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Esther 3

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Haman Conspires to Destroy the Jews

3:1 Some time later 1  King Ahasuerus promoted 2  Haman the son of Hammedatha, the Agagite, exalting him and setting his position 3  above that of all the officials who were with him. 3:2 As a result, 4  all the king’s servants who were at the king’s gate were bowing and paying homage to Haman, for the king had so commanded. However, Mordecai did not bow, 5  nor did he pay him homage.

3:3 Then the servants of the king who were at the king’s gate asked Mordecai, “Why are you violating the king’s commandment?” 3:4 And after they had spoken to him day after day 6  without his paying any attention to them, they informed Haman to see whether this attitude on Mordecai’s part would be permitted. 7  Furthermore, he had disclosed to them that he was a Jew. 8 

3:5 When Haman saw that Mordecai was not bowing or paying homage to him, he 9  was filled with rage. 3:6 But the thought of striking out against 10  Mordecai alone was repugnant to him, for he had been informed 11  of the identity of Mordecai’s people. 12  So Haman sought to destroy all the Jews (that is, the people of Mordecai) 13  who were in all the kingdom of Ahasuerus.

3:7 In the first month (that is, the month of Nisan), in the twelfth year 14  of King Ahasuerus’ reign, pur 15  (that is, the lot) was cast before Haman in order to determine a day and a month. 16  It turned out to be the twelfth month (that is, the month of Adar). 17 

3:8 Then Haman said to King Ahasuerus, “There is a particular people 18  that is dispersed and spread among the inhabitants 19  throughout all the provinces of your kingdom whose laws differ from those of all other peoples. Furthermore, they do not observe the king’s laws. It is not appropriate for the king to provide a haven for them. 20  3:9 If the king is so inclined, 21  let an edict be issued 22  to destroy them. I will pay ten thousand talents of silver 23  to be conveyed to the king’s treasuries for the officials who carry out this business.”

3:10 So the king removed his signet ring 24  from his hand and gave it to Haman the son of Hammedatha, the Agagite, who was hostile toward the Jews. 3:11 The king replied to Haman, “Keep your money, 25  and do with those people whatever you wish.” 26 

3:12 So the royal scribes 27  were summoned in the first month, on the thirteenth day of the month. Everything Haman commanded was written to the king’s satraps 28  and governors who were in every province and to the officials of every people, province by province according to its script and people by people according to its language. In the name of King Ahasuerus it was written and sealed with the king’s signet ring. 3:13 Letters were sent by the runners to all the king’s provinces stating that 29  they should destroy, kill, and annihilate all the Jews, from youth to elderly, both women and children, 30  on a particular day, namely the thirteenth day 31  of the twelfth month (that is, the month of Adar), and to loot and plunder their possessions. 3:14 A copy of this edict was to be presented as law throughout every province; it was to be made known to all the inhabitants, 32  so that they would be prepared for this day. 3:15 The messengers 33  scurried forth 34  with the king’s order. 35  The edict was issued in Susa the citadel. While the king and Haman sat down to drink, the city of Susa was in an uproar! 36 

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1 tn Heb “after these things” (so KJV, ASV); NAB, NASB, NIV “After these events.”

2 tn Heb “made great”; NAB “raised…to high rank”; NIV “honored.”

sn The promotion of Haman in 3:1 for reasons unexplained contrasts noticeably with 2:19-23, where Mordecai’s contribution to saving the king’s life goes unnoticed. The irony is striking.

3 tn Heb “chair”; KJV, NRSV “seat”; NASB “established his authority.”

4 tn Heb “and” (so KJV, NASB, NRSV). Other modern English versions leave the conjunction untranslated here (NAB, NIV, NCV, NLT).

5 sn Mordecai did not bow. The reason for Mordecai’s refusal to bow before Haman is not clearly stated here. Certainly the Jews did not refuse to bow as a matter of principle, as though such an action somehow violated the second command of the Decalogue. Many biblical texts bear witness to their practice of falling prostrate before people of power and influence (e.g., 1 Sam 24:8; 2 Sam 14:4; 1 Kgs 1:16). Perhaps the issue here was that Haman was a descendant of the Amalekites, a people who had attacked Israel in an earlier age (see Exod 17:8-16; 1 Sam 15:17-20; Deut 25:17-19).

6 sn Mordecai’s position in the service of the king brought him into regular contact with these royal officials. Because of this association the officials would have found ample opportunity to complain of Mordecai’s refusal to honor Haman by bowing down before him.

