One of the more interesting encounters in the megilla takes place between Achashveirosh and Haman right after Haman decides to kill the Jewish people. Having decided on a date, Haman approaches Achashveirosh and makes the following offer (3:9):

אִם עַל הַמֶּלֶךְ טוֹב יִכָּתֵב לְאַבְּדָם וַעֲשֶׂרֶת אֲלָפִים כִּכַּר כֶּסֶף אֶשְׁקוֹל עַל יְדֵי עֹשֵׂי הַמְּלָאכָה לְהָבִיא אֶל גִּנְזֵי הַמֶּלֶךְ

Achashveirosh takes his ring off, gives it to Haman, and makes the following response (3:11):

וַיֹּאמֶר הַמֶּלֶךְ לְהָמָן הַכֶּסֶף נָתוּן לָךְ וְהָעָם לַעֲשׂוֹת בּוֹ כַּטּוֹב בְּעֵינֶיךָ

Seemingly, Achashveirosh is telling Haman that he doesn’t want the money; Haman can do whatever he wants without paying the King to do so.

The problem with this interpretation is that it directly conflicts with later psukim in the megilla. When Mordechai is telling Esther about the situation the Jewish people have been placed into, he uses the following phrase (4:7):

וַיַּגֶּד לוֹ מָרְדֳּכַי אֵת כָּל-אֲשֶׁר קָרָהוּ וְאֵת פָּרָשַׁת הַכֶּסֶף אֲשֶׁר אָמַר הָמָן לִשְׁקוֹל עַל גִּנְזֵי הַמֶּלֶךְ בַּיְּהוּדִים לְאַבְּדָם

Similarly, when Esther is about to reveal to Achashveirosh the extent of Haman’s plans, she again refers to the Jewish nation “being sold” (7:4):

...כִּי נִמְכַּרְנוּ אֲנִי וְעַמִּי

All these words strongly suggest that money had changed hands, but the earlier p’sukim don’t seem to agree with this. What is the selling that has taken place?

  • +1. I hope you don't mind that I replaced your Hebrew texts; the formatting was badly messed up (I'm guessing you got them from Hebrew Wikisource).
    – Alex
    Commented Mar 13, 2012 at 1:51
  • 2
    But anyway, how does the third verse contradict the first two? It mentions "the money which Haman said that he would weigh out," but not necessarily that he actually ended up doing so. (The fourth verse does seem like more of a contradiction, since "selling" implies that money had been actually transferred.)
    – Alex
    Commented Mar 13, 2012 at 1:53
  • @Alex - thanks, didn't notice formatting problems. The third verse contradicts only in the pshat reading... why would he mention it if it wasn't relevant? I'll agree, though, that נִמְכַּרְנוּ poses a stronger question that that posuk.
    – eykanal
    Commented Mar 13, 2012 at 2:05
  • 1
    @Alex, although the word can simply mean given over as in אִם-לֹא כִּי-צוּרָם מְכָרָם
    – YDK
    Commented Mar 13, 2012 at 13:45
  • 1
    @YDK: so post that as an answer.
    – Alex
    Commented Mar 13, 2012 at 14:48

4 Answers 4


I heard in the name of Rav Yosef Chaim Sonenfeld Zatzal that Haman wanted to give Achashveirosh the money in order to eventually be able to overthrow Achashveirosh. When the people living in his kingdom would see that Haman has paid Achashveirosh for the right to kill the Jews, they would all be concerned, "Perhaps someone will come up with enough money to convince Achashverosh to have us killed next?" The eventual outcome would of been that there would of been a rebellion and Achashveirosh would be deposed, and Haman becoming the new king. The money was all part of Haman’s plan to overthrow Achashveirosh - something that Achashveirosh did not fall for. And, Esther, when she realized that this was Haman’s true intention of offering the money all along, made sure to mention this against Haman to Achashveirosh when she was pleading for the Jews - "for my people have been sold"

  • How would people be convinced that having Haman (the guy who paid the bribe) as their new king would be better?
    – Seth J
    Commented Mar 13, 2012 at 20:59
  • I'm not clear on how this answers the question. If the money didn't change hands, why does Esther use the language of "nimkarnu"?
    – eykanal
    Commented Mar 13, 2012 at 22:51

The Maharal (in his book Or Chadash) infers from the psukim that actually a sale was done, as is clear from the verses you quoted, but following the sale Achashverosh returned the money to Haman as a present. This why he says הכסף נתון לך, which means the money is given to Haman, because he is actually giving the money to Haman following the sale.


Malbim reads this as Haman saying that he will be able to get the 10,000 talents of silver from those who wipe out the Jews (ie they will happily pay for the privilege).

I read Achashveirosh's response as assuming that the second Haman offered the money it was automatically given to the king (l'havdil, amirato l'gevo'ah) and now Achashveirosh was appointing Haman to be in charge of those funds and the nation and to do with both as he saw fit.


Professor Thamar E. Gindin writes in The Book of Esther Unmasked that much of the language in Esther is (intentionally or not) influenced by/mimicking Old Persian. She writes that הכסף נתון לך from 3:11 is the common Old Persian construction for "you gave the silver". She explains that it's an ergative construction, where the agent is in an objective case (ie. looks like the object; here: לך) and the object of the verb is in the nominative (ie. looks like the subject; here: הכסף). Back-translated into Old Persian: ardatam tava dātam.

With this reading, there is no contradiction: Haman gave the money.

You might argue that the end of the sentence now makes no sense, since we often read נתון לך as also falling on העם (that the people was given to Haman to do as he wishes). However, Professor Gindin explains further that the use of an infinitive with an imperative meaning is also common in Old Persian. Thus, the verse is translated as: The king said to Haman: "You gave the silver, and do what you want with the people".

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