RESULT OF THE SECOND EDICT’ THE JEWS RESIST THEIR
ENEMIES, AND EFFECT A GREAT SLAUGHTER OF THEM, BUT
DO NOT LAY HAND ON THEIR GOODS (vs. 1-16)).
The Jews of all the provinces, having had ample time to prepare themselves,
“gathered themselves together in their cities,” as the day fixed by the first
edict approached (v. 2), and made their arrangements. Their “enemies”
no doubt did the same, and for some time before the 13th of Adar two
hostile camps stood facing each other in each of the great towns
throughout the empire. (A moral civil war that turned violent. A similar
situation seems to be developing in the
the secularists hell-bent on eradicating fundamental Christians and Christianity.
Psalm 2:1-4 – CY – 2014) Mordecai’s position at the capital being known,
and his power evidently established, the Persian governors of all grades
understood it to be their duty to throw their weight into the scale on behalf
of the Jews, and lend them whatever help they could (v. 3). At last the
day arrived, and the struggle took place. The Jews everywhere got the
better of their adversaries. In “Shushan the palace” as it was called, or the
upper town, of which the palace formed a part, they killed 500 of them
(v. 6). In the rest of the empire, if we accept the numbers of the present
Hebrew text, as many as 75,000 (v. 16). The Septuagint translators,
however, who would have no reason for falsifying the text, give the
number as 15,000, which seems to be intrinsically more probable. They
also, on the ensuing day, the 14th of Adar, by special permission of
Ahasuerus, contended with their adversaries in Shushan a second time, and
slew on this occasion 300 (v. 15). Among the killed, the only persons
mentioned by name are ten sons of Haman, who were slain in “Shushan the
palace” on the first day, while on the second day permission was given to
expose their bodies on crosses (v. 14). A remarkable feature of the
struggle, and one which is noticed three several times (vs. 10, 15-16),
was, that, notwithstanding the clause in the edict which allowed the Jews
“to take the spoil of their enemies for a prey” (ch. 8:11), neither in
the capital nor in the provinces did the triumphant Israelites touch the
property of those opposed to them. There was an evident wish to show
that they were not actuated by greed, but simply desirous of securing
themselves from future molestation.
1 Now in the twelfth month, that is, the month Adar, on the
thirteenth day of the same, when the king’s commandment and his
decree drew near to be put in execution, in the day that the enemies
of the Jews hoped to have power over them, (though it was turned
to the contrary, that the Jews had rule over them that hated them;)
To have power over them. Or, “to get the mastery over them”
(compare Daniel 6:24, where the same word is used). Had rule. Or, “had
The Antagonisms of Nations (v. 1)
“In the day that the enemies of the Jews hoped to have power over them
(though it was turned to the contrary, that the Jews had rule over them that
hated them.”) This passage tells a history of vicissitude doubly remarkable.
It may be put thus: there was, in the first instance, a great reverse of
fortune in the experience of each of two nationalities. But this did not end
all. At the same time it constituted a striking reversal of the mutual
relations of those two peoples. In the first instance the people who had
been exalted are cast down; and the people who had been cast down, lifted
up. But this was a little matter compared with the consequence
immediately resulting, and which showed so prominently to view; namely,
a most significant and determined alteration of the attitude of the one to
the other. The lessons suggested by this passage, whatever they may be,
offer themselves on the scale of national magnitude. We are reminded:
have been ever lamentably improved. The antagonism of the individual is
reproduced on a more terrible scale, and with consequences inconceivably
disastrous. It must be noted that this spirit of national antagonism bears not
only the reproach of the direct sin and miseries, of which war is the
declared manifestation; it is an enemy, the indirect ravages of which add up
to a fearful amount. This may be seen from observing in the place of what
it is, that it so often stands.
Ø It is antagonism usurping the place of natural and sympathetic love.
Ø It is antagonism turning out healthy emulation, and stimulating rivalry.
Ø It is antagonism hindering to an amazing degree that plenty, and wealth,
and cheapness which come of mutual sustentation, of inter-trading, of
each nationality, according to its physical advantages and its genius,
pursuing its own bent, to share the abundance of its consequent
production with other nations.
WHICH NATIONAL LIFE IS EXPOSED.
Ø They emphatically do not lie in any international necessity of nature.
They mean always fault and sin at some door. They cannot be
justified by any supposed likeness to the natural storms of our earth
and skies, though these may frame into an unhappy analogy with them.
Ø They do not reside in any international necessity of trade or other
Ø They are rarely enough owing to the determined will or fitful passion of
the great body of the people. These will adopt them, it is true, and will
soon be heated by false sense of national glory; but they do not
Ø They are rarely enough due to fault on one side alone.
Ø Even when mingled with some just occasion, they are rarely enough
what could not be averted by the wise treatment of those in high
Ø They strongly resemble the antagonisms and antipathies of private
individuals in these two respects:
o that they arise from the smallest matters, and
o take occasion from temper and pride.
WHICH NATIONAL LIFE THROWS UPON INDIVIDUALS. It is
easy to see that nations the largest, the mightiest, the most complex are but
made up of individuals. But it is not so easy to believe, it is not so welcome
to the mind to remember at all times, how the greatest events, for good or
for ill, depend very largely on the character and conduct of individuals.
Thus national life immensely increases the importance of the individual.
(Thus the importance of leadership! – CY – 2014) It is the highest in an
ascending series of terms. For instance:
Ø There is the intrinsic importance of individual life to each man.
Ø There is the importance that inevitably attaches to the head-of-family
Ø There is the importance that belongs to all public life, in all the
varying and numerous places of Church and of State.
Ø There is the importance which is inseparable from the place of the
governing, the highest places in the state.
