Esther 3

 

אַחַר הַדְּבָרִים הָאֵלֶּה גִּדַּל הַמֶּלֶךְ אֲחַשְׁוֵרֹושׁ אֶת־הָמָן בֶּן־הַמְּדָתָא הָאֲגָגִי וַיְנַשְּׂאֵהוּ וַיָּשֶׂם אֶת־כִּסְאֹו   3:1

  מֵעַל כָּל־הַשָּׂרִים אֲשֶׁר אִתֹּו׃

Esth. 3:1   After these things, the king, Ahasuerus, promoted Haman, the son of Hammedatha, the Agagite, and he lifted him up and set his authority above all the princes who were with him.

Agag may have been a king of Amalek (1Sam. 15:8).  Now Mordecai, according to some scholars, may have been a descendent of Saul’s (see my remarks on this matter at Esth. 2:5).  So Haman and Mordecai were symbolic of mortal enemies, Amalek and Israel.

וְכָל־עַבְדֵי הַמֶּלֶךְ אֲשֶׁר־בְּשַׁעַר הַמֶּלֶךְ כֹּרְעִים וּמִשְׁתַּחֲוִים לְהָמָן כִּי־כֵן צִוָּה־לֹו הַמֶּלֶךְ וּמָרְדֳּכַי לֹא   3:2

 יִכְרַע וְלֹא יִשְׁתַּחֲוֶה׃

Esth. 3:2   And all the servants of the king who were at the gate of the king were bowing down and prostrating themselves to Haman, for so had the king commanded regarding him, but Mordecai would not bow down or prostrate himself.

Something strange in this verse.  It seems that bowing down before high officials was the norm at that time and place.  So why did the king have to explicitly command it for Haman, whom he’s apparently appointed grand vizier, a station just lower than the king?  Because of this, commentators have assumed that Haman was not of high birth rank.

וַיֹּאמְרוּ עַבְדֵי הַמֶּלֶךְ אֲשֶׁר־בְּשַׁעַר הַמֶּלֶךְ לְמָרְדֳּכָי מַדּוּעַ אַתָּה עֹובֵר אֵת מִצְוַת הַמֶּלֶךְ׃   3:3

Esth. 3:3   And the servants of the king who were at the gate of the king said to Mordecai, “Why are you transgressing the commandment of the king?”                                  [Return to Esth. 6:10]

וַיְהִי (בְּאָמְרָם) [כְּאָמְרָם] אֵלָיו יֹום וָיֹום וְלֹא שָׁמַע אֲלֵיהֶם וַיַּגִּידוּ לְהָמָן לִרְאֹות הֲיַעַמְדוּ דִּבְרֵי   3:4

מָרְדֳּכַי כִּי־הִגִּיד לָהֶם אֲשֶׁר־הוּא יְהוּדִי׃

Esth. 3:4   And it was by their speaking to him day after day and he did not listen to them, that they announced to Haman to see if the words of Mordecai would hold up when he revealed to them that he was a Jew.

I see no reason for the error indication and the correction in this verse.  The beth prefix, translated by me as by, for the word in the parentheses is perfectly valid, and the substitution of a caph prefix (translated as when) in the brackets is unnecessary.

וַיַּרְא הָמָן כִּי־אֵין מָרְדֳּכַי כֹּרֵעַ וּמִשְׁתַּחֲוֶה לֹו וַיִּמָּלֵא הָמָן חֵמָה׃   3:5

Esth. 3:5   Then Haman saw that Mordecai was not bowing down or prostrating himself to him, and Haman was full of rage.

Apparently, Haman had not observed Mordecai before this.  Now he took notice.  An interesting side question:  Was Mordecai the only Jew in Shushan?

וַיִּבֶז בְּעֵינָיו לִשְׁלֹח יָד בְּמָרְדֳּכַי לְבַדֹּו כִּי־הִגִּידוּ לֹו אֶת־עַם מָרְדֳּכָי וַיְבַקֵּשׁ הָמָן לְהַשְׁמִיד   3:6

אֶת־כָּל־הַיְּהוּדִים אֲשֶׁר בְּכָל־מַלְכוּת אֲחַשְׁוֵרֹושׁ עַם מָרְדֳּכָי׃

Esth. 3:6   But he was too humiliated in his eyes to direct a hand at Mordecai only, for they had revealed to him the people of Mordecai, and Haman sought to exterminate all the Jews who were throughout all of the kingdom of Ahasuerus -- the people of Mordecai.

