Introduction: After Esther became queen, Xerxes promoted an evil man named Haman to become the second most powerful man in Persia. Haman then plotted the destruction of all the Jews. In this chapter, Haman, Xerxes, and even Mordecai allowed their pride to control them. From their sins, God reveals seven warnings on the dangers of pride. Pride can lead to: (1) coveting, (2) disobedience, (3) wrath, (4) worldliness, (5) lies, (6) callousness, and (7) murder.
First, after Xerxes promoted Haman the Amalekite to be the second highest ranking official in Persia, Haman had Xerxes issue an order that required all to bow before Haman. Haman’s pride caused him to covet praise, wealth, and power. Pride can also lead to the sins of coveting praise and believing you are responsible for God’s blessings. Second, Mordecai refused to follow Persian law by bowing to Haman because of a historic hatred between the Amalekites and the Jews. Pride can also lead to the sin of disobedience. Third, Haman’s pride caused him to be filled with wrath against both Mordecai and the Jews after Mordecai refused to bow to him. Pride also frequently leads to hatred and anger. Fourth, Haman turned to superstition, witchcraft, and lots to select the optimal day to attempt to annihilate the Jews. Pride also can cause you to embrace worldly things over the things of God. Fifth, Haman’s pride justified in his mind the use of lies and deceit to try to kill all the Jews. Pride also frequently leads to the use of lies and deceit. Sixth, Xerxes agreed to Haman’s requested genocide without even asking which people Haman wanted to kill and the details of their alleged crimes. Xerxes was a prideful man who only loved himself. Pride also leads to narcissism and a lack of love for others. Finally, with Xerxes’ authority, Haman announced a future day when all the Jews could be murdered and their items looted. Like Haman, unchecked pride can culminate in the ultimate sin of murder.
Haman is promoted and demands praise. After Mordecai saved Xerxes from a coup d'état, Xerxes promoted Haman the Amalekite to be the second highest ranking official in Persia: “1 After these events King Ahasuerus honored Haman, the son of Hammedatha the Agagite, and promoted him and established his authority over all the officials who were with him. 2b All the king’s servants who were at the king’s gate bowed down and paid homage to Haman; for so the king had commanded regarding him.” (Esther 3:1-2a ). Haman’s promotion was meant to highlight an injustice. As a humble servant, Mordecai exposed a plot to murder Xerxes. But he received no reward (Esther 2:21-23). In contrast, Haman did nothing important to receive his promotion. As a prideful man, he then immediately used his authority to have Xerxes order that others bow before him.
Haman was an evil man of the flesh. Haman was an Agagite (Esther 3:1). This means that he descended from Agag, the King of the Amalekites (1 Sam. 15:8). God’s elect line to Jesus ran through Jacob’s grandson Perez (Gen. 38:26-29; Ruth 4:18-22; Matt. 1:3-6). In contrast, the line of the flesh ran through Esau’s grandson Amalek (Gen. 36:12). Because of his rejection of the inheritance that God gave him, God declared through Malachi: “‘but I have hated Esau, and I have made his mountains a desolation and given his inheritance to the jackals of the wilderness.’” (Mal. 1:3). In the book of Exodus, the Amalekites were the first nation to try to kill the Jews after they fled from Egypt. God promised that He would wage “war against Amalek from generation to generation.” (Ex. 17:14-16). At God’s command, Balaam prophesied about the future destruction of the Amalekites (Nu. 24:20). Just before the Jews invaded the Promised Land, Moses reminded the Jews of their obligation to blot out the Amalekites (Dt. 25:19). But the Jews let the Amalekites survive. Through the prophet Samuel, God later ordered King Saul to wipe out all the Amalekites (1 Sam. 15:2-3). But Saul also allowed the Amalekites to survive (1 Sam. 15:9). God then judged Saul and removed his right to be king (1 Sam. 15:26). Thus, Haman was an offspring of the flesh. Like Esau, he despised the things of God. He became an anti-christ that Satan used against the Jews.
