counsellors, but only to write what is dictated unto us, &c. But this was no sufficient excuse for them before God; as neither was it for Doeg, that he was commanded to slay all the Lord’s priests, which Abner and others of Saul’s servants rightly and stoutly refused to do, 1 Samuel 22:18. A warrant once came down under seal for Lady Elizabeth’s execution, while she was prisoner at Woodstock; Stephen Gardiner, like another Haman, being the chief engineer. But Mr. Bridges, her keeper, mistrusting false play, presently made haste to the queen, who renounced and reversed it. So might Ahasuerus haply have done this bloody edict, had his officers showed him the iniquity of it. But they took not this to be any part of their business; or if any one of them should be more conscientious, yet he might be surprised by a sudden onset, as the Lord Cromwell, when, by the instigation of Gardiner, he was commanded by King Henry VIII to read the sentence of death against Lambert the martyr, whereof he repented afterwards, sending for Lambert, and asking him forgiveness, as Mr Fox relateth.

And to every people after their language] See Esther 1:22.

In the name of the king Ahasuerus] For more authority’ sake, and that Haman’s malice and cruelty might lie hid under the king’s cloak. So Jezebel wrote letters in Ahab’s name against Naboth; so the Egyptians oppressed the Israelites in the name of their king; the Jews pretended to be all for Caesar, when they sought and sucked our Saviour’s blood. The Popish persecutors here did all in Queen Mary’s name, when as it might be said to her, as Josephus doth of Queen Alexandra among the Jews, Ipsa solum nomen regium ferebat, &c., She had the name only of queen, but the Pharisees ruled the kingdom; so did the bishops in those days; and some of them would have done the like in ours, and that was their downfall; after that, as rotten teeth, they had put the king and kingdom to a great deal of misery.

And sealed with the king’s ring] Lest it should by any means be reversed, Daniel 6:8; Daniel 6:12-13. Of the right antiquity, use, and matter of rings let them that will, read Plin. lib. 33, cap. 1; 37, 1; Macrob. lib. 1; Saturn. cap. 13; Alexand. ab Alex. lib. 2. genial dier.; Rhodig. lib. 6, cap. 12.


Verse 13

Esther 3:13 And the letters were 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, and [to take] the spoil of them for a prey.

Ver. 13. And the letters were sent by posts] These the Persians called Angari, or (as Ruffin writeth it) Aggari. But why was this done in such post haste, so long before the day of execution? was it not to hold them all that while on the rack, and so to kill them piecemeal (as Tiberius used to do by his enemies), while, through fear of death, and expectation of that doleful day, they were all their lifetime subject to bondage? Hebrews 2:15.

To destroy, to kill, and to cause to perish] Words written not with black, but with blood; and therefore multiplied in this sort, to show that it mattered not how, so they were made away by any means, and the world well rid of them. Read the history of the French Massacre; and hear reverend Merlin (who narrowly, and indeed miraculously, escaped those bloody villains, as being chaplain to the admiral, and praying with him in his chamber a little before he was murdered), hear him, I say, commenting upon this text; Sic nostro saeculo, si scribenda fuerint edicta adversus religionem, non potuerunt sibi scribae satisfacere in excogitandis verbis significantibus, quibus atrociora et magis sanguinaria redderentur, &c.; that is, in our age also if any edicts are to be written against religion, the secretaries cannot satisfy themselves in devising significant words, whereby those edicts may be rendered the more cruel and sanguinary.

All Jews, both young and old, little children and women] All ages, sizes, and sexes. What could the devil himself have added to this abhorred cruelty, if it had gone on? Such a slaughter made Doeg at Nob; the Sicilians at their bloody vespers; the king of France with the Templars throughout his kingdom; Minerius, the pope’s champion, with the Protestants of Merindol and Chabriers (besides that of the Parisian Massacre before mentioned, and by Merlin upon this verse graphically described, like as that of Babylon is by Jeremiah, Jeremiah 51:34). What a woeful slaughter had here been made had Fawkes but fired the powder! What an Aceldama had this whole land been turned into in a few days’ time! Necdum interiit saevus Hamani animus. Neither yet is Haman dead, but reviveth daily in his bloody and blasphemous successors. That like as Bucholcer saith of Cain, the devil’s patriarch, there are not a few that still carry about, adore, and worship as a sacred thing, Cain’s club red with the blood of Abel; so it is here.

