Purim: Suffering the Sins of the Father
On this the Feast of Purim, we remember the mighty deliverance of Jehovah against the enemies of Israel in the Medo-Persian Empire during the reign of Ahasuerus/Xerxes I (485–464 b.c.). We remember how Haman, the lead prince (advisor) of the king, schemed because of his hatred of Mordecai the Jew who sat in the king’s gates, to kill not just him, but ALL of the Jewish people throughout the ENTIRE empire. You may read the account here.
According the Persian law, a royal decree such as that composed in the king’s name by Haman to incite a Jewish genocide throughout the empire and also in the case of Daniel in the Lion’s Den could not be revoked. Thus the die against the Jewish captives was set. However, new decrees could be issues to counteract former decrees. The king allowed his bride, Esther, and her cousin-uncle, Mordecai,--Haman’s replacement--to compose and send out a new decree in the king’s name allowing the Jews to defend themselves, not one day, but two! Joy and relief went out amongst the Jews and terror amongst their enemies. Their anti-Semitic neighbors even went to far as to give the Jews what they needed to defend themselves against their more violent neighbors. And at the end, the event was celebrated as a memorial unto God for saving the Jewish people alive.
But the Jews who were at Shushan assembled together on the thirteenth day, as well as on the fourteenth; and on the fifteenth of the month they rested, and made it a day of feasting and gladness. Therefore the Jews of the villages who dwelt in the unwalled towns celebrated the fourteenth day of the month of Adar with gladness and feasting, as a holiday, and for sending presents to one another. And Mordecai wrote these things and sent letters to all the Jews, near and far, who were in all the provinces of King Ahasuerus, to establish among them that they should celebrate yearly the fourteenth and fifteenth days of the month of Adar, as the days on which the Jews had rest from their enemies, as the month which was turned from sorrow to joy for them, and from mourning to a holiday; that they should make them days of feasting and joy, of sending presents to one another and gifts to the poor. So the Jews accepted the custom which they had begun, as Mordecai had written to them, because Haman, the son of Hammedatha the Agagite, the enemy of all the Jews, had plotted against the Jews to annihilate them, and had cast Pur (that is, the lot), to consume them and destroy them; but when Esther came before the king, he commanded by letter that this wicked plot which Haman had devised against the Jews should return on his own head, and that he and his sons should be hanged on the gallows. So they called these days Purim, after the name Pur. Therefore, because of all the words of this letter, what they had seen concerning this matter, and what had happened to them, the Jews established and imposed it upon themselves and their descendants and all who would join them, that without fail they should celebrate these two days every year, according to the written instructions and according to the prescribed time, that these days should be remembered and kept throughout every generation, every family, every province, and every city, that these days of Purim should not fail to be observed among the Jews, and that the memory of them should not perish among their descendants. Then Queen Esther, the daughter of Abihail, with Mordecai the Jew, wrote with full authority to confirm this second letter about Purim. And Mordecai sent letters to all the Jews, to the one hundred and twenty-seven provinces of the kingdom of Ahasuerus, with words of peace and truth, to confirm these days of Purim at their appointed time, as Mordecai the Jew and Queen Esther had prescribed for them, and as they had decreed for themselves and their descendants concerning matters of their fasting and lamenting. So the decree of Esther confirmed these matters of Purim, and it was written in the book. (Esther 9:18-32)
God was and is indeed “mighty to save.” But actually, what I’d like to focus on is Haman and more pointedly, his lineage. Where did this man come from?
The Sins of the Father
Arrogance over Obedience
And the Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children to the third and the fourth generation.” (Exodus 34:6-7)
I honestly didn’t notice this until it was illustrated in the One Night with the King (Esther) movie about a decade ago, but all you Old Testament readers are at least somewhat acquainted with Haman’s great...grandfather whether you realise it or not.
After these things King Ahasuerus promoted Haman, the son of Hammedatha the Agagite, and advanced him and set his seat above all the princes who were with him…. So the king took his signet ring from his hand and gave it to Haman, the son of Hammedatha the Agagite, the enemy of the Jews. (Esther 3:1, 10)
Haman the Agagite...Agagite...why does that name sound familiar? It should.
