The Tables Are Turned
It would be wonderful just to go through the Bible, starting in the Old Testament and go through and check every “close call” of the Jewish population. The preservation of the Jewish nation is the most miraculous story you’ll ever read apart from your own redemption. How God just constantly seems to bring them to the very precipice of extermination…sometimes just one person is left between life and death for the Jewish nation and at the right moment God comes through and keeps them alive, so that all of the promises in the Old Testament which are given to the Jewish nation will ultimately be fulfilled. First of all, they were fulfilled in the coming of Jesus.
Just a short review of the chapters we’ve studied… the tables have been turned on Haman, and his henchmen, and now Mordecai and Esther are in the position of power. Through the decree of the king (Xerxes) they have been allowed to go back now, and get vengeance on those who were going to exterminate the entire Jewish race. Now let’s read verses 1-16.
(1) “Now in the twelfth month, that is, the month Adar, on the thirteenth day of the same, when the king’s commandment and his decree drew near to be put in execution, in the day that the enemies of the Jews hoped to have power over them, (though it was turned to the contrary, that the Jews had rule over them that hated them;)
(2) The Jews gathered themselves together in their cities throughout all the provinces of the king Ahasuerus, to lay hand on such as sought their hurt: and no man could withstand them; for the fear of them fell upon all people.
(3) And all the rulers of the provinces, and the lieutenants, and the deputies, and officers of the king, helped the Jews; because the fear of Mordecai fell upon them.
(4) For Mordecai was great in the king’s house, and his fame went out throughout all the provinces: for this man Mordecai waxed greater and greater.
(5) Thus the Jews smote all their enemies with the stroke of the sword, and slaughter, and destruction, and did what they would unto those that hated them.
(6) And in Shushan the palace the Jews slew and destroyed five hundred men.
(7) And Parshandatha, and Dalphon, and Aspatha,
(8) And Poratha, and Adalia, and Aridatha,
(9) And Parmashta, and Arisai, and Aridai, and Vajezatha,
(10) The ten sons of Haman the son of Hammedatha, the enemy of the Jews, slew they; but on the spoil laid they not their hand.
(11) On that day the number of those that were slain in Shushan the palace was brought before the king.
(12) And the king said unto Esther the queen, The Jews have slain and destroyed five hundred men in Shushan the palace, and the ten sons of Haman; what have they done in the rest of the king’s provinces? now what is thy petition? and it shall be granted thee: or what is thy request further? and it shall be done.
(13) Then said Esther, If it please the king, let it be granted to the Jews which are in Shushan to do to morrow also according unto this day’s decree, and let Haman’s ten sons be hanged upon the gallows.
(14) And the king commanded it so to be done: and the decree was given at Shushan; and they hanged Haman’s ten sons.
(15) For the Jews that were in Shushan gathered themselves together on the fourteenth day also of the month Adar, and slew three hundred men at Shushan; but on the prey they laid not their hand.
(16) But the other Jews that were in the king’s provinces gathered themselves together, and stood for their lives, and had rest from their enemies, and slew of their foes seventy and five thousand, but they laid not their hands on the prey.”
THE JEWS RETALIATE
These first sixteen verses of Chapter 9 tell us that we have a retaliatory action on the part of Jews against those who had planned to kill them.
Now, Mordecai, one of their own is by the side of the king, and Haman who would have put the Jews to death is gone. The very throne that had once condemned the Jews now protects them. These verses tell us what happened when Mordecai’s decree was put into operation.
Let’s notice in verse one the reversal of power. In one day, everything that had been planned by the wicked Haman has now been totally reversed, and instead of the Persians hunting the Jews to annihilate them, the Jews are now hunting the Persians to take away their lives.
The Jews had most of the summer and winter months to get ready for this day, and they were ready. For a time throughout Persia, it was like a civil war, two opposing parties ready to leap at each other, each with a legal right to kill each other, depending upon which decree they were abiding under.
