Esther Part 12

Esther Chapter 9 a narrative commentary

We insert a quote from bible scholar William Struse for consideration of the value of the Book of Esther and existence of Queen Esther along with her elder cousin Mordecai who eventually became the Prime Minister of Persia under King Ahasuerus:

“Without the efforts of Esther and her Persian [husband] king the social, political, and prophetic conditions necessary for the Messiah Yeshua to come would not have been in place. Without the efforts of Esther and her king, there would have been no temple, no priesthood, no sacrificial service, and no Torah observance – all of which were prerequisites for the coming of the Messiah.” [Where History & the Bible Meet]

Esther 9:1-5 set the stage for what was about to happen due to the conflict in decrees written by the former Prime Minister of Persia, Haman, and the new Prime Minister of Persia, Mordecai. 9:1b puts it well [NKJV] “On the day that the enemies of the Jews had hoped to overpower them, the opposite occurred, in that the *Jews themselves overpowered those who hated them.” This indicates that the Jews were not small in defensive numbers. An insight or aha moment is that multitudes of their later ancestors remain in and around this area today. There are still multitudes of Persians so what has changed? This area today is called Iran and the god of the country is no longer Murdoch, but Allah.

*The Jews had some Persian help in defending themselves.

JIV NOTE: [Ecclesiastes 9:12] For man also does not know his time: Like fish taken in a cruel net, Like birds caught in a snare, So the sons of men are snared in an evil time, When it falls suddenly upon them. Our confidence is in one source… Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, and the Father God.

Esther 9:2 can be misunderstood if doing a simple read through of the Bible. Within this verse it states that the Jews gathered together in their cities [NKJV]. One might conclude these are Jewish cities. Not so. It means those Jews who lived inside the city populations. Each given city gathered themselves together to defend their lives and properties. There are very few Jewish only cities in existence anywhere during this time in history.

JIV NOTE: As we continue in chapter 9, bear in mind that the Jews could protect themselves only against those with ill intent. This fact is stunning later in this chapter. Even King Ahasuerus is taken aback.

Esther 9:3 is also a bit of a challenge. “And all the officials of the provinces, the satraps, the governors, and all those doing the king’s work, helped the Jews, because the fear of Mordecai fell upon them.”

“all of the officials” (within the kingdom) The use of the word “all” (v3) in the Hebrew is Kole. This means without exception. None stood on the sideline. This is significant to remember for what we address a few verses later in chapter 9.

“because the fear of Mordecai fell on them” This is like the history of Daniel in his latter life as second in command of Babylon. As did Daniel, Mordecai grew more and more powerful within the kingdom/empire of Persia. We need to know this information to better understand a later verse in this chapter.

Esther 9:5 might be a result of a communication gap of some Persians not knowing of the second decree OR, [most likely] it spells out the hate for the Jews within the Persian Empire. How many times has one said or been confronted with the claim, “But you promised, or you said….” even though conditions had changed, and the accuser knows it has changed.

There were many Persian citizens who took full advantage of the first decree and attacked their hated Jewish neighbors. Mankind will use something unwise to explain or excuse his or her actions. Jews were only permitted to defend, not aggress.

[ESV] “There were many Persian citizens who took full advantage of the first decree and attacked their hated Jewish neighbors…” By decree the Jews could defend themselves.

JIV NOTE: It is interesting that both the WEBA and Brenton translations skip verse 5.

Esther 9:6 points out the number of Jew-hating Persians that got themselves killed in the capital city of Susa (Shushan). It didn’t end here.

Esther 9:7-10 lists the names of the 10 sons of the now deceased Haman. This can get a bit confusing due to what happens a few verses later. The potential confusion and actuality will be explained shortly. Verse 10 points out that no “spoils” were taken by the Jews. Why is this? Think about it as a thoughtful learning process.

