This chapter is dedicated to Haman. Haman gets his high position from Ahasuerus. We see in this the picture that every power a person has ultimately comes from God. Something else is, how someone uses that power. Haman uses it for his own honor and to kill God’s people, because they do not bow down before him.
1 Haman, the Agagite
1 After these events King Ahasuerus promoted Haman, the son of Hammedatha the Agagite, and advanced him and established his authority over all the princes who [were] with him.
From the expression “after these events” (verse 1) we see that a new part begins, in which new events will take place. We are here at the beginning of the twelfth year of the reign of Ahasuerus (verse 7), while the events of the previous chapter take place around the seventh year of his reign (Est 2:16).
As an introduction to the new events, our attention is focused on what Ahasuerus is doing to Haman, the fourth protagonist of this book. In a threefold mention we are told remarkably emphatically that Ahasuerus exalts Haman to great heights. Ahasuerus
1. “promoted Haman”,
2. he “advanced him”, and
3. “established his authority over all the princes who [were] with him”.
As with two other protagonists, Mordecai and Esther, Haman’s ancestry is also mentioned (Est 2:5,15).
Haman is the great opponent of Mordecai and the people of Mordecai. Here Haman is made great by Ahasuerus as a prelude to the extermination of God’s people. So how is it possible that the king is a picture of God? We only understand that when we see that God is sovereign and gives power to whom He wills. He controls everything.
God created the angel who would become satan (Eze 28:14-19). He has allowed satan to have dominion over creation because he succeeds in deceiving man. Since then, satan has been the “god of this world [lit. age]” (2Cor 4:4) and “the ruler of this world” (Jn 16:11) who reigns the world. At the same time, God never relinquishes control. For example, He Himself will conceive the Antichrist (Zec 11:16), while in the following verse He also pronounces the ‘woe’ over him (Zec 11:17). Thus the Lord Jesus says to Pilate when He stands before him as a Prisoner: “You would have no authority over Me, unless it had been given you from above” (Jn 19:11).
It is significant that Haman is an Agagite. Agag is the title of the Amalekite kings (Num 24:7; 1Sam 15:20,32). Saul, who like Mordecai is a Benjaminite, must kill Agag. Saul, however, spares his life. What Saul out of disobedience leaves out, Samuel then does (1 Sam 15:9,33). In the book of Esther we see in Mordecai another Benjaminite (Est 2:5) as opposed to another Agagite. Will Mordecai do better than Saul?
In Haman and Mordecai, two nations face each other. One is the people of Mordecai, that is the people of the Jews, God’s people; the other is a people that hates God’s people with great hatred, that is the people of the Amalekites. This hatred has been shown in history. Amalek is the first enemy to attack Israel, while the people have only just been delivered out of Egypt (Exo 17:8,16). In view of this, God commands His people to exterminate Amalek (Deu 25:17-19).
Amalek, however, has not yet been exterminated. Bileam speaks of the exaltation of Amalek (Num 24:20), although the Messiah will eventually be higher (Num 24:7). Here we see the exaltation of Amalek. Instead of an exaltation of Mordecai as a reward for saving the life of the king, a great enemy of God’s people is exalted. But what at first glance seems to go against God’s promises is helping to fulfill His plans.
We see this, for example, in Paul’s life. When he is on his way as the Lord’s messenger, he is captured. Now he can no longer fulfil his commission and go around preaching, because he is bound. God, however, has a purpose with it. Paul is aware of this and therefore he can say that his captivity has
“turned out for the greater progress of the gospel” (Phil 1:12).
We also see this with Israel. God has promised to make the people numerous (Gen 15:5), but it seems as if the enemy has a chance to exterminate them (Exo 1:7,8,22). The people are in great distress and cry out to God. This is the reason for God to fulfil His promises (Exo 2:23-25).
2 - 7 Haman and Mordecai
2 All the king’s servants who were at the king’s gate bowed down and paid homage to Haman; for so the king had commanded concerning him. But Mordecai neither bowed down nor paid homage. 3 Then the king’s servants who were at the king’s gate said to Mordecai, “Why are you transgressing the king’s command?” 4 Now it was when they had spoken daily to him and he would not listen to them, that they told Haman to see whether Mordecai’s reason would stand; for he had told them that he was a Jew. 5 When Haman saw that Mordecai neither bowed down nor paid homage to him, Haman was filled with rage. 6 But he disdained to lay hands on Mordecai alone, for they had told him [who] the people of Mordecai [were]; therefore Haman sought to destroy all the Jews, the people of Mordecai, who [were] throughout the whole kingdom of Ahasuerus. 7 In the first month, which is the month Nisan, in the twelfth year of King Ahasuerus, Pur, that is the lot, was cast before Haman from day to day and from month [to month], until the twelfth month, that is the month Adar.
