Esther 3





(vs.1-6). A break, probably of some years, separates chapter 2. from

chapter 3. In the interval a new and important event has occurred a new

character has made appearance upon the scene. Haman, the son of

Hammedatha, an Agagite (whatever that may mean), has risen high in the

favor of Ahasuerus, and been assigned by him the second place in the

kingdom. It has been granted him to sit upon a throne; and his throne has

been set above those of all the other “princes” (v. 1). He has in fact

become “grand vizier,” or chief minister. In the East men are so servile that

a new favorite commonly receives the profoundest homage and reverence

from all classes, and royal orders to bow down to such an one are

superfluous. But on the occasion of Haman’s elevation, for some reason

that is not stated, a special command to bow down before him was issued

by Ahasuerus (v. 2). All obeyed as a matter of course, excepting one

man. This was Mordecai the Jew. Whether there was anything extreme and

unusual in the degree of honor required to be paid to the new favorite,

or whether Mordecai regarded the usual Oriental prostration as unlawful,

we cannot say for certain; but at any rate he would not do as his fellows

did, not even when they remonstrated with him and taxed him with

disobedience to the royal order (v. 3). In the course of their

remonstrances — probably in order to account for his reluctance —

Mordecai stated himself to be a Jew (v. 4). It would seem to have been

after this that Haman’s attention was first called by the other porters to

Mordecai’s want of respect — these persons being desirous of knowing

whether his excuse would be allowed and the obeisance in his case

dispensed with. Haman was violently enraged (v. 5); but instead of taking

proceedings against the individual, he resolved to go to the root of the

matter, and, if Mordecai would not bow down to him because he was a

Jew, then there should be no more Jews — he would have them

exterminated (v. 6). It did not occur to him that this would be a matter of

much difficulty, so confident was he of his own influence over Ahasuerus,

and so certain that he would feel no insuperable repugnance to the

measure. The event justified his calculations, as appears from the latter part

of the chapter (vs. 10-15).


1 “After these things did king Ahasuerus promote Haman the son of

Hammedatha the Agagite, and advanced him, and set his seat above all the

princes that were with him.”  After these things. Probably some years after —

about B.C. 476 or 475. Haman, the son of Hammedatha. “Haman” is perhaps

Umanish, the Persian equivalent of the Greek Eumenes. “Hammedatha”

has been explained as “given by the moon” (Mahadata), the initial h being

regarded as the Hebrew article. But this mixture of languages is not

probable. The Agagite. The Septuagint has Βουγαῖον – Bougaion -, “the Bugaean.”

Both terms are equally inexplicable, with our present knowledge; but most

probably the term used was a local one, marking the place of Haman’s

birth or bringing up. A reference to descent from the Amalekite king Agag

(Joseph., ‘Ant. Jud.,’ 11:6, § 5) is scarcely possible.



The Wicked Exalted (v. 1)


The temporary favorite of Ahasuerus was unworthy of the position to

which he was raised, and the power with which he was entrusted. History

has preserved the record of no meaner, baser character than Haman. He

was a man servile and cruel, who used his power for disgraceful purposes.

His conduct towards all with whom he was connected was alike

dispicable. His history and fate may be taken by the moralist as a type of

the exaltation and fall of the wicked.


  • THE ARTS BY WHICH THE WICKED RISE. The basest selfishness

takes the guise and garb of loyalty. Flattery is the surest road to a

monarch’s favor. Corruption, unscrupulousness, desertion of friends,

betrayal of associates, slander of rivals, these are the means by which many

have risen to share the favor of a king, to preside over the movements of

a court, to control the affairs of a nation. Here observe the too common

weakness of kings and those born to greatness.



Once in favor and in power, the world seems at their feet. They have

influence with the sovereign; they are encompassed with the adulation of

courtiers; they exercise power, even arbitrary and unjust, over fellow

subjects; they are lifted up with pride.



before a fall.”  (Proverbs 16:18)  From how great an elevation, and into what

an abyss of misery and ruin, did Haman fall! The greater the height, the more

calamitous and awful the headlong plunge. Sin rages and beats upon the shore.

But above its hoarse roaring rises the voice of the All-wise and Almighty

Disposer of events“Hitherto shalt thou come, and no further, and here

shall thy proud waves be stayed!”  (Job 38:11)


Practical lessons:


1. Be not envious at the prosperity of the wicked. The Psalmist seems to

have been tempted to this childish and ignoble failing. He saw the wicked

in great power, spreading himself like the green bay tree; but when he went

into the sanctuary of God, then understood he his end.  (Psalm 37:1-40)


2. Be not dismayed at the spectacle of power in wicked hands. It cannot be

for long. A righteous Providence will bring the devices of the wicked to

naught. The greatest man is not invincible. “The Lord reigneth.” (Psalm 97:1)

He bringeth down the lofty from their seat, and exalteth those of low degree!

(Luke 1:52)


2 “And all the king’s servants, that were in the king’s gate, bowed,

and reverenced Haman: for the king had so commanded

concerning him. But Mordecai bowed not, nor did him reverence.”

All the king’s servants. Literally, “the king’s slaves” — the

lower officers of the court, porters and others, of about the same rank as

Mordecai. Bowed and reverenced Haman. i.e. prostrated themselves

before him in the usual Oriental fashion. For the king had so

commanded. No reason is assigned for this order, which was certainly

unusual, since the prostration of an inferior before a superior was a general

rule (Herod., 1:134). Perhaps Haman had been elevated from a very low

position, and the king therefore thought a special order requisite.

Mordecai bowed not. Greeks occasionally refused to prostrate themselves

before the Great King himself, saying that it was not their custom to

worship men (Herod., 7:136; Plut., ‘Vit. Artax.,’ § 22; Arrian., ‘Exp.

Alex.,’ 4:10-12, etc.). Mordecai seems to have had the same feeling.

Prostration was, he thought, an act of worship, and it was not proper to

worship any one excepting God (see Revelation 22:9).


