12 Est 8-10 God Delivers His PeopleEzra, Nehemiah, & Esther: Restore, Rebuild, & Redeem
To access all posts in this series, from the most recent to the oldest: http://servingandsharing.com/category/esther-restore/
To access all YouTube videos in this series: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL7JRppjEn33ZSsUk3s7uO_A71-AZVkFBH
Once again, I have extensively used and copied from the Truth for Today Commentary on Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther, written by my friend and former colleague at Heritage Christian University, Coy D. Roper, Ph.D. I highly recommend it!
Esther 8 – The King’s Edict
Es 8:1-2 – Mordecai’s Promotion
As if to defeat and remove Haman to the max, and to show his gratitude and respect for Esther, the king gave Haman’s house to Esther. Through her now-disclosed relationship to Mordecai, Mordecai entered the king’s throne room. Recall that formerly he was not allowed past the king’s outside gate.
The king gave Mordecai his signet ring, which Haman had once worn and had used to seal the letters regarding the annihilation of the Jews (Es 3:10, 12). This officially made Mordecai the new prime minister, with all the privileges and benefits that his adversary had once enjoyed. Beyond that, Esther gave Mordecai authority over Haman’s house.
Haman’s house may have included all that pertained to it, including all of the contents, furniture, treasures, holdings, and even servants. While Esther still owned Haman’s possessions, perhaps Mordecai moved into the residence and managed what was his.
Es 8:3-8 – Esther’s Petition
Even though Haman had been executed and Mordecai had been exalted, the Jews still had a major life-or-death problem. So Esther again petitioned the king, falling at his feet, weeping and begging for his help. She had acted so confidently when confronting Haman at the second banquet, but that confidence came only after her initial humility before the king. She repeated that approach here. Her humility would once again soften his heart and allow her to proceed confidently.
Apparently, Esther once again came before the king without first being summoned. It was after she spoke to the king that he extended the golden scepter to her.
Roper notes that Esther’s formal request was prefaced by four “ifs”— four reasons she hoped the king would grant her petition. (1) “If it pleases the king” implied that she would not have him do anything against his will. (2) In saying, “If I have found favor before him,” she was asking him to remember his love for her. (3) “[If] the matter seems proper to the king” suggested that she wanted him to do only what was right in his own eyes. (4) By adding, “[If] I am pleasing in his sight,” she was inviting him to look at her and see how loving and lovely she was.
Could he avert the coming attack against her people? Could he revoke Haman’s letters, which had been signed, sealed, and authorized by the power of the throne? No! Persian law, once written, could not be erased. The king’s law could not be altered or revoked (1:19). Remember the fact that Darius could not revoke the decree that forced him to send Daniel to the lion’s den (Dan. 6:8, 12, 15).
Was there no way to save the Jews, then? Yes, there was another way! Letters could be written, authorized just as were the previous letters of destruction, that would respond to those previous laws and allow the Jews to defend themselves.
Ahasuerus said, in effect, “This is what I have done already to Haman because he sought to kill the Jews. This is what I will do now by permitting you to proceed.” He said to Esther, as he had said before to Haman, “Now you write [this time] to the Jews as you see fit, in the king’s name, and seal it with the king’s signet ring.”
Es 8:9-14 – Xerxes’ Pronouncement
The decree was written by the king’s scribes, two months and ten days after the king’s first decree had been made public (3:12), and about eight months before the date set for the Jews’ annihilation. It was composed by Mordecai (as prime minister), with the force of a royal commandment, and put into the various languages throughout Persia, including Aramaic for the Jews. The text notes this detail twice, that only the best horses, “steeds sired by the royal stud,” were used to deliver the decree throughout the empire.
The decree contained the same words that Haman had used, “to destroy, to kill and to annihilate,” but in the opposite direction. As Haman had intended to plunder the Jewish victims, now the Jews would be authorized to plunder their Persian attackers. It is very important to emphasize that the Jews were authorized, not to initiate attacks against men, women, and children, but only to defend themselves after first being attacked themselves.
The date set for the Jews’ defense was the same as the date for Haman’s planned genocide (3:13). It was to occur on the thirteenth day of the twelfth month (the month Adar, or February/March).
Es 8:15-17 – The Jews’ Pleasure
Roper notes four results of the edict.  It solidified Mordecai’s role and authority as the new prime minister. This was evident even in the royal robes, the golden crown, and the fine garment he wore.  It created shouting and rejoicing in the capital city of Susa. Not only were the Jews excited; so were those who respected them and who recognized that they were innocent victims treated unjustly. The joy in Susa contrasts with the previous chaos in the city (3:15).
 It led to a special day of gladness and joy for the Jews, as we would expect. They celebrated with a feast and a holiday (Heb., “a good day”).  It resulted in many Gentiles choosing to become Jewish proselytes. The fact that these courageous Jews would valiantly and forcefully defend themselves caused many to dread them. These Gentiles dared not be on the wrong side, attacking the Jews at the risk of their own lives. We must always remember that, in Old Testament times, such conversions were allowed, though they were apparently rare.
