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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible
Esther 9

 

 


Verse 1

1. It was turned to the contrary — So the providence of God will ever overturn and bring to naught the counsels of the wicked.


Verse 2

2. No man could withstand them — One explanation of their power and success is given in the next sentence, for the fear of them fell upon all people. A general terror spread from a feeling that the Jews were the special favourites of the most high God; and while this feeling disheartened and unnerved their enemies, it gave inspiration and power to the Jews.

Rawlinson thinks that the Jews did not remain wholly on the defensive, but sometimes commenced the attack. We may, indeed, very naturally suppose that Jewish antipathy and anger would, at least in some cases, lead them to assault their foes, but of this we have no evidence in this history. The nearest approach to it is Esther’s request in Esther 9:13, where see note.


Verse 3

3. The rulers of the provinces — Called princes in the common version of Esther 1:3, though the Hebrew word is the same in each passage.

Lieutenants — Satraps. See on Ezra 8:36.

Deputies — Governors or prefects. See on Ezra 5:3.

Officers of the king — Hebrew, Doers of the business that pertained to the king. See note on Esther 3:9.

Helped the Jews — To what extent is not stated. They probably facilitated the Jews in their preparations to defend themselves.

Because the fear of Mordecai fell upon them — They were men of artful policy, careful to keep in favour with the highest minister of the royal court; and because the prime minister was now a Jew, they feared to take sides with the Jews’ enemies.


Verse 4

4. Mordecai waxed greater and greater — This fact all the more commanded for him the respect and reverence of the various rulers of the empire. He was a wise statesman, a careful and prudent officer, and his manner combined such dignity and grace, and so won the confidence of the king, that his name became known through all the empire, and all thoughtful princes in the provinces at once concluded that it would not be safe or wise to place themselves in any kind of opposition to him.


Verse 5

5. The Jews smote… with… the sword — Hence we see that they had armed themselves with weapons of war, and were thus prepared, in case of attack, to retaliate with slaughter and destruction. No doubt when they were assailed they avenged themselves by a most fearful retaliation.

Did what they would unto those that hated them — Carried their work of retaliation to whatsoever extent they desired. But it does not appear that in any city or province the Jews themselves began the work of war. The hatred of their enemies always commenced the slaughter by an attack upon them.


Verse 6

6. In Shushan the palace the Jews slew… five hundred — Shushan the palace is here evidently to be taken in the sense of the place or city of the palace, equivalent to in or at Shushan, as in Esther 9:15. It is not to be supposed that the work of slaughter was carried on within the palace itself.


Verses 7-9

7-9. Parshandatha… Vajezatha — These names of Haman’s ten sons are written in Hebrew MSS. in perpendicular columns, and it is said that the reader in the synagogue is required to pronounce them all at one breath. The Targum says they were all suspended, one above another, upon one cross, fifty cubits high, which Mordecai had prepared for the purpose. In the Masoretic text the letters תand שׁ, in the names of Parshandatha and Parmashta, are written in smaller form than the rest, and in the last name, Vajezatha, the וis written large, and the זsmall — all which, perhaps, represents some mystic Rabbinical conceit. Most of these names are of Persian origin, a fact which has great weight in showing the genuineness of the Book of Esther.


Verse 10

10. On the spoil laid they not their hand — The king’s decree granted them, as it had done their enemies, the right to the spoils, (Esther 3:13; Esther 8:11,) but they showed that they had no desire to enrich themselves by the goods of their fallen foes.


Verse 12

12. What have they done in the rest of the king’s provinces — A question implying that much greater destruction must have prevailed elsewhere. Here in Shushan they have slain five hundred; what multitudes, then, are likely to have been slain in the provinces!


