Esther 3:8-15

And here is the second half of Esther 3. I’m still considering whether I will post further in Esther. Even if I do, it won’t be until the end of the month, though.

Scene 2—Haman’s Plot (3:8-15)
In the second half of chapter 3, Haman hatches his plan to exact revenge on Mordecai by slaying all the Jews. He makes sure to portray his scheme in such a manner that it seems advantageous to the king. The king, in turn, buys into the plan with seemingly little reflection. Just as vv. 1-7 are mirrored in chapters 6 and 8, Haman’s desire to harm all the Jews in vv. 8-15 is mirrored in the end of the book when the Jews slaughter other peoples.

8And Haman said to King Ahashverosh, “It, a certain people, is scattered and separate from the (other) peoples throughout the provinces of your kingdom. Their laws differ from [those of] every people-group, and even the laws of the king they do not observe. For the king, to let them alone is not appropriate. 9If it pleases the king, let ‘to-destroy-them!’ be written. I will weigh out 10,000 talents of silver into the hands of those who do the work to bring to the treasuries of the king.” 10So the king removed his signet-ring from upon his hand, and he gave it to Haman, son of Hammedatha the Agagite, the enemy of the Jews. 11And the king said to Haman, “The silver is given to you, and the people (are given to you), to do with them according to what pleases you.” 12And the scribes of the king were called in the first month, on the thirteenth day in it, and according to all that Haman commanded was written to the satraps of the king and to the governors who were over every province and to the leaders of every people, (being written to) every province according to its writing and (being written to) every people according to its language. It was written in the name of King Ahashverosh, and it was sealed with the signet-ring of the king, 13letters being sent by the messengers to all the provinces of the king, to exterminate, to slay, and to destroy all the Jews, from young to old, toddlers and women, in one day, on the thirteenth [day] of the twelfth month (it is the month of Adar), and to plunder their spoil. 14A copy of the writing was to be given as an order in every single province, being revealed to all the people, in order to be ready for that day. 15The messengers went out hastily by the word of the king, and the law was given in Susa, the citadel, and the king and Haman sat to drink while the city, Susa, was agitated.

3:8 ‎וַיֹּ֤אמֶר הָמָן֙  לַמֶּ֣לֶךְ אֲחַשְׁוֵר֔וֹשׁ יֶשְׁנ֣וֹ עַם־אֶחָ֗ד מְפֻזָּ֤ר וּמְפֹרָד֙  בֵּ֣ין הָֽעַמִּ֔ים בְּכֹ֖ל מְדִינ֣וֹת מַלְכוּתֶ֑ךָ וְדָתֵיהֶ֞ם שֹׁנ֣וֹת מִכָּל־עָ֗ם וְאֶת־דָּתֵ֤י הַמֶּ֙לֶךְ֙ אֵינָ֣ם עֹשִׂ֔ים וְלַמֶּ֥לֶךְ אֵין־שׁוֶֹ֖ה לְהַנִּיחָֽם׃

In v. 8, Haman tactfully brings up the Jewish people and, feigning an advisory role to the king, points out that it is disadvantageous for the king to tolerate them. Of course, Haman really has his own interests in mind, not the king’s, a point which will come out in 7:4 when Haman’s plans are unravelled.

וַיֹּ֤אמֶר הָמָן֙  לַמֶּ֣לֶךְ אֲחַשְׁוֵר֔וֹשׁ. Wayyiqtol 3ms Qal √אמר. The Qal of אמר is bivalent, taking a direct speech complement. The PP למלך אחשׁורושׁ is adjunct, specifying the addressee. On מלך אחשׁורושׁ, see comment on 1:2.

יֶשְׁנ֣וֹ עַם־אֶחָ֗ד מְפֻזָּ֤ר וּמְפֹרָד֙  בֵּ֣ין הָֽעַמִּ֔ים בְּכֹ֖ל מְדִינ֣וֹת מַלְכוּתֶ֑ךָ. A ‎יש copula clause with 3ms clitic pronoun subject and complement NP עם אחד, and Participle ms Pual √פזר and √פרד. With the copulas אין and ישׁ, some prepositions like מן, and some verbs, the 3ms pronominal clitic has the form נו (instead of ו or הו; cf. ממנו in 5:9 and איננו in 5:13); it is usually pointed נוּ-, but with ישׁ it is always pointed נוֹ-, as here (JM §102k; contra Paton 1908:207). If the pronominal clitic were not present (ישׁ עם אחד מפזר ומפרד “a certain people is scattered and divided…”), the NP עם אחד would unambiguously be the subject and the participles מפזר ומפרד would be a compound predicate complement. With the 3ms pronominal clitic available as the subject, however, the status of the עם אחד is ambiguous—it could be in apposition to the 3ms pronoun, “it, a certain people, are scattered …,” or it could be the copular complement (with the following participles inside an unmarked relative clause), “it/there is a certainly people (that are) scattered.” Since there is no good evidence in BH for an expletive/dummy pronoun analogous to English “there,” the first (appositional) analysis is preferable. The numeral אחד, “one,” can be adjectival (“a certain people”) or even function like an indefinite article: “a people” (HALOT s.v.; BDB s.v.; DCH s.v.; GKC §125b; WO §§15.2.1a, f; Bush 1996:381). The word עם can be collective, referring to plural people; however here it refers to “people” in the sense of a “people-group” (HALOT s.v.; BDB s.v.).

