Esther 8

 

 

HAMAN’S HOUSE GIVEN TO ESTHER, AND THE KING’S SIGNET

MADE OVER.TO MORDECAI (vs.1-2). Two consequences

followed immediately on Haman’s execution. His property going back to

the crown, Ahasuerus made the whole of it over to Esther, either simply as

a sign of favor, or in compensation of the alarm and suffering which

Haman had caused her. Further, Haman’s office being vacant, and

Mordecai’s close relationship to Esther having become known to the king,

he transferred to Mordecai the confidence which he had been wont to

repose in Haman, and gave him the custody of the royal signet. Under

these circumstances Esther placed Mordecai in charge of the house which

had been Haman’s, as a suitable abode for a minister.

 

1 “On that day did the king Ahasuerus give the house of Haman the

Jews’ enemy unto Esther the queen. And Mordecai came before

the king; for Esther had told what he was unto her.”

On that day did the king… give the house of Haman. When

a criminal was executed, everything that belonged to him became the

property of the crown, and was disposed of according to the king’s

pleasure. It pleased Ahasuerus to make over to Esther the house of Haman,

with, no doubt, all its content, attendants, furniture, and treasure. The

Jews’ enemy. This now becomes Haman’s ordinary designation (see

ch.9:10, 24). Traditional practices have in many places kept up his

memory as one of the most hated adversaries of the nation. And

Mordecai came before the king. Mordecai became a high official — one

of those in constant attendance on the king. For Esther had told what he

was to her. i.e. had revealed his relationship, had told that he was her

cousin. Mordecai having been recognized as a “king’s benefactor”

(ch. 6:3-11), and Esther having been forced to confess herself a

Jewess in order to save her nation (ch.7:3-4), there was no object

in any further concealment.

 

2 “And the king took off his ring, which he had taken from Haman,

and gave it unto Mordecai. And Esther set Mordecai over the

house of Haman.”  And the king took off his ring. The king’s signet would, as

a matter of course, be taken from Haman before his execution and restored

to Ahasuerus, who now once more wore it himself. Business, however,

was irksome to him, and, having resolved to make Mordecai minister in

Haman’s room, he very soon took the signet off again, and made it over to

the new vizier. And Esther set Mordecai over the house of Haman. It

would not have been seemly for Esther to give away what she had received

as a gift from the king. She was therefore unable to make Mordecai a

present of the house. But she did what was equivalent — she set him over

it, made him practically its master. Thus he was provided with a residence

suitable to his new dignity.

 

The promotion of the wise and good to power is a blessing to the world.

The king gave the seal which he had taken from Haman to Mordecai. Henceforth

the sagacious and capable Jew was to occupy the place of grand vizier, or chief

friend and counselor. Here again justice notched a conspicuous mark. The humble

and heroic man for whom Haman had erected a gallows was put in the wicked

favorite’s place — made second to the king. From that time the monarch and his

empire had some real ground of prosperity and peace. Mordecai’s influence

grew and extended until it became a paramount power and blessing in all

the hundred and twenty and seven provinces. Happy the monarch and

nation that are under the guidance of a wisdom that is simple-hearted,

clear-sighted, experienced, and godly. How many examples have we in the

history of the world of the benefit conferred on nations by the promotion

of the wise and good to offices of power, and of the misery and ruin

effected by the promotion of the wicked!

 

 

The Lowly Exalted (vs. 1-2)

 

·         IN GOD’S PROVIDENCE THE RIGHTEOUS AND LOWLY ARE,

EVEN IN THIS WORLD, OFTEN EXALTED TO HONOUR. “The

Lord bringeth low, and lifteth up. He raiseth up the poor out of the dust,

and lifteth up the beggar from the dung-hill, to set them among princes,

and to make them inherit the throne of glory.”  (I Samuel 2:8)  History

records many striking instances of the elevation to high positions in Church

and State of those born in poverty, but qualified by natural gifts, by high

character, by faithful service, for exalted station. It is a Divine law, and

no artificial regulations should interfere with its working. In Scripture we

often meet with instances of the younger, the weaker, the despised being

raised to honor and power.

 

·         UNDER GOD’S RIGHTEOUS GOVERNMENT THE LOWLY AND

FAITHFUL ON EARTH SHALL BE RAISED TO HONOUR AND

HIGH SERVICE HEREAFTER. If it be asked why so many pure and

gentle characters are allowed by Providence to remain through life in

positions of obscurity, the true answer is this: They are training for

positions of authority and honor in the future life. Those who here are

faithful over a few things shall there be made rulers over many things, shall

enter into the joy of their Lord.  (Matthew 25:23)  There are mansions for

them there to inhabit; there is authority for them there to exercise; there is

favor for them there consciously and eternally to enjoy.

