1 - 10 The Jews Kill Their Enemies
1 Now in the twelfth month (that is, the month Adar), on the thirteenth day when the king’s command and edict were about to be executed, on the day when the enemies of the Jews hoped to gain the mastery over them, it was turned to the contrary so that the Jews themselves gained the mastery over those who hated them. 2 The Jews assembled in their cities throughout all the provinces of King Ahasuerus to lay hands on those who sought their harm; and no one could stand before them, for the dread of them had fallen on all the peoples. 3 Even all the princes of the provinces, the satraps, the governors and those who were doing the king’s business assisted the Jews, because the dread of Mordecai had fallen on them. 4 Indeed, Mordecai was great in the king’s house, and his fame spread throughout all the provinces; for the man Mordecai became greater and greater. 5 Thus the Jews struck all their enemies with the sword, killing and destroying; and they did what they pleased to those who hated them. 6 At the citadel in Susa the Jews killed and destroyed five hundred men, 7 and Parshandatha, Dalphon, Aspatha, 8 Poratha, Adalia, Aridatha, 9 Parmashta, Arisai, Aridai and Vaizatha, 10 the ten sons of Haman the son of Hammedatha, the Jews’ enemy; but they did not lay their hands on the plunder.
This chapter begins with a detailed description of the date (verse 1). There are about eight months between this date and the events in the previous two chapters. A new section begins here. The date is also mentioned in the command of Haman eleven months ago (Est 3:13) and the command of Mordecai eight months ago (Est 8:12). Now that important day has arrived.
It is “the day when the enemies of the Jews hoped to gain the mastery over them”. On this day “it was turned to the contrary so that the Jews themselves gained the mastery over those who hated them”. The day of oppression of the Jews by their enemies turned into a day of triumph of the Jews over their enemies. Both one and the other happen to execute “the word of the king and his law”. What the enemies wanted to do is according to the word of the king and his law (Est 3:12-14) and what the Jews do is also according to the word of the king and his law (Est 8:8-11).
In its application to the believer, we see the miraculous result of God’s action through Christ. Through Him and His work on the cross, the believer has been freed from one law, that of sin and death, and that law has been replaced by another law, that of the Spirit and of life (Rom 8:2).
On this particular day the Jews come together to kill all those who want to harm them (verse 2). They assemble in their cities which the king had allowed them to do (Est 8:11). Together they are strong. No one is equal to them. Yet even as a group they do not form a majority. Their strength is the hidden power of God Who let dread fall upon all the peoples (cf. Exo 15:15; Jos 2:9,11; 1Sam 14:15; 2Chr 14:14; 17:10; 20:29; Psa 105:37-38). Dread has a paralyzing effect. God thus makes the nations powerless, so that they cannot withstand the Jews (cf. Jos 10:8; 21:44; 23:9). The Name of God is not mentioned, but for faith it is unmistakably His work that we see here.
The Jews assemble “in their cities”. They seek one another in the cities that have been given to them by the king as dwelling places. Only there they kill their enemies with the sword (verse 5). They do not seek the enemy and do not challenge him. If we go to places without the Lord telling us to go there, we expose ourselves to the attacks of satan and will be defenseless. It is important that we go to places where we can come together with fellow believers to honor the Lord and strengthen each other in the spiritual warfare. If the enemy wants to attack us there, he will suffer defeat. To resist him, we have been given “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Eph 6:17).
In addition to the dread of the Jews, there is also the “dread of Mordecai” (verse 3). The people are weak in themselves, but the Mordecai of these people inspires dread. This brings all the dignitaries and all those who work for the king to support the Jews and help them in their struggle. Everything revolves around Mordecai. His position is the foundation of the triumph of the Jews. The people owe everything to him who is fully committed to them.
Mordecai is “great in the house of the king” (verse 4), the center of power. As a result, his fame is spreading throughout all the regions and he is gaining more and more prestige (cf. 1Chr 11:9). His person and his name are emphasized: “The man Mordecai.” It’s him and no one else. In this he is a picture of the Lord Jesus, Who will soon be publicly held in high esteem and will gradually become greater in prestige (Lk 1:32-33; Mic 5:3b; Jn 3:30).
