Luxurious wealth (Eccl 2:4-2:8)

“I made great works.

I built houses.

I planted vineyards for myself.

I made myself gardens.

I made myself parks.

I planted in them

All kinds of fruit trees.

I made myself pools from which

To water the forest of growing trees.

I bought male slaves.

I bought female slaves.

I had slaves who were born in my house.

I had great possessions of herds.

I also had great possessions of flocks.

More than any

Who had been before me in Jerusalem.

I also gathered for myself

Silver and gold

From the treasure of kings and provinces.

I got singers,

Both men and women.

I enjoyed the delights of the flesh

With many concubines.”

Qoheleth continued his first person singular narrative. Was it all about him? He built great houses and vineyards just for himself. He made his own gardens and parks, all full of great fruit trees. He put in ponds besides the trees for irrigation. He bought both male and female servants. He created his own slaves by having them procreate in his house. He had great herds and flocks of animals and birds. He was richer than any man who had ever lived in Jerusalem. He gathered gold and silver from the various kings and provinces. He had male and female singers. Of course, he had many concubines to delight him. This was the life of luxury of a rich powerful self indulgent king of Jerusalem.

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 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.

Mordecai writes the letter about the Jews to the empire (Esth 8:9-8:12)

“The king’s secretaries were summoned at that time, in the third month, which is the month of Sivan, on the twenty-third day. An edict was written according to all that Mordecai commanded. It was sent to the Jews, to the satraps, the governors, and the officials of the provinces from India to Ethiopia, one hundred and twenty-seven provinces. This went to every province in its own script and to every people in its own language, and also to the Jews in their script and their language. He wrote letters in the name of King Artaxerxes. He sealed them with the king’s ring. He sent them by mounted couriers riding on swift horses that were used in the king’s service, bred from the royal herd. By these letters, the king allowed the Jews who were in every city to assemble and defend their lives. They were able to destroy, to kill, and to annihilate any armed force of any people or province that might attack them, with their children and women, and to plunder their goods, on a single day throughout all the provinces of King Artaxerxes, on the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, which is the month of Adar.”

All the king’s secretaries came to help Mordecai. This took place at Sivan, which is in the May-June time frame. The Persians had something like the later American Pony Express, with horses for their couriers. Notice that it was written in various languages and scripts for the 127 provinces of the Persian Empire. This letter had the king’s seal from his ring. This section is like that in chapter 3, when Haman was writing his letter to exterminate the Jews. This letter said that all the Jews could respond when they are attacked on the 13th day of the 12th month of Adar. They were allowed to destroy, kill, and plunder anyone attacking them. The Greek text also says that they should be allowed to follow their own laws.

The title of the decree for the extermination of the Jews (Greek text only)

“This is a copy of the letter. ‘The Great King, Artaxerxes, writes the following to the governors of the one hundred twenty-seven provinces from India to Ethiopia and to the officials under them.”

Once again, this appears only in the Greek text and not in the Hebrew text at all. The king is clearly writing to the 127 governors of the various provinces form India to Ethiopia, the great Persian Empire that had been established by King Cyrus the Great. King Cyrus had issued a decree to let the Jewish people return to Jerusalem as in 539 BCE as in Ezra, chapter 1. This would have been around the year 452 BCE, about a hundred years later about 8 years before the time of Nehemiah.

Haman proposes his plan to the king (Esth 3:8-3:9)

“Then Haman said to King Artaxerxes.

‘There is a certain people scattered,

Among the other people in the provinces of your kingdom.

Their laws are different from those of every other people.

They do not keep the king’s laws.

It is not expedient for the king to tolerate them.

If it pleases the king,

Let it be decreed that they are to be destroyed.

I will pay ten thousand talents of silver into the king’s treasure.’”

Haman went to the king with his plan. He never mentions the Jews by name here. Obviously, picking on a minority group is always a safe bet. Haman said these people were different from every other people, so let us get rid of them. Have you ever heard that before? Their laws are different so that they do not follow the king’s laws. He did not think that the king should tolerate them. However, the kings of Persia were in fact, very tolerant. They were not seeking a uniform standard for the 127 provinces. Now the kicker comes. If it pleased the king, send out a decree to have them destroyed. Haman, who apparently was rich, offered to pay 10,000 talents of silver, worth approximately $60,000,000.00 USA, to the king’s treasury. Was this a bribe or a gift? That is always difficult to determine.