7 tn Heb “Will the matters of Mordecai stand?”; NASB “to see whether Mordecai’s reason would stand.”

8 sn This disclosure of Jewish identity is a reversal of the practice mentioned in 1:10, 20.

9 tn Heb “Haman.” The pronoun (“he”) was used in the translation for stylistic reasons. Repeating the proper name here is redundant according to contemporary English style, although the name is repeated in NASB and NRSV.

10 tn Heb “to send a hand against”; KJV, NRSV “to lay hands on.”

11 tn Heb “they had related to him.” For stylistic reasons this has been translated as a passive construction.

12 tc The entire first half of the verse is not included in the LXX.

13 tc This parenthetical phrase is not included in the LXX. Some scholars emend the MT reading עַם (’am, “people”) to עִם (’im, “with”), arguing that the phrase is awkwardly placed and syntactically inappropriate. While there is some truth to their complaint, the MT makes sufficient sense to be acceptable here, and is followed by most English versions.

14 sn This year would be ca. 474 b.c. The reference to first month and twelfth month indicate that about a year had elapsed between this determination and the anticipated execution.

15 tn The term פּוּר (pur, “lot”) is an Akkadian loanword; the narrator therefore explains it for his Hebrew readers (“that is, the lot”). It is from the plural form of this word (i.e., Purim) that the festival celebrating the deliverance of the Jews takes its name (cf. 9:24, 26, 28, 31).

16 tc The LXX adds the following words: “in order to destroy in one day the race of Mordecai, and the lot fell on the fourteenth day of the month.” The LXX reading is included by NAB.

tn Heb “from day to day and from month to month” (so KJV, NASB).

17 tn Since v. 7 seems to interrupt the flow of the narrative, many scholars have suggested that it is a late addition to the text. But there is not enough evidence to warrant such a conclusion. Even though its placement is somewhat awkward, the verse supplies to the reader an important piece of chronological information.

18 tn Heb “one people.” Note the subtle absence at this point of a specific mention of the Jewish people by name.

19 tn Heb “peoples” (so NASB, NIV); NAB “nations”

20 tn Heb “to cause them to rest”; NASB “to let them remain”; NAB, NIV, NRSV “to tolerate them.”

21 tn Heb “If upon the king it is good”; KJV “If it please the king.”

22 tn Heb “let it be written” (so KJV, ASV); NASB “let it be decreed.”

23 sn The enormity of the monetary sum referred to here can be grasped by comparing this amount (10,000 talents of silver) to the annual income of the empire, which according to Herodotus (Histories 3.95) was 14,500 Euboic talents. In other words Haman is offering the king a bribe equal to two-thirds of the royal income. Doubtless this huge sum of money was to come (in large measure) from the anticipated confiscation of Jewish property and assets once the Jews had been destroyed. That such a large sum of money is mentioned may indicate something of the economic standing of the Jewish population in the empire of King Ahasuerus.

24 sn Possessing the king’s signet ring would enable Haman to act with full royal authority. The king’s ring would be used to impress the royal seal on edicts, making them as binding as if the king himself had enacted them.

25 tn Heb “the silver is given to you”; NRSV “the money is given to you”; CEV “You can keep their money.” C. A. Moore (Esther [AB], 40) understands these words somewhat differently, taking them to imply acceptance of the money on Xerxes’ part. He translates, “Well, it’s your money.”

26 tn Heb “according to what is good in your eyes”; NASB “do with them as you please.”

27 tn Or “secretaries” (so NIV, NRSV, NLT).

28 tn Or “princes” (so NLT); CEV “highest officials.”

29 tn The words “stating that” are not in the Hebrew text but have been supplied in the translation for clarity.

30 tn Heb “children and women.” The translation follows contemporary English idiom, which reverses the order.

31 tc The LXX does not include the words “on the thirteenth day.”

32 tn Heb “peoples” (so NASB, NRSV).

33 tn Heb “runners.” So also in 8:10, 14. Cf. NAB, NASB, NIV, NRSV “couriers.”

34 tn Or “went forth in haste” (so ASV).

35 tn Heb “with the word of the king.”

36 sn The city of Susa was in an uproar. This final statement of v. 15 is a sad commentary on the pathetic disregard of despots for the human misery and suffering that they sometimes inflict on those who are helpless to resist their power. Here, while common people braced for the reckless loss of life and property that was about to begin, the perpetrators went about their mundane activities as though nothing of importance was happening.



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