Haman and Hate (and Hamas by Proxy?) meet the Hangman, Part Three

Part One: A Feast for the Eyes 

Part Two: Persia Meets Reality and Esther

 

Part Three: Haman and A Star is Worn

 

We begin this post with an understanding of Mordecai’s world view:

 “Fear the Lord your God, serve him only and take your oaths in his name.  Do not follow other gods, the gods of the peoples around you; …” Deuteronomy 6: 13-14

 As we have learned previously an assassination plot against King Xerxes had been foiled because of Mordecai’s ‘spying’ at the king’s gate. The information he gathered was relayed to his adopted daughter Queen Esther. She alerted the King, the story was checked out and the would-be assassins were sent to the gallows. Mordecai and Queen Esther had saved the Persian King’s life. But then a curious thing happens. We are not told why.

 “After these events, king Xerxes honored Haman son of Hammedatha, the Agagite, elevating him and giving him a seat of honor higher than that of all the other nobles. All the royal officials at the king’s gate knelt down and paid honor to Haman, for the king commanded this concerning him. But Mordecai would not kneel down or pay him honor.”

Haman on Parade

Haman on Parade

 The king’s officials took note of Mordecai’s lack of protocol and respect. They asked Mordecai, “Why do you disobey the king’s command? Day after day they spoke to him but he refused to comply. Therefore they told Haman about it to see whether Mordecai’s behavior would be tolerated, for he told them he was a Jew.”

 Let’s rewind and reflect for a moment. Remember, the king’s officials also wondered about Queen Vashti’s refusal to the King’s request to appear before him at the end of the banquet days. The king, as could be imagined at the climax of his “keep-my-cup-full” wine fest, had way too much to drink. Queen Vashti was well aware of this and made a wise choice to stay put.

 Subsequently, though, because of her choice, the queen was deposed from her throne, banished from the king’s presence via a decree sent out to the whole of Xerxes’ kingdom. The decree was worded so as to place all women in the kingdom into subservience to their husbands. Men were to be officially made the masters of their households and women were officially to be put in their ‘proper’ place.

 Since nothing happens in isolation, what, more importantly, also transpired? Hegemonic patriarchy took over.

 The king’s officials, evil men, conspired together and wrote the self-serving decree.  This perverted patriarchy would go on to exclude women on the basis that women had a voice and a will of their own and therefore could make choices. To counter their fear of women and to shore up their insecurities the intended impact of the officials’ decree was to make women unequal with men. They placed a lesser value on women giving them no voice and no choice. A woman’s will was not to be her own anymore.

 This was all done ‘officially’ to promote ‘order’ in each household throughout Xerxes’ kingdom. The official exclusion of a woman’s natural rights removed women’s choice. Exclusion by decree also created a hierarchal marriage based on gender. Later, Islam and its guard dog Sharia law would codify the same exclusion and misogyny of women.

 As an aside, it should be noted that the Islamic ‘revelation’ of the false prophet Muhammad (born c. 570 A.D.) was a synthesis of Zoroastrianism, Christianity and other pagan religions. This ‘revelation’ inculcated the same hegemonic patriarchy and misogyny of women.

 The very same evil of Xerxes’ day became the basis for the prophet’s written ‘revelation’-the Quran. And it is the modern day interpretation of the Quran by one if its religious scholars, Qutb, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, that prompted the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in 2013 to announce to the world the “Islamic Awakening”-an invitation to join the Islamic world order revolution or else.

 What can be said about the roots of this destructive world order that declares a deadly fatwa and religious crusades (jihads) to eradicate the West and all infidels? What can be said when at the edge of a sword you must either embrace Islam and Sharia law or face exclusion of your head from your body?

