1) The following is a copy of the letter:
“The great King Ahasuerus
to the governors of the provinces in the hundred and twenty-seven satrapies
from India to Ethiopia, and to those who are loyal to our government:
COMMENTARY: Malachi takes care to put in that bit
about being “loyal to our government”.
At this point the war is long since over, and the Jews have resigned
themselves to being loyal subjects.
Obeying God does not always mean being in charge, or being the
This matters in the USA, where Dominionists hope to discard the separation of
church and state, and put in its place a government which would make
Christianity the national religion. (And
which Christianity? Even the
fundamentalists can’t agree among themselves whether one should manifest the
gifts of the Holy Spirit (as the Pentecostals do) or renounce all such as
deceits of the devil (as the Southern Baptists do.))
But is this really what the Bible would want?
Not according to St. Paul, who in the New Testament urged his fellow
Christians to obey and pray for Emperor Nero, except when commanded to disobey
God, as when the emperor demanded that people burn incense to his statues. This for an emperor who was actively throwing
Christians to the lions!
Why wouldn’t God want theocracy? Because
human beings don’t do it well. I fail to
understand why people who don’t trust their government’s management of anything
else think that the government would do a terrific job with religion. Human frailty always messes it up, elevating
personal priorities over those of Heaven; we confuse ourselves, in the end,
with God. I say this as a Catholic who
knows too well our own history when we once had command over “Christendom” as
Europe was once called. The temptations
of temporal power overwhelmed us, and we only recollected ourselves when we
Another reason is that forced conversion is no conversion at all. You must choose to make it authentic. If I hold a gun to your head and say that you
must say the prayers that I insist upon, your lips would say whatever I told
you to, but your heart would not pray.
2) “Many have become more ambitious the
more they were showered with honors through the bountiful generosity of their
COMMENTARY: In the USA I have noticed that one
difference between the classes is that the Middle Class believe that ambition
is overall a virtue that in a few cases can become a vice, and the Working
Class believe that ambition is overall a vice that in a few cases can become a
virtue. I wonder if it’s because the
Working Class has more Catholics in it?
Just a thought.
3) Not only do they seek to do harm to
our subjects but, incapable of dealing with such greatness, they even begin
plotting against their own benefactors.
Haman did not overtly plot to overthrow Ahasuerus, but his manipulation in
order to gather more and more power to himself amounts to usurpation. He became, for a time, the virtual king of
the empire, and abused his power to the extent of attempting genocide in
response to a perceived sleight.
4) Not only do they drive out gratitude from among
humankind but, with the arrogant boastfulness of those to whom goodness has no
meaning, they suppose they will escape the stern judgment of the all-seeing
COMMENTARY: Haman must have known that Mordecai had
saved the king’s life. A truly loyal man
would have felt gratitude. Instead, in
his arrogance, he forgot everything over a sting to his pride.
Mordecai, of course, believes as a Jew that his God will keep his promise that
the descendants of Abraham will always be numerous beyond counting. Attempts at genocide will always be punished.
This gives a new slant to what Hitler wanted to
attempt in the Holocaust. If he could
have succeeded in exterminating everyone descended of Abraham, he could have
destroyed the very foundation of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam—the basis for
the major religions of the West. That
would leave, in Europe, Paganism, Druidism, and Heathenism, which had too few
theologians with too little influence to (so he hoped) defend their faiths from
his distortions (unlike St. Maximilian Colby, who had plenty of precedent, documentation,
and community respect to support his
refutation of Hitler’s distortions of Christianity.) Hitler aspired to reshape religion into his
own image. To this day good Heathens
fight to reclaim their religion from the lies that he propagated.
