Esther 9 and 10

Chapter nine is the true climax of this story; everything else simply laid the foundation for the great day of the attack. On the appointed day, there was a great war, and everyone expected that the Jews would be no match for the king’s army, even though they were allowed to defend themselves (Esther 9:1-10). However, the greatest plot twist of them all was that the Jews were actually winning! Part of the reason for this was that many of the king’s own men had begun to help the Jews out of fear of Mordecai. In the capital alone, the Jews killed 500 men, including Haman’s ten sons.

Naturally, the king was interested in the results of the day (Esther 9:11-17). Upon hearing about the 500 killed in Susa and Haman’s sons, he asked Esther if she had any further requests. She asked for two more things. First, she requested that the law be extended one more day, just inside the capital city. This would definitively remove any anti-Semites from the king’s presence, so nothing like this could happen again. Second, she asked that Haman’s sons be hung on poles for all to see and remember his treachery. The king agreed, and on the second day another 300 men were killed by the Jews. Across the empire, 75,000 enemies were killed on the first day, and the Jews outside of Susa rested on the second day. The writer noted three times that, although the law allowed them to do so, the Jews did not confiscate the property of the people they killed (Esther 9:10, 15, 16). This was an act of grace on their part.

From this would-be massacre came a great Jewish holiday (Esther 9:18-32). Named after the pur that Haman used to decide the day of their deaths, Purim (the plural of pur) was commanded by Esther and Mordecai to be celebrated annually on the anniversary of the Jews’ salvation. For two days each year, the Jewish people around the world remember their potential annihilation and subsequent deliverance. This usually takes place in March, on the fourteenth and fifteenth days of Adar on the Jewish calendar (Esther 9:21). Celebration is to include “banqueting, happiness, sending gifts to one another, and providing for the poor” (Esther 9:22). Traditionally, the book of Esther is read in the synagogues during Purim, with Mordecai’s name often eliciting loud cheers and Haman’s name being drowned out each time with booing, hissing, and other loud noises.

Chapter ten contains only three verses, a short ending to the story. King Ahasuerus reigned for another eight years (for a total of twenty years) and accomplished many great things for the Persian Empire and people, including some major construction projects. As for Mordecai, he continued to be a great ruler under Ahasuerus. Although nothing else is definitively known about him, Persian records tell of a Marduka who served this king. Since the king was assassinated, it stands to reason that Mordecai either died by that time or was also deposed in the coup.

Thus, the story comes to an end with the Jewish people held in high regard and free of fear. Ezra 7:1 picks up the narrative only seven years after Ahasuerus’ death with the second major Jewish return to Jerusalem (Ezra 7:7-8).

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Daniel Goepfrich

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