 Per Miroslav Volf, the Henry B. Wright Professor of Theology at Yale Divinity School and Director of the Yale Center for Faith and Culture, in his book, “Exclusion & Embrace: A Theological Exploration of Identity, Otherness and Reconciliation”:

 “What then is exclusion? In a preliminary and rather schematic way one can point to interrelated aspects of exclusion, the one that transgresses against “binding” and the other that transgresses against “separating.” First, exclusion can entail cutting the bonds that connect, taking oneself out of the pattern of interdependence and placing oneself in a position of sovereign independence. The other then emerges either as an enemy that must be pushed away from the self and driven out of its space or as a nonentity-a superfluous being-that can be disregarded and abandoned. Second, exclusion can entail erasure of separation, not recognizing the other as someone who in his or her otherness belongs to the pattern of interdependence. The other then emerges as an inferior being who must either be assimilated by being made like the self or be subjugated to the self. Exclusion takes place when the violence of expulsion, assimilation, or subjugation and the indifference of abandonment replace the dynamics of taking in and keeping as the mutuality of giving and receiving.” (Empahsis mine)

 By now, from the story of Esther, you know the basic riff: insecure hegemonic masculinity, subjugation, exclusion, lots of drinking and Xerxes’ knee jerk reaction to kick things off. The Book of Esther contains two unmistakable examples of exclusion. It reveals both aspects of exclusion in Volf’s “bare bones sketch of exclusion.”

 Now let’s return to the story.

 

Haman became enraged when he heard about Mordecai’s defiance. Haman, in fact, was so apoplectic that he not only “scorned the idea of killing only Mordecai. Instead Haman looked for a way to destroy all of Mordecai’s people, the Jews, throughout the whole Kingdom of Xerxes.” An eradication of all Jews would be sufficient to serve Haman’s huge hegemonic ego. Holocaust became his answer. Exclusion of the Jews to the nth degree was his judgment.

 It was about four years after Esther became Queen that Haman, a superstitious man, cast lots (pur) to see when would be the best time to carry out his evil plan. The lot fell on the twelfth month, the month of Adar. This being the case, Haman would have time to plan his holocaust. But the delay would also give the Jews time to react. Haman went to work.

 “Then Haman said to King Xerxes, “There is a certain people dispersed in all the provinces of your kingdom whose custom are different from those of all other people and who do not obey the king’s laws; it is not in the king’s best interest to tolerate them. If it pleases the king, let a decree be issued to destroy them, and I will put ten thousand talents of silver into the royal treasury for the men who carry out the business.”

 Haman, the enemy of the Jews was then given the king’s signet ring, told to keep the blood money and then told to do with the people as he pleased. Xerxes washed his hands of the matter, as would Pontius Pilate of the crucifixion of Jesus. 

A signet, a star, a slaughter

A signet, a star, a slaughter

 Royal secretaries were summoned. Royal decrees were written in the name of the king and sealed with the king’s signet ring. Dispatches were sent out to all of the governors and prefects of the kingdom. The royal order: kill and annihilate all the Jews-young and old, women and children on a single day-the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, the month of Adar. And, don’t forget to plunder their goods. This is the law. ‘Problem’ solved.

 “Spurred on by the king’s command, the couriers went out, and the edict was issued in the citadel of Susa. The king and Haman sat down to drink, but the city of Susa was bewildered.”

 Bewilderment is only a sliver of what the Jews were feeling while the Cult of Personality band played on. Imagine being hated to death by a Supreme Leader.

Mordecai mourning

Mordecai mourning

 Part Four: Who Can Remain Silent in Times Like These?

 

Haman and Hate (and Hamas by Proxy?) meet the Hangman, Part Two

Part One: A Feast for the Eyes

Part Two:  Persia Meets Reality and Esther

 As you will recall from Part One, King Xerxes put on a six month display of his kingdom’s wealth (c. 482 B.C.) Most likely he wanted to show off his ability to conquer and to accumulate the wealth of the conquered as a means to impress his generals and his court advisors. Xerxes was whetting the troop’s appetite for the next conquest.

Persian Empire circa 500 BC

Persian Empire circa 500 BC

 To carry on the family’s acquisition ‘business’ the Persian monarch Xerxes planned to invade Greece. This after King Darius’ had died while he was preparing for his second invasion of Greece. Xerxes, like Darius, wanted to punish and subdue the Greeks for previous loses in battle and for Greek resistance to the Persian throne.

 You might recall the Battle of Thermopylae (lit. “hot gates”) the Persians fought against Greek city-state alliances led by King Leonidas of Sparta (as depicted in the movie “300”). A conquest of Greece would increase Xerxes’ kingdom, his wealth, his harem and his fame. Xerxes was already known as “King of Persia and Media”, “Great King”, “King of Kings and King of Nations” (i.e. of the world). He wanted another conquest, another notch in his titles.

