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Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature

Mordecai

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Mor´decai, (supposed to come from the Persian word signifying littlesman, manikin; or, according to others, from the idol Merodach, thus signifying a votary of Merodach. The last supposition is not unlikely, seeing that Daniel had the Chaldean name of Belshazzar), son of Jair, of the tribe of Benjamin, descended from one of the captives transported to Babylon with Jehoiachin (). He was resident at Susa, then the metropolis of the Persian Empire, and had under his care his niece Hadessa, otherwise Esther, at the time when the fairest damsels of the laud were gathered together, that from among them a fitting successor to queen Vashti might be selected for King Ahasuerus. Among them was Esther, and on her the choice fell; while, by what management we know not, her relationship to Mordecai and her Jewish descent, remained unknown at the palace. The uncle lost none of his influence over the niece by her elevation, although the seclusion of the royal harem excluded him from direct intercourse with her. He seems to have held some office about the court; for we find him in daily attendance there, and it appears to have been through this employment that he became privy to a plot of two of the chamberlains against the life of the king, which through Esther he made known to the monarch. This great service was however suffered to pass without reward at the time. On the rise of Haman to power at court, Mordecai alone, of all the nobles and officers who crowded the royal gates, refused to manifest the customary signs of homage to the royal favorite. It would be too much to attribute this to an independence of spirit, which, however usual in Europe, is unknown in Eastern courts. Haman was an Amalekite; and Mordecai brooked not to bow himself down before one of a nation which from the earliest times had been the most devoted enemies of the Jewish people. The Orientals are tenacious of the outward marks of respect, which they hold to be due to the position they occupy; and the erect mien of Mordecai among the bending courtiers escaped not the keen eye of Haman. He noticed it, and brooded over it from day to day: he knew well the class of feelings in which it originated, and—remembering the eternal enmity vowed by the Israelites against his people, and how often their conquering sword had all but swept his nation from the face of the earth he vowed by one great stroke to exterminate the Hebrew nation, the fate of which he believed to be in his hands. The temptation was great, and to his ill-regulated mind irresistible. He therefore procured the well-known and bloody decree from the king for the massacre of all the Israelites in the empire in one day. When this decree became known to Mordecai, he covered himself with sackcloth and ashes, and rent the air with his cries. This being made known to Esther through the servants of the harem, who now knew of their relationship, she sent Hatach, one of the royal eunuchs, to demand the cause of his grief: through that faithful servant he made the facts known to her, urged upon her the duty of delivering her people, and encouraged her to risk the consequences of the attempt. She was found equal to the occasion. She risked her life by entering the royal presence uncalled, and having by discreet management procured a favorable opportunity, accused Haman to the king of plotting to destroy her and her people. His doom was sealed on this occasion by the means which in his agitation he took to avert it; and when one of the eunuchs present intimated that this man had prepared a gallows fifty cubits high on which to hang Mordecai, the king at once said, 'Hang him thereon.' This was, in fact, a great aggravation of his offence, for the previous night, the king, being unable to sleep, had commanded the records of his reign to be read to him; and the reader had providentially turned to the part recording the conspiracy which had been frustrated through Mordecai. The king asked what had been the reward of this mighty service, and being answered 'Nothing,' he commanded that anyone who happened to be in attendance without, should be called. Haman was there, having come for the very purpose of asking the king's leave to hang Mordecai upon the gallows he had prepared, and was asked what should be done to the man whom the king delighted to honor? Thinking that the king could delight to honor no one but himself, he named the highest and most public honors he could conceive, and received from the monarch the astounding answer, 'Make haste, and do even so to Mordecai that sitteth in the king's gate!' Then was Haman constrained, without a word, and with seeming cheerfulness, to repair to the man whom he hated beyond all the world, to invest him with the royal robes, and to conduct him in magnificent cavalcade through the city, proclaiming, 'Thus shall it be done to the man whom the king delighteth to honor.' After this it may seem that it was a strong sense of the fitness of the case for the literal application of the lex talionis, that induced the king, when he heard of the gallows prepared for Mordecai, to command that Haman himself should be hanged thereon.

Mordecai was invested with power greater than that which Haman had lost, and the first use he made of it was, as far as possible, to neutralize or counteract the decree obtained by him. It could not be recalled, as the kings of Persia had no power to rescind a decree once issued; but as the altered wish of the court was known, and as the Jews were permitted to stand on their defense, they were preserved from the intended destruction, although much blood was, on the appointed day, shed even in the royal city. The Feast of Purim was instituted in memory of this deliverance, and is celebrated to this day (; Esther 10) [PURIM].

A Mordecai, who returned from the exile with Zerubbabel, is mentioned in , and ; but this cannot well have been the Mordecai of Esther, as some have supposed.

 

 

 

 


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Bibliography Information
Kitto, John, ed. Entry for 'Mordecai'. "Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature". https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/kbe/m/mordecai.html.

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