 

AT ESTHER’S REQUEST AHASUERUS ALLOWS THE ISSUE OF A

SECOND EDICT, PERMITTING THE JEWS TO RESIST ANY WHO

SHOULD ATTACK THEM, TO KILL THEM IN THEIR OWN

DEFENCE, AND TO TAKE POSSESSION OF THEIR GOODS (vs. 3-14)

The execution of Haman, the confiscation of his property, the advancement of

Mordecai into his place, though of favorable omen, as showing the present temper and

inclination of Abasuerus, left the Jews in as great danger as before. In most countries

there would neither have been delay nor difficulty. The edict which went

forth on the 13th of Nisan (ch.3:12), and which could not be

executed till the 13th of Adar, would have been cancelled, revoked,

recalled. But in Persia this could not be done; or at any rate it could not be

done without breaking one of the first principles of Persian law, the

principle that “the writing which is written in the king’s name, and sealed

with the king’s ring, may no man reverse” (v. 8). It was therefore

necessary to devise a mode whereby the desired escape of the Jews might

practically be obtained, and yet the edict remain unrevoked, and the king’s

honor be saved. At first Mordecai and Esther do not appear to have seen

this, and Esther asked openly for the reversal of the decree, only

representing it as the writing of Haman, and not the writing of the king

(v. 5). But Ahasuerus pointed out that this could not be done. Anything

short of a reversal, any new decree, he would sanction; but he could do no

more — he could not revoke his own word (v. 8). The course actually

followed was then devised, probably by Mordecai. The old decree was

allowed to stand; but a new decree was issued and signed in the usual way,

whereby the Jews were allowed and encouraged to resist those who should

attack them, — to “gather themselves together, and to stand for their life;

to destroy, slay, and cause to perish all the power of the people of the

province that would assault them,” — and were further permitted to “take

the spoil of them for a prey,” or, in other words, to seize the property of all

whom they should slay (v. 11). The royal posts carried out this decree

(v. 14), as they had the former one; and it was publicly set forth and

proclaimed in every province, that if the Jews were attacked under the

terms of the one, they might defend themselves and retaliate on their foes

under the terms of the other (v. 13). As the second decree was issued on

the 23rd of Sivan, the third month (v. 9), and the day appointed for the

attack was the 13th of Adar, the twelfth, there was ample time-above eight

months — for the Jews to make preparations, to organize themselves, to

collect arms, and to arrange an effective resistance.

 

Esther was not content with her own happiness. She could not feel happy until

she had emancipated her people from the doom that threatened them. Her own

deliverance from the enemy stimulated her to work out that of Israel. So long

as the edict against the Jews was in force, the purpose for which she had

ventured all was unaccomplished, It is only when our Lord shall have redeemed

all His people and brought them to everlasting honor that He shall “see the

travail of His soul and be satisfied(Isaiah 53:11).

 

3 “And Esther spake yet again before the king, and fell down at his

feet, and besought him with tears to put away the mischief of

Haman the Agagite, and his device that he had devised against the

Jews.”  Esther spake yet again before the king. It might have seemed

to be the business of Mordecai, as the king’s chief minister, to advise him

in a matter of public policy, and one in which the interests of so many of

his subjects were vitally concerned. But the new minister did not perhaps

feel sure of his influence, or quite know what to recommend. Esther was

therefore again put forward to address the king. Fell down at his feet.

Compare I Samuel 25:24; II Kings 4:37, etc. And besought him…

to put away the mischief of Haman. i.e. begged him, first of all, in a

vague way, to “cause to pass” — put away, or undo — the mischief of

Haman — not suggesting how it was to be done.

 

4 “Then the king held out the golden sceptre toward Esther. So Esther

arose, and stood before the king,”  Either Esther had again intruded on the

king uninvited, or there was a double use of the golden scepter:

 

a. In the pardon of those who so intruded; and,

b. In the ordinary granting of requests. It was perhaps held out on this

    occasion simply to express a readiness to do as Esther desired.

 

5 “And said, If it please the king, and if I have favor in his sight, and

the thing seem right before the king, and I be pleasing in his eyes,

let it be written to reverse the letters devised by Haman the son of

Hammedatha the Agagite, which he wrote to destroy the Jews

which are in all the king’s provinces:  6 For how can I endure to see

the evil that shall come unto my people? or how can I endure to see the

destruction of my kindred?”  If it please the king, etc. The long preface of four

clauses, winding up with “If I be pleasing,” is indicative of Esther’s doubt how

the king will receive her suggestion that it should be written to reverse the

letters (compare ch.3:13) devised by Haman. To ask the king to

unsay his own words was impossible. By representing the letters as devised

by Haman, and written by Haman, Esther avoids doing so. But she thereby

blinks the truth. In excuse she adds the striking distich contained in the

next verse — “For how could I endure to see the evil that is coming on my

people? or how could I endure to see the destruction of my kindred?”

