Esther 3

CHAPTER III

Ahasuerus exalts Haman the Agagite, and commands all his

officers to do him reverence, which Mordecai refuses, 1-3.

Haman, informed of Mordecai's refusal, plots his destruction,

and that of the Jews, 4-6.

Lots are cast to find out the proper time, 7.

Haman accuses the Jews to Ahasuerus, counsels him to destroy

them, and offers ten thousand talents of silver for the damage

which the revenue might sustain by their destruction, 8, 9.

The king refuses the money, but gives Haman full authority to

destroy them, 10, 11.

Letters are written to this effect, and sent to the king's

lieutenants throughout the empire, and the thirteenth day of

the month Adar is appointed for the massacre, 12-15.

NOTES ON CHAP. III

Verse 1. Haman-the Agagite] Perhaps he was some descendant of

that Agag, king of the Amalekites, spared by Saul, but destroyed

by Samuel; and on this ground might have an antipathy to the Jews.

Set his seat above all the princes] Made him his prime minister,

and put all the officers of state under his direction.

Verse 2. The king's servants, that were in the king's gate] By

servants here, certainly a higher class of officers are intended

than porters; and Mordecai was one of those officers, and came to

the gate with the others who were usually there in attendance to

receive the commands of the king.

Mordecai bowed not] lo yichra. "He did not bow down;"

nor did him reverence, velo yishtachaveh, "nor did he

prostrate himself." I think it most evident, from these two words,

that it was not civil reverence merely that Haman expected and

Mordecai refused; this sort of respect is found in the word

cara, to bow. This sort of reverence Mordecai could not refuse

without being guilty of the most inexcusable obstinacy, nor did

any part of the Jewish law forbid it. But Haman expected, what the

Persian kings frequently received, a species of Divine adoration;

and this is implied in the word shachah, which signifies that

kind of prostration which implies the highest degree of reverence

that can be paid to God or man, lying down flat on the earth, with

the hands and feet extended, and the mouth in the dust.

The Targum, says that Haman set up a statue for himself, to

which every one was obliged to bow, and to adore Haman himself.

The Jews all think that Mordecai refused this prostration because

it implied idolatrous adoration. Hence, in the Apocryphal

additions to this book, Mordecai is represented praying thus:

"Thou knowest that if I have not adored Haman, it was not through

pride, nor contempt, nor secret desire of glory; for I felt

disposed to kiss the footsteps of his feet (gladly) for the

salvation of Israel: but I feared to give to a man that honour

which I know belongs only to my God."

Verse 7. The first month] That is, of the civil year of the

Jews.

The month Nisan] Answering to a part of our March and April.

The twelfth year of king Ahasuerus] According to the chronology

in our Bibles, about five hundred and ten years before Christ.

They cast Pur, that is, the lot] This appears to be the Hebrew

corruption of the pure Persian word [Persian] pari, which

signifies any thing that happens fortuitously. There is an

addition here in the Greek text that was probably in the original,

and which makes this place very plain. I shall set down the whole

verse, and give the Greek in a parenthesis, that it may be read

consecutively with what is in the Hebrew: "In the first month,

that is, the month Nisan, in the twelfth year of King Ahasuerus,

they cast Pur, that is, the lot, before Haman, from day to day,

and from month to month." (ωστεαπολεσαιενμιαημερατογενος

μαρδοχαιουκαιεπεσενοκληροςειςτηντεσερακαιδεκατηντουμηνος

οςεστιναδαρ, "that they might destroy in one day the people of

Mordecai; and the lot fell on the fourteenth day of the month

Adar.")

We see plainly intimated by the Hebrew text that they cast lots,

or used a species of divination, to find which of the twelve

months would be the most favourable for the execution of Haman's

design; and, having found the desired month, then they cast lots,

or used divination, to find out which day of the said month would

be the lucky day for the accomplishment of the enterprise. But the

Hebrew text does not tell us the result of this divination; we are

left to guess it out; but the Greek supplies this deficiency, and

makes all clear. From it we find that, when they cast for the

month, the month Adar was taken; and when they cast for the day,

the fourteenth (Heb. thirteenth) of that month was taken.

