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.

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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 killing of the ten sons of Haman in Susa (Esth 9:5-9:15)

“The Jews struck down all their enemies with the sword, slaughtering and destroying them. They did as they pleased to those who hated them. In Susa the capital, the Jews killed and destroyed five hundred people. They killed Parshandatha, Dalphon, Aspatha, Poratha, Adalia, Aridatha, Parmashta, Arisai, Aridai, and Vaizatha, the ten sons of Haman son of Hammedatha, the enemy of the Jews. However they did not touch the plunder. That very day the number of those killed in Susa the capital was reported to the king. The king said to Queen Esther.

‘In the capital of Susa,

The Jews have killed five hundred men.

They have killed the ten sons of Haman.

What then have they done in the rest of the king’s provinces?

Now what is your petition?

It shall be granted you.

What further is your request?

It shall be fulfilled.’

Esther said.

‘If it pleases the king,

Let the Jews who are in Susa

Be allowed tomorrow also to do according to this day’s edict.

Let the ten sons of Haman be hanged on the gallows.’

Thus the king commanded this to be done. A decree was issued in Susa. The ten sons of Haman were hanged. The Jews who were in Susa gathered also on the fourteenth day of the month of Adar. They then killed three hundred persons in Susa. However, they did not touch the plunder.”

In the capital city of Susa, the Jews killed 500 of their enemies. This included the 10 sons of Haman. However, they took no plunder. In fact, Queen Esther and Mordecai were given everything that belonged to the house of Haman in the preceding chapter. However, when this was reported to the king, he asked Queen Esther if she had any other requests. She wanted the 10 dead sons of Haman to be hanged on the gallows like their father. She also requested one more day for the Jewish people to kill their enemies. The king, as usual, said okay. Thus the Jews hung the 10 sons of Haman and then killed another 300 people in Susa on the next day.

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.

The Jews are good people (Greek text only)

“We find that the Jews,

Who were consigned to annihilation

By this thrice accursed man,

They are not evildoers.

They are governed by most righteous laws.

They are children of the most high

And mighty living God,

Who has directed the kingdom

Both for us and for our ancestors in the most excellent order.”

Here the Greek text picks up the Jewish situation. The king, and in fact Mordecai, praise the Jewish laws. The Jews are not evil doers. Interesting enough, this seems to indicate that most high and mighty living God of Israel is also the God of Persia. This is the first instance of a more universal God other than the God of the Universe and the God of heaven and earth. This expands the role of the God of Israel into Persia. He also spoke of his ancestors, a very Jewish theme.

The problem of Haman (Greek text only)

“Haman son of Hammedatha,

A Macedonian,

Had become our guest.

He was really an alien to the Persian blood.

He was quite devoid of our kindliness.

He enjoyed fully the goodwill that we have for every nation.

He was called our father.

He was continually bowed down to by all

As the person second to the royal throne.

But, unable to restrain his arrogance,

He undertook to deprive us

Of our kingdom and our life.

With intricate craft and deceit,

He asked for the destruction of Mordecai,

Our savior and perpetual benefactor,

And of Esther,

The blameless partner of our kingdom,

Together with their whole nation.

He thought that by these methods,

He would catch us undefended.

He would transfer the kingdom of the Persians to the Macedonians.”

Next the Greek text has the king or rather Mordecai taking on Haman. Here he is called a Macedonian. Interesting enough, Alexander the Great (356-323 BCE) was a Macedonian who died in Persia. Although the time of this kingdom preceded Alexander in the 5th century BCE, Haman is thrown in with the evil western Greek invaders of the 4th century BCE since he wanted to transfer the power of Persia to Macedonia. There is nothing about Haman being an Agagite here. He was not kind, even though he was the 2nd in command. He tried to take the life of Mordecai and Queen Esther, the blameless one, as well as her whole nation. The Jewish nature of the dispute is toned down in this decree that puts the dispute between Greece and Persia.