Friday, February 24, 2017

Queen Esther: A Destiny Fulfilled. Day 7, Haman's Hatred

Queen Esther:
A Destiny Fulfilled
Day 7
Haman's Hatred

Haman, one of King Xerxes' top officials, hates Esther's uncle Mordecai because he won't bow to him. Haman also hates the Jews as a people. He comes up with a plan to rid the kingdom of them.

"In the twelfth year of King Xerxes, in the first month, the month of Nisan, the pur (that is, the lot) was cast in the presence of Haman to select a day and month. And the lot fell on the twelfth month, the month of Adar." (Esther 3:7) This is thought to have been a practice of Persian divination in which the lot was cast for each month of the year in order to determine which month would be the luckiest for a particular enterprise. Haman probably called in a magician or astrologer to do this for him. The dice, or similar object, came up in the right combination for the month of Adar. The lot was cast in the first month of the year and the lot fell on the last month of the year, causing a gap of time in which a solution can be found to save the Jews. Bible scholar David Guzik sees the providential hand of God in this, quoting the words of Solomon from Proverbs 16:33, "The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord." Had the lot fallen on the month of Nisan, Haman could have carried out his genocidal plot right away. But he is a victim of his own pagan superstition and he dares not make a move that goes against the way the lot fell, so he has to wait almost a year to carry out his plans. 

As soon as he sees which month the lot falls on, he goes to the king. "Then Haman said to King Xerxes, 'There is a certain people dispersed among the peoples in all the provinces of your kingdom who keep themselves separate. Their customs are different from those of all other people, and they do not obey the king's laws; it is not in the king's best interest to tolerate them. If it pleases the king, let a decree be issued to destroy them, and I will give ten thousand talents of silver to the king's administrators for the royal treasury." (Esther 3:8-9) Haman is such a liar we almost expect to see his pants on fire at this point. And shame on King Xerxes for not investigating these charges! The Jews indeed were "separate" in that they evidently obeyed the Mosaic law by not intermarrying with the other peoples in the kingdom. Many of them had retained, at least in part, their religion and a great deal of the customs that went along with it. But we have already seen that they had integrated into Persian society to such an extent that they were virtually indistinguishable from everyone else. They were causing no trouble, leading no rebellion, and disobeying no laws. They looked and behaved so much like everyone else that King Xerxes appears almost ignorant of their presence in his kingdom. He doesn't even suspect that his own queen is Jew. I picture him sitting in the palace, listening to Haman with a slight frown on his face, thinking, "The Jews? Are they still here? I thought they all went home when Cyrus said they could. Why, I couldn't even pick a Jew out of the crowd if somebody asked me to. But if they are refusing to obey my laws they might incite an insurrection and I can't have that. Haman says this is a matter of national security and I trust his judgment." 

Haman has pulled the wool over Xerxes' eyes. The king believes Haman is a man of integrity. As far as Xerxes is concerned, if Haman says the Jews are a problem, then they are a problem. In yesterday's study Esther's uncle Mordecai discovered a plot to assassinate the king and we were told that the matter was investigated and found to be true. But Xerxes does not investigate Haman's charges against the Jews. I think the reason for this is racially motivated, though Xerxes may not have been aware he harbored prejudice. He investigated the assassination plot because the men who stood accused were men of his own culture. He gave them a fair trial before executing them. He does not extend the same courtesy to the Jews. "So the king took his signet ring from his finger and gave it to Haman son of Hammedatha, the Agagite, the enemy of the Jews. 'Keep the money,' the king said to Haman, 'and do with the people as you please.'" (Esther 3:10)

"Then on the thirteenth day of the first month the royal secretaries were summoned. They wrote out in the script of each province and in the language of each people Haman's orders to the king's satraps, the governors of the various provinces and the nobles of the various peoples. These were written in the name of King Xerxes himself and sealed with his own ring. 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. A copy of the text of the edict was to be issued as law in every province and made known to the people of every nationality so they would be ready for that day." (Esther 3:12-14) Imagine the terror that struck the hearts of the Jews when this edict went out! A death sentence has been handed down but they have committed no crimes. A bitter man with a heart full of racial prejudice has simply decided they do not deserve to live. Haman is the Adolf Hitler of his day. 

"The couriers went out, spurred on by the king's command, and the edict was issued in the citadel of Susa. The king and Haman sat down to drink, but the city of Susa was bewildered." (Esther 3:15) The king and Haman believe they have put in a good day's work and they enjoy a bottle (or many bottles) of wine together. Meanwhile the populace is in shock. The Jews have lived peacefully among them, going about their work like responsible citizens, breaking no laws and being good neighbors. But now a great slaughter has been proposed for every Jewish man, woman, and child simply because of who they are. King Xerxes doesn't realize he has been fooled, but the people of the kingdom know it. They are powerless to revoke the king's orders, but while Xerxes and Haman drink congratulatory toasts to each other, the land is in mourning. A great travesty of justice has been carried out. I believe a huge wail of grief rose up at the news of the king's edict. It rose all the way to heaven and to the very ears of God, the God who fights for His people Israel. 

God is not caught off guard by Haman's racial prejudice or by the king's bad judgment. The execution order does not send Him into a panic. Everything is proceeding right on time and according to plan, because God foresaw all these things and He placed a crown on the head of a Jewish woman so she could be used of Him to save the Jewish people. God made certain Mordecai uncovered a plot to assassinate the king so that Xerxes will later realize he owes him a debt of gratitude. Xerxes will come to see that everything he has been told about the Jews is false and that there is no basis for prejudice against them. Right now Haman thinks he is control of the situation and congratulates himself on his masterful plan, but God is going to have the last word. Haman is going to fall into his own trap. Then will come true the words of David, who said of the one who lays a trap for the innocent, "Whoever digs a hole and scoops it out falls into the pit they have made. The trouble they cause recoils on them; their violence comes down on their own heads." (Psalm 7:15-16)

Troubling circumstances often come into our lives with no warning, leading us to wail in fear and spend sleepless nights in anxiety. But God is never caught off guard. Long before we ever reach a day of trouble, He is already there. While the Jews in the Medo-Persian Empire quake in terror, and while the citizens of Persia whisper to each other of their shock at the king's edict, God is on the move. He was already on the move long before Haman came up with his plot. He has been working things out, setting a framework in place for the saving of the Jews. What might He be doing in your life and my life today? Even in our darkest hours, God is at work. When it seems like nothing is happening, He is on the move. When our circumstances are unfair and unreasonable, He has a plan. "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose." (Romans 8:28) 

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