ESTHER CHAPTER 3.
Haman’s Promotion and Attempt to Destroy the Jews.
HAMAN PLANS REVENGE AGAINST MORDECAI. — V.1. After these things, some four years after the elevation of Esther to the position of queen, did King Ahasuerus promote Haman, the son of Hammedatha, the Agagite, making him a great man in the empire, and advanced him, and set his seat above all the princes that were with him, by raising him to the rank of grind vizier, his chief confidential minister. V. 2. And all the king’s servants that were in the king’s gate, the lower officers of the court, bowed and reverenced Haman, giving him kingly and therefore divine honor, after the Persian custom; for the king had so commanded concerning him. Ahasuerus claimed divine honor and reverence for himself, and he now commanded that his prime minister be regarded in the same way. But Mordecai bowed not nor did him reverence, since he, as a Jew, refused to give divine honors to any one but the Lord Himself. V. 3. Then the king’s servants, which were in the king’s gate, the fellow-officers of Mordecai, said unto Mordecal, Why transgressest thou the king’s commandment? It displeased them that Mordecai refused to give Haman the homage which they had to show. V. 4. Now, it came to pass, when they spake daily unto him and he hearkened not unto them, that they told Haman to see whether Mordecai’s matters would stand, whether he would succeed in upholding the principle which he alleged in explanation of his action; for he had told them that he was a Jew, wherefore he could not give divine homage to Haman, especially since the latter was an Amalekite, a race accursed and condemned by God, Ex. 17, 15; 1 Sam. 15. V. 5. And when Haman saw that Mordecai bowed not nor did him reverence, then was Haman full of wrath, regarding this refusal, according to Persian ideas, as the greatest insult which could have been offered him. V. 6. And he thought scorn to lay hands on Mordecai alone, revenge on this one man alone seemed too insignificant a matter to him; for they had showed him the people of Mordecai, the despised race of the Jews; wherefore Haman sought to destroy all the Jews that were throughout the whole kingdom of Ahasuerus, even the people of Mordecai. By exterminating the entire race of the Jews, a proceeding by no means without a precedent in the history of the cruel and revengeful Orientals, he not only wanted to express his contempt of the Jews in an adequate manner, but he also intended to prevent any further display of contempt on their part. V. 7. In the first month, that 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, the court astrologers and magicians being entrusted with this work of determining which day and month would be the most auspicious for carrying out Haman’s murderous design, to the twelfth month, that is, the month Adar, for Haman, with a zeal and persistence worthy of a better cause, determined that all signs must be favorable for the execution of his plan. The text is evidently to be understood in such a way that Haman, in the first month of the Jewish year, caused the lot to be cast, first for the month of the coming year in which he intended to have his revenge, and then for the day of the month which would be auspicious for his scheme. The fact that the last month of the Jewish year was chosen by lot gave him ample time to prepare his plans. Thus the enemies of the Church, Satan and the world, are always busy with schemes of destruction, which God, however, can easily frustrate at His own time.
THE PLOT TO DESTROY THE JEWS. — V. 8. And Haman, still enjoying the king’s favor to the full, said unto King Ahasuerus, There is a certain people scattered abroad and dispersed among the people in all the provinces of thy kingdom, skillfully insinuating that the Jews were aliens in manners and habits and enemies to the rest of his subjects; and their laws are diverse from all people, the implication being that they were at variance with the laws of the realm, that the Jews were no good citizens; neither keep they the king’s laws, for Haman falsely generalized from the one instance in which his dignity was offended; therefore it is not for the king’s profit to suffer them, to leave them in peace, unmolested, Haman’s suggestion being that the king’s person and the royal honor were in danger. V. 9. If it please the king, let it be written that they may be destroyed, as the Scythians had been massacred about a century before; and I will pay ten thousand talents of silver to the hands of those that have the charge of the business to bring it into the king’s treasuries, this immense sum of some twenty million dollars being intended both to arouse the king’s cupidity and to compensate him for any loss in revenue due to the destruction of so many of his citizens. Haman had planned with great shrewdness. V. 10. And the king, carried away with pleasure by the clever proposition of Haman, took his ring from his hand, and gave it unto Haman, the son of Hammedatha, the Agagite, the Jews’ enemy, this being a token not only of intimate friendship, but also of royal authority to issue decrees and to imprint upon them the royal signet. V. 11. And the king said unto Haman, The silver is given to thee, the people also, to do with them as it seemeth good to thee. He was given a free hand to do as he had planned. V. 12. Then were the king’s scribes called, the secretaries who were always in attendance upon him, on the thirteenth day of the first month, for Haman lost no time after deciding upon his plans, and there was written according to all that Haman had commanded unto the king’s lieutenants, the satraps of the empire, and to the governors that were over every province, the smaller divisions of the satrapies, and to the rulers of every people of every province, the native-born princes who were still considered the nominal heads, according to the writing thereof, and to every people after their language, for it was the policy of the Persian empire to publish all decrees in all the languages of the conquered nations; in the name of King Ahasuerus was it written, and sealed with the king’s ring. V. 13. And the letters were sent by posts into all the king’s provinces, for the system of royal posts by means of runners along the military highways was highly developed in Persia, to destroy, to kill, and to cause to perish, all Jews, both young and old, little children and women, in one day, even upon the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, which is the month Adar, and to take the spoil of them for a prey, the last being intended for a bait, in order to arouse the covetousness of the people, who may not have been opposed to the Jews. The form of the sentence shows that it was taken from a legal document, a faithful copy of the murderous decree. V. 14. The copy of the writing for a commandment to be given in every province was published unto all people that they should be ready against that day. The edict was to be proclaimed and posted in public everywhere, in order to work up the people to the proper pitch of deadly hate and to effect the extermination of all Jews. V. 15. The posts went out, being hastened by the king’s commandment, and the decree was given in Shushan, the palace, issued from this residence of the king. And the king and Haman sat down to drink, to indulge in sensual enjoyments without giving their cruelty a further thought; but the city Shushan was perplexed, the inhabitants being unable to explain to themselves the terrible and cruel decree of the king, which was bound to rend the homes and the hearts of thousands of his subjects. The enemies of the Church have more than once decreed its destruction and laid their plans accordingly, meanwhile living in a false security; but they failed to take into consideration the almighty power of God.