Two Days Fighting in Susa

Purim, a celebration of the victory of the Jews over their enemies in the days of Esther, is celebrated for two days. In 2019, Purim was March 21 and Shushan Purim was March 22. The book of Esther explains that, although the Jewish populations were victorious throughout the land on Adar 13, in the capital city of Susa the fighting was extended an extra day (Esth 9:17-19). Why did the fighting in Susa take an extra day?

There are two observations that may be helpful in answering this question. The first is the difference in the way the location of the fighting at Susa is described in Esther 9. In the fighting on the first day, the location is repeatedly “in Susa the citadel” (Esth 9:6,11,12). However, the fighting on the second day is simply “in Susa” (Esth 9:13,14,15). The first location, “Susa the citadel,” refers to the fortified Royal City that lay between the Shuar River and the Ulai Canal. This may be contrasted to “Susa,” which refers to the much larger workmen’s city or “Artisan’s City” that lay east of the Ulai Canal.

So apparently the fighting at Susa took place the first day in the area of the royal city, and the second day in the lower city. But this still does not answer the question of why it was not all completed in a single day, as it was in the other parts of the kingdom.

The answer to this question may benefit from a bit of reading between the lines. When Haman was killed, his estate was given by the king to Esther, who then assigned it to Mordecai (Esth 8:1-2). Given Haman’s wealth and previous position in the kingdom, his house would have been one of the largest in the royal city. It does not seem unreasonable to suggest that the larger population of the lower city would have gathered to this location for defense on the first day. They clearly had enemies who attacked them, of whom they killed 500 that day. Perhaps the second day was given over to a similar action in the lower city, which had previously been emptied of Jews (who had gone to defend Mordecai). It is quite possible that in their absence their own homes had been pillaged by those who hated them, and the second day was taken up with settling issues there. This scenario goes beyond what is actually recounted by the author of Esther, but seems to be a reasonable reconstruction of what may have happened in Susa on February 10 and 11, 473 BC.

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