Before I begin today I must tell you that when I do this lesson as a Bible study it is usually the whole chapter and it is done in a two hour setting. I typically begin this lesson by saying something like, “this is the downer week when we have to study the enemy”.
In this post, however, I will only be looking at the very first verse of chapter 3 to give a good understanding of who Haman was and where he was coming from. We will look at the rest of the chapter in the next post.
Esther 3:1 “After these events, King Xerxes honored Haman son of Hammedatha, the Agagite, elevating him and giving him a seat of honor higher than that of all the other nobles.” (NIV)
“After these events” indicates that this took place after Mordecai had saved Xerxes life from the assassination attempt. The two who plotted to take Xerxes life are named leading outsiders to believe that their names meant something to the original readers, perhaps members of the royal family or at least highly connected to the family since they also made these plans at the king’s gate. The truth behind those men has been lost to history, yet the events they put in place triggers the exaltation of another person in the king’s court.
Haman and his elevation is interesting since we can plainly see that he is not of royal blood. If you recall from chapter one, all the advisers that Xerxes turned to for advice on what to do with Vashti were relatives. Now Xerxes has married a woman whose ancestry he does not know and at least two possible relatives try to take his life.
Where does he turn from here? Who does he trust? Remember, we have made the point several times that Xerxes is looking for a home for his heart, he is looking for someone he can trust, trust with his life. One can assume that considering the words, “After these events”, that Haman had something to do with the investigation of the two that attempted to take the life of the king.
At this point it is not Mordecai that Xerxes chooses to trust. Instead, by elevating Haman, it’s safe to make the assumption that Haman was already higher up within the court than Mordecai.
Perhaps Xerxes and Haman already have a personal repor. In any case, Xerxes chooses to trust Haman to be his second in command. He is trusting him with his life. He is trusting him to protect him from anyone else who would try to take his life.
Remember Haman is not Median or Persian, not a member of the royal family, at least by blood, and therefore he is not a threat. He would not be someone after the throne and therefore could be trusted.
At least that seems to be what Xerxes assumed. He assumed he was safe with Haman and so was his throne. In other words, his administration was safe with Haman looking after things because Haman had no obvious motive. Xerxes saw Haman as an outsider who was a safe choice.
Then there is the other side of Haman… how Mordecai would have known him due to the history between their peoples.
Haman is an Agagite and therefore an Amalekite, thereby a descendent of Esau (Genesis 36:12).
This takes us back to I Samuel 15 when Saul was told to go in and destroy the Amalekites whose king was Agag, but he did not. God had told him to do so because of how they attacked the Israelites as they came up out of Egypt. If you recall this was when Joshua was leading the Israelite army and Moses was up on a hill with Hur and Aaron holding up his arms in Exodus 17.
Haman, in other words, was from the royal family of the Amalekites that somehow survived Saul’s attack. Mordecai would have been very aware of this history and would have known that Haman was dangerous and not worthy of trust.
So from the very beginning of this account in Esther, just from Haman’s ancestry we have two very different perspectives of him.
Xerxes chooses to trust him, but Mordecai knows better than to place his trust in this person that was from an accursed lineage (Genesis 17:14-16). Yes, God had said He would always, “from generation to generation”, be at war with Haman’s people, the Amalekites.
That meant that as a child of Israel, as part of God’s people, that he, Mordecai, was also at war with Haman. This automatically put Haman and Mordecai in opposite camps and from there their story only escalates.
Knowing in Whom I trust,
Esther is first introduced to us in chapter 2:7 as Hadassah the adopted daughter of Mordecai. We are told according to the NIV that she “was lovely in form and features”. What does that mean? These are two separate Hebrew words here that can both be translated “beautiful” and therefore emphasizing her physical beauty, however, the first can also be translated “pleasant” and the second translated “favored”. Both definitions are very important because it points out that not only was she beautiful in form but also in character. These second definitions are also ones repeated often in our story and so must be taken seriously.
When the edict of Xerxes went out many young women were brought to the citadel in Susa, but if you remember Esther already lived there with Mordecai. Therefore, Esther was one of the closest and therefore first to be brought to the harem within the actual palace of the king. She along with many others were entrusted to Hegai the eunuch in charge of the harem and the one responsible for preparing the girls to go into the king. This was a long process that would take a year to accomplish.
