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Haman’s outrageous fortunes

Haman’s outrageous fortunes

There is a discussion in the Talmud about which is the dominant facet to the Megila (The Book of Esther.) Is it the story from the beginning, the story of Achashveirosh, the Persian king at the center of the drama; the story of Mordechai (beginning Esther 2:5) the Jewish hero of the story; the story of the villain Haman (beginning 3:1) or the story of the miracle (beginning 6:1) when the Jews are saved from destruction?

The story of the miracle starts with the passage, “On that night the sleep of the king was disturbed and he said to bring the book of chronicles and they should be read before him.” (translation my own.)

According the Talmud, Achashveirosh was concerned. His new queen, Esther, had just invited him to a party, a second time, with his favored minister, Haman. Achashveirosh wondered if the two of them were plotting against him. Had he missed something during his reign that would lead someone to resent him and wish to depose him?

The chronicles were read to the king and he was reminded of a plot against him that was uncovered by Mordehchai. When Achashveirosh asks if Mordechai was properly honored, he is informed that he was not.

At that point, the kind seeks advice. In the middle of the night who is prowling around the palace grounds? It’s Haman! So Achashveirosh calls Haman in and asks him how to honor someone deserving of the king’s gratitude. Haman, in an aside, let’s us know that he is certain that the king wishes to honor him. Then he proceeds to answer, “They should bring the royal clothes that the king has worn and the horse upon which the king has ridden upon whom the royal crown has been placed.” Haman then explains that one the king’s officers should then dress the favored subject and parade him through the streets, crying out, “So should be done to the man whom the king wishes to favor.”

The brazenness of Haman’s response is astounding. The king asks him for advice and his response is to convey that he really wishes to be king. The king responds tersely,  “… hurry, take the clothing and the horse as you spoke, and do so to Mordechai the Jew, who sits by the gate of the king. Do not omit a single detail from all that you have spoken.”

According to the 19th century Rabbi, the Malbim, Haman’s response was a wake up call to the king. Achashveirosh now realized that Haman’s rise was undeserved and it was Mordechai who was deserving of the king’s favor.

Of course the central miracle of Purim is that the Jews who had been marked for death by Haman and with the connivance of Achashveirosh were spared, when the king heeded Esther’s plea. (The actual rescue was not that the king reversed his decree, but that he issued a new decree that allowed the Jews to defend themselves.) However the rich details in the story of Esther show a series of smaller miracles that made the main miracle possible. Haman’s overreach in answering the king’s query helped seal his fate.

UPDATE: Thanks to those who noted that I wrote “Hamas” in the last paragraph instead of “Haman.” It’s fixed now.


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Kind Professor, thank you for your post. We are surrounded by miracles, large and small.

I’m sure this
“Of course the central miracle of Purim is that the Jews who had been marked for death by Hamas and with the connivance of Achashveirosh were spared, when the king heeded Esther’s plea. “

is a typo, that you meant Haman and not Hamas. But then, Haman, like Hamas, wanted the destruction of Jews, so as typos go, it is quite reasonable.

TrooperJohnSmith | February 24, 2013 at 10:43 am

Thank-you for this beautiful lesson, Professor. You sir, are truly a Renaissance man.

Thank you for sharing this.

“Then Esther sent this reply to Mordecai: “Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my maids will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish.”” Esther 4:15-16

Courage like this is not often found today. Esther somewhat reminds me of Sarah Palin.

Commenting on the passage: “The cause of God must prevail: we are safe in being united to it.” Matthew Henry

An excellent interpretation of the book of Esther: If I Perish, I Perish: Study in the Book of Esther by Major Ian Thomas

David, sadly, you let a freudian slip into your story of Haman, and put Hamas into the non-destruction of the jews miracle save.

“Of course the central miracle of Purim is that the Jews who had been marked for death by Hamas and with the connivance of Achashveirosh were spared, when the king heeded Esther’s plea.”

Sounds like you are trying to connect the dots. Well, I don’t dispute Hamas’ animosity towards Israel, but let’s keep Purim in context, please?

    David Gerstman in reply to Paul. | February 24, 2013 at 1:12 pm

    Paul I think it was less Freudian than conditioning. I’ve written quite a bit about Hamas in recent years. 99.9% of the time when I type H-a-m-a the next letter is “s” not “n.”

Haman. Obama.

Esther’s story is of faith and God’s lovingkindness towards His people. So, if we die, we die, as long as we die in Him.

Purim is faith for every day.

Were it not for the Book of Esther, Haman would be entirely forgotten today. I like to think about the fact that five hundred years from now the only people who will remember Yassir Arafat are Jews. He will be a name on that long list of those who rose up against us.

“There were fewer declared Republicans in the faculty when we were there than Communists! There was one Republican. But there were twelve who would say they were Marxists who believed in the Communists overthrowing the United States government.”)

Ann Althouse, also a law professor, goes on to say that Ted Cruz needs to defend this statement, because hey, Ann doesn’t know of any Harvard law professors who wanted to “overthrow the United States government.”

Obviously, Ann cannot think beyond the “militant” Marxists who actually did, like Obama’s good friends, William Ayers and Bernadette Dohrn, and those who subscribed to the drip by drip method of instilling Marxism in America by peaceful means, such as the Frankfort Marxists who migrated to the U.S. only to be given positions as professors in tony universities like Columbia, UCLA and Harvard.

Marxist professors are nothing new. They are in the law schools and the journalism schools. And what do they teach?


These Marxists subscribed more the the Gramsci method of indoctrination from an early age than Karl Marx’s violent revolution tactics. Slow and steady was their motto.

    BannedbytheGuardian in reply to retire05. | February 24, 2013 at 6:00 pm

    Hehe . I can tie your post in ( I am guessing this was meant for he Cruz thread ).

    On the former thread ‘Purim in Tel Aviv 38 ‘ I posted that on reading a little on Esther , I had found a book based on Esther set in Madison Wisconsin.

    The Good Jew – Debra Spark 2009.

    Now you have put the puzzle into place – Ann Althouse.

    I like detecting streams of thought . You can share my prize for this one.

Hamas, Haman, what’s the diff?

Dan Greenfield, Sultan Knish, has written an analogy for Purim and the current political scenario, The Ages of Purim.

Biblically and spiritually perceptive, very appropro.