Who was Haman the Agagite in the Bible?

Haman is the antagonist in the book of Esther and an evil man who tried to annihilate the Jewish people. The account begins with a beautiful young Jewish girl named Hadassah, an orphan who had been raised by her cousin, Mordecai. The Jews had been living in exile in Persia, and, when King Xerxes (also known as King Ahasuerus) banished his queen and decided to choose another, Hadassah was taken into his harem. She was eventually chosen as the next queen, and her name was changed to the more Persian-sounding Esther.

Haman is first mentioned in Esther 3:1: "After these things King Ahasuerus promoted Haman the Agagite, the son of Hammedatha, and advanced him and set his throne above all the officials who were with him." Haman had become one of King Xerxes' chief advisers, but power went to his head. When everyone began to kneel and pay him homage, he noticed that Mordecai, Esther's adoptive father, did not bow. Mordecai, being a Jew, knew God's command about bowing to anyone but the Lord (Exodus 20:4–5). So Mordecai quietly remained standing when all others bowed to Haman as though he were a god. This infuriated the arrogant Haman (Esther 3:5).

Haman went to the king to suggest an evil plan that would destroy Mordecai and the entire Jewish race, which Haman characterized as rebellious rabble-rousers (Esther 3:6, 8). The king, not knowing Haman's true motives, signed a proclamation that on a certain day the Persian people could rise up, kill their Jewish neighbors, and take their possessions (Esther 3:13). The Jews would not be allowed to defend themselves. In this way, Haman was sure he would get his revenge against Mordecai.

When Mordecai learned of the king's edict, he was grief-stricken and sent word immediately to his adopted daughter, Queen Esther, pleading for her help. Esther was fearful of going in to the king without having first been summoned, but, drawing strength from Mordecai's words, she made her famous statement, "… I will go to the king, though it is against the law, and if I perish, I perish" (Esther 4:16). She asked all of the Jewish exiles to fast for her for three days.

Queen Esther requested a meeting with the king, which he granted (Esther 5:1–2). She then invited him and Haman to a feast she was giving. The king was delighted with the invitation, and so was Haman, who boasted to his wife and friends about how important he was (Esther 5:11–12). At the banquet, Esther requested that the king and Haman attend another banquet the next night. Haman was "joyful and glad of heart" on his way home (Esther 5:9), yet the very sight of righteous Mordecai refusing to bow filled him again with murderous rage. At his wife's suggestion, Haman erected a giant gallows, 75 feet tall, upon which to execute Mordecai.

But God, in His sovereign workings within the hearts of men, arranged for the king to have insomnia that night (Esther 6:1). King Xerxes called for his record books to be read to him, and he learned that Mordecai had once exposed an assassination plot against him. The king realized he had never honored the man who saved his life. As he pondered how to rectify this oversight, Haman strode into the room, intending at that moment to ask the king's permission to hang Mordecai on the gallows he had constructed. Instead, the king asked Haman, "What should be done to the man whom the king delights to honor?" (Esther 6:6).

Arrogant Haman, thinking the king was referring to him, answered, "For the man whom the king delights to honor, let royal robes be brought, which the king has worn, and the horse that the king has ridden, and on whose head a royal crown is set. And let the robes and the horse be handed over to one of the king's most noble officials. Let them dress the man whom the king delights to honor, and let them lead him on the horse through the square of the city, proclaiming before him: 'Thus shall it be done to the man whom the king delights to honor.'" (Esther 6:7–9). Haman could hardly contain his excitement, imagining himself honored in such a way.

"'Excellent!' the king said to Haman. 'Quick! Take the robes and my horse, and do just as you have said for Mordecai the Jew, who sits at the gate of the palace. Leave out nothing you have suggested!'" (Esther 6:10, NLT). So Haman had to lead the man he hated on the king's own horse, honoring him through the streets. Haman went home in disgrace. Just then, his servants told him it was time for Esther's banquet.

At the second banquet, the king was so pleased with his gracious and beautiful wife that he asked her what she would like, even up to half of his kingdom (Esther 7:2). Then Esther told him of Haman's evil plot to destroy her people. Pointing to him, she said, "This wicked Haman is our adversary and our enemy!" (Esther 7:6, NLT).

The king was so enraged that he went outside to cool down. While he was gone, Haman, in fear for his life, fell at Esther's feet, begging for mercy. The king walked back in and saw Haman clawing at the queen, and his fury reached its peak. "Will he even assault the queen in my presence, in my own house?" he exclaimed and Haman was to be executed at once (Esther 7:8). The guards rushed in and hauled Haman to the very gallows he had constructed for Mordecai (Esther 7:10). There he was executed.

Then Mordecai helped the king write another proclamation that would allow the Jews to congregate and defend themselves against any aggressors (Esther 8). The Jews were victorious. Esther was given Haman's estate, and Mordecai was promoted to Haman's position as chief adviser to King Xerxes. Haman's fate is an example of poetic justice and divine retribution. What Haman designed for evil God used for good in the lives of people who trusted in Him (Genesis 50:20).

The book of Esther several times points out that Haman was an Agagite—that is, he was a descendant of the Amalekite King Agag (Esther 3:1; 8:3, 5; 9:24). This is significant because, centuries earlier, King Saul had been commanded to destroy all the Amalekites (1 Samuel 15:1–3). Saul disobeyed, sparing King Agag and many things that he considered valuable (1 Samuel 15:9). The prophet Samuel had to execute Agag (1 Samuel 15:33), but it is obvious that Saul's incomplete obedience allowed some of Agag's descendants to survive. Haman the Agagite and his attempted genocide of the Jews serve as reminders of the importance of obeying God completely.


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