According to the righteous law of retribution, the Jews act without pity with “all their enemies” and “those who hated them” (verse 5). Through their connection to Mordecai, they are able to defeat their enemies. Thus, “the remnant of Jacob will be among the nations, ... like a lion among the beasts of the forest” and annihilate all their enemies (Mic 5:7-8). Their enemies are not only people who want to do them harm for the benefit it would bring them, but they are also driven by intense hatred of the Jews. Their actions are evil and their motives are evil.
A census at the citadel in Susa shows that the Jews there alone “killed and destroyed five hundred men” and also “the ten sons of Haman” (verses 6-10,12). Haman has already been killed, but now his descendants are being killed as well. Haman is mentioned here for the last time in this book. With another mention that he was “the Jews’ enemy”, he disappears from history without any offspring.
Similarly, first the leaders of the great rebellion against Christ and His people, the beast and the false prophet, are “thrown alive into the lake of fire which burns with brimstone” (Rev 19:20). Then, “the rest” (Rev 19:21) are killed, all those who have followed these two and in whom their marks have become visible.
Although the Jews have permission to plunder the spoils of their opponents (Est 8:11), they do not (verse10; verses 15-16). It seems that the people uphold the old tradition that the spoils of the enemy fall to God, although nothing is said about this here (cf. Jos 6:17-21).
11 - 14 Supplementary Request from Esther
11 On that day the number of those who were killed at the citadel in Susa was reported to the king. 12 The king said to Queen Esther, “The Jews have killed and destroyed five hundred men and the ten sons of Haman at the citadel in Susa. What then have they done in the rest of the king’s provinces! Now what is your petition? It shall even be granted you. And what is your further request? It shall also be done.” 13 Then said Esther, “If it pleases the king, let tomorrow also be granted to the Jews who are in Susa to do according to the edict of today; and let Haman’s ten sons be hanged on the gallows.” 14 So the king commanded that it should be done so; and an edict was issued in Susa, and Haman’s ten sons were hanged.
The king is told of the number of those killed in the citadel of Susa (verse 11). He tells Esther about this in the last conversation we hear between them in this book. He says that the ten sons of Haman suffered the same fate as their father. It is as if he wants to give her certainty that all danger from that side has been averted. The death of the sons of Haman is a picture that those who follow satan will share in his fate. They will hear from the mouth of the Lord Jesus: “Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels” (Mt 25:41).
We can also see in the sons of Haman a picture of the works of the flesh. If the flesh wants to assert itself in us, we will have to consider ourselves to be dead to it (Rom 6:11). This is possible if we let the Spirit work in us (Rom 8:13b). Then we will be able to consider the members of our earthly body as dead (Col 3:5).
After his announcement of the people killed at the citadel of Susa, the king asks out loud what happened in the rest of his kingdom (verse 12). Immediately thereafter he asks Esther the question he has asked her several times before (Est 5:3,6; 7:2). The previous times this happened in response to a question from Esther herself, but now the king himself comes unasked with the question: “What is your petition now ... and what is your further request? He agrees to give her what she asks and to grant her request. It is again the invitation to ask indefinitely with the assurance that he will give. The difference with the previous times is that this time he doesn’t add that she can ask for up to half of his kingdom.
There’s no golden scepter here either. It seems to indicate that Esther has been in the king’s favor and with him all the time since last time. Esther’s answer shows that as well. With due respect – “if it pleases the king” – but also with boldness – she now goes straight to her goal – she asks for two favors.
First, she asks that the permission given to the Jews to annihilate their enemies may be valid for the next day as well. She asks if the law that only applies to thirteen Adar can be extended by one day. Apparently, she asks only for Susa (verses 15,18). Esther does not want an extra day of slaughter, but an extra day on which the Jews can defend themselves against all who attack them. Secondly, she wants the ten sons of Haman to be hanged on the gallows.
The king responds, as he has promised, consenting to both questions (verse 14). He gives the order to carry out both of Esther’s requests. To extend the validity of the law, a new, additional law is enacted, and the ten sons of Haman are hanged.