 

 

Repairing Mischief (v. 5)

 

·         GREAT EVILS MAY BE REMOVED, OR AT LEAST

OVERRULED, BY PROVIDENCE.   “Let it be written to reverse the

letters devised by Haman.”  If this were not believed, the arm of

the Christian would be paralyzed. We have to beware of that phase of

belief which would lead to the postponement of spiritual effort because

Christ is to come again. We must not let it be supposed that the work of

Christ, the word of God, and the gift of the Spirit are all failures. The

mischief wrought by evil is to be repaired by Christ’s gospel and healed by

His love.

 

Ř      What are we doing to repair the mischief others have wrought?

Ř      What are we doing to undo our own wrong-doing?

 

·         THE IRREPARABLENESS OF HUMAN FOLLY (vs. 9-14). King

Ahasuerus might hang Haman with great promptitude; a word from him,

and the executioners were ready with willing hands; but he could not easily

undo the evil work of Haman. That bad man’s work left dark

shadows behind. He himself was disposed of, but what of the decree he had

been the means of passing? That could not be quickly reversed, or its

effects removed. The custom, if not the constitution, admitted of no formal

repeal. Consequently the most energetic measures had to be taken to

prevent a general massacre. The king’s scribes had to be called together

(v. 9); letters had to be written in every language and sent to every

province in the empire (Ibid.); horses had to be pressed into the service

(v. 10); and then all that could be done was to sanction and encourage a

stout resistance on the part of the Jews when they were attacked: they

were “to stand for their life, to destroy, to slay,” etc. (v. 11). This, no

doubt, led to severe and fatal strife in some, if not in many, places. In truth,

the king could not wholly undo what his thoughtless folly and excessive

confidence had done. We never can wholly wipe out the evil consequences

of our folly and our sin. We may do much to counteract, but we cannot

wholly remove. Godlessness, selfishness, worldliness, vice, error, in former

years, these have left their traces on our hearts and lives, and on those of

others also, and all the waters of all the seas cannot wash them out. Sin

may be forgiven, folly may be pardoned, but their miserable consequences

flow on — who shall say how far? — in a polluting stream. It does not

take a royal hand to do what is irreparable. The hand of a little child is

strong enough for that.

 

 

Patriotism (v. 6)

 

Esther’s life was now safe, and probably her cousin’s too. But that was not

enough. Her nation was still in danger. The royal decree had delivered the

Jews throughout the empire into the hands of their enemies. In a few

months, unless measures were meantime taken to check and hinder the

malice of their foes, thousands of Israelites might be exposed to violence,

pillage, and massacre. The thought was to Esther cruel beyond bearing.

“How,” said she, “can I endure to see the evil that shall come unto my

people, the destruction of my kindred?” This was patriotism indeed.

 

·         PATRIOTISM IMPLIES A SENTIMENT OF SYMPATHY. Esther

felt for her people, her kindred. Every lover of his country will not only

rejoice in its prosperity, cherish a glow of pride and satisfaction in any

great deeds of his countrymen, but will grieve over national calamities and

mourn over national sins; will “sigh and cry for the abominations that are

done in the land.”  (Ezekiel 9:4)

 

·         PATRIOTISM DETERS MEN FROM DOING ANYTHING THAT

CAN INJURE THEIR COUNTRY. If personal advantage can be secured

by any harm to his country, the patriot will spurn the thought of so

profiting himself at the expense of the nation. As a citizen, whose life must

have some influence, he will refrain from conduct by which his countrymen

might suffer.

 

·         TRUE PATRIOTISM WILL LEAD MEN TO SEEK NOT ONLY

THE MATERIAL PROSPERITY, BUT THE REAL AND MORAL

GREATNESS OF THEIR COMMON COUNTRY. They cannot

contemplate uninterested, unmoved, a state of society

 

“Where wealth accumulates, and men decay.”

 

The progress of knowledge, of virtue, of true religion amongst their

kindred will be sought with ardor and zeal.

 

·         PATRIOTISM WILL LEAD TO PRACTICAL EFFORT TO AVOID

THREATENING DANGERS. The patriot is unwilling to contemplate, to

anticipate evil. But mere sentiment is insufficient, and he will exert himself

to avert the evil he dreads. Especially will he use any influence he possesses

with those who have the means, the power, the opportunity of assisting to

secure the safety and welfare of the country. The examples of Ezra and of

Nehemiah, among the children of the captivity, show us what true

patriotism will lead men to undertake and do and bear. But the supreme

example, alike of patriotism and of philanthropy, is to be beheld in Jesus

Christ, who wept over Jerusalem as well as over the world, and who

would fain have averted ruin from the city He favored with His teaching

and ministry, and in which He shed His precious blood!

