PROVIDENCE LEADS US TO VICTORY OVER OUR ENEMIES AND GIVES US CAUSE FOR CELEBRATION AS WE MEMORIALIZE GOD’S FAITHFULNESS
All power and authority comes ultimately from God. When He providentially raises up His servants and grants victory over the enemies of God’s people it is a time for great celebration. Such memorial services must be both historically and theologically rooted so that the significance of God’s faithfulness is understood and perpetuated. Victory in Jesus is a sweet refrain indeed!
Frederic Bush: Though this victory has completed the resolution of the terrible threat to the life of the Jewish community created by Haman’s edict, which crisis set our story in motion, it is not the conclusion to the final form of the book of Esther. In its present form, our story has not been told merely to relate how this resolution occurred. . . Nor, indeed, does it intend simply to relate how the festival of Purim emerged within the life of the Jewish community. It does do that, of course, but its primary purpose is a different one. The narrator now turns his attention to the institution of an annual celebration whose purpose is to memorialize the days of celebration and joy that occurred after the dramatic deliverance on 13 Adar. . . It intends to persuade the Jewish community that such a perpetual celebration is incumbent upon it. It is not narrational but legislative in purpose.
Laniak: These events provide the etiology of the Jewish festival of Purim. Much of chapter 9 is devoted to explaining, in annalistic fashion, the origin of the two days that constitute the holiday and the authorization to continue its observance. It is apparent that this material has been edited. The perspective now betrays some temporal distance; the narrator relates a condensed version of the story to varying traditions of Purim ritual in practice between “rural” and “urban” Jews (vv. 19, 26a, 31). The narrator brings the story to its climax with festival legislation for the Diaspora community (v. 28).
David Thompson: WHEN GOD ELEVATES HIS FAITHFUL PEOPLE TO POSITIONS OF POWER AND WHEN EVIL HAS BEEN COMPLETELY DESTROYED, ALL WHO ARE RIGHT WITH THE GOD OF ABRAHAM, ISAAC AND JACOB WILL CELEBRATE AND REMEMBER THE GREAT WORK OF GOD, PARTICULARLY IN REGARD TO ISRAEL.
God’s people will have their share of difficulties and hardships. They will face enemies and hurts, intense pressure and opposition. But if God’s people stay faithful, they will see God work in marvelous ways–sorrow will be turned into joy, fasting will be turned into feasting, tears will be turned to smiles and worries will be turned into worship. That is the story of Esther, and every March there is a celebration, even to this day, called Purim that proves this eternal reality.
I. (:1-4) POWER IN THE PERSIAN KINGDOM FOR THE JEWS AND MORDECAI
A. (:1-3) Rise of the Jews to Power as They Successfully Defend Against Attacks
1. (:1) Summary of the Jewish Victory
a. Timing of the Conflict – 13th Day of Adar
“Now in the twelfth month (that is, the month Adar),
on the thirteenth day”
Deffinbaugh: Nearly nine months pass between the end of chapter 8 and the beginning of chapter 9 (see 8:9 and 9:1). The Jews of the Persian empire are elated by the new law which Mordecai has enacted in the king’s name. It gives them the right to fight back when their enemies attack them on the 13th day of the 12th month. It gives them the right to counter-attack and to rid themselves of their enemies, including women and children. They can start over with a clean slate once their enemies are destroyed.
b. Instigation of the Conflict – by the King’s Command
“when the king’s command and edict were about to be executed,”
c. Objective of the Conflict on the Part of the Enemies of the Jews
“on the day when the enemies of the Jews
hoped to gain the mastery over them,”
Breneman: The day finally came. Haman had cast lots to choose this day. The edict he had issued to destroy the Jews was still in effect. But now the tables were turned (cf. v. 22) because of the edict Mordecai had made. The author has been leading up to this point. Proverbs 16:33 must express his feelings: “The lot is cast in the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord.” The teaching that those who try to destroy the Jews will be destroyed appears repeatedly in the Scriptures. “Those who plunder you will be plundered; all who make spoil of you I will despoil” (Jer 30:16). The Jews’ enemies had hoped to destroy them and take their riches, but their plans failed. Although the situation is expressed with the passive “the tables were turned,” the sense is clearly that God had caused them to turn. As McConville has noted, “In a world from which God appears to be absent he is nonetheless present.”
d. Resolution of the Conflict – Attributed to the Providence of God
“it was turned to the contrary so that the Jews themselves
gained the mastery over those who hated them.”