Samuel also said to Saul, “The Lord sent me to anoint you king over His people, over Israel. Now therefore, heed the voice of the words of the Lord. Thus says the Lord of hosts: ‘I will punish Amalek for what he did to Israel, how he ambushed him on the way when he came up from Egypt. Now go and attack Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and do not spare them. But kill both man and woman, infant and nursing child, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.’”
So Saul gathered the people together and numbered them in Telaim, two hundred thousand foot soldiers and ten thousand men of Judah. And Saul came to a city of Amalek, and lay in wait in the valley.
Then Saul said to the Kenites, “Go, depart, get down from among the Amalekites, lest I destroy you with them. For you showed kindness to all the children of Israel when they came up out of Egypt.” So the Kenites departed from among the Amalekites. And Saul attacked the Amalekites, from Havilah all the way to Shur, which is east of Egypt. He also took Agag king of the Amalekites alive, and utterly destroyed all the people with the edge of the sword. But Saul and the people spared Agag and the best of the sheep, the oxen, the fatlings, the lambs, and all that was good, and were unwilling to utterly destroy them. But everything despised and worthless, that they utterly destroyed.
Now the word of the Lord came to Samuel, saying, “I greatly regret that I have set up Saul as king, for he has turned back from following Me, and has not performed My commandments.” And it grieved Samuel, and he cried out to the Lord all night. So when Samuel rose early in the morning to meet Saul, it was told Samuel, saying, “Saul went to Carmel, and indeed, he set up a monument for himself; and he has gone on around, passed by, and gone down to Gilgal.” Then Samuel went to Saul, and Saul said to him, “Blessed are you of the Lord! I have performed the commandment of the Lord.”
But Samuel said, “What then is this bleating of the sheep in my ears, and the lowing of the oxen which I hear?”
And Saul said, “They have brought them from the Amalekites; for the people spared the best of the sheep and the oxen, to sacrifice to the Lord your God; and the rest we have utterly destroyed.”
Then Samuel said to Saul, “Be quiet! And I will tell you what the Lord said to me last night.”
And he said to him, “Speak on.”
So Samuel said, “When you were little in your own eyes, were you not head of the tribes of Israel? And did not the Lord anoint you king over Israel? Now the Lord sent you on a mission, and said, ‘Go, and utterly destroy the sinners, the Amalekites, and fight against them until they are consumed.’ Why then did you not obey the voice of the Lord? Why did you swoop down on the spoil, and do evil in the sight of the Lord?”
And Saul said to Samuel, “But I have obeyed the voice of the Lord, and gone on the mission on which the Lord sent me, and brought back Agag king of Amalek; I have utterly destroyed the Amalekites. But the people took of the plunder, sheep and oxen, the best of the things which should have been utterly destroyed, to sacrifice to the Lord your God in Gilgal.”
So Samuel said:
“Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, He also has rejected you from being king.”
Then Saul said to Samuel, “I have sinned, for I have transgressed the commandment of the Lord and your words, because I feared the people and obeyed their voice. Now therefore, please pardon my sin, and return with me, that I may worship the Lord.”
But Samuel said to Saul, “I will not return with you, for you have rejected the word of the Lord, and the Lord has rejected you from being king over Israel.”
And as Samuel turned around to go away, Saul seized the edge of his robe, and it tore. So Samuel said to him, “The Lord has torn the kingdom of Israel from you today, and has given it to a neighbor of yours, who is better than you. And also the Strength of Israel will not lie nor relent. For He is not a man, that He should relent.”
Then he said, “I have sinned; yet honor me now, please, before the elders of my people and before Israel, and return with me, that I may worship the Lord your God.” So Samuel turned back after Saul, and Saul worshiped the Lord.
Then Samuel said, “Bring Agag king of the Amalekites here to me.” So Agag came to him cautiously.
And Agag said, “Surely the bitterness of death is past.”