SWITCH TO THE WINNING SIDE
Notice the verses 2-4, the retaliation against the persecutors. It’s interesting to note that everyone that was involved in leadership in the Persian government who had before agreed with Haman, all of those people (in one day) switched sides, and they are all now over here with Mordecai on the side of the Jews. Notice the people who are listed here in verse 3…”and all the rulers of the provinces and the lieutenants, and the deputies and officers of the king” helped the Jews. That’s the same list of people, who just a few days ago had helped Haman. And they had switched their allegiance overnight. That’s how the political system works. It worked that way then and it works that way now in politics. Haman was out and Mordecai was in, so they just switched sides because they felt like that was the side that was going to win.
Haman’s decree had really stirred up the people in the Jewish race, and the Persian people. If you look down to verse 16 you can see that 75,000 of these people were slain, and if you remember the decree that was given by Mordecai, it was only permission to go after those that were coming after them.
So we might reason that there were 75,000 within the Persian government or empire who were actively seeking the death of the Jewish community. So this was a major uprising. Let’s think about the question: “Is it ever right to retaliate?” I’d like for you to think about it for a little while. Were the Jews proper in their perspective when they went back into that community with a strong sense of vengeance and retaliated against those who had struck out against them both with threat and apparently attempts on their lives?
I think one of the reasons, as we look back on this story, that the political system so quickly inverted, is that perhaps the Persian leaders in the government remembered something that had happened 65 years earlier…and you’ll remember Darius the Mede sentenced Daniel to the lions’ den in Daniel chapter six.
But Daniel was preserved alive through that ordeal and Darius couldn’t do anything about the rule the Medes and Persians had made. Darius didn’t want Daniel to be in the lions’ den, but the decree couldn’t reverse it.
And after God preserved Daniel through that ordeal, Darius was so delighted. The night before he couldn’t sleep but when he awoke the next morning and found out that Daniel was alive, Darius ordered all those men who had been responsible, to be brought, along with all their wives and children, and they were thrown into the lions’ den. They had not reached the floor of the den until the lions overpowered them and crushed all their bones (Daniel 6).
Probably in the history of the Persian Empire, the leaders, who served under Xerxes and had been influenced by Haman, knew that story and they figured out, if Haman’s no longer in and Mordecai’s in, we better quickly get on the side of the Jews. The Scripture says, “They feared Mordecai.” Verse 3 and verse 4 tell us that “Mordecai waxed greater and greater.”
It was evident that the power of God was on his life so these men switched to the side of the Jews. Notice the number of the casualties and you’ll find these in verses 5-10 and in verses 15 and 16.
In verses 7-10 we’re told that Haman’s ten sons were killed, hung up in public, for all to see. I think that Esther realized that as long as Haman’s sons were around that there was always danger of another rebellion. It’s hard to believe that Haman’s sons could have any good and pure thoughts about God’s people, the Jews, when Haman had lived for the very day when he could exterminate the entire race in the Persian Empire. I have a feeling that Haman’s sons inherited his hatred for the Jews.
So we have people killed in the palace. In verse six, 500 were killed in the capital alone. It’s interesting that that many people were killed in the palace and that many people there were trying to kill the Jews.
I couldn’t help but think about something that was written back in the fourth chapter, verse 13. You remember when Mordecai was trying to persuade Esther that she needed to get involved in this whole process?
Earlier “Mordeai commanded to answer Esther, ‘Think not with thy self that thou shalt escape in the king’s house more than all the Jews.’” He was right because verse 6 states: There were 500 people in the capital city itself who were bent to destroy the Jewish nation. Esther lived in the capital and there would have been no way she could have survived, if they had not taken the offensive against these enemies.
And then in verses 15 and 16 we have the total of the casualties: 75,300 died. Many people, before Hitler, considered that number very unlikely, but God’s Word is true.
Hitler did away with six million Jews besides the people of many other races, and then 75,000 in Persia sounded like it could be possible, and of course it was, because this Book was inspired by God, and every word is true, whether some people believe or not.