Verse 13

13. To do to-morrow also according unto this day’s decree — This request of Esther has been pronounced the offspring of a bloodthirsty vengeance, and desire to have another day for the butchery of enemies. But what was this day’s decree which the queen desired to be continued another day? Merely “to stand for their life” against all that would assault them. See note on Esther 9:2, and Esther 8:11. Hence we infer that the queen believed, or had reason to suspect, that the enemies of the Jews in Shushan would renew the attack upon the following day. So fearfully enraged were these enemies that they were likely to retaliate for their losses by an unauthorized continuance of the fight, and it was to secure her people against such an event Esther wisely made this request. This extension of the decree was to have effect only in Shushan, not in the provinces.

Let Haman’s ten sons be hanged — They had been already slain, (Esther 9:10,) and now Esther would have their dead bodies impaled, in order to strike terror into the hearts of the Jews’ enemies, and thus, as far as possible, prevent further strife and bloodshed.


Verse 15

15. Slew three hundred men at Shushan — Making, with the five hundred of the previous day, eight hundred slain at this capital city. We understand that, as Esther suspected, there were in Shushan many desperate persons who had resolved not to let the matter stop with the thirteenth of Adar, and so recommenced the fight on the next day. The result was the death of these three hundred men.


Verse 16

16. And had rest from their enemies — The position of these words in the middle of the verse is noticeably strange. There maybe here some disarrangement of the text, or it may be, as Keil suggests, “that the narrator desired at once to point out how the matter ended.” Such apparent disorder of the text is not always to be regarded as evidence of corruption by transcribers. The Hebrew writers are not always the best models of accuracy and perfection of literary style.

Seventy and five thousand — “The slaughter of these seventy-five thousand shows,” says Wordsworth, “that a very large number of their heathen enemies, who had been exasperated against the Jews, had prepared themselves for an attack upon them; and that, presuming upon their own numbers and forces, as compared with the Jews, they assaulted them in order to destroy and despoil them, and to enrich themselves with their property; and that the Jews made a vigorous resistance, and, by the help of God, routed their assailants with a great discomfiture. The slaughter was not the consequence of a vindictive spirit in the Jews, but of the bitter animosity of their enemies; and it proves that the Jews would have been extinguished, (as Haman’s decree intended that they should be,) if God had not interfered to rescue them from destruction.”

The same writer also records the two following inferences from the history of this terrible slaughter: 1) “It shows the recklessness of human life, even of their own subjects, which then prevailed among the sovereigns of most celebrated nations of the Eastern world, and it displays the ruinous consequences which would have resulted to human civilization if Ahasuerus (Xerxes) had been victorious at Salamis. If Greece had not triumphed in that struggle with Asia, Oriental ruthlessness and Oriental polygamy might have become dominant in the West, and greater difficulties would have obstructed the progress of civilization and Christianity. The Book of Esther reveals to us that the hand of God wrought for the deliverance of mankind at the straits of Salamis, and on the banks of the Asopus, at Plataea, as well as for the preservation of the Jews in the provinces of Persia.” 2) “It also displays the unhappy consequences of that proud assumption of infallibility which was implied in the Medo-Persian maxim, that laws once enacted may never be repealed. Such a claim to the divine attribute of infallibility, whether it be made by Eastern potentates or Western pontiffs, shuts the door against repentance, and involves them in a perpetual necessity of erring, and is fraught with the most disastrous consequences to all who are under their sway.”


Verse 19

19. Therefore… the fourteenth day — Because the Jews outside of Shushan did all their fighting on the thirteenth, and rested on the fourteenth, as stated in Esther 9:17, therefore they made the latter day their day of feasting and joy; but the Jews in Shushan, having fought both on the thirteenth and fourteenth, made the fifteenth their feast day, Esther 9:18. See also Esther 9:21.

Jews of the villages — Rather, of the country places, that is, as distinguished from those who dwelt at the capital, Shushan. They are further defined as those that dwelt in cities of the country, (not unwalled towns, as our version has it, for some of these country towns may have had walls.) The writer of this was evidently a citizen of Shushan, and seems to have regarded the whole Persian empire outside of this capital city as country.

Sending portions — Comp. Nehemiah 8:10, note.


