After these things did king Ahasuerus promote Haman the son of Hammedatha the Agagite, and advanced him, and set his seat above all the princes that were with him.Esther 3:1. After these things — About five years after, as appears from Esther 3:7. Did Ahasuerus promote Haman the Agagite — An Amalekite, of the seed-royal of that nation, whose kings were successively called Agag. And set his seat above all the princes — Gave him the first place and seat which was next the king.
And all the king's servants, that were in the king's gate, bowed, and reverenced Haman: for the king had so commanded concerning him. But Mordecai bowed not, nor did him reverence.Esther 3:2. For the king had so commanded concerning him — To bow the knee, and give reverence to all great persons, was a common respect due to them, and there needed not a particular command from the king requiring it to be shown by all his servants to Haman; since, no doubt, they paid it to all princes, and would much more pay it to him who took place of them all, and was his sovereign’s favourite. There was therefore, probably, more implied in the reverence commanded to be paid to him than what proceeded from a mere civil respect. The kings of Persia, we know, required a kind of divine adoration from all who approached them; and, as they arrogated this to themselves, so they sometimes imparted it to their chief friends and favourites, which seems to have been the case with regard to Haman at this time. And if so, we need not wonder that a righteous Jew should deny that honour, or the outward expressions of it, to any man; since the wise and sober Grecians positively refused to give it to their very kings themselves, the people of Athens once passing sentence of death on one Timocrates, a citizen of theirs, for prostrating himself before Darius, though he was then one of the greatest monarchs upon earth. The author of the apocryphal additions to the book of Esther seems to imply that this was the case of Mordecai, whom he introduces praying thus, chap. Est 13:12, &c. “Thou knowest, O Lord, that it is not in contempt, or pride, nor for any desire of glory, that I did not bow down to proud Haman, for I would willingly kiss his feet for the salvation of Israel; but I did this, that I might not prefer the glory of man to the glory of God, nor adore any one but thee my Lord alone.” See Valer. Max., lib. 6, cap. 3. We may observe further here, that Mordecai should refuse to pay such obeisance, as all others paid to Haman at this time, will appear the less strange, if we consider that Haman being of that nation against which God pronounced a curse, (Exodus 17:14,) Mordecai might think himself, on this account, not obliged to pay him the reverence which he expected; and if the rest of the Jews had the like notion of him, this might be a reason sufficient for his extending his resentment against the whole nation. See Dodd.
Then the king's servants, which were in the king's gate, said unto Mordecai, Why transgressest thou the king's commandment?
Now it came to pass, when they spake daily unto him, and he hearkened not unto them, that they told Haman, to see whether Mordecai's matters would stand: for he had told them that he was a Jew.Esther 3:4. To see whether Mordecai’s matters would stand — Whether he would persist in his refusal, and what the event of it would be; for he had told them that he was a Jew — And therefore did not deny this reverence to Haman out of pride, or any personal grudge against him, much less from a rebellious mind, and contempt of the king’s authority and command, but merely out of conscience, being obliged, as a Jew, to give such honour to God only.
And when Haman saw that Mordecai bowed not, nor did him reverence, then was Haman full of wrath.Esther 3:5. Then was Haman full of rage — Josephus tells us, that Haman, taking notice of this singularity in Mordecai, asked him what countryman he was, and finding him to be a Jew, broke out into a violent exclamation at his insolence, and in his rage formed the desperate resolution, not only to be revenged on Mordecai, but to destroy the whole race of the Jews; well remembering that his ancestors, the Amalekites, had been formerly driven out of their country, and almost exterminated by the Jews.