מְפֻזָּ֤ר וּמְפֹרָד֙  בֵּ֣ין הָֽעַמִּ֔ים בְּכֹ֖ל מְדִינ֣וֹת מַלְכוּתֶ֑ךָ. Participle ms Pual √פזר and √פרד. This verse contains the only Pual instance of פזר and פרד in the Hebrew Bible. The verb פרד is often found with a בין-PP (BDB s.v.), with the meaning “to divide/separate X from Y”; the Pual with the בין-PP may have the nuance that this people separated themselves from others, a notion that Haman might have been using to characterize the Jews as recalcitrant, unassimilated, and essentially dangerous to the unity of the kingdom (Bush 1996:381; also see Moore 1971:39; Fox 2001:48-49; contra RSV “amongst the peoples”). The two PPs, בין העמים and בכל מדינות מלכותך, are adjuncts, and clearly located within the lower domain of the participle phrases—but to what precisely are they adjuncts? Both could be sequential adjuncts to the participle מפרד, “divided among the peoples, in all the provinces,” or the בין-PP could modify מפרד and the ב-PP could be an NP-internal adjunct to עמים, “divided among [the peoples in all the provinces].” The difference in syntax results in different semantics—if בכל מדינות מלכותך modifies מפרד, it means that the Jews have not assimilated throughout the kingdom; if the PP modifies העמים, it means that the Jews have not assimilated with any people anywhere in the kingdom (though we might expect the quantifier כל before העמים if this were the intention). In discourse terms, the semantic difference is negligible; even so, we consider the first reading, that both PPs modify מפרד to be more likely.

וְדָתֵיהֶ֞ם שֹׁנ֣וֹת מִכָּל־עָ֗ם. A null copula clause with subject דתיהם and participle phrase complement, participle fp Qal √שׁנה (see comment on 2:9 for the range of meanings for שׁנה). On the meaning of דת, see comment on 1:13. The durative semantics of the participle contribute to the generic assertion, that the Jews’ “laws are different.” Since the subject is identifiable “a certain people,” the genericity is resolved as a habitual statement. The מן-PP adjunct provides the point of comparison for the what is different about the Jews’s laws. Since “laws” are not compared to “people,” the מן-PP has a null complement that is modified by כל עם: “their laws differ from [those of] every people-group” (that is, the ellipsis of the “laws” before כל עם is the only way to make the comparison one of apples to apples, rather than apples to oranges).

וְאֶת־דָּתֵ֤י הַמֶּ֙לֶךְ֙  אֵינָ֣ם עֹשִׂ֔ים. An‎ אין copula clause with 3mp clitic pronoun and participle mp Qal √עשׂה. The subject of the copula is the clitic pronoun attached to אין, as with ישׁנו in the first copular clause (cf. WO §§37.6a, 39.3.3b). The copular complement is the participle עשׂים, which has durative semantics. Since the referent of the 3mp subject pronoun is identifiable as “a certain people,” the resulting generic expression should be understood as habitual—it was not their habit (according to Haman) to follow the king’s laws. The verb עשׂה with the complement “laws of the king” has the meaning “to observe” (BDB s.v.) or “to perform” (HALOT s.v.; see comment on 1:3 for the various meanings of עשׂה; see 2:20 for another example of this particular meaning). The phrase דתי המלך is fronted for Focus (see also Moore 1971:39), to isolate the king’s laws (as apposed to any other laws, such as this “certain peoples” own laws) as what this people would not follow. The implication is that regardless what their own laws are, at a bare minimum they are obligated to follow royal decrees, which they here accused of not doing. This kind of Focus is often signalled in English by the focus operator “even,” as in “even the king’s laws they don’t follow!”

וְלַמֶּ֥לֶךְ אֵין־שׁוֶֹ֖ה לְהַנִּיחָֽם. An‎ אין copula, participle ms Qal √שׁוה, and inf constr Hiph √נוח with 3mp clitic possessive pronoun. The first radical נ is doubled in some II-ו verbs in the Hiphil—as it is in להניחם—possibly by analogy to II-ע verbs in Aramaic (JM §80p; cf. Paton 1908:207). When Hifil נוח does not have the doubled first radical, the meaning is “to cause to rest” (HALOT s.v.; cf. DCH s.v.; BDB s.v.). With the doubled radical, however, the meaning is to “place, set down,” “leave behind,” or “let alone, allow to remain, leave undisturbed” (DCH s.v.; cf. HALOT s.v.; BDB s.v.; JM §80p). The root שׁוה means to “compare (with)” (DCH s.v.), “agree with, be like, resemble” (BDB s.v.), or “be the same” (HALOT s.v.; DCH s.v.). With a ל-PP it may mean “to be appropriate” (HALOT s.v.; cf. BDB s.v.) or to “be good, be profitable” (DCH s.v.); the only other possible example of this meaning in the Hebrew Bible isכל זה איננו שׁוה לי in 5:13 (although we argue for a different understanding; see comment on 5:13, and cf. 7:4). Hiphil נוח is bivalent, taking an NP complement, which is manifested as the 3mp clitic pronoun. The subject of the negative אין copula is ל-PP/infinitive clause להניחם; the copular complement is the participle שׁוה. Within the participle phrase, the complement of שׁוה is the PP למלך, which has moved from within the participle phrase to the front of the matrix clause for Focus. Although the syntax is complex, the general sense of this clause is clear: Haman’s claim is that it is not to the king’s benefit to give this people rest.

