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Bible Commentaries

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

Esther 9

 

 

Verse 1

Esther 9:1. The king’s commandment and his decree drew near to be put in execution — At the close of the last chapter we left two royal edicts in force, both given at the court at Shushan, one bearing date the thirteenth day of the first month, appointing, that on the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, then next ensuing, all the Jews should be killed; and another bearing date the twenty-third day of the third month, empowering the Jews, on the day appointed for their slaughter, to draw the sword in their own defence, and make their part good against their enemies, as well as they could. Great expectation there was, no doubt, of this day, and the issue of it. The Jews’ cause was to be tried by battle, and the day fixed for the combat by authority. Their enemies resolved not to lose the advantages given them by the first edict, in hope to overpower them by numbers. The Jews relied on the goodness of their God, and justice of their cause, and resolved to make their utmost efforts against their enemies. The day comes, at length, and here we learn that it was a day of victory and triumph to the Jews, both in the city of Shushan, and in all the rest of the king’s provinces. In the day that the enemies of the Jews hoped to have power over them — That day which was selected by Haman, with great industry and art, as the most lucky day, and which their enemies had undoubtedly often thought of, and threatened them with; when, notwithstanding the later edict, they expected to have power over them by virtue of the former, they made assaults upon them accordingly, forming themselves into bodies, and joining in confederacy against them.


Verse 2

Esther 9:2. The Jews gathered themselves together in their cities — Imbodied and stood upon their defence, offering violence to none, but bidding defiance to all. If they had not had an edict to warrant them, they durst not have done this; but, being so supported, they strove lawfully. If they had acted separately, each family apart, they would have been an easy prey to their enemies; but acting in concert, and gathering together in their cities, they strengthened one another, and were able to face their enemies. And no man could withstand them — Their enemies, though they took up arms against them, yet were easily conquered and destroyed by them. For the fear of them fell upon all people — Because they had such potent friends at court, and so great a God on their side, who, by such unusual and astonishing methods, (of which, doubtless, they had been particularly informed,) had brought about such a mighty and unexpected deliverance for them.


Verse 3-4

Esther 9:3-4. All the rulers of the provinces, &c., and officers of the king — Hebrews and those that did the king’s business; that is, not only the chief persons, signified by the foregoing words, but all the king’s other ministers or officers, of what quality soever; helped the Jews; because the fear of Mordecai fell upon them — He having manifestly the countenance both of God and the king. For Mordecai was great — The greatest in place, and power, and favour with the king, both for his near relation to the queen, and for the good service he had done for the king himself, in preserving his life, and managing his affairs; and for those excellent abilities and virtues which the king discovered in him. And his fame went throughout all the provinces — He was not only great in the king’s house, and caressed by the courtiers, as many are who have no intrinsic worth to support their reputation; but his fame for wisdom and virtue went out from thence throughout all the king’s dominions, and in all places he was extolled as a great man, and as one that was waxing greater and greater. Hence all, even the king’s officers, saw it to be their interest to help his friends.


Verse 5

Esther 9:5. Thus the Jews smote all their enemies with the stroke of the sword — The second decree “allowed the Jews to defend themselves, and therefore may account, in some measure, for the slaughter which they made of their enemies: and, no doubt, the great sum which Haman had offered to gratify his revenge against the Jewish nation, was an additional provocation to them to slay every one that came to annoy them. But still it should be remembered, that in this they acted by virtue of a royal edict, which authorized them to stand upon their own defence: that they were not the first aggressors, but only opposed those who openly assaulted them, and were for putting in execution an unjust and cruel decree against them. And as the Amalekites, who might be dispersed through the Persian empire, were the known and inveterate enemies of the Jews, and, following the fortune of Haman, might probably be forward enough to execute the decree which he had procured against them; it is, therefore, reasonably presumed, that most of those whom the Jews destroyed, in their necessary defence, both at Shushan, and in the provinces, were of that devoted nation, and that by this their slaughter, the prophecies against Amalek were remarkably accomplished.” — Bishop Patrick and Dodd. And did what they would with those that hated them — It seems that the people in general perceived, by the second edict, that it would not be agreeable to the king for them to rise against the Jews, though he did not repeal the first edict, because it was not customary to repeal any thing that had been signed by the king’s seal; and therefore, it is probable, that but a very inconsiderable number, in respect of the whole, rose up against the Jews, otherwise it is hardly credible that they could have been superior to them in every place.


