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Bible Commentaries

Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible
Esther 9

 

 


Verses 1-32

Esther 9:6-16. The Jews Successful against their Enemies.—Adar 13th, the dreadful day, comes at last. What were the Jews to do? There were many partisans of Haman, some 500 at least in the city alone; there were thousands more in the land, ready to carry out the first decree. Should Mordecai and all Jews sit still and see their wives and children butchered, and be butchered themselves? The Hamanites attack: the Jews defend themselves. There fell of those who attacked, in Shushan itself, some 500, and in all the empire 15,000 as the LXX says, although the Heb. exaggerates and says 75,000. Was this mere wanton bloodshed on the Jews' part? The tale rather pictured for the suffering people of Judah how their brave comrades, the Maccabees, had faced and fought and felled the cruel armies of Antiochus under Nicanor. And now the writer adds a touch of fine national self-respect, saying: "No Jew took booty of the fallen men's goods." The Jew believed it would be base thus to steal, as the Persians had meant to do. We see what sort of society Jesus arose among, and sought to bless.

This chapter is full of repetitions, easily detected, as, e.g. thrice we read, "The Jews took no booty." Erbt has suggested that only the following were in the original: Esther 9:1-3, Esther 9:5-10, Esther 9:16; Esther 9:24 f., Esther 9:29; Esther 9:31 a, Esther 9:32. All the rest are later marginal remarks, that have slipped into the text. The most unfortunate of the additions is Esther 9:13, which pictures Esther asking permission for the Jews to go on killing on a second day. The LXX is clearly the earlier and truer text: it has no hint that such a request was made. It is probably correct that Esther was represented by the novelist as asking that Haman's ten sons—already dead—be impaled like their father; and that is pitiable, although not so cruel as it looks, and it is not at all strange. It resembles our English use of the spikes of Temple Bar: it is the one hard feature imputed to any Jew.

Esther 9:20-32. Institution of the Feast of Purim.—We come now to the establishment of the perpetual annual festival of Purim (p. 104), commemorating the great salvation. Quite possibly our tale was written to provide a short epic that could be read at the festival: and so Esther is read every year at the celebrations lasting from the 13th to the 15th of Adar. This festival had become very popular by the time of Josephus, A.D. 37-100, and he repeats the story of it much as we find it in the Gr. version. He includes much which the Heb. has cut out (see Ant. xi. 6). In the Middle Ages, Purim became a central season of rejoicing, with all sorts of merry-making combined around it. Especially did the men and boys at the celebration services in the synagogues beat with wooden hammers on the benches, whereon was written in chalk the word HAMAN. We may see herein that the festival was a sort of sharing and rejoicing in the Maccabee victories, for the word "Maccabee" is the Heb. for "Hammerer," as "Maccab" means a "hammer." Judas hammered Antiochus and his hosts. [This popular explanation of the name is open to objections; see EBi. cols. 1947, 2850f.—A. S. P.]

Our tale tells how there was a strong desire to prolong the time of festival, and so two days were devoted to it (Esther 9:21), whereon all provision of help was made for poor folk, and there were also mutual kindly treatings. Since we read in 2 Maccabees 15:36 that the victory over Nicanor fell on "the 13th of Adar, the day before the day of Mordecai," two days seem to have been employed from the first. Perhaps even three days were occupied in the great feastings, for Adar 13th was the day of victory, and while that was "to be honoured" says 2 Mac., with thanksgiving, the addition in Esther 9:17-23 says that the 14th and the 15th came to be honoured as the times of special festivities (p. 104). Then the 14th would come to be called specially "Mordecai's Day." We need not be surprised that the Jews devoted two and even three days to these rejoicings: indeed they added ere long another celebration called Hanukkah (p. 104), in Chislew (December), three months earlier, to honour the earliest victories of Judas in 168-166 and also his cleansing and restoration of the Temple after its sad desecration by Antiochus. The importance to the Jews of that great Maccaban salvation has not been fully realised by us. But it was indeed the re-establishment of the Throne of David, and it was also the initiation of those wonderful apocalyptic and Messianic movements which culminated in Christianity.

There is notably very little said about the Memorial Festival; and its name, the word Purim, is mysterious: perhaps it was made so purposely. There is no real Heb. explanation for it. An old Assyrian word, "Puhru," was used long before as the name of "the annual assembly of the Gods under the presidency of Marduk, the God of Fate; at which assembly were determined the fates of men for the year to come." The Assyrian empire had been destroyed c. 607 B.C., but this term "Puhru" may have remained in popular speech for centuries, to be adopted at last by the Jews. De Lagarde pointed out that LXX uses the word "Phrourai," and not Purim; and he thought at one time that Phrourai represented the Persian "Pharwardigan," which was a Festival for the Dead, a sort of All Saints' Day at the close of the year. But he abandoned this view later on. [Driver (IOT9, p. 485) says with reference to the LXX form of the word preferred by Lagarde, "Whatever the etymological difficulties attaching to the term, the form Purim ‘is supported by the tradition of the feast itself."—A. S. P.] In any case, the origin of the term seems to have been among a non-Jewish people, and this may account for the evident effort that the scribes made to discourage the festival. For some such reason they may have cut out of the original tale all its references to Yahweh, the God of Israel, and much else that was religious in the story.

 


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Bibliography Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on Esther 9:4". "Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pfc/esther-9.html. 1919.

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