therefore they were both hanged on a tree; Josephus (e) says they were crucified; but hanging was frequent among the Persians, as Grotius observes, and better agrees with the word here used:
and it was written in the book of the chronicles before the king; in a diary kept by the king's order, in which memorable events were set down, and might be done in the presence of the king, as well as the book lay open before him to read at any time; and this is observed to agree with the manner of Xerxes, who is reported (f) to sit on a throne of gold to behold a sea fight between the Grecians and Persians, and had several scribes by him to take down whatever was done in the fight.
(e) Ibid. (Antiqu. l. 11. c. 6. sect. 4.) (f) Plutarch. in Themistocle.
INTRODUCTION TO Esther 3
This chapter gives an account of the promotion of Haman, and of the mortification of him by Mordecai, who refused to bow to him, upon which he vowed revenge on him, and on all his people the Jews, Esther 3:1, for which purpose, through a false representation of them, he obtained letters of the king, and sent to the deputies of all the provinces to destroy them all on a certain day fixed, Esther 3:7.
did King Ahasuerus promote Haman the son of Hammedatha the Agagite; whom both the Targums make to descend from Amalek, and to be of the stock or family of Agag, the common name of the kings of Amalek; and so Josephus (g); but this is not clear and certain; in the apocryphal Esther he is said to be a Macedonian; and Sulpitius the historian says (h) he was a Persian, which is not improbable; and Agag might be the name of a family or city in Persia, of which he was; and Aben Ezra observes, that some say he is the same with Memucan, see Esther 1:14,
and advanced him, and set his seat above all the princes that were with him; erected a throne for him, higher than the rest, either of his own princes and nobles, or such as were his captives, see 2 Kings 25:28. It was the custom of the kings of Persia, which it is probable was derived from Cyrus, to advance those to the highest seats they thought best deserved it: says he to his nobles, let there be seats with you as with me, and let the best be honoured before others;--and again, let all the best of those present be honoured with seats above others (i).
(g) Ut supra, (Antiqu. l. 11. c. 6.) sect. 5. (h) Hist. Sacr. l. 2. p. 78. (i) Xenophon, Cyropaedia, l. 8. c. 41.
bowed and reverenced Haman; gave him divine honours, as to a deity; for such were given to the kings of Persia (k), and might be given to their favourites, and seems to be the case; for, though Haman might not erect a statue of himself, or have images painted on his clothes, as the Targum and Aben Ezra, for the Persians did not allow of statues and images (l); yet he might make himself a god, as Jarchi, and require divine worship, with leave of the king, which he had, yea, an order for it:
for the king had so commanded concerning him; which shows that it was not mere civil honour and respect, for that in course would have been given him as the king's favourite and prime minister by all his servants, without an express order for it; this, therefore, must be something uncommon and extraordinary:
but Mordecai bowed not, nor did him reverence; which is a further proof that it was not mere civil honour that was required and given; for that the Jews did not refuse to give, and that in the most humble and prostrate manner, and was admitted by them, 1 Samuel 24:8 1 Kings 1:16, nor can it be thought that Mordecai would refuse to give it from pride and sullenness, and thereby risk the king's displeasure, the loss of his office, and the ruin of his nation; but it was such kind of reverence to a man, and worship of him, which was contrary to his conscience, and the law of his God.
(k) Vid. Salden. Otia Theolog. l. 3. Exercitat. 1. sec. 4, 5. (l) Laert. Prooem. ad Vit. Philosoph. p. 5, 6.
said unto Mordecai, why transgressest thou the king's commandment? of giving reverence to Haman, which they knew he could not be ignorant of.
and he hearkened not unto them; regarded not what they said, and continued disobedient to the king's order, and disrespectful to Haman
that they told Haman, to see whether Mordecai's matters would stand; they informed Haman that Mordecai refused to give him reverence as the king had ordered; this they did to try whether such a conduct would be suffered and bore with, and whether Mordecai would persevere in it when taken notice of:
for he had told them that he was a Jew; which was all the reason he gave why he would not reverence Haman; and a reason sufficient, because, by a fundamental law of his religion, he was not to worship mere man, but God only: and this confirms what has been before observed; for this would have been no reason for refusing civil respect and honour, but was a strong one for denying religious worship and reverence; and no wonder that the Jews should refuse it, when even the Grecians, though Heathens, refused to give the Persian kings the divine honours they required (m); yea, the Athenians put Timagoras to death for prostrating himself in such a manner to Darius (n); for the Persian kings were, as Aristotle says (o), called Lord and God, and said to hear and see all things.
(m) Herodot. Polymnia, sive, l. 7. c. 136. Justin e Trogo. l. 6. c. 2. Aelian. Var. Hist. l. 1. 21. (n) Plutarch. in Artaxerxe, Valer. Maxim. l. 6. c. 3.((o) De Mundo, c. 6.
then was Haman full of wrath; exceedingly displeased and angry; it was such a mortification to him he could not bear.
for they had showed him the people of Mordecai; that they were the Jews; for Mordecai had told the king's servants, that talked with him on the subject, that he was a Jew, and gave that as a reason why he could not and would not reverence Haman:
wherefore Haman sought to destroy all the Jews that were throughout the whole kingdom of Ahasuerus; even the people of Mordecai; and that not merely to be revenged on Mordecai, but because he plainly saw, that both by his example, and upon the same principle with him; they would all to a man refuse to give him reverence; and therefore he was resolved to root them out of the whole empire, that he might not be mortified by them.