Verse 6

Esther 9:6. In Shushan the palace — That is, in the city where the palace was; it not being probable, either that they would make such a slaughter in the palace itself, or that they would be permitted so to do; the Jews slew and destroyed five hundred men — These, and the rest killed in other places, either were men who did not conceal their wicked inclinations, but openly assaulted the Jews, and whom therefore the king’s edict gave them power to destroy; or, they were persons whom the Jews knew to be their avowed enemies, and such as would watch all opportunities to assault and destroy them.


Verse 10

Esther 9:10. But on the spoil laid they not their hand — The king had granted them leave to take it, Esther 8:11, but they declined to do it; that it might appear what they did was not done out of malice or covetousness, but out of mere necessity, and according to the great law of self-preservation; that they might not so much as seem to desire any thing but their own safety; and that the king might have the greater kindness for them, in whose exchequer these goods were to come, if he pleased so to appoint, or to go to the children of such as were slain.


Verse 12

Esther 9:12. What have they done in the rest of the king’s provinces? — In which, doubtless, many more were slain. So that I have fully granted thy petition: and yet, if thou hast any thing further to ask, I am ready to grant it.


Verse 13

Esther 9:13. Let it be granted to the Jews to do to-morrow also according to this day’s decree — To kill their implacable enemies. For it is probable that the greatest and worst of them had hidden themselves for that day; after which, the commission granted to the Jews being expired, they confidently returned to their houses, where they were taken and slain, by virtue of this private and unexpected order. And let Haman’s ten sons be hanged upon the gallows — They were slain before; now let their bodies be hanged on their father’s gallows, for their greater infamy, and the terror of all others who shall presume to abuse the king in like manner, or to persuade him to execute such cruelties upon his subjects. “It is not unlikely,” says Dr. Dodd, “that many might be enraged at Haman’s death, and his sons, in particular, might set themselves at the head of those who were bold enough to attempt the destruction of the Jews at Shushan, being resolved to revenge their father’s death, though in so doing they were sure to meet with their own. This seems to suggest one reason why Esther was so solicitous to have their dead bodies hung on the gallows, because they had shown more malice and indignation against the Jews, and, on the day when the cruel edict came to take place, had made more desperate attacks upon them, than any others; though the reason of state, in this severity, might be to expose the family to greater infamy, and to deter other counsellors at any time from abusing the king with false representations. For though the Jews suffered none to hang on the tree, as they called the gallows, longer than till the evening of the day whereon they were executed, yet other nations let them hang till they were consumed, (as appears from the story of the Gibeonites, 2 Samuel 21:9,) or devoured by crows, vultures, or other ravenous creatures.” See Patrick.


Verse 16

Esther 9:16. And had rest from their enemies — Who could not stand before them, and therefore ceased to molest them. But they laid not their hands on the prey — It is probable Mordecai, in his letters, had charged them not to make use of the liberty the king had given them to take the spoil, inasmuch as it appears they universally avoided it.


Verse 17-18

Esther 9:17-18. On the thirteenth day of the month Adar — This is to be referred to the foregoing words, and the meaning is, the slaughter was made in the provinces on the thirteenth day of this month, when they had reason to expect they should have been destroyed themselves. On the fifteenth day of the same they rested — That is, the Jews in the city of Shushan made the fifteenth day a festival, because they had liberty to avenge themselves of their enemies, not only on the thirteenth, but also on the fourteenth day, which were both days of slaughter, and therefore they rested not till the fifteenth day.


Verse 19

Esther 9:19. The Jews of the villages, that dwelt in the unwalled towns — Hebrew, in the cities of the villages; that is, in the lesser cities and villages, which are here opposed to the great city Shushan, and those who dwelt in it. Made the fourteenth day a day of gladness, &c. — Namely, because they did their whole work upon the thirteenth day, as was observed Esther 9:17, to which this manifestly relates, the 18th verse coming in by way of parenthesis. And a good day, and of sending portions one to another — A day of thanksgiving and praise to God, as well as of feasting one with another, and of sending meat from their tables to their neighbours, that the meaner sort might feast and rejoice also. Hence the Jews have a rule, that they should make a collection of money, at this time of the year, to send to the poor, to enable them to provide for themselves things necessary to make a feast; which money they judge it unlawful to apply to any other use.


Verse 20

Esther 9:20. Mordecai wrote these things, &c. — That is, the history of these things, which was the ground of the feast here spoken of. Mordecai knew very well these things ought to be had in remembrance, and to be told to their children and posterity through all ages, according to the many commands of God to that purpose, and the constant practice of the holy men of God in such cases. And sent letters unto all the Jews that were in all the provinces — Signifying what a mighty deliverance God had vouchsafed them, and appointing, in commemoration thereof, an annual festival to be observed.