3 “Then the king’s servants, which were in the king’s gate, said unto

Mordecai, Why transgressest thou the king’s commandment?

4 Now it came to pass, when they spake daily unto him, and he

hearkened not unto them, that they told Haman, to see whether

Mordecai’s matters would stand: for he had told them that he was a

Jew.”  The king’s servants, which were in the gate with

Mordecai, were the first to observe his disrespect, and at once took up the

matter. Why were they to bow down, and Mordecai not? Was he any

better or any grander than they? What right had he to transgress the

king’s commandment? When they urged him on the point day after day,

Mordecai seems at last to have explained to them what his objection was,

and to have said that, as a Jew, he was precluded from prostrating himself

before a man. Having heard this, they told Haman, being curious to see

whether Mordecai’s matters (or, rather, “words”) would stand, i.e.

whether his excuse would be allowed, as was that of the Spartan

ambassadors who declined to bow down before Artaxerxes Longimanus

(Herod., 1. s. c.).


5 “And when Haman saw that Mordecai bowed not, nor did him

reverence, then was Haman full of wrath.” When Haman saw. Apparently

Mordecai’s disrespect had not been observed by Haman until the “king’s servants”

called his attention to it. Then, naturally enough, he was greatly offended, and felt

exceedingly angry at what seemed to him a gross impertinence. Mordecai’s excuse

did not pacify him — perhaps seemed to him to make the matter worse, since,

if allowed, it would justify all the Jews in the empire in withholding from

him the respect that he considered his due.


6 “And he thought scorn to lay hands on Mordecai alone; for they had

shewed him the people of Mordecai: wherefore Haman sought to

destroy all the Jews that were throughout the whole kingdom of

Ahasuerus, even the people of Mordecai.”  He thought scorn to lay hands

on Mordecai alone. If Haman had simply said to Ahasuerus, “There is one of

your menials who persistently disobeys a royal edict, and at the same time

insults me,”  Ahasuerus would, as a matter of course, have told him to put the

menial to death. But the revengeful temper of the man was such that this seemed

to him insufficient. Mordecai had insulted him as a Jew, and the Jews should

pay the penalty. Mordecai should be punished not only in person, but in his

kindred, if he had any, and in his nation. The nation itself was

contumacious and troublesome (v. 8); it would be well to get rid of it.

And it would be a grand thing to wipe out an insult offered by an individual

in the blood of a whole people. Haman therefore sought to destroy all the

Jews that were throughout the whole kingdom of Ahasuerus.

Massacres on a large scale — not unknown in the West, witness St.

Bartholomew’s — are of frequent occurrence in the East, where human life

is not held in much regard, and the caprices of absolute monarchs

determine the course of history. There had been a general massacre of the

Magi upon the accession of Darius Hystaspis, the father of Xerxes (Herod.,

3:79), and one of Scythians about a century before (ibid. 1.106). These

were examples which might occur to Haman. A later one is the Roman

massacre of Mithridates in B.C. 88.



Foolish Pride and Wild Resentment (vs. 1-6)


The lesson of this portion of the narrative is one concerning human sin. In

some places Scripture seems to depict the character and the conduct of

sinners in such a way as to impress the mind of the reader with what is

called “the exceeding sinfulness of sin.”  (Romans 7:13)  And what more

natural and appropriate than such representations of human iniquity in a book

which brings to us the remedy for the disease, and the liberation from the

bondage, which afflict mankind? In the temper and conduct of Haman we

recognise the fruits of man’s sinful nature.


  • HAMAN’S SINFUL PRIDE. It arose from his favor with the

king, and from his position in the state, and was no doubt encouraged by

the homage that was paid him by the courtiers and the people. His pride

was hurt and mortified at the refusal of Mordecai to render him the honor

he was accustomed to receive from all around. And the hurt was

aggravated by the fact that the servants of the king observed the Jew’s

conduct, and reported to Haman his marked discourtesy and insult. What

made the matter worse was the obscure position and despised nationality

of the single person who did him no reverence.


  • HAMAN’S RESENTMENT. His pride was the occasion of his

anger; his anger stirred up purposes of revenge; his revenge took a wild

inhuman form. Mordecai had transgressed the king’s command) and his

conduct had been noticed by the king’s servants. And it was this which

gave a colorable pretext for the favorite’s wrathful counsels and plans of





was so laid to heart that it aroused a ferocious spirit, for the satisfaction of

which no shedding of blood, no desolation of cities, could suffice. The

great lesson to be learned from this frightful picture of human depravity is

the extent to which sin WILL LEAD THE VICTIM! 


Sin will take you farther than you want to go,

keep you longer than you want to stay, and

cost you more than you want to pay.



If so hateful a vice as pride be encouraged, if so mean a purpose as one

of revenge be fostered, to what frightful crimes may the wretched sinner

be led! There is one preventive and pro servative: “Let that mind be in you

 which was also in Christ Jesus!”  (Philippians 2:5)



The Intemperateness of Contempt (v. 6)


“And he thought scorn to lay hands on Mordecai alone.” The projected

deed of Haman, if it had been carried to completion, would not have been

entirely without precedent and parallels more or less nearly resembling it.

Herodotus, in the first book of his history, tells us of a massacre of the

Scythians, actually carried into execution, and which preceded by about a

hundred years that now proposed by Haman. When Darius Hystaspis

ascended the throne, some forty years before the present date, a cruel

slaughter of the Magi was ordered, and that slaughter was for a long

period commemorated once a year. Five centuries onward bring us to that

most memorable date of all, when, in one of the most heartless of

massacres, Herod, king of Judaea, schemed to nip in the tender bud the

career of the King of all the world, and to stifle in the thought the work of

the Saviour of all men! And one can scarcely fail to associate with the

present purpose of Haman the transactions of Black Bartholomew day

(August 24, 1572), when, through the widespread and fair provinces of

France, thousands upon thousands of Protestants were slaughtered!

Deterrent though the subject of analysis is, let us consider that which is

offered us in this passage.



probably a place for almost every kind, for almost every degree, of anger.