3:9 ‎אִם־עַל־הַמֶּ֣לֶךְ ט֔וֹב יִכָּתֵ֖ב לְאַבְּדָ֑ם וַעֲשֶׂ֨רֶת אֲלָפִ֜ים כִּכַּר־כֶּ֗סֶף אֶשְׁקוֹל֙ עַל־יְדֵי֙  עֹשֵׂ֣י הַמְּלָאכָ֔ה לְהָבִ֖יא אֶל־גִּנְזֵ֥י הַמֶּֽלֶךְ׃

After establishing a negative characterization of the Jews, Haman proposes his plan to rid the kingdom of their presence, sweetening the deal by offering the king a large sum of money. Haman’s statement here recalls the advice given to the king in 1:19-21 and 2:2-4. Whereas the advice was given for the king’s benefit in chapters 1 and 2, Haman disguises his advice as beneficial to the king, though it is transparent to the audience that he is acting in his own interest.

אִם־עַל־הַמֶּ֣לֶךְ ט֔וֹב יִכָּתֵ֖ב לְאַבְּדָ֑ם. Null copula, yiqtol (irrealis) 3ms Niph √כתב, and inf constr Piel √אבד. On the phrase אם על המלך טוב, see comment on 1:19. The subject of monovalent passive יכתב is the infinitive phrase לאבדם (see also the last clause in v. 8), yielding the awkward English “let ‘to-destroy-them’ be written.” The language here assumes that for the king “to write” something it effects the desired outcome. The infinitive is Pielאבד “to make X to perish” or “to destroy” (HALOT s.v.; BDB s.v.) is bivalent and its complement is the attached 3mp clitic pronoun. Both the fronted אם clausal adjunct to the verb יכתב as well as the irrealis semantics of the conditional statement trigger verb-subject order. The אם clause is a Topic-fronted adjunct, which is the common structure of protasis-apodosis relationships in BH—the protasis is fronted to establish the semantic nature (a similar Topic function as scene-setting).

וַעֲשֶׂ֨רֶת אֲלָפִ֜ים כִּכַּר־כֶּ֗סֶף אֶשְׁקוֹל֙ עַל־יְדֵי֙  עֹשֵׂ֣י הַמְּלָאכָ֔ה. Yiqtol 1cs Qal √שׁקל and participle mp Qal √עשׂה. The complement of the verb (עשׂרת אלפים ככר כסף) is fronted for Focus (i.e., to drive home the point that he adds this surprising amount, and no less, to encourage the king). The verb שׁקל (related to the noun שֶׁקֶל) means “to weigh out”; when used with money as its complement, the connotation is “to pay” (HALOT s.v.; cf. BDB s.v.; DCH s.v.). The PP על ידי עשׂי המלאכה, “unto the hands of those who do the work,” is adjunct to the verb. The irrealis semantics of the yiqtol אשׁקול are due to the irrealis “world” established by the conditional, a world in which Haman’s offer to pay extra to see the Jews destroyed exists.

עֲשֶׂ֨רֶת אֲלָפִ֜ים כִּכַּר־כֶּ֗סֶף is literally “ten of a thousand, talent of silver.” The compound numeral עשׂרת אלפים consists of the numeral “ten” bound to “thousand.” This compound numeral is the head to the appositive ככר כסף, which is singular because it need not agree with the numeral (cf. JM §§142e-j; cf. Introduction §). One wonders if the word ככר is accidental here: a talent (ככר) is equivalent to 3,000 shekels, thus 10,000 talents is 30 million shekels (over 300 tons), a huge amount of silver for anyone to possess (Moore 1971:39; Fox 2001:51-52; Bush 1996:381-382). Thus “10,000 shekels of silver” should perhaps be understood instead, a large amount of money in itself. Alternatively, the excessive amount may be intentional, adding to the sarcasm/comedy of the portrayal of Haman, Ahashverosh, and the Persian court (Bush 1996:382), or “legendary hyperbole” (Fox 2001:52).

עַל־יְדֵי֙  עֹשֵׂ֣י הַמְּלָאכָ֔ה. Participle mp Qal √עשׂה. That the money is weighed “unto the hands of those who do the work” means that the money goes into their possession (in this case, temporary). On first reading the NP המלאכה might seem to refer to the job of destroying the Jews (אבדם); in other words, the text might seem to say that Haman is offering to pay those who fight and kill the Jews. However, the following purpose clause להביא אל גנזי המלך clarifies that the עשׂי המלאכה are people who will transport the money into the possession of the king’s treasuries (Paton 1908:207; Moore 1971:40; Fox 2001:280; cf. 4:7). Oddly, in verse 11 it is the king who is said to give Haman the money; it is difficult, therefore, to understand what exactly is happening with this money.

לְהָבִ֖יא אֶל־גִּנְזֵ֥י הַמֶּֽלֶךְ. Inf constr Hiph √בוא. The verb בוא in the Hiphil is trivalent, taking a subject, an NP complement, and locative/goal PP complement. The subject is null, as in most purpose infinitives, but understood to be “those who do the work” (עשׂי המלאכה). The NP complement is also null, but understood to be the 10,000 talents (עשׂרת אלפים ככר כסף) paid by Haman. The third complement is overt, the PP אל גנזי המלך. The Hebrew word גֶּנֶז only occurs here and in 4:7, though its Aramaic counterpart can be found in Ezra 5:17, 6:1, and 7:20. It means “treasury” (HALOT s.v.; BDB s.v.; DCH s.v.).

