Esther and Mordecai are Jews living still in the land of exile, Susa the capital of the Persian Empire. Bc of the sin of the people and their leaders, instead of God being their King, the Jews are now under the control of a man referred to as “King Headache” who likes to party, make huge empire-changing decisions on a whim and who’s two qualifications for the perfect queen is that she must be beautiful and good in bed. Esther becomes queen – ‘nough said about that!
Haman, a descendant of Agag of the Amalekites, becomes second in command under the King and over the Jews. There is a centuries old conflict between Jews and Amalekites that has to end in the death of one group or the other.
Haman is also a power-hungry ego maniac who, some commentaries believe, has designs on the throne. Could be. The man has nowhere to go but up to the kingship or down really low after his HUGE promotion. (one of the themes of the book of Esther is reversals. Rags to riches and vice-versa can happen quickly in this book so don’t blink!)
Anyway, the king decrees for some reason that everyone must bow to Haman and Mordecai refuses. How do you bow to the man who’s only alive bc your ancestor sinned and disobeyed God? Haman learns that Mordecai has refused to bow and he is furious. Let’s be honest here, the king has commanded it, Mordecai is disobeying it, and Haman is being shamed by Mordecai’s refusal to obey. I can appreciate the man’s frustration at Mordecai but Haman EXPLODES with anger. His anger and his shame seem to be as big as his ego and Haman decides Mordecai is too small a fish to fry now. He decides to go after ALL Jews EVERYWHERE for ALL time. Makes total sense to me – not!
Haman’s plan to exterminate the Jews (found in chap 3) is actually more horrendous than Hitler’s “final solution.” Hitler had a small part of the world under his control and used the Jews as slaves along with killing them. Haman is second in command of the whole known world and every Jew is now under his thumb and subject to his hate. And he wants to annihilate, kill, destroy, wipe out all memory of the Jews from the earth.
There are some intense themes in this book and if it wasn’t funny it would be downright depressing!
At the right time Haman goes to the king and gives a little speech. Haman’s speech is superb in its rhetoric. He didn’t become second in command for nothing! It says enough but not too much. The name of the people are never mentioned (and the king never asks). He starts out by telling the king actual facts, goes on to partial truths, and ends with a downright lie.
Chapter 3 verses 10 – Haman’s full identity is restated at this moment for emphasis – here the villain is most dangerous and most influential.
This wonderful King is too busy to be bother with trivial details such as who they’re wiping out, or why they’re wiping them out, or what’s different about them…. Ha! Who needs to know such things. “You take care of it all Haman, I trust you!”
With the king’s full backing Haman has scribes write his horrific decree and has it sent out all over the empire. It would take about 3 mos for the edict to make it everywhere. And the destruction of the Jews was to take place 11 mos after Haman’s decree gets written. That was nice of him. The Jews have 11 mos to get their affairs in order and prepare to be slaughtered.
The author of Esther at this point reminds us several times of what day it is – the day before the feast of Passover. The Jews are preparing for Passover. Remember Passover is where the people celebrate the salvation of God out of Pharaoh’s hand and land. And just as they are preparing for Passover a new and even more dangerous problem occurs.
The decree itself goes out 5 years after Esther has become queen. We’ve jumped from the 3rd year of the king’s reign in chap 1 to the 12the year of his reign in chap 3. Things have been moving pretty quickly up to this point but now the narrator is going to slow things way down.
Totally fitting in with their characters the king and Haman sit down to have a good drink. Decreeing the annihilation of a people group must make one thirsty! But the rest of the empire begins to fall in to a period of despair and distress. Can you imagine the chaos and fear that must have reigned! This is the lowest point in the book, it’s bleakest moment.
But turn to chapter 4 and the shift begins…