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.
Verse 1. - On that day did the king... give the house of Haman. When a criminal was executed, everything that belonged to him became the property of the crown, and was disposed of according to the king's pleasure. It pleased Ahasuerus to make over to Esther the house of Haman, with, no doubt, all its content, attendants, furniture, and treasure. The Jews' enemy. This now becomes Haman's ordinary designation (see Esther 9:10, 24). Traditional practices have in many places kept up his memory as one of the most hated adversaries of the nation (see Stanley, 'Lectures on the Jewish Church,' Third Series, pp. 177, 178). And Mordecai came before the king. Mordecai became a high official - one of those in constant attendance on the king. For Esther had told what he was to her. i.e. had revealed his relationship, had told that he was her cousin. Mordecai having been recognised as a "king's benefactor" (Esther 6:3-11), and Esther having been forced to confess herself a Jewess in order to save her nation (Esther 7:3, 4), there was no object in any further concealment.
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.
Verse 2. - And the king took off his ring. The king's signet would, as a matter of course, be taken from Haman before his execution and restored to Ahasuerus, who now once more wore it himself. Business, however, was irksome to him, and, having resolved to make Mordecai minister in Haman's room, he very soon took the signet off again, and made it over to the new vizier. And Esther set Mordecai over the house of Haman. It would not have been seemly for Esther to give away what she had received as a gift from the king. She was therefore unable to make Mordecai a present of the house. But she did what was equivalent - she set him over it, made him practically its master. Thus he was provided with a residence suitable to his new dignity. AT ESTHER'S REQUEST AHASUERUS ALLOWS THE ISSUE OF A SECOND EDICT, PERMITTING THE JEWS TO RESIST ANY WHO SHOULD ATTACK THEM, TO KILL THEM IN THEIR OWN DEFENCE, AND TO TAKE POSSESSION OF THEIR GOODS (Esther 8:3-14). The execution of Haman, the confiscation of his property, the advancement of Mordecai into his place, though of favourable omen, as showing the present temper and inclination of Abasuerus, left the Jews in as great danger as before. In most countries there would neither have been delay nor difficulty. The edict which went forth on the 13th of Nisan (Esther 3:12), and which could not be executed till the 13th of Adar, would have been cancelled, revoked, recalled. But in Persia this could not be done; or at any rate it could not be done without breaking one of the first principles of Persian law, the principle that "the writing which is written in the king's name, and sealed with the king's ring, may no man reverse" (ver. 8). It was therefore necessary to devise a mode whereby the desired escape of the Jews might practically be obtained, and yet the edict remain unrevoked, and the king's honour be saved. At first Mordecai and Esther do not appear to have seen this, and Esther asked openly for the reversal of the decree, only representing it as the writing of Haman, and not the writing of the king (ver. 5). But Ahasuerus pointed out that this could not be done. Anything short of a reversal, any new decree, he would sanction; but he could do no more - he could not revoke his own word (ver. 8). The course actually followed was then devised, probably by Mordecai. The old decree was allowed to stand; but a new decree was issued and signed in the usual way, whereby the Jews were allowed and encouraged to resist those who should attack them, - to "gather themselves together, and to stand for their life; to destroy, slay, and cause to perish all the power of the people of the province that would assault them," - and were further permitted to "take the spoil of them for a prey," or, in other words, to seize the property of all whom they should slay (ver. 11). The royal posts carried out this decree (ver. 14), as they had the former one; and it was publicly set forth and proclaimed in every province, that if the Jews were attacked under the terms of the one, they might defend themselves and retaliate on their foes under the terms of the other (ver. 13). As the second decree was issued on the 23rd of Sivan, the third month (ver. 9), and the day appointed for the attack was the 13th of Adar, the twelfth, there was ample time-above eight months - for the Jews to make preparations, to organise themselves, to collect arms, and to arrange an effective resistance.
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.
Verse 3. - Esther spake yet again before the king. It might have seemed to be the business of Mordecai, as the king's chief minister, to advise him in a matter of public policy, and one in which the interests of so many of his subjects were vitally concerned. But the new minister did not perhaps feel sure of his influence, or quite know what to recommend. Esther was therefore again put forward to address the king. Fell down at his feet. Compare 1 Samuel 25:24; 2 Kings 4:37, etc. And besought him... to put away the mischief of Haman. i.e. begged him, first of all, in a vague way, to "cause to pass" - put away, or undo - the mischief of Haman - not suggesting how it was to be done.