 

7  Then the king Ahasuerus said unto Esther the queen and to

Mordecai the Jew, Behold, I have given Esther the house of

Haman, and him they have hanged upon the gallows, because he

laid his hand upon the Jews.  8 Write ye also for the Jews, as it liketh you,

in the king’s name, and seal it with the king’s ring: for the writing which is

written in the king’s name, and sealed with the king’s ring, may no man

reverse.”  Then the king… said unto Esther the queen and unto

Mordecai. The king, it would seem, took time to give his answer; and

when he gave it, addressed himself to Mordecai, his minister, rather than to

Esther, his wife.See now,” he said, “I have done what I could — I have

given Esther Haman’s house; I have had Haman himself executed because

he put forth his hand against the Jews. What yet remains? I am asked to

save your countrymen by revoking my late edict. That may not be. The

writing which is written in the king’s name, and sealed with the king’s

seal, may no man reverse. But, short of this, I give you full liberty of

action. Write ye also for the Jews, as it liketh you, in the king’s name,

and seal it with the king’s ring. Surely you can devise something which

will save your people without calling on me to retract my own words, and

at the same time break a great principle of Persian law.”

 

9 “Then were the king’s scribes called at that time in the third month,

that is, the month Sivan, on the three and twentieth day thereof;

and it was written according to all that Mordecai commanded unto

the Jews, and to the lieutenants, and the deputies and rulers of the

provinces which are from India unto Ethiopia, an hundred twenty

and seven provinces, unto every province according to the writing

thereof, and unto every people after their language, and to the Jews

according to their writing, and according to their language.”

Then were the king’s scribes called. The king had said

enough. Mordecai saw a means of reconciling the king’s scruple with the

safety — or if not with the absolute safety, yet with the escape and triumph

of his people. The Jews should be allowed to stand on their defense,

should be encouraged to do so, when the time came should be supported in

their resistance by the whole power of the government (ch.9:3). A

new decree must issue at once giving the requisite permission, and copies

must be at once distributed, that there might be no mistake or

misunderstanding. So the “king’s scribes” were summoned and set to

work. In the third month, the month Sivan. This is another Babylonian

name. The month was sacred to the moon-god, Sin, and its name may be

connected with his. It corresponded with the latter part of our May and the

early part of June. To the lieutenants, and the deputies and rulers.

Compare Esther 3:12, where the same three classes of rulers are

mentioned. An hundred twenty and seven. See the comment on

ch.1:1. And to the Jews. Copies of the former edict had not been

sent especially to the Jews. They had been left to learn their danger

indirectly from the people among whom they dwelt; but Mordecai took

care that they should be informed directly of their right of defense.

 

10 “And he wrote in the king Ahasuerus’ name, and sealed it with the

king’s ring, and sent letters by posts on horseback, and riders on

mules, camels, and young dromedaries:”  He wrote in the king’s name.

As Haman had done (ch.2:12). And riders on mules, camels, and young

dromedaries. There is no “and” before “riders” in the original, and the

clause is clearly exegetical of the preceding, Neither “mules,” nor “camels,”

nor “young dromedaries” are mentioned in it, and the best translation

would seem to be “the riders on coursers of the royal stud, the offspring

of thoroughbreds.” It is noticeable that both Herodotus (8:98) and

Xenophon (Cyrop.,’ 8:6, § 17) speak of horses as alone employed in

carrying the Persian dispatches.

 

11 “Wherein the king granted the Jews which were in every city to

gather themselves together, and to stand for their life, to destroy, to

slay and to cause to perish, all the power of the people and

province that would assault them, both little ones and women, and

to take the spoil of them for a prey,  12 Upon one day in all the provinces

of king Ahasuerus, namely, upon the thirteenth day of the twelfth month,

which is the month Adar.”  Wherein the king granted.  Rather, “that the king

granted.” Mordecai sent “letters,” which said “that the king granted to the Jews

 to gather themselves together,” etc. To gather themselves together. Union

is strength. If all the Jews of a province were allowed to collect and band

themselves together, they would at once be a formidable body. Scattered in

the various towns and villages, they might easily have been overpowered.

To stand for their life. The Jews have sometimes been spoken of as the

aggressors on the actual 13th of Adar, but there is no evidence to support

this view. The edict clearly only allowed them to stand on the defensive. Of

course, when fighting once began, both sides did their worst. In repelling

attack the Jews had the same liberty to destroy, to slay, and to cause to

perish as their adversaries (ch.3:13). Little ones. Rather,

families.” Take the spoil of them for a prey. i.e. “seize their property.”

The earlier edict had given the same permission to the Jews’ enemies

(Ibid.).

 

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

province was published unto all people, and that the Jews should

be ready against that day to avenge themselves on their enemies.”

This verse reproduces v. 14 of ch. 3., with a slight modification of the last

clause. It is probable that a copy of the decree was originally inserted at the

end of the verse.

 

14 “So the posts that rode upon mules and camels went out, being

hastened and pressed on by the king’s commandment. And the

decree was given at Shushan the palace.”  The posts that rode upon mules

and camels. Rather, “that rode on coursers of the stud royal” (see the comment

on v. 10). The verse repeats ch.3:15, with small additions. It appears that the later

posts were urged to haste still more strongly than the earlier ones — not

that time really pressed, but from superabundant caution — that there

might be an opportunity for further communications between the provinces

and the court, if doubt was anywhere entertained as to the king’s intentions.