Xerxes promoted Haman to be the second highest ranking official in Persia1
Haman coveted praise and power. Haman ordered others to bow before him because he coveted praise and power (Esther 3:2). Yet, his first actions violated God’s Tenth Commandment against coveting (Dt. 5:21; Ex. 20:17; Ro. 7:7; 13:9). He later revealed his prideful heart when he boasted of the glory and riches that he obtained through his undeserved power: “Then Haman told them of the glory of his riches, and his many sons, and every occasion on which the king had honored him and how he had promoted him above the officials and servants of the king.” (Esther 5:11). His coveting would soon cause him to break God’s other Commandments. Solomon warned: “There is an evil I have seen under the sun, like a mistake that proceeds from the ruler: foolishness is set in many exalted places while the rich sit in humble places.” (Ecc. 10:5-6).
Satan is the father of pride who seeks your destruction through pride as well. Satan is the father of pride. His pride also caused his downfall. Like Haman, Satan desired that others bow before him because of a blessing he did not earn: “But you said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God, and I will sit on the mount of assembly in the recesses of the north. I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High. Nevertheless you will be thrust down to Sheol, to the recesses of the pit. Those who see you will gaze at you, they will ponder over you, saying, ‘is this the man who made the earth tremble, who shook kingdoms,”’ (Is. 14:13-16). When you are prideful, you are also under Satan’s direct influence.
Pride is one of the worst sins to God. Through his pride, Haman committed one of the sins that God “hates”: “ . . . pride and arrogance and the evil way and the perverted mouth, I hate.” (Prov. 8:13). His pride would lead to his destruction (Prov. 16:18). “A man’s pride will bring him low, . . .” (Prov. 29:23). ‘“ . . . The arrogance of your heart has deceived you,’ . . . declares the LORD.” (Jer. 49:16). When you are prideful in your accomplishments, you rob God of the glory for His undeserved gifts to you (Jam. 1:17).
Do not surrender to covetousness or your desires of the flesh. Haman surrendered to his flesh by demanding what felt pleasing to his pride: “There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.” (Prov. 14:12). “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man is he who listens to counsel.” (Prov. 12:15). Unlike Haman, believers are called upon to make no provision for the flesh: “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts.” (Rom. 13:14). “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.” (Gal. 5:16). “Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” (Gal. 5:24). “[K]nowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin;” (Ro. 6:6). Are you demanding that others praise your accomplishments?
Mordecai refuses to bow down before Haman. Mordecai knew that Haman was an Amalekite. Thus, he refused to comply with Xerxes’ order that he bow before Haman: “2b But Mordecai neither bowed down nor paid homage. 3 Then the king’s servants who were at the king’s gate said to Mordecai, ‘Why are you violating the king’s command?’ 4 Now it was when they had spoken daily to him and he would not listen to them, that they told Haman to see whether Mordecai’s reason would stand; for he had told them that he was a Jew.” (Esther 3:2b-4). Xerxes’ servants spoke “daily” to Mordecai before Haman was even aware of Mordecai’s actions. But Mordecai would not relent and bow to Haman. When pressed to explain his actions, Mordecai merely stated that he was a “Jew”, which others would have understood to be a historic enemy of the Amalekites. Mordecai did not pray. Nor did he invoke God’s name. Indeed, he was not yet a man of strong faith. For example, he elected to stay in Persia when King Cyrus II issued a decree in 538 B.C. that gave the Jews the right to return to Jerusalem, and 42,360 Jews returned to Israel (Ezra 1:1-4; 2:64; 5:13-17). Despite God’s prohibitions against mixed marriages (Dt. 7:3-4), he also told Esther to conceal her Jewish heritage to increase her chances that Xerxes would marry her and make her Queen of Persia (Esther 2:10, 20).
