Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at sacred-texts.com
The Jews Avenged of Their Enemies. The Feast of Purim Instituted - Esther 9
On the day appointed by both edicts, the Jews assembled in the towns and provinces of the kingdom to slay all who sought their hurt, and being supported by the royal officials, inflicted a great defeat upon their enemies (Est 9:1-10). At the queen's desire, the king granted permission to the Jews in Susa to fight against their enemies on the following day also (Est 9:11-15), while in the other towns and districts of the kingdom they fought for their lives only on the 13th of Adar; so that in these places they rested on the 14th, but in Susa not till the 15th, and consequently kept in the latter the one day, in the former the other, as a day of feasting and rejoicing (Est 9:16-19). The observance of this day of resting as a festival, under the name of Purim, by all the Jews in the Persian monarchy, was then instituted by Esther and Mordochai (Est 9:20-32).
The Jews avenged of their enemies. - Est 9:1. In the twelfth month, on the thirteenth day of the same - the Jews gathered themselves together in their cities, etc. Several parenthetical clauses succeed this definition of time, so that the statement of what then took place does not follow till נקהלוּ, Est 9:2. These parenthetical clauses state not only the meaning of the day just named, but also give a general notice of the conflict between the Jews and their enemies. The first runs: "when the word of the king drew nigh and his decree to be done," i.e., when the execution of the royal decree approached. The second is: "on the day that the enemies of the Jews hoped to have the mastery of them, and it was changed (i.e., the contrary occurred), that the Jews had the mastery over them that hated them." בּ שׁלט, to rule, to have the mastery over. נהפוך is infin. abs., used instead of the imperf. הוּא is referred by Bertheau to יום: the day was changed from a day of misfortune to a day of prosperity for the Jews, alluding to Est 9:22; but it is not a change of the day which is here spoken of, but a change of the hope of the enemies into its opposite; hence we must regard הוּא as neuter: it was changed, i.e., the contrary occurred. The pronoun המּה serves to emphasize the subject; comp. Ewald, 314, a, who in this and similar cases takes הוּא המּה in the sense of ipse, ipsi.
בּעריהם, in their cities, i.e., the cities in which they dwelt in all the dominions of the king. יד לשׁלח, to stretch out the hand (as also in Est 2:21; Est 3:6, for the purpose of killing) against those who sought their hurt, i.e., sought to destroy them. "And no one stood before them (בּפני עמד, like Jos 10:8; Jos 21:42, and elsewhere), because the fear of them fell upon all people (see rem. on Est 8:17). And all the rulers of the provinces, and the satraps and governors (comp. Est 8:9), and those that did the king's business (המּלאכה עשׁי, see rem. on Est 3:9), supported the Jews (נשּׂא like Ezr 1:4), because the fear of Mordochai fell upon them."
"For Mordochai was great in the king's house (was much esteemed by the king), and his fame went through all the provinces (שׁמעו as in Jos 6:27; Jos 9:9; Jer 6:24); for this man Mordochai became continually greater;" comp. Ch2 17:12, where the partic. גּדל stands instead of the inf. abs. גּדול.
Thus supported, the Jews inflicted defeat upon their enemies with the sword, and with slaughter and destruction. הכּה with בּ, to deal a blow upon or against some one, to cause or bring about upon enemies a defeat; comp. e.g., Sa2 23:10; Sa2 24:17; Num 22:6. The notion is strengthened by וגו מכּת־חרב, literally, to strike a stroke of the sword, and of slaughter, and of destruction, in accordance with the decree, Est 8:11. "And did according to their will to those that hated them," i.e., retaliated upon their enemies at their discretion.
In the citadel of Susa they destroyed (in round numbers) 500 men.
Also they slew the ten sons of Haman, whose names are given, Est 9:7-9;
(Note: The peculiar position of the names of the sons of Haman in editions of the Bible, grounded as it is upon the ancient mode of writing, must originally have been intended merely to give prominence to the names, and facilitate their computation. The later Rabbis, however, have endeavoured to discover therein some deeper meaning. This mode of writing the names has been said to be signum voti, ut a ruina sua nunquam amplius resurgant, or also a sign quod sicut hi decem filii in linea perpendiculari, unus supra alterum, suspensi fuerint. Comp. Buxtorf, Synagoga jud. pp. 157-159 of the Basle edit. 1580. What is indicated by the smaller forms of the letters ת, שׁ, and ז, in the first, seventh, and tenth names, is not known; the larger ו in the tenth may have been meant to give prominence, by the character employed, to this name as the last.)
but on the spoil they laid not their hand, though this was allowed to them, Est 8:11, as it had been commanded to their enemies by Haman's edict, Est 3:13, ut ostenderent, se non aliud quam vitae suae incolumitatem quaerere; hanc enim perdere volebant ii qui occidebantur. C. a Lapide.