Constable: The king gave the Jews permission to defend themselves by killing their enemies. Evidently this meant that they not only met attack with resistance, but in some cases they initiated attack against those who they knew would destroy them.
2. (:2) Operational Details
a. Preparation for Aggressive Defense
“The Jews assembled in their cities throughout all the provinces of King Ahasuerus to lay hands on those who sought their harm;”
Whitcomb: Finally, on March 7, 473 B.C., the fateful day arrived, and the Jews gathered into compact groups within the various cities to await their attackers.
b. Power that Proved Invincible
“and no one could stand before them,
for the dread of them had fallen on all the peoples.”
3. (:3) Explanation of Their Surprising Success
a. Support of Government Officials
“Even all the princes of the provinces, the satraps, the governors, and those who were doing the king’s business assisted the Jews,”
Frederic Bush: However one explains the change in order, the list nevertheless rings with significance from the previous narrative, since it is composed of the same ruling authorities as those ordered to implement the opposing edicts, who now aid the Jews. Moreover, it also contains a fourth category of officials, whose presence in the list is not inexplicable (contra Clines, Esther Scroll, 46) but significant. By including the “royal officials,” lit. “those who carry out the king’s business,” the narrator subtly emphasizes the support given to the Jews. Even the lower functionaries, those who carry on the everyday work and activities of the royal court, now support the Jews. But, there is more; these are the very officials who deposited Haman’s bribe in the royal treasury in 3:9 (Bardtke, 381; Dommershausen, Estherrolle, 113)!
b. Superstitious Dread of Mordecai
“because the dread of Mordecai had fallen on them.”
MacArthur: Pragmatically, the nation had a change of heart toward the Jews, knowing that the king, the queen, and Mordecai were the ranking royal officials of the land. To be pro-Jewish would put one in favor with the king and his court and put one on the side of God, the ultimate King (cf. Rev 19:16).
B. (:4) Rise of Mordecai to Power as His Reputation Expands
1. Reputation Expands in the Royal House
“Indeed, Mordecai was great in the king’s house,”
2. Reputation Expands in All the Kingdom
“and his fame spread throughout all the provinces;”
F. B. Huey Jr.: The nobles and other political leaders “helped” (Heb., “lifted up”; “supported,”) the Jews because of their fear of Mordecai and the influence he had with the king (v. 3). Mordecai was not only prominent in the palace, but “his reputation spread” (Heb., “his reputation was walking”) throughout the empire (v. 4). He had become increasingly powerful during his brief months as prime minister.
Deffinbaugh: Mordecai’s power, and perhaps the fierceness with which he “attacks” every task, is enough to demoralize any opponent. Mordecai is a powerful man in the king’s administration, and his power is growing. News of his greatness has quickly spread throughout the kingdom. He is a Goliath to his Persian foes, and news of his power takes the wind out of the sails of those who once boldly opposed him.
3. Reputation Expands Exponentially
“for the man Mordecai became greater and greater.”
Breneman: He had gone through difficult days and had been in danger of death. But his crisis became in God’s providence a stepping stone to greater influence. This fact is repeated often in the lives of God’s servants.
II. (:5-17) PURGING THE ENEMY
A. (:5-10) Record of the Killing on Prescribed Day One
1. (:5) Killing Summary
“Thus the Jews struck all their enemies with the sword,
killing and destroying;
and they did what they pleased to those who hated them.”