Mordecai refused to bow to Haman2
Prior Jewish leaders all bowed in respect to leaders in authority, including pagan ones. Was Mordecai being an observant Jew by refusing to bow to Haman? Scripture gives an unmistakable answer to this question: no. Abraham bowed before strangers as a sign of respect (Gen. 18:2-3). He also bowed before the pagan peoples of Heth (Gen. 23:7). Jacob (Mordecai’s ancestor) also bowed “seven times” before his carnal brother Esau (Haman’s ancestor) (Gen. 33:3). When Joseph became the second most powerful official in Egypt, he accepted having people bow before him (Gen. 41:43). And he could not have held such an honor if he refused to bow before Pharaoh. At a time when his brothers assumed that Joseph was an Egyptian official, comparable to Haman, they also twice bowed before him (Gen. 42:6; 43:26). This further fulfilled a vision that God gave Joseph of his brothers bowing before him (Gen. 37:7). Joseph also later bowed to his father Israel (Gen. 48:12). Moses bowed to his pagan father-in-law from Median (Ex. 18:7). Ruth also bowed before Boaz (Ruth 2:10). David further bowed three times to Jonathan (1 Sam. 20:41). David also bowed before King Saul, even after Saul tried to kill him (1 Sam. 24:8). Abigail later bowed to David (1 Sam. 25:23). Saul later bowed to Samuel (1 Sam. 28:14). Mephibosheth bowed before David (2 Sam. 9:6). Ziba also bowed before David (2 Sam. 16:4). Even Bathsheba bowed before David (1 Kgs. 1:31). A Shunammite woman also bowed before Elisha (2 Kgs. 4:37). During the exile, King Nebuchadnezzar made Daniel the “ruler over the entire province of Babylon, and chief prefect over all the wise men of Babylon.” (Dan 2:48). Daniel could not have held such an honor if he refused to bow before King Nebuchadnezzar. In this same book, Xerxes later made Mordecai the second highest ranking official in Persia (Esther 8:1). Mordecai also would have never have received this honor if he refused to bow before Xerxes. Thus, there was no Biblical authority for Mordecai to refuse to bow before Haman. In fact, he was the first and only Jew in the Bible who refused to bow before others.
Believers are subject to the laws of civil authorities unless they contract God’s laws. Under God’s law, Mordecai was in fact required to submit to Persian authority: “Every person is to be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves.” (Rom. 13:1-2). “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority,” (1 Pet. 2:13). “Honor all people, . . . honor the king.” (1 Pet. 2:17). “Then [Jesus] said to them, “Then pay to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and to God the things that are God’s.” (Matt. 22:21(b)). The only exception to this rule exists when a believer is commanded to do evil. Thus, Mordecai sinned by refusing to obey Xerxes’ order to bow before Haman.
Mordecai’s refusal to bow down before Haman was based upon his pride. God’s people are not immune from pride. Mordecai knew that the Amalekites previously tried to exterminate his people (Ex. 17:14-16). He was also from the tribe of Benjamin (Esther 2:5). King Saul (who was also from the tribe of Benjamin (1 Sam. 9:1), lost his right to be King of Israel because he refused to kill King Agag (1 Sam. 15:9, 26). As one commentator observes: “The author may be informing the reader subtly that the ancient feud between the Amalekites and the Israelites has been inherited by Haman, a descendant of Agag, and Mordecai, a descendant of Saul . . .The most probable reason [for his refusal to bow] was as a Targum suggests, Mordecai’s pride; no self-respecting Benjaminite would bow before a descendant of the ancient Amalekite enemy of the Jews.” (Frank Gaebelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 4, 1, 2 Kings, 1, 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Job (Zondervan Publishing House 1988) p. 811-12) (italics added). Thus, Mordecai’s pride caused him to rebel against authority by refusing to bow to an ethnic enemy. But this would sadly set in motion far more horrific events.
Satan uses pride to create chaos by causing God’s people to rebel against His Word. Satan’s goal has always been to break down order through rebellion. His goal is to create chaos and misery. Satan first led a third of the angels in rebellion against God’s rule (Rev. 12:3-9). He then led Eve to rebel against God’s rules (Gen. 3:1-4). He then led Adam and Eve to rebel against each other (Gen. 3:16). Satan also becomes the father of those who rebel (Jo. 8:44). Jesus once quoted a prophesy: “I will strike down the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered.” (Mk. 14:23). When influenced by Satan, the corrupt “despise authority.” (2 Pet. 2:10). Solomon later said that rebellion was the sign of an “evil man.” (Prov. 17:11). According to Paul, rebellion is also part of the spirit of “the prince of the power of the air.” (Eph. 2:2). Samuel also said that: “. . . rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft . . .” (1 Sam. 15:23). After leaving Egypt, the Jews’ lack of faith caused them to repeatedly rebel against God and His appointed leader Moses (Nu. 14:22). As a result of the Jews’ repeated refusal to obey and have faith, God eventually banished them to spend 40 years wandering in the desert (Nu. 14:34). For everything good and holy, Satan has created a counterfeit to deceive people. If God’s perfect government leads to peace and harmony (1 Tim. 2:1-2), rebellion only brings strife, death, and misery. For those who rebel and follow Satan, Satan can only offer misery and pain.