This, though strictly comprehended in the foregoing head, demands to be
classified separately, because of its highest significance, its superlatively
critical issues. Haman had done a world of mischief. To human eye it can
scarcely be said that Mordecai had recovered the balance. The one caused
the intensest hatred of “the enemies of the Jews” to blaze up, to the
unmeasured misery of the Jews. And when things were reversed, and
“it was turned to the contrary,” though a lesson of terrible retribution
was displayed, and though justice should seem to have another sacrifice
offered at her shrine, yet LOVE is left as far in the rear as ever. The
whole family of:
Ø malice, and
have it too much their own way — so far as our human point of
view can see or calculate.
PRESENTS. Two centuries before the history contained in this narrative,
the prophet had said, “When thy judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants
of the world will learn righteousness.” (Isaiah 26:9) There are given to us
all the quiet, urgent, infinitely numerous lessons of providence in our
individual lives. How are they unobserved, lost, smothered in the
thoughtless course, the hurried rate of our lives! They look in vain into our
very eyes; they whisper in vain in our very ears; they knock in vain at our
very doors; they plead in vain with our reason, our self-interest, our conscience.
But with overwhelming effect come at times national providences. These speak
sometimes as with the voice of thunder, and they are seen sometimes with
the vividness of the lightning’s flash by hundreds of thousands at one and
the same moment. The great subject suggested by our present history,
then, demands the attention of statesmen, of legislators, of all public men in
their degree, and may obtain many a valuable cross light from the subject
already considered of patriotism.
2 The Jews gathered themselves together in their cities throughout
all the provinces of the king Ahasuerus, to lay hand on such as
sought their hurt: and no man could withstand them; for the fear of
them fell upon all people. The Jews gathered themselves together. Acting on
the first clause of the edict (ch.8:11). In their cities. By “their cities” the
writer means not cities exclusively Jewish, but cities where Jews formed an
element in the population, as
Nearda, in later times (Joseph., ‘Ant. Jud.,’ 18:9, § 1), scarcely existed as
defensive character of the Jews’ action is again noted. Only if their hurt
was sought (compare Psalm 71:13, 24) did they lay hand on any; only
against those who sought their hurt did they lift a finger. The fear of
them. Not now such fear as is mentioned in ch. 8:17, ad fin., but a
downright coward fear of their prowess. Fell upon all people. Rather, “all
people,” i.e. all the many subject nations of the
which the Jews were scattered. (Fulfilling God’s policy of “When a man’s
ways please the Lord, He maketh even his enemies will be at peace with him.”
Proverbs 16:7 - verified early in their history – Exodus 23:27-28. Compare
His workings in Deuteronomy 2:25 – Will He not do the same for His
people throughout history? Even today! “Jesus Christ, the same yesterday,
today and for ever.” Hebrews 13:8 – CY – 2014)
3 And all the rulers of the provinces, and the lieutenants, and the
deputies, and officers of the king, helped the Jews; because the fear
of Mordecai fell upon them. Compare ch. 3:12 and 8:9, where the same
enumeration is made, though not quite in the same order. And officers of the king.
Literally, “they who did the work of the king.” The Septuagint renders by
βασιλικοὶ γραμματεῖς – basilikoi grammateis - royal scribes; but officials of all
classes seem to be intended. Helped the Jews. Rather, “upheld, supported”
Active physical help does not seem to be meant, but rather the moral aid and
support that a government easily gives to the side which it favors in a civil
disturbance. The fear of Mordecai fell upon them. It would give the sense
better to translate “had fallen.”
4 For Mordecai was great in the king’s house, and his fame went out
throughout all the provinces: for this man Mordecai waxed greater
and greater. 5 Thus the Jews smote all their enemies with the stroke of
the sword, and slaughter, and destruction, and did what they would
unto those that hated them. Mordecai was great. Compare ch.8:2, 15 and
6 And in Shushan the palace the Jews slew and destroyed five
hundred men All the rulers of the provinces, and the lieutenants, and the
deputies. In Shushan the palace. i.e. the upper city, where the palace
was. The area of the hill is above a hundred acres, and there are many
remains of residences on it besides the palace. It was probably densely
7 And Parshandatha, and Dalphon, and Aspatha,
8 And Poratha, and Adalia, and Aridatha,
9 And Parmashta, and Arisai, and Aridai, and Vajezatha,
10 The ten sons of Haman the son of Hammedatha, the enemy of the
Jews, slew they; but on the spoil laid they not their hand.
Haman’s ten sons have unmistakably Persian names, so that no countenance is
given by them to the theory that he was a foreigner. Formerly it was customary
that they should be written in each manuscript of the Book of Esther in three
perpendicular lines, to signify (as it was said) that they were hanged on three
parallel cords. In reading them the ten names were uttered in one breath,
in memory of the supposed fact that they all died in one instant. It would be
wrong, however, to attach credit to these traditions, which simply show the
persistent hatred with which the Jews regarded their great enemy. Slew they.
With the sword, probably (see v. 5), and in fair fight.
11 On that day the number of those that were slain in Shushan the
palace was brought before the king. The number… was brought before the king.
It was customary in all wars for the number of the slain to be carefully made out
and recorded. In the Babylonian transcript of the Behistun Inscription the
numbers are given with extreme exactness — e.g. 546, 2024, 4203, etc. On
this occasion it would seem that only a rough calculation was made. Still
the king took care to be informed on the subject, and the Jews, aware of
this, were not left absolutely uncontrolled.
12 And the king said unto Esther the queen, The Jews have slain and
destroyed five hundred men in Shushan the palace, and the ten
sons of Haman; what have they done in the rest of the king’s
provinces? now what is thy petition? and it shall be granted thee:
or what is thy request further? and it shall be done.
What have they done in the rest of the king’s provinces?
Not an inquiry, but an exclamation. How many must they not have killed in
whole empire if they have slain 500 in
petition? Still, if this is not enough, if anything more is needed for the
Jews’ security, ask it, and “it shall be done.”
13 Then said Esther, If it please the king, let it be granted to the Jews
which are in Shushan to do to morrow also according unto this
day’s decree, and let Haman’s ten sons be hanged upon the gallows.
