Esther Chapter 3 Bible Study: Haman the Madman

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Bible Studies in the Book of Esther

Esther Chapter 3: Haman the Madman

by I Gordon


In the last study we were introduced to a rather lovely character by the name of Esther. Under the direction of her minder, Mordecai, she arose from obscurity to become queen in the Medo-Persian Empire. Now that's no small feat! After a yearlong preparation period Esther was chosen by the king to become the queen and a great feast was proclaimed throughout the empire. Esther was happy, the king was happy and everything was going swimmingly. No one could throw a spanner in the works of this great story now could they? Well... right from the start I did promise you a particularly nasty villain did I not? I think I did and I don't like to disappoint. Well, here comes the particularly nasty man himself...

Est 3:1 After these events, King Xerxes honored Haman son of Hammedatha, the Agagite, elevating him and giving him a seat of honor higher than that of all the other nobles.

Throughout this whole book we shall see that king Xerxes, unfortunately, is not the sharpest knife in the drawer. In fact he makes a few flawed decisions and one of these is presented to us now for he chose Haman, an Agagite to be the top dog in the kingdom (under himself of course). So the last important player in this drama before us enters the stage. Now obviously at the moment we don't know too much about this man other than he is an Agagite. If you trace that lineage back you'll come to the great enemy of Israel, the Amalekites!  [1]  But maybe we are being a little unfair to this man Haman... maybe we are tarring him with the same brush based simply on a somewhat dodgy family tree? Maybe Haman would be the man to break the mould and be an all-round nice guy?

Beware when Haman gets a little 'ticked off'

Esther 3:2-6 All the royal officials at the king's gate knelt down and paid honor to Haman, for the king had commanded this concerning him. But Mordecai would not kneel down or pay him honor. (3) Then the royal officials at the king's gate asked Mordecai, "Why do you disobey the king's command?" (4) Day after day they spoke to him but he refused to comply. Therefore they told Haman about it to see whether Mordecai's behavior would be tolerated, for he had told them he was a Jew. (5)  When Haman saw that Mordecai would not kneel down or pay him honor, he was enraged. (6) Yet having learned who Mordecai's people were, he scorned the idea of killing only Mordecai. Instead Haman looked for a way to destroy all Mordecai's people, the Jews  , throughout the whole kingdom of Xerxes.

Um, not sure about you, but I'm thinking that that's a big negative (as to whether Haman could break the mould and be a nice guy!) As Esau hated Jacob, so Amalek hated Israel and so Haman hates Mordecai and the Jews. In fact Haman is so full of rage that Mordecai will not bow down to him that he forms a plan to not only destroy Mordecai himself, but the entire Jewish population!

Haman as a type of the flesh & coming antichrist

The types in this verse are hopefully clear but I will point them out anyway. We have seen above that Haman is an Amalekite - the sworn enemy of Israel. You may remember from other studies that Amalek speaks of the flesh - that sinful self-centred old nature that we all possess. Thus, the conflict here between Haman and Mordecai gives us a glimpse of that which battles in our own hearts - the conflict between flesh and spirit. This battle may be internal and unseen to those around us, yet it is as real as the conflict that we see brewing in these first verses in Esther chapter 3. Mordecai then, is a picture of the Holy Spirit who will not bow down or give any ground to Haman, the sinful old nature. The two will always be in conflict for

'The LORD will be at war against the Amalekites from generation to generation.' (Exodus 17:16)

On a prophetic level, Haman is a type of the Antichrist still to come  [2]  . Whether it is Haman, Antiochus Epiphanies, Adolph Hitler or the Antichrist himself, the goal is always the same - kill the Jews! Thus it is no surprise that we read above that '  Haman looked for a way to destroy all Mordecai's people, the Jews.  ' And thus, unfortunately, it shall happen again. In a very sobering prophecy Jesus directly warned the Jews in Judea (and indirectly all believers on earth at that time) to flee for their lives when they see the 'abomination of desolation' for '  then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now-- and never to be equaled again. If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened. (Matt 24:21-22)  We shall see more about the prophetic implications of this book later on in the series. But for now, let's return to the drama at hand!

An evil man with an evil plan!

