1Later, King Xerxes promoted Haman the son of Hammedatha to the highest position in his kingdom. Haman was a descendant of Agag, 2and the king had given orders for his officials at the royal gate to honor Haman by kneeling down to him. All of them obeyed except Mordecai. 3When the other officials asked Mordecai why he disobeyed the king's command, 4he said, “Because I am a Jew.” They spoke to him for several days about kneeling down, but he still refused to obey. Finally, they reported this to Haman, to find out if he would let Mordecai get away with it.
5Haman was furious to learn that Mordecai refused to kneel down and honor him. 6And when he found out that Mordecai was a Jew, he knew that killing only Mordecai was not enough. Every Jew in the whole kingdom had to be killed.
7It was now the twelfth year of the rule of King Xerxes. During Nisan, the first month of the year, Haman said, “Find out the best time for me to do this.” The time chosen was Adar, the twelfth month.
8 Then Haman went to the king and said:
Your Majesty, there are some people who live all over your kingdom and won't have a thing to do with anyone else. They have customs that are different from everyone else's, and they refuse to obey your laws. We would be better off to get rid of them! 9Why not give orders for all of them to be killed? I can promise that you will get tons of silver for your treasury.
10The king handed his official ring to Haman, who hated the Jews, and the king told him, 11“Do what you want with those people! You can keep their money.”
12On the thirteenth day of Nisan, Haman called in the king's secretaries and ordered them to write letters in every language used in the kingdom. The letters were written in the name of the king and sealed by using the king's own ring. At once they were sent to the king's highest officials, the governors of each province, and the leaders of the different nations in the kingdom of Xerxes.
13The letters were taken by messengers to every part of the kingdom, and this is what was said in the letters:
On the thirteenth day of Adar, the twelfth month, all Jewish men, women, and children are to be killed. And their property is to be taken.
14-15King Xerxes gave orders for these letters to be posted where they could be seen by everyone all over the kingdom. The king's command was obeyed, and one of the letters was read aloud to the people in the walled city of Susa. Then the king and Haman sat down to drink together, but no one in the city could figure out what was going on.
Surprise! Mordecai is not rewarded for saving King Xerxes’ life. Instead, Haman receives the honour. Xerxes appoints him as the highest official in Persia and orders all his palace officials to kneel before him. Mordecai refuses, persisting in disobeying the king’s command. Haman is furious and is determined to kill not only Mordecai, but every Jewish person in the kingdom.
Who is Haman anyway? Why does he hate Mordecai and the Jews? Haman is a descendent of Agag, King of the Amalekites, historic enemies of the Jewish people from the time of the Exodus. The Amalekites attacked the Israelites as they fled slavery in Egypt (Exodus 17:8-16). In addition, Haman’s ancestor, King Agag, caused the downfall of King Saul, a key ancestor of Mordecai’s. Saul lost his kingship over Israel when he disobeyed Yahweh’s command to destroy all the Amalekites and their properties, but kept Agag and the best of the Amalekite livestock as plunder of war (1 Samuel 15:1-9).
Ancient bad blood between nations is dangerous. A powerful individual like Haman can allow personal hatred and bitterness to escalate into destruction for a whole people. Haman plans genocide and enlists the king’s help and authority by portraying the Jewish people, unnamed, in the worst possible light. “They are antisocial. They don’t get along with other peoples. They are culturally different. They are not law-abiding.”
The new law that goes out to every part of the Persian kingdom is chilling:
“On the thirteenth day of Adar, the twelfth month, all Jewish men, women, and children are to be killed. And their property is to be taken.”
Esther 3 ends with Haman and the king celebrating their success over wine, while the inhabitants of Susa are thrown into confusion. They are surely asking, where is God in the midst of this trouble?
God, we pray for all people, worldwide and in North America, who are hated for their race. We lift up Christ-followers who are terrorized by death because of their faith and loyalty to you. Protect them, these our brothers and sisters, that we all may have courage and strength to stand and withstand the workings of the Evil One. In the Lord Jesus’ name, Amen.