Esther’s request for a second day of slaughter has a
bloodthirsty appearance; but, without a more complete knowledge of the
facts than we possess, we cannot say that it was unjustifiable. It would
seem that the Jews in
appointed day, and were engaged there the whole day with their enemies.
Esther asks that they may be allowed a second day — either in the upper or
the lower town, it is not clear which to complete their work, and free
themselves from all danger of further persecution from their foes. She is
not likely to have made this request unless prompted to make it by
Mordecai, who must have had means of knowing how matters really stood,
and, as the chief minister over the whole nation, is likely to have been
actuated rather by general views of policy than by a blind spirit of revenge.
Still it must be granted that there is something essentially Jewish in
Esther’s request, and indeed in the tone of the entire book which bears her
14 And the king commanded it so to be done: and the decree was
given at Shushan; and they hanged Haman’s ten sons.
They hanged the ten sons of Haman. Exposure on a cross
was regarded as a deep disgrace, and was a punishment often inflicted by
the Persians on persons killed in some other way (see Herod., 3:125;
7:238; Xen., ‘Anab.,’ 3. 1, § 17; Pint., ‘Vit. Artax.,’ § 17).
15 For the Jews that were in Shushan gathered themselves together on
the fourteenth day also of the month Adar, and slew three hundred
men at Shushan; but on the prey they laid not their hand.
For the Jews. Rather, “and the Jews,” or “so the Jews.” The
Hebrew has the vau conjunctive, which is here certainly expressive of a
sequence, or consequence.
16 But the other Jews that were in the king’s provinces gathered
themselves together, and stood for their lives, and had rest from
their enemies, and slew of their foes seventy and five thousand, but
they laid not their hands on the prey, Gathered themselves together, and
stood for their lives. i.e. did as the edict directed them (ch.8:11). And had
rest from their enemies. The idea of “rest” seems out of place when the
subject of the narrative is slaughter, and the number of the slain has still to
be told. Some suspect corruption, others an interpolation. And slew of their
foes seventy and five thousand. The Septuagint had in their copies fifteen for
seventy-five, or one-fifth of the received number. The smaller number is
more in harmony with the 500 killed at
FESTIVAL HELD, AND FEAST OF PURIM INSTITUTED (vs. 17-32)
Natural instinct led the Jews, so soon as their triumph was
accomplished, to indulge themselves in a day of rest and rejoicing (v. 17).
After toil there is need of repose; and escape from a great danger is
followed, almost of necessity, by “gladness.” The writer of the Book of
Esther, practicing his usual reticence, says nothing of the character of the
“gladness;” but we can scarcely be wrong in believing it to have been, in
the main, religious, and to have included gratitude to God for their
deliverance, the ascription of praise to His name, and an outpouring of the
heart before Him in earnest and prolonged thanksgiving. The circumstances
of the struggle caused a difference, with regard to the date of the day of
rejoicing, between the Jews of the capital and those of the provinces. The
metropolitical Jews had two days of struggle, and could not “rest” until the
third day, which was the 15th of Adar (v. 18); the provincial Jews began
and ended their work in one day, the 13th, and so their thanksgiving-day
was the 14th, and not the 15th of the month (v. 17). The consequence
was, that when Mordecai and Esther determined on commemorating the
wonderful deliverance of their time by an annual festival, analogous to that
of the passover, to be celebrated by all Jews everywhere throughout all
future ages, some hesitation naturally arose as to the proper day to be kept
holy. If the 14th were kept, the provincial Jews would be satisfied, but
selected, the two parties would simply exchange feelings. Under these
circumstances it was wisely resolved to keep both days (v. 21). Nothing
seems to have been determined as to the mode of keeping the feast, except
that both days were to be “days of feasting and joy,” and days upon which
the richer members of the community should send “portions” and “gifts” to
the poorer ones (v. 22). The name, “feast of Purim,” was at once
attached to the festival, in memory of Haman’s consultation of the lot, the
word “Pur” meaning “lot” in Persian (v. 24). The festival became a
national institution by the general consent of the Jews everywhere (v. 27),
and has remained to the present day among the most cherished of their
usages, it falls in early spring, a month before the passover, and occupies
two days, which are still those fixed by Mordecai and Esther, the 14th and
15th of Adar. The day preceding the feast is observed as a fast day, in
commemoration of Esther’s fast before going in uninvited to the king
Deliverance and Victory (vs. 1-16)
The history of “the chosen nation” is full of Divine deliverances. The
present is only one of the many instances in which, by faith, the Israelites
“escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed
valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens.” (Hebrews 11:34)
authority primarily accounts for it. Only by the sanction of the king could
the Jews dare to draw the sword and withstand their foes. Ministerial
encouragement supported this sanction. It was known that Mordecai, the
chief minister of Ahasuerus, was thoroughly earnest in the matter, and
would countenance his countrymen in their proceedings. Official help was
given. (Today the
official help of the
be directed towards those who would undermine morality; i.e. homosexuality,
anti-family issues, legalization of recreational drugs, anti-Christmas, anti-
Christ, etc. Probably the enemies of the Jews were among the idolatrous
tribes, and the Persian officers and rulers were instructed to favor the Jews
against their heathen foes. National courage explains the valiant stand
which was made by the children of the captivity. “A good cause, a good
conscience, and a good courage” secured the victory.
dread of the Jews seized their enemies, and the oppressed “had rule over”
the oppressors. The enemies were slain in great numbers wherever an
encounter took place. Mordecai and his party triumphed over their foes in
the public hanging on the gibbet of the dead bodies of Haman’s ten sons.
The magnanimity of the victorious was shown in their not laying hand upon
the spoil, which was wise, inasmuch as it was thus made apparent that their
only aim was security, and that they sought not plunder, and also that they
did not wish to avail themselves of the king’s generosity, but to replenish
his treasury rather than their own.
designs of Haman, the most powerful personage in the realm! How
contrary to the expectations of the Jews themselves, who were naturally
enough oppressed with the sense of their danger, and the prospect of their
extermination! How contrary to the forebodings of the neighbors of the
Jews, who had joined in their distress and lamentations with true and
friendly sympathy. “God’s ways are not as our ways, neither our thoughts
as his thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8) This is the appropriate benediction which
the reader of the Megillah, at the feast of Purim, pronounces at its close:
“Blessed art thou, O Lord our God, King of the universe, who hast contended
Our contest, judged our cause, hast avenged our wrongs, requited all the
enemies of our souls, and hast delivered us from our oppressors. Blessed
art thou, who hast delivered thy people from all their oppressors, thou
Lord of salvation.”
