Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
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;)IX.
(1) Drew near.—Arrived, came, as in Esther 8:17.
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.—How far the Jews acted according to the strict letter of the edict, and “stood for their lives” only when attacked, is perhaps to be doubted. They had on their side all the executive of the empire (Esther 9:3), and evidently to all intents and purposes the second edict was considered virtually to repeal the first. The Jews, therefore, being in favour at Court, and, as was not unnatural after their alarm, being now full of indignation and vengeance, were probably resolved to use their opportunities while they had the chance. If so, who could object so long as they did nothing against the authorities? and they, we have seen, were on their side. That they did make a bloody use of their opportunity is shown clearly by Esther 9:16.
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) Helped.—Literally, lifted up. The same Hebrew verb is rendered furthered (Ezra 8:36).
And in Shushan the palace the Jews slew and destroyed five hundred men.(6) The palace.—Doubtless the whole royal city, rather than the palace strictly so called. It is obvious that even Xerxes would hardly have allowed bloodshed, otherwise than by his direct orders, within the precincts of the palace.
And Parshandatha, and Dalphon, and Aspatha,(7-9) The names of the ten sons of Haman are, except Adalia, all readily traceable to old Persian roots. It may be noted that in a Hebrew Bible the ten names are written vertically, one under the other, in a column; and the Targum or Chaldee paraphrase says that the ten sons were hanged one above the other at fixed distances.
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 laid they not their hand.—This they might have done, according to the edict (Esther 8:11).
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) Then said Esther . . .—In the terse words of the heading, “Ahasuerus, at the request of Esther, granteth another day of slaughter, and Hainan’s sons to be hanged.” It seems impossible here to acquit Esther of simple blood - thirstiness. Before the slaughter of the 13th of Adar was actually over, it is obvious that the Jews were no longer in any danger. It was known that the sympathies of the Court were entirely with the Jews, and the officers of the king consequently took their part. After one day’s slaughter, in which in the capital alone 500 men were killed, we may be quite certain that the Jews were masters of the situation, and therefore we do not hesitate to call Esther’s fresh action needless butchery. Were anything needed to bring out the matter in its true light, it might be seen in the request that the sons of Haman might be hanged. They had already been killed (Esther 9:10), doubtless among the first, and Esther, therefore, asks for the dead bodies to be crucified, a gratuitous outrage on the dead. Because Esther was a person whom God made use of as an agent for a great purpose, we are not called upon to tone down and explain away the black spots in her history. To suggest that Esther had reason to fear “a renewal of the attacks of the enemies of the Jews” is out of the question, when the Jews had their feet on their necks. We must not, on the other hand, judge Esther according to the high Christian standard. It is true that the Old Testament taught “vengeance is Mine” but it needed the teaching of the New Testament to bring that truth home to men.
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.(15) For the Jews . . .—Translate, And the Jews.
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,(16) Seventy and five thousand.—The number as given in the LXX. is fifteen thousand, perhaps a more probable number. On the whole history, Bishop Wordsworth well remarks, “It shows the recklessness of human life, even of their own subjects, which then prevailed among the sovereigns of the most celebrated nations of the Eastern world; and it displays the ruinous consequences which would have resulted to human civilisation if Ahasuerus (Xerxes) had been victorious at Salamis. If Greece had not triumphed in that struggle with Asia, Oriental ruthlessness and Oriental polygamy might have become dominant in the West, and greater difficulties would have obstructed the progress of civilisation and Christianity. The Book of Esther reveals to us that the hand of God wrought for the deliverance of mankind at the Straits of Salamis, and on the banks of the Asopus at Platæa, as well as for the preservation of the Jews in the provinces of Persia.”
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) On the fifteenth day . . . they rested.—Both the fourteenth and fifteenth days are now kept as the festival of Purim, the former day being the chief.
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 . . . the unwalled towns.—Virtually the same Hebrew word is used in both these cases (perazim, perazoth). The meaning is that of country towns, undefended by bulwarks, or, at any rate, not in the sense in which the capital would be. We find the word used in contrast with “fenced cities” in Deuteronomy 3:5.
To stablish this among them, that they should keep the fourteenth day of the month Adar, and the fifteenth day of the same, yearly,(21) And the fifteenth day of the same.—The Jews in the provinces had already made the fourteenth day a day of gladness and feasting. Mordecai now bids that the fifteenth also be so kept.
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.—See above 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) Esther.—It will be seen that in the English Version this word is printed in italics. The Hebrew is literally, and on her (or its) coming. To make the pronoun refer to Esther seems harsh, seeing that she has not been mentioned for some time, and we therefore prefer to make it impersonal, “when it (i.e., the matter) came.”
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) Purim.—As we have already stated, the festival of Purim is still observed by the Jews, on the 14th and 15th of Adar, the day preceding being kept as a fast. At Purim, the whole Book of Esther is read through in the service in the synagogues, a custom that can be traced back at any rate to the Christian era (2 Maccabees 15:36; Josephus, Ant. xi. 6. 13; Mishna, Bosh ha-Shanah, iii. 7).
Then Esther the queen, the daughter of Abihail, and Mordecai the Jew, wrote with all authority, to confirm this second letter of Purim.(29) This second letter.—It seems to us that the first letter must be that extracted from the king by Esther (Esther 8:8), and consequently this “second letter “is Mordecai’s (Esther 9:20), which is now confirmed in a more authoritative way.
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,(30) The letters.—Omit the article.
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 . . . enjoined . . . decreed.—The same Hebrew verb stands for the three different English verbs; it is also the stablish of Esther 9:21. To fix or settle represents the meaning.
The matters of the fastings and their cry.—These words come in rather awkwardly, and hence, and because they are passed over by the LXX., some have doubted their genuineness here. All Hebrew MSS., however, and all the other ancient versions, retain the words, and we must, therefore, suppose that the Jews throughout the empire had instituted fasts and lamentations, in addition to what Mordecai’s letter had enjoined, Thus we may probably connect this with the fast now observed on Adar 13.
And the decree of Esther confirmed these matters of Purim; and it was written in the book.(32) In the book.—It is doubtful what “the book” here means. The Vulgate explains it of the Book of Esther itself, and so many modern scholars. Still “the book” hardly seems a natural Hebrew way of referring to a work on the part of its author as he writes it, and no similar case is adducible. Others think it must have been a book written at the time on the subject of the festival, which is, perhaps, possible. Canon Rawlinson identifies it with “the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Media and Persia.” Because such is the use of the word book elsewhere in Esther.