Verse 20

20. Mordecai wrote these things — Namely, the things or occurrences that transpired throughout the Persian empire on the thirteenth, fourteenth, and fifteenth of Adar. He wrote a report of the matter, as of something worthy to be chronicled for everlasting remembrance, and with this record he also sent letters unto all the Jews throughout the empire of Ahasuerus, proposing to them what is stated in the next two verses. Mordecai’s official position in the Persian court enabled him to establish this festival as no other Jew could have done. He could issue orders with royal authority, and use the posts and agents of the empire to facilitate his plans. The statement here made, that Mordecai chronicled these events, and wrote letters to all the Jews, will not warrant the conclusion that he was the author of this Book of Esther, but is sufficient to show that such a conclusion is not therefore improbable.


Verses 20-32

THE FEAST OF PURIM, Esther 9:20-32.

So signal a deliverance, so marvellous a display of divine providence in behalf of the Jews as that delineated in this book, should be commemorated by an annual festival. This the sagacious Mordecai was not slow to see, and without delay he proceeded, in conjunction with Esther, to establish a new festival in Israel. To this measure, says the Talmud, eighty-five Jewish elders were opposed, but the queen and the prime minister of Persia had too much power and influence with the people to be successfully opposed in establishing a festival of so much interest. The order and forms of its ancient observance are not recorded. On the modern custom, see note at the end of this chapter.


Verse 21

21. To establish this among them — That is, to establish or appoint the fourteenth and fifteenth days of Adar as an annual feast of joy and gladness.


Verse 23

23. Undertook to do as they had begun — They heartily accepted and adopted Mordecai’s proposal, and resolved to perpetuate what they had in fact already begun, namely, resting, feasting, and rejoicing on the fourteenth and fifteenth of Adar. Compare Esther 9:17-18. Thus it seems Mordecai’s letters (Esther 9:20) contained a proposal for the Jews of the empire either to adopt or reject. They at once adopted the proposal, and “ordained” (Esther 9:27) the observance of these two days; whereupon Esther and Mordecai issued a “second letter,” (Esther 9:29,) which was more of the nature of an authoritative proclamation, confirming and establishing the feast of Purim.


Verse 25

25. When Esther came before the king — As the word Esther is not in the Hebrew text, and is not mentioned in the context, it is better to translate, when it came before the king, that is, when Haman’s wicked device came before the king.


Verse 26

26. Wherefore — Namely, because Haman had cast Pur, or the lot, to fix on a lucky day for the destruction of the Jews. Esther 9:24.

They called these days Purim — They evidently chose this name in ironical reference to the fact that Haman’s lucky day (designated by lot) was so fortunate for his enemies, and so unlucky for himself.

The words of this letter — Mordecai’s letters mentioned in Esther 9:20.

Which they had seen… and which had come unto them — That is, all that they had themselves experienced of this event by being eyewitnesses and participators. The sentiment is, Mordecai’s letters and their own personal knowledge of the matter prompted them to ordain the feast of Purim.


Verse 27

27. According to their writing — That is, according to the writing or letters which Mordecai had addressed to them. In his letter Mordecai had probably suggested some form for observing the days.


Verse 28

28. Nor the memorial of them perish — Great events are appropriately commemorated by significant monuments or institutions. Such memorials were the monumental stones and great altar at Jordan. Joshua 4:7-8; Joshua 22:10. But memorials of wood and stone will sooner or later perish, and those erected by the Jordan have long since disappeared. More permanent are such memorials as the Jewish Passover and Purim, and the Christian Eucharist. The continued observance of Purim to this day is a monumental proof of the truth of this history.


Verse 29

29. Wrote with all authority — With all the royal prestige and official dignity that would attach to a document proceeding from the queen and the grand vizier, and with all the binding force that it would also carry from being the written statement of what all the Jews had voluntarily decreed and enjoined upon themselves. Esther 9:27; Esther 9:31.

To confirm this second letter — That is, to give it the authority and force of law. It is called the second letter in reference to the previous epistle of Mordecai, (Esther 9:20,) and letter of Purim, because it established the feast of this name.


