“8 Then Haman said to King Xerxes, “There is a certain people dispersed among the peoples in all the provinces of your kingdom who keep themselves separate. Their customs are different from those of all other people, and they do not obey the king’s laws; it is not in the king’s best interest to tolerate them. 9 If it pleases the king, let a decree be issued to destroy them, and I will give ten thousand talents of silver to the king’s administrators for the royal treasury.”
10 So the king took his signet ring from his finger and gave it to Haman son of Hammedatha, the Agagite, the enemy of the Jews. 11 “Keep the money,” the king said to Haman, “and do with the people as you please.”
12 Then on the thirteenth day of the first month the royal secretaries were summoned. They wrote out in the script of each province and in the language of each people all Haman’s orders to the king’s satraps, the governors of the various provinces and the nobles of the various peoples. These were written in the name of King Xerxes himself and sealed with his own ring. 13 Dispatches were sent by couriers to all the king’s provinces with the order to destroy, kill and annihilate all the Jews—young and old, women and children—on a single day, the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, the month of Adar, and to plunder their goods. 14 A copy of the text of the edict was to be issued as law in every province and made known to the people of every nationality so they would be ready for that day.
15 The couriers went out, spurred on by the king’s command, and the edict was issued in the citadel of Susa. The king and Haman sat down to drink, but the city of Susa was bewildered.”
(Esther 3:8-15 NIV)
The story line is pretty clear here – Haman is planning a mass genocide of all the Jewish people across the Persian empire – men, women, children, young to old – there were to be no survivors.
Here are a few important details to help understand this section of the story:
- In verse 7 (from yesterday), Haman cast lots (rolled the dice) to determine what day to take this unprecedented action against God’s people. Haman and others were extremely superstitious, and they wanted to be sure they picked a “lucky day” to carry out this heinous deed. Once again, God’s Providence is in full operation (Proverbs 16:33), and even the roll of the dice is under God’s sovereign control. The dice rolls land on a date nearly a year later.
- In verse 8, notice that Haman is very vague about the target of this action: “a certain people…”. If Haman had named the Jews directly, chances are that the king would have reacted differently, as he would most likely have known some prominent Jewish people and would have stopped Haman immediately. Haman instead appeals to the king’s ego and makes it seem like the issue is not even worth the king’s involvement. Haman likely said something like, “King, there is a problem with some rebels scattered throughout the kingdom. With your permission, I will make the problem go away.”
- In verse 9, Haman basically bribes the king with the plunder that is to be gained from destroying the Jews. A “talent” was a unit of weight, about 75.6 U.S. pounds. So Haman was saying that this would generate about 756,000 pounds of silver for the king’s treasury. Historians record that the king’s income from all the provinces for one year was about 14,500 talents of silver, so Haman’s bribe was 2/3 of a year’s extra income to the king. Multiplying today’s silver prices times the 756,000 pounds of silver, this amounts to hundreds of millions of dollars! This gives us an indication of the prominence and wealth of the Jewish people and God’s hand of blessing on them, even in their exile.
- The king likes the proposal, and gives Haman his signet ring so Haman can write the orders and add the king’s seal to the documents, making the documents official, as if the king wrote the documents himself. The orders are given, translated into all the different languages and distributed across the Persian empire as public notices.
- Verse 15 contrasts the views of life from the king’s perspective, and from the average citizen’s perspective. This contrast shows the king and Haman toasting each other’s new-found wealth with a glass of wine, while the citizens of Susa (the capital) are in a state of utter confusion, bewilderment, and panic. What a callous disregard for the value of human life from the king and Haman!
Thankfully, the story is not over yet… and likewise, the story of our lives and times are not over yet. God is still sovereign and actively engaged in the affairs of His people. Let us focus not on our circumstances, but on the God of the universe who is above all and over all things and works all things for His glory and our good.