Whitcomb: there were many Persian citizens who took full advantage of the first decree to attack their hated Jewish neighbors. Deprived of full government support and faced by a zealous and newly encouraged people, they were totally defeated.
F. B. Huey Jr.: The Jews showed no mercy to their enemies. They massacred those who hated them; there were no restraints imposed on them by the king. The Jews did not limit themselves to self-defense. They hunted out and destroyed those who might harm them. Their fury can only be understood by those who have experienced a long history of unjustified persecution.
Frederic Bush: True, Jewish actions in 9:1–19 are not simply defensive but include significant offensive action (cf. v 5). In the nature of the case, this would have been necessary as part of an overall defensive strategy. In any case, their actions do not go beyond the “taking vengeance on their enemies” envisaged by the narrator in 8:11. . .
Indeed, if the purpose of our narrative had been simply to relate how the victory occurred, the story could well have ended here. But this is not its purpose. . . The narrator has a more important agenda, one that goes beyond this story of the resolution of the threat to the life of the Jewish community. This dramatic and overwhelming deliverance must be perpetually memorialized with an annual celebration. To this he now turns in the dénouement of his narrative.
2. (:6) Killing of 500 Men in Susa
“And in Susa the capital
the Jews killed and destroyed five hundred men,”
3. (:7-10a) Killing of Haman’s 10 Sons
“and Parshandatha, Dalphon, Aspatha, 8 Poratha, Adalia, Aridatha, 9 Parmashta, Arisai, Aridai, and Vaizatha, 10 the ten sons of Haman the son of Hammedatha, the Jews’ enemy;”
Frederic Bush: There is nothing in this succinct and spare narrative that demands the specific naming of each of Haman’s ten sons. The point, then, must surely be to underline the terrible retribution that fell upon Haman in the obliteration of his whole house.
Ray Stedman: Parshandatha means “curious-self,” that is nosiness, a desire to pry into other people’s matters. Dalphon means “weeping-self,” self-pity, in other words. Aspatha I could not find. Poratha means “generous-self,” or, in the bad sense intended here, “spend-thriftiness.”Adalia I could not find. Aridatha means “strong-self,” i.e. assertiveness. Parsashta means “preeminent-self,” ambition. Arisai means “bold-self,” which would be impudence. Aridai is “dignified-self,” that is pride. And vaizatha means “pure-self,” pure while everyone else is polluted.
David Guzik: Haman and his sons were descendants of the ancient Amalekites (comparing Esther 3:1 and 1 Samuel 15:8-33). God commanded Saul, the son of Kish, to execute the full extent of God’s judgment against the Amalekites (1 Samuel 15:2-3). Saul failed; but this later descendent of the tribe of Benjamin and a son of Kish named Mordecai (Esther 2:5-6) completed God’s judgment against the Amalekites.
Laniak: Verses 7–10 list the names of Haman’s ten sons who were also killed. They were likely coconspirators who were now deprived of their father and their estate. Thus Haman receives poetic justice: “not only is he killed, but his honor, his position, his wealth, and now his sons—all his boasts from his days of glory (5:11)—are stripped away” (Fox, Character, p. 110).
The names of Haman’s sons attract attention for two reasons. Some appear to be daiva names—Old Persian names of pagan gods or demons. This may underscore their evil nature or cultic affiliation. The names are also singled out in an unusual way in the Hebrew text, with two names per line, margin justified. Despite substantial speculation, there is no clear explanation for this arrangement, which is found only here and in Joshua 12:9–24, a text which lists the names of the conquered Canaanite kings.
4. (:10b) Killing in the Context of a Holy War – No Seizing of Plunder
“but they did not lay their hands on the plunder.”
Whitcomb: The Jews refrained from taking advantage of their rightful privilege, in order that the purity of their motives might be made evident to all.
