Esther 3-10

The great man of the day in the Persian court was Haman, belonging to that nation—the Amalekites—the hereditary grudge and hatred between whom and the Jews the reader will remember. We the rather point to this circumstance, because it seems to us to supply the true explanation of the most important circumstances in the history. Thus, many explanations have been sought of Mordecai’s reasons for refusing to this mighty lord the obeisance which others rendered, as he stalked forth from the presence of the king, and which was doubtless considered by all as due to his high station. That Haman was an Amalekite, seems to us a sufficient explanation. That a rigid and somewhat stiff-backed Jew should refuse the marks of reverent homage to one of that doomed and abominated race, is in the highest degree natural and probable. And, on the other hand, the same fact, if it does not adequately account for, relieves from absolute insanity the determination of Haman to exterminate the whole nation for the affront of one individual. Had Mordecai been any other than a Jew, the favorite would doubtless have been content to wreak his vengeance upon the man whose quiet scorn provoked him so greatly; but to learn that this man belonged to the very nation which had vowed the extermination of Amalek, opened a wider scope to his vengeance. He could not but call to mind the wondrous passages of the ancient hatred between them, and which even the present demeanor of Mordecai showed to be inextinguishable; and he would then remember, that this hated and hating nation was, as it seemed, completely under his hand—being dispersed, as captives and tributary subjects, through the realm in which he had all but absolute rule. It is, under this view, explicable that the bold and murderous idea—which appeared to him a grand one, no doubt—should  occur to him, of destroying the whole of this nation in one day. To attribute this determination merely to the personal slight from Mordecai, overlooking all these considerations, seems little less than puerile. It was simply the occasion, the exciting cause, the key that opened the gates to a sweeping flood of old hatreds and vengeances.

Haman had only to obtain the king’s consent; and the light and careless way in which the monarch placed at his disposal the lives of tens of thousands of his industrious and useful subjects, is perhaps the most shocking example of even oriental despotism on record. If he had not been wilfully blind and besotted—and he was probably drunk—the extravagant sum which Haman offered to pay in compensation for the loss to the royal revenue by their destruction, ought to have awakened his suspicion that Haman was not, as he pretended, seeking the public good, but the gratification of a private vengeance. If it was “not for the king’s good” to suffer this people to live, it were preposterous that the minister should pay so heavily from his own purse for the realization of a public benefit. But the truth no doubt is, that the king cared nothing about it; and even when at length he is brought to see Haman’s real motives, which were transparent at the first, and he turns upon his scarcely more guilty favorite in a passion of “virtuous” indignation, his wrath is not roused by his having been so nearly led into the perpetration of a tremendous crime, but that Haman should have dared to contemplate the destruction of a race to which the queen belonged, and in whose doom she would, by the letter of the decree, have been involved.

The plot seemed perfect. Everything had been well considered and well devised. Swift messengers had been sent to all the provinces, directing the slaughter of all the Jews on a given day, and even the selection of an auspicious day by lot had not been overlooked. What was wanting? Nothing that human calculation could have provided. Yea when the Lord blew upon this grand contrivance, it became as the desert sand before the wind, and overwhelmed the  contriver. Even in the choice of the day by lot, we can trace the movings of the Lord’s hand, for the frustration of the design. The Persians have always been greatly addicted to the arts of divination; and even at the present day, all important movements of the court are regulated with regard to astrological calculations, and propitious and inauspicious days. In this case the lot was chosen, and it seems they cast the lot for one month after another to determine in what month the execution should fall, and then for day after day, to fix the day of the determined month. Now we doubt not that it was the Lord’s doing, for the confusion of Human, and to accomplish the secret designs of His providence, that the lot was made to fix the time to the remotest possible period to be within the year, so that the execution was delayed for almost a complete year, affording time not only for the subversion of the plot at court, but for the arrival of the messengers who were dispatched with the counteracting decree. It is manifest that, if the interval had been anything shorter, these messengers could not have reached the remoter provinces of an empire which stretched from India to Ethiopia, in time to neutralize the execution of the first decree. It was most probably the perception of this which induced the Jews, in their annual festival in commemoration of their deliverance from national extinction, to give so much prominence to this casting of lots—for they called it the Feast of Purim—that is, the Feast of Lots. To the instructed eye, the determination of the lot is thus seen in a double sense, where to Haman only one sense appeared.

Some reflection has been cast upon the Book of Esther, on the ground that the name of God does not once occur in it. That is true: and it is a remarkable fact. But God himself is there, though his name be absent. We trace him at every step through this wonderful book, and everywhere behold the leadings of his providence. To name one instance among many—What was it, or rather, Who was it, that kept the king’s eyes from slumber, on a night big with the doom of the Hebrew nation? Who moved him to call for the  chronicles of his reign, and not to summon the tale-reciter or this minstrel to beguile his waking hours? Who moved the reader to open at that part which related to the service of Mordecai in disclosing a plot against the king’s life? Who quickened the king’s languid attention and interest, and stirred him to inquire what rewards had been bestowed upon the man to whose fidelity he owed his life and crown? Who timed this so, that this glow of kindly feeling towards Mordecai, and this determination right royally to acknowledge his unrequited services, occurred at the very moment that Haman had arrived at the palace to ask leave to hang this very Mordecai upon a gallows fifty cubits high, which he had caused already to be set up, in the assured conviction that the king would not refuse him so trifling a request, and little thinking that he himself was destined to swing high in air upon it? Lastly, Who ordered it so, that, coming with this errand in his mouth, he was only stopped from uttering it, by an order to hasten to confer upon this Mordecai, with his own hands, the highest distinctions the king could bestow upon the man he “delighted to honor.” God not in the Book of Esther! If not there, where is He? To our view, his glory—the glory of his goodness, in caring for, and shielding from harm his afflicted church, shines through every page.