in the twelfth year of King Ahasuerus; four years and near two months after his marriage of Esther, Esther 2:16,
they cast Pur, that is, the lot, before Haman; being a Persian word, it is explained in Hebrew a lot, the word signifying "steel" in the Persian language. Reland (p) conjectures that this was that sort of lot called "sideromantia". Who cast this lot is not said; whether Haman himself, or one of his servants: perhaps a diviner. The latter Targum calls him Shimshai the scribe:
from day today, and from month to month, to the twelfth month, that is the month Adar; which answers to part of January and part of February; so that the lot was cast for every month and every day of the month throughout the year, to find out which was the most lucky month, and which the most lucky day in that month, to destroy the Jews in and none could be found till they came to the last month, and the thirteenth day of that month, Esther 3:13, the providence of God so overruling the lot, that there might be time enough for the Jews, through the mediation of Esther to the king, to prevent their destruction; so in other nations the Heathens had their lucky and unlucky days (q).
(p) Antiqu. Heb. par. 4. c. 12. sect. 1.((q) Vid. Macrob. Saturnal l. 1. c. 16. Alex. ab Alex. Genial. Dier. l. 4. c. 20.
there is a certain people scattered abroad, and dispersed among the people in all the provinces of thy kingdom; for, though many of the Jews returned to their own land, on the proclamation of Cyrus, yet others remained, being well settled as to worldly things, and not having that zeal for God and his worship as became them, and not caring to be at the trouble and expense of such a journey, and especially those of the ten tribes; now Haman, through contempt of them, mentions them not by name, only describes them as a scattered insignificant people:
and their laws are different from all people; concerning their diet and observation of days, and other things; so Empedocles, an Heathen, observes (s) of the Jews, that they were a separate people from all others in those things; for he says,"they separated not only from the Romans, but even from all men; for, having found out an unmixed way of living, they have nothing common with men, neither table nor libations, nor prayers, nor sacrifices, but are more separate from us than the Susians or Bactrians, or the more remote Indians:"
neither keep they the king's laws; and, no doubt, he had a special respect to the non-observance of the king's command to give him reverence; and in like manner the Jews are represented by Heathen writers, as by Tacitus (t), Juvenal (u), and others:
therefore it is not for the king's profit to suffer them; that is, to dwell in his dominions; he got nothing by them, and they might be prejudicial to his subjects, and poison them with their notions; and since they were not obedient to the laws of the kingdom, it was not fit and equitable that they should be continued in it.
(r) "dixerat enim", Junius & Tremellius, Piscator, Drusius, so Patrick. (s) Apud Philostrat. Vit. Apollon. l. 5. c. 11. (t) Hist. l. 5. c. 4. (u) "Romanas antem soliti", &c. Satyr. 14. ver. 99.
and I will pay ten thousand talents of silver to the hands of those who have the charge of the business, to bring it into the king's treasury; this he proposed, to prevent any objection that might be made from the loss of tribute paid by this people to the king; and this was a very large sum for him to pay out of his own estate, it being near four millions of our money; it is computed by Brerewood (x) at 3,750,000 pounds; for as to what is suggested by some, that he intended to repay himself out of the spoil of the Jews, it may be observed, that, according to the king's letter, they that were employed in destroying the Jews were to have the spoil for a prey or booty to themselves, Esther 3:13. Now this sum of money he proposed not to put into the hands of them that should slay the Jews, but into the hands of the king's receivers of the dues, that they might lay it up in the king's treasury or exchequer.
(x) De Pret. & Ponder. Vet. Num. c. 5.
(w) Alex. ab. Alex. Genial. Dier. l. 1. c. 26. & l. 2. c. 19.
the people also, to do with them as seemeth good unto thee; that is, the people of the Jews; he gave him full power to do with them as he thought fit, and who breathing revenge upon them, would not spare them.
and there was written according to all that Haman had commanded; whatever he would have done; he had an unlimited power to do what he pleased, and he made use of it, and directed the scribes what they should write:
unto the king's lieutenants, and to the governors that were over every province; the deputy governors of the one hundred and twenty seven provinces, Esther 1:1
and to the rulers of every people of every province; it seems there were different people in every province, which had their rulers; and these were sent to:
according to the writing thereof, and to every people after their language; and letters were written in the language, and character of the language, each people spoke, that they might be understood by them:
in the name of King Ahasuerus was it written, and sealed with the king's ring. All this Haman took care to have done so early as the thirteenth of Nisan, though the execution was not to be until the thirteenth of Adar, eleven months after; partly that there might be time enough to send the letters everywhere, even to the most distant parts; and chiefly lest Ahasuerus should change his mind, and be prevailed upon to revoke his grant; and, it may be, either to keep the Jews in continual dread, or cause them to flee.
to destroy, to kill, and to cause to perish, all Jews, both young and old, little children and women, in one day, even upon the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, which is the month Adar; see Esther 3:7. The orders were to destroy, by any means whatsoever, all the Jews, of every age and sex, all in one day, in all the provinces which are here named, that they might be cut off with one blow: and to take the spoil of them for a prey; to be their own booty; which was proposed to engage them in this barbarous work, to encourage them in it to use the greater severity and dispatch.
(x) "in manu cursorum", Montanus; so the Tigurine version, Drusius, V. L. Junius & Tremellius, Piscator. (y) Xenophon. Cyropaedia, l. 8. c. 43. (z) Herodot. Urania, sive, l. 8. c. 98.
that they should be ready against that day; and fall upon the people of the Jews, and slay them, and seize on their goods as a prey.