“A fool’s wrath is presently known” (Proverbs 12:16), and a good man’s wrath

should be presently known. Anger and sin often go together, but by no means

always; the criterion this — whether the anger is fed, has the poisonous force of

rankling thought, of gloomy brooding in it; whether the sun is permitted to

go down upon it (Ephesians 4:26), or it bidden to go down upon the down-going

of the sun. If we stop here, our analysis conducts us no way, and is not sufficient

to determine anything of value for us.



is a natural and valuable principle. Analogies come in and conspire to speak

in its defense and praise. Physically it is sometimes equivalent to a vital

principle. But the physical value of it is the merest shadow of the amount

and value of its spiritual use. With all the fullest force of which it is capable

it may advantageously come, and welcome — in order to fling off some

kind of assault, some sorts of arrows, some species of tempting. It is the

prime glory of resentment in matters spiritual to be as like as possible to

the red-hot iron when the drop of water falls upon it.



once over the border line. We are no longer on safe ground, nor even on

debateable ground. We are trespassing on the property of One who gives

us here no right of ownership, but who is as liberal as He is powerful, as

wise as He is wealthy, as considerate as He is just. It is He who, if He ever

spoke with an impressive emphasis in His tone, has so uttered this one

sentence: “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, saith the Lord.”  (Romans 12:19)

Punishment, indeed, is not revenge; but how often does the most undisguised

revenge dare to take the name and try to wear the look of the most impartial,

temperate, judicial punishment! Perhaps Haman would scarcely feel it

necessary to attempt to put this face on it, or to defend himself from an

imputation to which he would attach neither guilt nor shame, provided that

danger was not in the way. Yet it is manifest that Haman did put a very

false face on what was the simple outcome of his own revengeful spirit

when he was seeking the requisite powers from King Ahasuerus (ch. 4:8).



OF ANNOYANCE CALLED AFFRONT. No appreciable harm had been

done to the person, or to the business, or to the place, or to the prospects

of Haman. Nor had he been injured in the least degree in the person of his

wife, or of his family, or of any one clear to him. But affront had been

offered him, or he supposed such was intended. That is, harm, though light

and fanciful as any butterfly, had alighted upon the finery of his dignity, his

vanity, his pride. The abrasion of the polish of self was indeed so slight, so

marvelously inconspicuous, that he himself did not at all know it till those

envious mischief makers, the “king’s servants,” told him, (v.4), in order,

forsooth, “to see whether Mordecai’s account of the reason of this

infinitesimal deduction from the incense due to Haman (to whom indeed he

owed none at all) would hold him absolved. An angry man, a revengeful

man, a madman, a “bear robbed of her whelps.” (Proverbs 17:12), “the

lion out of the forest” (Jeremiah 5:6), are surely all safe company to

meet compared with the vain man affronted. And this was the lot of

Mordecai now.




CHARACTER. There is no bottom to pride, there is no height to

haughtiness, there is no measure to swelling vanity, there is no

temperateness to contempt, there is not “the bit or rein” that can be

reckoned safe to hold in the uncertain, nettled temper of scorn and disdain.

Approach any one of these with but the appearance of affront, though the

reality may be your own principle and religion unfeigned, and there is no

longer room for either explanation or even expiation. Revenge alone can

meet the case. We have need to fear the first symptoms of such

dispositions. They belong to the godless heart. They spread pestilence.

They make the lives that own to them resemble volcanoes, which ever and

anon throw up and spread all around the torrents of their destroying lava.

Those who answer to this type so mournfully exhibited by Haman,

miserable and uncertain themselves, are they who make misery all around.

They “think scorn” to be patient; they “think scorn” to give to others the

liberty they demand for themselves; they “think scorn” to ask or accept an

explanation; they “think scorn” to credit any man’s religion and conscience,

except their own travesty of the genuine and true; they “think scorn” to

show any kindness, or to make only a little misery. The heart of goodness,

of justice, of mercy, nay, even the heart of reason, is cankered from within

them. They must destroy all who in the slightest degree, real or

apprehended, stand in their light, if only they can see their way to do it

without present injury to themselves. And among all the worst foes a man

can have, none can exceed this disposition, if it dwell in his heart.



Revenge (v. 6)



natural that prompts to retaliation. All human history is blurred by its

activity.  A Haman could not be offended without seeking to do the

offender hurt. In the light of Christian truth it is mean and contemptible,

but it is natural, and therefore almost universal.



not measure the evil it contemplates by the injury that has excited it; its

fierce tide flows over, and drowns every thought of balanced equity; it

throws away the scales, and only wields the sword.



Every feeling of pity is quenched in its fire. Its savage aim is to cause what

suffering it can. The extermination of a whole people could only satisfy the

vengeful lust of Haman.



FINDS FUEL TO FEED IT. While blind to all considerations that should

moderate or slay it, it is sharp-sighted with respect to everything that is

fitted to stimulate it. It was bad enough that Mordecai refused to do

homage to Haman; but when the favorite learned the real ground of his

refusal, then a fiercer fire entered into his soul. All the antipathies of race

were stirred into flame. (Something that all Americans should ponder in

this 21st century – CY – 2014).  Henceforth “he thought scorn to lay hands

on Mordecai alone;” Mordecai’s people shall suffer with himself.



POSSESSION OF POWER. A conscious inability to give it exercise has

often a sobering effect; but the power to gratify it only increases its

resolution in evil minds. Haman’s pride was inflated by the favor of the

king. He could brook no slight. The might of the empire was in his hand,

and that might should be exerted to its fullest extent to avenge the affront

of the audacious Jew. His sense of power quickened his desire, and

enlarged his project of revenge.




plan of vengeance was, it is not solitary. Under some of the Roman

Caesars the Christians were treated as Haman intended to treat the Jews.

