The Deadliest Sin of the Hebrews
A 2nd-Heaven Review of the Book of Esther (Jan 01)
Genesis 24:1-4 (NKJ)
Now Abraham was old, well advanced in age; and the LORD had blessed Abraham in all things. So Abraham said to the oldest servant of his house, who ruled over all that he had, "Please, put your hand under my thigh, and I will make you swear by the LORD, the God of heaven and the God of the earth, that you will not take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I dwell; but you shall go to my country and to my family, and take a wife for my son Isaac."
Judges 21:15-21 (NKJ)
And the people grieved for Benjamin, because the LORD had made a void in the tribes of Israel. Then the elders of the congregation said, "What shall we do for wives for those who remain, since the women of Benjamin have been destroyed?" And they said, "There must be an inheritance for the survivors of Benjamin, that a tribe may not be destroyed from Israel. However, we cannot give them wives from our daughters, for the children of Israel have sworn an oath, saying, 'Cursed be the one who gives a wife to Benjamin.'" Then they said, "In fact, there is a yearly feast of the LORD in Shiloh, which is north of Bethel, on the east side of the highway that goes up from Bethel to Schechem, and south of Lebonah."
Therefore they instructed the children of Benjamin, saying, "Go, lie in wait in the vineyards, and watch; and just when the daughters of Shiloh come out to perform their dances, then come out from the vineyards, and every man catch a wife for himself from the daughters of Shiloh; then go to the land of Benjamin.
I'm still working on my review of the book of Daniel. It's turning out to be far more of a challenge than I had expected, because in addition to addressing various issues regarding its authorship, to do it justice, I must also show how it relates to the rest of the 3rd-heaven (allegorical) teachings throughout the Bible (Genesis through Revelation). In the meantime, I've decided to do reviews of Esther, Ezra and Nehemiah (and possibly Haggai and Zechariah) to lay the groundwork for dealing with some of the issues regarding the authorship of Daniel.
The Book of Esther was evidently written in Persian-controlled Babylon during the 57-year period between the first six chapters of Ezra and the last four chapters of Ezra. The last four chapters of Ezra, which were probably the only chapters that were written (for the most part originally) by Ezra himself, describe how Ezra reestablished the Satanically inspired ideology of racism (i.e. restricting one's definition of "neighbor" based on people's biological lineage) as a key feature the official religion of the Judeans. The Book of Esther helps to provide a better understanding of why that happened along with some 2nd-heaven-level teachings pointing out why that should NOT have happened. The fact that it did happen has not only created dire consequences for the Judeans (a.k.a. Jews) ever since then, it has also had a profound influence on the contents of many of the books in both the Old and New Testaments. Indeed, that issue has been one of the key differences between traditional Judaism and most forms of Christianity throughout the last two millennia. Even today, despite its historically proven destructive effects, that satanically inspired doctrine is popularly embraced by many Jews is Israel and elsewhere, and it is still threatening to create a conflagration in Israel that could lead to a World War III.
Based on the first-hand nature of the accounts described in this book, Esther appears to have been written by Mordecai or perhaps a close friend of Mordecai. The canonized version of the story appears to be primarily historical in nature. It does not appear to have had any "3rd-heaven" (allegorical) material added to it. However, it's possible that at least some of 2nd-heaven details (such as the fact that Esther came from the tribe of Benjamin) may have been added later by the redactors identified in Ezra 10:15.
The canonized version of Esther is the only book in the Bible that doesn't specifically mention God, although actions of the "hand of God" are clearly evident. There is an apocryphal text commonly referred to as "The rest of the chapters of the Book of Esther" that was woven into the book of Esther when the Jews in Alexandra created the Septuagint version of the Old Testament around the time of Alexander the Great. These apocryphal texts do contain some 3rd-heaven imagery and frequent appeals to the Lord, but the Levite-like style in which they are written is quite noticeably different from the style of the canonized texts, and their references to Ptolemeus and Cleopatra indicate that they were probably written at least two centuries after the canonized tests. The apocryphal texts do contain what are purported to be the actual texts of the deadly decrees issued using the king's the signet ring, but those are also written in a Levite style which belies their authenticity.
Some biblical scholars believe that the entire story of Esther may have been fabricated around the time of Ezra, because there doesn't appear to be any contemporary corroborating evidence (outside of the canonized and apocryphal texts of Esther) attesting to the events and official proclamations described in the story. Esther and the feast of Purim aren't mentioned in any other part of the canonized Bible, not even in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah which were supposedly completed soon after the events in the book of Esther are thought to have occurred. The first evidence that the Judeans were celebrating the feast of Purim to commemorate these events appeared around 160 BC. Perhaps, something like this story really did occur, though not on as wide a scale as indicated in the canonized version of the story. The canonized version of the story also appears to have been designed to teach some 2nd-heaven lessons, so my comments in brackets will be essentially from the 2nd-heaven point of view (i.e. non-allegorical observations that conform with God's two most fundamental commandments as summarized by Jesus Christ in Matthew 22:37-40 and which point out that we should view and judge the doctrines of men by the "fruits that they bear" with respect to those two commandments.). As before, I am using the New King James Version translation.
