Esther Chapter Three, Anti-semitism And Its Roots

In our study of Esther chapter three, we see the display of the attitude of anti-semitism which is the hatred of God's people (the Jews). We will look at its origin and see how it continues even to this day.

Esther 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.

After the plot to kill the king was dealt with, he honored Haman to a position higher than anyone else. This man was an Agagite which means he was descended from the royal family of the Amalekites. This is the same group of people that attacked God's people when they were on their way to the promised land from Egypt and they became known for their cowardice and cruelty (see Exodus 17:8-16). They were descended from the grandson of Esau which was Jacob's twin brother and Jacob was the father of the tribes of Israel. We can see by this that the cause of antisemitism is a simple case of jealousy between brothers. It is no different than the story of Cain's jealousy and murder of Abel (Genesis 4). According to traditional Arab history, the Amalekites originated from the area of Mecca in what is known today as Saudi Arabia.

Esther 3:2

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.

So the king ordered everyone to bow down to Haman but Mordecai would not. We must remember that Mordecai was a Jew and it was against the Mosaic Law to bow down to anyone but God. ( We can see another example of this in Daniel chapter three.)

Esther 3:3 & 4

Then the royal officials at the king's gate asked Mordecai, 'Why do you disobey the king's command?' 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.

This is a good example of what we would call peer pressure. The officials tried to get Mordecai to go along and do what he knew was wrong but he held fast to the Word of God. Therefore, his "friends" turned him in to see what would happen. Mordecai had not had the faith to obey God and return to Jerusalem but he does have the faith to stand firm on this point.

Esther 3:5 & 6

When Haman saw that Mordecai would not kneel down or pay him honor, he was enraged. 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.

The idea that someone would not bow down to him was bad but to have a Jew refuse to honor him sent Haman over the top. He had been raised with this anti-semitism (hatred of the Jewish people) and it was just waiting to explode. The same type of thing is happening in many places around the world today as children are raised to hate God's people (the Jews). We can take comfort in the fact that they (and we as Christians) are God's people and He takes care of His own. (see Revelation 11)

Esther 3:7

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.

So, they needed to decide on a date for the mass killing of the Jews. To pick a date, they cast lots and the date was revealed to them.

Esther 3:8 & 9

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. 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.'

Haman knows that he cannot eliminate them on his own, so he looks to the king for help. He appeals to the king's fear of losing power to get a law to authorize the killing. Haman even offers a reward for the men that will do the killing. The same sort of tactics are being used today to attack Israel in that those that actually hate the most pay others to do the killing. Some "religious leader" will issue a decree and offer money so that some poor young man will do his dirty work.

Esther 3:10

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.

The king agreed with Haman and gave him his ring. The ring would be used to put a mark on the decree so that everyone would know that it was done on the king's authority. Haman is once again described as an Agagite and "enemy of the Jews". We must remember that the Jews are God's chosen people and so it is logical that, if you are an enemy of the Jews, you are an enemy of God.

Esther 3:11

'Keep the money,' the king said to Haman, 'and do with the people as you please.'

So, the king not only gave Haman the ability to act on the king's authority but now he is going to supply the money as well. The king didn't have any personal problem with the Jews as a people but was simply eliminating a potential threat to his control.

Esther 3:12

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.

It is awesome how God is in charge of the smallest of details even when men think that they are in control. Here is another example as the secretaries were gathered to write the king's law for the destruction of God's people (the Jews). This happened on "the thirteenth day of the first month" which might not have meant anything to these pagans but is significant to God and His children. This is the day before the celebration of the Passover which occurs on the fourteenth day and is a feast of remembering the deliverance of God's people from Egypt. Just as God delivered His people from Egypt, He is already at work here in delivering His people from the hatred of Haman.

Esther 3:13

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.

Haman's plans are moving forward to kill all of the Jews as he is even telling them to kill the children. The hate is deep rooted and is the same hate that was demonstrated by Hitler in World War Two and is coming out of the leadership of Iran today.

Esther 3:14

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.

Haman was determined to get maximum involvement of all people in his plan to kill the Jews. It was about eleven months between the time the secretaries were gathered to draft the law and the date for it to happen. Throughout the Bible, the number eleven is associated with chaos and disorder and that is what Haman had planned but it was disguised as a way of keeping order in the kingdom. We are told, in James 3, that this disorder does not come from God but is of Satan. Satan hates all of God's people and that is the root of all anti-semitism.

Esther 3:15

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 the law went out to all of the lands as well as being posted in the capital city. Haman and the king celebrated but the common city people did not understand why the order was issued. Though it may seem like the darkest of times for God's people and that the enemies are rejoicing, we must know that God is at work behind the scenes and the celebration of the evil will end. God is still in control and that applies to our lives today as well.