 

 

 

Self-Defense (vs. 7-14)

 

The permission of Ahasuerus appears to us singular almost to madness.

Indeed, it could only have been such a character as we know Xerxes to

have been that could have coolly contemplated plunging every province

and every city of his empire into the horrors of civil war. However, it

seemed better to him to grant permission to the Jews to arm and to defend

themselves than to reverse formally the decree he had already issued for

their destruction. So first the despot commands the enemies to arm against

the Jews, and then commands the Jews to arm themselves against their

enemies.

 

·         SELF-DEFENCE IS, WITHIN LIMITS, A NATURAL RIGHT. What

is the alternative? In the case of an individual it may be a violent death; in

the case of a nation it may be either subjection or annihilation. Thus,

civilization may be replaced by barbarism, and Christianity by idolatry or

fetishism.

 

·         SELF-DEFENCE IS A LEGAL RIGHT. Here the Jews were expressly

directed to defend and deliver themselves. And there are cases where the

law justifies the putting forth of force in defence of life and property, and

he who smites his assailant is held guiltless. Great defenders of their

country are enshrined in a nation’s memory.

 

·         SELF-DEFENCE IS SOMETIMES PUT FORWARD AS A

HYPOCRITICAL PRETENCE. It has often happened that an aggressive,

ambitious nation has endeavored to persuade itself, to impose upon its

neighbors, to believe that its action is merely defensive in mustering

armaments, enlisting warriors, and making war. All the while designs of

empire, of spoliation, of subjugation may be before the nation’s mind.

 

·         SELF-DEFENCE IS A SPIRITUAL LAW. If we are anxious to

defend ourselves, our property, our families from violence and theft, how

anxious should we be to secure ourselves against the assaults of the devil.

Every Church should be a confederation for common protection against

the inroads of error and of sin.

 

MORDECAI’S HONOR AND THE JEWS’ JOY (vs. 15-17).

Ahasuerus was not content even now with what he had done for Mordecai.

Before his minister quitted the presence, the king presented him with a

crown of gold, and a robe and vest of honor; and thus arrayed he

proceeded into the city of Susa, where the new edict was already known,

and had been received with satisfaction (v. 15). The Persians, who

formed the predominant element in the population of the town,

sympathized with the Jews, and rejoiced in the king’s favor towards them;

while the Jews of Susa, having passed from despair to confident hope,

were full of gladness and thankfulness. In the provinces the decree had a

still warmer welcome. Its arrival was celebrated with “a feast” (v. 17)

and “a good day.” It led also to many of the heathen becoming proselytes

to the Jewish religion — some perhaps from conviction, but others because

they thought it safer to place themselves manifestly on the Jews’ side

before the day of the struggle:

 

15 “And Mordecai went out from the presence of the king in royal

apparel of blue and white, and with a great crown of gold, and with

a garment of fine linen and purple: and the city of Shushan rejoiced

and was glad.”  Royal apparel of blue and white. The Persian monarch

himself wore a purple robe and an inner vest of purple striped with white

(‘Ancient Monarchies,’ vol. 4. pp. 153, 154). The robes of honor which

he gave away were of many different colors, but generally of a single tint

throughout (Xen., ‘Cyrop.,’ 8:3, § 3); but the one given to Mordecai seems

to have been blue with white stripes. These were the colors of the royal

diadem (Q. Curt., ‘Vit. Alex.,’ 3:3). A great crown of gold. Not a tall

crown, like that of the monarch, which is called in Hebrew kether (Greek

κίταρις - kitaris), but ‘atarah, a crown of an inferior kind, frequently worn by

nobles. And with a garment of fine linen and purple. The “fine linen”

was of course white. The real meaning of the word thakrik, translated

garment,” is doubtful. Gesenius understands an outer garment’ ‘the long

and flowing robe of an Oriental monarch;” in which case the “apparel”

previously mentioned must be the inner vest. Others, as Patrick, make the

thakrik to be the inner, and the “apparel” (lbush) the outer garment. The

Septuagint, however, translates thakrik by διάδημα diadaemadiadem-  

and its conjunction with the “crown” favors this rendering. The diadem

proper of a Persian monarch was a band or fillet encircling the lower part

of his crown, and was of blue, spotted or striped with white. Ahasuerus

seems to have allowed Mordecai to wear a diadem of white and purple.

The city of Shushan rejoiced. As the Susanchites had been “perplexed”

at the first edict (ch. 3:15), so were they “rejoiced” at the second. Such of

them as were Persians would naturally sympathize with the Jews. Even the

others may have disliked Haman’s edict, and have been glad to see it,

practically, reversed.

 

16 “The Jews had light, and gladness, and joy, and honor.”

