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Bible Commentaries

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments

Esther 3

 

 

Verses 1-15

Esther 3:1. Haman—the Agagite. All the kings of Amalek received the name of Agag. This man is thought, by most critics, to have been of the seed- royal of that devoted nation, who bitterly hated the Jews. Others think that Agag was some town in Persia, where he was born. Vide Sulp. Hist. Sacr. lib. 51.

Esther 3:2. Mordecai bowed not, because, as the Jews say, there was a mixture of divine as well as human homage, paid here to the king’s minister.

Esther 3:7. They cast Pur, a Persian word for lot. A lot respecting the scape- goat was proper, that being a case of perfect indifference; but here the design was to throw the blame of massacring an afflicted nation upon fate.

Esther 3:9. I will pay ten thousand talents of silver: £3,415,000, almost three millions and a half of our money. He would part with all his wealth to be avenged of the Jews! It is mysterious to us how an individual could possess so much wealth. He would soothe his conscience by the recollection of what Saul had done to Amalek six hundred and forty years before. 1 Samuel 15.

Esther 3:10. The king took his ring from his hand. This gave Haman a power to seal with the king’s seal, whatever letters he pleased against the Jews: and from the offer which Haman made of ten thousand talents, it is obvious the king had scrupled for awhile to destroy the Jews, on the ground of political damage to his kingdom.

REFLECTIONS.

Haman, a man of talents, or of consummate address, had by some means gained the king’s favour, and procured a promotion to be the first minister of state. But his pride exceeded his talents, and his ambition was more than his preferment. So in all wicked men there is one ruling passion, which not unfrequently proves injurious to the public, and destructive to themselves.

When men, flattered by circumstances, have suffered their pride and arrogance to grow to a boundless excess, the smallest object is capable of exciting their worst passions, and of making their revolting hearts completely miserable. This man shared the honours of his master: greater preferment he could not have. The court and city bowed the knee, and paid him homage more than human; for the Persian kings had the place of titular divinities; and it was not a civil, but an idolatrous reverence which Mordecai withheld. Surrounded with all these honours, and loaded with wealth, there was but this obscure man, and he of a captive race, without either rank or title, who refused to bow. The moment Haman was told of Mordecai’s singularity, the harmony of his soul was all untuned. The mortification he felt from this little circumstance was too deep to betray immediate resentment. His sullen anguish sought relief in the infliction of some greater punishment than the moment could suggest. Sooner than overlook this imaginary affront, or relax the homage of the empire, he resolved to destroy the whole nation of the Jews, being aware that Mordecai’s scruples were common to all his people. What meanness is often connected with greatness; and what crimes are often consequent on talents misapplied. How incapable then are the riches and honours of this world to make men happy, while the depravity of the heart is suffered to reign. Unhumbled before their God, they can bear no humiliation before men. Every object which does not flatter their passions, disturbs and agitates their soul. The life of a vassal, trembling at their feet, is hardly safe for a moment. Well then has revelation apprized the world, that the happiness of man consists not in the gratification, but in the suppression of every bad propensity. Well then has our Lord said, Except ye be converted, and become as a little child, ye shall not enter the kingdom of heaven.

We see a farther trait of God’s gracious care over his people in causing the lot to fall on the twelfth month; for the heathens believing in lucky and unlucky days, did frequently decide the days of enterprize by lot. This circumstance gave the people time for recollection and repentance; and providence early in the year defeated the whole plot. Could we but see that eye from the clouds watching over our safety, and that divine hand extended for our defence, distrust and complaining would be banished from our streets.

In the recourse of Haman to wine, after obtaining an order to massacre the Jews, we have proof that nothing can make a wicked man happy. He was appalled and confounded by his success. The voice of conscience was deafened by the noise and tumult of passion. He felt, as when a man aiming a deadly blow at his enemy in the dark, unhappily wounds himself. Having by false pleas of sedition, seduced his master to the horrid compliance, he sought for his master the same opiates and reprieve from anguish. So he affected to rejoice, while all Shushan was perplexed; while all good men wept for the Jews, and grieved to see their country in the hand of a man who was incapable of governing himself.

 


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Bibliography Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Esther 3:4". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jsc/esther-3.html. 1835.

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