New European Commentary


About | PDFs | Mobile formats | Word formats | Other languages | Contact Us | What is the Gospel? | Support the work | Carelinks Ministries | | The Real Christ | The Real Devil | "Bible Companion" Daily Bible reading plan

Deeper Commentary

Esther 3:1 After these things- Between the seventh (Esther 2:16) and the twelfth (Esther 3:7) years of Xerxes’ reign.

King Ahasuerus promoted Haman the son of Hammedatha the Agagite, and advanced him, and set his seat above all the princes who were with him- Again we see the superficial nature of the king, to promote such a person to the greatest position of power. "Agagite" is a form of "Gog", and so he is set up as the representative of the latter day attempted persecutor of God's people. But Josephus (Antiquities of the Jews xi. 6. 5) and the Targum understand this to mean that Haman was descended from Agag, king of Amalek. But Mordecai was a descendant of Kish (Esther 2:5), and thus connected with Saul, who had conquered Agag. This would partly account for the natural personality clash between Haman and Mordecai. It would also mean that the people killed by the Jews towards the end of the story would likely have been Amalekites, and this would therefore have been a fulfilment of the prophecies about Yahweh's unceasing war with Amalek (Ex. 17:16) and Israel's final victory over them through Messiah (Num. 24:7 "higher than Agag").

Esther 3:2 All the king’s servants who were in the king’s gate bowed down, and paid homage to Haman; for the king had so commanded concerning him. But Mordecai didn’t bow down or pay him homage-
Although I have painted Mordecai as spiritually weak, he remained devoted to his insistent belief in Yahweh as the only God. And yet we get the impression that he harnessed this religious belief to augment his side of a personality clash with Haman- as we see so often in church life.

Esther 3:3 Then the king’s servants who were in the king’s gate said to Mordecai, Why do you disobey the king’s commandment?-
This question may have been from inquisitive interest; they were surprised a Jew wouldn't bow down to a man. And yet there were many Jews in Shushan, as archeology also bears out; enough to kill hundreds of men as recorded later in Esther 9:15. They hadn't see any other Jew articulate their belief in this way- a tacit reflection upon the spiritual weakness of the Jews generally, highlighting all the more the sensitive conscience of Daniel. For it is so hard to uphold principles when our own brethren don't uphold them or consider them merely cosmetic issues. Not bowing down to men was however not specifically commanded in the Mosaic law, and there are accounts of Israelites bowing down to men (1 Kings 1:16; 2 Sam. 14:4; 18:28). It would be a reflection of a very sensitive conscience toward God to refuse to do so. Perhaps he reasoned that the Messianic king would be higher than Agag (Num. 24:7) or that Haman was setting himself as a divine figure. And yet Mordecai was clearly not such a high sensitized believer; the very fact he worked in the palace was evidence enough. For whenever Daniel was promoted to power, he seems to have slipped out of the job and is only later recalled. This confirms my suggestion on :2 that Mordecai was using religious issues as part of a personality struggle with Haman. And we must beware we don't do the same. See on Esther 6:10.

Esther 3:4 Now it came to pass, when they spoke daily to him and he didn’t listen to them, that they told Haman, to see whether Mordecai’s position would stand; for he had told them that he was a Jew-
Haman was apparently unaware Mordecai was a Jew; it was the servants who told him of this. Again we are left with the impression that Mordecai was not a particularly strong believer, and was using the issue of not bowing down to any apart from Yahweh as an excuse to legitimize his native despising of Haman. See on Esther 4:1.

Esther 3:5 When Haman saw that Mordecai didn’t bow down nor pay him homage, Haman was full of wrath-
Circumstances repeat in human lives, both within the same life and between persons. This was just the response of the king when Vashti refused to expose herself. Like the king, Haman wanted to have the disrespectful person murdered. But there was no law in place, apparently, which allowed him to do this. It was just assumed that all bowed down to the first minister, just as it was assumed that wives must obey their husbands, especially if he was the divine king. See on Esther 1:13.