When on the same day an account was given to the king of the result of the conflict, and the number of those slain in Susa reported, he announced to Queen Esther: the Jews have slain in the citadel of Susa 500 men and the ten sons of Haman; "what have they done in the rest of the king's provinces?" i.e., if they have killed 500 men in Susa, how many may they not have slain in other parts of the kingdom? and then asked her what else she wished or required. With respect to the words, comp. Est 5:6, and Est 7:2.
Esther requested: "let it be granted to the Jews which are in Susa to do to-morrow also according to the decree of to-day (i.e., exactly as to-day), and let the ten sons of Haman be hanged upon the tree," i.e., their dead bodies nailed on crosses - majoris infamiae causa, according to Hebrew and Persian custom; comp. Deu 21:22 and the explanation of Ezr 6:11. On the motive for this request, see above, p. 194.
The king commanded it so to be done. "Then was a decree given at Susa, and they hanged the ten sons of Haman." The decree given in Susa does not refer to the hanging of the sons of Haman, but to the permission given to the Jews to fight against their enemies on the morrow also. This is required not only by a comparison of Est 8:13, but also by the connection of the present verse; for in consequence of this decree the Jews assembled on the 14th Adar (comp. ויּקּהלוּ, then they assembled themselves, Est 9:15), while the hanging of the sons of Haman, on the contrary, is related in an accessory clause by a simple perfect, תּלוּ.
On this second day the Jews slew 300 more; comp. Est 9:10. - Est 9:16. The rest of the Jews in the provinces, i.e., the Jews in the other parts of the kingdom, assembled themselves and stood for their lives, and had rest from their enemies, and slew of their foes 75,000, but upon the spoil they laid not their hand. על עמד like Est 8:11. The מאיביהם ונוח inserted between על נ ועמד and והרוג is striking; we should rather have expected the resting or having rest from their enemies after the death of the latter, as in Est 9:17 and Est 9:18, where this is plainly stated to have taken place on the day after the slaughter. The position of these words is only explained by the consideration, that the narrator desired at once to point out how the matter ended. The narrative continues in the infin. abs. instead of expressing this clause by the infin. constr., and so causing it to be governed by what precedes. Thus - as Ew. 351, c, remarks - all the possible hues of the sentence fade into this grey and formless termination (viz., the use of the infin. absol. instead of the verb. fin.). This inaccuracy of diction does not justify us, however, in assuming that we have here an interpolation or an alteration in the text. The statement of the day is given in Est 9:17, and then the clause following is again added in the inf. absol.: "and they rested on the 14th day of the same (of Adar), and made it a day of feasting and gladness."
The Jews in Susa, on the other hand, who were both on the 13th and 14th Adar still fighting against their enemies, and did not rest till the 15th, made this latter their day of rejoicing. - In Est 9:19 it is again stated that the Jews in the country towns and villages made the 14th their day of gladness, and this statement is appended by על־כּן to make this appear the result of what precedes. The Chethiv הפּרוזים is perhaps an Aramaic expression for פּרזים, Deu 3:5 and Sa1 6:18. פּרוזי means the inhabitants of the open, i.e., unfortified, towns and villages of the plains in contrast to the fortified capital; see on Deu 3:5. On פּרזות, compare Eze 38:11; Zac 2:8. וגו מנות משׁלוח, and of mutual sending of gifts, i.e., portions of food; comp. Neh 8:10, Neh 8:12.
The feast of Purim instituted by letters from Mordochai and Esther. Est 9:20. Mordochai wrote these things, and sent letters to all the Jews, etc. האלּה הדּברים does not mean the contents of the present book but the events of the last days, especially the fact that the Jews, after overcoming their enemies, rested in Susa on the 15th, in the other provinces on the 14th Adar, and kept these days as days of rejoicing. This is obvious from the object of these letters, Est 9:21 : וגו עליהם לקיּם, to appoint among them "that they should keep the 14th day of the month Adar and the 15th day of the same yearly, as the days on which the Jews rested from their enemies, and as the month which was turned unto them from sorrow to joy, and from mourning into a glad day, that they should keep them as days of feasting and joy, and of mutual sending of portions one to another, and gifts to the poor." יום עשׂה, to keep, to celebrate a day. The עשׂים להיות, Est 9:21, is after long parentheses taken up again in אותם לעשׂות. קיּם, to establish a matter, to authorize it, comp. Rut 4:7. Both the 14th and 15th Adar were made festivals because the Jews on them had rest from their enemies, and celebrated this rest by feasting, some on the former, some on the latter day.
And the Jews undertook to do as they had begun, and as Mordochai had written to them. They had begun, as Est 9:22 tells us, by keeping both days, and Mordochai wrote to them that they should make this an annual custom. This they agreed to do in consequence of Mordochai's letters. The reason of their so doing is given in Est 9:24 and Est 9:25, and the name of this festival is explained, Est 9:26, by a brief recapitulation of the events which gave rise to it. Then follows, Est 9:26 and Est 9:27, another wordy statement of the fact, that it was by reason of this letter, and on account of what they had seen, i.e., experienced, that the annual celebration of this feast was instituted for a perpetual memorial to all Jews at all times (Est 9:28 and Est 9:29).