Then the king held out the golden sceptre toward Esther. So Esther arose, and stood before the king,
Verse 4. - Then the king held out the golden sceptre. Either Esther had again intruded on the king uninvited, or there was a double use of the golden sceptre.
1. In the pardon of those who so intruded; and,
2. In the ordinary granting of requests. It was perhaps held out on this occasion simply to express a readiness to do as Esther desired.
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:
Verse 5. - If it please the king, etc. The long preface of four clauses, winding up with "If I be pleasing," is indicative of Esther's doubt how the king will receive her suggestion that it should be written to reverse the letters (comp. Esther 3:13) devised by Haman. To ask the king to unsay his own words was impossible. By representing the letters as devised by Haman, and written by Haman, Esther avoids doing so. But she thereby blinks the truth. In excuse she adds the striking distich contained in the next verse - "For how could I endure to see the evil that is coming on my people? or how could I endure to see the destruction of my kindred?"
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.
Verses 7, 8. - Then the king... said unto Esther the queen and unto Mordecai. The king, it would seem, took time to give his answer; and when he gave it, addressed himself to Mordecai, his minister, rather than to Esther, his wife. "See now," he said, "I have done what I could - I have given Esther Haman's house; I have had Haman himself executed because he put forth his hand against the Jews. What yet remains? I am asked to save your countrymen by revoking my late edict. That may not be. The writing which is written in the king's name, and sealed with the king's seal, may no man reverse. But, short of this, I give you full liberty of action. Write ye also for the Jews, as it liketh you, in the king's name, and seal it with the king's ring. Surely you can devise something which will save your people without calling on me to retract my own words, and at the same time break a great principle of Persian law."
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.
Verse 9. - Then were the king's scribes called. The king had said enough. Mordecai saw a means of reconciling the king's scruple with the safety - or if not with the absolute safety, yet with the escape and triumph - of his people. The Jews should be allowed to stand on their defence, should be encouraged to do so, when the time came should be supported in their resistance by the whole power of the government (Esther 9:3). A new decree must issue at once giving the requisite permission, and copies must be at once distributed, that there might be no mistake or misunderstanding. So the "king's scribes" were summoned and set to work. In the third month, the month Sivan. This is another Babylonian name. The month was sacred to the moon-god, Sin, and its name may be connected with his. It corresponded with the latter part of our May and the early part of June. To the lieutenants, and the deputies and rulers. Compare Esther 3:12, where the same three classes of rulers are mentioned. An hundred twenty and seven. See the comment on Esther 1:1. And to the Jews. Copies of the former edict had not been sent especially to the Jews. They had been left to learn their danger indirectly from the people among whom they dwelt; but Mordecai took care that they should be informed directly of their right of defence.
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:
Verse 10. - He wrote in the king's name. As Haman had done (Esther 2:12). And riders on mules, camels, and young dromedaries. There is no "and" before "riders" in the original, and the clause is clearly exegetical of the preceding, Neither "mules," nor "camels," nor "young dromedaries" are mentioned in it, and the best translation would seem to be - "the riders on coursers of the royal stud, the offspring of thoroughbreds." It is noticeable that both Herodotus (8:98) and Xenophon ('Cyrop.,' 8:6, § 17) speak of horses as alone employed in carrying the Persian despatches.
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,
Verse 11. - Wherein the king granted. Rather, "that the king granted." Mordecai sent "letters," which said "that the king granted to the Jews to gather themselves together," etc. To gather themselves together. Union is strength. If all the Jews of a province were allowed to collect and band themselves together, they would at once be a formidable body. Scattered in the various towns and villages, they might easily have been overpowered. To stand for their life. The Jews have sometimes been spoken of as the aggressors on the actual 13th of Adar, but there is no evidence to support this view. The edict clearly only allowed them to stand on the defensive. Of course, when fighting once began, both sides did their worst. In repelling attack the Jews had the same liberty to destroy, to slay, and to cause to perish as their adversaries (Esther 3:13). Little ones. Rather, "families." Take the spoil of them for a prey. i.e. "seize their property." The earlier edict had given the same permission to the Jews' enemies (Esther 3:13).
