Mordecai’s Declaration

Esther 3:2  All the royal officials at the king’s gate knelt down and paid honor to Haman, for the king had commanded this concerning him. But Mordecai would not kneel down or pay him honor.  3 Then the royal officials at the king’s gate asked Mordecai, “Why do you disobey the king’s command?” 4 Day after day they spoke to him but he refused to comply. Therefore they told Haman about it to see whether Mordecai’s behavior would be tolerated, for he had told them he was a Jew.(NIV)

Here we see that the king had given a command to the servants who worked for him at the King’s Gate to pay honor to Haman.  This was no simple bowing of the head or even just to a knee, but there are two words here in the Hebrew.  Both of the Hebrew words in this passage can be translated to prostrate oneself.  In other words, those before Haman were to fall down and prostrate themselves.  The second word can even mean to worship.  This command was an all out call for the servants at the King’s Gate, which included Mordecai, to in essence worship Haman as their head.  This, of course, did not sit well with Mordecai.

The word “disobey” in the NIV is actually “cross over” in the Hebrew.  I find this interesting because it means that Mordecai was crossing over the command of Xerxes.  In other words, he was not doing it necessarily in an obvious way.  Remember Haman had not noticed him not prostrating himself, when everyone else obviously did.  Perhaps he found ways to be conveniently away from the areas Haman passed and this was only obvious to those who worked with him, but not Haman.  The reason I think this may be the case is because his fellow servants at the King’s Gate spoke to him about this “day after day”.   They were trying to get Mordecai to follow the king’s command.

Finally, Mordecai gives his response to their inquiries.  His answer, “I will not prostrate myself before (worship) Haman because I am a Jew”, or something like to that affect.  This was not something Mordecai could bring himself to do.  If you have never noticed before, Mordecai has a Babylonian name and a Jewish name is never given for him in the book.  Also, the other servants at the King’s Gate do not seem to know he is a Jew, he had to tell them or as the Hebrew says it, he “declared” he was a Jew.

Mordecai broke his silence.  Remember that Mordecai had told Esther not to reveal to anyone that she was a Jew.  It would appear that Mordecai was giving her advice that he followed himself.  There is no telling how long he had worked at the King’s Gate, but all that time his true identity was kept secret until he himself made it known.

There is a time and place for secrecy, even about who we are in Christ.  There is also a time and place to publicly declare we are His servants.  Many of us do not ever face this choice, but most assuredly some do.  The believers in Muslim nations for instance. Even Jews who have come to believe in Messiah that search for the right time and place to tell family of their decision, praying for an open door to tell them about Yeshua and at the same time knowing the possibility of being disowned.

Then there are those times that come, like this one for Mordecai, when no matter what happens it is time to speak.  It is time to declare our allegiance to the One we serve.  These are the times Jesus is talking about when He says, “If you deny me before men, I will deny you before My Father.”  We are not to keep silent and worship other gods.  Another good example is the three young men in the book of Daniel who refused to bow before the statue of the king of Babylon and faced the fiery furnace.  Those young men, according to their Hebrew names were, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah.  May we never bend the knee and worship another god.

It would appear that there were anti-Jewish sentiments within the culture of the citadel of Susa.  I say this because when the other servants found out he was a Jew it was this information that caused them to go to Haman.  They could have gone to Haman before this, but it was not until they received this little tidbit of information that they chose to see if Haman would tolerate it.  The other servants must have known that at least Haman despised the Jews and wanted to see what he would do.

What could the reason for this anti-Jewish sentiment have been.  No one knows.  If you may allow me to speculate, it may have been because they were against or at least refused to fight in the Persian-Greco war that Xerxes lost.  Remember they were in a Persian province at the time, yet in looking through Herodotus’ account of the war there is no listing for a Jewish participation when he lists so many others.  Again this is speculation, but seems at least possible.

The main reason for Haman, of course, was what we discussed in the last post.  The Israelites had almost annihilated his people hundreds of years earlier in the time of King Saul.  So for Haman this was personal. There was no way he was going to tolerate this lack of respect and, yes, worship from this Jew.  It would appear as if the servants knew this would probably be the result.  We will get more into Haman’s response in our next post.

I want you to notice something else as well.  The other servants did not have the authority to arrest Mordecai on there own.  They were by no means ahead of Mordecai in ranking and position.  It may even be that Mordecai was over them since they did not feel confident enough to report him until after he declared publicly that he was a Jew.  Perhaps they feared him already.  However, I would not be fair if I did not at least mention the possibility that they may have liked him and did not want to see him get in trouble until they found out he was a Jew.  That, of course, again says something about he overall attitude toward the Jews, at least in the citadel of Susa, it not in the whole of the Persian Empire.

Regardless, of the details that have long since been lost to history, there was an anti-Jewish sentiment in the citadel that gives Haman the perfect opportunity for what he does next.  Attack!

A Declared Servant of God,

Vicky

Enter Haman

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,

Vicky