Verse 31

31. The matters of the fastings and their cry — Here it incidentally comes out that fasting and lamentation were also to be connected with the observance of Purim. The modern Jews observe the thirteenth of Adar, the anniversary of the day of slaughter, as a day of fasting, and call it the fast of Esther. This day of fasting and supplication is preliminary to the two days’ feast that follows. It is not improbable that Esther herself may have proposed this fast, as a memorial of the grief that preceded their joy, and that the people approved and sanctioned it, and called it Esther’s fast.


Verse 32

32. The decree of Esther — This is to be understood as the same with the letter of authority respecting Purim which is mentioned in Esther 9:29, and was issued by both Esther and Mordecai.

It was written in the book — The decree of Esther was recorded, and doubtless with it, also an account of the institution of the feast of Purim. The book referred to here is somewhat uncertain. Some have thought the Book of Esther is intended; but the author of that book would hardly have designated his own work in this way. Bertheau and Keil think it was a book or treatise on the feast of Purim, which our author used in preparing his work, but which has not come down to us. This, however, is purely conjectural. It seems most natural, since we have in several other passages of this history a mention of the book of the chronicles of Media and Persia, (Esther 2:23; Esther 6:1; Esther 10:2,) to understand the book of this verse as that same book of State annals. The documents issued by Esther and Mordecai, establishing the feast of Purim, and perhaps, also, describing its origin and mode of observance, may well have been registered among the national chronicles.

The following account of the manner in which the feast of Purim is observed by the Jews of the present day is substantially from Smith’s Dictionary of the Bible: —

The observance commences with the feast of Esther, (see note above on Esther 9:31,) on the thirteenth of Adar. If the thirteenth falls upon a sabbath the fast is placed upon the Thursday preceding. As soon as the evening preceding the fourteenth of the month arrives candles are lighted in token of rejoicing, and the people assemble at the synagogue. The Book of Esther, written on a roll called the Megillah, is produced, and, after a short prayer, the reader proceeds to read it in a histrionic manner, aiming to suit his tones and gestures to the sense. When he pronounces the name of Haman the congregation exclaim, “May his name be blotted out,” or, “Let the name of the ungodly perish,” and at the same time the children present make a great noise with their hands, or with pieces of wood and stone. The names of Haman’s ten sons are read with one breath, to signify that they were all hung at once. Comp. note on Esther 9:7-9. When the roll is read through the whole congregation exclaim, “Cursed be Haman; blessed be Mordecai; cursed be Zeresh, the wife of Haman; blessed be Esther; cursed be all idolaters; blessed be all Israelites, and blessed be Harbonah, who hanged Haman.” When this evening service is over all go home and partake of a simple repast. On the morning of the fourteenth all resort to the synagogue again; prayer is offered, and the passage of the law (Exodus 17:8-16) relating the destruction of the Amalekites is read, for the Jews regard Haman as a descendant of Agag the Amalekite. See note on Esther 3:1. The roll of Esther is again read, as on the preceding evening. When the synagogue service is ended, all give themselves over to feasting and joy. Presents are sent to and fro among friends and relations, and liberal gifts are bestowed upon the poor. Games, dramatical entertainments, dancing, and music are resorted to, and every effort is made to promote general merriment and joy. Such festivities and joy are continued through the fifteenth also, but any Jews who desire may carry on their usual business during the days of this festival.

Josephus attests the observance of Purim in his day: “Even now all the Jews in the world celebrate these days with feasting, ( εορταζουσι,) sending portions to one another.… They celebrate the forementioned days, calling them Phrouraim, ( φρουραιους.”) — Ant., 11:13. A number of Jewish proverbs also attest the high esteem in which this feast was held: “The temple may fail, but Purim never.” “The Prophets may fail, but not the Megillah.” It was even said that no books would survive in the Messiah’s kingdom but the Law and the Megillah.

 


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Bibliography Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Esther 9:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/esther-9.html. 1874-1909.

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