Verse 21

Esther 9:21. To establish this — to keep the fourteenth day, and the fifteenth day of the month Adar — The twelfth month; just a month before the passover. Thus the first and the last month of the year were kept in remembrance of the days when God preserved them. They were enjoined to keep two days together, because both those days had been set apart this year, the latter at Shushan, and the former in other parts; and because that victory over their enemies, which was to be the ground of this festival, had been achieved on both the thirteenth and fourteenth days. Let us not be niggardly in our returns of praise to him, who bestows his favours so liberally upon us.


Verse 22

Esther 9:22. As the days wherein the Jews rested — They did not keep the days on which they fought, but those on which they rested. On the fourteenth day the country Jews rested, and on the fifteenth those in Shushan, and these days they kept. The sabbath was appointed, not on the day when God finished his work, but on the day he rested from it. The month which was turned unto them — from mourning into a good day — A day of cheerfulness, praise, and thanksgiving. And of sending portions one to another — In token of mutual respect, and their being knit by this, and other public common dangers and deliverances, so much the closer to each other in love. And gifts to the poor — Which they were wont to give also on other days of thanksgiving, of which see Nehemiah 8:10. It is not to our kinsmen and rich neighbours only that we ought to send tokens of our love and friendship at such times, but also and especially to the poor and the maimed, Luke 14:12-13. Thus they that have received mercy, must, in token of their gratitude, show mercy; and there never wants occasion, for the poor we have always with us. Thanksgiving and almsgiving should go together, that, when we are rejoicing and blessing God, the hearts of the poor may rejoice with us, and their loins may bless us.


Verse 23

Esther 9:23. The Jews undertook to do as they had begun — That is, to keep these days as festivals everywhere. Having by this means an opportunity of gathering themselves together, on any occasion, the chief of them assembled, and freely and unanimously consented to Mordecai’s desire in this matter, and bound it upon themselves and posterity.


Verse 24

Esther 9:24. Because Haman had devised against the Jews to destroy them, and had cast Pur, that is, the lot — Haman had, by lot, determined this to be the time of the Jews’ destruction; but the Lord, at whose disposal the lot is, had determined it to be the time of their triumph. The name of this festival, therefore, would remind them of the sovereign dominion of the God of Israel, who served his own purposes by the foolish superstitions of the heathen, and outwitted the monthly prognosticators in their craft, Isaiah 47:14, frustrating the tokens of the liars, and making the diviners mad, Isaiah 44:26.


Verse 26

Esther 9:26. They called these days Purim — Namely, these two festival days; after the name Pur — A Persian word signifying a lot. For all the words of this letter, and of that which they had seen, and which had come unto them — Because of what was contained in the letter of Mordecai, and the respect which they justly bore to it; and because of what they themselves had seen, when these things happened, and God so wonderfully delivered them; and of what they heard reported concerning these matters, in the places where they could not see them, they unanimously consented to keep a yearly festival in commemoration of them, as it follows in the next verse.


Verse 27

Esther 9:27. The Jews took upon them and upon their seed — To the latest generations; and upon all such as joined themselves unto them — That is, the Gentile proselytes, who were obliged to submit to other of the Jewish laws, and therefore to this also; the rather, because they enjoyed the benefit of this day’s deliverance, without which the Jewish nation and religion had been in a great measure, if not wholly, extinct in the world. That they would keep these two days according to their writing — According to that writing which was drawn up by Mordecai with Esther’s consent, (Esther 9:23; Esther 9:29,) and afterward confirmed by the consent of all the Jews in the several places. So that the observation of this feast was to be both universal and perpetual: even the proselytes were to observe it, in token of their sincere affection to the Jewish nation, and their having interests twisted with theirs. A concurrence in joys and praises is one branch of the communion of saints.


Verse 28

Esther 9:28. That these days should be remembered and kept — That the memorial of these great things, which God had done for his church, might never perish. For if God work wonders for a day, it is that they may be had in everlasting remembrance. Every family, every province, every city — Accordingly, even the women and little children, nay, such as were base- born and servants, were bound to keep this feast.


Verse 29

Esther 9:29. Then Esther and Mordecai wrote with all authority — As well they might, Esther being queen, and Mordecai prime minister of state. The former letter (Esther 9:20) did only recommend, but this enjoins the observance of this solemnity. And it was not only the act of the queen and Mordecai, but also the act of all the Jews, binding themselves and their posterity to it.


