Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
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;)1. when the king’s commandment] Beginning with these words, and extending to the end of this long verse, is a series of clauses, thus postponing the actual narrative. The writer’s motive for this lengthened protasis may well be the literary effect of suggesting thereby the suspense which prevailed during the intervening period.
Chap. Esther 9:1-10. Overthrow of the Jews’ enemies
The story, omitting the intermediate months of preparation, now passes to the date fixed by the decree for the Jews’ overthrow.
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.2. to lay hand on such as sought their hurt] Thus it was open to the Jews to assume the offensive, and not necessarily await an attack. They would no doubt be guided by their familiarity with the circumstances of each locality and consequently with the most advisable tactics to adopt.
the fear of them was fallen upon all the peoples] Hence the resistance was half-hearted.
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.3. they that did the king’s business] See on Esther 3:9.
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.
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.6. in Shushan the palace] The word seems to have a somewhat wider sense here than earlier in the Book (see note on Esther 1:2), meaning perhaps royal city. Bloodshed within the palace proper would not have been permitted, and even in the fortress connected with it this number would scarcely have been reached.
And Parshandatha, and Dalphon, and Aspatha,7–9. Most if not all of these names are apparently of Persian origin, and this circumstance is against the supposition that this was not Haman’s nationality as well. The Heb. text exhibits peculiarities in arrangement and orthography. The ten names are placed vertically. According to Jewish tradition this is to indicate that they were hung one above another on an exceedingly lofty gallows. Moreover, the first letter of the last name is written large, and one of those composing the second, seventh, and tenth names is made smaller than its neighbours. The reason for these peculiarities remains obscure. Evidently at an early date the words became subject to extensive corruption. The LXX. text differs widely.
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.10. on the spoil they laid not their hand] although according to the terms of the edict (Esther 8:11) they had a legal right to do this. Their desire was deliverance and also vengeance, but not material gain. Cp. the case of Abraham, when he refused to make himself liable to the imputation that he had been enriched by his overthrow of the king of Sodom’s enemies (Genesis 14:23).
On that day the number of those that were slain in Shushan the palace was brought before the king.
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.11–19. Institution of memorial celebrations
12. what then have they done in the rest of the king’s provinces!] It is best to take this, not, with A.V., as an actual question, but as meaning, It is superfluous to enquire how extensive the slaughter must be throughout the Empire as a whole, when Shushan alone has yielded so many victims.
Now what is thy petition?] The question implies that the king perceives that Esther is not yet satisfied.
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.13. There may have been special reasons why the extension of time was needed in Susa in order to ensure the Jews’ complete success in exterminating their foes there. The attitude of Esther and Mordecai towards the whole question of the permissibility of revenge was naturally that of their contemporaries, and so it is not to be judged by us on Christian principles.
be hanged upon the gallows] She asks that the bodies may be impaled or hung on a gibbet, so as to crown their disgrace, and serve as a terrible example.
And the king commanded it so to be done: and the decree was given at Shushan; and they hanged Haman's ten sons.
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.
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,
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.18. The inability of the Jews dwelling in Shushan to make their festival synchronize with that of their countrymen elsewhere brought about the custom that both the fourteenth and the fifteenth days should be kept. Such is the habit of the Jews to this day, except that the former day is held to be the chief one in the observance (see note on Esther 3:13). In 2Ma 15:36 the 14th of Adar is called ‘the day of Mordecai.’
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.19. the Jews of the villages, that dwell in the unwalled towns, make etc.] not ‘dwelt’ and ‘made’ as in the A.V. The writer is describing the custom of his own day as arising out of the circumstances here recounted. He implies that in his time the Jews who did not come under the above description followed the date at which those in Shushan celebrated their deliverance. The LXX., however, inserts a clause to this effect, viz. ‘But those who dwell in the chief cities keep the fifteenth day of Adar as a day of glad feasting, and of sending portions likewise to their neighbours.’
and of sending portions one to another] i.e. that the poor might share in the happiness of the occasion. The same procedure was enjoined by Nehemiah (Nehemiah 8:10; Nehemiah 8:12) at the proclamation of the Law in his time. It was in accordance with the ordinance (Deuteronomy 16:11; Deuteronomy 16:14) that the enjoyment of the Feast of Weeks should be extended to ‘the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow.’ The custom of sending gifts (usually sweetmeats) is still preserved at Purim.
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,20–28. Mordecai’s injunctions for the keeping of Purim
20. And Mordecai wrote these things] Mordecai’s position as a Jew, who had attained to the office of grand vizier, seems to have been regarded as giving him, under the circumstances, a right to impose upon the Jews within the king of Persia’s dominions a new annual celebration. It is best to take ‘these things’ to mean so much of the story as appeared needful by way of explanation of the circumstances of the deliverance, as calling for a commemorative festival. We may notice that in this letter, unlike the second (Esther 9:29-32), there is no reference to any but the joyous side of the commemoration.
To stablish this among them, that they should keep the fourteenth day of the month Adar, and the fifteenth day of the same, yearly,
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.22. as the days … a good day] This has the character of a parenthesis, the preceding clause being taken up again in the words ‘that they should make them’ etc.
And the Jews undertook to do as they had begun, and as Mordecai had written unto them;23. undertook] assumed the obligation.
to do as they had begun] to continue to keep the celebration on the fourteenth day of Adar.
and as Mordecai had written unto them] i.e. to keep the celebration on the following day as well.
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;24. Pur, that is, the lot] See on Esther 3:7.
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.25. the matter] A.V. inserts Esther as the subject of the verb. In the original it is simply the feminine pronoun, which however in Heb. may also stand for the neuter.
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,26. The Feast of Purim comes in early spring, a month before Passover. The previous day is kept as a fast in memory of the Shushan Jews’ fast (Esther 4:16).
Purim, after the name of Pur] i.e. they gave the Persian word a Hebrew plural.
letter] The original (’iggereth) is a late Heb. word, probably of Assyrian origin, cognate to the Greek angareuein (ἀγγαρεύειν). See note on Esther 3:13.
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;27. upon all such as joined themselves unto them] i.e. proselytes.
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.
Then Esther the queen, the daughter of Abihail, and Mordecai the Jew, wrote with all authority, to confirm this second letter of Purim.29. the daughter of Abihail] She was probably thus designated in the letter itself.
letter] See on Esther 9:26.
29–32. Further injunctions on the part of Esther and Mordecai
The Jews having readily agreed to the directions which Mordecai had given in the first letter, and expressed their readiness (Esther 9:28) to accept the obligation of keeping the annual festival as a perpetual one, a second communication is sent out to them, viz. a joint letter of Esther and Mordecai. An increased weight is given to it, as compared with the former, by the addition of the name of the queen who is also the heroine of the story. Moreover, in it the Jews are bidden to remember as well the duty of the preceding fast, even as Mordecai and Esther themselves fasted in the time of peril. But see note on Esther 9:31.
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,
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.31. to confirm] It has been suggested that the former communications from Mordecai were only a recommendation, while this joint letter from him and Esther was intended to render the matter obligatory. Against such a view, however, is the fact that the word in the original here rendered ‘to confirm’ is the same as that translated ‘to enjoin’ in Esther 9:21.
in the matter of the fastings and their cry] The words may be a gloss. They are not found in the LXX., and the Heb. word translated ‘fastings’ does not occur in this exact form elsewhere.
And the decree of Esther confirmed these matters of Purim; and it was written in the book.32. in the book] not meaning the Book of Esther, but most likely the book from which the compiler drew this part of his materials.