3:10 ‎וַיָּ֧סַר הַמֶּ֛לֶךְ אֶת־טַבַּעְתּ֖וֹ מֵעַ֣ל יָד֑וֹ וַֽיִּתְּנָ֗הּ לְהָמָ֧ן בֶּֽן־הַמְּדָ֛תָא הָאֲגָגִ֖י צֹרֵ֥ר הַיְּהוּדִֽים׃

Ahashverosh signifies his assent to Haman’s plan by giving him his signet ring, with which Haman could issue a decree with the authority of the king (cf. v. 12). The influence of the Joseph story on Esther can be seen in this verse, which echoes Gen 41:42 where the king of Egypt gives his signet ring to Joseph: ‎וַיָּסַר פַּרְעֹה אֶת־טַבַּעְתּוֹ מֵעַל יָדוֹ וַיִּתֵּן אֹתָהּ עַל־יַד יוֹסֵף. In that instance, however, the purpose was to protect the Hebrew people, not to destroy them (Fox 2001:52).

וַיָּ֧סַר הַמֶּ֛לֶךְ אֶת־טַבַּעְתּ֖וֹ מֵעַ֣ל יָד֑וֹ. Wayyiqtol 3ms Hiph √סור. Qal סור means to “turn aside” or “depart” (HALOT s.v.; BDB s.v.; DCH s.v.), often bivalent with a directional PP complement; thus, the causative Hiphil סור is trivalent, meaning “to cause X to turn aside” or “to remove,” with an NP complement (here את טבעתו, the thing turning aside) and one directional PP complement (here מעל ידו, denoting the place from which something turns).

וַֽיִּתְּנָ֗הּ לְהָמָ֧ן בֶּֽן־הַמְּדָ֛תָא הָאֲגָגִ֖י צֹרֵ֥ר הַיְּהוּדִֽים. Wayyiqtol 3ms Qal √נתן with 3fs clitic pronoun and participle ms Qal √צרר. The verb נתן is trivalent, taking an NP complement (here the cliticized 3fs pronoun referring back to טבעתו) and a ל-PP complement (here להמן). The NP בן המדתא is appositive to the head המן, while the gentilic האגגי is probably appositive to the head המדתא (i.e., Hammedatha is the Agagite; see comment on v. 1). The unmarked relative צרר היהודים, “(who) (was) showing hostility toward the Jews,” must either modify המדתא (with האגגי intervening) or המן (with בן המדתא האגגי intervening). The context of the story indicates that Haman is a צרר היהודים, whereas there is no reason to think that Haman’s father is. Compare the similar structure in 2:3 and 2:15: ‎הגי סריס המלך שׁמר הנשׁים.

3:11 ‎וַיֹּ֤אמֶר הַמֶּ֙לֶךְ֙  לְהָמָ֔ן הַכֶּ֖סֶף נָת֣וּן לָ֑ךְ וְהָעָ֕ם לַעֲשׂ֥וֹת בּ֖וֹ כַּטּ֥וֹב בְּעֵינֶֽיךָ׃

Having given Haman his signet ring, the king now signifies his assent to Haman’s plan verbally, giving him permission to do what he thinks is best.

וַיֹּ֤אמֶר הַמֶּ֙לֶךְ֙  לְהָמָ֔ן. Wayyiqtol 3ms Qal √אמר. The Qal אמר takes an NP complement, namely the direct speech immediately following. The ל-PP designating the addressee of the speech is adjunct to the verb.

הַכֶּ֖סֶף נָת֣וּן לָ֑ךְ. Null copula clause and passive participle ms Qal √נתן. The subject of the copular clause is the NP הכסף and the copular complement is the participle phrase. The Qal passive נתן reflects a valency decrease from trivalency to bivalency, and therefore has only one complement, the ל-PP designating the recipient of the thing given. The passive participle is even less event oriented than the active participle (Cook 2012: 228, n. 59) and so here references the state or status of the כסף. The temporal setting of the null copula could be present (“is given”) if this is intended as a performative statement, future “will be given” if the king’s intention is that when needed Haman will get the funds to carry out his little war, or past (“were given” or “has been given”) if the transfer has already been effected. Since direct speech has its own deictic center, there is no determinative feature regarding the temporal setting, though we find it more logical that the king is promising the funds and, since royal authority is nearly absolute, the deed is done as he speaks. It is unclear what “the silver” refers to here; the most obvious referent would be the silver mentioned in v. 9, but there Haman is giving, not receiving, the payment. Perhaps the saying is idiomatic for “you have the money” (i.e., “if you can afford your private war, by all means proceed”), or perhaps the king is returning the very money that Haman has just pledged (i.e., “keep the money”; so Fox 2001:52; cf. LXX Τὸ μὲν ἀργύριον ἔχε). For a good discussion of the possibilities, see Moore 1971:40 and Bush 1996:382).

וְהָעָ֕ם לַעֲשׂ֥וֹת בּ֖וֹ כַּטּ֥וֹב בְּעֵינֶֽיךָ. A null copula and inf constr Qal √עשׂה. This clause reflects coordinate clause ellipsis, where a constituent identical to the coordinate clauses is represented by a null constituent in the second of the pair (see Miller 2005, 2007 on ellipsis patterns in BH). The null (or “gapped”) item here is the copular complement, the passive participle and its adjunct, נתון לך. The PP בו in the purpose infinitive refers back to העם. The PP כטוב בעיניך is the complement to the infinitive עשׂה, “to behave/act,” denoting the manner in which one acts (see comment on 1:21). On the variety of meanings of עשׂה, see comment on 1:3. Within the כ-PP, the complement to the preposition is a null constituent, modified by an unmarked null copula relative clause with the adjectival phrase טוב בעיניך as copular complement: “according to (the manner that is) good in your eyes.” On the expression טוב בעיני, see comment on 1:21; 2:4; 2:9.