It was Esther who first caught the eye of Hegai. She “pleased him and won his favor” and so he immediately began to put her through the purification rites and to provide her with the best food. What is interesting about these two words her is that not only do they mean “pleasing” and “favor”, which they do and you remember these words are important, but both of these words can mean either “pleasing” or “favor” and they can also both mean “best”.
In other words, Hegai thought Esther to be pleasing, pleasing and the best, best and so he showed her favor, favor. I am emphasizing these words because of their importance and also to remind you that when a thought is repeated in Hebrew, either with the exact same word or not, it is done to add weight to the point.
Hegai not only began her purification, but also gave her seven maids from the king’s palace and moved her to the “best” accommodations within the harem. This again is emphasizing what he thought of her and her chances for being the one selected.
Then we find out that she has been commanded by her father, Mordecai, not to reveal who her people are or her homeland. The text makes it clear that she followed this command showing her to be obedient to her father and loyal to her people. She is a young women of character and distinction. She knows who she is and what that means.
We also see the love her father has for her as he goes everyday to inquire of her at the harem courtyard. These two, father and daughter, are very close and loyal to one another. It is not until verse 15 of chapter 2 that we learn that they are actually cousins.
This part of Esther’s biography reminds me of one of my favorite Psalms, Psalm 45. It is found it verses 10 and 11 where it says, “Listen, daughter, and pay careful attention: Forget your people and your father’s house. Let the king be enthralled by your beauty; honor him, for he is your lord.” This is the Psalm of a wedding that foreshadows the great wedding in Revelation 19. We are to forget our past focus only on our Lord, our Bridegroom. Here Esther is to do just that, she is to focus on her potential bridegroom. The difference is that Esther is doing it to protect herself and her people. She is also from God’s family, Israel, and it is the king in this case who will be joining through marriage, even though he does not yet know it. Remember, I said in an earlier post he is looking for a home for his heart.
Esther underwent her required twelve months of purification, no doubt having some religious significance within Zoroastrianism. When it was her turn to go to Xerxes, presumably one of the first, she asked for only what Hegai suggested she take.
It is at this point I find the statement in verse 15 quite interesting that states, “Esther won the favor of everyone who saw her.”(NIV) I find this interesting because it seems to be out of place or at the least unexpected at this point. We already know she has won the favor of Hegai and it is yet to speak of the favor of Xerxes so who might the text be referring to when it says “everyone”? Possibly, Shaashgaz, the eunuch in charge of the concubines, perhaps the other young women, perhaps her maids,
I can’t help but wonder if there is another important person this may be referring to. My thoughts go to Xerxes mother, Atossa. Remember she is still alive at this point and I find it hard to believe she had nothing to do with the selection process of the next queen, at least in her own mind anyway. If that is the case, this is a huge statement and not one so out of place. Notice though we are once again hearing how Esther won the “favor” of people.
Finally, she is taken to the king in December of 479 B.C. or January of 478 B.C. She would only return to the king if he called for her by name, until then she would remain in the part of the harem where the concubines dwelt under the protection of Shaashgaz.
Yes, this does imply that their night together was a physical one, an intimate one and Scripture gives us no indication that it was not. Regardless, she is now waiting to see if he will call for her again or if the rest of her life will be spent alone in the harem.
Scripture does not leave the reader to the suspense that Esther must have felt at first. Rather, it lets us know very quickly that Xerxes loved Esther more than the others. This love he felt for her was not purely physical, but much deeper than that; even to the point of friendship.
They liked each other in a genuine way that makes for a strong bond and marriage. It is obvious that he not only loved her for her beauty, but that they also enjoyed each others company as well. Esther won the favor of Xerxes, this word “favor” can also be translated “grace”, she found grace with him. She also won his approval, the word “approval” can also be translated “mercy”.
Therefore, with Xerxes, Esther found grace and mercy. He was pleased with her so he made her is wife and queen by setting a crown on her head presumably at their wedding.
