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Esther 9

 

PARAGRAPH DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
The Jews Destroy Their Tormentors Destruction of the Enemies and Inauguration of the Feast of Purim The Jews Destroy Their Enemies The Great Day of Purim
9:1-10 9:1-10 9:1-5 9:1-4
      9:5-10
    9:6-12  
9:11-14 9:11-15   9:11-15
    9:13-15  
9:15      
9:16-17 9:16-17 9:16-19 9:16-19
The Feast of Purim      
9:18-19 9:18-19 The Festival of Purim The Official Institution of the Feast of Purim
9:20-25 9:20-23 9:20-23 9:20-22
      9:23-28
  9:24-28 9:24-28  
9:26-28      
9:29-32 9:29-32 9:29-32 9:29-32

READING CYCLE THREE (from "A Guide to Good Bible Reading")

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT THE PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired but it is the key to following the original author's intent which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

 

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 9:1-10
 1Now in the twelfth month (that is, the month Adar), on the thirteenth day when the king's command and edict were about to be executed, on the day when the enemies of the Jews hoped to gain the mastery over them, it was turned to the contrary so that the Jews themselves gained the mastery over those who hated them. 2The Jews assembled in their cities throughout all the provinces of King Ahasuerus to lay hands on those who sought their harm; and no one could stand before them, for the dread of them had fallen on all the peoples. 3Even all the princes of the provinces, the satraps, the governors and those who were doing the king's business assisted the Jews, because the dread of Mordecai had fallen on them. 4Indeed, Mordecai was great in the king's house, and his fame spread throughout all the provinces; for the man Mordecai became greater and greater. 5Thus the Jews struck all their enemies with the sword, killing and destroying; and they did what they pleased to those who hated them. 6At the citadel in Susa the Jews killed and destroyed five hundred men, 7and Parshandatha, Dalphon, Aspatha, 8Poratha, Adalia, Aridatha, 9Parmashta, Arisai, Aridai and Vaizatha, 10the ten sons of Haman the son of Hammedatha, the Jews' enemy; but they did not lay their hands on the plunder.

9:1 Although Haman was dead, there was still a large, organized group of anti-Semites (or at least opportunists who wanted their possessions) in the empire.

▣ "the month Adar" See Special Topic: Ancient Near Eastern Calendars at Ezra 3:1.

▣ "on that day when the enemies of the Jews hoped to gain the mastery over them" This phrase shows that anti-Semitism was pervasive throughout the empire, not just Haman and his family. The reason is unsettled, but usually it is the exclusivism of YHWH and the "separation" from indigenous culture which generates anger, fear, suspicion, and lack of bonding.

▣ "it was turned to the contrary" The VERB (BDB 245, KB 253, Niphal INFINITIVE ABSOLUTE) shows the unseen hand of God which abrogated (1) the king's command; (2) the hatred of Haman; and (3) the hostility of the attackers!

9:2 "The Jews assembled in their cities throughout all the provinces of King Ahasuerus" This does not refer to separate cities manned by Jews, but simply to cities which had a Jewish population. The Jews gathered together to combine their strength on this day of calamity.

"no one could stand before them" This was one of the promises of holy war in Joshua and Judges (e.g., Deut. 7:24; 11:25; Josh. 6:2; 10:23).

"for the dread of them had fallen on all the peoples" This is another aspect of holy war (e.g., Exod. 15:14-15; 23:27; Deut. 2:25; 11:25; Josh. 2:9).

9:3 Mordecai's place of influence and governmental power (cf. v. 4) even caused the Persian bureaucracy to be supportive of the Jewish issue! Can you imagine the problem these governmental officials faced with two conflicting royal decrees. They chose the latest one, which was supported by the current "second-in-command"—Mordecai.

The Anchor Bible, vol 7B, adds the comment that the author of Esther mentions unexpected help from Persian governmental officials, but purposely does not mention the help of God (p. 86). This is a purposeful literary technique which emphasizes the unseen hand of God in history. There is an eternal redemptive purpose, Israel is crucial to that purpose, she will surely survive.

9:7-10 The ten sons of Haman were killed on the set date of conflict! The will of God in the extermination of the Amalekites was finally complete (cf. Exod. 17:16; Deut. 25:17-19; I Sam. 15:3). The number ten symbolizes completeness!

9:10 "they did not lay hands on the plunder" There are three possible reasons: (1) they did not want their motives to be impugned; (2) this was to show that the enemies were enemies of the state and their property reverted to the crown; and (3) it possibly related to their relationship to Agag and Saul who was commanded not to spare any Amalekite nor take their property, but Saul did (cf. I Sam. 15:3,9).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 9:11-15
 11On that day the number of those who were killed at the citadel in Susa was reported to the king. 12The king said to Queen Esther, "The Jews have killed and destroyed five hundred men and the ten sons of Haman at the citadel in Susa. What then have they done in the rest of the king's provinces! Now what is your petition? It shall even be granted you. And what is your further request? It shall also be done." 13Then said Esther, "If it pleases the king, let tomorrow also be granted to the Jews who are in Susa to do according to the edict of today; and let Haman's ten sons be hanged on the gallows." 14So the king commanded that it should be done so; and an edict was issued in Susa, and Haman's ten sons were hanged. 15The Jews who were in Susa assembled also on the fourteenth day of the month Adar and killed three hundred men in Susa, but they did not lay their hands on the plunder.