And he thought scorn to lay hands on Mordecai alone; for they had shewed him the people of Mordecai: wherefore Haman sought to destroy all the Jews that were throughout the whole kingdom of Ahasuerus, even the people of Mordecai.Esther 3:6. And he thought scorn to lay hands on Mordecai alone — He thought that particular vengeance was unsuitable to his quality, and to the greatness of the injury; wherefore Haman sought to destroy all the Jews — Which he attempted from that implacable hatred which, as an Amalekite, he had against them; from his rage against Mordecai; and from Mordecai’s reason of this contempt, because he was a Jew, which, as he truly judged, extended itself to all the Jews, and would equally engage them all in the same neglect. And doubtless Haman included, those who were returned to their own land; for that was now a province of his kingdom.
In the first month, that is, the month Nisan, in the twelfth year of king Ahasuerus, they cast Pur, that is, the lot, before Haman from day to day, and from month to month, to the twelfth month, that is, the month Adar.Esther 3:7. They cast Pur, that is, the lot — “Haman, being determined to destroy Mordecai and the Jews, called together his diviners, to find out what day would be most lucky for his putting this design into execution. The way of divination, then in use among the eastern people, was by casting lots; and therefore having tried in this manner, first each month, and then each day in every month, they came to a determination at last, that the thirteenth day of the twelfth month would be most fortunate for the bloody execution. It was in the first month of the year when Haman began to cast lots, and the time for the execution of the Jews was by these lots delayed till the last month of the year; which plainly shows, that though the lot be cast into the lap, yet the whole disposing thereof is from the Lord, Proverbs 16:33. For hereby almost a whole year intervened between the design and its execution, which gave time for Mordecai to acquaint Queen Esther with it, and for her to intercede with the king for the revoking or suspending the decree, and thereby preventing the conspiracy. The reader will find this decree in Joseph. Antiq., lib. 11, cap. 6. Houbigant renders this verse, The lot, which is called Pur, was drawn before Haman from day to day, from month to month, for the twelfth month.” See Poole and Dodd.
And Haman said unto king Ahasuerus, There is a certain people scattered abroad and dispersed among the people in all the provinces of thy kingdom; and their laws are diverse from all people; neither keep they the king's laws: therefore it is not for the king's profit to suffer them.Esther 3:8. And Haman said unto King Ahasuerus — After he had found which would be a lucky day for putting his design into execution; There is a certain people scattered abroad — Mean and contemptible, not worthy to be named; and dispersed among the people — Who therefore, if tolerated, may poison all thy subjects with their pernicious principles, and whom thou mayest easily crush, without any great noise or difficulty; in all the provinces of thy kingdom — For though many of their brethren were returned to their own land, yet great numbers of them stayed behind, either because they preferred their ease and worldly advantages before their spiritual profit, or they wanted conveniences or opportunity for removing; and their laws are diverse from all people — They have rites, and customs, and a religion peculiar to themselves; and therefore are justly offensive to all thy subjects, and may either infect them with their notions, or occasion great dissensions and distractions among them; neither keep they the king’s laws — As is manifest by Mordecai’s bold contempt of thy late edict concerning me, which contempt being shown by him as a Jew, the whole nation are involved in his crime, and are prepared to do the same when they have occasion; therefore it is not for the king’s profit to suffer them — To wit, to live in this kingdom. I do not seek herein so much my own revenge as thy service.
If it please the king, let it be written that they may be destroyed: and I will pay ten thousand talents of silver to the hands of those that have the charge of the business, to bring it into the king's treasuries.Esther 3:9. Let it be written that they may be destroyed — Let a written edict from the king be published for that purpose; and I will pay ten thousand talents of silver — Whether these were Hebrew, or Babylonish, or Grecian talents, we cannot certainly know. But whichsoever they were, it was a vast sum to be paid by a private person, being probably above three millions sterling, and shows how outrageously he was bent on the destruction of the Jews. But undoubtedly Haman expected to get that sum, and much more, by seizing on all their effects. To the hands of those that have the charge of the business — Not of those who should have the charge to kill them, but of those that received the king’s money, as appears by the next words, to bring it into the king’s treasuries.
