Sunday, October 20, 2013

CXCIII - Esther 3-4 - The Evil Haman

In the last post we have seen three of the main characters of this book:  Xerxes, king of Persia, Esther who is now his chosen queen, and Mordecai, Esther's father by adoption.  In this post we will be introduced to the fourth main character, Haman.  {Haman was a descendant of Amalek, the grandson of Esau, born of a concubine.  The Amalekites were enemies of the Israelites dating back to the early years of Moses leading the Israelites through the wilderness.  It was the first battle that Moses fought as leader of Israel after the Exodus.  The Amalekites would not allow the Israelites to pass through their land, forcing Moses to go way south out of their way on the Sinai Peninsula.  Later, when the Amalekites attacked Israel, Moses sent Joshua to lead Israel into battle, and when Moses held up his staff, Joshua was victorious.  Aaron and Hur actually helped Moses hold up his staff until victory was achieved.  The Amalekites' hatred of Israel had be passed down through the generations, and landed on Haman.}  To keep a perspective a time, Esther was made queen four years after Vashti was deposed.  The events in chapter 3 happened five years later.  So in this chapter we will have covered nine years.

Chapter 3 - Haman puts his hatred into action

Haman the Amalekite had found much favor in the eyes of the king.  So much so, that the king appoints him to the position of "Prime Minister", making him the second most powerful man in the empire.  {But Haman must have been a huge egotist.  He issued a command in the king's name that all citizens, including royal officials, to kneel down to him when they came into his presence.  What kind of personality would it take to make such a command?}  But Mordecai, being a loyal Jew refuses to bow down before Haman.  {The Midrash informs us that Haman wore a necklace with a large idol, which probably was one of the main reasons Mordecai refused to bow down before him.  The Midrash is an old Hebrew set of commentaries about the History of Israel.}  Verse 5-->  Mordicai's refusal to bow down angered Haman, firing up an age-old hatred for the Jews.  Haman would not be satisfied with killing only Mordecai, but would seek to have all Jews killed.  So Haman takes a large sum of money to King Xerxes and somehow persuades the king to issue a death sentence for all Jews in the entire empire of Persia, which meant the entire Jewish population.  But notice in verse 8 that Haman did not name the Jews as the people that should be killed.  He told Xerxes that "a certain people" were separating themselves from the assimilation to Persia, poisoning minds throughout the kingdom.  So the king was persuaded to eliminate this group of people who were causing  dissension and disrespect to the empire.  Verse 13 tells us that he was specific, even mentioning that "all Jews - young and old, women and children" were to be killed.  And he specified the date this was to take place.  {I wonder why he would state the date that it was to take place.  Perhaps to give time for all of the executioners to prepare.  Perhaps for gallows to be built.  Perhaps Haman wanted it to happen all at the same time so he could celebrate the occasion.}  Haman directed the decree to make certain it was carried out, even mentioning that all of the languages were covered so as not to allow any miscommunication.  {These people have faced annihilation so many times, most recent of which was Hitler's attempt in WWII.}  In the last verse of this chapter we see that all of the palace officials and those close to the king were confused as to why such a command was issued, but Xerxes and Haman sat down and drank, very happy with what has just transpired.  Haman was proving himself to be a dangerous man and the officers of the court were beginning to realize it.

Chapter 4  -  Mordecai Seeks Help From Esther

When Mordecai heard of this he tore his clothes, put on sackcloth, poured dust over his head, and wept loudly and bitterly, which was the traditional actions to show extreme mourning.  There was mourning among the Jews throughout the empire, as the date that this would happen was written on the announcements.  In verse 4, Esther learns of Mordecai's mourning and sends Hathak her eunuch to find out what was troubling him.  Mordecai explains to Hathak in detail and even hands him a copy of the decree that has been posted throughout the kingdom.  Mordecai told Hathak to tell Esther to plead with the king for mercy.  Esther sent Hathak back to Mordecai with her response, which disappointed Mordecai.  She explained the king's rule about being approached by someone he did not summon.  Someone approaching the king without the king sending for him/her was a crime, punishable by death.  {Xerxes was no Cyrus.  Cyrus set an excellent example of leadership.  Xerxes was simply drunk with power, changing his mind constantly, giving no direction for his kingdom and promoting fear throughout.  With a leader like this, if one should so happen to be on the wrong side of politics, at the wrong time, he could find his life in danger.}  (Vs 13) Mordecai's response to this bad news was quick and scathing.  He told Esther not to be fooled into thinking that she would escape death as this wave of death was about to begin.  Also he told her in verse 14 that perhaps this was the purpose of God making her queen to begin with:  To save her people.  Then in the final verses of this chapter 4, Esther realizes that she must approach the king and try to persuade him to withdraw his decree, but she was afraid for her life.  She asked Mordecai and all of Israel, "to fast and pray for her, after which she will go to the king, even though it is against the law".  Then she adds, "And if I perish, I perish".

Next post  -  Esther Appeals to the King

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