Some have questioned whether Pur may not have signified also

some game of chance, which they played before or with Haman, from

day to day, to divert him from his melancholy, till the lucky time

came in which he was to have the gratification of slaying all the

people who were objects of his enmity; or they cast lots, or

played, who should get the property of such and such opulent

families. Holinshed, one of our ancient historians, informs us

that, previously to the battle of Agincourt, the English army,

under Henry V., were so thinned and weakened by disease, and the

French army so numerous, that "Frenchmen, in the mean while, as

though they had been sure of victory, made great triumphe, for the

captaines had determined before how to divide the spoil; and the

souldiers, the night before, had plaied the Englishmen at dice."

To this the chorus of Shakspeare alludes:-

"Proud of their numbers, and secure of soul,

The confident and over-lusty French

Do the low-rated English play at dice.

_____________The poor condemned English,

Like sacrifices by their watchful fires,

Sit patiently and inly ruminate

The morning's danger; and their gestures sad,

Investing lank-lean cheeks, and war-worn coats,

Presenteth them unto the gazing moon

So many horrid ghosts. HEN. V.

Monstrelet, who is an impartial writer, does not mention this.

Did Haman and his flatterers intend to divide the spoils of the

designed-to-be-massacred Jews in some such manner as this?

Verse 8. Their laws are diverse from all people] Such they

certainly were; for they worshipped the true God according to his

own laws; and this was not done by any other people then on the

face of the earth.

Verse 9. Let it be written that they may be destroyed] Let it be

enacted that they may all be put to death. By this he would throw

all the odium off himself, and put it on the king and his

counsellors; for he wished the thing to pass into a law, in which

he could have but a small share of the blame.

I will pay ten thousand talents of silver] He had said before

that it was not for the king's profit to suffer them; but here he

is obliged to acknowledge that there will be a loss to the

revenue, but that loss he is willing to make up out of his own

property.

Ten thousand talents of silver is an immense sum indeed; which,

counted by the Babylonish talent, amounts to two millions one

hundred and nineteen thousand pounds sterling; but, reckoned by

the Jewish talent, it makes more than double that sum.

Those who cavil at the Scriptures would doubtless call this one

of the many absurdities which, they say, are so plenteously found

in them, supposing it almost impossible for an individual to

possess so much wealth. But though they do not believe the Bible,

they do not scruple to credit Herodotus, who, lib. vii., says that

when Xerxes went into Greece, Pythius the Lydian had two thousand

talents of silver, and four millions of gold darics, which sums

united make near five millions and a half sterling.

Plutarch tells us, in his life of Crassus, that after this Roman

general had dedicated the tenth of all he had to Hercules, he

entertained the Roman people at ten thousand tables, and

distributed to every citizen as much corn as was sufficient for

three months; and after all these expenses, he had seven

thousand one hundred Roman talents remaining, which is more than a

million and a half of English money.

In those days silver and gold were more plentiful than at

present, as we may see in the yearly revenue of Solomon, who had

of gold from Ophir, at one voyage, four hundred and fifty talents,

which make three millions two hundred and forty thousand pounds

sterling; and his annual income was six hundred and sixty-six

talents of silver, which make four millions seven hundred and

ninety-five thousand two hundred pounds English money.

In addition to the above I cannot help subjoining the following

particulars:-

Crassus, who was mentioned before, had a landed estate valued at

one million six hundred and sixty-six thousand six hundred and

sixty-six pounds thirteen shillings and four pence.

C. Coecilius Ridorus, after having lost much in the civil war,

left by will effects amounting to one million forty-seven thousand

one hundred and sixty pounds.

Lentullus, the augur, is said to have possessed no less than

three millions three hundred and thirty-three thousand three

hundred and thirty-three pounds six shillings and eight pence.

