Haman Plans to Kill the Jews
Open Your Bible
Esther 3:1-15, Psalm 68:1-10, Psalm 68:20, Proverbs 16:33
I remember learning to write my first stories in grade school. Character, setting, problem, climax, solution: the formula was right there, on my worksheet, just ready for my imagination to fill it in. My first stories were about pioneers, of course, as I loved Laura Ingalls Wilder. While I never progressed much further as a fiction author, the basic elements of a good story are still embedded in my mind when I read.
Esther is one of the grandest stories in Scripture. It is the dramatic tale of an orphaned girl, swept up to be queen of all of Persia, then putting her own life at risk to save her people from mass execution at the hand of the king’s evil vizier. And today, in Esther 3, we read about the problem, the complication that leads to rising action. Haman, King Ahasuerus’s evil vizier, commanded all people to bow to him. And they all did—except for Esther’s cousin Mordecai, a Jewish man. “Mordecai would not bow down or pay homage” (Esther 3:2).
Here’s where the story gets really interesting. All the other Jewish people bowed to Haman, as it was customary to bow to leaders and kings (Scripture is full of such examples, like David bowing to Saul in 1Samuel 24). But Mordecai didn’t, and we don’t really know why. One popular theory from scholars suggests that perhaps it was because Haman was a descendant of Agag (Esther 3:1), and Mordecai of King Saul (v.4), and since Agag and Saul were enemies, their descendants were too (Esther 9:24).
We don’t fully understand the root of their hatred for one another, but regardless, it was the spark that lit the fire. Haman wanted to punish not just Mordecai, but all the Jewish people in Persia. And so, the punishment far, far outweighed the crime. Haman dismissed an entire people and pursued them to death.
In reading this passage again and again, I recognize that the qualities present in this feud are also present in me. I’m quick to anger, slow to change my mind. I root down into long-held prejudices, and I refuse to stretch the muscles of an empathetic imagination. It’s easier to be prideful and mean, hasty and hurtful—especially when almost every interaction I have these days seems to take place on a screen.
The power imbalance between the two led to Haman’s anger materializing into intended mass destruction, and we get to see God work through the brave young Esther to stop the genocide. But this isn’t Esther’s story of heroism, Mordecai’s story of selfless sacrifice, or even Haman’s story of falling from favor and power. It’s all a foretaste of God’s story of sacrifice and redemption.
Hundreds of years later, when Jesus broke into our world as a baby, God was writing the same story. He was writing the story of redemption, of promises kept, of a people who were once not a people becoming one, and of people who did not know mercy receiving mercy (1Peter 2:10). It’s what God offers the prideful Mordecais and the evil Hamans of this world: mercy, belonging, restoration. It’s what Jesus secured in His selfless sacrifice on the cross. And it is ours to receive with repentance and with hope.
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