Esther 9:11 On that day the number of those who were killed in Shushan the palace was brought before the king. Esther 9:12 And the king said to Esther the queen, The Jews have killed and destroyed five hundred men in Shushan the palace, and the ten sons of Haman. What have they done in the rest of the provinces of the king? [LITV]

It appears King Ahasuerus is somewhat depending on reports through Esther and perhaps Mordecai, not only his own people or advisors regarding this historical moment within his empire. This may hint to the fact he knew too little about the allegiances within his own kingdom. He will soon learn that the hate of Jews was widespread. It is curious how he has sided with the Jewish population still residing within the Persian Empire. We could speculate but that serves little purpose since speculation can be rumor, unfounded gossip, one-sided, and little more than conjecture.

King Ahasuerus (Xerxes) continues by asking if there is anything else his Queen Esther desired.

Here is where some Bible critics point out as do some “read through the Bible” people might fail to recognize the stated facts. Esther realized all who wished to take up arms against her kin had not yet appeared, taken up arms against the Jews, or escaped the previous day’s judgement. Of course, there may now be those who seek revenge for what had happened throughout Persia.

Esther 9:13 says that the ten sons of Haman were to be hanged upon the gallows. This seems to be at odds with the verse stating that the sons of Haman had been slain the previous day. The purpose for this request was to make a strong statement to those who still carried a hate for the Jews or desired revenge. Haman’s sons had already died the prior day, but a public display is the punctuation mark after the decree by Mordecai and sealed with the King’s signet ring.

For what it is worth, the Hebrew word for this hanging is tâlâh. It does not mean by the neck but suspended as in a display.

Esther 9:15 & 16 show the slaughter was not over. 300 more were slain the next day and in total, 75,000 Persian men were killed for their armed aggression against the Jews of Persia. This speaks loudly. This had to be a huge shock to King Ahasuerus. We have no information to make us believe he recognized such hate existed within his kingdom empire.

JIV NOTE: Go back to verse #3. Reread that the 127 provinces put forth support for the Jews. This must mean it was more than verbal. These princes, satraps, Lieutenants, and governors HELPED with the slaughter. Mostly for fear of the power now welded by Mordecai.  This may also confirm the huge number of Jews still living within Persia. We do not know how many of them died during these armed conflicts.

We continue with the rest of Esther in our next narrative commentary. It will help clear up perhaps some additional lack of understanding.

Rev. Dr. Jstark
2021

Acts 26

As we near the end of this study on Acts, it is time to remind the reader that this IS the origorginalinal church. It has morphed into what we call “church” today. Acts does not give us a bulletin of the how a service should go, but then, a personal relationship with Christ is just that; not a routine. When it becomes a routine, we better understand the statement “morphed.”

The first 26 verses in Acts 26 is Paul’s defense:

  1. The complimentary “honor” to be in front of King Agrippa
  2. Paul’s credentials as a Pharisee, Roman, Jew, and now a believer in The Way
  3. His past as a Sanhedrin zealot persecuting members of The Way
  4. His transformation and encounter with Jesus on the Road to Damascus
  5. His call to bear witness of God and his unfailing efforts to so do.
  6. [T]his arrest for doing what? Following God?

The thankfulness to be standing and presenting his case in front of King Agrippa was in contrast to the flattery presented by the Sanhedrin hired lawyer (Tertullus; Acts 24). Paul realized that he did not have to explain to an outsider (Gentile) Jewish laws. Agrippa was the son of Herod the Great therefore an Idumaean; a descendant in the line of Esau. This too makes him a direct relative of Abraham and one familiar with Jewish customs. In a real sense, a distant cousin to Paul himself.

Act 26:22 To this day I have had the help that comes from God, and so I stand here testifying both to small and great, saying nothing but what the prophets and Moses said would come to pass.

Paul sets his defense upon doing nothing outside the laws of Rome, laws of Moses, and teachings of Judaism SINCE the life, death, and resurrection of the Messiah. Paul once again sides with the Pharisees in supporting the “first to rise from the dead” that person being Jesus. Remember that the Pharisees believed in an after-life and a resurrection. This was not so of the Sadducee. Since there is no objection or discord mentioned at this trial like it was in Jerusalem, the Sanhedrin must have been less than by-partisan. Perhaps they did not bring along any Pharisees to this trial in Caesarea. The lack of disagreement among Paul’s accusers suggests this to be the case…no Pharisee present when Paul stated the resurrection of Jesus.