Takeaways from Esther 8
What Leads to Honor? – Note the characteristics and behaviors of Mordecai that, in the providence of God, resulted in his promotion.
What Leads to Success? – If you could ask the greatest ruler in the world for whatever you wanted most, what would it be and why?
What Leads to Victory? – Though the king authorized the Jews to do what they did, they still had to do it! Any victory worth having is worth the cost to achieve it. Discuss also the principle of using self-defense to overcome others who threaten to kill you.
What Leads to Conversion? – Why did many among the peoples of the land become Jews? What made the Jews different?
Esther 9 – The Jews’ Triumph
Es 9:1-10 – The Jews’ Destruction of Their Enemies
“It was turned to the contrary.” The outcome was the exact opposite of that which, just a short time earlier, had seemed so inevitable. It was not the Jews’ enemies who gained mastery over them, but rather they who gained mastery over those who hated them.
“… the dread of them had fallen on all the peoples.” This may be yet another subtle, unspoken reference to God, because God had made these promises to Israel:
Ex 23:27 “I will send My terror ahead of you and throw into confusion all the people among whom you come, and I will make all your enemies turn their backs to you.
Dt 2:25 “This day I will begin to put the dread and fear of you upon the peoples everywhere under the heavens, who, when they hear the report of you, will tremble and be in anguish because of you.”
The text specifies the enemies’ dread of Mordecai in particular. He became greater and greater, and his fame spread far and wide.
The citadel was the fortress where the king’s palace was located. Killing and destroying five hundred men there in the capital’s headquarters certainly demonstrated the courage and determination of the Jews.
The text also lists the names of the ten sons of Haman that were killed. Calling their individual names would indicate even more explicitly the victory of the Jews. As we often see in biblical times and in our own day, children suffer the consequences of their fathers’ actions. Of course, children of faithful fathers reap the blessings of what their fathers choose to do.
“… but they did not lay their hands on the plunder.” Though they were authorized to do so (Es 8:11), the Jews did not seize their enemies’ possessions. Perhaps this resulted from the fact that they had a higher priority, saving their families’ lives, that outweighed any desire for material gain.
Es 9:11-15 – The Jews’ Second Day of Victory in Susa
King Xerxes received the triumphant death-toll report and described it to Esther. Yet he also asked, in effect, “What else can I do? Just tell me!” She requested that the Jews be allowed to defend themselves one more day, this time just in Susa the capital. Perhaps she knew that the Jews might be attacked again the next day or that their enemies in Susa had not yet been fully eliminated.
She also requested that the dead bodies of Haman’s ten sons be “hanged on the gallows” (nailed to vertical, wooden stakes). What a gruesome sight that must have been! And that was the whole point. This would present yet another visible proof of the Jews’ victory and deter all other opponents from trying to destroy this. The message may have been, “Look what happened to these ten sons of Haman, and don’t let it happen to you!”
They killed three hundred more men on that second day. Once again, they did not take any of the plunder that was rightfully and legally theirs.
Es 9:16-19 – The Jews’ Celebration of Their Victory
What had occurred in the rest of the empire? While the Jews in Susa had killed 800 enemies (9:12, 15), those in the other provinces had killed 75,000! The Jews in Susa had been given two days to destroy their adversaries, whereas the Jews elsewhere had eliminated their enemies in only one day. Once again, the Jews in the provinces, like those in Susa, refrained from laying their hands on the plunder.
Es 9:20-32 – The Jews’ Institution of the Feast of Purim
Mordecai’s next steps paralleled those of his predecessor as prime minister, Haman. The two could not have been more opposite. While Haman’s letters sought to destroy the Jews to satisfy his pride and hatred, Mordecai’s letters aimed to empower the Jews to protect themselves and destroy those who attacked them unjustly.
The festive days that the Jews celebrated may remind one today of our own Independence Day. The feasting, rejoicing, sharing of food, and giving to the poor reflected their overwhelming gratitude to God and sense of relief.
Because Haman had cast “Pur,” meaning the lot, to choose the day on which to annihilate the Jews, the Jews created “Purim,” a two-day annual celebration to commemorate their deliverance. (In Hebrew, “purim” is the plural form of “pur.”)
The phrase “all those who allied themselves with them” may refer to Gentile converts or proselytes (cf. 8:16-17). Those individuals who partly adopted the Jewish faith and teachings were later called “Godfearers.”
The festivities each year were to be observed “celebrated throughout every generation, every family, every province and every city.” In this way the memory of this great deliverance would remain fresh and never fade. The letters declared that Jewish tradition should include rejoicing and feasting (which occurred on the day of Purim) as well as fasting and lamentation.
To this end, Prime Minister Mordecai wrote letters once again to the Jews in all 127 provinces of Ahasuerus. These letters established and legally codified the annual observance of Purim.
