Esther 3:8
And Haman said to king Ahasuerus, There is a certain people scattered abroad and dispersed among the people in all the provinces of your 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.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(8) A certain people scattered abroad . . .—A certain part of the nation had returned with Zerub-babel, but (Ezra 2:64) these only amounted to 42,360, so that the great majority of the nation had preferred to stay comfortably where they were in the various districts of the Persian Empire.

Neither keep they . . .—The charge of disloyalty has been a favourite weapon in the hands of persecutors. Haman was not the first who had brought this charge against the Jews (see Ezra 4:13; Ezra 4:16). Our Lord’s accusers were those who knew no king but Cæsar. The early Christians found to their cost how deadly was the accusation of disloyalty to the Empire.

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.3:7-15 Without some acquaintance with the human heart, and the history of mankind, we should not think that any prince could consent to a dreadful proposal, so hurtful to himself. Let us be thankful for mild and just government. Haman inquires, according to his own superstitions, how to find a lucky day for the designed massacre! God's wisdom serves its own purposes by men's folly. Haman has appealed to the lot, and the lot, by delaying the execution, gives judgment against him. The event explains the doctrine of a particular providence over all the affairs of men, and the care of God over his church. Haman was afraid lest the king's conscience should smite him for what he had done; to prevent which, he kept him drinking. This cursed method many often take to drown convictions, and to harden their own hearts, and the hearts of others, in sin. All appeared in a favourable train to accomplish the project. But though sinners are permitted to proceed to the point they aim at, an unseen but almighty Power turns them back. How vain and contemptible are the strongest assaults against Jehovah! Had Haman obtained his wish, and the Jewish nation perished, what must have become of all the promises? How could the prophecies concerning the great Redeemer of the world have been fulfilled? Thus the everlasting covenant itself must have failed, before this diabolical project could take place.In the first month ... - i. e. in March or April of 474 B.C.

"Pur" is supposed to be an old Persian word etymologically connected with the Latin "pars", and signifying "part" or "lot." The practice of casting lots to obtain a lucky day still obtains in the East, and is probably extremely ancient. A lot seems to have been cast, or a throw of some kind made, for each day of the month and each month of the year. The day and month which obtained the best throws were then selected. Assyrian calendars note lucky and unlucky days as early as the eighth century B.C. Lots were in use both among the Oriental and the Classical nations from a remote antiquity.

"Adar," the twelfth month, corresponds nearly to our March. It seems to have derived its name from "adar", "splendor," because of the brightness of the sun and the flowers at that time.

7. In the first month … they cast Pur, that is, the lot—In resorting to this method of ascertaining the most auspicious day for putting his atrocious scheme into execution, Haman acted as the kings and nobles of Persia have always done, never engaging in any enterprise without consulting the astrologers, and being satisfied as to the lucky hour. Vowing revenge but scorning to lay hands on a single victim, he meditated the extirpation of the whole Jewish race, who, he knew, were sworn enemies of his countrymen; and by artfully representing them as a people who were aliens in manners and habits, and enemies to the rest of his subjects, he procured the king's sanction of the intended massacre. One motive which he used in urging his point was addressed to the king's cupidity. Fearing lest his master might object that the extermination of a numerous body of his subjects would seriously depress the public revenue, Haman promised to make up the loss. There is a certain people, mean and contemptible, not worthy to be named.

Dispersed among the people; who therefore, if tolerated, may poison all thy subjects with their pernicious principles; and whom thou mayst 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 staid behind, either because they preferred their ease and worldly commodities before their spiritual advantages, or because they wanted conveniency or opportunity for a remove, which might happen from divers causes.

Their laws are diverse from all people; they have peculiar and fantastical rites, and customs, and religion; and therefore are justly offensive to all thy people, and may either infect them with their conceits, or occasion great dissensions and distractions among them.

Neither keep they the kings laws; as is manifest by Mordecai’s bold contempt of thy late edict concerning me, which being done by him as a Jew, the whole nation are involved in his crime, and are prepared to do so when they have occasion.