Verse 30

Esther 9:30. With words of peace and truth — Though they wrote with authority, they wrote also with peace, that is, with friendship, tenderness, and kindness, not in imperious and imposing language, but in an affectionate and conciliating style: and with truth, or sincerity, which is the rather observed, because it was, as it still is, not very usual with great courtiers, such as Mordecai now was, to write so. Or the meaning may be, that he saluted them with hearty wishes for the continuance of those two great blessings of God, truth and peace, among them, namely, the true religion, and peace among themselves, and with all men; or, that they might peaceably and quietly enjoy and profess the truth. Or if the matter, rather than the manner, or form of his writing be intended, the sense is, that he directed and endeavoured to persuade them to keep both peace and truth, that is, both to live peaceably and lovingly one with another, and with all their neighbours, not insulting over them upon a confidence in Mordecai’s great power, or upon this their late and great success, nor giving them any fresh provocation; and yet holding fast the true religion, in spite of all the artifices or hostilities of the Gentiles, among whom they lived.


Verse 31

Esther 9:31. The matters of their fasting, and of their cry — For and concerning those great and overwhelming calamities which had been decreed to befall all the Jews, and for the removing of which, not only Esther and the Jews of Shushan, but all other Jews, in all places, as soon as they heard of those dismal tidings, did doubtless, according to the precepts of Scripture, and the constant practice of their godly predecessors in all ages, flee to that last and only refuge, of seeking to God by fasting and earnest prayers, and strong cries, which God was pleased graciously to hear, and in answer thereunto to give them this amazing deliverance. And this was that which they were now to remember, namely, the greatness of their danger, and of their rescue from it. And, accordingly, the Jews used to observe the first of those days with fasting, and crying, and other expressions of vehement grief, imitating herein the example of Esther and Mordecai, who had fasted and prayed in their distress, and the latter of the days with feasting, and thanksgiving, and all demonstrations of joy and triumph.


Verse 32

Esther 9:32. And the decree of Esther — Who had received authority and commission from the king to impose this upon all the Jews; confirmed these things — She commanded the forementioned decree, which confirmed or established the observance of the days of Purim, to be recorded and made a public act; and it was written in the book — Either in the records of the kingdom, or in those which the Jews kept of the most memorable passages of their own history. This feast of Purim, the reader will observe, is celebrated among the Jews to this very day, and that with several peculiar ceremonies, most of which, however, says Dr. Dodd, are “reducible to these three things, reading, resting, and fasting. Before the reading, which is performed in the synagogue, and begins in the evening as soon as the stars appear, they make use of three forms of prayer. In the first of these they praise God for counting them worthy to attend this divine service; in the second they thank him for the miraculous preservation of their ancestors; and in the third they bless his holy name for having continued their lives for the celebration of another festival in commemoration of it. Then they read over the whole history of Haman, from the beginning to the end; not out of any printed book, for that is not lawful, but out of a Hebrew manuscript, written on parchment. There are five places in the text wherein the reader raises his voice with all his might: when he comes to the place that mentions the names of the ten sons of Haman, he repeats them very quick, to show that they were all destroyed in a moment; and every time that the name of Haman is pronounced, the children, with great fury, strike against the benches of the synagogue with mallets brought for that purpose. After the reading is finished, they return home, and have a supper, not of flesh, but of spoon-meat. Next morning they arise early, and return to the synagogue, where, after they have read that passage in Exodus which mentions the war of Amalek, they begin again to read the book of Esther, with the same ceremonies as before, and so conclude the services of the day, with curses against Haman and his wife, with blessings upon Mordecai and Esther and with praises to God for having preserved his people. Their resting on this day is observed so religiously that they will not so much as set or sow any thing in their gardens, being fully persuaded that it would not come up if they did; and therefore they either play at chess, or such like games, or spend their time in music or dancing, till it be proper to begin their feasting, wherein they indulge themselves to such an immoderate degree, that their feast of Purim has, with great justice, been called the Bacchanals of the Jews. They allow themselves to drink wine to excess; nay, even to such a pitch as not to be able to distinguish between the blessing of Mordecai and the curse of Haman, as they themselves speak. Among the other sports and diversions of the day, they used formerly to erect a gibbet, and burn upon it a man of straw, whom they called Haman; but it being surmised that they might have a design herein to insult the Christians, Theodosius the Second forbade them to use this ceremony, under the penalty of forfeiting all their privileges. See Calmet’s Dictionary, under the word Purim. The most laudable particular in the feast of Purim, is the abundant charities, in money and food, which the rich bestow upon the poor, in order to put them in a capacity to celebrate the festival.”

 


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Bibliography Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Esther 9:4". Joseph Benson's Commentary. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/esther-9.html. 1857.

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