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Bible Commentaries

Arno Gaebelein's Annotated Bible
Esther 3

 

 

Verses 1-15

HAMAN AND HIS WICKED PLOT

CHAPTER 3

1. The promotion of Haman and Mordecai’s faithfulness (Esther 3:1-6)

2. Haman’s proposal and the King’s assent (Esther 3:7-11)

3. The proclamation of death (Esther 3:12-15)

Esther 3:1-6. How long after these things the history of this chapter came to pass is not definitely stated. It probably happened after a short interval. We are now introduced to Haman, the Son of Hammedatha the Agagite. Him the king promoted and set his seat above all the princes. The tracing of this man’s name is of interest. Its meaning is “A magnificent one.” Philologists derive it from the Persian god Haoma or Hom, who was thought to be a spirit, possessing life-giving power. There can be no doubt that his name has a religious sentiment connected with it and his activity shows zeal in religious things. What interests us the most is that he was a descendant of Agag, the king of Amalek (1 Samuel 15:8) who descended from Esau, Jacob’s brother and enemy. Amalek is always the bitter enemy of Israel. His final overthrow will come with the second coming of Christ. Thus Balaam announced in his prophetic utterance. When the sceptre at last rises out of Israel to smite the nations, then Amalek will find his end. “And when he looked on Amalek, he took up his parable and said, Amalek was the first of the nations, but his latter end shall be that he perish forever” (Numbers 24:17-20). This Haman, the Amalekite, is later called “the Jew’s enemy” (verse 10). He foreshadows that final enemy, who arises to trouble Israel and attempts their extermination before the King of Israel appears. The dispensational and typical applications at the close of this chapter deal more fully with this interesting character.

And all the king’s servants bowed down and did him reverence. They paid to him the honor of a god. Nearly all these Oriental rulers claimed divinity. Artaban is saying to Themistodes, according to Plutarch “The important thing with us Persians is that a king is worshipped and looked upon as the very image of God.” As the king’s representative this worship was extended to Haman. But Mordecai did not bow down because such reverence involved the recognition of a false god and was against the commandment of God. Mordecai may have remembered Isaiah’s great prediction, “To Me every knee shall bow and every tongue shall swear.” According to Jewish tradition Haman wore on his coat the image of an idol and that this was the reason why Mordecai refused. The king’s servants warned Mordecai and when this was not heeded they told Haman. What a noble figure! In the midst of the worshipping servants bowing deep before Haman stands erect Mordecai, the Jew. He manifested faith in God. He trusted in Him who had delivered Daniel’s companions out of the fiery furnace, when they refused to worship the image set up by Nebuchadnezzar. He trusted the same God who had stopped the lion’s mouths when Daniel would not pay divine honors to Darius, the Persian king.

And when Haman discovers that Mordecai was a Jew and that his refusal was not wilful disobedience but inspired by faith in God, in obedience to His law, the Amalekite hate is stirred up in his wicked heart, and he became full of wrath. An unseen being, he who is the murderer from the beginning, told him to make this occasion for destroying all the Jews in the Persian Empire.

Esther 3:7-11. And now Haman waits on his unseen master, the devil. They cast the lot before Haman, from day to day, and from month to month, to the twelfth month, which is the month Adar. He wanted to find out the month which would be best suited for the execution of his wicked plot. Soothsaying, familiar spirits, asking the dead, divining by the flight of birds or by the liver of a slain animal, prognostigators and astrologers, flourished among the Egyptians, the Babylonians, the Persians and all other pagan nations. Behind it all is the Devil and his fallen angels. And these things are still practised, not alone in China and India, but in the very midst of professing Christendom. Spiritism, the worst form of demonism, is ever on the increase. Astrology, asking the dead, consulting the demons, casting the lot, getting messages through the so-called “ouija board” (in use in China, the land of demon possessions, for over 2000 years) is made use of today by countless thousands among the supposedly “Christian nations.” We see what kind of progress the world has made. The same superstitions, the same evils morally and in religious matters, the same demon powers whose fellowship the greater part of the race invites, as 3000 and more years ago.