Later on, and under a so-called Christian authority, whole communities

were sacrificed to a vengeance which could not tolerate any sign of

independent belief or action, such as the Waldenses, the Albigenses, and

the Protestants in France. Our criminal records in the present day also

illustrate the lengths to which an uncontrolled passion for revenge is willing

to go. Yet the widest field on which this spirit produces suffering and

misery is not public. Many families live on, in unknown but utter

wretchedness, under the stupid fury of revengeful feeling excited by real or

imaginary wrongs. Even in circles where everything like passion is avoided,

men and women often cherish supposed slights and fancied insults.

Reputations are often very calmly destroyed. The influence of good people

is often neutralized, if not turned into evil, by the quiet maliciousness of

enemies in the guise of friends. The spirit of revenge works in a myriad

ways, and on every existing field of human life.



DEMONIACAL. Wherever seen, or however clothed, it is hateful to God,

hateful to Christ, hateful to every true man. It is our part not to “return evil

for evil,” but to “overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21). The

prerogative of judging and punishing belongs not to us, but TO GOD!

“Vengeance is mine, I will repay, saith the Lord” (Romans 12:19-20).

The Christian law is not “hate,” but “love your enemies” (Matthew

5:44-48). This law was Divinely illustrated when Jesus on the cross prayed

for the forgiveness of those who had in their mad fury of revenge inflicted

on him such shame and pain: “Father, forgive them, for they know not

what they do” (Luke 23:34).




LAST MONTH OF THE YEAR (v.7). Having determined on a

general massacre of the Jews on a given day, as the best mode of ridding

the empire of them, Haman thought it of supreme importance, to select for

the massacre a propitious and fortunate day. Lucky and unlucky days are

recognized generally throughout the East; and it is a wide-spread practice,

when any affair of consequence is taken in hand, to obtain a determination

of the time for commencing it, or carrying it into effect, by calling in the

arbitrement of Chance. Haman had recourse to “the lot,” and by means of

it obtained, as the fight day for his purpose, the 13th of Adar, which was

more than ten months distant. The long delay was no doubt unpalateable,

but he thought himself bound to submit to it, and took his further measures



7 “In the first month, that is, the month Nisan, in the twelfth year of

king Ahasuerus, they cast Pur, that is, the lot, before Haman from

day to day, and from month to month, to the twelfth month, that is,

the month Adar.”  In the first month, the month Nisan. See the comment on

Nehemiah 2:1. This name was first given to the month by the Jews after

the return from the captivity. It was the Babylonian name of the first month

of the year, and superseded the old Jewish name, Abib. The twelfth year

of… Ahasuerus B.C. 474, if Ahasuerus be Xerxes. They cast Pur, that

is, the lot. The superstitious use of lots has always been prevalent in the

East, and continues to the present day. Lots were drawn, or thrown, m

various ways: sometimes by means of dice, sometimes by slips of wood, or

strips of parchment or paper, and also in other manners. Even the Jews

supposed a special Providence to preside over the casting of lots

(Proverbs 16:33), and thought that matters decided in this way were

decided by God. Haman appears to have cast lots, first, as to the day of the

month which he should fix for the massacre, and secondly as to the month

in which it should take place. Apparently the lot fell out for the thirteenth

day (v. 13), and for the twelfth month, the last month in the year. The

word “Pur” is not Hebrew it is supposed to be Old Persian, and to be

connected with Mod. Pers. pareh, Lat. pars, Greek μίρος  - miros - μοῖρα

moira - lot.  To the twelfth month, that is, the month Adar. Adar is, like Nisan,

a Babylonian word, perhaps connected with edder, “splendor.” The month

so named corresponded nearly with March, when the sun begins to have great

power in Western Asia.



Consulting Omens (v. 7)


 They cast Pur, that is, the lot, before Haman from day to day.” “Pur” is an

old Persian word said to signify “part” or “lot.” Haman resorted to the

practice of casting a lot to find out what he believed would be a lucky day

for his design. He had a blind faith in the unseen, and in the overruling of

supernatural powers. He inquired of his idols, and acted according to

received superstitions. His object was an evil one, but he supposed that his

god would be on his side.



PROVIDENCE. Haman was consistent with his superstition. We are

ofttimes inconsistent in our acts. We profess to believe that God will

overrule all for the best (Romans 8:28), and then we become doubtful

and fretful because things turn not out as we expected.



He must have found it wearying work to inquire so frequently, casting lots

for one day after another, and having no favorable reply. The lot was cast

for all the days of eleven months ere he had a period fixed which promised

to be fortunate for him. He that believeth shall not make haste.  (Isaiah 28:16)



OPPORTUNITIES OF SERVICE. There are many foolish ideas as to

periods, as those among sailors about Friday, and sailing on that day.



PLOTTER MAY BE THE WORST. The delay had given Mordecai and

Esther time to act. God’s hand was in this. “The lot was cast

into the lap, but the whole disposal was of the Lord” (Proverbs 16:33).

Haman was misled by his inquiries, but God’s people saved by Haman’s

delay through his superstition. Providence never misleads men; it leads to

the best issues.





Having formed his own resolve, it remained for Haman to bring his proposal before

Ahasuerus in such a shape as should secure his acquiescence in it. For this purpose he

thought it best, first, to raise a prejudice against the Jews by representing them as bad

subjects, causing trouble through the peculiarity of their own laws, and still more

through their unwillingness to render obedience to the Persian laws (v .8). In support

of this last statement he would no doubt, if questioned, have adduced the conduct

of Mordecai, who persisted in “transgressing the king’s commandment,” and gave

as his only reason that he was a Jew, and therefore could not obey it (v. 4). As,

however, he doubted the effect of this reasoning on his royal master, he held in

reserve an argument of another kind, an appeal to the king’s cupidity, which

constituted his main  reliance. If the king gave his consent to the destruction of

the Jewish nation, Haman undertook to pay into the royal treasuries, out of his

private means, a sum which cannot be estimated at much less than two millions

and a quarter of pounds sterling, and which may have amounted to a much

higher figure (v. 9). The effect of this argument upon Ahasuerus was

decisive; he at once took his signet-ring from his finger, and made it over

to his minister (v. 10), thus enabling him to promulgate any decree that

he pleased, and he openly declared that he gave over the Jewish nation,

their lives and properties, into Haman’s hands (v. 11). Haman “struck

while the iron was hot.” The king’s scribes were put in requisition — a

decree was composed, numerous copies of it made, the royal seal affixed to

each (v. 12), and a copy dispatched forthwith to each governor of a

province by the royal post, ordering the complete destruction of the Jews

within his province, young and old, men, women, and children, on the

thirteenth day of the month Adar, and the confiscation of their property

(v. 13). The posts started off with all speed, “being hastened by the

king’s commandment’’ (v. 15); and the two men who had plotted a

nation’s extermination, as if they had done a good day’s work, and

deserved refreshment, “sat down to drink.” But the Persians generally were

less satisfied with the decree than their monarch and his minister; it

surprised and startled them; “the city Shushan was perplexed.”