Xerxes then throws a banquet and calls it, “Esther’s Banquet”. He is not showing off his own glory, but that of his Queen. She has become a reflection of him and his glory or majesty. He does not keep his bride hidden, but shows her off and once again the officials and nobles of the kingdom, i.e., family, are there. He doesn’t stop there, but declares a holiday in the provinces, which would have included Israel, and lavishly gave out gifts.
The symbolism in this portion of the account is breathtaking.
Remember in an earlier post I said that Xerxes is a type of Christ. Well, here it is obvious and shines through with abundance.
Yeshua our King has found his bride and paid for it all. He paid the bridal price, He paid the cost of the wedding and the banquet. He gives out gifts through His Holy Spirit. He has chosen us to be blameless and holy and made us so through the sanctification or purification of the Holy Spirit. He has made us a part of His family according to His good pleasure and will, by His grace and mercy. He has lavishly poured out His favor or grace upon us.
What an awesome picture of the wedding that is to come. What a glimpse of the fulfillment of the mystery of the Bridegroom and His Bride. It becomes so obvious doesn’t it? Now do you see why I said this book was also prophetic?
Rejoicing in our King,
Esther 2:1 Some time later, when King Ahasuerus’s (Xerxes’) rage had cooled down, he remembered Vashti, what she had done, and what was decided against her. 2 The king’s personal attendants suggested, “Let a search be made for beautiful young women for the king. 3 Let the king appoint commissioners in each province of his kingdom, so that they may assemble all the beautiful young women to the harem at the fortress of Susa. Put them under the care of Hegai, the king’s eunuch, who is in charge of the women, and give them the required beauty treatments. 4 Then the young woman who pleases the king will become queen instead of Vashti.” This suggestion pleased the king, and he did accordingly.(HCSB)
Remember from earlier that we discussed that between chapters 1 and 2 the Persian Greek War, the war the movie “300″ made famous once again, occurred and that Xerxes came home with his army left behind and losing. Therefore, when it says, “some time later” the “later” it is referring to is after he came home from the war.
After Xerxes comes home we know of one major event in his life from the writings of Herodotus, the Greek historian, his affair with his daughter-in-law. What occurred from this affair, I believe, along with the riggers of war, helped to turn Xerxes mind back to Vashti. You see, Xerxes gave to his daughter-in-law, the wife of his eldest son, a robe that Vashti had given him. She then took the robe and wore it in public, a royal robe of the King. Vashti then has her mother killed (Xerxes sister-in-law and also a former lover). This was a warning. It appeared that the daughter-in-law was seeking to claim power for her father, Xerxes brother and general. This act of Vashti’s may have caused Xerxes to turn his affections toward her and once again think he might be able to trust her. I told you there was a lot of family intrigue in Xerxes’ life. Every where he turns he is looking for someone to love and trust. He is seeking a home for his heart.
It is at this point that Xerxes’ attendants step in and keep him from breaking his own law. Their suggestion pleases the king. But what was it? Basically to collect the young pleasing virgins of the kingdom who could be a potential bride. This collection of young women were to be brought to the eunuch, Hegai, in the palace at Susa. Interestingly, the word for harem can also mean palace or even temple. Considering the meaning for the treatments it is an intriguing thought to think that Esther may have been taken to a temple of Ahura Mazda for this preparation.
Yes, they were to undergo treatments. These treatments, as we learn later in the chapter, were two sets of six month long treatments. Here I believe the King James Bible gets it right. It refers to these treatments as a means of purification. They were to be purified before coming into the presence of the king. It is here that I must begin our look at the prophetic nature of the book of Esther. King Xerxes on some levels is a type of Christ or Messiah. Here is one of these places. Before we, the Bride of Christ, enter His presence we undergo a time of purification. We call it sanctification. We will someday enter His presence pure and blameless, without spot or wrinkle. Again Xerxes is just a type, he by no means is a perfect representation of our Messiah.
Then Xerxes’ attendants speak of Xerxes choosing the one that pleases him, remember Xerxes’ anger toward Vashti was hot displeasure and that he is looking for the exact opposite of her. It would be this one that is most pleasing to him that would receive the crown of the Queen. They have set a plan before Xerxes and it pleases him. It would be this that sends him into the intrigues of the harem, which is also where Herodotus tells us his heart goes. It will be there we meet Esther.
Seeking The Pure Heart,