But Samuel said, “As your sword has made women childless, so shall your mother be childless among women.” And Samuel hacked Agag in pieces before the Lord in Gilgal.
Then Samuel went to Ramah, and Saul went up to his house at Gibeah of Saul. And Samuel went no more to see Saul until the day of his death. Nevertheless Samuel mourned for Saul, and the Lord regretted that He had made Saul king over Israel. (I Samuel 15)
In short, Agag was the king of the Amalekites under the first king of Israel, Saul, who failed to slay him and as a result, drew the final straw that caused him to lose the throne. The g(angsta) prophet, Samuel, “hacked” up Agag, but his actions could not put a full stop to the danger that Saul had already allowed to fall into motion. As tradition states and the story of Esther later confirms, Agag’s wife--his pregnant wife--escaped and gave birth to their son who would carry on not only his father’s name, but his father’s inordinate hatred of Israel and nurturing it from son to son to son until hundreds of years later, Haman was born and rose to power.
Just Plain Evil
Like so many in the Middle-East, there is no earthly reason for the level of hatred that the Amalekites and thus, Agagites, felt for Israel, but it goes back to the Israelite’s conquest of Canaan.
Samuel also said to Saul, “The Lord sent me to anoint you king over His people, over Israel. Now therefore, heed the voice of the words of the Lord. Thus says the Lord of hosts: ‘I will punish Amalek for what he did to Israel, how he ambushed him on the way when he came up from Egypt. (I Samuel 15:1-2)
Then the Lord said to Moses, “Write this for a memorial in the book and recount it in the hearing of Joshua, that I will utterly blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven.” And Moses built an altar and called its name, The-Lord-Is-My-Banner; for he said, “Because the Lord has sworn: the Lord will have war with Amalek from generation to generation.” (Exodus 7:14-16)
The story goes that these Amalekites, for whatever reason, did their darnedest to pick off the Israelites when they were at their weakest travelling across the Arabian peninsula to the Promised Land. They weren’t just defending what they felt was theirs, they were going above and beyond to be just plain evil. All of this is reason enough to understand the need for the Lord to “have war with Amalek from generation to generation” and desire to blot them from the face of the earth.
But alas, even if you thought Israel’s problems with Israel started there, you’d be wrong. The true start was about four or five generations before that.
Temper, Temper & A Bad Marriage
And this is the genealogy of Esau the father of the Edomites in Mount Seir. These were the names of Esau’s sons: Eliphaz the son of Adah the wife of Esau, and Reuel the son of Basemath the wife of Esau. And the sons of Eliphaz were Teman, Omar, Zepho, Gatam, and Kenaz. Now Timna was the concubine of Eliphaz, Esau’s son, and she bore Amalek to Eliphaz. These were the sons of Adah, Esau’s wife. (Genesis 36:9-12)
Esau a.k.a. Edom was the elder twin brother of Jacob who would become Israel. Esau begat Eliphaz by his Hittite wife, Adah, who in turn begat Amalek by his concubine, Timna. Eventually, Amalek became a chieftain of Edom.
And who were these Hittites?
Now the sons of Noah who went out of the ark were Shem, Ham, and Japheth. And Ham was the father of Canaan. (Genesis 9:18)
Canaan begot Sidon his firstborn, and Heth; the Jebusite, the Amorite, and the Girgashite; the Hivite, the Arkite, and the Sinite; the Arvadite, the Zemarite, and the Hamathite. Afterward the families of the Canaanites were dispersed….These were the sons of Ham, according to their families, according to their languages, in their lands and in their nations. (Genesis 10:15-18, 20)
“But in the fourth generation [Israel] shall return here, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.”...On the same day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying: “To your descendants I have given this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the River Euphrates— the Kenites, the Kenezzites, the Kadmonites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites, and the Jebusites.” (Genesis 15:16, 18-21)
The Hittites were the sons of Heth, the son of Canaan, the son of Ham, the son of Noah. And while we don’t know if this brotherly feud (Canaan being cursed for his father’s sin) stretches back to Noah’s day, but the game players were certainly birthed then. And the Hittites went on to become a recognizable to name among the many “-ites” who had to be dispossessed upon the Israelite’s entrance into the Promised Land. And yet, this is the people from which Esau chose one of his many wives. Agag shared the hate of his grandfather’s people--times ten.