8 “And Haman said unto king Ahasuerus, There is a certain people

scattered abroad and dispersed among the people in all the provinces of

thy kingdom; and their laws are diverse from all people; neither keep they

the king’s laws: therefore it is not for the king’s profit to suffer them.” 

There is a certain people scattered abroad and dispersed. It

is not always borne in mind how large a part of the Jewish nation remained

in the lands to which they had been carried away captive, after the

permission had been given to return. Josephus notes that the richer and

more influential of the Babylonian Jews were very little inclined to quit

Babylon (‘Ant. Jud.,’ 11:1). There was evidently a large Jewish colony at

Susa (infra, ch. 9:12-15). The Book of Tobit shows that Israelites,

scarcely to be distinguished from Jews, were settled in Rhages and

Ecbatana. The present passage is important as showing the early wide

dispersion of the Jewish people. Their laws are diverse. A true charge,

but a weak argument for their destruction, more especially as the Persians

allowed all the conquered nations to retain their own laws and usages.

Neither keep they the king’s laws. Important, if true. But it was not true

in any broad and general sense. There might be an occasional royal edict

which a Jew could not obey; but the laws of the Medes and Persians were

in the main righteous laws, and the Jews readily observed them. They were

faithful and loyal subjects of the Achaemenian monarchs from first to last

from Cyrus to Darius Codomannus. For the king’s profit. Rather, as in

the margin, “meet” or “fitting for the king.” To suffer them. Or, “to let

them alone.”



A People Scattered and Apart (v. 8)


This very remarkable language shows us that the Jews have been one and

the same people for thousands of years. This description of the Jews is from

the lips of an enemy; still, except in the last clause, it is just and true.  In their

captivity in the East, in their dispersion, in their present condition throughout

Christendom, the Jews are a people by themselves, scattered and apart.


  • THE FACT OF ISRAEL’S ISOLATION. The descendants of Jacob are

like no other people, and wherever their lot is cast, they do not intermingle

with the population.


Ø      They are distinguished by their peculiar physiognomy.

Ø      By their homelessness and dispersion.

Ø      By the national customs and observances practiced among them.





Ø      They have been looked upon as opposed to the interests and welfare

of states. How often have ministers of state and prelates of the

Church aroused the hatred of princes against the Hebrew race.

“It is not for the king’s profit to suffer them!” 


Ø      They have consequently met with scorn, oppression, and persecution.

What a disgraceful history is that of the Jews scattered throughout

Christendom! That the nation has survived such persecutions is a

proof of the inherent vitality of the race, and a proof of the

superintending providence of the God of all the nations of the earth.



ISOLATION. It is an evidence of a special purpose of God. It is a

fulfillment of prophecy. It is a witness to the truth of Christianity.


Ø      We should regard the Jewish people with deep interest.


Ø      We should use all feasible means to bring the Jews to the Messiah.

He that scattereth will gather them.



The True Church Described by Untruthful Lips (v. 8)


Infant lips sometimes utter greatest truths. Shallowest brain sometimes

originates most politic scheming. Swine root out and tread underfoot

pearls of unpriced value. Bad men often preach good doctrine, Now “the

Jews’ enemy” (v. 10) volunteers the highest description, the most

complimentary characterization, of the Jew. And this passage proffers for

notice a contrast not only full as remarkable in the depth of it as any of

these, but far more remarkable when its subject matter is also taken into

account. It might be stated thus: A PEOPLE’S RELIGION RIGHTLY

DESCRIBED, AND WRONGLY CONSTRUED, by one who was none of

them, and who had none of it. The case is that of a man bearing witness

against a people and their religion; he is at the same time a willing and an

unwilling witness; his words are true; the meaning he wishes to be drawn

out of them is untrue. His indictment is verbally correct; the charge he

launches out by means of it has no foundation of fact. His description is

good for what it says, bad for what it means. And by chance it happens to

be so good for what it says that it tempts the thoughtful reader to pause, to

ask whether he cannot learn a lesson of value from it. Haman dares a

description of the nominal people of God; is he not in truth unconsciously

throwing off a telling description of the real people of God, of God’s real

Church in the world? For this plain, brief description of the people to

whom Mordecai belonged, which Haman now offers to the credulity of

Ahasuerus, happens to seize three leading facts distinctive of the Church of

God. Nor is it altogether to be assigned to the realm of chance. The fact

was that, shaded though their race was now, dimmed though their glorious

history, the people of Mordecai were the separate people of God, and that

Haman had noticed and scrutinized their essential peculiarities. These

peculiarities, false as is the gloss he puts upon them, he has in some degree

correctly caught. These are the shadows of answering realities in the

economy of the Church, the kingdom of God. They remind us of:



For whatever may be its exact position at any given hour of the world’s



Ø      Its genius is towards generalization. “There is a certain, people…

in all, the provinces of thy kingdom.”

Ø      Its genius is towards being “scattered abroad,” “dispersed,”

intermingled “among the people.” Once for a short time, and

for the special need of preparatory education, it is true that God’s

elect people were locally as well as morally separate from others,

i.e. when they sojourned in the wilderness. But this was only a phase,

and a transient one, of their national existence. Again, for a longer

time, and with fonder prospect, they dwelt in comparative seclusion

in their own land. But this also was quite as transient a phase of

their national life, taking into consideration the settlement there.

