Commentary on Esther 8

Notes (NET Translation)

1 On that same day King Ahasuerus gave the estate of Haman, that adversary of the Jews, to Queen Esther. Now Mordecai had come before the king, for Esther had revealed how he was related to her.

In ancient Persia, betrayal of the king meant not only loss of life, but loss of property. According to Herodotus (Hist. 3.128–129), the property of a certain traitor named Oroetes became the property of the state. In a similar vein, Josephus wrote that Cyrus decreed that anyone who did not obey his laws concerning the Jews would be crucified, and their estates would be confiscated by the government (Ant. 1.17). While it is doubtful that Cyrus was really so concerned about the Jews, there is no reason to question the authenticity of the penalty Josephus describes for refusal of the king’s orders.1

2 The king then removed his signet ring (the very one he had taken back from Haman) and gave it to Mordecai. And Esther designated Mordecai to be in charge of Haman’s estate.

Mordecai is made second-in-command of Persia.

[A]ccording to Herodotus, Hist. 9.107, a certain Xenagoras, apparently not a particularly illustrious man, was made governor of all Cilicia as a reward for saving the life of the king’s brother during a brawl. Perhaps becoming the vizier for saving the king’s life would not be out of proportion.2

3 Then Esther again spoke with the king, falling at his feet. She wept and begged him for mercy, that he might nullify the evil of Haman the Agagite which he had intended against the Jews.

It is not clear whether verse 3 is a second audience with the king or a continuation of that in verses 1-2. Esther is now fulfilling Mordecai’s command in 4:8 to intervene on behalf of the Jews.

4 When the king extended to Esther the gold scepter, she arose and stood before the king.

The extending of the gold scepter indicates that Esther has permission to present a petition before the king.

5 She said, “If the king is so inclined and if I have met with his approval and if the matter is agreeable to the king and if I am attractive to him, let an edict be written rescinding those recorded intentions of Haman the son of Hammedatha, the Agagite, which he wrote in order to destroy the Jews who are throughout all the king’s provinces. 6 For how can I watch the calamity that will befall my people, and how can I watch the destruction of my relatives?”

7 King Ahasuerus replied to Queen Esther and to Mordecai the Jew, “Look, I have already given Haman’s estate to Esther, and he has been hanged on the gallows because he took hostile action against the Jews. 8 Now you write in the king’s name whatever in your opinion is appropriate concerning the Jews and seal it with the king’s signet ring. Any decree that is written in the king’s name and sealed with the king’s signet ring cannot be rescinded.

Verses 8-13 closely parallel 3:9-15. The first decree cannot be annulled so the second decree must allow the Jews to defend themselves.

9 The king’s scribes were quickly summoned – in the third month (that is, the month of Sivan), on the twenty-third day. They wrote out everything that Mordecai instructed to the Jews and to the satraps and the governors and the officials of the provinces all the way from India to Ethiopia – a hundred and twenty-seven provinces in all – to each province in its own script and to each people in their own language, and to the Jews according to their own script and their own language.

The date in verse 9 corresponds to June 25, 474 BCE, two months and ten days (70 days total) after the proclamation of Haman’s edict.3

10 Mordecai wrote in the name of King Ahasuerus and sealed it with the king’s signet ring. He then sent letters by couriers on horses, who rode royal horses that were very swift.

11 The king thereby allowed the Jews who were in every city to assemble and to stand up for themselves – to destroy, to kill, and to annihilate any army of whatever people or province that should become their adversaries, including their women and children, and to confiscate their property.

The wording of vv. 11-12 “recalls what Haman wrote (3.13) in an exact and vengeful manner that some interpreters have found offensive. The effect is to reverse in every detail what Haman planned for the Jews.”4 Esther 9:10, 15 says taht the Jews did not take any plunder.

12 This was to take place on a certain day throughout all the provinces of King Ahasuerus – namely, on the thirteenth day of the twelfth month (that is, the month of Adar).

The date in v. 12 corresponds to March 7, 473 BCE.5

13 A copy of the edict was to be presented as law throughout each and every province and made known to all peoples, so that the Jews might be prepared on that day to avenge themselves from their enemies.

14 The couriers who were riding the royal horses went forth with the king’s edict without delay. And the law was presented in Susa the citadel as well.

15 Now Mordecai went out from the king’s presence in purple and white royal attire, with a large golden crown and a purple linen mantle. The city of Susa shouted with joy.

The Hebrew ateret can refer to any ornament that is worn on the head, not just a crown. The joy of the city of Susa in 8:15 contrasts with its confusion in 3:15.

16 For the Jews there was radiant happiness and joyous honor.

17 Throughout every province and throughout every city where the king’s edict and his law arrived, the Jews experienced happiness and joy, banquets and holidays. Many of the resident peoples pretended to be Jews, because the fear of the Jews had overcome them.

The verb mityahadim means “became Jewish”. It is not clear what this means. Since the the Gentiles were not endangered unless they attacked the Jews it probably does not mean that they acted Jewish to avert the wrath of the Jews. The LXX says they were circumcised and therefore implies they converted to Judaism. “This is a final reversal of Haman’s schemes: those he sought to set against the Jews now actually join them.”6 The Gentiles may have feared the Jews because the threat exists that they will become as insensitive as the Gentile overlords had been.7

Bibliography

Barker, Kenneth L. ed. The NIV Study Bible. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1995.

Brown, Raymond E. ed. The New Jerome Biblical Commentary. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 1990.

Mays, James L. ed. The HarperCollins Bible Commentary (Revised Edition). San Francisco: HarperCollins, 2000.

Meeks, Wayne A. ed. The HarperCollins Study Bible. New York: HarperCollins, 1993.

Tomasino, Anthony. Esther. Evangelical Exegetical Commentary. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2013.


  1. Tomasino EEC 8:1 
  2. Tomasino EEC 8:2 
  3. Barker 718 
  4. Meeks 746 
  5. Barker 718 
  6. Meeks 746 
  7. Tomasino EEC 8:17 
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