It is of particular interest per the exchange between Paul and the interruption of *Governor Festus in versus 24 & 25. Paul had just stated in 23b that the Messiah (Jesus) must suffer and, that by being the first to rise from the dead, HE [Jesus] would proclaim [the gospel] salvation to both OUR PEOPLE and the Gentiles.” Governor Festus, a Roman Gentile, probably reacted to OUR PEOPLE as explained in the above, reacted to the fact that Gentiles were included in Paul’s mission and vision. He said that Paul is out of his mind; too educated.

*During his administration (56 – 61 C.E.), Jewish hostility to Rome was greatly inflamed by the civic privileges issue. Feelings were aroused which played an important part in Governor Festus decision-making.

However, Paul responds by deferring his reply not to Festus, but to King Agrippa, an Edomite and one familiar with Jewish customs (Acts 26:26). Paul immediately turns to King Agrippa asking him if he believes in the prophets of which he had full knowledge and as Governor Festus did not. This was probably very *embarrassing to Agrippa. If he replied that he did believe in the prophets, which he most likely did, his Gentile counterpart in Governor Festus may have reacted as skeptical per the King who was also appointed by Rome

.hell*Sadly this is true of many “almost believers.” Sitting or standing among others and to say I want to believe would be drawing attention, pro and con, to one’s actions or response to the gospel message of salvation. How eternal to desire not to be a spectacle in an-other’s eyes only to exchange it for eternal destiny to hell.

Paul realizes his hesitance. He points out that his question is to all present and not present in verse 29. In a sense he takes the burden of the question off Agrippa’s back or shoulders and qualifies it as a question for all to answer.

Then comes the famous reply by Agrippa in the next verse (v28): “Would you in such a short time think you have convinced me?” The convincing had nothing to do with Paul’s guilt or innocence, but his appeal to Agrippa’s Jewish background and Jesus the Messiah; becoming a Christian or member of The Way. There is a well known psychological probability that when cornered or trying to hide something from an-other’s question, s/he avoids answering by ask a counter-question in reply. This is how Agrippa responded.

Agrippa and Festus go into a private conference and conclude that Paul is guilty of breaking no law be it Roman or Jewish. These two rulers represent both the Gentiles (Festus) of that time and the Jews (Agrippa). They both avoid having to deal with it during a time of tensions between the Romans and Jews by deferring to Paul’s appeal to the Emperor in Rome. They excuse their inaction by say…”If it were not for Paul’s appeal to Caesar (Emperor in Rome) he could be set free.

Rev. Dr. Jstark
December 2018

Why does Jesus call God “Father?”

In the synoptic Gospels, Matthew, Mark and Luke, this identity of Jesus addressing God as father is given well over 100 times. In the Book of John, also synoptic, it is used 60 plus times. We are taught in the Lord’s Prayer to use this identity of father in “Our Father…” But why? We often hear of the triune God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. If Jesus and the Holy Spirit is in fact a part of a triune God, meaning three-in-one, then how can Jesus become the son of God? How could God create himself? Why would Jesus consistently call him Abba-father?

Many people, including seminarians ever think upon these things. JIV Note: Don’t confuse assumption with faith or doctrine. God is Spirit (John 4:24) and we must worship him in spirit. In a previous post we discussed “Our Father” and the fact that God created man with body, mind, spirit and soul. Click here to read this article. If God is spirit and created mankind with spirit, he metaphorically or literally fathered all. (You decide if it is metaphor or literal; circle your choice)

Let’s take a brief look at this. If something is an unknown biblical factor, it cannot add to our confidence in Jesus Christ. Understanding is at the lower end of the human Learning Pyramid; i.e. Awareness – Understanding – Convinced – Conviction – Desire – Action. This is a study in and of itself but here is the very short version and explanation.