3:12 ‎וַיִּקָּרְאוּ֩  סֹפְרֵ֨י הַמֶּ֜לֶךְ בַּחֹ֣דֶשׁ הָרִאשׁ֗וֹן בִּשְׁלוֹשָׁ֨ה עָשָׂ֣ר יוֹם֮  בּוֹ֒ וַיִּכָּתֵ֣ב כְּֽכָל־אֲשֶׁר־צִוָּ֣ה הָמָ֡ן אֶ֣ל אֲחַשְׁדַּרְפְּנֵֽי־הַ֠מֶּלֶךְ וְֽאֶל־הַפַּח֞וֹת אֲשֶׁ֣ר ׀ עַל־מְדִינָ֣ה וּמְדִינָ֗ה וְאֶל־שָׂ֤רֵי עַם֙  וָעָ֔ם מְדִינָ֤ה וּמְדִינָה֙  כִּכְתָבָ֔הּ וְעַ֥ם וָעָ֖ם כִּלְשׁוֹנ֑וֹ בְּשֵׁ֨ם הַמֶּ֤לֶךְ אֲחַשְׁוֵרֹשׁ֙  נִכְתָּ֔ב וְנֶחְתָּ֖ם בְּטַבַּ֥עַת הַמֶּֽלֶךְ׃

The scribes of the king record the new law proposed by Haman; it is sealed with the king’s signet ring, giving it his authority, and sent out to all the provinces of the kingdom. The events of 3:12-15, specifically the writing and sending of Haman’s plot in the name of the king, are reversed in the events of 8:9-15, where Mordecai’s counter-plot is sent out in the name of the king (Fox 2001:159-161). The text of 3:12-15 is often echoed nearly verbatim. For further discussion, see below on 8:9-15.

‎וַיִּקָּרְאוּ֩  סֹפְרֵ֨י הַמֶּ֜לֶךְ בַּחֹ֣דֶשׁ הָרִאשׁ֗וֹן בִּשְׁלוֹשָׁ֨ה עָשָׂ֣ר יוֹם֮ בּוֹ֒. Wayyiqtol 3mp Niph √קרא. Niphal קרא is monovalent, taking only a subject (the thing “called,” which is the complement of Qal קרא). On the syntax of חדשׁ הראשׁון, see comment on v. 7. On the digits numeral preceding the teen numeral in שׁלושׁה עשׂר, see comment on v. 7. Whereas in שׁנת שׁתים עשׂרה and חדשׁ שׁנים עשׂר of v. 7 the noun is bound to the numeral, in שׁלושׁה עשׂר יום of this verse the numeral precedes the noun. It could be bound to the noun, but is more likely in apposition to the numeral (the form of עשר is the same whether bound or free; see Introduction §). The PP בו modifies the NP יום, with the clitic pronoun complement ו referring to the “first month”; that is, the scribes are called “on the thirteenth day in it [=the first month].” The use of ב plus a clitic pronoun to refer back to the month given in a dating formula occurs only in Esther in the Hebrew Bible (cf. 8:9; 9:1, 17, 18 [3 times], 21), as well as in the Dead Sea Scrolls (e.g., 4Q252 1.4) and MH (Bergey 1984:72; Bush 1996:377). Typically the PP לחדשׁ is used (e.g., Gen 7:11).

וַיִּכָּתֵ֣ב כְּֽכָל־אֲשֶׁר־צִוָּ֣ה הָמָ֡ן אֶ֣ל אֲחַשְׁדַּרְפְּנֵֽי־הַ֠מֶּלֶךְ. Wayyiqtol 3ms Niph √כתב and qatal 3ms Piel √צוה. As a passive Niphal, the verb יכתב has no complement, but what is the subject? The translator of the Septuagint, sensing a difficulty, changed the 3ms passive verb into the 3p aorist active indicative ἔγραψαν “they wrote.” For the passive יכתב, the subject is a null pronoun that is modified and defined by the following NP-internal כ-PP, ככל אשׁר צוה המן, that is, “(decrees) like all (the decrees) that Haman commanded.” The אשׁר relative clause has a null head that is also modified by the quantifier כל, “all (the decrees) that Haman commanded.” Though it is possible for both the main verb כתב and the subordinate verb צוה to take אל-PP adjuncts (see comments on 2:10 and 4:10 for צוה), since the two אל-PPs do not refer to the recipients of the commanding activity to rather to the recipients of the product of the writing activity, they are adjuncts to the main verb יכתב (see also 2 Sam 11:14 and 2 Kgs 10:6). On the semantics of כתב, see comment on 2:23.

אֶ֣ל אֲחַשְׁדַּרְפְּנֵֽי־הַ֠מֶּלֶךְ וְֽאֶל־הַפַּח֞וֹת … וְאֶל־שָׂ֤רֵי עַם֙  וָעָ֔ם. Unlike in 2:3, 8, 14, and 16, where several אל-PPs are found in apposition, here the sequence of PPs are not appositional, but conjoined into one compound PP: “It was written… to the satraps of the king and to the governors… and to the leaders.” On מדינה ומדינה and עם ועם as repetitive apposition for distributives, see comment on 1:22. The word אחשׁדרפן “governor, satrap” appears only in Esther (here, 8:9, and 9:3) and Daniel (8:36 and 9 times in Aramaic). It is a loanword from Persian ḫšatra pāvan, “protector of the land” (BDB s.v.; HALOT s.v.; Paton 1908:212; Moore 1971:41).

