All the royal officials at the king’s gate knelt down and paid honor to Haman, for the king had commanded this concerning him. But Mordecai would not kneel down or pay him honor. Esther 3:2
God is as purposeful in what He doesn’t reveal in His Word as in what He does. He doesn’t tell us why Mordecai refused to bow. He may have concluded that the king was asking them to worship Haman. If that were the case, kneeling would have been idolatrous. Mordecai knew Haman’s heritage and probably saw through his clever conniving and slick exterior into the malice rumbling below the surface.
Refusing to Bow
In Genesis 39:2-10, we see that, like Mordecai, Joseph also refused to do what someone in a powerful position insisted upon. The Hebrew wording describing how Potiphar’s wife “spoke to Joseph day after day” but “he refused” is strikingly similar to Esther 3:4: “Day after day they spoke to him but he refused to comply. Satan has a theory that he’s banked his entire accuser’s career on: Even the strong grow weak.
Joseph’s made-up mind was stronger than his mood. Likewise, the sight of Haman didn’t just hit Mordecai the wrong way one day when he was feeling so contentious that he bucked the system and refused to bow. Even on the days when buckling his knees would have seemed easier than being harassed, Mordecai’s made-up mind was stronger than his mood.
My beloved sister, may God be allowed to work such steadfastness of mind that “the bolts of your gates will be iron and bronze, and your strength will equal your days” (Deut. 33:25). Let’s pray for each other.
Esther 3:5 states that Haman was enraged when Mordecai refused to bow. “The Hebrew word hamah (anger) is a very strong term referring to ‘an inner and emotional heat which rises and is fanned to varying degrees’ – to ‘a burning and consuming wrath.’ Within the Book of Esther the term is used six times four times of the king (1:12, 2:1, 7:7,10) and twice with Haman (3:5; 5:9). Ephesians 4:26-27 tells us we are not to let the sun go down on our anger. We are to resolve issues quickly.
Regardless of planning or lot casting (Esther 3:7-8), all things pertaining to God’s people are marked on His calendar. Haman launched psychological weapons against the Jews and we find ourselves in the crosshairs of the same weapon in the hands of our enemy who is trying to get back at God by attacking us. Because Satan has a limited leash where believers are concerned, his most powerful tactics a psychological. Though he can’t possess our minds, he profoundly and destructively influence our thoughts.
The Jews in the Esther story, so far from Jerusalem and so at home in Persia, didn’t know if God was with them or not. God in 2 Timothy 2:13 says, “If we are faithless, He will remain faithful, for He cannot disown Himself.” God always wins, Satan can’t win and you can’t lose.
God always trumps Satan. Never picture the two of them as equal but opposite authorities. Every hope and every victory the enemy thinks he has is maddeningly thwarted at the perfect time.
Let’s look at verse 12: “The edict was written on the thirteenth day of Nisan, so it began to be distributed on the fourteenth.” From a divine perspective, this was no coincidence. We have no idea how many of the seven annual feats of Judaism were observed among the exiles of Persia. Of this we can be confident, however, if they celebrated only one, it was undoubtedly Passover.
Picture this: the edict hit the provinces of Persia on exactly the day observing Jewish households were preparing their tables for Passover. The news swept across the cities and villages like wildfire. What was meant to be a commemoration of a past event suddenly turned into a concert of imminent need. Decades earlier the Persian Jews had chosen not to take advantage of their deliverance under the decree of Cyrus and their permission to return to Jerusalem. They decided they liked Persian life and stayed put. Then came Haman. Maybe that’s one reason God allows “Hamans” to come along in life – so we’ll quit being so comfortable and at home here.
Haman the son of Hammedatha, the Agagite, the enemy of the Jews, has written into Persian law the edict that all the peoples of the empire are to be ready to destroy, slay and annihilate all the Jews, young and old, women and children, and to seize their goods as plunder, on one day, the thirteenth of the twelfth month, the month of Adar (verses 12-15). Public violence, murder and pillage are to be unleashed to provide vengeance to Haman’s wounded pride. Nothing is more frightening than a seared conscience. Given the power of Haman’s position and the irrevocability of Persian law, the doom of the Jews seems sealed. Or is it? One of the major characters of our story has not appeared in this tragic act by even the most veiled or subtle allusion. Yet, unbeknownst to Haman of the King, a member of this seemingly doomed race, now occupies incognito, the chair of the Queen of Persia. But what can one woman do, however highly placed, in the face of such odds?
What can one woman do? Perhaps you’ve been asking the same question in your own life.
We’ll explore that in the coming chapters. So stick around!