Haman becomes filled with wrath after learning of Mordecai’s refusal to bow. Out of pride, Haman became filled with wrath toward both Mordecai and then all the Jews: “5 When Haman saw that Mordecai neither bowed down nor paid homage to him, Haman was filled with rage. 6 But he considered it beneath his dignity to kill Mordecai alone, for they had told him who the people of Mordecai were; so Haman sought to annihilate all the Jews, the people of Mordecai, who were found throughout the kingdom of Ahasuerus.” (Esther 3:5-6). Haman’s pride was the gateway sin that brought about his wrath. It then fueled his desire to murder all the Jews. He would not have immediately sought to annihilate all the Jews unless he previously held strong anti-Semitic views.
Pride demands respect and results in anger when it is not received. A prideful person not only believes that he or she is correct but that others must recognize this as well. When a prideful person does not receive the respect or agreement that he or she feels is owed, it inevitably leads to anger at the person who refuses to agree: “Haman was an extremely proud and insecure man; he could only consider himself a success if everyone else thought he was a success. Haman’s anger led him to take out his wrath upon all the Jews in the kingdom. The problem with Haman exposed his basic hatred for all Jewish people.” (David Guzik on Esther 3) (italics original).3
A Spirit-led leader should never respond out of anger when provoked. If Haman were led by the Spirit, he would not have responded out of anger to Mordecai’s disobedience: “If the ruler’s temper rises against you, do not abandon your place, because composure puts great offenses to rest.” (Ecc. 10:4). “Through patience a ruler may be persuaded, and a gentle tongue breaks bone.” (Prov. 25:15). “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” (Prov. 15:1). Do you respond to evil with evil?
The antichrist seeks to destroy God’s people, including the Jews. Haman was one of many antichrists who have existed throughout time (1 Jo. 2:18). Many of these antichrists have come to try to kill off the Jews and fueled the fires of anti-Semitism. These include, but are not limited to, Pharaoh, Haman, and Hitler. Believers are warned that the spirit of the antichrist will rise in an even more dangerous man who will unite the world in opposition to God’s people (Rev. 13:1-18). The antichrist will then again try to wipe out God’s people. But the Bible tells us that he will fail again (Rev. 17:7-14).
Haman turns to superstition to select the date of the Jews’ destruction. In the Persian empire, astrology and witchcraft were widely practiced. As a worldly man, Haman used lots, astrology, and witches to select what he believed to be the best day to kill the Jews: “7 In the first month, which is the month Nisan, in the twelfth year of King Ahasuerus, Pur, that is the lot, was cast before Haman from day to day and from month to month, until the twelfth month, that is the month Adar.” (Esther 3:7). In Hebrew, the word “pur” means “lot”. Haman thought he was selecting the date of the Jews’ destruction. But God selected the day in advance as the date when He would save the Jews (Esther 9:24-28).
Satan is the ruler of this world, and will use prideful and worldly leaders to oppress you. As a man of the flesh, Haman embraced the wisdom of the world. In this case, it was the use of astrologers, witches, and occult leaders who used lots to let the pagan gods guide them. The future antichrist will also be revealed through his embrace of demonic forces: “No one is to deceive you in any way! For it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction.” (2 Thess. 2:3). Satan has been given temporary control over the Earth. Thus, he can influence evil or worldly leaders to stop or delay your work for Jesus: “We know that we are of God, and that the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.” (1 Jo. 5:19). “Now judgment is upon this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out.” (Jo. 12:31). “I will not speak much more with you, for the ruler of the world is coming, and he has nothing in Me;” (Jo. 14:30). Believers must be careful never to let worldly ways influence them. When they do this, they allow people like Haman to create fear in their lives.
Satan’s power is limited and cannot stop God’s ultimate control over events. Like Haman, Satan seeks to rule over all (Is. 14:12-17). His power can seem scary at first. Yet, like Haman, God has judged him for his pride and rebellion (Rev. 20:10). Thus, you also don’t need to fear Satan. “You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.” (1 Jo. 4:4). “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us?” (Ro. 8:31). ‘“Do not fear, for I am with you; do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” (Is. 41:10). Thus, when you serve Jesus, never fear any evil ruler or leader.