At the command of the king all the servants bow down before Haman (verse 2). Haman has been given a position to be acknowledged by all. Only those who belong to God’s people do not and are not allowed to do so. For them this command of the king is a test. So it is also with the power that satan has received from God. All who are in the power of satan bow before him. For the children of God it is a test. To whom do they bow?
The power of Haman puts the people of God to the test. Thus God uses satan, of whom Haman is a picture, to test His people. The Lord Jesus has also had to deal with satan who comes to him with his temptations. In this way God’s children have to deal with an enemy who wants to cause them to abandon confidence in God with all the means at his disposal.
The hatred of the world is the part of everyone who clearly takes his place as a Christian. Such a Christian spreads light and hates the world that is in darkness. If we do not experience this so strongly, it may be because we have already adapted to a certain extent to the world.
Mordecai is someone who does not go with the masses. He does not bow down before this ruler (verse 3). Nor has the Lord Jesus, of whom Mordecai is a picture, ever done so (Mt 4:8-10). Mordecai resembles the friends of Daniel, who also violate the king’s commandment and refuse to kneel before the image he has made (Dan 3:18).
If there is a sudden situation where we have to confess our faith, we will experience God’s power. Daniel’s three friends are not unprepared to confront Nebuchadnezzar because of the image he has made. They have learned to pray and in practice to keep themselves clean from the impurity of the world. That is why there is inner strength to remain standing under the pressure of Nebuchadnezzar. The time of need reveals whether there is anything of God present in it.
Those who do not bow down will be held accountable by those who do. This happens in order to exert pressure to also bow down before the great ruler. The faithful Christian will use this opportunity to give an account for the hope that is in him (1Pet 3:15-16).
That pressure is being exerted on Mordecai is shown in verse 4. For they speak to him “daily” about his ‘inflexibility’. But he does not listen. He keeps himself deaf. In this he resembles the true servant of the LORD, the Lord Jesus, Who also kept himself deaf to everything that was said to Him that would make Him unfaithful to His God (Isa 42:19).
Again we see a clear parallel with Joseph. Joseph is also addressed “day after day” by Potiphar’s wife, whereby her intention was to seduce him to have sexual intercourse with her. And there too we read that he “did not listen to her to lie beside her [or] be with her” (Gen 39:10). It is important not to listen to wrong advice or encouragements to sin.
When Mordecai stands firm in his refusal to bow to Haman, the servants tell Haman. It seems to have escaped Haman that Mordecai does not bow down to him. The reason they tell Haman is that Mordecai is a Jew. Mordecai does not bow down because he is a Jew. It is also important for us to say that we are not participating in certain things because we belong to the Lord Jesus.
Mordecai did not conceal his origins, but confessed it. That is precisely why they want to see if his words will hold up. In this way our confession will also be tested. We can count on being the special target of satan’s attacks if we confess our faith in the Lord Jesus and belong to the church of the living God.
We will see that in the rest of this history. Drawn attention by the servants to the inflexibility of Mordecai towards him, Haman now pays special attention to Mordecai. If he sees that he indeed does not bow down before him, he is “filled with rage” (verse 5). From this moment on there is nothing more for him than anger toward Mordecai, an anger that seeks a way out.
The only thing that can calm his anger is Mordecai’s death. And not only that. Also the whole people of Mordecai must be exterminated (verse 6). Inspired by this thought, Haman searches for a way to “to destroy all the Jews, the people of Mordecai”. And not locally, only in the citadel of Susa, but “throughout the whole kingdom of Ahasuerus”.
Here we clearly see that Haman is a picture of satan. If the people were killed, the Messiah could not be born. We also see this with Herod, who is a willing instrument in the hand of satan when he wants to kill the Lord Jesus when He is just born (Mt 2:16).
Haman wants to kill the whole people of the Jews (Psa 83:4-5). The people are associated with Mordecai and share Haman’s hatred of Mordecai. Here we see the connection between the Lord Jesus and His people. Christ and His own are one. Thus Saul is told by the glorified Lord: “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? (Acts 9:4) while he was persecuting the church. That the devil’s wrath concerns both the Lord Jesus and His people, we see also in the end time, when the dragon, that is the devil, wants to devour not only the Child, that is Christ, but also all who belong to Him, that is the believing remnant of Israel (Rev 12:4b,17).
How did Haman come to this attitude? He has seen that there is one person who dares to defy him. However, in his pride and wrath it is too little for him that only one person pays. His injured pride calls for revenge. He is not satisfied with just one person. He wants to be like God, like satan once did, and submit everything to himself. Whoever dares to resist him must be killed. Satan never offers an alternative, nor can he. He has a depraved nature and destroys whoever is in his power (cf. Jn 10:10a). Whoever does not bow down, he seeks to perish. Whoever bows down before him, whoever he holds in his grasp, that person is dragged into ruin.