The Jews had light. A metaphor for “happiness” (compare Isaiah 58:8).

 

17 “And in every province, and in every city, whithersoever the king’s

commandment and his decree came, the Jews had joy and

gladness, a feast and a good day. And many of the people of the

land became Jews; for the fear of the Jews fell upon them.”

A feast and a good day. The provincial Jews made the whole

day on which they heard the news into a holiday, and not only rejoiced, but

feasted. Many of the people of the land became Jews. Applied for and

obtained admission into the Jewish nation as full proselytes (compare Ezra

6:21, with the comment). The fear of the Jews fell upon them.

There was about to be in each great city where there were Jews a day of

struggle and bloodshed. The Jews would have authority on their side

(ch.9:3), and might be expected to be victorious. Persons feared

lest, when victorious, they might revenge themselves on all who had not

taken their part, and thought it safer to become Jews than remain neutral.

But it can only have been a small minority of the population in each city

that took this view. There was no sudden great increase in the numbers of

the Jewish nation.

 

 

A Type of Universal Joy (vs. 15-17)

 

This passage tells the tale of great joy. The question of the prophet Isaiah,

“Shall a nation be born at once?” (Isaiah 66:8) asked now nearly two centuries

prior, is answered in an unexpected way, and in something superior to mere literal

sense. New life is a great thing, and the sensations of young life have much

joy in them. But in the same kind of sense in which the father rejoiced over

the prodigal son on his return with livelier and more demonstrative joy than

over the obedient son who never went astray, and in the same kind of sense

in which it is said that “there is joy in heaven over one sinner that repenteth

more than over ninety and nine just persons which need no repentance”

(Luke 15:7), is it true that there is more joy in life rescued from the doom of death

than in life just fresh, though it be fresh from the Creator’s hand. Yes, there is

more joy therein, both for those who are chiefly concerned, and for those

who look on. And was it not thus in the best sense that a nation was now

born at once” when darkness, exceeding distress, and the anguish of

apparent helplessness all dropped off in a moment, and “the Jews had light,

and gladness, and joy, and honor,… and a feast and a good day in every

province, and in every city”? Evidently some special stress is laid upon the

description of the gladness of the Jews. We cannot for a moment wonder

at their gladness, that is one thing. But the detailed and full announcement

of it on an inspired page is another thing, and leads us to expect that there

are some facts about it which should invite notice and will reward more

careful thought.

 

·         IT WAS THE GLADNESS OF A VAST NUMBER OF PEOPLE. A

great philosopher of British name and reputation has remarked two things,

and very truly, on this subject. First, how much less disposed,

comparatively speaking, men are to sympathize with the manifestations of

joy than with those of genuine sorrow. To the best of human nature it is

easier to weep with those who weep than to laugh with those who laugh.

This is a just discernment, and gives the balance of goodness to the

intrinsic quality of unfallen human nature, where it may get a possibility of

betraying its native worth. Secondly, that this is especially true when it is

the joy of an individual that is ostentatiously paraded. Here the case is the

opposite. The joy is the joy of all and of each. Gratitude and thankfulness

were the spring of it, and there was no need to moderate either itself or its

expression, because it was general and universal. There were none (at all

events none entitled to consideration) on whom it would jar, or whose finer

susceptibilities would suffer. On the contrary, the only discordant element

would be produced by him who made himself the exception or offered to

stand aloof. Note, that such real general joy is a very rare phenomenon on

earth.

 

·         IT WAS THE GLADNESS OF EVERY CLASS AND KIND OF THE

PEOPLE. Old men “little children and women” (ch.3:13), young

men and maidens, rich and poor, strong and weak, all these could

participate in it. Our human joys are often spoilt, are often much

diminished to the best of persons, by the inevitable memory of those who

are without what gladdens us. Think how a victorious army may rejoice,

and generals and leaders be glad; but what of the hundreds of families of

every class over the kingdom who have lost husbands, brothers, sons? Or

think how the great body of a nation may rejoice because of the victories of

its armies; but at what havoc of untold sorrow and misery of numberless

others belonging to conquering or the conquered. Think how rare is the

occasion of any national joy which really reaches and touches the heart of

all kinds and ages of the people.

 

·         IT WAS A GLADNESS WHICH HAD SEVERAL ELEMENTS IN

ITS COMPOSITION. The fourfold analysis of it cannot be condemned for

mere surplus usage of language as it lies on the page of Scripture. And these

are the four elements — “light,” “gladness,” deep “joy,” “honour.” Each of

these elements is a good one. The first and last speak for themselves. Let

us interpret the second as the gladness of the young hearts and of

manifestation, and the third as the deeper-sinking joy of the old, and those

who felt and thought more than they showed or spoke.