Even upon the thirteenth day] That it was to be no sooner done was by a special providence of God, that ere that time came it might be happily prevented, as was before noted. See Esther 3:7. Haman’s folly also was not a little seen in deferring the execution so long; for how knew he what a day might bring forth? it was indeed mirabile simulque miserabile dictu, as one saith, a wonderful and in addition a miserable thing, that none should be found among the Persians, Medes, and Chaldees to pity this poor people, and to intercede for them. To have spoken to Haman for them might likely have been as bootless as once it was to Minerius in the behalf of the Merindolians. Of whom when a few had escaped his all-devouring sword, and he was entreated to give them quarter for their lives, he sternly answered, I know what I have to do, not one of them shall escape my hands; I will send them to dwell in hell among the devils. But if Haman resolved no better, yet what knew he, but that in time the king might relent and repent of that rash and wretched edict, as he did.

Nam faciles motus mens generosa capit (Ovid).

We read in our Chronicles, that when King Henry III had given commandment for the apprehending of Hubert de Burgo, earl of Kent, he fled into a church in Essex. They to whom the business was committed, finding him upon his knees before the high altar, with the sacrament in one hand and a cross in the other, carried him away nevertheless unto the Tower of London. The bishop taking this to be a great violence and wrong to the Church, would never leave the king until he had caused the earl to be carried to the place whence he was fetched. This was done; and although order was taken he should not escape thence, yet it gave the king’s wrath a time to cool, and himself leisure to make proof of his innocence; by reason whereof he was afterwards restored to the king’s favour and former places of honour. And the like befell these Jews, ere the thirteenth of Adar; but Haman, blinded with pride and superstition, could not foresee it.

And to take the spoil of them for a prey] To be sure that none should escape, the goods of the slain are proposed for a reward to them that should slay them, and how far that would prevail with many covetous wretches who knoweth not? Covetousness is daring and desperate ( Dεινος και παντολμος, Isid.), how much more when it is encouraged, as here, by a permission, nay, a precept, from the king and his chief favourite! where we may be sure, the wealthier any man was the sooner he should have been sent out of the world, as a tree with thick and large boughs is most likely to be lopped. Trithemius telleth us, that the Templars mentioned above were massacred by Philip the Fair, king of France, upon pretext of heresy; but indeed because they were rich, and Philip sore longed after their possessions. The Cyprians for their great wealth became a spoil to the Romans.

- Quid non mortalia pectora cogis,

Auri sacra fames?


Verse 14

Esther 3:14 The copy of the writing for a commandment to be given in every province was published unto all people, that they should be ready against that day.

Ver. 14. The copy of the writing … was published] Phathsegin, a Syriac word, saith R. David, and not found but in the books about the captivity. The Vulgate rendereth it Summa, highest, R. Nathan τυπος, to the same sense. Transcripts of the original were sent to all places, that none might be ignorant or negligent in doing execution. But why did not the Jews upon such notice save themselves by flight, may some say? Alas, whither should the poor souls flee with their families? being compassed about with so many deadly enemies, having none that durst own them in that distress? It was a just wonder, and a special work of God, that their enemies forbore to fall upon them before the black day came, if but for the sake of spoil. We read, Esther 9:1; Esther 9:5-11 that notwithstanding the known favour of the king, the patronage of Mordecai, and the hanging up of Haman, &c., the thirteenth of Adar is still meant to be a bloody day. Haman’s abettors join together to perform that sentence, whereof the author repented, &c. But God was seen in the mount; he loveth to help those that are forsaken from their hopes, as he did these poor prisoners then, when it might seem that there was neither left unto them hope of better or place of worse. Who would not therefore trust in God? Deo confisi nunquam confusi? Trust in God will surely triumph.