Now it came to pass in the days of Ahasuerus [a.k.a. Xerxes] this was the Ahasuerus who reigned over one hundred and twenty-seven provinces, from India to Ethiopia), in those days when King Ahasuerus sat on the throne of his kingdom, which was in Shushan the citadel, that in the third year of his reign he made a feast for all his officials and servants--the powers of Persia and Media, the nobles, and the princes of the provinces being before him--when he showed the riches of his glorious kingdom and the splendor of his excellent majesty for many days, one hundred and eighty days in all. And when these days were completed, the king made a feast lasting seven days for all the people who were present in Shushan the citadel, from great to small, in the court of the garden of the king's palace. There were white and blue linen curtains fastened with cords of fine linen and purple on silver rods and marble pillars; and the couches were of gold and silver on a mosaic pavement of alabaster, turquoise, and white and black marble. And they served drinks in golden vessels, each vessel being different from the other, with royal wine in abundance, according to the generosity of the king. In accordance with the law, the drinking was not compulsory; for so the king had ordered all the officers of his household, that they should do according to each man's pleasure.
[The king was celebrating the success of some recent military campaigns that had significantly expanded the size of his empire. The vivid description of details regarding the banquet indicates that the author was an eyewitness to these events.]
Queen Vashti also made a feast for the women in the royal palace which belonged to King Ahasuerus. On the seventh day, when the heart of the king was merry with wine, he commanded Mehuman, Biztha, Harbona, Bigtha, Abagtha, Zethar, and Carcas, seven eunuchs who served in the presence of King Ahasuerus, to bring Queen Vashti before the king, wearing her royal crown, in order to show her beauty to the people and the officials, for she was beautiful to behold. But Queen Vashti refused to come at the king's command brought by his eunuchs; therefore the king was furious, and his anger burned within him.
[According to some biblical commentators, it was a violation of traditional Persian customs to "put the Queen on display" in such a manner. Queen Vashti may simply have been adhering to Persian custom.]
Then the king said to the wise men who understood the times (for this was the king's manner toward all who knew law and justice, those closest to him being Carshena, Shethar, Admatha, Tarshish, Meres, Marsena, and Memucan, the seven princes of Persia and Media, who had access to the king's presence, and who ranked highest in the kingdom): "What shall we do to Queen Vashti, according to law, because she did not obey the command of King Ahasuerus brought to her by the eunuchs?" And Memucan answered before the king and the princes: "Queen Vashti has not only wronged the king, but also all the princes, and all the people who are in all the provinces of King Ahasuerus. For the queen's behavior will become known to all women, so that they will despise their husbands in their eyes, when they report, 'King Ahasuerus commanded Queen Vashti to be brought in before him, but she did not come.' This very day the noble ladies of Persia and Media will say to all the king's officials that they have heard of the behavior of the queen. Thus there will be excessive contempt and wrath. If it pleases the king, let a royal decree go out from him, and let it be recorded in the laws of the Persians and the Medes, so that it will not be altered, that Vashti shall come no more before King Ahasuerus; and let the king give her royal position to another who is better than she. When the king's decree which he will make is proclaimed throughout all his empire (for it is great), all wives will honor their husbands, both great and small."
[Note that unlike King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon who viewed himself as having "absolute power" over his subjects, this Persian king regarded himself as being subject to the laws of his empire. He could create new laws by decree, but he had to be careful not to violate decrees he had made in the past. Evidently, the novel approach of simply declaring that Vashti was no longer the Queen was an option that "got around" his previous decrees. It's also interesting to note how insecure those men were regarding their relationships with their wives. According to this story, they felt that without a positive "royal example" to reinforce their authority, they would lose control of their wives.]
And the reply pleased the king and the princes, and the king did according to the word of Memucan. Then he sent letters to all the king's provinces, to each province in its own script, and to every people in their own language, that each man should be master in his own house, and speak in the language of his own people.
[Evidently, even a "royal example" wasn't enough. They insisted that the king issue a new decree to legally mandate that each man would be "master in his own house." Notice that the decree also requires that the wives speak only in their husband's language (even if it is not their native language). This ideological tactic of "foreign" or "native" language suppression has been commonly used throughout history (by democracies like Great Britain and Turkey as well as totalitarian regimes) to help "keep people under control."]
After these things, when the wrath of King Ahasuerus subsided, he remembered Vashti, what she had done, and what had been decreed against her. Then the king's servants who attended him said: "Let beautiful young virgins be sought for the king; and let the king appoint officers in all the provinces of his kingdom, that they may gather all the beautiful young virgins to Shushan the citadel, into the women's quarters, under the custody of Hegai the king's eunuch, custodian of the women. And let beauty preparations be given them. Then let the young woman who pleases the king be queen instead of Vashti." This thing pleased the king, and he did so.
