The Antagonisms of Nations
Esther 9:1
Now in the twelfth month, that is, the month Adar, on the thirteenth day of the same…

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. This passage tells a history of vicissitude doubly remarkable. It may be put thus: there was, in the first instance, a great reverse of fortune in the experience of each of two nationalities. But this did not end all. At the same time it constituted a striking reversal of the mutual relations of those two peoples. In the first instance the people who had been exalted are cast down; and the people who had been cast down, lifted up. But this was a little matter compared with the consequence immediately resulting, and which showed so prominently to view; namely, a most significant and determined alteration of the attitude of the one to the other. The lessons suggested by this passage, whatever they may be, offer themselves on the scale of national magnitude. We are reminded -

I. OF THE ANTAGONISMS TO WHICH NATIONAL LIFE OFFERS OPPORTUNITY - an opportunity which the world's history shows to have been ever lamentably improved. The antagonism of the individual is reproduced on a more terrible scale, and with consequences inconceivably disastrous. It must he noted that this spirit of national antagonism bears not only the reproach of the direct sin and miseries, of which war is the declared manifestation; it is an enemy, the indirect ravages of which add up to a fearful amount. This may be seen from observing in the place of what it is, that it so often stands.

1. It is antagonism usurping the place of natural and sympathetic love.

2. It is antagonism turning out healthy emulation, and stimulating rivalry.

3. It is antagonism hindering to an amazing degree that plenty, and wealth, and cheapness which come of mutual sustentation, of inter-trading, of each nationality, according to its physical advantages and its genius, pursuing its own bent, to share the abundance of its consequent production with other nations.


1. They emphatically do not lie in any international necessity of nature. They mean always fault and sin at some door. They cannot be justified by any supposed likeness to the natural storms of our earth and skies, though these may frame into an unhappy analogy with them.

2. They do not reside in any international necessity of trade or other interest.

3. They are rarely enough owing to the determined will or fitful passion of the great body of the people. These will adopt them, it is true, and will soon be heated by false sense of national glory; but they do not originate them.

4. They are rarely enough due to fault on one side alone.

5. Even when mingled with some just occasion, they are rarely enough what could not be averted by the wise treatment of those in high authority.

6. They strongly resemble the antagonisms and antipathies of private individuals in these two respects - that they arise from the smallest matters, and take occasion from temper and pride.

III. OF THE MULTIPLIED RESPONSIBILITY AND IMPORTANCE WHICH NATIONAL LIFE THROWS UPON INDIVIDUALS. It is easy to see that nations the largest, the mightiest, the most complex are but made up of individuals. But it is not so easy to believe, it is not so welcome to the mind to remember at all times, how the greatest events, for good or for ill, depend very largely on the character and conduct of individuals. Thus national life immensely increases the importance of the individual. It is the highest in an ascending series of terms. For instance -

1. There is the intrinsic importance of individual life to each man.

2. There is the importance that inevitably attaches to the head-of-family life.

3. There is the importance that belongs to all public life, in all the varying and numerous places of Church and of State.

4. There is he importance which is inseparable from the place of the governing, the highest places in the state. This, though strictly comprehended in the foregoing head, demands to be classified separately, because of its highest significance, its superlatively critical issues. Haman had done a world of mischief. To human eye it can scarcely be said that Mordecai had recovered the balance. The one caused the intensest hatred of "the enemies of the Jews" to blaze up, to the unmeasured misery of the Jews. And when things were reversed, and "it was turned to the contrary," though a lesson of terrible retribution was displayed, and though justice should seem to have another sacrifice offered at her shrine, yet love is left as far in the rear as ever. The whole family of envy, jealousy, malice, cruelty have it too much their own way - so far as our human point of view can see or calculate.

IV. OF THE WONDERFUL ROOM FOR DISPLAY OF THE OVERRULING PROVIDENCE OF GOD WHICH NATIONAL LIFE PRESENTS. Two centuries before the history contained in this narrative, the prophet had said, "When thy judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness." There are given to us all the quiet, urgent, infinitely numerous lessons of providence in our individual lives. How are they unobserved, lost, smothered in the thoughtless course, the hurried rate of our lives! They look in vain into our very eyes; they whisper in vain in our very ears; they knock in vain at our very doors; they plead in vain with our reason, our self-interest, our conscience. But with overwhelming effect come at times national providences. These speak sometimes as with the voice of thunder, and they are seen sometimes with the vividness of the lightning's flash by hundreds of thousands at one and the same moment. The great subject suggested by our present history, then, demands the attention of statesmen, of legislators, of all public men in their degree, and may obtain many a valuable cross light from the subject already considered of patriotism. - B.

Parallel Verses
KJV: 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;)

WEB: Now in the twelfth month, which is the month Adar, on the thirteenth day of the month, when the king's commandment and his decree drew near to be put in execution, on the day that the enemies of the Jews hoped to conquer them, (but it was turned out the opposite happened, that the Jews conquered those who hated them),

Providence -- as Seen in the Book of Esther
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