That they should be ready against that day] That long looked for day by Haman and his party, wherein they meant to roll themselves, and wallow in the blood of those Jews, and to say, as Hannibal did, when he saw a ditch filled with man’s blood, O iucundum spectaculum! O pleasant sight! Or as Valesus, when he had slain three hundred, O rem regiam! O kingly act! Or as that queen, who, when she saw some of her Protestant subjects lying dead and stripped upon the earth, cried out, the godliest tapestry that ever she beheld! Are not such blood suckers of the vulturine kind spoken of in Job, whose young ones glut-glut blood (the original word seemeth made from the sound), "and where the slain are there is she," Job 39:30.


Verse 15

Esther 3:15 The posts went out, being hastened by the king’s commandment, and the decree was given in Shushan the palace. And the king and Haman sat down to drink; but the city Shushan was perplexed.

Ver. 15. The posts went out, being hastened by the king’s commandment] As if the enemy had been at the gates, and his crown had hanged on the one side of his head; he could not have been more earnest and diligent in such a case than he now is. So much set upon it are God’s enemies, to bring their evil purposes to pass that till then neither themselves nor others can be suffered to rest for them. Quicquid volunt, valde volunt, bearing down with crest and breast whatsoever stands in the way of their sinful lusts. What a shame is it, then, for saints not to be zealous of good works, valiant for the truth, and violent for the kingdom.

And the decree was given in Shushan the palace] Pependit, saith the Vulgate, it hung up upon the posts to be read by all, the king not shaming to have his privities seen (as the phrase is, Ezra 4:14), to traduce himself (as it were) in a public theatre, for a foolish and oppressive prince; neither caring what might be the evil consequents thereof, so that he may satisfy his own lust, and gratity his minion.

And the king and Haman sat down to drink] So to drown the noise of conscience (if not altogether dead and dedolent), and so to nourish their hearts as in a day of slaughter. Thus Joseph’s brethren, when they had cast him into the pit, sat down to eat bread, Genesis 37:25, when it had been better for them to have wept for their wickedness. So did the Israelites when they had made them a golden calf, Exodus 32:6. Herod feasteth when he had cast the Baptist into prison, Matthew 14:6. The antichristian rout, revel, and riot, when they had slain the two witnesses, Revelation 11:10. The pope proclaimed a jubilee upon the Parisian Massacre. The king of France swore that he never smelled anything more sweet than the admiral’s carcase, when it stank with long lying. As for his head, he sent it for a present to the queen mother. And she, embalming it, sent it to her holy father the pope for an assurance of the death of his most capital enemy. Thuanus writeth that the pope caused that massacre to be painted in his palace. Had the gunpowder plot succeeded it should have been portrayed, surely, in his chapel or oratory. Fawkes was to get into the fields to see the sport; for they made no other reckoning, but that all was their own. No more did the king and Haman here, and hence their jollity, but it proved somewhat otherwise. God oft suffereth his enemies to have the ball on the foot till they come to the very goal, and yet then to make them to miss the game. He loveth to make fools of them, to let them go to the utmost of their tedder, and then to pull them back with shame to their task.

But the city Shushan was perplexed] That is, the Jews that dwelt there; together with the rest that loved them, and wished well to them. These wept, saith the Vulgate Latin; were in heaviness, say others; they were intricated, ensnared, at their wit’s end, so that they knew not what to do (as the word here signifieth), only their eyes were toward the hills, from whence should come their help. Their comfort was to consider, that melior est tristitia iniqua patientis, quam laetitia iniqua facientis (August.). Better is the perplexity of him that suffereth evil than the jollity of him that doth evil. Deliverance would come, they believed, Esther 4:14, but whence they knew not. Hard things may be mollified, crooked things straightened. Non omnium dierum sol occidit, While there is a sun to set I will not despair of a good issue, as Queen Elizabeth said when she was most perplexed, as being to be sent prisoner to the Tower, than the which never went anything nearer to her heart.

 


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Bibliography Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Esther 3:4". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/esther-3.html. 1865-1868.

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