THE KILLING FIELDS
Lord, I abhor all violence.
Read ESTHER 9:1–17
9 On the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, the month of Adar, the edict commanded by the king was to be carried out. On this day the enemies of the Jews had hoped to overpower them, but now the tables were turned and the Jews got the upper hand over those who hated them. 2 The Jews assembled in their cities in all the provinces of King Xerxes to attack those determined to destroy them. No one could stand against them, because the people of all the other nationalities were afraid of them. 3 And all the nobles of the provinces, the satraps, the governors and the king’s administrators helped the Jews, because fear of Mordecai had seized them. 4 Mordecai was prominent in the palace; his reputation spread throughout the provinces, and he became more and more powerful.
5 The Jews struck down all their enemies with the sword, killing and destroying them, and they did what they pleased to those who hated them. 6 In the citadel of Susa, the Jews killed and destroyed five hundred men. 7 They also killed Parshandatha, Dalphon, Aspatha, 8 Poratha, Adalia, Aridatha, 9 Parmashta, Arisai, Aridai and Vaizatha, 10 the ten sons of Haman son of Hammedatha, the enemy of the Jews. But they did not lay their hands on the plunder.
11 The number of those killed in the citadel of Susa was reported to the king that same day. 12 The king said to Queen Esther, “The Jews have killed and destroyed five hundred men and the ten sons of Haman in the citadel of Susa. What have they done in the rest of the king’s provinces? Now what is your petition? It will be given you. What is your request? It will also be granted.”
13 “If it pleases the king,” Esther answered, “give the Jews in Susa permission to carry out this day’s edict tomorrow also, and let Haman’s ten sons be impaled on poles.”
14 So the king commanded that this be done. An edict was issued in Susa, and they impaled the ten sons of Haman. 15 The Jews in Susa came together on the fourteenth day of the month of Adar, and they put to death in Susa three hundred men, but they did not lay their hands on the plunder.
16 Meanwhile, the remainder of the Jews who were in the king’s provinces also assembled to protect themselves and get relief from their enemies. They killed seventy-five thousand of them but did not lay their hands on the plunder. 17 This happened on the thirteenth day of the month of Adar, and on the fourteenth they rested and made it a day of feasting and joy.
New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
“The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love. The Lord is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made” (Psa. 145:8,9).
So the day comes, and the Jews carry out a wholesale slaughter against anyone considered a personal enemy. The difficulty for modern readers is that we recall from 3:15 that the citizens of Shushan are “bewildered” by Haman’s edict, and there is no evidence that the everyday citizens really wanted to see the Jews destroyed. In today’s world some countries have laws against conversion to minority religions, including Christianity, and forbid statements critical of the majority or protected religion. In those countries there are many instances of accusations made against innocent people over a grudge, a family feud, or just to seize property. Is that what is happening here? Haman’s family might have been involved in his crime, but is that true of the 500 in Shushan who are killed?
The king, seemingly not bothered that his subjects are being killed like this, tells Esther he would grant another wish. Sadly, the only thing she requests is that Jews be allowed to carry on their killing spree for another day. Three hundred more in Shushan perish and ultimately 75,000 throughout the land get put to death. The question readers usually ask is, “Are we supposed to assume that this wholesale killing is God’s will in order that the Jews in Persia should be protected and prosper, or do we assume that the ongoing lack of mention of any involvement from God means that he in fact does not approve?” The rest of Scripture does picture God protecting and supporting his people in the land they had been given and in the context of their covenant relationship with him. The glaring lack of editorial comment here implies that readers must decide for themselves whether or not such a notion applies in this situation.
Try imagining yourself as different characters in the stories of Esther, thinking about how you might have reacted and whether you could or should have done anything differently.
Lord, give us the wisdom to understand what You would have us learn from this rather difficult account.
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