9:11 "those who were killed at the citadel of Susa" The VERB (BDB 246, KB 255) is a Qal PARTICIPLE. The term "citadel" (BDB 108) can be understood in two ways.:

1. the whole walled city, vv. 13-15

2. the inner fortress, vv. 6,11,12

If #2 is correct then these 500 men were part of Xerxes' administration. The second day was granted to eliminate the enemies of the Jews in the larger city itself.

9:13, 14 "if it please the king, let tomorrow also be granted to the Jews" Many have assumed, because of this request, that Esther was a vindictive person, but this seems to be totally out of character with the book of Esther. We do not know the extent of Jewish casualties nor the extent of the battle that raged. Until further evidence is found it seems preferable to give Esther the benefit of the doubt.

The two days of slaughter correspond to the two day feast/fast which later developed.

▣ "let Haman's ten sons be hanged on the gallows" They were already dead as is obvious from vv. 6-10. Therefore, they were to be publicly humiliated by being impaled (possibly on the same gallows as their father). This was not so much vindictive, but a public deterrent to anti-Semitism. The number ten can refer (1) symbolically to all of them or (2) to the literal number.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 9:16-17
 16 Now the rest of the Jews who were in the king's provinces assembled, to defend their lives and rid themselves of their enemies, and kill 75, 000 of those who hated them; but they did not lay their hands on the plunder. 17This was done on the thirteenth day of the month Adar, and on the fourteenth day they rested and made it a day of feasting and rejoicing.

9:16-18 There is a cluster of seven INFINITIVE ABSOLUTES in these verses.

9:16 "seventy-five thousand" Although the Septuagint changes this number to fifteen thousand, the MT, Josephus, and the Peshitta have the larger number. This large number is possible in a country as large as Persia (cf. 1:1; 8:9). However, this large number, like so many numbers in Esther, may be exaggerated for literary effect (e.g., 1:4; 2:12; 3:6,9; 5:14; 8:10).

9:17 "This was done on the thirteenth day of the month Adar, and on the fourteenth day they rested and made it a day of feasting and rejoicing." This seems to be the purpose of the book of Esther, which is to document the origin of the Feast of Purim (cf. vv. 23-28; Josephus Antiq. 11.6.13). Verses 18 and 19 explain the two-day feast which later developed into a one day fast (usually the 13th of Adar) followed by a two-day feast. In later Judaism most walled cities observed Purim on the fourteenth of Adar, but in Jerusalem on the fifteenth.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 9:18-19
 18But the Jews who were in Susa assembled on the thirteenth and the fourteenth of the same month, and they rested on the fifteenth day and made it a day of feasting and rejoicing. 19Therefore the Jews of the rural areas, who live in the rural towns, make the fourteenth day of the month Adar a holiday for rejoicing and feasting and sending portions of food to one another.

9:18-19 Because of the extra day of violence in Susa, Jews observed different days of rest (i.e., rural on the 14th and urban on the 15th).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 9:20-22
 20Then Mordecai recorded these events, and he sent letters to all the Jews who were in all the provinces of King Ahasuerus, both near and far, 21obliging them to celebrate the fourteenth day of the month Adar, and the fifteenth day of the same month, annually, 22because on those days the Jews rid themselves of their enemies, and it was a month which was turned for them from sorrow into gladness and from mourning into a holiday; that they should make them days of feasting and rejoicing and sending portions of food to one another and gifts to the poor.

9:20-22 The UBS, A Handbook on the Book of Esther, p. 239, gives a good explanation of the seeming contradiction or confusion over which day to celebrate in chapter 9:

1. Some Jews observed one day, some another (cf. vv. 17-19).

2. Mordecai wanted all Jews to observe both days (cf. vv. 20-23, 26-28).

 

9:22 "and it was a month which was turned from sorrow into gladness and from mourning into a holiday" This reversal is the recurrent theme of many OT characters (e.g., Job, Joseph, Jacob, Moses, Naomi, David, Solomon, Daniel, Jesus, Paul). God's unseen hand is involved in this fallen world; choices result in consequences, but God's eternal redemptive plan sets the course of human history. Individuals are caught up in the playing out play of God's ultimate triumph over sin, evil, and suffering (e.g., vv. 1,25).

▣ "gifts to the poor" This was an emphasis of almsgiving which was such an important theological, as well as social, act to the rabbis.

