Esther 8
Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
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.
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 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.
Chap. Esther 8:3-17. Arrangements for the deliverance of the Jews

3. spake yet again before the king] thus apparently taking the risk of again entering his presence unsummoned, but, under the new circumstances, free from such forebodings of evil as those which had attended her previous essay.

to put away the mischief etc.] This first form of request (cp. Esther 8:5) was vague. Her anxiety is still for her people, Haman’s fall not of itself securing their deliverance from danger. Mordecai, even in his access to fortune and royal favour, seems to think it safest that Esther, and not he, should make the needful appeal.

Then the king held out the golden sceptre toward Esther. So Esther arose, and stood before the king,
4. held out to Esther the golden sceptre] Cp. Esther 4:11, Esther 5:2. On this occasion, however, the king’s action was not in order to permit approach with a petition, but in token of the favourable hearing granted to a request already made.

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:
5. If it please etc.] The long preface to the definite request shews some doubt on Esther’s part whether it will be granted.

to reverse the letters devised by Haman … which he wrote] She is careful to represent it as the work of Haman and not of the king. The latter however points out in reply that what has received the authority of the king’s seal ‘may no man reverse.’ The most that can now be done is to address to all concerned (intended victims and governors alike) letters equally authoritative, which shall have the effect of neutralising, so far as may be possible, those which have already gone forth. That the king’s sympathies are now wholly on the side of the Jews he emphasizes in Esther 8:7.

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.
7, 8. Ahasuerus says in effect, ‘I cannot reverse the decree. It is not, as you suggest, merely Haman’s. It has been promulgated with my authority, and hence immutability attaches to it. But think of some means by which it may be neutralised.’

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.
9. In the Hebrew this is the longest verse in the Hagiographa, consisting of 43 words and 192 letters. It may be added that the longest in the Prophets is Jeremiah 21:7, consisting of 42 words and 160 letters. (See the critical notes on these passages in Baer’s Massoretic Text of the O.T.)

in the third month, which is the month Sivan] the Babylonian siman(n)u. The derivation is uncertain. It corresponded to the last half of May and the first half of June.

on the three and twentieth day thereof] Haman’s letters had been sent out on the thirteenth day of the first month (Esther 3:12 f.), and thus had had two months and ten days start.

the satraps, and the governors and princes] See on Esther 3:12.

an hundred twenty and seven provinces etc.] See on Esther 1:1.

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:
10. riding on swift steeds] As time was an object, it was important that the messengers should be well mounted. Both Herodotus (viii. 98) and Xenophon (Cyrop. viii. 6. 17) speak of horses only as being used in Persia to carry despatches.

that were used in the king’s service] This corresponds to but one word in the original, which occurs only in this passage, and is a Hebraised form adapted from the Persian khshatra, lordship, realm, or khshatram, a crown, which is also the source of kether, a crown (Esther 1:11, Esther 2:17, Esther 6:8), and of the Greek κίδαρις.

bred of the stud] perhaps literally, sons of the (royal) mares. The word rendered ‘stud’ occurs here only in the Bible. In later Hebrew it means a mule born of a mare and he-ass. The LXX. and Vulgate, probably having no clue to the meaning of the words, much abbreviate the latter part of this verse, having merely, they sent the letters (Vulg. the letters were sent) by couriers.

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,
11. The LXX. express the permission in much gentler form, viz. ‘to defend themselves and to treat their adversaries and foes as they please.’ But the author of the Book evidently means to bring out forcibly the fact that the parts which by the first decree had been assigned respectively to the Jews and their foes are now reversed.

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.
14. swift steeds that were used in the king’s service] See on Esther 8:10.

being hastened and pressed on] The increased need for promptitude is indicated by the two synonymous participles, of which only the latter is used at the sending out of the first edict.

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.
15. in royal apparel of blue and white] by way of indicating externally the revulsion of feeling. The Persian king’s own robe was purple, or purple embroidered with gold over another garment of purple striped or mixed with white. See Rawlinson’s Anc. Mon. (2nd ed.), iii. 203.

crown] not kether, that of the monarch, but ‘aṭârâh, which may have been a less rich one.

a robe of fine linen and purple] The LXX. erroneously translate ‘a diadem’ etc. The king wore a diadem consisting of a blue and white band or fillet, encircling the lower part of the crown.

The description as regards the sentiments both of Mordecai and the city is worded so as to present a sharp contrast with that of the earlier condition of affairs (Esther 3:15, Esther 4:1).

shouted] The Heb. verb denotes joy audibly expressed. Thus the A.V.’s ‘rejoiced’ is inadequate.

The Jews had light, and gladness, and joy, and honour.
16. The Jews had light etc.] The expression reminds us of the Prayer Book Version of Psalm 97:11, ‘There is sprung up a light for the righteous.’ Cp. also Psalm 27:1; Psalm 36:9, for ‘light’ used, as here, metaphorically as equivalent to prosperity and joy.

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.
17. a good day] The expression, occurring also in Esther 9:19; Esther 9:22, is found elsewhere only in 1 Samuel 25:8.

became Jews] The LXX. have, ‘were circumcised and became Jews.’ They became proselytes in order to secure themselves, in the face of the increased importance and position which the Jews were attaining through Mordecai. Owing, however, to the apparent improbability of a large number of actual proselytes to Judaism among the Persians—an occurrence of which there is no record outside this passage—it has been suggested that by a very slight change in one Heb. letter we should obtain the meaning, united themselves (to the Jews), i.e. took their side in the conflict. Cp. ‘joined themselves unto them’ (Esther 9:27). It is however possible that the verb in the Hebrew[78] might mean, pretended to become Jews.

[78] Being in the Hithpa‘el voice.

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