 There was a ‘reason’ for the exalted titles: about 2500 years ago, modern Iran (Biblically referred to as Elam and Media and Persia), and portions of Afghanistan, Iraq, Kuwait, Pakistan Tajikistan, Turkey, and Turkmenistan were once part of the extensive Persian Empire.

 Speaking about the ancient Persians in his recent book “World Order” Henry Kissinger noted, “The fifth-century B.C. Greek historian Herodotus described the self-confidence of the people that had absorbed the finest customs of all foreign nations-Median dress, Egyptian armor-and now regarded itself as the center of human achievement.”

 Now, one could wonder, also, with regard to attacking Greece if Xerxes had heard of the Greek Dionysian festivals dating from 487 B.C. These rural and city festivals honored the Greek god Dionysus and involved a lot of alcohol. Xerxes, it could be said, based upon past conquests, was into monarchial enforced multiculturalism.

 The same self-absorbed hard-nosed demeanor is seen in modern Iran’s obstinate conquer-the-world-for Islam rulers ‘two-faced diplomacy’. That ‘diplomacy’ includes their diplomats saying “let’s talk about us” and the most recent words, ‘Death to America” spoken by the Supreme Leadership Authority of Iran. In fact, the title given to Iran’s (Persia’s) theocratic head honcho is “Supreme Leader”.

 The religious lineage of Persia, foundational to its later acceptance of the false premises of Islam, includes, like many ancient empires, the worship of numerous pagan gods. Ahura Mazda (Mazdaism) was considered by Persia as the Creator and the supreme god. Lesser deities Spenta and Mainyu were included. Herodotus, the historian, considered the Persian religions as being simplistic- a worship of many gods and of nature itself-wind, fire, water, earth and sky.

 Back to the Future: by way of the Lord’s prophet Ezekiel, in chapters 38 and 39 of his recorded words we learn of a future confederacy of nations linked to Persia (Iran)-the Last Assyrian, Gog and Magog (Russia), Gomer and Togarmah (Turkey), Ethiopia and Libya-that align to do battle, to plunder and spoil Israel and the ten tribes living there. Also recorded for our faith in God’s salvation is the fact that the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Lord Jesus Christ, intervenes and does not let the enemy of His people come into Jerusalem.

 Back to the Past: For the invasion of Greece Xerxes would need everyone on board with the plan. His ‘greatness’ and his designs for a Persian world order were at stake.

 During the six months of lavish exhibition Xerxes spoke with his military men plotting with them the invasion of Greece. Then, as recorded in The Book of Esther Chapter One verse 5, Xerxes, at the end of those six months, declared a seven day drinking feast. It was time to ‘juice’ up the troops. I could easily imagine that Xerxes was aware that wine played an important role in the Greek Dionysian culture. So why not give the troops a taste of what could be had-a harvest of grapes from someone else’s garden?

 “By the King’s command each guest was allowed to drink in his own way, for the king instructed all the wines stewards to serve each man what he wished.” Chapter 1, vs. 8

 Jeopardy answer: “liquid courage”. Jeopardy Question: “What happens when men drink the king’s wine and sing the king’s songs?”

 Same song, second verse: Queen Vashti, it is recorded, “also gave a banquet for the women in the royal palace of King Xerxes.” Wine, women and song-a “Ladies Only” sign hung on the door. This was a smart move considering that hordes of inebriated men were in the wings of the palace.

 Well, after seven days of ‘perfected’ drinking the King decided to show off his most prized possession to the rabble. Xerxes sent an envoy of seven eunuchs to fetch his queen. As mentioned in Part One, Queen Vashti said “No.”. So, after some bad counsel Xerxes, as king of his household, banished the Queen and… invaded Greece in 480 B.C.

 Well, again, the Greeks defeated Xerxes’ men after several battles. (At the climax of the battles Xerxes cried out, “A queen, a queen, my kingdom for a queen!” Not really but I like Richard III.)

 Defeated in battle and the prior decree of the Queen’s banishment left Xerxes feeling, let’s say, like one of his eunuchs. The bad decisions were taking their toll on his manhood. Maybe a new queen would help him regain his machismo.