And the king took his ring from his hand, and gave it unto Haman the son of Hammedatha the Agagite, the Jews' enemy.Esther 3:10. And the king took his ring from his hand, &c. — Without any examination into the condition of the people, he consented to their destruction. So loath are men that love their pleasure to take any pains to distinguish between truth and falsehood. And gave it unto Haman — That he might keep it as a badge of his supreme authority under the king, and that he might use it for the sealing of this decree which was now made, or of any other that might be made hereafter. The Agagite, the Jews’ enemy — Such he was, both by inclination, as he was an Amalekite, and especially by this destructive design and resolution.
And the king said unto Haman, The silver is given to thee, the people also, to do with them as it seemeth good to thee.Esther 3:11. The silver is given to thee — Keep it for thy own use, I do not desire it. I accept thy offer for the deed. So that he gave him power to draw up what decree he pleased, and seal it with the king’s ring; but as for the money, he assured him he would have none of it. What inhumanity was this! to give so many people unheard to death to please a favourite!
Then were the king's scribes called on the thirteenth day of the first month, and there was written according to all that Haman had commanded unto the king's lieutenants, and to the governors that were over every province, and to the rulers of every people of every province according to the writing thereof, and to every people after their language; in the name of king Ahasuerus was it written, and sealed with the king's ring.Esther 3:12-13. Then were the king’s scribes called — This he did so speedily, though it was a year before the intended execution, lest the king should change his mind, either through his own clemency, or the persuasion of others. It was, however, not wisely judged to let his design be known so long before it was to take effect; for the Jews might find some way to deliver themselves, or might steal out of the kingdom: but undoubtedly this was so ordered by the overruling providence of God. And to take the spoil of them for a prey — Which was to induce the people to use the greater severity and readiness to execute this edict for their own advantage.
And the letters were sent by posts into all the king's provinces, to destroy, to kill, and to cause to perish, all Jews, both young and old, little children and women, in one day, even upon the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, which is the month Adar, and to take the spoil of them for a prey.
The copy of the writing for a commandment to be given in every province was published unto all people, that they should be ready against that day.Esther 3:14-15. The copy of the writing to be given in every province — Copies of this original decree of the king were sent into every province, and there ordered to be published, requiring the people to be ready against the day appointed. The posts went out, being hastened by the king’s commandment — Either by this decree made in the king’s name, or by some particular and succeeding command which Haman obtained from the king. And the king and Haman sat down to drink — Haman was afraid, probably, lest the king’s conscience should smite him for what he had done, and he should begin to wish it undone again; to prevent which he engrossed him to himself, and kept him drinking. This cursed method many take to drown their convictions, and harden their own hearts, and the hearts of others, in sin. But the city Shushan was perplexed — Not only the Jews, but a great number of the citizens, either because they were related to them, or engaged with them in worldly concerns; or out of humanity and compassion toward so vast a number of innocent people, appointed as sheep for the slaughter. They might apprehend likewise that, upon the execution of the decree, some sedition or tumult might ensue; that in so great a slaughter it was hard to tell who would escape without being killed or plundered, because those who were employed in this bloody work would be more mindful to enrich themselves than to observe their orders. They might also fear that a public judgment from God would come upon them all for so bloody a decree.
We see in the exaltation of Haman, recorded in this chapter, and in his subsequent fall, that God sometimes permits wicked men to arrive at the highest degree of honour and power, but that he soon brings them low, and exposes them to shame and misery. And we learn by the sequel of this history, that he suffered things to proceed to extremities, only the more effectually to confound Haman; and convince the Jews, in a more surprising manner, of his care and protection. We see also the sin and folly of Ahasuerus, in giving credit too easily to Haman’s suggestion against the Jews, by which credulity he had well nigh occasioned many millions of innocent persons to perish. This shows how dangerous it is to listen to detracters, and that we ought never to credit evil reports till we have first inquired and ascertained the truth of them.
The posts went out, being hastened by the king's commandment, and the decree was given in Shushan the palace. And the king and Haman sat down to drink; but the city Shushan was perplexed.