In order to come to the execution of his gruesome murder plan, Haman lets the lot cast in his presence (verse 7). He lets this be done, guided by his superstitious, pagan, dark thinking, to determine the most suitable day for the realization of his plan of extermination. This occult course of events proves once more that Haman is a servant of satan. However, God is above him and satan.
Surely it is remarkable that fate finally falls on the thirteenth day of the twelfth month. The casting of the lot begins in the first month, the month of Nisan, that is the month of Passover, which is reminiscent of the redemption of God’s people from Egypt. For each day of that month the lot is cast, but no day turns out to be suitable. So it is with every day of the second month and every day of the following months. Until finally the lot designates the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, the month of Adar, as the favorable day.
The time in which the lot is cast is “the twelfth year of King Ahasuerus”, a dating that indicates that the authority is in the hands of the nations and not in those of God’s people. However, the months are mentioned with the Hebrew name, a dating that applies to God’s people. Here we see that behind this demonic act God controls everything. Haman will have seen the outcome as a favorable omen, because it gives him time to carry out his depraved intention. However, he has no awareness that this delay will be both his downfall and the deliverance of the Jews. He does cast the lot, but the LORD decides (Pro 16:33).
In Israel the lot makes the will of God known to the people. We see this for example in the history of Achan (Jos 7:16-18) and in the division of the land (Joshua 15-19). In the Bible the lot is cast out for the last time when a successor is to be chosen for Judas, the traitor of the Lord Jesus (Acts 1:26). We do not need the lot, because we have the complete Word of God. Now God’s will is given to us in His Word, which is made clear to us by the Holy Spirit.
8 - 9 Haman’s Plan
8 Then Haman said to King Ahasuerus, “There is a certain people scattered and dispersed among the peoples in all the provinces of your kingdom; their laws are different from [those] of all [other] people and they do not observe the king’s laws, so it is not in the king’s interest to let them remain. 9 If it is pleasing to the king, let it be decreed that they be destroyed, and I will pay ten thousand talents of silver into the hands of those who carry on the [king’s] business, to put into the king’s treasuries.”
After Haman has cast the lot and determined the day of the extermination of the Jews, he goes to King Ahasuerus (verse 8). His intention is to get permission for his plan. Cunning as he is, Haman does not mention the name of the people. He wants to portray the people as a nation that is dangerous to the state. It is an anonymous people that has spread its cancer cells like a cancerous tumor throughout the entire kingdom of the king.
He first points out that there is a people that lives “scattered and dispersed” among all other peoples. They are everywhere. Also because of their laws they are different from other nations (cf. Deu 4:8; Psa 147:19-20). Finally, the situation with these people is so bad that none of them “observe the king’s laws”. His conclusion is that it does not suit the king to leave them alone. If the king does leave them alone, this people will cause great difficulties in his kingdom and it will be over with the peace in his kingdom.
He has a good solution and that is to kill the people (verse 9). If the king gives a written order for this now, it will be all right. The king doesn’t have to worry about the costs either. Haman declares himself willing to make a substantial deposit in the king’s treasury. With that money the hands of those who have to do the dirty work can be filled. In any case, it does not have to be at the king’s expense.
What Haman says to Ahasuerus in verse 8, he means to discredit the people, but in fact it is a great compliment. It is a people of whom God has said that they dwell apart (Num 23:9b). The world should be able to say the same of Christians today. Through salvation, God has separated His people, the church, from all other nations. To salvation belongs separation or sanctification. Separation is the result of salvation (1Cor 6:11). He who is saved is sanctified. This means that he belongs to God and no longer to the world. God led Abraham out of Ur and His people out of Egypt and us out of the world (cf. Gal 1:4).
Haman’s plan shows us the deeply depraved thoughts of satan. The people of God are not charged with any crime, something that makes them punishable. There is also no condition that they must meet in order to save their lives. No, they must die, die without mercy, just because they are Jews. Thus, the enemies of the church have always called for “the blood of the witnesses of Jesus” (Rev 17:6). Those enemies are like the leech that cries: “Give, give” (Pro 30:15).
10 - 15 Command to Annihilate All the Jews
10 Then 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. 11 The king said to Haman, “The silver is yours, and the people [also], to do with them as you please.” 12 Then the king’s scribes were summoned on the thirteenth day of the first month, and it was written just as Haman commanded to the king’s satraps, to the governors who were over each province and to the princes of each people, each province according to its script, each people according to its language, being written in the name of King Ahasuerus and sealed with the king’s signet ring. 13 Letters were sent by couriers to all the king’s provinces to destroy, to kill and to annihilate all the Jews, both young and old, women and children, in one day, the thirteenth [day] of the twelfth month, which is the month Adar, and to seize their possessions as plunder. 14 A copy of the edict to be issued as law in every province was published to all the peoples so that they should be ready for this day. 15 The couriers went out impelled by the king’s command while the decree was issued at the citadel in Susa; and while the king and Haman sat down to drink, the city of Susa was in confusion.