David Strain: The Jews didn’t touch the plunder because they understood that the conflict in which they were engaged was not merely political, but was sacred in nature. This is holy war that they are engaged in.
Karen Jobes: The author is careful to say three times that the Jews “did not lay their hands on the plunder” (vv. 10, 15, 16) even though Mordecai’s decree allowed it. Mordecai’s decree included the permission to plunder because he was reversing the exact terms that Haman’s decree had previously established. However, unlike the Agagite’s intent, the Jews understood the execution of Mordecai’s decree as governed by the ancient command of holy war against the Amalekites.
One of the rules of ancient holy war was that plunder must not be taken. When Abram, for example, fought for Sodom because his nephew Lot had been taken captive, the king of Sodom offered him material reward. Abram, however, would accept nothing, lest that wicked city be the source of his prosperity (Gen. 14). This example set a precedent for God’s people.
When the Lord commanded the conquest of the Promised Land, Joshua and the Israelites devoted whole cites to the Lord. This meant killing every living thing in it—men, women, children, cattle, sheep, donkeys—and burning the buildings to the ground. Any gold, silver, and precious articles found in the city were put in the treasury of the Lord’s house (e.g., Josh. 6:20–24). The Hebrew word for such complete destruction was ḥerem, which means something devoted exclusively to God. There was to be no personal profit in holy war because the destroyers were acting not on their own behalf but as agents of God’s wrath. . .
Throughout its history, Israel took illicit plunder, trusted in the strength of its own army instead of waiting on the Lord, and generally lived no better than the wicked people they were to war against in God’s holy name. Israel’s first king, Saul, followed in Achan’s way and violated the trust of holy war when he failed to destroy completely the Amalekites. . . Saul did not kill every living thing, and he plundered the best of their possessions.
B. (:11-17) Record of the Killing on Extended Day Two
1. (:11-12) Success on Day One Opens the Door for Extended Engagement
a. (:11) Report of Success to the King
“On that day the number of those who were killed in Susa the capital was reported to the king.”
b. (:12) Request for Extended Engagement Solicited by the King
“And the king said to Queen Esther, ‘The Jews have killed and destroyed five hundred men and the ten sons of Haman in Susa the capital. What then have they done in the rest of the king’s provinces! Now what is your petition? It shall even be granted you. And what is your further request? It shall also be done.’”
David Thompson: I agree with the commentators who suggest that this response not only proves the king is not upset by what is happening, but is in full support of what is happening. Josephus claims this support was because the king wanted to please Esther so she wouldn’t be depressed. There is no doubt the king knew of the Jews loyalty to him (Josephus, p. 240). God has sovereignly intervened in this king’s mind to the extent that he actually supports a plan that includes executing thousands of his own.
2. (:13) Solicitation by Esther of Two Additional Objectives
a. Objective #1 – Purging Conducted in Susa for Additional Day
“Then said Esther, ‘If it pleases the king, let tomorrow also be granted to the Jews who are in Susa to do according to the edict of today;”
b. Objective #2 – Public Display of Haman’s Ten Executed Sons
“and let Haman’s ten sons be hanged on the gallows.’”
John Martin: Many have questioned why the Jews wanted to impale the already dead bodies of Haman’s 10 sons. This was not an unusual practice in the ancient Near East. It was a visual warning that others better not commit the same crime as the punished ones.
Wiersbe: Perhaps she had received private intelligence that Haman’s supporters had planned to attack again the next day, prompting her to ask Ahasuerus for permission to extend the Jews’ right to defend themselves.
Deffinbaugh: the Jews of Susa will have a distinct advantage over their foes on this extended day. The enemies of the Jews are given but one day to destroy the Jews and confiscate their property, the 13th day of the 12th month. That day is over. Now it will be illegal for anyone to seek to attack or to kill a Jew, simply for being a Jew. But it will be legal for a Jew to seek and destroy anyone he perceives to be his enemy. This is hardly fair. It gives the Jews the right to kill anyone they suspect of being their enemy and to do it to one who cannot legally fight back. It exactly reverses Haman’s law, only now the Jew is favored and the rest are disadvantaged.
