Wednesday, October 23, 2013

CXCV - Finishing Esther

I hope you have enjoyed reading this book.  It is a short and interesting story.  The story line is easy to follow and the main characters are easy to relate to, even the evil Haman.   A brief character study of Queen Esther would reveal her wisdom, courage, and patience.  We are to conclude also that she was a Godly woman, as she must have been attuned to God and His guidance as she carried out the difficult task of having the king of Persia override his own decree in behalf of the Jews.  Our last post ended chapter 7 with Haman being hanged on the gallows he had specially made for Mordecai the Jew.

Chapter 8

Verses 1-2  -  The king gave all of Haman’s property to Esther (it was a substantial estate, as we know Haman was very good at gathering valuable possessions for himself).  Esther appointed Mordecai as proprietor of the estate.  Also, the king gave to Mordecai the position of authority that Haman had, making him second in command in the entire Persian Empire.  He also gave him his signet ring.  In a matter of hours, Mordecai went from a man sentenced to death, to a man of wealth and prominence.  Verses 3-8 address a problem that still existed:  The decree from the king that on an appointed day, all Jews were to be killed throughout the empire which included 127 provinces.  Esther pleaded with Xerxes to resend the order, which by law, could not be done.  However, he gave Esther and Mordecai the authority to make and post another decree, which would override the first one.  In verses 9-14 tells how the new decree was issued with desperate speed.  Royal horses (the fastest) were used by the couriers to post this new decree throughout the empire.  This decree allowed the Jews to defend themselves.  It also gave them permission to kill their enemies and plunder their possessions.  This law was effective the same day that Haman appointed for the Jews to be killed, which was the fourteenth day of the Jewish month of Adar.  {Adar is the last month on the Jewish calendar.  It falls during our traditional months of February and March.  It is still known as the month of celebration, dating back to Esther and Mordecai.}  In the last three verses of chapter 8 we see Mordecai dressed in royal colors, showing his position in the empire, which was second only to the king himself.  It restates the celebrating that took place both because of Mordecai’s vindication and that the Jews were freed from their fate of death caused by Haman.

Chapter 9

This chapter opens with the Jews acting on their new-found freedom to engage their enemies.  Verses 5-10 tell of the Jews killing many people on that day.  {I believe they counter-attacked all of those who were acting in response to Haman’s original decree.  Remember, the new decree did not indicate the Jews were to be aggressors, but rather gave them permission to defend themselves.}  It is interesting to note in this passage that, although the king gave them permission to plunder the possessions of their enemies, the Jews did not do that.  That was a decision which turned out to be a good investment, as all the people of the land gained much respect for the Jews because of this, thus treating them with more respect from that time forward.  {If these Jewish leaders were students of Israel’s History, they might have made this decision because of the disobedience of Israel’s first king, Saul.  This comes from I Samuel 15.  Saul’s battle was with the Amalekites, Haman’s ancestors.  Saul disobeyed God two ways:  He took some of the plunder for himself and his troops, and he allowed king Agag to live.  Haman was a direct descendant of Agag.}  This passage states specifically that they killed all ten of Haman’s sons, which leads us to the next passage in which the king asks Esther what more she would ask of the king.   She told him that she wanted him to hang the bodies of Haman’s ten sons on gallows for the citizenry to see, thus suppressing any further aggression against the Jews.  In the next four verses we see that the king granted an additional day that the Jews were allowed to attack and kill their enemies in the province of Susa only.  After these two days, the Jews rested, then celebrated their freedom and military victories.  Also note in verse 19 that this would be a time every year marked as a date for celebrating and giving gifts to each other.  {I believe the purpose of this was that people would give gifts to the poor:  Gifts mainly being food, so the poor could celebrate along with those more well off.

Verse 20-32  -  Purim

{Note the word Purim was used because Haman used Purim stones (like rolling dice) to determine the day for killing Jews.}

Mordecai was aware of the importance of all that had taken place, and the celebration of the Jews was appropriate; so much so that he and Esther decided this should be an event to be remembered throughout future generations.  So they sent out an official announcement that this celebration would take place every year on the fourteenth day of Adar, to commemorate God’s deliverance from their enemies.  And the celebration would include the giving of gifts.  {Although it might be considered one of the “lesser” of the Jewish holidays, it is still celebrated to this day during the month of Adar.  On the 13th, Jews fast, calling it the “Fast of Esther”.  The 14th and 15th are considered happy days of celebration.  The book of Esther is read aloud to the children, gifts are exchanged among friends, generous gifts of food are presented to the poor, and everyone enjoys a feast.  This holiday is considered a “favorite” among Jews, especially the Jewish children, as there are costumes worn and many children-like plays performed, making fun of the evil Haman.}

Chapter 10

The final chapter of this wonderful book of Esther consists of only three verses.  It’s telling us that things in the empire somewhat returned to normal.  The king continues to levy taxes on the citizens.  But there is one thing different than in the recent past:  The Jews were no longer persecuted by the government or its citizenry.  Mordecai remained as second in command in the Persian Empire, and he continued to honor his calling to serve and protect his people within the empire.  It mentions in the second verse that Mordecai’s whole story was to be placed in the annuls of the kings of Media and Persia, sealing it in its proper place for generations to come.

Next Post  -   The book of Job

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