Esther 3 (NRSV)
Haman Undertakes to Destroy the Jews
After these things King Ahasuerus promoted Haman son of Hammedatha the Agagite, and advanced him and set his seat above all the officials who were with him. 2And all the king’s servants who were at the king’s gate bowed down and did obeisance to Haman; for the king had so commanded concerning him.
But Mordecai did not bow down or do obeisance.
3Then the king’s servants who were at the king’s gate said to Mordecai, “Why do you disobey the king’s command?” 4When they spoke to him day after day and he would not listen to them, they told Haman, in order to see whether Mordecai’s words would avail; for he had told them that he was a Jew.
5When Haman saw that Mordecai did not bow down or do obeisance to him, Haman was infuriated. 6But he thought it beneath him to lay hands on Mordecai alone. So, having been told who Mordecai’s people were, Haman plotted to destroy all the Jews, the people of Mordecai, throughout the whole kingdom of Ahasuerus.
There is a history to this hatred. Haman was an Agagite, a descendant of Agag, king of the Amalekites. The Amalekites were ancient enemies of the Israelites. God had told the Israelites to utterly destroy the Amalekites because of their wickedness. Mordecai and Hamen may well have been taught as children to hate each other’s peoples.
7In the first month, which is the month of Nisan, in the twelfth year of King Ahasuerus, they cast Pur—which means “the lot” —before Haman for the day and for the month, and the lot fell on the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, which is the month of Adar.
Proverbs 16:33 (ESV)
The lot is cast into the lap,
but its every decision is from the LORD.
Was Haman disappointed that he would have to wait nearly a year? He should be nervous, because a lot can happen in all that time!
8Then Haman said to King Ahasuerus, “There is a certain people scattered and separated among the peoples in all the provinces of your kingdom; their laws are different from those of every other people, and they do not keep the king’s laws, so that it is not appropriate for the king to tolerate them. 9If it pleases the king, let a decree be issued for their destruction, and I will pay ten thousand talents of silver into the hands of those who have charge of the king’s business, so that they may put it into the king’s treasuries.”
10So the king took his signet ring from his hand and gave it to Haman son of Hammedatha the Agagite, the enemy of the Jews. 11The king said to Haman, “The money is given to you, and the people as well, to do with them as it seems good to you.”
Signet rings in the ancient world served as personal signatures. Free access to the king’s ring meant power! This ancient ring is from Giza, Egypt, and is made of pure gold. (The Brooklyn Museum)
12Then the king’s secretaries were summoned on the thirteenth day of the first month, and an edict, according to all that Haman commanded, was written to the king’s satraps and to the governors over all the provinces and to the officials of all the peoples, to every province in its own script and every people in its own language; it was written in the name of King Ahasuerus and sealed with the king’s ring. 13Letters were sent by couriers to all the king’s provinces, giving orders to destroy, to kill, and to annihilate all Jews, young and old, women and children, in one day, the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, which is the month of Adar, and to plunder their goods. 14A copy of the document was to be issued as a decree in every province by proclamation, calling on all the peoples to be ready for that day.
Martin Luther also knew what it was to have a sentence of death upon him. HERE, “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” tells us to whom we ought to turn in times of trouble.
15The couriers went quickly by order of the king, and the decree was issued in the citadel of Susa. The king and Haman sat down to drink; but the city of Susa was thrown into confusion.
DON’T INVITE ME TO THIS PARTY!
The king and Haman celebrate their productive day while thousands of Jews weep in fear for their lives.
Psalm 83:1-4 (NIV)
O God, do not keep silent;
be not quiet, O God, be not still.
See how your enemies are astir,
how your foes rear their heads.
With cunning they conspire against your people;
they plot against those you cherish.
“Come,” they say, “let us destroy them as a nation,
that the name of Israel be remembered no more.”
The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.