Reference: Esther chapters 3, 6 and 7
Heart of the Story: Haman conspired to have all the Jews in the Persian kingdom murdered during the 12 year of the reign of King Xerxes. The conspiracy failed and Haman was hanged.
Back Story: Haman had a position of honor in the Persian Empire above all other nobles. He was next to King Xerxes in power. Haman was an Agagite. Scholar’s opinions differ on whether or not he was a descendant of Agag, a king of the Amelekites. In the days of Samuel (1 Samuel chapter 15), the Israelites under King Saul destroyed the Amelekites. Samuel himself killed their king, King Agag.
King Xerxes ordered all royal officials at King Xerxes’s gate knelt down to bow down to Haman. Mordecai, a Jew and Queen Esther’s cousin, refused to kneel down before Haman. When Haman was told that Mordacai didn’t bow before him and learned that Mordecai was a Jew, Haman was enraged. Haman was so angry that it was not sufficient for him to have Mordecai killed. He looked for a way to kill all Jews (men, women, children) throughout the Persian kingdom (Esther 3:5).
Story Line: In the first month of 12th year of King Xerxes reign (486-465 BC), Haman cast a lot to select a day and month to have all the Jews killed in the Persian Empire. The lot fell on the 12th month, the month of Adar. Without mentioned the Jews by name, Haman told King Xerxes that there were a group of people in his Empire that did not obey the king’s laws and it was in the king’s best interest to have them exterminated.
King Xerxes agreed to have the Jews killed and he gave his signet ring to Haman so Haman would have the power to implement their plan. Haman wrote the decree to have the Jews killed and signed it with King Xerxes signet ring. The decree was immediately sent by messenger throughout the Empire.
After getting what he desired – pending death of all Jews—Haman left the king’s palace happy. As he was passing through the gate of the palace, Haman saw Mordecai. He observed that Mordecai didn’t rise or show any fear in Haman’s presence. Haman’s happiness turned to rage. When Haman arrived home, he called his wife and friends together. He elaborated his wealth and his honors in the kingdom; but, said that everything was as nothing because Mordecai at the king’s gate wouldn’t kneel before him. His wife and friends advised Mordecai to build a 75 foot gallows and have Mordecai hung the next morning (Esther 5:14). Haman was delighted by the advice and immediately had the gallows built.
The best laid plans of mice and men oft go astray and Haman’s plans to hang Mordecai went astray because King Xerxes could not sleep that night. The king had a book of the chronicles of his reign read to him. He heard that years earlier Mordecai saved the kings life by overhearing a plot to kill him. The next morning he ordered Haman to place a royal robe on Mordecai, and place Mordecai on one of the king’s royal horses. Haman was to lead the horse through the streets of Susa proclaiming, “this is what is done for the man the kings delights to honor” (Esther 6: 9). Instead of having Mordecai killed, Haman was the instrument of honoring his foe.
That evening and the next King Xerxes and Haman dined with Queen Esther. On the second evening Queen Esther told King Xerxes Haman’s plot to kill all of the Jews to include herself. King Xerxes had Haman hung on the same gallows that he built for Mordecai. King Xerxes was able to issue another edict that saved the lives of Persian Jews.
Pondering Relationships: All of Haman’s conspiracy and negative behavior occurred because he was an Amelekite who hated the Jews. The Jews under King Saul slaughter the Amelekites and killed Haman’s ancestor. Further, Mordecai was a Jew who refused to bow down before an Amelekite no matter his position in the Persian kingdom. Events that happened centuries earlier caused the death of evil Haman and the threatened death of many Jews.
Reflection: Both Haman and Mordecai held century-old grudges that caused negative emotions and behavior. Do you have any old grudges you need to get rid of?
Copyright February 8, 2017; Carolyn A. Roth