Esther 3:6 But he scorned the thought of laying hands on Mordecai alone, for they had made known to him Mordecai’s people. Therefore Haman sought to destroy all the Jews who were throughout the whole kingdom of Ahasuerus, even Mordecai’s people-
We have here an insight into the thought processes of Haman which only an inspired record could give. Haman thought for a moment of just destroying Haman, but scorned that thought, and instead went on to thinking of destroying all the Jews. Again we see how sin starts from within the human mind and not due to any possession by demons or a cosmic Satan figure. See on Esther 4:13.

Esther 3:7 In the first month, which is the month Nisan, in the twelfth year of King Ahasuerus, they cast Pur, that is, the lot, before Haman from day to day, and from month to month, and chose the twelfth month, which is the month Adar-
The idea is that every day they cast lots to see which month and day they should do it on, but the date given was about as far distant within the course of a year as possible. There was therefore going to be maximum time for the Jews to defend themselves, and for the king to change his mind. As Ahasuerus felt bound by his own law and couldn't kill Vashti as he wanted to, so was Haman. He obviously wanted to execute the massacre as soon as possible; but he was disallowed from doing this by his own structures of superstitions and laws.

Esther 3:8 Haman said to King Ahasuerus, There is a certain people scattered abroad and dispersed among the peoples in all the provinces of your kingdom, and their laws are different from other people’s. They don’t keep the king’s laws. Therefore it is not for the king’s profit to allow them to remain-
There is the implication that the king was so dim witted or befuddled by alcohol that he didn't even ask for the "people" to be defined, and just gave his signet ring to Haman to do as he wished. It could well be that he made these decisions whilst drunk (see on :15; Esther 7:2), and his personality was such that he didn't worry about the past but just lived for the present, with no thought to the implications of what he had done or agreed in the past. For surely he knew that Mordecai was a Jew (Esther 6:10) and that the Jews were in positions of power throughout the empire.

The restoration prophecies speak of how “all nations” are to be gathered to Zion; they are those who scattered Judah amongst the nations; not every literal nation. And who “scattered” Israel? The Hebrew word is used in Jer. 50:17 to describe how Babylon scattered Judah amongst the nations. And most significantly, the same word occurs again in Est. 3:8: “And Haman said unto king Ahasuerus, There is a certain people scattered abroad and dispersed among the people in all the provinces of thy kingdom...”. It is quite wrong for us to imagine Judah sitting quietly by the rivers of Babylon, all huddled together. They were scattered throughout all the many provinces / colonies of the Babylonian empire. This was why Cyrus’ decree bidding the Jews return to rebuild Jerusalem had to be published “throughout all his kingdom” (Ezra 1:1), and Jews living “in any place” of that kingdom were included in the invitation. It was Babylon who had “parted my land” by dividing it up amongst the various ‘Samaritan’ peoples who were transported there from other conquered territories. And their being in Babylon is paralleled with being scattered to the four corners of the world as it was known to them: “Ho, ho, come forth, and flee from the land of the north, saith the LORD: for I have spread you abroad as the four winds of the heaven, saith the LORD. Deliver thyself, O Zion, that dwellest with the daughter of Babylon” (Zech. 2:6-7). And consider Zech. 7:14: “But I scattered them with a whirlwind among all the nations whom they knew not. Thus the land was desolate after them [i.e. this concerns the Babylonian invasion], that no man passed through nor returned”. Indeed, Zech. 8:7,8 speaks of the restoration as coming from both West and East of Israel, implying that the Babylonians had sold some of the Jews as slaves in Greece and north Africa. 

Esther 3:9 If it pleases the king, let it be written that they be destroyed; and I will pay ten thousand talents of silver into the hands of those who are in charge of the king’s business, to bring it into the king’s treasuries-
Meaning apparently that he would pay this if he had permission to plunder the Jews (Esther 4:7). This meant they had acquired significant wealth; and this was doubtless why most of them didn't return to the land under Cyrus, and thereby precluded the reestablishment of God's Kingdom which was then possible. They therefore chose their little kingdom rather than the things of God's kingdom. And this is the problem with wealth. The huge financial offer was perhaps attractive for the king because of the need to prepare for the upcoming war with Greece which was then looming.

