Every good story has a villain. In the true tale of Persia’s Queen Esther, Haman is the bad guy, the man wearing the black hat. If this was Gun Smoke, Marshall Dillan would have met Haman in the dusty street in front of the Long Branch at high noon, and after a moment of suspense, Haman would have had a couple of holes in his chest. Done. Dead. Off to Boot Hill.
In Persia, Haman was the right-hand-man for King Ahasuerus, a.k.a. King Xerxes, and like every great villain, he was pure evil. He hated the Jews, and especially Mordecai. Haman was arrogant, pompous! When he rode his great stallion through the streets of Susa, “the entire royal staff at the King’s Gate bowed down and paid homage to Haman, because the king had commanded this to be done for him. But Mordecai would not bow down or pay homage” (Esther 3:2).
Why wouldn’t Mordecai bow? A little background will help. Haman, son of Hammedatha, was an Agagite (Esther 3:1). Agag was the king of the Amalekites, the descendants of Esau (Genesis 36:12). Ever since the Israelites had crossed the Red Sea, the Amalekites had been the perennial enemy of the Israelite people (Exodus 17:8-16, Deuteronomy 25:17-19).
Concerning the Amalekites, God gave clear instructions to king Saul. “I witnessed what the Amalekites did to the Israelites when they opposed them along the way as they were coming out of Egypt. Now go and attack the Amalekites and completely destroy everything they have. Do not spare them. Kill men and women, infants and nursing babies, oxen and sheep, camels and donkeys” (1 Samuel 15:2–3). Exterminate them! Don’t let anyone live!
King Saul didn’t obey. Though they soundly defeated their enemy, Saul captured Agag alive. “Saul and the troops spared Agag, and the best of the sheep, goats, cattle, and choice animals, as well as the young rams and the best of everything else. They were not willing to destroy them, but they did destroy all the worthless and unwanted things” (1 Samuel 15:9).
Haman, the Agagite, was the great, great, great… grandson of the Amalekite king, and Mordecai, the great, great, great… grandson of Saul, wasn’t about to bow! Never!
Here’s a lesson for us: we can’t bow down to the enemy, but we must exterminate it! With a repentant heart, we are empowered to turn away from the attractions and enticements of the world. “Brothers and sisters, we are not obligated to the flesh to live according to the flesh, because if you live according to the flesh, you are going to die. But if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all those led by God’s Spirit are God’s sons. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear. Instead, you received the Spirit of adoption, by whom we cry out, ‘Abba, Father!’ The Spirit himself testifies together with our spirit that we are God’s children, and if children, also heirs—heirs of God and coheirs with Christ” (Romans 8:12–17). We’re invited to “put on the full armor of God so that you can stand against the schemes of the devil” (Ephesians 6:11). “God is faithful; he will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to bear it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).
God’s children don’t need to bow. We’re adopted, protected by the king, and empowered to stand tall. We need to send the devil to boot hill!