The Jew, strange to say it, as we have seen, becomes important to the power, that is, to the Persian. But more so than I have as yet noticed--important to his safety as well as to his enjoyments. For Mordecai becomes his protector, as Esther had become his wife. This we see at the close of Esther 2. The king is debtor to both. In spite of all his greatness, and all the resources for happiness and strength which attached to his greatness, he is debtor to the dispersed of Judah. They are important to him. Both his heart and his head, as I may say, have to own this.
But, if the Jew be thus strangely brought into personal favour and acceptance, with equal strangeness is the Jew's enemy brought into high and honourable elevation, and seated in the very position which capacitated him to gratify all his enmity. An Amalekite sits next in dignity and rule to the king. Above all the princes of the nation, Haman, the Agagite, is preferred; why, we are not told. No public virtue or service is recorded of him. Apparently it is simply the royal pleasure that has done it. A stranger to the nation he was--a distant stranger; one, too, of a race now all but forgotten; we might say, once distinguished in the day of the infancy of nations, but now all but blotted out from the page of history, superseded by others far loftier in their bearing than ever he had been, the Assyrian first, then the Chaldean, and now the Persian. And yet there he now is before us, an Amalekite seated next to Ahasuerus the Persian; in dignity, office, and power, Haman is only second to him.
This is strange indeed, we may say. The great enemy of Israel, when Israel was in the wilderness, re-appears here in the same character in this day of Israel in the dispersion (see Ex. 17). It is strange, an Amalekite found nearest to the throne of Persia! The heart of the great monarch of that day turned towards him, to put him into a condition to act the old Amalekite part of defiance of God, and enmity against His people. We could not have looked for such a thing. This name of Amalek was to be put out from under heaven; and, from the days of David till now, I may say, this people had not been seen. But now they re-appear, we scarcely know how; and that soon in bloom and strength, as in a palmy hour.
This, again, I say, is strange, indeed. It is of one in quasi-resurrection; of one whose deadly wound was healed; of one "who was, and is not, and shall be present."
The Agagite now stands forth as the representative of the great enemy, the proud apostate that withstands God, and His people, and His purposes. There has been such an one in every age; and he is the foreshadowing of that mighty apostate who is to fall in the day of the Lord. Nimrod, in the days of Genesis, represents him; Pharaoh, in Egypt; Amalek, in the wilderness; Abimelech, in the time of the judges; and Absalom, in the time of the kings; Haman, here in the day of the dispersion; and Herod, in the New Testament. Exaltation of self, infidel pride, and the defiance of the fear of God, with rooted enmity to His people, are, some or all, the marks on each of them; as in a full form of daring awful apostasy, such will be displayed in the person of the Beast who, with his confederates, falls in the presence of the Rider on the white horse, in the day of the Lord, or the judgment of the quick. Prophets have told of such as "the king that is to do according to his own will:" as "Lucifer, son of the morning;" as "the prince of Tyrus," we may say; as "the fool that saith in his heart, There is no God;" and variously beside. And the Apocalypse of the apostle shows him to us in the figure of a Beast, who had his image set up for the worship and wonder of the whole world, and his mark as a brand in the forehead of every man; whose deadly wound was healed, who was, and is not, and is to be.
And further, we may notice, that the purpose, as well as the person, of the great adversary, stands forth in this great Haman. He must have the blood of all the Jews; his heart will not be satisfied by the life of the one who had refused to do him reverence. He must have the lives of the whole nation. He breathes the spirit of the enemy of Israel, who by-and-by is to say, "Come and let us cut them off from being a nation, that the name of Israel may be no more in remembrance" (Ps. 83). The Amalekite and his company cast the lot, the Pur, only to determine the day on which this deed of extermination was to be perpetrated. But, as we know, the lot may be "cast into the lap, but the whole disposing thereof is of the Lord" (Prov. 16: 33). And so was it here. Eleven long months, from the thirteenth day of the first month to the thirteenth day of the twelfth month--that is, from the day when the lot was cast, to the day on which the lot decided that the slaughter of the nation should take place--are given, so that God would ripen His purposes towards both His people and their adversaries.
This has a clear loud voice in our ears. There is no speech or language but the voice is heard. God is not even named; but it is the work of His hand, and the counsel of His bosom.
Haman finds no hindrance from the king his master. He tells the king that there is a people scattered through his dominions whom it is not his profit to let live, for their customs are diverse from all people--the secret of the world's enmity then and still (see Acts 16: 20, 21). The decree, according to the desire of Haman, goes forth from Shushan the palace; and it spreads its way in all haste to all parts of the world, the domain of the great Persian "breast of silver." The whole nation, as the consequence of this, takes the sentence of death unto themselves. The decree would have reached the returned captives, as well as the dispersion. Judea was but a province of the Persian power in that day. But they are to learn to trust in Him who quickens the dead, Who calls those things that be not, as though they were, Who acts in this world in resurrection-strength. The remnant of Israel must learn to walk in the steps of the faith of their father Abraham. It is faith that must be exercised; for the Lord will not for awhile reveal Himself, though He thinks of them, and shelters them without displaying Himself.
Mordecai now appears, as the representative of this remnant, the possessor of this Abraham-like faith, in this awful hour.
The godliness of this dear and honoured man begins to show itself in his refusal to reverence the Amalekite. The common duty of worshipping only the true God, the God of Israel, would have forbidden this. And shall a Jew bow to one of that race with whom the God of the Jews had already said, that He would have war for ever and ever?--bow to one who, instead of bowing himself to the Lord of heaven and earth, had even come forth to insult His presence and His majesty, yea, and to cut off His people before His face? Mordecai will jeopard his life by this refusal. But be it so. He is in the mind of his brethren Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who can say to an earlier Haman, "We are not careful to answer thee in this matter. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up."
This is fine in its generation truly; but finer still from its connections. For combination constitutes excellency of character. We are "to quit ourselves like men," and yet "let all our things be done in charity." In Him, who was all moral glory, as we have heard from others, there was "nothing salient"--all so perfectly combined. And in Mordecai we see this. We see "goodness," and, with that, "righteousness." He was gracious, and tender-hearted, bringing up his orphan cousin, as though she had been his own daughter. But now he is faithful and unbending. He will quit himself like a man now, if then he did all things in charity. He will not bow and do reverence at the command of the king, though his life may be the penalty.