The greater one’s understanding of something the more likely s/he will be convinced of its actuality instead on one’s perception or their personal reality. (This too is an article discussed in another article in this website) Once convinced of possibilities we have but three choices. Two of them are excuses, not reasons once there is a personal understanding. One can opt to Ignore, reject, or accept. It is at this point humans will DESIRE to either move on, the first two options, or take the third option desiring to do something with this gained knowledge. This takes us to the action level. We take a given learning situation and apply it to our life.

In the Old Testament the use of the word “father” is remarkably missing, Where it is found it is usually within a context or single scenario. This is how Robert Stein puts it:

“Throughout the Bible we find God portrayed as a Father. This portrayal, however, is surprisingly rare in the Old Testament. There God is specifically called the Father of the nation of Israel ( Deut 32:6 ; Isa 63:16 ; [twice] 64:8 ; Jeremiah 3:4 Jeremiah 3:19 ; 31:9 ; Mal 1:6 ; 2:10 ) or the (metaphorical) Father of certain individuals ( 2 Sam 7:14 ; 1 Chron 17:13 ; 22:10 ; 28:6 ; Psalm 68:5 ; 89:26 ) only fifteen times.” (emphasis mine)

http://www.biblestudytools.com/dictionaries/bakers-evangelical-dictionary/fatherhood-of-god.html Robert H. Stein; Fatherhood of God

Other than in the Lord’s Prayer where Jesus answers a disciple’s question, “teach us how to pray,” Jesus identifies God as his FATHER, not our father. This is a very personal identity. So how, when or where did this identity originate? Go to the Bethlehem record found in Luke 1 and Matthew 1.

This article is not intended to tell the Christmas narrative. We are researching and discussing the term “father” in its relationship to God the “father.” We read in Matthew 11:18… (ESV)

18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit.

So much content is skipped in this verse. First, Matthew is looking back at the birth of Jesus; “when his (Jesus’) mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph.” Matthew is looking back at this event in history. He is actually explaining to the Jews that Jesus is within the bloodline and DNA of King David and that HE is the promised Messiah of Isaiah prophecy. Both Joseph, the adoptive father of Jesus, and Mary, his earthly mother, are from the Tribe of Judah and a blood-relative of King David. This is important to the Jewish leadership of that day as this is the birth-line from which they expect their Messiah. Matthew targets Jews.

In the Book of Luke, a book targeted to the Gentiles, he does not attempt to make this connection. He makes the connection with Adam, the first human. Luke begins with current names and genealogically lists names from current to back Adam; i.e. son to father DNA. Matthew does just the opposite, he begins with King David and shows that Jesus has a legal right to the throne of King David; i.e. father to son DNA. Matthew targets the message to the Jews and Luke targets his message to the Gentiles; same message but different beginning points.

Matthew 11:18 also points out that Joseph refrained from, as this verse states (ESV) “before they came together.” That means, before they consummated their marriage. Why? Mary was already pregnant via God the Holy Spirit… “…she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit” (ESV). This is the reason Jesus always identified himself as the Son of God. Mary conceived through God the Holy Spirit. This is why he always called God, ‘Father.’ He was actually his “only begotten son.” John 3:16.

Now that you know the rest of the Bible Story (history), and evidence has been provided not through an opinion but through the Bible itself, this puts all of us in the Learning Pyramid at “desire.” Each one of us is left with Ignore – Reject – Accept; our only three choices. If one ops for either of the first two, s/he puts destiny (not eternity however) in human hands. If one opts for the third choice, accept, then destiny and eternity is put into Gods hands. Are you in good hands?

Action is the top level of the Learning Pyramid. After learning facts we still have the options of ignore, reject, or accept, that is, to remain ignorant via denial; say it means nothing to you by rejection of facts; Accept Jesus Christ for who he is! Of course, this is a choice. Exactly the way God intended it to be. It is called a Free Will (Romans 9:16).

Using cellphone outdoors while crossing the street.As a friend once commented in a home Bible study, we can opt to ignore the oncoming traffic, reject the fact that crossing the street at this time is deadly, or, accept the facts and use one’s choice to act(ion) accordingly.

Merry Christmas.

jStark3Rev. Dr. Jstark
December, 2015