Ultimately he aspired to subvert or destroy all religions. Take the swastika. This symbol arose simultaneously among
Buddhists, Hindus, Jainists, and multiple Native American tribes. In the East it meant balance and prosperity. Among American Indians, it meant the four
races emerging from the same Source and therefore being kin (yes, we knew by
prophecy that other races existed and would someday come in contact with us)—a meaning
abhorrent to Nazism. So Hitler took this
solid, square symbol and tipped it on edge into a diamond (no longer in
balance) and turned it backwards—the equivalent of the Satanic upside-down
cross—to reverse its meaning into a rejection of universal brotherhood. He put a lot of study into this before
designing his symbol.
So how does this digression on Hitler
relate to Haman? This is the inevitable end-desire
of Pride: to have nothing and nobody above oneself, to have all power. To even aspire to supplant the power of
God. Next to such ambition, could
Ahasuerus be spared for long?
(At this point some will protest that Pride is good, we should all have some,
but they confuse it with Self-Respect.
You can distinguish pride by its swollen, yet empty, blister-like quality. It’s hypersensitive and easily sore to the
touch, perpetually protecting itself from puncture, as Haman did: outraged
beyond all reason because one man in court had a ritual taboo against bowing. Self-Respect, in contrast, swells up solid
through and through like muscle, built and proven by hard work, too confident to
fear being punctured; it feels no need defend itself but instead has the strength
to defend others.)
5) “Often, too, the fair speech of
friends entrusted with the administration of affairs has induced many placed in
authority to become accomplices in the shedding of innocent blood, and has
involved them in irreparable calamities 6)
by deceiving with malicious slander the sincere good
will of rulers.
COMMENTARY: This deuterocannonical addition
matters. The letter confesses that even
the highest in the land can make grievous mistakes when deceived. Without this addition, chapter 8 sounds like
the king just authorized contradictory orders that would inevitably end in
pointless bloodshed, rather than admit to an error.
Mordecai takes care to acknowledge Ahasuerus’s “sincere
good will”. But even the most
well-meaning can trust the wrong person and make the wrong decision as a
result. Human existence calls for
humility with which to navigate it.
7) This can be verified in the ancient
stories that have been handed down to us, but more fully when you consider the
wicked deeds perpetrated in your midst by the pestilential influence of those
undeserving of authority.
COMMENTARY: What culture does not tell similar
stories? We need to repeat these stories
to remind ourselves of the pitfalls of pride and the evils of deception which
it inspires. (Haman, you will notice,
didn’t exactly lie—he spun. Malicious spin
can do as much harm as lying.) That is
why factual and fictional books exist side by side in the Bible. Inspired people chose to include stories that
8) We must
provide for the future, so as to render the kingdom undisturbed and peaceful
for all people, 9) taking advantage of changing
conditions and always deciding matters coming to our attention with equitable
COMMENTARY: Also important—a bid for more flexibility
than the irrevocability of a decree allows.
This matters today, when people stick to the letter of the law instead
of seeking its spirit.
Ezekiel saw this, by the power of God’s inspiration,
when he realized that the law’s taboo against eunuchs entering the temple only
applied in an era when castration was a voluntary consecration of a man’s body
to a competing deity. People will say
that God is unchanging and I don’t dispute it—but when your nature is Creator,
your essence is Creative, and that cannot help but lead to flexibility beyond
The nature of God may be Creativity, but the spirit of God is Love. Love gives us the stable heart that
transforms creativity from chaos into creation.
If an earnest soul seeks whatever is most loving in any given situation
(what is truly most loving, not what can be rationalized as such to serve other
motives) and sticks to that rule inflexibly, all else may flex around her and
still she will remain steadfast.
Haman appealed not to the love which Ahasuerus felt for his country, but to his
pride, deceiving him with the threat that Jews might be headstrong and
disobedient subjects. Esther appealed to
love, that she could not stand by and watch her people slain. In all dilemmas we do well to consult Love.
10) “For instance, Haman, son of
Hammedatha, a Macedonian,
certainly not of Persian blood, and very different from us in generosity, was
hospitably received by us.