הַפַּח֞וֹת אֲשֶׁ֣ר ׀ עַל־מְדִינָ֣ה וּמְדִינָ֗ה. The NP הפַחות is modified by a relative with null copula and על-PP complement: “who (they) (were) over every province.” The masculine plural פחות (from פֶּחָה “governor”) is a loanword meaning from Akkadian pīḫatu (short for bēl pīḫati, “lord of a district”; CAD pīḫatu; cf. HALOT פֶּחָה). Although the word is feminine in form (and Akkadian pīḫatu is grammatically feminine), פחה is masculine in Hebrew (see, for example, agreement with masculine adjectives and verbs in Isa 36:9 and 2 Chr 9:14).

מְדִינָ֤ה וּמְדִינָה֙  כִּכְתָבָ֔הּ וְעַ֥ם וָעָ֖ם כִּלְשׁוֹנ֑וֹ. These two phrases, each of which includes a repetitive apposition and a gapped verb-preposition complex נכתב אל: “(it was written to) each province according to its writing and (it was written to) each people according to its language.” Supporting our analysis is the syntax of 1:22, which parallels the syntax here, apart from overt אל prepositions in 1:22 before ‎מדינה ומדינה ככתבה and ‎עם ועם כלשׁונו. On מדינה ומדינה and עם ועם see comment on 1:21.

בְּשֵׁ֨ם הַמֶּ֤לֶךְ אֲחַשְׁוֵרֹשׁ֙ נִכְתָּ֔ב. Null copula clause with null subject and participle phrase complement, participle ms Niph √כתב. The disjunctive accent ʾatnaḥ under כלשׁונו suggests that a new clause begins with בשׁם (rather than a participial phrase modifying the null subject of the יכתב clause). The adjunct PP בשׁם המלך is fronted for Focus.

וְנֶחְתָּ֖ם בְּטַבַּ֥עַת הַמֶּֽלֶךְ. Like the previous clause, this clause has a null copula, null subject, and participle phrase complement (ms Niph √חתם); however, in this clause the adjunct PP is not fronted for Focus. Qal חתם, “to seal” (HALOT s.v.; BDB s.v.; DCH s.v.), is bivalent with an NP subject and an NP complement; thus, in the passive Niphal the verb is downgraded to monovalency and requires only a subject (the promoted complement of Qal חתם). As in the יכתב clause earlier in this verse, the null subject can be reconstructed as the decrees that have been written and are now given the official royal seal.

3:13 ‎וְנִשְׁל֨וֹחַ  סְפָרִ֜ים בְּיַ֣ד הָרָצִים֮  אֶל־כָּל־מְדִינ֣וֹת הַמֶּלֶךְ֒ לְהַשְׁמִ֡יד לַהֲרֹ֣ג וּלְאַבֵּ֣ד אֶת־כָּל־הַ֠יְּהוּדִים מִנַּ֨עַר וְעַד־זָקֵ֨ן טַ֤ף וְנָשִׁים֙  בְּי֣וֹם אֶחָ֔ד בִּשְׁלוֹשָׁ֥ה עָשָׂ֛ר לְחֹ֥דֶשׁ שְׁנֵים־עָשָׂ֖ר הוּא־חֹ֣דֶשׁ אֲדָ֑ר וּשְׁלָלָ֖ם לָבֽוֹז׃

‎V. 13 fills out the details of Haman’s law, including a command to destroy all the Jews, regardless of age or gender, and the date on which the attack against the Jews was to commence.

וְנִשְׁל֨וֹחַ  סְפָרִ֜ים בְּיַ֣ד הָרָצִים֮  אֶל־כָּל־מְדִינ֣וֹת הַמֶּלֶךְ֒. Inf abs Niph √שׁלח and participle mp Qal √רוץ. As in 2:3, an infinitive absolute is used as the verb of a subordinate clause providing circumstantial information relating to the main clause verb. The Qal שׁלח is often trivalent, requiring a subject and two complements (an NP complement of the thing sent and a PP complement of the goal/recipient). The passive Niphal reflects a valency reduction and so is bivalent, requiring a subject (the thing sent, here the NP ספרים) and a PP complement for the goal/recipient (here אל כל מדינות המלך). The ב-PP is an adjunct indicating the means or instrument of the שׁלח activity (see 1:12 on the idiom ביד). The participle רצים is used as a substantive several times in the Hebrew Bible, meaning “[royal] guard,” or (in later texts such as Esther) “messengers” (HALOT s.v.; BDB s.v.; DCH s.v.; Moore 1971:41).

