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Bible Commentaries

Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible

Esther 3

Verse 1

HAMAN'S PLOT TO KILL THE ENTIRE JEWISH RACE;

ASHAMED TO KILL JUST ONE MAN; HAMAN DECIDED TO EXTERMINATE THE WHOLE ISRAEL OF GOD

"After these things did king Ahashuerus promote Haman the son of Hammedatha the Agagite, and advanced him, and set his seat above all the princes that were with him. And all the king's servants that were in the king's gate, bowed down, and did reverence to Haman; for the king had so commanded concerning him. But Mordecai bowed not down, nor did him reverence. Then the king's servants, that were in the king's gate, said unto Mordecai, Why transgressest thou the king's commandment? Now it came to pass, when they spake daily unto him, and he hearkened not unto them, that they told Haman, to see whether Mordecai's matters would stand: for he had told them that he was a Jew. And when Haman saw that Mordecai bowed not down, nor did him reverence, then was Haman full of wrath. But he thought scorn to lay hands on Mordecai alone; for they had made known to him the people of Mordecai: wherefore Haman sought to destroy all the Jews that were throughout the whole kingdom of Ahashuerus, even the people of Mordecai."

"They told Haman" (Esther 3:4). Tale bearers in all generations have deserved the contempt in which they are generally held. These tale bearers were the cause of many thousands of deaths which ultimately resulted from Haman's hatred. Haman might never have noticed Mordecai's refusal to bow down, had it not been for the gossips.

The thing that stands out in this paragraph is the egotistical pride of Haman. Only one man in a multitude did not bow down to him; and he was at once angry enough to kill a whole race of people!

Haman would have launched his evil plan at once, but first there was the necessity to get the king's permission to do so.

"Haman the Agagite" (Esther 3:1). See our introduction to Esther for comment on this. This name of a remote ancestor of Haman should not be viewed as, "A mere epithet to indicate contempt and abhorrence."[1] Haman was indeed a descendant of King Agag, an ancient enemy of Israel in the days of King Saul. The Jewish historian Josephus agreed with this.

The reason why Mordecai would not bow down to Haman was probably due to the fact that, "Haman was demanding not mere allegiance but worship; and Mordecai refused it on the grounds of the First Commandment. Israelites were expected to prostrate themselves before their kings."[2]

Verse 7

HAMAN RECEIVES THE KING'S PERMISSION TO DESTROY ISRAEL

"In the first month, which is the month Nisan, in the twelfth year of king Ahashuerus, they cast Put, that is, the lot, from day to day, and from month to month, to the twelfth month, which is the month Adar. And Haman said unto king Ahashuerus, There is a certain people scattered abroad and dispersed among the peoples in all the provinces of thy kingdom; and their laws are diverse from the laws of every people; neither keep they the king's laws: therefore it is not for the king's profit to suffer them. If it please the king, let it be written that they be destroyed: and I will pay ten thousand talents of silver into the hands of those that have charge of the king's business, to bring it into the king's treasuries. And the king took his ring from his hand, and gave it unto Haman the son of Hammedatha the Agagite, the Jews' enemy. And the king said unto Haman, the silver is given thee, and the people also, to do with them as seemeth good to thee."

Critical enemies of the Bible, having no other grounds upon which they may deny or object to the text, sometimes must fall back upon their subjective imaginations that this or that Biblical statement is "unrealistic, unreasonable, or unlikely to have occurred." One may find plenty of such subjective objections to what is written here.

Some ask, "Would any king have given blanket permission to anyone to destroy a considerable percentage of the people in his whole kingdom"? The answer to that is that, "Xerxes certainly did so." And even that was not any more unreasonable or stupid than some other actions of that evil king as reported by Herodotus.

Others have pointed out that it was a terribly foolish thing for Haman to have published a whole year in advance his intention of exterminating the Jews. Archaeology, however, has uncovered dramatic information on how this happened. "Haman's method for fixing the date for the destruction of the Jews has been revealed by excavations at Susa (Shushan) by M. Dieulafoy, who actually recovered one of those quadrangular prisms engraved with the Numbers 1,2, 5,6. The word `pur' is derived from the Persian puru, that is, `lot'; and it is now known that `they cast Pur' (Esther 3:7) means that they cast lots."[3] This fully explains why almost a year elapsed between Haman's decision to massacre the Jews, which he published at once, and the date set for the execution of his ruthless plan.

Significantly, Haman was so sure of receiving the king's permission, that he actually cast lots for the day he would do it before mentioning the matter to the king. Also, that tremendous promise of ten thousand talents of silver, which was well over $10,000,000.00, which Haman promised to pay into the king's treasury, was also most likely based upon the presumption by Haman that the king would not accept it.

Verse 12

THE DAY WAS SET;

THE DECREE WAS SIGNED;

THE MASSACRE WAS ANNOUNCED

"Then were the king's scribes called, in the first month, on the thirteenth day of the month; and there was written according to all that Haman commanded unto the king's satraps, and to the governors that were over every province, and to the princes of every people, to every province according to the writing thereof, and to every people after their language, in the name of king Ahashuerus was it written, and it was sealed with the king's ring. And the letters were sent by posts, into all the king's provinces, to destroy, to slay, and to cause to perish, all Jews, both young and old, little children and women, in one day, even upon the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, which is the month Adar, and to take the spoil of them for a prey. A copy of the writing, that the decree should be given out in every province, was published unto all the peoples, that they should be ready against that day. The posts went forth in haste by the king's commandment, and the decree was given out in Shushan the palace. And the king and Haman sat down to drink; but the city of Shushan was perplexed."

God's people never faced a more terribile threat than this one. The egomaniac Haman had engineered that which might easily have destroyed the entire race of the chosen people; but there was no way that God would have allowed such a thing to happen; because all of the glorious promises of Messiah to redeem men from their sins were contingent upon the preservation of the Israel of God until that Messiah was born in Bethlehem. God had foreseen this threat. He had foreseen it when king Saul was ordered to destroy the Amalekites. Saul failed to do so; but God did not abandon his people.

God used the drunken request of Xerxes to degrade Vashti the queen; he elevated an orphan Jewish girl to take her place; he planted the name of Mordecai in the chronicles of the king; and he would remind Xerxes of that fact at precisely the proper instant. Oh yes, for all of his power and hatred, Haman had undertaken to do that which was impossible.

"And the king and Haman sat down to drink" (Esther 3:15). A little later in this narrative, we shall read of the execution of Haman by what amounted to his crucifixion; but, sad as a thing like that surely is, it should be remembered that Haman was the kind of man who could condemn unnumbered thousands, perhaps even as many as a million people, to murder by wholesale massacre, and then sit down to drink liquor and enjoy himself. The fate encountered by this servant of the devil was fully deserved.

Copyright Statement
Coffman's Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
Bibliographical Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Esther 3". "Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bcc/esther-3.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.