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Jun 8 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

May 28, 2017 – Esther chapter 3

Enter the Villain

After these events King Xerxes promoted Haman, the son of Hammedatha the Agagite, and advanced him and established his autority over all the princes who were with him. All the king’s servants who were at the king’s gate bowed down and paid homage to Haman; for so the king had commanded concerning him. But Mordecai neither bowed down nor paid homage. Esther 3

Intro: As stories go, the Book of Esther is put together really well

In fact, I sometimes get lost in the details of its complex structure
– that is not supposed to happen
• if the story is told well, you get lost in the telling of it
◦ that is because structural elements are doing their job
◦ in creating atmosphere, plot development, building suspense, etc.
• we do not pay attention to how a good story grabs us
◦ we just go along with it
– but sometimes we need to look closely at the literary details
• otherwise we might miss a deeper meaning

What are we tracking in Esther?
– the way God works in a story where he is not mentioned

Notice how key characters are played off of each other

Clear contrasts are drawn between them, roles are reversed, etc.
– I’ve entitled today’s episode: “Enter the Villain”
• Haman is introduced immediately becomes the antagonist
• he is set over against Mordecai, one of the protagonists

After these events is a vague time reference
– biblical stories use this phrase to let us know time has passed
• but without indicating how much time
• in the gap between one scene and the next events happened
◦ but they are not mentioned, because they are not crucial to plot
– in story-time, Haman suddenly appears
• but there must have been a build up that is not reported
◦ there must be a reason why he is given this prestige and power
◦ but we are not told what it was
• how he got there is not important – what matters:
◦ he is there now, and his being there changed things

The next turn in the story brings overwhelming crisis
– that makes these time stamps important
• crises affect how we experience time
◦ in an emergency 1,000 things can occur in nanosecond
◦ grief, however, can make every tick of the clock feel like a lifetime
• it can be helpful for us to notice how time passes in our own lives
◦ and train ourselves to make adjustments
◦ so that we travel with time rather than get run over by it

Vv. 3-4, How are we to understand Mordecai’s (un)civil disobedience?

One colorful possibility is that it reflects a conflict that ran for generations
– before Israel entered promise land, they were attacked by the Amalekites
• God told Moses to keep record of this even
◦ and that he would “blot out” the memory of Amalek (Ex. 17:8-16)
• Later, Israel’s first king was ordered to destroy Amalek (1 Sam. 15:2-3)
◦ but Saul failed by sparing the Amalekite king, “Agag”
◦ some scholars think that Haman “the Agagite” was a descendant of Agag
– we have already observed Mordecai’s sketchy genealogy (Est. 2:5-6)
• he was from the tribe of Benjamin, and a descendant of Shimei and Kish
◦ King Saul was also from Benjamin and the son of Kish (related to a Shimei, 2 Sam. 16:5)
• if we are to conclude that Haman and Mordecai descended from these two kings,
◦ then they brought that ancient feud between Israel and Amalek to Persia
◦ so for both of them, the insult and hostility would be personal (like the Hatfields and McCoys)
– personally I think this is a stretch, but it may be what the storyteller intended

Mordecai’s reason for not paying respect to Haman is delayed
– then all we learn, is he explained to bystanders that he was a Jew
• that is not helpful, because Abraham and others bowed to humans of superior rank
• anyway, Mordecai’s conviction put his whole nation in harm’s way

Vv. 5-6, Once informed, Haman looked for Mordecai’s offense

He reacted to Mordecai’s disrespect with rage
– this is a characteristic of a certain type of personality disorders
• including narcissistic, borderline, antisocial and histrionic
◦ they cannot tolerate not being shown the attention they feel they deserve
• these people are capable of doing great injury
– also, we have seen already how anger drives the plot of the story
• here, it motivates Haman to plan an extreme payback
• he determined to take out his rage on all the Jews, the people of Mordecai
◦ compare chapter 1, where becaue of one woman’s direspect all women were “taught a lesson”

V. 7, Another time stamp – “calculated time”

Beginning in the first month of year, every day the “lot was cast”
– let’s just say for now, they rolled the dice
• Haman was looking for best day to approach the king
• at that time throwing or drawing lots was a typical form of divination
– Haman was not alone–lots were cast before him by others
• we are not told yet who they were, but his wife was among them
• of course, the Jews living in Persia had no idea this was going on
◦ so they had no opportunity to appeal and no authority to resist

Vv. 8-14, Haman presented his case to Xerxes

“A certain people” – he does not specify “Jews”
– these people were everywhere
• and their laws set them apart from everyone else
• this was a common complaint during Israel’s exile (cf. Ezra and Daniel)
– in a pagan world, without a nation-state to call home,
• the Jews maintained their identity by adherence to the Torah, the Law
◦ this protected them from melting into Persian culture and disappearing
• God made this distinction when he separated his people from the nations
◦ he gave them their unique identity as his own

There is also a Christian identity and non-conformity with our surrounding culture
– but if all it becomes is a matter of us trying to be different from them
• then we will likely assume a false sense of superiority
• and instead of being different in a healthy way, we’ll make ourselves weird
– when we try to be different, we are reacting to the world, not responding to God

“If it is pleasing” – is a repeated phrase
– and, like anger, it is another element that turns the plot
• the king’s signet ring (circular symbol of authority)
◦ placed in the hands of Haman, “the enemy of the Jews”
– the edict was written up and published in all languages of the realm
• that the law commanded people to “seize their [the Jews’] possessions”
◦ gave an added incentive
• meanwhile, everyone was to sharpen their knives and prepare for doom’s day

V. 15, The climax of the chapter

We are left in suspense regarding the fate of the Jews
– like the capital city of Susa, we too are confused
• how could it happen? Why would God allow it?
– this is the climax, but it is not the message of this chapter

Conc: There was a partial truth in Haman’s accusation

The Jews were different, because they belonged to Yahweh
– but they were not a threat
• in fact, God’s initial promise to Abram still held

And I will bless those who bless you,
And the one who curses you I will curse.
And in you all the families of the earth with be blessed (Gen. 12:3)

• but this how personality disordered people operate
◦ in dark, broad generalizations and outright lies

I have known people who have suffered unbelievable evil from close family members
– normal people cannot understand this kind of malice and treachery
• but it happens – it may have happened to you
• or it is happening now or may happen in the future to you or me
– if it does, we need to create breathing spaces
• and in those spaces slow down our racing hearts
• we are not yet halfway through the story of Esther
◦ nor has the ending of our story been written

So as you wait in God’s presence, renewing your soul in his peace
– remind yourself of his promise to his people

Behold, I Myself have created the smith who blows the fire of coals
And brings out a weapon for its work;
And I have created the destroyer to ruin.
No weapon that is formed against you will prosper;
And every tongue that accuses you in judgment you will condemn.
This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD,
And their vindication is from Me,” declares the LORD.
Isaiah 54:16-17

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