It is not for the king’s profit to suffer them to live in his kingdom. I do not seek herein so much my own revenge as thy service. And Haman said unto King Ahasuerus, Or "had said" (r), as some choose to render it; nor indeed is it likely that Haman should cast lots to know when would be a proper time to destroy the Jews, until he had got leave of the king to do it:

there is a certain people scattered abroad, and dispersed among the people in all the provinces of thy kingdom; for, though many of the Jews returned to their own land, on the proclamation of Cyrus, yet others remained, being well settled as to worldly things, and not having that zeal for God and his worship as became them, and not caring to be at the trouble and expense of such a journey, and especially those of the ten tribes; now Haman, through contempt of them, mentions them not by name, only describes them as a scattered insignificant people:

and their laws are different from all people; concerning their diet and observation of days, and other things; so Empedocles, an Heathen, observes (s) of the Jews, that they were a separate people from all others in those things; for he says,"they separated not only from the Romans, but even from all men; for, having found out an unmixed way of living, they have nothing common with men, neither table nor libations, nor prayers, nor sacrifices, but are more separate from us than the Susians or Bactrians, or the more remote Indians:"

neither keep they the king's laws; and, no doubt, he had a special respect to the non-observance of the king's command to give him reverence; and in like manner the Jews are represented by Heathen writers, as by Tacitus (t), Juvenal (u), and others:

therefore it is not for the king's profit to suffer them; that is, to dwell in his dominions; he got nothing by them, and they might be prejudicial to his subjects, and poison them with their notions; and since they were not obedient to the laws of the kingdom, it was not fit and equitable that they should be continued in it.

(r) "dixerat enim", Junius & Tremellius, Piscator, Drusius, so Patrick. (s) Apud Philostrat. Vit. Apollon. l. 5. c. 11. (t) Hist. l. 5. c. 4. (u) "Romanas antem soliti", &c. Satyr. 14. ver. 99.

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 {f} king's laws: therefore it is not for the king's profit to suffer them.

(f) These are the two arguments which commonly the worldlings and the wicked use toward princes against the godly, that is, the contempt of their laws and diminishing of their profit without concern as to whether God is pleased or displeased.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
8. scattered abroad] better, as marg., separated.

peoples] See on Esther 1:11.

in all the provinces of thy kingdom] The Jews who availed themselves of Cyrus’s decree permitting their return to Jerusalem (b.c. 538) may have formed only that portion which had no very close ties, commercial or otherwise, with the locality in which they had grown up. Many had acted to the full upon the advice given them by Jeremiah (Jeremiah 29:5 ff.) to make homes for themselves in exile. This passage in Esther points out that they were widely scattered through the Persian dominions, and therefore although, as the tone of Haman’s speech intends to convey, despicable in themselves, nevertheless capable of much mischief. The Book of Tobit (the date of which, though it cannot be fixed with certainty, may at any rate be taken as pre-Maccabean) speaks of settlements of Jews at Rages (in Media) and at Ecbatana (Esther 1:14, Esther 7:1).

their laws are diverse from those of every people] The author of the Book may have had in mind Deuteronomy 4:6-8, where this diversity is claimed as a witness to the wisdom of the people.[68] With Haman’s charge here, implying, as it does, an almost necessary disloyalty on the part of the Jews towards the king, we may compare that addressed to the Persian court by Rehum and Shimshai (Ezra 4:12-16) against the Jews of the Return. In neither case was there any substantial basis for the charge. If we were to accept the historical character of the narrative, we might say that dissatisfaction arising from the Persian reverses in the late war smoothed the way for a popular agitation, though altogether unreasonable, of the kind which Haman desired.

[68] For the expansion of this verse in the hands of a Jewish commentator, see Additional Note III, p. 72, Targum Shçnî (2nd extract).

for the king’s profit] rather, as marg., meet for the king.

to suffer them] to let them alone.

