By Ashley Synowicki
As chapter 3 of Esther begins, we are met with a shift of events. Readers expect to see how Mordecai is honored for his loyalty in exposing the plot against king at the end of Chapter 2. Surprisingly, we learned that Chapter 3 is five years in the future. Instead of Mordecai, we see someone else being honored, Haman, the Agagite.
Digging deeper in our homework this week, we discovered that Mordecai doesn’t have issue with Haman because he is a Persian official. After all, to hold his position in the king’s palace Mordecai has likely bowed to multiple officials before now. However, Haman is an Agagite, which makes all the difference.
Agagites were descendants of King Agag, leader of the Amalekites. This subtle detail is meant to catch our attention. In the book of Exodus, Chapter 17, the Israelites first fought the Amalekites. God promises after their battle to “have war with Amalek from generation to generation.” In Deut. 25:17-19 God speaks to his people through Moses concerning this same attack saying:
“Remember what Amalek did to you on the way as you came out of Egypt, how he attacked you on the way when you were faint and weary, and cut off your tail, those who were lagging behind you, and he did not fear God. Therefore when the Lord your God has given you rest from all your enemies around you, in the land that the Lord your God is giving you for an inheritance to possess, you shall blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven; you shall not forget.”
This is why Mordecai would not bow down to Haman. Not because of Haman’s authority, but because of an issue with Haman himself. It was personal. Mordecai was unwilling to bow because he was being obedient to God and His word. Haman was an enemy of Mordecai’s God. Though he had hidden his Jewish identity in the past, Mordecai is no longer willing to hide.
Haman’s fury is kindled against Mordecai at this sign of disrespect. Instead of retaliating against Mordecai alone, Haman decides to annihilate all of Mordecai’s people, the Jews. Haman issues a decree stating, in 11 months time, fellow citizens of the Persian empire are to destroy their Jewish neighbors. This is the second time in the story of Esther where we see those in power lash out when they are denied the respect they feel they deserve. Haman is holding true to his Amalekite heritage.
This brings up the question: Do you harbor a strong desire – a craving – for respect? Are there ways in which you try to demand it from the people in your life and if so, what is the typical outcome?