SPECIAL TOPIC: Almsgiving

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 9:23-28
 23Thus the Jews undertook what they had started to do, and what Mordecai had written to them. 24For Haman the son of Hammedatha, the Agagite, the adversary of all the Jews, had schemed against the Jews to destroy them and had cast Pur, that is the lot, to disturb them and destroy them. 25But when it came to the king's attention, he commanded by letter that his wicked scheme which he had devised against the Jews, should return on his own head and that he and his sons should be hanged on the gallows. 26Therefore they called these days Purim after the name of Pur. And because of the instructions in this letter, both what they had seen in this regard and what had happened to them, 27the Jews established and made a custom for themselves and for their descendants and for all those who allied themselves with them, so that they would not fail to celebrate these two days according to their regulation and according to their appointed time annually. 28So these days were to be remembered and celebrated throughout every generation, every family, every province and every city; and these days of Purim were not to fail from among the Jews, or their memory fade from their descendants.

9:24 "and had cast Pur, that is the lot, to disturb them and destroy them" The term "pur" is Akkadian which means "the lot" or "the destiny." Haman cast "lots" to find the best day to destroy Mordecai and his people (cf. 3:7).

Haman's hatred is clearly seen in this verse:

1. "The adversary (BDB 856 III, KB 1058, Qal ACTIVE PARTICIPLE) of all the Jews"

2. "Had schemed (BDB 362, KB 359, Qal PERFECT) against the Jews to destroy (BDB 1, KB 2, Peel INFINITIVE CONSTRUCT) them"

3. "Had cast Pur. . ."

a. "to destroy (BDB 243, KB 251, Qal, INFINITIVE CONSTRUCT) them"

b. "to destroy (BDB 1, KB 2, Peel INFINITIVE CONSTRUCT) them"

Number 3a, is often translated "confuse" and is a metaphor for "holy war" (e.g., Exod. 14:24; 23:27; Deut. 2:15; Josh. 10:10; Jdgs. 4:15; I Sam. 7:10; II Sam. 22:15; Ps. 18:14; 144:6).

9:25 The UBS, A Handbook on the Book of Esther, pp. 241-242, makes an interesting point about the FEMININE PARTICIPLE (BDB 97, KB 112, Qal INFINITIVE CONSTRUCT), "but when she came," which they assert refers to the FEMININE NOUN "plot" (BDB 364, cf. NIV), not to Esther (since she is not mentioned in this paragraph, really not since v. 13).

9:26 "And because of the instructions in this letter" Mordecai possibly wrote the book of Esther (cf. Introduction), but this phrase refers specifically to his letter (cf. v. 20), which instructed the standardization of the observance of the feast/fast of Purim.

9:27 "all those who allied themselves" This could refer to

1. the people mentioned in 8:17

2. the governmental official of v. 3

3. those who aided the Jews when they were attacked

 

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 9:29-32
 29Then Queen Esther, daughter of Abigail, with Mordecai the Jew, wrote with full authority to confirm this second letter about Purim. 30He sent letters to all the Jews, to the 127 provinces of the kingdom of Ahasuerus, namely, words of peace and truth, 31to establish these days of Purim at their appointed times, just as Mordecai the Jew and Queen Esther had established for them, and just as they had established for themselves and for their descendants with instructions for their times of fasting and their lamentations. 32The command of Esther established these customs for Purim, and it was written in the book.

9:29-31 These verses seem to refer to a second letter from Mordecai which specifies that preceding the two days of feasting there should be a day of fasting. This would commemorate the fast of Esther, Mordecai, and all the Jews preceding the unseen hand of God in reversing the fortunes of Haman and the Jews. Most Jews fast on the 13th day of Adar and feast on the 14th and 15th.

9:29 "wrote" This is a FEMININE SINGULAR (BDB 507, KB 503, Qal IMPERFECT), yet two people are mentioned. Possibly Esther wrote to Mordecai who passed it on. This may refer to Esther's royal authority (and influence with the king) behind Mordecai's letter (cf. 9:20-22,23).

Another possibility is that Esther was adopted by Mordecai and Abigail.

9:30

NASB"namely, words of peace and truth"
NKJV"with words of peace and truth"
NRSV"wishing peace and security"
TEV"it wished the Jews peace and security"
NJB"in terms of peace and loyalty"
JPSOA"with an ordinance of 'equity and honesty'"
NET"—words of true peace—"

These are two theologically significant terms:

1. Peace (BDB 1022, KB 1536), which denotes the presence of all good things and the absence of all evil things.

2. Truth (BDB 54, KB 68), which usually means faithfulness or loyalty, can mean faithful trust.

It is possible that the discussion of fast days in Zech. 8:19 has a parallel phrase "so love truth and peace," which is connected to Jewish "joy, gladness, and cheerful feasts." So it might be a standardized greeting/conclusion (like Shalom).