Esther 3                                     “Haman Aches"


            When I was a young boy growing up on the Eastside of Los Angeles, I had two Jewish friends who lived down the road from me. They were brothers, Mike and Robert Kinsler. They moved in when I was in the fourth grade. Mike was actually in my class at school, Mrs. Alcott’s room. We got along just great, and Mike became part of our circle of friends: John, Brian, Mark, and now Mike. To be sure, I am not just reminiscing here. My best friend then was John. He was and is still Catholic. I would go with him to church on Sundays sometimes. He would come to my church sometimes–he just could not tell the priest that. So, naturally, I thought it would be cool to go to Michael’s church. Then, I learned that he did not go to church on Sunday. He went to Temple on Fridays instead. This really intrigued me.

            As a fourth grader, I had no idea about what it meant to be a Jew. I loved learning about it. They lit candles and got a present everyday at Christmas. That was cool. Of course, that was Hanukkah, not Christmas. I really came to love their family. I got a lot of my staple recipes from my Jewish friend’s mother, because my mother did not like cooking. When my friend turned thirteen, I attended his Bar Mitzvah and wore the Yarmulke on my head like any other good Jewish chap. To this day I say openly to all that if I were not a Christian pastor, I would most likely be a Jewish Rabbi–you know, just like Jesus was!

            So, after mooching a few meals off of Michael’s family, I asked my mother if Michael could stay for dinner one night at our house. He came over after school and stayed until dinner hour. Now, it was our tradition to recite in unison the old German prayer “Komm Herr Jesu, sei unser Gast, und segne, was Du uns bescherret hast.” That evening, however, before we could chime in unison the daily prayer, my father stood up and sang the German national anthem, with Hitler’s words of course. So, my German father was not pleased to have a Jewish boy eating from his table.

            My friend Michael fortunately did not understand what the song was but rather thought it was really cool that my father would spontaneously sing aloud at the dinner table. My father had grown up in WWII in Germany. He was proud that his father had been a Nazi and was in Hitler’s army as a cartographer. He loved all the songs that people sang back then. He loved going door to door to collect scrap metal for making bombs. So, he fully accepted the rhetoric about the Jews without ever even questioning it. I actually heard my father once joke about bombing the San Fernando Valley with an atomic bomb because too many Jews had moved out there.

            I just never really understood why my father would say such things and express such hate towards other people. Why did he hate the Jews? I am almost one hundred percent sure that no Jew had ever caused our family any harm. Where did all that hatred come from?


            Most recently in my own life, this question of hate has come up in a strange way. A man who I had not even ever met or spoken to shared some very hateful words about me to a third party.  This is a small island and word got back to me of course that this man whom I did not know was saying hateful things about me in public–by name. I confronted him. I got his email address and asked him in writing how he had come to hate me when I could not even remember one time having met him or spoken with him. I asked him, “Why do you say hateful things about me?” This is what we Christians are supposed to do. Check Matthew 18. Jesus us tells us to go right to the person and try to settle our differences–not to make things public right away. Try to guard the other’s dignity.

            His response was quite interesting indeed. He told me that he could not have said hateful things against me because, and I quote: “I do not believe in hate.” Let me state that again: the man who was spreading hateful rumors about me stated directly back to me that he does “not believe in hate.” When I read that, my mind just said to myself “How very god-like not to hate.” In other words: nonsense!

            I saw something in this situation that I had never considered before. Just because we are Christians and believe in Jesus who commanded us to “Love God and our neighbor,” we may trick-or-treat ourselves into thinking that we cannot hate–”WE do NOT believe in hate.” I have heard that spoken in many different ways by Christians. Some might say, “I do not believe in the devil.” My response is always, “Hmm, I am sure the devil appreciates that!”

            My point: There was only ever one purely non-evil man on this planet. His name was Jesus. He was God. The rest of us fall short. To think otherwise is to put yourself above God. That is why we must constantly repent and ask for forgiveness. And, we must check our own hearts for hate and not deny that it is there.


            Now, in this chapter of Esther, we are faced with that same question. We meet a new character from last week. His name is Haman (boo now if you want). He seemed to just hate the entire Jewish nation so much so that he would want to see a complete and utter genocide against them under the pretext of punishing the man Mordecai for not bowing down and worshipping Haman. You know, he could have just taken Mordecai to task. Did you notice in the story that Haman never talks to Mordecai even? He did not have to eradicate an entire faith and people. I compare this to destroying the entire country of Scotland because your order got mixed up at McDonalds.

            Haman was drunk on the new power he had been given by King Ahasureus. He wanted everyone to bow before him as if he were a god (small “g”). Mordecai, being a righteous man, was not going to worship an idol. He would only worship the one true God in heaven. So of course he would not ever bow down to Haman, or anybody else for that matter. Good for him! Obviously it is correct to pay respect to one man’s rank and title, but never worship another human being.

            Haman’s name actually means “the magnificent.” We also read that he is descended from King Agog of the Amalekites. Our text says that he is an Agogite. He is therefore of royal blood. So, he honestly thinks that people should view him as highly as he obviously views himself! But, does that mean that he has to hate anybody else? Does that mean he has to hate a whole race and religion?


            The answer to hate is not to simply say that “You do not believe in hate.” The real answer is to love on the other person as Christ commanded. And, how do you love someone if you do not even know them? Or, you will not even talk to them? The next part of the story in our text says that Haman, being a very superstitious man, drew lots to see on what day all the Jews of the Jewish race should be destroyed. Haman was like many others of his day; he thought that the fates would pick for him an auspicious day to get the deed done. In reality what happens is that God delays Haman’s plans for twelve months. This is enough time for the love to really set in between Ahasuerus and his new queen, Esther.

            Try to imagine how this drawing of lots worked. Let us say that you are not sure if you should go to work one day or go surfing. You decided to leave it up to fate. So, you take a coin and you flip it in the air: Heads you go to work, tails you go surfing. You flip that coin for twelve months straight. Every day for twelve months it comes up heads–you go to work. That is what God did to Haman’s plans to kill all of the Jews. That is why the Jews today still celebrate Purim and read this story of Esther. God intervened again to save God’s people.


            Is it really hatred that is driving Haman? I want to deepen our perspective here because our text says openly that Haman offers Ahasuerus ten thousand talents if he goes along with the plan to wipe out the Jews. How much is that? The internet says that that weight in silver today would be worth 348 billion dollars. Where is Haman going to get that kind of money? Well, he is going to kill all the people who have that money and take it from them. So, this is perhaps not really “hate” as much as he covets the wealth of others. Remember the movie The Silence of the Lambs? “Clarisse, what is the nature of the killer–he covets.”

If we quickly glance back at the Ten Commandments of Moses, check Exodus 20, we note that there is no commandment not to hate, but there is a commandment not to “Covet.” I will put it forth to you that when it seems that there is simply no reason to hate, it is most likely because the hate is based on coveting. Haman’s whole life is about personal power, coveting, and greed. Out of that comes his hate.


The last line of the scripture for today says it all. The people in Susa, the capital, were in a state of confusion. And, that is how we feel today when we look at the wars going on in our world. Honestly, if you put a Ukrainian and a Russian in the same room together, could you tell them apart? If you put a Palestinian and an Israeli in the same room, could you tell them apart? Nobody in Susa understands why they are supposed to go out and kill their neighbors all on one day. There be no reason for it. They know their neighbors. They are good people. They have lived side by side for decades.

Stay confused! I want you all to leave here completely confused by hate. It really makes no sense. Leave here instead with the love of Jesus in your hearts.