An example of classical anti-Semitism.  Disapproval of one Jew morphs into hatred of all Jews.

בַּחֹדֶשׁ הָרִאשֹׁון הוּא־חֹדֶשׁ נִיסָן בִּשְׁנַת שְׁתֵּים עֶשְׂרֵה לַמֶּלֶךְ אֲחַשְׁוֵרֹושׁ הִפִּיל פּוּר הוּא הַגֹּורָל לִפְנֵי   3:7

הָמָן מִיֹּום לְיֹום וּמֵחֹדֶשׁ לְחֹדֶשׁ שְׁנֵים־עָשָׂר הוּא־חֹדֶשׁ אֲדָר׃

Esth. 3:7   In the first month -- that is the month of Nisan -- in the twelfth year for king Ahasuerus, was being cast the pur -- that is the lot -- before Haman from day to day and from month to month, the twelfth month -- that is the month of Adar.

Note that Nisan (called Aviv in the Torah), the month in which Passover is celebrated, was still identified as the first month of the year (as dictated by God in Exod. 12:2), and Adar was the twelfth month.

וַיֹּאמֶר הָמָן לַמֶּלֶךְ אֲחַשְׁוֵרֹושׁ יֶשְׁנֹו עַם־אֶחָד מְפֻזָּר וּמְפֹרָד בֵּין הָעַמִּים בְּכֹל מְדִינֹות מַלְכוּתֶךָ   3:8

 וְדָתֵיהֶם שֹׁנֹות מִכָּל־עָם וְאֶת־דָּתֵי הַמֶּלֶךְ אֵינָם עֹשִׂים וְלַמֶּלֶךְ אֵין־שֹׁוֶה לְהַנִּיחָם׃

Esth. 3:8   Then Haman said to king Ahasuerus, “There is a certain people dispersed and separated among the peoples in all the provinces of your kingdom, and their laws are different from all people, and the laws of the king are not theirs to observe, so there is no value for the king to granting them rest.”

The fifth word in this verse has a peculiar suffix.  The first two letters, יֶש, are normally translated as there is.  But the third-person masculine pronoun at the end of the word would make a literal translation incomprehensible.  It would have to be something like there is his, or there is to him.  Neither of these or any variations I can think of make sense in the context.  All the bible translations I have consulted show the same as I have -- the translators ignored the confusing suffix.

אִם־עַל־הַמֶּלֶךְ טֹוב יִכָּתֵב לְאַבְּדָם וַעֲשֶׂרֶת אֲלָפִים כִּכַּר־כֶּסֶף אֶשְׁקֹול עַל־יְדֵי עֹשֵׂי הַמְּלָאכָה לְהָבִיא   3:9

 אֶל־גִּנְזֵי הַמֶּלֶךְ׃

Esth. 3:9   “If it is according to the good king, let it be written to destroy them, and I will weigh out ten thousand talents of silver on behalf of the hands of those doing the business, bringing in to the treasuries of the king.”

Scholars speculate that the royal treasuries had been depleted by the Greek war; therefore, Ahasuerus consented to Haman’s heinous idea.  Ten thousand talents of silver was a sizable sum.  Apparently, Haman would gather that sum from the spoils of the dead Jews.

וַיָּסַר הַמֶּלֶךְ אֶת־טַבַּעְתֹּו מֵעַל יָדֹו וַיִּתְּנָהּ לְהָמָן בֶּן־הַמְּדָתָא הָאֲגָגִי צֹרֵר הַיְּהוּדִים׃   3:10

Esth. 3:10   Then the king removed his ring from his hand and gave it to Haman, the son of Hammedatha, the Agagite, harasser of the Jews.

