Queen Esther on Purim (Esth 9:29-9:32)

“Queen Esther daughter of Abihail, along with the Jew Mordecai, were given full written authority. They confirmed this second letter about Purim. Letters were sent wishing peace and security to all the Jews, to the one hundred twenty-seven provinces of the kingdom of King Artaxerxes. This letter gave orders that these days of Purim should be observed at their appointed seasons. The Jew Mordecai and Queen Esther enjoined on all the Jews, just as they had for themselves and for their descendants, regulations concerning their fasts and their lamentations. The command of Queen Esther fixed these practices of Purim. It was recorded in writing.”

Not only was there an explanation by Mordecai, the queen herself sent out a letter to the 127 provinces pertaining to all the Jews. Purim was to be observed at the appointed times. She laid out the regulations concerning this feast, with fasting, and lamentations. All of this was in writing. Once again there was an insistence that this was written down. The feast of Purim would become an important post-exilic feast day, a time of great rejoicing, drinking and eating.

The official institution of Purim (Esth 9:20-9:23)

“Mordecai recorded these things. He sent letters to all the Jews who were in all the provinces of King Artaxerxes, both near and far. He enjoined them that they should keep the fourteenth day of the month of Adar and also the fifteenth day of the same month, year by year. These are the days on which the Jews gained relief from their enemies. This is the month that had been turned for them from sorrow into gladness, and from mourning into a holiday. They should make them days of feasting and gladness, days for sending gifts of food to one another, and presents to the poor. Thus the Jews adopted as a custom what they had begun to do, as Mordecai had written to them.”

Mordecai put in a decree for the Jews of the Persian kingdom, a custom that they had already started. This became known as Purim. Each year they should remember what happened to them on the 14th and 15th of Adar. They should exchange food gifts and give to the poor. They were to remember that on this day that they turned from sorrow to gladness and from mourning to feasting. In modern day Judaism, this has become a big holiday eating and drinking for Conservative and Orthodox Jews, much like a Halloween feast. Children dress up and exchange treats. They read the Book of Esther, while booing Haman and cheering Mordecai.

The great day of execution arrives (Esth 9:1-9:4)

“In the twelfth month, which is the month of Adar, on the thirteenth day, the king’s command and edict were about to be executed. On the very day that the enemies of the Jews had hoped to gain power over them. However, it had been changed to a day when the Jews would gain power over their foes. That day, the Jews gathered in their cities throughout all the provinces of King Artaxerxes to lay hands on those who had sought their ruin. No one could withstand them because the fear of them had fallen upon all the people. All the officials of the provinces, the satraps, the governors, and the royal officials were supporting the Jews because the fear of Mordecai had fallen upon them. Mordecai was powerful in the king’s house. His fame spread throughout all the provinces. The man Mordecai grew more and more powerful.”

When the 13th day of Adar arrived, the edict and decree of the king was to be executed. Originally, this was to have been a day set up by Haman to exterminate all the Jews. There must have been some hostility towards the Jews to make this seem plausible. Now, however, it had been changed to a day when the Jews would retaliate against their enemies. There must have been some real enemies of the Jews. Earlier a great fear had spread among the Jews. Now all the people were afraid of the Jews. Moreover, the royal and provincial officials were also afraid of Mordecai as he became more powerful in the Persian kingdom. These satraps were like ambassadors of the king.

The problem of the thirteenth day of Adar (Greek text only)

“You will therefore do well

Not to put in execution

The letters sent by Haman son of Hammedatha.

Haman, the man who did these things,

Has been hanged at the gate of Susa,

With his entire household.

God, who rules over all things,

God has speedily inflicted on him the punishment he deserved.

Therefore post a copy of this letter publicly in every place.

Permit the Jews to live under their own laws.

Give them reinforcements,

So that on the thirteenth day of the twelfth month,

Adar, on that very day,

They may defend themselves

Against those who attack them at the time of oppression.

God, who rules over all things,

God has made this day to be a joy

For his chosen people

Instead of a day of destruction for them.”

We continue on with the Greek text of the second letter to the Persian people from King Artaxerxes. However, here the king and Mordecai clearly state that the original letter was sent by Haman and not the king. Until this point, the king was presumed to have sent the first letter also. However, Haman has been hung at the gate to Susa with his whole family. God inflicted on him the punishment that he deserved. This new public document should be published so that all the Jews may live under their own laws. On the 13th day of Adar, they were to give reinforcements to the Jews so that they might defend themselves against any attacks. God will make this a day of joy rather than a day of destruction.

Those who receive much should be generous (Greek text only)

“Many people,

The more they are honored

With the most generous kindness of their benefactors,

The more proud they become.

They not only seek to injure our subjects,

But in their inability to stand prosperity,

They even undertake to scheme against their own benefactors.

They not only take away thankfulness from others,

But carried away

By the boasts of those who know nothing of goodness,

They even assume that they will escape

The evil-hating justice of God,

Who always sees everything.

Often many of those

Who are set in places of authority

Have been made in part responsible

For the shedding of innocent blood.

They have been involved in irremediable calamities.

By the persuasion of friends

Who have been entrusted

With the administration of public affairs,

These men by the false trickery

Of their evil natures

Beguile the sincere goodwill of their sovereigns.”

Once again, this is found in the Greek text only, not in the Hebrew text. Some people have been blessed by God and benefactors. However, they can become proud. They sought to injure our Persian subjects and even their own benefactors. They are not thankful but evil in the sight of God who sees everything. This is especially bad when irresponsible authorities try to shed blood. By false trickery and their evil nature they beguile the goodwill of kings. This is a veiled reference to Haman, since this and the other decree are both from the same person, King Artaxerxes. He cannot contradict himself, since Haman wrote the first decree and Mordecai wrote this one.

The title of the letter that favors the Jews (Greek text only)

“The following is a copy of this letter.

‘The Great King, Artaxerxes,

To the rulers of the provinces from India to Ethiopia,

One hundred and twenty-seven provinces,

And to those who are loyal to our government,

Greeting!’”

Once again we go to the Greek text. There is no “copy” of the letter that Mordecai sent out under the name of King Artaxerxes in the Hebrew text. This is much the same as the title of the Greek text decree that was inserted after chapter 3. They seemed proud to talk about the 127 provinces.