[Apparently, this Persian king didn't believe in polygamy, even though polygamy was widely practiced in those days. So this king was "more civilized" by today's standards, but "less powerful" from King Nebuchadnezzar's point of view.]
In Shushan the citadel there was a certain Jew whose name was Mordecai the son of Jair, the son of Shimei, the son of Kish, a Benjamite. Kish had been carried away from Jerusalem with the captives who had been captured with Jeconiah king of Judah, whom Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon had carried away. And Mordecai had brought up Hadassah, that is, Esther, his uncle's daughter, for she had neither father nor mother. The young woman was lovely and beautiful. When her father and mother died, Mordecai took her as his own daughter.
["Hadassah" (myrtle) would have been her Hebrew name; "Esther" was her Persian name. Notice that Mordecai and Esther come from the Benjamite lineage. In the book of Judges, we learned that the Hebrews murdered all of the women and children of the tribe of Benjamin, and that 200 of the 600 remaining Benjamites had to "recruit" women from the fields around Shiloh to become their wives. Most biblical commentators assume that women of Shiloh were Jewish women, but since Shiloh is near Schechem where Abraham has once lived centuries earlier, more likely than not the women of Shiloh in those days were Canaanite or a mixture of Canaanite and Jewish origin. Keep in mind that the Jews who survived the ordeal described in closing chapters of Judges had sworn an oath not to allow their own daughters to marry a Benjamite. So once those Shiloh women became part of the Tribe of Benjamin, over time their "Canaanite blood" no-doubt propagated throughout the entire tribe. We also learned in Genesis that all descendants of Judah were at least one-half Canaanite (through Tamar), so with the possible exception of some descendants of the Levites, all "Jews" for the past two millennia or so have probably been at least one-third Canaanite!
In many places throughout the Old Testament, its authors have made it a point to show that the traditional Judean ideology of "racial purity" was in fact more of a myth than a reality. Furthermore, many of them (including the author of the canonized chapters of Esther) have made it clear that were it nor for Canaanite women and Hebrew-Canaanite "mixed breeds", there would be no "Jews" at all in today's world! It's as if God has made it a point over many centuries to ridicule Abraham's conclusion that Canaanite women were inherently unfit to marry his son Isaac (Gen 24:3)]
So it was, when the king's command and decree were heard, and when many young women were gathered at Shushan the citadel, under the custody of Hegai, that Esther also was taken to the king's palace, into the care of Hegai the custodian of the women. Now the young woman pleased him, and she obtained his favor; so he readily gave beauty preparations to her, besides her allowance. Then seven choice maidservants were provided for her from the king's palace, and he moved her and her maidservants to the best place in the house of the women. Esther had not revealed her people or family, for Mordecai had charged her not to reveal it. And every day Mordecai paced in front of the court of the women's quarters, to learn of Esther's welfare and what was happening to her. Each young woman's turn came to go in to King Ahasuerus after she had completed twelve months' preparation, according to the regulations for the women, for thus were the days of their preparation apportioned: six months with oil of myrrh, and six months with perfumes and preparations for beautifying women. Thus prepared, each young woman went to the king, and she was given whatever she desired to take with her from the women's quarters to the king's palace. In the evening she went, and in the morning she returned to the second house of the women, to the custody of Shaashgaz, the king's eunuch who kept the concubines. She would not go in to the king again unless the king delighted in her and called for her by name.
[In a subtle way, the author is telling us that the king took this opportunity to "try out" each of the candidates for Queen. Evidently, according to Persian custom at least, this was considered to be morally acceptable conduct. The extended amount of time that was taken to "prepare" the women for the king no doubt helped to ensure that they were not diseased in any way.]
Now when the turn came for Esther the daughter of Abihail the uncle of Mordecai, who had taken her as his daughter, to go in to the king, she requested nothing but what Hegai the king's eunuch, the custodian of the women, advised. And Esther obtained favor in the sight of all who saw her. So Esther was taken to King Ahasuerus, into his royal palace, in the tenth month, which is the month of Tebeth, in the seventh year of his reign. The king loved Esther more than all the other women, and she obtained grace and favor in his sight more than all the virgins; so he set the royal crown upon her head and made her queen instead of Vashti.
[Esther was not only exceptionally beautiful, but wise. Rather than adorning herself in jewelry, she requested the king's eunuch to dress her in a way that would be most pleasing to the king. She knew how to take advantage of the expertise of others; this trait further attested to her qualifications for becoming a queen.]
Then the king made a great feast, the Feast of Esther, for all his officials and servants; and he proclaimed a holiday in the provinces and gave gifts according to the generosity of a king. When virgins were gathered together a second time, Mordecai sat within the king's gate. Now Esther had not revealed her family and her people, just as Mordecai had charged her, for Esther obeyed the command of Mordecai as when she was brought up by him.
