May 15th, 2021 - Esther 8-10
On the same day as Haman’s execution, the king gave his queen the house of Haman. The term house refers to his estate. This was in keeping with Persian law which put the estate of a traitor into the custody of the crown. Just as Haman had promised the wealth of the Jews to those who would kill them, Xerxes gave the property of Haman, the enemy of the Jews, to queen Esther. The signet ring that Haman had used to seal the decree to destroy the Jews was now give to the Jewish person he had most wanted to destroy. Mordecai was given Haman’s position as the prime minister. He received the full authority of the king and he acquired the vast wealth of Haman. Now Haman was gone but his decree still stood. Maybe Esther thought the king would automatically reverse Haman’s decree right after he was killed but that did not happen. Esther, knowing that danger still lurked ahead for her people again approached the king, pleading for their lives. The queen continued to receive the king’s favor and he again extended the golden scepter. Courageously Esther implored the king to revoke Haman’s edict and by speaking in the first person she demonstrated her deep attachment to her people. This was an unusual ask, reversing an edict but she diplomatically avoided suggesting any responsibility on the king’s part.
In the Persian empire a royal decree could not be altered but a second one could invalidate it. A new decree with the king’s royal seal could give different or competing directions. The details from putting out this second decree follow the exact directions from the first edict. The date the second decree was issued would give the Jews nearly eight months of preparation. The king’s decree did not permit the Jewish people to start a war but only to defend themselves and plunder the property of those who attacked them, reversing the decree. Verse eleven has caused occasional controversy about whether or not the Jewish people were unethical towards their enemies. Some scholars see the verse meaning that the Jews were given permission to slaughter even the wives and children of any people who might attack them. Others scholars see that the Jews may not have carried out what was permitted, but only killed the men who attacked them. There is another possibility that the women and children of the Jews are who this is a reference to. The assault mentioned in the verse was expected to be directed against the men, women, children, and possessions of the Jews. Against such assault the Jews were to arm themselves and make proper defenses. The Jews did not take any plunder but simply defended themselves against their enemies.
Just as the city of Susa mourned and was in great confusion after the decree of Haman, now there was great rejoicing by all. They understood the injustice of the original decree and the justice of the new one. Mordecai, dressed in royal attire, received a joyful welcome from the city of Susa which included both Jews and gentiles. The residents of the city rejoiced that Mordecai had been appointed as prime minister. Across the land there were many who became Jews out of fear. They saw the power Mordecai had and the way God had clearly intervened in the lives of the Jews and decided it might be safer to believe in the God of the Jews.
On the prescribed day, both of the king’s edicts took affect. There were many enemies of the Jews who wanted to carry out Haman’s plan. But as we have seen many times before, God worked in behalf of His people and they routed their enemies. Between their fear of the Jews and their fear of the Jews God they could not overpower the Jews. The nobles and officials saw that Mordecai , a Jew was now the second in command after the king and they feared his power as well. They did not oppose him because of the power he held. We do not see any evidence of Mordecai abusing his power but the people were used to people abusing their power and assumed Mordecai would be no different. And they may have wanted to protect themselves politically in light of Mordecai’s power and popularity. The defense of the Jews against their enemies was strong and certain. They killed their enemies but they were not the aggressors. They were simply defending themselves. This was not an attack by the Jews on defenseless people or a ruthless uncontrolled killing spree, but a victorious self defense against their attackers. Although most of the people in Susa were supporters of Mordecai, the Jews killed 500 men, a mini revolt that probably consisted of killing Haman’s relatives and close supporters. They also killed the ten sons of Haman. Now everything Haman had boasted about was gone, even his ten sons. Nowhere do we find out what happened to Haman’s wife, Zeresh.
The patterns of vengeance and reprisal were so deeply ingrained in the cultures of the Middle East that the survival of even one son of Haman might mean trouble for the next generation of Jews. By listing each of the sons names, the Jews celebrated the fact that the victory was complete. Although taking plunder from those who attacked was allowed, the Jews wanted nothing to do with the defiled wealth of Haman. It is clear the king was not bothered by the numbers of those killed in Susa or he would not have allowed a second day of fighting. It may be that the king was amazed there were so many who were against Mordecai and still for Haman. Xerxes may well have been thinking of the political stability of the empire. And it is possible Esther knew some of those who attacked on the first day had managed to escape and could be captured the second. Haman’s sons were put on the gallows for all to see, just like their father. Those who were still aligned with Haman could now see his dynasty had come crashing down.
After the enemies had been defeated, the Jews held a celebration. This celebration is called Purim, after the lot, or pur, that was cast deciding the day the Jews were to be eliminated. The festival of Purim is the only Old Testament festival not established by Moses. It was common practice in the ancient world to cast Purim to determine whether God favored a particular course of action. A good number would indicate God’s approval and a bad number, God’s disapproval. After their deliverance, Mordecai and Esther formalized an annual celebration of God’s rescue so that all future generations would remember what God had accomplished. When God rescued His people, the day set for the execution of the Jews became a day of holy vengeance and was followed by celebration. Eventually Esther wrote a letter of support for Mordecai and he grew in power and prestige.
The Book of Esther ends with Xerxes imposing a tribute or tax all across the empire. This burden supported the Persian government’s free spending and many have served to refill the treasuries after the long war against the Greeks. The Book of Esther concluded with high praise for Mordecai, whose deeds were recorded in the official chronicles of the Persian Empire. Mordecai held the second highest position in the land, just like Joseph had done in Egypt before him. Mordecai the Jew did not brag about himself like Haman did. He was a righteous man who continually looked out for the good of others and was rewarded with his high government position. Mordecai was very great among the Jews.
In His Grip
Pastor Matt W
Comments are closed.