What a business it was! And the true place of the people

of God is not merely to find a settlement and found a colony

everywhere, but to mix among men, and to seek health of every

sort in work and fidelity, rather than in retirement and the enfolding

of self. And this actual contact with all the varieties of human

character, position, life, is in order to two ends:


o       first, for the proof  and the growth of individual goodness;

o       secondly, for the gradual leavening with a little leaven of the

whole lump.


Ø      Its genius is towards working its way among men, day and night, and

growing into their affection and confidence, rather than summoning

them to capitulate either to fear or to admiration.




Their special laws are, and are to be, “diverse from all people” who are not

of themselves. And when these clash with any other, they are not to “keep

the king’s laws,” but to keep their own distinguishing and esoteric laws

(Acts 4:19; 5:29). To know well, to do well, these “diverse laws” is the

sustained aspiration of the Church of God. There is such a thing as unity in

variety, and there is, and is to be, on the part of the Church of God, the

close union of all its own members, by one common fellowship, by

obedience to one common code of laws, by acknowledgment of one

standard Bible authority, amid all their intermixture, in every conceivable

relationship, with all the rest of the world and “the kingdoms of the world.”

The genuine, hearty, living obedience of a thousand, of a hundred persons

to “laws diverse from all people” is an enormously strong link of

connection among themselves, and an enormously significant testimony to

the outside world of SOMETHING SPECIAL AT WORK!  If we as

Christian people rose to this conception, to the eager veneration of it, to the

hearty practice of it, what a witness ours would be! Meantime Haman’s

allegation against the certain people scattered abroad that while their own

laws were diverse from all people, they did not keep the king’s laws — was

untrue. Mordecai had indeed withheld obedience to the law which “the

king had commanded” (v. 2), that “all the king’s servants in the king’s

 gate should bow and reverence Haman,” and his non-obedience was no

doubt covered, by his fealty to the “diverse laws;” but this was by no means

enough to cover a charge against all the Jews, or even against Mordecai in

his general conduct and life. The kingdom of God then does glory to follow

the lead and command of “laws diverse from all people,” to claim the

ultimate appeal as lying always to these; and in any conceivable case of

option to decide in one moment for obedience to God rather than to men.



apprehension was perhaps not very genuine, and any way was premature,

but his instinct in the real matter at issue was only too unerring and correct.

The Church of God — “that certain people scattered abroad among the

people,” with their diverse laws, and their first heed given to them

beyond a doubt has its eye on all other kingdoms, is not what those other

kingdoms would now think “for their profit,” is destined to absorb them,

gives evidence of that destiny as a very intention in those same

manifestations of its genius, and in its appeal to the unseen, and in its first

obedience thereto. Oh for the time when the chorus shall indeed open,

“The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of

His Christ, and He shall reign for ever and ever.”  (Revelation 11:15)


9 “If it please the king, let it be written that they may be destroyed:

and I will pay ten thousand talents of silver to the hands of those

that have the charge of the business, to bring it into the king’s

treasuries.”  This startling proposition, to which the

king might well have demurred, for even Xerxes could scarcely have

regarded such a massacre as a light matter, is followed immediately, and

before the king has time to reflect, by the tempting offer of such a bribe as

even a king could not view with indifference. Xerxes had once, if we may

trust Herodotus, declined to accept from a subject a gift of money equal to

about four and a half million of pounds sterling (Herod., 7:28); but this was

early in his reign, when his treasury was full, and he had not exhausted his

resources by the Greek war. Now, in his comparative poverty, a gift of

from two to three millions had attractions for him which proved irresistible.

To the hands of those that have the charge of the business. Not the

business of the slaughter, but the business of receiving money for the king,

i.e. the royal treasurers. To bring it. i.e. for them to bring it,” or pay it,

“into the royal treasuries.” On the multiplicity of the royal treasuries see

the comment on Ezra 7:20.


10 “ And the king took his ring from his hand, and gave it unto Haman

the son of Hammedatha the Agagite, the Jews’ enemy.”

The king took his ring from his hand. Rather, “took his

signet from his hand.” This may have been a ring, for signet-rings were

known to the Persians, but is perhaps more likely to have been a cylinder,

like that of Darius, his father, which is now in the British Museum

(‘Ancient Monarchies,’ vol. 4. p. 182). And gave it unto Haman. Thus

giving him the power of making whatsoever edicts he pleased, since

nothing was requisite to give authority to an edict but the impression of the

royal seal (see Herod., 3:128). For similar acts of confidence see ch.8:2;

Genesis 41:42. The Jews’ enemy. Rather, “persecutor.”


11 “And the king said unto Haman, The silver is given to thee, the

people also, to do with them as it seemeth good to thee.”

The silver is given thee, the people also. Not “the silver

which thou hast given me is given back to thee,” for the 10,000 talents had

not been given, but only offered. Rather, “the silver of the people is given

thee, together with the people themselves, to do with both as it pleases

thee.” Confiscation always accompanies execution in the East, and the

goods of those who are put to death naturally escheat to the crown, which

either seizes them or makes a grant of them. Compare ch. 8:11, where the

property of those of the Jews’ enemies who should suffer death is granted

to those who should slay them.


12 “Then were the king’s scribes called on the thirteenth day of the

first month, and there was written according to all that Haman had

commanded unto the king’s lieutenants, and to the governors that

were over every province, and to the rulers of every people of

every province according to the writing thereof, and to every

people after their language; in the name of king Ahasuerus was it

written, and sealed with the king’s ring.”  Then were the king’s scribes called.