17 On the thirteenth day of the month Adar; and on the fourteenth day
of the same rested they, and made it a day of feasting and gladness.
18 But the Jews that were at Shushan assembled together on the
thirteenth day thereof, and on the fourteenth thereof; and on the
fifteenth day of the same they rested, and made it a day of feasting
and gladness. The Jews which were at Shushan assembled together. i.e.
“gathered themselves together to bathe.” The verb is the same as that used
in vs. 2 and 16 of this chapter; and in ch.8:11.
19 Therefore the Jews of the villages, that dwelt in the unwalled
towns, made the fourteenth day of the month Adar a day of
gladness and feasting, and a good day, and of sending portions one
to another. The Jews of the villages, that dwelt in the unwalled towns.
Rather, “the Jews of the country, who dwelt in the country towns.” There
are places where the word translated “unwalled” connotes that idea — e.g.
Ezekiel 38:11; Zechariah 2:8; but the main notion which it
expresses is always that of a “country region.” Here walls are not at all in
the thought of the writer, who intends a contrast between the Jews of the
metropolis and those of the provinces.
towns” to a Jew of Susa, such as the writer. A good day. Compare
ch.8:17, with the comment. Sending portions one to another.
Compare Nehemiah 8:10; and for the precept on which the practice
was founded see Deuteronomy 16:14. In modern times the Jews keep
up the practice, and on the 15th of Adar both interchange gifts, chiefly
sweetmeats, and make liberal offerings for the poor (compare v. 22, ad
20 And Mordecai wrote these things, and sent letters unto all the Jews
that were in all the provinces of the king Ahasuerus, both nigh and
far, - Mordecai wrote these things. Mordecai seems, in the first
instance, to have written to the provincial Jews, suggesting to them the
future observance of two days of Purim instead of one, and explaining the
grounds of his proposition, but without venturing to issue any order. When
he found his proposition well received (vs. 23, 27) he sent out a second
letter, “with all authority” (v. 29), enjoining the observance.
21 To stablish this among them, that they should keep the fourteenth
day of the month Adar, and the fifteenth day of the same, yearly,
To stablish. i.e. “with a view to establishing” — not actually doing so.
22 As the days wherein the Jews rested from their enemies, and the
month which was turned unto them from sorrow to joy, and from
mourning into a good day: that they should make them days of
feasting and joy, and of sending portions one to another, and gifts
to the poor. The month which was turned unto them from sorrow to
joy. This was the key-note of Purim, the dominant idea, to which all else
was secondary and subordinate — sorrow turned into joy, “mourning into
dancing,” utter destruction into a signal triumph. Psalm 30. might well have
been written at this time.
The Feast of Purim (20-22)
Other Jewish festivals, as the Passover and Tabernacles, were instituted by
express Divine authority. The feast of Purim was instituted by the authority
of Mordecai and Esther. Yet its observance was undoubtedly sanctioned by
the God whose merciful interposition it commemorated. The festival has
been observed by the Jews from that day to this; the observance consisting
of a preliminary fast; of a sacred assembly in the synagogue, when the
Megillah (or roll) of the Book of Esther, is unfolded and solemnly read
aloud; and of a repast at home, followed by merry-making, and the sending
of presents. The feast of Purim was, and is:
memory of the fact that a large portion of their nation was once in exile in
sin and of God’s displeasure, yet they had not been as a nation forsaken,
but had been spared and recalled to the land of promise.
OF THE NATION. When, in the reading, Haman’s name is mentioned, the
synagogue is filled with the noise of stamping and rattling, and with shouts
of “Cursed be Haman! may his name perish!” At the same time the memory
of the great benefactors of
gratitude and warmth.
“Purim” means “lots,” because Haman cast lots for a lucky day for the
execution of his malignant project. “The lot is cast into the lap, but the
disposal thereof is of the Lord.” (Proverbs 16:33) No wonder that the
joy of salvation was too great to find expression in one celebration. It
was felt that one generation might well speak God’s praises to another,
and declare His mighty works. Purim may serve as an emblem of the
deliverance which the God of all grace has wrought on behalf not of
“mighty to save.” (Zephaniah 3:17)
Sending Portions and Gifts (v. 22)
This usage is quite a carrying out of the principle of the Divine law, which
prescribed remembrance of the widow and fatherless upon those who were
in Nehemiah: when the law had been read and expounded in the hearing of
the people, they “went their way to eat, and to drink, and to send portions,
and to make great mirth.” (Nehemiah 8:10) These presents were sent by the
people to one another in friendship and courtesy; to the poor in charity. It is a
usage which, though it may be carried too far and abused, has yet its advantages.
DISPOSING TO KINDLY THOUGHTS AND REGARDS. A
neighborly gift is, in some cases, better than a mere message of inquiry, or
congratulation, or condolence.
sympathies. It is a check to natural selfishness.
of that friend’s remembrance and love. And many a poor household is, at
Christmas-tide, made bright by the presents thought appropriate to the
season. Children especially are pleased with such gifts, and their pleasure is
worth our consideration.
SAVIOUR. “He openeth His hand, and supplieth the wants of every living
thing.” (Psalm 145:16) Christ gave bread to the hungry, and turned water
into wine for the enjoyment of the guests at a wedding-feast.
DEPENDENCE UPON HEAVEN: AND OUR MUTUAL
BROTHERHOOD. How much better to carry out such usages upon the
suggestion of Christian motive, and in connection with Christian
fellowship, than for worldly display, or policy, or from ordinary good
The Elements of Perfect Joy (vs. 19, 22)
“A good day, and of sending portions one to another:.., days of feasting
and joy, and of sending portions one to another, and gifts to the poor.”