[The use of the term "virgins" at this point appears questionable. Some biblical commentators argue that this was a second collection of "virgins" for the king to try out, but since Esther had already been made Queen, this doesn't seem to make much sense. Esther was clearly Queen at the time the following plot was discovered. Perhaps, at some point in time, a transcriber mistakenly moved these two or three sentences from the middle of this chapter to near the end of this chapter.]
In those days, while Mordecai sat within the king's gate, two of the king's eunuchs, Bigthan and Teresh, doorkeepers, became furious and sought to lay hands on King Ahasuerus. So the matter became known to Mordecai, who told Queen Esther, and Esther informed the king in Mordecai's name. And when an inquiry was made into the matter, it was confirmed, and both were hanged on a gallows; and it was written in the book of the chronicles in the presence of the king.
[With his niece as the queen, the last thing Mordecai wanted was for somebody to assassinate the king. It's interesting to note that if Esther had not been queen at the time, the doorkeepers' plot may have succeeded.]
After these things King Ahasuerus promoted Haman, the son of Hammedatha the Agagite, and advanced him and set his seat above all the princes who were with him. And all the king's servants who were within the king's gate bowed and paid homage to Haman, for so the king had commanded concerning him. But Mordecai would not bow or pay homage.
[So Mordecai was not only refusing to pay homage to Haman, he was also violating the king's command.]
Then the king's servants who were within the king's gate said to Mordecai, "Why do you transgress the king's command?" Now it happened, when they spoke to him daily and he would not listen to them, that they told it to Haman, to see whether Mordecai's words would stand; for Mordecai had told them that he was a Jew. When Haman saw that Mordecai did not bow or pay him homage, Haman was filled with wrath. But he disdained to lay hands on Mordecai alone, for they had told him of the people of Mordecai. Instead, Haman sought to destroy all the Jews who were throughout the whole kingdom of Ahasuerus--the people of Mordecai.
[Seeking to destroy an entire people due to misdeeds of one of them is truly a satanic concept (although according to the authors of Joshua, Judges, and Samuel I and II, it was a concept that the ancient Hebrews embraced from time to time as well). Apparently, Haman was made aware that Mordecai was simply following Judean religious beliefs and that simply eliminating Mordecai wouldn't "solve the problem." This paragraph also subtly implies that the Judeans were widely feared (and perhaps even hated) by many of the people of Persia/Babylon. For nearly three millennia now, such "anti-Semitism" has been a predictable consequence of the ancient Hebrew doctrine of excluding all those who were not of their "race" from their definition of "neighbor."]
In the first month, which is the month of Nisan, in the twelfth year of King Ahasuerus, they cast Pur (that is, the lot), before Haman to determine the day and the month, until it fell on the twelfth month, which is the month of Adar. Then Haman said to King Ahasuerus, "There is a certain people scattered and dispersed among the people in all the provinces of your kingdom; their laws are different from all other people's, and they do not keep the king's laws. Therefore it is not fitting for the king to let them remain. If it pleases the king, let a decree be written that they be destroyed, and I will pay ten thousand talents of silver into the hands of those who do the work, to bring it into the king's treasuries." So the king took his signet ring from his hand and gave it to Haman, the son of Hammedatha the Agagite, the enemy of the Jews. And the king said to Haman, "The money and the people are given to you, to do with them as seems good to you." Then the king's scribes were called on the thirteenth day of the first month, and a decree was written according to all that Haman commanded--to the king's satraps, to the governors who were over each province, to the officials of all people, to every province according to its script, and to every people in their language. In the name of King Ahasuerus it was written, and sealed with the king's signet ring. And the letters were sent by couriers into all the king's provinces, to destroy, to kill, and to annihilate all the Jews, both young and old, little children and women, in one day, on the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, which is the month of Adar, and to plunder their possessions. A copy of the document was to be issued as law in every province, being published for all people, that they should be ready for that day. The couriers went out, hastened by the king's command; and the decree was proclaimed in Shushan the citadel. So the king and Haman sat down to drink, but the city of Shushan was perplexed.
[So far at least, no copies or evidence of that proclamation have been found (outside of the canonized and apocryphal texts Esther). It seems a bit odd that a particular date in the future would be set to do such a dirty deed rather than ordering that it be done "right away." Setting a future date like that would risk inspiring an organized Judean rebellion throughout the empire, or perhaps a widespread exodus. If, as this story implies, the rest of the people would have supported such a genocidal program, then it would appear that the Judeans were not very well liked among their contemporaries.]
