7.41 Esther -- Racial Warfare

Xerxes was most upset by this appeal and went into the garden.  Haman was terrified and besought mercy from Esther.  But he was clumsy and aggressive, and the king thought he was attacking the queen.  Exit Haman, hung on the gallows he had built for Mordecai.

         

The rest of the book is concerned with how to counter the stupid law of condemnation that Xerxes had just issued against the Jews.   Apparently, a king's command could not be revoked (Est 8:8), so he could not cancel the order of destruction against the Jews.  Instead, he issued a second edict.  Though billed as a triumph for the Jews, his pronouncement was actually a defeat for social peace and harmony within the kingdom.   His second decree allowed the Jews to gather weapons and attack their enemies on the fateful day:

          The Jews assembled in their cities in all the provinces of King Xerxes to attack those seeking their destruction. No one could stand against them, because the people of all the other nationalities were afraid of them (Est 9:2).

         

Altogether, they killed 75,000 people! (Est 9:16), including all of Haman's sons.  How ironic that those who had been spared from death were eager to inflict it on others.  Certainly this bloodshed sowed seeds of racial hatred for generations to come.  Mordecai was raised to the position of 2nd in rank to the king, like Joseph had been in Egypt.  And every year after that, the Jews celebrated their deliverance from death as a second Exodus.

         There is a curious addendum to this account:

         There was joy and gladness among the Jews, with feasting and celebrating.  And many people of other nationalities became Jews because fear of the Jews had seized them (Est 8:17).

         How was this even possible?  One cannot just decide to become a Jew, and convert out of fear, as happened to the Jews themselves in 15th Century Spain under the Inquisition.   This is the only verse in the Old Testament that describes a mass conversion of pagans to Judaism.