COMMENTARY: The writers in Greek change him from an
Agagite to a Macedonian, because the reason they wrote in Greek was because
they had been conquered by Macedonians, and they disliked it a lot. We will learn more about that in the study of
I and II Maccabees.
11) He benefited so much from the good
will we have toward all peoples that he was proclaimed ‘our father,’ before
whom everyone was to bow down; and he attained a position second only to the
COMMENTARY: So Mordecai will have to explain why
someone so exalted fell from grace.
12) But, unable to control his arrogance,
he strove to deprive us of kingdom and of life, 13)and by weaving
intricate webs of deceit he demanded the destruction of Mordecai, our savior
and constant benefactor, and of Esther, our blameless royal consort, together
with their whole nation.
COMMENTARY: Deprive him of kingdom and of life? In a subtle way. Manipulation sucks the life out of a person
in all but biology, and even there it does damage. In contrast Esther, though she carefully set
up the right conditions before making her accusation, said nothing but truth.
14) For by such measures he hoped to catch
us defenseless and to transfer the rule of the Persians to the Macedonians.
COMMENTARY: The later Greek writers would find this
plausible, because the Persian empire did indeed, in their day, fall to the
Macedonians under Alexander the Great, and his successors in the region, the
Seleucid Dynasty, became oppressive of Israel.
Alexander’s father, Philip, first coined the words, “Divide and conquer”
which have guided the destruction of many ever since.
15) But we find that the Jews, who were
doomed to extinction by this archcriminal, are not evildoers, but rather are
governed by very just laws
Thus Mordecai answers Haman’s accusation that the Jews were a lawless people.
16) and are the children of the Most High, the living God
of majesty, who has maintained the kingdom in a flourishing condition for us
and for our forebears.
COMMENTARY: Mordecai just couldn’t resist slipping
that into a letter supposedly from a Pagan king.
17) “You will do well, then, to ignore the
letter sent by Haman, son of Hammedatha,
COMMENTARY: Thank heavens! Chapter 8, without this letter, implies a
senseless war caused by conflicting proclamations. Here we have an alternative to either obeying
or disobeying the earlier command—just please, politely ignore it, the same as
you would if the king had inadvertently farted in public.
18) for he who composed it has been
impaled, together with his entire household, before the gates of Susa. Thus
swiftly has God, who governs all, brought just punishment upon him.
COMMENTARY: So now I learn that his household paid in
more ways than losing the property. If
we cheer evil on, we bear its guilt along with the evildoer.
19) “You shall exhibit a copy of this
letter publicly in every place to certify that the Jews may follow their own
COMMENTARY: Mordecai wants to make it clear that he
didn’t fail to prostrate himself before Haman out of disregard for the rules of
court, but because he had his own people’s laws to follow. He also wants to make sure that everybody
gets the memo on the change of plans.
20) and that you may help them on the day
set for their ruin, the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, Adar, to defend
themselves against those who attack them.
COMMENTARY: In case anybody missed the memo. But this is much better than giving some
marching orders against others who then get authorized to fight them.
21) For God, the ruler of all, has turned
that day from one of destruction of the chosen people into one of joy for them.
22) Therefore, you too
must celebrate this memorable day among your designated feasts with all
rejoicing, 23) so that both now and in the future it may be a
celebration of deliverance for us and for Persians of good will, but for those
who plot against us a reminder of destruction.
COMMENTARY: And thus we have the holiday of Purim,
observed today with the wildest revelry of all of the Jewish holidays. During the partying people will read aloud
the Book of Esther, and it is proverbial that “If you can tell Esther from
Mordecai, you are not yet drunk enough.”
(There are sober ways to observe Purim, too, for the record, and some do
24) “Every city and province without
exception that does not observe this decree shall be ruthlessly destroyed with
fire and sword, so that it will be left not merely untrodden by people, but
even shunned by wild beasts and birds forever.”
So people now have ample motivation to just quietly lose that other memo and
pretend that it never happened.