Esther 3 – Haman’s Conspiracy
A. Haman determines to destroy the Jews.
1. (1) Haman’s promotion.
After these things King Ahasuerus promoted Haman, the son of Hammedatha the Agagite, and advanced him and set his seat above all the princes who were with him.
a. King Ahasuerus promoted Haman: Haman was an ungodly man, but God had a purpose in allowing him to be promoted.
b. Haman, the son of Hammedatha the Agagite: Haman was a descendant of Agag, who was the king of the Amalekites, the people who were Israel’s sworn enemy for generations (Exodus 17:14-16).
2. (2-3) Mordecai’s refusal to bow before Haman or to pay him homage.
And all the king’s servants who were within the king’s gate bowed and paid homage to Haman, for so the king had commanded concerning him. But Mordecai would not bow or pay homage. Then the king’s servants who were within the king’s gate said to Mordecai, “Why do you transgress the king’s command?”
a. Mordecai would not bow or pay homage: There does not seem to be a Biblical command against bowing or paying homage to a political leader as a sign of respect (Genesis 18:2; 23:7; 43:26; Exodus 18:7; 2 Samuel 16:4). Rather, Mordecai must have known something about this man Haman, which persuaded him that Haman was unworthy of such honor.
i. “No self-respecting Benjaminite would bow before a descendant of the ancient Amalekite enemy of the Jews.” (Huey)
b. Why do you transgress the king’s command? We do not read of a specific command from King Ahasuerus that everyone had to bow before Haman. Perhaps the command was implied in the promotion that he received (Esther 3:1).
3. (4-6) The wounded pride of Haman drives him to seek retribution against not only Mordecai but also against his people – the Jews.
Now it happened, when they spoke to him daily and he would not listen to them, that they told it to Haman, to see whether Mordecai’s words would stand; for Mordecai had told them that he was a Jew. When Haman saw that Mordecai did not bow or pay him homage, Haman was filled with wrath. But he disdained to lay hands on Mordecai alone, for they had told him of the people of Mordecai. Instead, Haman sought to destroy all the Jews who were throughout the whole kingdom of Ahasuerus; the people of Mordecai.
a. It happened, when they spoke to him daily and he would not listen to them, that they told it to Haman: Apparently, Haman did not at first notice Mordecai’s stubborn resistance. It had to be pointed out to him by his aides.
b. Haman was filled with wrath: Haman was an extremely proud and insecure man; he could only consider himself a success if everyone else thought he was a success.
c. Haman sought to destroy all the Jews who were throughout the whole kingdom: Haman’s anger led him to take out his wrath upon all the Jews in the kingdom. The problem Haman had exposed his basic hatred for all Jewish people.
4. (7) Haman determines the exact date that he will strike out against the Jews.
In the first month, which is the month of Nisan, in the twelfth year of King Ahasuerus, they cast Pur (that is, the lot), before Haman to determine the day and the month, until it fell on the twelfth month, which is the month of Adar.
a. They cast Pur: This was the Persian word for the lot, something like dice, used to leave a decision to chance – or to the God who guides chance.
b. Until it fell on the twelfth month: Since this took place in the first month, the casting of the lot determined that the Jews would not be attacked and massacred for at least 11 months.
i. This proves the truth of Proverbs 16:33: The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD. The long delay between the first month and the month of the massacre of the Jewish people was ordained by God.
B. Haman tells his plot to the king.
1. (8-9) Haman’s proposal to King Ahasuerus.
Then Haman said to King Ahasuerus, “There is a certain people scattered and dispersed among the people in all the provinces of your kingdom; their laws are different from all other people’s, and they do not keep the king’s laws. Therefore it is not fitting for the king to let them remain. If it pleases the king, let a decree be written that they be destroyed, and I will pay ten thousand talents of silver into the hands of those who do the work, to bring it into the king’s treasuries.”
a. Then Haman said to King Ahasuerus: Haman’s charge was the most dangerous possible; it was a half-truth. Yes, the Jews were a certain people scattered and dispersed; and yes, they had their own laws. But their own laws, to this point, did not prevent them from keeping the king’s laws as loyal subjects.
i. In fact, Mordecai’s refusal to bow before Haman was not based on the law of God, but on the principle of personal integrity. It seems that Haman was almost completely unfamiliar with this principle.
b. Let a decree be written that they be destroyed: Haman suggested organizing the mass murder of the Jewish people. Haman also neglected to tell King Ahasuerus how many of these certain people there were in his kingdom; Ahasuerus probably considered this a relatively small number.
c. I will pay ten thousand talents of silver: This was essentially the promise of a bribe. This money would not come from Haman’s own pocket; it would be obtained from the property of slaughtered Jews.
2. (10-11) The king agrees to the plan.
So the king took his signet ring from his hand and gave it to Haman, the son of Hammedatha the Agagite, the enemy of the Jews. And the king said to Haman, “The money and the people are given to you, to do with them as seems good to you.”
a. The money and the people are given to you, to do with them as seems good to you: Again, King Ahasuerus probably had no idea what he had agreed to; he probably believed that he had merely agreed to the execution of a handful of dangerous revolutionaries in his kingdom.
3. (12-15) The decree is published.
Then the king’s scribes were called on the thirteenth day of the first month, and a decree was written according to all that Haman commanded; to the king’s satraps, to the governors who were over each province, to the officials of all people, to every province according to its script, and to every people in their language. In the name of King Ahasuerus it was written, and sealed with the king’s signet ring. And the letters were sent by couriers into all the king’s provinces, to destroy, to kill, and to annihilate all the Jews, both young and old, little children and women, in one day, on the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, which is the month of Adar, and to plunder their possessions. A copy of the document was to be issued as law in every province, being published for all people, that they should be ready for that day. The couriers went out, hastened by the king’s command; and the decree was proclaimed in Shushan the citadel. So the king and Haman sat down to drink, but the city of Shushan was perplexed.
a. To destroy, to kill, and to annihilate all the Jews, both young and old, little children and women, in one day: With this, an empire-wide death sentence on the Jews was announced by the king. This was like other attacks against the Jewish people in history, except that it was announced well in advance.
b. So the king and Haman sat down to drink: When the king sat down to drink, he thought he had done well – but he did not really understand what he had done. Haman also sat down to drink and thought he had done well – and he knew exactly what he intended to do. Despite this, the city of Shushan was perplexed.
i. The citizens of the empire knew Jewish people who lived among them, and they knew that they were good citizens who caused no trouble. Therefore, they were confused that such a decree was published, declaring that these Jews were dangerous enemies.
ii. Again, all this came to pass because of the insecurity and wounded pride of one wicked man – Haman.