Keil and Delitzsch OT Commentary
Mordochai Advanced to Haman's Position. Counter-Edict for the Preservation of Jews - Esther 8
The king bestowed the house of Haman on Esther, and advanced Mordochai to Haman's place of prime minister (vv. 1 and 2). Esther then earnestly besought the king for the abolition of the edict published by Haman against the Jews, and the king permitted her and Mordochai to send letters in the king's name to all the Jews in his kingdom, commanding them to stand for their life, and to slay their enemies, on the day appointed for their own extermination (Esther 8:3-14). These measures diffused great joy throughout the kingdom (Esther 8:15-17).
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.By the execution of Haman, his property was confiscated, and the king decreed that the house of the Jews' enemy should be given to Esther. The "house of Haman" undoubtedly means the house with all that pertained to it. "And Mordochai came before the king, for Esther had told him what he was to her," viz., her kinsman and foster-father, Esther 2:7. This information effected Mordochai's appearance before the king, i.e., his reception into the number of the high dignitaries who beheld the face of the king, i.e., were allowed personal access to him; comp. Esther 1:10, Esther 1:14; Esther 7:9.
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 seal-ring which he had taken from Haman (comp. Esther 3:10), and gave it to Mordochai. מן העביר, to cause to go from some one, i.e., to take away. By this act Mordochai was advanced to the post of first minister of the king; comp. Genesis 41:42, 1 Macc. 6:15. The king's seal gave the force of law to royal edicts, the seal taking the place of the signature. See rem. on Esther 8:8 and Esther 3:10.
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.The chief enemy of the Jews was now destroyed; but the edict, written in the king's name, sealed with the royal seal, and published in all the provinces of the kingdom, for the destruction of all the Jews on the 13th day of the twelfth month, was still in force, and having been issued in due legal form, could not, according to the laws of the Persians and Medes, be revoked. Queen Esther therefore entreated the king to annul the designs of Haman against the Jews. Esther 8:3 and Esther 8:4. "Esther spake again before the king, and fell down at his feet, and wept, and besought him to do away with (העביר, to cause to depart) the mischief of Haman the Agagite, and his device that he devised against the Jews. And the king held out his golden sceptre towards Esther, and Esther arose and stood before the king." This verse gives a summary of the contents of Esther's speech, which is reported verbally in Esther 8:5 and Esther 8:6, so that we must translate the imperfects ותּתחנּן ותּבך - ותּפּל: She spoke before the king, falling at his feet and beseeching him with weeping, that he would do away with המן רעת, the evil that Haman had done, and his device against the Jews. The king stretched out his sceptre (comp. Esther 4:11) as a sign that he would graciously grant her petition; whereupon she arose, stood before the king, and made known her request.
Then the king held out the golden sceptre toward Esther. So Esther arose, and stood before the king,
And said, If it please the king, and if I have found favour 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:The introductory formula are in part similar to those used Esther 1:19; Esther 5:4, Esther 5:8; Esther 7:3; but the petition referring to a great and important matter, they are strengthened by two new phrases: "If the thing is advisable (כּשׁר, proper, convenient, advantageous, a later word occurring again only Ecclesiastes 11:6; Ecclesiastes 10:10, - in Ecclesiastes 2:21; Ecclesiastes 4:4-5, Ecclesiastes 4:10 of the same book, כּשׁרון) before the king, and if I be pleasing in his eyes, let it be written (let a writing be used, like Esther 3:9), to frustrate (להשׁיב, i.e., to put out of force) the letters, the device of Haman ... which he wrote to destroy the Jews, who are in all the provinces of the king." המן מחשׁבת, the device, the proposal of Haman, is added to הסּפרים, briefly to characterize the contents of the letters. On the matter itself, comp. Esther 3:8. and Esther 3:12. "For how shall I endure to see the destruction of my people?" The verbs וראיתי אוּכל are so combined that the second is governed by the first, וראיתי standing instead of the infinitive; comp. Ew. 285, c. ראה cons. בּ denotes an interested beholding, whether painful or joyous, of something; comp. Genesis 44:34. מולרת in parallelism with אם denotes those who are of like descent, the family, members of a tribe.
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?
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.The king could not simply revoke the edict issued by Haman in due legal form, but, ready to perform the request of the queen, he first assures her of his good intentions, reminding her and Mordochai that he has given the house of Haman to Esther and hanged Haman, because he laid hand on the Jews (תּלוּ אתו, him they have executed); and then grants them permission, as he had formerly done to Haman, to send letters to the Jews in the king's name, and sealed with the king's seal, and to write בּעיניכם כּטּוב, "as seems good to you," i.e., to give in writing such orders as might in Esther's and Mordochai's judgment render the edict of Haman harmless. "For," he adds, "what is written in the king's name and sealed with his seal cannot be reversed." This confirmatory clause is added by the king with reference to the law in general, not as speaking of himself objectively as "the king." להשׁיב אין refers to Esther's request: להשׁיב יכּתב (Esther 8:5). ונחתּום, infin. abs. used instead of the perfect.