Though this passage gives account of the origins of the celebration of Purim, the evidence for the celebration’s being customary does not come until much later. The apocryphal book of 2 Maccabees (15:36) contains the earliest reference to the festival outside of Esther. There the thirteenth of Adar is identified as the day before Mordecai’s day. In the first century AD Josephus called the holiday phrouraious (from a Greek word meaning to guard), and soon after that, the Jewish Mishnah used the term Purim.
Modern Jewish celebrations of Purim are festive, fun-filled parties of celebration. Participants wear costumes, even non-religious ones. Children may dress up as superheroes, for example. The entire book of Esther is read aloud. Whenever the name “Haman” is read, those present use noisemakers and make loud sounds to drown it out. Participants give gifts to the poor and food to their friends. They cook traditional food, decorate their homes colorfully, play special Purim music, and invite friends and family. They share an evening meal and then take turns telling stories related to Purim.
One Jewish website states: “Purim, celebrated on the 14th of Adar, is the most fun-filled, action-packed day of the Jewish year. It commemorates our nation’s miraculous salvation more than two millennia ago. Purim Dates: Purim 2023 begins Monday night, March 6 and continues through Tuesday, March 7 (extending through Wednesday in Jerusalem).” https://www.chabad.org/holidays/purim/article_cdo/aid/1362/jewish/How-to-Celebrate-Purim.htm
Note further information here: https://www.wikihow.com/Celebrate-Purim
Takeaways from Esther 9
Retributive Justice – Whereas Haman’s efforts sprang from anger, hatred, and personal vengeance, the Jews’ efforts did not. Instead, they acted under just authority of the law. Discuss the difference between the two.
Righteous Self-Defense – Can a Christian fight back against an attacker? Consider “turn the other cheek” and “do not resist him who is evil.” Do those passages prevent a follower of Christ from defending himself and protecting his family and friends?
Reflective Gifts – How are these two matters related: deliverance from evil and generosity toward others? Why does a person, saved from a tragedy, find fresh motivation and determination to give food and presents to others?
Regular Reminders – Why was it important to remember the events recorded in this book? What do you commemorate with your family annually? What do you want to be sure your family remembers after you are gone, and how will you do that?
Esther 10 – Epilogue
Es 10:1-3 – Mordecai’s Success
Es 10:1 Now King Ahasuerus laid a tribute on the land and on the coastlands of the sea. 2 And all the accomplishments of his authority and strength, and the full account of the greatness of Mordecai to which the king advanced him, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Media and Persia? 3 For Mordecai the Jew was second only to King Ahasuerus, and great among the Jews and in favor with his many kinsmen, one who sought the good of his people and one who spoke for the welfare of his whole nation.
Although the three verses of the chapter speak of the greatness of the king, their real emphasis is on the success of Mordecai as his second-in-command. The book ends as it began, emphasizing the impressive role that Ahasuerus (or Xerxes) played. The fact that he “laid a tribute” or levied a tax far and wide indicates that his authority was unchallenged and his treasury restocked.
The “Book of the Chronicles” refers to the records kept by the Medo-Persian government. Media may be mentioned here first. Roper notes, “because it was dominant at the beginning of the Medo-Persian Empire, when the chronicles apparently began to be compiled.”
Yet the book of Esther ends, not with a focus on King Ahasuerus or even Queen Esther, but rather on Mordecai. The text notes his greatness, his position as second-in-command to the king, his popularity with his people, his seeking their good, and his speaking out for their benefit.
Roper writes: “The book, which mentions Mordecai before introducing Esther (2:5–7), ends by telling more of Mordecai’s story after the last mention of Esther. It almost seems as if the author wanted to make the point that one of Esther’s main accomplishments was to make it possible for Mordecai to become prime minister so that he, in turn, could benefit the Jews from that position. Seen in this light, the providence of God evident in Esther’s elevation to royalty not only resulted in the Jews’ being saved from extermination, but it also led to their being blessed in the years that followed by having one of their own serve in such a high position in the Persian government.”
Takeaways from Esther 10
Character Components – Describe each of these four individuals with just one word or phrase each.  King Ahasuerus (Xerxes).  Haman the Agagite.  Queen Esther (Hadassah).  Mordecai the Jew.
Character Consequences – Discuss each of these four individuals in terms of what they sowed and what they reaped.  King Ahasuerus (Xerxes).  Haman the Agagite.  Queen Esther (Hadassah).  Mordecai the Jew.
Character Comparisons – To whom (in the Bible and in the world) would you compare each of these four individuals with just one word or phrase?  King Ahasuerus (Xerxes).  Haman the Agagite.  Queen Esther (Hadassah).  Mordecai the Jew.
Takeaways from the Book of Esther
What has the Book of Esther taught you about God? About God’s providence? About yourself? About choices? About responsibilities? About influence? About evil? About bravery?
What impact will this study of the Book of Esther have on your life’s direction? What goals and changes will you pursue as a result? Make each of your responses “SMART:” Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound.
 Victor Harold Matthews, Mark W. Chavalas, and John H. Walton, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament, electronic ed. (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000), Es 9:18–32.