How quickly might things can change in life. Esther, Mordecai and the Israelites (mostly Judeans and Benjamites) experienced this. They are among the tens of thousands who remained in Medo-Persia after the King Cyrus’s release decree. Those freed but didn’t leave, are now in a reversed situation: Here today gone tomorrow was Haman’s plan for these people he hated. After chapter 8 of Esther, it was now “feared today, promoted tomorrow.”
Esther 8:1&2 would seem to the logical mind a happy ending and a great place to end the Book of Esther…and they all lived happily ever after. One would be wrong. There remains chapter 8, 9, and 10. We will cover these in narrative detail in our two remaining chapter commentaries of the Book of Esther, along with some surprising educational aha-moments.
There is a minor detail that needs to be addressed in this recorded history. Go back to Esther 3:8-10. There was and remained the decree issued earlier by Haman and sealed with the signet ring of the King. The decree stated on a specific date and day all Jews carried a bounty for their death and were to be eliminated on THAT DAY. This brings us five chapters forward to Esther 8:3.
Esther 8:3 (ASV) “And Esther spake yet again before the king, and fell down at his feet, and besought him with tears to put away the mischief of Haman the Agagite, and the destruction that he had devised against the Jews.” Remember that a decree written according to Medo-Persian law could not be retracted or redacted. Not even by the king himself. Now what?
Esther 8:5 & 6 Esther is pleading for the king to reverse the death sentence of all her people within the Persiab empire. A death sentence already in the hands of all Persia. SInce the lands Israel and those who returned home were both within the Persian Empire, Haman’s decree included the Jews who returned several years earlier. The king was in a difficult situation. He could not simply issue a new decree for a recall. To do so violated Medo-Persian rule of law. King Ahasuerus responds in a rather avoidance manner knowing he could not reverse the already issued and signet ring sealed order.
Verses *7 and 8 find the King proclaiming all he had already done for Esther and Mordecai. He also points out that he had Haman hung from the gallows intended for Mordecai. Ahasuerus is basically saying…I have done what I can.
*Oddity: Ahasuerus says he did all of this because Haman intended to destroy (NKJV: lay hands on the Jews” within his kingdom. Ahasuerus actually had Haman hanged for his deceit and an appearance of cajoling Esther at banquet number two. Chapter 7 says nothing about his execution being for the sake of the Jewish populations in his empire.
What is Ahasuerus’ escape clause? He tells Esther and Mordecai to write a decree within the laws of the Medes and Persians that will counter Haman’s decree. Then he hands them his signet ring, the seal of authority.
What a task. The decree would be written and given to all people in the empire, in their own language(s), 127 provinces covering a huge territory (all hand delivered) between India and Ethiopia, and, to the scattered Jews, in their native tongue. A little over 100 years since the Judean’s original captivity by the Babylonians, it is probable many Judeans now spoke a Babylonian-Hebrew or the dialect of the Persians.
The Book of Daniel tells us that King Nebuchadnezzar had taken the cream of the Judean elite from Jerusalem (Judea) to train them in Babylonian customs and to speak their language. This language switch was forced upon the captives. There is a probability the children born in captivity may no longer speak their parent’s Hebrew.
Esther 8:10 [NKJV] “And he (Mordecai) wrote in the name of King Ahasuerus, sealed it with the king’s signet ring, and sent letters by couriers on horseback, riding on royal horses bred from swift steeds.” There was an obvious urgency to get the new decree out. By this time those with a grudge against any Jew(s) were willing to take as bounty Jewish lands and possessions. Some who were simply bounty hunters had time to make plans to kill off these people. Verse 11 tells us how Mordecai addressed the decree originally peddled by Haman. He wrote that all Jews now had a right to defend themselves without punishment for murder or insurrection.
There would be no long-lasting affects of the Haman decree. It specified ONE specific day to slaughter the Jews. All that was needed was a new decree to get the Jews of Persia past this assigned 24-hour time to bounty hunt them. In the next chapter [chapter 9] we find a plea for allowance. More on this in our next chapter commentary.
Esther 8:11 “By these letters the king permitted the Jews who were in every city to gather together and protect their lives—to destroy, kill, and annihilate all the forces of any people or province that would assault them, both little children and women, and to plunder their possessions,…”
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 of Adar.”
JIV NOTE: The month of Adar is roughly the month we often call March in our Gregorian calendar. Sometime within February-March is when the Festival of Purim is celebrated to this day by Jews.
Verses 13 and 14 show the haste at which this new decree was delivered throughout the Persian empire. Now those who were once in fear of losing their life were now prepared to not only defend, but to seek out in the entire empire any who begrudged the Jews. How quickly the tables were turned. In a real way, Jews were given license. This alone should give insight to the pre-existing strife within the kingdom when it came to the Jews versus other citizens. No love loss was present. This is the eternal history of the selected people of Jehovah-God. It will remain so until the end of the Tribulation.
Esther 8:15 is especially significant. We find Mordecai, the one who prevented an assassination attempt on the king, the one to whose death was planned so carefully by Haman, the one who was paraded through Shushan on the king’s royal steed lead by Haman on foot, the one who commanded the scribes to write a new decree to protect the Jews of that land, the one to whom the king’s signet ring was given to authenticate that decree, now exiting the palace wearing royal garments and promoted to second in command of the kingdom. This is precisely what had happened to Daniel about 50 years earlier under the temporary Mede king (Darius) over Babylon. He too was sought out to be killed, found favor in the eyes of King Darius, became second in command of the kingdom empire – Persia. NOTE: Died and buried in Shushan. This is the same place the Book of Esther is located.
Esther 8:17 explains the origins of the Jewish festival Purim. We use the Jewish Publication Bible [JPB] for this quote…
“And in every province, and in every city, whithersoever the king’s commandment and his decree came, the Jews had gladness and joy, a feast and a good day. And many from among the peoples of the land became Jews [followers of Judaism]; for the fear of the Jews was fallen upon them.” (emphasis mine)
One additional clarification is needed per this last verse in Esther. To read it as written would suggest that one can choose to become a DNA Jew. Not so. It reads: And many from among the peoples of the land became Jews. The words became Jews means they converted to Judaism. There is much to be said about these two words, but it is not the principle of this commentary.
JIV: We often confuse the scriptures by interchanging as synonyms the names Judeans of Judah, Judaism, and Jews as one and the same thing. This is not accurate. Each has its own designation. They have become synonymous now days but are not so in actuality.
Rev. Dr. Jstark