Esther 3:7-11 In the twelfth year of King Xerxes, in the first month, the month of Nisan, they cast the pur (that is, the lot) in the presence of Haman to select a day and month. And the lot fell on the twelfth month, the month of Adar. (8) Then Haman said to King Xerxes, "There is a certain people dispersed and scattered among the peoples in all the provinces of your kingdom  whose customs are different from those of all other people and who do not obey the king's laws  ; it is not in the king's best interest to tolerate them. (9) If  it pleases the king, let a decree be issued to destroy them  , and I will put ten thousand talents of silver into the royal treasury for the men who carry out this business." (10) So the king took his signet ring from his finger and gave it to Haman son of Hammedatha, the Agagite, the enemy of the Jews. (11)  Keep the money, the king said to Haman, "and do with the people as you please." 

So Haman hatches a plan! And it is cunningly simple... All he has to do is concoct a story and convince the king that there are a group of people who do not obey the king's law  [3]  and simply put, the whole land would be much better off if they, well, were... um, how does one put this... well, if they were 'removed' from the scene. Like... removed from the scene altogether! Now Haman is a superstitious soul and desiring the help of his 'gods' he decides to cast lots to determine the exact month that this 'removal' will take place. So he cast the lot in the first month and what d'ya know, it falls on the last month of the year! 'Oh great... That will give the Jews a whole year before D-Day! Oh what poor luck' Haman must have thought to himself... 'Though I guess the 'gods' have spoken!'

Obviously it is not Haman's 'gods' guiding the lot here at all. It is Yahweh, the God of Israel! It is worth pointing out that this is one of the many times in the book of Esther that we see the invisible hand of God working to protect and help His people Israel. As He does for you and I today! For '  the lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD  .' (Proverbs 16:33)

When a king becomes a pawn

Now I said earlier that the king doesn't seem to be the quickest runner in the race, nor the sharpest tool in the shed!  [4]  So when Haman suggests to the king that he should sign a decree to exterminate a whole group of people, here are some questions that the king DOESN'T ask:

Obvious questions NOT asked by the king
  • Who exactly are these people? What race are they?
  • How many people are we talking about?
  • What exactly have they done that is so wrong that it requires death?

Nope, our good king just passes over the signet ring  [5]  and tells Haman 'yeah sure thing. Just do with the people as you please!' Oh, that's just great isn't it? No care and no responsibility... Just what you want from a leader!  [6]  Unfortunately the king trusts his man Haman and becomes a pawn in the hand of an evil influence.

One evil perplexing decree

Esther 3:12-15 Then on the thirteenth day of the first month the royal secretaries were summoned. They wrote out in the script of each province and in the language of each people all Haman's orders to the king's satraps, the governors of the various provinces and the nobles of the various peoples. These were written in the name of King Xerxes himself and sealed with his own ring. (13)  Dispatches were sent by couriers to all the king's provinces with the order to destroy, kill and annihilate all the Jews--young and old, women and little children--on a single day, the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, the month of Adar, and to plunder their goods.  (14)  A copy of the text of the edict was to be issued as law in every province and made known to the people of every nationality so they would be ready for that day.  (15) Spurred on by the king's command, the couriers went out, and the edict was issued in the citadel of Susa. The king and Haman sat down to drink, but the city of Susa was bewildered.

So on the 13th of the first month the decree became law and was sent out to every province in the Medo-Persian Empire. The decree simply stated that in exactly 11 months time it was open-slather on all Jews... young, old, women and children included. The decree  [7]  called for the annihilation of an entire people group based solely on their race. Such a law would be unthinkable and almost unbelievable had the same thing had not happened again to the Jews within our own recent history.

As this law was pronounced throughout the land the people were perplexed and bewildered! 'What kind of law is this?' they would have thought. 'What have the Jews done and who is going to be next?' 'Does everyone have to die on that day?' And remember... once this law had come forth from the king, it couldn't be changed. You can only imagine the level of astonishment throughout the land when they learned of this law!

An eternal law and its gospel fulfillment

So the first decree that went from from the king was one of death. The entire Jewish race was condemned under this law with no way out. But of what is this a type? Good question! 

In the gospel, this pictures the eternal law that has gone forth from the king that 'the wages of sin is death'. (Rom 6:23)  [8]  It is a decree that cannot be changed just as the Medo-Persian law couldn't be changed. To many, it is a perplexing decree. Many in world cannot get their head around this and believe that surely their 'good works' will outweigh their 'bad works' and that will see them right in the end. And yet the law or decree has gone forth from Heaven itself - 'The soul that sins shall die'. It is a decree as old as the Garden of Eden itself and has never changed. But is there an out-clause? Well, patience dear reader for Esther will give us an answer to that... but in good time of course!


