This week we will be looking at Chapters 3 and 4 of Esther, and as we will see, events begin to unfold at a rapid pace. Haman unveils his plot to destroy the Jews, and Mordecai and Esther work out their plan to thwart Haman’s evil scheme. There is so much that could be discussed from these two chapters; it is difficult to narrow it down in the context of a blog. For our purposes, I would like to focus on the conflict between Haman and Mordecai and the role bitterness played in this great drama.
In last week’s blog, I mentioned that Mordecai’s genealogy in Chapter 2 was important. To understand this genealogy, it is important to note that Jewish genealogies often skipped generations and focused on important ancestors. Based on this cultural understanding, scholars believe that this genealogy tells us that Mordecai was a descendant of the house of King Saul of Israel. In fact, scholars believe that the Shimei mentioned in this genealogy is in fact the same Shimei that came out and cursed King David when he fled from the rebellion led by his son, Absalom (2 Sam. 16). Thus, Mordecai and Esther weren’t just ordinary Israelites—they were Israelites of royal descent. Additionally, they were from a royal family who, at least at one point in their history, were embittered by how they had been treated.
Haman, too, was of royal descent. In Chapter 3 we read that he was an Agagite. Agag was the royal title for the king of the Amalekites, the bitter enemies of the Israelites. The last recorded Agag was defeated by Saul and brought to Samuel, who killed him, as Saul had been instructed to do (1 Sam. 15). So, not only was Mordecai someone who failed to give Haman the honor he thought he was due, he was a Jew and a descendant of King Saul. It was all too much for Haman to bear. Consumed by his anger and bitterness, Haman would settle for nothing less than outright genocide.
Both men had reason for bitterness. The families of both men had been seemingly wronged by others. Yet, in Mordecai, we see no traces of the bitterness of Shimei. Nor is there any bitterness from his family being carried off into captivity in a foreign land. Instead, we see a man of faith who honors and protects a king who in no way deserves it. In Haman, on the other hand, we see a man full of rage and scorn, who abuses his power for personal vendetta. Haman serves as the living embodiment of the admonition of Heb. 12:15, “See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no ‘root of bitterness’ springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled[.]” God, in his grace, wants to free us from past hurts. God understands that when we allow bitterness to take root in our hearts, it grows like a weed until it has penetrated every part of our soul. Bitterness pollutes our thinking. It defiles how we sees others and clouds our judgment. The really dangerous thing is that our bitterness is not content with consuming us; it won’t stop until it consumes all those around us as well, as we will see later on in Esther. Let us not fail to allow God’s grace to work in our hearts to tamp out the consuming fires of bitterness and hurt.
- The families of Mordecai and Haman had animosities that went back for centuries. What are some of the national, regional, or even familial animosities to which you have been exposed? How might those past hurts have been passed down to you in the form of bitterness or prejudice?
- Read Heb. 12:1-17. How might bitterness interfere with the work of God’s grace in your life? What are some practical steps we can take to deal with bitterness?
- How does bitterness impact how we see others? How might our personal bitterness infect others and poison their relationships as well?