Twice then, among the other particulars of the people’s glad celebration of
their deliverance from a savage massacre, is this detail included, that they
sent “portions one to another;” and once it is added that they sent “gifts to
the poor.” This was no ancient prescription of the law, so far as literal
command is concerned. But the spirit of it is no doubt to be detected even
there, especially in those passages which urge the principle of taking care
that days of general joy should be felt in their warming influence by “the
stranger, the fatherless, and the widow.” In the same spirit we read in
Nehemiah (Nehemiah 8:10), however, what comes verbally much
nearer our present passage. A day of deep feeling and special cause of joy
was to be observed as a day of feasting, and of sending “portions unto
them for whom nothing is prepared.” There can be no question that we
have here a portion of the genuine history of the human heart. We seem to
hear some of the better and simpler utterances of human nature. The joy of
the saved people of God is before us. And whatever other marks it may
have, it certainly has those which make it a type of Christian joy on earth.
In this light principally we may now regard it. We notice here:
respect equal. But in one respect it was equal, in that wherever it spread it
was the joy of life, of life rescued from the brink of destruction. Joy need
not be equal all round a family; nor all round the world’s family; for there
are in hearts exceedingly various degrees of susceptibility, and these by
themselves are sure to govern largely the exact amount of what can be
called happiness or joy. All that is necessary to the one largest, purest,
most loving heart in the whole circle is, that all others be blessed and happy
at the same time, and according to the full measure of their capacity. But a
joy that is not general, that is exposed to overhearing the sounds of
complaining, or the sighs of those who mourn alone, or the echoes of the
outcry of pain, is deeply felt to be imperfect.
differences in human life that show one man rich and possessing all things,
and another poor and needy, there are differences within a far less range of
compass, and yet innumerable. These do not show the extremes of
condition; and by Divine wisdom they do make the room for all the play of
sympathy, for all the works of mutual kindness. These save hearts from
stagnation, and make the healthful ripples and movement after movement
of life, stirring the affections within. Were all this at an end, the dead level
of human life and feeling would be appalling indeed. The joy that does not
find this room for mutual service, for “readiness to good works” (Titus 3:1),
for interchange of the offices of affection and friendship, if general, would
nevertheless be selfish to the last degree. How happy that short reign of
community of goods in the early apostolic history, when all “of them that
believed were of one heart and one soul: neither said any of them that
aught of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things
common.” (Acts 4:32) And that would be inferior to the conscious pleasure
of a constant exchange of the tokens of sympathy and of the deeds of
kindness. In the joy that should shut out the prizes of mutual service it
would be felt that there was something wanting.
doubt that the kindness of charity is in reality an easier exercise and a less
rare grace than that of a perfect mutual kindness. Yet we know the special
honour put upon poverty both by the life and the lip of Jesus. And we
know the abounding promises that His word makes to those who pity and
give to the poor. There is indeed a certain subtle danger that may lurk in
the perpetual exercise of charitable kindness. The giver can almost always
reckon on the exaltation of position which belongs to the patron. He may
be injured by what underlies the beautiful and ever-welcome words of the
regretful Job: “When the ear heard me, then it blessed me; and when the
eye saw me, it gave witness to me.” (Job 29:11) Nevertheless, men little need
at present to be warned of the danger; they seldom come near enough to this
temptation. And, meantime, must not the joy that knows not the spirit of
charity to the poor fatally want? There must be something different from
vacant want indeed, bad as that should be. That joy must feel itself “a
guilty thing.” But now in this typical joy of God’s suddenly-rescued people
in the days of Esther all these elements were present. The people:
Ø had all been in one danger,
Ø had all enjoyed one deliverance, and
Ø they all experience one general pervading joy.
Common suffering while it lasts draws us near to one another by a proverb;
it is rather the index of cowardice of heart. But when the return of common
mercy finds us drawing near to one another in the works of practical fellowship,
and showing compassion to the poor in the works of charity, then a happiness
is kindled of the best that earth knows. The companions in danger and in
rescue are found still companions in prosperity. In woe and in weal they
have learned to be one. The common escape from danger quickens a sincere
compassion. And this history cannot be judged to fall short of portraying
the one danger of the whole race of mankind, the one rescue open to them,
and the one united life of joy, of love, of charity that Christians ought to
live here on earth.
23 And the Jews undertook to do as they had begun, and as Mordecai
had written unto them; 24 Because Haman the son of Hammedatha, the
Agagite, the enemy of all the Jews, had devised against the Jews to destroy
them, and had cast Pur, that is, the lot, to consume them, and to destroy
them; The Jews undertook to do as they had begun. i.e. “to
observe the 14th day.” And as Mordecai had written to them. i.e. “and
to observe also the 15th.”
25 But when Esther came before the king, he commanded by letters
that his wicked device, which he devised against the Jews, should
return upon his own head, and that he and his sons should be
hanged on the gallows. But when Esther came before the king. Rather,
“when the matter came before the king.” It is impossible to supply a proper name
which has not occurred once in the last eleven verses. We must suppose
the feminine suffix attached to the verb bo, “came,” to be superfluous, as it
is in Ezekiel 33:33. His wicked device should return upon his own
head. Compare Psalm 7:16. The device of Haman to massacre all the
Jews turned to the destruction of the Jews’ chief enemies, and of Haman
himself and his sons among them.