לְהַשְׁמִ֡יד לַהֲרֹ֣ג וּלְאַבֵּ֣ד אֶת־כָּל־הַ֠יְּהוּדִים מִנַּ֨עַר וְעַד־זָקֵ֨ן טַ֤ף וְנָשִׁים֙. Inf constr Hiph √שׁמד, Qal √הרג, and Piel √אבד. These three infinitive clauses are purpose clause adjuncts modifying נשׁלוח. Though the content of the documents is not explicit, it may be inferred from the purpose they were written and sent (Bush 1996:377). The root שׁמד occurs only in the Niphal for “to be exterminated, destroyed” and the Hiphil “to exterminate, destroy” (HALOT s.v.; BDB s.v.; DCH s.v.). All three verbs, השׁמיד‎, הרג‎, and אבד are bivalent. The subjects are null and impersonal, contextually reconstructable as all the non-Jewish people of the kingdom. Though there are three verbs, there is only one NP that could possible be a complement to any one of the three, את כל היהודים. Two syntactic explanations are available to explain how they valency of all three is fulfilled—1) either the complement of the first two verbs is a null pronoun, both of which are cataphoric and coreferential with the overt NP complement of the third infinitive, לאבד; or 2) the three verbs form a compound verb and their independent valency requirements are resolved to a requirement of single complement. The phrase ‎מנער ועד זקן means “from young to old” (see comment on 1:5); this PP modifies the NP היהודים. The collective noun טף (from the verbal root טפף “to mince along” or “to walk carefully”) refers to very young children (DCH s.v. and possibly also to elderly people who are unable to walk well (HALOT s.v.). The compound NP טף ונשׁים is a second, stacked appositive to היהודים, specifying what type of Jews are included amongst those who would be slain (the type of apposition is inclusion, specifically particularization; Jones 2011:21-22). The point of the complex phrase is that Haman is targeting every single Jew (Moore 1971:41), whether weak or strong including those who have no ability to fight.

בְּי֣וֹם אֶחָ֔ד בִּשְׁלוֹשָׁ֥ה עָשָׂ֛ר לְחֹ֥דֶשׁ שְׁנֵים־עָשָׂ֖ר הוּא־חֹ֣דֶשׁ אֲדָ֑ר. As with the single NP complement for the three bivalent verbs, the two ב-PPs may be adjuncts of the infinitive לאבד only (as the last of the three), or may be understood to provide circumstances related to all three together. The phrase יום אחד means “one day,” not “first day” (cf. Introduction §). The noun “day” is implied in the phrase שׁלושׁה עשׂר לחדשׁ שׁנים עשׂר: “the thirteenth [day] of the twelfth month.” The parenthetical null copula clause הוא חדשׁ אדר informs the reader of the name of the twelfth month (see comment on v. 7).

וּשְׁלָלָ֖ם לָבֽוֹז. Inf constr Qal √בוז. This infinitive is parallel to the infinitives להשׁמיד להרג ולאבד and so another purpose adjunct to נשׁלוח (see above). The complement of the infinitive precedes the infinitive, an order that is rare in BH but more common in texts from Qumran (see comment on 2:9). The inclusion of this ל-PP/infinitive clause established an important characterization element: in 9:10, 15, and 16 the narrator notes that the Jews do not plunder the spoil of their enemies.

3:14 ‎פַּתְשֶׁ֣גֶן הַכְּתָ֗ב לְהִנָּ֤תֵֽן דָּת֙  בְּכָל־מְדִינָ֣ה וּמְדִינָ֔ה גָּל֖וּי לְכָל־הָֽעַמִּ֑ים לִהְי֥וֹת עֲתִדִ֖ים לַיּ֥וֹם הַזֶּֽה׃‎

The near redundancy of this verse (the only new information is that there were copies being circulated and that the non-Jewish people should prepare for the event) is intended to slow the narrative and let the enormity of Haman’s decree sink in.

פַּתְשֶׁ֣גֶן הַכְּתָ֗ב לְהִנָּ֤תֵֽן דָּת֙  בְּכָל־מְדִינָ֣ה וּמְדִינָ֔ה. A null copula clause and inf constr Niph √נתן. The subject of the null copula clause is the NP פַּתְשֶׁגֶן and the copular complement is the ל-PP/infinitive clause. The ל-infinitive להנתן used without an overt finite verb is sometimes referred to as the “predicative infinitive” (see comment on 1:15; cf. Bush 1996:383). The noun פתשׁגן “copy” is a Persian loanword, from patšagn, via Aramaic (HALOT s.v.; Moore 1971:42; cf. BDB s.v.; DCH s.v.) used only in Esther (here; 4:8; 8:13) and Ezra (as פַּרְשֶׁגֶן; in Ezra 4:11, 23; 5:6; 7:11; Paton 1908:212). The noun כתב (“writing”; HALOT s.v.; BDB s.v.; DCH s.v.) is found only in late Biblical texts (Ezekiel, Esther, Dan, Ezra-Nehemiah, Chronicles). Since הכתב is definite, it must be known within the discourse world of the narrative (Bekins 2013); although no כתב has been mentioned to this point, the mention of documents (ספרים) in v. 13 and the assertion that something is written (‎ויכתב and ‎נכתב) in v. 12 provide the contextual background for this known, identifiable discourse entity. The NP דת (see 1:13) is an adjunct to the verb הנתן indicating the manner of the action, that the writing was to be given “as” or “with the authority of” a decree. Niphal נתן is bivalent, taking a subject of the thing given and a PP complement for the recipient (cf. comment on 2:13); we must, therefore, understand a null PP complement (cf. v. 15; 2:18), that is, “a copy of the writing was to be given [to all people] as a decree.” On כל מדינה ומדינה, see comments on 1:22 and 2:11. The PP בכל מדינה ומדינה is a locative/spatial adjunct to the verb להנתן.

