The Jews Destroy
1The first law that the king had made was to be followed on the thirteenth day of Adar, the twelfth month. This was the very day that the enemies of the Jews had hoped to do away with them. But the Jews turned things around, 2and in the cities of every province they came together to attack their enemies. Everyone was afraid of the Jews, and no one could do anything to oppose them.
3The leaders of the provinces, the rulers, the governors, and the court officials were afraid of Mordecai and took sides with the Jews. 4Everyone in the provinces knew that the king had promoted him and had given him a lot of power.
5The Jews took their swords and did away with their enemies, without showing any mercy. 6-10They killed 500 people in Susa, but they did not take anything that belonged to the ones they killed. Haman had been one of the worst enemies of the Jews, and ten of his sons were among those who were killed. Their names were Parshandatha, Dalphon, Aspatha, Poratha, Adalia, Aridatha, Parmashta, Arisai, Aridai, and Vaizatha.
11Later that day, someone told the king how many people had been killed in Susa. 12Then he told Esther, “Five hundred people, including Haman's ten sons, have been killed in Susa alone. If that many were killed here, what must have happened in the provinces? Is there anything else you want done? Just tell me, and it will be done.”
13Esther answered, “Your Majesty, please let the Jews in Susa fight to defend themselves tomorrow, just as they did today. And order the bodies of Haman's ten sons to be hanged in public.”
14King Xerxes did what Esther had requested, and the bodies of Haman's sons were hung in Susa. 15Then on the fourteenth day of Adar the Jews of the city got together and killed 300 more people. But they still did not take anything that belonged to their enemies.
16-17On the thirteenth day of Adar, the Jews in the provinces had come together to defend themselves. They killed 75,000 of their enemies, but the Jews did not take anything that belonged to the ones they killed. Then on the fourteenth day of the month the Jews celebrated with a feast.
Given the perversity of Persian law-making, once a law is enacted, it cannot be revoked. The first law enacted for the thirteenth day of Adar authorized the enemies of the Jews to kill and wipe them out. To countermand this first law, the second law enacted for the thirteenth day of Adar authorized the Jews to come together and to attack and kill their enemies – in defense of their lives.
Perhaps reading Esther 9 is deeply disturbing for some who get distressed by any description of war violence and death counts. The story-teller of the Book of Esther does not spare us details of what it took for the Jews, doomed to mass murder by hateful enemies, to defend themselves from complete annihilation. But perhaps it’s a good sign of our humanity that violence and killing disturb us; it’s a better reaction than Haman’s, when he enacts genocide and then goes to drink wine and celebrate.
The text highlights that the Jews practiced restraint in the defense of their lives. Though given permission to kill all enemies including women and children, we get the impression that they did not kill women and children. The Jews were given permission to take plunder from the enemies they killed. But three times, the text emphasizes: “they did not take anything that belonged to the ones they killed” (vv.10,15,17). Their taking up swords was only to defend their lives and the lives of their community, not for financial gain.
The Jews had turned things around. The very day that Haman had set aside for the massacre of all the Jewish population in Persia becomes the day when the Jews successfully defend their lives.
The next day, the Jews celebrate with feasting. God’s deliverance is always worth celebrating!
Lord God, We praise you that you are mighty to save. You turn us from destruction and deliver us into life. We celebrate with all our might the life you have given us in our resurrected Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. Amen.