God is in control of His history and will deliver His people. The date selected through the process using lots delayed the date of the Jews’ destruction by 11 months. This may have caused some Jews without faith to look for ways to flee from the long reach of the Persian empire. But the Jews with faith knew that God had selected the date chosen by the lots with enough time for God to intervene and save His people: “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD.” (Prov. 16:33). Indeed, God would save the Jews on the date Haman believed that he had selected. This date would later become celebrated as the Feast of Purim (Esther 9:24-28). The day is called “lots” or Purim to remind the Jew that God is sovereign, and He is faithful to His people.
Haman uses lies in seeking to exterminate an entire race of people. Haman’s pride allowed him to justify his planned genocide by employing deceit, half-truths, and lies: “8 Then Haman said to King Ahasuerus, ‘There is a certain people scattered and dispersed among the peoples in all the provinces of your kingdom; their laws are different from those of all other people and they do not comply with the king’s laws, so it is not in the king’s interest to let them remain. 9 If it is pleasing to the king, let it be decreed that they be eliminated, and I will pay ten thousand talents of silver into the hands of those who carry out the king’s business, to put into the king’s treasuries.’” (Esther 3:8-9). The Jews did have different laws than the Persians. But Haman deceived Xerxes into thinking that this made them a threat. And it was a lie to suggest that all of the Jews would not comply with Persian law based upon Mordecai’s bad actions. Those who allege that Mordecai had to reject Persian law only give weight to Haman’s lie. Haman tried to play upon Xerxes’ covetous nature by offering to give him the gold of all of the murdered Jews. In Nazi Germany, the Nazi’s also enlisted the support of ordinary citizens by allowing them to loot the belongings of Jews and seize their homes.
Arent de Gelder (1645-1727) “Ahasuerus and Haman” (oil painting 1682)4
The Jews were frequently maligned as a rebellious people. When the Samaritans wrote to the Persians to stop the Temple rebuilding process, they also called the Jewish-controlled Jerusalem a “rebellious and evil city” (Ezra 4:12). Because Persia was weakened through ongoing rebellions, this charge was effective in turning the king against them. Jewish leaders like Jehoiakim (2 Kgs. 24:1, 20) and Zedekiah (2 Chr. 36:13) had rebelled against Babylonian rule. Thus, King Nebuchadnezzar II of Babylon destroyed Jerusalem in 586 B.C. (Ezra 4:15). Northern Israel also rebelled against the Assyrians in 701 B.C. (2 Kgs. 18:7). Yet, there was no evidence of the Jews ever rebelling against the Persian empire because the Persian previously tolerated the Jews’ worship of Yahweh. The Temple opponents also falsely alleged that the Jews would “not pay tribute, custom or toll” (Ezra 4:13) if the Jews finished their rebuilding plans. But there was again no evidence to support this false charge. Satan continues to use lies to fuel anti-Semitism today.
Satan is the father of lies and will use lies to try to stall your work for Jesus. Lies are Satan’s tool to turn people away from God (Dt. 11:16; 30:17). “You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. . . Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” (Jo. 8:44). Unless you know God’s Word, Satan will try to use lies and half-truths to stall your work for Jesus. When Satan employs lies against you, you must pray and put your faith in Jesus.
Satan will make accusations against you as well. Satan will also incite accusations against you when you step out in faith to serve Jesus. He makes accusations against believers “day and night.” But you can have faith that your accuser will eventually be thrown down into the lake of fire: “Then I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, ‘Now the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down, he who accuses them before our God day and night.”’ (Rev. 12:10; Job 1:6; Zech. 3:1). If you are under Satan’s attack for your past sins, he knows that you are being effective. You can plead guilty to all the charges against you knowing that Jesus has paid the penalty for your sins. If you feel tempted to make accusations against your brothers and sisters in Christ, don’t let Satan use you to discourage other fellow sinners from stepping out to serve Jesus.
Respond to the devil’s lies with the truth of God’s Word. Jesus is “‘the way, and the truth, and the life”’ (Jo. 14:6). He is also the Word that became flesh (Jo. 1:1, 14). His Word is sharper than a two-edged sword in the face of Satan’s lies: “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Heb. 4:12). When you pray and use God’s Word out of love, Jesus will thwart Satan’s lies against you. You must also never use lies or half-truths, Satan’s tools, in your walk with God. When you do, you allow Satan to use you.