Apicius was worth more than nine hundred and sixteen thousand

six hundred and seventy-one pounds thirteen shillings and four

pence; who, after having spent in his kitchen eight hundred and

thirty-three thousand three hundred and thirty-three pounds six

shillings and eight pence, and finding that he had no more left

than eighty-three thousand three hundred and thirty-three pounds

six shillings and eight pence, considered it so little for his

support, that he judged it best to put an end to his life by

poison!

The superfluous furniture of M. Scaurus, which was burnt at

Tusculum, was valued at no less than eight hundred and

thirty-three thousand three hundred and thirty-two pounds thirteen

shillings and four pence.

Anthony owed, at the ides or March, the sum of three hundred and

thirty-three thousand three hundred and thirty-three pounds six

shillings and six pence, which he paid before the calends of

April.

None of these men were in trade, to account for the circulation

of such immense sums through their hands. See DICKSON'S Husband.

of the Anc.

Verse 10. The king took his ring] In this ring was no doubt

included his privy seal, and he gave this to Haman, that when he

had formed such a decree as he thought fit, he might seal it with

this ring, which would give it its due force and influence among

the rulers of the provinces. The privy seal of many of our

sovereigns appears to have been inserted in their rings; and the

seals of Eastern potentates were worn in rings upon their fingers.

One such seal, once the property of the late Tippoo Sultan, lies

before me; the inscription is deeply cut in silver, which is set

in a massy carriage of gold. This, as fitted to the finger, he

probably kept always on his hand, to be ready to seal despatches,

&c., or it might be carried by a confidential officer for the same

purpose, as it seems to refer to one of the chief cutcheries, or

military officers.

Verse 12. Unto the king's lieutenants] achashdarpeney.

This is in all probability another Persian word, for there is

nothing like it in the Hebrew language, nor can it be fairly

deduced from any roots in that tongue. The Vulgate translates ad

omnes satrapas regis, to all the satraps of the king. It is very

likely that this is the true sense of the word, and that the

achsadrapani, as it may be pronounced, is the Chaldee

or Hebrew corruption of the Persian word [Persian] satraban, the

plural of [Persian] satrab, a Persian peer, though the word is now

nearly obsolete in the Persian language; for since the conquest of

Persia by Mohammedanism, the names of officers are materially

changed, as something of Islamism is generally connected with the

titles of officers both civil and military, as well as religious.

Verse 13. To destroy, so kill, and to cause to perish] To put

the whole of them to death in any manner, or by every way and

means.

Take the spoil of them for a prey.] Thus, whoever killed a Jew

had his property for his trouble! And thus the hand of every man

was armed against this miserable people. Both in the Greek version

and in the Latin the copy of this order is introduced at length,

expressing "the king's desire to have all his dominions in quiet

and prosperity; but that he is informed that this cannot be

expected, while a certain detestable people are disseminated

through all his provinces, who not only are not subject to the

laws, but endeavour to change them; and that nothing less than

their utter extermination will secure the peace and prosperity of

the empire; and therefore he orders that they be all destroyed,

both male and female, young and old," &c.

Verse 15. The posts] Literally, the couriers, the hircarrahs,

those who carried the public despatches; a species of public

functionaries, who have been in use in all nations of the world

from the remotest antiquity.

The decree was given at Shushan] It was dated from the royal

Susa, where the king then was.

The city Shushan was perplexed.] They saw that in a short time,

by this wicked measure the whole city would be thrown into

confusion; for, although the Jews were the only objects of this

decree, yet, as it armed the populace against them, even the

Persians could not hope to escape without being spoiled, when a

desperate mob had begun to taste of human blood, and enrich

themselves with the property of the murdered. Besides, many

Persian families had, no doubt, become united by intermarriages

with Jewish families, and in such a massacre they would

necessarily share the same fate with the Jews. A more impolitic,

disgraceful, and cruel measure was never formed by any government;

and one would suppose that the king who ordered it must have been

an idiot, and the counsellors who advised it must have been

madmen. But a despotic government is ever capable of extravagance

and cruelty; for as it is the bane of popular freedom and

happiness, so is it the disgrace of political wisdom and of all

civil institutions. Despotism and tyranny in the state are the

most direct curses which insulted justice can well inflict upon a

sinful nation.

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