וַיֹּאמֶר הַמֶּלֶךְ לְהָמָן הַכֶּסֶף נָתוּן לָךְ וְהָעָם לַעֲשֹׂות בֹּו כַּטֹּוב בְּעֵינֶיךָ׃   3:11

Esth. 3:11   And the king said to Haman, “The silver is given to you, and the people, to do with as is good in your eyes.”

וַיִּקָּרְאוּ סֹפְרֵי הַמֶּלֶךְ בַּחֹדֶשׁ הָרִאשֹׁון בִּשְׁלֹושָׁה עָשָׂר יֹום בֹּו וַיִּכָּתֵב כְּכָל־אֲשֶׁר־צִוָּה הָמָן אֶל   3:12

אֲחַשְׁדַּרְפְּנֵי־הַמֶּלֶךְ וְאֶל־הַפַּחֹות אֲשֶׁר עַל־מְדִינָה וּמְדִינָה וְאֶל־שָׂרֵי עַם וָעָם מְדִינָה וּמְדִינָה כִּכְתָבָהּ וְעַם

 וָעָם כִּלְשֹׁונֹו בְּשֵׁם הַמֶּלֶךְ אֲחַשְׁוֵרֹשׁ נִכְתָּב וְנֶחְתָּם בְּטַבַּעַת הַמֶּלֶךְ׃

Esth. 3:12   And the scribes of the king were called in the first month on the thirteenth day in it, and was written according to all that Haman commanded to the satraps of the king and to the governors who were over one province or another, and to the princes of one people or another, of one province or another according to its writing, and one people or another according to its language, in the name of the king, Ahasuerus.  It was written, and it was sealed with the ring of the king.                                                                                                             [Return to Esth. 8:8]

The thirteenth day of the first month was two days before Passover.  I suspect that this verse supports the accuracy and authenticity of the story of Esther.  It would have been far more effective as drama or myth if the tenth day of the month was chosen; that’s the day on which the Israelite slaves were to obtain a lamb for slaughter on the fourteenth of the month in the night in preparation for the death of the first-born throughout Egypt.

וְנִשְׁלֹוחַ סְפָרִים בְּיַד הָרָצִים אֶל־כָּל־מְדִינֹות הַמֶּלֶךְ לְהַשְׁמִיד לַהֲרֹג וּלְאַבֵּד אֶת־כָּל־הַיְּהוּדִים מִנַּעַר   3:13

 וְעַד־זָקֵן טַף וְנָשִׁים בְּיֹום אֶחָד בִּשְׁלֹושָׁה עָשָׂר לְחֹדֶשׁ שְׁנֵים־עָשָׂר הוּא־חֹדֶשׁ אֲדָר וּשְׁלָלָם לָבֹוז׃

Esth. 3:13   And letters were sent in the hand of runners to all the provinces of the king to destroy, to slay, and to cause to perish all the Jews, both young and old, little ones and women, in one day, on the twelfth month's thirteenth day -- that is the month of Adar -- and to plunder them for spoil.

The day of the anticipated slaughter was exactly eleven months after the decree was formulated. 

פַּתְשֶׁגֶן הַכְּתָב לְהִנָּתֵן דָּת בְּכָל־מְדִינָה וּמְדִינָה גָּלוּי לְכָל־הָעַמִּים לִהְיֹות עֲתִדִים לַיֹּום הַזֶּה׃   3:14

Esth. 3:14   A copy of the document was to report the law in every province, revealing to all the peoples to be ready for that day.

הָרָצִים יָצְאוּ דְחוּפִים בִּדְבַר הַמֶּלֶךְ וְהַדָּת נִתְּנָה בְּשׁוּשַׁן הַבִּירָה וְהַמֶּלֶךְ וְהָמָן יָשְׁבוּ לִשְׁתֹּות וְהָעִיר   3:15

שׁוּשָׁן נָבֹוכָה׃

Esth. 3:15   The runners went forth hastily with the word of the king as the decree was set in Shushan the castle, and the king and Haman sat drinking, while the city of Shushan was in confusion.

The height of callousness as well as a hint of decency are both revealed here in this verse.  Haman and Ahasuerus, after having sealed the fate of all the Jews of the empire, enjoyed a banquet, but the citizens of Shushan were apparently confused (perplexed might be a better word) by the horror of the edict.

 

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