 Reenter Mordecai and Esther. (Before we go on you should know that Esther, in Persian, means “star”. Hadassah her Hebrew name meant “myrtle”.) 

Esther in Harem Painting by Edwin Long, 1878

Esther in Harem
Painting by Edwin Long, 1878

 In the Book of Esther Chapter Two we read:

 “And Esther won the favor of everyone who saw her. She was taken to King Xerxes in the royal residence in the tenth month, the month of Tebeth, in the seventh year of his reign. Now the king was attracted to Esther more than any of the other virgins. So he set a royal crown on her head and made her queen instead of Vashti. And the king gave a great banquet, Esther’s banquet, for all his nobles and officials. He proclaimed a holiday…”

Mordecai sitting at the King's Gate-all ears and eyes

Mordecai sitting at the King’s Gate-all ears and eyes

 Mordecai, the one who had adopted Esther, the orphaned daughter of his uncle Abihail, kept a close eye and ear on Esther. Mordecai would daily sit by the king’s gate where all the important news and gossip could be heard. He listened and this is what he heard:

 “During the time Mordecai was sitting at the gate, Bigthana and Teresh, two of the king’s officers who guarded the doorway, became angry and conspired to assassinate King Xerxes. .. Mordecai … told Queen Esther, who in turn reported it to the king, giving credit to Mordecai. And when the report was investigated and found to be true, the two officials were hanged on a gallows. All this was recorded in the book of the annals in the presence of the king.”

 Now here’s something rather strange. A disconnect begins.

 “After these events, King Xerxes honored Haman…” Huh, and huh?

 Haman, an Agagite-who may possibly be related to the Amalekites and if so, a descendent of Esau, an enemy of the descendents of Isaac-demands to be honored as divine in keeping with other Persian prefects.

 Mordecai, a Jew, will not worship anyone but the One True God, ergo….

 Part Three: Haman and A Star is Worn 

 

Haman and Hate (and Hamas by Proxy?) meet the Hangman

Part One

A Feast for the Eyes

Esther

Esther

 

The account of a courageous woman named Esther as recorded in the Old Testament book by the same name, brings together the elements of anti-Semitism, ethnic ‘cleansing’, an assassination plot, of sexism, of civil disobedience, of speaking truth to power, of actions one woman takes to save her people, the Jews, from total annihilation. Most importantly, it is an account of a sovereign God keeping His covenant promise to Abraham-that His descendants would number as many as the stars.

 We see in this story that God would not nor will He ever let His people be wiped from the face of the earth. God keeping His promises is God’s righteousness. And, even though we are unfaithful, God is faithful. His righteousness is ours for the beholding…

 The Book of Esther never mentions God but God’s overarching sovereignty and His covenant promises for His chosen people inform, I believe, Mordecai’s motives and Esther’s actions. Esther does question her courage but God’s faithfulness is not questioned.

 The Book of Esther recalls the events which occurred during the reign of Xerxes I, known as Ahasuerus in Hebrew. It covers a ten year span, 483-473 B.C.

 Geography: The Book of Esther, Chapter One, verses 1 and 2 give us the details.

Xerxes “ruled over 127 provinces stretching from India and Pakistan to Cush (North Sudan). At that time King Xerxes reigned from his royal throne in the citadel of Susa (150 miles north of the Persian Gulf)…”

 

The Banquet of Ahasuerus' by  Jacopo del Sellaio (1442-1493)

The Banquet of Ahasuerus’ by Jacopo del Sellaio (1442-1493)

If you’ve got it flaunt it…

In the third year of his reign Xerxes decided to throw a whooper of a house party. His banquet was meant to show off his fine china and his collection of bling to the whole world. 180 days worth of his vast wealth was put on display. But that wasn’t all. Xerxes also wanted to display another ‘possession’-his Queen, Vashti.

 The account does not give the reason for Queen Vashti’s refusal to appear before Xerxes. Maybe she was having a bad hair day or maybe she didn’t like being put on display during the chattel call. Or, maybe, things between the king and queen went down just like they did on a certain Honeymooner’s episode. I’ll paraphrase:

 Ralph (Xerxes) to Alice: “Remember Alice. I am the King of this household and you are nuttin’.