So, as I said at the start of the study, the movers and shakers in this story are now in place and the events will unfold very quickly before us. The decree of death has gone forth, the Jews are worried and the city perplexed. How could the Israelites avoid this decree of death? Will Haman succeed or will God intervene and save His people? And if He does, how can the decree of death be annulled if the laws of the Medes and Persians cannot be changed? Oh, so many questions and so little time. But hopefully all shall be revealed in time!

[1] ↩  The Believers Bible Commentary says 'Haman was an Agagite, a descendant of the kings of the Amalekites (Agag was a royal title). The Lord had declared perpetual war against Amalek (Exo_17:8-16). The Book of Esther relates the last recorded battle in that war (see also 1Sam 15:32; 1Sam 30:1-10; 1Ch 4:43).'

And Amalek, as you may have seen from other studies was the grandson of Esau! (Gen 36:12) So the conflict between Jacob and Esau plays out in the conflict between Israel and Amalek and now between Mordecai and Haman!

[2] ↩  The Antichrist will rise to great political heights just as Haman did. He will also desire and demand the worship of the people - something Haman definitely desired in bucket loads! Both have a nature that is totally self-focused, to the point where they despise utterly any who would not grant them the worship that they desire and, in their minds, deserve. The end result, as we have seen, is that both will hate God and hate His people... to the extent of even trying to kill an entire race of people... the Jews (and in the case of the Antichrist, the saints of God as well).

[3] ↩  Of course, this tactic of saying that God's people should be dealt to because they do not follow the king's laws is one which would be used again extensively once the church came into being. We see it used in Acts especially in verses 16:20-21, 24:5, 28:22 and this one which says:
 Acts 17:5-8 'But the Jews were jealous; so they rounded up some bad characters from the marketplace, formed a mob and started a riot in the city. They rushed to Jason's house in search of Paul and Silas in order to bring them out to the crowd. (6) But when they did not find them, they dragged Jason and some other brothers before the city officials, shouting: "  These men who have caused trouble all over the world  have now come here, (7) and Jason has welcomed them into his house.  They are all defying Caesar's decrees, saying that there is another king, one called Jesus  ." (8) When they heard this, the crowd and the city officials were thrown into turmoil.' 

And it is also the same type of tactic used on Pilate himself, who found no wrong in Jesus, but began to listen to the Jews because they said  "If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar. Anyone who claims to be a king opposes Caesar." 

The fact is that the world doesn't like people being different. But the Christian walk is always going to be one that swims against the tide of popular or worldly thought.

[4] ↩  Now don't get me wrong... I'm not trying to say that he is a couple sandwiches short of a picnic or that that lift doesn't go to the top floor. Noooo. I wouldn't say that! He just seems too overly trusting of those 'wise-men' around him without using his own grey-matter a little more!

[5] ↩  The Bible Knowledge Commentary says 'The signet ring, when impressed on clay, made a special imprint, which, like a signature, represented the king's authority (cf. Est 3:12; Est 8:2, Est 8:8; Gen 41:42; Dan 6:17; Hag 2:23).'

[6] ↩  Major Ian Thomas, in his great little book on Esther 'If I perish, I perish' points out that not only is Haman a type of the flesh and Mordecai a type of the Holy Spirit, but the king is a type of the soul of man. Thus, the king is easily swayed when Haman is in charge! In fact the king is capable of making some pretty terrible decisions when Haman is holding the reigns. Yet, as we shall see later in the book, this same king (picture of the soul of man) is also capable of making great decisions when Mordecai and Queen Esther are influencing the king (picture of the Holy Spirit connecting with the human spirit to control the soul of man). So I shouldn't mock the king too much here. In this case, our king is but a pawn! Haman is the real villain!

[7] ↩  The thing that should be noted about the laws of the Medes and Persians was that once a decree had gone forth from the king it could not be changed. Not even by the king himself! This was different to how other kingdoms operated such as the Babylonian empire where Nebuchadnezzar could decree laws and change them at will! The immutability of the Persian law is seen in a few places such as Esther 1:19 and Daniel 6:8.

[8] ↩  Gaebelin gives a good overview of this: '  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.'