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.
Verse 13. - This verse reproduces ver. 14 of ch. 3, with a slight modification of the last clause. It is probable that a copy of the decree was originally inserted at the end of the verse.
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.
Verse 14. - The posts that rode upon mules and camels. Rather, "that rode on coursers of the stud royal" (see the comment on ver. 10). The verse repeats Esther 3:15, with small additions. It appears that the later posts were urged to haste still more strongly than the earlier ones - not that time really pressed, but from superabundant caution - that there might be an opportunity for further communications between the provinces and the court, if doubt was anywhere entertained as to the king's intentions. MORDECAI'S HONOUR AND THE JEWS' JOY (Esther 8:15-17). Ahasuerus was not content even now with what he had done for Mordecai. Before his minister quitted the presence, the king presented him with a crown of gold, and a robe and vest of honour; and thus arrayed he proceeded into the city of Susa, where the new edict was already known, and had been received with satisfaction (ver. 15). The Persians, who formed the predominant element in the population of the town, sympathised with the Jews, and rejoiced in the king's favour towards them; while the Jews of Susa, having passed from despair to confident hope, were full of gladness and thankfulness. In the provinces the decree had a still warmer welcome. Its arrival was celebrated with "a feast" (ver. 17) and "a good day." It led also to many of the heathen becoming proselytes to the Jewish religion - some perhaps from conviction, but others because they thought it safer to place themselves manifestly on the Jews' side before the day of the struggle:
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.
Verse 15. - Royal apparel of blue and white. The Persian monarch himself wore a purple robe and an inner vest of purple striped with white ('Ancient Monarchies,' vol. 4. pp. 153, 154). The robes of honour which he gave away were of many different colours, but generally of a single tint throughout (Xen., 'Cyrop.,' 8:3, § 3); but the one given to Mordecai seems to have been blue with white stripes. These were the colours of the royal diadem (Q. Curt., 'Vit. Alex.,' 3:3). A great crown of gold. Not a tall crown, like that of the monarch, which is called in Hebrew kether (Greek κίταρις), but 'atarah, a crown of an inferior kind, frequently worn by nobles. And with a garment of fine linen and purple. The "fine linen" was of course white. The real meaning of the word thakrik, translated "garment," is doubtful. Gesenius understands an outer garment' 'the long and flowing robe of an Oriental monarch;" in which case the "apparel" previously mentioned must be the inner vest. Others, as Patrick, make the thakrik to be the inner, and the "apparel" (l'bush) the outer garment. The Septuagint, however, translates thakrik by διάδημα, and its conjunction with the "crown" favours this rendering. The diadem proper of a Persian monarch was a band or fillet encircling the lower part of his crown, and was of blue, spotted or striped with white. Ahasuerus seems to have allowed Mordecai to wear a diadem of white and purple. The city of Shushan rejoiced. As the Susanchites had been "perplexed" at the first edict (Esther 3:15), so were they "rejoiced" at the second. Such of them as were Persians would naturally sympathise with the Jews. Even the others may have disliked Haman's edict, and have been glad to see it, practically, reversed.
The Jews had light, and gladness, and joy, and honour.
Verse 16. - The Jews had light. A metaphor for "happiness" (comp. Isaiah 58:8).
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.
Verse 17. - A feast and a good day. The provincial Jews made the whole day on which they heard the news into a holiday, and not only rejoiced, but feasted. Many of the people of the land became Jews. Applied for and obtained admission into the Jewish nation as full proselytes (comp. Ezra 6:21, with the comment). The fear of the Jews fell upon them. There was about to be in each great city where there were Jews a day of straggle and bloodshed. The Jews would have authority on their side (Esther 9:3), and might be expected to be victorious. Persons feared lest, when victorious, they might revenge themselves on all who had not taken their part, and thought it safer to become Jews than remain neutral. But it can only have been a small minority of the population in each city that took this view. There was no sudden great increase in the numbers of the Jewish nation.