Unlike in the cases of Haman and Mordecai’s orders, the scribes are not summoned. Also, the words of the law are not reproduced exactly. This time it is about the extension and not about the content. The content does not change.
15 - 19 Rest, Joy and Feast
15 The Jews who were in Susa assembled also on the fourteenth day of the month Adar and killed three hundred men in Susa, but they did not lay their hands on the plunder. 16 Now the rest of the Jews who [were] in the king’s provinces assembled, to defend their lives and rid themselves of their enemies, and kill 75,000 of those who hated them; but they did not lay their hands on the plunder. 17 [This was done] on the thirteenth day of the month Adar, and on the fourteenth day they rested and made it a day of feasting and rejoicing. 18 But the Jews who were in Susa assembled on the thirteenth and the fourteenth of the same month, and they rested on the fifteenth day and made it a day of feasting and rejoicing. 19 Therefore the Jews of the rural areas, who live in the rural towns, make the fourteenth day of the month Adar [a] holiday for rejoicing and feasting and sending portions [of food] to one another.
The Jews in Susa, with the permission of Ahasuerus (verses 13-14), also gather on fourteen Adar and kill another three hundred men in Susa (verse 15). Again it is mentioned that the Jews do not lay their hand to the plunder (verse 10).
In the rest of the provinces, which is the whole large area outside of Susa, the Jews also gather “to defend their lives” (verse 16). They do this successfully, because they get rest from their enemies. Rest, after a time of hard fighting, is a blessing. Peace and safety are also connected with rest. The enemies are eliminated, the haters no longer live. This speaks of the peace of the realm of peace. Then the Lord Jesus rules as the true Prince of Peace and His reign extends to the end of the earth.
The number of people killed is mentioned. These killed enemies are again called “those who hated them”, which again indicates that these enemies, enemies with such feelings, will never reconcile with the Jews. For the third time it is said that the Jews do not lay their hand to the plunder. The first time it is said of the Jews in general (verse 10), then especially of the city Jews (verse 15) and now of the Jews of the provinces (verse 16).
What the rest of the Jews did took place on thirteen Adar (verse 17). The next day, on the fourteenth Adar, they enjoy a well-earned rest. They make this resting day a day of feasting and rejoicing. Rest is a gift from God. He has worked that rest, only He can give that rest to His people (Deu 3:20; 12:10), although this work is not openly attributed to Him here.
Verses 18-19 are a summary of events. First it says what the Jews in Susa did (verse 18), then what the Jews who live in the rural towns did (verse 19). Because the Jews in Susa had an extra day of fighting, they rested on the fifteenth of that month and made that day “a day of feasting and rejoicing”. The Jews of the rural areas make the fourteenth Adar “[a] holiday for rejoicing and feasting and sending portions [of food] to one another”.
It is remarkable how important the festive nature of the two days of rest is. In verses 17-19 it is mentioned up to three times that they are days of “feasting and rejoicing”. This must have something to do with the disappearance of a major threat. We can also understand this if we at least realize what it means that the Lord Jesus redeemed us from the power of the one who had the power to kill us, the devil. To him we were enslaved throughout our lives for fear of death (Heb 2:14-15).
Through the redemption worked by the Lord Jesus, we were delivered from the power of satan and from eternal judgment, hell. If this penetrates well into us, it cannot be otherwise, or we will also be full of joy. We will share this joy with each other by having feasts. For us Christians, the Lord’s Supper is a special occasion to remember and celebrate that great salvation (1Cor 11:23-25). We may also have love feasts (cf. Jd 1:12a) to share with each other during those feasts all that we owe to Him.