When Mordecai learned all that had happened, he tore his clothes and put on sackcloth and ashes, and went out into the midst of the city. He cried out with a loud and bitter cry. He went as far as the front of the king's gate, for no one might enter the king's gate clothed with sackcloth. And in every province where the king's command and decree arrived, there was great mourning among the Jews, with fasting, weeping, and wailing; and many lay in sackcloth and ashes. So Esther's maids and eunuchs came and told her, and the queen was deeply distressed. Then she sent garments to clothe Mordecai and take his sackcloth away from him, but he would not accept them. Then Esther called Hathach, one of the king's eunuchs whom he had appointed to attend her, and she gave him a command concerning Mordecai, to learn what and why this was. So Hathach went out to Mordecai in the city square that was in front of the king's gate. And Mordecai told him all that had happened to him, and the sum of money that Haman had promised to pay into the king's treasuries to destroy the Jews. He also gave him a copy of the written decree for their destruction, which was given at Shushan, that he might show it to Esther and explain it to her, and that he might command her to go in to the king to make supplication to him and plead before him for her people.
[Since Judea was one of the provinces in the Media-Persian Empire at the time, all of the Judeans who returned to Judea from the former Babylon would have been wiped out if this decree had been fulfilled. And if the Judeans in Jerusalem knew in advance that they were all about to be slaughtered by order of the king, why wasn't this event mentioned in the books of Ezra or Nehemiah as well? As you can see, there are some valid reasons some scholars have doubts about the authenticity of this story. Perhaps some day archeological evidence will be found to help settle this concern. ]
So Hathach returned and told Esther the words of Mordecai. Then Esther spoke to Hathach, and gave him a command for Mordecai: "All the king's servants and the people of the king's provinces know that any man or woman who goes into the inner court to the king, who has not been called, he has but one law: put all to death, except the one to whom the king holds out the golden scepter, that he may live. Yet I myself have not been called to go in to the king these thirty days." So they told Mordecai Esther's words.
[Apparently, this was how the king dealt with the threat of assination. He allowed no one to come near to him unless he specifically authorized it at that time.]
Then Mordecai told them to answer Esther: "Do not think in your heart that you will escape in the king's palace any more than all the other Jews. For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father's house will perish. Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?" Then Esther told them to reply to Mordecai: "Go, gather all the Jews who are present in Shushan, and fast for me; neither eat nor drink for three days, night or day. My maids and I will fast likewise. And so I will go to the king, which is against the law; and if I perish, I perish!" So Mordecai went his way and did according to all that Esther commanded him.
[So Esther had "guts" as well as wisdom and compassion. It's interesting to note that Mordecai was wise enough to recognize (without specifically mentioning God) that this may have been the reason God allowed Esther to become Queen of the Media-Persian Empire. It's not uncommon for true servants of God to recognize that they must act to help save others because they are in a position to do so while most others are not. This is one of the reasons why God's two most fundamental commandments tend to work so effectively in the long run.]
Now it happened on the third day that Esther put on her royal robes and stood in the inner court of the king's palace, across from the king's house, while the king sat on his royal throne in the royal house, facing the entrance of the house. So it was, when the king saw Queen Esther standing in the court, that she found favor in his sight, and the king held out to Esther the golden scepter that was in his hand. Then Esther went near and touched the top of the scepter. And the king said to her, "What do you wish, Queen Esther? What is your request? It shall be given to you--up to half the kingdom!" So Esther answered, "If it pleases the king, let the king and Haman come today to the banquet that I have prepared for him." Then the king said, "Bring Haman quickly, that he may do as Esther has said." So the king and Haman went to the banquet that Esther had prepared.
[Notice that even though the king was so stricken with her beauty that he offered her half of his kingdom, Esther "played it cool" and invited the king and Prince Haman to a banquet where she would have more time to establish a conceptual foundation upon which to base her request. If she had been too abrupt, the king might have reacted negatively or perhaps even ordered that she be killed for approaching him. Esther may also have figured that after having some wine, the king might be inclined to be reasonable.]
At the banquet of wine the king said to Esther, "What is your petition? It shall be granted you. What is your request, up to half the kingdom? It shall be done!" Then Esther answered and said, "My petition and request is this: If I have found favor in the sight of the king, and if it pleases the king to grant my petition and fulfill my request, then let the king and Haman come to the banquet which I will prepare for them, and tomorrow I will do as the king has said." So Haman went out that day joyful and with a glad heart; but when Haman saw Mordecai in the king's gate, and that he did not stand or tremble before him, he was filled with indignation against Mordecai. Nevertheless Haman restrained himself and went home, and he sent and called for his friends and his wife Zeresh. Then Haman told them of his great riches, the multitude of his children, everything in which the king had promoted him, and how he had advanced him above the officials and servants of the king. Moreover Haman said, "Besides, Queen Esther invited no one but me to come in with the king to the banquet that she prepared; and tomorrow I am again invited by her, along with the king. Yet all this avails me nothing, so long as I see Mordecai the Jew sitting at the king's gate." Then his wife Zeresh and all his friends said to him, "Let a gallows be made, fifty cubits high, and in the morning suggest to the king that Mordecai be hanged on it; then go merrily with the king to the banquet." And the thing pleased Haman; so he had the gallows made.