3. (:14-15) Success of Esther’s Two Objectives
a. (:14) Success of Objective #2 – Public Display of Haman’s Ten Sons
“So the king commanded that it should be done so; and an edict was issued in Susa, and Haman’s ten sons were hanged.”
b. (:15) Success of Objective #1 — Additional 300 Killings in Susa
“And the Jews who were in Susa assembled also on the fourteenth day of the month Adar and killed three hundred men in Susa, but they did not lay their hands on the plunder.”
4. (:16-17) Success in the Surrounding Provinces
a. (:16-17a) Killing 75,000
“Now the rest of the Jews who were in the king’s provinces assembled, to defend their lives and rid themselves of their enemies, and kill 75,000 of those who hated them; but they did not lay their hands on the plunder. This was done on the thirteenth day of the month Adar,”
b. (:17b) Celebrating Day of Feasting and Rejoicing
“and on the fourteenth day they rested
and made it a day of feasting and rejoicing.”
Karen Jobes: The celebration of Purim is therefore different from the feasts prescribed by the Torah. Rather than being imposed on the people from above as God’s commandment, Purim began as the spontaneous response of God’s people to his omnipotent faithfulness to the promises of the covenant.
ASIDE (:18-19) DIFFERENCES IN DAYS OF CELEBRATION
A. (:18) Celebration in Susa on 15th Day
“But the Jews who were in Susa assembled on the thirteenth and the fourteenth of the same month, and they rested on the fifteenth day and made it a day of feasting and rejoicing.”
MacArthur: This section recounted why Purim would be celebrated for two days rather than one.
Breneman: This entire narrative has the sense of being an etiological story, that is, a story that explains the origin of an event (see 9:26). In this case the narrative recounts the origins of the celebration of Purim. This does not imply that the story is in any way false, and actually the contrary is the most likely.
B. (:19) Celebration in Surrounding Rural Areas on 14th Day
“Therefore the Jews of the rural areas, who live in the rural towns, make the fourteenth day of the month Adar a holiday for rejoicing and feasting and sending portions of food to one another.”
F. B. Huey Jr.: The author added these verses to explain why in his time Jews living in the city kept the Feast of Purim on the fifteenth of Adar whereas Jews living in the country observed it on the fourteenth of Adar. The Jews in Susa were permitted two days for killing their enemies (the thirteenth and fourteenth of Adar) and therefore celebrated their victory on the fifteenth. Jews elsewhere had only one day for slaughtering their enemies (the thirteenth day of Adar) and therefore celebrated their victory on the fourteenth. In addition to feasting, they gave presents to each other (Heb., “sending portions of a man to his friend”).
Wiersbe: In the beginning, the Jews were united in their victory but divided in their celebration.
III. (:20-32) PURIM CELEBRATION MEMORIALIZED
A. (:20-25) Remembering the Reason for the Celebration
1. (:20-23) Commanding the Celebration
a. (:20-21) Obligatory Two Day Feast
“Then Mordecai recorded these events, and he sent letters to all the Jews who were in all the provinces of King Ahasuerus, both near and far, 21 obliging them to celebrate the fourteenth day of the month Adar, and the fifteenth day of the same month, annually,”
John Martin: The Feast of Purim was not established by the Mosaic Law. It was commanded by Mordecai (vv. 20-28) and by Esther (vv. 29-32). The two-day feast was for remembering the goodness of God working through a number of circumstances to protect His people from extinction.
b. (:22) Observance Based on Historical Events =
Transformation from Sorrow to Joy
“because on those days the Jews rid themselves of their enemies, and it was a month which was turned for them from sorrow into gladness and from mourning into a holiday; that they should make them days of feasting and rejoicing and sending portions of food to one another and gifts to the poor.”
c. (:23) Obedience Tied to Understanding of its Significance
“Thus the Jews undertook what they had started to do,
and what Mordecai had written to them.”
