Reversal of Fortune

Text: Esther 8

Understanding What You Read

  1. How did Mordecai come to replace Haman?
  2. What did Esther request of the king?
  3. Take note of the language. How did Esther address the king when making her plea?
  4. What was allowed to be done about the law to kill the Jews?
  5. Since Medo-Persian laws could not be changed, how were the Jews saved?
  6. How was Mordecai received by the people?
  7. What did the Jews think about the new law?
  8. Why did some people convert to Judaism?

After the death of Haman, Ahasuerus gifts Haman’s estate to Esther. Given that Haman was able to put up 10,000 talents of silver to wipe out the Jews, his estate must have been large. Esther also informed the king that Mordecai was both her cousin and the man who had raised her. The king honored his queen by appointing Mordecai as the keeper of his signet ring. Esther then appointed Mordecai as the steward of her estate that was formally Haman’s.

Despite all of this, the dreadful law that Haman had enacted was still in place. Esther wasn’t looking for revenge against Haman, but salvation for her people. Esther again came before the king weeping and begging that he cancel Haman’s scheme. Once again Esther apparently took a risk at coming before Ahasuerus unbidden since the king again acknowledged her with his scepter. She told the king that she could not endure seeing her own people die. Notice that Esther speaks formally to the king in third-person and pleads instead demanding justice. She also puts the blame for the law on Haman but skips over the role that the king himself had played (Esther 3:8-11).

But Medo-Persian laws cannot be revoked (Esther 1:19). Replying to both Esther and Mordecai, Ahasuerus stated that he had taken action. Again the guilt of taking action against the Jews is placed fully on Haman. The king doesn’t mention that he had a part in what happened. He had Haman killed and gave his estate to Esther, but he then gave permission for a law to be written in his name to counter Haman’s decree. Esther and Mordecai were given large freedom to write this new counter-edict as they saw best. Once again, we notice that Ahasuerus doesn’t get involved in the actual crafting of laws.

Thus, a little over two months after Haman’s decree was published, a new decree was issued. Interestingly, the time between the two laws was two months and ten days – 70 days, which brings to mind the 70 years the Jews were in captivity. The new law was distributed widely and written in every language, including in Hebrew this time. It was sent out by the fastest courier horses.

The new decree written by Mordecai allowed the Jews to unite in the common defense of themselves. It used the same three phrases as Haman’s decree (Esther 3:13) but was directed against those who might attack the Jews. They were allowed to destroy any group that attacked them or their families. The property of any people they destroyed would become the defending Jews’. This placed additional risks on anyone thinking of killing Jews for their property. This right was for only the one day that Haman’s decree was valid. The limitation prevented a widespread civil war from erupting. Mordecai’s counter law gave the Jews nine months to prepare their defense.

Haman ruled by fear and subtly, wanting the respect of everyone, but in the end, he lost everything. When Haman’s decree went out, Mordecai put on sackcloth and ashes (Esther 4:1), now he was wearing finery. The people of Susa found Haman’s law confusing (Esther 3:15) but now they shouted and rejoiced.

The Jews, of course, rejoiced, where before they were fasting and mourning (Esther 4:3). While they still had to defend themselves, they now had a fighting chance to survive. When the new law arrived, celebrations broke out. Seeing how the Jews were divinely protected, many people converted to Judaism across the empire. The wording of the last statement in Esther 8:17 could be translated that many people claimed to be Jews and not necessarily that they changed their religion.

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