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 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.These letters were prepared in the same manner as those of Haman (Esther 3:12-15), on the 23rd day of the third month, the month Sivan, and sent into all the provinces. "And it was written according to all that Mordochai commanded." They were sent to the Jews and to the satraps, etc., of the whole wide realm from India to Ethiopia (see Esther 1:1), while those of Haman had been issued only to the satraps, etc. The rest coincides with Esther 3:12. ויּכתּב, and he (Mordochai) wrote. To show the speed with which the letters were despatched, (messengers) "on horseback, on coursers, government coursers, the sons of the stud," is added to הרצים בּיד. רכשׁ is a collective, meaning swift horses, coursers; comp. 1 Kings 5:8. אחשׁתּרנים (Esther 8:11 and Esther 8:14) answers to the Old-Persian kschatrana, from kschatra, government, king, and means government, royal, or court studs. So Haug in Ewald's bibl. Jahrb. v. p. 154. The older explanation, mules, on the other hand, is founded on the modern Persian estar, which, to judge from the Sanscrit avatara, must in ancient Persian have been apatara. רמּכים, ἁπ. λεγ. from רמּך, answering to the Syriac remakaa', herd, especially a herd of horses, and to the Arabic ramaka, stud, is explained by Bertheau as a superlative form for the animal who excels the rest of the herd of stud in activity, perhaps the breeding stallion, while others understand it of the stud in general. The contents of the edict follow in Esther 8:11 and Esther 8:12 : "that the king allows the Jews in every city to assemble and to stand for their life (i.e., to fight for their lives, comp. Daniel 12:1), to destroy, to slay, and to cause to perish all the power (חיל, military power) of the people and province that should assault them, children and women, and to plunder their property, upon a certain day," etc. The appointed time is thus stated as in Esther 3:13. The Jews were thus authorized to attack and destroy all enemies who should assault them on the day appointed for their extermination. Esther 8:13 coincides with Esther 3:14, with this difference, that the Jews are to be ready on this day to avenge themselves on their enemies. Esther 8:14 also is similar to Esther 3:15, except that the expression is strengthened by an addition to הרצים as in Esther 8:10, and by that of דּחוּפים, urged on, to מבהלים, hastened, to point out the utmost despatch possible.
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:
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,
Upon one day in all the provinces of king Ahasuerus, namely, upon the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, which is the month Adar.
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.
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.
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.The joy experienced throughout the kingdom at these measures. Esther 8:15. After transacting with the king this measure so favourable to the Jews, Mordochai went out from the king in a garment of deep blue and white material (comp. Esther 1:6), and with a great crown of gold, and a mantle of byssus and purple. תּכריך, ἁπ. λεγ., in the Aramaean תּכריכא, a wide mantle or covering. The meaning is not, as Bertheau remarks, that he left the king in the garment which had been, according to Esther 6:8., presented to him, nor that he left him with fresh tokens of his favour, clothed in a garment, crown, and mantle just bestowed on him, but that he left him in a magnificent state garment, and otherwise festally apparelled, that he might thus show, even by his external appearance, the happiness of his heart. Of these remarks, the first and last are quite correct; the second, however, can by no means be so, because it affords no answer to the question how Mordochai had obtained crown and mantle during his stay with the king and in the royal palace. The garments in which Mordochai left the king are evidently the state garments of the first minister, which Mordochai received at his installation to his office, and, as such, no fresh token of royal favour, but only his actual induction in his new dignity, and a sign of this induction to all who saw him issue from the palace so adorned. "The city of Susa rejoiced and was glad," i.e., rejoiced for gladness. The city, i.e., its inhabitants on the whole.
The Jews had light, and gladness, and joy, and honour.The Jews (i.e., in Susa, for those out of the city are not spoken of till Esther 8:17) had light and gladness, and delight and honour." אורה (this form occurs only here and Psalm 109:12), light, is a figurative expression for prosperity. יקר, honour - in the joy manifested by the inhabitants of Susa at the prevention of the threatened destruction.
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.And in every province and city ... there was joy and a glad day, a feast day, comp. Esther 9:19, Esther 9:22, while Haman's edict had caused grief and lamentation, Esther 4:3. "And many of the people of the land (i.e., of the heathen inhabitants of the Persian empire) became Jews, for the fear of the Jews fell upon them." מתיהדים, to confess oneself a Jew, to become a Jew, a denominative formed from יהוּדי, occurs only here. On the confirmatory clause, comp. Exodus 15:16; Deuteronomy 11:25. This conversion of many of the heathen to Judaism must not be explained only, as by Clericus and Grotius, of a change of religion on the part of the heathen, ut sibi hoc modo securitatem et reginae favorem pararent, metuentes potentiam Mardechaei. This may have been the inducement with some of the inhabitants of Susa. But the majority certainly acted from more honourable motives, viz., a conviction, forced upon them by the unexpected turn of affairs in favour of the Jews, of the truth of the Jewish religion; and the power of that faith and trust in God manifested by the Jews, and so evidently justified by the fall of Haman and the promotion of Mordochai, contrasted with the vanity and misery of polytheism, to which even the heathen themselves were not blind. When we consider that the same motives in subsequent times, when the Jews as a nation were in a state of deepest humiliation, attracted the more earnest-minded of the heathen to the Jewish religion, and induced them to become proselytes, the fact here related will not appear surprising.