The Horror Conclude: Esther 9: 11-19

Pablo Picasso, Guernica

Pablo Picasso, Guernica

Esther 9:11-19

                11 That very day the number of those killed in the citadel of Susa was reported to the king. 12 The king said to Queen Esther, “In the citadel of Susa the Jews have killed five hundred people and also the ten sons of Haman. What have they done in the rest of the king’s provinces? Now what is your petition? It shall be granted you. And what further is your request? It shall be fulfilled.” 13 Esther said, “If it pleases the king, let the Jews who are in Susa be allowed tomorrow also to do according to this day’s edict, and let the ten sons of Haman be hanged on the gallows.” 14 So the king commanded this to be done; a decree was issued in Susa, and the ten sons of Haman were hanged. 15 The Jews who were in Susa gathered also on the fourteenth day of the month of Adar and they killed three hundred persons in Susa; but they did not touch the plunder.

 16 Now the other Jews who were in the king’s provinces also gathered to defend their lives, and gained relief from their enemies, and killed seventy-five thousand of those who hated them; but they laid no hands on the plunder. 17 This was on the thirteenth day of the month of Adar, and on the fourteenth day they rested and made that a day of feasting and gladness. 18 But the Jews who were in Susa gathered on the thirteenth day and on the fourteenth, and rested on the fifteenth day, making that a day of feasting and gladness. 19 Therefore the Jews of the villages, who live in the open towns, hold the fourteenth day of the month of Adar as a day for gladness and feasting, a holiday on which they send gifts of food to one another.

The bloodthirsty tone continues, and again this is probably (hopefully) hyperbole, for if it is not then we have an event of horrific proportions-over seventy five thousand dead and the Emperor merely shrugs his shoulders and allows it to continue. Even though the population of the United States is many times the population of the Persian empire at its height, imagine if in one day even a thousand people lost their lives, or by way of comparison-the bloodiest days on American soil were the days where the Union and Confederate army battled at Gettysburg (over 3 days 46,286 people died). This hopefully puts some scale to the type of numbers that are thrown into the story here. Some scholars suggest the last couple chapters are additions to the book of Esther.  Regardless of how and when they become a part of the book, they become a part of the community’s memory. As I’ve mentioned in earlier posts, this probably gave hope to a people who were often the victims of oppression and hatred-it gives them a place where they can vent their frustrations at their powerlessness. A desired striking back, long suppressed may indeed give voice to horrific fantasies of violence. In the presence of their own people they can through stories give vent to the desire for revenge that in public society they could never do without severe reprisal. (Scott 1990, 37-44)

Esther again enters the story, the king continues to give the authority to someone else to make the decisions. Esther’s request for one more day in the city of Susa sounds cold and heartless, and the additional three hundred that die as a result may seem tiny in comparison to the seventy five thousand, but they continue to send a message along with the hanging or impaling of Haman’s sons. They are public demonstrations of power, meant to send a message to anyone who may still harbor the desire to wipe out the Jewish people. Impaling or hanging, like crucifixion in later times, makes a public spectacle of the one’s being executed in this manner and it is also a statement of shame. It dishonors the family, it denies the individual an honorable death-it is a striking statement that Haman and his sons are impaled because of their standing and wealth, it indicates a different culture than the Roman empire when crucifixion was reserved for those who were without status.

The purge comes to an end, and then comes celebration. The story is winding down, the victory is won. The remainder of the story will be codifying the celebration of Purim and lifting up the status of Mordecai and Esther. It has been a long journey through this close of the book, but we are almost there.

purple rose 01 by

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.