20 - 32 Establishment of Purim
20 Then Mordecai recorded these events, and he sent letters to all the Jews who were in all the provinces of King Ahasuerus, both near and far, 21 obliging them to celebrate the fourteenth day of the month Adar, and the fifteenth day of the same month, annually, 22 because on those days the Jews rid themselves of their enemies, and [it was a] month which was turned for them from sorrow into gladness and from mourning into a holiday; that they should make them days of feasting and rejoicing and sending portions [of food] to one another and gifts to the poor. 23 Thus the Jews undertook what they had started to do, and what Mordecai had written to them. 24 For Haman the son of Hammedatha, the Agagite, the adversary of all the Jews, had schemed against the Jews to destroy them and had cast Pur, that is the lot, to disturb them and destroy them. 25 But when it came to the king’s attention, he commanded by letter that his wicked scheme which he had devised against the Jews, should return on his own head and that he and his sons should be hanged on the gallows. 26 Therefore they called these days Purim after the name of Pur. And because of the instructions in this letter, both what they had seen in this regard and what had happened to them, 27 the Jews established and made a custom for themselves and for their descendants and for all those who allied themselves with them, so that they would not fail to celebrate these two days according to their regulation and according to their appointed time annually. 28 So these days were to be remembered and celebrated throughout every generation, every family, every province and every city; and these days of Purim were not to fail from among the Jews, or their memory fade from their descendants. 29 Then Queen Esther, daughter of Abihail, with Mordecai the Jew, wrote with full authority to confirm this second letter about Purim. 30 He sent letters to all the Jews, to the 127 provinces of the kingdom of Ahasuerus, [namely], words of peace and truth, 31 to establish these days of Purim at their appointed times, just as Mordecai the Jew and Queen Esther had established for them, and just as they had established for themselves and for their descendants with instructions for their times of fasting and their lamentations. 32 The command of Esther established these customs for Purim, and it was written in the book.
Mordecai recorded the celebration of salvation in writing, and informed all the Jews in all the provinces of King Ahasuerus, “both near and far” (verses 20-21). No Jew, no matter how far away he lives from Susa, is excluded from this feast, but hears of it. The Purim feast is for all Jews. Just as he commanded the salvation, so he commands the remembrance of it.
The establishment of days of remembrance also took place during the exodus from Egypt. The LORD commanded that salvation be remembered in the month of Abib, the first month (Exo 13:3-4). For this the yearly celebration of the Passover is prescribed (Exo 12:1-14). The Passover finds for us its counterpart in Christ: “For Christ our Passover also has been sacrificed” (1Cor 5:7). The Supper is a meal of remembrance, in which we remember the death of Christ to Whom we owe salvation (1Cor 11:23-26).
The Passover and other days of remembrance are prescribed in the law of Moses (Lev 23:4-43). There is nothing in the law of Moses about the Purim Feast as a feast of remembrance. The Purim Feast appears for the first time in the Bible here. It is a new feast. The earlier feasts all take place in the first seven months of the year. The Purim Feast takes place in the last month of the year and therefore does not conflict with any other feast.
Mordecai points out in his writing that the days to be celebrated are to be held as days on which the Jews have received rest from their enemies (verse 22). The month in which the days are celebrated is also emphasized. It was the “month which was turned for them from sorrow into gladness and from mourning into a holiday”. In this way he declares that it is not just two days, but that the whole month, the last month of the year, bears the stamp of the great reversal for the better.
The feasting and rejoicing that are taking place on those days are exuberantly expressed by sending gifts to one another and by “sending ... gifts to the poor”. The latter is intended to enable those who are not able to feast to participate in it. The sending of gifts to each other is an exchange of gifts. You give something and you get something. That is not so with giving gifts to the poor. It’s just giving. The people here learn to give without expecting anything in return. That is what the Lord Jesus teaches us (Lk 6:33-35).
What Mordecai commands is in line with what the people have already started to do (verse 23). Therefore this command is not a hard thing. Every command of the Lord Jesus corresponds to the desires of those who belong to Him. Celebrating the Supper, of which He has said “do this in remembrance of Me” (1Cor 11:24-25), is not an unpleasant duty, but a great desire of all who love Him. It is therefore incomprehensible that there are groups in Christianity that say that celebrating the Supper every week is a little too much of a good thing.
In verses 24-25 there follows a summary of the events that led to the establishment of the Purim Feast. It is a summary of what is described in Esther 3-8. Haman is here called “the adversary of all the Jews” (verse 24), which connects with the letter of Mordecai, which is also addressed “to all the Jews” (verse 20). Haman devised the plan to kill the Jews and to do so by casting “Pur, that is the lot”. He did this “to disturb them and destroy them”. Here the word “Pur” is used for the second time (Est 3:7). It occurs six more times in the next section, five of them in the plural (“Purim”).