Xerxes agrees to a genocide without any questions. Without asking which people Haman wanted to exterminate or the details of their offenses, Xerxes agreed to a full genocide: “10 Then the king took his signet ring from his hand and gave it to Haman, the son of Hammedatha the Agagite, the enemy of the Jews. 11 And the king said to Haman, ‘The silver is yours, and the people also, to do with them as you please.”’ (Esther 3:10-11). Xerxes was supposed to care for all his subjects. But the planned murder of an entire race did not raise even a remote level of interest in him. And while some might see a sliver of virtue in his claimed disinterest in the Jews’ wealth, some believe that this was simply a haggling tactic. They soon agreed upon a price for Xerxes (Esther 4:7).
Pride is defined as self-love and a disregard for others. There are many examples in the Bible where prideful leaders acted with scorn and an unloving heart toward God’s people. For example, the prideful Egyptians showed cruelty toward Jews, whom they considered to be inferior (Ex. 1:11, 14, 5:6-10). Centuries later, King Rehoboam responded to the people’s complaints about Solomon’s taxes and forced labor requirements by threatening to impose even tougher requirements: “My father made your yoke heavy, but I will add to your yoke; my father disciplined you with whips, but I will discipline you with scorpions!” (1 Kgs. 12:11). During the end times, will also become prideful and filled with self-love: “For men will be lovers of self, . . ., unloving, . . . brutal, haters of good,” (2 Tim. 3:2-3). “For they all seek after their own interests, not those of Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 2:21). People will become “unfeeling, and unmerciful;” (Rom. 1:31).
Haman uses Xerxes’ seal to announce the planned date of the Jews’ extermination. Haman used the authority that Xerxes gave him to announce a date when Jews anywhere in the empire could be murdered with their property taken: “12 Then the king’s scribes were summoned on the thirteenth day of the first month, and it was written just as Haman commanded to the king’s satraps, to the governors who were over each province and to the officials of each people, each province according to its script, each people according to its language, being written in the name of King Ahasuerus and sealed with the king’s signet ring. 13 Letters were sent by couriers to all the king’s provinces to annihilate, kill, and destroy all the Jews, both young and old, women and children, in one day, the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, which is the month Adar, and to seize their possessions as plunder. 14 A copy of the edict to be issued as law in every province was published to all the peoples so that they would be ready for this day. 15 The couriers went out, speeded by the king’s order while the decree was issued at the citadel in Susa; and while the king and Haman sat down to drink, the city of Susa was agitated.” (Esther 3:12-15). The capital “city of Susa was agitated” at the news of the Jews planned annihilation. King Cyrus II issued a decree that gave the Jewish captives in Babylon the right to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the Temple (Ezra 1:1-4; 5:13-17). Although the Samarians made accusations against the Jews to Xerxes (Ezra 4:6) the Persians had tolerated the Jews until this time. Persia was filled with conquered minorities. The Persians had distinguished themselves from the Assyrians and the Babylonians with their tolerance of local religious beliefs. If the Jewish men, women, and children could all be exterminated though a capricious order and with no announced offenses against the Persians, there was nothing to stop similar orders against other minority groups. But Haman and Xerxes showed their indifference by celebrating with alcohol (Esther 3:15).
Pride can culminate with the sin of murder. There are many examples throughout the Bible where unchecked pride ultimately resulted in murder. Cain was prideful about his offering and ultimately killed Abel out of jealousy when Abel’s offering was accepted and his was rejected (Gen. 4:3-8). Out of pride, Baasha murdered all Jeroboam’s descendants (1 Kgs. 15:29). Also out of pride, Zimri murdered all of Baasha’s descendants (1 Kgs. 16:11-14). Also out of pride, Jehu murdered all of Ahab’s descendants (2 Kgs. 10:1-28). If your pride causes you to hate someone else, you have committed an act of murder in God’s eyes: “Everyone who hates his brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life remaining in him.” (1 Jo. 3:15). Is there someone who has offended you and caused you to hate that person? If so, repent of your pride and hatred and forgive the person who has offended you.