Esther 3:10 The king took his ring from his hand, and gave it to Haman the son of Hammedatha the Agagite, the Jews’ enemy-
To give Haman authority to act in his name was surely unwise. Especially when it would not surely have been hard to perceive that Haman had his personal agendas for wanting the Jews destroyed, and was a man obsessed. Again the king comes over as seriously lacking judgment, perhaps due to making these decisions when drunk (:15).

Esther 3:11 The king said to Haman, The silver is given to you, the people also, to do with them as it seems good to you-
This may be a reference to the assumption that the "silver" or wealth of executed persons went to the state; rather than saying Haman could keep it all for himself; for the intention was still to pay the money to the king's treasuries (Esther 4:7). But again this sounds like the wild kind of promise made when drunk (see on :15).

Esther 3:12 Then the king’s scribes were called in on the first month, on the thirteenth day of the month; and all that Haman commanded was written to the king’s satraps and to the governors who were over every province, and to the princes of every people, to every province according to its writing, and to every people in their language. It was written in the name of King Ahasuerus, and it was sealed with the king’s ring- "
The thirteenth having been found to be a lucky day for the massacre itself, Haman may have thought it advisable to choose the same day of the first month for entering upon the preparation for it". The word for "princes" is a technical terms referring to the chiefs of the various conquered peoples.

Esther 3:13 Letters were sent by couriers into all the king’s provinces, to destroy, to kill, and to cause to perish all Jews, both young and old, little children and women, in one day, even on the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, which is the month Adar, and to plunder their possessions-
The LXX claims to report a copy of the letter: "And the message was sent by posts throughout the kingdom of Artaxerxes, to destroy utterly the race of the Jews on the first day of the twelfth month, which is Adar, and to plunder their goods.
And the following is the copy of the letter; The great king Artaxerxes writes thus to the rulers and inferior governors of a hundred and twenty-seven provinces, from India even to Ethiopia, who hold authority under him. Ruling over many nations and having obtained dominion over the whole world, I was minded (not elated by the confidence of power, but ever conducting myself with great moderation and gentleness) to make the lives of my subjects continually tranquil, desiring both to maintain the kingdom quiet and orderly to its utmost limits, and to restore the peace desired by all men. But when I had enquired of my counsellors how this should be brought to pass. Aman, who excels in soundness of judgment among us, and has been manifestly well inclined without wavering and with unshaken fidelity, and had obtained the second post in the kingdom, informed us that a certain ill-disposed people is mixed up with all the tribes throughout the world, opposed in their law to every other nation, and continually neglecting the commands of the king, so that the united government blamelessly administered by us is not quietly established. Having then conceived that this nation alone of all others is continually set in opposition to every man, introducing as a change a foreign code of laws, and injuriously plotting to accomplish the worst of evils against our interests, and against the happy establishment of the monarchy; we signified to you in the letter written by Aman, who is set over the public affairs and is our second governor, to destroy them all utterly with their wives and children by the swords of the enemies, without pitying or sparing any, on the fourteenth day of the twelfth month Adar, of the present year; that the people aforetime and now ill-disposed to us having been violently consigned to death in one day, may hereafter secure to us continually a well constituted and quiet state of affairs".

Esther 3:14 A copy of the letter, that the decree should be given out in every province, was published to all the peoples, that they should be prepared against that day-
LXX "all the nations", looking ahead to the day when "all nations" will be gathered against the Jews. The stress upon all provinces and languages (:12) is a reflection of how widely the Jews had been scattered in the previous 70 years.

Esther 3:15 The couriers went forth in haste by the king’s commandment, and the decree was given out in the citadel of Susa. The king and Haman sat down to drink; but the city of Shushan was perplexed
- The haste was no doubt ordered by Haman because he feared the king might change his mind. if the king was an alcoholic, this would explain his apparent memory loss and acting as if he was unaware of the consequences of his past actions and decisions.