[Here the story appears to repeat itself. Perhaps the author got two different accounts of the same banquet confused and concluded that there must have been two separate banquets. Or perhaps Esther was stalling for time while she pondered about what to do next. It's interesting to note that it was Haman's wife and friends who responded to Haman's indignation by proposing that Mordecai be hanged the next day (even though all of the Judeans were scheduled to be killed soon thereafter). Perhaps Esther was simply waiting for Haman and his friends to somehow "screw up under pressure."]
That night the king could not sleep. So one was commanded to bring the book of the records of the chronicles; and they were read before the king.
[Who was commanded to bring the book of records and read them before the king? This could easily have been Esther's friend Hegai (a eunuch assistant to the king) acting according to her plan.]
And it was found written that Mordecai had told of Bigthana and Teresh, two of the king's eunuchs, the doorkeepers who had sought to lay hands on King Ahasuerus. Then the king said, "What honor or dignity has been bestowed on Mordecai for this?" And the king's servants who attended him said, "Nothing has been done for him." So the king said, "Who is in the court?" Now Haman had just entered the outer court of the king's palace to suggest that the king hang Mordecai on the gallows that he had prepared for him. The king's servants said to him, "Haman is there, standing in the court." And the king said, "Let him come in." So Haman came in, and the king asked him, "What shall be done for the man whom the king delights to honor?" Now Haman thought in his heart, "Whom would the king delight to honor more than me?" And Haman answered the king, "For the man whom the king delights to honor, let a royal robe be brought which the king has worn, and a horse on which the king has ridden, which has a royal crest placed on its head. Then let this robe and horse be delivered to the hand of one of the king's most noble princes, that he may array the man whom the king delights to honor. Then parade him on horseback through the city square, and proclaim before him: 'Thus shall it be done to the man whom the king delights to honor!' "
[The irony here is one of the things that makes this story so interesting and entertaining. It's almost like a script for a play. Perhaps this story WAS as play in earlier times!]
Then the king said to Haman, "Hurry, take the robe and the horse, as you have suggested, and do so for Mordecai the Jew who sits within the king's gate! Leave nothing undone of all that you have spoken." So Haman took the robe and the horse, arrayed Mordecai and led him on horseback through the city square, and proclaimed before him, "Thus shall it be done to the man whom the king delights to honor!" Afterward Mordecai went back to the king's gate. But Haman hurried to his house, mourning and with his head covered. When Haman told his wife Zeresh and all his friends everything that had happened to him, his wise men and his wife Zeresh said to him, "If Mordecai, before whom you have begun to fall, is of Jewish descent, you will not prevail against him but will surely fall before him." While they were still talking with him, the king's eunuchs came, and hastened to bring Haman to the banquet which Esther had prepared.
[So Haman's wife was cunning enough to recognize that her husband was in serious trouble at this point. The fact that Haman had constructed those gallows to hang the now-popular Mordecai could not be easily hidden.]
So the king and Haman went to dine with Queen Esther. And on the second day, at the banquet of wine, the king again said to Esther, "What is your petition, Queen Esther? It shall be granted you. And what is your request, up to half the kingdom? It shall be done!" Then Queen Esther answered and said, "If I have found favor in your sight, O king, and if it pleases the king, let my life be given me at my petition, and my people at my request. For we have been sold, my people and I, to be destroyed, to be killed, and to be annihilated. Had we been sold as male and female slaves, I would have held my tongue, although the enemy could never compensate for the king's loss."
[So, after a second evening of wine (assuming there were in fact two banquets), Esther decided it was time to "pull out all the stops." She not only pleaded for the king to spare the Judeans, she also admitted that she herself was a Judean. Notice that she allows for the (highly unlikely) possibility that the king was unaware that a decree had been made throughout the empire (using his signet ring) ordering that all Judeans be slaughtered on a specified date. In effect, she was creating a "face saving" way for the king to get out of this predicament with his honor (and his Queen) intact.]
So King Ahasuerus answered and said to Queen Esther, "Who is he, and where is he, who would dare presume in his heart to do such a thing?" And Esther said, "The adversary and enemy is this wicked Haman!" So Haman was terrified before the king and queen. Then the king arose in his wrath from the banquet of wine and went into the palace garden; but Haman stood before Queen Esther, pleading for his life, for he saw that evil was determined against him by the king. When the king returned from the palace garden to the place of the banquet of wine, Haman had fallen across the couch where Esther was. Then the king said, "Will he also assault the queen while I am in the house?" As the word left the king's mouth, they covered Haman's face. Now Harbonah, one of the eunuchs, said to the king, "Look! The gallows, fifty cubits high, which Haman made for Mordecai, who spoke good on the king's behalf, is standing at the house of Haman." Then the king said, "Hang him on it!" So they hanged Haman on the gallows that he had prepared for Mordecai. Then the king's wrath subsided.
[Sure enough, the fact that Haman had erected those gallows to hang Mordecai was revealed to the king by one of the Queen Esther's friends. And then Haman put himself in a position where it appeared to the king that he was attempting to seduce Queen Esther. Haman "screwed up" all right, and he was left hanging on his own gallows. Again, such irony could have been a great script for a play.]
