Verses 1–6

Here we have,

I. Haman advanced by the prince, and adored thereupon by the people. Ahasuerus had lately laid Esther in his bosom, but she had no such interest in him as to get her friends preferred, or to prevent the preferring of one who she knew was an enemy to her people. When those that are good become great they still find that they cannot do good, nor prevent mischief, as they would. This Haman was an Agagite (an Amalekite, says Josephus), probably of the descendants of Agag, a common name of the princes of Amalek, as appears, Num. 24:7. Some think that he was by birth a prince, as Jehoiakim was, whose seat was set above the rest of the captive kings (2 Kgs. 25:28), as Haman’s here was, Est. 3:1. The king took a fancy to him (princes are not bound to give reasons for their favours), made him his favourite, his confidant, his prime-minister of state. Such a commanding influence the court then had that (contrary to the proverb) those whom it blessed the country blessed too; for all men adored this rising sun, and the king’s servants were particularly commanded to bow before him and to do him reverence (Est. 3:2), and they did so. I wonder what the king saw in Haman that was commendable or meritorious; it is plain that he was not a man of honour or justice, of any true courage or steady conduct, but proud, and passionate, and revengeful; yet was he promoted, and caressed, and there was none so great as he. Princes’ darlings are not always worthies.

II. Mordecai adhering to his principles with a bold and daring resolution, and therefore refusing to reverence Haman as the rest of the king’s servants did, Est. 3:2. He was urged to it by his friends, who reminded him of the king’s commandment, and consequently of the danger he incurred if he refused to comply with it; it was as much as his life was worth, especially considering Haman’s insolence, Est. 3:3. They spoke daily to him (Est. 3:4), to persuade him to conform, but all in vain: he hearkened not to them, but told them plainly that he was a Jew, and could not in conscience do it. Doubtless his refusal, when it came to be taken notice of and made the subject of discourse, was commonly attributed to pride and envy, that he would not pay respect to Haman because, on the score of his alliance to Esther, he was not himself as much promoted, or to a factious seditious spirit and a disaffection to the king and his government; those that would make the best of it looked upon it as his weakness, or his want of breeding, called it a humour, and a piece of affected singularity. It does not appear that any one scrupled at conforming to it except Mordecai; and yet his refusal was pious, conscientious, and pleasing to God, for the religion of a Jew forbade him, 1. To give such extravagant honours as were required to any mortal man, especially so wicked a man as Haman was. In the apocryphal chapters of this book (Est. 13:12-14) Mordecai is brought in thus appealing to God in this matter: Thou knowest, Lord, that it was neither in contempt nor pride, nor for any desire of glory, that I did not bow down to proud Haman, for I could have been content with good will, for the salvation of Israel, to kiss the soles of his feet; but I did this that I might not prefer the glory of man above the glory of God, neither will I worship any but thee. 2. He especially thought it a piece of injustice to his nation to give such honour to an Amalekite, one of that devoted nation with which God had sworn that he would have perpetual war (Exod. 17:16) and concerning which he had given that solemn charge (Deut. 25:17), Remember what Amalek did. Though religion does by no means destroy good manners, but teaches us to render honour to whom honour is due, yet it is the character of a citizen of Zion that not only in his heart, but in his eyes, such a vile person as Haman was is contemned, Ps. 15:4. Let those who are governed by principles of conscience be steady and resolute, however censured or threatened, as Mordecai was.

III. Haman meditating revenge. Some that hoped thereby to curry favour with Haman took notice to him of Mordecai’s rudeness, waiting to see whether he would bend or break, Est. 3:4. Haman then observed it himself, and was full of wrath, Est. 3:5. A meek and humble man would have slighted the affront, and have said, “Let him have his humour; what am I the worse for it?” But it makes Haman’s proud spirit rage, and fret, and boil, within him, so that he becomes uneasy to himself and all about him. It is soon resolved that Mordecai must die. The head must come off that will not bow to Haman; if he cannot have his honours, he will have his blood. It is as penal in this court not to worship Haman as it was in Nebuchadnezzar’s not to worship the golden image which he had set up. Mordecai is a person of quality, in a post of honour, and own cousin to the queen; and yet Haman thinks his life nothing towards a satisfaction for the affront: thousands of innocent and valuable lives must be sacrificed to his indignation; and therefore he vows the destruction of all the people of Mordecai, for his sake, because his being a Jew was the reason he gave why he did not reverence Haman. Herein appear Haman’s intolerable pride, insatiable cruelty, and the ancient antipathy of an Amalekite to the Israel of God. Saul the son of Kish, a Benjamite, spared Agag, but Mordecai the son of Kish, a Benjamite (Est. 2:5), shall find no mercy with this Agagite, whose design is to destroy all the Jews throughout the whole kingdom of Ahasuerus (Est. 3:6), which, I suppose, would include those that had returned to their own land, for that was now a province of his kingdom. Come and let us cut them off from being a nation, Ps. 83:4. Nero’s barbarous wish is his, that they had all but one neck.