For Haman, the enemy of all the Jews, had devised against the Jews to destroy them (comp. Est 3:1, Est 3:6.), and had cast Pur, that is the lot (see on Est 3:7), to consume them and to destroy them. המם, mostly used of the discomfiture with which God destroys the enemies, Exo 14:24; Deu 2:15, and elsewhere.
וּבבאהּ, and when it (the matter), not when she, Esther, came before the king, - for Esther is not named in the context, - he commanded by letters (Est 8:8), i.e., he gave the written order: let the wicked device which he devised against the Jews return upon his own head; and they hanged him and his sons upon the tree.
Wherefore they called these days Purim after the name Pur. This first על־כּן refers to what precedes and states the reason, resulting from what has just been mentioned, why this festival received the name of Purim. With the second על־כּן begins a new sentence which reaches to Est 9:28, and explains how it happened that these feast-days became a general observance with all Jews; namely, that because of all the words of this letter (of Mordochai, Est 9:20), and of what they had seen concerning the matter (על־כּכה, concerning so and so), and what had come upon them (therefore for two reasons: (1) because of the written injunction of Mordochai; and (2) because they had themselves experienced this event), the Jews established, and took upon themselves, their descendants, and all who should join themselves unto them (proselytes), so that it should not fail (i.e., inviolably), to keep (to celebrate) these two days according to the writing concerning them and the time appointed thereby year by year.
And that these days should be remembered and kept throughout every generation, every family, every province, and every city; and these days of Purim are not to pass away among the Jews, nor their remembrance to cease among their seed. The participles ונעשׂים נזכּרים still depend on להיות, Est 9:27. Not till the last clause does the construction change in להיות לא to the temp. finit. יעבור ולא is a periphrasis of the adverb: imperishably, inviolably. כּכתבם, secundum scriptum eorum, i.e., as Mordochai had written concerning them (Est 9:23). כּזמנּם, as he had appointed their time. מן סוּף, to come to an end from, i.e., to cease among their descendants.
A second letter from Queen Esther and Mordochai to appoint fasting and lamentation on the days of Purim. Est 9:29. And Esther the queen and Mordochai the Jew wrote with all strength, that is very forcibly, to appoint this second letter concerning Purim, i.e., to give to the contents of this second letter the force of law. הזּאת refers to what follows, in which the contents of the letter are briefly intimated. The letter is called השּׁנית with reference to the first letter sent by Mordochai, Est 9:20.
And he (Mordochai) sent letters, i.e., copies of the writing mentioned Est 9:29, to all the Jews in the 127 provinces (which formed) the kingdom of Ahashverosh, words of peace and truth, i.e., letters containing words of peace and truth (Est 9:31), to appoint these days of Purim in their portions of time according as Mordochai the Jew and Esther the queen had appointed, and as they (the Jews) had appointed for themselves and for their descendants, the things (or words = precepts) of the fastings and their lamentations. בּזמנּיהם, in their appointed times; as the suffix relates to the days of Purim, the זמנּים can mean only portions of time in these days. The sense of Est 9:29-31 is as follows: According to the injunctions of Esther and Mordochai, the Jews appointed for themselves and their descendants times also of fasting and lamentation in the days of Purim. To make this appointment binding upon all the Jews in all provinces of the Persian monarchy, Esther and Mordochai published a second letter, which was sent by Mordochai throughout the whole realm of King Ahashverosh. To this is added, Est 9:32, that the decree of Esther appointed these matters of Purim, i.e., the injunction mentioned vv. 29-31, also to fast and weep during these days, and it was written in the book. הסּפר, the book in which this decree was written, cannot mean the writing of Esther mentioned. Est 9:29, but some written document concerning Purim which has not come down to us, though used as an authority by the author of the present book. The times when the fasting and lamentation were to take place in the days of Purim, are not stated in this verse; this could, however, only be on the day which Haman had appointed for the extermination of the Jews, viz., the 13th Adar. This day is kept by the Jews as אסתּר תּענית, Esther's fast.
(Note: According to 2 Macc. 15:36, the victory over Nicanor was to be celebrated on the 13th Adar, but, according to a note of Dr. Cassel in Grimm's kurzgef. exeget. Handb. zu den Apokryphen, on 2 Macc. 15:36, the festival of Nicanor is mentioned in Jewish writings, as Megillat Taanit, c. 12, in the Babylonian Talmud, tr. Taanit, f. 18b, in Massechet Sofrim 17, 4, but has been by no means observed for at least the last thousand years. The book Scheiltot of R. Acha (in the 9th century) speaks of the 13th Adar as a fast-day in memory of the fast of Esther, while even at the time of the Talmud the "Fast of Esther" is spoken of as a three days fast, kept, however, after the feast of Purim. From all this it is obvious, that a diversity of opinions prevailed among the Rabbis concerning the time of this fast of Esther.)