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;)
Verse 1. - To have power over them. Or, "to get the mastery over them" (comp. Daniel 6:24, where the same word is used). Had rule. Or, "had the mastery."
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.
Verse 2. - The Jews gathered themselves together. Acting on the first clause of the edict (Esther 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 Susa, Babylon, Damascus - perhaps Rhages and Ecbatana - and no doubt many others. Cities exclusively Jewish, like Nearda, in later times (Joseph., 'Ant. Jud.,' 18:9, § 1), scarcely existed as yet out of Palestine. To lay hand on such as sought their hurt. The defensive character of the Jews' action is again noted. Only if their hurt was sought (comp. 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 Esther 8:17, ad fin., but a downright coward fear of their prowess. Fell upon all people. Rather, "all the people," i.e. all the many subject nations of the Persian empire among which the Jews were scattered.
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.
Verse 3. - All the rulers of the provinces, and the lieutenants, and the deputies. Compare Esther 3:12 and Esther 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, "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 favours in a civil disturbance. The fear of Mordecai fell upon them. It would give the sense better to translate "had fallen."
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.
Verse 4. - Mordecai was great. Compare Esther 8:2, 15 and Esther 10:3.
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.
And in Shushan the palace the Jews slew and destroyed five hundred men.
Verse 6. - 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 peopled.
And Parshandatha, and Dalphon, and Aspatha,
Verses 7-10. - And Parshandatha. 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 MS. 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 ver. 5), and in fair fight.
And Poratha, and Adalia, and Aridatha,
And Parmashta, and Arisai, and Aridai, and Vajezatha,
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.
On that day the number of those that were slain in Shushan the palace was brought before the king.
Verse 11. - 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.
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.
Verse 12. - 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 the whole empire if they have slain 500 in Susa alone! Now, what is thy petition? Still, if this is not enough, if anything more is needed for the Jews' security, ask it, and "it shall be done."
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.
Verse 13. - 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 Susa gathered themselves in the upper town on the 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 name
And the king commanded it so to be done: and the decree was given at Shushan; and they hanged Haman's ten sons.
Verse 14. - 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).
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.
Verse 15. - 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.
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,
Verse 16. - Gathered themselves together, and stood for their lives. i.e. did as the edict directed them (Esther 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 LXX. 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 Susa than the larger one. FESTIVAL HELD, AND FEAST OF PURIM INSTITUTED (Esther 9:17-32). A natural instinct led the Jews, so soon as their triumph was accomplished, to indulge themselves in a day of rest and rejoicing (ver. 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, practising 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 (ver. 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 (ver. 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 those of Susa would have cause of complaint; if the 15th were the day selected, the two parties would simply exchange feelings. Under these circumstances it was wisely resolved to keep both days (ver. 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 (ver. 22). The name, "feast of Purina," was at once attached to the festival, in memory of Haman's consultation of the lot, the word "Pur" meaning "lot" in Persian (ver. 24). The festival became a national institution by the general consent of the Jews everywhere (ver. 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 (Esther 4:16).
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.
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.
Verse 18. - The Jews which were at Shushan assembled together. i.e. "gathered themselves together to bathe." The verb is the same as that used in ver. 16 of this chapter; and in Esther 8:11; Esther 9:2.
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.
Verse 19. - 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. Ecbatana and Babylon are "country towns" to a Jew of Susa, such as the writer. A good day. Compare Esther 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 (comp. ver. 22, ad fin.).
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,
Verse 20. - 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 (vers. 23, 27) he sent out a second letter, "with all authority" (ver. 29), enjoining the observance.
To stablish this among them, that they should keep the fourteenth day of the month Adar, and the fifteenth day of the same, yearly,
Verse 21. - To stablish. i.e. "with a view to establishing" - not actually doing so.
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.
Verse 22. - The month which was turned unto them from sorrow to joy. This was the key-note of Purina, the dominant idea, to which all else was secondary and sub-ordinate - sorrow turned into joy, "mourning into dancing," utter destruction into a signal triumph. Psalm 30. might well have been written at this time.
And the Jews undertook to do as they had begun, and as Mordecai had written unto them;
Verse 23. - 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."
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;
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.
Verse 25. - 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.
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,
Verse 26. - 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 (Esther 3:7). For all the words of this letter. i.e. "on account of what was said in Mordecai's letter to them" (ver. 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,"
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;
Verse 27. - All such as joined themselves to them. i.e. "all who should become proselytes to their faith" (see above, Esther 8:17). According to their writing. According to the writing concerning the days which they had received from Mordecai (ver. 20).
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.
Verse 28. - That these days should be remembered and kept throughout every generation, every family, etc. The universal adoption of the Purina feast by the Jewish nation, originating as it did at Susa, 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 (Ewald), 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 we have seen ('Introduction,' § 3), 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 favour 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.
Then Esther the queen, the daughter of Abihail, and Mordecai the Jew, wrote with all authority, to confirm this second letter of Purim.
Verse 29. - Then Esther the queen, the daughter of Abihail,... wrote. 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 Purina. The first letter is the one which is mentioned in vers. 20 and 26. That letter having elicited the favourable reply contained in vers. 26-28, a "second letter of Purina" 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.
And he sent the letters unto all the Jews, to the hundred twenty and seven provinces of the kingdom of Ahasuerus, with words of peace and truth,
Verse 30. - And he sent the letters. Rather, "he sent letters." In addition to the formal "letter of Purina," 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 Purina days (ver. 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.
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.
Verse 31. - As they had decreed for themselves and their seed. "As they - i.e. the Jews generally - had decreed" (see ver. 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.
And the decree of Esther confirmed these matters of Purim; and it was written in the book.
Verse 32. - 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 Esther 2:23; Esther 6:1; Esther 10:2).