Next, Esther is mentioned to the king as an advocate for the Jews (verse 25). At her request, the king lets out letters that have the effect that the evil that Haman has devised has landed on his own head. The result is that Haman and his sons have been hanged on the gallows. Mordecai is not mentioned, nor is the defense of the Jews. The main theme of the summary is Haman, his plan and his end. With the death of Haman and his sons all fear has come to an end.
The Purim Feast contains God’s promise that He will completely redeem His people. It is the certainty that God will save His people in the greatest need. The people will have this experience again in the end time, in what is called “the time of Jacob’s distress” (Jer 30:7) from which God will deliver His people.
The summary forms the background of the name given to these feast days. This is apparent from the word “therefore” with which verse 26 begins. The word ‘Purim’ is the plural of ‘Pur’. The days are called Purim because they are several days.
The words of Mordecai’s letter and what they themselves saw and experienced lead the Jews to decide to celebrate this Purim Feast of two days “according to their appointed time annually” (verses 26-27). They celebrate this feast not only because Mordecai ordered it in writing, but also because they experienced what is remembered in this feast. This shows us in picture the beautiful combination of the written Word of God and our feelings. Reading and studying God’s Word should not be a purely intellectual matter, but should touch our hearts. The obligation to celebrate this feast is not just for themselves, but is also “for their descendants and for all those who allied themselves with them”.
The rule is imperative for every next “generation, every family, every province and every city” (verse 28). The Purim Feast is permanent (at all times) and valid everywhere (all places). Time and space are unlimited. The double denial for maintaining the celebration underscores the prohibition of ever ceasing. It means that the Purim Feast may never be skipped by them and their offspring and may never end.
The feast must be celebrated annually by the Jews from generation to generation in memory of this miracle work that God has done for them. It should be a lasting remembrance that each generation passes on to the next, so that each new generation is led to place its hope in God (Psa 78:5-7).
The portion of verses 20-32 begins with a letter from Mordecai and ends here with a common letter from “Queen Esther, daughter of Abihail, with Mordecai the Jew” (verse 29). In this letter they confirm with all their authority the establishment of the Purim Feast. The Jews throughout the empire receive this letter. No one should be ignorant of the fact that these days have been established and are to be held (verses 30-31).
This is the second time Esther has been called “the daughter of Abihail”. The first time is when she is a candidate to take the place of Vashti (Est 2:15). Then she is completely unknown. Now she is queen and gives the people the precept concerning the Purim Feast. The addition of her father’s name makes it clear where her ancestry lies; she is part of her own people. The same goes for the addition of “Jew” to the name “Mordecai”. He is great in the world empire of the Medes and Persians, but belongs to his own people. The same goes for Christ to Whom we owe our salvation. Of Him we read: “For salvation is from the Jews” (John 4:22). We must never forget this.
The letter also contains “words of peace and truth”. The “words of peace” refer to the state of peace and rest that arose on the fourteenth Adar after the violence on the thirteenth Adar. The “words of … truth” refer to the faithful observance of the precepts of the Purim Feast. The application for us is that words of peace and words of truth enter our hearts when the Lord Jesus and His people, the church, have their place in our hearts.
The letter also writes about fasting and the accompanying loud lamentations. What is written about fasting is consistent with the fasting to which Esther called the Jews before her visit to the king (Est 4:16). The lamentation is consistent with the lamentation of Mordecai and the other Jews when the command of Haman became known (Est 4:1,3).
Finally, Esther’s order concerning the Purim Feast is established and written in a book (verse 32). This means that a copy of the letter is included in the historical annual reports or chronicles of the kings of Media and Persia, underlining its great importance.
God does not do miracles for a single day, but to be kept in eternal remembrance. We may say with the Ecclesiastes: “I know that everything God does will remain forever; there is nothing to add to it and there is nothing to take from it, for God has so worked that men should fear Him” (Ecc 3:14).