The Victory of the Jews
Text: Esther 9-10
Understanding What You Read
- How did the Jews survive the planned destruction of their people?
- Who aided the Jews and why?
- What happened to the enemies of the Jews?
- What did the Jews not take that they were entitled to?
- When Ahasuerus asked Esther what else she wanted, what did she request?
- Why does the feast of Purim last two days?
- How is the feast of Purim celebrated?
- Why did the call the feast “Purim”?
- Was it wrong for the Jews to create a national holiday that God did not authorize?
- How was Mordecai remembered?
Our story now jumps to the thirteenth day of the month of Adar, the day Haman had set as being the best time for destroying the Jews. The enemies of the Jews had months to plan their attack, but the Jews also had months to plan their defense. Thus, the meaning of the day changed (Esther 9:1,22). This is what God has done repeatedly (Psalms 30:8-12; Jeremiah 31:10-17).
The Jews assembled together where they could support each other. Those who attempted to attack them, they attacked and triumphed because fear had gripped their enemies. The Jews did not initiate the conflict, but they did put it to an end when they were attacked. The Jews also had the support of the government officials because the officials were afraid of Mordecai, who was becoming increasingly powerful in Ahasuerus’ kingdom.
The result was that the Jews killed all who attacked them. In Susa alone, five hundred men were killed, including Haman’s ten sons. Because Haman’s sons are named, it is likely that they were deeply involved in the attempt to destroy the Jews. But, even though the law allowed it, none of the Jews took any plunder from the people they killed.
After Ahasuerus received an accounting of how many were killed in Susa, he asked Esther if there was anything else that she desired. She asked that the Jews be allowed one more day to defend themselves in Susa and that the bodies of Haman’s sons be hanged. Perhaps there were rumors that some would continue to attack the Jews, even though Haman’s law was only for one day. Her wish was granted and on the following day, an additional three hundred men were killed. But, like the day before, the Jews did not plunder the households of those they killed. The emphasis on the lack of plundering shows that the Jews were not involved in this for the money.
Across the empire, a total of 75,000 people were killed and none of the Jews plundered the households of the people they killed in self-defense. The fact that so many died shows that there was widespread hatred for the Jews among the population of the Persian Empire. The next day was celebrated across the empire, but because those in Susa spent an extra day defending themselves, they celebrated on the fifteenth day of Adar. It became a tradition on the fourteenth day of Adar to celebrate, hold feasts, and to send gifts of special foods especially to the poor. Mordecai made both the fourteenth and fifteenth days of Adar into official annual holidays for the Jews and for those who supported the Jews. The days do not celebrate the Jews’ military prowess, but is a time to praise God for their salvation. This is why the days celebrate are the days when it was over and not the days of the actual conflict.
Because Haman had cast pur (a lot used much like dice) to determine when to destroy the Jews, the annual holiday was called Purim (the Hebrew way of pluralizing the word pur, even though it is not a Hebrew word itself). Instead of destroying the Jews, his evil came back against himself and his sons.
Queen Esther also wrote a letter supporting the annual feast and this too was distributed to all the Jews in the Persian Empire. This feast was to be added to fasts and days of mourning they had already had in their traditions (Zechariah 7:2-7). A record of all of these events and the decrees were entered into the book recording the reigns of the kings of Media and Persia.
Mordecai became the second in command in the empire and was remembered as a man who sought the good of his people and spoke for the welfare of the Persian nation.