I’ve been reading through the Book of Esther and some small nuances have caught my attention. One has to do with the background of Haman the Agagite.  Most websites I’ve found claim that he was a descendent from Agag King of the Amalekites from 1st Samuel 15. They say that his existence is a result of Saul not completely killing the Amalekites. It would also explain his animosity to the Jews.  However this passage says that they only spared Agag and the best of their livestock (1st Samuel 15:7-9), not his family,  Besisdes, further on, Agag himself was killed by Samuel 1st Samuel 15:33. So Im curious how he could have had any descendants if everyone but him were killed and then he himself was killed.  The other explanation I have found for Haman’s heritage is that Agag was a district in the Persian Empire and Haman came from that district. The district of Agag was found on an inscription recently. What troubles me with this explanation is that it does not seem to be much of a motive for Haman to hate the Jews and to want to exterminate them.  The only reason I can see for Haman to have such a resentment of the Jews is a big superiority complex and a lot of pride.  I’ve always been taught that the enmity between Mordecai and Haman was fueled by the long feud between the Jews and the Amalekites.  Any insight into this would be really appreciated.  Thanks!


The commentators you are reading are speculating.  There is nothing wrong with speculating, per se.  I do it myself sometimes, but when you see people speculating, you should not worry yourself too much about conclusions based on such speculation.  I am sure there were many people named Agag ancient times.  The probability that the one whose name led to the description Agagite for Haman came from the one in the Bible more than five hundred years before the events of Esther took place seems to me to be fairly small. The events of 1 Samuel 15 happened about 1040 BC, while Esther was queen of Persia either about 460 or 440BC, depending on our identification of Artaxerxes.  I really doubt that the long-standing resentment of the Amelekites were behind Haman’s actions.  Historically, that does not work to explain Haman’s animosity as the Amelekites were not even an extant people in the mid-400’s BC.  If I were to speculate, I believe that the Persian province of Agag is a much better guess for the reason Haman is called an Agagite.

Here is the bottom line.  We do not know the background of Haman for sure, and knowing that he is an Agagite does not necessarily help us to know why he was so hateful.  From the context of Esther it appears that he was so hateful because he was an arrogant, power-hungry, selfish, sinful man.  To me that is sufficient reason for him to do what he did.  Mordecai was his personal rival. You mention “a superiority complex and a lot of pride.”  This is more than enough explanation.  Bitterness, pride, greed and selfishness are the cause of most genocides.  This is nothing new in human history. We see this kind of thing in the modern workplace and in politics all the time (admittedly not including genocide,but…).  I am guessing that you have personally known people like Haman.  I certainly have.  The principle difference between Haman and many similar people is that he had the power to do what he wanted–access to the throne. In my opinion you do not have to choose between the two explanations you found on the internet.

I hope this helps.

John Oakes


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