THE ELEVATION OF MORDECAI TO GREATNESS IN THE PERSIAN KINGDOM PROTECTED THE JEWISH COMMUNITY BY THE PROVIDENCE OF GOD
Here our short story concludes with this Epilogue extolling the greatness of Mordecai. Here was a little known Jew who was surprisingly elevated to a position of prominence in the Persian Kingdom by the Providence of God. Ironically, his promotion came at the expense of his scheming enemy Haman. Mordecai’s administration was effective in advocating for the welfare of the Jewish community and protecting their well-being. Contrary to being a threat to the Gentile kingdom, Mordecai advanced the overall status of the Persian dominion as well. This is a picture of how believers can function in a pagan culture and how God can work behind the scenes in accordance with His providence to advance His overall kingdom agenda. He is able to protect His elect from desperate threats and malicious opposition and bring surprising blessing and prosperity.
Frederic Bush: In expressing his praise for Mordecai, the narrator draws on the conceptions and language of the traditions of his people in three striking instances:
(1) in expressing the dramatic extent of the Persian empire, v 1;
(2) in the rhetorical question expressing Mordecai’s status, v 2; and
(3) in the title “Second to the King” v 3.
Breneman: The book ends on a note similar to that of its beginning—the greatness, wealth, and splendor of King Xerxes. This example of inclusio is common in Hebrew literature. The author emphasized the great extent of the empire, “to its distant shores.” This must refer to the coastlands of the Mediterranean area under the Persian Empire.
Taxation, “imposed tribute,” was not a pleasant subject, but the author mentioned it here. Perhaps in keeping with one of the themes of the book he wanted to show that King Xerxes, who saved the Jews from extinction, later prospered. Although he did not receive the great gift Haman had promised, King Xerxes prospered by receiving all this tribute.
10:2 “The greatness of Mordecai” brings us to the real purpose of this section. The author wanted to praise Mordecai as an example of one who put the welfare of his people before his own personal interests.
McConville: The short final chapter is hardly more than a summarizing footnote. We are reminded of the greatness of Xerxes, with which the book opened, in order to impress upon us not only the accuracy of the things recorded, but also the extent of the honour which the king was able to confer upon Mordecai.
The final picture of Mordecai is, however, of one who, far from exploiting his power for personal ends, was motivated only by love of his people and desire for their good. The principle of endowment with gifts for the benefit of God’s people is thus exemplified by Mordecai as by other Old Testament figures (e.g. Nehemiah); the same principle is enunciated theologically in the New Testament (Eph. 4:11ff.). It is such, i.e. those who put themselves and their resources at the disposal of other people, and particularly the people of God, who receive an honour which is not contingent upon the whim of an earthly tyrant.
Whitcomb: Xerxes died in 465 B.C. Looking back over his reign shortly afterward, the author emphasizes the stupendous power and wealth of this king (v. 1) in order to show the marvelous providence of God in elevating a despised Jew to a position of honor in such an empire.
I. (:1) GREATNESS OF THE PERSIAN KINGDOM
A. Dominion on the Land
“Now King Ahasuerus laid a tribute on the land”
Laniak: There may be a subtle reference to the tax relief offered when Esther became queen (2:18; NIV “holiday”) or to the missed bribe from Haman in 3:9. The Jews, in essence, constituted only gain to the king. The king himself had been the source of generous giving throughout chapters 1–2. Now, with the threat to the Jews gone, it is time for him to receive.
David Thompson: Mordecai, now being in the number two position, apparently had the responsibility to help the king replenish his financial situation. We may recall that Haman’s plot to exterminate the Jew would have added 10,000 talents of silver to the king’s treasury (3:9). It was also Haman’s plan to seize their possessions as plunder (3:13). There is no question that getting rid of the Jews would have been temporarily, financially profitable for the Persian Empire.
The Jews purposely did not take the “plunder” of the Persian people (9:10, 15, 16). Most could not contribute large sums of money to the king’s treasury. Apparently Mordecai helped the king see another way to get the necessary funds; rather than hostile plundering, through a peaceful taxation. Josephus says Mordecai was assisting the king in his governmental decisions (Complete Works of Josephus, p. 242).