Through the lot he imagines that the twelfth month, the Jewish month Adar, is the month to execute the plot. Jewish tradition explains this in the following way: “When he came to make observations in the month Adar, which comes under the zodiacal sign of the fish, Haman exclaimed, “Now they will be caught by me like the fish of the sea.” But he did not notice that the children of Joseph are compared in the Scripture to the fish of the sea, as it is written: “And let them multiply as the fish in the midst of the earth” (Genesis 48:16; marginal reading).

And now he approacheth the king who was ignorant of Haman’s dark counsel. He tells the king of a certain people which inhabit his kingdom. He avoids mentioning their names, if he had the plot would not have succeeded for Xerxes must have been well acquainted with the illustrious history of the Jews and he knew that ever since Cyrus the policy of the Persian Empire had been the protection of the Jews. Haman’s accusation is twofold. First: Their laws are diverse from those of every people. Second: Neither keep they the king’s laws. And then the verdict: It is not for the king’s profit to suffer them. They were a separate people, following their God-given law. It was this religious side which stirred up the hatred of Satan and through Haman he urges now the wholesale murder of the race. And Haman Like his dark master, Satan, was cunning enough to anticipate an objection from the side of the king. Would not his kingdom suffer financially if a whole people is wiped out? To remove this financial consideration he offers to pay 10,000 talents of silver for the desired slaughter of the Jews (about 20 million dollars). With it he tempted the avarice of the king and at the same time tickled his pride by implying that it must be a trifle to him to lose a whole people who were only worth the price of 10,000 talents. And Haman probably speculated that this great sum he offered, the greater the sum was the more flattering it would appear to the fancy of the king to waive it. Oriental monarchs were known for doing such things in a boastful spirit. This Haman knew well.

Then the king gave him his ring. It was a ring to seal a document. Every ring had a seal. The transfer of the royal ring with the royal seal and denoted the transfer of kingly authority and power to the recipient. Haman was therefore invested with royal authority. The haughtiness of the king appears now. Not alone does he turn over his signet-ring but he also makes Haman a present of the enormous sum he had offered to the king. In cold blood Xerxes gives over to him the unknown people into the hands of this wicked enemy.

Esther 3:12-15. A great activity is here described. An Empire-wide proclamation, a veritable proclamation of death was issued. The king’s scribes were called on the 13th day of the month. Research has established the fact that the 13th day of the month was called by the Persians Tir (the meaning of which is “lot”). All the king’s satraps, the governors of every province, the princes of every people who had become identified with the Persian empire were notified in different languages of what should take place on the 13th day of the month Adar. The proclamation was written in the name of the king and sealed with his ring in Haman’s possession. “And letters were sent by posts into all the king’s provinces, to destroy, to slay, and to cause to perish, all Jews, both young and old, little children and women, in one day, even on the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, which is the month Adar, and to take the spoil of them for a prey.” And this horrible decree was sent in haste throughout the land. The king and Haman sat down to a banquet, while the capital, Shushan, was perplexed and deeply stirred.

Typical Application

Haman illustrates the coming man of sin, the beast of Revelation 13. As remarked in the introduction, his title “Haman the wicked” (7:6) represents in the numerical value of the Hebrew letters which compose this title the number 666. (See Revelation 13:18.) This future coming one will be like Haman the enemy of the Jews and one of Satan’s masterpieces. Haman was to be worshipped and revered. And the man of sin will demand divine worship and with the help of the first beast, the little horn of Daniel 7, he seeks to exterminate the Jews. He will manifest greater cunning than Haman and use the political power to accomplish his purpose. Mordecai in his refusal is a type of the godly Jewish remnant to worship the man of sin.

The proclamation of death pronounced upon a whole race of people, everyone doomed to death, none exempted, typifies the condition in which the whole race is spiritually. The law on account of sin is such a proclamation. “The soul that sinneth shall die.” “The wages of sin is death.” The helpless condition in which the death doomed Jews found themselves is a picture of the helpless condition of man as a sinner. Nothing the Jews did could save them; no weeping nor pleading could change things. All this may be enlarged upon and helpfully applied to man’s condition as a sinner.

 


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Bibliography Information
Gaebelein, Arno Clemens. "Commentary on Esther 3:4". "Gaebelein's Annotated Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/gab/esther-3.html. 1913-1922.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, June 2nd, 2020
the Week of Proper 4 / Ordinary 9
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