If you go back in the history books and try to find out about the population of the Persian Empire at that time, you discover that the Persian Empire varied in its population from 73 million to 100 million and the Jews were only about 2 or 3 million of that number in all the 127 provinces.
It didn’t seem that Xerxes the king was too upset when he lost the war with the Greeks and lost a million at the beginning of our story.
It reminds us today of Saddam Hussein’s attitude with regard to human life. People like Saddam Hussein seem to kill and destroy if it will gain something for them.
All these people that were killed didn’t seem to bother the king. He wanted to know how it was going and how many had been killed and notice the request for added revenge. Notice verses 11-14 in the 9th chapter.
“On that day the number of those that were slain in Shushan the palace was brought before the king. (12) And the king said unto Esther the queen, The Jews have slain and destroyed five hundred men in Shushan the palace, and the ten sons of Haman; what have they done in the rest of the king’s provinces? Now what is thy petition? And it shall be granted thee: or what is thy request further? And it shall be done. (13) Then said Esther, If it please the king let it be granted to the Jews which are in Shushan to do tomorrow also according unto this day’s decree, and let Haman’s ten sons be hanged upon the gallows. (14) And the king commanded it so to be done: and the decree was given at Shushan; and they hanged Haman’s ten sons.
It sorta looked like it was over and the king calls in the queen and wants to know how it’s going. We know how many have been killed in Shushan but give me a report of how it’s going in the other provinces.
And the king gave them another day to finish the job.
Some people have said that it is sorta hard to assimilate: the gracious godly spirit of Esther, that is so often portrayed in the personality of Esther, as she is presented often in our study of her as a lady. Doesn’t sound very meek and lovely for a woman to say to the king, “We’ve already killed 500; I want to kill some more.”
I think the reason that there was such a thorough purging of these enemies and especially the ten sons of Haman is that there is a long standing history of that family that we traced earlier in this story that goes all the way back to the Amalekites. Exodus 17:14, “And the LORD said unto Moses, Write this for a memorial in a book, and rehearse it in the ears of Joshua: for I will utterly put out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven.”
Now in Scripture (Deuteronomy 25:17-19):
“Remember what Amalek did unto thee by the way when ye were come forth out of Egypt; (15) How he met thee by the way, and smote the hindmost of thee, even all that were feeble behind thee, when thou wast faint and weary; and he feared not God. (19) Therefore it shall be, when the LORD thy God hath given thee rest from all thine enemies round about, in the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee for an inheritance to possess it, that thou shalt blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven; thou shalt not forget it.”
You’ll understand that the judgment of God has been passed on to the Amalekites. Remember in the first chapter Haman is referred to as the Agagite. He is a descendant of the Amalekites who attacked the Israelites when they came out of Egypt and the Amalekites destroyed their women and the children, and God said that there would come a time in the future that He would literally destroy that people from off the face of the earth, and as far as we know after Haman and his sons were killed and his posterity has been cut off, that is the end of the people of Amalek once and for all. The promise of God concerning that race has been kept and it’s over and you’ll never hear of them again.
I want you to notice the restraint concerning the spoil. This phrase appears three times in the 9th chapter. Verse 10, “and of the spoil laid they not their hand” and in verse 14 notice “But on the prey they laid not their hand.” Then in verse 16, “but they laid not their hands on the prey.”
Some people say this is just unrestrained retaliation on the part of Esther, Mordecai and the Jewish people, that they have just pulled out all the stops and they are just as bad as the Persians were. They’re out to destroy all these people that are against them. But that is not necessarily true.
There is a measure of restraint even in what Esther and Mordecai did to the 75,000 plus that were killed. Go back to the 8th chapter, verse 11, “Wherein the king granted the Jews which were in every city to gather themselves together, and to stand for their life, to destroy, to slay, and to cause to perish, all the power of the people and province that would assault them, both little ones and women, and to take the spoil of them for a prey,”
This decree involved three things but the Jews did only one of these things. They killed the men. In every report of those who were killed in Chapter 9 it is the men who were killed.