Esau, like his uncle and father-in-law, Ishmael, was a wild man with a mad temper and a carnal appetite. (We’ll discuss him in my next installment of Exploring Jezebel’s Family Tree.) It was because of this anger, provoked by Rebekah and Jacob’s deception of Esau and Isaac that caused Jacob to run for his life. And it was while he was “on the run” that Jacob met and married his wives (and two concubines) who would give birth to the 12 princes/tribes of Israel.
Now back to Israel’s conquest.
So Joshua said to the children of Israel, “Come here, and hear the words of the Lord your God.” And Joshua said, “By this you shall know that the living God is among you, and that He will without fail drive out from before you the Canaanites and the Hittites and the Hivites and the Perizzites and the Girgashites and the Amorites and the Jebusites… (Joshua 3:9-10)
All the people who were left of the Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites, who were not of the children of Israel—that is, their descendants who were left in the land after them, whom the children of Israel had not been able to destroy completely—from these Solomon raised forced labor, as it is to this day. (I Kings 9:20-21)
The Children of Israel did not do their due diligence and thus, the Hittites remained alive and enslaved in Israel.
A Long Time Coming
From Esau and Jacob, the Israelites and Amalekites (and Hittites), Saul and Agag, this feud between Haman and Mordecai was a LONG time in the making. Thousands of years, in fact. And the truth of the matter is, the threat that came upon the Jews in the Medo-Persian Empire was actually of their own making, or more accurately, of their fathers’ making.
Jacob tricked Esau and provoked him to wrath. This wrath was nursed, compounded and passed down to his grandson, Amalek.
Three to four generations later, the Amalekites menaced Israel, I’m sure overstepping the rules of warfare, when the Israelites are instructed to “blot them out,” they don’t. Instead, they enslave them. And the threat grows.
About fourteen generations after the Conquest, King Saul in his arrogance, does not follow God’s command against the Amalekites fully and King Agag’s wife is able to escape and give birth to their son whom, I’m sure, was nursed, raised, and fostered by devout enemies of Israel.
Eight generations later, due to Kings Hezekiah and Zedekiah’s arrogance as well as the spiritual adultery of the nation, Judah was carried captive to Babylon during the era of the Babylonian Empire which soon became the Medo-Persian Empire.
And it was there the attack came to a head against the captives. So while we praise God for the deliverance of Israel, would it not have been better to obey God to begin with and prevent future attacks unforeseen?
The Jews came under an attack by the hand of Haman because of the sins of their forefathers. When we sin, when we try to force or adjust God’s will to our finite understanding, we have NO IDEA the seeds of destruction we sow for the generations to come.
Do you think if Abraham knew of terrorist attacks and beheadings against his sons, the Jews and Christians, by his other sons, the Muslims, that he would have given into his wife Sarah’s “smart” plan to force the blessing of God before its time? Of course not! He loved his son Ishmael with all of his heart, yet the strain it caused his family was untold even in his day. Strife between his wives when he was only meant to have one. The heartbreak of his sons as he had to send Ishmael (and Hagar) away. His own devastation at losing a son he would never ever see again. Man of faith that he was, had he foreseen this great destruction from the hands of those such as Saddam Hussein, Osama bin Laden, and ISIS/ISIL or perhaps just had the faith to wait on God a bit longer, I’m sure he would have turned Sarah’s proposal down flat. But alas, what’s done is done and the sons and grandsons of Abraham fight on.
We often think that a great testimony comes from living life like Hell, God bringing us “from a mighty long way,” and us being able to tell the story. And while those testimonies are riveting for listeners and make for great praise breaks, never having lived in the world in the first place is a far more wise story, even if it doesn’t sound as exciting in testimony service.
Praise God for deliverance! But even more so, praise God for the (unforeseen) sins His unmerited grace kept you from committing!