2. (:24-25) Calling Out the Treacherous Scheming of Haman and the Dramatic
Reversal of Fortunes
a. (:24) Derivation of the Connection to Pur
“For Haman the son of Hammedatha, the Agagite, the adversary of all the Jews, had schemed against the Jews to destroy them, and had cast Pur, that is the lot, to disturb them and destroy them.”
b. (:25) Decree to Overturn Haman’s Scheme
“But when it came to the king’s attention, he commanded by letter that his wicked scheme which he had devised against the Jews, should return on his own head, and that he and his sons should be hanged on the gallows.”
B. (:26-28) Regulating the Celebration
1. (:26a) Naming the Celebration
“Therefore they called these days Purim after the name of Pur.”
John Martin: The feast was called Purim (v. 26) because of Haman’s use of the pur . . . the lot to determine the time of the execution (3:7). The pur became a symbol of God’s using circumstances to deliver His own.
2. (:26b-27) Instituting the Celebration
“And because of the instructions in this letter, both what they had seen in this regard and what had happened to them, 27 the Jews established and made a custom for themselves, and for their descendants, and for all those who allied themselves with them, so that they should not fail to celebrate these two days according to their regulation, and according to their appointed time annually.”
3. (:28) Perpetuating the Celebration
“So these days were to be remembered and celebrated throughout every generation, every family, every province, and every city; and these days of Purim were not to fail from among the Jews, or their memory fade from their descendants.”
C. (:29-32) Ratifying the Celebration
1. (:29) Confirming the Celebration via a Second Letter
“Then Queen Esther, daughter of Abihail, with Mordecai the Jew, wrote with full authority to confirm this second letter about Purim.”
Karen Jobes: Neither Esther nor Mordecai had the power or position alone to deliver their people. It was only as they acted in concerted power and authority that they were able to lead God’s people through the crisis of death and into deliverance. Neither of them aspired to the role; perhaps neither of them deserved it. It was thrust on them by a series of improbable circumstances largely beyond their control. Nevertheless, their unlikely partnership accomplished God’s ancient promise, and the Jewish race was preserved until in the fullness of time, God entered history through this people as the Messiah. How marvelous are God’s inscrutable ways!
Laniak: The sentence apparently means that Esther and Mordecai wrote a second letter to confirm authoritatively the observance of Purim, which was initiated spontaneously and regulated by Mordecai’s first letter. It is important to appreciate the fragility of a newly established holiday and the need for reconfirmation in its first years of observance (1 Macc. 4:56–59; 7:49; 13:49–52; 2 Macc. 10:1–8; 3 Macc. 6:30–36). Esther’s decree is a formal public declaration (1:15), now written down in the records (v. 32). This may be another reference to the second letter itself, or at least to its content.
2. (:30) Sending the Letter Throughout the Kingdom
“And he sent letters to all the Jews, to the 127 provinces of the kingdom of Ahasuerus, namely, words of peace and truth,”
Wiersbe: This second letter is described as “words of peace and truth” (v. 30), which suggests that there was a division among the Jewish people that needed to be healed.
3. (:31) Establishing the Customs Surrounding Celebration of Purim
“to establish these days of Purim at their appointed times, just as Mordecai the Jew and Queen Esther had established for them, and just as they had established for themselves and for their descendants with instructions for their times of fasting and their lamentations.”
4. (:32) Recording These Customs for Posterity
“And the command of Esther established these customs for Purim, and it was written in the book.”
Whitcomb: Not the book of Esther itself, but the book in which Mordecai had written his record of events (v. 20) and which served as one of the basic sources for the book of Esther.
Breneman: There is emphasis both on written records (vv. 26, 32) and on remembering these events for the benefit of future generations (v. 28). Again there is a didactic, that is, educational, function to the narrative centered around the celebration of Purim.