Haman is in charge (Esth 3:1-3:6)

“After these events, King Artaxerxes promoted Haman son of Hammedatha, a Bugean. He advanced Haman. He granted him precedence over all the king’s officials. He set his seat above all the princes who were with him. All who were at court used to do obeisance to Haman. The king had so commanded this to be done. Mordecai, however, did not do obeisance. Then the king’s courtiers said to Mordecai.

‘Mordecai, why do you disobey the king’s command?’

Day after day, they spoke to him, but he would not listen to them. Then they informed Haman that Mordecai was resisting the king’s command. Mordecai had told them that he was a Jew. When Haman learned that Mordecai was not doing obeisance to him, he was infuriated. However, he thought it beneath him to lay hands on Mordecai alone. Having been told who Mordecai’s people were, Haman plotted to destroy all the Jews, the people of Mordecai, throughout the whole kingdom of King Artaxerxes.”

It was not clear why Haman was promoted to this important role at the royal court. He was a Bugean or Agagite that probably refers to an Amalekite or an Assyrian, but it is not clear. This group may have been traditional enemies of the Jews. Since he was in charge of the other officials, it was only right that they obeyed him and offered obeisance. Judith did this to General Holofernes in chapter 10 of that work. This was a common courtesy. Mordecai gave his reason for not doing obeisance to Haman because he was a Jew. Day after day, the others told Mordecai to do it. When Haman found out about this he was furious. However, he did not want to single out Mordecai since that might look pompous. Instead he decided to destroy Mordecai’s people, all the Jews. Some have referred to this as the original genocide. Once again, it is hard to conceive of why he should have made such a jump from one person to his whole ethnic background unless it was just old fashioned stereotyping. Anti-Semitism has a long history and can be found here in the Bible itself. The European experience of anti-Semitism from Italy, France, England, Spain, Portugal, and Holland reached its apex in Germany in the 20th century.

Mordecai and Esther (Esth 2:5-2:7)

“Now there was a Jew in Susa the capital, whose name was Mordecai, son of Jair, son of Shimei, son of Kish, of the tribe of Benjamin. The family of Kish had been carried away from Jerusalem, among the captives carried away with King Jeconiah of Judah, whom King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon had captured. Mordecai had brought up Hadassah, that is Esther, his cousin. She did not have a father or mother. She was the daughter of his uncle, Aminadab. Esther was fair and beautiful in appearance. When her parents died, he brought her up to womanhood as his own daughter.”

Mordecai was a Benjaminite, the same as King Saul, and thus part of Judah. His family was brought into captivity by King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon with the sitting king of Judah in 587 BCE. Things turned better for the captured Jews under the Persian kings, especially after King Cyrus in 539 BCE. This is about 50 years after that. Anyway, Mordecai’s uncle Aminadab and his wife had died, so that he took care of their young daughter Esther, who was his first cousin. He was either her foster father or adopted father, but really was a first cousin, since their father’s were brothers. Once again, there are slight differences between the Hebrew and Greek text. Aminadab was not mentioned in the Hebrew text, only in the Greek text. Also the Jewish name of Esther is only found in the Hebrew text as Hadassah, but not in the Greek text.