 

·         IT WAS THE GLADNESS OF A REACTION. The reaction was

just. It would have argued callousness, an insensate heart indeed, if it were

not felt, and very powerfully felt. To have great mercies is a common thing,

to respond to them far too uncommon. The contrast of “the horrible pit

and the miry clay” with the “rock and the established going” of the pilgrim

(Psalm 40:2) is one which should waken deepest joy. It is light, joy, honour

all in one.

 

·         IT WAS GLADNESS IN ANSWER TO A DELIVERANCE WHICH

WAS NOT ONLY VERY GREAT AND VERY UNEXPECTED, BUT

WHICH WAS THE RESULT OF A MARVELLOUS INTERPOSITION

OF PROVIDENCE, wrought by one feeble woman, and prepared for by a

most extraordinary series of precisely-adapted events. And all this was

prepared for God’s people.” Through much tribulation, indeed, through

darkness, cruel oppression, patient endurance on the very border of

despair, they had been wonderfully brought out to the light, joy, honor of

that time.

 

·         IT WAS A GLADNESS WHICH MAKES US THINK OF

ANOTHER. It makes us feel for another, long for another. That was of a

nature that must be rare in occurrence, nor would we wish it other. And,

after all, the duration of it could only be temporary. But it may well bear

our thought onward and upward. The gladness of the people of God in

heaven will fill out every part of the description of this gladness. It will fill

out every part of it worthily. There all will be glad. There all varieties of

purified spirits will be glad. There the light and gladness and joy and

honour will all be to perfection. How glorious the reaction that will then be

felt for us, with the doom, and the law’s decree, and the despair, and the

sorrow, and the tear all and for ever gone. And when we shall all admit to

what it is owing — to the most marvelous interposition of all; and to

whom it is owing — to Him who “with strong groaning and tears”

(Hebrews 5:7) pleaded for us and saved us.

 

 

A Good Day (v. 17)

 

The time of relief, and thanksgiving, and confidence, and hope is viewed as a day

having a character of its own.  And no wonder that, so viewed, it should be called

here “a good day.”

 

·         IT WAS GOOD IN ITS RETROSPECT. A day of evil had been

dreaded and looked forward to with justice, and it had been converted into

a day of peace. A day of Divine interposition summoned all to admire the

unexpected interposition of Divine providence which had taken place.

 

·         IT WAS GOOD IN ITS REALISATION. It was a good day for the

rescued and saved, for the agents who had effected the deliverance, for the

people among whom they dwelt, and even for the king, whose reign and

reputation were saved from a stain both black and bloody.

 

·         IT WAS GOOD IN ITS ANTICIPATION. Some months were yet to

elapse before all danger was past. Yet, in the changed prospect, how could

the Jews do other than give thanks, rejoice, and triumph? Let this “good

day serve to us as an emblem of the day of Divine visitation and human

privilege. “Now is the accepted time; now is THE DAY OF SALVATION!”

 

 

Religious Prosperity (v. 17)

 

Persecution always defeats its own object. Viewed as mere policy, it is the

worst that can be employed. Persecute error, and it will spread tenfold;

persecute truth, and it will spread a hundredfold. Unless, therefore, you

wish the principles you hate to gain ground, persecute not at all. Haman,

while he brought utter ruin upon himself by his cruel attempt to

exterminate the Jews, raised the latter into an incomparably better position

than they occupied before. The Jews in their triumph were likely to adopt

the same persecuting policy as had been exercised against themselves. It

would have been simply the natural result of the treatment they had

received. The Romanist persecution of Protestants in our own country led

Protestants in their turn to persecute the Romanists. The people of the land

were, therefore, not without reason, in mortal fear; and many of them

through fear became proselytes to the Jewish religion. But a profession of

faith made under such circumstances was about the most worthless that

could be imagined. The Church of God has had a most checkered history.

Sometimes, like the noonday sun, it has shone with unrivalled splendor;

sometimes, like the cloud-wrapped moon, its light has been lost in

darkness. In the captivity of Egypt it was trodden down by its oppressors;

under the leadership of Moses it struggled again into freedom. In the reign

of Solomon a temple was built to Jehovah; in the reign of Jeroboam, son of

Nebat, the calves were worshipped at Bethel and Dan. And we may add

that under the new dispensation, even as under the old, its fortunes have

been variable to the last degree. The text contains a graphic description of

THE CHURCH IN PROSPERITY. In times of religious depression it is

customary with good people to pray for better things — a revival of the

religious spirit, an outpouring of the Holy Ghost, an increase of godly

enthusiasm. But frequently, when this takes place, those who desire it most

are greatly disappointed, just because the form it takes is contrary to their

expectation. For ages the Jews longed for the advent of the Messiah, but

when He came THEY PUT HIM TO DEATH! It is important, therefore, that

in seeking religious prosperity our minds should be free from misconceptions.