The king gives Haman the free hand to carry out his plan, and gives him his signet ring as proof of the power of attorney to do it (verse 10). Of Haman is said again from whom he descends and what he is. He is in his nature “the Agagite”, the eternal enemy, and in his work “the enemy of the Jews”.
What Ahasuerus does is also what God does in the history of Job. He gives satan the free hand to strike Job in all things in which He allows satan (Job 1:12; 2:6). God also does this here with His people. In the surrender of the people of the Jews into the hand of Haman, we see a picture of God surrendering His people to their enemies (Psa 44:12-13).
Ahasuerus does not allow himself to be bribed by Haman (verse 11). Likewise, the stake of God’s people is not a matter of agreement between God and satan. What He will bring upon His people must come upon them, for He cannot bring His people into proper relationship with Himself in any other way. For this He uses satan. We should also remember that the order is issued because of Mordecai. That shows us that the remnant will suffer because of their connection with the Lord Jesus.
We know from the course of history the final decision of Ahasuerus about both the destiny of God’s people and the destiny of Haman. What we have seen so far is the preparation for what Ahasuerus will eventually do. This shows us that Ahasuerus is after all a picture of God, Who is the Highest above all other high placed people.
We see that aptly at the death of the Lord Jesus. Peter says of this that He was “nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put … to death” (Acts 2:23b). He says, however, and even precedes it, that the Lord Jesus was “delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God” (Acts 2:23a). Here we see, on the one hand, the counsel of God and, on the other hand, the responsibility of man. Only God can combine these two sides in a way that completely does justice to both.
The scribes of the king are called (verse 12). This happens on the thirteenth day of the first month, the day of the preparation of the Passover which is held the next day (Lev 23:5). On the day when God’s people are to prepare to celebrate the deliverance, preparations are made here for the extermination of God’s people. We also see this in the deliberations to kill the Lord Jesus (Lk 22:1-2a).
Everything that Haman commands is written down. The writing is addressed to all dignitaries throughout the kingdom of Ahasuerus. The commandment is published in each language separately. Everyone receives ‘the honor’ to cooperate in the execution of the order, not to hurt anyone and thus to antagonize themselves. The name of Ahasuerus is mentioned under each individual letter.
Then the letters are sent to the one hundred and twenty-seven regions by couriers (verse 13). Once again the emphasis is placed on the content of the letter. It is about nothing less than “to destroy, to kill and to annihilate all the Jews, both young and old, women and children, in one day”. An additional exhortation to implement the law concerning the Jews is the permission to “to seize their possessions as plunder”. These couriers have a dark and therefore completely different message than the Lord Jesus, who through His ‘couriers’ preaches the gospel to invite people to the King’s wedding.
How hopeless the situation is for the Jews is made clear by verse 14. The whole world is ordered by law to turn against them. Anyone can make preparations to be ready to strike on the day determined by Haman. However, God is not out of control. We see the counterpart when it is said later in the same words that a letter is enacted as law, stating that the Jews “would be ready for this day to avenge themselves on their enemies” (Est 8:13).
God is in control. He raises up someone like Haman and makes him great to bring all the distress upon the Jews, with the ultimate goal of giving them the blessing He has promised them. That blessing is connected with the Messiah, the Lord Jesus, Who will be born of this people. He is the source of all blessing.
The couriers go on their way, with extra urgency to hurry, by the king’s command (verse 15). While the king and Haman are drinking, the city of Susa becomes confused. Not only the Jews are in turmoil, but the entire city of Susa. This is circumstantial evidence of the good testimony the Jews have there.
In this verse we see a contradiction between the peace at the place where the decisions come from (the palace) and the confusion at the place where the decision applies (the city). God is not confused about what He has planned for Himself, even if satan plays a certain role in it, and even thinks that he has done well with his plan to annihilate God’s people.
The Hebrew word for “confusion”, except in Joel 1 (Joel 1:18), remarkably only occurs in the history of the deliverance of Israel out of Egypt. God puts this word in the mouth of Pharaoh. Pharaoh uses this word to describe the situation of God’s redeemed people when they are in the wilderness on their way to the Red Sea: “For Pharaoh will say of the sons of Israel, ‘They are wandering aimlessly [lit: confused] in the land; the wilderness has shut them in’” (Exo 14:3). Here, too, we see how God looks at the matter and how it is experienced by people. God is never embarrassed about situations of which we are confused or panic about.