“Scribes” (in the plural) are spoken of as attending on Xerxes throughout the

Grecian expedition (Herod., 7:100; 8:90). Such persons were always near at hand

in the palace, ready to draw up edicts. On the thirteenth day of the first

month. It is conjectured that Haman cast his lots on the first day of the

year (Berthcau), as an auspicious time for taking anything in hand, and

having obtained a thirteenth day for the massacre, adopted the same

number as probably auspicious for the necessary appeal to the king. Having

gained the king s consent, he sent at once for the scribes. The king’s

lieutenants. Literally, “the king’s satraps.” The actual Persian word is

used, slightly Hebraised. And to the governors. The word used has been

compared with pasha (Stanley), and again with beg or bey, but is probably

distinct from either. It designates a provincial governor of the second rank - one

who would have been called by the Greeks ὑπροσατρἀπηςhuposatrapaes.

The number of these subordinate officials was probably much greater than that

of the satraps. And to the rulers of every people. i.e. the native

authorities — the head men of the conquered peoples, to whom the Persian

system allowed a considerable share of power. In the name of king

Ahasuerus was it written. All edicts were in the king’s name, even when

a subject had been allowed to issue them. See the story of Bagseus in

Herodotus (iii. 128), where the edicts, of which he alone was the author,

have the form of orders from the king. And sealed with the king’s ring.

Or “signet” (see note on v. 10).


In vs. 8-12, consider that the thoughtless and self-indulgent become an easy

prey to the suggestions of the wicked.  The king of Persia fell at once into the

trap of Haman. He accepted his report without investigation, and delivered over

to his will the Jews and their possessions. His proclamation, ordering the

destruction of all the men, women, and children belonging to the Jewish race,

was soon on its way to the authorities of every province in the empire.  Ponder

that thoughtlessness, or a foolish confidence, does not relieve men of

responsibility for the consequences of their actions.  There is, perhaps, more

misery caused in the world by want of thought than by evil intention. We

are bound to consider the quality and issues of our conduct, and to

examine carefully the counsel of others before committing ourselves to it.

It will not diminish our responsibility to say that we acted without thought,

or from an inconsiderate trust in designing men. The royal seal

appropriated to the king the terrible iniquity of Haman.  (I recommend

Isaiah 1 – Spurgeon Sermon – To the Thoughtless – this website – CY – 2014)


13 “And the letters were sent by posts into all the king’s provinces, to

destroy, to kill, and to cause to perish, all Jews, both young and

old, little children and women, in one day, even upon the thirteenth

day of the twelfth month, which is the month Adar, and to take the

spoil of them for a prey.”  And the letters were sent by posts. The Persian

system of posts is thus described by Xenophon, who attributes its introduction

to Cyrus: — “Stables for horses are erected along the various lines of route,

at such a distance one from another as a horse can accomplish in a day. All

the stables are provided with a number of horses and grooms. There is a

post-master to preside over each, who receives the dispatches along with

the tired men and horses, and sends them on by fresh horses and fresh

riders. Sometimes there is no stoppage in the conveyance even at night;

since a night courier takes up the work of the day courier, and continues it.

It has been said that these posts outstrip the flight of birds, which is not

altogether true; but beyond a doubt it is the most rapid of all methods of

conveyance by land” (‘Cyrop.,’ 8:6, § 17). To destroy, to kill, and to

cause to perish. The writer quotes from the edict, which appears to have

had as many surplus words as a modern English law paper. Young and

old, little children and women. “To take the father’s life and spare the

child’s” was thought to be an act of folly in ancient times. Wives and

children of criminals were, as a matter of course, put to death with them.

This was anciently even the Jewish practice (Joshua 7:24-25; II Kings 9:26;

14:6), and was quite an established usage in Persia (Herod., 3:119).

The thirteenth day. The Septuagint has “the fourteenth day” in its

professed copy of the decree, but confirms the Hebrew text here by making

the thirteenth the actual day of the struggle (ch.9:1). The

fourteenth and fifteenth are the days now kept by the Jews; but it is

suspected that an alteration has been made in order to assimilate the Purim

to the passover feast, which began on the 14th of Nisan.


14 “The copy of the writing for a commandment to be given in every

province was published unto all people, that they should be ready

against that day.”  The exact import of this verse is uncertain. Some suppose it

to be a mere heading to a copy of the decree, which was originally inserted in

the text between vs. 14 and 15. In this case the translation should be:

“A copy of the writing for giving commandment to every province,

published to all peoples, that they should be ready against that day.”


15 “The posts went out, being hastened by the king’s commandment,

and the decree was given in Shushan the palace. And the king and

Haman sat down to drink; but the city Shushan was perplexed.”

The posts went out, being hastened. Though there was

ample time, since the remotest part of the empire could be reached in a

month, or two at the most, yet the posts were “hastened,” Haman being

impatient, lest the king should change his mind, and decline to publish the

edict. The king may himself also have wished to have the matter settled

past recall. The king sat down with Haman to drink. This touch seems

intended to mark their hardness of heart. As Nero “fiddled while Rome was

burning,” so these two, having assigned a nation to destruction, proceeded

to enjoy themselves at “a banquet of wine.” But the city of Susa was

perplexed. The Jews had enemies in Susa (ch. 9:12-15); but the

bulk of the inhabitants being Persians, and so Zoroastrians, would be likely

to sympathise with them. There might also be a widespread feeling among

persons of other nationalities that the precedent now set was a dangerous

one. Generally the people of the capital approved and applauded what.

ever the great king did. Now they misdoubted the justice, and perhaps even

the prudence, of what was resolved upon. The decree threw them into




Life Contrasts (v. 15)


“And the king and Haman sat down to drink; but the city Shushan was

perplexed.” Here is indeed a pair of pictures to look at — the subjects very

different. They are not a pair of pastoral scenes, nor of family groups

related, nor are they of sympathetic historical sort. But a pair they certainly

are; as such they are hung, and they bear out the position, for one strictly

and directly rises out of the other. The one shows two figures, as of men,

sitting in a palace drinking. If we are to judge anything from their attitude

and their occupation, their minds are perfectly at ease, and they are happy.