And there were three times in the Scripture that is reported that they did not take any of that that they were permitted to take, but the decree for themselves.
They retaliated but not to the full extent of the law. Perhaps they remembered what happened to Saul, and the Amalekites. Saul lost his kingdom, because he kept the spoils of the Amalekites, and then he lied to God about it and God took away his authority.
So the story is God turning the tables on the people who had set out to destroy God’s special people, the Jews, and as you study this 9th chapter you ask yourself: What can I learn from this that will be of help to me later?
HATRED, PREJUDICE AND RETALIATION
I want you to notice three things as you reflect on this chapter. Take note of the power of hatred and prejudice. It is overwhelming with power.
If you go back to the beginning of the first chapter of this book, you will not see any general hatred of the Jews, earlier. What you do see, is the hatred of one man for one other man. Haman hated Mordecai because Mordecai wouldn’t bow down to Haman now that he had been promoted to second-in-command.
And so Haman’s hatred of Mordecai was developed into a hatred not for just one man, but for the whole race of Jews and that hatred for just one man was fanned into a heated flame for all the Jews, not only for Haman but all the leadership of Persia.
And it grew and grew until when we come to this 9th chapter we’re involved in a civil war between the Jews and the Persians. Hatred is a powerful force!
It was quite possible that it had possessed the ten sons of Haman also. That’s why God made sure that that hatred would not be perpetuated in the generation to come.
And prejudice and hatred still exist in this world, even in some hearts today. There is no way to identify the power of hatred. We have seen in this chapter how when hatred is allowed to blossom, even in the heart of one man, it can then envelope an entire nation.
Hatred is so damaging if left unchecked, is like a malignant cancer that ends up destroying everything that it touches.
Retaliation. As you study the Bible, there are four levels of retaliation that you observe. First, there was unlimited retaliation. That’s what you see in the Old Testament before the giving of the law.
In Scripture (Genesis 4: 23-24), we read, “And Lamech said unto his wives, Adah and Zillah, Hear my voice; ye wives of Lamech, hearken unto my speech for I have slain a man to my wounding, and a young man to my hurt. If Cain shall be avenged seven-fold, truly Lamech seventy and sevenfold. “
Before the law, here was unlimited retaliation.
When the law came, you moved to Level 2. It is called limited retaliation. It was limited to the actual loss that was suffered. So in Exodus 21:24, “Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot” and in Deuteronomy 19:19-21, “Then shall ye do unto him, as he had thought to have done unto his brother: so shalt thou put the evil away from among you. And those which remain shall hear, and fear, and shall henceforth commit no more any such evil among you. And thine eye shall not pity, but life shall go for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.”
Under the law, retaliation was limited to the offence. You could only retaliate in keeping with the damage done to you.
When you come to the New Testament there’s a third level of retaliation that is mentioned and I think we can call this, no retaliation. Listen to Romans 12:19: “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is Mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.”
You just go on and God will take care of the rest.
And there’s a fourth level of retaliation that even goes beyond this and I call this replaced retaliation and I want to remind you that the highest level of treating an enemy is that which Jesus taught us in Matthew 5:43-48:
Jesus said, “Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father, which is in heaven: for He maketh his sun to rise on the evil, and on the good and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye, do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so? Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which in heaven is perfect.”
This way you make your enemy your friend. Listen to what Paul said in Romans 12:17-21:
“Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men. If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.”
Nebuchadnezzar learned God’s children couldn’t be burned (Daniel 3).
(Daniel 6) Darius learned they couldn’t be eaten.
Haman learned they couldn’t be hanged (Esther 7).
When Pharoah got done, there was the Passover.
When Antiger Empener got done, there was Hanukkah.
Hitler finished, there Israel was established, 1948, Day of Independence.
Haman finished, there was the Purim Feast.
(The end of the Book of Esther)