This leads us to notice:

 

·         THE NATURE OF RELIGIOUS PROSPERITY. It implies:

 

Ř      An increase of spirituality among professing Christians. Beware of

supposing that the success of a Church is identical with increased

membership. This is a fatal mistake, and has led to the most lamentable

consequences. True religion consists in spiritual-mindedness. It is the

result of a change of heart produced by the Spirit of God. “Except a

man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the

kingdom of God.”  (John 3:5)  It follows that a Christian is separate

from the world. He views everything in the light of the world to come.

He rejoices to suffer affliction with the people of God, for he has

respect unto the recompense of the reward.  (Hebrews 11:26)  No

genuine revival can take place apart from increased purity and

unworldliness.

 

Ř      An increase of good works among professing Christians. Good

works are the necessary concomitants of spiritual-mindedness.

“Every good tree bringeth forth good fruit.”  (Matthew 7:17)  The

first proof that a man is born again is the earnestness with which he

inquires what he must do. Instances — the multitude on the day of

Pentecost, the jailer at Philippi, Saul of Tarsus. The Church is described

as a vineyard, for which God hires laborers, whom He rewards according

to their services. The absence of works is therefore a sure sign of the

absence of spiritual life. What the Spirit said to each of the

Churches of Asia was, “I know thy works.” (Revelation 2-3)  No real

prosperity can coexist with indifference and indolence.

 

Ř      An increase of sinners saved. “Many of the people of the land became

Jews.” A most conclusive evidence of their thriving condition. A spiritual,

working Church exerts a power which attracts outsiders into its ranks. At

the beginning of the apostolic age, when the disciples were in the fervor

of their first love, it is recorded that “the Lord added to the Church daily

such as should be saved.”  (Acts 2:47)  It is the business of a Church to

seek the lost.  This duty it owes to itself no less than to the world. Without

converts it must gradually decay, and ultimately die. It enjoys the highest

success, therefore, only when multitudes of the perishing flock within

its gates.

 

·         THE CAUSES OF RELIGIOUS PROSPERITY. When possessed, to

what is it due? When lost, how can it be recovered?

 

Ř      It is in the work of God. It was God who laid down the foundation

of the Church. “Thus saith the Lord, Behold, I lay in Zion for a

foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner-stone, a sure

foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste.”  (Isaiah 28:16)

And not a single stone has been subsequently placed in the spiritual

edifice without His cooperation. “Without me ye can do nothing.”

(John 15:5)  “Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain

that build it.”  (Psalm 127:1)  If we would have a revival, we

must pray God to send down the Comforter to “reprove the

 world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment.”

(John 16:8)

 

Ř      It is in another sense the work of man. The grandest triumphs of the

gospel have been achieved by means of human instrumentality. The

Protestant reformation, the Methodist revival, the evangelization of

Madagascar. Many ask, “What have we to do?” The answer depends

upon the special circumstances of the inquirers. Some are able to preach

the word, some to teach the young, some to visit the poor. If your

Church be languishing, seek the cause among yourselves. Are you:

 

o       slumbering,

o       inactive,

o       prayerless?

 

·         THE EFFECTS OF RELIGIOUS PROSPERITY. These are

represented here as threefold.

 

Ř      Joy. “The Jews had joy and gladness.” This is invariably the case; and

what more natural? The released captive is glad, the victorious army is

jubilant, the flourishing city is full of glee, and shall the Church be

different? “When the Lord turned again the captivity of Zion, we were

 like them that dream. Then was our mouth filled with laughter, and

our tongue with singing.” (Psalm 126:1-2)  It is said of the first disciples,

after they had witnessed our Lord’s ascension, which was to them an

earnest of the coming of His kingdom, that they returned to Jerusalem

with great joy; and were continually in the temple, praising and blessing

God. (Acts 1 and 2)

 

Ř      Contentment. “A feast and a good day.” With the luxuries they enjoyed

they were abundantly satisfied. In religious revivals the means of grace,

the services of the sanctuary, the ordinances of religion, are thoroughly

appreciated. Duties which in stagnant seasons are a burden become a

pleasure. Of the man who is “like a tree planted by the rivers of water,”

the Psalmist saith, “His delight is in the law of the Lord, and in his law

doth he meditate day and night.”  (Psalm 1:2-3)  The prevalence of

bitterness, strife, and unrest is a sign of spiritual poverty. Cattle bred in

the fertile plains are generally in good condition; cattle bred on the

barren hills are not only lean, but grow immense horns.

 

Ř      Influence. “The fear of the Jews fell upon them.” The power of the

Jews was felt in the land, and they were respected accordingly. The

world admires power; it is the weak, the puny, the pretentious that are

held in contempt. When religion is despised, and its professors treated

with scorn, it is time to inquire into the reason. May it not be due to the

sentimental, emasculated caricature of godliness that is too frequently

set up for the reality? Strong, robust Christian manliness commands

the homage even of opponents. When the Church appears in her proper

character — a pure, living, active Church — an astonished world asks,

“Who is she that looketh forth as the morning, fair as the moon, clear

as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners?”   

(Song of Solomon 6:10)

 

 

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