The figures are life-size, and lifelike. The countenances, however; scarcely

improve by dwelling upon. Very quickly the too plainly-marked impress of

the Eastern aristocrat’s effeminacy, and excessive luxuriousness, and

unrecking pride of heart dispel the faintest suggestion that their apparent

ease and happiness have any of the higher elements in them. We recognize

in the men types of self-indulgence, even if it should prove nothing worse.

The other picture shows a city in miniature, in broken, disconnected

sections, interiors and exteriors together. The eye that is sweeping it turns

it into a moving panorama. Whatever it is that is seen, an oppressive,

ominous stillness seems to brood over it. An unnatural stoppage of

ordinary business is apparent. The market, the bazaars, the exchange, the

heathen temple, the Jews’ meeting-place) and in fact every place where

men do congregate, seems in a certain manner stricken with consternation.

The faces and the gestures of the people agree therewith. These, at all

events, betoken anything but peace and content and happiness. They give

the impression of a “perplexity” rapidly inducing stupor, and a stupor

ominous of paralysis itself. One malignant thought of Haman was

answerable for all this. He had of late been obeying with completest self-

surrender his worse genius; that was about the only self-surrender he

practised or knew. His one malignant thought, the thought of “scorn,” had

rapidly ripened into determination, shaped into place and method, been

clothed in the dress of consummate policy, and sealed with the signet of

royal ring (v. 10). That thought, so wrought up, was now sent forth,

“hastened by the king’s commandment,” to a thousand cities and corners of

the whole realm. Its publication made in Shushan the palace, and to the

same hour “the king and Haman sat down to drink; but the city Shushan

was perplexed.” We have here:




Ø      A leading instance of the glaring disproportions of human fortune and

circumstance. In closest juxtaposition are found, on the one hand, two

men, sated with ease and all they can ask. On the other, a city, a whole

city, throbbing with all the most various life, but — condensed into this

brief description — “perplexed.” These are, as matter of fact, the two

experiences of human life found in the same place on the same day, at the

same hour; and they are the result of what we should be generally content

to call human fortune. Is it such contrarieties as these, that can subsist side

by side; and is it not the irresistible conclusion that either human life is the

sport of the arbitrary and the mockery of the malign; or that human fortune

is but an earthly phrase for a Providence, at present most inscrutable, but

with which all is to be trustfully left, for that it will ere long give account

and require account? Once satisfied of this, a heathen poet has taught us

the words, Permitte coetera Deo.


2. A leading instance of the disproportion of human rights and powers.

One might almost be tempted to call it a violent instance of an intolerable

anomaly. But in various ways, in more subdued form, by removes far more

numerous, and the contrasts accordingly far less striking, we can see this

violent case to be but a plain case of what permeates the structure of

human society. Yet ponder the facts here. There are thousands upon

thousands whose life, humanly speaking, is not in their own hands; and

there are two in whose hands those lives are! This disproportion must

dwarf every other. Compared with it, that of possession, of education) of

brain, of opportunity, of genius, of position and birth must seem small

matters. For life holds all the rest. Like a vessel, for the time it contains all

The aggregate of humanity is the history to a tremendous extent of an

aggregate of vicariousness. The tangle human fingers cannot undo. Out of

the labyrinth human wisdom cannot guide itself. One hand alone holds the

thread, one eye alone commands the bird’s-eye position and view. But in

all we must remember these two conclusions: first, that the vicariousness

counts sometimes for unmeasured help, and advantage, and love; secondly)

that it were better far to be of the “perplexed city” and the jeopardised

Jews than to be either of those two men “who sat down to drink” after

what they had done. Who would buy their position to pay the price of their

responsibility? Who would accept all their possessions at the risk of using

them as they did?



1. A leading instance of the attitude in which a bad conscience will suffer a

man to place himself; the exact opposite of that for which conscience was

given, the exact opposite of that which a good conscience would tolerate.

The very function of conscience may be impaired, may he a while ruined.

See its glory departed now. Haman now is a leading instance of the

satisfaction which a bad conscience shall have become able to yield, of the

content a bad conscience will in the possibility of things provide. He has

actually filled up the measure of his iniquities (as appears very plainly), and,

worse by far than Judas, whose conscience sent him to hang himself, he

“sits down to drink” with his king!

2. A leading instance of the destruction of the tenderest relic of perfect

human nature. For in the last analysis we must read here, the extinction of

sympathy! It is true there may have been left with the man who could do

what Haman did sympathy with evil, and yet rather with the evil; sympathy

with the gratuitous causing of woe and the causers of woe. But this is not

what we dignify with the name sympathy. This sweet word, standing for a

sweeter thing, has not two faces. Its face is one, and is aye turned to the

light, to love, to the good. ‘Tis a damning fact indeed among the

possibilities and the crises of human nature, and of the “deceitful and

desperately wicked” human heart, when sympathy haunts it no more, has

forsaken it as its habitat, hovers over it no longer, fans the air for it with its

beneficent pinion for the last, last time! Oh for the Stygian murkiness, the

sepulchral hollowness, the pestilent contagion that succeeds, and is

thenceforward the lot of that heart! The point of supreme selfishness is

reached when all sympathy has died away. For those whose terrible woe

himself had caused, it is Haman who has less than the least pity, and no

fellow-feeling with them whatever! The lowest point of loss which our

nature can touch here is surely when it has lost the calm energy of

sympathy — to show it or to feel it. The proportion in which any one

consciously, and as the highest achievement of his base skill and prostituted

opportunity, either causes unnecessary woe or leaves it unpitied, unhelped,

measures too faithfully the wounds and cruel injuries he has already

inflicted on the tenderest of presences within him, the best friend to himself

as well as to others. The wounds of sympathy are at any time of the deadly

kind, and it only needs that they be one too many, when at last she will

breathe out her long-suffering, stricken spirit! For him who is so forsaken it

may well be that “he sits down to drink.” For the knell is already heard, and

“to-morrow he dies.”



"Excerpted text Copyright AGES Library, LLC. All rights reserved.

Materials are reproduced by permission."


This material can be found at:


If this exposition is helpful, please share with others.