Constable: Perhaps the writer mentioned Ahasuerus’ tax (v. 1) because Mordecai had something to do with it, or perhaps this tax reflects God’s blessing on the king for preserving the Jews (Gen. 12:3). Instead of benefiting from the plunder that Haman promised for the Jews’ extermination, Ahasuerus had to rely on taxation. Residents of Persia proper had long since been exempted from taxation; it was the inhabitants of the outlying satrapies in the empire that paid taxes—and they were exorbitant.
B. Dominion on the Coastlands
“and on the coastlands of the sea.”
Frederic Bush: The purpose, then, for using this unusual expression to describe the Persian empire, “the land and the islands-and-coastlands of the sea,” must surely be to emphasize its vast expanse: it extends to the farthest western reaches of the known world. This serves to enhance the power and greatness of the king.
II. (:2) GREATNESS OF MORDECAI’S ACCOMPLISHMENTS
A. Renowned for His Authority and Strength
“And all the accomplishments of his authority and strength,”
This verse shows that the taxation of verse 1 was directly tied to the administration of Mordecai – for it is the greatness of Mordecai that is the subject of this Epilogue.
B. Rewarded by the Respect from the King
“and the full account of the greatness of Mordecai,
to which the king advanced him,”
Laniak: Mordecai’s “greatness” (gedolah) participates in the king’s “glory”(gedolah), mentioned first in 1:4. This term also reminds the reader that Mordecai deserved greatness much sooner. When the king was reminded of Mordecai’s act of loyalty in 6:1–3, he asked, “What honor and recognition (gedolah) has Mordecai received for this?” Mordecai eventually became gadol (NIV “prominent”) in the palace (9:4).
The narrator uses the same root (gdl) in 10:2 to refer to Mordecai’s promotion: Mordecai’s gedolah is a status to which the king had raised him (giddelo). This is precisely the terminology employed to describe Haman’s promotion in 3:1 and 5:11. The Agagite, who had craved the king’s honor so transparently, is now replaced by the Jew, who is known not for self-seeking but for service to the king and his fellow Jews.
C. Recorded for Posterity
“are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles
of the Kings of Media and Persia?”
III. (:3) GREATNESS OF MORDECAI’S REPUTATION
A. Great as Measured by His Boundless Popularity
1. With the King
“For Mordecai the Jew was second only to King Ahasuerus”
2. With the Jews
“and great among the Jews,”
3. With His Kinsmen
“and in favor with the multitude of his kinsmen,”
B. Great as Measured by His Beneficial Policies
1. On Behalf of the Jews
“one who sought the good of his people”
Laniak: While Esther is responsible for courageous intervention during a particular moment of crisis, Mordecai is praised in the end for his ongoing intermediary role on behalf of the Jews. Continuous advocacy is the basis for Jewish security in the Diaspora. Throughout the story, Mordecai is identified as “the Jew.” He represents the Jews in what he does and in what he says. He “stands” for them. There is evidence that, until the turn of the era, the other name for Purim was “Mordecai’s Day” (2 Macc. 15:36).
2. On Behalf of the Persian Empire
“and one who spoke for the welfare of his whole nation.”
Joyce Baldwin: Miraculously the power behind the throne of this mighty empire was a Jew and therefore, though this is not spelt out, one who feared God and stood for justice and right in the affairs of state. Who would have expected that the exiled Jews would ever have a representative in so influential a position? He could be counted on to protect them against exploitation and any further attempts during his lifetime to exterminate them. His interest was not in promoting his own advantage but the welfare (Heb. ṭôb ‘good’) of the whole Jewish community, and he spoke peace (Heb. šālôm), which means prosperity of all kinds, health, security, material plenty and good relationships. In making these his aims for the total Israelite population of the empire he would secure prosperity also for the countries as a whole. Such an effective leader was likely to be popular and revered, not only by his own people but also by the population at large.