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Bible Commentaries

Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary

Esther 3

Verses 1-7

Esther - Chapter 3

Haman Insulted, Verses 1-7

Here is introduced the last of the major characters in the Book of Esther. Haman is called the son of Hammedatha the Agagite. Commen­tators are generally willing to accept the explanation given by Jose­phus, the Jewish historian, that the name is synonymous with Amalek­ite. The Amalekites were ancient enemies, in fact the very first, of the Is­raelites (see Exodus 17:8-16). The Lord swore perpetual enmity against them. They sought God’s blessing, water from the rock, without accept­ing the God of the Rock. Thus they continue to be represented in those who refuse to come to God by faith and trust, but set up their own way.

God sent King Saul to exterminate the Amalekites (1 Samuel Chapter 15). But Saul failed, saving the best of the flock, returning the king as a prize of war. The king was Agag, from whom the people, who obviously escaped absolute extermination, came to be called Agagites. Israel was now about to suffer long range consequences for Saul’s and her own early disobedience.

Ahasuerus made Haman the chief of his counselors. This was a proud, vain man with dangerous ambitions. He must have occupied an office comparable to that today of prime minister in the king’s govern­ment. Haman was exalted and given homage rights from ordinary people. They were to bow and revere him when he appeared in their pre­sence. Thus when he passed through the palace gates, citizens hastily bowed before him, except for Mordecai, who refused.

The failure of Mordecai to do homage to Haman did not escape the observation of the people around him. It does seem to have eluded the gaze of Haman, whose proud nose was too high in the air to see him. His companions queried Mordecai as to his reasons for not bowing. As this continued day after day they persisted in their questions about his grounds for disobeying the king’s orders. He explained to them that he was a Jew. To him obeisance was a form of worship, and such worship of any but God was contrary to the law of Moses (Exodus 20:2-6). Jesus re-issued and emphasized this law for the Christian era (Matthew 23:8-12).

Perhaps even the Persians were galled at the necessity to bow be fore the haughty Haman, and resented Mordecai’s escaping the require­ment. So they decided to inform Haman of Mordecai’s negligence, to see if he would be allowed to get by with it. So Haman lowered his nose enough to see for himself that Mordecai remained erect when he passed in his presence. He became very angry and filled with scorn and con­tempt. Finding he belonged to the Jews, ancient enemies of his people, he concocted a scheme to exterminate the Jews throughout the empire.

Besides being very vain and proud Haman was also very super­stitious and a practitioner of the cultic. He planned to cast the Pur every day for a year to settle on the ideal, most opportune date on which to car­ry out his nefarious plan against the Jews. Pur was a name for casting lots. Haman cast lots every day for twelve months before deciding when he should undertake his murderous scheme. Perhaps the words of Proverbs 16:33 might have applied to Haman’s lot casting, "The lot is cast into the lap, but the whole disposing thereof is of the Lord."

Verses 8-15

Haman’s Scheme, Verses 8-15

A period of five years had expired between the crowning of Esther and Haman’s exaltation, in which the nationality of Esther was kept se­cret. This might have made a difference with Haman had he realized it, but seems unlikely given his great feeling of self-importance. When he determined what he considered the best date for the Jews’ extermina­tion, he approached the king with his plan. He did not identify the people he intended to destroy, nor does the king appear to have considered it of enough consequence to inquire. They were simply a "certain people" scattered throughout the empire, having their own laws, not adhering to the king’s laws, and thus great detriment to the king’s profit.

Haman proposed to carry out the destruction of the Jews at the cost of ten thousand talents of silver, a sum in present values of about $218,400,000. Of course Haman expected to recoup this and much more through spoiling the Jews. He would pay the silver to officers and governors who carried out the plot. Without further ado the king took off the signet ring and turned it over to Haman to do with as befitted his scheme. He was granted the finance and the personnel to effect it.

Haman seems to have preferred the number 13. He began enact­ment of his plan on the 13th day of the first month, with plans for the culmination in the genocide of the Jews on the 13th day of the last, or 12th, month. Some think the modern superstition surrounding 13 stems from this. Whether it does or not, both are of demonic origin and plainly condemned by Scripture (Deuteronomy 18:9-14; Colossians 2:16-19).

The Persian scribes were called in to write the decree, which Ha­man sealed with the king’s seal, to be sent out to all the king’s lieuten­ants and governors in all 127 provinces of the empire, that all should stand against the Jews on the 13h day of the month Adar to totally exter­minate them from the empire. In every language spoken in the realm it was written and speeded on its way by the king’s own post. Secular history reveals the ability of this royal express to quickly spread the king’s decrees to all corners of the land. They traveled by horse, camel, or whatever method was best for the terrain they traversed to get the law to provinces in the quickest manner possible.

The law commanded that every Jew be killed on the 13th of Dar, without respect to age, sex, or condition. It was for total annihilation of the race, and since it was a law of the Medes and Persians it could not be recalled. It seemed that the Devil was about to realize his purpose in forestalling the coming birth of the Savior. It was not possible (see Deuteronomy 33:26-29). To encourage the co-operation of the people in the provinces they were allowed to take the spoil of the Jews for a prey. Thus they should be ready for the day when it came.

So the posts went out to swiftly deliver the message, that the in­tervening months might prepare the people for a fatal stroke against the Jews. Back in Shushan the king and Haman sat down with a sense of satisfaction in what had been done to enjoy their wine. This conduct of Ahasuerus certainly implicates him more fully in this .attempt at geno­cide against the Jews. He can hardly be excused, though he later coun­termanded the law, for, he certainly must have been originally pleased with it and was changed only by the intervention of God’s will against him. Shushan was confounded and greatly perplexed to learn of the law. There must have been a large and respected population of Jews there.

Lessons from chapter 3: 1) neglect of the Lord’s commandments will have far reaching effects; 2) there is a danger in emulating men and objects before the Lord; 3) professing Christians sin when they consult any cultic device or person, and expose themselves to great harm; 4) the Devil is always scheming to frustrate the cause of Christ; 5) the inhuman hatred of the Jews has not ceased to exist in this modern day.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Blessed Hope Foundation and the Baptist Training Center.
Bibliographical Information
Garner, Albert & Howes, J.C. "Commentary on Esther 3". Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghb/esther-3.html. 1985.