Alice (Queen Vashti): “Well, if you are the king, then you are the king of nuttin’”

 In any case the Queen’s reply to the king’s emasculated seven (eunuchs that is) was, “No”. As you can imagine this answer did not go over well with Xerxes and did not bode well for the queen. Xerxes felt dissed before his previously wowed guests. 

The wise men and nobles of his Xerxes’ court were summoned to court and asked “What response should be given to a Queen who refuses her king? Their reply: if this spousal refusal was found out by Xerxes’ subjects then all women would openly disobey their husbands-all hell would break loose (a KV paraphrase):

 “This very day the Persian and Median women of the nobility who have heard about the queen’s conduct will respond to all the king’s nobles in the same way. There will be no end of disrespect and discord.”

 The ‘wise’ men, those who were not physically eunuchs, decided that they would not be ‘emasculated’ by their own ‘disrespectful’ wives. So, using words that sounded like good political sense-keeping Xerxes kingdom under ‘proper’ social order and control-the wise men counseled Xerxes: Queen Vashti would be banished from his presence and then some.

 These wise men also advised the king that a royal decree must be sent out, one that puts a finger in the dam of rebellion control. The king liked this advice and issued the edict: “every man should be ruler of his own household.”

 Now, before all this falderal I would have recommended a little one on one communication with Queen Vashti before listening to the “yes”-men’ wise guys. I would also have recommended that king and queen read the original Love Language book, Solomon’s The Song of Songs. But that is not what happened. Protocol and paltry patriarchy gave way to punitive separation.

 As you know, one bad decision easily leads to another. The queen was banished from Xerxes presence forever-a new law written into the books for Persia and Media. Then,

Esther Chapter 2 tells us that the king’s personal attendants suggested a beauty pageant of virgins to ‘assuage’ the King’s rueful heart. You see, Xerxes later regretted his decision. Men!

 Here’s the good part: God’s sovereignty, regardless of bad men, bad advice and bad decisions does not affect God’s righteous purposes. They are rerouted through the king’s heart.

 “In the LORD’s hand the king’s heart is a stream of water that he channels toward all who please him.” Proverbs 21:1. Wisdom always trumps folly.

 Once again, Esther Chapter Two: Under the king’s command the chief eunuch, Hegai, was told to assemble beautiful virgins from every province into a harem at the citadel of Susa. These women were given an exclusive salon and spa treatment. It was figured that one of these select beauties women would replace the banished Queen Vashti. It is at this juncture that we meet another main character, Mordecai, a Jew of the tribe of Benjamin or, rather, wisdom and love personified.

 “Mordecai had a cousin named Hadassah, whom he had had brought up because she had neither father nor mother. This girl, who was also known as (Hashtag) Esther, was lovely in form and features, and Mordecai had taken her as his own daughter when her father and mother died.” (The Book of Esther Chapter 2, vs. 7)

 “I’m in heaven.” Esther quickly got Hegai’s attention She pleased him, winning his “favor”. Immediately she was put on a very short list of one contender. To channel things in the King’s direction, Hegai assigned to Esther seven select maids. He also gave her the royal salon treatment and put Esther and the seven maids into the best place in the harem.

 Now the story and the “stream of water” begin to flow down a unexpected course, a fast-tracked one of God’s veiled purpose, the ramifications of which lead to a crisis of conscious for everyone involved including Esther.

 Esther had not revealed to anyone her family background-she was Jewish. Mordecai had forbidden her to do so. In the days ahead Mordecai would keep close tabs on Esther, his beloved foster ‘daughter’. I believe Mordecai knew that Esther would fill a position in history that he as a man could not.

 Esther was now neck (and face) deep into it. Court protocol demanded that any ‘girl’ who would appear before the king must beforehand undergo twelve months of beauty treatments-six months with oil of myrrh and six months of with perfumes and cosmetics. Henna for Hadassah? Probably.

The Match dot-Harem protocol of separating the sheep from the goats:

“And this is how she was to go to the king. Anything she wanted was given her to take with her from the harem to the king’s palace. In the evening she would go there and in the morning return to another part of the harem to the care of Shaashgaz, the king’s eunuch who was in charge of the concubines. She would not return to the king unless he was pleased with her and summoned her by name.” (The Book of Esther Chapter two, vs. 13-14)

 

Coming to a post near you….

 “Part Two

Part Two:  Persia Meets Reality and Esther