גָּל֖וּי לְכָל־הָֽעַמִּ֑ים. Passive participle ms Qal √גלה. The participle phrase is an adjunct to the higher verb הנתן, specifying even further the manner in which the copy was to be given (“being revealed to all the people”). The Qal passive participle of גלה exhibits the original final י consonant of the root, i.e., גלי (cf. JM §§79a-c).

לִהְיוֹת עֲתִדִים לַיּוֹם הַזֶּה. Inf constr Qal √היה. This ל-PP/infinitive clause is another adjunct to להנתן, providing the purpose of disseminating copies. The complement of the copula להיות is the adjective עתדים (on which, cf. comment on 8:13).

3:15 ‎הָֽרָצִ֞ים יָצְא֤וּ דְחוּפִים֙  בִּדְבַ֣ר הַמֶּ֔לֶךְ וְהַדָּ֥ת נִתְּנָ֖ה בְּשׁוּשַׁ֣ן הַבִּירָ֑ה וְהַמֶּ֤לֶךְ וְהָמָן֙  יָשְׁב֣וּ לִשְׁתּ֔וֹת וְהָעִ֥יר שׁוּשָׁ֖ן נָבֽוֹכָה׃ פ

‎V. 15 describes just the dissemination of the decree within Susa, which sets up the contrast between Haman’s reaction and that of the rest of the city. This characterization of Haman, who calmly ate while all others were disturbed, brings to mind similar surreal contrasts in both biblical (Jonah versus the sailors during the storm) and non-biblical (e.g., Nero’s singing while Rome burned [according to Cassius Dio]) literature.

Note that this is the third verse in a row in which the wayyiqtol has been avoided (the last wayyiqtol appears in v. 12). While it could be argued that vv. 13-14 are in the narrative background, filling in circumstantial details relating to the verbs ויקראו and ויכתב in v. 12, it is difficult to see the information in v. 15 in any other way than as part of the narrative foreground. We take the departure from the narrative wayyiqtol to function here as a narrative structuring device, to signal the closure of a major component of the story.

הָֽרָצִ֞ים יָצְא֤וּ דְחוּפִים֙  בִּדְבַ֣ר הַמֶּ֔לֶךְ. Qatal 3mp Qal √יצא and passive participle mp Qal √דחף. The subject is the participle (used substantivally; see v. 13) and the verb יצא, though often bivalent with a locative (goal) complement, is here monovalent. The PP בדבר המלך could mean “with the word of the king” (i.e., the king’s word accompanied the messengers as they went out; JM §133c) or “by the word of the king” (i.e., the word of the king was the instrument effecting the going out of the messengers; JM §133c; WO §11.2.5d). Given parallels in 1:19 and 21, the latter is preferred. On the variety of senses that דבר can take, see comment on 1:13. The SV word order reflects basic, pragmatically unmarked (no Topic or Focus-fronting) order.

דְחוּפִים֙. Passive participle mp Qal √דחף. Like גלוי לכל העמים in v. 14, this Qal passive participle is adjunct to the verb, describing the manner in which the messengers went out (see comment on v. 14). The verbal root דחף is used only in Esther (here, 6:12, and 8:14) and 2 Chr 26:20. Related to Akkadian daʾāpu, “to push, push away,” it means “to push away” in the Qal and “to hurry, hasten” in the Niphal (HALOT s.v.; cf. BDB s.v.; DCH s.v.). Thus the action of the messengers is done in a “pushing away” fashion, that is, “hastily.”

וְהַדָּ֥ת נִתְּנָ֖ה בְּשׁוּשַׁ֣ן הַבִּירָ֑ה. Qatal 3fs Niph √נתן. Again we see the basic SV word order of BH— there is syntactic or semantic element to trigger inversion to verb-subject. Moreover, the event described is again part of the narrative foreground despite the fact that a wayyiqtol is not used. As in v. 14, we must understand a null PP complement of Niphal נתן (see v. 14; 2:18): “the order was given [to people] in Susa, the citadel.” On the meaning of דת, see comment on 1:13. On שׁושׁן הבירה, see comment on 1:2.

וְהַמֶּ֤לֶךְ וְהָמָן֙  יָשְׁב֣וּ לִשְׁתּ֔וֹת. Qatal 3mp Qal √ישׁב and inf constr Qal √שׁתה. A third time we see subject-verb word order, although in this case the compound subject המלך והמן is likely also marked for Topic (and so actually higher in the phrase structure than it appears) to signal a switch in agents, from those involved in the dissemination of the decree back to the king and Haman. The phrase ישב לשתות (“sit to drink”) may be idiomatic, referring perhaps to the act of social drinking, or ישב could have the sense of “to tarry”
 or “remain” (BDB s.v.; DCH s.v.). In either case, the infinitive לשתות is the complement of ישב.

וְהָעִ֥יר שׁוּשָׁ֖ן נָבֽוֹכָה. Qatal 3fs Niph √בוך. The subject העיר שׁושׁן is fronted for Focus and contrasted with המלך והמן—while they drank leisurely, everyone else in the city was disturbed. The monovalent verb בוך appears only in the Niphal, and only in Exod 14:3, Joel 1:18, and here (and possibly 4Q412 fragment 1 line 4). Based on the Akkadian cognate bwk (“to be disturbed”), the related noun ‎מבוכה (“confusion”), and the current context, it must mean “to be confused” or “to be agitated” (HALOT s.v.; BDB s.v.; DCH s.v.). The internal structure of the NP העיר שׁושׁן is appositional, “the city, Susa” (apposition of identification, identifying the city as Susa), not bound, “the city of Susa.”

%d bloggers like this: