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 8:1 On that day, King Ahasuerus gave the house of Haman, the Jews’ enemy, to Esther the queen- "Enemy" here is LXX diabolos, the slanderer / enemy. Clearly he is set up as representative of the organized opposition to God's people, although we have here another example of how the word refers simply to a human being and not an external cosmic being. The presence of the article, the slanderer / diabolos, is significant in that it torpedoes the position of those who argue that every reference to ho diabolos refers to the cosmic being of popular theology. It doesn't, for here it refers simply to the man Haman.

Mordecai came before the king; for Esther had told what he was to her- The king was ignorant of this, apparently not knowing much about the personal history of his wives; see on Esther 5:4. We now see them both 'coming out' even more. We are intended to shine as candles not under a bucket but set on a hill. And God gently works to lead us all to a situation where our faith isn't solely personal but is made public.

Esther 8:2 The king took off his ring, which he had taken from Haman, and gave it to Mordecai. Esther set Mordecai over the house of Haman-
The gift of a "house" to a woman and this decision making by a woman was unusual; but the whole story is about the overthrow of traditional, conservative paradigms and legalistic approaches by the movement of God's invisible Spirit.

Esther 8:3 Esther spoke yet again before the king, and fell down at his feet, and begged him with tears to put away the mischief of Haman the Agagite, and his device that he had devised against the Jews-
This presumably involved risking death again by going in to the king's audience uninvited. But she had learnt the lesson- that she was not to merely seek her own salvation but to continue to risk her life for that of others. She begs "with tears", apparently more emotionally and passionately than she did when she first asked about the matter. Her passion for the salvation of others had now become stronger than her desire for personal salvation; when according to our reflections on Esther 4:11 her initial reaction to the news of the decree was to consider that she could save herself by keeping quiet, and she had been unwilling to go to see the king uninvited. Such spiritual growth over such a short period can be seen in the lives of God's people today and is possible for each of us.

Esther 8:4 Then the king held out to Esther the golden sceptre. So Esther arose, and stood before the king-
The use of the sceptre shows she was still approaching him uninvited and at the risk of her life.

Esther 8:5 She said, If it pleases the king, and if I have found favour in his sight, and the thing seem right to the king, and I am pleasing in his eyes, let it be written to reverse the letters devised by Haman, the son of Hammedatha the Agagite, which he wrote to destroy the Jews who are in all the king’s provinces-
She stresses that Haman wrote the letters- even though they were written in the king's name. But laws of the Persians couldn't be reversed- unless the king was going to admit he wasn't actually divine. And it could be that she was asking him to make this radical step of realization and humility. To "reverse" the decree, or turn it back, was the same idea as 'repenting'. But he refuses, and instead tries to get around the problem by issuing another decree.

Clearly Esther did find favour before both the king and her God. But this apparently contradicts earlier statements in the prophets. But the passion and love of God leads Him time and again to apparently contradict Himself. He says that He will cast Judah out of their land, they would go to Babylon and serve other gods there, “where I will not show you favour” (Jer. 16:13). But actually Esther and her people were shown favour there [s.w. Esther 4:8; Esther 8:5]. God was gracious [s.w. ‘show favour’] to those in exile (Is. 30:18,9; Am. 5:15; Mal. 1:9). But Jer. 16 goes on to state that God would not ever hide His eyes / face from the iniquity they had committed, i.e. the reason why they were in captivity (Jer. 16:17). But actually He did do just that- He hid His eyes from the sin of Judah and the sin of the exiles (Is. 65:16); the hiding of His face from them was in fact not permanent but for a brief moment (Is. 54:8). God then outlines a plan- He will recompense their sin double, and this would lead them back to Him (Jer. 16:18). But this was to be an unrepeatable, once-for-all program that would “cause them to know mine hand… and they shall now that my name is The Lord” (Jer. 16:21). This double recompensing of Judah’s sin happened in the exile in Babylon (Is. 40:2), and therefore the joyful news was proclaimed to Zion in Is. 40 that now the Messianic Kingdom could begin. But there wasn’t much interest nor response to the call to return to Judah in order to share in it. The exile didn’t cause God’s people to repent nor to know His Name. It wasn’t the once-for-all program which He intended. Now none of this makes God out to be somehow not serious or unreliable. Rather is it all an indication of His passion and how deeply He wishes His plans of redemption for us to work out. He’s not ashamed to as it were humiliate Himself, lay Himself open to petty critics, in His passion for us. Thus God was so [apparently] sure that the exile would bring about Judah’s repentance and return to Him: “Thy lovers shall go into captivity: surely then shalt thou be ashamed and confounded for all thy wickedness” (Jer. 22:22). But actually the very opposite happened. It’s rather like “They will reverence my son” (Mt. 21:37)- when actually they crucified Him.

Esther 8:6 For how can I endure to see the evil that would come to my people? How can I endure to see the destruction of my relatives?-
Life lived solely for ourselves, even eternal life, is not endurable if our brethren are not living it with us. This had multiple implications. LXX "How can I survive the destruction...?" suggests she felt she would die with those who died. Her life was bound up with the life of her Jewish people, although previously she was but an ethnic Jewess who had totally assimilated into the life of the Persians. But she in her heart would live and die with them.

Esther 8:7 Then King Ahasuerus said to Esther the queen and to Mordecai the Jew, If I have freely granted you all that was Haman's, because he laid his hand on the Jews, and hanged him on a gallows, what do you further seek?-
We begin to tremour a little with Esther, wondering if the king's patience has worn thin. But we see again the king's shortsightedness and lack of empathy and appreciation of the implication of events and statements. He considered that if Haman was dead, and he had given the wealth of Haman to Mordecai, then there could be no other problem.

Esther 8:8 Write also to the Jews, as it pleases you, in the king’s name, and seal it with the king’s ring; for the writing which is written in the king’s name, and sealed with the king’s ring, may not be reversed by any man-
The idea is that the first decree could not be reversed, but the king could issue a second decree empowering the Jews to defend themselves. Again, as explained on Esther 1:15, the king was caught up in his own legalism. God was trying to nudge him towards realizing that he was not in fact God; for that was the basis upon which they considered that royal laws couldn't be changed, because they thought 'gods' were unchanging. But he is repeatedly taught, and the readership are taught, that any such system of legalism ends up limiting freedom of movement and ends up in contradiction. What is being highlighted is that the God of Israel isn't like that; He can and does change, even His own laws. Casuistic approaches to law were bound to fail, because God Himself is dynamic; the only point at which He doesn't change is His constant love for the sons of Jacob and not punishing them as their sins deserve (Mal. 3:6). His comment that the king's decree could not be reversed "by any man" may suggest that he was slightly moving towards the acceptance of a personal God far mightier than himself; for he may mean that "man" couldn't reverse it, not even himself, but God could.

Esther 8:9 Then the king’s scribes were called at that time, in the third month Sivan, on the twenty-third day of the first month, which is Nisan; and it was written according to all that Mordecai commanded to the Jews, and to the satraps, the governors and princes of the provinces which are from India to Ethiopia, one hundred and twenty-seven provinces, to every province according to its writing, and to every people in their language, and to the Jews in their writing and in their language-
Again we have a tacit recognition of the degree to which the Jews had been scattered, throughout the 127 provinces of the empire- exactly in fulfilment of the prophecies of scattering. For the proud king to do this was also a tacit recognition that his laws and decision making were not infallible and he had been set up to make a major decision which was wrong. It is perhaps to his credit that he allowed the second decree to be written and sent.

Esther 8:10 He wrote in the name of King Ahasuerus, and sealed it with the king’s ring, and sent letters by courier on horseback, riding on royal horses that were bred from swift steeds-
There may have been an attempt to outrun the carriers of the earlier decree, even though they were also "hasted".

Esther 8:11 In those letters, the king granted the Jews who were in every city to gather themselves together, and to defend their life, to destroy, to kill, and to cause to perish all the power of the people and province that would assault them, their little ones and women, and to plunder their possessions-
The second edict is worded in the terms of the first; the Jews were empowered to do to their enemies what those enemies had wished to do to them. This is the repeated basis for judgment in the last day; thus throughout Revelation, the seals of judgment upon latter Israel are then brought upon their abusers in the form of the trumpets and vials. The LXX adds some detail; "he charged them to use their own laws in every city, and to help each other". Haman had previously made a fuss about the Jews' laws. Now they were encouraged to use their own laws, and to use them as they were intended- to help each other, after the pattern of Esther not thinking only of her own salvation. This was another prod of the exiles towards obedience to the law as intended, and to turn to their God more fully.

Esther 8:12 on one day in all the provinces of King Ahasuerus, on the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, which is the month Adar-
This was the date which Haman had chosen by casting lots. And again the hand of God was invisibly in that, for now the Jews had plenty of time to prepare themselves.

Esther 8:13 A copy of the letter, that the decree should be given out in every province, was published to all the peoples, that the Jews should be ready for that day to avenge themselves on their enemies-
Vengeance on Israel's enemies was the language of the restoration prophecies and the reestablishment of the Kingdom which was potentially possible at the restoration. But the Jews in Persia were those who hadn't responded to that. And yet it is as if God so eagerly tries to by all means achieve at least a partial fulfilment of those prophecies. They were intended, of course, to see the similarities and return both to their God and His land. But they were content with the very partial fulfilment of what was at that time potentially possible. See on :14; Esther 9:22.

Esther 8:14 So the couriers who rode on royal horses went out, hastened and pressed on by the king’s commandment. The decree was given out in the citadel of Susa-
The parallel is clearly with the hasting of the king's commandment to destroy the Jews. Esther is full of such inversions. The impression given is that there was to be a complete reversal of their fortunes. But this was the language of the restoration prophecies and the reestablishment of the Kingdom which was potentially possible at the restoration; see on :13.

Esther 8:15 Mordecai went out of the presence of the king in royal clothing of blue and white, and with a great crown of gold, and with a robe of fine linen and purple; and the city of Susa shouted and was glad-
This is in conscious contrast with how at the first decree, the city of Shushan was perplexed (Esther 3:15; 4:1). As noted on :13,14, the impression given is that there was to be a complete reversal of their fortunes. But they didn't take this theme further, and realize that it was in Zion where their fortunes were to be finally and more totally reversed. They were experiencing a foretaste of what would be possible far more fully if they repented and returned to Zion; but they refused to take that Divine nudge.

Esther 8:16 The Jews had light, gladness, joy, and honour-
The springing up of Judah's light is spoken of in Isaiah as happening at the restoration, in terms of Zion's light coming to Jerusalem in the person of Messiah. Likewise joy and gladness was to be Judah's experience in Zion. But it seems what could have been the breaking in of the Messianic kingdom for them even in captivity didn't lead to that Kingdom. For they preferred their own kingdom of wealth in Persia. They remained there; and the true light and joy of Zion wasn't experienced by them. See on :13-15.

Esther 8:17 In every province, and in every city, wherever the king’s commandment and his decree came, the Jews had gladness, joy, a feast, and a good day. Many from among the peoples of the land became Jews; for the fear of the Jews was fallen on them
- Although the ideal was that they returned to Zion and experienced light and joy there (:16), it seems God was willing to amend that plan so that their experience of it in captivity led to the Gentiles becoming Jews (as in Esther 9:27). For this is the consistent prophetic picture of the restored Kingdom of God- that Gentiles would join with repentant Judah in forming a multiethnic Kingdom of God in Zion. Just as some Egyptians joined the Jews in their exodus from Egypt, which is constantly alluded to in the restoration prophecies as the prototype for Judah's exodus from captivity, so it began to happen. But they didn't make the exodus; they remained where they were, although all was now set up for them to return. See on :13-16.