26 Wherefore they called these days Purim after the name of Pur.
Therefore for all the words of this letter, and of that which they had
seen concerning this matter, and which had come unto them,
Wherefore they called these days Purim after the name of
Pur. They took the Persian word, that is, and gave it a Hebrew plural,
either because the Persian method of casting involved the use of several
lots, or because Haman cast “Pur” several times (ch.3:7). For all
the words of this letter. i.e. “on account of what was said in Mordecai’s
letter to them” (v. 20). And of that which they had seen, etc. “And on
account of what they had themselves seen and suffered.” Mordecai’s
arguments were backed up by their own personal experience, and the
recollection of what “had come to them,”
27 The Jews ordained, and took upon them, and upon their seed, and
upon all such as joined themselves unto them, so as it should not
fail, that they would keep these two days according to their writing,
and according to their appointed time every year;
All such as joined themselves to them. i.e. “all who should
become proselytes to their faith” (see above, ch.8:17). According
to their writing. According to the writing concerning the days which they
had received from Mordecai (v. 20).
28 And that these days should be remembered and kept throughout
every generation, every family, every province, and every city; and
that these days of Purim should not fail from among the Jews, nor
the memorial of them perish from their seed.
That these days should be remembered and kept
throughout every generation, every family, etc. The universal adoption
the Purim feast by the Jewish nation, originating as it did at
among the Persian Jews, never a very important part of the nation, is a
curious fact, and is certainly not satisfactorily accounted for by the beauty
and popularity of the Book of Esther, nor by the dignity and
power of Mordecai. Mordecai had no ecclesiastical authority; and it might
have been expected that the Jews of Jerusalem would have demurred to the
imposition of a fresh religious obligation upon them by a Jew of the
Dispersion, who was neither a prophet, nor a priest, nor even a Levite. The
Jews of Jerusalem, in their strongly-situated city, which was wholly theirs,
and with their temple-fortress complete (Ezra 6:15), can scarcely have
felt themselves in much danger from an attack which was to have begun
and ended in a day. But Joiakim, the high priest of the time (Nehemiah
12:10-12), to whom, as was mentioned in the Introduction, the Book of
Esther was attributed by some, must have given his approval to the feast
from the first, and have adopted it into the ceremonial of the nation, or it
would scarcely have become universal. Hooker (‘Eccl. Pol.,’ 5:71, § 6)
rightly makes the establishment of the feast an argument in favor of the
Church’s power to prescribe festival days; and it must certainly have been
by ecclesiastical, and not by civil, command that it became obligatory.
That these days… should not fail,… nor the memorial of them perish.
As a commemoration of human, and not of Divine, appointment, the feast
of Purim was liable to abrogation or discontinuance. The Jews of the time
resolved that the observance should be perpetual; and in point of fact the
feast has continued up to the present date, and is likely to continue, though
they could not bind their successors.
A Holy Memorial (v. 28)
Memory is a Divine gift, to be used for the glory of the Giver. Every
individual has his memories; for his past life has been marked by events
important to himself, and worthy of being now and again recalled to
awaken gratitude, humility, confidence. Every family has its memories; and
domestic anniversaries may be observed with advantage, especially to the
young. Every nation has its memories — of great reigns, great
deliverances, great conquests, etc. Every religion has its memories — of its
founder, its fundamental facts, its triumphs. The Jews had reason to
Ø Our deliverances.
Ø God’s mercies.
Ø To encourage us to the exercise of devout gratitude.
Ø To foster our trust and faith in Him whose mercies we call to mind.
Ø To honor God. “Forget not all His benefits.” (Psalm 103:2)
Ø With sacrifices of praise. “Let us exalt His name together.”
(Psalm 34:3) “The Lord hath done great things for us, whereof
we are glad.” (Ibid. 126:3)
Ø With gatherings of fellowship. Where mercies have been experienced in
common they should be acknowledged in common. There is something
inspiring and elevating in the celebration, by a multitude, of a great
event, a signal mercy. So with the observance of the Lord’s Supper.
Ø With tokens of practical kindness. Festivals are holy in proportion as
those who take part in them are unselfish, disinterested, and kind.
Ø With especial reference to the young. In youth public observances
impress themselves upon the memory. The Jews took pains to instruct
their children in the meaning of the Passover and the other national
festivals. Thus the perpetuity of the memorial is secured. We should
celebrate God’s loving-kindness, and “tell it to the generation
following.” (Ibid. 48:13)
Memorial institutions have a great evidential value. Just as the Lord’s Supper and the
Lord’s day at once commemorate and attest the facts of our Lord’s death and
resurrection, so the feast of Purim is a testimony to the truth of the narrative
contained in the Book of Esther. Memorials of past deliverances should:
Ø Keep alive our sense of gratitude.
Ø Teach us our dependence on God.
Ø Strengthen our faith in God.
Ø Warn us against the temptations and dangers of sin, and
constrain us to lead a holy and God-fearing life.
To have our “names written In heaven in the Book of Life” (Revelation 20:12)
is a better memorial THAN ANY THAT COULD BE FASHIONED ON EARTH!
29 Then Esther the queen, the daughter of Abihail, and Mordecai the
Jew, wrote with all authority, to confirm this second letter of
Purim. The unusual designation of Esther as “daughter of Abihail” can only be
accounted for by her having so designated herself in the letter. With all
authority. Rather, “with all earnestness,” or “impressiveness.” Literally,
the word used means “strength.” To confirm this second letter of
Purim. The first letter is the one which is mentioned in vs. 20 and 26.
That letter having elicited the favorable reply contained in vs. 26-28, a
“second letter of Purim” was now issued, “confirming” and establishing
the observance. It went forth not as an edict, or in the king’s name, but as a
letter, and in the names of Esther and Mordecai.
30 And he sent the letters unto all the Jews, to the hundred twenty and
seven provinces of the
and truth, And he sent the letters. Rather, “he sent letters.” In addition
to the formal “letter of Purim,” which was of the nature of an ordinance,
though not of legal force, Mordecai sent informal letters, which embraced
other topics besides the Purim feast, as, for instance, words of salutation,
and perhaps a reference to the keeping of a fast before the two Purim days
(v. 31). These he sent to all Jews throughout the whole empire, inclosing
with them the formal “letter of Purim.” With words of peace and truth.
Perhaps beginning thus: “Peace and truth be with you” — a modification of
the usual, “Peace,” etc. (Ezra 4:17), or, “All peace” (ibid. 5:7), with
which letters ordinarily began.
