The Word Made Fresh
1The thirteenth day of the twelfth month of Adar was the date for the king’s orders to be carried out. On that day the enemies of the Jews expected to overpower them, but it was instead the day the Jews would defend themselves and overpower their enemies. 2The Jews came together in their cities all through the provinces of King Ahasuerus to capture those who wanted to kill them. None could withstand them because all the people were overcome with fear of them. 3All the governors, officers, and other government officials throughout the provinces supported the Jews because they were afraid of Mordecai. 4Mordecai had become a powerful man in the king’s administration. He was well known throughout all the provinces.
5The Jews attacked their enemies; they killed and destroyed and overcame all those who hated them. 6In the capital city of Susa, they killed five hundred of their enemies, 7including Haman’s ten sons – Parshandatha, Dalphon, Aspatha, 8Poratha, Adalia, Aridatha, 9Parmashta, Arisai, Aridai, and Vaizatha – 10who were enemies of the Jews. But they took no plunder.
11The number of those killed in Susa was reported to the king. 12He said to Queen Esther, “The Jews have killed five hundred of their enemies in Susa; and also Haman’s ten sons. What has taken place in the other provinces? And what do you wish? It shall be granted to you.”
13Esther said, “If it pleases the king, let the Jews in Susa be allowed to continue their defense tomorrow. And let Haman’s ten sons be hanged on the gallows.”
14The king issued a decree in Susa. The ten sons of Haman were hanged. 15The Jews in Susa came together again on the fourteenth day of Adar and killed another three hundred of their enemies; but they took no plunder.
16The Jews in the other provinces had also defended themselves from their enemies, and killed seventy-five thousand of them, but took no plunder, 17on the thirteenth day of Adar. On the fourteenth they rested and proclaimed that day to be a day of joy and celebration. 18The Jews in Susa defended themselves on the thirteenth and fourteenth of the month, and the next day was their day of joy and celebration. 19That is why the Jews in the villages and small towns observe the fourteenth day of Adar as their celebration. It is a day of joy and feasting, and they send gifts of food to one another.
20Mordecai kept a record of these events. He sent letters to the Jews who lived in all the provinces of King Ahasuerus, near and far. 21He instructed them to keep as an annual observance the fourteenth and fifteenth days of the month of Adar, 22for those are the days on which the Jews got relief from their enemies, and had their sorrow turned into gladness and their mourning into rejoicing. He instructed them to observe the fourteenth and fifteenth as festival days, days for sharing food with one another and for giving to the poor. 23And that is how the celebrations became an annual observance, in keeping with Mordecai’s instructions.
24Haman the Agagite, son of Hammedatha, was an enemy of the Jews, and had plotted to have them killed. He had cast the Pur to put an end to them, 25but when Esther approached the king, the king issued a decree that Haman should himself suffer the evil plot he had devised against the Jews, and Haman and his sons should be hanged on the gallows. 26This annual celebration is called Purim, from the word Pur. The king’s letter to the Jews, and what they had faced and how they had overcome it, 27thus became an annual observance for the Jews and for their descendants and their allies. They were instructed to keep these two days every year at the appointed time. 28It is to be kept by every generation, in every family, in every province and city. The days of Purim must never fail to be observed among the Jews from generation to generation.
29Queen Esther, daughter of Abihail, and her cousin Mordecai issued written authorization concerning Purim. 30Letters were sent wishing peace and prosperity to all the Jews throughout the one hundred twenty-seven provinces of Ahasuerus. 31The letters ordered that these days of Purim should be observed annually as Mordecai and Esther had authorized, and it became a lasting observance for their descendants, that they should engage in fasting and lamentations. 32Queen Esther’s orders thus established the observance of Purim, and it was recorded in writing.
1-10: By the time the 13th of Adar arrives the enemies of the Jews are at a distinct disadvantage. The Jews are now a favored race represented by both the queen and the top official in the capital city of Susa. Mordecai’s star has risen dramatically, and the other state officials suddenly become fans of everything Jewish. The Jews slaughter their enemies on the assigned day. In particular, they kill the ten sons of Haman, although the indication later in the chapter is that the king commanded that they be hung from the gallows, presumably the gallows Haman had built.
11-15: King Ahasuerus is cheering from the sidelines, happily reporting the body count to Esther. She asks for the Jews in Susa to be allowed to continue their “defense” into the next day as well, and that the bodies of Haman’s sons be hung on the gallows – which seems to be contrary to verse 7 which indicates the Jews had already hung them. Perhaps their already dead bodies were hung for public viewing?
16-19: The total body count comes to 75,800. The Jews in the rest of the country celebrated on the 14th of Adar, but the Jews in Susa didn’t celebrate until the 15th of Adar. The author explains that this is the reason rural Jews originally celebrated Purim on Adar 14 while city Jews celebrated it on Adar 15.
20-23: Mordecai orders that their deliverance be made an annual observance on the 14th and 15th of Adar (in our calendar it is a different day each year and falls in late February/early March). It is to be a time of celebration and the giving of food and presents to the poor.
24-32: And so, the story has a happy ending – for the Jews, that is – and the Jewish people are encouraged to celebrate Purim every year in perpetuity, as commanded by Queen Esther herself.
So, God used a pagan ruler to rescue God’s people Israel? That seems to be the point of the story, even though God is never mentioned!