On that day King Ahasuerus gave Queen Esther the house of Haman, the enemy of the Jews. And Mordecai came before the king, for Esther had told how he was related to her. So the king took off his signet ring, which he had taken from Haman, and gave it to Mordecai; and Esther appointed Mordecai over the house of Haman. Now Esther spoke again to the king, fell down at his feet, and implored him with tears to counteract the evil of Haman the Agagite, and the scheme which he had devised against the Jews. And the king held out the golden scepter toward Esther. So Esther arose and stood before the king, and said, "If it pleases the king, and if I have found favor in his sight and the thing seems right to the king and I am pleasing in his eyes, let it be written to revoke the letters devised by Haman, the son of Hammedatha the Agagite, which he wrote to annihilate the Jews who are in all the king's provinces. For how can I endure to see the evil that will come to my people? Or how can I endure to see the destruction of my countrymen?"
[Here Esther wants to make absolutely sure that those decrees sent out by Haman get cancelled in time.]
Then King Ahasuerus said to Queen Esther and Mordecai the Jew, "Indeed, I have given Esther the house of Haman, and they have hanged him on the gallows because he tried to lay his hand on the Jews. You yourselves write a decree for the Jews, as you please, in the king's name, and seal it with the king's signet ring; for a letter which is written in the king's name and sealed with the king's signet ring no one can revoke." So the king's scribes were called at that time, in the third month, which is the month of Sivan, on the twenty-third day; and it was written, according to all that Mordecai commanded, to the Jews, the satraps, the governors, and the princes of the provinces from India to Ethiopia, one hundred and twenty-seven provinces in all, to every province in its own script, to every people in their own language, and to the Jews in their own script and language. And he wrote in the name of King Ahasuerus, sealed it with the king's signet ring, and sent letters by couriers on horseback, riding on royal horses bred from swift steeds.
[Again, no authentically Persian copies of those decrees have been found yet.]
By these letters the king permitted the Jews who were in every city to gather together and protect their lives--to destroy, kill, and annihilate all the forces of any people or province that would assault them, both little children and women, and to plunder their possessions, on one day in all the provinces of King Ahasuerus, on the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, which is the month of Adar. A copy of the document was to be issued as a decree in every province and published for all people, so that the Jews would be ready on that day to avenge themselves on their enemies. The couriers who rode on royal horses went out, hastened and pressed on by the king's command. And the decree was issued in Shushan the citadel. So Mordecai went out from the presence of the king in royal apparel of blue and white, with a great crown of gold and a garment of fine linen and purple; and the city of Shushan rejoiced and was glad. The Jews had light and gladness, joy and honor. And in every province and city, wherever the king's command and decree came, the Jews had joy and gladness, a feast and a holiday. Then many of the people of the land became Jews, because fear of the Jews fell upon them.
[The comment that "many of the people of the land became Jews" is interesting, because it implies that in those days one could "become a Jew" without having been physically born of Hebrew/Judean parents. It's also interesting to note that no other book in the canonized Old Testament uses the term "Jew" rather than "Hebrew" or "Judean." The last sentence in this chapter implies that many of those people "became Jews" at that time because they feared they would be killed if they didn't "become Jews." So now the Jews under Mordecai were beginning to act like King Nebuchadnezzar when he forced his subjects to worship a golden idol or be killed. As they say, "absolute power corrupts absolutely."]
Now in the twelfth month, that is, the month of Adar, on the thirteenth day, the time came for the king's command and his decree to be executed. On the day that the enemies of the Jews had hoped to overpower them, the opposite occurred, in that the Jews themselves overpowered those who hated them. The Jews gathered together in their cities throughout all the provinces of King Ahasuerus to lay hands on those who sought their harm. And no one could withstand them, because fear of them fell upon all people. And all the officials of the provinces, the satraps, the governors, and all those doing the king's work, helped the Jews, because the fear of Mordecai fell upon them. For Mordecai was great in the king's palace, and his fame spread throughout all the provinces; for this man Mordecai became increasingly prominent. Thus the Jews defeated all their enemies with the stroke of the sword, with slaughter and destruction, and did what they pleased with those who hated them. And in Shushan the citadel the Jews killed and destroyed five hundred men. Also Parshandatha, Dalphon, Aspatha, Poratha, Adalia, Aridatha, Parmashta, Arisai, Aridai, and Vajezatha--the ten sons of Haman the son of Hammedatha, the enemy of the Jews--they killed; but they did not lay a hand on the plunder. On that day the number of those who were killed in Shushan the citadel was brought to the king. And the king said to Queen Esther, "The Jews have killed and destroyed five hundred men in Shushan the citadel, and the ten sons of Haman. What have they done in the rest of the king's provinces? Now what is your petition? It shall be granted to you. Or what is your further request? It shall be done." Then Esther said, "If it pleases the king, let it be granted to the Jews who are in Shushan to do again tomorrow according to today's decree, and let Haman's ten sons be hanged on the gallows."
