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Barnes' Notes on the Bible
1After these things did king Ahasuerus promote Haman the son of Hammedatha the Agagite, and advanced him, and set his seat above all the princes that were with him.
The name, Haman, is probably the same as the Classical Omanes, and in ancient Persian, "Umana", an exact equivalent of the Greek "Eumenes." Hammedatha is perhaps the same as "Madata" or "Mahadata", an old Persian name signifying "given by (or to) the moon."
The Agagite - The Jews generally understand by this expression "the descendant of Agag," the Amalekite monarch of 1 Samuel 15. Haman, however, by his own name, and the names of his sons Esther 9:7-9 and his father, would seem to have been a genuine Persian.
The Classical writers make no mention of Haman's advancement; but their notices of the reign of Xerxes after 479 B.C. are exceedingly scanty.
2And all the king's servants, that were in the king's gate, bowed, and reverenced Haman: for the king had so commanded concerning him. But Mordecai bowed not, nor did him reverence.
Mordecai probably refused the required prostration, usual though it was, on religious grounds. Hence, his opposition led on to his confession that he was a Jew Esther 3:4.
3Then the king's servants, which were in the king's gate, said unto Mordecai, Why transgressest thou the king's commandment?
4Now it came to pass, when they spake daily unto him, and he hearkened not unto them, that they told Haman, to see whether Mordecai's matters would stand: for he had told them that he was a Jew.
Whether Mordecai's matters would stand - Rather, "whether Mordecai's words would hold good" - whether, that is, his excuse, that he was a Jew, would be allowed as a valid reason for his refusal.
5And when Haman saw that Mordecai bowed not, nor did him reverence, then was Haman full of wrath.
6And he thought scorn to lay hands on Mordecai alone; for they had shewed him the people of Mordecai: wherefore Haman sought to destroy all the Jews that were throughout the whole kingdom of Ahasuerus, even the people of Mordecai.
To destroy all the Jews - In the East massacres of a people, a race, a class, have at all times been among the incidents of history, and would naturally present themselves to the mind of a statesman. The Magophonia, or the great massacre of the Magi at the accession of Darius Hystaspis, was an event not then fifty years old, and was commemorated annually. A massacre of the Scythians had occurred about a century previously.
7In 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, to the twelfth month, that is, the month Adar.
In the first month ... - i. e. in March or April of 474 B.C.
"Pur" is supposed to be an old Persian word etymologically connected with the Latin "pars", and signifying "part" or "lot." The practice of casting lots to obtain a lucky day still obtains in the East, and is probably extremely ancient. A lot seems to have been cast, or a throw of some kind made, for each day of the month and each month of the year. The day and month which obtained the best throws were then selected. Assyrian calendars note lucky and unlucky days as early as the eighth century B.C. Lots were in use both among the Oriental and the Classical nations from a remote antiquity.
"Adar," the twelfth month, corresponds nearly to our March. It seems to have derived its name from "adar", "splendor," because of the brightness of the sun and the flowers at that time.
8And Haman said unto king Ahasuerus, There is a certain people scattered abroad and dispersed among the people in all the provinces of thy kingdom; and their laws are diverse from all people; neither keep they the king's laws: therefore it is not for the king's profit to suffer them.
9If it please the king, let it be written that they may be destroyed: and I will pay ten thousand talents of silver to the hands of those that have the charge of the business, to bring it into the king's treasuries.
Ten thousand talents of silver - According to Herodotus, the regular revenue of the Persian king consisted of 14,560 silver talents; so that, if the same talent is intended, Haman's offer would have exceeded two-thirds of one year's revenue (or two and one-half million British pound sterling). Another Persian subject, Pythius, once offered to present Xerxes with four millions of gold darics, or about four and one-half pounds.
10And the king took his ring from his hand, and gave it unto Haman the son of Hammedatha the Agagite, the Jews' enemy.
11And the king said unto Haman, The silver is given to thee, the people also, to do with them as it seemeth good to thee.
The silver is given to thee - Some understand this to mean that Xerxes refused the silver which Haman had offered to him; but the passage is better explained as a grant to him of all the property of such Jews as should be executed Esther 3:13.
12Then were the king's scribes called on the thirteenth day of the first month, and there was written according to all that Haman had commanded unto the king's lieutenants, and to the governors that were over every province, and to the rulers of every people of every province according to the writing thereof, and to every people after their language; in the name of king Ahasuerus was it written, and sealed with the king's ring.
On the thirteenth day - Haman had, apparently (compare Esther 3:7 with Esther 3:13), obtained by his use of the lot the 13th day of Adar as the lucky day for destroying the Jews. This may have caused him to fix on the 13th day of another month for the commencement of his enterprise. So, the Jews throughout the empire had from 9 to 11 months of warning of the peril which threatened them.
13And the letters were sent by posts into all the king's provinces, to destroy, to kill, and to cause to perish, all Jews, both young and old, little children and women, in one day, even upon the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, which is the month Adar, and to take the spoil of them for a prey.
Present, the Jews keep three days - the 13th, the 14th, and the 15th of Adar - as connected with "the Feast of Purim;" but they make the 13th a fast, commemorative of the fast of Esther Est 4:16, and keep the feast itself on the 14th and 15th of Adar.
14The copy of the writing for a commandment to be given in every province was published unto all people, that they should be ready against that day.
15The posts went out, being hastened by the king's commandment, and the decree was given in Shushan the palace. And the king and Haman sat down to drink; but the city Shushan was perplexed.
Shushan was perplexed - Susa was now the capital of Persia, and the main residence of the Persians of high rank. These, being attached to the religion of Zoroaster, would naturally sympathize with the Jews, and be disturbed at their threatened destruction. Even apart from this bond of union, the decree was sufficiently strange and ominous to "perplex" thoughtful citizens.