SECOND SPECIMEN OF THE SECOND TARGUM (TARGUM SHENI) ON ESTHER

(on chap. Esther 3:8).

[The passage is of interest, as no doubt representing the charges brought against Jews by their Gentile neighbours at the time when the Targum was written.]

And Haman said to king Ahasuerus, There is a certain people of the Jews scattered and dispersed among the peoples of every province of the kingdom; proud and haughty in spirit, collecting melting snows in winter[93], and putting them in summer pitchers[94], and their customs are different from those of every people and their laws from those of every province, and they do not adapt themselves to our laws, and they are not minded to conform to our customs, and they refuse to do service to the king; and when they see us, they spit upon the ground and look upon us as something unclean; and when we go to speak to them and demand of them some service to the king, they climb over walls and break through fences, and disappear into rooms, and make their escape through gaps; and when we run to lay hold of them, they turn round and stand with flashing eyes and gnash with their teeth and stamp with their feet, and they frighten us and we cannot lay hold of them. We do not take wives of their daughters, and they do not take to them wives of our daughters, and any of them who is brought to do work for the king excuses himself on that day, spending it in staring and sauntering about. And on a day when they wish to buy from us they tell us it is a lawful day, but on a day when we wish to buy from them, they close the market against us and tell us that it is an unlawful day. At the first hour of the day they say, We are reciting the Shĕma‘[95]; at the second hour they say, We are occupied by our prayers; at the third they say, We are engaged with our meal; at the fourth they say, We are blessing the God of heaven for having given us food and drink; at the fifth they are going out to walk; and at the sixth they are returning; and at the seventh their wives go to meet them and say, Bring some soup of bruised beans, for ye are wearied by your service of the tyrannical king. One day in the week they keep as a day of rest. They go up to their synagogue and read in their books and expound their prophets and curse our king and utter imprecations against our rulers and say, This is the seventh day on which our great God rested.

[93] lit. of Tebeth, corresponding to the latter part of December and the first part of January. See note on Esther 2:16.

[94] lit. ‘pitchers of Tammuz,’ corresponding to the latter part of June and the first part of July. The above is Jastrow’s rendering (Dict. of the Targumim etc. s.v. חַצְבָּא), but it seems incompatible with ויתיבין. If we do not amend this to ויהיבין, we must explain it as, sitting in bathing vessels.

[95] The title of the passage Deuteronomy 6:4-9, as commencing with the word שמע, Shĕma‘, hear. It was recited twice a day by every adult male Israelite (see Schürer, The Jewish People in the time of Jesus Christ, Eng. trans. 11. ii. 84).Verse 8 - There is a certain people scattered abroad and dispersed. It is not always borne in mind how large a part of the Jewish nation remained in the lands to which they had been carried away captive, after the permission had been given to return. Josephus notes that the richer and more influential of the Babylonian Jews were very little inclined to quit Babylon ('Ant. Jud.,' 11:1). There was evidently a large Jewish colony at Susa (infra, Esther 9:12-15). The Book of Tobit shows that Israelites, scarcely to be distinguished from Jews, were settled in Rhages and Ecbatana. The present passage is important as showing the early wide dispersion of the Jewish people. Their laws are diverse. A true charge, but a weak argument for their destruction, more especially as the Persians allowed all the conquered nations to retain their own laws and usages. Neither keep they the king's laws. Important, if true. But it was not true in any broad and general sense. There might be an occasional royal edict which a Jew could not obey; but the laws of the Medes and Persians were in the main righteous laws, and the Jews readily observed them. They were faithful and loyal subjects of the Achaemenian monarchs from first to last from Cyrus to Darius Codomannus. For the king's profit. Rather, as in the margin, "meet" or "fitting for the king." To suffer them. Or, "to let them alone." All the king's servants that were in the gate of the king, i.e., all the court officials, were to kneel before Haman and bow themselves to the earth. So had the king commanded concerning him. This mark of reverence was refused by Mordochai.
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