[So even Esther succumbed to the temptation to use her recently acquired influence in a deadly manner. Were all of Haman's ten sons involved in the plot to kill the Jews? Perhaps so. Or perhaps she was afraid to let them live, because each of them could one day become a vengeful prince.]
So the king commanded this to be done; the decree was issued in Shushan, and they hanged Haman's ten sons. And the Jews who were in Shushan gathered together again on the fourteenth day of the month of Adar and killed three hundred men at Shushan; but they did not lay a hand on the plunder. The remainder of the Jews in the king's provinces gathered together and protected their lives, had rest from their enemies, and killed seventy-five thousand of their enemies; but they did not lay a hand on the plunder. This was on the thirteenth day of the month of Adar. And on the fourteenth day of the month they rested and made it a day of feasting and gladness.
[I can understand how relieved those Jews must have felt knowing that the threat of their impending death had been lifted. But celebrating a day of "feasting and gladness" with the blood of seventy-five thousand people "on their hands" reminds me of the Argentinians dancing in the streets after their army had captured the Falkland Islands from the British, or like the Iraqis celebrating their capture of Kuwait, or the Palestinians cheering and dancing in the streets after they had torn to pieces two Israeli soldiers who had accidentally made a wrong turn into Palestinian territory. Such post-mortem "feasting and gladness" is inspired more by Satan than by God.]
But the Jews who were at Shushan assembled together on the thirteenth day, as well as on the fourteenth; and on the fifteenth of the month they rested, and made it a day of feasting and gladness. Therefore the Jews of the villages who dwelt in the unwalled towns celebrated the fourteenth day of the month of Adar with gladness and feasting, as a holiday, and for sending presents to one another. And Mordecai wrote these things and sent letters to all the Jews, near and far, who were in all the provinces of King Ahasuerus, to establish among them that they should celebrate yearly the fourteenth and fifteenth days of the month of Adar, as the days on which the Jews had rest from their enemies, as the month which was turned from sorrow to joy for them, and from mourning to a holiday; that they should make them days of feasting and joy, of sending presents to one another and gifts to the poor. So the Jews accepted the custom which they had begun, as Mordecai had written to them, because Haman, the son of Hammedatha the Agagite, the enemy of all the Jews, had plotted against the Jews to annihilate them, and had cast Pur (that is, the lot), to consume them and destroy them; but when Esther came before the king, he commanded by letter that this wicked plot which Haman had devised against the Jews should return on his own head, and that he and his sons should be hanged on the gallows. So they called these days Purim, after the name Pur.
[No other book in the canonized Old or New Testaments mentions "Purim."]
Therefore, because of all the words of this letter, what they had seen concerning this matter, and what had happened to them, the Jews established and imposed it upon themselves and their descendants and all who should join them, that without fail they should celebrate these two days every year, according to the written instructions and according to the prescribed time, that these days should be remembered and kept throughout every generation, every family, every province, and every city, that these days of Purim should not fail to be observed among the Jews, and that the memory of them should not perish among their descendants. Then Queen Esther, the daughter of Abihail, with Mordecai the Jew, wrote with full authority to confirm this second letter about Purim. And Mordecai sent letters to all the Jews, to the one hundred and twenty-seven provinces of the kingdom of Ahasuerus, with words of peace and truth, to confirm these days of Purim at their appointed time, as Mordecai the Jew and Queen Esther had prescribed for them, and as they had decreed for themselves and their descendants concerning matters of their fasting and lamenting.
So the decree of Esther confirmed these matters of Purim, and it was written.
[This implies that the author or compiler/editor of the book of Esther had some of Mordecai's letters and at least one of Esther's letters in his possession when this book was created. Portions of those letters may also be reflected in the apocryphal chapters of Esther.]
And King Ahasuerus imposed tribute on the land and on the islands of the sea. Now all the acts of his power and his might, and the account of the greatness of Mordecai, to which the king advanced him, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Media and Persia? For Mordecai the Jew was second to King Ahasuerus, and was great among the Jews and well received by the multitude of his brethren, seeking the good of his people and speaking peace to all his countrymen.
[This editorial comment implies that after that bloodbath, Mordecai eventually "mellowed out" and ended up promoting peace among all of his countrymen. The "chronicles of the kings of Media and Persia" have yet to be found.]
If the story described in the book of Esther is indeed authentic, then more likely than not, there would be no "Jews" in today's world were it not for the efforts and "genetic contributions" of the descendants of the Canaanite women whom Abraham considered to be unfit to marry his son Isaac. The story of Esther is another in a long series of examples in the Bible (and throughout history) where God has demonstrated HIS DISAPPROVAL of the traditional Hebrew doctrine of placing restrictions of their definition of neighbor based on "race."
(one grain of salt)
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Last modified on Friday, May 03, 2002