“There is a certain people dispersed among the peoples in all the provinces of your kingdom who keep themselves separate. Their customs are different from those of all other people, and they do not obey the king’s laws; it is not in the king’s best interest to tolerate them.” — Esther 3:8
The story of Esther is a stirring call to stand against persecution wherever it may exist. Its lessons have reverberated through time and place, particularly today, as acts of anti-Semitism and Christian persecution are on the rise throughout the world. This is one of 12 devotions exploring the many lessons we can learn from this inspirational account. To learn more about the life of Queen Esther, download a copy of our free Bible Study.
The Jewish holiday of Purim celebrates the inspiring story of Queen Esther, who took a bold stand against prejudice and injustice. We admire the courage and bravery of the queen, the wisdom and integrity of Mordecai. We are awed by the orchestrations of God behind the scenes to save His people.
Yet, it is also a sobering account of evil, hate, and prejudice in this world, as represented by Haman, the king’s prime minister. Haman was in the top echelon of Persian leaders, and obviously one of the king’s favorites. This allowed Haman to amass a huge amount of wealth and great influence.
So why did Haman want to destroy all the Jews just because of one man’s actions? The Bible tells us that Haman was an Amalekite, one of the ancient enemies of the Israelites. Therefore, Haman’s hatred went beyond just Mordecai to all the Jews. As the rabbis teach, Amalek stands for all those who represent evil, not just physical descendants like Haman.
As second-in-command, Haman enjoyed his power and authority and the reverence shown to him. The Jews, however, looked to God as their final authority, not any man, and certainly not Haman. Haman realized that the only way to fulfill his selfish desires was to kill those who disregarded his authority.
Haman, too, is more than just a historical figure — he is as alive today as he was in biblical times. We recognize Haman in the Iranian leadership that calls for the destruction of Israel. We feel Haman’s presence when we read in the news of terrorists who execute murderous attacks on Jews and Jewish institutions around the world. We hear Haman in the hateful words of radical Muslim clerics who preach that Jews are the “descendants of apes and pigs.”
One of the messages of Purim — a message that applies to Jews and Christians alike — is that in a world with no shortage of “Hamans,” we need more “Esthers” committed to standing humbly before God and seeking to defend His people in the face of all difficulties.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President