Words of truth are the surest foundation for words of peace!
The peace brought about by false words is hollow, temporary only, and vain.
But the full truth being declared, a sound and lasting peace may follow,
heralded and assured by appropriate words. The Christian revelation exactly
agrees with the description of these words; it brings:
31 To confirm these days of Purim in their times appointed, according
as Mordecai the Jew and Esther the queen had enjoined them, and
as they had decreed for themselves and for their seed, the matters
of the fastings and their cry. As they had decreed for themselves and their seed.
“As they — i.e. the Jews generally — had decreed” (see v. 27). The matters
of the fastings and their cry. These words stand in no clear grammatical
relation to the preceding, and are otherwise very difficult to explain. They
are thought to allude to the establishment by the provincial Jews, apart
from Mordecai and Esther, of the 13th of Adar as a day of fasting and
wailing; but if so, it is strange that nothing has been previously said of this
ordinance. The plural form of the word for “fastings” is also suspicious,
since it does not occur elsewhere in the Old Testament. Altogether, it is
perhaps most probable that the words were originally the gloss of a
commentator, written in the margin, and that they have been accidentally
transferred to the text. They do not occur in the Septuagint.
Fasting and Crying Remembered amidst Feasting and Singing (v. 31)
It is not good to banish from the mind perils and sorrows through which
we have passed, and from which we have been delivered. (Thus bitter
herbs were associated with the Passover to remind the Jews of slavery
it is well to keep before us the mutability of all earthly things. Life is a
checkered scene, a changing landscape. To-day is unlike yesterday, and
unlike to-morrow. Undue elation and undue depression are alike unworthy
of the Christian. By remembering past griefs, troubles, and dangers:
our position, such our apprehensions and alarms but a short time since. Let
us not then be puffed up with self-satisfaction because the cloud has blown
over and the sky is blue again.
and crying to songs? God is our deliverer; He has “turned again our
captivity.” (Psalm 126:1) To Him be praise!
back upon the shipwreck from which we have been rescued, the battle out
of which we have come unscathed; it gives a zest to the enjoyments of today
when we remember the bitterness and the anguish of days gone by.
IN GOD. Unmixed prosperity is not favorable to spiritual life. “Sweet are
the uses of adversity.” Remember your complaints and prayers, and how
they were heard and answered from above. “He drew you out of many
waters.” (II Samuel 22:17; Psalm 18:16) So shall your trust be steadfast
HEAVEN. When we come to the rest above, we shall look back
wonderingly, gratefully, upon the scene of conflict from which we shall
then be delivered; it will seem perhaps largely a scene of fasting and of
crying. And the retrospect will surely enhance the “pleasures which are for
evermore.” (Psalm 16:11)
The Religion of National Gratitude (vs. 21, 27-28, 31)
Mordecai and Esther were not the people to receive great blessings and
then at once to forget them. We not unfrequently see those who have had
hair-breadth escapes from the worst of calamities recover in a moment
their previous light and jaunty spirits. They seem insensible to the risk
which had so imperiled them, and certainly are not grateful for the mercy
which had rescued them. They do not return either to give thanks to man
or glory to God. It is far otherwise now with Mordecai, with Esther, and,
at their initiative, with the mass of the people. Wherever Mordecai had sent
to his people the messages of relief and the warrants to resist, there he now
sends proposals which, if acceded to, will insure the perpetual memory of
their deliverance, and will suggest ever new gratefulness for it. Esther joins
heart and hand in the same, and the people themselves warmly approve the
suggestion. They solemnly and enthusiastically adopt the proposal. They
“undertook to do as they had begun, and as Mordecai had written to
them.” The method of observing an anniversary to all generations is
accepted as the means by which “the memorial” of their deliverance “shall
never perish” from them or “their seed.” It is evident that a deep religious
interest was thrown into this matter, and the account of it is repeated as
many as four times, and with minuteness of detail. The example is good for
individuals. The precedent is good for nations. We have here:
great danger of the fit occasions of national gratitude passing by
unimproved. This may often arise simply from the fact that “what is every
one’s business is no one’s.” The danger needs to be counteracted, and
sometimes it is effectually counteracted. Three conditions present, will
exhibit, the fair and happy display of national gratitude.
Ø The benefit must be in its character such as reaches the heart. Whether
cheap bread, cheap health, or cheap Bible; whether free laws, free
knowledge, or free conscience, it must be what is adapted to all, and
can be appreciated by all. The blessing called life had perhaps never
been considered in this light by the Jews till they were so near to
losing it. But it was what every one of them, young and old, and
of every class, appreciated.
Ø The benefit must be such as has reached, either directly or indirectly,
every class of the people. In highly-developed communities it should
form part of the self-imposed work of all kinds of public and religious
teachers to show the value of benefits which may be only indirect, and
how they claim gratitude. In the present instance, the benefit for which
such gladness and joy had sprung up had penetrated not only to every
class, but to every individual.
Ø The call to celebrate the benefit must be made so as to win the hearty
approval and cooperation of the people. The moral influence of
Mordecai and Esther was evidently very great. Their own example,
their own deep interest in the course suggested, was contagious.
The urgency with which they wrote helped to throw conviction of
duty and enthusiasm toward its performance into the hearts of all
the people. God never loves a cheerful giver more than when the
cheerful giving is in very simple matters — that of thanks, or praise,
or grateful adoration presented to Himself.
