“And when Haman saw that Mordecai bowed not, nor did him reverence, then was Haman full of wrath. And he thought scorn to lay hands on Mordecai alone; for they had shewed him the people of Mordecai: wherefore Haman sought to destroy all the Jews that were throughout the whole kingdom of Ahasuerus, even the people of Mordecai.” — Esther 3:5-6
On the annual Jewish holiday of Purim, Jewish people gather in synagogues to hear the Book of Esther read aloud. Adults and children alike wait eagerly for the reading of chapter 3 because with this chapter, their fun begins. When the name Haman is read in the first verse — and then fifty-three more times in the remainder of the book — the synagogue erupts with boisterous noise as attendees try to drown out the name with their uproar. People blow horns, hiss, and shake noisemakers called graggers. Children shout. Adults stamp their feet and boo at the top of their voices. In every possible way, they show their disgust and contempt for Haman, a man who had murderous hatred for the Jewish people.
Today’s text reveals the reason for this annual display of disdain, for it describes Haman’s plot to annihilate the large number of Jews living in Ahasuerus’ kingdom. Mordecai, Esther’s relative and guardian, had defied the king’s orders and refused to bow to Haman, an arrogant, egotistical advisor to the king. Haman was infuriated, and according to our key verses, determined to destroy not just Mordecai, but all of the Jewish people in revenge. He convinced the king to issue a decree ordering the extermination of the Jews on the thirteenth day of the Hebrew month Adar — a date Haman chose by casting lots.
However, God was still in control. Purim (from the Hebrew root pur, meaning “lot”), commemorates the deliverance of the Jews from Haman’s genocidal plot. Observed annually on the fourteenth day of Adar, these celebrations include raucous customs showing the Jewish people’s scorn for their enemy and joy for their deliverance by God.
We too can celebrate deliverance from the plots and strategies of an evil adversary. Our victory is not over a vengeful national official, but over the Prince of Darkness himself. Are you facing challenges, opposition, or even outright persecution for your faith today? Remember who your real enemy is. While you probably will not hiss and boo when his name is mentioned, you can remind yourself that he has already been defeated because Christ won the victory for us at Calvary. And that definitely is reason for celebration — not just one day a year, but every day!
Chapter 3 introduces Haman, who became the archenemy of Mordecai and the Jewish nation, and describes his plot against the Jews.
Bible scholars suggest that when Mordecai “bowed not down” to Haman, “nor did him reverence” (verse 2), his refusal likely was not based on unwillingness to give due civil respect, but because divine honor or worship was inferred. Bowing may have represented the kind of obeisance paid to Persian deities, which even pagan Greeks refused to do. Based on his loyalty to Jehovah, Mordecai would not participate in any form of idolatry.
Because Haman’s ego was injured by Mordecai’s refusal to honor him, he purposed not only to kill Mordecai, but all the Jews in the country. When Haman offered to pay ten thousand talents of silver into the king’s treasury if the decree of extermination were written, the king acquiesced. Haman no doubt assumed this tremendous sum of money would be obtained through the plunder of Jewish homes and businesses. The king made no attempt to investigate Haman’s accusations against the Jews; large massacres of this nature were common in that era, because human life was held in little regard.
Verse 7 indicates that lots were cast in the first month of the Jewish calendar, and the date determined for carrying out the decree was established for the twelfth month, almost a full year later. This eleven-month period no doubt was a time of great anxiety for the Jews, but it provided an interval in which Mordecai and Esther’s plan could be effected.
The king’s ring, mentioned in verse 10, was a symbol of authority that was equivalent to a personal signature. The ring’s surface would have had a raised royal symbol, allowing an imprint to be made when the ring was pressed into soft wax. This method was used in ancient times to certify official documents.
I. The danger to the Jews
B. The formation of the plot (3:1-15)
1. The rage of Haman (3:1-6)
2. The plans of Haman (3:7-15)
God is sovereign over the affairs of men. Though evil may appear to triumph for a time, God will always be victorious!