The death sentence was announced one day before Passover. Haman published his order to exterminate the Jews on the 13th day of the first month on the Jewish religious calendar (Esther 3:12). The Jews were required to select the Passover lamb on the 10th day of the first month, the day when Haman likely sealed the Jews’ fate with Xerxes (Ex. 12:1-5). On the 14th day of the first month, the Jews were to slaughter the Passover lamb to remind them of how God allowed death to “pass over” them when a Pharaoh tried to exterminate them (Ex. 12:6). Because God controlled the timing of these events, He was sending a message to the Jews. He would again cause death to pass over them: “Again the author provided information that adds to the artistry of the narrative by giving a date only a Jew would know. The fourteenth day was the first day of Passover, the celebration of deliverance from Egypt. The irony is unmistakable. The day before celebrating freedom from Egyptian oppression, a decree had been made for their very destruction.” (Mervin Breneman, The New American Commentary, Vol. 10, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther (B&H Publishing Group 1993) p. 331). The Jews, however, needed faith to trust in God.
Satan is the ruler of the world and will seek to oppress you when you serve Jesus. Satan is the god of this world (2 Cor. 4:4). Thus, Jesus warns you that Satan will cause you to face persecution and hatred when you serve Him: “If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you.” (Jo. 15:19). In fact, if you seek to be popular or loved by the world, you frequently make yourself an enemy against what God seeks to accomplish through you: “You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” (Jam. 4:4). If you feel public opinion turning against you for serving Jesus, that means you are effective and a threat to Satan.
Show self-restraint when you are attacked. It would have been tempting for the Jews to lash out at Haman for making false accusations against them. When you are attacked, Jesus urges you to show restraint: “But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.” (Matt. 5:39; Lk. 6:29). “not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing.” (1 Pet. 3:9). “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. . . Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men.” (Ro. 12:14, 17). When others hurt you or make accusations against you, do you restrain your urge to strike back?
Let Jesus defend you when you are attacked. Part of having faith includes trusting God in knowing if and how you should respond to evil attacks: “Do not say, ‘I will repay evil’; wait for the LORD, and He will save you.” (Prov. 20:22). When you have faith in Jesus, you have an advocate to rebut Satan’s accusations: “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous;” (1 Jo. 2:1). Jesus has also appointed the Holy Spirit to help you in your trials: “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever;” (Jo. 14:16). When you face attacks, do you pray for Jesus and the Holy Spirit to intercede on your behalf?
Put your trust in God, and do not fear evil people. Believers should respond to the plans of evil people with courage and faith in God. “The fear of man brings a snare, but he who trusts in the LORD will be exalted.” (Prov. 29:25). “I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that have no more that they can do.” (Lk. 12:4). The only person that you are to fear is God (Prov. 1:7). And the fear of the Lord is hating evil (Prov. 8:12). “The fear of man brings a snare. But he who trusts in the Lord will be exalted.” (Prov. 29:25). “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding.” (Prov. 3:5). “casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.” (1 Pet. 5:7). “Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.” (1 Cor. 16:13). “Be strong and let your heart take courage, all you who hope in the LORD.” (Ps. 31:24). “Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble at them, for the LORD your God is the one who goes with you. He will not fail you or forsake you.” (Dt. 31:6). Are you encouraging others to have faith in the face of fear?
God’s Word – the antidote to fear and lacking faith. If your faith is lacking, God calls upon you to build it up reading the Word: “[F]aith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” (Ro. 10:17). The next time you fear, recite His promises: “Do not fear for I am with you; do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand . . . Do not fear, I will help you.” (Is. 41:10, 13). “For I know the plans I have for you . . . plans for welfare and not calamity to give you a future and a hope.” (Jer. 29:11). “For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.” (2 Tim. 1:7). Faith is like a muscle. It can atrophy if you don’t read the Word. Are you reading the Word and praying to build up your faith?
When others unite against you, find protection within the Body of Christ. When your enemies conspire against you, God offers you protection when you are connected to fellow believers (Heb. 10:25). Satan acts like a roaring lion (1 Pet. 5:8). Believers are also called “sheep,” animals without natural defenses. (e.g., Jo. 21:16, 27). Lions usually attack animals that stray from the protections of the herd. Are you in any type of small church accountability group? Or, are you a lone ranger for Christ?
Image credit: Arent de Gelder: Ahasuerus and Haman (artbible.info)↩︎