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Bible Commentaries

Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible
Esther 3

 

 

Verses 1-15

Esther 3. Haman, to Avenge a Slight Put on Him by Mordecai, Persuades the King to Order a Massacre of the Jews.—The Grand Vizier Haman, Heb. calls a descendant of that mysterious people, the Amalekites, and even of their king Agag (1 Samuel 15). To suppose that the word "Agag" really means "Gog," and to gather that we have here a sting for the memory of the Scythians, is a rather helpless device. The Heb. writer seems to have wished to avoid saying that Haman was a Macedonian, i.e. a Syrian. In ch. 8 LXX says he was so. Perhaps that was dangerous politics: those were the nations of the bloodthirsty Alexander and Antiochus. Haman, in his jealousy of Mordecai, would murder every Jewish man, woman, and child. Here is horrible blood-thirst, but it is Gentile blood-thirst. It is not Jewish, and it passes comprehension why this ferocious character of Haman has been so often attributed to the Jews. In history we find that Antiochus (175-164 B.C.) did order just such murders for all Jews who "would not bow down" to Zeus (p. 607), as Mordecai would not bow before Haman. Mordecai's brave refusal becomes known to the court officials, and all are amazed that a man should so calmly defy the Grand Vizier, which Haman now is. Haman is enraged, and approaches the king to sue for a decree to kill all Jews, whom he denounces as a pestilent element in the land. He offers a bribe of enormous amount, the figures of which are, no doubt, exaggerated; although in those days Onias and Menelaus (p. 581) did pay to Syrian kings immense sums to secure for themselves the High-Priesthood with all its perquisites. The weak Gentile king Ahasuerus is easily persuaded: he decrees the massacre and also a confiscation of all Jewish property. The whole of this property is to be handed over as booty to the slayers.

In Esther 3:7 we find that Haman is superstitious, like many cruel persons; and he casts lots for a lucky day for his awful deed. At last Adar 13th is chosen, the very month and day on which, as we have seen, Nicanor made his last terrible attack on Judah, when he was defeated by the Maccabees. A strange word "pur" is translated by our word "lot": LXX makes it "phrour." But no such word with such meaning is found in Heb. or in any language that the Jews then spoke. Now the fast posts carry the decree of death to all peoples in the empire. The LXX gives a supposed decree: not so Heb.; yet Heb. does quote it (Esther 3:13) as saying, "Destroy, slay, cause to perish all Jews, young and old, little children and women, in one day"! The decree in LXX is no doubt unreal, yet the story of it is founded on fact, for Alexander and Antiochus did similarly. The blood-bath is prepared. Shushan's citizens are in consternation, but king and vizier sit down to a reckless drinking-feast. Mordecai wanders in the city, lamenting. He dare not lift his cry in or near the palace, for a king must never hear the sound of grief. Yet many citizens go about in sackcloth and bestrewed with ashes. In some way the awful tidings penetrate to the queen's palace, and she sends words of comfort to Mordecai. But he cannot be silent.

 


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Bibliography Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on Esther 3:4". "Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pfc/esther-3.html. 1919.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, June 2nd, 2020
the Week of Proper 4 / Ordinary 9
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