NATIONAL GRATITUDE. Much kindly feeling passes away for want of
embodiment. It dies down within, and there comes “no second spring” for
it. Certainly gratitude is liable soon to die away. The most solemn claim of
affection that the world knows is couched in the language of the claim of
gratitude: “Do this in remembrance of me.” (Luke 22:19) In this
perpetuation of national thanksgiving we may notice:
Ø The wise method by which it was obtained.
o The happy moment was seized by the moral leaders of the
people for giving a religious character to the joy that already
possessed them. Mordecai made use of the excited state of
feeling to say, Let it take the direction of thanksgiving.
o The right moment was seized, when the “willing mind” of a
whole people would be inclined to make a day into an
anniversary ever to be observed. After the people had once
pronounced assent, as it were with one voice, and their
chief men had put their hand to the engagement, they
would not be likely to turn back. The resolution of that
critical time has lasted and has borne fruit now over
Ø The good ends which it would serve. Love and thankfulness, and
praise and gratitude, are all alike in one respect, that they ask no
utilitarian questions. Their motive lies in themselves. And probably it
was never more so than in this history. Yet we are permitted to observe
the many directions in which they bear good fruit. The perpetuation of
national thanksgiving on the right occasion — that is to say, not after
every bloody battle, to which the Lord never sent forth His people;
and in the right method — i.e. not in such a way as will gratuitously
wound the feeling of another nation, — is adapted to produce great
and good results.
o The acknowledgment is a direct act of glorifying God.
o It keeps Him in the memory of the people as the Giver
of all good, as the Sovereign Ruler and the beneficent
o It reminds again and again of the need once felt so keenly,
of the poverty once so trying, of the exceeding peril which
once threatened, of the boundless relief once experienced.
God’s people were bidden to remember how “they were bondsmen
were hewn, and to the hole of the pit whence they were digged.”
(Isaiah 51:1) And these are the memories that chastise the pride
of the human heart, and raise the tone and level of the character,
and lead gradually nearer real safety and real prosperity. They are
also the memories which for the future guide to the right source of
confidence and of help. Of whatever advantage we know these
things to be in any individual life, the advantage is one immensely
multiplied in the case of a nation — multiplied, that is, by
the whole number of those who go together to compose it.
32 And the decree of Esther confirmed these matters of Purim; and it
was written in the book. The decree of Esther. Rather, “a commandment
of Esther.” Some fresh act seems to be intended — something beyond the
joint letter of Esther and Mordecai; though why it was needed, or what
additional authority it could give, is not apparent. And it was written in
the book. i.e. “this commandment of Esther was inserted in the book of the
chronicles,” where the writer probably found it. No other book being
mentioned in Esther but this, “the book’’ can have no other meaning (see
ch. 2:23; 6:1; 10:2).
“Written in the book.” Tradition is the simplest mode of transmitting what is
memorable from generation to generation. Ordinances, festivals, celebrations,
are a kind of acted tradition, and have always been in use among nations and
religious communities. But there are certain respects in which literature is
preferable to either oral tradition or commemorative festival, and certainly these
receive force and point and power from what is written in their
explanation. The origin of the feast of Purim was committed to the form
and keeping of literature. Whether the reference is to the Book of Esther,
or to the chronicles of the Persian kingdom, or to some other document, is
matter of dispute. In any case, the story was “written in a book” — in a
scroll of manuscript, from which copies were made for use and information
of those interested in the events recorded. (It is incomprehensible how
such a celebration as Christmas could be under attack in
Whoever heard such a thing? (Jeremiah 2:9-13 – CY - 2014)
The Effects of Deliverance (vs. 17-32)
Our narrative closes with a bright picture, in which all clouds are scattered;
is as sunshine after rain. Among the results of
the 14th of Adar. The Jews in Shushan, after their two days’ conflict,
rested on the 15th of Adar. Then all had rest. So utterly broken was the
power of their enemies that they had rest not only from a past fear, but
from anxiety as to the future. How sweet is rest after the agitation of a
long-threatened peril — to the soldier when the battle is fought and won;
to the nation when the foes who sought to destroy it are bereft of power.
The soul-rest of a victory over sin and death is the gift of Christ to those
who follow Him (Matthew 11:28-30; John 14:27); and when all the
conflicts of earth are over, “there remaineth a rest to the people of God,”
(Hebrews 4:9-11), AN ETERNAL HEAVEN!
manifestations should be proportionate to the benefit that has occasioned
it. The wonderful deliverance of the Jews filled them with a wonderful joy;
their hearts ran over with gladness. So also to the man who appropriates
Christ and His redemption there is a “joy of salvation,” “a joy which is
unspeakable and full of glory” (I Peter 1:8). John the Baptist’s “joy
was fulfilled” at the hearing of “the Bridegroom’s voice” (John 3:29).
Jesus explained His object, in teaching His disciples the truth, as being
“that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full” (John
15:11). The religion of God is A RELIGION OF JOY! It slays fear and
banishes gloom. It turns all things into channels of a joy that is heaven-born.
Sackcloth may be the symbolic garb of the penitent, but robes washed
white and shining are the symbolic clothing of the true believer. “Songs of
deliverance” encompass the saved (Psalm 32:7; Philippians 4:4; I
binding men together. Both in their grief and in their joy the Jews became
as one family. Heart flowed into heart, and all stood up and drew close in
compact oneness. The deliverance would add immensely to the sense of
brotherhood which the common terror had excited. In presence of such
experiences minor differences in opinion and practice vanish. The more
that Christians realize their own need, and God’s mercy in Christ, the more
readily will they regard each other as brethren of the “household of faith.”
The history of the
sends alternate tribulations and triumphs just to bring His people closer to
Himself, and thereby closer to each other against their common foes.
goodness received excites a desire to do good. Grace is communicative. If
we love Christ, we shall love all whom Christ loves. If we have joy in God,
we shall long to impart that joy to others. The gladness of a God-saved
soul diffuses itself like the light. This effect of deliverance was shown by
the Jews in three ways:
Ø In their “feasting’’ together. Social gatherings in connection with
great events or interests, when wisely conducted, afford a good
opportunity for mutual encouragement and edification.
Ø In their “sending portions one to another.” Not content with words
or messages, they exchanged presents, as tokens of thankful
congratulation and sympathy. A sense of the Divine favor should
make the heart generous and liberal.
Ø In their presenting “gifts to the poor.” It was remembered that there
were many who had not the means of celebrating the common
deliverance; so the poor received gifts, that all might rejoice together.
“Freely ye have received, freely give” (I John 3:17).
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