Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
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.VIII.
(1) Did . . . give the house of Haman.—Confiscation of goods necessarily followed on a sentence of death in the East. So, with ourselves, a convicted felon’s property is forfeited to the Crown.
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.(2) Took off his ring . . . and gave it unto Mordecai.—Constituting him thereby his Vizier, who would thus authenticate a royal decree, and by having, as it were, carte blanche given him for the time, would for that time save his master all further trouble. Mordecai’s position had now become what Daniel’s had been to Darius, that nobler servant to a worthier lord (see Daniel 6:2, 38). He was the queen’s cousin, and he had on one occasion been the means of saving the king’s life, and therefore starts under distinctly favourable auspices.
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.(3) Besought him . . . to put away the mischief.—Esther’s work was as yet only half done. She has seen the condemnation of the foe of her race, and the exaltation of her kinsman to his office. But the royal edict sent out against the Jews still remains valid, and being a written decree, sealed with the king’s seal, is supposed to be beyond the possibility of alteration. It was not, therefore, a case where Mordecai’s newly-acquired dignity would authorise him to interfere, and therefore Esther, who, now that the ice is once broken, becomes more courageous, makes a fresh appeal to the king to do what theoretically was beyond the king’s power.
Then the king held out the golden sceptre toward Esther. So Esther arose, and stood before the king,(4) The king held out the golden sceptre.—See Note on Esther 4:11.
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) To reverse.—Rather, to bring back, to recall. Esther shows considerable skill in wording her request. She avoids speaking of the king’s letters, but calls them “the letters, the device of Haman, which he wrote.” It is the king, however, to whom the injury is done—“to destroy the Jews which are in all the king’s provinces.”
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.(8) Write ye. . . .—Esther’s device is seen through, and the king shrinks from taking so decisive a step as the revocation of a decree once issued. Such a writing “may no man reverse.” Still he will do what he can. It may be possible to meet the difficulty, and save the Jews, without actual reversal of the decree. The king then refers to the proofs of his goodwill, as shown by hanging Haman for his scheme against the Jews, and giving his property to Esther, and bids Esther and Mordecai “write concerning the Jews according to what seems good in your eyes.” Give, that is, any orders you please about them, short of repealing the former order. The result of this permission, whether the idea was suggested by the king, or occurred to Esther or Mordecai, was that authority was given to the Jews to defend themselves.
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) The month Sivan.—This name also occurs in Baruch 1:8. Sivan began with the new moon in May. Rather more than two months had thus passed since the first edict had been sent out.
Lieutenants.—Satraps. (See Note on Esther 3:12.)
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) Posts.—The posts. Literally, the runners. (See Note on Esther 1:22.)
Riders on mules.—Rather, on horses of great speed; the “swift beast “of Micah 1:13.
Camels, and young dromedaries.—The words thus translated occur only here, and there is much doubt as to the meaning. It may suffice to mention two renderings :—(1) “Mules, the offspring of royal mares “—so Gesenius; or (2) we may connect the former word with the Persian word meaning royal—so Canon Rawlinson, who translates the whole clause, riders upon coursers of the king’s stud, offspring of high-bred steeds.”
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) To stand for their life.—It will be noticed that, so far at any rate as the edict authorises, the Jews are not permitted to take the initiative, but merely to stand on the defensive. As it was, it was risking civil war in all the cities of the empire, though the results were considerably lessened by numbers of people taking the hint obviously presented by the second edict. “Many of the people of the land became Jews, for the fear of the Jews came upon them.”
Take the spoil of them.—We find that when the storm actually came, the Jews declined to take advantage of this part of the edict.
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.(13) To avenge themselves on their enemies.—The Hebrew word used here “does not necessarily signify a violent emotion of a resentful spirit, but a steady resolve to defend the right; it is used of the Almighty Himself, rescuing the oppressed, defending the right, and punishing the assailant and the oppressor” (Wordsworth).
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) Mules and camels.—See above on Esther 8:10.
Being hastened.—Why this haste, seeing there yet remained nearly nine months (wanting ten days) before the first edict would come into play? There may probably have been fears lest the first edict, which indicated a distinct animus of the Court against the Jews, might have been interpreted freely, according to the spirit of it, and the date anticipated by eager partisans.
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) Blue and white.—See Note on Esther 1:6.
Crown.—This is a different word from that previously used of a “royal crown” (Esther 6:8).
Garment.—The inner robe or tunic. That of the king was of purple striped with white.
The city of Shushan rejoiced.—The tide of royal favour had changed, and the people of Shushan were evidently not very different from the mass of the populace of the present day, who shout with the winning side. Nothing succeeds like success, and the mobile vulgus of Susa cheered Mordecai as doubtless they would have hooted had they seen him led to execution. The crowds who welcomed our Lord into Jerusalem on His triumphal entry soon let their enthusiasm die away—“ Hosanna!” now; tomorrow, “Crucify!”
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) Became Jews.—That is, embraced their religion as proselytes.