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Who was Haman the Agagite?

Haman the Agagite audio

Haman is introduced in Esther 3:5–6 as an enemy of Mordecai and the Jewish people: “When Haman saw that Mordecai would not kneel down or pay him honor, he was enraged. Yet having learned who Mordecai’s people were, he scorned the idea of killing only Mordecai. Instead Haman looked for a way to destroy all Mordecai’s people, the Jews, throughout the whole kingdom of Xerxes.” Haman’s goal was the genocide of the Jews, becoming the opponent of Esther and her people in the book of Esther.

Haman was an Agagite and the son of Hammedatha. Haman was likely a descendent of Agag, king of the Amalekites, long-time enemies of the Jewish people. God had told King Saul to destroy the Amalekites centuries earlier (1 Samuel 15:3), but Saul failed to obey the command. His disobedience led to the loss of his kingdom and, in Esther’s time, the threat of annihilation for all Jews.

Haman was married to a woman named Zeresh, and they had ten sons. Haman was a close confidant of King Xerxes (or Ahasuerus). Haman took personally the fact that Mordecai would not bow down to him, and his personal slight grew into a murderous hatred of all Jews.

Using his connection with the king, Haman was able to pass a law commanding the genocide of the Jews: “Dispatches were sent by couriers to all the king’s provinces with the order to destroy, kill and annihilate all the Jews—young and old, women and children—on a single day, the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, the month of Adar, and to plunder their goods” (Esther 3:13). Haman had selected the day for the slaughter by casting lots (in Hebrew, purim). Wanting to make an example of Mordecai, Haman built a special gallows, about 75 feet high, to hang his enemy on (Esther 5:14).

God has a way of turning the tables, though. Much to Haman’s chagrin, King Xerxes (who was unaware of Haman’s vendetta against Mordecai) commanded that Mordecai be honored for thwarting an assassination attempt against the king. To Haman’s utter mortification, the king commanded that Haman do the honors—Haman had the task of walking Mordecai through the city on horseback and proclaiming the king’s admiration for him (Esther 6:10–11). Zeresh and Haman’s advisers saw this turn of events as an ill omen that presaged Haman’s downfall (Esther 6:13).

Queen Esther, a Jewess herself, used her position to intercede for her people. She did this by inviting the king and Haman to two banquets—which Haman (who was unaware of the queen’s ancestry) took as a great honor. At the second banquet, Esther confronted the king regarding Haman’s plot against her people. The king was furious and left the room (Esther 7:7).

Seeing he had incurred the wrath of Xerxes, Haman fell before Esther to plead for his life. The king re-entered the room, saw Haman on the couch with the queen, and said, “Will he even molest the queen while she is with me in the house?” (Esther 7:8). One of the king’s eunuchs then informed the king that Haman had prepared gallows for Mordecai. “And the king said, ‘Hang him on that.’ So they hanged Haman on the gallows that he had prepared for Mordecai. Then the wrath of the king abated” (Esther 7:9–10, ESV). Haman’s hostility toward the Jewish people resulted in his own death. Proverbs 26:27 held true: “Whoever digs a pit will fall into it; if someone rolls a stone, it will roll back on them.”

On the fateful day appointed for the destruction of the Jews, it was the Jews’ enemies who were destroyed instead (Esther 9:6–9, 16). The ten sons of Haman were also hanged (verse 14).

The Jewish Feast of Purim, a celebration of the deliverance detailed in the book of Esther, is named after the lots that Haman cast. On Purim, the book of Esther is read in the synagogue, and every time the name “Haman” is read, the audience drowns out the sound with ratchet-type noisemakers called graggers (or groggers) or by anything loud and annoying: alarm clocks, toy xylophones, balloons popped with pins, dolls that cry, toy police sirens, whistles, etc.

Haman’s evil name is blotted out symbolically, and Haman’s life is an example of the fate that faces those who oppose God and His people. Setting oneself against God and persecuting His people is futile—it did not work for Haman, it did not work for Antiochus Epiphanes, it did not work for Adolph Hitler, and it will not work for the Antichrist.

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Who was Haman the Agagite?
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This page last updated: January 4, 2022