17 Jul Esther 9: Hail To The Victors
REVERSAL: Fear of the Jews falls on their enemies (8:17, 9:2-3)
Haman v Mordecai plays out in a widespread drama throughout the empire.
In chapter 9 verse 1, the narrator builds to a crescendo by piling clause upon clause upon clause (five in all!). However, he then eliminates the suspense, and both edicts find their resolution in a summary statement: “T he reverse occurred: the Jews gained mastery over those who hated them.” Major upset!
Verses 2-16 describe this great reversal in detail. Verse 3 shares an unforeseen blessing: the upset is fueled by “the fear of Mordecai (the Jew) had fallen on them.” What a turnaround! From powerless under Haman’s edict to powerful, even gaining help from powerful people. The adjective great used in verse 4 to describe Mordecai is the word gadol, the same word used in Exodus 11:3, “the man Moses was very great.”
REVERSAL: The Jews master their enemies (9:5-16)
Here we find details of the victory. The Jews impose their will on their enemies. “As they pleased” (verse 5) depicts no one’s being able to stand against the conquests by irresistible military forces.
Susa is the center of world power. The attempt to carry out Haman’s edict to exterminate the Jews takes place right under the nose of the king and queen! How does this attempt go? Awfully. A sample of their failure? Five hundred men in Susa are destroyed, a large part of the male population of the fortress. It is a case of overwhelming defeat of the Jews’ enemies! In addition to the five hundred men in the citadel of Susa, ten names in rapid fire are listed without preface.
REVERSAL: Haman’s sons are named, killed, and impaled (9:7-10, 13-14)
We don’t know these names are the sons of Haman until after the list (verse 10). Haman is the enemy of the Jews, and so are his sons. Fox writes, “Haman’s sons are not merely appendages of Haman, but active enemies of the Jews.” Gregory tells us, “The execution of the sons of one’s enemy was the regular practice in the ancient world. It must be done to eliminate the possibility of these sons enacting revenge for their father’s death.” We should remember here Saul’s disobedience to God’s command (I Samuel 15) to exterminate the Amalekites, whose king, Agag, Saul had permitted to live. Haman is an Agagite, an Amalekite descendant of this Agag.
Do you recall Haman’s boasting in chapter 5: 11-12? “And Haman recounted to them the splendor of his riches, the number of his sons, all the promotions with which the king had honored him, and how he had advanced him above the officials and the servants of the king. Then Haman, said, ‘Even Queen Esther let no one but me come with the king to the feast she prepared. And tomorrow also I am invited by her together with the king.’ “ Now all of Haman’s boasts have been stripped away!
Proverbs 27:1, “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring.”
Psalm 73: 18-20 has come home to roost! “Truly you set them in slippery places; you make them fall to ruin. How they are destroyed in a moment, swept away utterly by terrors. Like a dream when one awakes….”
“THE GREAT REVERSAL: The death of Haman’s ten sons—“the crowning act of the great reversal…” according to Gregory.
The report of the number killed in Susa reaches the ears of the king (verse 11) who then matter of factly reports to Esther in verse 12. Ironically, the king is undisturbed by the combat and slaughter that is raging around the palace! Instead, he gives a bonus request to Esther. The king had previously given Haman a blank check, and now he gives Esther a blank check. She does not ask for a fur coat or the biggest diamond in the empire. She continues her concern for her people (13).
Bloodthirsty Esther? The request for another day for edict enforcement is not about being thirsty for blood, but rather to be as effective in making their enemies think twice in the future. The extension is both specific in that it provides only a day’s extension, and it is limited in that it allows the Jews to defend themselves. Apparently, the “whoopin’” the enemies have taken is not quite enough, and enemies are coming back for more on the morrow!
As to the impaling of Haman’s ten sons, this serves as a demonstration. Their impaled corpses are exposed to the public and serve both to degrade the enemies of the Jews, as well as to serve as a memorable reminder of what happens to enemies of the Jews. Their public display is also simply the completion of holy war in its purest sense. See also Joshua 8:29 (the king of Ai), Joshua 10:26 (the Amorite kings) in which these leaders were “hanged on a tree until evening.” Gregory makes a great point in writing, “The history of this conflict necessitates this measure.”
The tally that comes back in verse 16 across the whole empire from Ethiopia to India is a staggering 75,000 dead. Wow! HAIL TO THE VICTORS!
REVERSAL: The Jews choose feasting and gladness (9:17-19).
- In what ways are you (we) gaining victory over our three enemies: the world system, the flesh or “indwelling sin” and the devil?
- Do we see and celebrate the hand of the invisible God in these victories?
- To what degree do you (we) allow for rest, feasting and gladness on a daily/ weekly/ monthly/ yearly basis?
- How are we “more than conquerors through Him Who loved us” on the one hand, and “sheep to be slaughtered” on the other hand? (Hint: You have to put on the spectacles of eternity.)