Chapter 8.1

Esther 8.1:

1) That day King Ahasuerus gave the house of Haman, enemy of the Jews, to Queen Esther; and Mordecai was admitted to the king’s presence, for Esther had revealed his relationship to her. 


COMMENTARY:  So Haman didn’t quite pay all by himself.  But as we saw earlier, his wife and household egged him on in his persecution of Mordecai and the Jews.  Even so, his tribe (which in various accounts has different names, depending on who the enemy du jour was at the time) does not have to pay for his genocidal aims—only those actually guilty of genocidal conspiracy do. 

Notice here he is an Agagite (the chief enemy of Israel at the time of the Hebrew version) but in the Deuterocanonical text he is a Macedonian (the chief enemy at the time of the Greek version.)


Everyone’s out in the open, now, as to who they are.  No one can accuse Mordecai of pulling strings to make his niece a queen, because the king never even had a clue that she meant anything to him, until now.



2) The king removed his signet ring that he had taken away from Haman, and gave it to Mordecai; and Esther put Mordecai in charge of the house of Haman.



COMMENTARY:  In the end Mordecai gets everything that once belonged to the one who would have deprived him and all of his people of life itself.  He did not get any of this by intrigue or any evil means, but by holding steadfast to his innocence, and trusting in the love and courage of his niece.  The story intends the lesson that some might appear to prosper by wickedness for a short time, but they will not prevail forever.

At this point people still looked for reward in this world for good deeds.  We will see in Maccabees that people came to seek reward in the hereafter, or to view the privilege of serving God to be its own reward.  Plainly, not all good people come out on top in the end, in all circumstances.  The time of Machabees saw the devout tortured to death.  Our time has seen the Holocaust.  In the end, you cannot serve God as an investment, but only out of love.



3) Esther again spoke to the king. She fell at his feet and tearfully implored him to revoke the harm done by Haman the Agagite and the plan he had devised against the Jews.


COMMENTARY:  The story doesn’t end with the rescue and prosperity of the two heroes.  They must think of their people as well.



4) The king stretched forth the golden scepter to Esther. So she rose and, standing before him,


COMMENTARY:  She still must go through the ritual of gaining kingly approval.  However she prospers, she is still not free.  Israel had to get used to being a subject nation for centuries to come.



5) said: “If it seems good to the king and if I have found favor with him, if the thing seems right to the king and I am pleasing in his eyes, let a document be issued to revoke the letters that the schemer Haman, son of Hammedatha the Agagite, wrote for the destruction of the Jews in all the royal provinces.


COMMENTARY:  She really has to couch her words carefully.  The survival of an entire people depends upon not annoying a rather childish monarch.



6) For how can I witness the evil that is to befall my people, and how can I behold the destruction of my kindred?”


COMMENTARY:  Individuals who found favor with a conqueror, in ancient times, could sometimes argue on behalf of their entire people like this.  The Guinness Book of World Records, for instance, lists the highest tuition ever paid as going to Aristotle, when he told King Philip of Macedonia that he would charge, for the tutoring of Prince Alexander (later Alexander the Great) the restoration of his home town (which the Macedonians had sacked) and the redemption from slavery of all of its surviving citizens.



7) King Ahasuerus then said to Queen Esther and to the Jew Mordecai: “Now that I have given Esther the house of Haman, and they have impaled him on the stake because he was going to attack the Jews, 8) you in turn may write in the king’s name what you see fit concerning the Jews and seal the letter with the royal signet ring.” For a decree written in the name of the king and sealed with the royal signet ring cannot be revoked.


COMMENTARY:  Irrevocable commands are the devil’s own mischief!  No mortal can foresee all twists of the future.  Always give yourself an honest way to deal with the unexpected.



9) At that time, on the twenty-third day of the third month, Sivan, the royal scribes were summoned. Exactly as Mordecai dictated, they wrote to the Jews and to the satraps, governors, and officials of the hundred and twenty-seven provinces from India to Ethiopia: to each province in its own script and to each people in its own language, and to the Jews in their own script and language.


COMMENTARY:  A fair picture of the scope of what they had to undertake, here.



10) These letters, which he wrote in the name of King Ahasuerus and sealed with the royal signet ring, he sent by mounted couriers riding thoroughbred royal steeds.


COMMENTARY:  Because they had to get the word out fast, before the other decree took over.



11) In these letters the king authorized the Jews in each and every city to gather and defend their lives, to destroy, kill, and annihilate every armed group of any nation or province that might attack them, along with their wives and children, and to seize their goods as spoil 12) on a single day throughout the provinces of King Ahasuerus, the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, Adar.


COMMENTARY:  How horrible, the bloodshed caused by the pride of rulers who cannot back out of a bad proclamation!  So one group is sent to kill another group, and that other group just got empowered to kill those obeying the first order. 


And including the wives and children is terrible!  But let’s put some context here.  Genghis and Kublai Khan would spare the wives and children of their enemies—and send them to flood the next town with widows and orphans, thereby weakening them with a sudden rise in mouths to feed.


Native American warriors had a different practice.  In the Americas custom dictated that you had to take care of the wives and children of everyone you killed in battle.  European-Americans saw this as barbaric, and would go to great lengths to “rescue” people from this “abduction”.  Historical records, however, show (much to the dismay of their ethnic peers) that such women and children almost always escaped back to the tribes at the earliest opportunity, having more freedom and a better lifestyle among the “savages”. 

Other parts of the Bible express fears that taking in the women and children of defeated enemies would lead to loss of faith.  I’ll be honest.  I have a problem with this.  Sacred writ or not, I’m not going to pretend to understand something that I don’t.  But my conviction is that if your way is truly better, a side-by-side comparison will show it.  Fear of hearing alternatives shows lack of faith in what you’ve got.

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